Monthly Archives: December 2015

Christmas

So for those of you of a Christmassy persuasion, how was your festive season?

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As usual we hosted here at the brewery, but I confess that I wasn’t really feeling it after the fire (and some further sad events) at work. Instead, I had an urge to creep away to a quiet corner and think about stuff, which obviously wasn’t going to happen with small, excited twins in tow. Fortunately the Stoic Spouse did a sterling job of feeding us all to the point of near-bursting, whilst I was in charge of decorations and gifts.

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On a more disappointing note, I regret to inform you that our combined extended families insisted on behaving entirely reasonably / considerately / amenably as guests, and thus I have no amusing anecdotes whatsoever about any drunken misdemeanours or shenanigans. Honestly, do these folk have no respect for the fact that I have a blog to update?!

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Talking of anecdotes, this is a blog that begins with the written word, and the pictures are forced to fall in line and behave. (Contrast with Attic24, who has written about how the text of her blog posts accretes around the photos that she takes.) But just this one time, I’m beginning with the pictures, OK?

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So here was our Christmas. My very kind father-in-law gave me some wonderful lenses that enable close-up photography, so I had to experiment:-

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…And whilst I was in a shutterbug mood, I set a long (four-second) exposure and experimented with moving my camera around a candle flame in a heart-shape. Tip: you have to draw the heart upside-down:-

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I was given a rather splendid telephoto lens by the Stoic Spouse, too, but it’s hard to use it whilst marshalling small children. Why does nobody address this very significant problem in photo manuals? (This lens really is da business, though.)

As usual, I brought out my knit-textured decorations for the season. Don’tcha just love the details?

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We have more conventional decorations, too:-

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And after overindulging in Christmas eats and drinks, we ventured out a little, to see the river in its dull-brown wintry livery:-

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And birds’ nests visible whilst the trees are bare, much to the delight of the twinnage:-

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And old houses with thick walls to protect against the cold unlike our very old house that seems permanently freezing:-

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I experimented again with long exposure on a bridge over a major road, but it was hard to keep my camera sufficiently still with the twinnage a-pulling at my sleeve. Trust me, the cars didn’t really jump around this much:-

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And now if you’ll excuse me, I have knitting and crochet to complete.

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The (Very Very) Alternative How To Blog

No! Don’t run away, non-bloggers! Because this is the alternative how-to-blog guide that’s just as relevant to readers as it is to writers. That weird lump you can see on my face is my tongue, firmly inserted into my cheek whilst I write. This is the blogging guide that you’ll never ever read on more serious how-to-blog sites, I promise. Also, I guarantee not to be able to tell you how to make millions from your blog. Sorry. Here, my fine fibrous friends, are the unexpected things that they don’t tell you when that fateful thought ‘Maybe I should start a blog’ pops into your head. (If you’ve just had that thought, go give it some serious consideration. Blogging is a whole hairy heap of time-sucking fun. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s changed my life.) So here, in no particular order, is what they don’t tell you:-

  • Eventually, several months after you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security, some really unexpected person will say very sincerely, “I always read your blog, you know.” Oh dear. “Ha ha ha,” you’ll titter, as you momentarily panic and try to recall whether you recounted that anecdote about them on your site. This will happen several times, and will involve both your ultra-upstanding great-great-great-maiden-aunt-Mildred and also Sid, your radical punk anarchist vegan neighbour. You will realize that by bearing your soul online, it’s impossible to avoid mortally offending at least one of them. You will sigh and resign yourself to wrecked relationships all round. But hey, who needs real-life connections when you can add to your blogging stats?!
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your blogging stats

  • The Blogging Police is a thing. Stray too far into deceit, financial shadiness, or general obnoxiousness, and they’ll be on to you with more perspicacity than a toddler who knows you’ve hidden the chocolate. Their eyes are as sharp as their wit. Be ye afeared.

Image: West Midlands Police

  • So you like to photograph cool scenery for your blog? Yeah, me too. But you’ll only see any whilst you’re driving to work (late), and thus utterly unable to photograph it from the window of a moving vehicle. Those places where you can safely and legally stop? Pah, the view is rubbish.

Herefordshire countryside

  • When the universe dumps a blooper on your life, 90% of you sighs. But the other 10% thinks, “This’ll be brilliant for the blog.” Reference my running app shouting UNDERPANTS at Colin-the-postman. OK, I admit it, in that case it was more like 70% of me thinking BLOG-FODDER!
  • Call yourself a blogger, and you’re a narcissistic dabbler. Say that you run a website, and you’re a visionary entrepreneur.
  • And finally, no matter how vehemently you deny that you’ll ever become that blogger who opens every post with, “Sorry I haven’t posted for ages but I’ve been soooooooooooo busy,” one wet weekend day you’ll find yourself desperately tempted to type those very words. (I’ve only given in to that temptation once in 218 posts… so far.) One day, you’ll be so tempted to do this that you’ll have to take yourself down to the cellar and give yourself a thorough beating to remind yourself that the internet has probably coped reasonably well with your absence this past week. Really, you’re only apologizing to yourself. Unless you’re the Dalai Lama, folks won’t have been refreshing their browser every five seconds in anticipation of your latest wisdom. But if you are the Dalai Lama (or ‘Dalai Llama’ as my yarn-obsessed mind nearly typed), then you can probably get away with apologizing for being “such a baaad blogger coz I haven’t posted in, like, aaaaages. Totes soz!”

How to blog. ‘Tis easy, really.

And now, back to the knitting.

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Time Travel

Good evening, my fine fibrous friends. I hope that you’re so far ahead in your Christmas knitting/crochet, that you have plenty of time to read this post. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope that your Thursday has nevertheless been filled with joy and productivity (and yarn – lots and lots of luscious yarn).

Today at the Twisted Yarn, we’re going to engage in a wee smidgeon of time travel.

I hope you don’t mind if I knit whilst we talk? I’m a little behind with the projects that I want to show you (partly due to the shock of the fire at work), and also I’m knitting a Christmas gift which I can’t mention because the recipient reads here, and he doesn’t know that I’m knitting for him. (No, Stoic Spouse, stop looking so terrified: it’s not you!)

bauble

So whilst I knit frantically, let’s travel back in time a couple of months, because I want to show you some interesting photographs. No wait, these pictures were taken in October, but really we’re travelling back well over two thousand years to the Iron Age in what is now Britain. One of the things that I love about Oxfordshire is how deeply and obviously its landscape has been marked by our ancient forebears. (I’ve talked before about the Ridgeway and Blewburton Hill. And skipping forwards many centuries, also ( 😉 ) about our family seat.)

One day a few weeks ago when the Tyrannical Twinnage were on their very first break from school and my newly-transplanted-to-Oxfordshire parents happened to be free, I nagged everyone into a trip back to the Iron Age. Not far from my parents’ new home is Segsbury Camp, a hill fort reckoned to be between 2200 and 2600 years old. Here it is on the map (marked ‘fort’ in the centre of this image):-

Segsbury Camp www.thetwistedyarn.com

Ordnance Survey, my heart will forever be yours

On the map above, the pink diamonds mark the Ridgeway, and we climbed the hill from Letcombe Bassett at five-year-olds’ pace. There were some decent views across autumnal Oxfordshire, such as this:-

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And this:-

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And also this:-

Oxfordshire www.thetwistedyarn.com

And then at last we reached the fort. Can you imagine the men who would have guarded these ramparts and the wooden structures contained within its curtilage?

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The sides remain steep. How many hours were taken to build these ramparts by hand?

Segsbury Camp www.thetwistedyarn.com

I can’t help being impressed. (Even the twinnage were fairly interested.)

