Made from scrap

Made from scrap
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Friday, 31 May 2013

Colourful Crochet

Things have not gone to plan this week.  We have had a wet Half Term week.   It means cabin fever creeps in and the floors get muddy.  We have been quite happily housebound.  When we have popped out we have got soaked for our efforts.  Today it is sunny with blue sky.  The chickens are on the lawn as even they have been cooped up for a few days.
         'Every cloud has a silver lining' they say.  While I was tidying, ahem, well attempting to tidy but there are too many distractions.  I found the thimble, it was in the vicinity of the sewing box.   We like thimbles back in their rightful place.
I also found a whole pack of 'Rico Creative Cotton' that had fallen behind a cupboard and been long forgotten.  So the housework got forgotten too and I played with colourful yarn instead.  It was a nice, neat new pack but I forgot to photograph it.   I still have plenty left to play with.

   I have wanted to explore crochet mandalas and had a go at Crochet with Raymond's free pattern for the 'African Flower Mandala'.  I think my colour choices were adventurous to say the least.
I followed this tutorial from 'Beckycafe'  the other Mandala.  Mandalas are the perfect procrastination project.  They are quick, cheerful and if you use 100% cotton they make functional pot holders.  I think there is something kaleidoscopic about them, as I was unsure what effect the next round of colour and stitches were going to have.  ( I still have all the ends to sew in but shhh don't tell anyone).  If you search Google images for crochet Mandalas there are some amazing ones out there.  You can get lost for quite a while just looking.          
          The following collage should probably carry a health warning.  Due to the shocking colours, the mismatched stripes and the not very round Mandalas, it seems to be triggering motion sickness for myself if I stare at it for too long.  I don't recommend scrolling up and down.  The 'stripes' are washcloths, you can't beat a 100% cotton, crochet wash cloth in my humble opinion.
Wet holidays are not all bad.  I really should go, too much yarn and too little time and a laundry mountain to tackle.  XXX

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Nemesis and Hunt The Thimble

  This photograph makes me laugh with it's unlikelihood.  The kitchen table.  The Iron and the Sewing Machine together in one shot, (and a Basil plant).  I got the ironing board out today and the dog ran away.  That is how accustomed she is to me ironing.  I think the ironing board is older than me though and it does open with an ominous creak and clatter.  I can count on my fingers how many times I have used the sewing machine and I have managed to break a needle already.   I have decided this machine has to be called 'Nemesis'.
         I had the brainwave that 'Napkins' for my trusty 'Picnic Basket' would be a good beginners project to teach myself how to sew.  With the help of the foolproof diagram that is actually printed and numbered in sequence on the machine, I can 'remember' how to thread her up.  Sometimes I could just lie down and quit at this stage though.  Threading a machine/needle can be as lucky as a 'hole in one' and then there are times when you really would think it would be easier to get 'a camel through the eye of the needle'.  I think I may need an eye test, threading a needle is getting increasingly challenging over the years. NB:  I have found the light!  On the sewing machine.  It makes threading the needle a lot easier! Tut!
 These fat quarter bundles found their way into my basket. I thought sewing 'napkins' would be 'a breeze'.   The penny has finally dropped about 'sewing'.  Measuring and ironing can outweigh the actual sewing part in time consumption.  Nobody told me that!  I spent hours measuring, pinning and pressing a 1/4 inch double hem on each napkin.  (I don't even know what quarter of an inch is as I am fully decimalised).  Ironing can be quite good fun when it is in preparation for sewing and the material is pretty.  Work clothes and school uniforms are almost impossible to iron.  Nemesis is allegedly capable of sixty different stitches, I am still at the stage of praying for mastery over just one of those stitches.
I would like to be able to show you six completed napkins, I really would.  This 'simple little napkin project' is dragging on a bit now.  I am not brave enough to machine sew the trim on each napkin.  It would be futile to try as I cannot even sew in a straight line.  The trim is to hide the 'bad bits' on some of the napkins on the others the 'bad bits' are already sufficiently disguised.  I decided Napkin No. 1, needed to be 'double trimmed' with ribbon and ric rac.  The ribbon has the white stitching already on it which kind of gives the illusion of some straight lines to the napkin.  Hand sewing never entered into the plan at the the start of this simple 'learn to use the sewing machine' project.  I really needed to use a thimble to help me sew through a double layer of trim and a double hem.  (Ouch, one finger is still recovering).  I found my silver thimble that was my grandmother's 21st Birthday present.  In fact it is my only thimble.  It makes sewing a lot less painful but much more awkward.  I think my grandmother was born in 1902, so it is an old and much loved thimble.  I last saw it a couple of days ago!  I found Euan wearing it. I took it off him and told him it was very old and I would not be happy if he lost it. I have not seen it since.  We are on Half Term break here for the week and today will include housework, a 'game' of 'Hunt The Thimble' and hopefully some more sewing later. . .

