I cannot believe where the time has gone, can you?  One minute, it's the school holidays where, when allowed, my head has been full of making plans and preparations for my Big August Premiers (everything seems to happen at once, doesn't it?) – and the next minute, they're all over, done and dusted.  And it's onto the next.

Knitting-wise, even I have to admit that August has been a good month!  Not only did we have the first ever, whole day workshop at Deanfoot (showcasing my very first lace scarf design) but Nick Sharratt used the scarves that I had designed for him to help launch his new children's book, "Shark in a Park on a Windy Day" at the Edinburgh Book Festival.  And, if that wasn't enough, we're soon to release the patterns – "Scarves in the Park" - which will be another first for me as I explore the world of pattern selling.  I also designed a brand new project for my "Learn to Knit" classes and started working on another commission for another children's author. Wow, actually "wow".  Do you know, if you hadn't given me this opportunity to reflect and review, I might never have known. In classic-Katherine style, I'm already busy with the next thing without really giving a moment's thought to what we've achieved.  So thank you, thank you and thank you :-)  
It's all been a lot of fun though and, of course, it's not been something that I've been able to accomplish on my own.  This isn't the Oscars so I won't keep you with a long list of thanks but I am very much a team player, and I really appreciate being able to bounce ideas off family and friends, turn to them when it all feels a little too much – and serve cheesy pasta the umpteenth time at home.

My outside world has also been making demands of its own: It's been harvest time in the garden and we have, quite literally, been enjoying the fruits and vegetables of our earlier labours.  Now I could turn into my father and start harping on about the wonders of home-grown produce and how I've never tasted peas so sweet as those from my pods – but even I know where the line is.  For those of you who follow my twitter feed, you'll know what fun I've been having racing the clock to cook the veg plucked straight from the garden in the quickest time possible – but as you also know, I'm a woman of extremes and so we've also enjoyed some of the earlier harvest that we froze - in a gooseberry and strawberry cobbler.
The chickens have also been providing us with more than their usual excitement: We have had three clutches of eggs hatch this summer and "Apple" has gone AWOL so there might be one more. (In case you're wondering, Apple, Blackberry and Samsung are Pepper's offspring from last year.)  Primrose, Custard's daughter (I hope you're keeping up?!), was finally released from her run last week with daughters Calamity (Jane) and Katie (pronounced "Kadie") – so named because Calamity had a nasty fall from the top of her little house.  Pepper and her 11 chicks are still in their post-natal run and I reckon that five or six of those are girlies (if only they would keep still for long enough to count!).  And then there's Blackberry and her three chicks (too early for me to tell).  Having, err, "dispatched" of Primrose's cockerels, Husband is bracing himself for Pepper's lot and not at all impressed with the prospect of Apple sauntering out of the long grass with a line of chicks behind her. Clearly one of our priorities next year will be keeping the side of the burn under control and less jungle-like if we ever hope to spot broody chickens as well as any recently laid eggs.  (We had to buy eggs again – seriously?!!)  A formal run would, of course, solve all these issues but it's clear that our chickens love having the freedom of the garden so we've no plans to change that.  But let's see what happens next year.

As I look forward to September, so too do I find a bulging "to-do" list. Thank you to those who have registered for the "Introduction to Socks" workshop -  there are a few more spaces if you want to join us on Sunday 13th.  Then there's "Professional Finishing" in Edinburgh at the end of the month – as well as "Learn to Knit" being offered both in the capital and closer to home.  And then it's time to look forward again, to the exciting times at the end of October, including a festive workshop here, working with the fab team at Woman's Weekly at Glasgow SECC and the imaginative Geeky Puffin Knit Palooza in Edinburgh.  Happy days....  And may I wish you all happy days too xx

 
 
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On Saturday, I held my first ever full-day workshop at Deanfoot - though when I say "I", I really mean it was a team effort.  One of the vital team members was Dana, most wonderful friend and skilled crafter herself (have you seen her gorgeous children's clothes?).  Dana, and her military-style organisational skills, meant that the quiet preparation all came together at just the right time.  With some additional help from Sheena, little miracles kept occurring: Furniture magically moving back under the gazebo, dishes cleared and who can forget the ball-winding dance!  Thank you both very much.


