Feeling Woolly

The Chronicles of a Dropped Stitch

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Much Love from Us Lot Up North

I am very lucky.  I am the youngest of four girls and am proud to say, although naturally not mirror images of each other, we are still close.  For all our differences, there are of course many similarities.  I think us girls agree, we are all uncomfortable with confrontation.  We reflect on events and act accordingly and don’t just jump in.  There is kindness and empathy in all of us.

Gorge Walking Gals 2016

It is a rare occurrence for all four of us to be in a room together, our different lives spread out over long distances throughout the United Kingdom.  However when this does happen, let’s just say there are giggles of laughter resonating through the walls!

Since starting knitting three years ago, I have slowly been creating pieces for all of my sisters.  For me the process of hand knitting an item for somebody, whoever that may be, enables me to focus fully on that individual.  There is a constant feeling, a presence if you will, that this person is there, right by your side.  This is an unexpected phenomenon which I hadn’t prepared for when taking up this craft.  It is an almost overwhelming connection between person and creation, which inevitably keeps you going.  The art of making a gift for someone, wherever they are, undoubtedly draws you closer to that individual.  I concur with the phrase ” there is love in every stitch “.

So it is with great pleasure that after three months of steady knitting, I have finally been able to send a very belated birthday gift to my biggest sister Kate (ironically she is the little one on the far right of the photo!).  It is a shawl, well more specifically a Hap, and although it is my first, it will certainly not be my last.  I am brimming with enthusiasm about this piece.  The pattern is called A Hap for Harriet which I bought as part of a kit from Kate Davies Designs.  There is something lovely about receiving a parcel in the post don’t you think.   In this case, when it is a kit, you suddenly become armed with all the tools to go on and create something wonderful.  I ordered the needles separately, but when put all together, there’s a huge excitement brimming inside as you suppress that urge to just down tools and get cracking straight away.

Ready, set, go!

What can I say about this particular kit though?  There is the stunning Fyberspates Gleem Lace in ‘Tweed Imps’, which I previously mentioned in my post A Tall Storey in Yarn.   It is such a treat to handle, with sweeping, subtle colour changes of purples, indigos, raspberries……oh I could go on!  However, it is the pairing with a seemingly simple repeat pattern which is so clever.  After the final phase of stretching and blocking (don’t ask!)…..

Blocking with pins

Yes that is a giant dragonfly!

….you suddenly see how beautiful this hap is.  And I am so pleased with how it came out!

A hap for Kate

Simple beauty

I could now proclaim a multitude of expressions, such as  ‘Good things come to those who wait’ or perhaps ‘Patience is a virtue’.  Both will be well versed by my family when it comes to associations with little ol’ me!  However, I am of the mind that in the good old fashioned sending of a parcel in the post, with a gift for someone, we can waver any preconceptions that it should have arrived earlier.  I believe that a gift that is sent, will somehow always arrive just when it is supposed to.   One can never be disappointed, just heart-warmed.   In this case, when I had asked Kate three months ago, what she would like me to knit for her, she would not have known how poignant her answer of a shawl would be.   To me it epitomises the need for comfort, wrapping yourself up, feeling loved.  So then I’ll finish by saying, “Much love from us lot up North….. better late than never!”

Fluffy White Clouds in the Sky

I wanted to share a quick knit with you, which I completed at the weekend.  Although I am still in the process of finishing my Hap for Harriet, as mentioned in my previous post,  I was at a bit of a loss when I ran out of wool last week.  So whilst awaiting the arrival of a new skein for that one,  I found myself having a conversation with my Photographer friend Katie of The Picture Patch Ltd She was looking to add a few baby shawls and bonnets to her collection of props which she uses when photographing new babies.  I have previously knitted a few items for Katie, and she already had in mind the kind of knitted items she wanted.  So I sent her to get the yarn and she came back with this!

What can I say? Gorgeous!

