Are *you* feeling the hexagon love?

Bizarrely, the best colours photo I’ve been able to get of this yarn is when my hand is also in the picture forcing the light levels (or so I guess).

hexagon socks in progress

I’m close to the end of the “smooth” hexagons on this sock. It’s shaping up to be a little baggy, however, I have (and I know this will shock you) followed the instructions pretty closely so far. Let’s see how they go: these may have to end up being “indoor” socks or a second layer with big boots. I’m liking how the colours are matching up – or *not* matching up, actually. No unexpected colour boundaries here, folks.

Even though these are my shiny new thing to knit, I’m already anticipating severe second sock syndrome, to the extent that I’m considering starting sock 2 once I’ve finished the smooth hexagons here. It could either be a Really Smart Plan or a really stupid plan that leaves me dazed and confused and gibbering in the corner with abject confusion. Only time will tell. I’m deferring the decision until I’ve actually finished the smooth hexagons.

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s The Procrastination.

In other “even though these are my shiny new thing to knit” news, I’ve also cast on something else.

work in progress - grey knitting


Can you tell what it is yet, kids?

An aside: we had a discussion in the office this morning about good festival acts we’ve seen. It’s no longer fashionable to say so, but I really enjoyed Rolf Harris’ performance when I saw him both at Guildford and at Glastonbury (although Glasto was hot & crazy-busy because everyone else had caught on by then). I also really liked his art. Clearly, I enjoyed these things not knowing how he was apparently behaving away from the public eye, but he was good at the stuff he did. It’s a damn shame.

No, it’s not the latest in chic gothic styled accessories… no wait… it kind-of is. Well, maybe not gothic on account of it’s not black, but the photo above made me think of a bat so I find myself going down this path. Arguably the end result (I’m hoping) will be a bit more steampunk than Goth – this will be a dark grey kinda-fitted waistcoat. I’ve been meaning to make one for a while, so clearly now that winter is over and the warmer weather is on its way I’m casting this on in the hopes that it’s completed SOMETIME IN JUNE. Because who *doesn’t* want another layer of aran yarn hugging them during the hottest months of the year?

I had another I-enjoy-knitting moment on Sunday night with this project as well (regular viewers will remember that the pink & purple yarn above is in the process of being re-knitted). Having worked on it all through the day (well, off & on and mainly during a skype meeting) and getting a good 6-8 inches up from the beginning (further than I am now) I decided that it was shaping up to be a fitted waistcoat for someone who is larger than me, so decided to undo and do the “large” size rather than the “extra-large” size where the measurements matched the size I know my chest to be. I did (round of applause or HIGH FIVE required here) remember to check my gauge before frogging, and it was bang on. So, well done to me. This is the WI aran which is sold through the large nationwide hobby supplies shop we don’t mention in front of artisan retailers in case it makes them come over all funny and I really like the way it’s knitting up. I got 2 massive balls so will probably be able to make everyone accessories to match my waistcoat, plus an extra one in their 3 for 2 offer which means I also have some bright red yarn. I *was* thinking a sophisticated match of the two yarns but actually red is the school colour for Excel Emmanuel and Forrester schools who partner with Porridge and Rice so I may just go into hat-knitting overdrive and send them out in dribs & drabs. Because, as we now know, the crazy kids in Kenya wear woolly hats when English people are sweltering in a skimpy thong.

Something I Really Like

Taking a leaf from‘s book (who I’m guessing copied it from somewhere else – I’ve heard other podcasters do something very similar) – HERE’s a thing.

Background: I have a general intention to raise my wardrobe game a bit at work – wear shirts rather than t-shirts, not wear jeans so much, generally dress a bit less like a Software Developer and a bit more like a BA/Solutions Architect who could reasonably be expected to be pushed in front of clients. Basically, if I want to do more work alongside my boss who wears a suit to work every day, I want to look the part a bit more. However, I’m clearly not going to turn the dial straight up to 11 or I’ll just get asked what time my interview is all the time.

At the beginning of last week I took a step I’d been meaning to take for a white and sent off for a blouse from Charles Tyrwhitt. Blouse arrives – is a plain white blouse as ordered. The fabric is smooth and lovely, the sleeves are long and luscious, it’s generally pretty lovely. Except that when I’ve got it on, I can’t put my shoulders back for fear of bursting out of it. It works, but it doesn’t fit terribly well. Also, a button fell off in the first half hour of putting it on.

I’ve had a brief look at Pepperberry, but their stuff, in spite of being fashioned for the larger-booby lady, also doesn’t feel like it fits super well. I may re-visit, I’m not sure.

I went shopping on Saturday to see what M&S had to offer – just in case they had something that wasn’t a terrible fit and that I didn’t have to get 3 sizes too big to accommodate the rack. My hopes, I have to say, weren’t high. They have form in this area, after all.


It’s fair to say that I made a discovery that made me SO HAPPY that I don’t believe I’ve been THAT HAPPY in a store changing room since… possibly puberty. Not since I developed these lumps on my chest that make things NOT FIT in ALL THE PLACES. M&S have styled 2 extra buttons between the normal buttons, only facing inwards in an invisible fashion, and called them the “no peep placket”.

Oh. My. Word.

In spite of the silly name, this is a goddamn REVELATION. No more gaping buttons for me. I may even get my sewing machine out and sew extra inside out buttons onto all my other blouses (er… when I get them) because, man alive this thing really works. Complete lack of gaping.

I could go on for a while, but suffice it now to end on I think this is a really very good idea, and I will be buying more blouses from M&S in the future. But probably not the mint green spotted one.


Nearly famous

On Wednesday, instead of going to Knit-night at Knit-wise like usual, I went to a Special Event organised by Knit-wise to launch their new status as stockist of Baaa-ram-ewe yarns. Held in a restaurant/tea rooms just around the corner, the event was very well attended, with 50 or so eager knitters attending, including all the people I know through knitting, and some people I knew from other things.

The yarn was very well pitched – it is indeed lovely yarn – and we were clearly meant to come away with the impression (which I’m sure is accurate) that although the yarn is made entirely of British wool (heads-up: wool can be scratchy), it’s very soft and drapey. A finished garment or accessory had been placed on each table, and select individuals were asked to model them. Fran, on our table, did a marv job – if only she weren’t so busy becoming the next Mary Berry of the crafting & jam making world she would be a shoe-in for the UK’s next Top Model.


I’m very tempted, and it’s good to know my LYS will be stocking the stuff. Watch this space.

So, there was a woman of about my age sat at the same table as me who I’d never seen before. I was chatting amiably to her, when my eye caught the rubber bands on her wrist. I saw “BLOODWISE” and a switch flicked in my brain.

That’s the charity Sam Heughan supports. I wonder if this lady is doing myPeakChallenge? I carried on staring surreptitiously at her wrist, for the clue was there. It turns out she is. So, when there was a suitable gap/segwayopportunity in the conversation (which was already going well, I thought) I took the opportunity to reveal that I had spotted that she was most likely an Outlander fan much like myself.

We compared who had read what – Nic (for that is her name) has put in more hard yards than me and has read All The Books, whereas I am rationing myself because otherwise NOTHING WOULD GET DONE EVER. On that note, I’ve just decided (you heard it here first, folks) that I need to set myself a target or reward at which point I get to read the next one. Otherwise I’m just punishing myself indefinitely. Maybe after I’ve read a non-Outlander book I get to read an Outlander book. But I digress.

As if that isn’t enough, I then also twigged that I knew the name on her t-shirt. Turns out Nic is also a podcaster WHO I LISTEN TO. Yarns from the plain is one of the several podcasts I listen to (admittedly somewhat sporadically) while doing the totally easy and not at all unpredictable and dull commute from Ormskirk to Knutsford. I went all groupie on her ass, and got Fran the not-famous-yet Model to take a photo of us.

…which I instantly made a mess of blurring and winged into the ether.

