Company, suit, welcome return

1. I am alone in the meadow. Except for the dog sniffing the grass. And the cat slowly baking in the sunshine. And the crickets chirping their alarm at our presence. And the dragonflies – the largest I’ve ever seen here – racing about over head. And the butterflies dancing over the thistles. And the bugs the baking cat is watching. And the woodpigeons softly cooing their five notes riff. I am not alone in the meadow.

2. I had forgotten how much the suit suits him.

3. I pick up my crochet hook for the first time in months – I can’t stand the feel of woolly yarn in my hands in the summer months – and begin a new project. I can’t believe how much I’ve missed it.

3BT – surrounded, distracted, rewarded

1. I wake up just before dawn to the sound of some low half-barks – Lily getting excited in her sleep. She’s still in her bed so I go to her to soothe her. Next time I wake up, perhaps an hour or so later, she’s lying in between us, on her back with her paws in the air, Carla is sat on my chest purring and Boron is fast asleep on my head. The best way to wake up.

2. On the bus, my ears and brain are distracted by a lecture on human pre-history, my hands and eyes by granny squares.

3. After a difficult rehearsal, I need cake. Lots of cake. Then I spot it – a fancy, expensive cake reduced to clear for just 99p.

3BT – light outside, mushrooms, future warmth

neckwarmer-thumbI’ve been meaning to start my own Three Beautiful Things posts since I found Clare’s blog over a year ago but I’ve never got around to it aside from using Twitter for the occasional beautiful things style tweet. I figured I shouldn’t start any more projects unless I could commit the time to maintaining them but while we were in Madrid last week, I thought I should just frickin’ give it a go. Don’t know how long I’ll manage to keep it up but here goes nothing ;)

1. We came back from Madrid after dark last night but the sun is shining when we wake up. I look out into the garden – at the trees, at the beck at the bottom of the garden, at the sky stretching out into the distance – and smile. Nice to see everything is still where it should be after the bad weather.

2. Later on, I venture into the garden with two of the cats, Carla and Boron. We’ve been going on walks together around the garden (and the woods next door) since we moved into the house in October. Left untouched by cats and humans for over a week, a huge cluster of mushrooms has grown on a log. I run up the stairs to the house to look them up in my mushroom identification book.

3. Workwise, I have a bad day catching up on everything – I’m still behind as the afternoon passes into evening but John insists we both stop work anyway. After dinner, I grab some lovely pinky-purply wool from my stash and crochet up a neckwarmer. It’s improvised but it turns out well.

Making stuff: another crochet net shopping bag

crocheted shopping bag

I’ve made a few of these crocheted shopping bags now and am refining them further and further every time. They’re roughly based on Melinama’s pattern though (a note – she uses US stitches so SC = our DC; and her DC = our TC).

My favourite thing is they’re super quick and easy to make – I’m not particularly fast at crochet but I can make them in a few hours. They’re a great project for beginners too because you only need to know chain, double crochet and treble crochet (US = chain, SC and DC). They cemented my love of crochet because they were the first thing I made that produced something really different to knitting.

Most of my bags so far have been made out of some super cheap dishcloth-style cotton so the stretch comes from the stitches not the yarn. The beige for this one was heavier than normal so in comparison, I had to double up the purple so it didn’t look weird. A single thread of the purple would have been strong enough though. (I’ve also tried making a bag out of old carrier bags cut into strips and crocheted using a chunky hook. It was fun as a Recycle This-style project but something about it seems a little too stretchy for regular use.)

I like making the handles considerably wider than in Melinama’s pattern – TCs in each stitch up each side – and joined to the body in more than places than just the first chain/last slip stitch. If I had more patience, I’d probably do two rows of TCs up each side but by that point, I get over excited about the finishing line being so close. I do love how neat the top of the bag is though.

The bags crunch down pretty small when not in use but then stretch up quite a lot as soon as you put something heavy in them. Really pretty smashing.

Making stuff: a knitting needle bag made from old jeans

knitting needle bag made from old jeans

As my love of knitting and crochet has grown so has my collection of needles, hooks and other related accessories.

I decided I needed a needle bag to keep them all neat but despite digging the sewing machine out, didn’t fancy doing too much sewing. My first thought was to modify an old pillow case – I have a stash of vintage ones for crafting with courtesy of various charity shops – but then realised an old pair of jeans would be even better – lots of built-in pockets!

