Friday, 21 July 2017

Snail Mail - July 2017

I've had some lovely things drop through my letterbox just lately so I thought I'd share some of them with you.

I was a little confused when a large envelope addressed to me was delivered last week, I wasn't expecting anything at that time so I wondered what it could be. Julie from Julie's Stitchyknitter Journal had been on holiday to Norfolk and, knowing we'd recently booked a holiday there, had picked up some information whilst she was out and about to send to me. What a kind thing to do, especially as she hasn't been very well just lately, yet she was still thinking about me. Thank you, Julie, we're still reading through it but we're making lots of notes for when we visit Norfolk ourselves. I'm always so blown away by the kindness and generosity of people in the blogging community.

The next parcel was delivered earlier this week, two scrummy skeins from Giddy Yarns. Helen has only recently opened her Etsy shop, in fact, I was her very first customer. I know Helen from her Giddy Knits podcast and this is where I saw her showing the colourways she was going to have on sale. I could have actually gone mad, there were quite a few which appealed to me, but I settled on Roadkill Peppa, a variegated/graduated pink colourway with dark brown and red speckles, so named by Helen after she had thoughts of Peppa Pig getting run over after watching far too many episodes with her children. I missed out on Peppa Pig myself, my two were born just a little too early, but I know how fed up you get with watching the same thing with children over and over again, it was Thomas the Tank Engine and Teletubbies with Daniel and Eleanor. The second colourway is called Dorothy and is variegated and speckled. Inspired by Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, it contains the blue and white of her dress, the red of her ruby slippers and green and yellow speckles to represent the yellow brick road and Emerald City. I couldn't be more pleased with my purchase, they both look even better in real life than they do in photos, and they're both so soft being 75% superwash merino and 25% nylon. I need to find some special projects in which to use these.

I was lucky enough to win a prize in Nicola's Try Something New knit along on her Bumble Stitches podcast. You may remember the Duotone Cowl which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, well this is the project which I entered, along with a couple of others, and my name got drawn as a winner. The prize was a beautiful project bag made by Nicola herself, three mini skeins and a bee stitch marker which you can see in the photo attached to the zip of the bag. Thank you, Nicola, it's a fabulous prize and it will all be put to very good use.

I think you'll agree that some wonderful mail has dropped through my letterbox this month, I'm a very lucky girl.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The Last Letter From Your Lover

It took me quite a while to get in to this book. I'm not sure if my reading mojo isn't completely there at the moment or if it's the books themselves which just aren't doing it for me, there's been a few lately that I've struggled with.

The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes is split into three parts and once I got over the first, it was plain sailing, in fact, I couldn't wait to read on to find out what happened.

Set in two time periods, the 1960s and 2003, the book tells the story of Jennifer Stirling, a woman married to a wealthy man and living the life of luxury. When she falls in love with another man, she's risking everything she has.

Fast forward to 2003 and Ellie Haworth is dating a married man. Though she believes she's happy, deep down things aren't all what they seem.

Ellie is a journalist for a national newspaper and when she stumbles upon some love letters from the 1960s, both Jennifer's and Ellie's lives entwine.

I've become a fan of Jojo Moyes since reading Me Before You last year, and though it did take some time to get in to this book initially, I did enjoy it in the end and would recommend it.

If you want to know what else I've been reading lately, you can find a list in the sidebar. This shows all the books I've read this year and there's also lists of the books I've read right back to 2012.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Pink Flamingo Socks

Another pair of Christmas socks knitted up, the gift drawer is filling up nicely. I'm determined I'm not going to be at the last minute with my Christmas knitting this year.

These socks are for Daniel's girlfriend and they're the first pair of socks I've knitted with contrasting cuffs, heels and toes. I used West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply, the main body of the sock is knitted in Pink Flamingo colourway and the cuffs, heels and toes are knitted in the Candyfloss colourway. I like how West Yorkshire Spinners do colours which mix and match with each other.

I used the Vanilla Latte Socks pattern again, a nice simple pattern but not totally plain.

I'm pleased how these socks have turned out and I shall definitely knit contrasting cuffs, heels and toes again.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Home Grown Goodness

I'm not growing very much in the garden this year but I'm very much looking forward to the things that I have got out there.

There's only four containers filled with potatoes this year, two of Sharpes Express and two of Anya. I harvested the first of the Sharpes Express recently and though the harvest was rather small, the spuds tasted delicious. I'll leave the other three containers for a while longer to see if I can get a slightly larger yield from them.

