this shawl

Meet my 2014 summer holiday yarn project. I made this! I actually made this. I still can't quite believe that me, so clumsy and a bit fat of finger can manage to turn a ball of yarn into something as pretty as this.

This shawl has been on my 'one day' list for an age. I always quite fancied it, never thought it would happen though, there always seemed to be other things to do and easier projects to be getting along with. Plus I'm on a 'not allowed to start any new yarn projects until I've finished the bag of incomplete ones' year and so far I've been really good, purchased hardly any wool at all. Hardly. Any. Wool. At. All.

I had my eye on the pattern ever since it graced this front cover. You can see why I wanted to make it, how pretty?

To make sure I could do it, I swatched it (yes I swatched! I'm a goddam crochet hero!), this was to check I could understand the pattern (sometimes it's like reading Greek!) and to see how it looked. Well it looked nothing, NOTHING like the finished article in the magazine. In fact it looked a bit shit.

I was thinking that I'd completely buggered it, rampant thoughts of under achieving swirled around my head but I was reassured (by the powers of instagram!) that it just required the blocking of it's life. Block the hell out of it woman, BLOCK it like MAD!

Thus off I went to the south of France with my bag of silky yarn and every night I sat and happily crocheted (rock and roll), following the pattern like my life depended on it. After a while, a really long while (probably because of my excessive consumption of French red), I fell into the rhythm of the pattern and it became quite meditative, soothing, I didn't want the shawl to ever end.

But end it did, unlike other shawls I've made, this one is constructed long edge first so it is a set length, you can't make it any bigger unless you do the maths and start with a longer opening chain (too much brain work for me). I finished it on our last night in France and it sat in a bag for a few weeks while I plucked up the courage to block it.

I swotted up on 'aggressive' blocking and found out it means submerging the whole piece in warm water, wringing it out in a towel and then stretching the piece into the shape and size you want it to be. It sounds so harsh, too much room for error and I was convinced I'd bugger it up. Sometimes you've got to take the bull by the horns and just do it, so I did, fretted about it the whole time, even once it was all stretched, pinned and sitting up on the dining room table to dry.

Then tick tock, tick tock, waiting, procrastinating and pretending not to see it for a few weeks. Kept telling myself I had to make sure it was dry even though it probably dried that first day I did it. One day I woke up and knew that it was shawl reveal day. I faced the challenge, unpinned it, held my breath the whole time and after all that drama I needn't have worried at all, it came out lovely and I'm already planning another one in black.

The best bit of this story is that I've now got a lovely new shawl to wear. Brilliant.


august photo challenge week 1

The August Break 2014 photo challenge.  I have managed it for one whole week. Amazed.


a summer day out

We joined the National Trust. Super, super dorky, right?

Yes super dorky but also super cool, membership gives you access to every single National Trust site for free for a whole year. And so we decided to make the most of it whilst the weather is nice and took our dorkyness to visit Cliveden. Pronounced Cliv (as in div) eden and not Clive (as in dive) den. As I found out to my provincial ass horror.

You think that it's going to be a quick day out at Cliveden because it's only the gardens that you have access to. The house, famous for being owned by the american Waldorf Astor family who would eventually give the estate to the National Trust, is now a luxury hotel and you can only snoop around on certain days and by appointment. So I thought we would be in and out in a jiffy.

Erm no, rather it is a huge and magnificent estate with amazing walks, woods and gardens and the most incredibly big, slightly naff and monstrous fountain of love. Yes. Indeed.

Apart from the eyesore d'amour, Cliveden is breathtaking. It is beautifully designed for visitors with posh bits, where dogs are not allowed and it's easy to push your pushchair along, combined with rugged and wild bits that go on for miles and are dog friendly (we didn't take Tilly, we wish we had) but not so much pushchair friendly, although we still did. The place is just so scrumptious, so well maintained, calm (even with the huge amount of people visiting that day), dreamy, inspirational. The gardens are literally stunning, jaw droppingly so, I was in heaven.

I'm not sure why my garden does NOT look like this.


Or this. I'm thinking space would be an issue for this one.

We walked round the gardens, had a row - a family day out is not a family day out without a good row - sunbathed on the rather fabulous lawn, ate lunch in a gorgeous orangery, changed nappies on the lawn because Bets has developed a phobia of public toilet changing tables and she literally ran out of the loo when I was trying to get her in there, got sunburn (me), got scraped and bloody knees (Betsy) and bought plants (me again).

The gardening team at Cliveden are incredible, I'd love to know how many there are, how they are organised, how they plan, plant and grow, I was itching to get to the shop. I mooched about for a bit, not that long as someone who should have been sleeping was shouting and hollering for me to hurry up the whole time. I managed to choose a pretty, droopy white hydrangea that is now turning a pastel pink and an orange bell shaped thingy that just looked pretty, I have no idea what it is, what it will do, if it will live or any of that nonsense, in fact I planted it in and immediately all the pretty orange flowers fell off, I've clearly got skills.

I think that family days out will get easy when Betsy stops needing a nap. She refuses to sleep in her pram and always has which is a bit annoying when you're out and about and she's getting more and more irritable and meanwhile vast numbers of smug mums are wafting past with sleeping angels in their prams. We eventually give up, admit defeat and head for home, soon as she's in the car seat she's snoring away like a demon and we can finally relax. Baby sleeping equals happy parents. Always.

ps. We have caught and released five (FIVE!!!) mice in less than a week, we have no idea if it's the same mice getting caught over and over again. I'm not sure how I feel about it really, a little plastic box filled at one end with nutella is going to be a major mouse magnet isn't it so are we just inviting them in now?


august break 2014

Not that I need an excuse to be a lazy bitch but I've got one now thanks to gorgeous Susannah.

I heard about the august break last year but was too late to take part, needless to say I love the idea, how divine to have a summer holiday from blogging, a chance to recharge, rethink and maybe get started on some new projects.

I'm already imagining the excitement of getting back to it again in September, be like getting ready to go back to school, always my most favourite time of the year. Any excuse for a new pencil case is good for me but I'm getting ahead of myself here, we've still got the long, happy month of august to go and this summer already feels never-ending, just brilliant.

So I won't be writing anything in august however I will be taking part in the photo challenge on instagram and perhaps posting the pictures here if they're not too shit.

I've never done a photo challenge before, I see them all the time and often have a wild few seconds of thinking I'd like to join in but I'm way to inconsistent to even attempt it, and lazy. Should be interesting to see if I manage this.

Happy august everyone, enjoy the summer, summer, summertime, let's just sit back and unwind.