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Thursday
Nov082012

What I did on my holiday...

These early mornings seem to be helping with the blogging. Maybe. Perhaps.

While I was 'away', I did a lot of stuff. Some stuff was mundane and, frankly, I won't bother you with it.

But some. Some was terrific. Brilliant. Bloody marvellous.

For example, in early October I went to Shetland, with a little gang of rather wonderful knitty people. I shared a (really very excellent) self-catering apartment with JenAC, Rachel Coopey and Sarah Hatton. Jen had called me months and months ago to ask if I thought a trip to Shetland for Shetland Wool Week would be a good idea. I suspect she already knew what my answer to that would be! She very kindly arranged all the accommodation and travel and, completely selflessly(!) went to Shetland in July for her summer holiday to recce the joint for our trip. (She saw puffins.)

We laughed, chatted, knitted, visited the AMAZING Jamieson & Smith yarn emporium (this may have happened multiple times. ahem.), crammed a LOT of sightseeing in to just a few days and spent time with a whole host of incredible knitty folk. I use the 'a' word very rarely, but it was a totally awesome experience (dude).

Herewith, a series of postcards to give you a little taste of what I got up to...

Not just a rainbow - a DOUBLE rainbow. Shetland was the rainbow isle for sure.St Ninian's Isle from the Mainland. It's a TOMBOLO people!And St Ninian's looking back towards the Mainland. Equally beautiful in either direction.A jellyfish, beached on the tombolo. (I like that word, could you tell?)Hairy lichen. I'm pretty sure that's not the correct name for it. Nice though!A trio of lovely friends.

AMAZING layers and layers of history in jarlshof - dwellings dating from the Iron Age Brochs, through Pictish Wheelhouses and Viking Longhouses. I really loved this visit.

A wild day at Eshaness. My that Shetland wind can blow!And then I went to a Caribbean beach for the day! Astounding white sand. The wind was COLD though.

There were hats to try on...And MUCH yarn to admire. (This is the Jamieson & Smith Yarn Emporium in Lerwick an d it really is a very lovely place to while away many hours!)And, to finish off a perfectly perfect Shetland trip, on our very last night we were treated to a beautifully eery and subtle display of Northern Lights. It truly was a fantastic experience - I think I might have squealed very very loudly!

OK, this post has now sat in draft form on my screen for two days while I fought with my iPhone. I'm not sure how Squarespace will deal with that, so I'm going to press publish and hope that it has today's date and not Tuesday's on it!

Monday
Nov052012

Endings and beginnings

Ahem

Err, yes, so there was a bit of an extended break there. Not sure why, other than there was a lot going on and blogging just didn't quite make the list for a while.

Right now, my life is at one of those points that happen to all of us - endings, beginnings, a change of routine and rhythm. My OH, R, starts a contract job today, his first full-time work outside our home-office set-up for about 18 months or so. It feels like a bit of a jolt to the system for both of us, as I've grown used to having someone else around, other than Maisie-dog, and he'd grown used to the freedom of home-working. But today we're back to our old routine of alarm clocks (there are many alarms set in this house - at five minute intervals and scattered around the place so that Devil's-own invention, the snooze button, cannot be deployed). R is a night owl, by nature - he can continue working and creating and thinking well into the wee small hours. I've become more accustomed to these hours over the years, as well, although my brain has usually packed up for the day by 10.30. We've had to make a big effort to switch to 'early to bed, early to rise' over the past week, in an attempt to make the 6am alarm a little more bearable. First day of the new routine today - I'm writing this at 8am, R managed to be out of the door only 15 minutes after his 'aimed for' time (this is a good result, believe me!) and I'm about to start work for the day. It feels a bit strange but all good.

An ending and a beginning.

Another very big change is going on in my Mum and Dad's life too - by the end of next week, they will have moved out of their home of more than 40 years, where they raised their family and the location of so many memories, out of their home town (which no longer feels like the town they grew up in - another story for another day) and will be heading west to Somerset. To a new home, waiting to be filled with new, different, but, I hope, equally joyful memories. They will be further away, so there will be fewer short trips to visit for a cuppa and a catch-up. But perhaps that means each visit will be longer, savoured more, filled with more chatter and laughter and love.

Of course, being a knitter, there are always things to be finished, and a list of things to begin that is, let's face it, completely unrealistic. I wrote a list of presents I'd like to knit for family and friends this Christmas and noted next to each little project how long it would take to finish. My friends, even though I thought I was being sensible and only choosing my very favouritest people to knit for, I still ended up with a timescale so very far outside of the actual days between now and Christmas, that even I had to laugh. I suspect my sub-editing skills will need to be set loose on that list in the near future.

Another change for another part of my family happened last week - my cousin's eldest, who I clearly remember being a very sweet baby and who I'm sure should still be in pigtails (she never wore pigtails, that I'm aware of) had her own very sweet baby last week. I've been knitting (of course!) for him - a little Elijah Elephant.

Elijah is a fantastic toy pattern from Ysolda Teague that is cleverly constructed to be knitted in the round, with no fiddly seams to finish at the end of the knitting (that is not to say that parts of it are not fiddly, picking up stitches off of the body for arms, legs and ears are most certainly on the fiddly side of things). I've knitted at least three of these before and they are always much-appreciated - toys are a good idea I think, if you're unsure if the parents want hand-knitted clothes for baby.

I've also got another Sheep Carousel tea cosy on the needles right now. How I do love Kate Davies' patterns. Which is just as well, as I'm currently spending most of every day mooning over doing page layouts for her glorious new pattern collection, Colours of Shetland. It's due to be published around the end of November. I think I might be nearly as excited about the release as Kate is herself!

The wonderful Cloudy Apples eBook, which was released a couple of weeks ago is deserving of more words than this, but I had so much fun working with Jen and Kyoko on the book, and I couldn't wait to cast on the beautiful Dunkerton Sweet socks.

The second sock is nearly halfway done, but has stalled these past couple of weeks as knitting time has been a bit lacking. I'm thoroughly enjoying the rhythm of this sock pattern, using some Posh Yarn Eliza, a 75% Merino 25% Nylon sock wool, in a beautiful coral pink that's been in my stash for a while but seemed the perfect colour for these pretty socks.

As you can see, I have way too many unfinished things on my needles right now (and I've not even admitted to half of them here!). I'm itching to finish at least two of these projects, as the annual Woolly Wormhead Mystery Hat Knit Along has already started and I need to crack on with Clue One. I'm going to use some Posh Yarn Emily from my stash, but I've promised myself that I can only start once I've finished one of mymany languishing WIPs.

Signing off for now.

Wednesday
Jul182012

Postcard again

Bit like buses this blog - nothing for days, then two turn up at once. :)

My garment knitting has taken a back seat (actually, it's been tossed aside like yesterday's celebrity 'news') in favour of my new obsession - the Sheepy-Go-Round tea-cosy.

Kate Davies is a bit of genius and I am helpless to resist her patterns. Despite having virtually no colourwork experience (I think we can safely say that this is fairly apparent from the photo above. What can I say: I'm relying on a blocking miracle) every minute that's been possible to knit has been spent on this project. Sheep! On a Merry-Go-Round! As a Tea-Cosy! It uses lovely sheepy Shetland wool from Jamieson and Smith and has lots of little new-to-me techniques like Vikkel braid (over, under, miracle plaiting!) and eeek-steeks (which involves taking scissors to the knitting. I may need to steady my nerves with a glass of something fortifying before I get down to that part). I am loving it and already plan to knit more. Watch out family - you may have just seen your Christmas pressies.

I mentioned yesterday that I get to work with some really amazing people at the moment, and Kate is one of them. Another project that I won't say much about, as t'isn't really my place. Safe to say, if you like Kate's patterns, you'd best start to get yourself just a leetle bit excited. I am chuffed to bits to be a tiny part of it.

Last week included some lovely woolly surprises - first was the secret crack den local yarn shop where I purchased some little treats...

Followed by a very large surprise package full of more Jamieson and Smith goodies. (Thank you again, Kate) I appear to have enough wool to knit sheepy-go-round tea cosies for pretty much everyone of my acquaintance. Now all I need is some more spare time!

