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

Cabin Fever

In a rather unexpected twist, I currently have something in common with Prince William (!), in that my wife is self-isolating after being a contact of a positive Covid-19 case. So until next week that means separate rooms for sleeping, no hugs, staying 2m away from each other when we are in the same room and all the windows open – even when it’s teeming with rain outside. I’m rather keeping my fingers crossed that her PCR test comes back negative tomorrow otherwise I will have to isolate as well…

I have to say Sue is coping well with working from home at the moment, especially since the help of the lovely ICT chap linking her up to the school network. It is strange for me though. I’ve been self-employed now for nearly three years, and have been working from home since the pandemic began as all pop-up shops, craft fairs and workshops stopped. I’ve got used to being in the house on my own on weekdays and pottering around to my own (sometimes eccentric) timetable. I’m just not used to someone else being here between 7am and 6pm – even though that someone is my favourite person in the world. Does that make me a bad person? I really hope not.

Because of this spanner in the works to everyday life, I’ve also cancelled my trip this week to visit my mum as I can’t risk even the slightly chance of passing Covid to her. I was supposed to be making my first ever batch of chutney there today – the apples, garlic and onions are waiting patiently at Mum’s for when I can go down, and the vinegar, sugar, jars and other assorted items are sitting here.

One bonus to these changes of plan (apart from seeing my lovely wife for more hours than usual) is that I’ve had more time to get to grips with Excel. What on earth does *that* have to do with knitting design, you may think? Well, the rather excellent course on grading designs that I’m currently taking (have I told you about that?) is teaching me some whizzy Excel tricks. I now know how to use (some!) formulae, lock a particular cell into a formula and I’m gradually getting to grips with CONCATENATE, which is one of the fiddliest things I’ve come across, but which could prove to be one of the most useful. Geeking out over spreadsheets is not something I imagined myself doing as a knitting designer, but it’s so satisfying when it works! See that little line of “TRUE”s along the bottom? That means I’ve got what I was working out right, for each of the ten sizes.

There’s been a really lovely response to the launch of Into the Vortex. Lots of happy knitters, some sharing their progress on social media and some by message. The colour combinations are all beautiful and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they make of Part Two this Friday.

It’s stopped raining, so I think I might venture into the garden now and see how the courgettes are getting on. I’ll report back next week.

Stay safe and keep knitting, K x

It’s All About Ewe

Well, the weather this week doesn’t seem to know quite what it wants to be doing! Hot and sunny one minute, then grey and drizzly. We didn’t get any of the thunderstorms the weather forecasts kept promising us – just the muggy, headache inducing feeling that usually comes beforehand.

Currently though, it’s beautiful, and I am lucky enough to be looking out of the window at rose bushes (albeit a bit bedraggled), geraniums and foxgloves. I’m also watching the birds doing a very good job of keeping the aphids at bay. Oddly enough they still haven’t found the jar of ‘bird peanut butter’ complete with insects, even though it’s been there for quite a while now. I shall have to try a different position for the feeder.

My lovely sheep fleece is still in need of cleaning and I want a stretch of reliably warm and dry weather ideally to do that as I intend to use the patio.

The main excitement for this week is of course the launch of Into the Vortex – our Mystery Knit-along with Yarn O’clock. I was asked to design something that would use all of the available yarn (2 x 200m) and I do believe I have! This is what I had left at the end:

3m of the blue and 16m of the multi-coloured yarn. And with the best will in the world, people will knit to very slightly different tensions, which will have quite an impact with such small margins (3m being only 1.5% of the 200m length). So! For added excitement, the seventh and final part of Into the Vortex is going to be in a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ style, depending on how much yarn you have left. It will be really exciting to see the slightly different end results. There is still time to join in – kits (yarn and weekly pattern instalments) from Yarn O’clock or pattern only from me. All you need to supply are your time, trust and some 4.5mm needles.

Last week I promised you some pictures of the latest socks in progress. The first sock is now complete and I’m about halfway down the leg of the second sock. These photos were taken as I was completing the gusset of the first sock. I love this yarn – Nene from Riverknits in the colour way “Starry Night”. This is the same yarn base as the solid coloured yarn in the MKAL.

It’s good tv knitting at the moment as it’s just knit every round; though I do need to be careful not to drop any stitches with the needles being so thin – 2mm!!

I also experimented with something new in the week – gift labels, particularly ones for knitted gifts. I was really pleased with the results, but have since discovered that the shinier surface of the white card means that the ink will still smudge and smear even days later, which is no good and such a shame as the colours showed up so well on the white. The buff and black cards are both great though.

