Sunday, 18 March 2018

Stitching With Jane Foster

I'm always sorry that I didn't learn to sew as a child. My mum was a knitter so it was to be that I would follow in her footsteps and learn to knit, she used to mend clothes but that's really as far as her sewing skills went and with no other sewers in the family, it's something I never learnt to do. I think being exposed to anything as a child can form a lifelong love for it, so it's a good idea to pass on as many skills as we can to our children.

My children are grown up now but when I was asked by Quarto Publishing Group if I'd like to review Stitching With Jane Foster, a book to introduce young crafters to the fun of simple embroidery, I jumped at the chance. I know that many of my readers have young children or grandchildren and I think this book would be an excellent choice to introduce them to this fun craft.

It's a hardback book which is spiral bound, perfect when you want a book to stay open at a particular page whilst you follow instructions. The first pages go through What You Will Need, Getting Started, Stitching Basics, Stitching Examples + Projects, What To Do With Your Stitchable Designs, and Design Your Stitches, before exclaiming it's Your Turn!

The back pages contain 37 press-out templates to get little ones started. These easy press-out patterns are to cross-stitch and sew and come in a variety of well thought out designs which can be stitched in a variety of ways. The reverse of each template is printed in black and white so children are able to personalise them by colouring them in the colours of their own choosing.

There are some great ideas in the book for what to do with the templates once they've been stitched, everything from a journal cover to a bookmark.

I love the bold illustrations in this book, it's designed to appeal to a younger audience, the book is aimed at children from 5+.

Stitching With Jane Foster definitely gets a thumbs up from me. I received a copy of this book to review, however, all opinions expressed are my own. The book retails at £10.99 and can be purchased direct from Quarto.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Yarndale Socks 2018

I do like to be organised whenever I can be. It's for this reason that I decided to get the socks which I'll be donating to this year's Yarndale Sock Line knitted up early, it's usually around June when Christine from Winwick Mum puts out a call for handmade socks to be donated. First they're shown off at Yarndale, after which, the socks are gifted to people in need. This is something that I love being involved with, I'm sure all the cosy, squishy socks bring a little comfort to those who are less fortunate, for one reason or another, than myself.

This year's socks have been knit in Grundl Hot Socks, a yarn I've never used before but I have to say that I've thoroughly enjoyed knitting with it. The yarn is quite plump and very squishy and it comes in such fun colourways. I'm not sure how this yarn will wear, it's made from 50% merino, 25% bamboo and 25% polyamide, a mix I don't think I've used before, but I've read some good reviews so I'm sure it'll be fine.

I didn't think a pattern was required with this yarn as the different coloured stripes hold enough interest. I did quite well at colour matching each sock.

These will now be put away until the required time, but I'm happy in the knowledge that they're all finished and waiting, and that they might just bring a bit of squishy goodness to someone in need.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Knitting Podcasts

Podcasts seem to be proving more and more popular at the moment. I watch quite a few knitting and crochet podcasts so I thought I'd share some of them with you, there's a few new ones which I've come across lately as well as the more established ones and I know that some of you enjoy watching knitting podcasts too so I thought there might be some here which you don't know about. I wish I was confident enough to make one myself but I'll stick to showing my knitting projects on my blog.

I'll start with some of my favourites.

Giddy Knits. Helen lives in Surrey with her husband and two young boys and since she started podcasting has started her own yarn dyeing business, Giddy Yarns.

Craft House Magic. Ellie hosts this podcast which, as well as knitting, includes sewing, bobbin lace and other crafts too. This is such a happy podcast and I always enjoy each episode.

Bumble Stitches. Nicola's podcast is all about knitting, she produces some wonderful garments and she always has plenty to share.

Little Drops of Wonderful. Ali is primarily a crocheter, she admits that it's her first love, but she's recently started knitting too and this podcast includes a bit of both.

Harriet's House. Harriet is a fairly new knitter and she also crochets and sews.

Stranded Podcast. Amy's podcast is one of the more established ones but it's one of my favourites. I like that her podcast is very regular and that I know there'll usually be a new episode for me to watch each Thursday.

Cherry Heart Podcast. Sandra is another well established podcaster.  She's a pattern designer and podcasts about both knitting and crochet.

There are some very successful knitting podcasts out there which have thousands of subscribers but, for the most part, I find that the podcasts which have a smaller audience seem more personal. One of the things I really enjoy about blogging is striking up conversations and friendships, and this applies with the podcasts that I watch too. I do still enjoy watching some of the more successful podcasts but the hosts seem out of reach in a way.

