"There is an Indian proverb that says that everyone is a house with four rooms. A physical, an emotional, a mental and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time, but unless we go into every room everyday, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person."

Rumer Godden 1907 - 1998

Sunday, 8 September 2013

A Hint of Autumn

There's been a hint of autumn in the air this week, the mornings have either been bright and crisp or a bit misty, the days have been dry and warm and the evenings clear. On Thursday evening DH and I had what we feel will be our last barbecue of the year, we lit our chiminea and sat out late, looking at the stars via the Sky View app and talking about the next stages of our garden plans. Autumn always induces a new more energetic creativity, I want to make preserves, work on my quilting projects, knit and crochet. I'm even starting to think about the holiday season!

My new crochet blankets are growing far more quickly than I thought they would. The latest changes to the garden mean there are lots of places to sit and discuss what we're doing and look at what we've done so far. While we're talking I crochet a few more stitches, first up the Neat Ripple Blanket, I can't believe how much this has grown since I posted about it last week.

Next, my Granny Stripe, this is the design that prompted me to dig some acrylic out of my "giveaway" stash. I'm aiming for a kingsize blanket that I can take out and about without being precious about it.

I had a week of re-organising my profile and project pages on Ravelry this week. I finally sorted out why my blogposts didn't show up and I put the vast majority of wips into hibernation. The latter was supposed to focus me on a small number of wips, instead I'm finding new projects to start. I suspect what's going on is my annual push towards using about 6 miles of yarn this year. My stash contains 78.16 miles, which for me is almost exactly 13 years worth of knitting, and why I've been yarn purchase free for 9 months now. I'll be starting at least one more new project today...

The garden is looking very different after 4 days work on it this week, all but two of our 5 terraces are now visible, even if the walls are incomplete. The shape of the garden makes it hard to take a single photo that takes in everything:

This week we have 11 tons of good topsoil arriving so that we can start to level the soil on the top two terraces, we can't put in the final two terraces until that's done as we'd lose the slope for getting a wheel barrow to the top of the garden. After that we'll need our Albanian builders back for another day or so to put in the final two terraces as we have a lovely greenhouse on order for the area just below the final wall in the last picture.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Blanket Mania

The crochet bug has bitten me again! I picked up my lovely Lily blanket a few weeks ago determined to make big progress; suddenly I'm crochet and blanket obsessed. In the last week I've started 2 projects, both blankets and I'm gathering ideas for another two. Then there's the real need for some new crocheted dishcloths and a strong desire to start a crochet shawl with very fine silk yarn.

The first start is a Ripple Blanket, inspired by Lucy of Attic24. I'm using Rowan Fine Tweed yarn that was bought for another project and somehow felt like the perfect yarn for a cheery lap blanket for winter evenings.

Again from Attic24's tutorials and using the same selection of yarn as Lucy uses a Granny Stripe, I'm planning on this being a travel blanket for taking out and about when such a thing is needed.

Friday, 6 September 2013

5 am

I have mixed feelings about being awake at 5 am, its stupid o'clock.

On one hand I can appreciate the silence, the opportunity to concentrate. It's a good time to think about what the day will bring and to start new projects. On the other hand I know I should be sleeping and that wakefulness and activity at such an early hour will catch up with me later on.

Despite casting on a new crochet blanket project at the weekend, I had an overwhelming need to grab a hook and some of the yarn I pulled out of my giveaway bag and cast on. Normally making a chain of exactly 240 stitches would take hours, at 5 am it took precisely 30 minutes to cast on, count and smile that I had it right. Here's the proof, a neat chain:

Monday, 2 September 2013

Playing Hooky

My renewed interest in my Lily Blanket has given me a real craving to crochet on a blanket sized scale!

Lily's grown by 4 lovely floral motifs over the last week. The gaps in last week's photos are starting to fill, which makes it easier to work.

I don't have many quantities of yarn that will be sufficient to satisfy the craving for a large scale full blown blanket , so some yarn intended for Peerie Flooers has been subverted into the beginnings of a small Neat Ripple Pattern blanket taken from the tutorial on the Attic 24 blog. I already know when I get a bit further down the line with this project that I will need to buy some additional yarn. I won't feel too badly about  this as I've always given myself permission to buy yarn to finish projects.

I'm working two rows of ripple in each colour from the bottom picture each set between pairs of 2 rows of the beautiful deep blue as I have 4 skeins of this. I'll work in this way until I run out of yarn and then think about how best to add a border. It's looking quite pretty even if I do say so myself.

