Monday, 29 December 2014

Another year over...

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun...

The best laid plans got waylaid sometime back in early November when I signed up for volunteer work. Every year I have visions of doing a fully handmade Christmas but somehow never get round to starting that in the January before, which is clearly when you need to make a start!

There was just one touch though and those little fabric gift bags were made on Christmas Eve no less! A glass of wine helped make sense of the instruction booklet for the sewing machine and I discovered just how one little cotton guide thingy can make all the difference between sewing machine cooperation and sewing machine rebellion. Sewing machines and me just aren't meant to be.

Molls enjoyed her Christmas thank you very much. She spent most of the time on laps being made a fuss of. This is contrary to her home behaviour where she seems to prefer to sleep anywhere but a comfy lap.

The dogs behaved themselves right up to the point where one of them decided to dig up a few bulbs in Mum and Dad's back garden. I had to do a little gardening to put it right.

I must confess I'm not keen on the whole Christmas thing. I can guarantee that in the run up to Christmas I run into a horrible dark place, a place where even the jolliest Christmas jingle doesn't reach me. This year was no exception. Luckily the wine was taking the edge off by Christmas Eve!

M surprised me this year by making a freestanding rug hooking loom! This may sound completely random but he did ask me what I'd like and I said I would like a rug hooking tool and a big frame. After some proper research we came to the conclusion that what I really wanted was only available in America and so I suggested four lengths of wood fixed in a doormat size rectangle. I was so suprised to find he'd made the floor standing type and without any woodworking plans too! The photo was taken in poor light but you get the idea. The top tilts whichever way you want so that you can work with one hand underneath the hessian and one on top with the rug hooking tool.

I've started off with a simple design of random falling leaves just to practice the technique of drawing up loops of wool to the same height (rug hooking). It sounds easy enough but there are variables such as how big the hook is, how thick the wool is, how splitty it is, what backing is being used, the pile you want, etc. I'm using up all my super chunky wool ends which seems to be quite a comfortable weight with the hook but I have a feeling chunky would be even better, and would allow more detail perhaps.

I always like to have something creative on the go over Christmas and I did manage to hook up quite a bit more than the solitary leaf shown above. It works up fairly quickly. I have a lot to learn but for now I'll be happy if I produce a usable rug!

There was another surprise... he actually went into a yarn shop without my knowledge and asked what he could buy someone who could already crochet but wanted a challenge. I think he was helped considerably but even so I think he deserves brownie points. He bought me some Tunisian crochet hooks in different sizes and two fantastic books (which I will photograph for my next post), one of which was a beginners guide to Tunisian Crochet and the other was a book of the various Tunisian stitches. I have been wanting to try this out for some time but it's been a bit like cables in knitting, it looked scary! I jumped right in with the book open on my lap and it wasn't scary at all! I've only got as far as learning Tunisian Simple stitch and Tunisian Knitting stitch, TSS and TKS I think. I'm not sure if I'm turning in the right place but I am producing perfectly square samples. TKS is amazing, just like stocking stitch but so much quicker! Curls up like crazy but I think that could be overcome by adding a rib or edging. I've got a way to go yet before I can follow a Tunisian pattern, but I like a challenge.

Here's hoping you all had a lovely Christmas.


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Silly stuff...

Tomorrow I will be the mother of a seventeen year old. Hell, how did that happen? There are a few things that go with the territory and one of them is laughing at their quirks, even if they are 'not amused!'

I find the whole selfie thing absolutely hilarious. It doesn't matter what you weigh, what shape face you have, what you're wearing... They all come out looking like the top photo here. Pouty alien faced. OK it took me a few goes and I was being silly, in the end I remembered the feature that let's you swivel the camera round. Duh. I blame the mirror I was standing in front of, it confused me. Apparently taking a selfie just got easier this year; those telescopic arms are set to be on millions of Santa wishlists this year. (You can give mine a miss Santa.)

Anyway, after much faffing with hat and iPod I realised I could have just taken a photo of the pattern cover! She's much more photogenic, bless her. Still looks like an alien to me, but a pretty one.

I love this hat I've made for E. It's a beginners knitting pattern by Erika Knight. Worked up on 10mm needles using just two balls of super chunky. They didn't have the colour I wanted in her own range of wool so I used Sirdar's Big Softie which turned out to be ideal, extremely warm and a bit cheaper. It didn't take long at all which is just as well because even with this I had to keep stopping for a bit of wrist rubbing. I don't know why I can crochet for hours but only do short spells of knitting. Very annoying.

