Winter sunshine, a frozen tarn, good company and a tailgate picnic including pea soup whipped up in the 45 minutes between arranging to go and hustling out the door (Thank you Nadine Abensur for the ever useful Cranks Fast Food cookbook). I didn’t really get the photos to do it justice because I was too busy just enjoying the many spectacular views of Tarn Hows and breathing in all that wonderful fresh air. Snow and ice may be very pretty and snuggling in for a bit of winter hibernation is all very well, but I think the picture of our little boy sums up how we all felt. He ran on his not-yet-two year old legs all the way up that hill, shouting joyfully at the top of his lungs most of the way!
Making marmalade was an annual event in our house when I was growing up- the scent of it cooking holds all sorts of memories as a result. My mum used to joke that it was in her marriage contract to make it and back then I think my dad was about the only one who ate it. As they’ve got older, some of my siblings have developed a taste for it and in some cases make their own. I still don’t ‘get’ marmalade but have married someone who does, so I thought this year I should give it a go.
Funny thing about Seville oranges- some family friends who have moved to Spain tell us that over there, where this sort of orange grows, and falls off, trees everywhere- in the streets, in town squares, in people’s gardens- you can’t actually buy them. They’re regarded more or less as a waste product so unless you have your own tree- no marmalade! I think they’ve found some friends with trees in their garden to supply them, although those friends think our friends are mad to want them.
Anyway, having got hold of the requisite oranges over here easily enough I was very happy to have use of what I’d previously regarded as superfluous technology in our kitchen, namely a citrus juicer bought by C’s Nana for extracting what she terms ‘liquid sunshine’. That which normally takes up too much space in a cupboard was an invaluable time and hand saver when it came to juicing all the fruits.
I like the way that with marmalade you use all the fruit- the juice and skins in the marmalade, the pith and pips in a muslin bag to provide pectin. It feels a bit like alchemy, especially when using the good old brass lined ‘cauldron’ that I still have on loan from the farm (it had been languishing in the cellar under a layer of grime and is yet to be missed). Also in the style of the alchemist, I did struggle slightly to get the end result- setting point and still have my doubts about how solid the final product will be. Still, I’m sure it will taste okay and it does look very pretty, especially lit up by some gorgeous afternoon sunlight- we had snow earlier, so it’s a day of weather surprises!
As to the housework…well, some of it was done this morning. Some I’m off to do in a minute. But I did get that last sewing job done- behold the ‘Old MacDonald Had A Farm’ bag! P was treated to a debut performance from both parents, with Daddy acting as animator to each animal as it emerged from the bag and Mummy joining the chorus from the kitchen as she stirred her cauldron. He seemed quite delighted- if a little bemused. Maybe the marmalade will make more sense to him.
I had a ‘hang the housework’ day today when I caught up on some napping and cracked on with the sewing. Even though I’m not going down to my Ma’s for a few weeks to do the next stage, I just felt the need to get the quilt top finished and go back to working on my Fairisle in the evenings. No doubt C will be pleased as knitting is a lot quieter than the sewing machine. I think I can add 7 hours onto the previous time total to get to a result that I’m really pleased with. I can hardly wait to do the next stage- need to decide on batting and backing first. I’m thinking of a wool/cotton mixture batting and brushed cotton backing so that in winter it can be an extra layer and in summer a cover on its own.
Just one more bit of stitching I’m planning before the machine gets put away for a while- with more time at home with the boy coming up, I thought I would do something with these old shirts, a collection of toy animals and a certain well known song about a farmer. Had it not been for a phone call from a friend tonight I’d have got it done, but maybe I can fit it in around that still-waiting housework tomorrow morning. A more pressing job tomorrow is to go shopping for Seville oranges though- for until I heard someone mention it on the radio today I hadn’t realised they were about and this year I’m going to make marmalade!
Here, as mentioned the other day, is the small effort I’m making towards the Haiti appeal. When something that huge happens it’s so easy to feel so personally small and helpless- sometimes it’s hard even to concieve of the utter destruction shown in newspapers and on television. That said, I truly believe that every contribution, no matter how small, is worthwhile. So when Williams Wools put out the call on Ravelry to knit ‘Hearts for Haiti’ I was very much up for it. The idea is that knitters visiting the shop knit hearts that the lovely Adrienne will then make into brooches. These will be sold for Valentines Day with proceeds going to the earthquake appeal- raising money and awareness at the same time.