I've moved a quantity of Stylecraft DK from the "I must find a home for this yarn" bag back into my stash knowing it'll work up quickly into a blanket of some description. I've also taken a large quantity of cotton out of my trade/ sell tab on Ravelry which might be ok for a blanket of some sort.

There's no gardening news this week, our Albanian builders are back this week so its mostly been prepping for their visit.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A Long Weekend

It's Tuesday and my weekend isn't over yet!

I'm starting this week's post with a bit of announcement, I've completed 9 months of working from my knitting stash, that's purchase free since November! Although I'm being tempted by some merino yarns in shades of soft greens and purples for a crochet project that's planted itself in my head!

I've had a bit of a re-think about my Year of Projects and this led to a tidy of all my knitting projects and have decided to hibernate the majority of my wips and concentrate on a smaller number. There's a blanket, a scarf, shawl and socks as an when I complete something I'll dig out another wip. Two of these are left over from previous years and will use up lots of stash yarn. I'm enjoying a bit of crochet as a change from knitting, who wouldn't when it looks this pretty?

Which is a small section of this:

I've worked 8 motifs over the last week, bringing my total to 53 in all. I'm trying to square the piece up to eliminate the rather odd shape and make it easier to work out sizing as it grows. I realised when posting my pictures that it's two years to the day since I started Lily. It's about time I got my act together and completed this beauty.

There's been exciting progress in the garden this week. I arrived home to find my new compost bins had been delivered, these are now in place behind the shed and I'm starting to fill the first bin.

The top terrace is almost complete, just one more length of railway sleeper to go in at the left and a huge amount of topsoil to level it ready for planting.  Moving the sleepers has left DH and I full of aches and pains, but the result is definitely worth it, as our plans for the garden are now becoming a reality.

We managed more plant shopping this weekend. I've ordered 4 packets of fragrant sweetpeas for the garden, how pretty are the ones in the picture I've linked to? An advert in the gardening supplement of the newspaper on Saturday led to buying 72 plug plants which will arrive and need potting on when they arrive. And a trip to another garden centre yielded another 4 plants which we'll take cuttings from, of most interest were 3 lovely plants from Hairy Pot Plants. The pots are coir, so when the time comes to plant what you've bought the pot is planted too! The pots are just about visible in the picture below. Finally, we ordered 175 hornbeam tree plants to use as hedging along the right hand side of the garden, these arrive in November which seems ages away, as we have lots to do the time will fly by.

Our propagator is full to the point of overflowing with lots of cuttings which will help us plant up the borders in the garden next year. There's lavender, box and artemisia all taken from plants in the garden, which hopefully will show signs of rooting by October.

Finally my only FO this week was a lovely lemon loaf, which is now half eaten:

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Purses, Plants and Plans

It's been a wonderful tiring week, I have an FO, progress on a couple of WIPS and huge changes in the garden to show off.

My FO this week was the lovely little purse that was a WIP this time last week. I've never made a framed purse before, I've learnt how to make the outer shell, line it and then insert the soft bag into the frame, where it's held in place by a cord. I'm thinking about making these as gifts for friends. To show how roomy this purse is I've put a 100g skein of sock yarn and a partially worked sock in it for the bottom picture.

My new sewing WIP is a book bag with a flat bottom, made from stash fabrics and so simple and quick! I've used the technique for making the bag base flat before. I'm at the handle making stage, and this is done using a new to me technique which is good. It'll make a good bag for carrying a knitting project when I go to knit night, or for daily use taking lunch to work. I'm already thinking about my next bag, which is another variation on a simple book bag. The handle is only a strip of material laid in place to give a rough idea of the handle size and placement.

I've been plugging away at my Spring Shoots sock as and when I have time, I'm too tired to knit my beautiful Sweet Dreams shawl, I tried last night and made a mess of the row I was working. There's no picture this week as progress is slow.

The front border I've been working on is almost complete, last weekend I replanted some Lily of the Valley so I could finish my efforts to clear the last of the weeds, ivy and gravel dressing. I dug out a huge amount of broken up tarmac and paving slabs that were buried in the front of the border. I imagine there's still more buried in there but there's only so much hard digging I can do. DH cut down the rest of the old stumps and I finally planted my second batch of plants yesterday. We've been out already this morning and now I have plants for the final stretch of the border. I'm hoping it doesn't rain today!

One little plant deserves a a mention all of it's own! My sister gave me a small plant some weeks ago, it has leaves that start out pink and eventually go green, I think it will also have autumn colour too. I planted it last weekend, and it's already thriving and throwing up new shoots. We think this is a Sobaria and if you look closely, you can see the new growth at the base.

Progress on the back garden has been huge. We started about 10 days ago with this:

The slope ran from the down to the steps and at the same time from the cream wall to the far edge, we've used two Albanian builders who work for my BIL and that's really made things happen fast. This time they've worked for us we've bought in a mini-digger to make building terraces easier. We now have four level terraces from the top of the garden downwards:

Yesterday we shifted what we estimated as about 3 tons of chalk, concrete and rubbish that was dug out from the garden and the path around the house. Our plan for later today once I've planted my newest purchases is to start to put in the railway sleepers in front of the top terrace and to start to build a raised border in front of the wall. On Tuesday we have an electrician coming for the day to get power up to the shed so we can light and heat it if needed.

I visited a blog yesterday that I always find inspiring: Attic 24, I love her crochet patterns. I've been inspired to make a couple of Lucy's projects, although her choice of yarn isn't mine. My current long-term crochet project isn't a Lucy project, having browsed and caught up with what she's been hooking I'm going to dig out my Lily blanket, pull out a few of my small balls of yarn, the pattern and my hook put them in my new project purse to give me an easily portable project.

Now to order some fragrant sweet pea seeds to start off ready for next year.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Not a Lot of Knitting

I didn't get a lot of knitting done this week, when not at work DH and I have been in the garden. This sequence of photos shows what started as a trench to get an electricity supply to the shed. This has since become a major excavation project to cut terraces into the garden.

Wednesday morning, terraces marked out, some rubbish cleared:

Thursday morning, using a mini digger, top terrace cut, second terrace in progress :

Thursday night, both terraces cut, waiting for retaining walls to be built and rubbish cleared:

The top two terraces are cut and need walls to retain them to the side and front, these are being built as I type. There's then a further two terraces to be cut and we are there. As we have two builders working for two days we hope to get most of that done by the end of tomorrow.

I have finished sock one of Spring Shoots, apart the grafting. Even though it looks baggy, it fits really well and I've started sock two:

I decided I needed a new pretty knitting project bag for my sock knitting, so after a lot of searching online I decided on a bag from u-handbag. I like the lining fabric better than the exterior so I've swapped them over. Here's progress so far:

I also treated myself to Lisa's book The Bag Making Bible, which is chock full of techniques and a lovely selection of bags to make and customise, I'm already planning a few as gifts and for putting crafty projects in.

The plan this week: to complete my project bag, make progress on Spring Shoot socks and finish my planting in the front border.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

FO Friday and WIPs

I had a bit of a moment last Sunday, I was convinced I had a super social week, with both knitting and quilting. Knitting was on, quilting wasn't, its in fact this week!

First up this week an FO Friday, this is Caretta Caretta socks, which I said I'd fit in at some point, cast on last Sunday evening, finished on Friday:

Next, progress on my Spring Shoots Socks, these are constructed in the most unusual way: toe up, then closed heel and finally the foot is steeked to enable an afterthought leg to be worked! The heel is then grafted together. The sock is very misshapen, for all that it looks very cheerful.

My other projects haven't moved on at all this week, so there's no other pretty knitting pictures to put up today.

In addition to my knitting wips, I also have a stack of quilting wips to work on. I'm going to take along a small quilt worked from a Craftsy class to the quilt group so I can finish the quilting. The only slight drawback is I'm not sure where I've put the rayon floss I'm quilting with! This little quilt is about 18 x 24' and is made entirely from scraps in my stash, the semi-solid green-blue is one of my own hand-dyed fabrics from about 15 years ago! Amazingly this fabric looks really good with fabrics that were bought this year.

There's no gardening progress this week, other than the purchase of another batch of plants, we had showery rain yesterday so I couldn't get outside to do any planting. Hopefully today will be a better day and there'll be pictures next week.

I thought I'd include my knitting stats each week, although I can't quite work out how to adjust last week's figures, so I've revamped it a bit. Any way seeing progress is a bit of a boost:

Total projects: 26
Cast-on: 0
Hibernating: 3
WIPS: 23
FOs: 1- using 297 yards

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Knitting as Normal

I've had a good two weeks away from work.

A grand day out with a friend, we visited a lovely stately home Wilton House, now how’s this for a coincidence… My friend lives in a village called Hambleden and used to work for the family of Viscount Hambleden, whose mother Lady Patricia was born at Wilton House. Lady Patricia’s home when she first married was a house called Greenlands which is the site of Henley Business School where I work!

The plants I showed off last week are now all planted, and I've had compliments from a couple of neighbours I know by sight. I get the feeling many of my neighbours regarded what I've replaced as an eyesore! All the pictures were taken using my iPad which washes out the colours somewhat.

My knitting hasn't been neglected either, 2013 is my year of knitting freedom. I like having lots of WIPs,  so I'm going to stop worrying about needing to have any kind of annual WIP down. Other people's stress abut WIPs isn't mine. My only rules for this year are to knit from stash and to try and use my library, more about this later.

Progress this month:

WIPs at end June: 14
Completed: 1
Cast-on: 9
Hibernating: 3
Total projects: 27

Yarn out of stash: 494 yards
Completed Unsinkable, there's a post about this a couple of weeks ago. Yarn used 440 yards
One skein of Super Bulky yarn, that I will never use in a month of Sunday's, destashed. Yarn lost 54 yards

Sweet Dreams for the Pick-a-Boo KAL, on final chart, 12 rows to work.  My Ravelry link is here, this lovely shawl has been a quick knit from one of my favourite designers. If I was a monogamous knitter it would be done, I'm going to see if I can complete this by the end of Tuesday, its unlikely but worth a try:

Passion Flowers for the Maiden Brooklyn Summer KAL, another of my favourite designers, link here. I've still got a month left on this KAL so I'm feeling positive I'll get this completed. Marissa's designs need a lot of concentration so this is not a knit for days when I'm feeling tired or want to work in a hurry:

I'm "designing" a shawl in the loosest sense of the word following Stephen West's Craftsy class "Shawlscapes". Essentially this is applying Stephen's increase and decrease methods to some knitting!
Here's mine so far:

I haven't really been interested in knitting socks for about 18 months, so I was really pleased to find my sock knitting mojo has returned unexpectedly this week. I have a lot of sock books on my knitting shelf from which I've knitted very few projects so I was delighted to rediscover "Socktopus: 17 pairs of socks worth showing off". There's a Ravelry group working on the designs during 2013/14, I've missed the first two KALs, one of which is a vanilla sock which wouldn't capture my interest, the other one I'll make a project bag up for and fit in when I have the inclination. My first sock for this KAL is Spring Shoots:

Finally, a sock that only needs me to be able to count, Short Row Shuffle. Deliberately chosen to help me use some of the many highly variegated yarn bought as part of sock yarns clubs that is sitting in my stash. This project will be ideal knitting for those times when concentrating on a pattern becomes a bit much:

Back to work tomorrow, knit night on Tuesday and quilt group on Wednesday. It's going to be a good week!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Renovating a Garden

Not a knitting post this week, I've been on holiday from work for the last week, it's been blisteringly hot so my garden renovation has taken up most of my waking hours.

I should have taken a few "before" shots, so I'd remember how overgrown parts of the garden were when DH and I started work on the project to transform a rather neglected garden into a plant filled cottage garden. Renovating a garden sounds romantic if you read 'The Secret Garden' as a child, the reality is it is hard, dirty and at times difficult!

The garden looked ok in the photos shown on the agent's promotional details, which I reckon were taken over 2 years ago now. These lovely shots taken with a wide angled lens hid the many oversized plants that had taken over a relatively small garden. Every bed was filled with rocks, weeds, plants and fruit bushes which had been left to grow wild.

A rather decrepit shed and a sad greenhouse were hidden in the trees at the top of the picture, the greenhouse must have been too dark to use. And to the right of the little chicken house was a large pond. There's also a 15 foot rise from the patio to the top of the garden, with a right leaning camber!

All of that said, this garden has potential! Since we moved in last May we've been cutting down, hacking back and removing everything that was largely overgrown to try and see what if anything could be salvaged. So far only a small border directly opposite the front door has passed our exacting standards, even so this border needs to be thinned out, which I'll do in the autumn. In February I started working on a long raised border beside our drive, which was absolutely choked with ivy, couch grass, a huge horrid pampas grass left over from the 1970's and the remains of plants totally unsuited to chalky soil. The end nearest the road was "finished", I use the term loosely, with some rubble, so with a bit of muscle and guidance from my DH I now have a small retaining wall holding back the soil.

We've visited a couple of nurseries this week and have started buying plants for it. My collection so far taken from several angles, including a couple of gifts: