grow your own · handknit · new knitting projects · small knitting projects · sock knitting

The nights are starting to get lighter

January and February really aren’t my favourite months, especially the drab and dreary day times. That said, I’ve bought myself a little day light lamp which has been positioned on the desk, so every time I’m working on the pc, it’s switched on for an hour. But finally the sun is setting later in the day. I’ve even been on one of my ‘go to’ seed sites and ordered a few different ones to try this year – melon, wild garlic, a squash and romanesco cauliflower.

I tried to grow melon last year, the plant grew well, but no fruit, but this year we will have a greenhouse. I’m new to romanesco and have bought it a few times when a normal cauliflower wasn’t available, rather delicious. I’ve some over winter romanesco growing in the raised beds, so I’ve decided to grow summer ones too. The squash is called squash sunshine and is a bright orangy red colour which if successful will look beautiful with orange flesh, plus it has a bushy tendency so I can hopefully grow it in a smaller space. I rather like the smell of wild garlic and fancy using it in recipes.

I’m quite happy with my stash busting this year, but it’s definitely work in progress. I’ve decided that not buying any more yarn just isn’t an option because I now try and use natural yarns, wool, cotton, silk, alpaca etc rather than manmade yarns, so my crafting is a combination of using my stash and doing exciting new projects. I’ve made another jumper, for me, this year out of my stash of chunky plus, mainly to keep me warm when I’m gardening, plus a chunky jumper to wear with my jeans when we are out walking. The rest of the chunky stash is going to be slowly turning into neck warmer, beanie hats and possibly socks, to donate to a local homeless charity. Maybe a bit too late for this year, but definitely for next year when the weather turns in Autum

After knitting big knits in December, I have turned my attention to small knits and have recently bought alpaca 4ply yarn to make men’s socks. Being men’s everyday socks, and knowing the men in my life, it’s dark in colour and that was my challenge! Well let me introduce you to my light saver! It’s light and sits around my neck with flexible arms to direct the light onto the dark with my thin dpns and fine yarn!

50 rounds in and probably another 50 to go before I tackle the heel

I’m in love with Drops yarn, this Alpaca 4 ply is so soft and 100% natural. I know that most sock yarns have nylon in them to make them more robust, but I thought I’d try without. I do have some sock yarn that I bought before Christmas 2020 to make up a pair, but didn’t quite get round to it. To be honest, I knitted so many small gifts for that Christmas, that I was just a bit fed up with small knits and put my dpns away for a while!

But this year I will make up socks with the wool with added nylon too. With it being green and brown, it might be kinder on my old eyes!

small knitting projects · sock knitting

It’s a bit of a learning curve

Sock knitting, that is!

OMG! After several false starts and dropped stitches I finally arrived at the heel. I’ve only knitted one sock pattern before, and repeated it several times, but it was for my size, not a man’s foot. In order to knit a man sock I had to find a different pattern. the heel on this pattern is completely different from the heel I repeated with my last venture into sock knitting! And that was hard enough, having navigated my way through short row knitting, this pattern uses a heel flap. I’m not even going to go near the toe up or rib down debate 🙂

No matter how much I read the pattern, it just wouldn’t sink in, and I certainly wasn’t going to ‘just go for it’ on the needles and yarn I was working with, apart from the fact that it’s dark yarn and teeny tiny needles, the thought of trying to take it back if I made a mistake filled me with dread….. or worse, starting again!

I didn’t realise just how much of a visual learner I have become and after several hours, sometimes late at night when everyone else had gone to bed, because it used to ping into my brain as I was falling asleep, I’ve finally done it. Not only have I done it, I’ve changed it lolololol

heel flap with s1k1 pattern for reinforcement
after an abundant use of stitch markers the heel has finally been worked and I’m on the home run

I found a lovely website that helped me to understand what on earth I was doing. As well as some good sock measurement sites. Plus I’ve finally worked out the function of the free gift I received from a knitting magazine. I do hope the recipients of these socks realise just how much time it takes to produce hand crafted socks. I have a great deal of respect from my grandmothers and their mothers who would spend their ‘spare’ time knitting socks and making clothes, as a necessity, not just a hobby.

sock tool!
ditching the plastic · gardening · grow your own · handknit · new knitting projects · small knitting projects · social distancing · using the stash · xmas projects

Post Christmas thinking

It’s Boxing Day, and the weather outside is wet wet wet…..

