Tag Archives: Family

Foci for 2016

I like the idea of having foci rather than resolutions. Mainly because I tend to break resolutions and feel disappointed. With foci, there is a sense of  purpose and direction – but you don’t feel quite so pinned down.

Last year, I didn’t actually to commit to any resolutions until February – looking back, I did OK with them although time got in the way. I definitely improved my work-life balance. The turning point was taking my work email off my phone so I don’t here the constant ping of work nagging at me when I try to relax. As I’ve got more comfortable in my role, I’m more relaxed about it; when things don’t go as I wish them to, I work on making them better but overall, I’ve got better at accepting that somethings are outside my control and my goal is to manage this rather than feel anxious about it.

Walking to work was fun – I found that it slowed the pace of life down and I enjoy listening to books, podcasts etc as I walk. My daughter has joined me (she has started at my school now) and the company is fun. However, too much walking to work proved tiring. Over the course of the year, I’ve realised it’s good to balance the walking with cycling depending on my energy levels.

Knitting wasn’t on the list but that has been a focus- over the year, I’ve learnt lots of new techniques  and become confident and fluent; I’ve completed projects I feel proud of.  However, this brings me to my foci for this year:

1. Make clothes that fit better. Last year, I focused on learning skills and techniques; it wasn’t until towards the end of the year that I started to think about FIT.  But now FIT is starting to become a source of frustration. There’s no point knitting lovely garments that sit in a box because they don’t fit. I’ve finished my pair of sock and yes, I was mindful of fit- I restarted the socks twice, once to knit a smaller size and secondly because the sock was too long when I turned the heel. I still didn’t get it quite right as I didn’t take enough off the heel and this is the result:


A baggy heel- OK for round the house but annoying when you want to     put shoes on. I have been knitting tension squares for jumpers and this has helped but obviously I need to look more carefully at sock sizing and tension.

I’m also going to reknit a jumper I made for my husband earlier in the year – lovely but too big. It’s sat in the wardrobe all winter. The wool was expensive so there’s no point just leaving it sitting there. As you can see, I’ve started  unravelling it. I’m going to go down a needle size this time and check the fit by comparing it against the original.

2. Play the Guitar. There’s been a guitar craze in my family this Christmas. My husband (who plays well) has got his guitar out and started to play again, inspiring my children. Now I’m inspired too. I used to play chords as a teenager and I’m very rusty but if I practice most days, I’m sure I’ll get better. It’s a cheerful activity – good for hygge.

3. Go on more cycling adventures. The highlight of 2015 was cycling the Coast to Coast with my husband. When we came back, I was buzzing with ideas for mini-trips and weekends away. I love cycle touring – seeing little villages and roads you wouldn’t notice in the car and seeing changing landscapes.  I also love camping – either caravan or tent! The appeal is waking up in the landscape. This autumn, my daughter has started to join me on regular bike rides at weekends which has been a great chance to chat as we ride along’ I’m looking forward to more adventures with her. The challenge is to convince my son – he’s younger and gets bored – he prefers sprinting and skidding. Hopefully, we’ll manage an overnight camping trip with the children – a bit ambitious but doable in the summer.








Hygge – my style!

The clocks have gone back. I’m not a fan of winter as I don’t like the long dark evenings. I don’t like going and coming home from work in the dark.

Last week, I finished reading “My year of Living Danishly” – I found it on Amazon as one of those daily download deals. I’m not sure what made me want to read it but now I’m quite converted to many of the ideas about living Danishly – hygge is the way to go for winter.

So what does hygge mean to me?

Knitting – Plenty of cosy, relaxing time. The thing I like about knitting is that mostly, unless I’m doing something tricky, is that I can chat whilst I do it. Reading has to be done on your own…

This week, I’ve finished my acer cardigan and I can’t wait to wear it. It’s blocking now and I’m waiting for it to dry. That would be frustrating except it’s warm here, too hot for winter woolies. I’m pleased with the fit – I made the arms and body a bit longer partly because of my shape and partly because I don’t like jumpers that ride up over the belt of my jeans. I also like that its fitted and not sloppy – that’s a result because I got my tension just right.


