First I was a knitter.  Then I became a wife and then a mother to two boys, who are currently three and five years of age.  This you know.  Unless you are also a knitter and a mother / grandmother to two young boys (or perhaps even a most kind and thoughtful knitter who knits for children that she's not related to!), you may not know that it can be quite tricky finding appealing designs. Unisex pattern books are often crammed with pretty cardigans, dresses and tops and sometimes only have a token offering for our boys: Here's a jumper.  And a hat, with matching mittens. Unlike their female contemporaries, the boys' patterns are often lacking that vital element: Fun.

And then there's the new "Vivacious KIDS" collection, the latest offering from Fyberspates by Ella Austin and Rachel Coopey.  Fun just giggles right out of its pages and it might take you a second reading to be able to see the knitwear past the smiling faces of the children seemingly relishing the photo shoot as much as you'd hope any youngling would enjoy their time outside.  And this is where the magic starts: For me, this is an aspirational collection for, as much as the knitting, I want my boys to be outside having that much fun – and yes, wearing those clothes.  Which I have knitted for them (obviously).

I probably don't need to tell you about the Vivacious Yarn: It's available as DK and 4ply, comes in a range of gorgeously rich colours (all hand-dyed) and, because it's 100% supermerino, it's not itchy and it's machine washable.  Tick, tick, tick and tick.

"Viviacious KIDS" is a collection of seven designs for children between the ages of 2 – 10 years - great to be able to easily knit so many sizes and there's probably a bit of wiggle room at either end of this range.  Aside from the "Ring-a-ring" tunic dress (which I would love to knit for me), all other patterns are suitable for both girls and boys.  More than suitable: They're delightful, no matter who's wearing them.  There are two hats (one cabled, one striped), a hooded jacket, cabled jumper, mittens and socks – all that's missing is some cherry cake and ginger beer (and maybe a dog).

Most designs are photographed in at least two colour ways – fantastic for picking out details that you might otherwise miss.  For example, while some parents might shy away from the "Swashbuckle Hoody" when knitted in "Dove Stone" – perhaps it reminds them too much of theirs or their offspring's grey school uniform - it is a great canvas for showing-off the garter stitch detail.  The "Copper Tones" may be more to your liking but the garter stitch can get a little lost.  I would never normally knit a jumper in yellow but after seeing the "Snip-snap-snorum" sweater in "Sunshine", I could be swayed: The cables shine bright and even the rib stitches gleam.  That said, neither garments look bad in "Blue Lagoon" and "Peacock" – whoops!  Sorry: I'm thinking of me again.  And my blue-eyed boys :-)

Whilst, as you know, I love a good cable, I would knit first the striped "Jack-be-nimble" hat over "Likety-Split". Why?  Just look at the neat stripes, note how they get narrower towards the beautifully shaped crown. I love the defined ribbing and I love it in the "Mixed Magenta" and "Silver and Bronze" combination.  And no, I'm not just thinking of me this time.

Which leaves us with the "Margery Daw" socks and "Tickety-boo" mittens.  I'm a little disappointed at their lack of prominence in the collection – particularly the socks (says the sock knitter).  Surely they could have been poking out the top of wellies, underneath trousers or in full view when the models are shoeless?  With such a comfy-looking cabled sock – and such a wealth of available colours – surely could be worn all the time?!  Says the sock knitter.  Others might think a sock is a sock is a sock, and one example knitted in one colour is suffice.  And they could be right.  And yes, I'm probably thinking of me again.

As the knitter who's actually going to be doing the knitting, don't forget to read some of the very helpful notes: How often do you see mention of growth spurts or an implied understanding that it's not going to take five minutes to knit said garment so choose the size mindfully.  This book really does hold your hand from project start to finish – clearly stating the required skills for each pattern, excellent explanations of the pattern instructions, where to find tutorials demystifying unfamiliar techniques and explicit care guidance to maintain the "just off the needles" look.

Vivacious KIDS is an engaging collection of modern classics.  The designs are ageless (it's a little unfortunate that the patterns aren't – but, no doubt, the most persistent of us will create the fabulous tunic for themselves!).   There's just enough detail to keep the patterns interesting – both to knit and wear – but not too much as to be fussy.  They're thoughtfully written with necklines that won't strangle your child as they dress but won't gape or fall of the shoulders at play - and hats that promise to stay on heads and not require constant adjustment (leading to their inevitable loss). The large sections of stocking-stitch, common to all the designs, allow the unique colour ways to remain a prominent feature by exploiting their subtle colour variegations. At the very least, this collection is a fun read – even if you never put yarn to needles.  Perhaps it'll remind you of your childhood adventures or those you want your own children to experience.  It'll certainly bring a smile to your face.

And perhaps I can help turn your smile to a grin: The very generous folk at Fyberspates are offering the chance for one lucky reader to win their very own digital copy of "Vivacious KIDS"!  All you need to do is leave a comment below (here on my blog please, not facebook or other) between now and high noon on Sunday 12th July after which the winner will be selected at random.   If you can't wait until then, this discount code "KatheryarnVivacious" will give you 25% off purchases of any of the Vivacious KIDS single patterns or the eBook (and if you turn out to be the lucky giveaway winner, Fyberspates will reimburse the cost of the book!  See, they've thought of everything!).  Just follow the links from Ravelry to buy the eBook or individual patterns, select the "use a coupon code" button as displayed at the bottom of your cart, and type KatheryarnVivacious.