I always find Boxing Day is a quiet day, time to recover from the busy days leading up to Christmas and the big day itself. Thinking back, I’ve hosted Christmas Day for over 20 years, probably even longer, once upon a time it was for up to twelve people, in latter years just, me, my son and my parents, and now my partner. For years, Boxing Day was eat, sleep and repeat, going to my sisters for another day of food, and lots of noise with her four children, now grown up with their own children. I don’t think I could or would want to cook for lots of people now. 6 is just about do-able, but no more. Even when you try to organise the food and do as much as possible in advance, strip it down to tried and tested methods, it’s still a lot of work on the day. I’ve learned to absorb it and not get stressed at all with it…. at the end of the day it’s family, and if some things don’t go to plan, then so be it!

My favourite part of the day is present sharing and watching others open their presents with a homemade snowball and canapes… the second favourite part is the kitchen tidy, the dishwasher on, feet up, pjs on and a glass of wine or a gin 🙂

Back to a quiet Boxing Day, the dish washer went on for the final wash post Christmas with the oven trays and roasting dish and the ham and capon have been stripped and assigned to a variety of meals over the next few days, or into the freezer. An old favourite of pea and ham soup is currently simmering away on the stove. This evening it’s capon curry with cauliflower rice for me and rice for the other half. Might make a few homemade flatbreads too for him, as he loves them, and they are easy to do with greek yoghurt and flour.

Looking back on this past year, it hasn’t quite been how we all expected it to be. Back in March 2019 when we went into lockdown, and where I live we were restricted considerably for long periods of time, even when other areas had a lifting of restrictions, no one thought we’d be facing another surge of covid this Christmas. I’ve come to the conclusion that we just have to live with it as best we can, just like we live with other viruses, but only better. We’ve certainly curtailed any unnecessary interactions, and I wouldn’t chose to go into busy crowded areas, especially indoor areas. I like having space between me and other people, and secretly always have. We’ve all got into the habit of cleaning our hands more, even if it is with gel outside of home, but handwashing with soap and water when we come home. All makes sense to reduce bringing in any bugs or viruses into our home. Hopefully too, employers will be more understanding and not expect people to come into work when they are full of cold and normal bugs, especially now that a lot of people have the ability to work from home. There’s always a super spreader in every office!

This year I’m facing my 61st birthday, and my health, post menopause, hasn’t been the best to be honest. I’m carrying a bit of lockdown weight too in comparison to the pre covid days. In no uncertain terms, like many people, I’m at risk to developing diabetes as I get older. I’ve been losing weight slowly over the last few months, which I’m very happy about, but I would like to get more active, not just swimming but getting out walking more and cycling locally….. I’m not going to be doing off road, knee agonising cycling, but a bit of additional exercise to get me out of breath will do me the world of good! Swimming is my mindful exercise, in the same way that sewing and knitting are my mindful crafts.

Looking back on 2021 with my crafting head on, I haven’t really completed many knitting projects. I’m not a summer knitter, preferring to get out and about in the beautiful daylight hours. But during Autumn I’ve knitted a cotton yarn cardigan which I’m sewing up, nearly done. This is frogged yarn, it’s quite heavy and the original knit was just too heavy and hung badly. My second knit was newly bought chunky yarn made from a mix of wool and acrylic. 100% wool was just too expensive. This one’s still on the needles and a pattern that I’ve had for years but never made. I always seem to gravitate to chunky jumper knitting in winter. One thing I’ve never tried to knit is a christmas jumper. Watching Kirsty’s handmade Christmas competition this year, I really liked the vibrant christmas cardigan that one of the contestants made. Now that I would consider knitting. My next knitting projects will be wool socks for my partner and my son.

In summer I had a master class on adapting a shorts pattern and making a pair of shorts that fit me, from my sister. I was very pleased with the result and definitely will take up sewing again next year. I even managed to make my christmas present bags again this year, instead of using wrapping paper.

Most of my spring and summer time was spent doing some serious vegetable growing in the new raised beds. This I did love, spending time outdoors, pottering around growing plants. I’m very proud that on our Christmas day lunch we have swede, turnip, brussels and potatoes grown in the garden. The goal next year is to include carrots and parsnips from the garden on our plate. I’ll also be growing from seed in a different way, sowing every few weeks to stagger the growth and hopefully increase the growing season.

Currently in the raised beds and pots are over winter growing veg – cabbage, beetroot, swede, brussels, broccoli and broad beans. They are all tucked away underneath their winter fleece. I’m going to have to look into carrot and parsnip growing because this year, they were a disaster! Another disaster was storm arwen, which lifted the cover of the mini greenhouse and blew all the micro greens and winter salad seedlings across the garden. They are back under their fleecy coat in the mini greenhouse, but struggling.

