Thursday, 24 October 2013

The finish line

I am on a finishing streak which makes a nice change. I was sick on Tuesday so was unable to go to work for 48 hours. I felt much better yesterday and did attempt to go in but was sent home when I was half way there.

I went home and finished off an order for a toy cat. I used duplicate stitch for the eyes as it is going to a new born and I felt the combination of buttons and my sewing skills would never end well. It was my first attempt at duplicate stitch and I'm quite pleased with the results (All Hail YouTube).

Last week I also purchased another ball of Hayfield's baby chunky in beige so I could continue with the baby blanket. I am now working on the boarder.

I'm not entirely sure when I'm going to get it finished though as I'm going to Scaresville tonight (don't ask!), its The Gentle Giant's birthday party tomorrow night, we are off on a road trip with some friends to Frome in Dorset on Saturday for an engagement party driving via Devizers, Warminster and Bath and then, on Sunday, I am being dropped in Reading, travelling to Kings Cross, meeting Mum and jumping on a train to Edinburgh. 

We will spend a night in the city, then on Monday, take a train and a coach and arrive in Ullapool where we will spend the week of half term in hiding. 

We are going to learn to play cribbage, eat lots of crumbly oat cakes, go for walks along the sea front, over indulge wherever possible and I will, of course, take lots and lots of knitting. I cannot wait.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Autumnal bus knitting

A chill in the air has brought out my fingerless gloves. What would we public transport knitters do without them?! Not a hand made set I must admit. These were a highly appreciated gift from Aunty A a couple of Christmases ago. 

I have made only one attempt at knitting gloves/ mittens. A Christmas present for Cousin B a few years ago; my first attempt at Faire Isle and first (and only) project on DPNs. My preference being magic loop where possible. Here's how they turned out. 

Cousin B says they make her hands sweat but often wears them when I'm around all the same, bless her cotton socks. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

Murky Monday's bus knitting

The top deck of the bus is pretty busy this morning on this dull day. Have they spotted the knitter in the corner I wonder?

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Wednesday's bus knitting

Having run out of beige yarn on my last stripe (GAAaaaahhh!!!!) I have had to put down the baby blanket until I can get to my LYS (local yarn shop) tomorrow. 

This has left me with no choice but to pick up the jumper I began working on at the beginning of the summer. Thinking, again, about designing my own garments and making something for myself has left me with a new desire, a desire I never expected to over come me. 

I want, no I need, to knit a pair of dungarees. Watch this space. 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

A little social knitting escapade

I have had such a lovely morning with my Aunty. Aunty K took me to a knitting get together in a little church in Frating where many of Colchester's knitters and crocheters turned up with a huge variety of projects on their needles. And cake. 

One lady sat next to me who was crocheting poppies for World War One's 100th anniversary so quickly that piles of them were produced in an alarmingly short amount of time. While she was there the lady purchased yet another ball of red yarn to continue to support the cause she believes in. I am such a selfish knitter. 

Another lady was knitting a tunic by Kate Davies, who I have decided is my favourite designer. Every time I see any one of her patterns I am over come with a desperate need to find yarn and needles and cast on immediately. Unfortunately, as of yet I haven't managed to make any of her patterns as the budget won't allow it. I will work to rectify this. The tunic I saw today was Scatness Tunic - you can find it on Ravelry here:

It was so nice to catch up with Aunty K as I haven't managed to make the weekly knitting group for a while. We talked about podcasts and audio books and food and our personal caffeine preferences - Pepsi Max for me, Diet coke for her. We chatted about socks and yarn and food again. We expressed our excitement for next weekend's visit to Ally Pally. Then we decided that it was way passed lunch time and headed home. 

Left over spaghetti cheese is heating up in the oven and I will spend the rest of the afternoon knitting. The lads will come over later and we will watch the football and have a roast (chicken and The Gentle Giant is cooking). Lovely.

If you are a Colchester based crafter you can join the Colchester and Great Horksley knitting group every tuesday evening at 7:30pm in The Quality Hotel in Colchester or on monday mornings at 10am in the Great Horksley Village Hall. For more information join the Colchester and Great Horksley S&B group on Ravelry:

Windowsill Wildlife

Pepper Pot Watch: Day 158: Pepper number one in Pot number 5 is also changing colour. The excitement can barely be contained!

The difference a day makes. How much did you change in the last 24 hours? This little guy is a new pepper. You might even say he's turned over a new leaf... Oh dear, I'm going to go now. 

Friday, 4 October 2013

Wildlife Windowsill Update

News just in on Pepper Pot Watch:
Pepper number one in Pot number two is changing colour! Residents there are said to be beside themselves with glee. Neighbouring Windowsill Owners (NWOs) are visibly envious.

Bus knitting!

