Thursday, 24 September 2015

Learning to knit

It was not long after I discovered the wonderful quilting community over on flickr (that subsequently led me to blogging and forging some fantastic friendships.) that I noticed that many quilters are also talented knitters. I've looked wistfully at peoples creations. Everything from lacy shawls to chunky cowls; comfy sweaters to cute beanie hats and wished that I wasn't so cack-handed when it came to knitting.

You see up until these past couple of weeks I could only ever do the knit stitch badly (and I learnt to cast off when I made some scarfs from that loopy mesh material.) I could not cast on. I could not purl and quite frankly 99% of knitting terminology was a complete and utter mystery to me. 

Of course my Mum had tried to teach me to knit over the years. She is not a teacher. She has no idea how to communicate to me how you do something and finds it hard to correct my mistakes without picking up the knitting and just putting it right - which isn't a great way to learn. I confess on previous knitting attempts there were dropped stitches, gained stitches (if I'd poked the needle through the yarn) and tension that got so tight that Mum used to look if she was wrestling when she tried to get knitting needles into stitches to correct it. To be fair Mum was never a knitter. She made me a beautiful royal blue ballet wrap cardigan when I started ballet and refused to wear pink because it was just too girly! I also remember my teddy Walter being cold and in the space of a few hours she knitted him up a pair of navy tights and red jacket and a very fetching pixie hat with some left over bits of wool. She never did adult sized garments or fancy patterns or colour work. She'll admit she much preferred embroidery. Knitting was a skill she had the basics of, but had little inclination to develop.

I never persevered with learning to knit because I was so bad at doing the knit stitch and unable to master anything else. And quite frankly even at a young age I knew if I knitted, I wanted to make things that had pretty stitches and colours; not just knit stitch everything. I just didn't have the patience to try and improve and then learn skills that my Mum could not begin to teach me and all this was before the days of You Tube how-to Videos.

A chance comment on Instagram a few weeks ago led me to two fantastic offers from Helen of Archie the Wonderdog. (One offer will be saved for a future post.) The other offer was she was convinced she could teach me to knit. No mean feat considering she lives closer to Chief than she does to me and the learning process was all going to be done online (unless Chief could ever get me up there for an afternoons knitting session!) Mum looked vaguely amused when I told her. (and was more likely thinking Helen was going to need a medal by the end of it all!) She has been very impressed with my progress. The first cast on method I learnt was one she'd never seen before. 

In the past week I've learnt:  that yarn bands are full of useful (not mysterious information.) That needle size is important. That purl stitch is not half as hard as I always thought it must be and by knowing the knit stitch and the purl stitch you can create other patterns and stitches. I've learnt to cast on by two different methods.  I've also sorted most of my tension issues of old and my first practise piece had me finish a ball of wool from the charity shop! If I go wrong (and I have done.) I only have to tell Helen what's gone wrong and she's been able to talk me through what I've done.  Knitting is not an intuitive process for me. I am that person that needs to be told things like where the yarn needs to start or finish off. But despite any errors, I am having so much fun. I've placed two three yarn orders now and I've finished my first ever wash cloths. I am not hoarding yarn though. I've bought stuff from sale bins for specific projects and intend to continue this way, so I don't have to try storing a yarn collection as well fabric.

I have cast on for the first time ever!

When I was waiting for my first yarn order to arrive I did whip up a project bag using fabric from stash and my scraps bin. I think I may need a couple of these!

Project bag

I started off knitting a ball of wool from the charity shop in knit stitch. Then my first wool order arrived and I did some face cloth knitting. But seeing as I don't wash my face I was itching to try something else that I would use and I started my first scarf - I even made up my own pattern! I finished the scarf last night and currently it's been washed and 'blocked'. (Another learning curve for me.) Hopefully in a future post I can show you me modelling it.

Two completed wash cloths
Two simple wash cloths 

My first 'proper' scarf
my first scarf finished!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The last weekend of Summer?