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Another key team member was Jenny from The Core who brilliantly led our yoga and, rather fantastically, the weather allowed us to practise outside!  I don't have a great experience of yoga (unless wishing that I had time to do more counts?!) but I was very surprised at the difference it made doing it outdoors: It was simply wonderful.  I have come to realise that there are probably few "perfect" places to practise yoga – even in a designated studio there will always be some untimely sound (usually at the relaxation part) – such as a lorry driving past or someone entering / exiting from a neighbouring building.  So long as these don't interfere with your practise or create a distraction from which you can't separate yourself then these, as with lots of aspects of life, are things that we can try to accept and move on from.  So while we were outside with the birds chirping in the trees around us, the water falling gently down the stream into the pond and enjoying the soft breeze upon our skin, yes vehicles continued to use the nearby road, trains ran along the track behind that – and a one of the resident cats had a quick sniff to check that the group of women lying in corpse pose weren't actually dead.  This is me, so yes, I did fret a little that these "nuisances" might adversely affect the others but they seemed to take them in their stride – and were hopefully too consumed by the super class that Jenny had prepared.  She pitched it to exactly the right level for all of us and executed it with her usual grace and friendliness – making everyone feel included and able, no matter what their (my!) actual ability.

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Now you know that no workshop of mine would be complete without food playing quite an important role and so immediately after yoga, we sat together and enjoyed a breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt, croissants and muffins.  And then the knitting started!


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This was an introduction to lace knitting for which I had designed a simple, but elegant, scarf using the falling leaf pattern, knitted in the ever sumptuous "Fine Art" from Rowan.  "Antoinette" is designed to be beautiful yet functional, with a loop to allow the scarf to loosely fasten without flapping around shoulders or needing constant adjustment (spot the mother with two young children!).  I am delighted to report that all knitters produced some simply stunning pieces of work!  It was a joy to see confidence building as each row was completed, share in the satisfaction of seeing the pattern coming to life and a real pleasure to enjoy the different colour ways of the Fine Art as the scarves grew on the needles. 

One of the major learning points for me is the revelation that chocolate brownies are essential for lace knitting – for which I also need to thank Dana (I'd baked them for afternoon consumption - of course we had enough for two servings!).  During that first row of knitting, which is always a bit tricky following the cast on and particularly if you've just learnt a new method to do so, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed: So much to take in – new techniques, the counting, the repeats, the counting, the keeping your place in the pattern, the counting, the occasional TINKing, the counting and then oh!  The blessed relief of reaching the end of the row with the correct number of stitches!  It can be exhausting!  And put that way, it's blindingly obvious that brownies are required – and seemed to do the trick just nicely.


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There was of course lunch after which we relaxed comfortably for another hour or so of knitting.  If I could have bottled the atmosphere in the studio...  It was just so wonderful to be part of that group at that time.  Most of the major knitting hurdles had been crossed and people seemed content to carry on knitting at their own pace, enjoying the chat and the music (thanks again, Dana).  

Little Miss Worry Pants (that's me, in case you’re wondering) always starts to feel uneasy at such times because I worry that I'm not doing my job if I'm not busy helping others – but there's something to be said for just being one of the knitters, and that thing is "thank you. Thank you very, very much". 

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Our day concluded with a soak in the hot tub.  Not really sure what needs to be said about sitting in blood temperature water with the sun shining down on you: Bubbles, bubbles and more bubbles.  It was a bit difficult to get out – as Husband will affirm as he found Sheena and me still wallowing nearly two hours later!


With requests for another knitting and yoga day retreat, I'm already planning new versions of Saturday including an exciting collaboration with Sheena, Seamstress par excellence and the talent of SeamSew.  So keep a look out for more information – or join my mailing list (by emailing me) so that you're always among the first to know.

Which leaves me to say an enormous "thank you" to everyone who came.  Thank you for sharing so much of your precious time with me, thank you for being such excellent company, thank you for making a truly wonderful day xx

 
 
It seems as though I've hardly spent any time at home this month – through a combination of my machine knitting workshop (which you already know about) and a fortnight's holiday in North Wales (that started with a quick jaunt into mid-Wales to collect a new knitting machine; it's like my life revolves around knitting).  This is my first full week at home and whoosh!  It's the end of the month already.
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On reflection, it seems that July has been a productive knitting month – and no, I'm not just referring to the machine knitting that is super speedy and also super satisfying.  The scarves needed for the Edinburgh Book Festival are near completion and yesterday, I finished the final panel of the baby / fireside blanket that I've designed for my next series of "Learn to Knit" classes.  (Lots and lots of motor home knitting :-) ) This morning, while the panels lay drying, I cast on the first 41 stitches of the lace scarf that I've designed for my yoga retreat day and I'm really looking forward to making some progress on it this evening.  So yes, all work knitting but hey!  I can't complain when knitting is my work (and don't worry Team Pink: I'll be uploading some images of the completed items to the Geeky Puffin Knit Palooza KAL – and that'll hopefully earn us a few points).

