Thursday, 19 April 2018

Spring Has Sprung

Spring is here. After what seems like months of cold, wet and dull weather, that great yellow thing was seen in the sky yesterday and it finally warmed up. Mick got in from work early so we went to Lotherton for a walk before tea and it was actually warm enough to leave our coats behind and wear T-shirts.

I'm sure the spring flowers must have been blooming for a while now, but I don't think you notice them as much until they're bathed in sunshine. Here are just a few things we saw on our walk.

The trees at Lotherton are full of blossom though the same can't be said for my trees at home, there isn't a single flower on any of them yet, I do hope they haven't missed the boat for this year. The wild garlic is ready to bloom, every year I say that I will try doing something with the leaves but I still haven't given it a go. Procrastination in my middle name. They do say that wild garlic pesto is delicious. Though we've seen frogs in our little pond at home, we don't have any frogspawn this year and there's none in the pond at Lotherton either, there were lots of goldfish basking close to the top though. The magnolia stellata looked glorious against the blue sky. There's still patches of mud around which, of course, Archie heads straight for, though it was something far more unmentionable that he rolled in yesterday which resulted in him having a bath when we got home.

And what happens as soon as the sun puts in an appearance, why, so does the ice-cream man.

Today has got off to a good start again, it looks as though another beautiful day is on the cards.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Sewing Made Simple

I was delighted to be asked to review Sewing Made Simple by Tessa Evelegh. Now that I've got my sewing machine, I need all the help I can get to get myself up and running with it and this book is ideal for a beginner like me or someone looking to refresh their sewing skills.

The book has an introduction which is followed by various chapters:-

The Sewing Box
Starting right at the beginning for any newbies like me, here you will find all the things you'll need as you embark on your sewing adventure.

The Secrets Of Sewing-Machine Success
This chapter will be very handy for anyone like me who doesn't know one end of a sewing machine from the other. Not only is there a guide on what each part of the sewing machine does but it also covers the accessories which come with the machine too.

Stitch Craft
It may seem basic to those who can already sew but this chapter starts with threading the needle and tying the knot. Temporary stitches, finishing stitches and basic machine stitches are all covered.

The Paper Pattern
I like how the book assumes you're a complete beginner and takes you through the most basic of things like a pattern envelope. I wouldn't understand the symbols without some help and this book provides it. This chapter shows you how to take measurements and how to use the pattern, including laying it out, pinning and cutting out and adapting the pattern pieces.

Fabric Choices
There's so many different fabrics to choose from that I get bamboozled just thinking which type of fabric would be suitable for a particular pattern. Here you'll find information on fabric construction and pattern as well as a guide to different types of fabric and a fabric glossary.

Basic Sewing Skills
This chapter covers various skills including seams, shaping and contouring, gathering and easing, fastenings, trimmings, embellishments, applique, the perfect finish, mitred corners and quilting.

After each of the basic sewing skills there's various projects for you to have a go at which incorporate the skill you've just learnt. There's twenty projects in total and patterns and templates for them are supplied at the back of the book. I really like the look of this tote bag.

I think this is a great book for someone just starting out on their sewing adventure like I am, it seems to cover everything I'll need to know and more. The illustrations too are detailed and very informative.

Sewing Made Simple by Tessa Evelegh. Hardback, 224 pages. Published by Jacqui Small Publishing (16.99). I received a copy of this book to review, however, all opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Eleanor's had long hair for a long time now. Whenever she went to the hairdressers she always asked for a minimal amount cutting off so imagine my surprise when she told me she was having it cut short.

It turns out that she'd heard about The Little Princess Trust, a charity who provide real hair wigs free of charge to children and young adults up to the age of 24, who have sadly lost their own hair due to cancer treatment and other illnesses. She decided that she'd like to donate her hair to this organisation who help others less fortunate than herself.

Hair has to be at least 7 inches in length so I think Eleanor's ponytail ticks that box.

She actually had more than 17 inches cut off as once the ponytail had been cut she wanted it shorter still. I think her new shorter style suits her very much and Eleanor's very happy with it.

