Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye

It’s been a funny couple of days with a bit of generational role-reversal going on. Tonight it’s going to be me and Mum’s cat keeping each other company. I tried spinning when Cleo was around on Sunday and she wasn’t sure about it at all – though I swear my wheel doesn’t squeak – so we’ll see what she makes of it tonight. She has left my fibre and knitting completely alone over the past couple of days which is impressive I think – so much so, I’m tempted to catnap Cleo up to North Wales!

The main pic of today’s blog is an embroidery I did years ago – it’s a sepia-ish portrait of my dad in his WWII uniform (yes, really). I used to have some software that you could upload a photo to and it would give you a cross-stitch chart. The picture would have been far too big as cross-stitch (which goes across two threads at a time, so I just did tiny diagonal stitches across one thread at a time. The finished embroidery is only 7cm by 9.5cm! I don’t have the software any more, but I’d love to do one of Mum as well while my eyes can still take working at such a small scale.

I have probably mentioned that my lovely wife, Sue Finch, is a poet (and if not, I should have!). At midnight tonight, IAMB Wave Seven goes live and she will be part of it! Audio recordings of 15 poets reading their own work alongside the printed text. If you like the spoken word it will definitely be worth clicking that link. Here is Wave Six to give you an idea of the brilliant quality you can expect.

A black and white headshot of a woman with silver hair lying on a rosemary bush with her hands behind her head. She is smiling and her eyes are closed and she wears a sweater with the word 'Poet' embroidered above the left breast. To the right of the headshot is her name: Sue Finch.

The large version of Into the Vortex is complete and is going to be blocked in the next couple of days. After a quick test on the extra sections, they will be added to the main pattern for all to enjoy – keep your eyes peeled for updates!

A vortex shaped shawl in a light sand and shades of teal lies on a dark grey floor. The shawl uses garter stitch, slip stitch patterns and lace.

That’s all from me for today. Stay safe folks and keep doing what makes you happy, K x

Could It Be Magic?

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you’ve been fighting to try to make something technical work, but it won’t? For the past week I have been unable to access Microsoft 365 on my MacBook. That meant no email, no Word docs, no Excel… Basically I could do no work that involved those things, unless I could do it via my phone, which bizarrely (and thankfully) remained unaffected. It’s so strange to have a window repeated pop up to tell you there is no valid subscription for that email address when you know there is, cos it’s working fine on another device!

So last Friday I contacted Microsoft via their ‘chat support’. The person I was communicating with said there was no valid subscription showing up at their end (I explained in various ways how that could not be the case), then said it was a known issue for people who had purchased through the Apple App Store, but would be sorted out very soon and I would be notified by email when it was fixed. His other suggestion was to ring Apple, ask for a refund and re-purchase directly from them. I was reluctant to do that – it’s a family subscription and I didn’t want to risk impacting my lovely wife’s ability to access her files.

Four days later when I still couldn’t get access to my files (other than to look at them), I looked up Apple support. There are three options – online chat, give them your number and they’ll ring you or email. Well the online chat hadn’t solved my issue when I contacted Microsoft so I opted for the phone call. A friendly person asked what the problem was and asked to access my screen, for which I gave permission. Their mouse pointer was big and red so I could very easily see what they were asking me to do. I went through the same process as I have been doing for DAYS to no effect and then they asked me to try clicking on “restore previous purchases”. I was doubtful this would have any effect either as I had tried that myself too, but I was wrong! Some magic must have been woven by the wonderful Apple Support employee (though they claimed it wasn’t when I asked) because it worked!! Word, Excel and Outlook are all now fully available to me again on my MacBook – I am SO relieved.

It made me feel a bit like the pupils must have when I was teaching and their computers were misbehaving; they would ask for help, very frustrated, yet when I came over to talk them through it, all of a sudden the computer did what it was supposed to.


Another bit of magic has been the transformation of Doris’ fleece from raw fleece, to washed fleece, to spun yarn, to knitted fabric. I’ve only done a small swatch so far (using all of the little skein I’d spun) and I can tell that the areas of fabric with less twist in the yarn are much softer as it allows the wool to bloom. It’s not the most evenly spun yarn, but it’s a little swatch that I’m very proud of nonetheless and I’m already thinking about what full-scale projects I will make with it.

