Very Little Knitting

And…………………………………………………………… hello.

This transmission of knitting/crochet/outdoorsy trivia was briefly interrupted by an icky vomiting bug. I haven’t knitted for several days. This is unprecedented. It’s odd, and it’s most definitely quite wrong. Please don’t try this at home, people.

(And sorry that I haven’t responded to your blogs, either. I’ve missed reading y’all, and will try to catch up over the next few days.)

But I have been thinking about knitting. And following all your sage advice on embellishing the knitted picture of a mandala, I’ve bought some thicker gold thread. I’ve also bought some gold beads, but the Stoic Spouse’s stoicism doesn’t extend to beads, so I fear that this blighter is only going to be displayed in the living room if I forgo the beads. Insert a sad face here, a very very sad face. My next husband is most definitely going to be someone who likes beads – my mind is fully made up on this matter, and shall not be swayed. :-) Anyway, here’s the gilded haul:-

Gold

Gold

I thought I’d share a few moments from the past week with you – just not those moments when I was emptying my ailing guts into a bucket.

Talking of things in a bucket, here is a fish.

Grumpy Fish Remains Grumpy

Grumpy Fish Remains Grumpy

I was with many members of my extended family for a happy weekend. Beside a shallow, rocky stream we bought fishing nets and began dipping. The children loved it. We started catching these cuties using the nets, but after a while figured out that it was easier to sneak up on them from behind and catch them in our hands. (And yes, we did put them back very shortly afterwards. Just how barbaric do you think the ‘Yarn clan is?)

And here was some anxious ice cream. No, we didn’t eat any.

anxious ice cream

Anxious Ice Cream

And some rural loveliness from a walk in the hills.

Bracken against sky

I was going to find a lovely shot of converging curls of bracken tips against the sunny sky. But my family seemed to be under the impression that the purpose of going for a walk was to actually walk. See how disturbed they are? Truly, ’tis a miracle that I’ve turned out as well-adjusted as I have. So I snatched this hasty shot instead.

Contrast.

Contrast.

Anyway, it was a fun few days away with family, staying in a rented house whose decorative touches included this:-

Let There Be Light. And Some Fancy Plasterwork.

Let There Be Light. And Some Fancy Plasterwork.

Back home, I watched terrapins sun themselves in the Thames. Not what you might’ve expected round here:-

terrapins in the Thames

terrapins in the Thames

And at home, my grape vine has arrived. Whee! OK so this is a converted a brewery, so I should really be growing hops, but I’m more of a wine-drinker. Chateau – er – Brewery will be ready in a few years’ time. Cheers!

Grape Vine

Grape Vine

 

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The Pig-Who-Says-Woof

Thank you for all your comments about which embroidery method to use on the knitted mandala. The balance of opinion seems to be with outlining the green, so I’ll go with that. :-)

Anyway, it’s been bothering me, ever since a recent outdoorsy blog post. Merely mentioning The Pig Who Says Woof wasn’t enough, was it? You need audiovisual proof, don’t you, you discerning critics of animal weirdness? So the Toddler Twinnage and I returned to the donkey sanctuary, this time accompanied by the Stoic Spouse. We stroked some donkeys, and the Stoic Spouse was followed with unnerving devotion by the attention-seeking goat, an animal that showed such intense longing for my husband that I was forced, ultimately, to take her aside and read her the riot act about how there are only two of us in this marriage, thank you very much:-

The Attention-Seeking Goat seeks attention

The Attention-Seeking Goat seeks attention

Still she trailed after the Stoic Spouse, nuzzling his knees with wide-eyed yearning as often as he’d permit. Which was alarmingly often.