Wishing you all happy knitting days - on your needles or as worn by yourselves and your loved ones 

 
 
This week, I thought that I'd try something different: Give you a bit of an insight into my life beyond knitting. And then some knitting, of course.  It's a bit of a meaty blog so make yourself a cuppa and pull up a chair.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Then I'll begin.
It seems that one of the main excuses keeping me from my needles is the garden.  Yes, I have joined that group of keen crafters who are lucky enough to be keen gardeners too.  This is my first serious year of gardening so while I'm happy to be classified as "keen", I'm not yet worthy of the title "gardener".  If you haven't visited Deanfoot, then you need to know that we're fortunate in having several gardens – if this is conjuring images of grand, well-kept and well-managed affairs then please stop!  Stop right now.  As you know, I'm a mother of two young boys and an obsessive knitter: 'Well-kept' and 'managed' are terms that can rarely be applied to my knitting so please stop thinking "stately home" and instead think "Katherine's home".  We have the garden next to the house which, in summertime mode, features a gazebo and garden furniture.  Sounds grown-up until I mention the sandpit - with numerous construction toys and very little remaining sand – and a trampoline large enough to accommodate my bouncing.  Despite the presence of a very adequate shed, this garden is, more often than not, strewn with the boys' bikes, scooter and other modes of transport.  Sometimes too the carcasses of the latest offerings from one or two of the cats but don't worry, you're unlikely to get much more detail than that. In terms of official gardening work, tiny sections of this space have received a make-over in the form of a freshly planted herb garden (some of which have made it to the table, thank you Nikki Duffy)...
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... and, under the advisement of some old family friends, a pretty new flower bed.

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The roses that I planted last year are started to bloom: "Agnes", in memory of my Grandmother, is flowering like there's no tomorrow.  Last year, unlike her companions in the rose bed, she grew only thorns - this unpredictable behaviour is entirely in keeping with the woman herself and so until I start entering horticultural contests (!), any other way would be entirely wrong.

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My real joy this year though, has been my kitchen garden.  What was, only a few months ago, a pretty rough part of "chicken field", where the hens spent more time around the greenhouses than any human, is now, quite literally, bearing fruit.  Learning from last year's hard lesson – where the aforementioned chickens ate all of my gooseberries (and I mean the red fruit, not the green ones; never yet tasted a red gooseberry) – I now have a fruit cage.  And in this sanctuary, I also have raspberries, blueberries, Japanese wine berries and hopefully blackberries.  I also have strawberries growing in one of the greenhouses but it appears I'll have to child-proof the door else all the strawberries will disappear in the stomachs of my boys' – often without my knowledge.  As you can see from the photo, this year I'm growing my strawberries in terracotta pots.  I have Delia to thank for this – actually, I have Delia and  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall,to thank for most of the inspiration for this year's progress.  "Delia's Kitchen Garden", by Gay Search, was gifted to me by my dad.  The present label stuck to the inside cover will tell you that I had given it to him many moons ago when he had a garden, and now that he no longer has, I'm the grateful recipient of the book.  Which led to the terracotta pots.  And the fruit cage.  And the start of the dream.  

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Enter the River Cottage series of Handbooks which led to a specially dug Veg Patch (thanks Mark Diacono) and another for the peas.  Thanks all, for the seeds sown.  For the just "try it" attitude – so alien to Katherine and yet seems to suiting her quite well.  So the veg patch isn't big enough for the potatoes, we'll grow them in pots!  

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So you were too late sewing your tomato plants: Buy more advanced ones and make chutney with any fruit from your offspring.  So the chickens have pecked your onions and leeks so they all look tortured and limp: Give your brood a firm talking to, regularly chase them off the patch, enthuse about Husband's idea to put up a temporary gate on their side of the bridge and wait... Someone will get the message at some point.


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On the other side of the A1 we have another piece of land where we have planted nine fruit trees: Apple, pear, plum and cherry.  Scientist Katherine planned out where they should reside (many thanks, again, to Mark D) so the area looks rather sparse and bare.  Well, it does again now after Gardener Katherine took a strimmer to the weeds yesterday afternoon: They were as tall as the trees!  Brushing aside any comparisons to de-forestation, I confess I do feel somewhat satisfied with the general result – though raking up the debris revealed that there's still a lot more I can remove.  Scottish Borders Council: Hang fast on your offers of employment as my skills aren't yet up to those of your most capable highways gardeners.


Each of these spaces are a very, very long way off being finished – whatever that is.  And I'm fine with that.  There are days when I wish for more order, but there are more days when I'll find ten minutes to stand in the burn (in my wellies, of course) to weed nettles from the bank, finding immense satisfaction from removing them from the roots and creating a small patch of less-prickly chaos.  And then other times I'm happy for Husband to nuke the whole lot.  We try to be mindful of the others who have inhabited our gardens for far longer than us, and who are far more knowledgeable about how it all works.  Though the moles can stay away (and I extend my thanks to the lovely cats for their help in enforcing this desire).  Close to the fruit trees (far too immature to be called an orchard, but I can hope), are three bee hives. None of them ours but the land is "rented" by their keeper for a couple of jars of honey / beeswax candles and I love it.  Love the arrangement; love the honey.  Love the way it encourages us to try to make the surrounding area a welcoming home for the bees – and the trees and the wildflowers are just part of that.  I'm not too sure what they make of the bunting but that's a whole other story!
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I should probably mention the chickens while we remain on this outside theme.  Primrose – so named after a lovely cat we met on Sanday (Orkney) last summer - is sitting on eggs.  Neither Husband or I have high expectations – or even wants – of more chicks, but since we finally found her so late in her, err, "confinement", we thought it would be kind to let her see it through to the end.  Not that she thinks that our intervention is "kind" – from her reaction, you'd think anything but!  So yes, I stalked her one evening last week so that I could discover her secret hiding place in the undergrowth.  And yes, I made her a comfy nest in a protected run, safe(r) from any Mr or Mrs Fox that are on the prowl, mean-spirited chickens and the elements.  And yes, in one swift move, Husband and I re-located her and her clutch to her nicely prepared maternity suite.  And did she thank us? Oh no.  Screamed like she was under attack.  Had the whole brood up in arms – and you don't need to speak chicken to understand the sentiment.  In that stereotypically female way, she's sulking.  Whatever.  She ain't got nothing on me.

