More Yarn Will Do The Trick

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Let's start with the good. It's been a quiet and colourful autumn here in York, with most of the leaves still hanging on and the garden resplendent with fruits, berries and blooms. Nasturtiums, hydrangeas, chrysanthemums, geraniums - yes the geraniums are still flowering their little hearts out - lavender, and even the evergreen magnolia trying hard, though I suspect that the large plump buds will come to nothing as they slowly turn browner and browner with the cooler weather.

Berries first...
The gorgeous iris foetidissima
Cotoneaster horizontalis
Next the fruits...
The blackbirds are working hard trying to finish off
 the grapes, but there are still a few bunches
Next year's figs

And finally the flowers...

Red geraniums sheltered by the front door
Ivy leaved geranium in a hopper
The hydrangeas are drying out now but still a lot of
colour to be had
Another favourite - hydrangea villosa
Small petalled and two tone as the colour drains...
Winter jasmine is just starting to flower
The sculptural castor oil flowers
Last of the bears breeches
This abutilon is slow to get going but doesn't seem to mind
when it gets a tad cold
This little volunteer is the hard worker of the garden - probably
blooming for nine months of the year and positioning
 itself tastefully wherever. it spots a space
Can't  beat a chrysanthemum at this time of year
Old favourite for cheerfulness and usefulness,still
providing leaves and flowers for salads in November.
In two colours too!
Quiet, that was, until news  of the horrific senseless violence in Paris and Beirut hit the news. What is it that from time immemorial, wars have been fought in the name of religion when in fact, I find it hard to believe that any god would sanction the widespread  taking of life that we've seen in recent years.

It's been said many times that the West has dual values when it comes to grieving, giving it more importance when death happens closer to home. Maybe this is true of the people in power, but for many of the rest of us life is precious and a life lost is always a tragedy. So the taking of life in the name of religion is the ultimate act of cowardly aggression and leaves the whole of humanity the poorer. 

There's a poem by Warsan Shire going around Facebook which says it all:
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the
whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

So this candle burns for the victims in Paris and Beirut, their families and friends, the men, women and children lost to war whenever and wherever, and also for those fleeing violence - the refugees, many of whom will face another hard winter trying to escape the ravages of war.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Autumn colour

Hello again, been meaning to get back to the blog for a couple of weeks now.  Life goes on in much the same way from day to day, with me trying to improve my nutrition and stamina, to help with mobility. Had a bit of a breakthrough yesterday as I walked the length of the house unaided by sticks or frame! Yay, it was a great tonic to feel I can now do that, albeit looking like a toddler learning to walk with my arms in the air trying to balance :)

Over the past couple of weeks we've had the nearest we ever get to an Indian summer, with bright sunshiny days and overnight rain bringing out stunning colours in the garden and landscape. Coffee in the garden in October is definitely a plus, even more so on a grey day like we've got today :(
Abundant inspiration here!
Couldn't resist these irises in the market
- such fabulous intensity
Was very struck by these thistles a friend had picked
from her garden for the table  
Beautiful texture and colour
These pears were crying out for me to take them home - even if they won't
be ripe for a couple of weeks the colours will light up the kitchen and I can
look forward to poaching them in red wine with lots of star anise and cinnamon
As the autumn gets underway, it always seems to bring with it an urge to cook, bake and preserve, so we've been doing quite a lot of that recently. Today I made cheese and herb dumplings to go into a root veg stew Philip is cooking up on the hob.
Philip's root veg and courgette stew
Cheese and herb dumplings ready to go in the fridge
before going in the stew
Pomegranates are a favourite at this time of year too, taste great in
autumn salads and add a welcome splash of colour

We're lucky to have lots of lovely friends who have apple trees - I love
making apple chutney , which makes a nice thankyou for donated apples,
as well as being delicious on lunchtime ploughmans
There's nothing like a delivery of logs to make you feel cosy and ready for anything the impending winter days can throw at you, so I was delighted when ours duly arrived the other day.
Makes me feel so warm and secure to see the logs all stacked
outside this window
One of our neighbour's cats must think so too. Jo's family have been away quite a lot recently and I suspect he gets a tad lonely, so on a couple of occasions he's joined us (and Arlo and Django) in front of the woodstove.
Outside the backdoor on the bench in his favourite daytime spot

He's a lovely boy and comes every day to do a bit of cleaning up
after Arlo and Django - he always makes sure their plates are
completely empty and clean before he leaves! :)
That's all for now, thanks for dropping by xox

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Normal service not quite resumed!