Anyway, there is good news and there is bad, regarding the Pig Who Says Woof:-

The Pig Who Says Woof

The Pig Who Says Woof

The good news is that I have video footage of this phenomenon. :-)

The bad news is that I can’t upload video to this blog at present. :-( So here’s a compromise: I’ve put the vid on this blog’s Facebook page (thetwistedyarn, if you’re looking for it). Please go look! :-) YOU’LL HAVE TO SCROLL DOWN ABOUT 4 POSTS ON THE FACEBOOK PAGE TO FIND IT, BUT IT’S THERE, I PROMISE.

With sincere apologies to those who care passionately about animals being bonkers, but who don’t frequent Facebook. I understand your pain. I appreciate that your unrequited yearning is akin to Attention-Seeking Goat’s lust for the Stoic Spouse’s knees. Or something. And I can offer you only this: SORRY.

Right, wasn’t I supposed to be getting on with some knitting?

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Watchin’ The Swatchin’

Yay! The swatch-of-randomness for the knitted mandala picture survived its experimental wash-and-block! (Bet you’ve been on the edge of your seats about that one. ;-) ) So. It IS possible to wash-and-block a mixture of rich, inky Fyberspates green, with an innocent little Wendy 5-ply cream. Looooooooook!

swatch

swatch

Admittedly, the washing was brief and minimal and in cold water, with a Dylon ‘colour-catcher’ as a precaution. But there didn’t seem to be any dye on the colour-catcher at the end, so maybe I didn’t need it. So, when the mandala is done and the toddler twinnage fling tomato sauce at it it’ll be possible to wash-and-block, in order to even out the stitches of my uneven knitwork.

Now, onwards.

The plan, as we’ve discussed before (have I mentioned how much I love chattering to people on here?) is to embellish the finished mandala picture with a smattering of gold thread. I’m just trying to think how best to do this. The thread I’ve got is probably too fine. In the sample below, I’ve played around with outlining a stitched area, and with over-sewing columns of stitches. Not sure which – if either – works? Any thoughts, please, people? But I definitely need some thicker gold thread, because I had to go over each area many, many times to achieve even this effect. And when you consider that the finished mandala will contain approximately 50 000 knit stitches, you’ll understand why I need to find a slightly more efficient embroidery technique…

embroidered knitting

embroidered knitting

Now, on with the knitting…….

mandala again

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Mostly Outdoors

This summer, the toddler twinnage and I are spending lots of happy time (and a fair ol’ portion of grumpy grizzly Mummy-I-Want-To-Go-Home-NOWWWWWW time) outdoors. Much of this hasn’t been compatible with knitting/crochet, but the toddler twinnage seem to be under the impression that I should actively parent them. So we’ve been to say hello to the rescue donkeys (where we met a pig who, rather confusingly, kept saying ‘woof’)…

Rescued Donkeys :-)

Rescued Donkeys :-)

…and I knitted my way to a music festival…

Knitted Mandala On Tour

Knitted Mandala On Tour

…where we met a talking meerkat riding a camel…

talking meerkat atop a camel

talking meerkat atop a camel

…and deep in the west Berkshire countryside, we listened to the ripping and chomping of a line of cattle systematically munching their way across a field…

Mooooooooo

Mooooooooo

…and back home, I discovered hazelnuts growing in the garden…

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts

…and I lifted the first crop of potatoes, with the help of the toddler twinnage who have been trained to shout ‘SPUD’ whenever they see lurking vegetable-matter amongst the earth…

Home-Grown Potatoes

Home-Grown Potatoes

…and despite disliking both pink and roses, I grudgingly admired some pink roses in our garden…

A pink rose. So wrong on two counts, but quite pretty.

A pink rose. So wrong on two counts, but quite pretty.

…Oh, and remembering that we live in a brewery, the stoic spouse has bought a beer barrel with which to capture rain water…

Beer Barrel Water Butt

Beer Barrel Water Butt

…and we’ve visited my favourite grumpy statue, who is clearly Not Having A Good Day…

Grumpy Statue

Grumpy Statue

…and we watched terrapins sun themselves on the back of a hippo sculpture…

Terrapins On A Hippo. As You Do.

Terrapins On A Hippo. As You Do.