I had the patterns at the ready so was set to go.  Armed with some size 9mm (13US) needles I was off, and proceeded to knit the Easy Knit Lacy Baby Wrap by Posh Patterns.   There are beautiful patterns to be found here for sure, so it is definitely worth taking a peep. This is a simple but effective repeat pattern which once again I managed to misread!!  Thankfully you can’t really tell when looking at it.  This is probably because I was at least consistent with my mistake throughout, continuing to add that extra knit row which was not required!!  Such a beautiful colour yarn, it was as though I was knitting through blue sky, with interruptions of white clouds floating through.  Drops Kid-Silk long print, is a mix of 75% Mohair and 25% Silk.  Oh so soft for baby!  As you can also see my companion nicely shows how well this colour goes with chocolate!

Goes well with Chocolate

Although my friend doesn’t look so sure…..

Not sure if it matches my eyes

Ok, so this ball of yarn goes a long way, I had loads remaining, so continued with a bonnet also by Posh Patterns, called  Mohair Lace Bonnet.  So relaxing to knit, and didn’t take long to complete.  I cannot help but feel a sense of contentment when knitting items for babies, in fact there’s always a smile on my face when the end product is finally seen.  Definitely a feel good knit.

Awww…….

Fluffy blue bonnet

And still yarn leftover…….what next?

Yarn goes a long way

 

 

I’ll tell you what next, I will endeavour to finish my Hap!

A Tall Storey in Yarn

Well it’s been a couple of weeks now since I was last here, and do you know what?  I’ve missed it!  That’s a sure indication of how much I am enjoying doing this blog and certainly a tick in the box, in terms of surprising oneself.  For anyone contemplating doing this sort of thing and are doubting themselves, I can honestly say (as the biggest self doubter around!), that there is therapy in writing, which I have found so liberating and cathartic.  Once again we are using that creative side of our brain to string words together and communicate.  It is also fun!  Anyway it has been a busy few weeks and my attention has been drawn elsewhere.  What with our eldest boy Ewan turning 11 and organising a trip to London for him.  Aswell as tests at school (yes SAT’s, those mean ones they make Year 6’s take).  Last but not least my marathon effort to complete a shawl for my sister’s birthday (incidentally her birthday was in February, but I always say you can’t rush these things!)

To be more precise I am knitting a ‘Hap’, which is a Scottish term for a shawl/wrap/scarf.

Knitting a Hap for Harriet

Knitting a hap

It is the first time for me in knitting such a garment.  The pattern is called ‘A Hap for Harriet’ and is designed by Kate Davies of Kate Davies Designs.  It is absolutely beautiful and the yarn being used is Fyberspates Gleem Lace It has been a pleasure not only seeing the most gorgeous pattern emerging, but handling this luxurious yarn.   A yarn that beautifully compliments the pattern with it’s myriad of changing colours.  I’ll go into more detail about said ‘Hap’ in my following post, but as you may have guessed, it is not quite finished…..yet!

More importantly for us though Ewan and his Dad went on a two day (one night) trip to London.  A very special treat for a boy who is fascinated by ALL skyscrapers, he has been longing to go and see the big City for a couple of years now.  A modernist I suppose in his taste.

View to the City

View to the City

The Scalpel and Gherkin

The Gherkin reflecting in The Scalpel

He can name them all (even the ones under construction), place them with accuracy by their address, and knows all their heights.  Yes this is his ‘thing’.  London of course is not cheap, but by all accounts cost was kept to a minimum.  You see this whistle-stop trip saw big boy and little boy, tubing, bussing and walking past all the major building developments.  From Canary Wharf to the City of London, Piccadilly Circus to Buckingham Palace.  It was true sight seeing.  ‘Seeing’ places and buildings from the outside and absorbing the hustling, bustling atmosphere.  This costs nothing.

There was one special treat which was paid for though.  A visit to the top of The Shard – our tallest building here in the UK.

The Shard

A long way up to the top of The Shard!

And Ewan was naturally thrilled.

View from the Shard

View from The Shard

On his return home he proceeded to ask when we could all go together, as a whole family. Gulp!!  I have deviously avoided answering that one…..major saving up required without doubt!!