The large version of Into the Vortex is coming on and will be finished by the end of the week (yay!). Now that I can use Word again I’ll be able to type up this version of the pattern, get it checked through and tested and then add it to the main pattern file. I posted a pic in yesterday’s subscribers’ newsletter (hurrah for Mailchimp) and also showed them some sneak previews of some new coasters!

Now, since it’s such a beautiful day outside, I think I’m going to take my journal and knitting outside and sit on the patio (under the sunshade) and finish the final part of the shawl.

I hope you get some time this week to stop and rest – and maybe even experience a few things that might just be magic!

Take care and keep knitting, K x

Three Shelves Full

Just a short one today, though lots has happened in the week (and I did manage to avoid falling over again!).

Doris’ fleece is now clean and drying. I posted about the cleaning process yesterday on social media, so for now, here is a photo of the final drying stage; on a heated airer, with tea towels between the fleece and the bars. The heat was only on for about an hour and a half and it made a big difference. It’ll stay there now til tomorrow.

Creamy-white sheep fleece lies drying on a three-tier heated airer in the kitchen. It is sandwiched between the fridge-freezer and the oven. Tea towels poke out between the fleece and the bars of the airer.

Audrey, my sourdough starter, had a disaster. This morning I found a fruit fly in the sealed jar… So, she has had to go away. Sadly I hadn’t got any dried starter as back-up so I shall have to start again from the beginning – Audrey is gone, long live Audrey 2!

The full fancy version of Into the Vortex was published on Friday and the large version of Into the Vortex is coming on nicely – so far there’s an altered Part Seven and a brand new Part Eight.

Four images of Into the Vortex shawl posed on Desdemona the mannequin show some of the wearing possibilities. One uses a shawl pin (bottom left), another has the small pointed end draped over the left shoulder (top right), a third has the point of the wide end draped over the right shoulder (bottom right)and the fourth is worn more like a scarf with the shawl bunched up more on the shoulders (top left). Images taken on a sunny day on the patio by the brick garage wall.

Part Nine will be coming into being this evening. I’m hoping there will be enough yarn for 11 parts in total, but we shall have to wait and see. There are currently 165 stitches on the needle and it’s amazing how much extra yarn one stitch extra every other row takes up over a section.

165 stitches sounds like nothing though compared to the i-cord bind-off for the Brioche + Mystery Shawl by Suzanne Sommer (Sosuknits) – there were over 1000 for that once I’d picked up along the top edge! It does look splendid, even before blocking. I’m hoping to block it before the end of the week. The gorgeous mixture of 4-ply yarns are: Artist’s Palette Yarns’ Smoothie Sock in Ocean Sky (light blue) (no link as they paused trading in 2019), Lottie Knits‘ Little Bird Sock in Nightshade (dark blue/purple), The Knitting Goddess‘ Britsock in Blackened Yellow (olive green-ish) and Triskelion Yarn‘s Elen Sock in Freo (magenta). The yarns all played very nicely together!

A close-up of a shawl worked in a mixture of garter stitch, two colour brioche, bobbles and an i-cord edging. The four yarn colours are combined in different ways to create a variety of effects.

Tomorrow will be a busy day – it’s price rise day for my knitting patterns! That means I will need to go through 42 of my 46 published patterns on three platforms and here on my website and alter the price for each of them. If you’re canny and you have your eye on a pattern, you might beat me to it. There’s nothing as fancy as automation here, it’s all done by me, one at a time. Remember you can get an on-going discount code (for ALL purchases, not just patterns) exclusive to subscribers by signing up to my monthly newsletter; the next one is coming out on Monday 6th September.

That’s all for today. Stay safe and keep knitting, K x

Falling

I’ve always had dodgy ankles. Ones that have a tendency to turn sideways, even on a flat surface. This has led to me ending up sitting on the ground facing the way I’ve just come from more times than I can recall over the years. And so, I wear walking sandals in the summer, avoid heels and try, generally, to be careful.