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Too Eggciting!

I was not really expecting an egg any time soon although Euan and I have noticed the 'girls' have suddenly grown up in the last week.  Instead of being nervous they have been coming out of the coop with a 'swag on', hens with attitude. Their combs have really grown and are bright red.  I also heard their first proper 'cluck' this week and it was rather noisy and assertive.  I went up the garden last night with a torch to say goodnight and fox proof the coop for the night.  These girls have high security living conditions!  I shone the torch into the nest box to complete the head count...yep both chickens present and correct and an egg!  It is very exciting to find the first egg, well I think so anyway.  It was a very small egg but none the less an egg.  'The Egg' is the one on the left next to a commercial egg,  Euan couldn't quite believe me this morning when I woke him up and showed it to him.  He shot out of bed, donned his dressing gown and wellies (rather a good look) and ran up the garden.  He was delighted to find two more eggs.  Chickens are the perfect pets with benefits.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

A Ramble About Bluebells And Blossom (and maybe some other stuff thrown in for good measure).

Last weekend we enjoyed a scorcher of a Bank Holiday.  Very unusual for the UK.  We are usually washed out ( a bit like this weekend).  I got up nice and early to walk the dog.  I was rewarded by seeing my first Bluebells of the year.  I do love Bluebells. I used to pick great big bunches of them when I was a little girl and give them to my Nana.  She would patiently tell me that she preferred to see wild flowers growing and not in a jar but I was a one for picking flowers.
I have no idea what this flower is but I like it, what a deep colour.  I have some Merino fibre dyed this colour somewhere.  It is left over from one of my first handspun projects.  I blended Natural Grey Gotland fleece with dyed Merino and crocheted a very warm shawl.

