Monthly Archives: November 2015

Crochet Garden

So, I’m embroidering and crocheting the garden of the big furniture-related crochet house project, when I really ought to be doing proper useful stuff. The fire is lit already because it’s been one of those grey, drizzly mornings that makes you think, “Really? Do I have to get up and adult today? Again?

I decided to build a rockery around the pond. First, I made some rocks in subtly variegated grey yarn, by single-crocheting (that’s double crochet in UK parlance) with strategic increases and decreases.

how to crochet rocks www.thetwistedyarn.com

And then I sewed them on to the crochet garden.

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Next, I added in some soil around them. I’ve run out of that lovely rich brown that I used for the background, so I had to resort to a lighter brown. I hooked and hooked hither and thither around the rocks, deliberately creating an uneven texture. The paler colour won’t show up so much once it’s all covered in plants.

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Ah, speaking of plants, I took inspiration from a gardening book. Here is some helianthemum (in case that wasn’t blindingly obvious):-

crochet helianthemum www.thetwistedyarn.com

My centrathus ruber was less convincing, though, wouldn’t you say?

centrathus ruber crochet www.thetwistedyarn.com

I’m not quite sure yet what this plant will be:-

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But the area around the pond is really beginning to take shape, now.

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I’m basing the rockery on this book:-

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…Now if only the real outdoor garden was as easy to create as the crochet garden, I’d be happy indeed…

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Blogging

It’s a rum ol’ game, this blogging.

Putting yourself out there, (selected) warts and all, but also holding back a little. Every blogger has their own limits regarding what they’re prepared to share and what they keep private, and unless I missed the memo (entirely possible – I miss a lot of memos, including the one that says your sentences shouldn’t be nine clauses long), nobody has yet figured out the definitive answer about exactly how open a blogger should be.

(Disclaimer: the photos in this post are rubbish: I was ill, OK?)

One of the many things that I like about blogging is… bloggers. Sure, there are probably some obnoxious ones out there somewhere*, but the ones I’ve met have almost all been interesting, witty, and creative. Several have become real-life friends (you know who you are), whilst others are people-whom-I-know-would-be-proper-friends-if-they-didn’t-inconsiderately-live-hundreds/thousands-of-miles-away.

Anyway on Saturday, I went to Blogfest in London. Muchly hurrah! A whole auditorium full of bloggers! I went with my fine friend Selma and her lovely friend Nicki. Their entertaining company distracted me from the fact that I was facing an entire train journey with no suitable knitting/crochet projects to work on. (The big-etc-etc-etc-crochet-house-project is currently so large that I would’ve needed to have bought it a separate seat, and quite possibly a selection of snacks from the buffet car as well, so I left it at home, the greedy blighter.)

Mumsnet Blogfest

Now, I’m not a fan of London. At all. Even slightly. So it takes a lot to lure me in, but this is the third year on the trot that I’ve been to Blogfest. How to describe the event? Well, it’s a day-long mix of big-name speakers talking about blog-relevant themes such as privacy, plus smaller workshops on specific and practical bloggy topics. Also, there was a great deal of food.

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I know. Worst photo ever. But I swear I had tuberculosis at the very least.

And there was free gin.

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There was also an atmosphere that I can only describe with the cliché of ‘buzzing’, although possibly the buzz was just tinnitus brought on by the Dickensian lurgy. And given that the event was run by Mumsnet, the attendees comprised a disproportionate number of mothers happily hysterical at the joy/confusion of escaping nappy-changing for an entire day.

Anyway, the talks. May I just at this point write the words ‘I love Sandi Toksvig’? Also, we were visited on a giant overhead screen by the magnificent Margaret Atwood (4.45am her time, hence her apparent need for a thick coat and a large coffee), although it was frustratingly difficult to hear a word she said due to wonky technology. Still, she smiled a lot and appeared to be enjoying listening to the panel discussion that was going on amongst the ants sitting below her giant head.