Inside, it seems to be brownie season.  Having only baked one or two batches previously, barely a fortnight goes by without having an indisputable reason to make another.  And with another crafternoon tea just around the corner, I should probably make some more – but don't worry, I'll cut them into bigger pieces this time.  I've also been making a concerted effort with more generalised cooking, you know, those things called "meals" that are supposed to sustain you and your family.  Have recently been suffering from a severe case of "can't be bothered", falling into the trap of raiding the freezer and while the boys can seemingly never have too much chicken pie (but absolutely no leeks you understand!), it was a rut I was keen to get us out of for many reasons.  Enter Annabel Karmel's "After-School Meal Planner" and wow!  We seem to be on the up again.  Her cottage pie is a bit faffy to make but given the empty bowls, worth the effort.  My current favourite is the chicken curry – favourite because not only is it delicious, but everyone else loves it too.  Just needed some confidence – a guarantee, almost – from someone else who has been trying to feed children, particularly children who are so very tired – and so close to the summer holidays, that isn't going to change anytime soon.  And as you probably know, meal times can been enough of a struggle (why did we invent cutlery / napkins if not to frustrate the parent?!), so introducing new foods can seem one step too far.  So we cut up the vegetables even smaller, we open the kitchen to the most critical of chefs
(Youngest Son: "What's that?"
Me: "Grated carrot." {You know what a carrot is and you saw me grate it}
Youngest Son, while enthusiastically stirring in the carrot: "I'm not going to eat dinner tonight"
{A few minutes later...}
Youngest Son: "What's that?"
Me: "Mushrooms diced up so small that you can barley see them." {Seriously?!!!}
Youngest Son, while happily stirring in the mushrooms: "I'm not going to eat dinner tonight"
Youngest Son, at the dinner table: Double thumbs up to the turkey meatloaf.
Me: Nearly crying with relief) 
... and we invite friends around.  And a clean plate might sometimes be rewarded with a chocolate brownie.

Can I talk about the knitting now?  Like how I've been knitting with the local school's P5/6 Girl's Club to make flower headbands – that's "work", right?  Youngest Son certainly gives the impression it is – poor boy, exposed to yet more minutes of knitting and suffering the thankless request to "wait until I've finished the row" before seeing to his needs.  But work knitting has been making something of a, I dunno, advancement.  No wait, it's me and that sounds way too positive: "thing".  Work knitting is becoming a thing (oh dear).  Okay, it's a good thing.  I am both surprised and delighted – and more than a little gobsmacked.  So you've seen my fancy new logo?  I've now got fancy new business cards and flyers – so that makes it real, right?  And so continues the brand shopping (bags are next)... And you're quite right: This should most definitely include new shoes. There are several new workshops planned: The yoga / knitting day in August is already fully booked and I really don't mean to sound coy, but since I promised those at my next crafternoon I'd tell them about the new classes, I'll hold-off from blogging about it now.  Sorry.  Fingers crossed the autumn is going to be really busy – and in a wonderfully yarny way.  In other exciting news, I've been asked to review a new pattern book – more on that next week but first glance suggests that it's going to be very hard not to start knitting from it immediately.  All being well, my knitting will be appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this August – and if I'm really, really lucky, my knitting will be appearing for me too!
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Which nicely brings me onto The Plan.  I honestly don't know why I haven't told you sooner but "Svlala" is finished.  It was a bit touch and go towards the end due to a minor yarn crisis resolved by undoing a Christmas decoration and "borrowing" from a friend – but it's done

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As is my recently found summer top.  There's no room – or intention – to be complacent as these exciting new workshops and classes necessitate some exciting new knitting.  Shucks – do I knit for my work?  






This is my most immediate to-do list and since the Yarn Fairy from the Enchanted Knitting Forest is busy working on her school project, I'd best get on with it!

Thanks for sticking with me to the end of this piece.  If you liked it, let me know and who knows?  Perhaps there can be a roundup of Deanfoot news next month x

 
 
Her name is Heloise and she's been part of my family for nearly 14 years. Truth be told, she made us a family, gifted to Jonathan and I long before there were children.  Her soothing company has been a support through many hard times – has ever a cat been integral to more viva preparation than she?! – and as our constant friend, she's shared in all our happy days.

She is a proper cat, seeking company on her terms: Never, ever tolerating being picked up or plucked away from her feline endeavours.  Knitting was the one exception: Heloise is knitting compatible, having quickly realised that if she wanted my lap, it was going to be shared with needles and yarn, yarn that often trailed across her body – unimpeded – both of us content for hours and hours.

