Saturday, 18 January 2020

Fibre 4 Fibres giveaway preview 7

Many apologies for not posting details of this week's raffle prize yesterday. I had to go to the hospital for a liver scan and spent the rest of the day snoozing on the sofa. Flo was very happy about that! Anyway, without further ado, let me share this week's wonderful prize that you could win if you buy a virtual raffle ticket or two in this Sunday's Fibre 4 Fibres giveaway in aid of Myositis UK

The prize includes a beautiful, naturally dyed skein of 4ply merino yarn which has been dyed and donated by Sarah at Scruffy Dog Eco, a stunning sheep project bag donated by the bag maker extraordinaire Ann over at Busy Pottering, (just check out that lining fabric *) a sheep notions case beautifully stitched and donated by my friend Michele at Three Bags Full, three balls of Rowan Felted Tweed yarn donated by one of my fellow Stylecraft Blogstars Julia and some stitch markers also made and donated by Sarah at Scruffy Dog Eco. Thank you so much for the kind and generous donations, they are very much appreciated. 

* Ann and Sarah collaborated on this so Sarah dyed the yarn to co-ordinate with the bag lining. I think she's done an amazing job!

You have the chance to win all this for a minimum donation of £2! Less than the price of a cup of coffee. Are you tempted to enter? Here's what you need to know. This giveaway will run this coming Sunday 19th January, closing at 23:55. To enter, go to my Just Giving page here and buy your virtual raffle tickets by donating £2 or more. £2 gets you 2 tickets, £3 gets you 3 tickets, £5 gets you 5 tickets and so on. You will need to leave your Instagram or Ravelry name, or tick the box that shares your details with me so that I can contact you if you're the winner and also put 'Sheep' in the comments so I know which raffle you've entered. My fundraising is going really well - the current total is £1213 which includes pattern sales and raffle ticket purchases.  I wonder what it will be after Sunday?! Good luck and thanks for your support. xxx

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Weather watch

Have you heard of temperature blankets before? I hadn't until around this time last year when one caught my eye in my Instagram feed. Kaz, who you can find on Instagram here and Facebook here if you want to be inspired by all of her colourful creations, posted a photo of her 2018 temperature blanket. It was so colourful and happy that it made me want to find out more. Basically you allocate different coloured yarns to different temperatures and crochet or knit a row/round/motif each day. Some people record the daily high and low, others do the temperature at midday, there are no rules! Some people make historical blankets for a special year. Here is Kaz' blanket from 2018...

Photo from Insomnia Crochet

I knew that I wanted to make my own version and even got as far as creating a colour palette, but couldn't decide what kind of pattern to do - knitted or crocheted - and before I knew it, January was over and I was already a month behind! I put the blanket on hold and used the colours in a sample knit for my Good Striations blanket instead! 

I kept an eye on Kaz' 2019 blanket which was another beauty - this time she chose to record the daily high and low crocheting a square a day. It is a true work of art!

Photo from Insomnia Crochet

I even joined a temperature blanket group on Facebook to get more inspiration. There was one in particular that I liked as people started posting photos of their completed 2019 blankets, where the maker had crocheted one square a week, recording the daily maximum temperature. That definitely sounded manageable to me, and I rather liked the pattern. A little bit of research took me to Priscilla's Crochet and the free patterns section where I found what I was looking for - the Sunburst Granny Square. I have decided to record the daily high temperature and use that for my blanket. The yarn I'm using is my go to for blankets - Stylecraft Special DK. There are loads of colours to choose from, it's economical and washes and wears really well which is an important consideration for a blanket. Here is my colour range (although I might change/add to the colours if it gets really hot) ...

... and here is week 1...

I hooked week 2 yesterday ...

My plan is to join them using Silver (a light grey colour) and then add a border. I'm excited to see how it progresses over the coming weeks and will share it with you every now and then. If you're inspired to join in, search for temperature blankets online and beware of falling down the rabbit hole too! Just to finish, this is Kaz' blanket for 2020 - it's going to be another beauty isn't it? xxx

Photo from Insomnia Crochet


Thursday, 9 January 2020

Yarnuary 2020 - days 1-8

The wonderful designer Melanie Berg set a Yarnuary 2020 challenge over on Instagram. For those of you who don't 'do' Instagram, I thought you might find it interesting to see my entries so far. 

Day 1 - Who taught you to knit

My mum taught me to knit at an early age and I can remember making things for some of my dolls and teddies. I still have this scarf, wonky edges and all. My brother and I always wore handknit jumpers and cardigans, everyone did growing up in the 60's and 70's. I like this photo - my mum is wearing a cardigan she knit and I'm in another handknit that was most likely worn by my brother before me.

Day 2 - A technique you love

I love using the Magic Loop technique for knitting in the round. It was a light bulb moment for me when I understood how straightforward it was. No more wrestling with double pointed needles for me! 

Day 3 - Your favourite knitting place

As I can't permanently be sat on a beach on the Greek island of Kos, my favourite knitting place has to be my sofa at home. There are lots of cushions and blankets making it nice and cosy and I have all my projects and knitting notions close by.