Making good progress on the latest baby blanket. The morning is damp and the bus smells like a wet dog. I am listening to an old episode of Brenda Dayne's podcast (Cast On). 

Looking forward to Frateing this weekend  (not sure what this is but Aunty K is taking me so I can only assume it is fibre related) and Ally Pally next weekend (goes without saying!). 

Monday, 30 September 2013


Feel like I'm getting somewhere now I've introduced the contrasting colour and made a few stripes! 

Enjoying an afternoon of knitting and catching up on the X factor. Terrible taste I know. 

I also re-potted my plants so fingers crossed for some big juicy peppers! 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Happy hobbies

I found another 6mm needle so baby blanket production continues! It is slightly odd knitting with one rubbery plastic needle and one slippery metal needle. I hope it doesn't mess with my tension!

Gentle Giant and I, side by side, working on our very different hobbies. Perfect Sunday evening... despite the hangover! 

Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Relapse

Any of you who have liked my Facebook page: 

will know that my decision to release the pressure from my hobby lasted all of 24 hours. 

On the afternoon of the day I started back at school I took an entirely unplanned and unscheduled trip to a fairly new gift shop in town, Crafty Mums: 

There had been rumours that this was a shop which sold only locally handmade goods. 

Deep down I knew that my resolve could be compromised.
I knew I should turn on my heel and flee. 
Flee, I did not.

Within seven minutes I had agreed to apply for a shelf in the shop and that I would have stock ready by the following thursday.  


That evening, whilst starting small fires with the sheer speed of my knitting needles, I admitted my relapse to the knitting group. My confession was met with silence, a cry of dismay, tentative encouragement and an onslaught of questions:

- How much will it cost me?

- How will I afford it?
- What will I make?
- How will I cope?!?

"I don't know..." Came my quiet response, beads of perspiration gathering under my sticky fringe. 

The gentle yet persistent clacker of their spinning wheels seemed to turn eery, almost sinister as panic settled over me. My fellow knitters peered across the cramped living room at me from behind fluffs of fleece, half-knitted yokes, niddy noddies, genuine concern stretched across their faces. I swallowed down a stubborn lump in my throat, presented with the friendships that had grown, stitch upon stitch, almost unnoticed until now. 

Aunty A and Aunty K's reactions, on the other hand, were of the "Lizzy, you're nuts." variety. Having said that, they seemed to have no doubt I could manage this over-ambitious task and were soon on board offering many a brilliant suggestion. 

Two weeks on, with little sleep and Repetitive Strain Injury in both hands, I have my shelf, it is fairly full and I am very proud of it.


Going forward, I am going to be posting short, regular blog entries, with a longer essay here and there, so I can keep you updated in this busy time without getting too snowed under. I hope that's ok!  

Monday, 2 September 2013

The knitting wall

I took a break from knitting. For the entire summer.

I broke up from school with six weeks off ahead of me, an abundance of free and quiet knitting time. What did I do? I put my knitting in a basket in the furthest corner of the spare room, turned my back on it and, with a cocktail of emotion fizzing in my chest, shut the door behind me. A shot of guilt, a twist of confusion, an aftertaste of uncertain relief. Shaken. On the rocks.

Every now and then I went back to it, picked it up, whispered my feverish apologies, carried it about a bit, even took it on two holidays. It sat in the bottom of my suitcase, forgotten, like a comfort blanket you no longer need but take everywhere with you out of habit. Occasionally, I did actually knit a couple of rows but my heart just wasn't in it. My heart was decidedly elsewhere.

At first it was pretty unpleasant, I love knitting, it's what I do, it's the only thing I can do well. What am I going to do if I don't knit? I'll just bumble along being mediocre at everything.

After a while I realised I wasn't convinced. This was not a departure, this was merely my motivation having a good old sulk. And why not? I have been pushing and pushing, laying down unrealistic deadlines, forcing myself to knit and re-knit the same pattern over and over, throwing every tick of the clock I have spare into knitting, every single last penny and none of it out of love. All of it because of the unnecessary pressure I have layered and layered over my hobby, my hobby!. 

I sucked out all of the joy. I turned it into a chore. I hit a wall. I pushed and pushed until my needles, sparking from the sharp ends, stuck themselves hard into the ground and screamed "ENOUGH! Just sod off will you?"

Fair enough, I thought and sod off I did.

I went to Galway in Southern Ireland with the family, some friends and The Gentle Giant. We ran down the cobbled streets with handkerchiefs tied on sticks yelling "We surrender!" It was a Medieval tour, I hadn't completely lost it. We saw some fantastic live music, acrobatics that made me feel shamefully lazy, boat tripped, ate ourselves silly and played a lot of Uno in many an Irish pub. Encountered rain so torrential it felt as though some great being had up turned the sea.