The Little Tailoress.

Sew Sweet Violet.

Inside Number 23.

Little Bobbins Knits.

I've recently come across some new podcasts which, so far, have only a few episodes, however, they look very promising.

Ollie & Bella. Sherrie is a crocheter who has recently taken up knitting.

Gussets and Godets. Christina podcasts about her knitting and sewing projects.

Love to Sew. Caroline blogs about knitting, though of course, she Loves to Sew too.

Birdbox Podcast. Jon is the dyer behind Mr B's Yarns, he podcasts with his wife Clare, who makes project bags for their shop on Etsy, and Clare's sister, Beki.

Funkyforty. Mel has started a podcast about knitting, crochet, sewing and embroidery. Like me, she stopped knitting when she was about twenty and didn't pick her needles up again until she was in her forties.

Back to Blighty. Becky had recorded videos in the past but she has just started a new podcast about both knitting and sewing.

There's a couple of podcasts which, at the moment, I'm working my way through all their past episodes.

Knitting Expat Podcast. Mina was a newish knitter when she first started her podcast back in 2015 but she's now a prolific knitter and pattern designer, I'm enjoying working my way forward right from where it all began.

Eldenwood Craft. Emma is a knitter and she also makes project bags for her Etsy shop, which is very successful. It seems that all the other podcasters I watch have got at least one of Emma's bags, they're very popular. I'm just about up to date with this podcast now and I've enjoyed all the past episodes.

If you haven't yet given podcasts a go, I would definitely recommend them. I enjoy watching the latest episodes whilst I sit down and do a bit of knitting. If any of you can recommend any other knitting podcasts I'd appreciate you leaving me a comment.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Kali Kardia Socks

These are the Kali Kardia Socks by Helen Kurtz, a free pattern available on Ravelry. Helen named the socks after a favourite taverna in Greece where she was when she came up with the idea for this pattern.

I'm really pleased with how they turned out. The textured pattern is offered in a chequerboard or ribbed version but I went for the latter, I find that a ribbed pattern helps the socks fit snug to the feet and legs.

I used some yarn which has been in my stash since 2011, it was actually a Christmas present from Mick. It's by Laughing Yaffle in their Fantasia colourway. The colour has pooled a little at the heel, but I suppose that's the nature of how this yarn has been dyed.

After knitting so many pairs of socks for other people last year, I'm determined to restock my own sock drawer now. These are the first pair of socks off my needles this year and the second ones aren't far behind.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Food Of Love Giveaway Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered my little giveaway to win The Food Of Love by Amanda Prowse.

There were quite a few entries, I think the subject of this book is quite an interesting one with eating disorders often in the news these days. I pulled a name out of the hat at random this morning and I'm pleased to announce that the winner of the book is Marlene from Poppy Patchwork. Can you please let me have your name and address details so that I can get the book sent out to you. You can find my email address by clicking on my name at the top of the sidebar.

Thank you to everyone who entered.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

50 Before 50 - Update 3

I started my 50 Before 50 list on my 48th birthday, you can see the list and read about it in my 50 Before 50 - Part One and 50 Before 50 - Part Two posts. After six months I wrote my 50 Before 50 - Update 1 post, after a year I wrote my 50 Before 50 - Update 2 post and as it's now exactly eighteen months since I started the list, it's time for another update.

I went away on holiday to Norfolk at the beginning of September last year and I managed to cross two things off the list then, the first was number 7, Take a boat ride. We hired a boat on the Norfolk Broads which you can read about in my Messing About On The Water post.

Last Sunday we took part in Bark In The Park which enabled me to cross off number 20 on the list, Take part in a charity walk. Combining a sponsored walk with exercising Archie seemed like a good idea, especially when walking in the lovely surroundings of Temple Newsam.

At the end of September we visited the lights in Blackpool. We took Daniel and Eleanor to see the lights many times when they were young but that's quite a few years ago now. Go to Blackpool to see the illuminations is number 25 on the list and you can read about it in my Blackpool Illuminations post.

I put Visit Scotland on the list at number 35 as I'd only ever had a couple of day trips across the border previously. We finally took a little trip at the end of January and I wrote all about it in my Weekending In Scotland post.

