Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Bathroom is Finished

After almost five years between houses, living in rented accommodation, it is great to have a white bathroom. If you've ever rented, you will probably know what I mean. In our previous house, there was a carpet in the bathroom which had seen better days. If I'd owned the house, it would have been ripped out immediately, but because it was rented, it had to be nursed along.

We're a bit campervan mad in our house. This picture is a framed tea-towel: a very inexpensive way of getting a picture since tea-towels come in the most weird and wonderful designs. I've noticed that price inflation on prints seems to be running away with itself. I'm happy to support local artists, but I'm not paying £20 for a non-original print which has just been run off on a laser printer.

The absolute best thing about this bathroom is the smell. No more mouldy carpets, and dampness in the bathroom cabinets. This bathroom smells of my home made soap. Here are a few hearts of it, sitting in the first basket I made. Basket weaving is a bit like crochet in its repetitiveness. I went on a one day course to learn it.  Technique is easy to understand but difficult to master, and get the "stitches" even. Evidence above: the wonky basket.

On the shelf here are a couple of crochet face-cloths. Other people use these in the kitchen but I find that they are soft enough for face washing. Must be made in pure cotton: chain enough stitches for the size required (about a normal facecloth) and then row after row of whatever you prefer - treble
for these. Sometimes I finish them with a scallop or picot edge, but these are plain.

Sunday, 28 November 2010


I'm wearing 3 holey cardigans; the heating is at max; the cats are asleep along the tops of radiators; Mr Frosty smiles at us through the window.
"Can I bring Mr Frosty in?", says the toddler, "He's cold!".

I've been trying to knit again. I tried knitting gloves last year using double pointed needles, and after a few reverses back over the stitches I'd just knitted, I gave up.
"What are you knitting?", said the woman in the wool shop,as I bought a huge amount of wool for a blanket."I can't knit! - it is much too stressful!", I shouted, and then as she took a step back from me with a "nutter!" look in her eyes, I calmly said "I crochet."

So after trying out circular needles this weekend to try to knit gloves again, all I can say is that enough is enough. I'll go nuts if I try to knit again - too much can go wrong all at once - whole rows falling off the needles. At least with crochet, you can only go one stitch wrong at a time. So never again. I crochet only from now on

Sunday, 21 November 2010

First Christmas Decorations are Up

I'll have to whisper this in case Santa hears and sends my presents back to the North Pole - I hate putting up Christmas decorations. Everyone else is keen to "get the decorations up" but after they've put the 100th ball on the tree, their enthusiasm starts to slow, and I end up adding red bauble, red bauble, silver bauble....ad infinitum it seems.

So this year I have a plan. I'm sneaking the decorations up one or two at a time. Here are the first - a little wooden heart with a Santa brought home recently by my Mum from Germany.

And here's a simple home made one, seen here hanging on its bird friends who sit on my desk. It is a little cut out of cardboard bird made from instructions in Country Living. Really, it is very simple - cut out a bird shape from cardboard - best if you have any tame children to draw it for you - then you can claim the imperfections as "charming" rather than just a rubbish bird shape.
Then make a little horizontal slit where wings attach to body, and poke a little folded up fan of paper through. Then tie on something to hang it up with. Make it as fancy or plain as time and finances allow.

I Spy a Wooden Floor

Now, my dad should know better by now: "Don't dare rip up that good carpet!", he said.
Hmmm. He would have been better saying "That carpet is disgusting - old fashioned and dirty - get it ripped out immediately!" I never do what I'm told.

Now look away if you have a sensitive disposition - here is my old carpet. Perfectly nice when installed sometime in the 1980's around the time of the first Royal Wedding.

I spy under the carpet a rather nice wooden floor.

So, here I am decorating the livingroom. Stripping wallpaper is evil work, especially when the paper was vinyl, and it is essentially a top layer of stretchy plastic. It seems to create a very gloopy sticky papier mache. You can tell what I've decided to do with the carpet by the fact there are no dust-sheets down.

Beginner's Crochet Wristwarmers

So, you have a wool bag of old scraps of wool, little balls of wool too small to make anything. What can you make?

Something to keep your hands warm.

