Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Viola Skirt

This weekend I made a skirt! I went to Sew Me Something in Stratford-upon-Avon. I know, crazy or what?! I set off at 6am yesterday and got to Stratford just before 9am. The town was buzzing with celebrations for Shakespeare's birthday, but I didn't get a chance to explore as I was ravenously hungry and needed a second breakfast! A pot of tea and a Danish pastry set me up nicely...

I posted a photo of my breakfast on Instagram and Jules, owner of Sew Me Something, replied and told me to come on over to choose my fabrics. I'd already taken a look in their Emporium online and had chosen one fabric. I needed a second to provide the contrast. The class I was taking was to make a Viola skirt. It's a very cleverly designed reversible skirt with contrast piping. These are the fabrics I chose, with bright pink buttons to fasten it. 

I took a class here last year when I made my Kate dress, so I already knew what a good teacher Jules was - calm and patient. There were six of us in the class;  it was so interesting to see how our fabric choices made the finished skirt look so different. Mine is definitely one for the summer, but I want to make another one in corduroy with a cotton contrast for cooler weather.

My modelled photos are rubbish because I took them in the mirror. I will try to get some more taken soon so that you can see just how lovely this skirt is - both sides! It makes it a very handy item for taking on holiday as you get two skirts for the price of one! 

Florence of course was most disgruntled that I'd not been at her beck and call all day and has demanded lots of cuddles today. We've been out in the garden, sitting on the bench and enjoying the sunshine. She absolutely loves being brushed, which is pretty surprising considering how uncooperative she is about most things!

There's still time to enter my latest giveaway here. I'll be back soon to tell you all about Yarn Shop Day 2017. It's all rather exciting! xxx

Monday, 17 April 2017

Easter snippets

Back to work tomorrow - here's a few photos of my Easter. Hope the Easter bunny paid you a visit! xxx

Flo squeezing herself into a space for a snooze...

Cherry blossom... 

 Mr JK's tree ( a silver birch) in leaf...

 Toasted hot cross buns for lunch...

The first bluebells and primroses at Blickling...

Flo making it difficult to crochet...

A beautiful morning at Blickling ...

Mini-sock knitting in readiness for a workshop...

Soda bread to go with hearty soup ...

Quilt making with Snoopydog...

Being warm enough to get my feet out ...

A biscuit tin full of gingernuts (Mr JK's favourites - google Delia Smith's recipe) ...

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

April Pay it Forward giveaway!

Time for another giveaway methinks; just my way of trying to pay forward a little of the tremendous kindness that has been shown to me by yarny folk around the world over the past few months. This month, I've got a ball of West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply sock yarn in a pink self-striping colourway that reminds me of cherry blossom. As it's Easter, I'm also including a bag of Cadbury's Mini Eggs (it might not probably won't definitely won't be the exact bag that's in the photo because I will have eaten those, but I promise to replace them!) Also in the goodies are a fun coaster I spotted on my travels and a tin of Burt's Bees Hand Salve to keep your hands in tip top condition for knitting and crocheting! 

To be in with a chance of winning, leave me a comment telling me what colours you'd choose if you were creating your own self-striping sock yarn. The giveaway will be open until midnight on April 30th and I'll use a random number generator to pick the winner after that date. Please make sure it's easy for me to contact you by leaving your Ravelry or Instagram name, or leave some other way for me to get in touch. If I haven't heard from the winner within a week, I'll pick another winner. The giveaway is open to all - I'll post anywhere (well, ok perhaps not anywhere, not too sure about the International Space Station!) but you know what I mean! Good luck and may the random number generator be with you! xxx

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Six months ...

