Go Small Or Go Home

Have you ever tried really teeny-tiny knitting or crochet?

If you’re one of those people whose leisure hours are spent perfecting 2mm-high reproductions of Notre Dame in gossamer-fine thread, then I salute you. Know-ye that I’m intimidated by your brilliance.

Having made some reasonably small paraphenalia for that project, I was bitten by the smallness bug, although only gently nibbled by it rather than properly bitten: there’ll be no micro-amigurumi around here any time soon.

So I bought some tiny crochet hooks, partly to see how low I could go (so to speak), and partly because the tiniest hooks that I already own don’t have chunky handles and thus they tend to turn around annoyingly when I’m trying to micro-crochet. It’s frustrating:-

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So I went shopping for smallness. Allow me to introduce you to the nought-point-five-millimetre crochet hook! Yes, it’s half a millimetre. That’s small. So small that you can scarcely see the hooky bit. Perfect for stealing webs from spiders and using them for crochet. Only a little too bulky for crocheting at a subatomic level.

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It’s a steel hook in the Clover Soft Touch range, my go-to hook for reasons of comfort and relative sharpness (even though these beasts are not beautiful). Here it is in its un-beauty:-

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It’s actually quite hard to find a yarn small enough to use it for. I did have a dabble with some gold thread, though:-

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Anyway, a kind friend lent me some of her tiny knitting needles. I used these 1mm needles to make a cushion for the picnic blanket in the crochet garden:-

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Finished!

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Well, the cushion is finished. The garden isn’t. I’m on it, though. I’m hoping to make some very delicate plants for the crochet garden using these new hooks and needles.

Unfortunately you leave this thing lying around for five minutes and some cheeky blighter goes and parks their car on it. Typical.

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I’m going to have to put up No Parking signs on my own crochet. Sigh.

 

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Knitting And Nature

So yeah, whilst I continue knitting small things for the crochet/knit garden of that ridiculous project, shall we go for a wander around outside?

There's a blog post on teeny knitting and crochet on its way.

There’s a blog post on teeny knitting and crochet on its way.

Yes it’s possible to knit and walk. Trust me, I’ve done far more embarrassing things in public than knit. I realize that not everyone is this shameless, though: I was knitting in the pub with friends the other night – the rival knitting group wasn’t there, so all was peaceful – and one of my friends said she just couldn’t quite bring herself to knit in public. She did slightly undermine her own argument by saying this in public whilst knitting, but I can’t help longing to live in a world where knitting in public is just as unremarkable as reading in public or tagging your friends in weird Facebook goat videos in public. When I’m President-For-Life Of The Universe, there are going to be some big changes around here, let me tell you*.

pub knitting

pub knitting

But back to our walk-whilst-knitting. Let’s go. And yes, we shall ignore those people staring at us – they’re uncouth and their gauge is uneven. Do come along. You see, the best way to knit colourwork whilst walking is to put one ball of yarn in each pocket, like this. Excellent. Sorted. What’s that you say? You’re doing some complex intarsia? Ah, you might need rather a lot of pockets…

OK it’s been raining, but for a few days back there, we had a sort of spring-summer hybrid that was deliciously warm. Come back in time with me for a forest stroll: I took the twinnage to a lunch party at a friend’s house and on the way back, the boys asked to go for a walk in the bluebell woods. Well I couldn’t possibly say no to that, could I? Care to join us? 🙂

A mouse took a stroll in the deep, dark wood... And then The Gruffalo gave my children an irrational anxiety around forests. Thanks for that.

A mouse took a stroll in the deep, dark wood… And then The Gruffalo gave my children an irrational anxiety around forests. Thanks for that, Julia Donaldson.

Deeper and deeper we went, the twinnage picking paths apparently at random. I tried very hard to memorise our route. (Don’t worry, this isn’t another post about getting hopelessly lost in the countryside.)

All was quiet in the deep, dark wood...

All was quiet in the deep, dark wood…

Aren’t bluebells lovely?

"No" is not a valid answer to the above question.

“No” is not a valid answer to the above question.

Carpets of ’em. Everywhere.

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We just couldn’t get enough. The twinnage were enchanted (whilst pretending to be dinosaurs romping through the forest).

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I love spring. I’d love it even more if it was as warm as summer, and for a couple of blissful days back there, it was. Nature is busy on the home front, too. A pair of great tits has moved into the nest box, and my goodness they’re busy fetching worms for their young. (How do they manage that? I can’t even persuade my children to eat offal.) Look!