I put socks on to go to book group this week. It's the first time in ages that I've decided that I need proper footwear and not sandals or flip-flops. Socks were a must. Another reminder that summer is coming to an end. Sunday morning the heating (that has been turned down so low it won't come on all summer) came on and woke me up at stupid o'clock in the process. Any day that feels warm and sunny is a blessing and I've been trying to make the most of it.

Saturday I was in a real funk. I actually woke up on Saturday morning and didn't want to get out of bed I felt so low. I wanted to pull the covers back over my head and forget about everything. I did get up and did the usual food shop and then came home and watched rubbish repeats on TV. Eventually I decided I needed to get out with my camera. Lacking motivation I struggled to come up with anywhere to go and didn't feel like expending much energy. I ended up taking Mum and my camera out for a drive. There were so many lovely things I could have photographed, however they always seemed to be in places with no where to park safely. Many of the roads I ventured down were single track. Luckily across the bridge from this mill house there was a pull in and I managed to walk back over the bridge and take a few snaps.

Cuddesdon Mill 

  Bridge of the R.Thame at Cuddesdon

Cows at Cuddesdon

Sunday was bright, warm and sunny and the funk of Saturday had passed so I decided to get some late summer colour ideas for the garden by taking a trip to Waterperry Gardens.  Mum and I had a lovely wander around the gardens.  Thankfully she doesn't mind my constant stopping to take pictures.

Waterperry Gardens in September

September at Waterperry Gardens

  September at Waterperry Gardens

September at Waterperry Gardens

September at Waterperry Gardens

September at Waterperry Gardens

September at Waterperry Gardens

Waterperry Gardens in September

As you can see Waterperry Gardens have plenty of colour right now. Mum bought a couple of Michaelmas Daisies from the nursery and I treated myself to a pair of earrings in The Gallery (a sort of posh craft gallery.) As it was getting near lunch time Mum and I stopped on for lunch. Although, as those who follow me on IG will know, I was not impressed when I sat down with our lunch (collected from the servery) and Mum pointed out a sign on the tables asking people to clear their tables. Don't get me wrong in many establishments I clear my table without being asked. Every time I'm in a MacDonald's type place, or at a greasy spoon type cafe. The week before at the local PYO I walked back inside with our crockery from the outside seating area and even deposited rubbish in the bin as I went. However, the big difference between any of those kinds of places and Waterperry tea shop is the prices. You see Waterperry have a captive audience. There isn't a pub or cafe for miles so if you're out for the day and haven't bought your own lunch, you're going to end up in their cafe. The food is OK. The cake is not cheap and not as nice as it used to be.  I've never had a bad quiche and as Chief says it's the sort of place that you have to like salad because everything comes with salad. I once made the mistake of ordering a roast (rare to see a fully cooked, no salad meal) and I wasn't sure whether to persist in trying to cut the tough beef or re-sole my shoes with it. To my mind if you're going to charge nearly £8.00 for a jacket potato and a small serving of lettuce, tomato and cucumber side salad you should be bringing that hot food to my table not making me queue for it and then expect me to clear away the table afterwards. As it was the racks for the used trays were full (well there was one space at ground level in one of the trolleys. I wasn't about to try bending down to floor level carrying a tray of crockery.) As a protest I stacked my crockery on the tray and left it on the table. I could see quite a few staff members milling about; I'm sure they coped with my militant actions. I'm in no hurry to go back and eat there. 

Still, it didn't spoil our trip out and as the sun was still shining when I got home I sat in the garden and finished my book. I am hoping to do a whole post to catch you up on my latest reads as I know the book recommendations were a popular part of my 10 things posts and I've probably got 10 books to tell you about!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

So what have I been sewing?