Here are my new wristwarmers. The "pattern" is so simple, that a complete crochet beginner could do this. I'd like a cashmere pair of these from Brora, but at £40-£50 pounds, I'm scared I'd lose them, so each winter, I make a few pairs of these.

Last year I did have cashmere home-made ones, lime-olive, as I call the colour - about the same colour as the pale green in these new ones. In Bruges, I washed them, and horror - tumble dried them - they made good pan scourers after that. Moral of the story - don't use unfamililar tumble driers.

Now, as Mr Prim likes to point out, I do have unnaturaly long fingers, so I don't want you to make them the same size as mine, because it is likely that they would be too big. I'll explain how you can make them the right size for you.

These ones, took 44g of wool. I know that because I weighed them on my kitchen scales. So a 50g ball of wool should make 1 pair. I used Rowan double knit wool.

I used a 5mm hook and cast on 30 stitches, but as I've said, I have unnatural hands. To make them your size, make a crochet chain which fits snugly around your hand between your knuckle joint and the first joint on your finger. You want to make sure that the bit of the glove which sits at the top of your hand is quite snug. Too tight and it will be annoying, and too loose and it will flap around. So make it snug but not too tight, and then chain another 2.

My initial chain was 28 plus 2 = 30, so the next row was 28 crochet stitches. If you want me to guess an "average" female hand, I'd say 25 plus 2.

The beauty of these wristwarmers is that all you are doing is crocheting a rectangle. You can use any crochet stitch you fancy. I used a half treble, but you could use double, treble, a shell stitch, like my ill-fated Bruges cashmere ones, or anything else which takes your fancy. You can make them in huge biggy wool (but they'll make your hands look huge) or you can make them in a very fine ply (which will take forever). Just make an initial pair in any old wool you have, so that you can see if you like them.

So you have your 28 stitches, or whatever is right for you, and you just keep going up, until you have the right length for your hand. Just keep counting the number of stitches in the row now and again. I crochet a lot, and I still make pyramid shapes when my concentration lapses, and I forget to count. Here's another wristwarmer, ready to be sewn up, just to give you an idea of the shape you are looking for.

Once they reach the correct length, sew in the ends which is tedious if you have made colour change ones like me, and then turn the crochet right sides together, into a glove shaped tube, and sew up, leaving about a 4 cm gap for the thumb-hole.
You can get a bit fancy,and do a single or double crochet round the thumb hole, or round the top and bottom. You could do a fancy border if you know how to do that.

Really, the beauty of this "pattern" is that you just make it up as you go along.

Monday, 1 November 2010

The Big Granny gets bigger and then smaller

The big granny was just a little bit too small for my double size bed. It just covered the bed plus another few inches on each side. That looks ok in photographs but in practice, in the morning I often find it bunched in the middle of the bed. It needs more of an overhang.

Problem One with the big granny is that the wool is quite expensive. Each round is currently costing about £4 and it can only get worse as the big granny gets bigger.

Problem Two with the big granny is that I finished it with 3 rounds of red, and now that I want to make it bigger, I should really rip out 2 rounds of red, and then start again with single colour rounds. I've almost put two new complete rounds of lilac on, and they don't look right, so off the come. Four rounds coming off.

Problem Three is that I have only red and lilac now, so need to get at least another 2 or 3 colours - shhhh - don't tell Mr Prim :) As my teenage daughter says "You don't actually NEED more wool! You just WANT it." Hmmm. How can I argue with that?

Where were all the Spooks?

What happened to all the spooks and witches this year? We bought in lots of little spooky sweets, put the pumpkin on the doorstep to show we were spook friendly, and waited, and waited.....
Nothing! No spooks! No witches!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Concrete Heart

The previous owners left a concrete heart shaped planter on the doorstep. It was planted with pink flowers which are not really me - but perfect for "Hens and Chickens" and stones collected from the beach in Aldeburgh late this summer.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Decorating the Kitchen

In my day job, I'm a software project manager. We follow a fairly new kind of software development which is a bit like prototyping, so that we design a bit, code a bit, show it to the customer, see if they like it, then design a wee bit more, etc etc. That's a bit like how I decorate. I've never been one of these people who get someone in, and design a complete room at once. My rooms evolve gradually with gradual decorating.