I wanted some quirky buttons to individualise it and just to look a bit different. These wooden ones were a good find. I made a button band for the first time and refined my “pick up and knit” technique – I looked up how to do it properly and got a much more even result. So all good!


I also treated myself to Yokes by Kate Davies. For my next project, I wanted to get back to stranded colour work and I wanted another winter woolly. I’ve admired her patterns for a while -but not really had the skill to tackle them. Now my knitting is better, I’m definitely ready for the colour work, however the steeking is going to be more of a challenge – watch this space to see my progress.

I’m going to make her  Epistrophy cardigan. The recommended wool and colours look beautiful but expensive. I calculated about £80 which I didn’t want to spend. So I found this Wesleydale Longwool at Brityarn which is going to be great.


It smells of sheep – Which is good as I like that smell. It’s also very soft.

Family time at home -It’s been half-term this week so we’ve had a week off. We thought going to the Lake District in the caravan would be fun but in reality, it was wet and life in a small white box was not conducive to Hygge – it was cooped up rather than cosy. So we came home and have had fun here.

Christmas cake making is an important family ritual for us:


The children got Halloweentastic..


and we had some bike rides. Not being Danish, I’m not 100% certain about whether or not it would qualify for Hygge as it’s outdoors. Definitely not warm and cosy. However, when the sun has shone, the leaves have been so pretty- all the reds, yellows and oranges seem to be hygge colours to me.


We also went to the Lego show – not sure that it’s very hygge but it’s definitely Danish!

My knitting – one year on!

It’s about a year since I got ‘hooked’ on knitting and it’s good to look back and see how much better I’ve become.

Speed is quicker, tension is even. I’m starting to think about things like ‘fit’ now and how to make my creations look better.

There’s been a bit of a lag on my blog lately. Shortage of time and an apple update caused this. I couldn’t drag and drop my photos onto wordpress anymore and didn’t have time to work out why. I blamed broadband but I needed to find a work around – a quiet Sunday morning has given me the chance to do this.

I’ve been finishing a lot of projects…


My son is wearing his mini-me cable knit jumper – identical to the one I knit his Dad. He loves it and it looks very cute. The fit is good. It came up slightly small when I took it off the needles but blocking helped me stretch it out. Now, it fits perfectly (and will probably grow some more with him.)

The West Yorkshire spinners BFL yarn has become my favourite. It’s very soft – lovely against the skin.

I was enjoying the cables and the rich finish of the thicker yarns so I made this hat for my friend. It’s for playground duty; my friend is a warm blooded Italian who wears woolies in the Summer – playground duty can be cold at the best of times!


This was made from West Yorkshire Spinners BFL in aubergine. The photo has come up a bit bright. In reality, its a lovely rich purple. Knitting this was fun, the complex cables meant that there was always something to be thinking about and, as ever, it was interesting to see the pattern developing.

Having made snuggly cable knits for others, and with cooler mornings approaching, I decided to make a cable cardy for myself.  The pattern I chose was the Acer cardigan by Amy Christoffers. The combination of lace knitting and cables appealed – I thought it was feminine yet warm and cosy. The colour is Hawthorn – it was a bit darker than I had hoped for but will look good with jeans.  Getting American yarns over here can be very expensive to I hunted around for a substitute. Rowan Pure Wool Worsted was recommended as being similar. When, for the first time I bothered to knit a swatch, I averted disaster by finding that I needed bigger needles – this yarn knits at a different tension. Needles were ordered straight away but after a few delivery mishaps it took over a week for them to come. Frustration!!! 1 company sent the wrong size and then another just left them sitting in the warehouse and didn’t post them! Love Knitting came to my rescue and 10 days later they arrived – that company is good.


In the meantime, my children asked me to knit a pug for a birthday present for their friend so here it is:


Hmmm. To me, it looks like a peanut with legs.

You might laugh but it is a good representation of the pattern that they chose. Toy knitting isn’t for me at the moment. Knitting the tail, legs and ears was so fiddly. It made me practice a few knitting techniques like a horizontal pleat and knitting with DPNs and small numbers of stitches – supremely fiddly!