Mmm, look children! No I haven't got any chocolate but here's a delicious worm!

Mmm, look children! No I haven’t got any chocolate but here’s a delicious worm!

Right, back to the knitting…

 

  *In short, cheese will be made illegal, everyone will have to knit or crochet their own socks, and any countries threatening to go to war will have to first sit down together and cooperate on knitting some really complicated fairisle, to see whether they can just chill the heck out before being allowed to nuke each other back to the Stone Age.

 

 

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Teeny Tiny Picnic

So if you’ve been reading this blog since roughly the late Jurassic*, you’ll know that I’ve been working on a giant mostly-crochet-with-a-smidgeon-of-knitting house-related project for a while. And I hope that you’ll believe me when I say that it’s honestly nearly done. I’ve been busy in its garden, and there’s more progress to show you. Trust me, it’ll be worth the wait when you see the (bonkers) finished object.

Now, for reasons that will be obvious when you see the outcome, the garden section needs to be flattish, so there’ll be no serried ranks of tall thin spiky conifers. So what can I make for the garden that’s flat? Well, it’s pretty warm here in southern England as I write this (I’m only wearing one cardigan!) and my thoughts are turning to picnics on the lawn. Yup, I decided to knit-and-crochet a tiny picnic blanket. It was more fiddly than you might imagine. Still, it kept my hands busy as I sang along during the twinnage’s music class:-

And on keyboards... the twinnage.

And on keyboards… the twinnage.

And I was fairly pleased with the result, even if I am never, ever going to knit another. (I’m guessing that you know that feeling when you’re knitting something, teeth gritted, muttering curses and vowing never to indulge in such a project again. If that happened to you whilst knitting one of my patterns, I apologize.)

You mean I have to weave in ALL these ends??

You mean I have to weave in ALL these ends??

Obviously a picnic blanket needs to be covered with stuff. A stonking good book made of crocheted pages sewn together, for example.

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Really, this should be the sort of novel that you lose yourself in for a week, but I couldn’t resist embroidering this title:-

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And I think it’s fair to assume that we’d need some crochet or knitting, right? Lesson learned the hard way: if you’re going to try teeny tiny knitting using wooden toothpicks, sandpaper the picks smooth first, OK? You’re welcome.

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This was kinda fun. Some refreshments, yes? A nice bottle of wine would be a little too vertical for this project, so I was forced to settle for cake. I’ve never crocheted cake before. (I know, weird and sheltered life – blame my parents.) So I was basically winging it.

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Then I had to sew them together…

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There were quite a few ends to deal with. I am not a fan of ends.

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Let’s be civilised, and use a plate for the cake. Silver?

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Silver plated?

Nope, not happy with that. Try again. Blue? Yes, blue.

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But it came together OK.

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The only problem, I thought to myself as I embroidered a few cherries on top, was that all this was making me feel blimmin’ hungry. And, well, like lying on the lawn knitting and reading and munching.

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All this has given me a taste for teensy-weensy knitting/hookery (as well as cake), so I’ve borrowed and bought some miniature needles and hooks, and I’m making a wee cushion for this picnic blanket. But that’s another blog post…

The picnic blanket in situ in the garden.

The picnic blanket in situ in the garden.

  • Ah do you remember the dinosaurs way back in the Jurassic? I wish I’d blogged more about the dinosaurs! Who knew that they’d become such a ‘thing’? They just seemed so ordinary at the time.

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We Have A Winner!

Did you hear that gong sound? Yesterday at noon GMT.
That gong signalled the close of the ludicrously generous yarn giveaway by Wool And The Gang on this blog.
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At the time, I was sitting in the garden at my good friend Selma’s home, discussing future yarn-related projects with and sipping cordial. Man, that gong was loud.
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A heartfelt thank you to all 195 of you who entered. (Smallprint: as stated in the competition details, email addresses from everyone who entered will be added to the Wool And The Gang database. You can of course unsubscribe at any time. But hey, it’s yarn, how bad can their emails be? 😉 )
So we need a winner, don’t you think? I love the comments you left, by the way – they made me wish that all of you could win. Sadly, that’s not possible. So I consulted the oracle of randomness at random.org, and yielded this fine result:-
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Who exactly is the mysterious number 150? Please step forward and take a bow, Elaine who commented at 2100hrs on 29th April! Hurrah! Congratulations, you’ve just won 800G of Crazy Sexy Wool in shades of your choice! Not too shabby, huh?
I’ll pass your email address to a lovely lady at WATG who will invite you to choose your colours. And I hope that this luscious yarn brings you many, many hours of joyful knitting/hooking. Actually it knits up pretty speedily, being so chunky, so it won’t take you that many hours to produce summat wondrous. Enjoy.
Commiserations to those of you who didn’t win, but there’ll be more giveaways here on this blog in future.
Finally, a big twisted-shaped thank you to WATG for the yarn. You guys rock (and you manufacture damned fine wool).
Right, back to admiring the springtime in Selma’s garden. Fortunately she’s the sort of understanding fellow blogging friend who doesn’t bat an eyelid to find me lying in her flower bed taking pictures of the sky:-
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Oh, and I’m sorry to be a little late in responding to comments at the moment. Still catching up with life after a couple of weeks of illness.