…and we talked to huge fish, who were much too misanthropic to reply…

Big Fish Knows He's Cool

Big Fish Knows He’s Cool

…and do you remember the near-submerged statue I photographed when we were flooded up to our eyeballs here in Oxfordshire? (See quite far down the blog post.) Well now she’s re-emerged from the water, and a cheeky coot has made a nest on her. Can you see her sitting smugly atop her twiggy nest?

Coot Nesting On The Lady Of The Lake

Coot Nesting On The Lady Of The Lake

Coots are the squat, mindless little thugs of the river world. They paddle about, picking raucous fights for no reason, whilst the vastly more dignified great crested grebes glide disdainfully past. (Can you tell that I miss living on the banks of the river?)

Oh! Hang on! This is supposed to be a knitting/crochet blog, isn’t it?!

So… the knitted mandala grows stitch by stitch. 35 000 stitches down, 15 000 to go. When I’m done, I’ll need to wash and block this blighter, but I’m a tiny bit scared that the luscious Fyberspates green is so very rich and dark and inky that it’ll inflict all manner of colour-run horror on the innocent cream Wendy 5-ply. So I’ve swatched a random pattern, and I’m about to wash it with the added precaution of a ‘Colour Catcher’ sheet. Results (for example, me weeping) next post…

Swatch

Swatch

 

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Happy Cherries

Cherries are a happy fruit.

I’ve blogged before about how our little Oxfordshire village was once the centre of the cherry-growing world. How many hundreds of years back our cherry heritage goes depends on which direction Google takes you, but I’ve seen mention of the 1500s, which is at least mildly impressive. There are stories of professional bird-scarers starting their work at 5am during the fruiting season. Frankly, that sounds like a job I could do, other than the getting-up-early bit. I’d quite enjoy leaping around a cherry orchard shouting wildly at the birds.

Sadly, precious few cherries are grown commercially round here any more, but we still have plenty of remnants of that once-munchable industry. First, the poplar windbreaks that these days enclose sheep and cattle, but which once sheltered precious orchards:-

Poplar Windbreaks

Poplar Windbreaks

And the historic Cherry Barns, that are now a commercial premises. And if you wander the many paths around the village, you’ll find remaining cherry trees in hedgerows and verges, currently laden with swelling fruit. Why have the birds not stolen those unprotected beauties?

Cherries! Cherries! Cherries!

Cherries! Cherries! Cherries!

In the pub across the road from our home, there’s a picture from the 1950s of cherry pickers in the village. My photo of it is slightly rubbish, but I felt like an idiot hovering next to the bar taking pictures of the wall, so I had to hurry:-

1950s Local Cherry Pickers

1950s Local Cherry Pickers

Of course, this is a knitting and crochet blog, so I started thinking about making cherries, and YES!, my book of knitted/crochet flowers* has a cherry pattern. Here’s what I’ve made thus far:-

Knitted Cherries

Knitted Cherries

And in the spirit of yarn-bombing, I’ve hung it on the front door in honour of the Cherry Season. True locals will understand the sentiment:-

Knitted Cherries

Knitted Cherries

There is one cherry orchard still very much in production locally, so I took the Toddler Twinnage to buy some of their produce:-

Cherries! Cherries! Cherries!

Cherries! Cherries! Cherries!

They’re dark and fat and luscious. You’re welcome to share them, but you’ll have to hurry, because their further survival is likely to be measureable only in minutes.

Now, before I finish, I do feel that I should mention the Storky Scissors. Because to be very grudgingly, belligerently fair, they do seem to get a disproportionate amount of attention and admiration on this blog. But I’m Not Jealous At All. Nooooo. We haven’t had a photo of them yet in this post, have we? OK, here they are:-

The Storky Scissors

The Storky Scissors

(Want to know about the background in this picture? It’s a miniature and surprisingly fluffy replica of the rug that covered Freud’s consulting couch after he moved to London. Little-known and slightly weird fact: you can buy pictures of Freud’s couch naked, with its adorning rug removed. That’s a bit weird, even for me. Anyway, that’s what you get for having a psychologist write the blog post you’re reading.)