Since my last blog post….

I finished the Sea to Sea. I loved that trip – the scenery was stunning and remote at times. Definitely a last blast for the Summer holidays



Camping wild on the Pennines was a highlight.

The garden finally came good – Sunflowers in October – something’s wrong with the seasons here!


We’ve also had good veggies – beetroot, tomatoes and courgettes

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Some time later…

The highlight of the Summer has been cycling. Every year, we go to the Cevennes – a remote, hilly part of the South of France – because we love it!. We pack up the caravan and bikes and head down to the ferry as soon as school finishes. It takes a few bike rides, but gradually I unwind and get fitter, then I surprise myself by wanting to do longer, harder bike rides.

This year marked a milestone. My daughter was old enough to come and join me on a few rides. She rode her first proper mountain climb.


The scenery is stunning. Tiny, twisty, broken roads winding up through the trees.


This was the bottom of the Col de l’Asclier – at the top there’s a statue of Robert Louis Stevenson (writer of Treasure Island, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde)  – he walked across the area and wrote about it publishing, “Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes.” Here’s the view from the top:

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Back in England, we’ve done tandem rides and longer local rides near home. My parents-in-law are looking after the children for a few days so my husband and I are are going to seize the chance to ride the Sea to Sea. It’s a 136 mile route travels across the North of England from Whitehaven on the West coast – across the Lake District and Pennines to Tynemouth – across the East coast. We’ve talked about doing this ride for years but never had the chance -so I can’t wait.

Knitting has taken a backseat… but also my project was much bigger than I anticipated. I finished the Funchal Moebius wrap and it was worth the effort. My last few posts were about tension and I was worried that the work would not flatten – it did though. The pattern instructed me to iron the wrap to block it and this had a magical effect. It smoothed the ruckled effect perfectly.


The finished object is striking….



I’ve learnt a lot about the need to perfect my tension though. Up until now, I’ve been so happy to complete a project with neat, even stitches. However, I am becoming more conscious of fit and recognising how it necessary it is for the overall garment.

OK- sounds obvious. But everyone has to go through this for themselves. Everyone has to knit a project without swatching and realise that they should have bothered with it.

My lesson went like this:

During the wrap, I was worried about ruckling so as the project went on, I became more conscious of keeping the floats loose at the back so I made them longer. When I finished the garment, I realised that doing this had made me  loosen the tension across the project – the top edge didn’t quite match the bottom edge.

When you look closely, you can see that the top is wider than the bottom. Also, the shapes get slightly bigger.


I’m not bothered about this – you can’t see the fault when I wear it but this made me think.

The next point that bought it home to me was the jumper I knitted for my husband. When he wears it, it looks fine but he doesn’t find it comfortable. He said it felt a bit too big and that it just hung, “it didn’t have any tension”. He doesn’t know about knitter terminology, this was just how he found it. I do know that I knit a bit loosely so I took on board what he said and started to be conscious of keeping the year a bit tighter.

Originally, I’d started a jumper for my son earlier in the summer and knitted the back at my more regular tension. However this week, I started the front (being conscious of tension) and noticed that the diamond pattern looked smaller:


Quite a big difference!!

To make the jumper fit, I needed it at the looser fitting so I pulled it out and started again, knitting loosely. I’ve been lucky – I hadn’t done too much.

But this has made me realise how much control you have over tension just by the way you hold the yarn – not just through the needles.

In future, I will be knitting tension swatches.

Home Alone

My husband has gone away for a month! This is not an unusual occurrence, it happens 2-3 times a year. This time, he’s gone to North America. When he’s away, a different regime kicks in. I don’t plan too much. It’s hard work for both the kids and I. They have long days with childcare before and after school and I have more to fit into my routine. My admiration for single parents is immense.

So this weekend, is mainly around the house, catching up and trying to go with the flow.

