Tag Archives: Simply Knitting

Finished Object!

New year is a funny ol’ time, and I realize that folk have wildly different feelings about it.

If you’re one of those ultra-sorted people who takes their life to the existential gym five times a week for a thorough workout, and you’re ticking those life goals off the list faster than the ink will flow from your pen, then I’m sure you’re just fine-and-dandy on New Year’s Eve, and are up at midnight singing Auld Lang Syne with the best of ’em. (Maybe you even know all the words.)

Predictably, I’ve been knitting.

But if life isn’t yet quite in the Nobel-prize-winning position that you’d anticipated, then it’s all too easy to OD on cheap prosecco and get maudlin about how it’s “yet another year and I still haven’t won first prize for my onions in the village produce show,” which can lead to sitting in a dark corner at the party and despairing. I mean really, how does Mr W.M.M. Prendergast Esq. from Rose Cottage keep growing these award-winning monster scallions year after year? How?! They’re freaks of nature! I swear there must be some kind of doping irregularity going on. If I tried chopping one of those onions for dinner, I wouldn’t just get a bit tearful; I’d solve the whole Middle Eastern water shortage.

In fact, I’ve FINISHED the knitting.

But, hey, 1st January is just another day, as is the 2nd and the 3rd and the 4th. I sincerely hope that your 2017 will be filled with good things both large and small. And yarn. Lots and lots of squooshy yarn. Happy new year.

So did you stay up past midnight to see in the new year (just to check that it did actually arrive on time – like a really important Amazon delivery)? I headed to London with the Stoic Spouse and the twinnage, to a small party at the house of friends from undergrad days.

Naturally, I knitted on the way.

T’was fun. At five to midnight, we observed our many-years-old tradition and climbed the stairs to the very top of their house. From the attic room balcony, we waited for Big Ben’s midnight chime (via the radio), glasses of champagne ready in our shivering hands. As the new year arrived, we watched fireworks burst all across the London skyline. I know that a lot of people will be glad to see the back of 2016.

New Year's Eve fireworks over London

We attempted to sing Auld Lang Syne, but even though we’ve been doing this on and off for the best part of twenty years, none of us really knows the words, so we just hold hands with our arms crossed and sing, “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, la la la la la la laaaaaaaaa. La la la la, la la la la, for the sake of auld lang syne.” I do realize that Google is a thing, and we should probably be doing better by now.

So I hope that your 2017 has started well. What’s happened round here so far is that I’ve finished my heavily modified version of the ‘Glitter Glam’ jumper. It’s come out OK:-

The pattern is from a recent issue of Simply Knitting magazine, and is listed right here on Ravelry. (Speaking of Simply Knitting, my latest column is out in the current issue. Feel free to go pester your newsagent for a copy. Obviously it’s a marvel of wit and erudition, this time about how deeply yarn/knitting have infiltrated the English language.)

Thanks to your wisdom, I kept it simple and worked the whole thing in stockinette as the variegation in the yarn is plenty complex enough. I also converted it to in-the-round, and added a bit of shaping at the waist. Yarn: Adriafil Knitcol in shade 49: ‘Picasso Fancy’. It’s warm, but it’s a teeny tiny bit itchy, so I’m going to rinse it with hair conditioner to smooth those fibres.

Happy knitting/crocheting, folks. 🙂

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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:-

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

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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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If Freud Were A Knitter

The very last thing that I should be doing right now is beginning a new piece of knitting, just for fun.

So… you can probably guess what I’m doing. If you’re familiar with the Freudian analytic terms, ‘superego’, ‘ego’, and ‘id’, my knitting is, right now, all id. To clarify: your superego is that irritating voice in your head that earnestly lectures you about the wisdom of washing and blocking your gauge swatches before you measure them. Yeah, I tell that voice to shut up, too, especially when it later murmurs ‘I told you so’ as you try to squeeze your full-ish frame into the micro-cardigan that you’ve ended up creating because your tension was way off. Nobody likes a smart-arse.

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Your id is the part of you that WANTS TO GO TO THE YARN SHOP RIGHT NOW AND BUY ALL THE PRETTIES, ALL OF THEM RIGHT NOW! Successful adulting mostly involves getting that voice to quieten down a little, because it’s 9.00 on Monday morning and you really ought to put in an appearance at your pesky head-of-nuclear-physics-for-NASA job, and anyway NASA doesn’t pay so well that you can buy ALL THE YARN, ALL OF IT! I WANT IT I WANT IT I WANT IT I WANT IT I WANT IT NOW!

Sigh. If you have small children, then you’ll be very familiar with the operation of the id.

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Sitting awkwardly between these two extremists and wishing it could be somewhere else entirely, is the ego. That’s the voice that says ‘Look, just put in a few hours at your nuclear physics job, and then you can go and buy one – or possibly two – skeins of moderately-priced wool at the yarn shop, OK?

It’s generally a good thing if the ego gets a hefty amount of say in what happens, because the id will drain your bank account and alienate your friends, and the superego is that character that you really don’t want to get stuck next to at a party. So for a fully functioning ship, you should let the ego take the helm fairly often.

…So I’ve messed up, there. Here’s my new yarn. Adriafil Knitcol pure wool DK-weight, in case you’re wondering, purchased when I stupidly gave my id custody of my credit card for a while. And the reason for this yarn purchase? I was seduced by a jumper pattern in a knitting magazine.

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There are lots of jumper patterns that I can scroll right past, because they’re baggy and unflattering, especially in the sleeves. But this one looks nicely fitted. It’s in the current issue of Simply Knitting magazine, here in the UK.

The plan is to make it in this gorgeous variegated Adriafil Knitcol yarn, which may or may not work. I’m gauge swatching, (yeah I listen to my superego a bit, sometimes…) and I’m trying to work out whether the reverse stockinette ‘background’ to the pattern is going to look awful and messy in such shade-shifting yarn.

Hmm, that's not really working, is it?

Hmm, that’s not really working, is it?

Because of course in reverse stockinette, you’ve got all those purl bumps to contend with, which can look super-messy if they’re a different colour from their surroundings. Compare the picture above with the reverse of the swatch-in-progress.

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Hmm, I’m not sure whether this works. If it doesn’t, I’ll just have to find an alternative, right-side-stockinette pattern for the yarn, and rip out what I’ve done in order to begin again (she writes, as though ripping out a few hours’ work will hardly cause any emotional pain at all).

So, um, may I humbly ask for your opinion on this weighty matter please?

Also, don’t you think it’s time for a (worldwide) giveaway of beautiful, beautiful yarn with accompanying patterns? Yup, I thought so too. Stay tuned, people, because there’s one coming up within the next week or two. Hurrah!

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When A Knit-Lover Goes Shopping

Want to see something that’s both gorgeous and knitting-related?

This isn’t usually a blog about buying-all-the-things, but occasionally my typing finger hovers a little too persistently over the “Add to cart” button. And on this occasion I succumbed to temptation. Sorry-not-sorry. Would you like to see the contents of the little parcel that fearlessly flew the Atlantic and plopped through my letterbox the other day? Loook! (This isn’t a sponsored post – I paid full price, I have no connection with the maker, who as far as I know has no compromising photos with which to blackmail me for publicity.)

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How lovely? I’ve been wearing them most days since they arrived.

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See those grey hairs? They weren’t there before the twinnage arrived.

They were made by Jewelia Designs, and they’re perfectly splendid. Just sayin’.

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Anyway (this post is a tad bitty – I hope you don’t mind) do your laser-sharp minds recall the shark-bombed house that I mentioned a few posts ago? Well as luck would have it, it’s up for rent right now. Move your life and your work and your family to Oxford, UK, and all this could be yours! See here. And if you decide to do so, please be kind enough to invite me for dinner because I’d really like to view your shark up close (as well as share your company over dinner, obviously).

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But let’s get back to the knitting. Specifically, Simply Knitting magazine, the folks for whom I take a spatula to scrape some of the bonkersness out of the recesses of my brain for a column once a quarter. Well this month ain’t my quarter, BUT the current issue features an article on knit-blogging, with interview material and photos from me and a couple of other bloggers. You could maybe put a case to argue that I’m a tad biased, but I think that knit-blogging is a lot of fun, so if you’re tempted to try, here’s some advice. Part two next month.

Yup, that's my camera strap, leaf design, hands cutting knitting, and bag design.

Yup, that’s my camera strap design and camera, leaf design, hands cutting knitting, and bag design.

And that, my fine fibrous friends, is pretty much all for this evening. Very much more to come…

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Knitted Butterflies

So it’s been cold and grey and damp in a way that suggests the arrival of spring. This cold-and-grey is definitely different from winter cold-and-grey because this is cold-and-grey-WITH-DAFFODILS.* Here’s what happens when you try and photograph daffodils at dusk in the pouring rain after an exceptionally tricky day at work. (Don’t try this at home, folks: as you can see, it’s liable to end with wobbly edges.)

