Friday, 17 June 2022

Pretty Pots

That's the name of my new pattern - Pretty Pots - the latest in quite a few patterns for containers lined with plastic canvas. My Square and Round Nesting Boxes use simple shapes, an understated stitch pattern and plain colours for effect.

With this pattern, I've used a much thicker variegated yarn and the stitch pattern gives added texture too.

The inspiration for this design came from a lovely ball of chunky yarn that I found in Dunelm Mill (I always have trouble saying that out loud).

Hayfield Spirit Chunky (155 m / 100g) is a variegated yarn that comes in some lovely colours; the one I chose was shade 408, Sundown but there are lots of others. Now I don't normally work with thick yarn but I thought it would be a new experience for me and I have to say it turned out to be a lot of fun. Once I'd got the idea of seeing how many different pots I could knit with this one ball of yarn, there was no stopping me. Mind you, things were a bit tense when I was working on the last and biggest pot; I ended up with just a few metres of yarn left.

As you can see, I used contrasting yarns for the inside of the pots. As well as looking good, this meant that the chunky yarn went further. Both the outside and inside of the pots are knitted in the round and the bases have a pleasing spiral pattern.

I have a tendency to add buttons to things whenever possible and this pattern was no exception. Each of the pots has a button in the middle of its base, although I have to admit that this makes the tall, thin pot a bit unstable.

The sizes of the three pots are fairly random. There are three small ones which I've filled with knitting and crochet stuff (I love my Clover Amour crochet hooks - fantastic to use and colourful too).

Then there are two medium pots and one big one which is wide but shallow (owing to the whole running out of yarn thing). Here are the medium ones.

All the pots are lined with plastic canvas so they're sturdy and keep their shape well. As I say, I planned the sizes at random so was rather pleased to see how some of them fitted together. I think this combination would make a nice gift (it's the large pot, the smaller of the two medium ones and the middle one of the smallest size).

I hope you enjoy this pattern. I look forward to seeing picture of lots more pretty pots.

Not long after finishing these I discovered that there's a DK version of this yarn. Bet you can guess what's coming next ...

I went for some autumnal colours this time; this is Casper and, having enjoyed seeing how much I could knit with one ball of yarn, I thought I'd repeat the exercise but this time knitting little pouches and purses. I haven't actually started knitting yet but I have had a few ideas so watch this space.

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Going to the Library

 I've always liked libraries. When I was little a mobile library used to come to our village and I remember climbing the steps up to it and being very excited about choosing books. Then, when we moved into town, the library was the first place I was allowed to walk to on my own - after a re-run of my Mum's "what do you do if a strange man asks you if you'd like to see some kittens?" talk (she knew me well). It wasn't long before I'd exhausted the possibilities of the children's library but they wouldn't let me use my library card in the adult library. So my Mum gave me her card to use instead; they didn't like it but couldn't work out a way to stop us.

Anyway, after two years of being housebound with Long Covid, the library was the first proper outing I managed on my own and I go there regularly now. It's a good place for me to cope with as it's nice and quiet, not too many people and no loud music or noises. And I still get excited about being able to choose books and take them home with me.

I have to limit what I borrow as carrying too much makes me breathless and reading itself is very tiring now. So I tend to get books that are picture heavy so that, if I can't managed anything else, at least I can look at the pretty pictures. A few weeks ago, I borrowed this one ...

I thought it looked fun and I have yet to find a craft that I don't like. Look at all that pretty weaving on the back cover.

The author recommends perle cotton no. 5 for the bracelets but the nearest I had was no. 8 so I had a go with that.

It reminded me of making macrame plant holders back in the early 1980s with my Mum; I suppose it's really the same thing, just on a smaller scale. I got better at it as I went along but wasn't particularly enamoured with the result. Then I thought of trying the same pattern with some knitting cotton.

I enjoyed this much more; you can see the texture of the knots at this scale which I really like. Here's the finished bracelet.

Apparently, you're meant to tie them on a friend's wrist and then they leave them there until they fall apart. a) I didn't want to give my bracelet away and b) what about washing? Luckily, the finished band is stretchy so I can knot it together like this and still slip it on and off.

There are lots more patterns in this book so I may have to borrow it again ... or add it to the list of craft books I'd like one day. As you can imagine, this is a substantial list.

I particularly like the one that looks like it's made up of woven ribbons.

I changed my library books yesterday. This is what I chose ...

... a craft book, a plant book and a history book. Those should keep me busy for a while. 

Before I go, you might like to see my newly strengthened garden wall. It's nice not to worry about it falling on me (or one of the cats) when the wind blows.

Paul the builder dug up a treasure for me when he was setting one of those posts in place and I've been excitedly showing it to everyone ever since.

It's a very long, very old nail that would have been handmade by a blacksmith, hammering it into shape. Isn't it wonderful? This house was built in the mid 1890s so I don't know if it dates from then or earlier, when the land would have been agricultural. The house walls at the back of the house near where it was found are single brick so it seems a bit long but who knows? It's my new favourite thing.