Oh well.. time to check on the pea and ham soup and if it does stop raining early afternoon, wrap up warm and go for a walk along the sea front. Like a lot of folk working in the NHS and other key services, I’m working long shifts over the next two bank holidays but I’m sure we will spend some days out in Tynemouth later this week enjoying a meal or two and drinking a few wines 🙂

new knitting projects

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and Peaceful and Healthy New Year

I just don’t know where the past month of December went… it flew by!

I’ve been preparing for Christmas and have made a different christmas cake this year, which includes crushed tinned pineapple. Of course, we had to try a sampler too, and it was quite delicious! I’ve made my cranberry sauce and a mango chutney this year, as well as sweet beetroot pickle for Ollie’s layered vegetable tart, which will be his main course. I bought frozen ones last year from Morrisons, and used the ingredients on the packet to make my own, perfecting it of course and making it more luxurious using more nuts, chestnuts and spinach in the layers. This year I’m trying a savoury ground almond pastry! It will either go down very well or very badly, but I’m sure it will be eaten. I’ve even made and frozen clementine cake for those of us who are trying to watch what we eat.

Boiling clementines and using a Nigella Lawson recipe with eggs and ground almonds substituting half the sugar for plant based sweetener

Today we did the veg shop and picked up the capon and ham. We have swede, potatoes and some brussel sprouts for the winter raised beds but the rest is from the farm shop. If I don’t see the inside of another shop until after the New Year, it will be too soon. Shopping during the week before Christmas is the worst time, and I certainly didn’t miss it last year!

We’ve had quite a few lunches out me, mam and dad enjoying that side of the run up to Christmas, the tree went up in the second week of December and I’ve just finished making the last cotton christmas present bag, realising that one of my presents hasn’t yet arrived, so I’ve been on the computer emailing the company to find out why it’s ‘still out for delivery’ 10 days later. This afternoon, we had a very late lunch, post meat pick up, at dad’s favourite italian restaurant in South Shields called Bell Passi, it’s and independent restaurant with a lovely owner, who always has time to talk to dad and chew the cud, plus the food is lovely too.

front garden flowers
front garden flowers

After discovering that I just didn’t have enough blue chunky wool from my pulled out knitting to make up the chunky jumper I wanted to make, I ended up buying more chunky wool, but I’ve nearly finished it, just ready to sew up a shoulder and make the collar. Today was so cold, I wore the super chunky jumper I made to work in the garden with. It was relegated to garden wear only because I didn’t think it was very nice, a bit scrappy even. The chunky in progress is going away now, and will come out next week to finish off. My christmas bags need a few trimmings to finish them off first so I can dismantle the sewing machine off the kitchen table.

After Christmas, I’m going to look at and stock up my sock yarn and knit a few pairs of woollen socks for the other half and my son. There’s nothing warmer than hand knitted socks.

Best get into that kitchen and sew up the bag decorations, because I’m working in the morning…..

gardening · grow your own · handknit · new knitting projects

Bbbbrrrrrrr it’s getting colder!

We’ve had an amazing October with bright sunny days, but November’s arrived and it’s cold and dark and wet…. The clocks went back last weekend and it signals the start of dark winter days to me, going to work and coming home in the gloom!

The wet weather has renewed my slug battle. I treated the raised beds with slug nematodes in the middle of October after they ravaged my swede babies and its seemed to help, but they’re back. The slug beer traps are in use too but every night this week I’ve had to go out with a torch and seek them out, usually having a drink around the beer traps!

We had brussel sprout tops the other weekend chopped up like cabbage and braised. I’ve never had them before and I couldn’t believe how delicious they were… Why the tops of Brussels aren’t sold is a mystery, they are a gardeners secret.

Brussel sprout tops

Now that I’ve netted the second brussel sprouts top after catching the pigeons stripping the leaves, I can’t wait for it to grow to a point to pick.. Oh and the sprouts are doing canny too!

Slowly getting my crafting mojo back. There’s been a big super chunky sweater hidden away in the pouffe all year since last winter waiting to have the neck finished and sown up.. So it’s out of its hiding place and the plan is to finish it off this month… Its going to be my wearing around the house jumper on winter days! I’m not a fan of super chunky and I think this yarn has been pulled out twice already.

I’ve also been repurposng a cottom yarn I bought a few years ago. Again I didn’t like the finished product, so instead of pulling it out, it got put to one side. Now it’s taking shape as a cardigan/jacket style garment which I will wear, even if its just for work.

The last sleeve and then it’s done