The Easter holidays finish for Eleanor on Sunday. We're having a girly day out in Leeds together today where we'll do some shopping and have some lunch, tomorrow night she's working at her little bar job that she has when she's home and then on Sunday she goes back to university. The house will be very quiet again.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Spring Into Wool 2018

I visited Spring Into Wool 2017 at The Grammar School at Leeds last year, the first time it was held, and I really enjoyed it. I decided then that I'd visit again this year if they decided to hold it for a second year which they did at the weekend. Last year it was a one day event but this year it's been extended to a Saturday and Sunday show. I visited on Saturday and it was much busier than it was last year, it's popularity has certainly grown. There were seventy five stalls, a few more than last year, and a good mix of yarny crafts.

I didn't take any photos at the show but I thought you might like to see what I bought.

Two balls of Wensleydale Longwool in blue and natural, I've got a pair of mittens in mind for this yarn. I picked up yet another ball of West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply, this time in their Bullfinch colourway. Mick's really taken to his hand knitted socks so I thought I'd knit him another pair. I'm a big fan of West Yorkshire Spinners as I can just chuck the socks in the washing machine and they come out fine, they have some great colours too, and most of them can be mixed and matched so that you can add contrasting heels and toes if you so wish.

I've seen so many scrappy blankets around, made by knitting up left over yarn from socks, or from mini skeins, and I'd resisted the urge to start one myself but I've finally succumbed and bought myself both a pack of mini skeins and a single one, all from Rosie's Moments. I've got lots of yarn odds and ends in my stash so I've now got plenty to get me going.

The skein of yarn on the right is by Love Handyed in the Autumn Fallen Leaves colourway, it was in their bargain bin so I couldn't leave it behind, it will make a lovely pair of socks. The skein on the left is by Third Vault Yarns in the Oncoming Storm colourway. I bought a skein of yarn from this same dyer at Spring Into Wool last year and I knit my Dragon Scales Shawl with it, it was lovely to knit with and is so soft and squishy.

I've been buying hand dyed yarn for about seven years now so I thought it was about time that I had a go at dyeing some yarn myself. Professional dyers use acid dyes but I thought I'd start off with something which requires less equipment and is less harmful. Kool-Aid is a powder which, when added to water, makes a fruit-flavoured soft drink. Considering this has the capability to be used as a dye I don't think it's something I'd fancy drinking myself. I bought seven flavours which should make seven different coloured dyes and then I came across a stand where undyed yarn was for sale for just £1.50 per skein so I picked up two to practice on. I'm looking forward to giving this a go and even Mick has expressed an interest so I might get him involved too.

This year's haul is with a range of projects in mind so there'll be lots of new things started in the very near future. I shall let you know how I get on.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Taking My Time

You may remember that I started Boxy by Joji Locatelli right at the start of the year. I wrote about it in my On The Needles post, along with some other projects which I've since finished, but Boxy was never meant to be a quick knit. With nearly 400 stitches on the needles and knit in 4 ply yarn I knew it would take some time to complete, especially as I've had other things on the go at the same time.

It's been a really simple knit so far. Knit bottom up, in the round, there's a few rows of rib before changing to stocking stitch, which means knitting every row with it being in the round. It's been a great project to pick up when I haven't wanted to concentrate, and I'm now finally starting to see it grow. In fact, as the sweater is fairly cropped, I'm almost at the point where I'll divide for the armholes.

I enjoy taking my time with the projects I work on. I'm a slow knitter anyway but I see no point in rushing over the things I make, I like to enjoy the process of working on them and seeing them slowly take shape. This sweater is for Eleanor, it's a good job that she isn't in any rush for it because at the pace it's being knit she might have it just in time for next winter.

This is the only thing I've got on my needles at the moment so I think it may be time to cast on some new projects. I can't remember the last time I didn't have a pair of socks on the go so perhaps a new sock pattern will be the first thing to add to my needles.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Four Sisters

I remember watching a programme called Russia's Lost Princesses a few years ago which was about Tsar Nicholas II's four daughters and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about these girls who were the most photographed princesses of their day. I'm sure you know the sad conclusion to their story, killed almost 100 years ago, on the 17th of July 1918, at the climax of the Russian Revolution along with their parents, younger brother and some of their loyal servants.

Not long after watching the documentary I read a post by Jennifer on her Thistlebear blog, Reading the Romanovs, a wonderful review of The Romanov Sisters, a book by Helen Rappaport, and decided then and there that this would be a book which would interest me. I took history as an O Level but I've come to enjoy it so much more as I've got older. When I came across Four Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses by the same author I didn't realise at once that it was the same book with a different title for the UK audience.

Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia are often talked about as a group, in fact, they referred to themselves as OTMA, the initials of their own names, but through the retelling of their stories, which have been researched using their letters and diaries and letters and diaries of those people who were close to them, the individual personalities of each sister is made evident.

The book explains how the family became isolated from the public due to the Tsar and Tsarina's wish to keep their son and heir's life-threatening condition of haemophilia secret and also the family's relationship and dependence on Grigory Rasputin, a Russian mystic who acted as a healer for the Tsar, his wife and son and who the sisters also looked to for advice, contributing factors to the collapse of the Romanov dynasty.

In some ways the girls were just like any other children with their squabbles and disagreements as well as teenage crushes, yet their upbringing certainly had an effect on them. After the outbreak of WWI, the two older girls served as nurses and were witness to some truly horrible injuries, and as you would expect, even death.

The family's execution at the hands of Bolshevik troops who were led by Yakov Yurovsky under instructions by Lenin was not dwelt upon in the book, but we know the family were shot, bayoneted and clubbed to death before their bodies were stripped, mutilated, burned and finally disposed of in a field in the Koptyaki forest. Mystery has always surrounded the death of the youngest sister, Grand Duchess Anastasia. There were rumours that she'd managed to escape and there were even imposters claiming to be her, but this has been dismissed with DNA evidence.

This was an excellent read, well researched and illustrated with photos from the family album. As I've said previously, I rarely reread books but this is another keeper which I will definitely pick up again.

I enjoyed Helen Rappaport's writing style and I'm quite tempted now to read another of her books, Ekaterinburg: The Last Days of the Romanovs, which is an account of the final thirteen days of their lives. Helen Rappaport has also written Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy which I also quite fancy.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

All Good Things Must Come To An End

We've all had a lovely week. The family arrived home safe and sound a week last Friday and though Eleanor had to go back to university on the Monday, she was back home again on Thursday.

Daniel and his girlfriend enjoyed some days out in Leeds and York, catching up with people they'd met there at university and visiting old haunts, and with Mick having the week off work we also managed some nice days out despite the weather not being too good.

We had another trip to Lotherton, somewhere we visit regularly, but this time we got to see Arthur the tapir out and about in his enclosure, which he shares with the capybaras.

The flamingos have now arrived at Lotherton too, along with some Visayan Warty Pigs, an animal I've never heard of before, probably because they're one of the rarest pigs in the world. It's believed that only 200 remain in the wild.

Haworth, known for its association with the Bronte sisters, is another regular haunt, though I've never seen it as quiet there as it was this time. It was a drizzly day and many of the shops which line the steep cobbled hill were closed and I realised that we've never really visited out of season before. It did make such a difference.

Oakworth Station, just outside Haworth, shot to fame in the 1970s when it was used in the film The Railway Children. The station is still much as it was in the early twentieth century and still lit by gas lights both inside the buildings and on the platform.

We were silly to trust the decent weather forecast when we set off for Whitby, it started to rain as soon as we arrived and got steadily worse throughout the day. We still managed to have a wander round though, ducking into little shops as and when the rain got worse.

Along with the days out we spent plenty of time together at home chatting, playing games and generally enjoying each others company. It's not very often that we're all together these days so it's extra special when we are.

Mick's now on his way down to Surrey taking Daniel and his girlfriend home before turning round and coming all the way back to Leeds again, it's going to be a long day for him, though I'm hoping that the traffic isn't too bad with it being Easter Sunday. It's always sad to wave either of my children off but Eleanor's home from university now for the Easter holidays so we've still got her here for another fortnight.

Wishing you all a very happy Easter.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Itty Bitty Craft Projects

There's a few itty bitty craft projects which have been waiting for my attention so I thought I'd get on with them.

My lovely friend, Lisa, from Jumble and Jelly included this felt star kit in with my Twelve Days of Christmas gifts. It's really a Christmas project but I decided I'd get it made up in readiness for this year. I think it's made a lovely tree ornament and was very quick and easy to make.

I'd run out of dishcloths and I much prefer hand knitted cloths to shop bought so I got my needles clacking and knitted up five so that I've got a few in reserve. I usually use the Grandmother's Favorite pattern but as it's knitted corner to corner I found that the cloths were never a perfect square. I recently came across the Gramma's Dishcloth pattern, free on Ravelry, by PJ Allen which is another take on the original but has a few alterations which, as you can see, makes the cloth more symmetrical. These cloths haven't been blocked but they still come out pretty square. I knit four of them in plain white and ecru crafting cotton and used some Lily Sugar'n Cream Ombres in the Kitchen Breeze colourway for the other.

