Monday, 23 January 2017

Frost Upon Frost

The frosts have been spectacular over the last week of so. It's been so cold that they don't seem to melt away, but just form layer upon layer of tiny ice crystals on the leaves, trees and plants. The woods we visit daily were transformed earlier in the week and I really, really wished I'd taken my big camera with me. A really heavy frost - like snow - has the ability to transform the most everyday route into something really magical.

It was brutally cold. There was not a breath of wind but freezing mist hung in the air and the weak sun slanted through the trees. 

It's been very cold at work - especially on Mondays after the heating has been off over the weekend - and I've taken to wearing a thick woollen cardigan over my usual dress, tights and boots. Due to lots of staff birthdays, there has been an almost daily supply of cakes, biscuits and doughnuts in the staff room over the last few weeks. I've done my bit to keep myself padded. Shivering must burn calories, surely?

Angus was delighted to find that the standing water inside the wheelbarrow, watering cans and bucket in the back garden had frozen solid. He took great delight in smashing it all.

But I'll take cold and sunny over wet and mild any winter's day and it's so good to see the sun shining into the house. Lately I've really noticed how much lighter it is each day compared to a month ago. Now, when I get home around 4.30pm, it's still light when I play with Molly in the back garden.

I have been surrounding myself with my usual January comforts and rituals; baking, a new crochet project, making marmalade, buying hyacinths, cooking hearty meals like sausage stew and Shepherd's Pie.

I have just begun a lightweight spring cardigan in the softest of pinks. The cotton is so soft and has such a soft, matt colour, it's gorgeous. 

Something for when the days are a little warmer.


Thank you so much for your comments on the quilt - I'm so glad I shared it with you. Thank you also for the dog-related comments and advice, we do appreciate that a lot. Formal training sessions start this week although I am trying my own recall training in the back garden, for as long as I can stand the cold. I also bumped into a very nice lady yesterday with two retired greyhounds. We chatted for a long time and swapped numbers, and she told me all about the things happening locally for greyhounds - there's loads! It's a whole other world. I had no idea. 

I'll leave you with a photo of today's dense fog. Spooky!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

A Quilt

I was recently rummaging through the box of blankets that we keep under our bed when I came across this quilt. I don't think I've used it since we moved here two years ago, or for quite some time before that. I'd gone off it a bit, grown bored of it, and packed it away.

But I found myself looking at it with fresh eyes. There are a lot of memories in this quilt, a lot of our family story. It was one of the first things I made on my sewing machine, the first big crafting project I ever completed, and I was so proud of my efforts even though it's full of mistakes. I made it back when Angus was a baby, long before I started this blog, and worked on it in the evenings when the kids were asleep.

There are a lot of memories in the fabrics. The quilt started when John cleared out a load of old shirts - mostly blue or white - from his wardrobe and I decided to cut them up and use them in the quilt. I was deep into my "make do and mend" phase then (we were probably quite skint, too) and so I tried to spend as little on fabric as possible and I think this does show. I bought very cheap, too-thin cotton from places like Hobbycraft and some fabulous bold-printed slightly-too-heavy cotton from IKEA (the pattern with the log cabins) which really would have been better suited for something hard wearing and utilitarian like a peg bag or cushion cover. I then splurged on tiny amounts of Cath Kidston cotton and Liberty tana lawn which I used sparingly. 

I'm not saying I know much more about quilts or sewing now, but I think it's probably best to try and keep the weight of the fabric fairly similar and consistent. Also, if I was going to make another quilt again like this, I think I would spend a little more on good quality fabrics that I really love.

The pattern is simply squares of fabric sewn into long rows which are then joined along the lengths. Once backed, you then sew diagonally over each square, corner to corner, to create the quilted effect. It's beautifully simple and a great beginner's quilt. 

Some of my corners line up perfectly, others are way off. The back of the quilt - an old double bed sheet -  is an absolute dog's dinner. I didn't have a quilting foot so just pushed the top, bottom and wadding through my poor sewing machine, scrunching it all up as I went. Now I would know to pin, pin and pin some more, using safety pins to keep the layers in place as I sewed. Or I might even hand quilt it.

The fact that it's a bit rough around the edges means I'm not remotely precious about it. It's been through the washing machine many times and makes a good mat to sit on in the garden. It has quite a country feel about it, don't you think? Not perhaps what I'd go for today, but I like it's softness. I think that's maybe what a quilt should be about, softness and comfort ultimately, rather than perfectly executed geometric patterns (although I would strive for that too!)

Thank you so much for your comments on my last post, particularly those around dog training. I've really felt this week that I'm failing at dog ownership (well, dog training really) because she's not perfect and definitely has some areas that need work, so it was really helpful to be reminded that this is still early days for Molly and for us and that we are all doing ok.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Fairy Lights Are Still Up

Well, considering I've got a stinking cold, it's been quite a nice weekend all in all. John got up with the children so I could lie in, walked Molly (twice) and he cooked roast chicken for dinner. I haven't even had to leave the house today and it's been quite lovely. I read my book, did some crochet, baked a cake. 

We are clinging on to the last Christmas vibes here. Fairy lights twinkle in the kitchen and the poinsettia is still going strong. I've resisted (so hard!) buying tulips or daffodils just yet and continue to eat up the stollen and slurp away at the occasional sloe gin. I've decided that diets and dry January are lunacy - why deprive yourself of pleasure and cheer in one of the darkest, coldest months of the year? Instead I am striving for a balance of sorts - healthy meals, but not punitive ones, and lots of treats, and regular exercise in the form of very brisk daily dog walks and my weekly yoga sessions. Molly doesn't do slow walks, but trots along at such a pace I am almost jogging, not walking. I take her to the woods every day before I go to work and I took my big camera with me this week. At first glance it's all brown and grey, bare trees and mud, but there is so much beauty and colour hiding away there. I'm looking forward to watching winter unfold into spring through out daily walks, and think I'm much more connected to the seasons through them.