Yeah, we're a little gloomy and wobbly-of-focus. That's because we're shivering right here in the gloaming.

Yeah, we’re a little gloomy and wobbly-of-focus. That’s because we’re shivering right here in the gloaming, as is our photographer.

So in the absence of spring sunshine, we have to make our own colour. Fortunately, a beloved friend arrived for chatter/wine/dinner/sleeps, and she came bearing tulips. She has taste, does my friend:-

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Tulips rock, so here’s a gratuitous bonus tulip shot:-

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I can’t wait until they do their floppy tulipy thing and drape themselves over the edge of the jug with louche abandon. When they do that, they’re the 1920s flapper-girls of the floral world, leaning laughingly backwards over a rail, champagne coupe in hand, carefree.

There’s been knitting too, of course, but you probably already guessed that. The population of home-grown butterflies has been increasing at a rate that suggests infestation, and after quite a few versions of the pattern, I think I’ve designed a better butterfly.

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They’re fun to make, if fiddly. All those DPNs…

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In the making, I got to indulge my inner ten-year-old for half an hour and play with beads.

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Actually, scrub that: my ten-year-old self was a serious character, more interested in graphing how the temperature at different depths in the pond varied throughout the day, and in damming the scarily-polluted micro-stream at the bottom of the garden (only occasionally flooding the neighbours’ lawn in the process) than in playing with beads. Gosh, that was a long sentence. Clearly I didn’t spend enough of my childhood learning to be succinct.

(Seriously, though: despite the skin-reddening pollution, there were freshwater shrimps, water lice, and whirligig beetles a-plenty, all of which were properly cool.)

Oh look, butterfly shadows!

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But let’s get back to the knitting. I think the final version of the butterfly garland needs… something else, but I’m not sure what. Much pondering is occurring.

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And whilst I ponder, I’m chaotic and distracted about everything else, as per usual. Mostly this tendency is a huge disadvantage. (A protracted n=1 study suggests that it only ends in stress…) But just occasionally there can be small advantages. Like when the new edition of Simply Knitting plops through the letterbox onto the doormat, and you flick through its pages with cheery curiosity… And you notice a column with a name and photo that definitely ring a bell somewhere very far buried in your tangled brain. And it actually takes the vast majority of a second for you to twig that this is your column and that the name and photo are yours. Duh!

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In my defence, I had small children pesking around my knees at the time, and it would’ve been hard to focus on anything else even if the house had been on fire. “Boys, for the love of yarn, will you please stop sticking play-dough up my nose… Hey, why is there so much smoke round here? … No, I will not let you drive Mummy’s car. Whaddya mean, ‘why’? Because you’re FIVE, that’s why… Hang on, aren’t those orange things leaping from the bannisters actually flames? … Oh I give up: just take Daddy’s car keys and drive his car: just don’t tell him that I let you…”

Ah, another day in Twisted-land. I’d add something saccharine along the lines of ‘and we wouldn’t have it any other way’, but that wouldn’t be strictly true, however much I love the blighters.

Adios yarniacs. May stunning creations fly from your needles/hooks.

 

*I know, I mentioned the unseasonal daffs in my falling-in-the-flood post, but there were only a few of those. Now, you can’t move in Oxfordshire for daffodils.

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In Which Life Imitates Art. Or Vice Versa. Or Summat.

Well, I’m back. Properly back, but more on that later.

The ridiculous thing was that in my IVF-befuddled state, I clean forgot to mention that my column is in this month’s Simply Knitting. Here’s a sneaky peek. I really must get on with writing the next one.

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Anyway, to the point of today’s post…

There comes a point in many big projects where the novelty of the early stages has well and truly worn off, but the end isn’t yet sufficiently in view to draw you closer. You just have to keep on keeping on. And on. And on. Especially when your project has eight different balls/bobbins working simultaneously and has turned into a sort of fiendish crochet intarsia. (I really don’t like intarsia.) Also, you have to resist the temptation to run off to the yarn shop and buy some luscious variegated merino with which to knit a lacy top.

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No, this isn’t a bungalow. I’ve just got a lot more upstairs and a tad more downstairs to do.