First of all apologies for the prolonged silence over the past six months. The reason is that since the beginning of February my life has been turned upside down. I was diagnosed with myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer and since then I've been in hospital for three months, rehab for six weeks, then finally the happy day arrived when I came home. What started as something I thought was sciatica ended up being a much more serious issue and after radio and chemo therapy I'm now trying to learn to walk again. Cancer is no fun I can tell you.

The tests were unremitting and daunting, especially the nerve reaction tests which I found to be complete torture and hard to bear. This is the first time I've been able to face writing anything on my blog, but I'm hoping that in the coming weeks I'll be able to write more.
The garden is a haven and it's great to be outside again
Since I've been home it's been good to be outside in the garden getting some fresh air, for the first time since it all kicked off.  The chemo stopped about two months ago but I still feel like utter shit, food tastes different, tingling and burning feet, frequent diarrhoea, and I'm easy meat for any passing infection, so have to be careful who I see and make sure they're not suffering from colds or something worse. All annoying as it would be so nice to see more people - I can't tell you how much it lifts my spirits.
This is the scarf that took months to finish made out of two
different types of merino sent to me by friends in US and Canada

Still my life seems to be gradually kickstarting itself. In hospital, I found I couldn't knit very well and had to resort to good old garter and even then the resulting fabric looked much more uneven than I'd have liked it to. I couldn't knit for more than a few rows at a time, so the scarf that I was making using the lovely yarn that some kind knitters sent to me, seemed to take forever to complete - four months in fact. My brain is still not functioning as well as it might and I can't seem to decide on a follow-up project, mainly because I don't like the result of my much less than perfect craft skills at the moment.

However, there's better news in the music department. When I woke up initially from the seizure, I couldn't contemplate playing guitar or even singing and although I had my guitar standing by in the corner of my room in rehab, the sheer weight of it meant I could barely hold it, let alone play it. Since I've got home though, I seem to be getting stronger and I'm once again able to play. Not at all like I used to, but still it's doing me a world of good in the confidence department - my sense of self is slowly returning. I quickly realised I couldn't remember anything I'd learnt in the past year, but things I'd been playing for years were still there, if slightly rusty. It was still difficult for me to lift the guitar from my wheelchair and I couldn't play for long, but at least I was making some music again. 
Learning to play the ukulele has been a lifesaver

After I'd been home for a few weeks my friend Susie, whose husband is a luthier, brought round a lovely little ukulele that he had just finished. She told me that when she was suffering from a rotator cuff injury in her shoulder, it was the only instrument she could contemplate playing. She said Dave would like me to have this one on loan and play it in.

Well. I'd never played a ukulele before and didn't even know how it was tuned, but that was soon sorted with an app on my phone. Susie taught me a few chords, then we played a few tunes together and I found I rather enjoyed it. As she left she told me to make sure I play it and those words rang in my ears a lot in the coming weeks. The more I played it the more I enjoyed it, plus it was so much lighter and manouvrable than my guitar that I didn't have to wrestle with it in the wheelchair or feel weak from the weight of it. It got to the point where I looked forward to my uke practice every morning after breakfast and the more I played it, the better I got and the better it sounded. I'm still no virtuoso, but I can pick out a tune and my repertoire is expanding by the day.

My songwriting is still in the latent phase, but last week I wrote a poem for a local online mag. York Mix had invited readers to send in poems relating to summer and although my entry missed the deadline for publication, the editor, York's own poet, Carole Bromley, said she liked the poem and would have published it.  Yay, there's life in the young dog yet! :)  Have a read and let me know what you think:

Seeds to sow and water, on a sunny window sill
Woods filled with starry ransoms and nodding bluebells
Hearing the first cuckoo, collecting elderflowers for wine
Coffee in the garden tastes much better than inside
... in early summer

Grit under wheels on mud-cracked track
Hollow in flower bed where cat hit the sack
House martins chatter on telephone wire
Finger food shared aound the campfire
... in high summer

Trees look so hot fully clothed in their leaves
Soon to be denuded by a cool September breeze
Distant drone of mowers before they're put to bed
Produce for the winter stashed away in the shed
... in late summer

I'm still having physio to get my legs going again and yesterday another milestone was reached - I was able to climb three stairs! On Friday we're going to attempt a full flight of twelve. There have been many other milestones along the way - standing up, taking the first two tentative steps, walking the length of a room with a frame, starting to walk with crutches - but nothing happens overnight. Little by little though, I feel things are moving and this is so important,  psychology plays a big part in the battle. Also I'm very lucky to have Eleanor, my lovely physio, who manages to be encouraging but never bullying.

