Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Snowdrops, the seaside and sewing

Half-term here has come and gone. The girls had ten whole days off school
and I think they've enjoyed themselves and have rested and recuperated. They
kept me busy most days. I had felt tired and frazzled at times and had craved
for some quiet time on my own during the day, but that was all off set by lie-ins
in the morning. the alarm clock not going off at 6:30am (hurray!), and doing fun
things with them like going to the cinema and meeting up with friends. It was nice,
actually, the whole half-term, and now that they're back at school, the house
has felt unusually quiet this morning. I miss them.

The weather was mostly rubbish throughout the school break. We were
looking forward to the sunny and mild days that were forecasted but what
we got was rain, grey skies, cold weather and on Thursday, the storm Doris.

When the sun did make an appearance, we tried to make the most of it. The girls
played outside and we went for walks down in the woods. We were on the look out
for any spring flowers on the ground and were disappointed to find only one clump
of snowdrops in bloom. Maybe in a few weeks there will be more of them flowering
and other flowers will appear, too. What we saw, and we keep seeing, are brightly
coloured crocuses in front gardens and we're a bit jealous. If I get myself organized
this year and have some bulbs planted in the autumn, we'll also have some colourful
blooms in our front yard next spring. Hopefully.

Tuesday last week was one of those rare dry and sunny days and we decided
to go on a day trip to Whitby. We love a day at the seaside, even if it's just
a short one. We played crazy golf, had fish and chips on the pier, mooched around
the Shambles and bought some kippers which we had for breakfast the next day.

Mostly, we stayed at home and pottered. I showed the girls how to sew one
rainy afternoon. They were very keen and were quite stoic with needle pricks
which surprised and impressed me.

It was Markie who first wanted to learn to sew and she specifically wanted to make
these felt birds. I was happy to oblige. I learned to sew when I was about her age, from
watching my mother, and then we were taught in school when I was about 8 or 9. It
pleases me that they're interested and they're both actually really good. Lulu, who's
four, now knows running stitch and straight stitch and 'gets' how buttons are sewn.
Markie pretty much did most of it by herself, including the buttons.

They're planning to bring their finished birds to school this week to show their teachers
and classmates. I'm all for it. I think they did a great job and should be proud. I'm
looking forward to making them pancakes for tea later. We'll have sweet and savoury
toppings, although I have a feeling Nutella, their latest favourite, will be most
in demand.

I hope you enjoy your pancakes too, if you haven't already. Thanks for reading
and for the lovely comments on my attempts at tapestry crochet. I have made progress
with the second pattern and I'm looking forward to showing you next time.
Have a great day!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Tapestry Crochet

I've long admired colourful patterns like this from talented crocheters. I like
the woven look and the wonderful colourwork and I have fancied giving it a go,
but it seemed so complicated. I didn't really know where and how to start.

Last weekend I decided to read up about this type of crochet and learned that
this particular technique is called tapestry crochet. It is worked entirely in double
crochet stitches using two or more colours of yarn on each row to create colourful
graphic designs. The yarn not in use is usually encased at the back as you work
each row, just like you do with yarn ends in normal crochet if you prefer not to sew
them in. It didn't sound as complex or intricate as I'd first thought, so I made a very
simple pattern and gave it a go.

The first row with the colour change went all right but it got tricky as I got to the end
of it. All rows on tapestry crochet are worked on the right side. This is fine if you're
crocheting on the round, but not so much if you're making something flat. You can't
turn at the end of the row as you would normally do, so you can either crochet back
using your left hand or crochet in reverse. Not being ambidextrous, I chose
the latter method.

It took me awhile to get my head round it and I still get confused sometimes but
I'm getting more used to it. I followed my pattern and it had turned out better than
I was expecting. The only thing is the coloured yarn in the background - it is visible
through the white sections. You shouldn't be able to see the yarn that's not being
used and I've tried pulling it towards the back as advised but you can still see it.
I've yet to crack this yarn issue, but over all, not bad, I think for a first try.

I've decided to try a slightly more complicated pattern and so far, it's going well.
I like this one more so I'll keep going. Hopefully it will be a cushion cover. I'm using
scraps of mercerised cotton. It has good stitch definition which is ideal for this and
also it doesn't split, making it nicer to work with.

It's been great to step out of my crochet comfort zone and try something new and
different. Apart from the girls' headbands, I haven't been very inspired with crochet
lately so this has been very good for sparking my interest again and I already have
a few patterns in mind that I'd like to try.

Have you tried tapestry crochet before?  If you have, I'd love to hear about your
experience and see the things you've made. I hope you've had a good week.
Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Crocheted Headbands

I made these headbands last weekend. The weather had been quite miserable
here, too dark even at daytime for hand sewing, so I picked up my crochet hook
and made hair accessories instead. The girls love them. They're both into headbands
at the moment and I decided that better than buying them, I'll make them myself.

I started off with rows of double crochets to make the band, sewed together
the ends, and then embellished with flowers and bows. Very simple and easy.
The flowers are based on the buttercup pattern from 201 crochet motifs, blocks,
projects and ideas by Melody Griffiths; I just made up the bows.