I read books with actual pages, I saw all of my friends, went to the cinema (twice!), failed my driving test and cried a lot. Consumed tapas and wine with my mum, who always knows what to do, and felt much better.

I went to Greece with The Gentle Giant and met up with his family. Sunbathed, swam, shopped, explored islands, played a lot of Uno and ate ourselves silly.

I went to End of the Road Festival. I danced, I drank, I laughed a huge amount.

I am now browner and rounder and probably a lot nicer.

And I am ready to pull my needles from the earth, dust them off and knit. When I want to, what I want to. Otherwise, is there really any point at all?

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Knitting is the Answer

Cousin P sent me a text a little while back.
"I'm really, really, really, really bored... Any ideas?"

I must admit I was perplexed. I couldn't recall the last time I had suffered with boredom. I could remember the feeling well, the heavy, fed up weight in your stomach as time stretches out, empty and dull and seemingly endless without the slightest glimmer of interest or excitement, but it was not an emotion that had darkened my mindset for quite some time.

Always striving to be a good and dutiful Big Cousin I set to and compiled a list of things to do to evade boredom. I was really quite pleased with the end result, it included social suggestions, family time, productive household tasks, creative activities such as card making, organisational jobs (although I do realise not everybody loves filing quite as much as I do), something exercise related and, it goes without saying, knitting.

That was when I realised why I am not a victim of tedium, why I am immune from this dreaded state. I am no mere mortal, I am a Knitter. The Beast of Bore simply cannot touch this.

The concept of boredom played on my mind a little after this Cousin P's message. What is this odd feeling our species is subjected to from time to time? I had a little look into the causes and the Internet came back, as ever, with many, many responses.

C.D Fisher defines boredom as 'an affective state in which an individual feels a pervasive lack of interest in an activity' (according to Wikipedia). It says boredom is a condition characterised by the perception of one's environment as dull, tedious, lacking in stimulation. 

Dr John Eastwood says boredom has been associated with depression and anxiety, according to The Guardian in their article 'Is Boredom Bad For Your Health?' 

Art Markman, in his article 'what is Boredom?', points out that boredom often occurs when you have little control over your environment, when waiting for a delayed flight or in a lecture, for example.

Do you want to know what I say? Knitting is the answer. 

And some articles seem to agree with me. WikiHow's 'How to Avoid Boredom' guide puts forward several suggestions: try something new - easy! I've never knitted a pair of socks, I'm yet to take a pair of scissors to my hand knitted jumper and cut a steek, my next set of gloves will be my first, I've never knitted a throw, a hot water bottle cover, a balaclava! I haven't dabbled in gorilla knitting (yet), I could go on because (and please do excuse the over used phrase but I feel it is absolutely appropriate here) the possibilities are endless. 

WikiHow advises that to avoid boredom one should be 'active with an interesting group of people.' Knitting groups ahoy, ey?! The guide orders one to fire up ones imagination, well if a scoot around Ravelry doesn't do just that you are lost to us all. I have limited my Ravelry usage as I will have a breakdown if my queue gets any longer!

In fact WikiHow actually states knitting as a suggested hobby.

Knitting answers the lack of control issues raised by Art Markman because you are at the head of the table when it comes to your knitting. I am not saying that a knitter never grows tired of a particular project  but when this happens there are countless others cooing at you from the background, impatiently waiting for your trained eye to fall upon them, watch them dance and twirl for you and allow them to entice you in with their scrumptious textures and exquisite stitch patterns. You are hooked and you are far from bored.

Now this doesn't give you the power to make every flight land on time, every lecture grab your full attention, but it does mean that there is a project for every occasion. A delayed flight is  not an inconvenience, it is an opportunity to knit a few more rows and watch your sock, jumper, hat, cowl, baby blanket come that little bit closer to completion. And what a wonderful feeling that is.

I felt a little tedium begin to  trickle through my veins the other evening as I began yet another tea towel and this happened:

I designed my first jumper! I worked out the gauge, measured up, wrote up a very rough pattern and fearlessly cast on. There will be a thousand mistakes but who cares?! I certainly wasn't bored anymore! 

Art Markman, among others, advises meditation to help one relax and 'relieve arousal'. Well, why meditate when you can knit? Far more productive in my view. 

As Sarah E White says in her article 'Knitting for Stress Relief' activities like knitting and crochet can cause a relaxation response similar to meditation that can be quite calming (until you have to frog inches of knitting for a silly mistake anyway!).

Sarah is right, knitting, at times, such as the third count up of your 294 stitch cast on resulting in a different number counted FOR THE THIRD TIME, or as she says, the ripping back of your precious work, can be ever so frustrating, but most of the time it creates such a calming feeling.