View over Denbighshire from Moel Famau. There is purple heather in the foreground near the path and the hills are dotted with trees. There is a dramatic break in the clouds in the distance allowing sunshine onto some of the fields. In the far distance, the mountains of Snowdonia can be seen.

Isn’t this beautiful? This is the view over Denbighshire from about halfway up Moel Famau (roughly pronounced “Moll Vam-eye”). We went up there last Thursday, with me wearing very sensible walking shoes. The rain had eased for about the first time in a few days and it was good to be outside. In fact, I haven’t been up Moel Famau in over four years, but that’s another story. The sheep were very talkative, if a little shy.

A sheep grazes on the hillside on grass. There is purple heather behind it. It is less than 2 metres from the footpath. Its head is obscured by thistles.

We got most of the way to the top and the Jubilee Tower was looking less like a blob and more like a monument.

A stony path winds its way uphill to the remains of a monument. There is a wayeinder's marker next to the path and heather on each side. A dry stone wall is on the right, with more heather and a line of fir trees behind it.

The last part of the walk is rather steep though and, as I was already quite puffed out, we decided to save the last part of the hill for the next visit. So, after a little rest on one of the very welcome benches, we started downhill.

Sue was slightly ahead of me and said a cheery hello to the four ladies coming up. It was their exclamation of “Oh! Are you ok?” that made her stop and turn around. My ankle had done it again, but rather than spinning me round to sit facing the other way, I landed face down on my hip, knee and elbow. Very embarrassing and I was a little worried I might have damaged something more than my pride. Once the kind ladies had been reassured, Sue hauled me up again and we slowly made our way onward as the bottom of the hill and the car was still about 2km away. It’s amazing what adrenalin can do, isn’t it?

I was very lucky. Nothing broken, just some rather impressive bruises and an elbow that didn’t take kindly to being moved much for the next few days. However, not much will keep me away from my knitting and I did manage to block the first of my two Into the Vortex shawls before we went to visit my mum for the weekend.

A dark blue and olive green vortex shawl is pinned out on large blue and purple play mats. The shawl is in blocks of solid colours and stripes, using slip stitch patterns and lace. The black marble of the hearth is at the bottom of the image.

And I have just blocked the second one.

Another version of the same shawl is pinned out on the same blocking mats. This time the shawl is in two gradient yarns - a neutral that moves from beige to cream and back again and a rainbow that moves from acid green to dark purple. A piece of paper with the schematic for the shawl is in the centre of the mats.

The point is turned in on itself a little more with this one so I might adjust the pins while it’s still damp. The brilliant thing about blocking a shape like this is that you only really need pins on the outside edge – the vortex shape takes care of the inside edge and if it’s not taut then you haven’t pulled it out far enough. I start by measuring the points shown on the schematic and pinning those. I then add pins around the edge from there and will move them repeatedly if I’m not satisfied with the curve/line being created.

While we were away over the weekend (and as I wasn’t driving) I have been able to get lots more of my Brioche + Mystery Shawl done. I’ve only got half the i-cord edging left to go now! Hopefully the next day or so should see that completed. I’ll post pics of that next week. Then it’s back to the final Vortex to make it super-sized.

We’ve been eating homegrown produce again today – we harvested our Pink Fir Apple potatoes yesterday (using a sack to grow them in has been SO much less hassle) and they are delicious. We’ve also been enjoying some fab greengages that I picked from Mum’s garden at the weekend.

Lots of small knobbly Pink Fir Apple potatoes lie drying on a blue/purple towel. The potatoes have some pink parts and some yellowy-cream. Some of the shapes they have grown into are quite comical.

Visiting Mum in August inevitably means getting plums from the local farm shop and we were able to get enough Pershore Yellow Egg plums for me to make a full batch of jam (and then some!) yesterday morning.

10 jars of amber coloured jam sit cooling on the bread board on a bamboo kitchen worktop. The jars have blue and white gingham patterned lids. Behind the jars are bags of flour, the yellow lid of a large pot of marmite peanut butter, a blue fruit bowl with red apples and a stand mixer.