Margaret Atwood

Meanwhile, Fi Glover chaired with panache, and journalist Robert Crampton gave the useful advice that it’s OK to write about your nearest and dearest as long as you are the one who crawls out of the anecdote looking like a fool. And did I mention that David Baddiel, Meera Syal and Lionel Shriver spoke too? Meanwhile, Shappi Khorsandi winced at memories of her online over-sharing:-

Shappi Khorsandi

These big-name talks definitely provided thought-provoking entertainment more than practical tips, but I have no problem with being entertained. Where we got down to brass tacks was in the smaller workshops. Film director Mike Figgis taught us all about videoing ourselves, and kept it real for those of us not blessed with Hollywood budgets. Hayley Willis gave a slightly rambling but still worthwhile talk on photographic techniques: for example, rather than ramping up the saturation on your photos, try pulling back the black to make your colours ‘pop’. (Yes, I know that my photos with this post are rubbish: I was ILL.)

And of course whilst all this was going on, we were meeting each other. Being nosy, I was desperately curious about everyone else’s blogs. I had a good chat with Kitchen Counter Culture, and I can also inform you that HannahSpannah is thoroughly lovely and friendly.

And at the end, it was time for gin (a Mumsnet tradition), and also Prosecco, and also much chatter. Happy days.

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All in all, a pretty awesome day, despite the lack of knitting.

  • Sudden scary realization: maybe if you don’t know any obnoxious bloggers, that means that you are the obnoxious blogger…

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English Landscape In Yarn

I’ve been quiet these past few days because the cough/lurgy descended even further into Dickensian melodrama, whilst I descended deeper amongst the sofa cushions. The one thing I did do was attend Blogfest in London, but I’ll leave that for the next post, because I promised you pictures of the finished Cladonia. Look!

Cladonia shawl knitting www.thetwistedyarn.com

The Burrow and Soar yarn is beautiful, and was a delight to knit. The main colourway that I used for the non-lace section was named ‘English Landscape In Yarn’, which rather perfectly describes it, don’t you think? Today I forced my aching, coughing self out of the house to walk up to the allotment, and I saw all of the colours in the shawl:-

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The design of this shawl is beautiful. (In case you want to knit one too, the pattern is here: it’s by the immensely talented Kirsten Kapur.) Look at this lace!

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Having stomped up to the allotment in my clumpy boots, I realized I’d forgotten my key to get in, so I had to scramble indecorously over the gate instead. At least I was perfectly camouflaged against the landscape in this shawl, so hopefully nobody saw me. Aren’t other people’s allotments tidy?

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Nope. That’s Definitely Not Our Plot.

Sigh. I won’t give you an overview shot of our allotment, because it’s not looking quite so impressive yet. Still, at least the broad beans have germinated:-

growing broad beans www.thetwistedyarn.com

Hurry up and GROW: I’m HUNGRY!

And the onions are busy. Well, some of them are:-

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Eighteen (!) raspberry canes should be arriving through the post any day now, but I didn’t feel well enough to clear the ground ready to plant them. But at least I left the house. Tomorrow I’m going to try getting back into running, and digging the garden, and sorting the house, and cooking and baking and normality.

cladz1a

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Washing And Blocking

So this post is coming to you from the sofa, where I’ve spent much of the past couple of days aching all over and hacking a cough that could’ve come right out of a Dickens novel. (Melodramatic, moi?) I do seem to be throwing these lurgies off more quickly since I began the four-times-a-week-running torture though, so I hope this thing will be gone soon, because it’s no fun feeling too ill to knit. (Also it’s no fun running four times per week, so I’d hate to think that it wasn’t serving any purpose.)

One thing that I did manage before the tuberculosis annoying-but-trivial virus took hold was to finish knitting the Cladonia shawl. I’ll show you properly in a couple of days’ time when it has finished blocking and when I have some daylight, but I don’t think I’m spoiling things too much by posting a dodgy artificially-lit snap taken on my tablet. Lace, people, LACE! Isn’t it pretty?

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Note to self. Must buy blocking wires.

And the twinnage’s first words when they came home from school and saw it pinned out to dry were, ‘Mummy, you’ve finished your knitting! It’s so pretty!’ Clearly they must have been angling for chocolate cake, because no normal self-respecting dinosaur-obsessed mud-encrusted five-year-old would come out with such sentiments. Still, I’m touched that they noticed and I’m grateful for their words. (They got some chocolate cake.)

Anyway, the shawl has been washed and blocked. I must say, though, that next time I buy Eucalan, it’s definitely going to be the unscented stuff. Much as I love the smell of jasmine (I drink jasmine green tea, I eat jasmine rice, there is jasmine growing in my garden), my jasmine-scented Eucalan is just a Bit Too Much. I’d rather smell the yarn. Lesson learned.