* 100 Flowers To Knit And Crochet, by Lesley Stanfield.

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Summer flowers

So, you’ll maybe remember that in spring, I made a few collages of seasonal flowers in a rainbow pattern, here and here. T’was fun. Well, the season has marched on, as is its wont. And now we have summer flowers, with green ones even harder to find. Fortunately my lovely, horticulturally-talented neighbour has some green flowers to complete my montage. Witness:-

Summer Flower Montage

Summer Flower Montage

Whilst I’m florally rambling like a wisteria on an ancient thatched cottage, let me tell you about the hollyhocks. I mention them now because in our Oxfordshire village in July, I sometimes fear that there’s a by-law compelling the growing of hollyhocks, which I’m clearly violating. Am I the only person who doesn’t grow them? I must get some.

Once, last year, we were relaxing in a pub garden beside the road in another Oxfordshire village. Suddenly, one of the Stoic Spouse’s colleagues screeched to a halt in her car beside us, with an alarming manic glint in her eye. Apparently she was circling the neighbourhood looking for hollyhocks from which to steal the seeds: people take their hollyhocks seriously round here. Right, some pictures, yes?

hollyhock 1

hollyhock 1

Hollyhock 2, photobombed by toddler twinnage

Hollyhock 2, photobombed by toddler twinnage

And finally….

Hollyhocks 3, just to prove that they come in all colours.

Hollyhocks 3, just to prove that they come in all colours.

They are pretty, but oh so brief.

Right, back to the knitted mandala.

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Flora, Mandalas.

Saturday evening staying-in indulgences: wine, knitting, and home-grown strawberries/raspberries. As I write this, please excuse the frequent pauses to take sips of wine. Also, the increasingly slurred writing as I proceed through this post…

The Stoic Spouse is away for a few days visiting relatives, so I’ve been pottering about at home with the Toddler Twinnage, observing the garden:-

Pink Rose

Pink Rose

Now I’m not someone who likes pink (sorry), or roses (sorry), but even I concede that the above is quite a beauty.

Anyway, despite distractions by camera cases and so on, the knitted mandala is most definitely proceeding. Witness:-

knitted mandala

knitted mandala

(Look, you can see a bit of the reverse there, right at the bottom of the picture. Anything longer than five stitches and I’m ‘catching’ my yarn, in order to avoid over-long floats.) Actually that photo doesn’t really show much of the design. Let’s try again:-

knitted mandala

knitted mandala

Those needles were part of the Deramores prize (a set of Knitpro Symfonie Rose interchangeables). They’re rather lovely and smooth and warm to work with. None of the roughness of bamboo, or the cold over-slipperiness of metal. I read somewhere that they’re painted to look like rosewood rather than being actual rosewood, which does seem a tad cheaty. (Huge apologies if I’m wrong.) But as I said, knitting with them is pure pleasure, and I’m most definitely grateful for this bit of the prize.

Anyway, I’ve finally been able to put my crocheted hanging basket away, because the real hanging baskets are at last beginning to raise themselves off their lazy floral backsides. Here are a few sample blooms:-

petunias

petunias

And some fuchsias. I have fond memories of fuchsias: a kind-hearted woman called Joy looked after me in the evenings when I was a child, and she was the most amazing artist. I still treasure a beautiful painting of a fuchsia that she gave me, partly because it’s a stunning piece of her artwork and partly because I know that she loved these flowers so much.

Fuchsias

Fuchsias

Anyway, it’s fortunate that the allotment has come along, because my fruit-and-veg crop from home is pretty rubbish this year. Basically, I’ve been feeding the slugs and snails. Hope you enjoyed it, slimy invertebrate blighters. But today has been about strawberries and raspberries. Yum. Look!