She tolerates my boys but not the nonsense that they bring.  She permanently exited our bedroom as soon as they started sharing it with us: No longer could we be relied upon for lengthy periods of unbroken sleep, she sought her rest elsewhere – oftentimes I wishes that I could join her.  She was never jealous, her actions never caused our babies or us any worry, she just accepted the changing family dynamics.  Perhaps as the only other female in the house, her position was never superseded. Unlike our male cat at the time: Such was his anguish at the new human-boy arrival that he was diagnosed with a leukaemia, leading to me spend most of my maternity leave driving him to and from the University of Edinburgh's Veterinary Hospital where was under the direct care of the Professor of Feline Medicine.  No doubt he thought that this was an appropriate use of my (and her) time and, of course, I didn't begrudge a moment.

Helosie outlived Abelard and another male contemporary.  If they'd had life insurance we might have been suspicious.  She's coped with changing indoor / outdoor access; she's holidayed with and without us, moved house with us; endured visiting dogs. Most humans would have less tolerance for such shenanigans but she rarely complained.

I find myself missing her already and she's not even gone.  She's lost over ¾ of her body weight so when you stroke her, you can almost feel every bone in her tiny body.  Long-time friends often don't recognise her but to me, her eyes and face are unchanged and still beautiful.  She's constantly hungry but such is the nature of her cancer that she can barely absorb any nutrients.  Practically this means that we feed her whenever she wants.  Actually this means that she could be starving much of the time.  Emotionally this means that our hearts are breaking.  We are under the care of a super vet – and either we've always been lucky with our vets or they're all pretty darn wonderful - they just lack a magic wand.  But then, so too, do our doctors.

So what can I do? Other than have a constant supply of ham and my vet on speed dial?  I no longer knit when she chooses my lap – that can wait.  I don't complain at the possibly inappropriate places she chooses to sleep: My fault for not moving the still-warm ironing or half-finished knitting.  I leave her undisturbed in her hiding places. I try to pretend that it's not real.
These words were written a fortnight ago.  It is with sadness that I complete this piece by telling you that she died on Friday.  Rest in peace my precious little Heloisey.
 
 
  1. We can support two of our regularly attending friends who, instead of knitting are, most brilliantly, running 10K with another friend of theirs as part of her personal crusade against breast cancer: All funds taken at the next crafternoon tea will be donated to Cancer Research and, hopefully, take Lou's Ladies closer to their £1000 target.  We wish you all the very best of luck – and happy running.
  2. Actually, I think that this is such an important event that I'm going to mention it again: By coming together to knit, crochet or sew; eat cake and drink tea on Sunday 28th June, the £3 that you leave will be used to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.  Thanks to Amy and Anna for inspiring us to be better people – and allowing us to contribute in our own small way xx
  3. On a lighter note: This will be our last such meeting before we take a wee break for the school summer holidays.  So take the opportunity to sew up those sleeves or cast on that new project in the relative peace that is my studio!
  4. I will be attempting to make a Madeira cake with a zesty lemon icing.  I used to be able to make Madeira cakes but the last two were disasters and now I have the fear of failure.  Since the oven that I would like to blame for these issues is unlikely to change in the near future, I will try again...
  5. Of course, there will be a back-up and it's likely to have chocolate.
  6. You will no longer have to struggle past the curtains that have adorned the banister for the last long while as they are finally hanging in the sitting room!  This has absolutely nothing to do with the increasingly sarcastic remarks from their maker :-) or the impending arrival of my parents.  And while they’ll look much nicer once the creases have dropped (ahem), I think they look pretty darn impressive now.  Thank you, Sheena.
  7. And, you never know, the cushions may be covered too! (So aside from the bookshelves – not my job! - that'll be the room finished (shock!))
  8. All being well, I'll be announcing new knitting classes...
  9. ... one of which is for parents and children to learn to knit together.
  10. And finally, we'll find out whether or not the weeks in between now and then are sufficient time to complete two, two-metre long scarves... I'd better get knitting then!
Hope to see you soon x

 
 
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In October 1987, I made my first patchwork cushion.  I know this, not because I have a good memory (because I really don't), but because I keep *everything* including my school textiles exercise book from the time.  And, of course, the cushion.


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Even in those days I was obsessed with blue and this may have been the first time that I raided my mother's stash for fabric. No doubt there are some quality pieces in there for my mum doesn't differentiate between Liberty, Laura Ashley and others when it comes to sharing what she has.  She is generous across the board - and I probably don't thank her enough for it (so thank you, Mummy).


The cushion has clearly seen much better days – and it's obvious that the love I hold for it is no longer enough to keep it together.  Time for a makeover.

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Enter the granny square panel that I completed for my Learn to Crochet workshop in April – inspired by Kim Hargreaves design in Rowan Magazine 31. It's the perfect size for the cushion and yes, it was planned (the accompanying picnic blanket being boxed away as a dream project).  And it'll also be no surprise to you to learn that I'm using another Amy Butler’s fabrics as a back panel.  What can I say about this one except that I love it!  It just sings to me!


And so here we go, nearly 27 years later another cushion.  I like it as it is, but love it for the secrets that it holds underneath.
 