So now that’s done, I can give my whole attention to that other project. Yes, that one. Forgive me if I’ve seemed persistently and annoyingly coy about it all, but I really do want to wow you with the finished thing. Right now (well not right now because I’m very busy coughing like a barking seal and also blogging), I’m working on crocheting the garden. Amongst a large collection of gardening books that the Stoic Spouse acquired from heaven-knows-where, I found a book called ‘Bright And Easy Borders’, so I’m flicking through its pages and working out how to translate them into crochet.

More very soon.

Happy knitting and crocheting, people.

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And Then We Were Eight

Eight years ago today, I put on an asymmetric, teal-coloured, gown and walked down the aisle in order to promise lifelong, grudgingly-unswerving tolerance of the Stoic Spouse’s* quirks. And vice versa of course, though naturally my own quirks are charming and endearing rather than FLIPPIN’ ANNOYING.** Fast-forward getting-on-for-a-decade and we’re still here, and neither of us has yet eviscerated the other with the antique brass fire tongs. Pretty good, huh?

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But on the anniversary of our hitching, here’s some FREE marriage advice from TheTwistedYarn: never, never, ever marry someone who drums their biro on the table whilst they think. Not only is it irritating, but it also results in you having to live in a home where not a single pen is working. Go on dates with such a scoundrel by all means, perhaps even holiday with them (because it’s not as though you do much writing whilst you’re on the beach or up a mountain or in a boat), but do not marry them. It’s just not worth the irritation when all you want is a functioning pen to draft a blog post. That’s not much to ask, is it?! IS IT?! And… breathe…

Ahhhhh…. Here’s the picot cast-off row of my Cladonia shawl in progress, just to calm things down a bit. See, knitting is very therapeutic:-

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This time tomorrow, I reckon the shawl will be done, and I’ll be ready to get back on with the big crochet house-related slightly bonkers furniture-covering surprise project.

Anyway, we’ve had our marital ups and downs, the Stoic Spouse and I, but we’re still capable of being in the same room as each other without legal representation being present on either side, so I’d say that we’re doing tolerably well.***

Speaking of Cladonia, I’m seriously on the case. Even when I’m waiting for the twinnage’s music class to begin:-

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…Because lovely though Cladonia is, it’s somebody else’s pattern, and really this blog is all about showing you the crazy projects that brew in my brain, so Cladonia needs to be finished asap. Yes?

 

* Except he wasn’t the Stoic Spouse then, more like the ‘F’legmatic Fiancé. And yes I do realize that phlegmatic isn’t really spelt with an ‘f’.

** I’m paraphrasing our vows, here, but you get the gist.

*** Oh, come on. This is TTY. You should’ve known you wouldn’t get “I luffs ma hubz soooo much ♥♥♥” on this site.

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The New Gaff

Oops! Mind those boxes, there. Unpacking is a work in progress.

It’s strange, moving into a new place. Even though you know that soon its every detail will be as familiar as your own hands, there’s a period of adjustment whilst you’re learning its smells, its proportions, its light, and the fact that you have to yank the bathroom window handle slightly to the left in order to open it.

No, I haven’t physically moved house. I still live in the oldest, coldest, quirkiest, roof-leakiest, converted brewery in these ‘ere parts of Oxfordshire. My point is that moving house is just a very little like… moving blog, which is what has been happening over the past week.

The Stoic Spouse As We Ran Through Autumn Fog. I'm Sure There's A Metaphor There.

The Stoic Spouse As We Went For A Run Through Autumn Fog. I’m Sure There’s A Metaphor There. He’s Stopped To Wait Because I’m Busy Taking Photos.

I hope that everything on this site still looks pretty much the same as usual from your end? Yes? (Small issue: much of my follower total has vanished in a puff of bloggy smoke. If you wish to be further troubled by colourful knits/crochet and nuttiness, you may need to re-whack that ‘follow’ button to the right of this post, and whack it hard.)

But here behind the scenes, there has been much shenanigans, and it’s fair to assume that the staff at WordPress and my wise techie/crocheting friend Alice have realized the true extent of my cluelessness.

Anywhere, here we are. You’re welcome to a drink if you can find one to unpack. Good luck with that. Third box from the left might be worth a try, I think?