So, in the kitchen, I've taken off the wallpaper - thick foamy brown wipe clean fake tile effect - "windmill wallpaper", Mr Primrose and I call it, after the same design but augmented with windmills in our old 2 up 2 down in Lancashire. I always hope to find secret messages under the wallpaper, but only got "W/M", "20-->" etc in this kitchen. My mum found pre-war newspapers under carpets in her house, and amazingly she said that when she once helped her auntie strip 12 layers of wallpaper in her flat, the final layer was newspaper. But nothing like that here.

So, the first stage is that the wallpaper is off, the walls are painted pure brilliant white. The clock is up on the wall, and the bunting is up. My dad plumbed in the dishwasher for me and apart from a massive flood covering the kitchen with 3 inches of water, literally 2 seconds after he had said "That's it, ready! Not a drip!", things are going well. After trying to justify to my dad why I needed to have a stainless steel Smeg dishwasher, and failing miserably to justify it, we went to B&Q and bought a bargain £150 dishwasher off the shelf.

Next stage is to plumb is to plumb in the belfast sink I've owned since 1996 and brought with me on 6 house moves - these things weigh a ton, and the Pickfords guys just look at me with a swear in their eyes and a "you're joking!" when they have to move it. Mr Prim won't let me spend £36 on a unit for the belfast sink, so I have to wait till he carpenters the old one (i.e. saws it in half). Yes, everything we do is on the cheap!

More later with pictures when I get broadband on Tuesday (hopefully - fingers crossed). It is BT though and they seem terminally confused - instead of 5A Out Street Name, we have been getting bills for "5A Bournemouth Telephone Exchange" for the last 5 years - I kid you not!

After 5 Years of Procrastination, I've Moved

Yes, 5 years of procrastination, reading property papers and scouring online, I have at last managed to not only choose a house but get a mortgage for it and move in. This is my 23rd house move since I left home at 17, and most definately the worst move ever. Mortgages are a complete nighmare to get at the moment, even if you have a 100% perfect credit rating like we do - doesn't mean we have money - just that we are well-behaved financially. We secured our mortgage funding with literally days to go.

So, we moved in 2 weeks ago, and the house still looks like a scene from the "before" in "How Clean is Your House?", where some poor unfortunates live with hundreds of un-opened boxes. There is not a room in this house which is organised. In my mind, it's a lovely house, all grey and cream loveliness, but in reality it is a disorganised mess. And don't even think about the wallpaper and carpets. The lovely couple we bought the house off were 87. They have maintained it very well but you know what the carpets and wallpaper are like without me having to tell you - its "granny house" flowers and stripes.

The old couple lived here for 40 years, bringing up 5 children in this house, and they must have liked it because they didn't want to leave. They only moved because they couldn't manage the stairs, and have moved literally yards away into a retirement flat along the road. Problem is that the front door and garage door are painted the most disgusting pinky-red and I am itching to paint it, but they are only just along the road, so I don't want to start visibily ripping the place up yet.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Rowan Summer Crochet: Hydra

Can you spy it in the trees? Yes, at long last, I have actually managed to crochet a garment I would not be embarassed to wear. This is the Hydra pattern from Rowan's new Summer Crochet book, apparently their first book dedicated to crochet. This is great for crochet freaks like me. I don't really want to spend money on a knitting book that just happens to have one or two crochet patterns in it.

This is crocheted in 2 parts, front and back, and then the neck and sleeve bands are crocheted on once the tank top is sewn up.

The initial band is a bit of a killer to crochet. It is done on a 2.5 hook, which if you're used to using 5s or 6s for blankets, seems awfully small. It is not difficult, just never ending. However, once you've got over that hurdle, then it is easy and fast, just treble, chain, treble, chain, all up the body.

The neck and armhole shaping need care in counting, but if I can manage it anyone can, lol.

The neck band is quite plain, but the arm bands are a delight, and really make the tank top into something a bit special.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Little White Crochet Blanket and a New Dotty Project

Here's where I am so far with the little white crochet blanket, and I have to admit that I'm not really enjoying it. With the stripey blankets, there is always the excitement of adding a new colour and seeing how it interacts with the previous colours.

I think I'll persevere with this, but I need to take a break from it. It does have a great crunchy texture, and I think it is going to look great on my white bedlinen.