 
... Today was the last ever Rowan coffee morning in John Lewis Edinburgh.  I could be optimistic and say the last ever planned coffee morning but I'm not sure I can allow myself that much hope.  This is the last full month that we will be able to benefit from the wealth of knowledge, experience and inspiration that the Rowan Design Consultants have shared with us. From the beginning of July – and much sooner in many cases – our John Lewis's will be without the central core of their haberdashery departments.  I don't mean to belittle their JL colleagues but I'm sure that I wasn't alone in making a beeline for the person on the shop floor wearing the glorious knitwear and sporting the purple name badge to answer my yarn-related needs.  These women have inspired me and countless, countless others.  These women live and breathe their craft and have shown me how to do the same.  I hope that this change in their employment status will not change that.  I do not underestimate the shock, hurt and grief that they may be experiencing; I just hope that their enthusiasm for all things wool will not be so easily lost.  But know that the draw of the John Lewis haberdashery department is not the same.  Know that I will miss you.  Know that I am among many who will feel the same.
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So desperate was I not to miss today's coffee morning that I took Youngest Son.  Obviously we both wore Rowan. Obviously we both did some knitting on the train. Obviously we had cake (or, more accurately, the icing in and around the cake).  Obviously we got more yarn.  Less obvious – though completely in character – was the kindness that the JL Edinburgh Rowan Design Consultant, Lindsay – her name is Lindsay! – showed us, both of us.  She immediately recognised and complimented Youngest Son on his little denim jacket (thank you again, Grandma).  She was enthusiastic and interested in his knitting (to be a scarf for teddy).  As the youngest attendee in the history of her coffee mornings, she was nothing but kind, wonderful and so, so thoughtful – to both of us.  For example, 

 ... I missed a wonderful photo opportunity.  Picture it: My friend and I both wearing our versions of "Harwood" with a Rowan, denim-wearing toddler between us.  That's Lindsay for you: She correctly predicted that I would be wearing my jacket so brought hers. Invited me to share the floor with her so we could twirl together. I thought of asking someone to take a photo but knew that in the time taken to set up the phone, the moment would be lost.  Not that I would have really minded.  My memory is pretty awful and such moments – semi-contrived or not – are precious.  I look forward to the next time that I can welcome Lindsay here – and perhaps she would wear her Harwood and we could try that again?

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... When does Big Wool Colour make a beard for a teddy?  And seriously, what does Youngest Son expect me to do with it?!  Other than find a special place to store it and call it his stash?


... Speaking of stashes, I had to raid mine looking for more yarn for my version of "Svala".  This jumper is the reason that I'll be over-ordering the yarn for my next commission: It's just too stressful, and pleasure-less, knitting without the guarantee that there's enough yarn to see you through to project's end.   Anyway, while I found some more "sheep" colour, I discovered that didn't have any felted tweed "pine" (hence the destruction of the Christmas decoration: Ding, dong the bell really is gone).  Unexpectedly, I also found two more UFOs: (1) The first, and incomplete, glove of the pair I planned to knit for Husband and (2) the front and back of a summer top for me.  Yep, I could have cried.  So much for the joy of casting on New Project with only two approved WIPs on the needles.  However...  The Plan can be modified to accommodate at least one of these abandoned pieces – the summer top, obviously.  And the gloves can go onto the autumnal list.  Or something.  This is, perhaps, fortuitous as the organisers of the Yarn Retreat that I'm teaching at in October are running an informal KAL: Knit for points between 1st June to retreat start. So it would be silly to cast-on something new before Monday – plenty of time to finish Oldest Son's jumper and the summer top (hee, hee).

But I'm not going to cry.  Instead, I want to thank you – thank you all for contributing so positively to my life.  For it wouldn't be as good as it is without you, and, of course, I include my fellow Rownaites, past and present.  Lindsay, Bev, Karie, Freddie, Jeannette, Alison, Jo and the many, many others that I've had the pleasure of meeting before knowing your names: Thank you.  Thank you all.   And you don't need a purple badge to knit with me – you know how to find me and you're always welcome xx

 
 
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A couple of weeks ago, we were in Duns for the boys' dentist appointment and as we were leaving, all stickered-up and new toothbrushes in hand, I got distracted by this sewing basket displayed in the window of the vintage / antique shop.  Given its colour, I know that you’re not surprised but, with my nose up against the glass, I decided that it was a little too forlorn for me – and really, what did I need another sewing basket for?  But, my curiosity piqued, we crossed the threshold in search of other treasures.

Of specific interest was another, slightly smaller and less worn sewing basket, a set of Durex dpns, a child's toy high-chair that reminded me of one that my Granny used to have and two matchbox cars.  In fact, so enamoured was I by the police and bright orange racing cars, that I could only part with them into the hands of my very accommodating and patient little boys.  But back to the blue sewing basket.
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Having made a small mound of potential purchases, and benefiting from the assistance of the owners in seeking other textile-related delights, the blue sewing basket was brought forth from the window for my inspection.  And opened.  And I nearly wept. For this was not an empty shell of a sewing case but it still held all of its tools – just as if its previous owner had closed it after completing the latest repair - but, of course, had never returned.  

Being the sentimental old wotsit that I am, I couldn't leave it.  I couldn't bare to think of it being abandoned, unappreciated and unloved.  It needed to go home to that of a sewer and, in the absence of anyone else, that was mine.

