Sunday, 29 October 2017

Taking stock

I've been sorting through the pile of WIPs sat in a mountain by the side of the sofa and been ruthless. Anything that didn't really grab me has been frogged and I am left with several projects that I. Must. Finish. before I can allow myself to start anything new. So I thought that if I shared them with you all, then you might hold me accountable and nag me (nicely, of course) if my attention dares to wander and be tempted by anything else! So let me introduce to you my pile of WIPs:

Exhibit A  - the Granny squares that I crocheted using the Opal mini balls of sock yarn from last year's Advent calendar. I want to join them in white and then make a cushion cover from them. And given that next year's Advent calendar is sitting ready and waiting for December 1st, I need to get a wiggle on. 

Exhibit B - the socks that I started knitting from last year's Advent calendar yarn. There will be 24 new balls before I know it to knit this year's socks. 'Nuff said!

Exhibit C - I started knitting this using some yarn that I'd been making a sweater for Mr JK from soon after he died last year. I'm over half way, so it should be plain sailing, as long as I was really sensible and marked where I'd got to on the pattern. It will be like having a hug from Mr JK when I wear it, so I really want to get it done and dusted.

Exhibit D - my Midnight Companion Granny Square blanket. I started this when I was having trouble sleeping last year and found the repetitiveness of the crochet very soothing. I finished all the crochet a long time ago. But do you see all those pesky ends? I suppose I could leave them as a design feature and say it's an unusual fringe! Let this be a lesson to you all - sew in the ends as you go!

Exhibit E - my Squeezebox socks. I started these in May 2016 so they have no business to still be WIPs. And I'm over half way too, so the end is in sight. Must. Knit. Faster.

Exhibit F - another pair of socks half done. I knit this the summer before last when Stylecraft first launched their new Head over Heels sock yarn and I was playing around with stitch patterns. This pattern hasn't been written up yet, but I really should knit the second sock. I never thought that I suffered from SSS (Second Sock Syndrome) before, but I'm starting to have my doubts now. 

Exhibit G - my Running for Rowley socks. This is a relatively young WIP, only a matter of weeks old in fact! I wanted to knit a pair of socks while I was at the Great North Run and York to have as a special memory pair of my running. The yarn was one that Mr JK bought for me on our last visit to Delft. I was on a yarn diet at the time but that didn't stop him from buying it! He bought one in shades of blue which reminded me of the Delft pottery and I was planning to knit him a pair of socks from that one. I love the colours in this yarn and they will remind me that anything is possible if you believe in yourself.

So there, your honour, are my WIPs. I promise that I will not start anything new until these have all been completed. And if I should be tempted to stray, you all have permission to tell me off and wag your finger at me in a teachery way! I'll report back next week on my progress.

Thank you for all the slipper sock love yesterday. I'm thrilled that so many of you seem to like my pattern. It's a really fun one to knit and because it's using DK wool, it knits up fast! Thank you too to those of you who very generously made a donation to my JustGiving page. It's getting close to £4000 now which is just amazing! In case you missed it yesterday, here's another photo of my Bee Cosy Slipper Socks.

And just before I say bye for now, as it's National Cat Day and it was also Black Cat Appreciation day earlier this week, I feel it's only fitting to share a couple of photos of my best girl Flo. She is such a darling and I love her to bits. xxx

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Stylecraft Blogtour 2017 - Bee Cosy Slipper Socks

Hello lovely people and welcome to my woolly corner of the world. If it's your first time calling in, do have a wander around and get to know me a little better. If you're a regular visitor, thanks for popping by again. It's my great pleasure to be hosting the Stylecraft Blog Tour 2017 today. I've been following the Tour each day and have loved seeing all the incredible projects that my talented fellow Blogstars have designed. In case you've missed seeing any of this year's designs, here's a list of all the blogs so far:- 

This year, we're working with Stylecraft Batik yarn and the new Batik Elements range. I really love knitting with the Batik yarn - it's a DK weight, 80% acrylic and 20% wool, making a gorgeously springy and cosy yarn. The Batik Elements comes in eight variegated colourways...

Batik Elements top row l-r Mercury, Sulphur, Krypton, Bismuth
bottom row l-r Copper, Platinum, Iron, Phosphorus

and these eight new shades blend beautifully with the more solid colours in the range...

Stylecraft chose four of the Batik Elements yarns and put together four different yarn packs. Each one contains four balls of the Batik Elements yarn and six complementary balls of Batik yarn. When we were up at the Mill in July, we each chose our favourite pack to work with. Country Garden was the pack that called out to me. 

I brought my pack home with me, wound some yarn pegs and just let the yarn sit there on the table, deciding what it wanted to be. 

As the nights started drawing in and the evenings became a little cooler, the idea of making some lovely snugly slipper socks began to emerge. I'm sure I can't be the only one who likes to come home from work and get changed into pyjamas for the evening, before cosying down on the sofa with a mug of tea and a book to read or some knitting. It goes without saying of course that I'll be sharing my lap with Flo and more than likely there will be candles lit too. The perfect way to relax and unwind. 

