the year in books…

I came across this ‘blog circle’ book club over at ‘Circle of Pine Trees‘, a lovely blog that I stumbled across recently and it struck a chord…

I’m not really a ‘book club’ type person. I have reached that point in my life where I happily toss a book to one side if I’m not gripped/enthralled/enamoured by chapter 2 (or sometimes page 2!) firmly believing that life is just too short to struggle to the end of a book that I’m not enjoying. The idea of agreeing to read a book club book suggestion regardless of its initial appeal doesn’t really fit with this attitude  – although I’m happy to accept that I might be missing out on amazing books and authors that I’d never otherwise find.

So, a book club that isn’t really a book club, a sharing space to just say ‘hey, I’m reading this, it’s great/indifferent/awful’ and to pick up some recommendations along the way seems like a very nice idea!

I’m jumping in right in the middle of the month and doing it all wrong, as usual ;-) I believe the normal procedure is to blog at the beginning of the month with your intended ‘read’ and also post a review of last month’s book if you feel so inclined but if I wait until June I’ll probably forget all about it and that’ll be another good idea that’s escaped, so here is my halfway-through-the-month-of-May book pile…these are ones I’ve already read this month ;-)

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I am quite a speedy reader when it’s something that grips me. I do only really read in bed, before going to sleep each night but if I’m engrossed it can be an hour or so – tiredness permitting! So, these 3 have passed across the bedside table already this month. I have to admit I didn’t finish the Robert Goddard. I tend to treat his books as gap-fillers (the libabry always has lots of his on the shelf) but I find him long winded and his plots can be so convoluted that by the time I got two-thirds through this one I’d lost the will to find out what had happened to her or who did it and why!! Besides, I’d just had a library notification that the latest Mark Billingham ‘Tom Thorne’ book was ready for me to collect and I’m a sucker for these so Goddard got ditched. As usual the Billingham took about 4 days to get through and didn’t disappoint. I think ‘Thorne’ is my new ‘Rebus’. I’m a sucker for a good detective novel and tend to favour the ones that are slightly rough around the edges… this latest book involved Thorne’s partner’s home town and missing/murdered teenage girls and had the usual fast pace and gripping climax. It didn’t disappoint.

‘Falling’ by Emma Kavanagh was much slower paced but nonetheless gripping for it. I though it was a really good read. Picked up at random in the library, it tells the story of a plane crash with several characters who are linked with the crash in some way weaving in and out and together until the final denouement. Weirdly, I picked this up very soon after the German Wings tragedy in the Alps – although it was published last year – and there is a strong suggestion right from the outset of the novel that this is a pilot ‘murder suicide’ crash. Not having been a scenario I’d ever contemplated before it was suddenly everywhere I looked. So, not necessarily a joyful read but a very well written one that had me guessing right until the end.

I don’t often do ‘joyful’ reads… my reading is usually:

– Crime/detective/psychological thrillers or

– ‘soft’ literary fiction (if it’s on the Booker shortlist I probably won’t get through it)

– library books

– proper books but I do have a Nook and once the library list gets better I’ll probably use this more

– forgotten almost immediately (barring a few exceptions). I can pick up a book in the library and have no idea that I read it less than a year ago. If I’m asked what a book I just finished was about I often can’t remember much of the detail.

I’m now reading ‘Faithful Place’ by Tana French which is set in Dublin and is good, so I’ll look out for her other books. The next big one on the horizon is ‘A God in Ruins’ – the new Kate Atkinson, which I have graciously let my mum read first as my library reserved copy was ready to pick up and I want to finish what I’ve got piled up first. I am very much looking forward to this as I thought ‘Life after Life’ was fabulous!

Cardigan Lady…

Way way back, long before Christmas my favourite (well, *only* if we’re honest) niece professed a love of the colour purple. She’s 3 and in the same breath she also smiled beguilingly and called me ‘The Cardigan Lady’. I believe that is a sort of ‘Sarah & Duck‘ reference but as my CBeebies days are now over – phew – I can’t be sure. Anyway, it was enough to induce me to rashly commit to knitting a purple cardigan forthwith…

Fast forward to Christmas and I had to admit defeat. Our busiest season work-wise and the pressure of the festive season generally got the better of me and I managed to avoid the subject of purple cardigans successfully when we saw my sister and niece and gifts were exchanged…