I was about to tell you that I haven't bought any yarn this month and in one sense this is quite true: I haven't actually been to a yarn shop, fallen in yarn love and left with a bulging rucksack, trying to maintain an air of innocence while avoiding eye contact with my beloved Husband.  In reality, this is a massive three black sacks of random yarn away from the actual truth – for along with the knitting machine, came three bin bags of yarn on cones.  I am so completely overwhelmed by the amount that they are still on the motor home from where they accompanied us on the hundreds of miles of our holiday.  I have tidied up one of the sheds to act as a quarantine area in preparation for receiving a more ordered version of this cargo – but then it started raining and that put an end to it.

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Speaking of rain, there does seem to have been rather a lot of it – mostly, I'm pleased to say, in our absence.  It has run riot with the vegetables that I was lovingly growing: I'm am not exaggerating when I tell you that the spinach is as tall as I.  As a vegetable, it's pretty useless – having outgrown its worth and gone to seed – and I fear that some of the others might be going the same way.  But not all:  I have some plump looking beetroot, not too scrawny leeks and below some giant leaves, wee broccoli crowns (is that what you call them?).  Somewhat predictably, the boys are far less interested in the patch now that there's a definite risk that I might actually expect them to eat some of the produce.  Leeks, apparently, are poisonous in anything other than leek and potato soup; I fear I may be "hiding" the beetroot in chocolate cakes – and perhaps doing similar with the courgettes.  Might be on safer ground with the peas and, since the tomatoes remain a stubborn green, we might be saved an additional argument or two.

It has been a terrific learning experience though, and I'm really excited about next year.  The strawberries were delicious – but there weren't enough of them.  And even though they'll be moving into the smaller greenhouse next year, there's still room for at least a couple more plants.  Under the advisement of one of my neighbours, I will be growing next year's tomatoes in the larger greenhouse and, due to my training in the identification and removal of side shoots, the plants may look less jungle like.  I will also sow the seeds earlier – although, in fairness, given the lack of heat this summer and particularly these last three weeks, there isn't a huge difference between the late and early versions. 
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I'm also hoping to better plan our holiday.  While it's nice to go away in the summer – and indeed, we were very fortunate with some great weather in Wales – it's a really silly time to go away in terms of the garden.  We missed the last of our strawberries and it was only with the help of my mum that we harvested fruit from the gooseberry bushes – now all safely stored in the freezer awaiting transformation into jam, crumble, curd or other.  Although we installed an automated watering system, it's the finer details that can make all the difference – like controlling the temperature of the greenhouse by opening / closing windows and doors at the appropriate time.  And the not so delicate tasks such as harvesting your produce before it goes to waste.  Husband doesn't agree with me and so perhaps another solution is that a keen gardener or two could holiday at ours while we're away – applications in writing, please, care of the Lady of the House.

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Of course, no blog would be complete without mentioning the chickens and my word!  What a chaotic lot they turn out to be. The day after my June blog, Primrose (the hen that I'd "imprisoned", remember?) became the proud mother to eight chicks.  One went mysteriously missing, the less healthy one died and so we're left with six.  Want to hazard a guess at the number of cockerels?  Four.  Then one fell and got trapped in the wire of the run and looked, for a couple of hours, as though they might not make it.  Want to guess the sex of that bird?  Female, of course.  However, I'm most pleased to report that under the loving care of another of our brilliant neighbours, she has recovered and is now back with her mother and siblings.  Just call our neighbour Dr Dolittle. But this is not all the news. Oh no.  We were still a chicken down.  The day after our return I had searched the garden for said chicken and had found a clutch of 10 eggs and feared that their mother had been got by Mr Fox, Fantastic or otherwise. Dr Dolittle had also searched for her while we were away and this man is an expert (you may remember that while we were on holiday last summer, he discovered the same chicken sitting on 11 eggs, 10 of which hatched.) Anyway, just two days ago I was taking a friend over to the kitchen garden to show her the jungle that it had become when Pepper came strutting out of the undergrowth with 11, yes eleven, chicks!  Five beautiful black ones, five creamy yellow and one gorgeous little yellow one who was clearly the last to hatch as was struggling on its feet.  They are now all safely ensconced in post-natal unit number two.  And yes, start placing your odds for the number of cockerels in this batch.