Ok getting back to the unfinished ‘Hap’, it suddenly occurred to me why it has taken so long to complete.  Apart from the fact you’re using a 2-ply yarn on very small needles, I took a passing glance at the label and what do I see?  This 100g skein comprises a whopping 800m of yarn!  And then BINGO!  My subconscious shouts out!  That is the equivalent of a very tall building indeed.  The many retorts of Ewan in all his enthusiasm, reciting the heights of all the tallest buildings (in the world).  I have to acknowledge, I may have only nodded and pretended to listen here and there.  However, without realising it my subconscious was listening.  In effect I have been knitting my way to the top of The Shard, back down again and more than half way back up!  At 309m this immense building is still not as tall as an outstretched piece of yarn.  In actual fact it would take you almost to the top of the worlds tallest building, The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which stands at 828m (excluding the antenna).  Wow!  At around £16.00 per 100g skein I’d say that’s pretty good value for money wouldn’t you!

So until next time (when I hope to finally share my ‘Hap’), remember to embrace your passions whatever they are and share them with others.  Enthusiasm is infectious and should be encouraged.  It may not always be obvious but you’ll be surprised how many people are really listening.  What was that Ewan?

My Locals

The internet; an infinite resource for all our needs.  Our answer to, well…..everything.  Isn’t it?  For me personally, the internet has definitely been a lifeline.  From the time we were living semi rurally a few years ago,  to the last 3 years where we have become a one car household.  As my husband requires said car for work, this of course limits any jaunts (shopping trips) for me.  I can honestly say that it doesn’t take long to adapt to this scenario.  Indeed we moved back to this area because of that very reason, knowing it would be possible to walk to schools, shops, and public transport was at hand.

Therefore, if I have needed supplies of any kind, whether that be needles, yarn or patterns, I have been able to easily obtain them by the quick press of a button on the computer.  Not only that, I have been able to learn step by step how to knit a multitude of stitches, mostly through online tutorials and YouTube (yes my lovely Virtual Granny).  So…..job done!  No need to leave the house.  I have everything right here.  In these four walls, my safe cocoon.  Golly how convenient eh!  Certainly no need to face people.  Or talk.  Or discuss.

Ah…..and therein lies the rub!  As much as we benefit from the conveniences of having the world at our fingertips, there is a whole plethora of reasons why I believe that the internet is unable to provide “everything”.  Humans are, by their very existence, social beings.  Even if indeed one believes himself to be verging on the antisocial (I draw parallels here!), I feel it is so very important for us to have interactions with people everyday, face to face.  Hmm, just the tip of the ice-burg on that topic!

My Local

Leven Crafts, Guisborough

Leven Crafts

Tucked away on an old cobbled street

Which leads me to venture out to my local independent yarn shops first and foremost.  I am lucky enough to have two favourites.  Here in Guisborough, Leven Crafts is a veritable gem of a hideaway.  This lovely shop, tucked away on old cobbles, provides a whole range of materials to satisfy those with a passion in craft making.  Whether it be knitting/crochet, quilting, embroidery or patchworks, the friendly team who work here are always willing to help, guide and encourage their customers.  When I enter this place I am naturally drawn to the yarn section.

Keep calm and carry on sewing!

Lovely yarn

However, I have to say the array of colour and pattern permeating from the range of fabrics and patchworks on display, always captures my gaze.  Colour is definitely therapy and I find myself inevitably absorbed.  I veer myself away, only then to be transfixed by the yarns!

On the rare occasions where I am able to use the car, the 15minute drive to Saltburn-by-the-Sea, leads me to my second treasure trove.  And it truly is.  Ripping Yarns presents itself amid a row of old Victorian shops.

Ripping Yarns, Saltburn-by-the-Sea

Wool…

More wool….

The walk past small cafes, antiques and bookshops, whilst breathing in the sea air, just adds to the nostalgia, as you approach its doors.  A bell tinkles as you go in, and you’re greeted with a bright, cheery space, lined floor to ceiling with a most super variety of yarns.  Here too, the staff are welcoming and all too willing to help.  When I visited it was Yarn Shop Day where together with discounts and raffles,  a Dry Needle Felting workshop was taking place which all could try for free.  A totally new craft concept to me, and once again you’re eyes are opened to try something new.