Home-Grown Strawberry Yumptiousness

Home-Grown Strawberry Yumptiousness

And look!

Raspberries

Raspberries

‘Til next time, yarn-lovers. And bastard veg-thieving slugs.

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The Yarn-Bombing Continues

The yarn-bombing of our brewery home is spreading slowly, very slowly, like one of those garden weeds that – once you initially notice it’s there - you keep spotting more and more outbreaks, until you realize that it’s actually everywhere.

Stand still for too long (say, approximately a week) in our house and you risk being measured up for adornment with crochet, or perhaps having your extremities entrelacced (ouch). Consider y’self warned, my friend. Unfortunately the Toddler Twinnage move too fast to be effectively yarn-bombed as yet: I’m waiting until they slow down into lethargic hormonal teenagers before I attack. (I’m sure they won’t mind in the least – it’s not as though teenagers are bothered about looking cool or anything.) As for the Stoic Spouse, his stoicism doesn’t quite extend to knitwear, and certainly not to this.

So for now, I’ve had to stick to adorning inanimate objects.

Anyway, we’ve long had a row of grown-from-seed basil plants on the kitchen windowsill. They make a hairy herbal hedge that affords our poor neighbours some privacy from the sight of us bickering about The Correct Way In Which To Load The Dishwasher*. The pots were dull, though. Witness! (Photo taken before the plants got big: it’s like a proper little hedge, now.)

Kitchen Windowsill Before

Kitchen Windowsill Before

That’s not very good, is it? Needs a bit of colour, don’t you think?

So I bought some cheap and cheery nuclear-holocaust-proof acrylic, dug out a crochet hook, and started ‘bombing. What do you think so far? :-

Crochet-bombed flower pots

Crochet-bombed flower pots

For the main body of each pot, I used a spare pot to get the size right. I started about a centimetre above the bottom of the pot (because I don’t want the bottom of this thing soaked in water every couple of days), and chain-stitched until I had a ring that fitted very snugly, joining with a slip stitch at the end. I then worked rounds of double-crotchets (US terminology) upwards, increasing whenever necessary to ensure that the sleeve got wider at the same rate that the pot did. A very very snug fit was essential, and I paused to try the sleeve on the pot at the end of almost every row.  For the last round I added some picot edging.

Then, of course, I mooched around online until I found patterns for crocheted flowers that looked pretty.

As for the flowerpot saucer, I started the initial round slightly smaller than the circumference of the saucer’s base, because I wanted the sleeve to begin just out of sight beneath the base. It thus pulls inwards underneath the saucer and holds itself in place. I then worked upwards and outwards in the same way as for the pot. When I got to the top, I crocheted a super-tight round with a few decreases, so that the circumference of the last round was smaller than that of the top of the saucer, meaning that it stretched inwards and held itself in place at the top.

As I’ve said before, Am I making sense?

And as I’ve also said before, Pretty, no?

Yarn-bombed flower pot

Yarn-bombed flower pot

* A subject in which I’m undoubtedly right.

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Crocheted Camera Case

What does a knitting/crochet blogger do when she buys a fancy-pants new camera?

Why, she crochets a case for it, of course. Look!

Crocheted Camera Case. Because I Can.

Crocheted Camera Case. Because I Can.

(It’s an irregular shape because the fancy-pants camera is an irregular shape, OK?)

And, look, from the back!

Back Of Camera Case. It's As Bonkers As The Front.

Back Of Camera Case. It’s As Bonkers As The Front.

I used some of the yarn that I won from the Deramores Blog Awards.

Just in case you want to know how to do it, I started by crocheting the purple disk over the lens cap, then worked round and round in single crochet (US terminology) to make the tubey-bit around the lens. Then when I reached the main and oddly-shaped body of the camera, I continued round and round, using increases and decreases as well as switching between single and double crochets to fit the camera perfectly. And the buttons are hangovers from a dressing gown I owned circa aged nine. It was a bad dressing gown. The yarn is Vanna’s Choice (an aran weight), and the hook is a 6mm. (Can somebody please explain to me who Vanna is?) The case took a day to make, albeit a day of conveniently long car journeys as a passenger.