I have been known to describe it as therapeutic, hypnotic even. I will always remember one morning during my university days some friends and I were lounging in my flat in a hungover haze, suffering terribly. I, of course, was knitting through it and I vividly recall glancing up to find each and every one of my friends staring gormlessly, dry mouths hanging slightly open, chins barely lifted form their chests, at my knitting needles as they clacked together quietly, slowly and steadily, knot after knot, creating a, i'll be honest, pretty holey fabric. 

They were transfixed. Perhaps it was witnessing that tiny act of productivity whilst in such a broken state. Perhaps they were simply bored.

You will be relieved to hear that I spared Cousin P from this lecture on receiving her cry for help, however I enjoyed constructing her list of things to do so much that by the time I sent it to her she had gone to have her tea and no longer needed it. 

Friday, 14 June 2013

Go go Gadget!

I have come to the conclusion that at some point, unwittingly and unknowingly, I opened a high interest current account with The Bank Of Mum. You know the one, with the slogan that goes 'Bank Of Mum - bleed me dry'.

I have no recollection of initiating dealings with this financial service, but then again, I have been known to sleep walk. When I asked mum about this, to see if she could pin point the exact moment when this arrangement began, her answer was a short one - 'birth'.

Mysterious pay packets are dropped in at an embarrassingly regular rate, overdraft charges are waved, debts are overlooked and the emergency breakdown cover is second to none. Not to mention the complimentary counselling service!

However there is a downside, when I signed up to all this I failed to read the small print and, as with most things, there is a catch.

Every hole in the wall belonging to this bank is wired up, every online transaction sends a direct signal and all the personnel staff have the entry code straight to my conscience. Oh the guilt! With every single penny, so willingly and graciously given, I feel a little worse. A ritual has been born, every 'more funds please' text message is accompanied with a silent promise and they all begin the same way: 'When I'm rich I'll...'
And I bloody well mean it too!

This year The Bank Of Mum decided to reward its customer with a highly unexpected bonus, god only knows why - you would think it would be trying to deter my custom! The bonus came in the form of an iPad Mini. It's so pretty, and sleek and smart and oh so very very pretty. And it fits in my handbag!

I still cannot quite believe it. It makes makes everything so much easier; I can now type up my blog on the go without having to drag my laptop around with me or trying to do so using my dis-functional mobile phone, who has had a screw loose since the last dropping. Don't get me wrong, I like a bit of character in any piece of electrical equipment but she really does go to pieces at the simplest of tasks. Needless to say the Blogger app is a step to far for her.

To co-inside with this generosity I have also received an investment from The Bank Of Dad. Again, an establishment you may be familiar with. Of the structured, secure variety; contributor to regular student funding during my university days which kept my head firmly above the water, provider of a wonderful musical practices budget and donator of lump sum gifts during the festive period.

I approached The Bank Of Dad recently to pitch my request for an investment in the shape of a camera to use to photograph my knitting antics.

Following a little negotiation, where I must admit I used the 'very early Christmas present?' tact, I received the nod. Backing from The Bank Of Dad was achieved and I am now the proud owner of a Panasonic Lumix DMC-T210.

Yellowy, darkened, pixilated and fuzzy photos of knitting projects will prevail no more!

So I now carry more technology than I do wool (and that's saying something). I am a fully kitted out blogging whiz kid! Or, at least, I have no excuse not to be.

To top it all off The Gentle Giant has whisked my elderly and, I'm ashamed to admit, beaten laptop to work, doused her in I.T magic and returned her to me a new woman. However, it is clear that I will never be forgiven for the high impact unopened 2 litre bottle of Pepsi Max incident. Even The Gentle Giant, as technically brilliant as he is, cannot heal scars that run that deep.

Not only has he given my laptop the ten years younger make over, The Gentle Giant has also been working away behind the scenes making on-going improvements to my blog, aesthetic alterations are always underway and he carries out all sorts of clever things to achieve a higher ranking in google. I have no idea how any of it works and wouldn't know where to begin!

So thank you so much Mum, thank you very much Dad, thank you very much to The Gentle Giant. I am a very lucky girl to have so much support and I hope to make you very proud... When I'm rich I'll..... Oh you've heard it all before!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Drum roll please!

Hi all!

Just a quick one today to let you know that I have taken another little step and opened up my very own Etsy shop!

You can now purchase your very own hand knitted, luxury, cotton towel and cloth set here:

The sets are made up of one cloth and one towel for £15 and make such lovely gifts or, alternatively, are a perfect stylish accessory for your own kitchen or bathroom. I made both items using moss stitch with cotton to create a fab scrubbing texture that is soft on your skin and absorbs liquid. Practical and pretty!

I plan to add more and more hand knitted creations to my Etsy shop so be sure to check back from time to time.