Yarn Shop Day

So these are ‘my locals’, and like many around the UK (and the world), they are so important to local communities.  The experience you gain is so rich.  Here you can really take in colours and textures, taking time to not only look, but touch each yarn, thus figuring out which is right for you.  You also gain one to one help if needed.  Positive interactions with approachable, like-minded people.

Supporting British Wool

And therefore, it is only if I cannot obtain something from either of these two lovely places, I return to my computer, where I know, as a last resort I’ll always be able to find something.  Thank you internet for everything you do, but more importantly thank you ‘my locals’, for providing just that little bit extra, the over and above (and by the way you’ll find them both on the internet!) I guess we have to remind ourselves, every butterfly needs to leave the cocoon…..to truly live.

The Power of the Dog

A post I hadn’t been planning to write, but the events of the week have compelled me to put into words my own feelings about a subject that is close to mine and I know many others’ hearts.   You may have guessed from the title, I am talking here about our relationships with our dogs.  Our loyal companion animals who connect with human beings.   Unspoken connections, of such intensity, devotion and loyalty, that when it comes to the time when one has to let them go, we are left behind, bereft in our grief.  This week, very good friends of ours lost their beloved dog.  And for our family and so many alike, we are able to understand the deep emotional impact this will have had on them.  That is the power of the dog you see.

I think in times like these, I find I am drawn to literature to help process the emotional storm that spins around within.  Sometimes we cannot put our feelings into words.  Just a swallow.  A gulp.  As we try to hold back the flow of tears again.  Tears that will be shed, at the most unexpected of times.  I’m fine, I’m fine, oh no…..I am not.  And so I was once again drawn to a poem that I had found, after the death of our own dog several years back.  It should come as no surprise then that it was penned by the great literary genius Rudyard Kipling.  For me when there are no words, this poem, truly expresses man’s connections with this most special of animals.  If you are familiar with this piece, I know you will already have your handkerchiefs poised.  If this is a first time viewing, then go get one!

And so I hand it over to Rudyard Kipling himself, ‘The Power of the Dog’  (please click on the link to view the poem)

Rolo and Rory enjoying life!

 

 

 

T-wit T-wool ! How very Owlish

If you are on the look out for a novelty pouch/case/holder for perhaps a tablet, IPad or netbook, this maybe something of interest.  I made this owlish chap for my son’s IPad Mini last October.

Handmade knitted IPad sleeve

Owlish IPad mini case

This is a free pattern called Owlish by Corrisande and was very straightforward to follow.  Having said that I had never tried my hand at crochet before, so there was an immediadte search for any tutorials on YouTube so that ‘owl eyes’ could be created.  My virtual granny didn’t disappoint and before long (long being the operative word) the eyes of the owl were cobbled together.  I should say though, it is a good thing you cannot scrutinise them too closely from the photograph!

My sister was quite smitten with this little fella and so asked me if I could make one for her 19 year old son Owen, as a Christmas present.  This time however, it was for a MacBook.  So armed with some new measurements (13″×9″), I headed to my local yarn shop Leven Crafts in Guisborough and purchased some Drops Nepal.

Drops Nepal

Drops Nepal

I love this yarn, a beautiful blend of 65% Wool and 35% Alpaca, so it is gorgeously soft to the touch.  I have to say I am really drawn to knitting with natural fibres.  This yarn in particular is dreamy to knit with, stitches sliding off the needles with ease.  It is also a bargain at £2.10 a ball.

I pretty much stuck to the pattern, but increased the needle size to 9mm (13 US ) and used a double strand of each colour of the wool.  I replaced a toggle for the beak this time as felt this may be more secure for the heavier device it would be holding.  As the pattern says itself, they are guidelines really and it can be altered to your taste.