Our courgettes are threatening to become marrows and the raspberries need picking, so I’m glad the next couple of weeks are forecast to be dry. I will also be able to finish picking over Doris’ fleece before I wash it. I’ve done half of it inside with an old sheet laid out on the study carpet, and I think being outside in the sunshine would make the task more enjoyable.

My main aim for the next week, though, is to stay on both feet and not fall over again! What are you aiming to do this week?

Take care, whatever it is, and keep knitting, K x

Chasing Rainbows

We had a lovely few days with my sister-in-law and niece last week. Exhausting, but lovely! I hadn’t done so much socialising or being out in the world for 18 months and it was quite a shock to the system. Chester Zoo was the busiest place we visited, but we still managed to keep our distance from other people on the whole and didn’t go into many of the indoor spaces (and, of course, wore masks when we did).

The day before we had been to Llandudno, driving up and around the Great Orme (all praise my automatic Yaris) where the weather was lovely, followed by a visit to Swallow Falls at Betws-y-Coed where we got very wet in the rain! True Welsh weather.

On the way home we had a 10-mile detour, but it did mean that we got to see Ruthin as well and beautiful rainbow as we came down towards Mold. Ronnie came on all the outings and had lots of fun – he assures me he wasn’t scared seeing the other rhino at the zoo, he was just surprised at how big and wrinkly it really was!

I’m starting to see people’s finished Into the Vortex projects and it’s a joy to hear that they have enjoyed taking part in the MKAL with Yarn O’clock. I’ll show you some of them next week when I’ve got a few more pics.

The final part was released last Friday and comes with options to accommodate the amount of yarn you may have left. If you remember, I was asked to design something that used as much of the yarn as possible and that is exactly what I did!, Therefore there was always the possibility some knitters might have fractionally looser tension or be using yarn that had slightly less meterage. As it happened, I needed to use one of the “I’m running out of Yarn B” options in one of my versions! I was half a row short of the full amount. Can you tell in the pictures below which one has fewer stripes?

I finished two of my Into the Vortex shawls (for yes, dear reader, that is what we have been making!) at the weekend. Yesterday was supposed to be end-weaving day, but I got distracted by my spinning wheel instead, so once I’ve written this (and finished making dinner) I shall knuckle down and get them done.

And here’s how the shape will change once it’s blocked! With the prototype I didn’t weave the ends in until after blocking, but I think the stability of the side with the joins is better if you do weave them first.

Once I’ve done the ends of those two and blocked them, I can allow myself to return to the large version. Obviously yarn running out in Part Seven won’t be an issue there, but the question is, do I use Part Seven as it is (without the cast off) or do I save that for the actual finish? Or use it in both places? And how many more sections will I get out of another 100g yarn? It’s not quite as easy to predict as you might think, since every other row the stitch count increase by one, having cast on five at the beginning, there are approx 150 sts by the time Part Seven is complete.

Some exciting new things have been added to my Payhip store! At the weekend I was playing with my rubber stamps and inks and some really nice gift tag blanks and I’ve put a whole range of different sheep and knitting themed gift tags up there.

They aren’t on my website yet, but they are on Payhip which is where you can actually buy them; 50p each or sets of six for £3. They will all come with jute twine or 3mm ribbon to attach them to gifts/gift bags as well. I have more designs to put up later this week as well.

In the kitchen today two homemade sourdough pizza bases are on their second prove. The recipe serves four, so we get vegan pizza today AND tomorrow! The other two balls of dough are patiently waiting in the fridge in clingfilm for their moment of glory. That’s one of the things I’m learning about sourdough – it really doesn’t mind waiting.

Well, that’s all from me today. I’m not going to write about what’s going on in the outside world, because I just don’t know where to start. Doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it, of course.

Take care, stay as safe as you can and knit on, K x

Going Backwards

Despite what you might assume from the title of today’s post, I am not in a funk. The backwards I am going is with my knitting and for something completely different I am going to post a little video today. Please excuse the state of my hands – they are actually improving a lot!

The video is now captioned!!, and what I am showing you is the technique for knitting backwards rather than turning your work to purl. This is really useful for bobbles as you increase one stitch to five, work on those five stitches repeatedly to create three mini rows and then decrease back down to one stitch.