Last night I made the dough for a 50% wholewheat and 50% white sourdough loaf. I did wonder if it was over-proofed when I took its shower cap off this morning and it was attached to the dough. I gave it 5 hours in the fridge in its banneton after that, but I wasn’t confident in its ability to ‘rise to the occasion’. Sure enough, it’s come out more like a flying saucer than a loaf, but hopefully the loaf will still taste great. Back to doing the bulk proof in the afternoon/evening and into the fridge overnight I think…

What have ‘ewe’ been experimenting with lately? Stay safe and keep knitting, K x

Behind the Screen

The past few days have been somewhat heavy on computer work with understandably less time available for engaging in the fibre side of fibre arts.

I have finished updating the layout of my website! I am so much happier with how it looks now and each pattern and kit has its own page rather than being a major scroll-fest. This means I have created something like 60+ new pages, but they have a clear and consistent appearance (hurrah for WordPress’ reusable blocks) and it means I can add more photos to each pattern so people can see items from different angles etc.

This is what the main pattern page looks like now, with all patterns organised by type:

Once you click on one of the category images you see the individual patterns within:

And clicking on the pattern image gives you the detailed info about it:

The website update also means that when I finally take the plunge and add a shopping cart, it’s set up in a much better manner ready for that. For now, though, the buttons still take you to my Payhip store. Adding a shopping cart is one of those chicken and egg type situations. It costs more and you need to be on a higher level plan, so do you a) wait for your sales to increase to be able to justify the increased cost or b) do it anyway in the hope that people being able to buy directly from the website will in itself increase sales? Decisions, decisions.

Did you see the sneaky way I also showed you my latest pattern release just there? That’s right, Angel of the North is out and about in the world 😊 You can get the pattern from Payhip, Lovecrafts or Ravelry (the usual eye strain/vision difficulty warnings apply to ravelry – and their current homepage image is REALLY bright!) and one lovely knitter has already purchased it.

So, that just leaves the launch of Into the Vortex at the end of next week – a 7 part MKAL to keep you going through the summer. I guarantee it’s not something that you’ll be melting under while you knit if the weather is hot. You can buy the ‘pattern’ now – what you’ll get at this stage is the info about what you’ll need etc and then pattern updates will be released to you each Friday.

I have started spinning some new fibre – some beautiful BFL (Blue-face Leicester – that’s a sheep breed), dyed by Fibrehut in gorgeously subtle shades of blue/lavender. It’s called Purple Rain. Fibrehut is the company I bought my wheel from and, even though they are only a few miles away from my mum’s I haven’t yet been there in person. Because, well, Covid. I hope to go there soon though, on one of my upcoming visits to see Mum.

I have also been working on a sock for Sue – don’t worry, she will get two eventually! I’ll post pics of progress of this next week.

While I’ve been doing all this, the audiobooks that have been keeping me company have been more Terry Pratchett (Making Money, Going Postal) and Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. The latter author has me cringing with his descriptions of the (rare) female characters in comparison to the male ones, but it was interesting this morning to hear that one of the reasons women had been burnt as witches was for the ‘heretical easing of childbirth pains’. I have no idea if this is accurate or not, but it was an uncanny link to an awful lot of what I have read lately about the current lack of pain relief used for women’s medical procedures.

On that cheery note I shall leave you for today! I have a schematic to draw.

Stay safe, use sunscreen if you’re out and about, and do more of what makes you happy, K x

Mysterious Girl

Last week I met someone in the main car park of my little town and exchanged two jars of homemade preserves (blackcurrant jam and seville marmalade) for a large and very full black bin liner. It sounds very mysterious, doesn’t it?

The bag has since been sitting in my study as the other parts of my life have taken on some deadlines (more later) and I haven’t yet been able to play with the contents. But it keeps reminding me it’s there and every time I take a peek inside I get excited.

So, what on earth did I swap for jam and marmalade?

A black bin liner has its top rolled open to show it is full of freshly sheared sheep fleece

A fleece. A whole one, from a sheep named Doris. Here are her before and after shots!

She is currently Mandy’s only sheep and, knowing I have taken up spinning, she asked if I would like it. Oh, yes please! It’s completely unprocessed and Mandy and her hubby sheared Doris themselves. Doris is a very clean sheep so there are not too many bits in it. So, I have a new learning curve to go on. Having washed a few locks of fleece is somewhat different to this type of quantity, but I have some notes and I will do some more research. A fine day on the patio seems like a good starting point. I did learn from the tv last night that any remaining less spinable parts of a fleece are excellent for rhubarb – Mandy mentioned this too as being generally good for homegrown fruit etc.