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Outdoors Knows It’s Pretty

You’ve still got time (just!) to enter the Wool And The Gang yarn giveaway! Just head over here…

Meanwhile, I’ve been all over the place – knitting a bit of this, crocheting a bit of that, drifting from room to room, bumping into members of the household whom I’d forgotten existed… “Great uncle Mortimer! Heavens, I haven’t seen you since the Great Tidying Up of ’96! How the very devil are you, ol’ bean? What’s that you say? Huh? Oh. What, that cupboard there? The one with the hefty lock on the door? Oh gosh, I’m sorry. Very sorry. I might have got a tad over-enthusiastic towards the end of the Great Tidying Up… I must say though, you’re looking remarkably chipper for a chap who’s been locked in a cupboard for twenty years, existing on a diet of gnawed wood and roof-leakage. Kudos to you. And what’s that you say? Oh, this thing? It’s called a mobile phone: they’re quite common now. Come, allow me to introduce you to the modern world. First, we’d better set you up with a Facebook account…”

I blame the weather.

Seriously, it’s been nuts. One minute it’s simultaneously snowing and hailing – snailing, if you will – and the next minute, I’m applying suncream to the twinnage using a trowel. Nuts, I tell you.

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Even the moss looks beautiful in spring.

Still, the blossom’s been good this year.

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And we’ve just reached that point when the baby lambs venture away from their mothers’ sides and all try to hang out in the cool gang. If you’re a lamb, being cool involves gently head-butting your mates and occasionally scampering up a small hillock. Oh that social hierarchies could have been that simple and scalable when I was a teenager.

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There really is lots and lots of blossom. There’s summat wonderful about the loveliness and hope of all this fresh unsullied new life, don’t you think? (Let’s just forget about the existence of hay fever for a wee minute.) I know you’re supposed to feel such optimistic sentiments when you see a newborn baby, but I reckon that blossom has the edge when it comes to not screaming or puking in your hair at 3am.

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In Japan, according to my friend who lived there for a while, they have a whole festival day devoted to the first appearance of the cherry blossom. It’s a big deal, apparently. Frankly, I’m with the Japanese on this one, but I’m lacking the courage to phone up my boss and say, “I’m not coming in to work today, because blossom.

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Anyway. I’ve written before about the cherry-growing heritage of this village in which we live. There aren’t many cherry orchards left here now, but in the one that’s near my house, there are sheep/lambs wandering amongst the trees. Not only does this promise the magical combination of yarn and luscious cherries as future products, but also it’s a traditional approach: the sheep keep the grass/weeds down, and their poo helps fertilize the cherry trees. Organic production at its best.

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And its cutest:-

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You can’t move for wildlife around here at the moment. And even the light feels optimistic and fresh:-

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Photo taken whilst I was out on a run. So the quality was never going to be great.

Indoors, too, there are flowers. My good friend gave me these beauties when she came to discuss the knitting/crochet book that we’re writing together. Which reminds me, I really should get on with some work on that…

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(And I had so many knitting/crochet progress photos to show you! Ah well, next time.)

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The Moo-Cowl Pattern. AKA Simon The Cowl.

Before we knuckle down to the knitting, allow me to remind you that the absurdly overgenerous Wool And The Gang (WATG) giveaway touted in my previous post is still very much w-i-d-e open for business. Can I just say how much I’ve loved reading your warm, witty, woolly comments on that thread? Do pop over and enter (but only if you fancy a stonk-load of soft, fluffsome, chunky, Peruvian, pure wool in shades of your choice – no pressure).

Oh and whilst you’re entering, I’d be most eternally humbly honoured if you gave the ‘Yarn’s Facebook page a wee ‘like’, too: if nowt else, it’ll help you be amongst the first to know about future giveaways and other shenanigans. Do please share news of the giveaway with anyone else who might appreciate a bundle of luscious sheep-fluff.