What next? Well, I should probably start eating some of the food I've grown – rather than staring at it helplessly, which is my current approach.  And I should also do something about the weeds, at least some of them: "Natural" is all very well, but we're sporting the Amazonian look and this really isn't compatible with collecting eggs from free-range hens (or, indeed, monitoring their numbers).  Knitting wise, once the lace scarf is finished, that's all my work knitting complete for workshops up until the end of October – when I'll be teaching at The Geeky Puffins Knit Palooza and Crafts for Christmas at Glasgow SECC.  The latter doesn't need any formal prep as the brilliant people at Women's Weekly will be providing the patterns and handouts.  The former requires a brand new design for a brand new class (exciting!) and even though my second workshop is familiar ground (sock heels), I'll want to revamp it especially for the occasion.  Oh! Speaking of socks, I've changed the format of my sock workshop here: It's now going to be a full day (10:30 – 16:30) on Sunday 13th September.  More details can be found here.   This wee break in the work schedule might actually mean that I get a chance to knit for pleasure.... Watch this space!!

 
 
It's that time of year when the thoughts of us, in the northern hemisphere, are likely to turn to summer holidays. It may be that you're not going away – hoping to enjoy the best of the summer sunshine at home – but for those of us with school age children, this is most definitely holiday time, if only a holiday from school.

We're preparing to go away for a fortnight in our motor home (potential thieves be aware that I have the most excellent security system in the form of my most kind – and vigilant – neighbours; please don't test them) and by preparing, I mean we're in that oh-so-dull packing stage.  Under the "essentials" category of the Packing List is "knitting" which, since the introduction of The Plan, where I've remained a one-project-at-a-time gal, is very easy to transfer from home to motor home: I'm going to take my current project (a scarf) and the next project in the queue (baby / picnic blanket).  And a spare, of course.  A fortnight is plenty of time to knit these – although we're also packing our bicycles, wet suits, surf boards and walking boots which suggests that the entire time may not be dedicate to knitting.  And there, my dear Katherine, all your knitting plans start to unravel.

This isn't to say that I don't enjoy any of the other activities – because I do, very much, and this will be the first time that we put the boys in wet suits and introduce them to the waves so wish us luck! – but it really does interfere with the potential knitting achievements.  It's at times such as this that I have to remind myself that I'm taking holiday knitting, I'm not going on a knitting holiday – and in terms of the knitting, the ramifications of this distinction are huge.

Clearly you're speaking to a woman who wants it all: Near endless hours of knitting, interrupted only for activities of her choosing.  It was one of the motivating ideas behind my yoga / knitting retreat day: Start the day practising some yoga, then spend the rest of the day knitting with beautiful yarn, eating delicious food, and just generally chilling out before going for a soak in the hot tub.  Heaven.  While it's only a day, I'm hopeful that the meditative pace of the day will really help those joining me to fully relax so that they'll feel refreshed – as well as pleased with their knitting accomplishments.

The next sensible step would be to take the knitting retreat idea to more than one day and I'm delighted to be teaching at just such an event this autumn: The 2015 Geeky Puffin Knit Palooza, in Edinburgh from 29th October – 1st November.  There's no mention of yoga but there is cake and plenty of knitting and other yarn-related activities:  Attendees get to chose from seven classes (yours truly is teaching "Beginner Magic Loop" and "Sock Heels Master Class"), have plenty of dedicated yarn-ogling opportunities in the form of exclusive shopping time at the specially-organised vendor market and a yarn crawl. I'm particularly looking forward to Kate's – of 'A Playful Day' fame - class: "Getting to Grips with Social Media", where she'll be talking about using social media's 'Big Four' from both sides of the crafting fence: For business and for pleasure .  And let me tell you about the goodie bag:  Created by Sam of Knitrundig and filled with delights such as a skein of yarn in an exclusive colour way (dyed by Jess of Ginger Twist Studio), a notions pouch (again sewn by Sam), an exclusive set of stitch markers (made by Zena of Little Yellow Uke) and three patterns - surely the cherry on the cake of any knitting event? With all of these goings-ons (and more!), you might start to wonder if there'll be any time available for knitting but fear not!  The retreat has been organised with this priority in mind and so I'm looking forward to spending lots of time with my needles, meeting old friends and new.  (And if you fancy joining us, I believe there are a few tickets left.)
Well, it's about the time that the boys start taking apart the inside of the motor home in search of their toys and Husband makes threatening sounds about leaving without the knitting (he thinks that the contents of the emergency yarn cupboard should suffice for the trip.  Doesn't he realise that’s for an emergency?!!) and so I will wish you farewell and hope that you have a wonderful few weeks.  I look forward to catching-up with you on my return xx
 
 
I'll be honest with you: I was really apprehensive about attending Heriot Watt’s "Machine Knitted Fabrics" Summer School.  It wasn't because I didn't think that I'd like it (although that was a possibility), it was that I would like it.   Perhaps even very much. And that's precisely what happened.