13"x 9" MacBook sleeve

Knitting the MacBook case

Hey, but those crocheted owl eyes are amazing, I hear you say!  And you a newbie crocheter!!  Well, psst!  Listen in….indeed they are superb because I did not crochet them.  You see it took me such an age to do the last pair (for my own son’s device), that I was literally running out of time to be able to send the finished article before Christmas.   Oh how tricksy I am, so how did I do it?  Well, I unpicked  these particular eyes off an old child’s hat which had certainly seen better days, and just sewed them on my new creation.  I always feel it’s good to upcycle don’t you!  Et voila!  Owen’s Owl was born!

Handmade MacBook Sleeve

Owen’s Owl

Anyway, I believe my lovely nephew Owen was pleased with his Christmas present and his owly companion is now in constant use at University (I have been promised a photograph which I’ll add in as soon as I can).  A wise old owl happy in his academic surroundings.

Getting back to those owl eyes though……recognise them from somewhere?

Crocheted owl eyes

The hat in better days

T-wit T-wool!

Introducing The Lumpford Files – A Labrador Tale

And now breaking for a brief interlude from the world of wool, I’d like to introduce you to ‘The Lumpford Files’.  My aim here is to include in my blog a series of short yarns concerning the exploits of our lovable pet Labrador Rolo, fondly known as ‘The Lump’.  This is a little piece, which may appear from time to time to inject a bit of fun.  After all we can’t take ourselves too seriously now can we!  Hopefully, before the sound of snores start wafting through the WiFi (which may have already occurred but as yet haven’t reached my ears).  Let’s be honest here, even the most woolly headed of us, who truly adore everything yarny, felted, weaved, knitted or crocheted, need to untwine ourselves once in a while.  Too much of a good thing, as the old saying goes!

Our very own impersonator

 

Oh no but, please not another Labrador tale you may say, which depicts the endeavors of one such of the chocolate variety.  Especially not one that masquerades as famous folk.  Groan, yes it is!  I believe I mentioned ‘madness’ in my first post.  As the title may suggest,  ‘The Lumpford Files’ is a nod to that marvellous 70’s TV detective Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files  (see what I did there!) For full effect I urge you to click on the link, the theme tune always brings a smile to my face.  I’m sure it will bring back fond memories for many of you!  Here he is our very own Jim Lumpford, who I’m sure you’ll agree bears a striking resemblance to James Garner’s tough guy character.  Chiselled good looks, bone structure and that hint of ex con turned good.

The Lumpford Files

Jim Lumpford

So our lump of a friend here not only provides us with that true, loyal companionship we so often hear about in the breed.  No sir, he can often be off on adventures pretending to be somebody else.  Our very own impersonator if you will.  Although officially named Rolo, that will likely change depending on the circumstances in which he finds himself.  For instance below we can see him at full pelt, not to be mistaken for the powerhouse Linford Christie.  The style is certainly not as graceful as the great man himself, but it has to be said he’s putting his all in!

The Lumpford Files

Lumpford Christie

Being from a nation of animal lovers, it is by now probably obvious that I join ranks with them.  This dog is a constant companion in our family, a big, cuddly bear of a lump-a-dor whom we all love dearly.

So keep your eyes peeled for this master of disguise, who knows who he’ll present himself as next……and on that note it’s back to some knitting!

Mum’s Big Woolly

Mum (on the right) in what might be her woolly!

I suppose when we look back at how we begin new ventures or hobbies, we often find there’s a subtle, subconscious influence which has guided us to that point.  Sometimes it is hiding in plain sight.

For me that influence is this big blue woolly jumper!  Yes there I am again in it – in fact it is rarely off me in the colder months.  It also features down there at the bottom of the page, one of my humble doodles, which will probably act as my signature throughout the following posts I hope to throw out there.  My wee homage you could say to this creation!  I want to say a massive thank you to the lovely Katie at The Picture Patch Ltd for taking some of the beautiful photographs so far (the one of me in black and white up at the top of the page and in my first post and ‘about me ‘ page).  They really do justice to the colour and stitch definition of the jumper.  Check out her Facebook page, she is such a talent.