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Anyway, back to business. I’ve got a free pattern to share with you.

When WATG sent me a whole hairy heap of yarn, I made a cowl, because it’s cold here. I’m not joking: the Stoic Spouse has been seen wearing a hat indoors. Anyway, the cowl is a very simple knit. You’ll need a couple of shades of WATG Crazy Sexy Wool or something equivalently chunky. When it arrives, do try to resist the urge to stroke it, name it Tiddles, and install it in the cat bed in the corner of your kitchen. But be warned: this beast is strokable. Also, I swear I heard it meow.

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The advantage of this cowl (other than its enormity and its softness and its snugglyness) is that you can wear it either-colour-up, to match whatever else you’re wearing that day. It’s an easy knit, as long as you’re not scared of a tiny bit of stranded work for the middle section. C’mon, it’s not difficult. What could possibly go wrong? One word of advice if you’re newish to stranded/fairisle: stretch the recently-knitted stitches out lots so that the floats of the inactive colour are long: the most common failing in stranded work is over-tight floats, and that’s summat that’s impossible to fix afterwards.

Perfect for the giraffe in your life.

Perfect for the giraffe in your life.

Now, there’s one thing we need to get out of the way first. The version I’ve made uses one-and-a-bit balls of colour A, and one-and-a-bit balls of colour B. I’ll write the pattern for that, but also for a slightly smaller and more sensible version that uses only one ball of each shade. OK? OK. Let’s go.

Size: The cowl is 76cm/30” circumference. The shorter version is 70cm/27.5” tall, and the longer version is 39cm/15.5” tall. Where materials/instructions for the two sizes differ, I’ve given information for the smaller size first, (and then for the larger size in brackets).

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Gauge: Don’t get overly hung up on gauge this time. So your cowl is a tiny bit wider/narrower than my cowl? No biggy. Let’s not fall out over it. But in case you need to know because you’re substituting in another yarn, Crazy Sexy Wool is billed as 8 stitches per 10cm/4″ in stockinette on 10mm (size 15) needles, and a 200g ball gives you 80m/87yds. Yup, that’s pretty darn chunky: your arm muscles are about to get a serious workout. In stranded stockinette, my cowl worked out at 9.5 stitches per 10cm/4″.

Materials: One (two) 200g balls of each of two colours of WATG Crazy Sexy Wool or equivalent, depending on whether you’re making the shorter (taller) version. I used the shades ‘Moss Green’ and ‘Sherpa Blue’. In case you’re substituting for summat else, you’ll need about 200g/80m/87yds (260g/104m/113yds) of each colour. You’ll also need 10mm circular needles of approximately 64cm/25” length. And your favourite stitch marker.

Stuff you'll need. And wool, obviously.

Stuff you’ll need. And wool, obviously.

Abbreviations:-

k = knit. (Now there’s a surprise.) p = purl. kfb = increase by knitting front and back. K2tog = decrease by knitting two together.

SM = stitch marker.

OK, let’s knit this baby.

  1. For either size, pour yourself a drink, and cast on 72 stitches in colour A, preferably using the long-tail cast-on. Place SM and join in round, taking care not to twist.
  2. k1,p1, all the way around. SM. Then repeat another 5 times.
  3. (k all stitches then SM) twice.
  4. OK, now you’re going to introduce colour B as well as continuing with colour A. Yup, we’re getting stranded. *k1 in colour B. k5 in colour A.** Repeat *→** around until 6 stitches remain in round. k1 in B. k3 in A. kfb in A. k1 in B. You may as well discard the marker now, because it ain’t gonna help you for the next section. (73 stitches.) IMG_6734
  5. Continue working around and around (and around) in the (k1 in B, k5 in A) pattern. Because you’ve sneakily snuck in that extra 73rd stitch, your single B-colour stitches will be displaced by one each round. Carry on until your diagonal stack of B-colour stitches is 7(10) stitches high in all 12 stacks, finishing on that last B-colour stitch. Note: this won’t be at the exact point where you were finishing a round with the stitch marker – that’s why we threw the stitch marker out of the window earlier. IMG_6784
  6. k4 in A, k3 in B. *k3 in A, k3 in B.** Repeat *→** round and round and round until every diagonal stack of B-colour stitches in this section is 7(10) rows high, ending after 3 B-colour stitches. Again, keep an eye on the height of all 12 B-colour stacks, because you’ll finish this section in a new and different place from before.
  7. k1 in colour B. k1 in A. *k5 in B, k1 in A.** Repeat *→** round and round until every diagonal stack of B-colour stitches in this section is 7(10) rows high, ending after 5 B-colour stitches. Go and find that stitch marker you discarded earlier, and place it now. Cut the yarn of colour A.
  8. Continuing in colour B, knit all stitches. SM.
  9. In colour B, knit every stitch until only two stitches remain. K2tog. SM. (72.)
  10. Continuing in colour B, work 6 rounds of k1,p1 rib.
  11. Cast off in rib pattern.
  12. Weave in ends. IMG_6848

Wear and enjoy.