Also, any knitters out there may be interested that I intend to publish the pattern for these products on Ravelry free of charge. Keep stopping by for updates or contact me for more details:
@mary_brodie - twitter
Mary Brodie - Facebook 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Holiday knitting

 During the past week I have been enjoying half term which, for me, began with a long weekend in the majestic town of Cheltenham with mum and The Gentle Giant. The weather was very well behaved enamelling us to grace many a pub garden with our presence, you'll be pleased to hear.

Over this glorious weekend away we met up with a few friends, one of which had recently celebrated a birthday. Mum had planned to buy her a tea towel so I tentatively offered up the almost finished towel I had on the needles. This was finished up on the train to Cheltenham (after a slight tantrum when I realised I had forgotten how to crochet the boarder - all hail YouTube) and to my huge relief the friend receiving my handiwork was thrilled with her gift. 

Now half term turned out to be filled with birthdays; after our stay in Cheltenham I went on to visit the family in Weston-Super-Mare where Cousin P was soon to be reaching the terrible age of 14. To her credit she is handling the teenage angst impressively well.

Being a mere part timer I am unable to shower Cousin P in gifts as I would so very much like to however, as the old saying goes, I have a pair of knitting needles and I know how to use them. Unfortunately, I was not organised enough to have her present ready in time for her birthday and have only just finished it.

Cousin P if you are reading this before your package has arrived you are in BIG trouble.

Aunty K came across the pattern a couple of weeks ago whilst getting her daily Ravelry hit and I had been looking for an excuse to make it so this was perfect.

If you are taken with it as much as I was do give it a try, the pattern is free and it is a quick and satisfying project. I hope my bash at it goes down well with Cousin P and she doesn't mind that I refuse to accept that she is 14 and continue to send her cuddly toys!

Half term came to a close with another long weekend. I thought I was beyond the days of dancing round my room in my pjs in celebration of a non-pupil day, but no - apparently not! I spent the afternoon at Aunty K's learning to crochet which was really lovely, particularly as she rose at some ridiculous hour to make bread, salmon and asparagus and mushroom and pancetta quiches, marmalade and ginger biscuits and pear cake for lunch. What a treat!

Here is my (slightly wonky) first attempt at a granny square. 

The colourful doors of the land of crochet have opened and I can't wait to dive right in but for now it is back to cloths and towels. I must get these done and stop giving them away so I can get round to Tea and Sympathy!

Friday, 24 May 2013

My recent adventures in time travel

Thanks to a recommendation from Aunty K I have recently discovered the Electric Sheep podcast from Hoxton Handmade. A little slow off the mark, I know. 

I joined the fun at episode 107 and to banish the feeling that I have been missing out I am avidly working through the previous episodes.

I am learning tons because, for those of you who haven't discovered this little knitting oasis already, not only does Hoxton Handmade have a good old gab about her latest yarn related projects and discoveries she also begins each episode with a thought provoking, often humorous and occasionally heart-wrenching essay.

I recommend this podcast, which can be found on iTunes, to anybody who hasn't come across it yet - knitter or non-knitter. If you are an obsessive like me you might want to take a listen to the older episodes that are available too.

I have just finished the first 'series' (up to episode 20) which was recorded in 2009.
It is strange spending 30(ish) minutes every now and then back within those summer months, remembering where I was when I dothed my hat to Harry Patch, shared a final (attempted) moon dance with Michael Jackson and skipped in and out of the heavy showers of that temperamental season. So descriptive is Ms Hoxton that as each episode draws to a close I feel as though I have travelled through time.

I look forward to the next instalment and wonder where, or perhaps more accurately, when it will take me.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

'I'm out of bed and dressed, what more do you want?' - Banksy

This weekend I was faced with a dilemma: to stay up and over-indulge in wine and food on Friday night or, get up early and do the 5km Parkrun on Saturday morning. My decision: both. 
"Madness!" I hear you cry. Yes. 

Never the less, Friday night began for Mum, The Gentle Giant and I with tapas and mojitos in Norwich's Revolucion De Cuba; a busy bar housing a charismatic South American band and a party vibe. I can highly recommend the raspberry mojito. Followed by a visit to a couple of our regular drop-ins, The Tap House and The Rumsey Wells, before heading home for a night cap and promptly falling asleep in front of 'Exit Through The Gift Shop'. A documentary that is well worth a watch if you haven't seen it already (and perhaps prior to the consumption of quite so much booze). It follows street artist Mister Brainwash, a man like no other, as he journeys into the mysterious circles responsible for this ever growing craft and describes the formation of his relationship with the infamous Banksy.

The alarm went off at an ungodly hour the next morning. Groaning incessantly, mum and I dragged ourselves from our beds and stumbled onto a bus to Eaton Park where we joined many of Norwich's finest in the Parkrun. Run entirely by volunteers, this fantastic event is held every Saturday morning and is completely free of charge.

You can walk, jog, stagger or run the track with much encouragement from the volunteers to keep you going and your time is recorded for you. Attending this event were people of all shapes, ages and sizes which was really positive. There were people on their own who whizzed  around the course in "sub 20 minutes", others pushing buggies and then some, like mum, who powered around the course twice, then got lost. (Sorry mum). So it really is something most people could try; if we can do it, you definitely can! 

I did not achieve anywhere close to "sub 20", however I felt that being up, dressed and in the park by 9am was an achievement in itself. 

Parkrun is cropping up all over the place, I was told there is even one in Australia! To see if there is one near you have a look at
I am not a runner but I had the best time, just remember to register online before you go. 

Feeling hungry and as though we had earned it we picked up The Gentle Giant and went for lunch at Jamie's. The rest of the weekend was filled with a trip to cinema city; the best cinema in the world, trolling the junk shops on Magdelan Street for furniture...

... Enjoying one of mum's family famous roast dinners...

... Re-watching 'Exit Through The Gift Shop' (successfully) and a visit to The Book Hive.

The Book Hive is an independent, topsy turvy shop home to many, many wonderful stories. Clambering through its three floors, crammed full with books of every kind, any book worm will feel their fingers just itching with excitement at the thought of all these pages waiting to be thumbed. 

It was in here that mum found my new favourite book: 'This Is Not My Hat', written and illustrated by Jon Klassen.
I found it to be such a refreshing children's story, much of it told through its images. Simple yet compelling with bold lines and deep colours.

There are no heroes, no damsels in need of rescuing, no shiny, glossy pages, no nauseating 'cheese'. Just a firm and clear message: stealing is bad and will get you nowhere - oh and arrogant little fish will get their comeuppance.

It is an entertaining book written for youngsters but lacking the tedium often endured by adults when repeatedly retelling their little one's latest favourite. If this book becomes the new obsession and is expectantly produced by sticky little fingers for the 7th time in a day I would be confident in predicting it would be nothing less than a pleasure for the chosen parent. Even if you do not know any small children I urge you to read it!

Apologies for another knitting light entry. I can assure you the hand towel is growing nicely and I am looking forward to giving my crochet hook an outing for the boarder. 

And in white sofa news: the bolognese stain has now been joined by an entire glassful of red wine. (Not my doing this time). We may have to get out the bleach.

Friday, 17 May 2013

"I'm new here, will you show me around?" - Gill Scott-Heron

The second week in my new homes is drawing to a close and I seem to be finding my feet in my new routine. Thankfully, there are no money-down-the-drain disasters to report this week, in fact I found £10 on the pavement yesterday and I have even made my first friend in Norwich! So, bar a slight white sofa / bolognese sauce incident which I won't bore you with, I feel this week has been quite a success. I do hope I'm not speaking too soon.

I met up with New Norwich Friend yesterday evening as she has agreed to take me to all her favourite watering holes in the city. Last night was the turn of The Birdcage; located in the city centre in Pottergate. 

It was a hit with me for 2 reasons:

1: You can order fish and chips from the chippy opposite and they will bring them across to your table.

2: There was a tabby cat on the bar.

This beautiful, but let's be frank, slightly chubby pussy has recently been put on a diet, however when the neighbouring table's fish and chip order arrived it became clear that he did not agree with this decision.

Fab food and fury entertainment - I will be returning to this establishment.

In knitting news I have enlarged the flannel pattern and am now working on a matching hand towel. Photos to come.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Let's Just Do It.

I met such an inspiring lady today who had so much get up and go bubbling from her it was infectious. 

Following my resolution to become as involved as possible in the local craft scene I visited a beautiful little shop which opened on Saturday on North Hill in Colchester called Pirates and Princesses. It is well worth a look if you haven't been in already; dangling from the old, exposed beams are exceptionally tasteful handmade gifts and home-wear, the white washed shelves are lined with trinkets, traditional toys and in those four walls you can find everything you could possibly wish for to make a birthday bash complete.

Standing behind the counter was Liza Stoker, the brains and hands behind Robinsons Designables: .

After a ten minute conversation with this lady I was absolutely brimming with ideas and confidence in stepping forward with my crafty plans.  Liza gave me some fantastic advice regarding taking on stalls and shelves in shops, fayres, markets and festivals, overcoming my objections of not having much in the way of stock by pointing out, with a wave of her hand, that less can be more; it's all in the quality. 

Where has my 'let's just do it' attitude been?! Well, wherever it's been hiding, I am pleased to announce that it is back.  So thank you Liza Stoker, you marvellous woman, watch this space!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Hooked (ha.ha.)

To complete my Dishcloth I needed to crochet a boarder around the edge. So I first needed to learn to crochet using the Single Crochet stitch.