There was talk of snow on the weather forecasts all week, and we did actually get a little sleety snowfall on Thursday night but nothing settled. Of course, working in a school, there is endless speculation about closures and traffic and roads being open and the possibility of a snow day - which everyone is hoping for - but sadly it wasn't to be. Heavy snow fall down here is very unusual. It's still chilly though - we went to the beach yesterday and it was bitterly cold.

We're all still very in love with Molly, despite all her many and various misdemeanours which include: weeing on the bed (you try getting a kingsize winter duvet in the tumble dryer....), randomly chewing the edges of furniture despite having lots of delicious bones in her basket, and stealing food - while John was unpacking the shopping the other day, she tore through two layers of packaging to steal a frozen chicken nugget. You have to question whether it was worth it, don't you? Yet we adore her! She is gentle and playful and every day more personality appears. You will notice that she is pictured on the bed above; it's not so much that she's allowed, more that I can't always stop her...and then the kids jump on the bed and start cuddling her and before you know it there are four people stroking a bemused dog. She gets a lot of love and it feels like she's been part of our family for a lot longer than six weeks. We need to work on her socialisation with other dogs and recall training though, as we would love to be able to let her off her lead and watch her run around on the beach. I have been recommended a trainer and will investigate - any tips gratefully received! 

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Winter Project - Granny Stripe Blanket

This month I am working on Angus's blanket. There is something comforting about having a blanket to crochet, especially in January, and the warmth and colour are welcome on these cold, grey days.

I've been working on this project since the summer and have not always found it the most exciting WIP, I have to confess, but I think I'm nearing the halfway mark now and that - plus motherly guilt - has given me some impetus to complete this project. I mentioned in my last post - and thank you so much for your comments on that - how I am feel a little stuck in a crochet rut, a little in need of a challenge, and this project is weighing me down a bit.

I think that one of the nicest things about this blanket - how easy it is - is also the problem. If I'm tired, this doesn't wake me up, it sends me to sleep. It's the crochet equivalent of cocoa. Sometimes the repetitive pattern is soothing, yes, but sometimes it's dull too. You can't have it all ways.

I am happy with the colours though. I had a wobble this week that there was too much pink in it for a boy's blanket, then got cross with myself for being so completely, gender-stereotypically, ridiculous. But yes, I like the colours. Those ones below - mustard, grey, white, teal and olive green - all together make me feel both content and inspired.

I worked out that if I crocheted two rows of one colour a night (about an hour's crochet) then I could complete this blanket in a couple of months. Probably even by the end of February. It would be nice to have this on Angus's bed before spring rolls around.

For this blanket, I am using a mixture of mostly Stylecraft Special DK with some Deramores Studio DK and a 4 mm hook.

The Stylecraft Special DK colours are:


The Deramores Studio DK colours are below with Stylecraft suggestions for a close match in brackets:
blush (raspberry or pomegranate)
topaz (aster or turquoise)
indigo (midnight)

I am joining in with my friend Jennifer of Thistlebear's Winter Project Link Party. Do visit her beautiful blog if you don't already know it for some crafty inspiration. 

Monday, 9 January 2017

2016: A Year of Making

It's that time again, when I like to look back and see what I made over the course of a year and in 2016, like the year before, it was overwhelmingly things for our home. There were a few gifts, and items for myself - clutch bag, yoga bag, socks, hat - but mostly it was napkins and crochet. This time last year I said I wanted to cross stitch and embroider more, and I certainly did that. I also talked about starting another quilt, and I didn't do that. 

I've arranged the finished projects into collages with links to the blog posts below. You could probably guess the seasons without the titles; blankets and socks in the autumn and winter, flowers and plants in the spring and summer, and a lot more crafting happens in the colder months than the warmer ones. 

{ January, February, March }




{ April, May, June, }




{ July, August, September }




{ October, November, December }

Autumn Leaf Garland


Advent Calendar
Christmas Napkins
Clay Decorations
Koala and Chimpanzee

I think I'm most pleased with my socks overall. And it was good to remember how much fun a quick and easy project can be, like the leaf garland and hanging planter. Not everything has to take months and months - sometimes a few hours crafting is just as enjoyable and rewarding, perhaps even more so.

I started 2016 with an embroidery and a couple of blankets to complete, and it seems that I'm starting 2017 in almost exactly the same way, with a cross stitch pattern and Angus's blanket in my project basket. But those two projects aside, my crafting plans for the coming year include:
  • crocheting myself a jumper or cardigan - I very much like this pattern
  • having a bash at dress making - I saw a colleague today in this dress and was instantly drawn to it
  • trying some more crochet sock patterns - this book appeals
  • possibly starting an English Paper Piecing quilt. Or some kind of quilt, anything to use up some of my scraps of fabric.
  • Mastering colour work in crochet, mainly so that I can make these stunning mittens
I feel a bit stuck in a crochet rut, and I'm hoping the socks, clothes and colour work will provide new inspiration. I also think that I need nudging out of my comfort zone of crochet and cross stitch, and I'm hoping some simple dress making might help with that. We'll see. Anyway, that was fun to put together, I hope you enjoyed the overview. Thank you for letting me share my love of crafting with you all here - it really is one of my most favourite things to do and knowing you all get that is wonderful.

If you are interested, you can look back at previous creative round-ups below: