Saturday, 6 December 2014

Hooky Happiness

Ta dah! My first effort at designing a crochet blanket.
This week's Saturday Snapshot is an update on a blog piece I posted in August last year showing a piccie of a Work in Progress for my Younger Daughter. At that point she and her Boyfriend were just about to move to a flat in London, and they wanted a cuddly crochet blanket  big enough to wrap around them both as they sat on the sofa - even though they didn't actually have a sofa at that time!

They wanted something bright and cheerful, in Superman colours, which is not necessarily my usual style, but I was happy to oblige. I decided on granny squares, because they're quick and easy, and I love making them, but I didn't want my usual random effort with a mish-mash of different colours and yarns in random squares or stripes. No, I wanted something clever, with a properly designed pattern, and I had in mind a central panel, of blue and yellow squares, edged in white, surrounded by lots of red (YD's favourite colour) with yellow and blue stripes all around the edge.
Work in Progress!

I originally planned one shade of red for the main part of the blanket, but it was very red indeed, and I was afraid it might be too dominant, especially as red is not my favourite colour (but YD loves it, and that's the main thing, because it is her blanket, after all). Anyway, I added a second, slightly darker shade (like a nice dark, red wine) to give a bit of interest, and I really liked the effect. It wasn't my usual palette at all, but I loved working with these colours because they were so cheerful and uplifting. 
Woollie wonders... Vibrant colours for a crochet blanket.
The worst bit was trying to fathom out how many different squares I could produce with four colours (two blues and two yellows) for the central panel. However, YD's Boyfriend, who is a real whizz at maths, came to my rescue,  and explained that I would end up with 24 different squares, which really surprised me - I never dreamed that so many variations could be created from just four colours. Apparently it's all to do with something called factorial notation (hope I've got that right), and there's a magical formula for working this kind of thing out. I never knew numbers could be so fascinating - or so useful for arty-crafty stuff!

Thready, steady, go... Stitching in the loose ends.

In the end it turned out that 24 little squares didn't make a big enough panel, so I doubled up and made two of each design. And I was amazingly well organised, and made a chart, listing the colour patterns for each square, and ticked everything off as I went along, so I didn't lose my way and end up with lots of the same block, and none of another! Then, once I'd stitched all the pieces into shape for a rectangular panel, I just kept hooking round and round and round until it was more or less the right size, then made a pretty, loopy, shell-like edging, and ta-dah, it was finished - apart from all the loose ends which had to be stitched in... Hundreds of them... I always promise myself I'll do that as I go along, but I never do, and I always regret it!

Earning my stripes!
It took an awfully long time, and used an awful lot of wool (I wish now I'd kept track of the amount) and there was quite a bit of unpicking and redoing as I went along, and I had no idea how big it should be, so I kept laying it out on the bed - I figured if it covered a double bed it was OK! And, of course, I had other sewing/woolly projects on the go at the same time, so there were periods when I didn't anything on the blanket for quite a while, and sometimes I wondered if it would ever get finished. But eventually I stitched the very last loose end in just a couple of weeks after YD and her Boyfriend bought themselves a bright red sofa, so between us our timing was pretty good.

My blanket (I still think of it as mine) now has pride of place draped over the sofa, and, though I say it myself, it looks absolutely fabulous. And I know self-praise is no recommendation, but I feel very proud of my achievement.

Cosy comfort.... I draped the finished blanket over our sofa, and liked it so much
I was really sorry when I handed it to my Younger Daughter!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Reindeer and Candles

Look what I saw yesterday – reindeer!!! At the local garden centre!!! I was so excited when I spotted them I felt as if Christmas had already arrived. There were two of them, in a pen, outside with all the plants, and they looked beautiful, although it does seem sad that creatures which roam wild and free in a land of ice and snow should be cooped up on a bed of straw in an alien environment for people to look at. But I daresay this duo were bred in the UK, and have never been further north than the Midlands.

I went with a friend I hadn’t seen for a few weeks, so we treated ourselves to a snack in the cafĂ© – coffee and a huge Christmas tree shortbread for her, and tea and a toasted cheese sarnie for me. I almost wished I’d had the shortbread, but I was hungry, and the sandwich was yummy. Then we mooched around, looking at all the wonderful Christmas displays, which featured lots of penguins, and glittery baubles, and twinkly lights. Part of me always thinks stuff like this is very commercial, and it’s not what Christmas is all about, but it looks so magical, and is such fun.

And there were stacks of pretty, useless things, and tables full of festive jams, chutneys, sweets, cakes and wines. And, of course, there were lots of plants, including Christmas cacti and poinsettia. I was determined not to spend money on things I don’t need, but my resolve wavered, and I bought a box of spiced orange tea lights because I love the smell!


Monday, 1 December 2014

My Week!

Oh dear, I was going to be so good, and blog every other day, and it’s been over a week since I last wrote anything here, so I’m going to post some words and pictures about my week. Let’s start with last Sunday, when the Man of the House joined me for a walk along the Coventry Canal. We went up as far as Fazeley Aqueduct, which runs over the River Tame. And you can look down and see water below you, as well as the water beside you, which always amazes me. It was a very grey drizzly sort of day, and there were raindrops hanging everywhere, so I took this picture of raindrops hanging from one of the metal work on one of the beam bars at the lock - not my usual style of photography, but I am trying to get some different and more un usual shots, instead of landscapes and flowers. 
Raindrops on metal... I liked the way the drops of water contrasted with
the rusty marks on the metal handle.
Then we went into town and treated ourselves to Sunday lunch, and had a wander round. Children were singing in the Market Square, as part of the celebrations for the Christmas Lights ‘Switch-On’, and there were craft and food stalls selling all kinds of goodies, including these home-made pies, which the Moth (the Man of the House, remember!)
We were assured that no penguins were hurt making this pir!
We  were a little alarmed at the Penguin Pie, but it turned out to be filled with fish and penguins eat fish, so I guess it’s pie for penguins, not pie of penguins! Penguins seem to be everywhere at the moment, so I dug out an old Jean Greenhowe knitting book with patterns for these…
Right, which penguin shall I try and knit?
Actually, I prefer crochet, but these are kind of cute, and I’ve always meant to have a go at them, and I’ve got black and white wool in the stash, and some knitting needles, so perhaps now is the time to knit a penguin!

I’m trying to walk every day, so on Monday off I went to Warwickshire Moor, one of our local ‘wild spaces’. It’s a small remnant of what was once a large area, and it’s not how I think of a moor at all – we’re definitely not talking Dartmoor here! It lies alongside the River Anker, and there are lots of little pools, and streams and drainage channels, with reed beds, and grassy areas, and a small wood. In summer it’s glorious, with masses of dragonflies and butterflies and all sorts of other insects, and a lot of the water dries up. But in winter every little dip and hollow fills with water, and the land oozes water with every step you take, but there’s still plenty to see and enjoy.
The viewing/dipping platform is usually well above the River Anker,
but there's been a lot of rain, and the water is very high.

Mud, glorious mud.... Wellies might have been better!
 On Tuesday I woke to a different world – there had been a hard frost overnight, and everything was encrusted with thick, white, icy crystals, while all the puddles had frozen solid, and everything was festooned with cobwebs which looked as if they had been spun from twisted cotton threads. They were unbelievably beautiful, so I grabbed the camera, and went out for a walk to snap them – and I got some jolly strange looks and comments from people who obviously thought I was a madwoman!  
A cobweb, covered in frost.
Sadly, by the next day the temperature had risen, all those magical cobwebs had vanished, and the weather was back to a grey, murky, misty, drizzle, so I walked to Lakeside (another of our little ‘wild spots’) looking for some colour to brighten the day. And I found it! Golden leaves glowed through the mistiness, and all kinds of red berries positively shone through the gloom in the most cheery fashion you could imagine. And I met lots of dog walkers, who all stopped for a chat, and one of them recommended other places to walk, and another told me about Thailand, where he used to work, so it turned into a very sociable morning! 
A rosy view of life... There were lots of rosehips, in all shapes and sizes.

Bright and shiny holly berries. 
Thursday was Oxfam day, and I was busy in the Lichfield Books and Music Shop – I only walked as far as the bank and the sandwich shop.
Me and my Oxfam brolly pictured outside our lovely shop earlier
in the year - but I've used it so yuo can see how nice our shop is.
However, on Friday I donned my walking boots again, and the Moth went with me, down through the Castle Grounds, which are beautiful at any time of year, and into town where we browsed around the shops, and ended up enjoying a restorative lunch in Wetherspoons before wending our way home!
Tamworth Castle.
For some reason Saturday was a ‘bleh day’ when I lacked the energy and enthusiasm to do anything, and when nothing seemed to go right, so I sat crocheting a blanket, which is now big enough to go over my knees while I work, and is all snuggly and comforting!
Snug as a bug in a rug... Or a blanket!
And that brings us back to Sunday again, and a walk round Alvecote Wood, which is one of my favourite places. It’s a patch of ancient woodland, full of dappled light, which always makes me think of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, ‘Pied Beauty’. There’s a wildflower meadow, and pools, and all kinds of plants, fungi, birds, insects and other wildlife, and it’s very beautiful, and very peaceful. Owners Stephen and Sarah, bought the wood after falling in love with it seven years ago, then acquired some adjoining land, and planted new trees. They’ve won environmental awards for the work they do to preserve and improve the area. This was their last Open Day of the year, and the wood will be closed to the public until the new programme of Open Days gets under way in the spring.
If you go down to the woods today...