More tomorrow, I think. There may even be a shed update! I know! Steady on.

Tuesday
Jul172012

Somerset Postcard

Last week disappeared and I managed to not blog at all, despite taking lots of photos to help me remember what occurred. So here's a postcard-style post, full of pics and a little bit of blether to show some of what I got up to last week...

mmmmm surprise woolOn Tuesday I discovered a shop selling rather lovely yarn. Bizarrely, this shop is literally a 300m walk from my door and I pass this shop every single time I walk to the village. From the outside, it is cunningly disguised as a ladies' clothing emporium, with not the slightest clue that a cluttered back room is full of the sort of stuff that has most knitters hyperventilating (Rowan wools of every weight, type, colour and flavour, Noro, Artesano, Manos, Patons - if you're a knitter, you get the picture). I'm still in shock that my usually highly-tuned wool-locating skills have failed me so many times over the past 5 years. I may have bought a few tasty little Fine Tweed treats, as well as a rather lovely ball of Chunky Purelife British breeds to swatch for an Owls sweater. Would have been rude not to, really.

Lovely Frome walls and windowsWednesday I had fun in Frome. It's a bit early to say too much, but suffice to say, I count myself very lucky that I currently get to work with some of my favourite people. Here is Steph, one of said people. I'm not sure that she really believed I was going to take that photo. :D

Does my diffuser look big in this?We had a brilliant day working with a fantastic photographer, Jesse, who has taken some truly fabulous shots of some truly gorgeous knitting. All will be revealed towards the end of the summer (summer? wassat then?!).

During the week, I took various walks, a cycling trip and even a picnic tea, high up on North Hill overlooking Porlock Bay. The weather has been, well, disappointing, to say the least. So changeable and until today, really quite chilly. urgh. The picnic consisted of teeth chattering, wrapped in many layers, gloves (gloves! In JULY!) but determined that we would enjoy our food out in the fresh air.

Porlock Bay from North HIllSun! Quick take a photo!Moorland hillsideWild flowers of North Hill.Maisie, en route to Porlock Weir along the Southwest Coast Path.Cottage at Porlock Weir - Jen, your Mum might recognise this!

Sunday
Jul082012

Hedging around

Our small plot of land in Exmoor National Park, on which we hope to build a new house at some point, consists of a garden, much longer than it is wide, with a very dilapidated pre-fab bungalow at one end (it has to be demolished - rotting timber frame and asbestos panels are not a good bet for renovation, sadly).

Along one side of the plot is a small track that leads to a tennis court/basketball court and into the village recreation ground. The fence that was once the border has over the years become so overgrown with ivy, bindweed and brambles, that there is no longer much evidence of the fence at all. Knowing that we would need to replace this, three years ago we purchased eighty 12 inch high bare root laurel plants, the same number of tough black plastic planting bags and enough compost and dung to bury, well, a small hedge.

It's quite astonishing how quickly laurel plants will grow, given a bit of tlc and enough water and food...

Even more amazing since last year we chopped at least 5ft off the top of most of them! I think we'd pay a bit more for hedge plants at this size, than we did for our homebaked hedge-in-a-bag solution.

I love the garden here so much. Not that we do much more than keep the grass cut and the hedges hacked. I do have a very small 'nursery' bed that houses some of the incumbent plants that survived years of hungry rabbit attacks. Today the sun shone (after monsoon-style rain all day yesterday) and when I checked out the bed, I had some lovely surprises. First up, raspberries ripe and ready to eat, not taken by hungry critters. They tasted even better than they look.

And right next to them, an overgrown bush, which I've been happily calling Evening Primrose, but which I now discover is actually Large-flowered St John's Wort!

It looked very pretty in the bright sunshine. Moreso when I realised that the flowers were all receiving polite visits from bees - honey and bumble. You may have already noticed that I have a bit of a soft spot bees. ;)

I'm not sure how clear it is in that photo, but lots of the honey bees had magnificently full pollen sacs on their back legs. It's clearer in the one below, that small yellow bulge on top of the bee's left back leg is a LOT of pollen. Lovely bees.