Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Harwich - Out and About

A few weeks ago I got the girls off to school, took Jess for her walk and then told hubby (who was on holiday from work that week, I think) that I was off to Harwich to play with my new camera.

Harwich is a town about 12 miles from where I live and is where I went to school for four years.  It's a town with a lot of history (I've put in a Wikipedia link rather than type it all out) but which has become a bit neglected in the last 30 or so years, especially Dovercourt, which is the town that adjoins Harwich.

I had a reason for going to Harwich early.  I wanted to park in the car park near the beach and watch the Stena Britannica ferry setting out on her daily trip to Holland.  It was a bit of a hazy morning (I got to Harwich around 9am) but I enjoyed myself for 30-40 minutes playing with my camera:

Sailing past Felixstowe Docks

Heading out to sea

Turning towards the open sea

Off she goes
After I'd watched the Stena Britannica set out on her journey (it takes about 30 mins from when she leaves Harwich International port to turn at Landguard Point in Felixstowe) I had a bit of a wander around Harwich.

Low Lighthouse (now a museum)

High Lighthouse

Muddy beach

A bit quirky and I've no idea why it's there!

Beach huts

An old but now disused school
The Electric Palace cinema*

In-shore Lifeboat

A fisherman (lobsters or crabs, I think) preparing for a day's work

It was nice to get out and about in the fresh air, snapping at things that caught my eye.

*The Electric Palace (Wikipedia link) was one of the first purpose-built cinemas in Britain.

It's a nice sunny day here, so I'm going to chance putting some washing on the line.  As it's the half-term school holidays, I suspect I shall have some help in the form of DD2.  First though, we need to take Jess for a walk and later we'll be going shopping.  There may be a Hallowe'en costume being bought if Tesco have one in DD2's size.  She's going to a birthday party tomorrow afternoon and some of the children are apparently going to be dressing up in Hallowe'en costumes so I'll ask her if she wants to as well.  I'm also hoping to do some more black knit, knit, knitting.  I'm about two-thirds of the way up the second sleeve of my Puffin sweater.  I'm hoping to have it finished by tomorrow evening and then I'll swatch the yoke part as some people on Ravelry have commented that they went down a needle size to get a better fit.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Puff, Puff, Puffin' Away

I haven't been idle in the last few weeks, I promise.  No, not at all.  It's just that there hasn't been much worth showing off as it's been black, black, black stocking stitch all the way.

In fact, round and round, knit stitch after knit stitch, with the occasional increase.

At last though, I finished the body part of my Puffin sweater.

Then, the weekend before the one just gone, I cast on for the cuff of the first sleeve and did the first round or so of ribbing.

Then I decided it wasn't looking very neat, so I ripped it out and started again.  I had visions of this happening more than once as I really, really, dislike joining cast-on stitches to knit them in the round (that and the fact I also dislike Kitchener stitch/grafting is why I make my socks toe-up).  Second time lucky though, on this sleeve.

Last Monday I took it to knitting group and carried on knitting round and round, doing the increases every fourth round, as instructed.  I looked at it and thought it was getting wider quite quickly, but though (as you do) "oh, it'll be ok".  I carried on knitting and knitting and got up to round 80-something by Wednesday evening.  Hubby went to bed early-ish on Weds night as he had to be up and out to work early on Thursday morning.  I looked at the sleeve again and tried it on.  Oh.  Too wide, too soon.  A reality check ensued, then a deep breath and out came the needles and I ripped it right back to the end of the ribbing (I wasn't going to cast on again unless I absolutely had to).  I started the knit, knit, knitting again - this time increasing every fifth round - and ended up going to bed a bit later than I'd intended, but with about 20 rounds under my belt.  Thursday I plonked myself down on the sofa with a cup of tea and my Kindle propped up on its deckchair (an easy-read chick-lit novel on it) and spent the morning knit, knit, knitting.  By yesterday morning, I'd finished the increases and was just knitting round and round until it was the length I needed.  I checked with the knitting group ladies towards the end of our session and we agreed that it needed to be a little bit longer, but not much.  I haven't picked it up since (I've been making something else today), but I've only got another three or four rounds to go before I put the stitches on waste yarn (WooHoo!).

This means that I feel justified in thinking about the colours I'm going to use for the zig-zaggy, stripy yoke.  I bought ten colours:

I need five colours, plus black if I'm going to follow the pattern (which I am).  It's just a case of deciding which five colours and in which order.  These are my possibilities:

I'm drawn to the second to last one at the moment (any opinions will be gratefully received).  I might put them into a Word document and convert them to black & white to see how they look colour-value-wise (there was a good post on the Brooklyn Tweed blog a while back about doing that which was very interesting and instructive).

