Pastime in Good Company

For the past few days I have been very excitedly telling the world about my new design that will be in Knit Now Issue 134 that is out this Thursday. I may have mentioned that it is their tenth anniversary issue with twice the usual number of patterns and articles.

So, I thought it was about time I showed you a sneak peek of some of the other wonderful patterns that will be in the issue! I am in very good company. All photos in today’s blog are from Knit Now Magazine and used with permission.

Photos © Knit Now

Aren’t they gorgeous? And this is only a small selection! You can find Knit Now magazine in WHSmith and ‘all good newsagents’ and you can also order it online here.

As you know I am a fan of brightly coloured hair. Do you recognise the fuchsia-headed icon in the pic above? Yes, that really is Zandra Rhodes! She is collaborating with West Yorkshire Spinners and has developed six new colourways of their Colourlab yarn in both DK and 4-ply weights. Anne at Yarn O’clock is stocking it; I’ve seen the colours and want them all! Anne will also very soon have a life-size Zandra Rhodes cut-out in her shop, so if you want a selfie with this amazing woman (albeit, only her likeness, not the living, breathing person), get yourself to Mold!

Knit Now Issue 134 will not only include an interview with Zandra Rhodes, but it also includes a scarf pattern using one of her colourways.

And there’s an exclusive Clangers pattern! And a whole Christmas supplement including an official Wallace & Gromit pattern! And lots more too.

Photos © Knit Now

Not only is Thursday a big day for me, but it is also National Poetry Day and my wonderful poet-y wife has some new poems coming out into the world (three in the next few weeks, I think!). Keep an eye out on Twitter for @soopoftheday.

Right, I’m off to develop a new workshop. Yes, a real-life, in-person workshop, that (fingers crossed) should be happening in late January. More of that nearer the time.

Take care, stay safe and do what makes you happy. K x

I’ve Got My Eye On You

So, I’m back at Mum’s for a few days and she is home from her two week ‘adventure’. Cleo the cat was pleased to see me yesterday and even graced me with her presence on my lap twice this morning! She and Mum were very glad to see each other again today as well and Cleo is keeping a close eye on her to make sure she’s staying put!

I haven’t started my embroidery yet. I was two colours short (I did get a message that they were delivered today), but I have prepared my fabric and even put a bright red running stitch through the horizontal and vertical axes. It’s definitely going to be something I need to use my Serious Readers light for – even with my brand new glasses! I’m using exactly the same fabric as for Dad’s so they’ll look right together, and I’d forgotten just how small the weave is.

I’m playing with ideas for lace swatches again – one of my favourite types of ‘Call for Submissions’ is for a lace design. This time I’m taking a slightly different approach. I’ve gone through my favourite stitch dictionary and written down the names and page numbers of the ones that really appeal as well as the number of sts and rows per repeat. Instead of trying each stitch pattern out separately, when I cast on for my swatches I’ll pair up ones that I think will look good together and ones that have row repeats that are multiples of each other – eg one with a 24-row repeat and one with an 8-row repeat and swatch them together. One reason for this approach is to check whether the row gauge on selected stitch patterns matches (after blocking), as if I want panels of different stitch patterns they’ll need to. Another is to not only make the pattern and chart writing simpler, but make things easier for knitters too!

I mentioned having some exciting news last week. The big reveal begins on Friday, but I can tell you that I have an adult garment coming out in Knit Now on October 7th! I’m so proud of it and the way it has been styled in the photos is gorgeous. If you have the current issue of Knit Now, it’s one of the photos on the “coming next month” page near the back 🥳. (I can share photos on Social Media from October 1st – and will add a pic to this blog post then as well).

Because of knitting the above-mentioned garment (back in March/April/May) and then working on our MKAL with Yarn O’clock (Into the Vortex), my advent calendar sweater (yarn from Bear in Sheep’s Clothing, pattern Serenity by Joji Locatelli from Interpretations Volume 2 became sadly neglected. I have now returned to it and realised that I far prefer knitting sleeves two at a time, but on separate needles and that I also needles some more really short needle tips for small circumferences. With these things in hand progress is being made. The sleeves only need another 8cm or so and then it’s just the neckband, weaving in ends and blocking! I have brought it with me along with my stuff for lace swatching in the hope that I will be able to crack on and at least get the sleeves finished. You can tell it’s been ignored for a while can’t you? All those creases!

