Thursday, August 31, 2006

That's neat, that's neat!

When Lily saw the yarn Kellie sent me , she picked up the variegated yarn in the bag and said "tiger wool!" and she is right! Funny how it takes a five-year-old to see these things!

Kellie has told me a bit more about this yarn - she commissioned it specially for me from Yarnivorous and it is sock yarn that should knit up in tiger stripes! I am so touched that Kellie thought of this and went to so much trouble - what a wonderful secret pal!

I am itching to start some socks with it so that I can have tiger feet, but I have couple of projects (for friends who are having babies) I need to do before then (not to mention finishing some of the things I have on the needles!).

But I have at least finished one project - the cashmere scarf is done and it is now on its way to my secret pal spoilee! I hope she likes it! The car journey to Wales and back was a big help in terms of knitting time!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A parcel from the other side of the world

Wales was beautiful. I couldn't believe how fantastic the beaches were, and so empty - we had a great day on Rhossili beach, which is owned by the National Trust - and you can see why. Three miles long, the sand stretches as far as you can see, with hardly another soul around. It even has a shipwreck embedded in the sand for the children to marvel at! It was so different from the south coast, where the beaches are crowded and it can be hard to keep track of the children! This was glorious freedom for the children to run and splash and play - fabulous!

And when we got home, look what the postman brought (Max is as amazed as I was) all the way from Australia:

My fabulous Secret Pal had sent me the most awesome package! Just look at these goodies:

This is the oranges and reds corner: Timtams, chocolate bunnies, some fabulous Vesper sock yarn, which I have read about but never thought I would see in the flesh, and some beautiful variegated yarn. And then we have the purple corner (such wonderful colour choices - thank you, thank you!): Debbie Bliss wool cotton that will be just perfect for a baby project, some absolutely gorgeous cashmere and merino yarn and some beautiful laceweight that is just the right shade of purple for me! And, to cap it all, some delicious biscotti!

Thank you so much for my fabulous presents, Peeve, - I love them all! I managed to figure out who my Secret Pal was before I went to Wales and am really pleased that I know who has sent me all these incredible goodies. So, thank you again, so much!

I had some parcelling up of my own to do once I had done the unpacking and got the washing on (you fellow mums out there will know what I am talking about!). I packed up this little lot for the Lace swap:

and it is now on its way to Canada.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Juggling act

This week has passed in a blur of looking after the children and attempts at domesticity. I had a mountain of washing and ironing after the holiday, which I am nearly up to date with - just in time to go away again this week! We are heading off to Port Eynon youth hostel on Tuesday morning for a couple of days - so I hope the weather improves (it is pouring as I write this)!

I also have some editing work to do and this is proving nearly impossible under the constraints of looking after the children full time during the holidays. So, the past week has also been spent fretting about my work (which I have now started but need to make more progress on before we go to Wales - I predict a late night doing it!) and entertaining the children.

It is all very well having the flexibility of working at home, and I love being with the children, but it is extremely hard during the holidays when childcare inevitably takes priority. Still, in amongst the stresses of juggling work with everything else, I have taken Ellen to stay with two different friends on sleepovers, and taken all the children to the Wetlands Centre, which was lovely. It is a great place to be at all times of the year, but there is something wonderful about the scents and sights of summer:

The centre now has a new outdoor play area, called Explore, which includes rain clouds the children can run under and mist they can run through (swimsuits or knickers only!), vole tunnels to explore and other imaginative environmental play areas. It really is well thought out and the children had a wonderful time:

I managed to meet up with Jill and Linda from my knitting group during the week too and we had a lovely morning at my house, drinking tea and knitting. Jill had just come back from a Baltic cruise and gave me this beautiful skein of yarn, bought in Helsinki market (thank you, Jill!). The colour is gorgeous and it will make a great hat!

I also went to see Mary from the group to drop off some yarn and some needles she wanted to borrow and she painted my nails (the first time I have worn nail varnish for ages). Look at the pretty flower she did - so skilled!

And through all the comings and goings, stresses and strains and general summer chaos, Max impeturbably sits in the kitchen, waiting for his next meal...

See you at the end of the week!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sign me up!

Well, as Secret Pal 8 draws to a close this month, and I thought I might feel slightly lost without a package or two to plan, I have recently signed up for two new exchanges. First is the Whose Lace is it Anyway? swap, which is a quick exchange of a skein of laceweight and a pattern to a fellow lace knitter. I have the name of my spoilee and am planning my package and enjoying the process! My recipient is new to lace knitting so the world is my lobster, as they say!