It's taken a while to start exploring the contents for although I bought it, it still doesn't really feel mine.  There's a name on an old medicine (now pin) tin suggesting that its original owner lived in St Boswells and there's still a part of me that would like to return it to her family as its part of their history.  But I'll have to assume that if such family existed, its appearance in the vintage shop was no mistake.  Other people are more pragmatic, sensible perhaps, about the allocation of such items.  Clearly not me.  This is the crafter who stores her knitting needles in an old corset box and a plastic, tartan case that she would never consider owning had they not belonged to her Granny.  This is the crafter that has an old sweetie jar of reels of thread also belonging to her Granny: You can see her writing on the front label and, if you're very careful, you may catch a whiff of the musty store room where they were once stored when you release the lid.  
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I also have my mother-in-law's knitting box, and it's where I can always guarantee to find a needle for sewing up and the last remaining embroidery scissors when all others have gone astray.  This is the crafter who uses her mother's old sewing machine case to store her stash, has fabric generously donated for workshop emergencies and treasures other examples too numerous to list, constant reminders of her mother’s crafting history and early family years.  I would willingly exchange these for a few more minutes with my loved ones, but while death and distance prevent such frequent visits as I would love, I take comfort from their ever stoic presence and contribution in this important part of my life. But back to the blue sewing box.  

And so I have had tentative look, opening tins to find a life-time of collected odd buttons, amassed needles (and there are a lot of them), tape measures, pins and more. So much more.  I'm amused – and a little relived - that this sewer, like me, could never operate with only one of everything, that a spare – or spares! – form an essential part of the kit.  They point to a thrifty woman of who shopped in Woolworths (which, after my brief spell working for them, will always be a special place), one who kept the free gifts from magazines (don't we all?) and who seemed proficient in a wide range of repairs and alterations.  There's no indication that she was a knitter – but if you were to find my sewing basket, you'd probably reach the same conclusion. 
I cannot treat these as museum pieces.  If I hide them away, then I know that when I next stumble across them, they will no longer be seen as a pleasure, more of a burden, taking up both physical and emotional space. This is not what they were created for and I suspect that any crafter would want them used.  So the buttons will be sorted and some, maybe all, will be assigned to the boyss craft drawer for embellishing pictures or like – and I will think of this unknown sewer every time I glance at the finished collage once pinned to the wall.  The pins and needles will be sorted and absorbed into my own collection for both home and work – and I will be thankful every time one of these is put to use.  We plan to get the boys a sewing machine of their own, so they will obviously be in need of their own sewing kits, the basis of which may be formed by some of these items.  And the sewing basket?  Well, as Husband wonderfully suggested, this will now live in the motorhome – after all, no home, even that on four wheels, is complete without its own sewing basket.

 
 
Do you ever have one of those days when going back to bed would seem like the most sensible course to take? Like when you're already pushed for time to get to school and your front offside tyre is flat.  Again.  Like when you're finally at school and youngest Son falls flat on his front (and into the only circle of mud in the playground) as we're rushing to our respective class rooms.  As, once nursery open-morning complete, and less than one minute into your run, the battery on your iPod dies (even though you checked it before leaving the house and it showed over half remaining).  That on arriving home, you find cat vomit to greet you... I'm having one of those days – and it's barely lunchtime.

For most of us, going back to bed – no matter how desirable – just isn't an option.  We all have lives and demands and tasks that we need and want to complete.  But sometimes it can feel as though the world is out to get you and that the safest place – perhaps for everyone's sake – is under your duvet!  But that's not how you get your children to school. Oh no: You become a dab hand at re-inflating said tyre, always carry your RAC card around with you and start saving your pennies for a military-style tank (or at least an alternative vehicle that doesn't have run-on-flat tyres; except they're not – and there's no room in the boot for a spare.)  You accept that you're going to get covered in mud while you give the necessary cuddles to comfort.  And you run despite the lack of music and take pleasure from the bird song and the rhythmic sound of your feet pounding the ground. You try to be positive and to remain positive.

But that can take a lot of resolve, sometimes needing us to dig deep and find core strength to face yet another challenge.  And sometimes we can't do it.  Sometimes we utter those four letter words, melt-down in such a manner so as to put any stroppy toddler to shame and raid the chocolate tin.  Surprisingly, today doesn't yet seem one of those days.  And I find myself wondering if there are any predictable factors that cause us to swing from one direction to another.  Sleep would be up there at the top, but life is never that simple and I suspect some kind of response pattern as set by recent and distant events will contribute.....

Take, for instance, this weekend.  I was away in Aberdeen teaching a sock knitting workshop at "Wool for Ewe" and it was brilliant.  Met some really wonderful people and discovered a whole new yarn shop that is honestly worth driving all those miles to reach.  It is packed with a gloriously large selection of yarn and a very distracting array of accessories.  I didn't buy any yarn.  This is a double-edged truth as yes, it's good in terms of staying on-track with The Plan but then, I didn't buy any yarn.  And there were some lovely options.  And I don't have any socks on the go – and it would have been so easy, so justifiable, to get just one of those brightly coloured 100g balls and cast on a pair (so portable, so satisfying, so relevant to the day's teaching) but I didn't.  Others did – and whilst that is the whole point of running a yarn shop - I will admit to feeling a little envious.  I left the store feeling happy, pleased with the day's workshop and relieved that I had not succumbed to any yarn. (If the owners of "Wool for Ewe" could refrain from divulging the details of any purchases I may or may not have made, I would be most grateful: Husband does occasionally visit me here.)