I've looked at my blog several times over the past six months and seen the most recent page, written before I became ill, staring sadly back at me. Several times I've tried to write a post, but always felt after a couple of paragraphs that everything I had to say was rather depressing and as I had nothing really positive to write, I felt I should wait.

So in a way, rekindling my blog is a big step on my road to rekindling my health and I'm looking forward to many more posts to come.
Django waiting for his dinner!
PS The cats, Django and Arlo, are a great source of amusement for me, there's never a dull moment when they're around.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Arm & Finger Knitting - book review

It seems to be that time of year, grey days and cold weather, perfect for snuggling up with a knitting book and picking out exciting new projects to knit in the coming months. Well, if you're looking for a new knitting experience with easy-to-follow patterns and fabulous illustrations, look no further than Arm & Finger Knitting by Laura Strutt - 35 no-needle knits for the home and to wear

Also this book is well served with tech info, with clearly-illustrated chapters on Arm & Finger Knitting TechniquesTools & Materials, Finishing Touches, Yarn Suppliers and even Making Your Own T-shirt Yarn.
How to knit with your arms!
The projects are fun and fresh, spanning both Home and To Wear. In the Home chapters you'll find cushions, throws, a stool cover, a tea cozy, a lampshade cover, a tote bag, as well as several other small scale items...
Twisted stitch lap blanket
Woven pillow
Nautical sailor knot pillow
Pom Pom Garland
...Whilst in the To Wear chapters there are scarves, shawls, headgear, a gilet, a bolero, necklaces, bangles, a clutch bag and a handwarmer/muff.

Big bow headband
Layered loop necklace 

The versatile Multi-wear button scarf 
  Buttoning down the back for a totally different look,
OR front to make a cool cowl

There's something for every knitter in this book. For process knitters there's the added satisfaction of learning a new skill that takes only a small amount of time to finish; and for the product knitters... well, what are you waiting for, these knits are more or less instant and guaranteed to take the stress out of last-minute gifts. 
Back cover
Paperback  112 pages
Publisher    CICO Books (17 Dec 2014)
Price           GB £12.99; US$19.95; CAN $22.95
ISBN-10      1782492089
ISBN-13      978-1782492085

Monday, 19 January 2015

So Warm - Twined knitting by Carla Meijsen

From the very moment I saw its cover, I couldn't wait to have this book in my hands! What's not to like about the elegant yoga pose, the stylish eccentricity and, best of all, the knitting overload of twelve hands covered in various forms of gorgeous twined knits. Such a great image.
My first thoughts were that if the rest of the book lived up to the cover then it's a must buy for any knitter who's into learning new techniques with small projects.
Inside cover
I've known Carla and the Dutch Knitters for several years since she invited me to teach some workshops at the first Stitch 'n' Bitch Day in Rotterdam in 2007. Carla is renowned for her well-researched work on knitting techniques, as in her previous book, co-written with Hilly van der Sluis - Warmer Handen, focusing on the beautiful traditional mittens of Estonia. 
Example of twined knitting
This time it's Twined Knitting, a little-known technique originating in Falun, Dalarna in Sweden. It involves working with two threads simultaneously and the book includes an illustrated section on basic stitches, deep stitches, increases and decreases, colourwork, swedish braid and blocking.
Benen legwarmers
Beautiful knits abound, ranging from wrist warmers, boot toppers, legwarmers, socks and hats, to a phone sleeve and a bag - but my faves are the mittens.
Geheime Genoegens - berry-themed mitts
Heel handig
Mooie Meid
Mooie Meid - colourway 2
Dansende Dames
So if you're looking to extend your skills with a technique which is both enthralling, beautiful and well taught, you won't go far wrong if you get yourself a copy of So Warm.

The book costs  Euros €34.50, excluding shipping (no shipping costs inside the Netherlands) and one or more copies can be ordered by sending an email to
Carla's blog is