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Ludicrously Generous Yarn Giveaway, Right Here

So. Today, we have a giveaway of such monumental extravagance that the Plausibility Police are after me because it surely can’t be true.

And yet it is. 🙂

Some of you will no doubt have heard of those fine fibrous folks at Wool And The Gang, yes? Well it turns out that they’re rather generous as well as being super-friendly. I’ve had to keep this a secret these past few weeks, but they contacted me recently in order to hatch a little plan. No wait, that’s a lie, it’s a big plan. It’s the sort of plan that involves one of you winning a vast stonk-load of the softest Peruvian mega-chunky pure wool in funky colours of your choice, so I’m assuming that you’ll approve. (And once you’ve won, it also involves me popping round to your house on a daily basis in order to admire the aforementioned yarn and stroke it gently whilst dropping hints about you lending me just a wee bit. Sorry-not-sorry about that. I promise that I’ll be quiet and keep out of your way.)

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This giveaway is open worldwide.

So in case you haven’t yet had the pleasure, allow me to introduce you to Crazy Sexy Wool.

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It comes in a splendid box.

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And within, a bag.

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Before you finally, near-wild with excitement, tear open the packaging to reveal the treasures within. Look at this!

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Let’s be serious for a minute. This wool is very, very chunky (a massive 7 stitches per 10cm – woah!) And very, very soft. And it’s fluffy. Yes I confess that I didn’t pay for this gorgeous collection, but I’m a mean and cynical old curmudgeon, so I’d cheerfully tell you ‘It’s rubbish’ if that was what I thought. But you know, this wool is very pleasantly vibrant and soft and warm. There isn’t a great deal by way of twist, so it is rather prone to descending into a floaty length of random fluff but hey, I can’t complain when it’s so soft and luscious. But if you want a defined number of neat plies all tidily, tightly, twisted, you might be disappointed. The colours are rich and strong – that’s good.

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It will surprise precisely nobody that I started knitting at this point. Those WATG people (did I mention that they’re generous?) sent me nearly a kilogram of pure Peruvian wool in colours of my choice. They didn’t ask for payment, although they did hint that I might like to help with the washing up next time I’m near their office. Fair enough.

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But what to make? Yarn this big really needs to be used for a statement piece. I decided to design a cowl.

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Much fun was had.

I went bold. This is not a cowl for shrinking violets on a shy day. Just sayin’.

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I’ll post the pattern for this cowl (free, of course) within the next few days, just in case you’re feeling bold, too.

But really, you want to know about the giveaway, don’t you? OK. WATG are offering four balls (i.e. 800g) of their luscious Crazy Sexy Wool to one over-lucky winner of this giveaway. That’s £62-worth ($90) of pure wool. And you get to choose the colours. Not entirely bad, all things considered, huh?

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The usual Twisted rules apply, except that there are no Facebook entries allowed this time. In order to enter, leave a comment on this post ↓below↓ hinting that you’re not entirely averse to the prospect of winning. In doing so, you agree to your email address being eaten for lunch with a superior brand of mayonnaise by the people at WATG. (Don’t worry, you can un-subscribe at any time. They definitely won’t steal your soul.)

See, the cowl is also perfect for giraffes.

See, the cowl is also perfect for giraffes.

The competition is open from RIGHT NOW THIS VERY SECOND, YO, until Weds 4th May at 12.00 noon British time. As I said, anyone, anywhere on this marvellous planet may enter. (Sorry, Tim Peake.) As the great bell tolls midday on that auspicious date, I’ll use an online random number generator to select a winner, whose email address will be forwarded to WATG so that the lucky person can select their colours. OK? Please share, here and via your favourite social media. You could even leave your house and pop next door to tell Mrs Entwistle next door: I’m sure she’d like to win.

So as I said, I knitted a cowl. The pattern will be here for you within days. I named it the Moo-Cowl. The Stoic Spouse reckons that it should be called Simon. Groan. I’m convinced that no court in the land would convict me if I murdered him at this point, right?