Day 4 - A gift you've made

I love knitting socks as gifts for people and they are usually very well received. I knit this pair for my oncology consultant last year to thank her for taking care of me. She is the nicest, most empathetic person I have come across and I feel very lucky that I had her as my doctor.

Day 5 - A gift you've received

After Mr JK died, almost 50 of my knitting friends on Ravelry got together to knit me a beautiful blanket. It is a true gesture of friendship and comfort across the miles and is a big woolly hug for both me and Flo. Flo even got her own blanket! I can't thank this group of knitters enough for thinking of me and caring enough to do this. So much love went into this blanket.

Day 6 - Your favourite yarn

I don't have a favourite yarn as so much depends on what kind of project I'm working on. But nothing beats the satisfaction of knitting with your own handspun yarn. Flo (naturally) gets involved with quality control! 

Day 7 - How knitting has changed your life

I've always enjoyed knitting but never in a million years did I expect that it would give me the opportunity to be part of a group with the wonderful creative Stylecraft Blogstars. We meet up each year and there is always plenty of fun, laughter and chatting, not to mention yarn, cake and wine! I feel very lucky to have been invited to join and it's given me opportunities to start designing. 

Day 8 - Your knitting buddies

My local knitting buddy is Snoopydog, we have been to many yarn festivals together and are very good enablers! Further afield, I have lots of knitting friends in the USA. Bobbie and I met up when she was over from Alaska a few years ago. I was meant to meet with Michele before Christmas when she was visiting London, but the train gods conspired against us, and my fellow Queens of Yarn, Kim and Kat, have been great friends. One day they will be my guide around Rhinebeck! xxx

Friday, 3 January 2020

Fibre 4 Fibres giveaway preview 5

The time has come round again for me to share this week's wonderful prize that you could win if you buy a virtual raffle ticket or two in this Sunday's Fibre 4 Fibres giveaway in aid of Myositis UK

The prize includes a beautiful project bag sewn and donated by my friend Michele who has her own bag-making business, Three Bags Full, over in Maine, USA. I have been a huge fan of Michele's bags for some years now and was looking forward to meeting up with Michele last month when she was visiting London and I had a hospital appointment at  King's. However, due to both late/cancelled/diverted trains and my lack of mobility, I got stranded and not only missed my appointment, but my chance to meet Michele. Michele had brought me some bags to use as prizes so very kindly found a post office and posted them to me. Thank you so much Michele!  Her bags are beautifully made, with coordinated lining fabrics, zippers and lampwork glass beads and will make a wonderful home for your knitting or crochet project.

Also included in the prize is a skein of Hazel Knits Artisan sock yarn in the colourway 'Electrolyte'. This is a wonderful yarn to knit or crochet with and has great stitch definition. The zingy colour is perfect to remind us that spring is not too far away. There's a ball of Stylecraft Yarns Head over Heels All Stars sock yarn in the 'Red Pots' colourway which was created by Lucy over at Attic24. Lastly a very cute set of stitchmarkers from Little Skein which has the sweetest of birds on one of them. If you were to buy all of these things, they'd cost you more than £70! And you have the chance to win them for a minimum donation of £2. Less than the price of a cup of coffee. 

Are you tempted to enter? Here's what you need to know. This giveaway will run this coming Sunday 5th January, closing at 23:55. To enter, go to my Just Giving page here and buy your virtual raffle tickets by donating £2 or more. £2 gets you 2 tickets, £3 gets you 3 tickets, £5 gets you 5 tickets and so on. You will need to leave your Instagram or Ravelry name, or tick the box that shares your details with me so that I can contact you if you're the winner and also put 'Bird' in the comments so I know which raffle you've entered. This lovely prize would be perfect to give you a colourful start to 2020 so I hope you'll enter! Good luck and thanks for your support. xxx

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Acceptance and new beginnings

Here we are at the start of a new decade - 2020; it really doesn't seem like 20 years ago when we were welcoming in the new millennium. I hope that you had relaxing and festive Christmas and New Year celebrations. I had a quiet, but enjoyable time and was very well looked after by my friend. Good food, good company and plenty of rest. It's the time of year when traditionally I look back at what I've achieved over the last 12 months and make some plans for the new year ahead. 

Certainly this year hasn't gone to plan health-wise. I naively assumed that once I started on the medication in November of 2018, things would start to return to normal and I'd be back at work by Easter. Sadly that hasn't been the case. The more I research into myositis, the more complex a condition I am finding it to be. It's a rare disease - less than 2 people per million of the population - and within that group of people, there are different kinds of myositis. The antibody that I have tested positive for is particularly resistant to treatment and is also pretty aggressive in its early stages. I've had 53 hospital appointments during 2019, and will be down at King's College hospital again later in the month for more tests and investigations. It severely affects my daily life, as I've lost a huge amount of muscle leaving me weak and exhausted, and I've been unable to work for 18 months. Unfortunately, I've had to make the difficult decision to give up working as my employer was unwilling (reasonably enough, given the length of my absence) to keep my contract open any longer. Accepting this hasn't been easy, and it certainly wasn't the way I wanted my teaching career to end. A friend took me into school this week and I picked up all my things. More than 30 years of teaching resources which I will hopefully be passing on to a recently qualified teacher just starting out in her first year of teaching. 