I finished my cushion. I was no longer tied up in knots trying to manage the yarns. I’ve got the hang of holding the dominant yarn in the left and the other in my right hand. A bit more work is needed to understand colour dominance.  Also, the tension is much tighter on my colour work – I think if I was going to knit a garment where this mattered, I would have to go up a needle size. However, I’m pleased that I’ve got to a point with my knitting where I’m enjoying more tricky knits – the stocking stitch of the back of the cushion dragged. I did it in front of the TV etc so the cushion took a bit longer to finish than it needed to.

I love the result:



The garden is growing:


There are flowers on the broad beans and baby strawberries:


The rhubarb was getting out of hand so we decided to make jam:


The jam took ages to set. It was supposed to take 15 mins but it actually took a good 40 mins.


It looks nice but seems very sweet. I will have to eat some on my toast to know if it’s been successful.

Early morning knitting

The light wakes me up early at the moment and I find it hard to sleep much after 5.00a.m.

This morning the sun was streaming in and it made a gentle start to get up while the house was quiet.

I started Green Gable socks last night – I couldn’t resist. The yarn from Old Maiden Aunt contains a glittery sparkle which is a bit different for me – but it has a sense of fun about it.


The pattern is just starting to emerge and I like that moment where you see it come together and look good.


It’s coming to the end of half-term holidays. I’ve had a complete break from work which was much needed and had lots of outdoor time. We’ve done local tandem rides and had 2 nights camping in the cotswolds – and a proper mountain bike ride with the children. We brought a Garmin Montana a few weeks ago and were trying it out to find new rides – no more getting lost or spending ages trying to work out where we are on the maps! We found some stunning byways and tracks. There were some steep hills but the kids put in huge efforts to climb them without stopping.

Teddy’s New Clothes.

This time of year is my favourite. Lots of daylight and new leaves on trees. This week, it’s half-term and we’ve had a few days at home which has given me time to do the things that I’ve been short of time to do – hence 2 blog posts in a week!

Next month, my son is going on his first overnight trip away, with school. The teacher has told them that there will be a “best dressed teddy” competition. The great idea gives licence for all the children to bring their “secret teddies” that they would be a bit embarrassed to show to each other. William came home from school full of excitement about this and I was commissioned to make something for Paddington (named after the film) who I made at Christmas. Paddington (our bear) has been a big hit and has joined the ranks of favourite teddies rather than the ones that just sit on the bed!

My first attempt at “pattern design” – can I call it this? – resulted in this:

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I’ve been practising with stranded knitting so I wanted to personalise the T shirt to make it a bit fancier. The orange button on the jacket is a finishing touch that I’m pleased with too.

William loved the outfit  and I’m feeling like a Tiger Mum, determined that Teddy will be the best dressed!

9 weeks later….

It’s taken me nine weeks to finish the jumper!!

Whilst I’ve been knitting, my garden has been growing – I have a few flowers now and some healthy looking seedlings.

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It has taken a long time for my jumper to grow too. Work has been busy so not too much knitting time.

Also, it’s a big beast of a jumper, weighing in at 830 grammes. That is heavy!

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The yarn (Aran from West Yorkshire Spinners) is incredibly soft and easy to work with. I enjoyed the pattern too. Once I’d got the hang of the pattern, it was rewarding to see it developing. Up close, the detail of the knitting is intricate and beautiful to touch as well as look at.

Will it be worn? Not for a few months… My timing wasn’t great – a huge aran jumper for the start of June. My husband likes it although he thinks the weight will take a bit of getting used to, but it’s not itchy.

I think it looks great on him.

Cabling and Colourwork

Three projects in one week!

Only two of them are mine – the other is my daughter’s.  She’s shown no interest in knitting until her friend took it up. All of a sudden, it was the latest craze! My stash was being pulled apart for suitable yarn. So she learnt to knit. I’ve also shown her how to purl but now the holidays have come, she’s not seeing her friend everyday and the enthusiasm is waning. In fact, the last time she picked up her needles was Friday.

Of course, the more I ‘encourage’, the less she will want to do it. This project might become a DNF (Did Not Finish).