I have three blueberry bushes which I grow in pots, each plant produced lots of fruit last year, however, only one is going to be productive this year. The second one is producing a meagre crop of berries and the third seems to be having a year off altogether.

The tomato plants are flowering and fruit is beginning to form. They're a little behind this year as the seeds were sown quite late but they'll ripen eventually. I usually grow about a dozen plants made up of a few varieties but I've cut right back this year, there's just four plants and they're all Maskotka.

There should be a good harvest when autumn comes around, my Gloster apple tree is only small but it's absolutely laden with fruit. I'm not sure if they'll all make it to maturity but it's looking good so far.

I must admit that I do miss all the fresh vegetables I used to get from my allotment but I don't miss the hard work, and a lot of time has been freed up since I gave it up. I'm still able to grow a few things in the garden so I'm pleased about that.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Vanilla Latte Socks

This is my first time using West Yorkshire Spinners yarn and I'm really impressed. It's a little more rustic than the snuggly soft indie yarn which is so popular at the moment, but I think it will wear well and it knits up beautifully.

I bought this yarn from Spring Into Wool back in April, it's WYS Signature 4 Ply in the Mallard colourway from their Country Birds collection and they're the latest socks I've knit for a Christmas gift. These socks were intended for Daniel but now they're knitted up, I'm not sure they're his colour. I'm not sure he'll like such pronounced stripes either. I may very well gift them to my dad for Christmas instead as they're more his thing, either way, they'll be a Christmas gift.

I used the Vanilla Latte Socks pattern by Virginia Rose-Jeanes and I'm very pleased with it, a nice simple pattern which shows the yarn off well. They're very similar to a plain sock, the only difference being the vertical stripes which have been created by purling a few stitches in each alternate row, it adds a little extra interest in both the knitting and the finished item.

This pattern allows you to decide on a few things for yourself. Firstly, the cuff. I went with a 1X1 Rib but the pattern also suggests other options. I went with an Eye of Partridge heel and a Rounded Wedge Toe but again, other options are given.

I've got a couple of things that I've made tucked away for Christmas now. I haven't gifted anything hand made for a couple of years as in the past, I've left everything till the last minute and then it all gets rather stressful trying to finish things off in time, but I really want to make some gifts again this year so I'm determined to have everything done in good time.

How about you, do you give hand made presents and if so, have you started making anything yet? I'd love to know.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Bedtime Stories

I recently came across some books which I'd kept from when Daniel and Eleanor were very young. They both used to enjoy being read to, particularly at bedtime, and it's something which both Mick and I used to take turns in doing.

These were some particular favourites.

Actually, I'm not sure why The Very Hungry Caterpillar is in there as I can't say it was a book which anyone enjoyed very much, me included. I know it's been raved about over the years but perhaps it's just outdated now. My house was filled with children's books and there were many more which I would rate higher than this. Incidentally, the local primary school did very well when I cleared my bookshelves as the children grew out of books.

The book which was Eleanor's absolute favourite was Where's My Teddy? and It's The Bear by Jez Alborough.

It's The Bear was her favourite story, about Eddy and his mum going on a picnic. It's written in rhyme, which is usually a hit with youngsters.

The best bit for Eleanor was hearing what food was going in the picnic basket and when we got to I've forgotten to pack, she'd shout out THE BLUEBERRY PIE!

I Don't Want To Go To Bed by Julie Sykes and Tim Warnes is a charming book. Little Tiger never wants to go to bed and getting fed up with his protests, his mummy tells him he can stay up all night.

It doesn't take long for Little Tiger to discover that it isn't fun staying up when all his friends are in bed, and the jungle can be a scary place on your own after dusk. Don't worry, a friendly bush baby soon takes him home where his mummy is waiting to tuck him up for the night.

A personal favourite of mine is The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear.

I always finished off the bedtime reading with this book.

Both Daniel and Eleanor can now recite this well known poem without the need to have the words in front of them. It just goes to show how much of what they hear when young actually sticks in their minds.

How about you and your children? Any favourite children's books?

Monday, 3 July 2017

Duotone Cowl

I had no intention of knitting the Duotone Cowl, a free pattern by Orange Flower Yarn, that is until I saw Helen from Giddy Knits mention in her Ravelry group that she was going to knit one for the Summer Stripe Along CAL. Two colours are worked in a series of stripes which switch in size half way around the cowl. As it's knit in stocking stitch, I thought it would make a nice easy project for when I'm watching TV. As it happens, there were a couple of things which challenged me in this pattern.

