Wednesday, 28 October 2015

I do still sew honest!

You could be forgiven for thinking that sewing has been usurped by knitting. However, you'd be wrong because I have a quilt in progress (the top would be finished if I hadn't decided it was a bit long and thin and needed an extra 'column'.) The trouble was I was so busy sewing I only managed a few dodgy instagram shots. I will blog about the quilt when I have some decent pictures and maybe a finished quilt.

So this post is about knitting...again. I'm just a little obsessed. I want to get those basic skills well and truly stuck in my head.  Otherwise it will be like learning all over again every time I pick up the needles.

Frustratingly my knitting stalled for want of some yarn to knit with. I had two orders in. The first was for the kit to knit a shawl. I waited what seemed forever for the order to arrive and it turned out it included everything but the yarn! This meant that pretty much all I had left to knit with was cotton. I had ordered some random balls when I started knitting and wash cloths seemed the order of the day for a beginner. Previous attempts at knitting meant it took me forever to achieve very little. Therefore I was pretty sure I'd spend about three months knitting away at wash cloths.

Unfortunately Fortunately my knitting progress was more rapid and I moved on from wash cloths quite quickly. I did have some nice looking Rowan Handknit cotton. Two balls of a nice blue. Helen suggested I knitted a pouch and choose a fancy stitch pattern for it to widen my skills. At first look the pattern that really spoke to me, looked far too complicated for me to master. Especially when Helen found instructions and they were a chart. I've only just learnt to knit now it looked like I'd have to decipher Morse code in a grid!

I cast on and started knitting. It took me a while to get my head around the chart and after a few rows I realised if I was going to master the chart and the pattern it wasn't going to be in the cotton which I hated knitting with (as much as I have done all the other cotton.) Not only does it look like an old string vest it is slippy and feels like string. I pulled it out.

  Knitting with Rowan Handknit Cotton

Still itching to knit I had a rummage and came across the left over yarn from the first lovely cowl Helen knitted me. I thought I'd have a practise at the chart with this yarn. It was so much nicer than knitting with the cotton. In no time at all I was at the end of the green yarn and thought I'd add in the other left over cowl yarn. I had even less of that. It was the same Aran weight (cashmerino) though, so I joined the new colour and got on with knitting...until I ran of out of that. Not to be deterred I remembered I'd left over cashmerino from knitting the ribbed hat. So I added that in and the idea struck me that this would be a scarf. A stripey left overs kind of Dr. Who? Scarf a la Tom Baker as the Dr. Only mine would be even fancier than his. 

Fancy Dr Who Scarf

The fatal flaw in that cunning plan was I soon ran out of the pink cashmerino and as a beginner knitter I do not have a great selection of yarns left over from other projects.  I resigned myself to knowing this would be a long term knitting project and I'd have to knit a lot in Aran to get enough left overs. However, I'd still got two balls of a beautiful kingfisher Cashmerino and Helen suggested a hat - and that I could use the pattern I'd used to knit my Crofter hat. I was a little confused as to how I'd work out the decreases etc in a different yarn but ploughed on anyway; disposing of the garter stitch ridge and just doing basic stocking stitch for the main body of the hat. 

A new hat!

I sat up late knitting away, Loving how my hat was progressing. Loving the fact that I'd be generating some more left overs for my scarf. I went to bed with a finished hat on the needles, intending to sew it up on Sunday morning.

5 hours work!

Sunday morning I was up stitching my hat together. The best invisible seam I'd done so far, even if I do say so myself. A lovely neat hat. Perfect...

Too big!

...until I tried it on. It was too big. Not just in the body, but round the rim. A gentle breeze would have been all it would have taken to lift it off. It just felt uncomfortably big.

It's too big!

An emergency email to Helen to see what I could do and that was pretty much - hope it shrinks a bit in the wash (dangerous though as intentionally trying to shrink something could result in felting it.) or unpicking it. I could have cried. That was five hours of my life I wasn't going to get back. And remember me saying how I'd just done the neatest invisible seam? Hmmm so blooming invisible that unpicking it to unravel the hat was a bitch. I ended up with loads of mini balls. Although I confess it took far less time unpicking it than knitting it. 

That used to be my hat

On the plus side I did have lots of left overs for my scarf. Which I'm loving. 


Although to continue the stripey design I'll need to wait for more Aran before I can get going with adding more to the scarf. 