A few early rows
A few early rows

I also began a jumper for my husband. He wasn’t too impressed with the socks I knitted him, they have never been worn. He did say that he wanted an aran jumper though. This jumper has been a long-term goal. Firstly, I needed the knitting stamina to be bothered to complete such a large piece of work and secondly, I needed to be confident enough to have a go at the cabling. Feeling good after my shawl project, i decided it was time.

When we visited my mother-in-law a few months ago, she dug out her old knitting patterns, including one for an aran jumper for my husband that had never been made. Despite the fact that the model looks like Prince William, I thought the pattern had potential.


The yarn I bought has sentimental origins – it’s from WYS in Keighley. This was where my dad worked and not far from Cleckheaton in West Yorkshire where I grew up.


Cabling was easier than I expected, The first row of the cable pattern took three attempts – my counting skills aren’t great. But gradually, as the pattern established, I started to pick up speed and didn’t have to concentrate so hard.

The first pattern repeat
The first pattern repeat
In close-up
In close-up

I’m enjoying knitting this. But…..

I wanted some knitting to do in front of the TV and this does need concentration.  My mind went back to the other colour work cushion I wanted to do. The back is stripes – ideal TV knitting.  So the idea of another work in project started to take hold… the yarn was ordered.

Then my husband admitted that he wasn’t sure that he would wear the jumper.  I was OK with that – I knew I would wear it but I would have to start again in a smaller size. The wool is soft and cosy. The pattern looked good. But I didn’t want to knit anymore of his jumper  if I was going to rip it back. So I took a pause to give him chance to decide.

Thus, I began my next WIP. A Fair Isle cushion from Easy Fair Isle knits by Martin Storey.

My technique has improved so much – I’ve managed to hold the yarns in two hands and it’s a much smoother knitting process than the paper dolls cushion I made in December.



My colour work cushion is finished and looking fabulous if I do say it myself. I’m very pleased with the final result. After knitting, I found the colourwork side was quite a bit tighter than the stocking stitch side. I decided that blocking was needed; I’ve never done it before so I consulted the blogs and found out how to do it. But it needed blocking pins.. I called the local knitting shop and they don’t stock them, she explained there wasn’t much demand. I wondered about this. On Twitter, everyone seems to block,  but day to day, do others bother? My mother in law, who is far more experienced than me, tells me she never blocks jumpers and only presses when the whole piece is put together. Do you block? If so, please explain the benefits..

The advice I was given was to press the wool on a cool heat (to avoid felting) and to stretch it. I did this and it worked beautifully, brought a lovely soft cushion pad and stitched it all together. My cushion is soft and warm. And quite unique.

The front.
The front.
The detail
The detail
The back
The back

The pattern came from Easy Fair Isle knits by Martin Storey and was made with Rowan Felted tweed.

The heel
The heel
The detail
The detail

The socks are coming on well too. I’ve managed to successfully turn the heel and have got used to the DPNs. I do tend to drop and have to pick up stitches quite a bit as I don’t always remember to push them down the needle when I change needles. Also, I keep forgetting to put in the purl stitch in the rib pattern so a few corrections there. All in all though, these socks will be wearable! and I’m enjoying making them.

It’s my daughter’s birthday in a few weeks and this has led me to a new project but not a knitting one! She wants a beanbag and I won’t be knitting that. I’ve looked around and the ones I can find to buy don’t inspire. Jennifer will be 11 and she wants this for her room. She’s grown out of the small child pretty pink cartoon phase but isn’t ready for the neutral coloured adult phase. I offered to sew her one.

In my teenage years and early twenties, I used to be a prolific dressmaker. This fizzled out with work, cycling and very small children. I didn’t have time. But I still have the equipment and the skills (although rusty) so we bought the fabric. It was expensive and that was a shock. The homemade version will cost more than a bought version, even though the fabric was heavily discounted in the sale! But never mind, I will enjoy making it and it will be pretty.

The pattern
The pattern
The fabric - it's from Cath Kitson - costly, even in the sale, but pretty!
The fabric – it’s from Cath Kitson – costly, even in the sale, but pretty!