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Yes, I really do have a tree growing out of the top of my head. But I’m sure you’re far too polite to mention it.

 

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Dinner Is On Its Way

Just as I love to be able to turn any ol’ yarn into something you can wear, or sit on, or fly from the flagpole atop your roof, I also love to be able to pop a vegetable seed in the ground and wait for it to turn into DINNER. OK, you do have to wait months for that dinner to even be ready to cook (just like you have to wait weeks for the cardigan to be ready to wear), but hey, it’s good to work up an appetite, no?

Last spring was a wash-out on the growing things front (final unsuccessful IVF, blah blah blah) and the year before that, snails and cabbage-white caterpillars scoffed all my brassicas. Not that I’m still bitter about that or owt.

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…But this year, I’m back to my foolishly over-ambitious self.

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In the back garden, I’ve cleared out our little veg patch with the help of one of the twinnage, and planted it up with a variety of goodies, then covered it securely with a netting cage to prevent any of the vegetable plants from escaping.

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A Twin. Good At Digging.

Can you tell that I’m no horticultural expert? If you want someone who knows what they’re doing, speak to Narf (sustainable cultivation of the most amazing array of fruit and veg in Tasmania: she’s just moved her blog to here), or Gardening Nirvana (stunning, creative, beautiful and wise gardening in the US), or The Contented Crafter, who has converted an unprepossessing backyard in New Zealand into the most verdant oasis of colour.

But meanwhile you’re here, so let’s proceed with the amateurish bumblings.

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With some very inconsistent help from the twinnage, I’ve planted peas, rocket, radish, purple carrot, dill, sprouts, spinach, and potatoes outdoors, and then leeks, peppers, courgettes, broccoli, cauliflowers, giant pumpkins, lettuce, basil, runner beans, two kinds of climbing bean, tomatoes, and two kinds of courgettes indoors. I’m sure that the local wildlife will thoroughly enjoy devouring the whole lot. In the wake of the great caterpillar-brassica fiasco of 2014, this year’s pest defences include beer traps for snails (the Stoic Spouse’s home-brew should do the job), planting nasturtiums to attract things that eat pests, and also shouting “STOP IT!” very loudly at the twinnage if they venture too near the seedlings.

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So right now, there are 117 tiny pots of planted seeds and also the next batch of chitting potatoes sitting on the windowsill, all waiting to be neglected. It’s survival of the fittest round here. I mean, they’re going to have to be tough to live in our garden, so they may as well begin to prove their determination and resilience whilst they’re still being mollycoddled in their own private pots on a cushy windowsill. Dinner will be ready in about July, but you might have to bring your own wine, because my grape vine is showing very little inclination to stir itself.

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And in the time taken to write this post, they’ve germinated!

Meanwhile on the allotment, potatoes have been planted, and the broad beans and onions are s-l-o-w-l-y beginning to acknowledge that they’re supposed to be growing:-

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My genius allotment-mate suggested we use square foot gardening to interest the twinnage. Please note that this practice does NOT involve slicing your feet into equilateral tetragons. (Gawd, my humour is dismal today.) Instead, you divide a small plot (a yard/metre square, for example), into roughly foot-square sub-plots and grow a different crop in each of these. It’s an efficient way to produce a high yield of lots and lots of lunch. And it’s fun and manageable for kids.

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They wrote the labels, too.

So the twinnage each helped to make their own little divided plot. The idea was embraced with enthusiasm.

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Planting a potato. Because home-grown potatoes are like buried treasure for small children. (And for 43-year-old clinical psychologists.)

Each little area was carefully labelled and planted. The twinnage got to decide what should be planted where.They kept at it for quite a while, but were then overtaken by the excitement of digging down to the water table in another part of the allotment, and jumping up and down in the resulting quagmire. I’d probably have been the same at their age. I think their motivation will improve as things actually begin to grow.

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Back home, I’m grudgingly acknowledging that it’s sometimes worth growing things to look at as well as things to eat, so I’ve planted up the hanging baskets:-

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And having done all THAT, I think I’m finally allowed to sit down and get back to crocheting the yarny garden of my giant project, yes? Speaking of which, many photos coming soon…

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Trying Hard Not To Get Shot

I hate getting caught in the middle of a shoot-out when I’m half-way through my run. (Or, indeed, at pretty much any stage of my run.)