I like this pattern for several reasons. It has a very generous amount of ribbing which makes the whole issue of fit a walk in the park. Previous hats, whether knitted or crocheted always seem to be just off the mark when it comes to the fit. Secondly it was quick and easy and not fiddly knitting in the round stuff. Finally, you could knit everyone you know a hat on Christmas Eve and still have time for a nightcap with mince pies!

Thursday, 4 December 2014


I've had my first week day off from the charity shop since we first set it up three weeks ago. I had to take Ella to an appointment that was bang slap in the middle of my day so it wasn't worth going in before or after. In fact a day off was long overdue. It's been pretty full on work at the shop. Lots of bending, lifting and climbing up and down stepladders, with little time to stop for coffee or lunch. So much so I had to make a return visit to hospital. I never did have gas and air whilst in labour with Ella or Jake and now I know what a waste of time it is. It didn't take the pain away as such but it did turn the inside of the ambulance into a very weird shape with very weird sounds. In fact it was just plain old weird and after a while the pain was the last thing on my mind, so it does kinda work.

So I'm having a few days of rest. Mainly to keep the nagging husband from...well, nagging. The trouble is that now I've got the bug for rearranging junk at work all I want to do is come home and rearrange my own junk. Just a glance in the direction of a stepladder and he looks at me with ridiculous disapproval. Lucky for me he's off to work nice and early tomorrow. I need to go up into the attic to find those elusive Christmas decorations!

That wasn't all the drama that's happened around her lately either. I woke this morning and sleepily went into the conservatory to pull up the blinds. I saw what I thought was a bloody white tissue on the floor and wondered who'd had a nose bleed... It wasn't a tissue. It was the mangled little body of Lorelei; Ella's white Roborovski hamster. It was quite an unpleasant shock. I've never had to pick up a dead animal in my life but with M not home I had to get a wodge of tissues and pick it up and pop it in a box quickly and quietly (I was breathing extremely fast and puffing and ok, swearing too) before Ella woke up. I wasn't looking forward to breaking the news. 'Oh by the way, the cat has murdered your hamster'. What I have to say about the cat right now can't be said out loud.

The culprit was an external tube that she must have a managed to dislodge. Needless to say that cage is being donated to the charity shop and a cat proof replacement has been purchased along with a new addition to take Ella's mind off the loss. She really gets attached to these little fellas. Batman and Flash are about to spend their second Christmas with us. They are girls but E didn't let that spoil her plans for their names. Lorelei had a completely different personality and was chosen because she was on her own, with all her chums purchased. Daisy is the new girl in town. She came with that name. She was not for sale as such, but up for adoption because she was too old to sell. They sell them at 8 or 9 weeks and Daisy was the grand old age of 12 weeks. It was suggested we make a donation to the charity, so we did.

So far so good. She seems to be settling in well. They are best kept in pairs but Ella has a soft spot for the ones that end up alone. She's got a little strawberry house, a brand new wheel, a chinchilla dust bath and some natural fluff for her bedding. It's practically a penthouse suite!

Happier news includes the presentation night at E's school tonight. She received her GCSE certificates shortly after we listened to two of the most dull and rubbish guest speakers. She also received a special award for excellence in Art. She was chuffed to bits. Along with the wooden shield she also got a book voucher. She's going to buy a clothbound edition of a novel that is slightly art related and then she can attach the bookplate they also gave her (this book was awarded to...). Such a nice touch I thought. Made up for the dull speakers.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Cats sleep anywhere...

So you get the general idea that Mollie has a few choices when it comes to places to sleep? Yep. So I think you'll agree that sleeping on top of my Dairy Milk Oreo bar was bang out of order? Yes. I knew you'd agree. M swears cats don't get senile dementia, but I disagree. I may have mentioned ringing her scrawny little neck. A bit of an overreaction said M. Have you seen the state of my Oreo chocolate? This isn't just any old bar of chocolate you know! It was melted into a wafer thin version of its former self. Let's just say the cat had better stay out of my way from now on!

She is probably about 14 or 15 years old. She didn't come with an exact age. The paperwork just said between approx three to four and a half years old. That was about eleven years ago. Roughly. Either way I think she's going senile. We've started on a grand tour of places-to-sleep-that-will-irritate-the-heck-out-of-mum. A few days ago it was on top of a bookcase in the kitchen. This special spot meant she could leap from there to the top of the tall fridge just at the precise moment you entered the kitchen scaring the hell out of you. Next, she decided to sleep in the middle of the kitchen island. This follows years of never, and I mean never, allowing her to jump up on any of our kitchen work surfaces. She just brazenly decided to plonk herself in the middle of one. That night I covered every square inch of that worktop I with obstacles. Ha ha I thought. Sleep on top of my cake stand if you dare. Make yourself comfy on my set of saucepans why not? Never fear though, cats are always one step ahead. Where did she sleep that night? On the blinking oven hob of course!