Treat myself to something I really want is number 42 on the list and I decided to buy myself a sewing machine. I'd been wanting to have a go at sewing on a machine for a long time and when an offer came up on a basic model I couldn't resist. A Gift To Me From Me tells you all about it. I must confess that I still haven't had a go on it yet though, I thought Eleanor might help me and give me some pointers when she was home at Christmas but things were so busy that we just didn't get round to it but it will definitely be coming out of its box soon.

Also crossed off the list in Norfolk was Adopt an animal for charity. This was number 43 on the list and you can read all about Gulliver, a beautiful horse I've adopted, in my Redwings post.

A new yarn show popped up this year. As it was being held in Nottingham it was too good a chance to miss, especially as I could pay Eleanor a visit at uni at the same time. You can read about Nottingham Yarn Expo 2017 in my post and also see what I bought.

As Eleanor is at university in Nottingham, I thought it would be fun to explore the city on our visits so Explore Nottingham made it on to the list at number 50. Shopping In Nottingham tells you about one of our visits.

So, as you can see, I've crossed off quite a few things in this quarter but there's still lots of things left to do on the list so I'll be having a big push in this final quarter. It'll be fun to find out just how many of the fifty things I've managed to do.

If you haven't yet entered The Food Of Love giveaway, there's still time. Just leave a comment on The Food Of Love Giveaway post to be in with a chance of winning. A name will be drawn at random at some point next week.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Bark In The Park

Number 20 on my 50 Before 50 list is Take part in a charity walk. I thought it would be good to get Archie involved in this one so we signed up for Bark In The Park. The last time we did Dog Walking For Charity was back in 2011 when Archie was less than a year old and that time it was held at Golden Acre Park in Leeds, this time it was at Temple Newsam. The walk raises funds for St. Gemma's Hospice in Leeds.

The forecast for the weekend was freezing temperatures but it was bright enough when we woke up on Sunday morning, they were right though, it was mighty cold. Registration was between 9am and 10am and there were plenty of people signing in when we arrived.

We had a choice between 1, 3 or 6 miles. Archie has been limping a bit lately on his back left leg so we decided we wouldn't walk him too far and went for the 3 mile option. As it turned out, those walking both 3 and 6 miles followed the same route, with the ones walking 6 miles completing it twice.

The first part of the walk took us out of the grounds of Temple Newsam and through Elm and Oak Wood, Wilderness Wood and Avenue Wood. There were some very muddy patches but overall it wasn't too bad.

I used to ride these paths and tracks on my bike as a child and the last time we walked them was when Daniel and Eleanor were young, it's a part of Temple Newsam that we don't often visit.

Many parts of the walk were uphill but it made for a lovely view when you looked over your shoulder from where you'd come and saw Temple Newsam House in the distance.

Once out of the woods, you come to farmland. This area is just over the road from where I lived as a child and it's a miracle that it's still there as much of the surrounding land has now been developed and now houses stand where sheep once grazed in fields.

Archie had a great time, he loves mixing with other dogs and there were lots of new friends to make on this walk.

As we neared the end of the circular walk we passed houses in the old village of Colton. Mentioned in the Domesday Book as Coletun, it was originally a medieval farming village. In recent years, developers have built many new houses in this area.

We came round the back of Temple Newsam's walled garden and greenhouses, there's lots of bare earth to be seen at the moment but I'm sure that will soon change.

Old buildings which were part of the old Temple Newsam estate, they may be ramshackle but I think they look rather pretty covered in ivy.

I stopped to take a photo on the bridge as we were crossing the lake and Archie disappeared. He's a really good dog when he's not on his lead and never strays so this wasn't like him at all. It turns out that one of his doggy friends who he walks with at home was in the area and he'd gone off to see him. He wasn't within sight so I can only assume that he picked up his scent. Dexter's a Labrador Alsatian cross and looks like a huge black bear but he's as soft as anything and Archie loves him.

The sun was shining as we returned to the check in point and Archie was given a certificate for taking part, though he was more interested in the goody bag he was presented with which contained lots of doggy treats.

We always used to take Archie out on a Sunday morning, often to Temple Newsam or Lotherton, but as he's getting older he's quite happy to take things easy on a weekend morning these days. It was good to get back to this old routine though so I can see some more Sunday morning walks in our future, perhaps when the Beast from the East has passed, it's thick of snow here today and more forecast.