I used Drops Muscat mercerised cotton in pink, green. dusky blue and red,
all left over from other projects. I like this yarn. It's smooth and very nice to work
with and makes a soft but stretchy crocheted fabric, just what you need for headbands.

These were all quick and easy makes and I enjoyed making them. It's been awhile
since I've completed a project so it was quite satisfying and very pleasant to have
something simple that I can work on while watching television and finish it in an
evening. I'm planning to make a few more for my nieces and maybe for the girls'
friends as well. But first, while there's bright, clear sunshine, I'm going to work on
my sampler and hopefully get it finished soon.

I hope you've had a lovely start to the week. It's not half-term here yet,
there's still this week to go. It's an unusually long school term for this time of year.
The girls are knackered and so am I, but we trudge on. Hopefully Friday will be
here before we know it.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Saturday Sunshine

charity shop books to add to my reading pile

making fairy potions

my little cactus is flowering again!

Hello. It's Sunday morning here, I hope you're having a nice weekend.
We had sunshine and blue skies here yesterday, so Spring-like. We spent
a couple of hours outside after lunch - a rare treat in early February. I did
a bit of hand sewing, finishing another motif in my sampler. It was so good
to work in strong, clear natural light. I get by on grey days by sitting next
to the window and under a lamp in the evenings, but nothing beats good
old Mr. Sunlight. I hope we'll have more of him in the coming days and

The girls played while I sewed, their games peppered with squabbles as
per usual. Then they had the brilliant idea to make what they call 'fairy
potions'. Lulu had made it last Friday with her woodland club at school and
was keen to show her sister how this magical concoction is made.
So, basic ingredients: leaves, tiny sprigs of rosemary or whatever herbs
are available, an acorn if there's any, plus glitter. Empty snail shells are
 optional. Put them all in an empty jam jar, add water and a bit of mud
(muddy wellies are a good source), stir with a stick, put the lid on the jar and
ta-dah! the potion is made. It's like a muddy, weird slow globe when
you shake it. You can pour a bit of it in your garden and the fairies will
come visit your house at night. We haven't tried this yet but I've been
assured that it works.

I'll leave you with that for now. I hope we'll have sunshine again today.
We're planning to go for a walk somewhere nice this afternoon. Whatever you
have planned for today I hope you have a good day, too. Happy Sunday!

Friday, 3 February 2017

Raindrops on Roses - January

I enjoyed reading Jo's post last week about her favourite things. It made me think
of the things I liked and enjoyed best throughout January and I thought I'd share
some of them here with you.

My morning walks. I wouldn't have considered walking on cold, grey January
mornings as particularly enjoyable a year ago but as I've mentioned in my previous
post, it's a great way to start the day, I get some exercise, and it's been a brilliant
tonic for the post-holiday winter blues.

Our walk around Chatsworth last week

Aside from my weekday morning walks, I've also enjoyed being outdoors
with the girls on weekends. We've been exploring the woods near our house,
finding something new and different every weekend. Lately we've seen green shoots
starting to show through the frosty ground. In the coming weeks and months
we'll get to see Spring unfold in and around the woods on these weekend walks.
I'm particularly looking forward to crocuses and daffodils blooming. There might
even be bluebells down there, that would be fantastic.

Crumpets. I used to love crumpets then I went off them for awhile but now
I'm loving them again. I toast them and use lots (and lots!) of salted butter. With
a cup of tea, they're perfectly yum!

Daffodils.  I like this time when you can buy bunches of daffs in supermarkets.
They are bright and cheery and I love the burst of colour they bring especially to dark
winter days. They also remind me of Springtime and that it's just around the corner-
what a happy thought.

Hot chocolate Filipino style. Traditional hot chocolate in the Philippines is made
from native cacao and comes in tablets which are melted in hot milk. A friend gave
me two packs of these chocolate tablets for Christmas and I've been making myself
hot chocolate drinks with them. It is very thick and it is to be spooned, rather than
drunk, from a cup. I have found that they are excellent for dunking strips of toasted
chocolate brioche. But making it, the melting and stirring, takes awhile and can
be a faff, so it's even more of a treat when I have them.

Stitching. I've written about this  here - this is a slow, relaxing and
enjoyable project. I love seeing the motifs take shape with the colours
I've chosen and how it's all coming together. Fingers crossed it will turn
out real nice.

Radio plays. The dramas and stories I've been listening to on Radio 4 are
fantastic - from The Story of a Name and Little Women to The Bird Tribunal
and the biography of Thomas Telford. I'm also now avidly listening to other
programmes like the comedy and quiz shows. I'm often laughing but also
learning at the same time, and also moved by the human stories. It's been
a very good discovery, Radio 4.

So those were some of my favourite last month - I now wonder what February
has in store for me!

I'm hoping to spend time visiting blogs this weekend so see you soon!
I'm leaving you with more photos of the fog.  These were from last Monday
morning walk. Enjoy!