Tuesday, 29 December 2015

A Christmas Star...

The star of our Christmas was undoubtedly baby E. I'm unbelievably excited and proud to have a niece. She was so happy to be passed around for cuddles, she smiled at everyone from the word go. J wishes she had been born ten years earlier so that he and E could have been closer in age to her which he says would have been fun at Christmas, but I just believe in fate and think it will be nice for baby E to have big cousins looking out for her.

In between eating, drinking and playing games like Scattegories, Balderdash and Charades I managed to get a crochet fix using supplies in Mum's small crochet basket (she really needs to retire and accumulate a bigger stash!). The headbands took no time at all and baby E was happy to pose for photographs in them! Yes the butterfly is a bit on the large side but as cousin E said, 'go large or go home!'

Both the flower and the butterfly were in my new crochet book, one of two books M bought for my tree present. I can't believe he managed to find crochet books I don't already own! 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet is a really useful addition to my crochet library, especially now that there's a baby girl in the family. The other book was Wild Animals to Crochet by Vanessa Mooncie which has some lovely designs in, including an amazing chameleon that turns inside out and therefore changes colour. I'll probably be tackling something simpler to start with!

I was chuffed to bits that all three baby Pom Pom hats fitted E nicely. I'll have to wait until some photos get passed around via Facebook or email so I can share some with you. All grown up hats fitted too and there is, somewhere, on someone's phone or camera a whole group photo of us wearing them! Mostly it wasn't really cold enough to need them this Christmas. I walked the dogs on Boxing Day which was 15 degrees. After a mile or so I didn't feel the need for a coat at all, let alone the hat and gloves I'd brought along too. Not that the dogs are complaining, they have a prolonged season for wild swimming in the lake!

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Happy Birthday...

Happy 15th Birthday J.

You're smart, you're sensitive and you're extremely stubborn (you probably get that from me).

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Happy Christmas...

The last of the wrapping is done. Breakfast ham is cooking. A glass of wine by my side. Christmas films on TV. A dog on my lap. A house as tidy and festive as its ever going to be. Quite a cosy Christmas Eve.

Happy Christmas Wishes to everyone. J x

Monday, 21 December 2015

Finishing off...

I can thoroughly recommend a good pre-Christmas sort out. We've done some drastic sorting, chucking and rearranging this last month. I've come to the conclusion that Feng Shui makes a lot of sense. There's much more positive energy flowing now! At least my creative side is not so stifled through lack of space to get everything out and see what's what.

Paul resurfaced during the clear out and I set myself the target of trying to get him finished for Ella's birthday. I just about pulled that off but it was a lot of hard work. I utilised the best of the daylight each morning by sitting right up to a window. I don't think I will rush into another 2.5mm hook project. It took all of my dexterity and patience.

After the marathon that was finishing Paul I returned to hats. Just one more for my little niece. A soft red version with a white Pom Pom, for Christmas. In a few days time I shall find out whether any of these hats actually fit!

Ella has also gained a cheerful cushion using the sunflower squares I made a gazillion years ago. She really would have liked a blanket but I don't have the stamina for that many sunflowers. It's good to see the back of them and not by dumping them in the bin. Elf and Mr Ginger are posing in the photo, fun gifts that made her smile. She works at a brilliant children's farm near here and at this time of year she can be found dressed as a very convincing elf working alongside Santa dishing out chocolate coins as 'change' for the magic coin that Santa handed out. She then takes the children through a hidden bookcase door way and into the 'toy workshop' where they can choose a toy. For some this is all too much and Ella has handed out tissues to children and parents overcome with emotion! Not to mention she's had her photo taken with hundreds of children who totally bought into the whole elf thing, including the little boy who spied her birthday badge on Saturday and said, 'It can't really be your birthday because Elves don't have birthdays in real life!' Luckily Ella is witty enough to have answers to this kind of thing, though sometimes she admits there are different answers she'd like to say when kids ask, 'is it just one toy we can choose?'

There are also real reindeer at the farm along with all the other animals there. The kids also get to do a craft activity with Mrs Claus, decorate a gingerbread man and take it home and they receive a small bag of magic reindeer food which they must take home and sprinkle on their lawn. Ella is part of the team that make thousands of gingerbread men (hence the cuddly reminder!). Secretly she can't wait until her new cousin is old enough to experience Christmas at the farm. She will definitely have a VIP tour!

It all sounds very exhausting, especially as E is half way through a 9-5, six consecutive day stint. I'm glad I'm just left with crochet, the type I enjoy most. No deadlines, just fun and relaxation. More crochet baubles for the tree, maybe some mini Pom Pom hats too. A crochet gift pouch. Some crochet storage baskets...a glass of something by my side, a mince pie or two, cheesy Christmas movies....how many days 'til Christmas?