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We walked the perimeter of the fort, and admired the fruits of autumn, such as sloes. (Why did I not get round to making sloe gin this year?)

sloes www.thetwistedyarn.com

And hips:-

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And then, spurred on by the not gentle sound of children whinging, we descended the hill again.

I always feel a little meditative after such experiences, as though I’ve almost been able to reach out and touch those ancient people. They’re not so very far away from us, you know.

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Christmas? Also Mega-Yachts

Christmas is ages away, right? There’s still l-o-a-d-s of time? Yes? What’s that you say? No, no, I’m not speaking in a high-pitched, hysterical voice: I’ve just… got a bit of a cold, that’s all. But everything’s under control round here. Absolutely everything. Far be it for me to play chicken with the last posting date before Christmas… again…

Knitted reindeer head. www.thetwistedyarn.com

Knitted reindeer head all dressed up for Christmas

More seriously, thank you for all of your kind words after the shock and sadness of last week’s fatal fire. Everyone at the hospital (patients and staff alike) is doing an amazing job of metaphorically dusting themselves off and carrying on. It’s humbling to witness people’s resilience.

Knitting has been slow but soothing, and the crocheting of that project has been even slower.

knit by fire

The twinnage are excitedly helping with the Christmas preparations, if by ‘helping’ you mean placing a large seashell on top of the tree, over-indulging in chocolate, and pinching the little ornamental bells so they can pretend to be the sort of Swiss cows that roam the Alps with bells around their necks. They’ve also been helping shell the dried-out runner bean seeds from the allotment, ready to plant in the spring. (ALL, and I mean ALL credit for allotmenty know-how goes to my allotment-mate.)

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And a cheery chap from Interflora rang the bell and delivered this gorgeous surprise! Look! How beautiful and Christmas-coloured?!

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Thank you Aunt D. This was a beautiful, beautiful surprise.

Anyway to finish, let’s have a wee spot of ruthless capitalism (yes, at Christmas: who’d have thought that could ever happen?) You may have noticed a couple of disclaimers on this blog that mention affiliate links. What that means is that a little programme reads my blog posts, not for their wit and perspicacity (I know, what a waste!) but instead for any mention of products. And every time if finds a product name, it automatically hyperlinks to somewhere you can buy that product. And if anyone clicks through and buys something from that retailer, I will get a teeny tiny weeny commission, at which point I will run outside into the street punching the air and yelling “Ha, I’m RICH! Rich, I tell thee! Henceforth, I shall cast aside my family and friends to pursue a shallow life of relentless materialism!” And then what’ll happen is that the neighbours will roll their eyes and the Stoic Spouse will follow me out to say, “Phil, you’re embarrassing yourself again. Please stop it and come indoors. And for goodness sake put some clothes on.” See? Quite a simple process, really.

Truth is, now that the twinnage are a’school, and I’m still only employed by the hospital for two days each week, this website needs to earn its keep a little bit. And I thought that this would be a fairly unobtrusive way of making that possible. Of course I’m saying this without really having observed it in action, because I don’t tend to mention very many products on this blog, which is the tiny flaw in my plan. So permit me to try an experiment by mentioning a couple of products here to see whether they get picked up and clickable-linkied. Ummm… (Pause to glance around this toy-strewn room in search of inspiration.) Lego Duplo sets! And a Britains toy tractor! I’ll have to wait and see whether that works. Edited to add: Nope, that doesn’t seem to have worked, although it seems have linkied for the name of the flower retailer I mentioned earlier in this post. Hmm, back to the drawing board.

You may be getting the impression that I’m not very sophisticated at this ruthless capitalism stuff. In which case you may in fact be right.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know. The blog won’t change. It’ll still be knitting, crochet, life, and a touch of bonkersness.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go away and cackle mirthlessly at my capitalist genius, and plot which mega-yacht I should commission with my millions. (Hey, imagine a yarn-bombed mega-yacht!)