Hang on, just let me do a bit more work on the giant crochet house/garden project (that REALLY is nearly finished). Gotta steady my nerves. Is it me, or do these attempts at daisies on the lawn resemble fried eggs? Sigh. Back to the drawing board.
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We live in the countryside, so like it or not, people shoot things and then eat them. (Sometimes they even cook them first.) It’s not at all uncommon to hear shots or to see spent cartridges lying in the mud. So as I ran the other morning, I didn’t pay much attention to the noise of a gun going off to my left, even though the sound was quite close. But meh, I was fine, right up until I started hearing shots close by to my right as well. Hmm, that wasn’t good.
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And at the same moment that I heard another shot, what I think was a partridge scuttled across the path not far ahead, then disappeared into the hedge. No I didn’t catch a photo, but here are some partridge loitering outside my parents’ house in the snow at Christmas a few years ago:-

OK, I didn't catch a pic of the partridge, so here are some partridge I photographed a few years ago in the snow on Christmas day at my parents' door. I failed in my efforts to persuade them to pose in a pear tree.

I tried and failed to persuade them to pose in a pear tree.

Back to the bird in hand (whose worth presumably halved as it dived into the bush). I’m not sure whether the partridge knew that it was theoretically safe because open season for most game birds is over by late spring. But you can’t blame it for not taking chances. And maybe whoever was firing those guns (neither of whom I could see) didn’t care about the law anyway, and just fancied a really tasty dinner. Whilst I did feel sorry for the partridge (which is hypocritical because I do eat meat), I was also increasingly not enjoying being near the thing that people were possibly trying to kill.

Being cursed with both an anxious disposition and a very active imagination (two traits that I suspect cruelly co-occur for quite a lot of folks), I began to worry about whether I’d get peppered with lead-shot by mistake. Not that I look much like a partridge, especially when I’m wearing fluorescent snot-coloured lycra running gear, but not being an especially competent athlete, my scurrying scamper could, at speed, perhaps be mistaken for the gait of a partridge. I slowed down as I got close to where I’d seen the bird.

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Maybe I should have turned round and gone back the way I’d come, rather than risking crossing the poor partridge’s path, but that would have meant running a very long way, and I’m cursed with an anxious disposition, a wild imagination, AND LAZINESS. So I carried on.

I passed the exact point where I’d last seen the bird, and managed not to get shot. Well that was a plus.

But what if the two shooters were actually sworn enemies, taking a pop at each other from either side of my path? I slowed down, not wanting to confuse these still-invisible adversaries.

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And then, the most worrying thought of all… What if – and you’ll have to bear with me whilst I explain a little – they were such experienced marksmen that they’d started going deaf from all those years of noisy guns (although such experience would also have made them terrifyingly skilled shots)? So when the organizer-person-thingy had said to them that morning, “Go shoot some pheasant,” what they’d mistakenly heard was, “Go shoot some peasants,” in which case I was doomed, not having a single aristocratic bone in my body.

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I speeded up again. All that high-viz clothing made me rather an obvious target. Camouflage would only have been an option if I’d been running through either (i) a tulip field, or (ii) a children’s soft-play area. So all I could do was try to run in a very fast and very non-peasanty way. I’m not sure I really succeeded at either of those, but I managed to get home unscathed… where I found a bunch of red kites circling in the sky above our driveway, sensing my exhaustion and clearly anticipating imminent carrion after all this carry-on.

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“Pick on someone your own size,” I growled at them, which to be fair was pretty much what they were doing, because I’m not very tall and those birds’ wingspan is BIG.

But at least I was home. And I realized that I’m cursed with anxiety, an overactive imagination, laziness, AND STUPIDITY.

And hey, at least I didn’t get shot.

As far as I know, the partridge lived to waddle another day.

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Amongst The Ordinary, The Extraordinary

One of the reasons – and there are many – why I’m fundamentally unsuited to modern life is the fact that I’m more interested in the micro-details of the natural world than in all the manufactured concepts to which I’m supposed to be paying attention. Yes I do manage to hold down a job, but there’s a good reason why I’m a mid-level clinical psychologist and not the big fancy-pants boss of the whole shebang.

See this? All will be explained later in this post.

See this? All will be explained later in this post.

It’s fair to say that I’ll never be CEO of a major company. Because if I was, my inaugural board meeting would go something like this…

“So, Twisted, congratulations on your appointment,” says the obsequious second-in-command (OSIC), who is secretly scheming to get his grubby mitts on my job. “It’s an honour to work for you. Here are the company sales figures for the last quarter.”