So I phoned my mum, and asked her if she could go down to the pound shop and get me a ball of blue wool, so that I could experiment. "A ball of blue plastic wool?" she said. Hmmm, lol, not everyone is buying into the use of this cheap acrylic wool.

Here's the idea I have: a spotty pattern - will let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

House Hunting and New Wool

I'm back after a couple of weeks away, house hunting. We had an offer accepted on a house, and I'd even started packing boxes, maybe a bit too prematurely. The survey came back and was bad: new electrics required, plumbing very old and a bit suspect, damp in the bathroom, floorboards and joists rotted though, and worst of all, the deal breaker: a new roof required. Problem was that it was already at the top of our budget.

Oh well! Start again.

In the meantime, I've got some new wool, a white synthetic, bought for £1 a ball at the pound shop. Yuk! Yuk! I can hear you thinking. And I have to admit, I wasn't convinced at first, but it is crocheting up really nicely: all white vintage stripe, except there aren't any stripes.

Worst of all, I've lost the charger for my camera, and cannot take any pictures at the moment, which has put me off blogging.

Back soon with some white stripe pictures, and some pictures of the newly finished, and not at all bad, crochet vest top.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Sunday: No Cost Conservatory Makeover

On Sunday, we interspersed playing in the garden in the heat, with a no-cost makeover of my mum's conservatory using things we found in the house and shed.

Previously it contained heavy, flowery, rather dated 1980's style curtains, green painted furniture, and a lot of boot room/porch junk, like scarves, hats, coats, vases, etc. Although it is on the side of the house, my mum's house like lots of Scottish houses faces its back to the wind and rain, and you have to go round the back to get in the front door, if you know what I mean. So people tend to come in the side conservatory, and leave their coats and things there.
So, here's what we did: "Mum?", I said tactfully, "Do those curtains have white linings? Maybe they'd be nice hung up on their own. They'd look like white cotton curtains". And after bleaching, they seem to be quite nice. Here they are:

Just outside the window, sheltering from the inevitable rain we had later, in the woodpile, you can spy a little white chair. These were previously green. I painted them with some white paint, and I think they look nice now. The old pine in the picture is a bench at the table, which is actually an old church pew.

Here are the chairs perched out in the woodpile. I had to paint them with gloss, because that is all that was available, and it is quite a smelly paint, so we left the chairs outside for a couple of days.

Then, while the paint was drying and the curtains were bleaching, we took some photos around the garden:

and put them in old clip frames to hang on the conservatory wall

above an old blue plant pot, waiting for a new plant to fill it,

above an old cupboard, that used to belong to my gran. She probably bought it in the 1930's. It wasn't an expensive piece of furniture, so we painted it a nice soft cream, using emulsion. It will need an eggshell top coat eventually, but we were 30 miles from the nearest paint shop, and trying not to spend any money. The little cupboard now contains all the hats, scarves etc that were lying around.
The little label is a wooden sign of my mum's saying something like "leave room for the angels to dance in your garden".

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Saturday at the Beach and some Crochet

We were in Northumberland on Saturday. Went to the beach at Boulmer, walked along the sand, collecting my favourite shells : little limpet shells, and then we into the lifeboat station for a cup of coffee. They were having a little coffee morning, with delicious home-made cakes. "Go in there", an old guy on the beach shouted to us "The Victoria Sponge is delicious". And it was.

I noticed a lot of grey: The skies were pretty much grey all day, and it was not warm, but despite that, I seem to have caught the sun from my little walk on the beach. When I say "caught the sun", it is not that I go brown, just that my freckles join up.

The buildings in Boulmer are lovely old grey stone, weathered by the sea. It is a real fishing village,with the boats hauled out of the sea by tractors sitting on the sand.

I finished the back of my little crochet jumper. It is looking ok, and I am happy with it. To be honest, I'm not sure about crochet clothing, so we'll see how it goes. The pattern is quite difficult at the edges. It is probably obvious to other people, but the "treble in next but one chain space" seems to be confusing my brain, lol.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

A Little Whitewashed Shed in a Flower Garden

We had this little shed delivered this week, and in the unexpected heat of an Edinburgh Saturday, we put it together and painted it. It is perched rather haphazardly on the grass here, but has now been moved to the pathway at the back of the house, where it will look after lots of little scooters and bikes and keep them out of harm's way of the rain. It is a "budget" shed from one of the DIY superstores, but I think it looks rather nice painted this soft white. I can see a little row of them, all different colours, with numbers on them, like little beach huts.