Just like two years ago when I started this blog, I’m standing staring at the walls of my new pad, wondering what changes to make. For those with an interest, I’m now self-hosted with WordPress.org rather than cosily spoonfed at WordPress.com. Returning to the house analogy, it’s a little like buying vs. renting. With WordPress.com, everything is easy and if your boiler breaks down, someone pops round to fix it.* Whereas WordPress.org is like buying a house: exciting and with all sorts of possibilities, but everything is down to you. When your boiler throws in the towel, you either fix it or pay someone else to do so. Yikes.

Another Foggy Image From Another Foggy Run

Another Foggy Image From Another Foggy Run

Adios. There will be many photos of knitting and crochet very soon. Much stitching has been happening around here, and I hope in your world too?

*I’m assuming a level of landlordly competence that is not necessarily matched by many people’s reality.

ETA: Oh goodness, French readers. My heart is with you.

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Lost In The Ether

OK, this is a quick one, because I know you’re busy. And it’s sort of an admin post, just like when you go to a training event and they tell you at the beginning where the fire exits are, and ask how long a lunch break you’d like, at which point everyone opts for a short lunch so that they can go home early.

I’m trying to knit whilst typing, so please do excuse any errors.

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So, tomorrow-ish, some serious backstage shenanigans will be happening on this site. (For those with an interest, I’m going self-hosted with the .org version of WordPress.) When it’s all done, very little will change at this end. I’ll still be chattering away at TheTwistedYarn.com. And knitting, obvs.

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I’m hoping that nowt will seem much different from your end (except there’ll be no more of those ads at the bottom of the page – yay!) But, BUT, BUT… as far as I can tell, it’s possible that you may need to ‘re-follow’ after the change-over, in order to ensure that the usual stream of bonkersness, chatter and over-ambitious knitting/crochet ideas continues to land in your in-tray. Can you sense the mild desperation that made me type those words in bold?! Can you tell that my entire sense of self-worth is built on online validation, and that I’ve disappeared so far into the internet that I’ve forgotten how to have meaningful relationships in real life? 😉

Slightly dispiritingly, all previous ‘likes’ will vanish, my previously healthy total of 2511 subscribed followers will plunge, and my stats counter will reset from 150,000 to zero.

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But the good news is that all your friendly, interesting, funny, kind, and heartfelt comments will still be here, which makes me very happy indeed. The blog will look the same. I’ll post in the same way. We can still knit and crochet together by the fire, and all will be well.

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The changeover will happen some time from Monday to Tuesday. After that, I’ll post again to say hello.

There, that’s all finished. So you can all go home early. 🙂

Happy knitting!

PS: Thank you, Alice, for holding my hand through the process and for not telling me out loud that I’m an idiot.

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Comfort-Yarning

Knitting and crochet are like food for the soul.

Just like real food, they can satisfy, intrigue, nourish, challenge, and comfort. And just like with food, you can crave different things when in different moods. I’ve been plugging away at designing the big-secret-crochet-house-project (which is n-e-a-r-l-y finished), but tonight, forget all that: I need simple, warm, comfort-knitting. And I need somebody else’s pattern, so that I don’t have to think too much. So I’m back on my other project: the Cladonia shawl. Photo from a while ago because I’m writing this (with a pen! In a notebook!) by a combination of firelight and low electric light, which doesn’t make for great knitting photos. I’ve come a wee way since this twinnage-assisted picture was taken, and I’m almost on the lace section. Cladonia has beautiful lace, as you’ll see, soon enough.

Cladonia shawl in progress

Also, I’m writing very quietly because it’s November 5th, Guy Fawkes Night, and the fireworks going off outside may yet wake the twinnage. They’re frightened of fireworks, so I’m very much hoping that they sleep through the entire shebang (with emphasis on the ‘bang’).

Before I reach the lace section of Cladonia, I’m going to add some extra increases because my Burrow And Soar yarn is working out at a much smaller gauge than the pattern dictates. (Disclaimer: I didn’t pay for the yarn, but It Really Is Luscious. Honestly.) Burrow and Soar ship worldwide, just so you know…

So no more crazy crochet cabbages tonight. And no finished object yet. Instead, I’m curled up in an armchair with a deep glass of wine, occasionally chattering with the Stoic Spouse, alternating knits with sips and staring into the fire. It’s been a long day at work on the ward. A L-O-N-G day. This clinical psychology malarkey can be intense and raw. Tomorrow I’ll be back to inventing stuff, but tonight I need the simplicity of knit-knit-knit with just the occasional increase. If you’re a fellow knitter or crocheter (or clinical psychologist), I know that you’ll understand. I hope you understand.