Also, I need to empty the bins. #mybillionairelife

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The Week My Knitting Needles Fell Silent For A While

It began with a birthday: mine, as it so happens. A few days ago. How old? Let’s just say that my age is a number that provides the twinnage with the impression that they’re geniuses for having successfully counted so very high. Yeah, thanks boys. In my head, I’m still down wiv da kidz. But then, my 96-year-old grandmother said to me the other week that she still feels young until she remembers that her own daughter is now a grandmother. That fact makes her feel very old indeed. (None of us were particularly early breeders.)

For my birthday, I was given a wonderful print by David Day. Now that’s my kind of landscape:-

Credit: David Day

Credit: David Day

Also I was given an elegant wrought iron wellie-boot holder and an ornate boot scraper, both of which I love. Anyway, back to this week.

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Half way through the morning of my birthday, the phone rang. It was the hospital where I work. You know, I’ve changed my mind a hundred times about writing this post. I never know how much serious stuff to put in my blog, so I tend to err on the side of frivolous. But there hasn’t been a great deal of knitting/crochet this week, and there is a reason for that. The phone call brought dark news. There was a terrible fire on my ward, and tragically, one of our patients died in the inferno. There is more, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to write it here. Let’s just say that the extreme heroism of my colleagues who were on duty that night definitely prevented more deaths from occurring. So you’ll understand that it hasn’t been a normal week, and that I’ve been at work more than usual, and that I’ve had a propensity in the evening to stare at mindless internet junk rather than doing anything constructive. Half the hospital stinks of smoke, and there are police guarding the entrance to what remains of my ward. Sad times indeed.

Sorry, you probably didn’t come here to read such stuff today. Let’s lighten the mood. I can’t show you a finished knitted Christmas garland yet, but I can show you my subversive Christmas decorations that I made a few years ago. I always enjoy putting them out on the tree. There’s the Father Christmas who’s succumbed to beer and fags:-

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And the slightly more innocent festive cow:-

christmas cow decoration www.thetwistedyarn.com

There’s the cheeky beaver that felled the Christmas tree:-

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And the stained glass window:-

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And finally my favourite, the little Father Christmases hatching (and in one case abseiling) from a bauble. I’m really quite proud of this one. Those were the pre-kids days when I had time to design and paint such things:-

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But that’s just my over-silly imagination. I really do need to begin thinking about Christmas properly, but I confess that events this week have interfered with the process. This weekend, I’m going to sort it. All of it. Effortlessly and efficiently.

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As you’ll understand, time away from work has been precious and important this week. Time to just be normal and carefree and to watch the twinnage kick up leaves:-

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Time to cook a huge pan of comfort food, with venison and onions and garlic and celeriac and wine:-

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And lots and lots of pearl barley:-

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And then mixing some dumplings using flour, suet, thyme, salt, lashings of black pepper, and water:-

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…Which taste rather delicious in the finished meal, if you’re in need of winter comfort food:-

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And my favourite vegetable was available at the local farm shop:-

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Such comforts help. And then late, late, late in the evening, there’s always the chance to step outside the front door and stare up at the winter moon beyond our tower:-

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The world carries on turning, it would seem.

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Semi-Actively Christmassing

If you’re on Facebook then you’ll know about that feature where they show you things that you posted on this date however many years ago, and then give you the option of making a nostalgic repost of your drunken shenanigans or baby photos or heartfelt plea for the rights of narwhals. Well apparently, this exact time last year I was grudgingly acknowledging that I would need to begin thinking about Christmas at some point this month. Plus ça change. (No, I didn’t accept the repost option today: it was a rubbish post the first time round, and I like my friends too much to inflict it on them again.)

I would dearly, dearly love to say that I’ve been more ahead of the game this year, but that would be a lie so enormous that you’d be able to view the moon through its middle. The moon is very pretty though, so there’s that.

It is definitely time to begin thinking about Christmas. But what on earth to give everybody? Please don’t say knitting, because there is Not Enough Time.