If you haven't yet entered The Food Of Love giveaway, there's still time. Just leave a comment on The Food Of Love Giveaway post to be in with a chance of winning. A name will be drawn at random at some point next week.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

The Food Of Love Giveaway

I recently wrote a book review about The Food Of Love by Amanda Prowse and I had quite a few comments from people saying that they'd like to read it too so I thought someone might like my copy. I don't tend to keep many books, I usually pass them on to the charity shop so that someone else can enjoy them, but I particularly enjoyed this book and as it was new before I read it I thought it might be good to pass on to one of you.

If you'd like to enter the giveaway just leave a comment on this post and I'll pull a name out of the hat at random at some point next week.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

The Great Yarn Giveaway

Let me ask you a question. How would you like to help fight heart disease by making a donation to the British Heart Foundation? Let me throw in an incentive. How would you like to help fight heart disease by making a donation to the British Heart Foundation whilst being in with a chance of winning a fabulous yarny prize? Sound good? Then pop over to The Woolly Adventures Of A Knitting Kitty blog where Helen is having a Great Yarn Giveaway.

Supporting the British Heart Foundation is very important to Helen since the death of her beloved husband in 2016. Mr JK was a keen runner and Helen has now taken up the mantle. She'd never run previously but last year took part in the Great North Run and the Yorkshire 10 mile event raising over £4000 for the British Heart Foundation.

This year, two of Helen's friends are running the Brighton Marathon in Mr JK's memory and Helen is helping them with their fundraising by organising the Great Yarn Giveaway. There are dozens of prizes, from skeins of yarn to project bags, stitch markers to knitting patterns, crochet hooks to craft books, you get the idea. To be in with a chance of winning one of the fabulous prizes, all you need to do is make a donation of £2 for the British Heart Foundation through Helen's Just Giving page, a link to which can be found in the top left hand corner of her blog or you can click here. Please make sure that you tick the box alongside 'I'm happy to be contacted by' so that Helen can contact you if you're one of the lucky winners. If you don't tick that box she won't be able to get in touch with you so that's really important. I've used Just Giving in the past to donate to charities, it's simple, fast and totally secure. Just Giving never sell on your details or send unwanted emails. This giveaway is open world wide so please do enter.

A full list of the prizes are shown on Helen's Just Giving page, though it's still being updated as prizes are still arriving. I'm sure Helen would be only too happy to add to these prizes if you have a business and would like to donate something.

Helen's already raised a lot of money with this giveaway but it's open for donations until the 30th of April so let's hope that she can raise a whole lot more.

Good luck, Helen.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Out Of Sight Out Of Mind

Mick's auntie and uncle bought me an amaryllis for Christmas, it was one of those already planted up and packaged in a box so that the recipient can just take it out, water it and it springs into life. Well, that's the theory anyway. Unfortunately, the gift got moved before I did anything with it and though I didn't exactly forget about it, I kept putting off starting it off.

When I did decide to give the poor thing a drink of water and coax it into action, I found that it had got sick of waiting for me to get my act together and it had already started growing. Now the box that it was packaged in was quite a strong box and was clamped firmly shut but this wasn't going to prevent this bulb from growing, oh no. I think I opened the box in the nick of time because when I did eventually open it up I found that the amaryllis had put out quite a shoot, though there was no room inside the box for it to grow straight so instead it was growing horizontally.

I never thought for a moment that it would right itself, the stem was a sickly pale colour and there didn't look to be any way that it could start growing upwards after this poor start, but it did. It hasn't grown to quite the height it would have had it been given the care it needed in the beginning, but it certainly hasn't done bad, it's about a foot tall.

It's a gorgeous colour. I can't remember growing a two tone amaryllis before, though I might have done, my memory isn't what it used to be. There's two other buds round the other side so I should get more flowers.

I'm making sure that I'm vigilant with my watering regime now, I can't let this poor thing suffer any more than it already has.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Valentine Cast On

Ellie over at the Craft House Magic podcast released a free pattern on Valentine's Day, her V for Valentine Socks. You can find it on Ravelry.

I know I've got a few projects on the go but I couldn't resist these cute socks with the heart detail on the leg so I went stash diving and what did I come up with but some gorgeous Fondant Fibre yarn which I bought at Spring Into Wool last year. It will soon be time for this year's Spring Into Wool festival so it's time I got this knit up.

I love all the speckles in this yarn and I think the pattern and yarn will combine to make a gorgeous pair of socks.

Ellie is having a Knit Along with this pattern so I thought I'd join in and duly cast on when the Knit Along started on Valentine's Day.

I haven't got very far yet but I've got a few weeks in which to get them finished. I'm loving seeing all the speckles come to life in the fabric as I knit.