   I have used 'Wild Flowers' as inspiration for creating handspun yarns, Daffodil, Beaded Flower Meadow and a Beaded Cherry Blossom yarns. I will write a separate blog post about them.  I would like to spin a 'Bluebell yarn' one day but I have too many projects to get on with for now.
The dog loves the meadows and so do I.  We know about the wildlife down here, especially the fox!  I have seriously gone off foxes.  Lacey likes to chase the rabbits, squirrels and birds.  She never comes close to catching anything but it does not stop her from trying.
This May blossom stretched right around the meadows.  Today one week  later this blossom has all gone.
Lacey simply will not pose for a photograph, but I worked out the best way to photograph her is not to want her in the shot,  then she will pop up all over the place in front of the camera.  I wanted to photograph the Horse Chestnut trees, or Conker Twees as they are commonly referred to in our house.  I have seriously lost count of the amount of times Euan has got stuck in these very trees.  It never seems to stop him from climbing them again and I always know what is coming next.  'Never work with children or animals' they say.
My Mom used to walk to this church for Sunday School,  from about the age of four, with her older brothers and her friends.  My family have been walking around here for decades.  Times have changed, Euan will soon be nine and I would not let him go so far from home.
I really was pleased to see my first lone clump of Bluebells for the year but nothing beats a woodland carpet of Bluebells in my opinion.  They have a really lovely fragrance too.
 Wild Garlic in contrast to the Bluebells don't arf pong.  It seems to be having a great year this year and is growing in abundance.  I harvested some, finely chopped it and sprinkled it over tomatoes, aubergine and courgettes, drizzled with olive oil it was delicious roasted.  Henry made the mistake of picking it and putting it in his coat pocket once when he was little and the smell seemed to intensify, it was rather aromatic!
I usually pause on the bridge over the river and see if I can spot a Kingfisher.  I have seen one a couple of times here, but not for a long time.  I would love to see the flash of bright, electric blue again one day.  For the whole walk the birds were busy singing.
  Back home I am greeted by this llittle apple tree.  My Mom gave it to me about five years ago for my birthday.  The variety is 'Greensleeves'.
My Mom is a 'musician' although I have not heard her play for years.  When she was younger she played the piano and clarinet in an orchestra and performed in concerts.  She worked as a music teacher in a school and we would also have students come to the house.  I can remember her playing 'Greensleeves' on an old piano that used to be in our living room.  She would  hum 'Greensleeves' as a lullaby to me when I was small.  This may be too much information but she actually hummed it to me when I was in the throws of labour having Henry.  I am not sure it did much to calm me down but I can remember her trying.  It is one of my favourite pieces of music.
             I have never seen so much blossom on one little tree.  My Neighbour has two apples trees and they have hardly any blossom.  Apple trees are a bit like that, you have to make the most of the good years.
Most of the buds are now open and the petals will soon fall like confetti.  I am glad I remembered to photograph the blossom before it is gone.  I will be sorry to see it go but after a patient wait for a few months the apples will be delicious.  I am rather getting my hopes up there will be loads of them.  I have plans for those apples.  To the left of the apple tree is a plum tree.  I was really disappointed as it has only had two flowers this year.  You can't win em all.  I am going to have a very long wait for some plum jam.
           I really should give you a quick update on my other 'Bluebell and Blossom'.  I am pleased to report they have settled into the coop happily.  They are no longer terrified and they are more than happy to oblige me in some 'chicken chat'.  They seem to be growing well and I am not surprised as they are packing away enough food.  I can pick both of them up and they do not mind at all.  I have not let them 'free range' yet because I think they are still too young and flighty (yes contrary to popular belief chickens can be flighty).  I don't want to lose anymore chickens.  I think we are still a long way off any eggs as they are so young.  They were sold as at 'point of lay' but I think I was a bit naive.  These girls can't even cluck in a grown up fashion let alone lay an egg.  They do make the garden feel like a happier place though.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Care Instructions

I spotted these labels and  had the 'wantsies' very badly.  I ordered them from Leafcutter Designs and they arrived today.  I think they are very cute.  I just need to work on acquiring the woodstove.  If you follow the link you can read about some very interesting projects for environmentally friendly clothes.  Sadly the large majority of my clothes are mass produced.  If I could only wear hand made clothes I would look like a sack of rags as my sewing skills are non existent.  I made one skirt at school, many moons ago and it was not even wearable.  I used a rather nice herring bone tweed.   I miscalculated the waistband somehow and had great trouble sewing the 'darts'.  I also hit my finger a few times with the machine needle and that hurts.  My machine sewing days were over before they even began.
      I saw this photograph over at Paloma Textiles, I think I could rustle up this sassy little crochet number.  I have always had a secret yearning for a pair of Granny Square trousers.
      I also love the work of One Man Crochet, you should really check this blog out.  Matthew is obsessive about crochet, by his own confession.  He runs a social crochet group in Cardiff and used to teach crochet lessons.

I think you either love or hate this look, personally I love it and wish everybody dressed like this.  I am sure it would go down a bomb in my home town if I stepped out wearing a Crochet Ripple tunic with Granny Stripe trousers.  The odd flip flops and the yarn bombed staff do it for me too.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Bluebell and Blossom are slowly settling in. . .