Thursday, 2 June 2022

Summer Mantelpiece

It's been decidedly un-summery weather here lately but it's the start of June so I decided it was time to decorate my Summer mantelpiece.

I know, that windmill looks ridiculously out of proportion but I couldn't resist it. I do love my windmills. I had to suspend it from the picture rail (picture rails are so useful) to get it to stay there.

Pride of place, as before, goes to my cross stitch sampler, Summer Blooms. I'm framing my samplers as I go along this year; next year I shall just have to swap them over.

What else is on the mantelpiece? Bits and bobs and lots of yellow. There was a lot of yellow on my Spring mantelpiece too; it's my favourite colour. 

I do like my craft tools to be pretty. Here we have my set of colourful Tunisian crochet hooks and my normal Clover Amour hooks. Each size is a different colour which makes it easy to grab the one you want and they are so comfortable to use. I'm currently using the pink one to crochet these squares ...

... and the orange and yellow ones have come in very handy for weaving samples on my new Fine Sett Tiny Weaver Looms from Hazel Rose Looms.

The knitted pot holding the crochet hooks is one of a set called 'Pretty Pots' (obviously), all knitted with one 100g ball of chunky yarn and various colours of DK for the linings. I've been writing the pattern up for nearly two weeks and I still haven't finished the first draft. Before being ill, I could probably have written it in a day or two. In my defence though, there are a lot of tables and drawing up tables makes my head hurt.

Back to the mantelpiece. Next to the crochet hooks are two of my very favourite things, both of which used to be my Mum's.

These little dishes were made by Jo Lester from Studio Pottery on the Isle of Wight and Mum bought them on one of our first holidays as a family back in the early 1960s. My earliest memory is of being carried up open steps into a little house amongst trees which I later found out would have been the caravan we stayed in. 

You can see my pushchair folded up, underneath the caravan.

Mum always had these dishes on display and there were such a familiar part of home as I was growing up.

Further along the mantelpiece there are some more recent ornaments, both associated with my daughter.

I bought the lambanana - and yes, that is a thing - when I went to stay with Rose in Liverpool when she was doing her Archivist training at the University there. It's a wonderful city. She made me the felt knitting cat too, although I did give her the kit, together with a very broad hint that I might like the finished thing! I collected the little white shells on holiday in Weymouth with my late Stepfather.

We've got to the other end of the mantelpiece now and yet more yellow things.

The china is some of my Mum and Dad's wedding china from the 1950s ... or it may be some that I've bought in recent years. I tend to pick up matching pieces whenever I see it. Again, this is closely tied up with memories of home as a child. Here it is being used at my seventh birthday party.

I'm the one on the right in the headband and I would appear to be singing 'Happy Birthday' to myself.

And last but not least we have my little yellow duck. He's not just a common or garden duck though but was once one of the stars of a Radio 4 programme called Invasion of the Yellow Ducks. This tells the story of how a container of toy ducks, washed off the deck of a ship during a storm helped to chart the movement of the oceans. As well as this programme in which my duck and his friends got to bob around for a bit in - I think - the sea off Southampton, this real life story also inspired a book by Donovan Hohn called Moby-Duck and several picture books including  Ducks Overboard! by Markus Motum. My duck is now living in quiet retirement, complete with knitted shawl.

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Fresh Air

I learnt a lot from reading The Secret Garden as the child. For a start, it's the best introduction to gardening you can find anywhere. Mary knows nothing about gardening when she discovers the overgrown garden, she clears space for the plants to grow and is rewarded with flowers. The childrens' enthusiasm for the natural world is infectious and stays with you for years. It's also a great example of the physical and psychological benefits of fresh air and exercise - add in the creativity of making a garden and you've got everything you need for happiness.

Here's Mary, when she first starts to run outdoors, just to keep warm ...

'the big breaths of fresh air blown over the heather filled her lungs with something which was good for her whole thin body and whipped some red colour into her cheeks and brightened her dull eyes when she did not know anything about it'

Suffice to say, I'm a great believer in fresh air. This has been something of a problem since I've been ill. For the last two years, the long country walks that were a regular part of my life have not been possible and I miss them, probably more than anything else. I can now walk a bit further than before, as long as I take regular rests and don't carry anything heavy. This meant that, at the end of March, to mark Mother's Day, my son and I managed a proper walk and picnic.

We couldn't get as far as actual countryside* but we walked a little way along the canal and met this heron on the way.

We were just starting to think he was a plastic heron when he lumbered into the air and flew away. We came back through Spiceball Park which is a big park right in the middle of Banbury, between the canal and the river. Sitting on a bench by the river for me to catch my breath, we spotted a kingfisher skimming along above the water. As they keep to the same stretch of river, I shall now look out for it every time I go there.