Less than 24 hours later and the sense of euphoria had left me.  I was bored by my current knitting project and I wanted something new.  In my mind's eye, I could see the beautifully arranged shelves and feel the bulging bags of yarn rub against my back as I circled the table in the workshop / stock room and I started to regret that none of it had made it into my hands.  Classic yarn envy.  This was unhelped by photos and messages from D excitedly sharing her recent scrummy yarn purchases, pattern links and invitations to join a lace KAL and, although I stuck to my knitting guns, I felt flat and uninspired by the offerings on my needles.

I suspect that I'm not alone in such feelings and this certainly isn't the first time for me – and probably explains the large number of projects that I have on the go.  Or rather, had on the go.  It's at such moments that I would make a hollow promise to myself not to forget the current project and then greedily cast on something new.  But not this time.  No.  I am going to finish "Svala" before I lift any new needles for any new (non-work) related knitting.  And last night, I did just that.  I ignored the call of new yarn from the studio and I carried on knitting - despite the predicted lack of main colour yarn (this was why we first completed the body of the jumper).  And despite having to adapt the colour pattern "on the hoof" so that I can have a matching pair of sleeves (they may not match the original pattern but it'll be a step too far not to have identical sleeves!).  And what did I find?  By bedtime I had completed 16 of the required 30 cm – and all of a sudden, I'm re-inspired!  There is a dim light at the end of the tunnel and by golly I'm going for it. 

So what have I learnt?  That, somewhat surprisingly, there is a determination inside of me to see projects through to the end – sometimes even in a timely manner.  That I can, sometimes, force the cry of new projects to quieten to almost non-discernable whisper.  That that thought of casting on my next project is oh-so-much-sweeter since I know it'll only happen once Oldest Son's jumper is complete.  That these small changes are actually making me happy.

Wish me luck!


 
 
Wee Cria is off the needles!  So close to project's end, I'm afraid that you're going to have to wait for a photo.  Unfortunately, this might take longer than planned as I can't find the buttons.  Baby's mother has been most noble about the loss (she chose the buttons along with the yarn and pattern) but clearly there's only one course of action: I have to turn the house upside down to find them.  Or else play psychological button warfare i.e. buy some new buttons so that the new-old ones will immediately present themselves. Yes, you playful emerald-green buttons: As gorgeous and perfectly coloured as you are, you are not irreplaceable and I will finish the garment.  (That ought to have them rolling out of their hiding place quicker than you can say "Hmmmm... don't you have a button box? ".)

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Funnily enough, loss of the buttons has also coincided with a loss of my knitting mojo.  The final eight rows of Wee Cria were only worked yesterday after several days of nothingness.  That said, I have got all excited about "Alda", sock two!  Really, really enjoying the lace work.  I seem to remember it being more complicated and having conversations along the lines of "It's only a four row pattern repeat – and two of those are knit rows – but if I don't knit it when I'm properly awake, then it all goes horribly wrong". Can't really explain it.  Maybe I am getting a little more sleep?  Maybe my little grey cells are making a slow recovery? 
 
But, again, I seem to be working in stops and starts.  To be absolutely honest with you, I'm afraid that I'm going to run out of yarn.  To accommodate my Katherine-sized feet, I'm knitting the largest size and worked an extra couple of rounds on the foot section (if the sock ain't going to fit, it ain't worth knitting) and I've convinced myself that this adaptation is going to exceed the yarn allowance.  I could do something sensible about this predicament (like weigh the completed sock and the remaining yarn) but instead I'm knitting s l o w l y.  Because clearly if I knit s l o w l y the yarn will last for l o n g e r.

I face a similar predicament with "Svala" but this time I know that I don't have enough yarn.  And that's fine, all part of the plan.  There's enough for the front and back to be knitted in the same Cornish clotted cream yarn loveliness and I've several plans B's up my sleeve should they be required for the garment’s own.  I find the uncertainly doesn't really lend itself to knitting quickly – but I should just get on with it.  No, I really want to get on with it.

Reading this, you might think that it's been a relatively successful week, that whilst not uber productive, I've not strayed from the established knitting path.  Well yes, that may be true on the needles, but in my head....  First off, that Rowan have a lot to answer for with a Magazine full of summer goodies.  When Mag 57 first landed on my doormat, I spent hours and hours analysing the designs, mentally listing their individual merits, aligning patterns with stash and imagining myself in a glorious new summer wardrobe.  "Alexus", a cotton tunic dress, made it to top of the knitting list and there it stalled, not having a stashed resource to allow immediate cast on.  But the idea remained.  And then allowed itself to be shelved, along with its magazine, to facilitate the more likely success of The Plan.

And then "The Knitter" arrived, it too full of springtime wonderfullness  - including "Alexus".  Seriously, what is a knitter to do?  Okay, so it won't be the quickest of knits but, since I'm always going to be wearing the dress with leggings, it doesn't have to be ready for the height of the summer, it will be a highlight of my summer-autumn transitional wardrobe.  (See what I did there?  Moth to the proverbial yarn light.)  And when am I going to knit this, you ask? Okay, now it gets a little tricky.  Definitely not until "Svala" and "Alda" are finished.  In fact, perhaps it would be wise to avoid addressing the lack of HK cotton until those are finished?  And then knit some more of "Isis Tailcoat" while I wait for it to arrive, knit "Alexus" in the new yarn and then finish "Isis". All in time for autumn.  Job done.  And quickly now, moving on.....