And you? Do you have comfort-knits or comfort-hooks?

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Autumn Outdoors

It’s a satisfying time of year to be outdoors, clearing away a season’s-worth of overgrown undergrowth whilst it’s still mild enough to work unencumbered by eight layers of clothing. Also the colours, of course. Ah, the colours:-

autumn colours www.thetwistedyarn.com

Many times before, I’ve mentioned this village’s long cherry-growing heritage, and now the few remaining cherry orchards are in their autumn livery.

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I’d been feeling guilty about ‘growing’ yarn vegetables in the garden of my big-crochet-house-project whilst failing to make any headway with my real allotment, especially as I know that my long-suffering allotment-mate sometimes reads here. The latest additions are some onions and lettuces that I worked in the pub on Knit Night. (Again, the rival knitting group was there, too. Again, they were far too friendly and nice for me to be able to come away with any amusing bloggable anecdotes of yarny rivalry. Grrr.):-

Yes that skirt has nude cherubs on it. I am that odd.

Yes that skirt has nude cherubs on it. I am that odd. Also, why can’t I take decent pictures on my tablet?

But now that the novel-writing MPhil is submitted, the twinnage are a’school, the yucky IVF drugs are out of my system, and I’ve got more energy thanks to running four times per week, (gosh this sentence is getting long – does anyone know when it might end?) I’m ready to tackle the allotment. And the garden. And even the damp, rickety portions of our house. The twinnage love coming up to the allotment. Sometimes they ‘help’ (I use that word very loosely) to dig, and sometimes they like to discover things, like the vibrant colours of the seeds in the last few runner beans that we left on the plants:-

runner bean seeds www.thetwistedyarn.com

They like it when we come across the occasional frog. And grasshopper. And red kites shrieking in the sky above our heads, hoping we’ll drop dead and become carrion, no doubt. And the amazing network of mouse tunnels under the carpet we’d used to cover the bare earth. Also, the pretty rosehips:-

rosehips www.thetwistedyarn.com

It must be cool to be five, because everything’s still kinda new… although I hope that the twinnage never lose that sense of wonder, even when they’re ninety-five.

Anyway, some proper progress has been made. Vegetable beds have been dug over and weeded, with phacelia planted as a ‘green manure‘. (100% of the credit for that knowledge and idea goes to my allotment-mate.) Grass has been trimmed back to a level where TV crews are no longer interested in using it to make a documentary about exploring the last frontiers of the world’s natural wilderness. And onions and over-wintering broad beans have been planted. Dinner will be ready in a few months’ time, OK? Maybe have a snack whilst you wait.

I love the allotment, but it’s slightly intimidating when you see neighbouring plots cultivated to within an inch of their lives, with twenty different crops grown in regimented alphabetic order in perfect raised beds. I think the neighbourhood pests (slugs, rabbits, insects, children) take one look at those scarily perfect plots and come and munch our produce instead. Maybe I should take a couple of allotmenty photos for you next time?

Back home, I’m starting to properly tackle the garden at last. The Stoic Spouse has been keeping it trimmed and weeded, but really, it could be so much prettier out there. Look at the beautiful warty toad I accidentally disturbed whilst weeding! Sorry mate, hope you managed to get back to hibernating.

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So most things are trundling along OK. Yes there’s the going to work and the laundry and all the things that have to be done, but also there’s time with the children, and baking, digging, planting, cooking, planning, running, and clearing out. And in the evenings, there’s a log fire, reading, knitting/crochet, and blogging. And if this paragraph sounds unbearably smug and twee, do please feel free to pop round and wallop me about the head with the wet haddock of reality. Also, do remind me of my cloying smugness when I’m next whinging about sitting in a traffic jam on the motorway nursing a head-cold and stressing about being late for some tedious appointment or other. Thank you.

Finally, just in case you’ve noticed that there’s not much knitting or crochet in this post, here’s proof that it’s possible to knit whilst bouncing on a trampoline at a local park with the twinnage. Sort of.

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‘Til next time, adios and good knitting/hooking.

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