Then Tuesday when I got back from a walk my second yarn order had arrived. I at least have yarn for another hat and a scarf. I'm loving the thought of knitting with some chunky yarn and I'm clearly heavily influenced by the autumn colours around right now.

latest yarn order arrived

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

My first over nighter in Gertie!

I hadn't seen Chief since we went to Amsterdam. He said next time he got down we'd go away for a night in Gertie. My first night. Now I'm not into camping. I did my Duke of Edinburgh camp out aged about 15 and went to a camp for a week aged 11 where we stopped in dormitories. It was the time. But communal toilets of dubious standard and waking up with earwigs is not my idea of a weekend away these days. It's different stopping in a van. You have everything you need right there. (Even if Chief has imposed a no solids in the toilet rule!)

Chief has not been well of late (a second hit of pneumonia) and whilst that's much better he still gets tired quite quickly and he's got a very long drive down just to get to my house, before we think of going anywhere else. So he said would I mind if he found a camp site locally to me and he'd look for somewhere a bit 'different'. On the plus side he said if I really hated it it wouldn't be far to bring me home!

He did some research and really wanted to find somewhere that would be so lovely I'd fall in love with the idea of staying away in Gertie (although I didn't really expect not to! Chief just wasn't taking any risks!) We ended up at a lovely caravan site in the Cotswolds part of Oxfordshire called: Lincoln Farm Park. Now I can't compare it to other sites, but I'm thinking this is probably 5 star.  The toilet/shower blocks were of a high standard and only on the Sunday morning of our stay when lots of people had been in did they start to look like public facilities (what is it with people throwing toilet paper on the floors?!)

The park has a two night minimum stay and even though it was classed as low season Chief could not get a fully serviced pitch (All pitches have electric - fully serviced have grey water disposal and running water as well as TV points. ) There were lots of other caravans and motorhomes in. Including some of those massive American jobs with pop out sides etc. The park caters for tents too (although not so many in that weekend!)

Anyway, I'm jumping ahead! Our weekend started with a trip to Farmoor.  I managed to add 4 new birds to my year list (red necked grebe, Great black backed gull, grey wagtail and dunlin) and it was really rather pleasant walking around in the sunshine. We couldn't get into the park until after lunch so we decided to head in the direction of the park and look for a pub on the way. Of course when I spotted we were on the road to The Greyhound at Besselsleigh we ended up stopping there. It was warm enough to sit outside and eat (how often can you do that in October!?)

The Greyhound

The Greyhound The Greyhound

The Greyhound

I regretted offering to share my duck wrap with Chief as it was yummy and even nicer than his Chicken and tarragon sarnie.

From The Greyhound we headed on to Lincoln Farm Park where once checked in and set up we decided to explore. The reception also boasts a shop and hidden away either side or the reception are two leisure centres!  Complete with indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. You pay extra to use these either in the twice daily open sessions or by hiring by the hour privately. We booked exclusive hire on our first night as it was only about £22 for the two of us to have everything to ourselves for an hour! Opposite reception is a small games room and an information centre. In the latter I spotted a sign saying on Friday nights they have a van coming around offering steak and chips. It just so happened it was Friday night and the van was already parked up taking orders. Chief bought us dinner to be collected on our way back from using the leisure centre later - perfect!

Gertie at Pitch 5, Lincoln Farm Park, Standlake
Gertie set up on our pitch for the next two nights!
What you can't see in the far corner is the bird feeder Chief carries with him!

Leisure Centre - Lincoln Farm Park

The leisure centre to ourselves!

Friday night steak frites
steak and frites meal in a box!

Back in Gertie with our meals in a box, we watched a dvd and then made the bed up for the night. This is when I discovered there had been a slight communication problem with Chief and I. He told me to bring a quilt. I said: Yes, OK but it won't be very warm to sleep under just a quilt so you'll bring sleeping bags too right? He said yes. We started making up the bed and I got out the quilt I made to use in Gertie and Chief said: What you've just bought that to sleep under? I said yes, we had a conversation about this. You said it would be warm enough - I had doubts and that's why you were bringing sleeping bags. Hmm he said. We're sleeping on the sleeping bags not in them. I meant bring a quilt. 