Right - off to drink tea and do a quick bit of tidying before DD2 gets home from school.  I think DD1 is late home tonight - I forgot to double-check with her that her after-school music activity is on today so must make sure I've got my phone close by in case she calls or texts.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Hello Kitty

On Monday, I went to the supermarket after knitting group, which is my usual routine.  I don't often buy crafting magazines, but thought I'd have a browse and see what Tesco had on their shelves.

Simply Crochet's September edition (issue twenty-three) had a red and white bower bird kit from Lucy at Attic24 as a giveaway and so I thought I'd buy the magazine as it looked quite sweet.

I had a quick flick through the magazine in the afternoon and put it on the coffee table when DD2 got home from school.  What I hadn't taking into consideration was that this edition includes a pattern to make an amigurumi Hello Kitty toy and there was a picture of it on the front cover.

DD2 did spot it, however.

I'm sure you know what's coming next, don't you!

"Mummy to make Hello Kitty doll" I was instructed.  There followed some badgering of the "Mummy to get wool for Hello Kitty doll" kind.

I caved in on Tuesday and by bedtime I'd got the head, body, legs and one arm done.  Yesterday morning I made the second arm, ears, bow and tail.  Then it came to sewing on the facial features, which meant trying to find embroidery silk in brown, yellow and pink (fortunately, one of the charity shops in our little town sells a small selection and had the colours I needed).

The pattern says to use 4ply yarn and a 2.5mm hook, but I used DK yarn from stash and a 3mm hook.  By request (or should that be demand?), the skirt and top were made in dark and light pink rather than the blue and yellow in the pattern and the bow was made in the same pink yarn as the 'skirt'.

I think it'll be a one-off as I found it extremely fiddly to make (she's about 11 or 12 cm tall to the tips of her ears).

She's a cutie and I'm pleased with how she turned out.

I realised after I'd taken the photo that I'd forgotten that the 'skirt' is supposed to look like a pinafore and have shoulder straps embroidered on afterwards, but, hey-ho, ours is wearing a skirt!

Kitty went up to bed with DD2 yesterday and has been taken to school today as well, so I've obviously scored some Good Mummy points!

Oh, there's also a nice blanket in the magazine:

It's made with an organic, hand-dyed cotton yarn that's only available in Zimbabwe though.  Drops Paris is suggested as an alternative, but if I was to make it, I think I'd use trusty Stylecraft Special DK for a. washability and b. weight.  I think a full-size blanket in cotton would be very heavy.

I'm still plodding away on other craft projects, but slowly.  Truth be told, I'm still trying to get back into a routine now that the new school year has started.  I think hubby having a week off work last week threw me a bit.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Where do the Geese Spend Their Day?

We live in a rural area, up one side of a valley at the bottom of which runs a tidal river (further up-stream, past the sluice gates it's not so tidal after that and becomes freshwater - I've never worked out how that works, I'll be honest).  To the south-east, around ten miles away, is the sea between Harwich/Dovercourt and Walton-on-the-Naze.  Between those two seaside towns is an area of marshland.

Each year, at some point in August, we find ourselves being woken up or disturbed by a familiar noise.  It's the honking of geese as they fly overhead from the marshes to the river.

This year, there seem to be more geese than usual and they come across in the morning towards the river and they're a fantastic sight.  They come over in waves, as though they're aeroplanes on a bombing mission.

I've tried in the past to take photos of them using my little Nikon, but by the time I've got them in frame and depressed the shutter, they've gone, or they're blurry.

No more though.  My new Canon camera has a sport mode where I just press the shutter button and it takes shot after shot after shot until I take my finger off.

These two photos were taken one evening just as dusk was starting to fall and the geese were flying back from their day's activities towards the marshes, where we assume they settle overnight.

Greylag Geese, according to my husband but I think some of them are Canada Geese

One 'Battalion'
I've often wondered where they go during the day.  Is it up-river to Dedham, or further afield?

As it turns out, it's neither.

The week before last I took my camera with me when I popped down to our town so I could have a wander and click what took my fancy.  There's a bank with a path that runs behind the Co-Op supermarket, giving views over the centre of our little town, across to Suffolk and down-river to Harwich and Felixstowe (unless it's overcast we can see the cranes of Felixstowe dock).  I walked along, watching some swans gracefully swimming by and then I saw them.

Waddling out of the water onto the mud bank
When I looked to my left, this was the sight:

I think I mentioned there have been a lot of them this year!

So, that's answered my question of where they go during the day.  Just down the road, onto the river, with the trains going past behind them.

