Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick message from me, now you're off enjoying your breakfasts and presents and festivities, hopefully with all your loved ones.

Merry Christmas and have a fabulous New Year.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Off my needles: felted slippers

I never really understood slippers. I mean obviously the concept of them was not ungraspable, however they were just never really something I got on with until the last few years. 

felted slippers

I had previously made these from a kit I picked up at the Knit and Stitch Ally Pally a few years back; they were a beautiful forest green and I wore them until they were full of holes and fairly filthy, slobbing out to the car in them, spilling porridge and coffee on them whilst clumsily making my breakfast in the dark in them...

When I got a hole so badly that my big toe was poking out, I realised I needed to knit myself up a new pair, however wanted to try and find the cheapest feltable (is that a word?) wool that I could, as I knew they would last about as long as my other ones, and I wear them to death. A quick google search and Ravelry hunt told me that the Cascade 220 was 100% wool and good for felting, so I picked a couple of this colour, I think it was midnight blue or something, from their Heathers collection. It's so good that brands like Cascade and the Drops Alpaca ranges are getting more readily available over here, sometimes you want relatively priced yarn that isn't acrylic, which is pretty hard to find in the UK, I feel like.

Anyway, the pattern you can buy online, or there are similar ones all over Ravelry, but you basically knit giant floppy shapes with the yarn held double, and then you stick them in the washing machine until they felt up. They're super cosy, and great for shuffling about the house in.

I've knit them for a friend, too, who seemed to enjoy them, and they knit amazingly fast - so I would say they make good gifts. They loosen up over time, but that can easily be resolved by a quick wash, and they quickly shrink back up again. Obsessed doesn't even cut it - I'm rarely without these, these days.

    Monday, December 21, 2015

    The importance of giving back

    I know this probably seems like a superbly stupid post, particularly at this time of year - you probably all do small charitable things, but I think it's so easy at Christmas to get caught up in the me, me, me-ness of it all, to pour over gift-guides and get swept up in the twinkle of fairylights. This has most definitely been me, in years gone by, and I think you by no means should shun all things joyful at this time of year, but I do think everyone, myself included!, needs a gentle reminder to give something back.

    charity at christmas

    I recently started working for a company that actively encourages us to do 2 days of charitable work a year, and I love that we're able to do this - I know that for some people, it's not always an option. I don't want to go into too much detail, for fear of it sounding like bragging or something similarly stupid, but through work, my team raised an amazing amount of money which was donated to a good local cause - decorating a local hospital ward for Christmas. 
    I famously have a cold heart, nothing really upsets me or penetrates my emotional barriers, haha, but even I sat in the car afterwards with tears in my eyes after managing to speak to a few of the patients there. Because lets face it, no-one enjoys being hospital, really, and I'm sure even less so at Christmas - so its nice to be able to bring a bit of cheer to somewhere not very cheerful. 

    When I was little, my mum often made my brothers and I help put together shoeboxes for a the Christmas Child appeal - which I used to enjoy for the rather superficial reasons of packing everything neatly into a box… And whilst religious things aren't everyone's cup of tea, there are small things you can do. Dump a bunch of change in a charity box, don't cross the street to avoid the collectors, buy some tinned soup and donate it to a local foodbank, pick up a pack of charity Christmas cards... I know not everyone is able to take a day off work to go and go all out, but there are small things you can do that can help a bit towards making a difference, and I think we all could all do with a reminder to try and help others.  

    Wednesday, December 16, 2015

    Christmas (2016) Preparation...

    I've been a bit out of the loops with blogging, recently. I'm not sure what happened, but one minute it was Halloween and I was all excited for Autumn - then I blinked and it was December 
    Somewhere in between a lot happened, apparently. I escaped to the Derbyshire countryside, and even flew across to America, leaving me with seriously depleted funds (new handbag, anyone? And Sephora is a dangerous place...).
    I decided, a little bit too late, that I wasn't to make gifts for people - however it is definitely my plan for next year. Hopefully by this time next year, I can be like Mina Philipp and have churned out about 40 pairs of socks in a year!

    handmade christmas

    Since I got back from America, I've stormed through two pairs of socks for people for Christmas, made a huge batch of honeycomb, made two slabs of fudge for my closest friends, as always finding the time to knock out some Orange and Cardamom biscuits for the family.

    I think throughout next year, I really want to put the emphasis on making more things for people. I've been discussing it over the last few weeks with people, to test the waters, because theres always that worry (of mine) that people will think I'm being cheap or something. Turns out no, the general consensus is that my friends think hand-made gifts are sweet and thoughtful (which is what I was aiming for...) and also, it makes me think hard about who the people are I'm making things for, because I always go a bit mad and overboard at this time of year.
    So, if you're my friend, you're probably getting handknit socks sometime between now and Christmas 2016... Please subtly drop into conversation your foot size.

    Also, please excuse the extreme close-up (don't judge my knitting too closely!) - as these are a gift for someone for Christmas, who may or may not read my blog, I'm not sure! I'm obsessed with the 'eye of the partridge' heel that I picked up in the Hermione's Every Day Sock pattern - and have knit it on every pair of socks recently. I think it's 100% more beautiful than the slip stitch heel I usually favour! 

      Monday, December 14, 2015

      A walk well spent brings a week of content...

      My dad is a walker. Not a fair-weather stroller, a rambler nor a hiker - a walker. Most weekends, he puts on his walking shoes and disappears for a few hours - generally spending his time traversing the South Downs. Luckily, we live just over an hours drive away from some of the most gorgeous, dare I say it, quintessentially English, countryside. Think rolling green hills leading down to the glittering English Channel. On an early Autumn day, theres few places better to be than being swept backwards with the wind, cheeks rosy and an amazing view to reward you for a steep walk. 

      walks near alfriston

      The last time we did this - a walk through Savernake forest or a drizzly September day - seemed far too long ago, so on one of the last days of the summer, my father and I set off to Alfriston for a walk. My dad does this most weekends between May and September, when the whether is fair and bright, not too hot and not too chilly; often being joined by my brothers. And until recently, I genuinely was not fit enough. In the past few years, I've lost a huge amount of weight, and grown immensely fitter in the process - however the kind of fitness you need to be able to walk up a 16% (in places!) incline is a very different one to the one that I've become in the gym.

      walks near alfriston

      As I said, my dad doesn't really consider it a 'walk' if its below 5 miles, and there isn't at least one hill to climb. So you have to come prepared, basically. It's really nice to have this time together - this walk was only a few weekends after my Grandmother passed away - and it was quite nice to just spend a few hours doing something that he enjoys. I'm going to make a definite point to do more of it when the weather picks up again, next year.

      walks near alfriston

      I also think that Alfriston is the most beautiful little village - the house pictured here is so beautiful - it reminds me of the little villages around Farnham, where I went to Uni that are really sweet, and probably cost two of my house put together. A girl can dream.. It also had the most gorgeous village green where we sat and munched sandwiches and drank cans of Fanta, watching whilst a family ate cream tea and scones with Champagne on deckchairs. How very British... 

      walks near alfriston