I did actually have a small purple cardigan on the needles though…

I knew that my sister had really loved the ‘Leonie‘ that I’d knit a couple of years ago so I’d chosen some lovely ‘Damson’ Pendle 4ply from Eden Cottage Yarn and cast on the size to fit my 3 year old niece. It was going well, if slower than I’d anticipated due to the general work craziness… until I got to the sleeves. Moving from body to sleeves coincided with running out of yarn, so I’d duly grabbed another skein and spent a few evenings making progress down the first sleeve. I’d loved the fit of these ‘short row’ set in sleeves but I’d forgotten how fiddly the back-and-forth knitting had been with the little lace eyelet pattern to keep in order as well… and when I started to have doubts about the colour matching it all came to a head. Moving into bright light confirmed my worst fear, the second skein of Damson I’d grabbed in a rush one afternoon at the office was from an entirely different dye lot to the first! Significantly lighter it was a complete no-no. Hurumph!! A silly error that had me ripping back the naughty sleeve and having a rethink. You see the other thing that was bothering me was the size… I’d cast this on for a 3 year old back in the autumn and this 3 year old was edging ever closer to being a 4 year old, as children are prone to do ;-) As the Pendle is a skimpy 4ply I was already knitting a little under gauge thinking it would be fine but I’d been kidding myself – this cardigan wasn’t going to fit a soon-to-be four year old. I hurumphed some more (quite significantly more) and frogged the entire cardigan.

Back to the drawing board (well, hours browsing Ravelry for an alternative pattern actually…) I’m not really inclined to knit anything more than once so the idea of casting on this cardigan for the third time had me running for the gin hills…

I found a lovely little vintage-style cardigan that I felt sure would go down a treat – ‘Cricket‘ by Melissa Schaschwary – and felt sure it would work in the Eden Cottage Pendle I’d recently re-wound ;-) so I set off and positively whizzed through the simple raglan design in no time. It was all going swimmingly and by the end of April I had just got the pocket seams to sew up, buttons to sew on and ends to weave in. Which was great timing as we were looking forward to a visit from my sister and family over the May Day bank holiday weekend (they live in Yorkshire so we don’t see them nearly as often as we’d all like).

At this point I blocked it… and it all went pear-shaped again!!  It grew quite alarmingly and although I’d purposely knit the light 4 ply yarn to a DK gauge for a Spring cardigan it now seemed too open, too loosely knit and I wasn’t happy with it at all. So, slightly (!) grumpily I put it to one side thinking ‘oh, well, this is clearly not meant to be…’ and contemplated distraction techniques that would work on a purple cardigan obsessed almost 4 year old…

But when she arrived, with a cheeky smile and a shy question, ‘Did you knit me a cardigan Aunty Anj?’ I had to admit that I’d almost finished knitting a purple cardigan but wasn’t sure if it would fit. There was only one way to find out… She popped it on, ends dangling, pockets flapping and buttonless and declared that she loved it! Well, I took that to be a resounding endorsement and got straight on with button sewing, pocketing finishing and the weaving in of ends and she proceeded to model it absolutely perfectly…

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Little lilac ‘fish-eye’ buttons gave it a lovely vintage feel and some scraps of lilac striped Opal sock yarn made ‘surprise’ pocket linings – not really visible in these photos, I didn’t think to take a special ‘pocket-shot’ ;-)

So, by the skin of my teeth my ‘Cardigan Lady’ moniker is intact… phew!

All details of pattern and yarn can be seen here on Ravelry.

‘knit-me-knit-me-knit-me’

So, here’s how a typical new yarn delivery day goes…

The Very-Nice-Parcel-Force-Man arrives with an *amazing* box of yarn. I take a hurried, excitable, slightly blurry photo with the ancient iPod and then try to forget about it (there are orders that need packing for knitters with no yarn, or worse, yarn but no needles!) 10982041_957136444326240_139841279695261272_n But, it’s there, distracting me and I can’t help but contemplate it’s qualities while I ‘pick & pack’…

New-to-us ‘Acadia’ from the Fibre Co. is a cocktail of merino, alpaca & silk ‘noil’ (the nubbly Japanese type silk) and it’s dyed in the most amazing ‘duo-tone’ shades and wound in plump little 50g skeins that sit on the desk, beautifully well behaved and whisper quietly ‘knit-me-knit-me-knit-me-knit-me-knit-me-knit-me-knit-me-knit-me-knit-me-‘ for the next 3 or 4 hours…

I take them home so that they can be squished a bit more, plumped and preened and then photographed properly, by Chris, who is a proper photographer, he can focus a proper camera and knows about exposure and lighting and other stuff that is beyond me…

This allows me to share them with everyone: fibreco_acadia_main See, I’m sharing! It’s not all for me ;-)