For some reason the focus isn’t as clear as it was in iMovie – but that may be something to do with my export settings. As this is the first video I have uploaded to my blog I am accepting that it won’t be perfect (this is quite a big deal for me in itself) and remembering that this is all a learning curve. Future ones will, I’m sure, be better!

Why didn’t I have time to caption the video earlier? Well, my sister-in-law and niece are visiting from the other end of the country and we are going to spend the next few days with them. This is exciting as it is the first time my niece has been to Wales so we get to show her some of our favourite bits! I just hope the threatening grey clouds don’t do much more than threaten!

The courgettes are gorgeous, the potatoes need to be harvested, there are raspberries to be picked and roses to deadhead. So much to do and so little time! But our MKAL continues apace and I can hardly believe that the last part will be released in three days time. When we started it felt like Into the Vortex would be going on forever, but the past seven weeks have flown by. A little update showing you two versions of Part Five:

Two lots of striped slipped stitch knitting laid on top each other. The bottom half of the image is a light neutral striped with bright yellow that changes to orange by mid-screen. The top half of the image is the same pattern in solid dark blue striped with an olive green.

That’s all I have time for right now, so I will love you and leave you.

Stay safe & keep knitting, K x

Going Out

We did it. For the first time in over 18 months we went away for the night to meet up with friends (as opposed to family) and WE ATE OUT! At a restaurant. It felt very odd to start with being out in a big room with lots of other people, but the staff all wore masks and so did we for the two metres we had to travel from the door to our table. And when we visited the loos. The food was lovely, with a good vegan menu as well as ‘regular’ ones.

One thing I had completely forgotten about eating out is how loud it is. There was music playing (quite loudly) and although we were nearest to the door and not directly near a speaker it was difficult at times to hear and be heard. So what happens? You talk louder and move nearer, both things that you’re not meant to do really in terms of minimising spread, but everyone in our little group had had negative tests recently, and fingers crossed we’re all ok still so far!

This meet up had been postponed from last summer and we hadn’t seen these friends for two years, but the lovely thing about really good friends is the ability to pick up as though that gap of time had never been.

And where did this momentous occasion take place? In Lichfield. None of us had ever been there, but it is more or less halfway from both our homes. It is a lovely little town (city). We looked around the cathedral and it is stunning. The main image on this post is part of the frontage, chronological sculptures of the kings and queens of England, each holding something that represents their reign. For example, King John (not in shot) is holding a green (copper) quill and scroll to represent the Magna Carta. Here’s most of the frontage:

The frontage of Lichfield Cathedral with a cloudy grey sky behind. The building is covered in sculptures of kings, queens, angles and saints with lots of geometric details.

While inside I failed to photograph the historically important things such as the shrine to St Chad or the Angel of Lichfield (a carving from the EIGHTH century!). Instead, I photographed things that took my eye as potential knitting inspiration. My old City & Guilds tutor would be proud of me (she was – I already put these pics on Twitter!). So, I give you the *back* of the high altar (inlaid and carved marble) and two rather beautiful floor grates which have a definite theme of diamonds and circles:

Four colours of mosaic marble form diamond hatching. In the centre of each diamond is a flower carved in relief within a circle. Each line of the diamond hatching has a different mosaic pattern and each flower is different as well.
A close up of a cast iron floor grating. Each piece is two circles wide and three high with diamonds running through the circles and decorative points like the tops of church windows all through the design.
A square cast iron floor grating with a large circle surrounded with a border of diamonds. The circle has 'spokes' spreading from the centre, with the detail near the edge of the circle taking the form almost of fleurs de lyes, similar to the tops of church windows.

Quite when I will turn these into knitting ideas I’m not sure, but there are a few possibilities kicking around in my head already.

Remember the terrible frisbee I made that was supposed to be a loaf? I tried some of the helpful suggestions from the sourdough Facebook group, reducing the water, reducing the proving time and the time in between pulls and folds and my next loaf was very much better! It tasted fabulous too.

A seeded sourdough loaf with a cross scored across the floured top sits on a metal cooling rack.