So – I met a famous person who I’m sure is heading to big and fantastic times with her new focus on running an independent yarn dyeing company and studying textiles (see I do pay attention a bit) and who shares (and clearly outstrips me in dedication terms) my unhealthy obsession with Outlander (“whatever, Mum, nobody cares”) and who makes a podcast. My plan now is to internet stalk her (Hi Nic!), buy her yarn, attend her fibre festival and generally scare the crap out of her.

Or not. Have you recorded the next podcast yet?

An aside – Justin at work said that Knit-night sounds like a super-strong treatment for nits (nit-knight). I know. He’s put that thought in my head, so I’m making you share the pain. It’s OK for you. I have to work with him. 

Adventures in knitting

I have finally got around to applying myself to what to knit with this fabulous yarn.

It’s Schoppel Crazy Sauberball sock yarn in indisch Rosa and, it turns out, is ridiculously hard to photograph in any kind of light. Even in quite strong natural light the pinky red turns a horrid orange. The photo below is the closest in colours as seen on my screen but quite honestly it could look awful on your screen and I would never know. The colour changes from a rish, deep purple to a sumptuous fuschia pink/red and then variegates on those themes. It was a ball I felt unable to leave in the shop, the shop being a yarn outlet in a garden centre in Solihull, and it’s been languishing in my stash for I think at least a year, because I hadn’t thought of a project that deserved it.

After many months of on and off thinking about it, I decided to flout my usual rule of keeping patterned yarns and patterned knitting for separate projects, and decided to go for Pomatomas, a Cookie A pattern from I’ve made these twice before, one pair I gave away to a university mate (who, I gather, has subsequently felted them, oh dear) and another pair for me in (I think) malabrigo, which are quite honestly a little bit large & have a tendency to “bag”. I wear them around the house or in the winter, with boots. I thought that the graduated colours would look fab, and the colour change is slow enough that the pattern wouldn’t get lost.

I was right.

However, my reckless approach to gauge (swatch? What swatch?) on this occasion has bitten me on the arse. It’s a stretchy pattern but, it turn out, not that stretchy. When I tried it on, having turned the heel (as you see here above) I could get it on, but I could *only just* get it on, it turns out. Also, the distressingly sudden colour jag you can see at the bottom of the picture disturbed me greatly, and I couldn’t think of an easy way around it. I know that for the most part this bit is likely to be hidden within shoes at times when other people can see them, but
1. I know it’s there, and
2. WTAF do you mean people aren’t going to be looking at my socks? and
3. I know it’s there and making me feel distressed.

In spite of it having been much admired at the knitting thing I went to on Wednesday (thanks, guys) I agonised for what will seem to others to be a surprisingly short amount of time before unleashing the frogs. The demi-sock has gone the way of the Norwegian parrot, it is an ex-demi-sock.

What, I hear you clamour, is plan B? That would be Hexagons (Ravelry link) by Kirsten Hall from “Think outside the sox”, a book I was given for Christmas in 2014. 

The socks are constructed with a series of hexagons where you pick up each one in turn to construct the main body of the sock, and then add in a toe & cuff in a semi-conventional fashion (or not – I haven’t actually read that far through the pattern yet. Again: reckless is my middle name). So far so exciting, and it’s working well with the colour gradations. One problemette is that I’m finding myself squinting quite a lot when doing the picking up for the next hexagon. I’m really, really hoping that it’s because the light was too dim and my eyes were tired rather than because I’m turning into one of those Old People who need reading glasses. I’m reasonably confident it is as I’ve not long had my eyes tested (in January or so) and I was perfectly fine then.

So – onwards & upwards. I managed 2 hexagons last night. Let’s see if I can beat that record and get 3 on there tonight.

Another link gone…

This winter has seen off another of my mother’s creations – a Celtic mask. It was hanging on a nail on the wall by the patio and when the trampoline went walkabout in one of this winter’s storms, it was knocked off with a fairly predictable outcome.

Lily tried valiantly to reassemble and glue it back together, but it became clear that that wasn’t going to really work. So on Friday I thanked it for its service, and consigned it to the bin.