So without further ado, let me present to you my Bee Cosy Slipper Socks. I love how the colours of the hexagons of Batik pop with the ridges of the Batik Elements in between! The whole leg just makes me smile a lot! The pattern is really easy and uses slip stitches to create the hexagonal honeycomb effect. There are lots of possibilities to play around with the colours too. I chose to use the Batik yarns just down the leg and knit the rest of the sock using the Elements yarn. But you could knit the cuff, heel flap and toe in the Elements and continue the colour stripes down the foot too, just knitting in the round rather than following the slip stitch pattern. There's plenty of yarn to make two or three pairs of slipper socks too so you can knit them for family and friends, as well as a pair for yourself of course!

If you have a lot of laminate or tiled floors in your home, you might want to use some 'Sock Stop' on the sole of each slipper sock to give a bit more grip. I bought a bottle from Amazon and it comes in lots of different colours. You simply put some card inside the sock to prevent the Sock Stop from spreading to any other part of the sock and then draw some lines and ridges on the sole. I haven't done it on mine as my house is mostly carpeted and I don't intend to do any Torvill and Dean impersonations if I can help it!

The pattern, in two sizes, is available for free on Ravelry here, but if you would like to make a donation to my JustGiving page to raise money for the British Heart Foundation in memory of my lovely Mr JK, I would be over the moon! There is no need to donate, it's entirely up to you. The pattern is free for you to enjoy. 

And a modelled photo courtesy of my friend Sarah, who also obliged by wearing her pjs! I think this could be the start of a great modelling career, don't you? Thanks Sarah! 

The lovely people at Stylecraft have a yarn pack to give away today so you can knit your own slipper socks. All you have to do is follow the link here. The competition starts at 10am today (28th October) and runs for 24 hours. It's open to anyone, anywhere, so please do enter and you might be the lucky winner! Good luck and may the knitting gods and goddesses be ever in your favour! Tomorrow, the Blogtour heads up to Yorkshire to visit Kathryn at Crafternoon Treats and I happen to know that she's been hooking something rather splendid for you. Make sure you check it out. xxx

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Stylecraft Blogtour 2017

The Stylecraft Blog Tour 2017 is underway. Each day for two weeks, the Blogstars are taking it in turns to showcase a particular colour pack of Stylecraft Batik yarn. Emma Varnam kicked things off on Monday, with Polly Plum, Crochet Between Worlds and CherryHeart following. Keep an eye on Stylecraft's Facebook page here to see whose turn it is next and you could enter a giveaway to win a yarn pack of your own. There are free patterns to download for the duration of the Tour too. It'll be my turn on October 28th but in the meantime, I'm looking forward to seeing what all my clever and creative friends come up with. I wonder if you can guess which colour yarn pack I picked?!

I have been rather remiss with my posting recently. October is more than half way over and I haven't yet organised this month's giveaway. So I've come up with a rather cunning plan. At the end of September, my Cosy Cluster scarf pattern was published in Crochet Now magazine and I announced a giveaway to win a yarn cake of the Stylecraft Candy Swirl yarn so that you could hook your very own scarf. The giveaway was meant to close on October 15th but I have decided to extend it and throw in another yarn cake of Candy Swirl, this time in the Blueberry Gum shade. This means that there will now be two winners and the giveaway will remain open until midnight on October 31st. You can enter by leaving a comment on my blog, on Instagram and also on my Josiekitten Facebook page, so there are lots of chances to win. (You can enter in all three places if you wish!) You can find links to each in the side bar at the top of my blog. Here's another look at my scarf as well as the yarn cakes that may well have your name on them!

Please make sure that it's easy for me to get in touch with you if you are one of the winners. I'll be putting all the names into a hat and will announce who's won at the start of November.

So what's been keeping me so busy? Well, apart from the Yorkshire 10 mile run just over a week ago, I have also been to Amsterdam. Last weekend I went to support friends who were running the Amsterdam marathon and half marathon in Mr JK's memory. They had all come up to York to cheer me on and it was lovely to be able to do the same for them. Mr JK was supposed to be running with them - he'd casually asked me if I fancied a weekend in Amsterdam before throwing in the idea of a marathon! It was a beautiful weekend and the sun shone brightly. It was a little odd being there without him, because it was a city that we often went to for the weekend, but I had a really good time with friends. I did have a bit of a meltdown on the flight back home and cried most of the way. I think the emotion of the weekend had kicked in, along with the thought that Mr JK should have been sat beside me, celebrating after running the marathon. Luckily for me, my neighbour ignored me snuffling and sniffing and I made it home to be greeted by a rather disgruntled Flo!

Here are a couple of my favourite photos from the Yorkshire 10 mile race. I find it hard to believe that I've actually done it! So it's good to have the proof!