Round here, we have just about started today with the easy stuff: decorations (although the Stoic Spouse did bake a Christmas cake several weeks ago). There is a Christmas tree propped up against our front door, waiting to be brought in and adorned tomorrow. And some details have begun to appear:-

Christmas lights www.thetwistedyarn.com

After my flurry of festive design ideas from last year, I had a little ponder over things I could design this year. I’m busy on a garland of tassled stars of varying sizes – a little more fiddly than last year and hence s-l-o-w. Progress:-

Christmas knitted star www.thetwistedyarn.com

And the reverse:-

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And I’m working on some smaller stars to be hung between the big ones:-

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I’m planning a string of tassled stars in various colours of Stylecraft Special DK. The finished fellow above is rocking ‘Lobelia’ from the recent limited edition collection that we judged.

Would you like the pattern? I’ll be honest: it’s a bit of a fiddly faff, but you’re welcome to it if you’d like it. ‘Tis up to you, my fine fibrous friends.

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PS: Oh, and if you’re in the UK, look at the latest edition of Simply Knitting magazine! Man, I’m embarrassed about those photos, now…

Simply Knitting www.thetwistedyarn.com

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Christmas Decorations To Knit And Crochet

Now, being a finger-on-the-pulse sort of blogger, I’m well abreast of all things sparkly and nowish. Oh yes indeed. (I’m also immeasurably modest.) I keep my ear so close to the ground that earlier today I was head-butted by a worm. But you’ll be completely gobsmacked to learn what I’ve discovered this time. Honestly, this one is big, so big that it was almost worth enduring the worm-butting. Almost.

Are you ready? Yes?

Knitters and crocheters of the world, apparently it’s nearly Christmas.

OK, let’s pause there. I’ll just give you a moment for this news to sink in.

I understand, because it came as a shock to me, too. By nature I’m the sort of person who notices the proximity of Christmas mid-December and then panics accordingly and wonders whether the last posting date for Christmas cards has passed yet. But it seems that when you have school-aged children, you are no longer allowed the luxury of sticking your metaphorical fingers in your metaphorical ears and going ‘la-la-la’ every time you walk past a shop in early December. The festive season is upon us.

So, now that I’ve dropped this bombshell, you’ll be needing to knit or crochet some seasonal decorations for your beautiful home? Fortunately, that’s something I can help you with. Would you like some super-easy patterns that you and/or your children can make in no time at all? You would?

Last year, I published a little collection of designs. Apologies to those of you who were here then and so have seen these before (but thank you for your perseverance, and please do remember to collect your The-Twisted-Yarn-Long-Service-Award before you leave). First and best of all, you might like to knit some ridiculously easy Christmas trees, like these:-

easy knitted christmas trees www.thetwistedyarn.com

The pattern for these lovelies is right here. Click, and enjoy.

What’s that I hear? You’d like a crochet version? Your wish is my command:-

Easy Crochet Christmas Tree

Easy Crochet Christmas Tree

The pattern is right here.

You might want some pretty little crochet wreaths, too, to hang on your Christmas tree? Fear not, I’ve got it covered:-

knitted Christmas wreath www.thetwistedyarn.com

Here they are.

And you’d like a knitted version of the wreaths, too? Here it is. Right here.

And…. what else? Oh yes, a ridiculously simple but aesthetically effective candle, perchance?

knitted candle www.thetwistedyarn.com

Yup, I’ve got that covered, here.

And did I hear you mention ‘paper’ chains?

knitted paper chain www.thetwistedyarn.com

So simple, so effective. And right HERE. Want a crochet version? It’s right here.

Finally, you’ll be needing some cute Father Christmases, no doubt?

knitted father christmas www.thetwistedyarn.com

Well, here they are!

And that, my fine friends, is pretty much the whole collection, although I reserve the right to add to it, probably at about midnight on the 23rd December. Meanwhile, happy knitting, happy crocheting, and, I suppose, happy Christmas!

christmas collage

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