This is the very large and very adventurous furniture-related version of my house-bag, in its early stages. Quick mini-picture of the original because I know there are quite a few new readers around here lately. (Waves hello enthusiastically to y’all!) Those who’ve seen this a million times before, avert thy eyes sharpish:-

crochet house bag

Now I apologise for being coy about this new project. If it works, it will be the craziest and most fun thing I’ve done in a long time. So I don’t want to give too much away. And if it doesn’t work, my humiliation will be displayed here for you all to laugh at. I have no shame, me. It involves a large piece of furniture, and it’s going to have a garden all of its own. I’m thinking of this for the lawn:-

The lawn. Ready for planting.

The lawn. Ready for planting.

That’s a 400g ball, by the way. There’s going to be a lot of lawn. I’m busy designing the flower beds, which will annoy the Stoic Spouse no end when he reads this, because I ought to be out there designing our real flower beds in our real garden. But somehow it’s easier to design yarny gardens, and you can keep planting them whilst it rains.

I’m writing up the bag pattern whilst I crochet, and working this new house is a useful reminder of some of the finer points I need to include for the pattern. This time round, I’ve learned my lesson and am adding to a chart as I complete each section. No more trying to remember what on earth I did from a few illegible scrawls in a notebook.

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I’m working really hard on this project, so I hope to have it done pretty soon.

As I said at the beginning, I’m properly back to this blog, as of today. This is a bittersweet moment: much as I love the ‘Yarn, the reason I’m wholeheartedly back is that today was test day for my IVF and the result was a big fat negative. This was our last attempt, so we shall be sticking as a family of four. Don’t get me wrong, I realize how lucky I am to have the pesky, insomniac, food-averse, crazy Toddler Twinnage, but I still have a bad case o’ the broodies.

Of course I had to hide my sadness from the twinnage, so we went for a toddle around the village this morning, in order to admire the progress of summer. We met this chap/chappess: this was about to be a much cuter photo, until s/he realized s/he was being descended on by three over-curious people, and so did what hedgehogs do best and shut up shop.

Go away, humans.

Go away, humans.

And I’ve blogged before about the cherry-farming heritage of this village in times past. Though there are scant cherry orchards here today, the hedgerows are dotted with old trees, whose fruit is just getting ripe. Look! (Excuse wobbly photo but it was windy.)

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In Oxfordshire villages, there may as well be a by-law that your cottage garden must be filled with hollyhocks, so we admired beauties such as these:-

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…Which reminds me, I have some hollyhock seeds that I must plant in our own, real garden.

Time to keep on keeping on. And on. 🙂

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And Then We Disappeared Off To Herefordshire

So anyway, my parents (the Twisted Seniors) have a long-established tradition of pulling up their tent-pegs and moving to a completely different part of the country every 10-15 years or so. They’re at it again as we speak, and have just sold their home in beautiful rural Herefordshire, ready to come and share a county with us here in Oxfordshire. With the move imminent, the Toddler Twinnage and I decided to make a may-or-may-not-be-the-last visit to Herefordshire, whilst the Stoic Spouse stayed behind and kept the home fires burning. I hope you don’t mind photos? This post has lots of photos.

I was reading your comments on the Skirt Post whilst we were there, and yes I did notice how many of you said I should have posted a picture of me wearing the skirt. Yeeks! OK here’s a hasty shot, but I’m deliberately excluding most of the waistband because I want to add more rows to it now that I’m back home, and really make it a lovely purple feature. And I’m still pondering stranded braces… But yes, this is me, in the skirt… The skirt that you will know from my previous post is held together entirely with hairspray… I might wear it to work tomorrow.

stranded skirt

Whilst we were in Herefordshire, I did a little work on a sock. A Noro Kureyon Sock yarn sock, no less, that most definitely deserves a future post of its own, given the beautiful-but-highly-strung nature of this yarn. Yes those are toddler twin fingers a-grabbing at my toes.

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But you can’t visit Herefordshire in springtime and not go outdoors, so we admired the blossom in the garden:-

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Yup, those be twins in the background. They’re probably about to do something incredibly naughty.

…before wandering up the track behind my parents’ house to take a look at the landscape. It’s so quiet there, apart from the birdsong.

Herefordshire countryside

As the weather has been warming, the sheep have been shedding handfuls of fluff that I’d just love to take home and use as an excuse to learn to spin at last. I’ve been watching lots of YouTube videos about how to spin, but obviously I’m not about to give it a go. Of course not. No way. Definitely not.