And I especially like this one where I put Mr JK and me running side by side. How I wish that could really happen... xxx

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Full circle ...

Tomorrow it will be one year since Mr JK died. It doesn't seem possible that I have existed a whole 365 days without him. When I said this to someone, they replied, 'You haven't existed, you've lived. Just look at everything you've done,' and I suppose they're right. Although some days I really do feel like I am simply existing, not wanting to socialise and shutting myself away at home with my thoughts. But yes, I have lived. I've made myself go out and do things and I've had some huge achievements.

On Sunday, I took part in the Yorkshire 10 mile race. The previous year, Mr JK had run the marathon in York and a few days after he died, an email came through for him with a link to his race photos and videos. As I looked through them, a crazy idea came into my head that I wanted to run in York the following year. So that became my focus. From not even owning a pair of trainers, I got myself kitted out with some proper running shoes, bought a sports bra, joined the gym and downloaded the Couch to 5K programme. But my attempts were soon thwarted by joint pain and an x-ray revealed an arthritic knee. I had some physiotherapy and when I told the physio that I was planning to run a race in my husband's memory, her reply of 'I think that this is your body's way of telling you that you need to find another way to remember your husband,' left me in tears. But I continued at the gym, working with my PT who never stopped encouraging me and believing in me, and gradually my leg became stronger and my knee joint more stable. I went for my first run outside in April this year, but ran secretly, away from home, because I didn't want people to know what I was doing. Running was something my husband had done while I sat and knitted - I hated exercise! I felt like I didn't really have the right to be doing it and was worried that people would find my efforts funny. It was too important to me to be laughed at, so I just plugged away on my own. Running made me feel connected to Mr JK but at the same time I often got hugely emotional afterwards, standing in the shower with tears pouring down my face because the one person I wanted to share my latest achievement with, I couldn't. Last month I had to 'fess up because I wanted to fund raise for the British Heart Foundation when I ran the Great North Run, and I was overwhelmed by people's response. Family and friends and people who usually live in my computer - from Blogland, Instagram and Twitter - were just so generous, and I have been truly humbled by it. 

The Yorkshire 10 mile race was something very personal for me as I was running in Mr JK's footsteps. The route followed the route of the marathon, splitting off at 5 miles and rejoining the marathon route for the last 4.5 miles. I had arranged to meet up with some running friends from Twitter and it was so good to see them. They have been amazingly supportive over the last twelve months, encouraging me from my earliest days as a complete newbie runner to achieving my first half marathon. We went out for dinner the night before the race for some carb loading!

The organisers at RunYorkshire were just amazing. I'd been in touch with them because I was dithering about the race and they very kindly gave me a VIP pass for myself and any friends who were coming with me to make my day easier. I certainly did feel special while I waited in the VIP lounge with a mug of tea and a Danish pastry before the race. 

I was feeling quite anxious because I hadn't run at all for the last month as my knee was sore after the GNR and was keen to get started to prove to myself that I hadn't forgotten how to run! There was another meet up with more Twitter friends just before we headed to our respective zones at the start...

It was a lovely day, not too hot and the support from the crowds was amazing. I lost count of the number of times people shouted out,'Come on Helen! You can do it!' and other equally encouraging words. It was just what I needed to hear and as I ran, I also thought of Mr JK and the fact that I was running just where he had a year earlier. Rounding the final bend towards the last half mile, I spotted three familiar faces in the crowd - Charlie, Sarah and Jules - who had all come up from Norfolk to cheer me on. It was just the boost I needed to get me to the finish line! The closing stretch was just incredible - crowds of people clapping, cheering and shouting my name! I managed to cross the line with a smile on my face but when the announcer then called my name and said that I was 'running for Rowley', the tears began. It's a day that I will never forget and I feel like I've gone full circle now, running in Mr JK's footsteps. I think he'd be proud of me.

So what have I learnt over the past year? I've learnt that I'm a lot tougher than I thought I was. I've kept going through some very dark days. Of course I'm not 'over it' - I don't think that you ever get over the death of a loved one. But that huge sense of loss is countered by your world gradually expanding so that you are eventually able to think about other things too. I miss Mr JK immensely and think about him every single day. Often without tears, but the tears still come and that's ok. I've also learnt that death makes some people very uncomfortable and many never refer to Mr JK at all, even though I want to talk about him and remember him. You really do find out who your friends are as people make promises to keep in touch and phone you, but you never hear from them. 'You know where I am if you need anything,' is another phrase that gets thrown out regularly, but it's really hard to admit to people that you're struggling. It is for me anyway. I have some good friends who have stuck by me and I wouldn't have got through this year without them. And I have also made some new friends which I'm really happy about. I know there will be plenty of challenges in the years ahead but I'm taking little steps to meet them. Thank you to you too for all your kind messages and comments over the past year. Just knowing that there are people out there who care really does help. xxx