The second swap I have signed up for is the International Scarf Exchange, which I am very excited about as I love knitting scarves and getting international mail!

I have been enjoying participating in Secret Pal 8 tremendously and have been very happy to spoil my spoilee! Now she has got the package, here is what I sent her a couple of weeks ago:

Yes, it is the mystery stripes, mark 1 and 2 - a slightly adapted version of Little Imp from Rowan's Pipsqueaks book. My secret pal spoilee has twin boys, and as a fellow mother of twins I know how hard it is to knit anything at all when they are little! I'm relieved she likes them!

Yesterday, despite the pouring rain, we visited Live Crafts at Loseley Park, where I succumbed to this sock yarn

I am planning a baby cardigan with the blue cotton Regia and have been thinking about Tiger socks for ages, so finally succumbed to a ball. Tess was there with her bunnies, who were cute and fluffy and much admired by the children. It was so wet, I didn't manage any pictures, but check out Nic's blog for bunnies galore!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Happy holidays - part 2

While we were in Yorkshire, we spent a day at Robin Hood's Bay. This is a very pretty place, with an interesting beach and lovely cobbled streets, but I also had an ulterior motive. Last time we were there, I discovered a wonderful yarn shop, with mostly hand-spun yarn, and I managed another visit there this time. Rosemary was as friendly as ever and I had a lovely browse in her shop, Raw Fibres. I couldn't resist some of her yarn and bought this:

The balls are sock yarn, and then the top hank is this gorgeous Wensleydale, hand-spun and hand-dyed:
The bottom hank is some beautiful silk handspun.

I managed quite a bit of knitting while we were away. The green scarf in feather and fan was my in-car knitting, and it is growing, although I need to finish it in the next week or so, so still have a way to go:

I made some progress on the Debbie Bliss jacket and am nearly at the armholes:

and the baby hooded jacket is coming along, as I am now on the front:

I really didn't want to come home at the end of our week away and the children were sad to leave Oscar too:

It really is a special part of the world and I hope we shall go back there soon.

Happy holidays - part 1

Well, I am back after a wonderful week in Yorkshire. We had a great holiday and did something for everyone in the family. First of all, we went to the beach (North Bay at Scarborough), which has all the essential ingredients for a traditional British beach holiday: beach huts in cheery colours:

donkey rides (here they are having a well-earned rest)

and endless potential for sandcastle architecture:

As well as days on the beach, we spent some time with steam trains (Edward and his dad are both train-mad!) and we were lucky enough to have a run with Sir Nigel Gresley on the North York Moors Railway, who was taken out of service for restoration in 2001 and made a grand return on the 5th August! This is the same class of engine as Mallard, which we saw on a trip to York Railway Museum, and which holds the world record for steam of 126mph. The engines are huge and very impressive in action.

As well as the seaside and steam engines we had some lovely walks, to Mallyan Spout waterfall near Goathland and to Falling Foss waterfall near Littlebeck:

At Falling Foss (pictured above) we were even prepared for a bit of swimming, and although the water was freezing cold, the kids had a great time.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Off on holiday

On Wednesday I took the children to my knitting group at Stash Yarns and they ended up going to Michelle's house to play, which was soooo kind of her. So, I had a bit of knitting time and they had some play time with Michelle's daughters, which was great! Thank you, Michelle! I had a voucher for Stash Yarns (courtesy of my husband for my birthday!) that I was itching to spend and in the end settled for this:

Two skeins of Handmaiden Sea silk in colourway Paris. Gorgeous! I want to do a shawl with it but have only 800m to play with, so was thinking about Kiri or Birch (I'd like to do Icarus, but it takes 800m and I figure that is cutting it fine!). I'm going to mull it over for a while, and concentrate on projects I've already started for the moment.

One such project is this scarf, which is slowly progressing - this is the scarf based on the swatch I did earlier and is knitted in a cashmere yarn which is very fine. I am knitting it in a traditional feather and fan pattern, based on an 18 stitch repeat, in a lovely forest green colour. The colour is very difficult to photograph accurately, but I hope you get the idea. This is coming on holiday with me tomorrow, along with the Debbie Bliss cashmerino DK cardigan, which I hope to make a good start on.