Nicola from the Bumble Stitches podcast is also running a Knit Along. Hers is the Old And New KAL. Basically, you choose a New to you pattern and use some Old yarn from your stash with which to knit it. I'll be able to double dip and enter the socks in both KALs.

Better get those needles clacking!

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Love Is In The Air

Happy Valentine's Day.

I took this photo on our recent visit to Lotherton Hall when we went to Meet The Penguins. Love seemed to be in the air for these capybaras, I hope your day is filled with love too.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

The Food Of Love

I'm a big fan of Amanda Prowse, her books can be a little hit and miss, I do still enjoy them all but some are definitely better than others. Many involve difficult issues such as post natal depression, domestic abuse, alcoholism etc. but they're written in a sensitive way and look at the effect on the whole family.

The Food Of Love is the latest Amanda Prowse book that I've read and I think that this is one of her best, I couldn't put it down. Freya and Lockie Braithwaite have two beautiful teenage daughters, confident Charlotte and thoughful Lexie. Their home is filled with love and laughter. When Lexi's struggles with weight start to control her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart.

The story really brings home just what a terrible illness anorexia is. It highlights the everyday struggles of living with anorexia and the turmoil for the family too. A real eye-opener.

There are a number of words which I could use to describe this book, powerful, thought-provoking, emotional, touching, uncomfortable, educational, heart-wrenching. I usually only read in bed but I read this book at every opportunity. I thought the author researched the topic well and I became fully immersed in the story, I felt myself rushing to the end to find out what happens.

I'd definitely recommend this book. I've got another two Amanda Prowse books waiting to read on my Kindle and she's got another two out soon, I'm looking forward to reading them all.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Meet The Penguins

We had two trips to Lotherton Hall on Sunday, the first was our usual walk through the woods with Archie, which he always enjoys. After dropping him home we returned to visit Lotherton's new Wildlife World.

There has been a bird garden in the grounds of Lotherton Hall since 1980 but this is currently being added to with work being undertaken to build Lotherton Wildlife World. A colony of Humboldt Penguins, Capybaras and a tapir have recently taken up residence here and they've attracted lots of visitors so I decided it was time for us to visit them too.

A series of themed zones are being created and the first one we visited was the Coastal Zone which features an enclosure where flamingos, wading and free flying birds will live alongside the new penguin pool, which has above and below water viewing areas. The penguins have already moved in ahead of the other residents.

Their new home features natural surfaces and the pool will allow these 17 Humboldt Penguins to behave as they would in the wild and also breed, meaning Lotherton can contribute to the national breeding programme.

The below water viewing area is such a good idea. Visiting children were so excited to be able to see the penguins swimming past and the penguins seemed to be showing off, swimming right up to the glass.

These are South American penguins which breed in coastal Chile and Peru and the species is listed as vulnerable.

Humboldt penguins socialise in large colonies but choose only one partner for life.

The above water viewing areas are excellent allowing visitors to see the penguins up close.

The colony is made up of penguins from zoos in Newquay and Dudley and their introductions must have gone well as they seemed to be happy living with each other. They're real characters.

We then went on to visit the Forest Zone where some capybaras have recently been introduced to Lotherton.

Capybaras are the largest living rodents in the world. It's quite obvious that their close relatives include guinea pigs and rock cavies, they look just like giant guinea pigs to me.

I didn't realise that Capybaras enjoyed water quite as much as they do. A large pool has been installed in their enclosure and it was fun watching them go for a swim. They have webbed feet and their eyes, ears and nostrils are located on the top of their heads which means that a capybara can lift just its eyes, nose and ears out of the water to learn everything about its surroundings while the rest of its body remains hidden underwater.

Arthur the tapir is another new resident at Lotherton. Unfortunately, he was ensconced under a heat lamp indoors on Sunday so we only got to see him through the window. He looked very comfy though. We'll definitely make a return trip to see him again at a later date.

Whilst we were there we couldn't miss the opportunity to visit the Andean Condors. They're a variety of vulture from the Andean Mountains in South America and the largest bird of prey in the world. They have a wingspan of over three metres and weigh over twenty five pounds. I think they look like they're wearing a furry hood.

Future plans at Wildlife World include an Africa Zone, featuring a new mongoose exhibit, a Children's Zone, with a small zoo and farm animals and an Asia-themed zone which will be home to red pandas and an otter exhibit.

It all sounds very exciting.