So what kept me away from Doris’ fleece? Well, I have submitted two (yes, two!) designs to a magazine I haven’t worked with before (deadline is next week, but, as you know, I don’t like to get too close to deadlines). Fingers crossed!

Also, I have finished my latest shawl design which I showed you last week and it’s going to be published in the next couple of weeks. It also now has a name – Angel of the North. See if you can tell why:

Finally, the MKAL I have been working on in conjunction with Yarn O’clock begins in 2 weeks!! It is in 7 parts, beginning on July 2nd and each part will be released weekly on Fridays. Because we like to keep you guessing, we’re not even saying what item the mystery knit will become, but you do need to know that for this one we are using Riverknits Chimera and 50g of Nene, both British Bluefaced Leicester 4ply and hand dyed in Northamptonshire (or 50g each of a multicoloured 4ply with a contrasting solid/semisolid one). Yarn kits are available for £25 from Yarn O’clock or you can buy the pattern on its own for £5.00 from me. The needles you will need are 4.5mm (60cm circular or 30cm straight).

An image of a simplified vortex in shades of blue with the Yarn O'clock logo in the bottom left corner and "Into the Vortex, MKAL by Kath Andrews" in the top right. This is the image placeholder for the pattern while the MKAL is running.

Tea and Toast

Well, this week has seen me doing a lot of knitting and there’s so much of it that I can’t show you! The next MKAL with Yarn O’clock is developing well and I’ve been working on a swatch for a new submission (which I’m tentatively quite excited about).

I can, however, show you the finished tea cosy! It’s a little snug getting it on and off our teapot, but that does at least mean that it doesn’t flop about when pouring and it does a really good job of keeping the pot warm. I’ve had some tea cosies in the past that you end up pouring the tea *through* which is annoying – they’re not designed to be tea-strainers! The Cartref Yarn is good and sturdy and the double layer of yarn is highly insulating. I may need to reinforce further around the steeked edges (to stop the cut ends wiggling free) as it’s going to be pulled around quite a bit by the spout and handle, but that will be easy enough.

A bright blue Fair Isle tea cosy with dark blue and cream pattern sits on a red teapot on a bamboo kitchen worktop.

There has also been pleasing progress with the border of my new shawl design, using Queensland Yarn’s Llama Lace which is imported by Knitting Fever. Despite the name, this yarn is actually a 4-ply weight as it is 420 yards (384m) per 100g, but it is 100% llama. The shawl doesn’t have a name yet, but it will soon.

The image below shows how well the blocking holds up. The right hand side of the image has been soaked, pinned out and left to dry. This opens up the lace and shows the pattern to its best advantage. The left hand side of the image hasn’t been blocked yet and is more bunched up and almost corrugated. As I mentioned last week, I’m quite impressed by how well the blocked lace (on the right) has coped with being squashed into a small project bag and carted across the country. It’s not perfectly flat still, but it hasn’t been treated with any special care and shows the shawl will work well as a garment in the real world.

A copper coloured garter stitch shawl with a silvery deep edging lies on a pale carpet. Part of the edging has been blocked and lies flat, the rest is bunched up.

If you’re a newsletter subscriber you’ll already know there’s a 20% discount code in this month’s newsletter on the four other knitting designs I have using yarns from the Knitting Fever stable. It can be used multiple times and lasts until the end of June. Of course, you can make the patterns in any brand of yarn you wish, but it might also introduce you to some new yarns. I’ve also added a new subscriber link to my in my social media bios to make it easier for people to sign up.

I’ve also been baking again – banana bread and a sourdough loaf this weekend. There’s nothing quite like sourdough toast. I’m going to need to do some more preserving, having ordered five *bags* of pears instead of the intended five pears last week! There were so many helpful suggestions as to what to make with them on social media last week after I confessed to my lack of attention when ordering the shopping online. I’m planning on pear and ginger jam and bought the sugar this afternoon. The wasps and bees are out in force at present, so I think I’ll be making this early tomorrow morning with the windows shut!

I hope you all have a good week. I’m going to have something very exciting to show you next week and I can’t wait!! Stay safe and keep knitting, Kx

We Are Family

The past few days have seen my lovely wife and I take a road trip to Kent. Although it had been 8 months since I had seen my mum, it was 9 months for her and 17 since I’d been there! It was glorious weather and we made the most of it, taking a walk to the sea front. Fortunately my sister-in-law (the tall one!) knows the town so well she was able to help us avoid the crowds for most of our walk.

Packing to go away as a knitter has two elements. First of all there are the things that everyone needs to take; clothes, toiletries etc. Then there is the matter of which knitting projects to take. Always in the plural as you want to have choice. I took five. And yes, I did work on all of them!