The drive to and from Lichfield enabled some further progress on the Brioche + Mystery shawl. Please note – I was the passenger!

A close up of part of a brioche knitted shawl in four colours. There are two colour brioche stripes surrounded on two sides by textural stripes, then triangle shapes in two-colour brioche, followed by garter stitch stripes in three colours with bobbles in the centre stripe.

I’m now about to start the next lot of bobbles. Knitting backwards to avoid turning your work every five stitches is an optional technique during the bobbles and I *can* do it, but my tension isn’t quite as consistent as turning it round and purling, so I’m undecided about which approach to take this time around. Thinking about it, when I’m teaching I tell other people that the only way they can improve a skill is to practise it, so I’d best take my own advice and do some knitting backwards. I’ll take some pics while I’m doing it so you can see!

There are only two more parts of Into the Vortex to be revealed and I’ll share some more of people’s progress with you next week 😊

Harvesting continues in the garden and everything seemed to grow massively over the weekend while we were away – the courgette plants that had looked so puny only a little while back gave us these beauties this morning. For reference, the shortest green courgette is nine and a half inches long.

Three large green courgettes lie on a green tablecloth with three round yellow courgettes of various sizes. In the top left corner is a woven placemat with the base of a silver candlestick just showing.

I haven’t mentioned my Craftucation courses lately, have I? I had been hoping to finish ‘An Introduction to Lace Knitting’ a few months ago, but my hands have been too dry and cracked to record anything – no-one wants to see lengthy close-ups these paws at the moment. It’s not fallen off my radar, though, and I am making great efforts to get my hands fit to be seen. Hopefully I’ll be able to return to recording in September, when it should also be cool enough to wear the same clothes as when I started recording the course! Watch this space!

I hope your week has gone well. Stay safe, do what makes you happy. K x

What you got cooking?

How is this the last blog post of July already? Time really has been flying past. This morning saw some much needed rain along with a fanfare from the thunder. The rain has also brought with it some cooler temperatures which I have been taking full advantage of.

Yesterday morning was harvesting: the rest of the gooseberries got turned into the crumble shown in the post picture. It was gorgeous and there’s some left for tonight. It goes really well with vanilla soya yoghurt.

All of the blackcurrants which were washed, picked over and frozen in two bags (I didn’t remember to photograph these) and the redcurrants… Those redcurrants have been worrying me if you remember. The wood pigeons have been eating as many as they could get their beaks on and attempting to sit on the stems of the bush despite the fact that the stems were breaking under them. I was beginning to think there wouldn’t be any left for us.

However! Once I got down into the ‘underskirts’ of the redcurrant bush there was lots of fruit still there waiting to be picked. So I picked them all.

Once all the fruit was washed and picked over, the crumble made and the blackcurrants frozen I realised there wasn’t really any space in the freezer for the redcurrants. So, I stripped them all off their little ‘strings’ and got ready to make jelly.

A jam pan half filled with very ripe redcurrants.

This is a two day process as I like to leave the bag overnight. The tea-towels and clothes pegs are to keep out any curious insects!

This morning I was stiff as a board when I got up (that’s what an hour and a half in the garden mostly bent double will do for you when you’re me), but I was keen to see how much juice there was. With this recipe you don’t know how much sugar you’ll need until this stage (and so, of course, I had bought far too much), as it’s proportional to the juice volume.

The juice and sugar boiled up nicely and the jars were washed once again in the dishwasher and then sterilised in the oven. 12 jars. I realised this was too many, but needed to put the dishwasher on before I’d measured the juice.

I got 3 1/2 jars. Not a lot, but considering I had wondered whether we would get any at all, this is good. And it’s such a beautiful colour – and smells and tastes AMAZING! I’m so glad we have homemade redcurrant jelly in the house again.

3 1/2 jars of redcurrant jelly cooling on the breadboard in front of the jam pan.

But then I had 8 sterilised jars unused and the cooking apples from mum were just starting to look past their best. What to do? Naturally, I made the chutney.

Apples, onions and malt vinegar cooking in the jam pan as the chutney begins.