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Yesterday I had the pleasure of the company of other crafters for tea upstairs in my studio – and one of the wonderful things was the variety of work that they brought with them. One crocheted blanket sections....

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..... another sewed a unicorn (using up some of my near-ancient "Yarn of the Month" collection for its mane – Blue Sky Alpaca!!! – see, I always knew it could come in handy for something) and then there were the knitters.  

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J is perhaps the most dangerous of these – partly because of her willingness (pleasure, even) to experiment with new yarns and designers and partly because she is so very productive.  (That jumper she was knitting last crafternoon? She was wearing it yesterday.)  So J was knitting a Shetland Hap Shawl – and very yummy it was too in its Jamieson and Smith wool worked in swigey, springy garter stitch.  And then, quite literally out of her bag, she pulled some of the latest offerings from Ginger Twist: "Muddy Daffodil".  Not normally one for yellow yarns, Jess’s combination of grey and white with the mellow yellow was just stunning.  It took my breath away.  A was a far better guest - working with some of my own patterns – until she wanted ideas for her next project.  Oh dear…..  More knitting research, lots of wonderful new projects discovered and rediscovered.  A is a such a thoughtful, dedicated knitter so I suspect we won't be seeing any of these until she's finished her current work, which is beautiful (and since I seem to have lost the photos, sorry A, you'll have to take my word for it) – and not just because of your choice of yarn colour!


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Speaking of blue yarn... "Byatt".  Oh my.  It's not even made it onto the list.  Yet there it is, pattern stacked neatly under the chosen skeins of yarn and over the blue linen in which I'm going to make a dress.  An entire outfit, just waiting. And with delusions of wearing it this (Made It) May.  Seriously Katherine: How many hours do you think there are in a day? Or, more importantly, how many hours can you knit in one day? You're lucky if you manage two. Wanna make this happen? Can you increase this to three? Without detriment to your family and sleep (and therefore your family and everyone around you)?  




Hmmm... Let's see what happens, shall we? 


 
 
Dear Friends,

I can't believe that it’s been almost a month since our first Crafternoon Tea!  Like me, I imagine that you've been very busy, hopefully enjoying some of this glorious Spring weather and maybe even spending more time outside?  Perhaps, like me, you've now stumbled upon some of those external jobs that had been forgotten over the winter (out of sight...), and are now trying to get a handle on those while balancing all of our other daily demands.  And still trying to find to knit.

I'm looking forward to hearing about and seeing progress on your projects – knitting or otherwise.  Is the jumper complete? How's progress with the blanket? Though I believe there are now several of those on the needles.  Have the bootie and wrist warmers got matching pairs?  The cardigan a front? Is the shawl still on the needles? And the crochet...?

You probably won't be shocked to hear that I've still yet to complete "Wee Cria" – the baby's cardigan that I was working on when we last met, although I'm almost there. It’' turned out to be a much more satisfying knit that I had first imagined: My first top down, knit-in-one-piece garment.  I suspect that I'm going to feel a bit lost when I cast off and there's no joining to do - maybe I'll have to comfort myself with a hug from Wee Cria's recipient (if she is up to joining us).  If, by any miracle, I have finished this by Sunday, then I'll be back to knitting "Svala", the Icelandic Jumper – and if you see me knitting anything else, you have my permission to challenge me, sternly! 

I'm on a bit of a mission to complete some of my unfinished projects as I've decided that two, maybe three at an absolute push, is an acceptable number to have on the go. Not seven. Two projects: One main, one mindless, that's my aim.  I finished a pair of socks last week, aka the "motorhome socks" - so called as I started them on our trip to Orkney last August (on our first holiday in the motorhome, aka the "Lymer Hymer").  Only nine months to complete (my friend D has a lot more to show for her last nine months – and she's beautiful).  So that leaves:-

  • One lace sock, "Alda", started summer 2013 (for me)
  • One Icelandic Jumper, "Svala", restarted winter 2014 (for Oldest Son)
  • One beaded hair band, started a million years ago when I attended a Debblie Abrahams workshop at McAree Brothers.
  • One cardigan, "Isis Tailcoat", cast on at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival last month.
  • One lace dress, cast on Autumn last year.

Would you like to hear the Plan?  It's somewhat unrealistic and will perhaps give you some insight into how I can delude myself about the knitting time available / how fast I knit / how I'm not going to look at any other yarn or pattern in the meantime (/ the pressure I choose to put myself under / how I set myself up for disappointment).  But here goes.  Since my life is now arranged into termly blocks, I will have finished "Wee Cria", "Svala" and the missing pair from "Alda" by the summer holidays (which start here on 1st July). This will allow me the summer to work on my "Isis Tailcoat" – so that it'll be all ready for the autumn – and then I can resume work on the lace dress.  The 4ply lace dress.  Hmmmm.

The reality:  I'm starting a knitting group in school next week and I'll have to knit up a sample for that, so there's an extra project before we've even started.  I'm teaching workshops in both old and new venues, which is always very risky as they tend to sell yarn and patterns, both of which can be very, very tempting.  It also means that I'll be talking to other knitters and they can be very inspirational – which is also very dangerous.  The summer holidays, though long, mean that I actually have even less time that now to do anything productive – although, of course, the longer days meaning that I have more knitting time (and the energy to go with it, ha, ha!).

So, if you do come on Sunday, perhaps you could bring a time machine with you?

Looking forward to seeing you soon,

Katherine x