Tuesday 31 May 2016

Conwy - a perfect stopover

On Friday morning Emi, the WonderDog and I blew town super early (in the wagon and rolling by 4:15 a.m.) on our way to Ireland. I’m not sure when super late morphs into super early, but I'd wager that a number of the folk we met in the early stages of our journey were on their way home after a fun night out. 

My cunning plan - that involved getting up at such a demented hour - was to try and get past Birmingham and the M6 before the traffic got ugly. I’ve been scarred by the traffic in that neck of the woods before, which is saying something for a Londoner. But I’m happy to report that, this time, my cunning plan worked brilliantly. So well in fact that we were on schedule to arrive 4 hours early for our sailing, which is just a smidgeon too early, even for a control-freak like me.

So I started casting around for other things to do, and hit upon the idea of a short detour into Conwy. My travel buddies were more than up for a little unscripted adventure that took us off our normal route.

Conwy Castle, Wales
Conwy Castle, Wales 

Sunday 29 May 2016

Squirrel Nutkin goes a roving and a pillaging ...

The other morning I had a troupe of acrobats in my garden. They really ought to have been performing in a circus. 

As I poured my first coffee something caught my eye. I glanced out the window to see the peanut feeder arcing through the air as though it had been catapulted out of the laburnum tree. Slinky Paws and his missus sat high in the branches, watching me, watching them and wondering whether they could safely harvest their bounty on the grass.

Thursday 26 May 2016

Carry on rocking that spring bunting ...

The other week I started making spring bunting. Well I've carried on down that route, and now I've got quite a merry little string of contrasting patterns and textures.

Spring Bunting

I used my basic pattern, but played around with it to mix things up and add variety.

I'm using Costa Brava Knitting's 4 ply organic cotton range - colours Rose Blush and Honeysuckle, and I'm knitting on size 11 (3 mm) needles to a tension in stocking stitch of 26 stitches x 36 rows on a 10 cm x 10 cm square.

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Step into my office ...

I love, love, love the month of May - especially when the sun puts in an appearance. My kitchen door is thrown open, and I live on the terrace. How do you like my office? Please do step outside ...

I come out here on sunny days during the rest of the year - often wrapped up warm with coats and scarves against the elements. I leave the parasol in situ all year round - just on the off-chance,  although it's sometimes more of a rainy day umbrella. It feels fabulous to be able to take up my al fresco lifestyle every time the sun comes out and there's just a smidgeon of blue sky.

Sunday 15 May 2016

New stitch pattern ...

Yesterday I decided that I wanted to make a summer cardigan. It's going to be one of those relaxed loose-fitting numbers. I'm going to use some wonderful Costa Brava Knitting DK Bamboo in Sandy Beach, and I'm searching around for a nice openwork pattern that will work well with the variegated wool and the summer vibe that I'm hoping to channel.

One of my favourite parts of searching around for a new design is the bit where I get to play and try different stitch patterns with the yarn that I'm proposing to use. With the sun beating down through the glass roof of the conservatory yesterday afternoon the WonderDog and I enjoyed a merry old time playing or knitting sample squares to see how things turned out and to check my tension. I'd got a stash of Radio 4 podcasts to listen to, the child was elsewhere at a birthday party and it was the very best sort of me-time imaginable.

And this is what we eventually settled on:

Thursday 12 May 2016

Georgian Embroidery Workshop ...

Last Wednesday I headed over to Osterley Park, where their lovely volunteers were hosting a Georgian embroidery workshop. It sounded amazing, and, whilst my terrible eyesight makes embroidery a bit of a challenge for me, I was intrigued to learn about a group of ladies who were keeping alive the skills of the eighteenth century needlewomen. Bravo to them!

As it turned out the workshop was on whitework, which involves white stitch-work on the finest and most delicate of cotton cloth to produce an effect (when done well!) not dissimilar to that of fine lace. With my limited experience and wonky eyes it would have been difficult to have come up with something that was a greater personal challenge for me. However, the wonderful ladies assured me that they would not be put out in the least if I failed to place a single sensible-looking stitch in my fabric. The object of the workshop was to learn, to be inspired and to enjoy.

The ladies leading the class had very kindly brought along their own favourite books on the topic, which they invited us to look at for some inspiration.

Sunday 8 May 2016

Ham House ...

They say it's haunted ... very, very haunted ... .

Ham House, Richmond
Ham House, Richmond viewed from the Duchess's Garden

And I guess if a house's been standing since 1610, just playing the statistics there's got to have been one or two residents over that length of time who were reluctant to move on - especially when the setting's as splendid as this one. So if you're going to go looking for spooks and ghosts and things that go bump in the night ... then this house is probably a pretty good place to start.

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Sloppy Joe Sweater ...

If you’re looking for a quick, easy pattern that will just about knit itself then this baby has your name written all over it. It’s a super easy, knit-in-the-round (all the way up the armpits) jumper that self stripes so you don’t have to do much else to add interest to the design. I’ve gone all out with a simple open work texture created by double-wrapping the right needle on every 10th row to create a drop stitch row that makes it look even more summery and beach-casual. 

Then on the next row (row 1 on the pattern repeat) you simply knit each double loop once to produce a row of extra long stitches that creates the textured open work. 

It’s conceived as a loose fitting, anything-goes kind of look that measures 20”/ 51 cm from armpit to armpit, and measures 45 cm/ 17.5” from the armpit down to the bottom of the waistband. I've knit it in Costa Brava Knitting's DK Bamboo in Cobalt & Lime. This yarn knits to a tension of 22 stitches x 28 rows on stocking stitch on a 10cm x 10 cm square, and I used 400 g of yarn to knit this baby. That's 8, 50 g balls or around 800 metres of bamboo yarn. It's a lovely silky yarn with great drape. 

Just read on for the pattern ...

Monday 2 May 2016

Anniversary of Anne Boleyn's arrest

On this day, 2nd May, in the year 1536 Anne Boleyn was arrested on the orders of her husband, King Henry VIII. She must have known the writing was on the wall. Her nemesis, Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, had died at the beginning of January, and Anne's position went from precarious to hopeless when she miscarried the child she was carrying on the very day of Catherine's funeral. With Catherine dead, and many believing that the marriage to Anne was a sham, Henry was free to marry another without any question-marks hanging over the new union.

At the time the Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, remarked of Anne, "She has miscarried of her saviour".

 She must have known all of this at the time. She'd already seen evidence that Henry had his eye on her lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour. A clever operator like Anne would have realised that she was fast falling out of favour and quickly becoming expendable.

Hever Castle in Kent, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn
Hever Castle in Kent, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn