Monthly Archives: December 2016

That Was The Year That Was

Yesterday when I got home from work, one of the twins said “Mummy, I saw a grown-up cry today!” This had obviously made a big impression. I don’t think he’s witnessed adult tears before. Questioning revealed that the Stoic Spouse – who’d been looking after the boys all day – had taken them a few miles away to the village of Goring, where in the course of running some errands they’d walked past George Michael’s house, in which he died (far too young) last week. Outside his home was a sea of flowers and messages, and some very tearful locals.

It’s been a funny old year, hasn’t it? All those actors’ and musicians’ deaths. (I confess that I scarcely knew who most of them were, but people I know were quite upset by some of the news.) And let’s not even get on to the subject of elections and referendums…

I hope your year has had some thoroughly lovely stuff in it, and plenty of yarn of course.

Just to follow bloggy conventionality, here are some collages from my year in yarn (and in running shoes, and in the kitchen…)

I designed a few knitting and crochet patterns this year. Most of the patterns are here on this site (free), but a few haven’t been published yet…

…And we’re slowly seeing progress in our attempts to make this old brewery more homely, now that we no longer have the excuse of the twinnage being tiny…

I’ve been knitting and crocheting from other people’s designs, too. Here are some of the things that I’ve made:-

Of course, the biggest/craziest thing I’m designing is THAT ridiculous project that has been going on for years. Early in 2017, it will be DONE! Here’s some progress from the last few months:-

But I haven’t just sat around indoors knitting and crocheting. There have been plenty of walks (and runs) in the local countryside. I do love Oxfordshire:-

And whilst we’re outdoors, look at all this delicious food from the garden and the allotment!

Despite being the least-likely-to-do-so person, I’ve got more serious about running, too. I’ll never be an athlete, but I did manage to run all the way for the Oxford Half Marathon:-

When I’m not running (i.e. most of the time), I like to get out and about with my knitting. People in this village seem remarkably tolerant, and I haven’t walked into any lamp-posts yet.

There’s been a fair amount of cooking and baking, too:-

But most of all, I wanted to say thank YOU, because without you this blog is nothing… or at least it’s just a random knitter waffling into the ether. I love your comments and the generosity of your responses. I hope that 2017 is going to be a mighty fine year for you and yours. And if you’re celebrating tonight, ENJOY!

Right, I’m off to get my party frock on. Happy new year!

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So That Was Mine. How Was Yours?

So that’s over for another year.

And look! I’m just a few stitches off completing both sleeves of Glitter Glam. Then there’s just the collar and the assembly to do.

Anyway, Christmas happened. A rotund and elderly chap dressed in red broke into our house via the chimney. But instead of stealing stuff, he left little chocolatey gifts around the place, hidden inside old socks. All normal rules of not-accepting-sweets-from-strangers were off as the twinnage tore the foil wrapping from approximately one billion chocolate coins. Then they left the foil pieces all over the floor so there was a festive jangling noise as anyone walked around.

By order of the twinnage, I wasn’t allowed to light the fire on Christmas Eve, in case it burned Santa’s bottom.

The boys recited carols in their sweet six-year-old voices, but only when they thought that nobody was listening. I’m treasuring the memory, because soon enough they’ll be disaffected teenagers rapping about how ghastly everything is. Except I don’t think the word ghastly features very much in rap songs. Anyway, it’s important to sing traditional family carols such as – just off the top of my head – Once In Royal David’s City:-

Once in royal David’s city

When the Wi-Fi went all wrong,

Folk were forced to gather round and

Join together for this song.

Phones and iPads set aside;

Kids, their parents did abide.

I could continue. Believe me, I really could continue. But anyway.

It was frosty, too.

As is traditional, the Stoic Spouse cooked so much Christmas fare that I’m beginning to suspect him of trying to murder us slowly by hardening our arteries. It would be the perfect crime. Nice nosh, though.

Ridgeway Oxfordshire

We walked a small stretch of the Ridgeway, the ancient routeway that cuts through the Oxfordshire landscape.

And then it was Boxing Day, and some sociopath posted an ‘Only 364 days until Christmas’ meme on Facebook.

T’was rather pretty, out and about.