Vague instructions below but it’s dead simple. The belt is old cheap one that I worn too much and snapped the last 6 inches off the tip — too short for me now but a perfect (if largely unnecessary) accessory here.

I made it and took the photo a few weeks ago – the front pockets are now filled with crochet hooks in one side and short double pointed needles in the other. I’ve got stuff I don’t use much in the back pockets – picking shears in one side, cable needles and stuff in the other – with the main pocket stuffed full of regular needles and circular ones. It works pretty well and I can find everything I need – plus, it lifts of the hooks and is easily transportable too if I ever need to take my stuff anywhere (might add a detachable strap if that looks likely).

The bag hangs on the side of my “craft” unit in our living room – it’s relatively flat and looks comparitively neat compared to the rest of the crap bursting out of said unit/the rest of our house and is, reasonably, cat proof.
Continue reading

Things we made in Staithes

John and I have just returned from another fabulous holiday at Northside Cottage in Staithes.

We first went in January 2006 and loved it to bits but what with starting our own companies and everything, we’ve not really had time to go again. We finally decided a break was in order last month and though we both had to work a little bit every day, it was just as wonderful and relaxing. Except the bit where we nearly drowned, that wasn’t particularly relaxing.

Things we made in Staithes:

  • John made a mushroom risotto, which was lovely despite us forget our bag of fridge food so not having any garlic or the nice mushrooms we’d bought for it.
  • I made fiery ginger biscuits on the first night – unused to the oven, I burned the first trayful but the second batch was spot on. Not bad considering it was all off-recipe and completely estimating the quantities of everything.
  • I made John a pair of mittens – my first entire double-pointed needle projects. I was chuffed with the first one – great thumb gusset, rounding at the top and everything – but the second one was even better (albeit with a slightly stubby thumb) and John says they’re super warm, so all hail me.
  • We made ick faces when the grease from our fish and chip trays re-solidified while we were eating in the cold, cold, wind.
  • We made 16p on the 2p machines in an amusement arcade in Whitby. We promptly “reinvested” it.
  • We made a new rule for air hockey: no scarves allowed, or rather no dangling scarves allowed to block goals.
  • We made a lot of fires: the cottage’s storage heaters etc do a fine job but there is a reason we go there in winter – pretty much constant open fires (and fewer people about too).
  • We made an incorrect judgement about the size of a wave while watching the sea on the Staithes breakwater thing. Said incorrectly judged wave made us very wet from head to toe. (see above note re: nearly drowning).
  • John (or rather the sea) made John’s very expensive phone no longer work. We also had to dry out the contents of our wallets in front of the fire.
  • We made me a little less fearful of fire but more scared of the sea (see above).
  • I made the wearing of pyjamas into a garish art form.
  • We made a lot of holiday-related Twitters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25.
  • I re-made half a slipper twice before giving up because I decided I needed different type of wool – it is a simple crochet pattern that will result in a very cute slipper though so I’ll definitely give it a go again.
  • I made lots of “aww”ing noises at all the dogs I saw around the village and walking past the cottage.
  • I made friends with a ginger cat, who chased a duck outside the cottage then walked with us into the village.
  • We made sad faces whenever we remembered our lovely felines – we missed them so.
  • John made a Debian/Ubuntu package for Sphinx, a Ruby “Enterprise Edition” one and a GlusterFS Nagios plugin. ie, he fiddled on his laptop a lot.
  • I made lentil & sausage casserole from handmade-by-the-butcher-in-the-village sausages. Served it with herb & parmesan scones — another complete guestimate of the quantities of everything but they worked splendidly. A lovely, lovely comforting winter meal. Will post the recipe because it rocked.
  • I made a pointless but silly video of some ducks swimming around on the beck.
  • We made cities and roads and rivers and farms after buying Carcassonne from the fab games shop in Whitby. We liked it so much we went back today and bought an expansion pack for it too. Expansion packs for board games = awesome!
  • John made a great spaghetti bolognese. We had bought pork mince to make it like his grandma does but left it in the forgotten fridge bag at home in Leeds so had to make to with beef mince. Lovely and rich.
  • We made a hermit crab retreat back into his shell by casting shadows over his rock pool.

→ Some of my photos from around the cottage and the village