Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday 17 December

Last night was our Christmas get-together for my knitting group. We meet up once a month, taking it in turns to host, and we all bring something to eat. We start off with a nice meal, trying to stay fairly healthy since one of our members was diagnosed with diabetes type 1 (sometimes we fall off the wagon a bit and have naughty desserts such as meringue or strawberry mousse cake!), and then drink copious amounts of tea and knit or crochet amongst lots of chat and laughter. It's the one night out I always look forward to, as we just get on really well in so many ways. I feel I've gained several friends, rather than just 'knitting buddies'.
Last year we decided to do a Secret Santa and that was so much fun that we did it again this year. I loved seeing how different the presents were - F. was given a book about sock knitting as she's just discovered how much fun it is to knit socks, S. received a display box with balls of yarn inside and a note on the back 'break in case of emergency'. There was a knitted Christmas decoration for new member C., J. was given a vintage needle gauge in a lovely knitted bag, and I knitted fingerless gloves for H.  And H. knitted me this fabulous pink tractor.

A week to go till Christmas and there is still so much to be done. Parcels to be sent, knitting deadlines to be met. One year I'm going to take the whole of December off and just enjoy preparing for Christmas. The tree is up though, the house is decorated and the kids come home every afternoon telling me what film they've watched at school. And although I would love to have a house that looks like it's walked straight off the pages from an interior decoration magazine, I'm secretly very proud that so many of our decorations are handmade. With all that lack of time that I moan about every year, I'm obviously still doing something right somewhere along the lines.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Half term was taken up with a flying visit to Holland with the 12yo man. He loves going over, likes everything Dutch, starts speaking Dutch and this time even ordered his own drink in Dutch - I love seeing how his confidence grows. He's the perfect travelling companion for trips to Holland and I relish my time with just him....

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday 21 October

I think I've mentioned my parttime dog in the past on this blog - I can't be bothered to scroll back to find if I have! (parttime dog belongs to my elderly neighbour who can't walk him anymore, so we take him for regular walks).

He turned 15 in July and his age is really showing now. He's completely deaf, he's stiff, he can't go as far as he used to and he definitely doesn't run anymore. Every time I knock on my neighbour's door, I'm scared she'll tell me that he's passed away. But every time she opens the door, he's there pushing her out of the way and giving me an excited bark, because when he sees me, it's time for walkies! So now we do slightly shorter, slower walks and I keep a close eye on him in case he's having a bad day and can't go as far as I'd hoped.

These photos are all from a walk that I start from my own doorstep. It's about 3 miles in total and mostly downhill (parttime dog really struggles uphill), it has views, a pretty country church and quiet paths. Enough to feel I've been out in the fresh air and got some exercise, but not so long that parttime dog can't cope.

I'm on a bit of a roll finishing off craft projects at the moment. After my last crochet class in Ipswich, I popped into Zoe's brand new fabric shop. And of course it's nigh on impossible to leave a fabric shop empty-handed. I knew straightaway that this fabric combination wanted to be a bag. I've had two or three Amy Butler bag patterns for years but never got round to making any of them up, as I always found the pattern pieces a pain in the neck - the patterns I have, are for quite big bags, so you need a lot of fabric.
Well, with a bit of juggling and some creative thinking I managed to cut all the pieces from the fabric I had, leaving very few scraps. It took me a few hours during a couple of home-alone weekends but then the bag was together and I'm really, really pleased with it.

And yes, that last photo was taken at the church on the walk that I talked about above...!
I think the bag might become my ferry bag. Stupidly enough I forgot to take photos of the back, where there are two pockets on the outside too. I tend to carry far too much onto the ferry and usually in several bags. This bag is big enough to fit a book, our passports and tickets, keys, phone, laptop and knitting. What else do you need on a daytime trip really? O yes, camera. That might fit too.
12yo found the bag on the side of the sofa the day after I'd finished it and said 'where did you get that?' So I told him I'd made it. 'Really?! It looks like you bought it from a shop'. High praise indeed!

Last but not least a new crochet cushion. My sofa cushions had long seen better days - you know the sort, flattened, stains that won't wash out anymore, and just a bit meh. But I'm not one for going out and buying replacements, no, I wanted to knit or crochet a cushion. Aiming for a 40x40 cm square, it turned out much bigger than I'd intended to and so it took much longer than I'd wanted. But it's done now, it goes with an Ikea fabric remnant that was too small to be any good for anything else. I even made the inner cushion myself from an old sheet and the stuffing from an old sofa cushion. It's comfy and squishy and matches the other cushions.

My next project is, gasp, Christmas presents... Only 66 days to go!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday 14 October

O blimey, more than 2 months since my last post!

I keep thinking about giving up the blog. I love Facebook and use it a lot. It feels like a point of contact with the outside world on days when I'm working from home - days which can get very isolated, even if it is handy that you can hang the laundry out and be in for a parcel. I've made friends on Facebook, I like keeping up with friends who have moved abroad, I've found old friends back, I like posting on Facebook. It's like a diary really.

But then I read back through blog entries from the past and this is a diary of sorts as well. I've had it for 7 years now - I don't even need to go back to check because this November it will be 7 years since mum had her operation for pancreatic cancer, and I used the blog a lot in those days to keep people up-to-date with what was happening.
I can see the kids growing up through the blog entries. I can go back and see things I've made. I suppose it just supplements my Facebook entries. (and I'm one of those people who trusts that whatever is put on the internet, will be there forever - I never knowingly put anything out there that will hurt other people or that I'm ashamed of, so I'm happy for it to be out there forever).

So, I think if I gave up on this blog completely, I'd regret it. But not writing very often feels wrong too. I want to write more, but find it hard to find the time. I don't know what the solution is - write shorter blog entries, set a time aside specially for writing? But I do know that I want to keep going.

Anyway! Enough of that rambling. It is October and we're well and truly settled into school routine. 15yo is in her GCSE year and doing well, working hard and regularly coming home with A*s. We're beginning to consider her options for 6th form college and even thinking about universities. She's got her heart set on going to London right now.
12yo is now at the same school which makes school runs much easier (read: non-existent for me!). He settled in well, considering he's gone from a school with 350 pupils to one with 2000 kids. We had a fairly eventful first week with him unexpectedly developing appendicitis and spending two days in hospital. Expecting that we'd be sent home again that evening when we went into A&E, I hadn't brought any clothes with me (I did bring my knitting!), so I spent two days and nights in the same clothes and felt probably as grotty as him when we returned home. He's made a full recovery though and is happily playing squash with J. again and enjoying the longer PE lessons at his new school.

Although I don't sew nearly as much as I'd like (just not enough hours in the day and too many hobbies fighting for attention!) I do now pretty much always have a project on the go. This skirt was a fairly simple one, but I figured the fabric didn't need a complicated pattern. I really like it, it feels very 'me'. Trying to figure out how to wear it now that it's turned colder (and wetter).

This scarf was my second attempt at a Hitchhiker. I'm way behind, everyone else seems to have made one, or two, or even more already. I'd wanted to make one for ages but never got round to it, and when I did I actually found it an extremely boring knit! I used yarn that my mum gave me ages ago, it's sock wool really. I loved the colours, they were really the colours of a wood, lots of greens and browns, but they were very much her colours. So as soon as it was finished, I packed it up and sent it off to Holland where it now has a very happy new home!

I'm still doing regular bike rides and visiting little churches. There is nothing better than getting out there in the fresh air, discovering little country lanes, seeing the seasons change, spotting a bird of prey or an owl or a cat out hunting, riding around a corner and coming upon a small country church. I've lost count of the number of miles I've covered but I get grumpy if I can't get out for a few weekends. I hope to get a blog post up with church photos soon - I did 47 miles last weekend so plenty of photos to share!

And on that note, I've eased myself back into blogging, I hope :-)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday 10 August 2014

When the kids were younger, I used to sew a lot for them. I even did a pattern drafting course while I was at university, and used to draft my own patterns because they were both tall and skinny.

But the day inevitably came when they weren't that keen on hand-sewn things anymore. It actually coincided with the time I was knitting and crocheting more and I didn't really miss sewing for them all that much.

I've kept some of the more treasured clothes, but the rest went to charity shops and the women's refuge, and I thought my days of sewing for them were over until maybe one day I become a grandmother. But then I sewed my skirt a couple of weeks ago, and when I'd half finished it and showed it to 15yo, she loved it straightaway and immediately asked if I could make her one.

Feeling very flattered, of course, I let her choose some fabrics at Crafty Baba and let her choose a pattern for a top - figuring if it was all her own choice, she'd be more likely to like it and wear it.

It was an easy pattern but good fun to make and a good one to get my confidence back. It's supposed to be worn over a skirt or pair of trousers and she's wearing it tucked in, which means it looks a bit rucked up, but it fits her pretty well - with hindsight, it probably could have been a size smaller but she's still a very small grown-up size.

I really enjoyed making it, she wore it all day yesterday and says she likes it. I just hope she isn't saying that in order not to hurt my feelings, but the proof will be in how often she wears it in the future! In the meantime, I've already cut out a skirt for her. My sewing enthusiasm is definitely back!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday 3 August 2014

On my many bike rides, I often come across war memorials in villages. I usually stop and look at them for a while. The names and ages are always so poignant, brothers or fathers and sons not returning, or very young men - more often than not, barely grown up.
With my bike rides, I tend to try and go further and further afield, exploring where I've not been before. I sometimes forget we have a beautiful church of our own, both at my own home near Bury St. Edmunds and  B's home in Norfolk. And I hadn't realised at all that my village didn't actually have a war memorial. It was only a few years ago, back in 2011, that we finally got a village sign. My village is sliced in two by the very busy A134, where not many motorists stick to the 40mph speed limit, and it stops the village being a tight-knit community, sadly. The village sign was several years in the making but the unveiling ceremony was a nice occasion with lots of villagers getting together and finally getting to know each other.