I have a strong bond with this piece of clothing as believe it or not my mum knitted it for herself when she was 21 years of age.  My mum is now 77, so that makes this jumper 56 years old.  Vintage it certainly is!  However for me there is so much more significance.

There are the obvious reasons of course. The beautiful thick wool, knitted into a drop-stitch stocking stitch pattern, accompanied by the vibrancy of a rich deep blue colour. Not forgetting to mention my mum’s knitting skills.  Although some fading round the collar, the stitches have barely fraid in all these years – only minor patch ups required here and there which have enabled it to continue on its long journey.  A journey that has seen it travel through time.  Being present through all our births (there are four of us girls!), and of course accompanying me to University, from my Welsh home to my new one here in Teesside 24 years ago.  There is real history in its fibres.

Most importantly for me though, this adorable hunk of a jumper connects me to my mother.  Each time I wear it, I feel my mother’s arms around me.  The most comforting hug, even though she is 300 miles away.   When family aren’t near, I believe connections like these are vital for keeping those we love close to our hearts.  A photograph enables us to see a person…..an object enables us to feel them.

So perhaps then, my first knitting project two and a half years ago was always going to be a big woolly jumper.  This time for my lucky husband…..and it’s big and orange!  Not sure if it will last 56 years, but you never know.  As for Mum’s Big Woolly, well the story continues.  Just a couple of months ago, an amazing chance sighting of the original pattern on Ebay caught my eye. I jumped on the chance to purchase it and now I have the very instructions to reproduce a modern day big woolly like my mum’s. I look forward to sharing that project when I eventually get started.  Until then, keep your special items within arms reach…..feeling woolly with you.

 

Dropped Stitches and Picking Yourself Up

 

Starting this blog for me, has been a process all being told, I had been tentatively pondering over about 4 or 5 years ago, when both my children had started school (yes I do take my time!)  Two years prior to that,  my husband had supported my (overwhelmingly) difficult decision to leave my career as a Physiotherapist.  “You must be mad”, some would have thought (there is a truth there!)  However, the reality is we all have our struggles and that whole work/life balance chestnut had certainly been roasting at the forefront of my mind.

you must be mad

 

I also think that I was perhaps yearning for a creative outlet.  Although some may not realise, I have always been drawn to creativity in some form or other.  As a child I loved drawing, art, and calligraphy, finding myself being able to totally “zone out” in whatever thing I was doing.  I am a day dreamer (ah I now realise where my youngest son gets it from!  My apologies to his teachers, it’s my fault!)  It is good to dream though isn’t it.  In my opinion, there is no hope without dreams.

Imperceptibly, there comes that age where children almost surprisingly become a tiny bit more independent.  Even more surprisingly one realises “I have time”.  Just the teeniest amount of time.  But time.  And so it was with me.

my virtual granny

 

My foray with knitting began around two and a half years ago.  Learning from scratch, with my ‘virtual granny’ who goes by the name of YouTube!  Such a marvellous tool for teaching us just about anything. So stitch by stitch I learned.  I am no designer (far from it!), however I absolutely love the challenge of a new pattern.  Like a puzzle to decipher, you use your brain (yes even I possess one). The feeling of having created something from a set of alien symbols, charts and strange language is so completely satisfying.  Take that Bletchley Park!

And then this funny old blogging how-do-you-do!  Firstly, I want to say a huge thank you to the wonderful Amelia from Rosetinted Pics for helping me create this blog.  Without her tech savvy abilities, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.  Just check out her beautiful blog and you’ll see for yourself.  Truthfully, in doing this I am as far removed from my comfort zone as one could possibly imagine.  It means sharing oneself for starters – scary! In spite of this I still feel an incredible draw.  To positively show that for all the mistakes and dropped stitches, we can overcome them and create something beautiful, unique and special.  I hope that by sharing some of my journeys, whether that be in knitting or other, it will inspire others, to do something new and to feel good about ourselves.  And so the Chronicles of a Dropped Stitch begin……