So far I’ve made the three pictured, but as they take less than an hour to knock up I’m hoping to have more to contribute by Wednesday when we next go to Kendal. Just in case anyone out there wants to have a go, the following is a bit of a ‘Holy Eye’ sort of pattern. I’ve no idea if it would work with yarns and tensions other than those I used, but at least it gives a general idea.
HEARTS FOR HAITI
Using small amount of Rowan Kid Classic and 3.25mm straight needles, cast on 20 stitches.
Row 1: K2tog, knit to last stitch, inc. 1
Row 2 and every even row: knit
Row 3: As row 1
Row 5: As row 1
Row 7: Knit to last stitch, inc.1
Row 9: As row 7
Row 11: Knit
Row 13: Knit
Row 15: Knit to last 2 stitches, K2tog
Row 17: Knit to last 4 stitches, K2tog twice
Row 19: As row 17
Row 21: As row 17
Row 23: As row 17
Row 25: Knit
Row 27: K2tog, knit to last 2 stitches, K2tog
Row 29: As row 27
Row 31: As row 27
Row 33: K2tog twice, knit to end
Make a second heart the same way, place two hearts together and sew all the way around. Place button on front of heart and attach, sewing through both layers.
Sometimes a very simple suggestion can make the world of difference. On this occasion the simple suggestion came from my husband- why not take the train for my night out watching Anton and Erin (of Strictly Come Dancing fame) dance? It was always going to be a bit of a ‘freedom’ day and night, as P was at nursery and I was staying away for the night (uninterrupted sleep!!). However, being on the train just made it even better. The journey mostly follows the coast, in places over sandy inlets so it almost feels like you’re floating over Morecambe Bay. In addition to the views, another huge bonus of the train compared to driving is that I can knit. The journey down saw me start and nearly finish the wonderful ‘Aviatrix’ baby bonnet- a free pattern download from Ravelry. This one’s going to be a gift for my cousin’s brand new baby girl, but it’s such a fantastic, clever and easy pattern that I can see myself making it over and over again. On the journey back today I was working on the project I’ve finally found to satisfy, in some very small way, my need to support the earthquake victims in Haiti. More on that tomorrow.
I fully accept that I’m never going make a living from making stuff. I’m not even sure I’d enjoy it if I did, as I’m never keen on making the same thing more than once. That said it has been immensely gratifying to enjoy some modest success with my Folksy shop. It feels even better when I can boast about being ‘on commission’. A customer who bought a Union Jack tea cosy ended up giving it to a friend who admired it, so she asked me for another. As I was a little bit tired of the red/white/blue colourwork I was very happy to oblige when she requested an alternative colourway. Hence the pink and purple confection you see here. And yes, I know it really doesn’t go with the orange teapot, but that was the only one I had that fitted!
The onset of the first winter colds (we’ve done well to avoid them so far!) slightly marred the enjoyment of our weekend away. However, the slightly milder weather did at least mean we could get out and about for the first time in what feels like ages. A quick blow along the sea front to look at the little boats and the foolhardy souls out on the water (yes they had wetsuits and drysuits but still…!)with Granny and the dog, followed by fish and chips. It’s that sort of morning that reminds you of why we live in this country!
Back home yesterday and despite a desperate need to sleep, the temptation to do a little more quilt work was too great. Those who know how hard I find it to go slowly will appreciate how careful I’m being. I laid out three blocks, then managed to put one together, painstakingly pinning together, sewing 1/2 a cm for each seam and ironing (!!) them flat as I went along. I’m absolutely delighted with how it’s looking so far- time spent now is seven and a half hours. If I possibly can I want to get the top finished by mid February when I’m hoping to take a trip down to see my mum. With her vastly superior sewing skills and prior quilting experience I’m hoping she’ll hold my hand through the actual quilting and binding stage.