Bring a quilt? What does he think it is? Then it dawned on me. Chief calls duvets quilts. Despite the fact he calls the covers that go on them duvet covers. So whilst he had a nice single duvet to sleep under I just had a quilt. It was pretty fresh during the night. I kept waking up cold. Tried sneaking under his duvet but it still left my back cold. The next night he not only put some heating on in the van, but said I could have the duvet and he'd have the quilt. He got cold too so it wasn't just me being a soft southern wuss! 

Bed made up in Gertie

The next day was glorious too and rather than pack up and drive off somewhere for the day we decided to go for a wander in Standlake. It's such a pretty place and we soon found a track into the countryside and had a walk around a private fishing lake. Chief decided he'd go blackberry picking. 

Walking around Standlake, OxfordshireWalking around Standlake, Oxfordshire Walking around Standlake, Oxfordshire Walking around Standlake, Oxfordshire
Walking around Standlake, Oxfordshire

Walking around Standlake

Walking around Standlake
Buzzard sat in a tree overhanging the street.

After our walk we headed back for lunch. Bacon sarnies and locally made cherry and walnut cake bought from the little Post Office/Shop in Standlake. 

Bacon sarnies for lunch

We had a lovely chill out before heading out for another walk around a different part of Standlake and the park.  When we got back we listened to the rugby on the radio (couldn't get the tv to work) and then watched a dvd before going to bed. 

Walking around Standlake

Walking around Standlake
views from one of the dog exercising areas on the site.

Lincoln Farm Park reception, shop and leisure centre
Reception, shop and 2 leisure centres.

Before we knew it it was Sunday morning and time to pack up and head for home. I have already bought a duvet and duvet cover of my own and can't wait for our next trip. I do like having a little adventure. Even if it is only on my doorstep!

Monday, 12 October 2015

Knitting! My first few projects

I have to say learning to knit has been keeping me sane the last few weeks. A couple of things happened about six weeks ago that really knocked me out of kilter and for a while it left me feeling like I was on the edge of depression or anxiety or both. It's a strange sort of feeling because I'd been so happy and 'up' about everything. Neither of the things directly effected me. They still stopped me in my tracks and made me think.  Knitting has given me something new and fun to concentrate on. It's been just what I needed.

It didn't help I hadn't seen Chief since we got back from Amsterdam. (That's all been rectified and deserves a post to itself!)

I promised you last time that I'd show you a picture of me modelling what I'd knitted. First up is the scarf. It's knitted in a recycled cotton from Sidar and was purchased purely because it was on sale. They only had this colour which is not something I'd normally be attracted to. As this was for practising and it was cheap, I got 5 balls so there would be more than enough for a scarf. As it was this only took three of the balls and if I can face knitting up some matching wrist warmers with the left over balls I may do that some time. I say 'face' because I've decided I don't like knitting with cotton very much. The colour of this yarn is 'Lime'. I've decided to call in greengage in my head and love the way it clashes and compliments the cardigan I have on.

My first scarf!

Next up is a hat. Knitted in another Sidar yarn - Crofter DK which looks like it has little dashes of colour across the yarn and knits up into a sort of Fair Isle design (without all the hard work of adding in different colours. Something I couldn't do right now!) It took less than 1 ball and again I have another ball of this colourway left so I could knit up some hand/wrist warmers or a small cowl.

My first hat!

My first finished hat!

I also bought two balls of a different colourway of this Crofter DK yarn and knitted up another hat while she was on holiday. I can then gift it to her for Christmas.

Christmas hat for Mum
Mum's hat being knitted. Shh don't tell her!

 If I get my act together there might be a fair bit of hand-making for Christmas. However, I think the rest will be fabric related: Pouches and the like. It's all very well getting knitting addicted. However, I have a tonne of fabric. I have scraps bursting out of their box. Might be time for a bit of a destash. Although I did buy some scraps recently because I want to get on with my +&X quilt over the winter and love adding different peoples scraps to the mix.

I have knitted another hat in some gorgeous fuchsia cashmerino. However, it was all rib and the crown shaping went to pot. I think I must have miscounted a stitch or two because the ribs don't line up. I confess by the time I'd got to the crown shaping I was ready to have the hat done. I was told rib is boring to do and I see why now! I'll still wear it because it does fit. But no pictures of me modelling it yet. In fact it will look pretty perfect if I only wear it while stood next to people shorter than me. As they won't see the rubbish bit. That said I'm only about 5'2" so finding people that much smaller than me will not be that easy!

Another hat
Cashmerino hat in progress.
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