First of all there was the Nordic Tea Cosy by Zoe Carter (@pinsandneedlesuk). The pattern was part of the Nordic themed Knit-Tea Retreat that I attended via the wonders of the internet in February. I had done quite a bit of this already, so it didn’t take long to finish and steek. Now it just needs to be blocked. The Cartref Yarn is so good – I’d never used it before and I did treat myself to a couple of other colours so there is more to come with this yarn. I love how at this angle the pattern looks a little like a grumpy alien!

A stranded tea-cosy in teal, dark blue and natural cream is held up with my thumb emerging from the stetted hole for the teapot handle. The angle of the Nordic stranded knitting pattern gives the impression of a grumpy face.

Then there was the obligatory sock knitting – excellent for car journeys as, with a ‘vanilla’ sock like this one, after the ribbing you get a big chunk where you are just knitting every round with nothing more taxing to pay attention to than keeping track of how many rounds you’ve done. This was another yarn I bought during the Knit-Tea Retreat – RiverKnits Nene 4-ply in “Starry Night” and the yarn is really living up to its name. I didn’t get a whole lot done of this sock as this is for said lovely wife and she does prefer her socks knit to a tight gauge. These are on 2mm needles. The section you can see here contains more than 4000 stitches!

The beginnings of a multi-coloured plain knit sock with a deep ribbed cuff in blues, silvers and flecks of yellow lies next to the hand wound ball of yarn. They lie on top of a garter stitch shawl and its lace edging. There are 20 rounds of ribbing and 30 rounds of plain knitting, with 80 stitches on the 2mm needles.

I did a couple more ‘hexiflats’ using up old ends of 4-ply. I think the blue is CoopKnits Socks Yeah! and the green is Alice Starmore‘s Hebridean 2-ply.

Two hexiflats lie on a garter stitch shawl. The left one is dark green with pink yarn finishing the last few rounds and it is overlapped by a blue one on the right. Circular sock needles are lying on the blue 'hexiflat'.

The border for my new shawl design in Llama Lace from Knitting Fever is coming on well and the corner has been rounded which is always a good point to get to. The first seven repeats have stayed flat since being blocked (and rolled up and rammed in a project bag), so I have high expectations for how the whole shawl will look once completed.

A copper garter stitch shawl is laid out on a pale carpet. The silver-blue deep lace edging is half completed. Other knitting projects sit on the garter stitch.

The final project I was working on I can’t show you as it is the next MKAL with Yarn O’clock. Believe me, though, it uses some truly great yarn and will be lots of fun to knit.

A tiny bit of pale multi-coloured knitting peeps out of a denim project bag.

My family (both my mum and my family-by-marriage) really support my knitting and I value the fact they don’t mind me knitting away while I’m with them. I’m lucky that they understand knitters can hold conversations and be just as much a part of what’s going on even when we have needles in our hands.

It’s been so good to reconnect with people recently. The English ‘Rule of 6’ for being indoors was a particular bonus as that hasn’t come into force yet in Wales.

Now that we are back home we’ve started tackling the garden in earnest and have begun the annual battle with the ground elder. I’m hoping the weather holds so we can get our garden looking as neat as my in-laws’.

What are you up to this week? Whatever it is, stay safe and keep knitting or doing whatever makes you happy. Kx

Any Colour You Like

How can a week have gone so quickly? It was wonderful to see my mum again last week (and to achieve the journey). I am very glad to report that she approves of both the marmalade (possibly my best yet!) and the sourdough bread, though the crusts were a little too crusty once toasted. I, of course, came back with some freshly cut asparagus, plants and some other lovely things too.

The yarn Mum chose to keep was the first skein I ever spun on my wheel. I was a bit surprised as it’s not the most evenly spun yarn by any means, but it is soft and colourful.

A multicoloured marled skein of handspun yarn of varying thicknesses lies on a wooden sideboard.

While I was with her I swatched with the yarn so I could write a pattern for her to use it with. I cheated a bit as I didn’t block it, but it’s garter stitch, not anything fancy. I mainly needed to find out what size needles would work best to create a fabric soft enough to go around Mum’s neck, what size the stitches were and therefore how many stitches she would need to cast on. It was one of those moments when mathematics just works. 20 sts measured 13cm. This meant that 1cm is 1.538etc sts. The circumference required is 65cm. 65 x 1.538etc = 100 sts exactly! Tidy, beautiful and satisfying.