Like yours, my knitting time is very limited.  And up until now, by "knitting" I meant "hand knitting, with needles".  And if I don't have enough time to hand knit, then I certainly don't have time to machine knit – do I?  Well, it appears that I'm going to have to make the time as machine knitting is really rather wonderful.
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My immense enjoyment is due, in no small part, to the excellent teaching from members of the School of Textiles and Design, specifically in the knitting department (a university with a knitting department, now that's cool):  Plenty of clear, practical demonstrations, supported by handouts, and lots and lots of time to play. There were no formal aims or objectives, just a general invitation to try to replicate each new technique and then play.  No limits on the time dedicated to producing each sample or developing the new skill.  And no limits on the yarn – it was all pretty brilliant.

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Now, if this is sounding too childish for your liking, try replacing "play" with "research" in the above paragraph - it was just really, really fun research: Look how combining a change in colour exaggerates the shaping introduced by the tuck stitches.


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See how using the same punch card can produce such varied results when changing the stitch pattern or colour way.


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Look how I can make train pictures (okay, that was properly playing!).


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We used punch cards to make our Fair Isle patterns and I confess, it did feel a little like cheating.  I know that when we choose a specific design when hand knitting, we follow the colour changes and stitch pattern as set by the designer – and using a punch card is only one step further along this process – yet I somehow felt remote from the knitting. I wasn't responsible for the colour changes, the machine took care of all of that itself: I literally selected the two colours, put one behind the gate and left the other in front and knitted.  Job done.  Changing the second colour in-pattern required a little more user input to get the precise timing of the new colour to match the desired position, but after the initial adrenalin rush of getting that wrong and then right, it went back to feeling rather mechanical.  Which, of course, it is.

I loved the cabling. It's probably no surprise to you since I love hand-knitting cables but I really enjoyed the interaction necessary to machine knit cables.  In the same way that hand-knitting cables isn't hard, knitting cables on a machine also isn't hard, it just requires care and patience.  Manipulating the stitches by hand – using a "transfer tool" to swap the required number of stitches from one needle to another - made it one of the slowest techniques that we learnt.  Slow for machine knitting you understand.
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This was one of the many (positive) surprises for me: The true speed of knitting with a machine (and this is only a domestic machine, powered by my right arm).  While creating a series of seven cables, and with knitting seemingly pouring off the machines beside me, I started to feel frustrated at my lack of progress.  And then I reflected: The front panel that I completed for my 45 cm x 45 cm cushion took less than three hours to knit.  And that included tinking back three courses (= rows), each with 128 needles (think stitches) as I'd forgotten to register the card for the Fair Isle pattern (I'd messed up the Fair Isle).  Three hours.  

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The second panel of the same size but without the cabling (and without the tinking) took a little over an hour.  Yes, I think I could find the time for machine knitting.


Working in such a creative environment had other benefits too: We regularly chatted to and then admired the work from fellow students who spent their week sewing, weaving or screen printing – meaning that most of us want to return in next and later years to try projects in other disciplines.  We were shown Heriot Watt’s state-of-the-art Knit Production Unit, where the highly sophisticated machines are pre-programmed with the complete design of the garment allowing it to be knitted entirely in one piece (and hence the reason why our work, using the domestic machines, was referred to as "hand knitting"). And I changed.  Not only my views on machine knitting but so also my aspirations for what I'd like to achieve as a knitter.  I even changed the style of my dress!  Out came those large beaded necklaces gifted to me by loving family members but previously considered too "out there" - all of a sudden I wanted to wear these with bold colours and stunning knitwear – but this is still me that you're talking to and so far, I still want that to be hand knitted.

I'm genuinely delighted to have completed the summer school. I already had a knitting machine and I'm thrilled that I'm now able to use it and that some of the reasons for buying it may be realised.  If I tell you that I've just purchased a second knitting machine, to knit chunky fabrics more akin to my hand knitting, then perhaps you'll have a better idea of the full impact that this course has had.
A big thank you to all my class-mates: Your company both in and out of the classroom made the week most enjoyable and your knitting was truly inspirational. 
Thank you to our tutors: Angela, Colin and Ursula.  You're brilliant! We all benefited hugely from your expertise and new ideas.  

And a massive thank you to my parents for making this possible by staying with us to look after not just my boys, but all of us – and so very well indeed.
 
 
Thank you to everyone who commented on the blog - I was delighted to receive so many and really enjoyed hearing from you.

I've just used a random number generator to select the winning comment for the digital copy of Vivacious KIDS: Comment number 10 was chosen so congratulations, Cesca!  I've just emailed you with the news.

Thanks, again, for all the comments - and very happy knitting everyone x
 
 
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