As for the back, I single-crocheted in purple rows up the back, then made overlapping flaps which are fixed with the buttons. (Am I making sense at all? It’s been a long day…)

Yup, it’s bonkers. Yup, it got a comment from a complete stranger just as soon as I took it out in public. No, I don’t care.

At least the Stoic Spouse won’t be tempted to steal the camera when it looks like this. ;-) Hell, nobody will be tempted to steal the camera when it looks like this.

A win, I think.

 

(PS: And yes, I’m still working on the mandala.)

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Mandalas and allotments

Evenin’ all. :-)

[Passes round glasses of wine (or juice, for the non-drinkers) and a range of small but delectable nibbles, including vegetarian options. Encourages you all to continue knitting or crocheting whilst we chat. Sorry the canapés are shop-bought: I didn't have time to cook because I've been out all day. And - uncharacteristically for me - I haven't baked any cake, I'm afraid. Maybe come back tomorrow if that's what you're after. I have baked some wholemeal bread, though.]

It’s not been a very knitty or hooky day, but it has been fun. And just in case you think I’m slacking in my yarnery, here’s a shot of the progress of the knitted mandala picture:-

progress of knitted mandala picture

progress of knitted mandala picture

I’ve been thinking more about mandalas, and I realized that there are a few on a dress of mine (I’m a sucker for Desigual dresses.) Look:-

Desigual mandalas

Desigual mandalas

Anyway, back to today. I have an allotment! No, let me say that again: I HAVE AN ALLOTMENT!!!!!!! After several years on a waiting list, and after endless hoping, pleading, bribing, blackmailing, extortion, and general corruption of a wide and creative variety of forms (not really), I have finally got to the top of the allotment waiting list. Unfortunately the plot that I’ve been offered looks like this just at the moment. Those weeds… they’re taller than the toddler twinnage:-

No, really.

No, really.

But a sweet new friend, whom I also secretly know to be our village yarn-bomber but I’m not supposed to know that is going to run it jointly with me, so right now it seems possible. She knows this plot well because she’s rented it in the past, and when we went to visit today (carrying the toddler twinnage to avoid losing them forever amongst the undergrowth, which would – let’s face it – be a tricky one to explain to social services), she showed me that deep down at ground level, you can find delicious strawberries. And there are some valiantly-surviving potato plants too, and a smattering of roses and day-lilies. All good, yes? The strawberries were delightfully yumptious, but I’m afraid I didn’t get a photo, because I was too busy eating them. Oops.

Anyway, the great thing about running an allotment with a yarn-bomber is that our first discussion was not about who was going to water the plants on a Tuesday, or how to divide up the tomato crop, or what type of fertiliser we need. No, our first discussion was about the yarn-bombing potential of the fence around our plot. Don’t you just love that? We’re sorting out the important stuff first. :-) Happy days. I’m thinking a little light rainbow crochet around the top of the fence, to start? Advice, people?

So we had a little look around, and we pondered. And we visited the chickens and guinea pigs in the garden of my new friend whom I’m not supposed to know is the yarn-bomber and then we went next door to the house of another friend of mine who has more than 20 pet rabbits, and I looked at her gorgeous bunnies and the piles of bunny-fluff on the grass from where she’d groomed them, which made me think, knitting! How soft would that bunny fur be to knit?! And a sweet baby bunny climbed me, resulting in this:-

Baby bunny savagery

Baby bunny savagery

And then it was time to go home, because I had – hard life – to go to my favourite cousin’s 40th birthday party in a neighbouring village, where we enjoyed a high tea with many cakes and scones and some rather delectable green tea and champagne beside the river Thames. Happy birthday Lisa, if you’re reading this!

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