Last Wednesday I dropped DD1 off at the train station so she could get the 7.02am train (she has a music activity before school on a Weds) and then drove to the shop so I could pick up something I needed for DD2's lunch and as I walked back to my car I heard some geese in the distance.  I stopped and looked up and then watched as they flew across the car park, very low.  So low in fact that I could hear the sound their wings made as they flapped.

It's a very special sight to behold and I must remember to appreciate that the area where I live gives me the opportunity to see them on a regular basis.

(PS.  I tried to make the photos bigger, but they made the layout skewiff, so if you click on a photo, they'll come up much bigger).

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Being spoilt

It was my birthday the Sunday before last (7th September).  I'd actually booked the weekend off work as annual leave, which I don't often do.  Unlike my husband and children, whose birthdays fall during school holidays, I grew up being used to spending my big day with class- or work-mates if it fell on a weekday, but not this year.  This year, my birthday felt a bit different.  Turning 30 was fine (in fact, that was a bit of a bonkers day because a major assignment came in at work that day which meant my evening plans were scuppered).  Turning 40 was fine.  This year, however, it dawned on me that this was the last birthday that would start with a 4.  Yes, next year is the Big 5-0 and to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure how I feel about that.  I've been able to kid myself so far that I'm not middle-aged and whilst I know everyone says "you're only as old as you feel", that's like a verbal pat on the head.  The fact is that I am middle-aged and next year my age will reflect that and, as I've said, I'm not sure about it.

Anyway, despite all that, because Monday 8th was a school day for the girls and a work day for hubby, it was decided that my birthday would be celebrated on Saturday 6th - from mid-late afternoon!  My parents and in-laws were invited to come round for a celebration dinner and hubby made a dinner of roast rib of beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and vegetables and my mother-in-law brought pudding in the form of a Cadbury's chocolate cake sandwiched with fresh cream and a lemon meringue pie, plus some extra thick double cream.  Hubby also went all-out and bought a magnum of Moet & Chandon champagne.  When my Dad saw the champagne, he immediately decided that Mum was driving home!

While we were drinking the champagne, hubby brought out my presents and, well, oh my gosh.  He does tend to get carried away and this year he did spoil me somewhat.  He decided that whilst I've been perfectly happy with my little red Nikon camera, he'd buy me a new one.  Which one?  A Canon EOS 700D, which is super-duper and which I can't really use yet (I'm thinking of buying the "Dummies' Guide" for it as it has good reviews on Amazon).

My first 'Selfie'!
He also bought me a funky, extra-zoomy lens:

That wasn't all though.  He also bought me a Kindle Paperwhite (which means I now have four e-readers) and a gift pack of Crabtree & Evelyn Wisteria fragrance shower gel and body lotion, which smells divine.  I'm a big fan of C&E toiletries and although they're quite expensive, they do go a long way.  I only need about a teaspoon of the shower gel for my whole body!

There were also some Thorntons chocolates in a small heart-shaped box and some other little presents including a small tin of lip balm (because he knows I like to have one in my work jacket).

My mother-in-law had been primed as well and my gift from her and my father-in-law was a camera bag to fit the camera and both lenses.

I've been out and about a few times getting to grips with the camera.  It's going to take me a while to fathom it and at present I'm using it on auto-focus and am pleased with the results.  Here are a few pictures I've taken:

Dedham Lock

Swan and Cygnets on Dedham Mill Pond

River Stour at Dedham (using zoom)

Dedham Valley

Dedham Mill Pond - ducks on a tree branch

Those were taken last Friday.  I've got more photos to show - the difference between this Canon and my Nikon 'point and press' is noticeable - but I think that's enough for now!  Once I've got to grips with what the various buttons on my camera do, I'm going to see if I can find a photography workshop to go on that fits into the hours the girls are at school.

As you can see from those photos, we're still enjoying fabulous weather.  The gauge in my car was registering an outside temperature of 25C at 1pm today :o

Not surprisingly, crafting has taken a bit of a back seat over the last week and a half, but I have been doing some!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A Long-Haul Knit

Sorting out some bags of crafting 'stuff' a week or so ago, I came across the receipt for some roving I bought in June 2012.  It was for some North Ronaldsay fibre I'd bought from Scottish Fibres.

I blogged about buying the roving not long after I'd bought it.  I blogged about finishing spinning the yarn in April 2013.  After that, even though I cast on the cardigan (Reine - a Brooklyn Tweed design), I don't think I got round to blogging about it.  In fact, I finished the knitting part of the cardigan just before Christmas last year (or thereabouts).

What I didn't do was get round to sewing in the ends, sewing on the pockets and sewing on the buttons.