You could be forgiven for thinking that my summer has either been spent gadding about or reading. And to be fair, a lot of it has. However, I've also managed some sewing too. Not nearly as much as I'd have liked; although enough to show my mojo has not gone away entirely. Curiously though (apart from buying some destash fabrics from Kerry last night). I have not been remotely interested in buying fabric for months. Of course I've looked (and noticed the slight increase in fabric prices since I last had a splurge.) only nothing has tempted me enough to hit the purchase button. I'm so conscious I need to use what I have and to that mind I'm hoping that quite a few Christmas presents this year will be hand made.

First up I made the large size of the open wide pouch by Noodlehead. I'd wanted a new wash bag that was flexible enough to fit into overnight bags without taking up loads of space. However, the large one turned out to be huge, so I might use it to keep my make up in. (At the moment it's housing some complimentary biscuits packets and other travel size foody items ready to decant into Gertie should we ever go away.)

The fabric choices were dictated by the nylon ripstop fabric I had already in my stash which I used for the lining. It was the same dark green as the green in the hare/rabbit fabric.   I decided to use that fabric along with some Essex Linen in a more neutral fabric to match the zip and co-ordinate with my other fabric. I thought by using the ripstop fabric I'd make the bag at least wipe proof, if not fully waterproof. It wasn't nearly as hard to sew with in this project as I'd feared.

New wash bag for travels or maybe to hold my make up stash when home. It's the large size #openwidepouch and I used nylon ripstop fabric to make it easier to keep clean inside. #noodlehead

Next up I made a brush roll for my cosmetic brushes. I bought the purple set of real techniques brushes from Ebay last year after I'd used my nieces on holiday. I didn't much like the black case they'd come in and after having my niece do my makeup this year on holiday I decided to buy some of the orange brushes from Amazon and make my own brush roll. I made the design up as I went along and apart from needing some fabric tape to tie the roll up I used everything else from my stash and am so pleased with how it turned out. It took parts of 3 fat quarters and a little left over wadding from quilt making. I'm thinking I should make my niece one for her brushes and put it in with her Christmas presents. When it gets grubby I can just put it in the wash.

Finally made the brush roll

Brush roll exterior #madebyme

Next up I made the smallest open wide pouch style to keep personal stuff in my desk drawer. Being the only female in a male environment I am often only reminded I'm female if something negative happens. Even the most enlightened of colleagues/bosses can have their sexist or inconsiderate moments. Anyway because I'm not in a mixed or female office environment I have to say I mainly forget to be girly. I think women often make the effort around other women not for men's benefit. Where as a woman might notice if I've not bothered to put make up on, you're average man rarely will, or certainly won't comment on it if he does. I've decided I need to value myself a bit more and that's about little things like using the lovely perfume I have (not forgetting until it goes rancid and I throw it out.), bothering with hand cream and body lotion.  I thought I'd keep a few essentials in my desk drawer, so when I'm feeling a bit jaded and down and certainly not female, I can have a little pick me up.

Even the small size is deceptively roomy and I haven't ruled out switching this out for a smaller style of pouch and using this for chargers when I travel. It's so handy to be able to wrangle camera and phone chargers rather than have them snag amongst delicates in the suitcase. Again the fabric choices were dictated by the zips I had to hand. (I've never got the right size zip in the right colour!) I have just last night placed an order for more zips. Since I started a huge bedroom declutter I've decided I need more pouches to store things in drawers etc. I'm sure in the next few weeks I'll be making lots more pouches.

Latest sewing

My most recent sewing took me a couple of months of procrastinating and then once I started I had trouble stopping. I'm a PIP a little mini bee organised by Lynz which is proving to be not only low stress but lots of fun and I'm fortunate to be sewing with some lovely talented ladies. In PIP we've all sent a block on to the next person who will add another block and send it on and so on. It's not a traditional round robin and we're keeping the blocks small. The first block I received was from Ethene and she went for a non square curvy improv. She also sent along some of the fabric in the first block so we can all include a little in our blocks to tie all the blocks together.

Ethene's block is on the left and my addition is on the right. It was all very improv although I knew I wanted a curve or two (which I find challenging to think about and easier to just do!). 

