Ugly fail…

When Kate posted this week’s ‘Love Your Blog’ prompt I knew straight away I’d struggle to get to grips with it…

At this time of year, early Spring, as things burst back into life, we get a warm day here and there and the sky miraculously turns from grey to blue I can only see beauty…

beachSo, I started thinking about what ‘ugly’ means; unattractive, unsightly, hideous, unpleasant… and I realised just how hard we’ve worked, as a family, to get rid of the ‘ugly’ – and just how successful we’ve been! More by luck than judgement (although it was a pretty stressful crisis-led decision 15 years ago that brought us to Suffolk) we live in a really beautiful part of the UK, minutes from the beach, surrounded by lovely countryside and in a very lovely house… almost the home of my dreams! It’s not a house we own, nor ever could but that is irrelevant, we live here, right now, in the moment and that’s what matters when contemplating the *ugly* alternatives…

I know, I know, I regularly have to pinch myself and I thank my lucky stars, karma and fate many times every day for the life we’ve built ourselves.

That’s not to say that we haven’t faced the odd curveball over the last few years… like everyone, we have been through tough times and seen people we love go through worse but being surrounded by beauty – beautiful people, things, surroundings does help us to keep focussed on what a huge amount we have to be grateful for.

I thought about our ‘work’, we certainly know people who might very well view their ‘daily grind’ as ugly but we run an on-line yarn store – every knitter’s dream – and our  ‘niche’ has become beautiful yarn! I can honestly say that we don’t stock *anything* that would qualify as ugly ;-) and while we have good days and bad days just like anyone, this way we’ve found to support our family beats almost everything!

And there’s eye candy to boot…

(it’s the Fibre Co. Canopy Fingering in ‘Red Ginger’ in case you were wondering…)

 I carried on hunting for the ‘ugly’ inspiration and dwelled briefly on some of the less attractive elements of this on-line world we inhabit… there are truly some unpleasant tales of trolling and threats on social media and I’ve certainly encountered ideas (and people) in fora that I wouldn’t entertain ‘IRL’ but for the most part I have moulded – & pruned where necessary – my on-line community to eradicate these unsightly elements (now if someone could just find a way to prevent me coming across the mere mention of K*atie H*pk*ns the internet would be almost perfect ;-) ).

I considered the ‘ugly mutt’ in answer to the brief but she’s really not is she…

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Then I came across these three and thought I’d found the answer…

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but it’s true that a mother sees only beauty where others might not ;-)

… and then it dawned on me, just as plumbers often have half finished bathrooms, decorators have half scraped walls and builders live in building sites, yarn store owners, who have all the beautiful needle storage possibilities at their fingertips might, they just *might*, choose instead to store their not insignificant collection of circular needles in a bag… a paper ‘takeaway’ bag…

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Yep, that’s it – that’s *ugly*!!

Beginnings…

When I read Kate’s ‘prompt’ for this week’s ‘Love Your Blog’ challenge my mind didn’t turn immediately to knitting (although I obviously *have*  cast on something new this week ;-) ) nor did I linger on the tentative early days of this blog, as I am sure others will have… Nope, my thoughts zoomed straight outside to the garden!

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It’s starting to turn green… shoots are appearing and the blossom is reminding us that there will be bounty to harvest come Autumn…

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This is our second growing season in this house and last year, although we produced lots to eat, it was all about getting to know the conditions, the soil, the light and shade and sowing/planting on a wing and a prayer. This year, with the polytunnel established and the year of experience we’ve no excuses…

So, we’ve been chitting, sowing, planning, imagining… as all gardeners do at this time of year. This moment always feels like the beginning of something exciting!

The Broad Beans are looking good, they were sown in pots in the polytunnel back in March and will be ready to plant out into the walled garden very soon.

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We’re simplifying the polytunnel planting after trying to cram every exotic pepper, tomato and cucumber known to man into it last year and we’re concentrating on producing lots of the varieties we eat lots of… stubby ridged cucumbers, cherry toms., salad leaves and tender herbs like coriander…

It’s also being used as a nursery for Brassicas (curly Kale, Cabolo Nero, purple sprouting broccoli etc.) which we’ve never successfully grown before. They’ve germinated, it’s a start!