I am hoping that I will have some time for reading too (although it doesn't often turn out like that!) and am packing two books: one, Rites of Spring, is by a local author, and the other, A Tale of Two Cities, is for my book club. I am really looking forward to reading some Dickens - I hope I have some chunks of time to get into it!

I have lots of ideas chasing around in my head and am looking forward to a change of scene away from the house where I might be able to clarify some of them. I'd like to do some embroidery based on some of the children's drawings, and Ellen did this drawing at Michelle's house, which would be perfect:

I can just see this as an embroidered piece - it would be so cute! One thing I want to try to do is to figure out how to use my time better (although the summer holidays is probably not the best time for that!) as I seem to be constantly bogged down in work, housework and general domestic chaos! So, I'll be having a break from blogging (and everything else) for a week or so and will update you all on our stay in Oscar then! Have a good week!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Good news

Well, a small miracle took place today. I was on my way back from the library with the children, having accomplished our first Reading Mission, when I got a call from the Lost Property office at Waterloo. They had recovered my wallet. I can't quite believe that it has come back to me - I was really sad about losing my lovely pink Radley wallet! And here it is, safely back with me after a trip to Waterloo with the children!

What was truly astonishing was that it was pretty much intact so, although I have cut up all my cards, at least they were in it! I am so relieved - and my faith in human nature has been somewhat restored. So, I think I was probably concentrating so hard on getting the children on to the train safely that I lost it through carelessness, rather than it being stolen. What a relief!

I was also cheered up this week by a friend who sent me these lovely Denyse Schmidt notecards - lucky me - and a really cute birthday card!

I haven't done any patchwork for ages and feel quite inspired to start something, although I need to get a few of my knitting projects finished before I do! I love the rhythm of sewing by hand (I like doing patchwork in the English way, using papers, which was taught to me when I was little by a Polish friend of my father's, who I watched, fascinated, as she sewed one day).

And I also got these in the post - the latest issue of the Rowan magazine and some back issues of Interweave Knits, which I bought on eBay.

These will make great holiday reading - we are heading off to Scarborough for a week on Friday to stay in Oscar, the luxury camping coach! We went there two years ago

and had a great time, so we are heading back now that the children are a bit older. Barbara and Steve, who run the bed and breakfast at Cloughton station, are wonderful hosts and so I am looking forward to our stay.

In the meantime, my group's Secret Pal 8 hostess has asked us to answer the following questions:

Someone has stolen your stash and all your books: now what are you going to do? Panic! Shriek, scream blue murder, behave like a demented, deranged, distraught knitting-less knitter! I think! But, judging by the past week's experience when my wallet was missing, I think that there are other things that I would panic about more - particularly photos, and personal, irreplaceable things. I do have a huge collection of knitting books and old magazines, including lots of Vogue Knitting magazines from the 1950s and 1960s and I think I would miss the items most that would be hardest to replace. Also, any projects that are in the 'pending' queue I would really miss, as I love planning what I am going to do next and like looking at the project before I start knitting it! As for my stash, I think I would miss all those special skeins I have tucked away waiting for the perfect recipient in the form of knitted gifts - I love looking at these special hanks, thinking about what I might do and who I night knit them for.

What would be the first thing you'd replace? Oooh - a tough question. I would probably start obsessively trying to build up my collection of all those hard-to-find items, like the vintage Vogues and particularly some lovely old patterns for cardigans that I love. I also have a small collection of old row counters and needles and would definitely have to try to find duplicates of these as they are great objects in themselves, as well as being useful! I love doing that kind of research, so it would probably become an obsession trying to remember exactly what I had and replacing each item. I think I would probably also replace the patterns I knit repeats of - for babies, for example - as these are fairly essential day-to-day items! As for yarn, where would I start? Probably the project I intended to do next - the Debbie Bliss cashmerino Dk - and then maybe the Handmaiden sea silk, as this is very special! Also, some sock yarns (Fleece Artist and Socks that Rock) and some cashmere yarn that I have, which is lovely to work with. Some yarns, like Kaalund Expressions, would be irreplaceable as they are discontinued, and I think this would be the hardest thing to bear!

What would you live without? Some of the DK cotton yarns I have, chenille (as I find this heard to knit with) and general yarns (of all sorts) for which I have no particular project in mind.

A couple of people have asked about the pattern I showed which I am planning to knit with the yarn my mum bought me for my birthday - it is a cardigan in the Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK book and it really is a gorgeous pattern - this is coming to Scarborough with me as my holiday knitting!