And so it went on until the night of the Oreo bar. When I mention that I've had enough of scraping up black fur and mud from inappropriate sleeping places everyone says, 'but you'll miss her when she's gone!' Mmmh, debatable.

So what delights have I had today at the charity shop? Oh yes, the pushchair. In wheels a little old lady with a pushchair and I immediately realise it's going to be a donation. How nice I think. She probably has grandchildren that have outgrown it. 'Is this any good to you?' she says. Yes, thank you very much I say, looking it up and down and thinking to myself, this is a good quality pushchair with rain hood and foot muffler. Perfect. Off she trots, off I trot with the booty. 'Oh' she says. 'I used it for my dog. Until he died that is.' On closer nose inspection yep, it smelt like a stinking dog bed. Lovely. It's surprising what a good Hoover and a bottle of Febreze can do!

I love making friends with the decent regulars. By decent I mean the ones that aren't shoplifters. One such regular is in his eighties but as fit as a fiddle. He cycles by most days and if we have any clock radios he always buys them. I've no idea what he does with so many of them. Today he came by and bought a tape deck and whilst he was paying for that he noticed I had unpacked a couple of watches. I said they weren't working but might do with a new battery. He went home with his tape deck and a bit later he came back with a big knife and a handful of tiny little batteries. The knife was to pick the backs off. Anyway, two of the four were working and the other two we had to throw away. We know who to ask if we get any more watches in!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Secret confessions of a charity shop volunteer...

Pssst! It's me! Have you ever tried to photograph yourself wearing a cowl whilst trying not to get your 'just woken up' face in? Well if you have, it probably looks something like the above photo!

I was really pleased with this quick and easy cowl. Pattern in Simply Crochet fairly recently. It was cheap and cheerful too. Less than £4. It's very warm despite being done in v stitch. I used a basic aran weight wool (Boyes own) which has a lovely light and airy feel, with a bit of give, perfect for this project.

It looks nicer when not worn like you want to hold a bank up!

I've drafted several blog entries since I started working at a charity shop. They all end up mentioning unmentionable type things. If I write about any one particular day it will have references to things which would make you question why I'm still there!

I'll give you an example, or two. A cute kid of about eight years old, pushes an overloaded pushchair to the shop door and politely asks if we would like some donations. He's a little grubby and the pushchair is a little grubby. Alarm bells should have been clanging in my head. I thank him as we unload the last of the black sacks and bits and bobs. The donations go straight through to the back of the shop, but hang on, a smell is following me through. It seems to be the smell of human wee. (I make a distinction between human and cat here because we've already been there with the cat variety). Sure enough, upon opening a bag of baby shoes the stench of human p*** hits me full on. Oops. Maybe some little kid was caught short (here's a handy carrier bag full of baby shoes I can pee into!) I try the second bag.... I don some rubber gloves and shoot the entire lot into our mini skip of a bin.

I did a local delivery today. A lovely old man, a regular. He speaks with a very hoarse voice. He helped me unload the car and we lifted the cabinet into his flat (ground floor thank goodness). I'm not sure how he could see where he was going with the grey fug that hung in the air (cigarette smoke). I got back to the car and it took me half an hour to stop coughing.

On the plus side I sold a pink Christmas tree to a young woman who was debating whether to part with five whole pounds for it, when I asked if she would like to see it lit up (it had pre fitted lights). 'Its got lights on it?' She was beside herself with excitement. I got out our demo batteries and fitted them and sure enough it all lit up and she clapped her hands together and said it was the best tree she'd ever seen. Sold.

A small boy of about five or six, with the filthiest face and shirt I've seen since I last saw the film version of Oliver, purchased a 10p matchbox truck. He said something like, 'Ine gunna drive one when Ine bigga!' Yeah and you'll probably be one of those filthy devils who pee into a coke bottle and chuck it out of the window!

A man came in and purchased an electric can opener. He looked around and realised he was the only customer and decided to be chatty. His opening line was, 'I've just got out of prison, yeah, two days ago, actually, yeah, I got fifteen years, yeah, I done ten though, yeah.' Was it wrong of me to wish we had a panic button at this stage of the conversation?