Beyond its obvious value in being a connection to my mother, this piece had several other things going for it. It was one of her later pieces, which I had specifically chosen to own, as opposed to some of the things which have kind-of drifted into my possession. It was a departure from her usual style into things which she was hoping would appeal to a wider audience, and I’d say was largely successful. I also love that although it was a very successful recreation of Celtic style masks, I can see her “signature” style in it.

So: dear mask, thank you for scaring the bejeezus out of small children, and giving me a link to my mother for a few years:  I now send you on your way.  

I want your blood (well, not me so much)

In the run-up to Hallowe’en it seems appropriate to delve again into the world of free-flowing blood that is stem cell donation.

Just over 3 years ago I was lucky enough to be selected as a stem cell donor for an anonymous recipient on the continent, presumably (because if not, then it was quite cheeky) because they are/were suffering some form of blood cancer. Going along with the process seemed like a no-brainer to me, indeed at most stages I was really concerned that some reason would be found why I wasn’t a suitable donor, or couldn’t donate at that time. I still feel quite bitter about the time I was turned away from donating blood because I had a cold, even though I understand the reasons.

No reasons were found why I shouldn’t/couldn’t donate, so I had a lovely trip to London where the stem cells were sucked out of me. The hardest part about it was guiding the community nurse who had to visit me to the holiday cottage I was staying in, in Ludlow (which I didn’t know *at all*, and neither did she. Her: “I’ve just gone over a bridge into town.” Me: “I need more clues. All I know is I can see a castle from here.”) closely followed by remembering not to bend my arm when it had the big metal needle in it for 4 hours. Oh, and having a cannula stuck in my hand overnight in warm weather made me feel slightly like I could do with one of those cones the vets use to stop me gnawing my arm off.

But other than that, it was a breeze.

I go more into the pro’s and cons in my summary, written at the time.

So, why revisit it now? Other than to perpetuate the smug feeling a bit longer (I donated stem cells, did I mention that?), and join in with the general bloodthirstiness of Hallowe’en, my whole point in writing anything about any of this online is to encourage other people to put their hands up.

Sign up to be a bone marrow donor.

They hardly ever stick wide bore needles into your thigh bones these days. While it’s not a procedure for the needle-averse, it’s not properly painful and your worst enemy is boredom. I got through day 1 with Richard Herring interviewing Tim Minchin and laughed so much I nearly bent my arm (see above).

If you’re over 49, work on the young people you have in your life to get them to do it – you’re close to being over the hill as the cut-off, depending on which organisation wants your blood, is either 30 or 49 – but under that age you have no excuse.

Another reason why this is on my mind is that I’m lined up to give blood again for the first time since then, in a couple of weeks. You should (all) do that, too and if you already do then signing up for the bone marrow registry is super easy – just ask them about it while you’re there.  I’ve left it shamefully long, which is going to make it harder for me to hit my next milestone of 25 donations. My competitive self is giving me a good kicking about that, worry not.

So, I’ll say it again. Sign up to be a bone marrow donor. You may never get called, but if you do, you get to save a life. And you may get a free t-shirt.

Harvest number one

This is how the garden looked “before” this weekend’s gardening… The weeds are plentiful, the onions clearly need lifting, and it all needs a bit of TLC… …and this, below, is the “after”. This view shows how I’ve lifted all the onions and broad beans and dug over where they were. You can’t see where I’ve lifted the potatoes because they were at the back corner by the compost heap, but I assure you, ’twas done.
So, the empty patch where the potatoes were is at the left of the photo below.

To the right, with the flowers on, you can see the evidence that we really need to pull our fingers out and eat more things with rocket on/in. At the back you can see that the tomatoes are doing OK. I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to describe them as “thriving” but they are larger than they were and, crucially, not dead.
So, the dug-out patch below is where the onions and broad beans were. The rows at the back of the dug-over patch are garlic, some of which have now fallen over, so are ready to be picked. Behind that is a super-large clump of lettuce – we need to eat more lettuce!!  The carrots are ready, too, so I’ll have to dig them up soon as well. Next year I’d like to have more space and do more staggered planting – especially with the stuff like lettuce. I’ve managed it a bit, but I still seem to have over-catered by quite a lot.