I find it almost inconceivable that six months have passed since my darling Mr JK died. How is it possible that I have had six whole months without him? I still find it hard to accept that he's not coming back. Clearly I know that he isn't, but it doesn't make the longing any less. I miss him terribly - his daft jokes, his singing, his hugs, his enthusiasm for life, his ... everything really. I even miss all the running kit in the washing every day! It's left a massive hole in my life that I'm struggling to fill. People tell me that I'm doing well and I suppose that's the face that I want people see. When I'm at work, or out and about, I put on my 'I'm ok' face and just get on with things. They don't see the waves of sadness that can engulf me unexpectedly, the loneliness of evenings and weekends alone. It's really tough coming back home to an empty house after being out, so often it's less painful not to go out in the first place. And it can be the smallest of things that triggers off the sadness - wanting to discuss the latest goings on in The Archers, a new Rick Wakeman CD out that I know he would have loved, the spring flowers starting to appear in the garden, making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday .... Yes, I've had support, especially from my dear friend Snoopydog, who sadly finds herself now making the same journey as me. When you've spent so many years living with someone, your life revolves around them. Suddenly, when that someone is no longer around, it's as if you've lost part of yourself too. Something that can never be replaced. Death and grieving really are taboo. People don't know what to say to you. I've seen people crossing the road to avoid having to speak to me. People don't mention Mr JK's name 'for fear of upsetting me', when often all I want to do is talk about him and remember him with people who knew him too. People have told me to phone them if I need anything; it's really hard to admit to others that you're struggling and need help. I have made little steps though - this week I went through Mr JK's clothes and took them to the local homeless shelter. I've thrown away his toothbrush and put the book he was reading back on the shelf. Things that I wasn't ready to do until now. And I will carry on taking more little steps, and hopefully making Mr JK proud of me.

I heard something on a Radio 4 programme about bereavement the other day which really struck a chord with me:

'Grief, I've learned, is really just love. It's all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corner of your eyes, the lump in your throat and the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.'

I don't know who said this originally, but I think that it's a really helpful way of looking at grief. I do have lots of love to give and no place for it to go right now. xxx

Monday, 10 April 2017

A visit to Spa Mill, Slaithwaite

I was lucky enough to get a tour of Spa Mill last week when I went up to Stylecraft HQ. I had missed the tour that the rest of the Blogstars had been on last summer because of work, and was very interested to see the workings of a spinning mill. There are very few mills still in operation now here in the UK, more's the pity; most have been turned into offices or apartments. Spa Mill is the home of Spectrum Yarns, which produces Stylecraft, Yarn Stories and Glenbrae Knitwear. The mill started life back in the early 1900's as a cotton mill. It has 6 floors and is built in an L-shape. My guide for the tour was Richard Brown, the owner, who was extremely generous with his time. Thank you Richard!

The Stylecraft yarn isn't spun here - it's made under licence in Turkey and every batch undergoes rigorous testing here in the Mill to check for quality control. Yarn Stories is spun here, along with a hard wearing woollen yarn which is used for manufacturing seat covers which are used in public areas such as airports and cinemas. The Glenbrae knitwear brand is also based here, producing high quality woollen sweaters.

The floors in the mill are covered in maple wood. This was done as a necessity when the mill was spinning cotton to minimise the risk of an explosion. Cotton dust and a spark from the metal-soled clogs that the workers wore would have equalled disaster. 

I love how the steps of the mill have been worn down by generations of mill workers walking up and down them. 

The whole production process is carefully monitored by lots of hi-tech machinery, which means that the yarn that is produced is very consistent. The process starts with the processing of the raw fibre. Some is natural but there is also a lot of dyed fibre - blues, reds and greens were the colours I saw on the day of my visit.

The fibres are drawn out gradually by being passed through machines, gradually thinning it down and lining up all the fibres parallel with each other. This process happens more than once.

You can see how the colours get blended as the fibres are drawn out. It goes in like this ...

and comes out like this ...

These fibres are then drawn again, producing a much thinner fibre. It reminded me a little of pencil roving.

This fibre is then spun onto bobbins. As one bobbin is filled, it drops out and is replaced automatically by the next one. A mill worker is constantly walking up and down between the machines, checking for breakages which occasionally happen. Yarn is re-threaded with minimum disruption to the whole operation.