We went to watch the mummers in the centre of a nearby market town. I use the word ‘see’ loosely because there were about a squillion tall people in front of us. Here’s a photo I took by climbing up a bus shelter:-

mummers wantage

Mummers

In case you’re not familiar with this very British, been-around-since-the-eighteenth-century tradition (mumming, I mean, not climbing bus shelters), take a look here. The best part is a long and topical poem about the year’s events. Needless to say, there was plentiful satirical reference to Brexit, Trump, and the above-average number of talented famous folk who’ve been summoned to the great Green Room in the sky this year.

I managed a run, though, just as the sun was going down.

Of course, at this time of year it’s important to enjoy traditional family games such as ‘Who can figure out why the dishwasher has suddenly stopped working on Christmas Day?’ and ‘Well somebody is going to have to do all this washing up from a three-course meal for eight.’ Also, ‘Look, I’ve been up since dawn cooking so I don’t see why I should wash up,’ and ‘Well I was up at 4am looking after a poorly child’. As well as ‘Well maybe if you hadn’t given him so much chocolate yesterday, he wouldn’t have been sick’. And that old chestnut, ‘Oh, so it’s my fault, is it? Well if you feel like that, we may as well get divorced,’ and finally, a fun round of ‘Fine. See you in court. But you’re still doing the washing up.’

I’m exaggerating, but the dishwasher really did stop working, so in a quaint show of festive togetherness, we all gathered round the iPad to watch videos about how to fix it. And I did the washing up, because between you and me, washing up for an hour is the very best way of getting warm in this freezing house.

Meanwhile, we tried to stay one step ahead of the twinnage’s sceptical questions about the existence (or not) of Father Christmas. Some of these questions were easy to field. ‘Whaddya mean, Why does he come in through the chimney and not the door? You know how hard it is to open our front door, given that the wood swells at the slightest hint of heat/cold/wet/dry. Frankly, even I’m tempted to come in via the chimney.’ Sometimes, the twinnage are more sneaky. ‘Does anyone live at the North Pole?’ Twin One asked with apparent innocence, yesterday. ‘Of course not!’ I replied, and launched into a lengthy explanation about climate and the lack of land mass at the North Pole, silently congratulating myself on how well my sons will do in their future geography lessons. ‘BUT YOU SAID THAT FATHER CHRISTMAS LIVED THERE!’ yelled Twin Two, and I realized too late that I’d been ambushed. Again. Should’ve spotted that one coming a mile off.

On a final knitting note, I received this rather splendid-looking book. I can’t wait to try it out.

So that was my Christmas. How was yours?

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Christmassing Inexpertly

It’s a tricky time here at Twisted Towers. Christmas has completely unexpectedly lumbered into view. I know that some of the wiser amongst you might argue that the fact it’s on the same date every single year does lend it a certain predictability, but I’m telling you, we’ve been caught totally off-guard.

home-made Christmas bauble decoration

Once upon a time (pre-children), I had time to design and paint silly decorations.

Also, we’re not very good at remembering to water the Christmas tree, so the poor thing is shedding needles so fast that we face gathering round a be-baubled Christmas stick on the big day to open our gifts. The twinnage are happy, though. (Don’t worry, we do remember to water/feed them.) They’ve sneaked off with some of the needles, plus the tiny wreathes that I knitted, and some baubles, to make tiny dinosaur egg nests, which I keep finding in obscure corners of the house. Full marks for creativity, boys.

Let’s hope that the catering arrangements are going rather better. The Stoic Spouse largely bans me from the cooker/oven on Christmas Day because – in his words – “If I left it to you, we’d be having cumin-roast turkey with spiced lentils for Christmas dinner. Probably at 10pm.” He does have a point. I do cook a huge tagine on Christmas Eve, though.

Some of my home-made decorations were a mischievous.

Today, I am finishing writing my Christmas cards, and feeling smug because I’m a day ahead of the last posting date. It’s ever-so-slightly tempting to write “Happy Christmas 2017” in them, thus skipping a year and instantly moving from last in the Great Christmas Card Race to FIRST PLACE (by about eleven months).

So I’m dealing with the chaos of Christmas in the same way that I deal with everything remotely challenging, by interspersing frenzied last-minute activity with picking up my knitting for “just one more row” and writing a blog post. That explains all this progress on the jumper, anyway. Here’s a sleeve:-

And on that note, I must go and finish the cards. Merry Christmas, my fine fibrous friends!

 

 

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The Voice Of Wisdom. (That’ll Be You.)

You were right, of course. All of you. That swatch was never going to work.