Firstly, a crochet provisional cast on is required, something I haven't done before, but it was easy enough with the help of a You Tube tutorial. It's so easy these days to learn something new, it seems there's a tutorial for almost everything on You Tube. A provisional cast on is a removable crochet chain which allows you to keep your stitches live so that once the chain is removed, the cast on stitches may still be worked. The waste yarn is removed when the knitting is complete, ready to graft the ends together. This isn't a very good photo but you can see that I used an orange yarn when I worked the provisional cast on and this is the crochet chain which is ultimately removed.

The second thing which was challenging was the grafting of both ends. The cowl is knit in the round, like a long tube, and then kitchener stitch is used at the end, after the waste yarn is removed from the provisional cast on, to graft the two ends together. The kitchener stitch was easy enough, I use it on the toes of the socks I knit, the thing which was rather tricky was manipulating two circular needles in a position to get started. I managed it in the end though and I must say that the result is far more pleasing than it would have been had I had to sew the ends together.

When I came to start this project, I decided I would use yarn I already had in my stash. The only DK yarn I had was Stylecraft Special DK so I thought I'd go with that. I've got a purple windcheater jacket which I use when I walk Archie so I went with wisteria and silver colourways, I think these will go well with my jacket and being knit in acrylic yarn, will be easy enough to throw in the washing machine when dirty.

I followed the pattern exactly and I like the length it's turned out to be, however, it would be simple to make the cowl longer, so that it can wrap around your neck a couple of times, should you so wish.

I'm really pleased how it's turned out, the stripe effect works very well. I'm all set now for the cold weather when it arrives, though I'm hoping we get a scorching hot summer first.

Friday, 30 June 2017

365 Day Money Saving Challenge Update

We're exactly half way through the year now so I thought I'd let you know how I'm getting on with my 365 Day Money Saving Challenge.

This challenge was started at the beginning of the year and it runs right until the very last day of 2017. The idea is that you save 1p on day 1, 2p on day 2, 3p on day 3 and so on, until the last few days of the year you're up to £3.63, £3.64 and £3.65. By the end of this challenge you should have saved a total of £667.95.

I decided to do things a little different to this. I didn't want to be left with all the high amounts to save in December when there's lots of other things going on which require me to part with my cash, so instead of starting with the lowest amounts, I've tried to get the larger amounts crossed off and have also crossed off other various amounts.

Daniel's old pocket money jar was the first thing I used to save the coins in but I soon ran out of space in that, I didn't realise just how many coins this saving challenge would generate and I was soon on the lookout for something more spacious.

This tin, which once contained biscuits, is doing the job for now but I daresay I'll need something even bigger than this in time.

I must admit that Mick's the one who puts the most coins in, since I stopped working I just don't spend like I used to so I don't carry the same amount of cash around and I don't have the same amount of change kicking around in my purse.

I'm a bit surprised that we've managed to keep up with it but I'm glad we have as £667.95 will come in very handy at the end of the year.

Has anyone else joined in with this challenge?

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

These Are Not Just Yellow Stickers

I used to be really lucky with my bargain shopping, not so much these days as I've changed the times when I shop. We went to a large shopping centre on Saturday with Eleanor as she wanted some new clothes and whilst there, I popped in to Marks and Spencer at just the right time, lots of their ready meals had been reduced in price. I don't usually shop at Marks and Spencer for food, I find it very expensive and, to be honest, I don't think the quality justifies the price. I can find food just as tasty and of the same standard at a lesser price in other supermarkets. I don't mind picking up a bargain though when I see one.

Hunters Chicken & Potato Wedges - £3.70 reduced to £1.60
Linguine with Scallops, Pancetta & Peas - £4.25 reduced to £1.90
Chilli Con Carne - £2.75 reduced to £1.10
Chicken and Parmesan Fettuccine - £3 reduced to £1.20
4 Cornish Pasties - 1.70 reduced to 70p
2 Cumberland Pies - £2.75 each reduced to £1.10 each

That's £20.90 worth of food for £8.70.

I thought these meals would be handy to have in the freezer with Eleanor at home, she's always in and out of the house and often eats meals at different times to us so it's good to have some convenience foods in for these occasions.