Finding the invoice spurred me on to Get On With The Finishing.

And I'm glad I did, because I'm really pleased with it:

Because it's handspun yarn and a bit inconsistent in places, although the stitches per inch tension/gauge was ok, my row tension was off, which meant if I stuck rigidly to the instructions, it would have been too long, especially from armhole to shoulder, so I had to do a bit of back-of-envelope maths scribbling and take out some rows, whilst taking into account the reverse stocking stitch ridges.

The weather's still too warm to wear it at the moment (I started to heat up just trying it on to check it still fits after eight months of languishing upstairs) but once autumn and winter kick in, I can see that this will be a favourite cardigan to pop on.  As it's pale grey, there are lots of t-shirts I own that I can wear it with.

The last week has been all about crochet.  Pink crochet for the most part.  I'm hoping to have an FO to show off in the next few days.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Taking Inspiration from Others

Earlier this year, my blogging feed showed me that Jennifer had posted a new entry to her blog so I clicked on the link to see what she'd written.  She was showing off a dress that she'd made for her daughter and it gave me the idea of making something similar for DD2 (even though Jennifer isn't happy with the size her dress came out - but better too big than too small when it comes to children, I always say :) ).

I had a think and came up with a plan.  I went to the yarn shop and bought some yarn and some fabric.  I made a few squares.  Then..... I got waylaid by something else and the couple of squares I'd made sat, neglected, in a bag.  Recently, I got into a sewing kind of mood and have been playing with fabric, such as lining my crocheted bag and sewing some charm squares into a 'something' which I'll blog about at a later date.  So, my squares have been pulled out of hibernation and I've been hooking and sewing.  I'm nowhere near finished, but progress is being made.

As DD2 turns 12 tomorrow, I needed to modify the original idea to give a bit more up-top coverage, so I'll be doing two rows of squares (leaving gaps at the under-arms) and will be sewing squares together to make the straps.  I know that it's a bit of a girly kind of dress, but DD2 is still very much a girly kind of girl and is happy to wear flouncy clothing.  And yes, I know that this summer seems to be over, but DD2 likes to be covered up whatever the weather and even if it was 26C outside, she'd still be wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt and leggings or tights with a dress.

So, photos.

Eight squares made and sewn together (it's been ages since I made Granny Squares and had forgotten how fiddly the centre of each one is to make).  Another eight middles made (I've sewn the ends in since taking this photo earlier this afternoon).  I think I'll need 26-30 squares in total, so a way to go yet.

The fabric for the skirt?  This photo comes with a warning of brightness!!!

I couldn't resist.  In fact, I bought the fabric first and then chose the cotton yarn to match.

When I got this project out of hibernation last week (and was - perhaps - saying rude words about the fiddliness of starting to crochet Granny squares) I started thinking about other ways of making a crocheted or knitted bodice to attach to a fabric skirt and had a light-bulb moment when I thought of using a top-down cardigan yoke (probably backwards so it does up at the back - but maybe not), stopping a couple of inches below the armpit area, or just carrying on with the crochet to the natural waistline.  Lo and behold, a couple of days later up pops a new blog post from Jennifer and guess what?  Yes, she's done something very similar to what I was thinking.

I managed to 'escape' from DD2 the other day as hubby took a couple of days as annual leave from work after the bank holiday and I wanted to see if Oranges and Lemons, a lovely shop in our little town, had some ribbon I could use to go around the top of my crocheted bag (it did - I bought some dark blue grosgrain ribbon, which has stabilised the handles nicely).  As I went in the door, I glanced at the basket the owner uses for reduced items and spotted some poly-cotton fabric marked at £3.50 per metre, so I bought a metre with a view to using it as a skirt for another crocheted-bodice dress.  Definitely more subtle than the pink floral fabric, but DD2 likes it.

I'm not sure what colour to do the bodice though.  Cream might be pushing my luck a bit as DD2 can still be a bit of a mucky pup.  Pink to match the roses?  Green to match the leaves?  As the bodice on the Granny square dress is pink, I'm leaning towards green, but DD2 is definitely a lover of all things pink.

We've now got to decide what length to make each dress.  Above the knee so it's like a smock, or below so it's more of a dress?  I'm sure that DD2 will let me know her preference!!

Talking of the weather, I took this photo yesterday, early evening when I took Jess for a walk.  The sun came out yesterday afternoon and it was sunny and warm, but as the afternoon started to slide into evening, grey clouds started to gather and obscured the sun, except the sun was making a valiant effort to show it was still there:

I'm off to do some more hooky stuff now.  Hopefully I'll be able to finish the squares within the next week and will then tackle the job of making and attaching the skirt.