I decided to do this yesterday evening after a one or two too many white wine spritzas which perhaps wasn't my brightest idea yet as I had never picked up a crochet hook before. However I am pleased to inform you that it went surprisingly well! There is room for vast improvement under no uncertain terms but I am well and truly 'hooked' to this fine craft. See the finished product in the photos below.

I think they are far too nice to scrub the dishes with so following Aunty A's suggestion I have decided they are in actual fact flannels - far more worthy of face scrubbing! I am very excited that in learning this new skill the pattern database available to me has grown considerably, I would urge anyone who hasn't already to arm themselves with a crochet hook asap!

Friday, 10 May 2013

All Change!

First things first I must apologise to you for my recent silence, I have been really very busy but that is no excuse! I have been making some enormous changes over the past two weeks all intended to give me more time to concentrate on my knitting and to make me a much happier lady - you only live once after all! However so far all I have achieved is falling into an inescapable realm of chaos...

I will tell you all about it in just a moment but before that I've got some news I can't wait any to share with you.

There is a little shop in Colchester on Crouch Street called Tea and Sympathy, I don't know if you've heard of it? It sells some wonderful things from vintage clothing, clever contraptions to traditional toys and, most importantly, a huge array of handmade goods created by Colchester's crafty inhabitants. It is also host to many creative workshops, social get-togethers and beauty sessions so I really would urge you to go down and take a look if you are in the area, there is something for everyone. I visited a few weeks back to peruse their Aladdin's Cave of gems and got chatting to co-owner Melissa. I left 20 minutes later grinning from ear to ear having been offered the opportunity to sell my wooly creations in their store!

I can't tell you how excited I am. I have been racking my brains for ideas of things to make as we are heading towards the summer months so the perfunctory scarves, gloves and hats are a little redundant for the time being.

Aunty K came up with the fab idea of dish cloths and after a quick search on Ravelry I found a great pattern using moss stitch for a better scrubbing texture - and best of all it's free.

Here is the link to the pattern for you, alternatively you can find it in my projects: check out the other ideas I've had of things to try so far. Let me know if you have any suggestions and feel free to add me while you're there, I haven't got many friends yet!

So that's my exciting news, now back to the big lifestyle shake up!

You remember the call centre I mentioned I've been working in until 8pm every evening? It is now a thing of the past! My brilliant mum has let me move back home (crazy woman) so I can afford to live on my part time Learning Support Assistant role and give up irritating people on the phones on a nightly basis.

Now the part of this that has caused my state of disarray and general confusion (more so than usual) is that mum lives in Norwich so all my stuff has been shifted up there and I am spending half my time at mum's and the other half at The Gentle Giant's in Colchester. I have been flitting between the two places for 4 days now and so far I have forgotten the card I needed to pick up my train tickets, left the paper counter part to my provisional driver's licence in Norwich causing me to miss my theory test and I have managed to leave my laptop at the school in Wivenhoe which I needed for my blog updates and other bits and bobs this weekend. I am beginning to think I may need to strike 'highly organised individual' from my CV.

Due to my lack of laptop I now find myself in the public library sitting opposite my new best friend, a ninety one year old gentleman, who after a swift assessment of my current living situation told me that I need to dump the boyfriend and get a new one nearer Norwich. This seems to be a sensible suggestion, I wonder how The Gentle Giant will take it...

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Come out, come out, wherever you are: Searching other young spinners and weavers!

I realise that in order to become an active cog in the great yarn wheel I will need to get out there among it all.
So my plan of action? To infiltrate the fiber industry one community group at a time. Mwahahaha!!!!

Well, Ok, it isn’t as sinister as it sounds; I just plan to become an active and regular member of as many crafty gatherings as possible. Networking is the key to success so they say!

The main difficulty I have at the moment is that I work in a call centre until 8pm every weekday evening so I miss a lot of local goings on but I will just have to work around that for the time being.

I did manage to go to the monthly meeting for the Mid Essex Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers recently however and that was marvellous.

It was brilliant to be surrounded by so many crafty people; the moment I walked through the door my ears were greeted by the chatter and buzz of the friendly members and their whizzing wheels. I felt completely inspired.

Somehow, scatter-brain that I am, I succeeded in forgetting to take my knitting with me. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because Aunty A let me get some much-needed practice on her spinning wheel. As I struggled to get my hands and feet to work the fleece and treadle, getting in a complete tangle, I was showered in fantastic advice offered by some of the regulars who came over to say hello.

I have to admit, even with all this help, I ended up a tense, crippled form, my nose pressed against the working bobbin and my neck completely seized up. It is safe to say I did not achieve the relaxed, almost hypnotic technique the many experts in the village hall were displaying that day. Never the less, I managed to refrain from launching the wheel across the room in frustration so I feel I did gain one small victory.

Aunty K and Aunty A doing a little weaving
If you are one of them and you are reading this then please do say hello! I would love to know that I am not the only twenty-something tackling this incredibly organic process. Do you have a group of your own you attend? Maybe you can help me avoid the crick in my neck I am currently maintaining?
I look forward to returning to the Mid Essex Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers meeting but I was a little saddened to see that although the hall was full to the brim I was the youngest attendee by a good number of years. I hate the thought of spinning, weaving and dying becoming a lost art and I am positive there must be people of all ages practicing these crafts.

I will sit tight and hope to hear from you all soon!!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Loop the Loop

So let’s face the facts then: one of the biggest factors holding me back from making a living in the fiber industry is my lack of expertise in, well, all areas… Oh dear! I hear you cry but fear not, I am certain this is a solvable issue and have responded by knitting like a complete and utter lunatic.

I knit on the bus ride to the primary school I work in by day, I knit on my journey home, I knit in my lunch break before dashing out to the call centre I work in by evening. When I am not knitting I am learning to spin (terribly), reading craft blogs and scouring Ravelry. I have wool and fleece everywhere; poor Gentle Giant now has an Ashford spinning wheel residing in his lounge (a loan from Aunty A for me to practice on while Mr B fixes my cheeky wheel, Trixy, who is currently refusing to play ball).

I have also ruled that every new project I take on must involve learning at least one new skill in order to complete the item in question. If it’s too easy, it’s out.

I can feel myself steadily improving and have enjoyed the odd ‘Eureka!’ moment but all I can really say is thank goodness for Aunty A and Aunty K and the ladies I meet with on a Tuesday who’s extensive knitting knowledge is picked over on a regular basis.

During one of these Tuesday night get-togethers Aunty K proposed a knit along which complied with my new rule perfectly. Aunty K had selected Selbu Modern, a free pattern from Kelbourne Woolens by Kate Gagnon Osborn, you can download it for free here:

Much to my relief, it was suggested that we all cast on at the same time, as on reading the pattern through it soon became clear that I would need to master an alien concept – The Magic Loop.

Well what a tangle I got myself in! I strop-knitted for a good hour with the needle cord flicking about in all directions and Aunty K, with everlasting patience, assuring me that once I’d got the hang of it doors would open to many wonderful things - namely socks from what I can gather.

Never to be defeated I powered on (grumbling incessantly) while Aunty K showed me how, when using circular needles (at least 32 inch), to create a loop by pulling the plastic cord through the two middle stitches and knitting in the round using the small, workable circle created.

My problem came when I reached the end of a round and my magic loop had mysteriously disappeared, meaning I had to find the middle and recreate the loop at the start of every round which I was sure wasn’t right.

It was another week until our next knitting meeting so I turned to the other bottomless pit of information in my life – the Internet.

After sifting though many of the hundreds of fantastic free online tutorials we are lucky enough to have available to us I managed to get my head around it. I honestly don’t know how Granny became such an accomplished knitter without the access we have to this frankly awesome tool.

I quickly sourced the error of my ways; a number of magic loop tutorials showed that at the end of each half circle I needed to pull the cord through via the right hand needle ensuring that I always have a loop at both ‘ends’ of the circle. Most importantly, however, I needed to prevent the loop at the opposite side to the needles from working its way out allowing the stitches to join back together on one straight length of cord.

I also picked up some very ‘handy’ hints (if you’ll excuse the pun) whilst studying this loopy technique.

Kathleen Cubley explains how to relax the cord of the circular needles stopping it from twisting and curling every which way as though it has a life of its own by submerging it in hot water for 30 seconds then running it under cold water in her entry ‘The Magical Magic Loop’ on Knitting Daily: Please be careful when doing this – I don’t want any scolded fingers!

Help was also provided on the subject of preventing ladders when using this technique. A tip I found particularly useful was to stop knitting a few stitches before reaching the end of the needle, pull the left hand needle through so the stitches sit on the cord then start your next round. The three stitches will join the rest of the stitches that come round to the left hand needle ready to be worked. This alters the meeting point of the two needles and should stop the creation of ladders in your work. This brilliant little drop of information is supplied by Rosee woodland at The Knitter – ‘Advanced Knitting in the round – part 2’.

At the change over point where the two needles meet it is very tempting to pull the wool really tight in attempt to avoid those infuriating ladders however the best advice I stumbled across was to keep your tension consistent because pulling a stitch tight can also cause gaps – which was news to me!
See for a really good example of this.

I hope you find all this as useful as I have – anything else I come across I will be sure to let you know and any tips you would be willing to pass on would be greatly appreciated so please do get in touch!

I am chuffed to bits at having mastered the magic loop. All you sock patterns out there - let's dance.