Playing with fabric

I've just received the next block I have to add to and I'm hoping I don't take the full allowance of making time to decide exactly what I'm going to do with it!

Friday, 4 September 2015

Hello. Remember me?

I think this is possibly the longest break I've had from blogging. I'm not sure how many people noticed I'd gone because I've still been relatively active on flickr and facebook and I've been super active on instagram. The 10 things posts definitely fell by the way side and even though I started a post before about what I'd been up to it's languishing unfinished in the drafts folder. I have to say the longer I've left things the harder it's been to get back to blogging. It's felt like I have stuff to fill 50 posts and where do I start?

So I've decided to start with a recap of why things have gone quiet.

Chief and I had our first trip abroad together. A coach trip to Amsterdam. Way back in July now. Can you believe it, but a few days before we were due to leave I got properly sick. A horrid heavy cold/flu type lurgy and it was touch and go as to whether I'd be up for travelling. I'm not great with travel especially when I'm not well. We discussed options should we have to cancel, which involved Chief going by himself! But in the end I dosed up on tablets (including travel sickness pills.) and we started our adventure. We were going by coach but it wasn't like I had to drive the thing! It all went fabulously well. Even though it took about 15 hours of travelling to get from Oxford to Amsterdam. I figure if I can cope with that whilst being ill I can cope with further more adventurous travel! We had a lovely time. And I have started a blog post about the trip and hopefully I'll get around to blogging more fully about the trip sometime!

The whistle stop version is:  I want to go back to Amsterdam. I loved what I saw of The Netherlands and the best bit about Belgium was the waffles and chocolate.

  Ostende, Belgium
Best Belgian Waffle I've ever had - nutella and

I didn't think so much of our stop off in Ostend such a contrast to Amsterdam. Chief didn't think much to the one night we spent in a hotel in France which was basic to say the least, although we had lovely walks before and after dinner around the pretty town of Gravelines. I absolutely loved putting together a holiday photo book with blurb. Which I rushed to do when they sent me a 50% off voucher code!

Amsterdam Adventure

I was exhausted after our trip, yet couldn't rest on my laurels for too long as then we had our annual family trip to Bournemouth. My brother and his wife stayed at the hotel for a night with us too. Then we had the usual three generations kind of fun with my Mum, Niece and I doing things like shopping, beach walking, playing crazy golf and card games in the hotel bar after evening meals. We had Chiefs underwater camera this year and had so much fun in the hotel pool with that. I had my own personal stylist as niece did my make up and hair before dinner each day. She is way better at beautification than I am!

Underwater Camera - Bournemouth
We had so much fun in the water with the camera. I can't
swim properly, but I am the only family
member that keeps eyes open under water.
Bournemouth - Underwater camera fun

I was due to go away with Chief for a weekend a week or so after Bournemouth. To spend my first night in Gertie. Chief was going to arrange accommodation either in Dorset or the Cotswolds and I was so excited to be off on my travels again. Then disaster struck. The Friday before I got a text from Chief telling me he was in the med centre and would ring later. He was on exercise. Not entirely sure where. (He did tell me I lose track. Yorkshire-ish I think.) Anyway, he'd collapsed and they thought he had exhaustion and they were keeping him in over night. He was destined to spend most of the next day - his birthday in the med centre and they ruled he had a 'chill in his kidneys' which I laughed at when he told me because what kind of 21st century diagnosis is that? Any how, long story short. He's had an untreated kidney infection, which turned serious due to lack of treatment and has pneumonia again. This time in a different location and lung! He got very dehydrated because he hasn't been able to keep food or liquids down. He's on a stack of meds still and struggles to get his breath so is exhausted all the time. The doctor keeps reminding Chief he came very close to dying. I haven't seen him since our Amsterdam trip and I doubt I'll be seeing him any time soon let alone going away.

So the weekend we were due to be going away I decided a staycation was in order and that's a whole other blog post. I also have to blog about all the great books I've been reading and yes, there has even been sewing!
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