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Mixed feelings...

Christmas is always a time for mixed feelings. Looking back and remembering happy times, remembering those not with us anymore. Exciting times with a new addition to the family, and her first Christmas. Knowing that my baby girl is turning eighteen a few days before Christmas. Looking forward to future Christmases too. A blend of happy and sad.

Apart from childhood gatherings at Christmas I've got lovely memories of several years spent as an adult but before children when my priorities were very different. I thought it was a bit of an adventure living in a stone cottage with no central heating and just my two Springers for company. One Christmas I decided to paint small white stars all over the middle room walls, over the top of the stone colour paint; with my sparse and rustic pine furniture, the ever glowing range, candle light, a real Christmas tree and pine foliage it created an atmosphere I haven't quite been able to capture since. I think the character of the cottage helped a lot too!

It's funny how smells form such a major part of those memories. I have only to cast my mind back and I can smell the coal and log fires, the smell of damp dogs by the fire, pine needles and the wax of my jacket that hung on the back door.

Well, it's no longer Algernon and Bertie. It's now Harvey and Riley, and as you can see it's still mild enough for them to have a swim in the lake every day. Riley will only paddle on the edges if it's below freezing. Harvey will swim no matter how cold, and M calls Harvey the intelligent one! They now get very excited about a warm bubbly foot bath in the butler sink of an afternoon. I'm not sure if it's just a nice feeling or whether they have worked out that it means they can come through to the living room.

There have been several last minute hats flying off the needles. Some secret crochet going on too. I was rather pleased when I found this large (approx 12mm) vintage crochet hook at a nearby antique centre. It's not what Mum and I were looking for at all but you can't help but see interesting things in amongst three huge two-storey buildings of junk, vintage, antique and collectibles! I imagine it was used for rug making. It might be just what I need to make the chunky cushion fronts I have in mind.

My home made disposable decorations haven't progressed beyond the woolly type yet. Apart from a bowl of crochet pine cones, I've made two of these crochet baubles so far and they are nestled in amongst the crocheted and knitted mini stockings on the tree. It's a clever pattern, slightly fiddly but easier after the first one. It's just six crochet disks joined together as you go and then a gathering and fastening top and bottom to create the ball shape.

So, if you're ultra organised, the decorations are up, all the Christmas food and present shopping is done, the house all ready, the cards all posted, and you've nothing better to do than sit and watch back to back Christmas movies with a bowl of nuts and a glass of wine (I wish!) then here's the link...


Tuesday, 1 December 2015

A final flurry of hat making...

I'm coming to the end of my gift subscription to Inside Crochet. It's been equal to having a gift every month, especially as I choose a quiet spell, make a large mug of tea and indulge in some crochet heaven. I really wanted to make at least one of the projects per issue, even if it was only a small one but somehow life gets in the way. I have made quite a few, and some are bookmarked and 'in the queue' so to speak.

Now that things are mainly all in one place in my new little craft space I can finally get my magazines filed in issue order and begin to enjoy going through these back copies again and work through my 'to make' list. That's my plan for 2016 anyway.

I try to resist buying other magazines, though lately it's been my reading matter of choice when I'm comfortably detained in a warm coffee shop in some strange town, where I've browsed all the charity shops and I'm waiting for M to finish a job. It's hard to resist all those Christmassy covers.

I picked up Mollie Makes last week. It has a simple knitted hat pattern inside and I thought that knitting hats might make a nice change. Funnily enough I didn't have the £18.50 ball of yarn that the pattern calls for in my stash so I thought I'd just make a start using something of a similar weight. Wrong! Turns out that very few yarns have a similar gauge. I managed to get a result by switching from 15mm needles to 12mm and adding six stitches to the cast on and a few extra rows to the body.

When I proudly modelled the inky blue hat (pictured third down) the other day Ella asked, 'how many hats does one house need?' This is teenage code for, 'I hope one of those hats is for me.' (I'm pretty good at deciphering teenage code). So we discussed colours, levels of slouch, to pom or not to pom, and finally I ended up making this VIP red carpet version, complete with extra rows for 'level one' slouch, and a giant pom pom.

My favourite so far though, has to be the two strand navy and grey tweed version. Love those little white flecks from the grey yarn, reminds me of snow! Two strands of chunky on 12mm needles with a few pattern adjustments seems to be a good combination for warmth without too much bulk. Now finally I think I might make myself one, then it's back to good old crochet which doesn't cause any wrist pain no matter how long I crochet for. Thank Crunchie for crochet!