All evening the yarn keeps calling, with its little ‘knit-me-knit-me-knit-me-knit-me-knit-me-knit-me-‘ cry and I know *you* would love to see what it’s possible to turn these little squishy skeins of wonder into, so of course it’s my duty to do some research…

Down the rabbit hole we go… Ravelry really *is* an alternative Wonderland isn’t it? And it occurs to me that I’d be fine resisting the little ‘drink me’ bottle and the ‘eat me’ cakes but a skein of yarn labelled ‘knit me’ woah, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish ;-)

I came up with this beauty… the divine Quaking Aspen shawl by Courtney Kelley… quakingaspen I think I may find it hard to resist casting on of these on almost immediately… and it’s a free pattern no less! The difficult part will be choosing two shades… I’m tempted to go subtle with ‘Driftwood’ and ‘Sand’ combined? fibreco_acadia_sand fibreco_acadia_driftwood But then, the bolder combo of ‘Summersweet’ & ‘Verbena’ is calling to me as well (maybe two shawls??) fibreco_acadia_verbena-2 fibreco_acadia_summersweet-2 Well see…

If you’re not smitten with Quaking Aspen then I also found these delights to tempt you…

Published in the Fall 2014 edition of Amirisu this is Lori Versaci’s ‘Crop Top’ 

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© amirisu

This gorgeous little shawlette was published in Knitscene Accessories 2012, it’s called Mountain Nettle and is by Emma Welford…

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© knitscene

Another perfect two-colour project, this is the Enchanted Rock cardigan by Jenette Cross and is available via Ravelry as a PDF download

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© Jennette Cross

Finally, this super-cute hat is the Sprig Cloche by Alana Dakos and complements perfectly the Sprig pullover published in Botanical Knits 2. The hat pattern is a separate Ravelry download…

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© Alana Dakos

Each of these patterns shows off the gorgeous tweedy texture of Acadia and the colours are so subtle, yet strong and deep that there’s an option for every garment, accessory and knitter… And now you know… just what happens on a ‘yarn-delivery-day’ ;-)

Just in the nick of time…

Well, it feels like winter has returned here today! We’ve had a biting wind, heavy rain and I’ve had the lights on in the office all day… After a few weeks of ‘Spring’ it’s a bit of a shock to the system! Looking for the positives, it does mean that my new Faroese sweater will likely get some wear before it’s decommissioned until the Autumn ;-) And thankfully, we were able to schedule a quick ‘modelling’ session yesterday evening when Spring was still visiting… lila The pattern is Carrie Bostick Hoge’s ‘Winter Lila’ from her forthcoming Madder Anthology 2… I couldn’t possibly wait for the print version and purchased the e-book download as soon as it was available. lila The yarn is the amazingly wonderful Navia Tradition. From the Faroe Islands, it’s a proper woolly wool, not  butter soft (by any means) nor shimmering in the light, this is a yarn to make sweaters that will protect against the cool eastlery breeze and shrug off the spring showers. I knit a medium-size (40″ I think?) sweater with less than 3 balls on 7mm needles and it fits just perfectly. This yarn blooms when washed and has a lovely halo. It does need a t-shirt underneath, both because of the itch factor and because this wonderfully warm, yet open fabric is loose rather than dense, the way you might expect Shetland yarn, for example to knit up… lila My photo session went to pot when the boys and the dog decided to join in! lila I tried to keep my cool… lila but it proved tricky ;-) lila All the pattern and yarn details are noted on Ravelry here

gratitude…

The last prompt in this ‘Love Your Blog’ series had me thinking the subject of ‘Gratitude’ all round the houses, trying to find a clever, insightful, alternative interpretation of something that’s really very very simple…

Thank you!

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I do try to make sure that the thanks is embedded in every parcel, every post, every communication… that it’s obvious how thankful we are… but just like the boys sometimes forget their manners and need a little prod when faced with the gift of their dreams, it can’t hurt to take Kate’s ‘prompt’ as a ‘prod’ and say it properly, out loud…

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Thank you… for every ‘like’, every ‘share’, every ‘friend’, every conversation, every email, forum post and last but certainly not least, every ‘add to basket’. Every way you spread the word and every.single.little.thing you buy from Meadow Yarn supports our family, our 3 boys, us all. Meadow Yarn isn’t a hobby, a vanity project, a way to knit with nice yarn (although – ahem – yes! nice yarn!) it’s our family business, it puts food on the table every single day and we have worked so hard to make it work… and we’ll never be rich (or even what lots of people would deem ‘comfortable’ – although I hate that expression, it makes me think of golf sweaters and pot pourri ;-) ) but we have carved a life that suits us absolutely down to the ground, so thank you…

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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?