Thank you for your comments. Can you believe it, we had a near-unanimous consensus. That never happens online. What even is the point of the internet if you can’t damage your keyboard by violently punching out vitriol like HOW VERY DARE U IMPLY THAT MAGIC LOOP IS BETTER THAN DPNS!!!!!!!!! I HOPE MOTHS EAT YOUR MERINO AND THE CAT CHEWS YOUR NEEDLES!!!!!! You folks are way too sane and reasonable to be pootling about on the web.

Anyway, you spoke as one – or at least as only one-and-a-bit – and you were right. Yes, my plan to knit this fancy jumper (pronounced s-w-e-a-t-e-r outside these shores) in variegated yarn was a very bad plan indeed.

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I love the fitted, scoop-neck shape of it, though. And I love the luscious shades (with NO PINK – hurrah!) in this Adriafil Knitcol, so I’m keeping the form of the jumper but knitting it in stockinette. Oh, and I’m working most of it in the round to minimise purling, and adding the tiniest hint of shaping at the waist. What can possibly go wrong? (Don’t answer that, please. Let me live in my cheery, delusional, bubble for a wee while longer.)

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Obviously it would be a very bad idea to get caught up in knitting a new jumper this week, when there is so much else to do. Yeah, I’d never be weak-willed enough to do something like that. Oh, wait:-

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So, my friends, this jumper may turn out to be lovely, or it my turn out to be a disastrously shouty cacophony of colour, in which case I’ll just wear it around our freezing house to scare the spiders*/bailiffs/burglars.**

I’ve made jumpers in Adriafil Knitcol before: small ones, for the twinnage, and they were lovely (the jumpers, I mean, not the twinnage. The twinnage are monstrous.) Exhibit A of woolly delight:-

adriafil knitcol

…And travelling further back in time, Exhibit B:-

adriafil knitcol

But I had to wait (and wait) until the boys had grown out of all of those before making myself one, because wearing the same clothes as your children would be… well I’m not sure what it would be, but I think we can agree that it would not be indicative of a healthy family dynamic. That said, we’re not above wearing wellies-on-a-theme:-

Rainbow wellies

All of the twinnage’s Knitcol knitwear has now been outgrown and/or has felted when the washing machine broke down mid-cycle (which was NOT AT ALL infuriating, as you can imagine). So I’m free to wear Knitcol. Hurrah!

My headless friend would like to show you some progress:-

Am I mad to think that it might just work?

 

*Just had to Google ‘Do spiders have colour vision?’ after writing that. In case you’re interested, the chunky, lazy, ones hanging around in cobwebs on your ceiling waiting for lunch to come to them, don’t. If a spider tells you that it can see colours, run away now because it’s probably one of the more go-getting types of arachnid, such as a jumping spider. Also – and potentially of more concern – it spoke to you. It’ll be asking you how to access the World Wide Web, next.

**Actually, the twinnage have got that one covered, in their six-year-old style. A large notice has appeared on one of our upstairs doors, saying ‘Burglers [sic] are stoopid. And ther is an il dog in this hous’. Just for the record, we have never had a dog, ailing or otherwise. But the sign seems to be working, because we haven’t been burgled.

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So Shall We Find Out Which Lucky Folk Have Won The Giveaway?

I know. It’s been a fair few days since the gong sounded, marking the end of the It’s A Stitch Up giveaway. (To be fair, the gong didn’t sound particularly loudly, since it’s made entirely of yarn.) In meagre defence of my tardiness, we’ve had the inspectors in at the hospital where I work this week, and I had to pop across the Severn Bridge into south Wales, in order to go and endure the viva exam for my MPhil degree in (novel-)writing. The viva went surprisingly well. And no, the novel has absolutely nothing to do with knitting or crochet.

Photo credit: (c) Suzie Blackman

So let’s get on with the happy job. As announced here, two lucky folk amongst you are to win a gorgeous 100g skein of Awesome Aran wool, as well as the pattern with which to knit it, all courtesy of the over-generosity of Suzie at It’s A Stitch-Up.

Altogether, there were 280 entries to the contest. Wowzers! Thanks to each and every one of you for taking part. And if you’re not lucky enough to win this time, do go and have a browse amongst the goodies available through Suzie’s website. (Please note, I cannot accept responsibility for the ensuing damage to your credit card. Seriously. I can’t.) Oh, and there are more giveaways coming up soon, so you’ll have more chances to win stuff after Christmas.

So let’s find out who’s won. Usual Twisted procedures apply: all entries have been numbered, then the oracle that is random.org has been consulted for the numbers of the winning entries. OK?