The Linguine with Scallops, Pancetta & Peas was for me, I've wanted to try scallops for a long time so I thought this was an ideal opportunity. It can also be included on my 50 Before 50 list as number 18 is try a food I've never tried before, and though I tried black pudding when we were Weekending in Wales, scallops is something else that is new to me. I thought they were very tasty and put me in mind of mussels. I'd like to try some fresh ones now so I'm going to put them on my shopping list.

I didn't share with Archie even though he had his eye on it.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Twice As Nice

We've finally got round to booking our holidays. We've spent six of the last eight years down in Cornwall but we decided to have a change this year, not only in destination but also how we take the holiday. Usually, we're away for a fortnight and though we're still having two weeks away this year, we're taking two separate weeks.

The first week, in July, will be spent on the Lincolnshire Coast in a lodge by the edge of a lake. Don't worry, the garden is completely enclosed so Archie won't be able to jump in. Fishing permits are available for the opposite side of the lake, which will please Mick, and it's within walking distance to the beach.

Our second week will be taken in September and we're staying in a cottage by the sea in Norfolk. I've been fancying a holiday in Norfolk for the last few years and it's finally booked.

I wasn't sure whether Eleanor would join us or not this year but she's happy to do so. I'm really pleased as she's such good company. One of the very good friends she's made at university lives in Norfolk so she's going to see if she can meet up with her whilst we're there, which will be nice as the friend has now dropped out of uni and won't be returning in September.

Daniel's taking a holiday further afield this year. He and his girlfriend have booked their airline tickets to Colorado USA where his girlfriend is from. Her sister is getting married in September so they're going for the wedding, and it will give Daniel the opportunity to meet the rest of her family too. He's met her sister before when she came over here a couple of years ago and he met her grandparents when it was their graduation, they came over for the ceremony, but though they've been going out with each other for over three years now, he hasn't met the rest of the family.

How about you, are you going away this year and if so where are you going? I do love hearing about other people's holiday plans.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Raindrops On Roses - June

These are a few of my favourite things.

Golden Wings rose. Mick bought me this rose for Christmas 2013 and I absolutely love it. It's beautifully scented and the simplicity of the single, pale yellow blooms really does it for me. My tastes have changed where roses are concerned, I used to avoid them at all costs but I've got three in my garden now and I can see more in my future.

Home for summer. Eleanor's first year at university has come to an end and she's home now until the middle of September. It's strange at first when she comes home, having someone else in the house again, but we soon get used to it and I shall make the most of the time we spend together. Her year away from home has gone well, she's fitted in to university life without any problems and manages to look after herself without any trouble. She's loving the course she's chosen (biomedical science) and the exams she's just taken seem to have gone okay, we're just waiting on her results now.

Watermelon. My favourite of all the melons, I can't get enough of this at the moment. It's so watery and refreshing, just the thing for warm, summery days. The only downside is the number of seeds they contain but I suppose it's easy enough to remove them.

Poldark. What a surprise, I wasn't expecting to see this programme back on our screens just yet but I'm not complaining. This series has started well and I'm sure it will be just as good as the previous two. It's great to have a favourite back for Sunday evening viewing.

Days at the beach. When the warm weather arrives, I love to spend time at the beach. We headed to Fraisthorpe on the Yorkshire Coast on Sunday and we had a wonderful and relaxing day. Archie enjoyed it too.

What favourites do you have this month? How about joining me and writing a post about them?

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Complete Dressmaking

It's no secret that I've been wanting to have a go at sewing for quite some time now, it's a craft which has so far passed me by, so when I was asked if I'd like to review a copy of Complete Dressmaking by Jules Fallon, I jumped at the chance. This book comes with the subtitle Essential skills and techniques for beginners, so I thought it would be ideal for me.

My first impression of the book is that it has all the information a beginner would need to start on their dressmaking journey. It's split in to five chapters with subheadings under each one.

Chapter 1 - Kit

As the author states, "When you start a new hobby, it can be tempting to surround yourself with all the kit you could possibly imagine you'll want to use. But when you start dressmaking, all you really need are a sewing machine, a sharp pair of scissors and an open mind. You can decide on everything else when you have a greater understanding of your way of working and what will help you to sew better". I like that you're not encouraged to go out and spend on a whole host of equipment which you'll never use before understanding what items you'll definitely need and those you won't. This chapter explores some of the essential equipment, needles, cutting equipment, sewing machine and their feet, thread and dressmaking haberdashery.