Following Mum’s additional notes (she adds onion which I’d forgotten about until the apples had been simmering for 30 minutes) I cooked it and stirred and jumped out of the way when it spat at me. Thank goodness my lovely wife suggested I wear my ‘hair-dyeing top’ today. I only got a few boiling hot specks on my arms (and toe). It did indeed take ‘a while’ to become the ‘required consistency’ – well over an hour once all the ingredients were finally in, but we now have 5 jars of homemade apple chutney with onion, garlic, brown sugar, sultanas, ground ginger, mixed spice, cayenne pepper and chilli flakes. It smelt glorious (and tasted good when I tried a bit that had dropped on the side).

The deep irony of the redcurrants is that we spent six hours sorting out the garage on Saturday and I discovered that I actually have some fruit netting. All of those redcurrants could have been ours!

Not all of my kitchen endeavours have been successful this week. At the weekend I made the worst loaf of my life…

A very flat sourdough loaf cooling on the rack.

The sourdough group I’m in on Facebook gave me lots of very helpful tips to avoid this happening in the future, so I’m not giving up!

And what of the knitting news I promised you?

I have been having lots of fun with the Brioche + Mystery shawl by Suzanne Sommer and will start the bobbles this evening. I do love a clear well-written pattern and this one is a delight. I’ve always been fussy about patterns, and I’m not sure whether this has increased since I started writing my own!

Into the Vortex continues apace – we are past the half-way point now with four parts being out in the world and there are three parts left to be released. Here is what Parts One-Three look like:

Parts One-Three of Into the Vortex MKAL in dark blue Nene 4-ply and pale multicoloured Chimera both by Riverknits lying on a light gold carpet.

When I showed you the very beginnings of the two I had cast on to knit in ‘real-time’ with the MKAL I didn’t tell you about the third. I’m experimenting with something with this one, using 100g of John Arbon Knit by Numbers 4-ply in one colour and 5 (or maybe 6) mini-skeins in all the shades of another. The experiment part is that this MKAL was initially designed for only 50g of each of two 4-ply yarns. I’m trying to see if I can successfully build off the MKAL to create a bigger version, using twice as much yarn. If it works out, this bigger version will be added to the pattern, so if you’ve joined the MKAL you’ll get this version as well (it might just take a little while, so don’t expect it the week after Part Seven is released!). I’m not going to show you any pics of this one yet – you’ll have to wait!

The other piece of knitting news is to do with pattern pricing. Always a fun topic. Into the Vortex and Angel of the North have both been priced at £5. My other patterns are currently £4, with a few at £3.60. My July Newsletter let my subscribers know that my whole pattern portfolio will be going up in price at the end of August. Those currently at £4 will become £5. Those at £3.60 will become £4.20. Subscribers will get an ongoing discount code to use along with a multi-purchase code. If you have your eye on any of my patterns at the moment and you’re not already a subscriber you could buy them before the end of August, or sign up to my newsletter and get the code. Or both! Why not sign up anyway?

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That’s all from me for today, have a good week and keep knitting! K x

It’s Too Darn Hot!

I made it to my mum’s! It’s only the second time I’ve seen her since last September and I brought a homemade loaf with me which has almost been finished already. The air-con in the car was very pleasant during the journey so I didn’t notice the effects of the 29 degree heat until I arrived and got out of the car. And it carried on getting hotter. By yesterday afternoon the temperature gauge in the garage was reading over 34 degrees!!

We knew it was going to be hot while I was here, so at the weekend Mum had sensibly suggested that I didn’t made chutney in the middle of a heatwave. I’ve got the ‘store cupboard’ elements and jars at home, she is handing over the very enormous and beautiful cooking apples and garlic that she’d got in for me to take back. We both have the same preserves book:

Front cover of Home Preservation of Fruit and Vegetables published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 1968 (12th edition)

Mine is about 50 years younger than hers, but it’s still in print because it’s brilliant) and so she went through the recipe with me, pointing out what could easily be tweaked and adding more info to that given in the ‘method’; “Until required consistency is achieved” is a little vague for me, but Mum said that it can take ‘a while’, but it won’t reach a setting point like jam or marmalade and as long as it blobs off the spoon in the same way as you’d like it to land on your plate then it’s done.