So who exactly are the mysterious people hiding behind these numbers? Step forward and take a bow, M. Curran and Sheila Harvey-Larmar! CONGRATULATIONS! I shall be in touch pronto to ask for your address which I shall pass on to Suzie so that she can send you your prize.

Right, I’d best get on with starting my Christmas preparations. Oops. This is poor, even by my low standards. Still, the kitchen is sporting little touches of festive cheer…

…And we’ve enacted the annual ritual of going to buy the tree, much to the excitement of the twinnage.

…And Rudolph ‘the buck stops here’ the reindeer has come downstairs from his usual spot on the wall of the guest room.

knitted reindeer head

…Also, my friend has been making the sweetest little decorations using the husks of real silk cocoons. How clever is she?! Look! She takes orders if you ask her very nicely.

Anyway, judging by how many of you joined me on the naughty bench after my last post – sorry it was such a squeeze – it seems that I’m not alone in my festive tardiness. I think I’d better go and buy a bigger bench.

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Don’t Try This At Home, Folks…

YES! THE LOVELY, YARNY GIVEAWAY IS STILL OPEN FOR JUST A FEW MORE DAYS! ENTER HERE!

Meanwhile, would you like to make some super-easy Christmas decorations? See the links under the photos throughout this post.

easy knitted christmas trees free pattern

Christmas trees pattern HERE.

It has been brought to my attention by my children, as well as via the subtlest of hints on social media, that it’s nearly Christmas.

knitted christmas decoration candle easy free pattern

Knitted candle pattern HERE.

Now I realize that you and I may be sitting on opposite sides of the table regarding the matter, but personally I have a very strict routine for yuletide preparations. This comprises persistent denial – bordering on an ‘I’m too cool for all that’ attitude – until roughly the 15th December, followed by ten days of ‘AAAAARGH! PRESENTS! DECORATIONS! FOOD! CARDS! INVITATIONS! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRGH!’ hysteria, with precious time wasted as I try to extract a definitive answer from the Royal Mail about whether or not there’s any chance of them laying on a time-travelling postal service that will enable my Christmas cards to be delivered a week before they were actually sent, thus arriving at their destinations in time.

easy crochet christmas tree pattern

…And the crochet version, too. HERE!

By about the 20th, I reach a peak state of OK, I CONCEDE THAT YOU WERE RIGHT, ALL YOU SUPER-EARLY CHRISTMAS-PREPPERS. I BOW TO YOUR WISDOM AND SHALL ATTEMPT TO COPY YOU IN FUTURE. But the pain of Christmas preparation – just like the pain of childbirth – is eventually forgotten, and thus the sorry process of my procrastination repeats itself the following year.

crochet candle pattern

Crocheted candle, HERE!

Truly, I’m trying to change, but I’m constitutionally incapable of beginning any deadline-dependent task until the very last possible moment, and I always underestimate how much time will be needed. In my head, writing down a task on a to-do list constitutes 90% of the work of actually completing it, despite this belief having been proven wrong on many, many occasions.

knitted ‘paper’ chain HERE.

Fortunately, the Stoic Spouse is aware of my idiocy, and takes charge of the ahead-of-time tasks such as ordering the turkey, baking the Christmas cake, and telling the twinnage that no, Santa will not be able to bring either of them a live dinosaur, and no, it can’t possibly be true that George-at-school is getting a REAL LIVE T-REX AS A PET AND IT’S NOT FAIR THAT WE CAN’T HAVE ONE TOO, although if the Royal Mail does manage to establish a time-travelling delivery service then Mummy and Daddy might just reconsider the matter, but only if the twinnage both promise to eat up all of their brussels sprouts from now until the end of eternity.

Slightly crazy Santa, HERE.

Anyway.

It’s Christmas.

If you celebrate, I do hope that your preparations are going well. And if you haven’t started yet, do come and sit here beside me on the Naughty Bench.

Crochet 'paper' chain Christmas decoration

Crochet ‘paper’ chain Christmas decoration HERE.

Just in case you’re in the mood to knit or crochet some easy-to-make decorations, I’m scattering pictures and links to my free festive patterns throughout this post, just like Lego bricks sprinkled on a freshly-tidied sitting room floor. Don’t worry, you’ve got plenty of time to finish making them before the big day.*

easy knitted christmas wreath pattern

And you’ll be needing a tiny knitted wreath, HERE.