This is the onion harvest – I’ve attempted plaiting them into strings, many of which are now hanging up in the shed. Fingers crossed I let them dry out enough that they keep a bit longer. And finally, these are some of the garlic I lifted on Sunday – they smell *gorgeous*, especially the little nuggets which have sprouted in the stems.

I’m hoping that further practice will help my onion/garlic plaiting skills…

Oh so stiff…

I had another time-ran-away moment in the garden today. Well, many moments: another incidence. 

  • Lily, Joel and I weeded the drive. 
  • I tidied up the tool shed and found some paper that some mice have shredded. 
  • I planted out the tomatoes into the ground and some pots. 
  • I planted out a courgette plant. Or 3. 
  • I moved some mulch. 
  • I set up a trellis for the tomatoes to cling on to. 
  • I planted more French beans. 
  • I planted chives, basil, coriander and dill. 
  • I ran out of compost. 
  • I decided that the peas have had more than enough time to germinate, and that the space will be given over to plants that show some willing. 


The tomatoes still look very sorry for themselves, but I’m hoping that’s just shock. I’ve watered them plenty, but not too much. 

Later on, I tried to get some pictures of Lily making massive bubbles. It’s harder than you’d think.    


garden update

Today I’ve expended so much energy in the garden I don’t have the energy to think of a snappy title to go with it. I started out tidying up the patio a bit by taking some weeds out, and then moved on to the weeds in the veggie patch.

newly planted rocket

This strip up the middle of the picture above had been planted with spinach at the same time as the onions (left) and shortly before the shallots (right) were planted. I’d left things to get a bit out of hand because I have no idea what newly sprouting spinach looks like. Before today, things had got out of hand enough that I could say with some confidence that *none* of the things that were growing in this space were spinach.

This is pretty disappointing, because they were new seeds – not ones that I’ve kept in a cupboard for 5 years, which has been known.

So I decided that enough was enough, and after I’d performed a weedathon across the two veggie patches, half of a new packet of Rocket was put in here. The archways of twigs are an attempt to stop the local cat population from digging them up under the mistaken impression that newly turned ground is an ideal place to poo!

carrots & lettuces

Much poo was removed from here, along with a lot of weeds. Removing the weeds uncovered the few carrots which appear to have germinated – you can see some here to the left of the poly tunnel – two rows were put in but looking at it we’ll be lucky to get 3 meals. Fingers crossed! The lettuce again, very disappointingly, have all but failed to grow. You can see a tightly knit cluster of 3 at the far end of the tunnel, and I moved one from the middle of the path to the far end of the row. I’ve put in another half packet of seeds of assorted lettuces in a couple of rows, and then put the tunnel over for anit-cat protection while they get going. The hydrangea heads are another attempt at an anti-cat device. They are quite flimsy so I’m not super-confident, but we’ll see. It’s possible they may make it just uncomfortable enough that the cats are deterred…

disappointing peas

The peas, as you can see, have so far been super-disappointing. Of 3 rows planted, I have had TWO PLANTS poke their noses above ground. They don’t even have the common decency to be in the same row. And, the large green thing you can see in the middle of the middle row is not a pea. OH NO. It’s a sodding potato.

I’m told that the peas may be slow to germinate because of the cold weather. They have either one day or a few weeks, depending on how energetic I’m feeling tomorrow. The space could be used for something a bit more enthusiastic. Like courgettes. Or tomatoes. Tomatoes are looking good right now.

On the theme of potatoes, the compost heap is doing us proud again this year. And appears to be a refuge for snails.

compost potatoes

I also pulled about 5 plants out of the winter onion patch. Fortunately, of the 3 I planted before the frosts were over, two potato plants have survived & appear to be thriving in their intended location, so I may have broken the intentionally-planted-potato curse.