I take the papers from him. They’ve got numbers on them. I like numbers a lot, except when they relate to money, and unfortunately these numbers definitely relate to money, so they’re quite boring. But I look at them for a minute, just to be polite. The OSIC is watching me closely. He seems to be sulking because I shifted the venue for this meeting from the board room at Megacorps HQ to the edge of a small field in the Cotswolds. I don’t think he likes sitting in mud. To be fair, I hadn’t realized that it would be raining so heavily this morning. Anyway, he’s watching me for a reaction to the sales figures.

“Oh. My. Goodness.,” I murmur.

There is a collective intake of breath around the fallen tree trunk that we’re using for a table. The deputy finance director stops trying to wipe the mud off her laptop with a monogrammed hankie and says, “Is something the matter? Sales are through the roof this quarter!”

(Not that we have a roof. Because we’re sitting in a field. But still.)

“Over there,” I whisper, and the gaze of a dozen be-suited women and men follows where I’m pointing. “Look! An actual woodlark! I can’t believe it!”

Fortunately for the economy, nobody is ever going to make me CEO of anything especially now that I’ve written this career-suicide blog post.

Ditto: look closely, for all will be revealed below.

Ditto: look closely, for all will be revealed below.

But I wanted to talk to you about the awesome details that are right there, under your nose and that are, in my un-humble opinion, far more interesting than last quarter’s sales figures. This post came about when I was in the garden the other day. I’ve talked before about how my love of geology was sparked by finding my father’s book about minerals as a child. By the time I was 17/18 I was studying geology at school and loving it even though I hated that school so much that I shudder at the memory. (I’ll tell you about the dinosaur skeleton I found another day.) At the time, we were living near the sea in a very fossiliferous part of south Wales, and when my friends and I weren’t heading to the pub to get drunk, we drove down to the coast to look for fossils of an evening. We were rarely disappointed.

These are Jurassic gryphaea, aka 'devil's toenails'. You can't move on the south Wales coast without tripping over a few.

These are Jurassic gryphaea, aka ‘devil’s toenails’. You can’t move on the south Wales coast without tripping over a few.

Ever since, whenever I’m outside I’ve had one eye on what I’m doing and one eye on the ground, admiring the rock. I’d hate to miss a decent fossil or geological feature. You can’t switch off that instinct once you’ve got it. You just can’t. And the thing is, there’s a lot of gravel around this old brewery we live in. Nowt to do with us: it was there when we moved in (and it won’t be there much longer because I’m going to completely redevelop the garden). Gravel is pretty boring because it’s a mish-mash of bashed-up stuff that could’ve come from anywhere, but I just can’t help myself. Interesting bits and pieces catch my eye, which is awkward when you’re trying to have a polite conversation with someone. So the other day, I spent ten minutes pottering around the garden, picking up a few pieces. (T’was only ten minutes: the twinnage got tetchy.) Here, to prove how easy it is, you can see what I found…

That picture of the pot full of fossils and bits and pieces near the top of this post? That was ten minutes’ haul. Let’s take a closer look. First, there are the near-modern non-fossil thingummyjigs. In my vegetable bed, I found a couple of segments of Victorian clay pipe. Hardly surprising. I can picture the late 19th century owners of this brewery standing there, frowning and discussing the price of hops, long slender pipes between their teeth. (Apparently, Victorian men had terrible teeth due to the omnipresence of clay tobacco pipes in their mouths. The advent of cigarettes was a godsend for dental shapeliness.)

Pieces of Victorian clay pipes.

Pieces of Victorian clay pipes.

But let’s leave those pompous, wonky-toothed, Victorian men behind and go back a couple of hundred million years. Have you any idea how easy it is to find treasure? Look!

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Well the one on the right has to be a little piece of ammonite, top and left are from some sorts of bivalves, and bottom one maybe a crinoid. Cool, huh? And what about this…

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Fossilized coral, if I’m not very much mistaken. Oh, and these:-

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The tiniest snail, the tiniest creature, and some coral. All very, very beautiful. Oh, and these:-

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On the left, see that tiny imprint of an ancient bivalve shell? And on the right… well I’m struggling with the one on the right. Any geologists reading this? Coral? Oolitic limestone writ large?

Oh, and you know I mentioned gryphaea, above? Well my ten-minute-trawl didn’t yield any immaculate specimens, but I found loads of weathered, bashed-up gryphaea remains. Look!

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So. If you’re bored, go and rummage outside amongst the gravel. You won’t be disappointed.

 

TL,DR: Gravel is cool.

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