Have you been caught up in the fuel panic? I needed to get some to come here (it’s 120 miles from home) and did manage to get some on my first attempt, although the only option was the new E5 petrol, which I hadn’t had before. I’d always wondered what the E5/E10 sticker meant inside my fuel cap cover. I’m just so thankful that my car is a self-charging hybrid and doesn’t use a huge amount of petrol. I’ll still have just under half a tank by the time I get home. The staff on the forecourt at Tesco Mold were doing such a good job, cheerfully checking that everyone knew what was available and showing people into different lanes to keep the queues moving and the mini roundabout clear.

That’s all from me for today. Take care, stay safe and do more of what you love, K x

Oh my Gourd!

I have *a lot* to tell you about today – looking back over the week it hardly seems possible so much has happened in fact.

Can you believe that tomorrow will be the 1st birthday of my website going live?! I’m quite amazed at what has been achieved in that time, but also that it’s only been a year. I started writing this blog a week later and I have only missed one Tuesday (between Christmas and New Year).

Speaking of the website, I have revamped the home page and updated the Knitting Tuition pages. It may not seem like much, but I think it’s better and I’m pleased that the tuition pages are now laid out in the same way as patterns etc.

After last week’s post I started looking at what cross-stitch software is available these days. I tried out a couple of free online ones, but the result of the uploaded photo was really pixelated, even at the best resolution offered. So, I decided to spend a little money. Only a little – £30 – got me MacStitch which had some great reviews (this review also includes a discount code!) and I’ve been able to get a detailed chart from the photo I’ve chosen, along with choosing the brand and type of embroidery threads I wanted to use. Not only did this provide me with the codes for the different colours required, but having put in the thread count of the fabric I’m going to use it even gave the yardage used for each colour! To two decimal places!! I will be using far than stated less of course as I intend to work in tent stitch again, so the two embroideries make a pair. The threads are due to arrived tomorrow (and I have plenty of even-weave fabric squirrelled away in my old college ‘tuck box’). I let you know how I get on.

The photo I chose to use is of Mum when she was in her twenties. I know she had started teaching as she’s wearing the jacket that she spent half of each of her first two month’s salary on!

New coaster designs have been uploaded to my website and to Payhip. All based on the same image, but with different phrases to accompany them. The company I bought this and a couple of other rubber stamps from is an ‘angel’ company, which means you can sell items made using them with no worries over copyright. Once stamped, I carefully burn over the image with my pyrography pen, add any text and then wax the coaster, buffing it up to a sheen. It takes a steady hand!

I’ve also blocked the large version of Into the Vortex, had the finished pattern checked over by other eyes than mine, and uploaded the new pattern file to Lovecrafts, Ravelry and Payhip. This now contains both sizes of the shawl, as well as helpful tips on how to adapt the pattern towards the end if you are running low on yarn. Here you can see the original and large versions side by side to more easily compare them.

Sue has been photographing flying shawls as well – she loves doing this and the results are always amazing.

The garden continues to produce edibles – yesterday I picked another colander full of raspberries, four green courgettes and one enormous yellow one that I can’t call a courgette any longer, but it doesn’t look much like a marrow either, so it will have to just be a gourd. Oh my gourd, indeed! It’s huge and very heavy. The large marrows harvested a little while ago are keeping well. We are having another one tonight: roasted and then stuffed with last night’s bolognaise sauce, topped with breadcrumbs from my sourdough disaster loaf and baked til golden.

Yet to harvest are some blueberries, more raspberries, a few more courgettes, three apples (that’s all I can see on the tree) and, if I can get them to ripen, some tomatoes! They were hidden amongst the borage and courgette leaves, but I think if I support the plant so they get some sun, there might be a chance.

There has even been some more spinning and plying happening and the Tour de Fleece 21 BFL fibre I bought from Hilltop Cloud is now yarn! I’m very pleased with it, but it’s still damp, so photos next week. On the theme of spinning, I have mentioned on my socials that I visited Fibrehut in person last Wednesday for the first time. This was significant for me as they are the company I bought my wheel from nearly a year ago. I did buy more fibre – of course.

I have other exciting news to share with you as well – but I have to wait a little longer. All I can say for now is that October will be a celebration!

Take care everyone, and stay safe. Do what you love as much as you can. K x

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

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