So, instead of sweltering in the kitchen I had a potter round the garden this morning – it’s amazing. You see that Paper Bark Tree (Acer grisium) – the really tall one? She grew that from seed. I know!

A photo of my mum's garden showing the Acer grisium that she grew from seed.

I’ve also helped sort through a few bits and pieces and swapped the handspun yarn that Mum chose on my last visit for the much softer Polwarth. Although she’d really liked the changing colours of the first yarn (that WAS my first yarn off my wheel if you remember) it had too many over-spun sections to create a soft enough fabric when knitted. This one definitely has the seal of approval.

A handspun skein of Polwarth wool in shades on blue and sea-green on a white window-sill.

My own knitting that I’ve brought with me is the Brioche + Mystery by Suzanne Sommer. I’ve got all four colours in play now and I’m very much enjoying it.

A close-up photo of Brioche +Mystery in progress. Dark purple and light blue fill most of the image, with olive green and magenta stripes outside it.

My own MKAL, Into the Vortex is nearly at the halfway point (that was quick!) and Part Three spoilers will be published on Thursday. For now, here is Part Two.

Parts One and Two of Into the Vortex MKAL on a dark wooden table.

Both the yarns are by Riverknits, the first one (shown last week) is Chimera and the dark blue is Nene 4-ply. Both gorgeous yarns to work with.

The courgettes were gorgeous by the way – as was the gooseberry crumble. The blackcurrants and redcurrants will definitely be picked once I’m home – possibly a very early morning or late evening job if this heat keeps up.

Stay safe, stay hydrated and treat yourselves gently, Kx

On My Own

It’s amazing how quickly you adjust to new routines, isn’t it? Having initially found it very strange NOT to be on my own during the day, now that my lovely wife’s self-isolation is over (all negative tests too thankfully) and she is back at work today, I now feel a bit like I’m bouncing around an empty house.

Into the Vortex MKAL is still going well – Part Two is out and I love seeing people enjoying it and sharing their progress. If you’re knitting along with us remember to share your pics (with a spoiler warning ideally) on social media using the hashtags #kathandrewsdesigns & #yomkal. Here’s Part One as completed in Riverknits Chimera:

I had jab number two (Astra-Zeneca) this morning (YAY! If you haven’t had yours yet, please do as soon as you can) and, of course, I took my knitting along again. They had opened the centre up to walk-ins as well as appointments from today and the queue was enormous – right to the very end of the car park. I had enough time before reaching the door (45 minutes) to slowly knit 20 rounds on the second sock. I’m now almost at the toe, which should mean that Sue gets a new pair of socks to come home to tonight. So far, I just have a sore arm so, on the basis that the same side effects as after the first jab might creep up on me, I’m getting as much done as I can while I can!

Last week I went out to check the courgettes and promised to let you know how they are doing. There are five plants and I saw two courgettes growing well with lots of flowers on the other plants. Maybe we’ll be able to harvest some at the weekend. I had managed to rescue a pumpkin plant from the snails/slugs that had eaten all the other seedlings and get it into the ground, but that has now gone the same way as the others. Half the gooseberries were picked on Sunday and there will be crumble tonight. Yum!

The blackcurrants can be harvested soon – and there might even be a few redcurrants left by the time they ripen as long as the pigeons leave us some. There are also some broad bean plants that are rather on the bonsai side and some purple mange tout plants and a couple of tomatoes. Nothing seems to be getting very big this year – apart from the raspberry canes which are suddenly about 6-7 feet tall! And the potatoes growing in the sacks. It must be all this rain.

I’ve been spinning every day so far this month and my latest yarn is lovely, though I’m still not sure I’m getting enough twist into the ply. 200g of Blue-faced Leicester from Fibrehut in Purple Rain.

I’m not exactly doing the Tour de Fleece, but seeing other people’s posts online has certainly been encouraging. Next up will be one of the lovely braids I got from Hilltop Cloud.

This time next week I *should* be at my Mum’s, making chutney. With any luck I’ll be able to write my blog as usual from there and will share how it goes!

Stay safe, wear a mask, and keep knitting, Kx

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