There's often little craft projects included with the knitting and crochet magazines I buy, I rarely make them up but as I have a bit of a thing about pigs I really wanted to give Paula Pig from this Farmyard Friends kit a go.

Knitting teensy tiny things is really not my forte as you can see. I'm afraid Paula leaves a lot to be desired.

I showed her to Eleanor over Skype, I knew it would give her a good laugh and I wasn't wrong, she nearly fell off her chair she was laughing so much so I thought I'd give you all a good laugh too. Remember I'm showing her best side here.

Oh well, I had fun making her but I think she'll be the only animal in the farmyard, I'll leave the other four animals to someone else.

Monday, 26 March 2018

The Story Of Beatrix Potter

Mick bought me The Story Of Beatrix Potter by Sarah Gristwood for Christmas 2016 at my request and I've only just got round to reading it.

I must admit that I didn't know very much at all about Beatrix Potter before I watched the film with Renee Zellweger, Miss Potter. I never read any of her books as a child and they're books which passed my own children by too. The film piqued my interest in Beatrix Potter though so when I saw this book I put it straight on my Wish List.

The book tells the story of Beatrix Potter from her early years in Victorian London through to her later years where she lived out her life amongst the beautiful scenery in the Lake District. What a full and interesting life she lead, I enjoyed reading about how her books came to be published, the scientific work she did with fungi, her first engagement and the happy marriage she had later in life, and her conservation work with the National Trust.

The illustrations include some of Beatrix Potter's own artwork as well as a sprinkling of family photographs.

I've read the book from cover to cover and I can see me dipping back into it from time to time. I don't keep many of the books I read but this one is definitely a keeper and I can thoroughly recommend it.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Homeward Bound

It's an exciting day for me, my family are all coming home. This only happens once or twice a year at the moment so it's feeling a little like Christmas for me today.

Daniel has some holiday left to take before the end of March so he's got all next week off work. He lives in Surrey, it's quite some distance from us here in Yorkshire so Mick went down yesterday and stayed overnight. His company have a branch in Basingstoke which is about half an hour from where Daniel lives so Mick's working there today and then bringing Daniel and his girlfriend home after they've all finished work. They haven't decided how long they're staying yet but it will definitely be at least a week. The Easter weekend is tagged onto their week off so they've only had to take four days holiday from work and yet they're getting a good, long break.

They're breaking their journey back up the motorway in Nottingham to pick Eleanor up from university. She doesn't break up for Easter until next Thursday but she hasn't got any lectures after today until Tuesday so she's coming home for the weekend and Mick will take her back on Monday. He'll then go back and pick her up again on Thursday as she's got a fortnight off for Easter.

It's a good job that Mick's also got some of his annual leave from work left to take. He's off now until after Easter so it's going to be lovely having all the family home, though as well as spending time together, there's other things they've got planned too. I just might not be around in Blogland as often as I usually am.

Mick buys those little packets of cereal when they're on offer as they're handy to take to work for breakfast. He doesn't like Cornflakes though so all the packets have mounted up until I got enough to make some Easter nests. I always used to make these when the kids were young and who's to say you ever grow out of them?

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

V For Valentine

The V For Valentine socks were cast on for Valentine's day and I've recently finished them. The pattern is by Ellie Jones from the Craft House Magic podcast and is free on Ravelry.

I already had two pairs of socks on the needles when these were started but I just couldn't resist them with the cute heart motif on the legs.

I used some yarn that I had in my stash, a skein from Fondant Fibre, which I bought at Spring Into Wool last year. I thought it would suit the pattern well and I'm not disappointed. It's the first time that I've used Fondant Fibre and it's absolutely beautiful, it's a pleasure to knit with and looks fabulous.

Deb from Fondant Fibre seems to have closed her shop, I'm not sure why, does anyone know if she's still dyeing yarn? I'm so pleased that I've got another two skeins of Fondant Fibre in my stash.

These are another pair of socks which I'm keeping for myself. I usually relent and decide to gift many pairs of the socks I knit but not this time, I absolutely love them.