Just above the shed you can see the first rhodedhendrons of the season. Ours seem to be very late flowering this year. Here's a long distance shot - with the shed moved away - just look at the mess the blossom has made, lol. My 2 year old squeals with delight when it "rains flowers".
Here are some rhodedhendrons in a local garden, of this beautiful old stone house (not my house). These pink ones are so brightly coloured, they almost look artificial.

I'll take some more pictures of mine later this month when they have flowered. This house we live in and adore is not ours, but a rented house. We are truly lucky to live here with this flowering garden.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Little Snapshots of Edinburgh

A day off work. In the middle of the week. Children in nursery/school. Luxury. I'm almost never on my own for a whole day, and I confess that I am at something of a loss. So, a little trip to the library first - always a treat (I am easily pleased, lol). I get to park in Victoria Street, a double decker street - perhaps one of the most beautiful streets in the city. Above the pastel painted lower buildings lies another street, essentially a big balcony. Yesterday was a bright sunny day, and I was in work, and today its a bit grey and not at all good for taking pictures.

Victoria Street is home to the delightful K1 wool shop - it stocks only good wool: alpacas, wools, fair trade wools and I could easily spend a fortune here. Thank goodness it was closed, but I just have to say that it was awfully nice of them to paint it in my favourite Aga Blue colour.

Down at the bottom of Victoria Street in The Grassmarket, two British style icons sit close together: a red telephone box and a blue Dr Who police box.

Crossing the lovely cobbled road, I avert my gaze from the Vintage Emporium: Armstrongs, another Edinburgh institution. It looks like a little shop but is a very long narrow shop containing billions...billions of lovely vintage items. Want a vintage velvet jacket - they have a hundred to chose from etc. Although open, luckily for the old wallet, my parking ticket is about to run out - two pounds to park for one hour! I head home for a cup of tea.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Crochet Cardigans - A Never Ending Saga

Crochet clothing - maybe a step too far? Much as I love my crochet blankets, there are only so many a girl needs: I think I have 8 and one unfinished at the moment, although I may have forgotten one or two, lol.
So, I've been thinking about crochet clothes. I like a holiday project, so last summer in France, I made not one but two crochet cardigans from a free pattern on Ravelry. However, they were a BIG disappointment. The first one, in Debbie Bliss cashmerino, bobbled a lot when I first wore it, and then shrunk in the wash, and the second, even though the same pattern, came out a funny shape. I threw them both into textile recycling in disgust, so don't have any pictures.
Then, last year on my autumn holiday in lovely Alnwick, I started to make this shrug, from some absolutely lovely Rowan DK blackest black wool, but I could not for the life of me figure out how to join the motifs together and a google search revealed that other people might be having the same trouble. So, another disaster.

The, another holiday, another crochet cardigan. Bruges this time, and bored with the summer granny squares blanket, I decided to make it into a cardigan. Hmmm - nice colours, but far too bright to be worn as a garment on my 40 year old body. What was I thinking? I might try to make it into a bag, lol.

For the price of these 4 cardigans worth of wool plus £20 for a crochet book, I could have bought a very nice cashmere cardigan at the droolingly beautiful local shop Brora.

But don't get me started on cashmere. I bought two cashmere cardigans at John Lewis at Christmas time. One lasted 2 weeks before it accidentally got washed in a normal wash and shrunk to doll size (and I'm nowhere near doll size, lol), and the other developed holes in it after 2 months. I suspect that JL cashmere is just chain store rubbish and to get decent quality I would have to go to Brora, but I'm on a spending freeze, and could never justify a week's food shopping on a cardigan anyway.

So, I'm back here again, hacked off with my holey cashmere, and hoping that I can crochet something. I decided to start with a very simple pattern, and to use EXACTLY the right wool. I'm terrible for substituting wool and hoping that it will turn out. The pattern is from the lovely Rowan Summer Crochet which my mum bought for me: Rowan's first dedicated crochet book, and I have high hopes for it.

So I'm making it in the correct wool, even the correct colour, but all the same colour, rather than the highlights of blue etc. Time will tell.