Enjoy, and happy needling/hookery. If you need me, I’ll be under the table with a bottle of affordable-yet-astonishingly-quaffable red wine, frantically Googling ‘Last minute gifts for difficult-to-impress husbands’, even though Continue reading

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A Small Diversion

Yes, (on the off chance that you were about to ask) there is still time to enter THIS most fabulous and fluffy of giveaways! Go take a look!

Also, if you’re in the mood to win stuff and are reading this post within an hour or two of it being published, I designed and knitted a little decoration which could yet be yours through the Stylecraft Advent Giveaway, today only: look!

So, yeah. Following this debacle, I had a post almost written about my change of plan, jumperwise:-

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Jumper-in-progress

But then somehow, I ended up going and looking at some rather splendid yarn and needles, which I can’t resist telling you about instead.

It was Saturday, and I’d read about a rare open day at the premises of a local supplier that sells unusually marvellous yarn and the equipment with which to knit it. It would be tough to argue that I need any wool or needles right now, but you can probably guess exactly where this blog post is going.

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Somehow – and it will forever remain a mystery how this happened when I’d been so very dedicated to the important quest of going out to buy vacuum cleaner bags and broccoli – somehow, I ended up looking both ways to check that the coast was clear, then sneaking over the Oxfordshire border into the rolling hills of west Berkshire. The sun was just beginning to set in a particularly photogenic way, but I didn’t get any pictures for you (sorry) because time was not on my side.

On one of those whims that usually gets me into all manner of trouble, I was heading for the premises of a company called Purlescence. If you happen to see the Stoic Spouse, please don’t tell him: he’s under the illusion that vacuum cleaner bags were particularly tricky to find that day.

Anyway, it wasn’t far. Let’s just ignore the fact that I stank of diesel after an unfortunate incident at a petrol station on the way.

Now of course most of you are in no way local (but Purlescence operate via mail order worldwide so in effect, you are), but will you look at this yarn! You have to let them know if you want to visit because they don’t operate a conventional bricks-and-mortar shop. (To be fair, I probably wouldn’t let anyone in if I had all this yarn, either.) But occasionally, they hold an open day.

Purlescence Fyberspates

Those beauties in the foreground? They’re Fyberspates Vivacious, which I’ve loved for its inky richness ever since I used it when I designed this:-

knitted mandala

There was so much yarn in that room. I may have drooled just a little, but hopefully nobody noticed. Triskelion (see this picture ↓) is new to me, but hello, handsome. That’s 70% baby alpaca, right there.

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This is sounding far too much like some sort of sponsored post, but I promise that it’s not. The very kind owner did refuse to let me pay for a couple of pieces of equipment that I will be reviewing here early in the new year just as they’re properly launched, but this really is just a saw-stuff-from-a-local-indie-supplier-and-loved-it post. Go take a look!

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It’s Winter: Bring Yarn

There’s still time to enter the awesome yarn/pattern giveaway, right here and here! (For your bonus Facebook entry, don’t forget to ‘like’ the ‘Yarn’s overall Facebook page, not just the post about this contest.)

Wa-hey, it’s December!

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I remember my teacher at primary school telling our class that we Brits are all obsessed with talking about the weather. So it’s my patriotic duty to say right now, Man, it’s COLD! In fact, the mercury has shrunk so shiveringly low in the glass that it’s practically impossible for folk to pass each other in our lane without one of them saying, “A bit chilly, isn’t it?” and the other responding with an exaggerated shiver to imply the profound wisdom and truth of this insight. Also, it’s impossible to go out without encountering the delicious smell of woodsmoke, even at 9am.

winter berries frost

Proper cold does at least mean pretty, though frustratingly, it usually means pretty viewed at 70mph as I hurry along the motorway to work, thus forbidden by both the law and the urge to remain alive from stopping to take pictures. Sorry.

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Still, I walked back from the school run yesterday with a friend, and even our short stroll yielded some prettiness as we crunched across the frosty grass.

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I just wish we could have some SNOW! (The long-range forecast is for cold but dry, so snow is unlikely. Again.)

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Meanwhile on a knittier note, I’m proceeding with that project… or rather Mother Twisted (my mum) is. Do you remember the lavender I made for the garden portion from some Stylecraft Batik?

make lavender crochet garden embroidery

Well she’s made some, too! Thank you Mum.

lavender

…So I’m off to plant it in the crochet garden. More pictures to follow!

Stay warm, people. 🙂

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