Here is Blossom and Bluebell ready for day three in their new home.  Bluebell has the blue leg ring.  I can actually tell these ladies apart because they have got different markings.  They are 'Rhode Rocks' a Hybrid.  My other three 'ginger' chickens were like clones.  With the first chickens I was amazed to discover each chicken had her own personality and we really bonded as we had them since they were eggs.  They were very used to being handled as they lived in our living room for 6-8 weeks!  They were in a brood box under a heat lamp, they did not free range around the house.  I am not quite that dotty.  There was  one day when the dog opened their gate and invited them into the house last Summer.  I never fall asleep on the sofa but I did that day.  I woke up to find two chickens watching the television (they always loved the tv) and there was another happily exploring the kitchen.  The dog looked mightily pleased with herself.  I am sure they saw me as 'The Mother Hen' and I felt the weight of responsibility.  They always greeted me with abundant enthusiasm.
         I do not look at a live chicken and think 'dinner'. . .well not very often any way.  When the others sat under the sage bush, I could not help thinking about the delicious combination.  . .baaaadddd chicken mama!  I can't believe I love chickens but still eat chicken.  Euan has a policy 'we do not eat animals that we know'.   That is quite noble and good news for the dog and the budgie.  I think in an ideal world we would only eat animals we know, then we could be sure that the animals we ate had lives free from 'pain or distress'.  I am not cut out for farming at all however much I like to think I am and the whole 'to eat meat or not to eat meat debate' is a massive and often controversial topic.  Having 'pet' chickens has made me realise they are not a food product, they are happy, intelligent, sentient beings that are able to experience pain and pleasure.  My girls used to like a trip to the 'Beauty Salon' and enjoyed a 'wash and blow dry' pamper experience and would happily cluck away under the hair dryer.
         Blossom and Bluebell are very different to our previous chickens.  They don't know me at all yet and it is a bit sad that they think I am very frightening.  I had not seen them venture out at all.  Euan had a steady stream of children going up and down the garden last night to show off his new 'sisters'.  I think all of the kids on our street have had a formal introduction now.  He assured me he had seen them both out and eating and drinking.  I went up to the coop this morning to take a photograph of them huddled in the next box.  I was surprised to see them out, they were surprised to see me too but they did not run away.  I am talking to them in my 'nicest, as reassuring as I can get' voice and I am telling them nice things.  I don't think it would be a good idea for me to transcribe a 'chicken chat' for you because you never know who is reading your blog and I do not want the men in white coats to arrive to take me away.  I haven't heard a cluck yet but they are making cute little 'coo's and peeps'.  This morning they looked a little bit interested in what I had to say rather than just plain terrified and they chatted back a tiny bit, so I think we are making progress.  I know I need to handle them regularly so they are not afraid but I really don't want to traumatise the poor things.  I can't trust them to free range yet because catching a terrified chicken is no easy task.
 I am amazed my little apple tree is not so little this year and it is smothered in blossom.  Soon the garden will have oodles of fruit that the chickens can  happily  gorge themselves on.  A chicken doing standing jumps for the fattest raspberry is quite a sight.  We will be competing to harvest the blackcurrants too. It is all happening in the garden again.  I have seedlings and vegetable plants and lots of chicken wire.  It is a long weekend as Monday is a Bank Holiday. . . I do love a Bank Holiday.  
Hope you are having a good weekend.  XXX   

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Happy Days

Euan has an extra day off school today as it is the local elections and his school is a polling station.  I had a dream last night that was very realistic.  I dreamt that I found two of our old chickens alive and well.  I was so happy to see them.  When I woke up I was a bit sad.  Of course chickens do not come back after a visit from Mr Fox.  The dream planted a seed.  What do you do with a beautiful, sunny, extra day off school?  Firstly Euan wanted to visit my Aunt who has been really unwell.  Thankfully she is on the mend and it was lovely to see her.
      Then off we went in search of some new 'chickens'.   I did not promise we would get any.  Euan is a chip off the old block and loves animals.   Once we saw the chickens for sale there was no way we were coming home without any.  We managed to choose only two.  That will be quite enough for starters.  These two ladies were in a pen with about thirty mixed hybrids.  They were sat on the same rung of a ladder together and they looked like firm friends.  It was a fairly easy decision. I am sure the guy said they are 'Barred Rock' chickens but I have just googled and they do not look like the pictures that came up.  For now we have mystery chickens.  They are at point of lay, which makes them about five months old.
      Euan hugged the box all the way home and he is very glad to have 'chicken sisters' again.  He was promising them a good life and told them he would treat them like queens.  By the time we got them home he had named them, Blossom and Bluebell.  We have both had a cuddle with each of them and I have put rings on their legs to help know who is who.  They must be tired and frightened as they are very gentle.  We have made the coop lovely again and they have moved in.  They do look frightened though, so we have left them to have some peace and quiet.  When I have finished writing this post I am going to make mugs of tea and we will go and chat to them up the garden.  
I think this smile says it all.  I am delighted to be a chicken mama again too.  I will not be forgetting to lock the coop ever again!