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I quite like the bit of the walk in the photo below. It’s excellent for toddler galloping, and there’s a little pond where you can watch teeny-weeny freshwater shrimps and whirligig beetles doin’ their funky wriggly thing. When I was a child, we had a tiny stream running across the bottom of the garden, but despite the fact that the water was so polluted it made my skin turn weird, you could always find little freshwater shrimps and water lice hiding under stones. I spent many happy, absorbed hours delighting in this fact and also damming the stream and nearly flooding next door’s garden. Anyway, back to Herefordshire:-

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Being spring, there are ducklings. Here was a family of 14 fluffy little darlings!

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Do you see that funny-looking hill-top on the horizon towards the left of the photo below? That’s Credenhill, an Iron Age hill fort, one of the biggest in the country and probably built well over 2000 years ago in approximately 350BC. If I visit my parents again before they move, I can go there and bring you some photos if you’d like? As long as you don’t mind the photos featuring a spot of knitting in their foreground…

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And look!!! Most exciting of all, we found a nest of moorhen eggs:-

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And cheating slightly, because this is in the garden of a Herefordshire castle rather than anywhere wild, look at these tulips!

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When I first met the Stoic Spouse, he said that May was his favourite month of the year. I think I might just be coming round to his way of thinking. I just hope we get to visit Herefordshire again before my parents leave.

…And whilst we’re pottering about photographing things, I confess to a tiny shy smile every time I go into a newsagent or supermarket and see this:-

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…because I can’t help but be a teeny bit excited that my interview is inside the back cover and my first column is coming soon.

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Stylecraft Competition, Yorkshire, Internet Friends, And Champagne.

Oh where to even begin?

I’m back from yarn-filled, sun-drenched (despite any regional stereotypes you’ve encountered) west Yorkshire. I have so much to show you – more, I think, than can realistically be shoe-horned into one blog post, unless you like your blog posts encyclopaedic.

Obviously, to anyone who’s been dabbling ‘Yarnside a-lately, there’s the main event, co-judging the Stylecraft / Let’s Knit competition to find a luscious new shade of yarn. Here’s a teaser photo, but this fabulously colourful event warrants its own post:-

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My fellow judges. Left to right: Annabelle Hill (sales director at Stylecraft), Sarah Neal (editor, Let’s Knit magazine), Lucy (Attic24 blog).

…And having had the fascinating experience of a tour round Spectrum Yarns’ mill (where the judging took place), I’d love to show you the embarrassingly few photos that I took. Another post!

And then the knitted skirt and crocheted bag I designed for the occasion deserve their own post, especially the skirt, completed over breakfast on judging day with hairspray-related advice from the editor of Let’s Knit magazine to complete its details. In fact, the whole wonderful Yorkshire experience deserves its own post, ending with a dash even further north to meet up with Gill from the Greenclogs blog, whom I’ve been gradually getting to know online, and who turns out to be every bit as lovely/creative/clever/kind/interesting as I imagined she’d be in person. (Pity I went all socially anxious and scarcely let the poor woman squeeze a word in edgewise.)

crochet house bag

…And three other little things that I’ll say here, because they’re not big enough for their own blog posts:-

(i) Thing the first.

Today, Colin The Postie delivered many things (let’s gloss over the tedium and financial demands of most of them), including an issue of this coming month’s issue of Simply Knitting magazine (edition 133 – out todayish, I think?) with an interview with, erm, me, inside the back cover. Witness:-

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My column in Simply Knitting begins shortly, though it won’t be every month.

(ii) Thing the second.

I’m drafting this pen-and-paper, as always, this time in the garden whilst loosely managing the Toddler Twinnage, and I’ve just realized that a pair of great tits are breeding in the nest box beside me. Springtime squee! I couldn’t steal a photo of Mater or Pater Great Tit going in, so this blurry iPad snap of the home front will have to suffice.

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(iii) Thing the third.

(No bitterness here… Oh no, none at all…) So I got home from Yorkshire late, late, late last night, all braced for the weeping hordes to intercept me in the driveway, desperate in their need for maternal wisdom and salvage. Know what I found? No weeping whatsoever, but an empty champagne bottle in the sink and tales of unnaturally well-behaved children in my absence. Clearly, things function better round here when I’m not present. Sigh.

So, where shall we begin with this blogfest? the Stylecraft competition, surely? Right, I’ll get drafting…

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