Chapter 2 - Prep

"To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail". This chapter deals with preparing for the project you're going to work on and includes information on fabrics, understanding the information on the pattern envelope, pattern symbols, measuring and making a toile, amongst many other things.

I've heard many people say how they're in between sizes so learning how to adapt a pattern is essential.

Chapter 3 - Make

For me, this is the scary part, putting it all together. However, this book goes in to each part of the process and demystifies all the terms which have sounded so intimidating:- darts, gathering, pleats and tucks, and shirring, amongst others. It tackles pockets, sleeves, yokes and waistbands and shows how to insert a zip, another thing which seems to worry people, including me.

Chapter 4 - Stretch

My wardrobe is filled with items made from jersey and knit fabric, so many of us wear T-shirts or tops made from stretch fabric these days, so I think this chapter is essential in any dressmaking guide today. This chapter deals with how knit fabric differs from woven fabric and how working with it differs too. It shows that contrary to popular belief, you don't need an overlocker and shows techniques to use when working with this type of fabric.

Chapter 5 - Finish

The finish of a garment is just as important as the rest of the make and this chapter shows how to approach each part from bound edgings to facing, hems to linings. There's information on hand sewing too as this can give a perfect finish to an item allowing a hem to become almost invisible.

I think this is a fabulous book and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone just embarking on a new dressmaking hobby, and it would more than likely assist those who are more advanced in this area too. It's absolutely jam packed with information and will be a fabulous reference when I do begin my sewing adventure.

Complete Dressmaking by Jules Fallon. Published by Quarto Press (£20). Out now. If you fancy treating yourself to a copy of the book you can find it here on Amazon.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Fish Lips Kiss

I think one of the things which puts people off knitting socks is turning the heel. How on earth do you get the shaping you need for a heel to fit snuggly in a sock? It's quite clever actually, and isn't nearly as scary in practice as a novice may think. However, you do have to pick up stitches and that's something which quite a few people aren't so keen on. I don't mind picking stitches up actually, but when I heard about the Fish Lips Kiss Heel, a heel construction which doesn't require any stitches to be picked up at all, I thought I'd give it a go.

The Fish Lips Kiss Heel is a paid for pattern on Ravelry, but I think it's only $1.20, a nominal amount. I have to say that I was flabbergasted when I downloaded the pattern and printed it out, it consists of sixteen pages. SIXTEEN PAGES, yes you read that right, and that's not a sock pattern, that's just the heel pattern. I started to read through it but just found it totally overwhelming so it was put to one side, along with the Lavender Socks I'd started knitting in order to try out this heel pattern.

It was while I was watching Bumble Stitches podcast and discovered that Nicola was going to be hosting a Try Something New Knit Along, where you have a go at a technique that's new to you, that I thought the Fish Lips Kiss Heel would be something I could join in with, so I got out my hibernating project and gave it a go.

I made sure that I had plenty of time on my own when I picked the pattern up again so that I could read it and digest it. In actual fact, it contains a lot of information but you only really need three of those sixteen pages in order to create the heel.

Once I'd sifted through the pattern finding the relevant parts, I had the first heel knit up in no time at all. It's a very easy pattern to follow but I'd say it would be helpful if you knew how to knit an ordinary heel flap and gusset heel first so that you understand the construction of a heel before giving this a go.

My Lavender Socks (named as the yarn's name is Lavender Print) have turned out well, I even managed to match them up perfectly. I knit these using Drops Fabel, a yarn I haven't used before. It's well priced and although it isn't as soft as some of the other yarns I've used, it isn't too scratchy. I think it's a good budget priced yarn.

I like the fit of the Fish Lips Kiss Heel and I'm sure I'll use the pattern again in the future.

These socks were going to be for me but as is often the case, I've found a more worthy cause. You may remember that I gifted a pair of socks a couple of years ago for the Yarndale Sock Line and it's just recently that Christine from Winwick Mum blog has written her Yarndale Sock Line 2017 post asking for hand knitted or hand crocheted socks, once again, to display at Yarndale before being gifted to people in need.

I've printed off a label from Christine's blog and these socks will be winging their way over to Skipton very soon. I hope that they'll bring some much needed comfort to someone less fortunate than myself. If you fancy joining in, you can find all the information on Christine's Yarndale Sock Line 2017 post.