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Out in the walled vegetable garden a fair chunk of space is given over to potatoes. Then there will be runner beans, dwarf French beans and more lettuces. We grew lovely carrots last year – but not nearly enough of them – so we’ll be extending the carrot bed for sure! The raspberries are already shooting everywhere (they are thugs, raspberries, don’t be fooled by the delicate fruits!) and we’re hopeful that our strawberry harvest will be a good one after ruthlessly removing the flowers last year for the good of future crops!! We’ve also ‘forced’ some of our Rhurbarb using a large dustbin, the custard awaits ;-)

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So… beginnings… a new growing season, new shoots, lots of hard work… with great reward (we hope ;-) )

What are you beginning this Spring?

Interactions & Community…

When Kate at A Playful Day issued her ‘Love Your Blog’ challenge last week I felt compelled to join in. This poor neglected space really needs a kick start and what better way than to take inspiration from another super talented blogger!

Kate’s first ‘prompt’ – Interaction & Community – got me thinking about how and where I exist within this crazy crafty world of knitting & yarn. Of course, running an on-line yarn store it might seem that I’m fairly central but it often doesn’t feel like that. We don’t do ‘shows’… we’re tucked away in rural Suffolk, with a young family and that makes it logistically just too complicated. We’re not physically open to the public so all our lovely customers are at ‘arms length’ via the web site and often pretty anonymous. So, I have to grab opportunities to interact with this amazing community when they arise and that’s where my knitting comes in handy…

I just finished knitting myself a new cardigan.

Many evenings spent creating, stitch by stitch a garment just for me. I chose the pattern, the yarn, the shade and knit each and every stitch myself. Knitting isn’t generally a team sport, it might even be considered by some around here to be quite anti-social ;-) Questions directed at a knitter in this house might possibly elicit a sharp response… “Shhhh, I’m counting”, “Hang on, just let me finish this row…” you know how it goes…

But this cardigan wasn’t a solo effort, it involved a huge community and lots of interaction ;-)

A quick snap to show early progress… Sharing love for the yarn and the pattern along the way and receiving lots of lovely encouragement via Instagram…

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Celebrating my lovely little local haberdashery (where I chatted with a fellow knitter while choosing buttons and thread)…

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A sneak peak of the finished garment while we wait for an opportunity to capture it ‘in action’ going down well on Facebook…

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And the final reveal (documented, of course, on our beloved Ravelry)…

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I’m not a ‘natural’ model but the urge to show off a finished cardigan outweighs the instinct to avoid the camera and gives me a very good reason to blow the cobwebs off the blog ;-)

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And the final cherry on the cake… while enduring the local ‘panic’ chocolate egg buying in my local supermarket on ‘Easter Saturday’ (goodness, the shops are only going to be closed for ONE day!!!) a fellow shopper tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘I love your cardigan, do you mind me asking where you got it?’ Well… thanks for asking, I made it myself ;-)

This solitary hobby sure involves a lot of far-flung community and a fair bit of interaction. Now, what to cast on next?

A promise to love my blog just a little bit more…

I am a terrible blogger, it happens in fits and starts when I’ve a finished project to show off or I’m just feeling particularly guilty about the wanton neglect…

My intentions are good, I have ideas in my head… they just rarely make it as far as here!

Well, Kate over at A Playful Day has issued a challenge, she’s encouraging us to love our blogs this month and given she exudes completely infectious, unfettered enthusiasm, how could I resist!

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I’ll be trying to get back into the groove, unearth the magic, rekindle the spark (and many other cliches) to create a blogging ‘habit’ that will continue long after the challenge is over.
If you are joining in too leave a comment and we can cheerlead each other along ;-)

Inspiring tradition…

Back towards the end of last year we took delivery of a new yarn that had travelled all the way from the Faroe Islands…

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Surely one of the most remote groups of islands in our oceans, the Faroes are situated roughly half way between Shetland and Iceland. That’s remote! As well as some pretty hardy people, the islands are also home to *lots* of sheep… and being situated where they are, they’re pretty remarkable sheep that produce pretty remarkable fleece! Navia Tradition is inspired by the heritage yarns used to knit traditional fisherman’s jumper and Ganseys but has been updated to make it harder-wearing yet softer to the touch. Blended with Shetland and English lambswool, it immediately inspired me to make something that would showcase its special qualities…

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A simple slip-stitch cowl using two shades of yarn and available as a free download via Ravelry, the Two Tone Cowl pattern by Annie Claire, was a really quick knit! Just as well, as the weather has been pretty wintery ever since I finished this just after the new year!