Our local Neighbourhood Watch coordinator is also on the parish council and set out to organise a war memorial for the 8 men who lost their lives during the two world wars - 4 in each war. And last Saturday, to coincide with the centenary of the outbreak of WW1, the memorial was unveiled.

It was a moving occasion, with relatives of 5 of the men attending and laying wreaths. Someone even travelled from Oman to be there!

I was specially proud because 15yo read out a poem at the end of the ceremony. Originally 12yo was going to do it, but as the days went on, he became more and more reluctant. On the day itself he just refused. I think the thought of lots of people and camera crews being there was just a bit too much. 15yo stepped in and read the poem calmly, clearly and beautifully. I am mostly proud of how mature her response was - she is growing up fast.

The British and the Dutch experienced war in a different way. The British had their men going off to fight. 15yo and 12yo's great-grandfather fought during the liberation of Europe in WW2, and most of their friends will have a grandfather or great-grandfather who fought in the war. The Dutch had their country occupied by the Germans. Countless families disappeared, taken to concentration camps, never returned. The Dutch owe their freedom to the Brits, the Canadians and the Americans. Which is why for me it is so important to recognise the sacrifice these men made, and to remember all who have suffered.

I am pleased we have a war memorial. These men deserve to be remembered.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Several years after everybody knitted a Hitchhiker Scarf, it's finally my turn. Yarn is very very soft and fuzzy and was a present from my friend Mandie. Even though a Hitchhiker is supposed to have 42 points, I'm going to knit 43 as that is how old I am at the moment! Not really a Hitchhiker anymore then, I do realise that... It's the perfect TV knitting project. Not that we're watching much telly at the moment as the remote control for the freeview box has given up the ghost and now the telly is stuck on Radio 4. I guess it could have been worse, like Dave or Channel Five.

In the background a pile of fabrics from Crafty Baba for new sewing projects: top fabric is for a sleeveless top for 15yo, middle fabric is for a skirt for me, and bottom fabric is for a skirt for 15yo, who liked mine so much, she wants one of her own. She'd better wear it, because she's two sizes smaller than me so if she ends up not liking it, I can't wear it myself!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday 28 July 2014

In the past I used to sew a lot. I've always liked making things, learning to knit at a very young age, making dolls' clothes, then moving onto baby things. I always hoped to have children one day and couldn't think of anything nicer than to make them cute baby outfits. In fact, I had several outfits ready long before children were even a possibility. I have vivid memories of having just done a pregnancy test, going on holidays to France and knitting a cotton baby sweater in the car and not feeling sick - whereas normally I feel travel sick very quickly. 'I must be pregnant if I can knit in the car', I said to J., and 9 months later 15yo was born. I also remember a holiday in Lyme Regis where both kids wore something handmade every day, and feeling very proud of that.

I was very lucky in that my bedroom has a corner which is so narrow, it's pretty unusable for bedroom purposes, so to speak. J. turned it into a sewing corner years ago, where I can leave my machines up all the time. But as the kids became toddlers, it got harder and harder to spend time up there without one of them joining me and wanting to push all the buttons and taking all the pins out of the pincushion, and neither of them really ever enjoyed sorting my button collection.
Which is when I got back into knitting and crochet, because it was something I could do while watching them play, and pick up and put down as needed. And then I discovered I could take my knitting with me when out and about, and sewing started to take a back seat. My sewing machine, my overlocker, my embroidery machine and my fabric stash, they all started to gather dust.

But I still have a subscription to a Dutch sewing magazine, which arrives monthly with about 20 different patterns. And I'd look through it and think 'that would be nice to sew, and that would be nice to wear'. So occasionally, every so often, I trace a pattern and pin it to some fabric, and then I sit behind the sewing machine and find I've totally lost my confidence. Every time I get to a tricky bit - a zip, inserting the sleeves, making buttonholes - I stall. I leave the project for a few weeks until I finally kick myself up the backside and get on with it (and more often than not, it wasn't nearly as scary as I expected).

This project was a dream almost from start to finish. I only struggled a little with the pockets, but sorted it by leaving a detail out, and to be honest, the fabric design is so busy that it really wouldn't have added anything to it anyway. The rest of it went together so easily and so well, and then it fitted ever so well too. I finished it in time to wear to my crochet class and then lunch afterwards with some other Crafty Baba members on Saturday, so I could show it off (the fabric is from Crafty Baba - looks very much like a Liberty but it isn't, although it definitely feels like it!). It's such a big hit, that 15yo has even asked for one for herself. Now that's a compliment if ever I had one!

There is already an order for more fabric on its way to Crafty Baba for the next few sewing projects. I think the bug has really bitten again!

PS Excuse the squinting into the sun (it was either that or rapeseed stalks as background) and excuse the mosquito bites, which are from last weekend at Latitude.