For some reason, P decided that today was a day for a loooong lunchtime nap. I could have taken a picture of him sleeping- it is the most beautiful sight, for so many reasons- but that would probably have been tempting fate. Instead, as I’m on my own with him this weekend I stuck ‘Big Bang Theory’ Season 2 on the DVD and finished off cutting out the squares for the quilt. I even had time to have a try at laying out some possible combinations- three episodes make the time spent count up to five hours. I’m really please with how it’s looking, but now I can hear some squeaking on the baby listener so I think ‘mummy’s quiet time’ is over. We’re off to the farm where I’ll hopefully get some work done on my knitting instead.
Well, I went and pressed the button and as if by magic (okay, the ‘magic’ of Royal Mail who delivered quickly, but decided to deliver everyone on our street with their next door neighbours mail today. Lucky we are all nice, honest people on our street) today the rest of my fabric for P’s quilt arrived. Beautiful,no? And the colours seem to work really well together. Just a slight hiccup…I spent ages deliberating over shades, patterns, price per fat quarter etc. and then failed to notice that the lovely multi polka dot in the top picture is actually fine needlecord as opposed to the cotton of all the other fabrics. Oops.
Anyhow, no problem, I’m sure I’ll find a use for it- at the moment I’m considering a Noni felted market bag which I made (complete with the fiddly fuschias, which I wouldn’t do again) for my mum’s Christmas present a few years back. I think the larger size, lined with the polka dot cord would be rather lovely.
Of course, the real problem I’m left with is that my careful calculations for how much fabric I need are now out by one. I rifled through my fabric stash and could find any number of blues, pinks, florals etc. but no green to speak of at all really. Then I had a peek in my wardrobe and found a Howies skirt from a few years ago. I think I originally fell in love with the cute little mushroom print fabric, but the style has never really suited me- it’s just a tad to short and flouncy for someone of my shape and age. I’ve hung onto it because it wasn’t cheap and because I still harbour one of those daft hopes you have about certain garments that one day you’ll try them on and magically look good. So what better than a reality check for my wardrobe and a chance for that sweet fabric to look so much better as part of a handmade-with-so-much-love quilt? You can see it nestled in the middle of the ‘final collection’ in the second picture. It fits the sort of ‘magical woodland’ theme that seems to have developed in the prints (the fish are obviously in a pond in a clearing!) and gives another lighter shade to the mix.
I’ve given myself backache tonight, sitting for too long on the floor and using my brand new birthday dressmaking scissors to begin cutting out squares. I’m trying to keep track of the time I’m taking to make the quilt and so far, with planning, choosing fabric and now cutting out I’m on 3 and a half hours of uncharacteristically careful work so far. It’s providing a bit of contrast to the knitting though- at the moment I’m working on a commission (I love saying that!) for Audrey’s Tea Shop, which involves fiddly colourwork that it’s good to have a rest from sometimes. I’ll post some pictures of that soon.
It’s not always great having a birthday in the middle of winter. One year snow meant that nothing arrived by post until a week after the big day. No problems like that this year, a positive flurry of lovely cards and gifts arrived despite the weather. Among them was my lovely new Cath Kidston oilcloth satchel. It will no doubt become a mama bag, filled with spare clothes, emergency crackers, drink bottles etc. along with my usual detritus of knitting, receipts and interesting leaflets and flyers. Still, it is sooo pretty and should last for years and years.
C having taken the day off to spend with us, we went to Lancaster, where, following lunch at the Whale Tail I began the fabric stash I hope to turn into a quilt for P’s move to a proper bed. This needs to happen later in the year and I’m toying with a futon-style bed on the floor as he is so wriggly in bed I think that otherwise he’ll always be falling out and waking up. We also need to sort some safety issues out before he’s able to roam free in his room, but when that’s done I want to make the transition a positive one so I thought it would be a good opportunity to try making my first quilt. I think it’s just going to be straightforward squares so that I can focus on being careful and precise (uh-oh!) in shades of green, just to make a change from the cot quilt in seaside colours he had made for him by my mum. I’ve just spent a happy hour on Fabric Rehab creating a shopping basket of fabric that would mean I could get going. Just got to get the nerve to hit the ‘buy’ button!