I also realised whilst swatching with the yarn that it was the first time *I* had knit with my own handspun yarn. I’ve had a wheel since late September/early October and I’ve spun quite a lot, but not knitted any of it! One skein has been balled up ready to go, but for some reason I haven’t got it on the needles yet. That needs to change.

A very close-up image of a cake of handspun yarn in blues, greens and golds is shown from the top.

Both my time with Mum and the travelling there and back encompassed almost all varieties of weather – sunshine, cloud, rain, hail, thunderstorms. Pretty much everything except snow. It’s amazing to think that in less than four weeks it will be midsummer’s day and I still haven’t put my winter wool dresses away. The rain over the weekend did inspire us to have a rearrange of some of the furniture in our little home, tidying up generally and making things easier to find.

The past couple of days have seen me updating and streamlining my website. So far I’ve done the Wooden Treats and Kits pages. The main pages now look a lot sleeker and should be easier to navigate. Along with the rather lovely redesign of Payhip storefronts, I like how my work is being presented. The Knitting Patterns page comes next and I know that will be a mammoth task as there are something like 43 individual patterns and three collections.

A screenshot of the Wooden Treats page of my website, showing the five different categories of items for sale.

My new rubber stamps arrived yesterday. One of them I will definitely be able to use for wood burning designs – I stamp the design on the wood and then burn over it – and it’s the perfect size for coasters and hanging hearts along with a little message. What do you think? What messages would ‘ewe’ like to see?

A wooden coaster with a cartoon image of two friendly sheep and the words "I love Ewe!" burn into it lies on a wooden table.

That’s all for today – I’m off to knit some more edging on my new shawl design. Take care, stay safe and keep knitting! Kx

We’ll Meet Again

Today I will make the longest journey I have undertaken in over 8 months. I’m driving 120 miles to visit my mum. I’ll be so glad to see her after all this time, but I don’t mind telling you that the prospect of that drive and being away from home is making me anxious. It will be worth it though.

So many new things have happened since I last saw her. Sourdough for one. I baked a loaf this morning to take down with me.

A round seeded sourdough loaf sits cooling on a wire rack. Behind it are two jars of marmalade and a jar of Marmite peanut butter.

Spinning is another. Although my lovely Ashford Joy 2 is very transportable in its carry bag, I’ll probably just take some skeins of handspun yarn to show Mum (and to keep if she feels her hands are up to knitting it). I’m only there for two days so there probably wouldn’t be time to spin anyway. Maybe next time.

A large bouncy skein of handspun yarn sits on a white windowsill. It is in serious shades of blue and light sea-green.

Remember the marmalade I made in January – unsupervised for the first time? Two jars of that will be coming with me too. The marmalade used to travel in the opposite direction, but that’s just another sign of the way the years change relationships.

13 jars of marmalade are lined up on chopping boards, cooling down. Behind theme are various kitchen items; bananas, a stand mixer and casserole dish.

My new shawl design is coming on well. I’m using Queensland Collection Llama Lace from Knitting Fever Inc which is 100% extrafine baby llama. The main body is very, very simple; just garter stitch, with a double slip stitch edging on the top. There will be a knitted on deep lace border in a contrasting colour once the main shawl is complete. Llama is a new fibre to me – there are the (very) occasional spikier fibres in it which can be pulled out easily, but overall it is incredibly soft. Knitted on 4mm needles the garter stitch is light and airy and the ‘halo’ on the yarn (the fuzzy bits) will trap the air between the stitches to add an extra layer of warmth.

A garter stitch shawl in a copper colour lies draped on the carpet. The ball band is on top, next to a silvery-blue ball of the same yarn which will be used for the lace border.

Finally, there is one more very new thing in my life. A couple of weeks ago I began ‘A Masterclass on Grading’ by The Tech Editor Hub. It’s a very well-structured course, with lots of support and feedback from the three tutors and it has a flexible scholarship scheme too which can reduce the fees by 50%, 75% or 100%. I’m learning all sorts of new tricks to use with Excel. Previously, if I used Excel at all I would treat it like a table in Word; do my calculations on a calculator and type them in! Now I’m learning more about formulae. The historical aspect of how sizing charts developed is fascinating too – initially, it was done so that military uniforms could be mass-produced in the American Civil War. Grading (working out all the different sizes for a pattern) was the one thing not included in my City & Guilds course, so I feel like this will give me more confidence and skill, especially when designing garments. I’m sure I’ll be telling Mum loads about this too – she specialised in tailoring at teacher training college when she trained to be a Domestic Science (home economics) teacher, so I’m sure she’ll have loads to contribute.

I hope you are able to catch up with someone special soon. Stay safe and keep knitting. K x

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