The bobbins get steamed to set the twist in the yarn and then they are used for spinning the thread that is used for the seat upholstery fabric or for Yarn Stories yarn. The mill operates 24 hours a day Monday to Thursday with a shutdown on Fridays to clean the mill from top to bottom. As we walked around the mill, I was struck by the friendly atmosphere there. Nothing like the terrifying spinning mills in Victorian times when conditions for workers were so harsh. Thank goodness times have changed. 

There is a whole room dedicated to embroidering the logos onto the Glenbrae knitwear - there are a number of rather prestigious clients.

As I said earlier, the company take quality control very seriously and this ensures that the yarn that is produced is of a consistently high quality. I would have liked to browse longer at this fabulous wall of yarns in the testing room.

And although the Stylecraft yarns aren't made here, they are stored here! It would be fun to have a 'trolley dash' here, don't you think?! A team of pickers is constantly on the go, fulfilling orders for yarn shops around the country.

It really was fascinating to see something of the processes involved in spinning yarn and I am very grateful to Annabelle Hill for arranging it for me, After the tour, I sat in on a meeting where new yarns were being discussed! My lips are very tightly sealed, but I will just say that there are some real treats in the pipeline! I'll tell you more as soon as I'm allowed! xxx

Monday, 3 April 2017

We have some winners!

Goodness me, it's April already! How did that happen? Time to announce the winners of my two giveaways. 

First, my Pay it Forward treats from Unravel ...

The random number generator picked post 28 - ikkinlala! I'll be emailing you to get your details so I can post your goodies off to  you.

And secondly, my Stylecraft giveaway ...

- the three winners, all picked by the random number generator, are post 10 - Jo, post 11 - Claire and post 36 - Evey. Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to everyone for taking part. I'll be getting in touch with the winners in the next day or two to get your details.

I'm on holiday from school for two weeks and am planning on attacking my mountain of long-standing WIPs to try and clear the decks a little. I'll be back soon with an update. xxx

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Midnight companion update

Hello there, I hope you've been enjoying the sunshine this weekend.  It's been beautiful here - blue skies and warm sun. Flo and I went and sat on the bench at the bottom of the garden and she had her first brush of the year. Mr JK was always her preferred groomer, but it appears that I will do too! The garden has suddenly sprung into life which is rather daunting. It was definitely Mr JK's domain and whilst I like the garden to look nice, I don't especially want to spend a lot of my time working in it. I'd prefer to be doing crafty things. 

Flo loves being outside if there's human company - she soaks up the sun on the warm paving stones and dashes around, hurling herself up the trees! And then all the activity becomes too much and she flakes out!

I thought I'd share the progress on my Midnight Companion blanket with you. It's grown rather a lot over recent weeks, which is a reflection of my completely rubbish sleeping still. I started the blanket off very soon after Mr JK died and I was lying awake for hours on end. I needed a mindless project that was soothing to work on and a Granny Square blanket fit the bill perfectly. I had a blanket's worth of Stylecraft Special DK that I'd picked out at Ally Pally a couple of years back, so used that, completely at random, to make large Granny Squares with 19 rounds. I used Attic24's joining as you go method for the 20th round, and did this round in the same colour - Parchment - to link them all together. Now all the squares are done and the border is underway. I've had assistance from Flo on more than one occasion this week. 

And the cheeky madam even sniffed it out during the day. The fact that it's unfinished clearly didn't faze her! (Oh those ends, don't look!!)

I'm planning on a fairly deep border using Parchment with perhaps a scalloped final round. What do you think? I'm open to suggestions as I do have enough of some of the colours to go round the edge in double crochet.

I still have all the ends to deal with so if anyone can recommend a good tutorial for weaving in ends on Granny Square blankets, please tell me. I've not been satisfied by how neatly I can hide them in previous blankets I've made.

Thank you for all the sock love by the way. I put the pattern on my Ravery page and was very excited to see it climb into the top 30 'hot right now' patterns (albeit briefly!) over the weekend. There's still time to enter my giveaway to win Stylecraft vouchers to buy yarn here and my Paying it Forward giveaway is still open too - check it out here.

One more week of school before the Easter holidays. I have a few things planned and I also want to spend some time sorting things out at home. Fingers crossed that we see some sunshine! xxx