Walks aside though, I am very lucky to have a garden and spend as much time in it as I can. It's one of those long, thin gardens, typical of Victorian terraced houses and backs on to lots of similar sized ones so the whole thing creates a huge green area with lots of trees and wildlife. Here's the view looking up the garden ...

... and this is what it looks like from the top, facing towards the house ...

It looks wider than it is in real life. If you look at the houses, mine goes from the windows to the left of the small white building (my kitchen and scullery) to the chimney pots above it. 

As with all gardens, it's a work in progress and full of mess and memories. As you can see, I have a fine crop of dandelions; I leave the grass to grow long at this time of year so that the wild flowers get a chance - soon it will be full of Ox-Eye Daisies. It also encourages all the insects and pollinators and I often get dragonflies too. Then there are the newts in the bath ... yes, I did say bath.

When the people who lived here before me replaced the modern bath with a freestanding, iron one, the old one ended up in the garden to be used as a pond. It's not the most attractive thing but the frogs and newts seem to like it. The old wooden panelling that I had round it has rotted away so it's going to be supported by its own little brick wall soon. Then I have plans to cover the top edges with some sort of mosaic tiles.

A more attractive addition to the garden is the old sundial and bird bath that came down to me from my Grandmother and which looks as if it's been here forever. Here it is, complete with some bluebells. Can you see there's also a white bell there? I get quite a few of those.

A new and very exciting addition to the garden is my little greenhouse which was a Christmas present from my daughter and her partner. It just fits against the side wall by the house and is already filling up nicely.

There are propagators in front of various windows in the house and lots of seeds in the queue waiting to be sown. The trouble with old houses like mine is that they don't have windowsills. Well, they do but they're too narrow to put anything on. They are deep windows though so I can improvise with tables and, in this case, a trolley parked in front of them.

It's always nice when you can combine your hobbies and I've recently learnt how to make origami pots out of newspaper to use as seed pots. Not only do these use up the bits of my Saturday paper (the only one I buy) that I don't read, but the seedlings can be potted on in their newspaper pots so the roots don't get disturbed.

They look a lot less nice than this once they're full of compost and have been watered a bit but they do the job. It's very satisfying to re-use stuff like this. The seedlings then go into plastic pots but these can be washed and re-used umpteen times so I'm happy with that.

More new additions - this time in the form of plant supports ...

I had both Jack and Rose here this last weekend and, with their help, we got a huge amount done. Did you know that two healthy young adults can carry 110 kg of compost back from the shop in one go? While she was out fetching lots of heavy ceramic garden pots from my Mum's old house (yes, she really is quite strong, I put it down to all that practice pushing her partner's wheelchair), Jack and I put a few things together.

He rescued me from this eight foot tall obelisk and it's now in place in the garden. The soil here is heavy clay and it was very hard work getting its legs in far enough. We had to make the holes first by hammering in a garden cane.

It's there to support the climbing rose inside it which is about a foot tall at the moment but should grow to the top in time. It's a beautiful rose called The Pilgrim (after Chaucer's pilgrim in 'The Canterbury Tales') and has full yellow flowers, shading to cream. I only planted it last autumn as a bare root but it's got some buds so I can't wait to see them open.

In the meantime, I got a clematis to share the obelisk with the rose and encourage it to greater things.

The picture doesn't do it justice. That deep pink is a really vivid colour in real life. It's called Westerplatte and I made the mistake of looking it up online, only to find that it's named after a heroic stand by the Polish forces against the Germans in 1939. The colour is meant to represent the drops of fallen blood ... I shall try not to think of that when I look at the beautiful flowers.

Do you see those very business-like looking bean sticks next to the obelisk? Don't be fooled, I haven't actually planted the runner beans yet (they're in the seed queue). The wall that they're against used to be covered with Irish ivy (which I've just discovered is also called Poet's Ivy). Much as I love it, I decided it didn't need to cover every inch of the wall so, earlier in the Spring, I went into battle with it. You'll be glad to know I won.

Similarly, I've been demolishing the Winter Jasmine that dominated the side wall need the house ...

Those sticks against the wall are all that's left - oh and the bits that have rooted between the bricks higher up. I've told it that it can stay if it promises not to get carried away again. 

I did have an ulterior motive for this lot of drastic pruning as that wall has to be propped up to stop it falling over. It's been there for over a hundred years and is definitely leaning. As you can see, it needs a lot of re-pointing too. That's going to be done soon so then I shall be able to plant things on that side of the garden again. It's the wall that gets the sun and I've got 16 sunflowers waiting in the greenhouse ...

I hope you've enjoyed this little look at my garden; I'll try to update you on its progress later on. I enjoy writing blog posts but they do take a lot out of me so, as with everything, I have to pace  myself. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a photo of my favourite flower in the garden - the humble Cowslip.

* Since I wrote the first part of this post, Rose and I have been on another canal walk and we got a bit further - as far as the first lock on the way to Cropedy. I was very pleased with myself.