And so to the overview – I put a couple of wind breaks in to “protect” the courgettes after taking away their poly-tunnel, as it was a bit blowy this morning. The beans have been wind-blasted to oblivion, I fear, so I will start some off again tomorrow and plant in the many wide gaps.

All in, it’s not looking too bad I think – could just do with a little more space which I will see to… presently!

We’re going to need a bigger boat.

Variable weather this weekend meant I didn’t really crack on with anything garden-like until Sunday. Saturday was earmarked for acquiring a smart new outfit for Joel to attend his first communion in – fortunately we found just the right style of pure white dress in the form of a spiderman suit with purple monocle, so there was plenty of time to have a make-me-favourite-parent lunch at MacDonalds before braving the rain on the way home.

Anyway – garden news.

strawberry terraces

On Sunday my plan was to “free” the strawberries and rhubarb – a thick carpet of weeds had grown up around them and all over Lily’s patch, so my happy plan was to dig out the weeds, expose the strawberries and give the rhubarb a bit more breathing space. That turned into “relocate the strawberries to the front of the veggie patch for most sunlight as you’re digging them up anyway” which then turned into “and terrace the patch and have another strip of strawberries because it turns out you’ve got LOADS in there”. So, they are salvaged, spread out and heavily mulched. I found a couple of old shelves in the garage to hold back the dirt and I think it looks more attractive than the previous sloped effect.

You can see from the picture above that not much rhubarb was freed up. More on that later, if I remember.

The onions and garlic I planted last autumn are going great guns – I’m now wondering how I know when they should be harvested. I’m sure a short amount of research will give me the answer…

onions, garlic and broad beans

On Monday I had a helper – she actually came out to help briefly on Sunday but interest waned pretty quickly. Monday was a longer session, with clearing of her little patch, planting a couple of plants and chopping back of the bush which is really really invasive.

Lily gardening

Here she can be seen planting a couple of “spare” courgettes next to some french beans.

beans & courgettes & garden architecture

As usual, I’ve totally over-catered on planting stuff in pots. I had about 20 french bean seedlings altogether. Some are sharing holes, there’s a row down the middle of the tunnel and Lily has 5 planted in her patch. Luckily we like beans – I hope these survive the cool spring we are having and are super-tasty. The cloche contains 4 courgette plants. I still have 8 in pots, so if anyone wants any, give me a shout. NOBODY wants a repeat of the great marrow glut of ’76 and I fear that’s where we are heading if I don’t offload some of these plants.


panorama – click to embiggen

So – the beds that I have are pretty full now. I’ve kind-of decided that the tomates are going to be in containers on the patio. Assuming I have enough containers and patio space, which let’s face it is quite the assumption, given how many I’ve planted. I have lots of seeds left to plant, though, and nowhere to put them. These include things like rocket, more lettuces (although new lettuces could go where the existing lettuces are, given that only a handful appear to have successfully germinated – grr!), fennel and squash. And I’m sure I can think of more things as time goes by. Possibly even some courgettes…

I have my eye on this bit of lawn. Watch this space!

doomed lawn

ps. The rhubarb? Has been mostly freed in what we in the half-arsed gardening trade like to call a half-arsed job.

pps. in other news, I got stung on the bot by a nettle. The nettle is now stewing in order to provide us with tasty nettle wine later in the season. I know, I’m not really convinced either, but I feel as though I ought to try it at least once…


I planted lettuce a while ago, and have been a little disappointed that there are no signs of life yet… (Click to embiggen)


Given the general apparently cat-based disruption in this area, and the single clump of sprouting things that could be lettuces, I’m quite concerned that the local cat population has sabotaged my attempts to grow cheap salad.

All I can say for now is “watch this space”. I may have to employ more active anti-cat measures in future as (predictably, some might say) a single piece of string along the row just isn’t doing the magic.

On the other hand, this is a view of the tomato seed tray I planted up at the weekend. I’m hoping these are both tomatoes – they appear to be in the right places, and so far don’t look like not tomatoes, and I used proper compost from a shop, so I’m quietly optimistic.