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I chose the dark bottle green and the natural ‘white’ to compliment my favourite tweed coat and I’ve worn it almost constantly…

The yarn blooms and softens beautifully when washed gently in cool water and it is super warm! Although first appearances might lead you to believe that this is a worsted or aran weight yarn, it knits to a bulky gauge beautifully for warm yet light garments – or you can knit at a tighter gauge (as I did here) to create a dense fabric that keeps every last whistle of the chilly East Anglian wind at bay…

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Perfect for long, cold walks with the pooch… and I’m now inspired to cast on a sweater that I think will be the perfect gardening/dog walking top layer for what is sure to be a changeable spring around these parts!

I’ll make sure to keep you ‘in the loop’ ;-)

You can see the full pattern/yarn details here on my Ravelry project page.

Warming up!

My hands… not the weather!

It’s still pretty chilly here in East Anglia and while we haven’t had the volume of snow that more Northerly parts have experienced over the last few weeks there is a fierce wind blowing and Spring still feels a way off (despite what the Crocuses and Daffodils might be trying to tell us!)

Contemplating a new delivery of completely luscious Cadence Worsted yarn from Hazel Knits a couple of weeks ago I became conscious of just how chilly my hands were and I knew just the thing to test the knitterly qualities of this Superwash Merino new-to-us yarn… Mitts!

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When a new delivery of gorgeous hand-dyed yarn is calling to me,  it’s easy to locate the perfect sweater pattern only to calculate that the cost of the number of skeins needed could feed our family of 5 for a week! Even a yarn store owner has to rein in the yarn budget sometimes and a warm, squishy pair of mittens (that could probably be knit in a weekend) seemed like the perfect solution to my heart’s (and hand’s) desire!

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Cruiser is a free pattern available to download via Ravelry and the simple cable pattern added interest without the need for huge concentration levels. I pottered around the house, attending to needs, throwing meals together, fitting in the odd chore here and there and still managed to complete these in just one weekend – even allowing for some significant ‘unknitting’ when I realised one of my cable chevrons was askew!

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The shade is Lichen – which delivers a shot of colour perfect for mittens (and maybe not quite my shade for a whole sweater, which is another advantage of smaller projects I always think?) Perfect! Toasty hands in a flash…

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Now, Spring, if you wouldn’t mind hurrying up please… we’d frankly all appreciate a little bit of warm sunshine sometime soon…

Full details on Ravelry – here

Maiden voyage…

Earlier this year we hatched a plan with our best buddies to build something quite special…

Plans were purchased, workshop space cleared, materials acquired, tools readied and then Chris and Jason started building their first… canoe!

It was one of those slightly hare-brained ‘what-if’ discussions over a pot of tea, sitting in the wonderful late Spring sunshine that actually, amazingly came to fruition (because how many of those crazy “well, we could build one” type conversations really do end up happening?!?)

Made from Birch Ply using a technique called ‘stitch and tape’ gradually, over the last 3 or 4 months a canoe has manifested itself in the workshop. Working steadily through the plans, with very few false starts or mishaps a beautiful vessel has been created… and last weekend saw our two families take it for its maiden voyage.

Not quite in the water yet…

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The excitement is building as the canoe gets wet for the first time (and none of us have yet ;-) ) Chris and 6 very excited children who all want to go first…

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But of course, it’s the two master boat builders who have the pleasure of paddling off for the very first time… Can you hear the cheers?

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It floats!

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And back in one piece…

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Ready for us all to take turns to climb aboard and test her out…

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It was a gorgeous warm afternoon and we spent a couple of hours paddling up and down a beautiful stretch of the River Waveney getting to grips with the logistics of an 18ft canoe, six children and a couple of dogs!!

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No mishaps, no wet kids (so far!) and a perfectly stable, sound vessel that will surely be the base for many glorious weekends exploring the waterways of East Anglia (and further afield??)

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The final voyage… all 6 kids and Chris with his work cut-out attempting to helm ;-)

9Perfect! Such a great way to see even more of the wonderful countryside we are surrounded by… slow paced, everyone can join in and incredibly peaceful (when the children aren’t squabbling over paddles ;-) )

Now they need to build canoe number two… so we’ve a canoe per family and we can venture off together into the unknown!