During my time off work, knitting, crochet and sewing have helped to give my days some structure and routine. I think that I'm proudest of my Good Striations blanket design. To have a yarn company want to print and distribute your pattern is a great feeling. I'm hoping there will be lots more designing in 2020.

The Good Striations blanket was also the kick start to a new fundraising challenge that I have set myself as I decided to donate £1 from each pattern sale to Myositis UK. Thinking back to my Great Yarn Giveaway in 2018, I wanted to do more giveaways, but rather than one huge one, to spread them out over the course of a year. My fundraising page - Fibre 4 Fibres - was created and there will be weekly giveaways each Sunday. The total raised to date is £777. I raised over £8000 with my previous giveaway so it would be brilliant if I could do something similar.

Looking back at my blog entry this time last year, I was relieved to read that I hadn't set myself any specific goals. 2019 was to be a year of nurture and being the best I could be to make Mr JK proud of me. I hope that I've done that. 

So what about 2020? Obviously my first priority is getting my myositis under control and hopefully then stabilising things so that I can work on maintaining what muscle I have got. I'm a firm believer in the saying, 'When one door closes, another one opens,' so I would like to think that there will be some new opportunities for me. Quite in what direction those doors will take me, I don't yet know. But hopefully it's going to be all good. Please come along with me as I find the keys to those doors and see what happens in the coming year. Happy New Year to you and I hope that 2020 is a happy, healthy and peaceful one for you and your nearest and dearest. xxx

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Twixmas and more

I'm not entirely sure what day it is! I missed putting out my bin last week, even though I knew the refuse collection had been put back a day until Friday. The trouble was, my brain hadn't registered that it actually was Friday! Not to worry, the world won't come to an end! I hope you've had a good time over Christmas, however you've chosen to spend it. I had a very relaxing day with my friend Julia. She was the perfect host and kept me well fed and watered! Since then, I've spent a huge amount of time sleeping. I think it's due to the side effects of my Christmas Eve infusion. One way to get out of all the vegetable prep! Between us, the nurse and I worked out the best place to put the cannula so I could still knit, so I actually felt that my 6 hours was quite productive. My consultant also came to catch up with me so I was able to give her the socks I'd knitted. She seemed pleased so I hope she likes them!

Julia and I enjoyed a crafty weekend away in December too. We'd given each other gifts of a silver jewellery day and a soap making afternoon for our birthdays. The soap is organic and vegan and doesn't contain any nasty things. It's currently curing in the spare bedroom, making the room smell just heavenly. I love handmade soap so it was such a treat to be able to make my own bars. My soap is fragranced with bergamot and sweet orange, and I added some oats too. Julia's soap has poppy seeds and coffee grounds added to it, and is scented with sweet orange and lime. If you're interested in making soaps, I can thoroughly recommend Rosie at Organik Orangutan, she is a great teacher. 

The silver jewellery course was on a narrowboat which made it even more special. We spent the morning learning different techniques using copper wire and planning what we wanted to make in the afternoon. I wanted to make a silver ring and I put mine and Mr JK's initials on the inside and the year of our marriage, while Julia made an absolutely stunning fiddle ring. Again, if you're looking for something a little different, take a look at the Silver Jewellery Boat. We had a wonderful day. 

I thoroughly enjoyed opening my Advent swap each day in the countdown to Christmas. I now have a bowl full of woolly treasures, and I'm waiting a while to see what they want to become.

I sent one of my Twitter friends a yarn Advent calendar too. I helped her to learn to crochet earlier this year when she was injured and unable to run, but she told me that she was a 'one pattern' crocheter! So I set her the challenge of learning how to hook a Granny square, and with lots of WhatsApp videos, she did it! I'm so proud of her achievements. Take a look! Michele says she wants to crochet more and then join them all together with a final round of crochet, so I suspect that some more videos will be coming!

I've been rather spoilt as Sophie from Pixie Yarns gifted me a 12 days of Christmas yarn calendar. I love Sophie's dyeing and am savouring my morning skein each day. I'll share them with you when my collection is complete.

Flo liked the arrival of the occasional parcel, even better when there was tissue paper involved too! She spent time trying out each box for size before pouncing on the paper! She does make me smile. And then of course, she is totally exhausted by the activity and needs a long sleep, preferably on my lap!

There has been lots of tea drinking and treat eating going on too, I love those little spiced German biscuits. Mr JK was a big fan too so we always had loads in the house, normally still eating them well into the New Year. I hope whatever you're doing, you're warm and cosy and enjoying life. xxx

PS My latest yarn raffle is now live so if you'd like to enter to win the lovely prizes shown in the previous post, click here