Tuesday, 30 September 2014

children's mittens

Needed a pattern for children's mittens. Spent ages searching through my extensive pattern collection, and couldn't find one I really liked.
So, I did what I always do in such cases........................it begins with G and ends with E.................

What it threw up was this charming pattern from Patterns For Crochet

This is an excellent site for free crochet patterns, and gives the advantage of the patterns being available in both UK and USA formats with a single click of the button.

It's a lovely simple pattern, with enough scope to alter design, size, colour etc. to suit your own needs.
I shall definitely be making more of these

Monday, 15 September 2014

Free Crochet pattern for baby booties

So, there you are. You've made that pretty layette for a friend's new baby, and you're left with around 10-15g of wool. What to do with it...............

Well, for years, I've used up such oddments to make booties, using a very old pattern that is simple, and which can be made up with endless variations.

Because the top is made in a separate piece, you can vary the design considerably. You can use any stitch you want, as long as you start and end with the same number of stitches. You can add stripes, give them a lacy picot top, work in a larger stitch, such as dtr,  and thread through ribbons, make them plain and sew on applique flowers or other designs.

You can make them smaller or bigger, just by adjusting the type of wool and/or the hook size.

The only limit is your imagination........

When I next make a pair, I'll add pictures, but this pattern is sooo simple, you don't really need them.

Instructions are U.K format, and these basic instructions will make a pair to suit 0-3 months.

Let's start with some DK wool and a size 4.50 hook....................

Cast on and make ch 28

Row 1: (RS) 1 dc in 2nd chain from hook, dc in each chain to end. Turn. (27 sts)

Row 2-5: ch 1, dc in first stitch, dc to end. Turn

Row 6: ch 1. 1 dc in first 4 st. *dc2tog, 1 dc in next 4 sts. Repeat from * to last 3 sts. 1dc in each of next 3 sts. Turn. (23 sts)

Row 7: (this row makes eyelets for threading tie) ch 1. 1dc in each of first 2 sts. *ch 1, miss next st, 1 dc in each of next 2 sts. Repeat from * to last 2 sts. 1dc in each of last 2 sts. Turn

Row 8: ch 1. 1dc in each st or ch 1 to end of row. Fasten off.

This completes the cuff. You can of course, make it longer simply by adding more rows after Row 5 or by working the cuff in a longer stitch, such as tr or dtr.

Just make sure you end up with 23 sts.

To work the foot:

Row 1: With RS of work facing. miss 7 sts and join wool with a sl st to next st. Ch 1, 1 dc in same st, 1 dc in each of next 8 sts. Turn. (9 sts)

Row 2 - 4: ch 1. 1 dc in each st to end. Turn

At this point, you could make the foot longer, by adding more rows, but remember, if you do, to adjust the number of stitches along the sides of the instep to correspond.

Now start shaping the foot..........................

Row 5: Ch 1. dc2tog, 1 dc in each st to last 2 sts. dc2tog. Fasten off

Sew up centre back seam.

Row 6: With RS facing, join wool at centre back seam. ch 1. 1dc in each of next 7 sts, 5dc down edge of instep, 3dc in corner st, 5dc across end of instep, 3dc in corner st, 5dc along edge of instep, 1dc in each of last 7 sts. Join to first st with sl st. (35 sts)

Row 7: ch 1. 1dc in each st to end. Join to first st with sl st.

Row 8: repeat Row 7 - a nice touch would be to work this row into the back loops only, to give a pleasant defining edge to the sole.

Now start decreasing for the sole:

Row 9: ch 1. dc2tog, 1dc in each of next 13 sts, dc2tog, 1dc in next st., dc2tog, 1dc in each of next 13 sts. dc2tog. Join to first st with sl st.

Row 10: ch 1. dc2tog, 1dc in each of next 11 sts., dc2tog, 1dc in next st., dc2tog, 1dc in each of next 11 sts. dc2tog. Join to first st with sl st.

Row 11: ch 1. dc2tog., 1dc in each of next 9 sts., dc2tog, 1dc in next st., dc2tog, 1dc in each of next 9 sts. dc2tog. Join to first st with sl st. Fasten off, leaving a long tail.

Use tail to join centre foot seam.

To make a tie to thread through the eyelets, either make a ch about 15-16 inches long, or thread ribbon through eyelets.

So there you have it. What could be simpler? I must have made dozens of these over the years, and seldom have I made 2 pairs the same!

If you're new to crochet, you will find this pattern so easy. To help you keep track of where you are, just count the stitches as you work, and that way you will know straight away if you have made a mistake. You might also find it helpful if you add a marker in a different colour at the start of every row (moving it up as you go), so that you can tell where to sl st the two ends together.


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The futility of war.

Please take the time to read this article:

My father threw his poppy awaiy in disgust

That's one of the most honest articles I've read amongst all the dross that's currently being spouted. As a pacifist, I deplore war and aggression. Surely history has shown that it solves nothing? It's all very well saying 'we should remember them, so that it never happens again' - but it did, little more than 2 decades later, and it continues to happen, and so will it ever be, because man, like most animals, is territorial and naturally aggressive to perceived threats.

I spend quite a bit of time doing genealogical research on mine and my husband's family history, and there's two people that serve to always remind me of the true inequality of war. My grandfather was a humble gardener, who rose up through the ranks and became a highly decorated soldier, ending up as an aide to the Duke of York, later King George VI. On the other hand was my husband's Uncle John - sent home from the front as being 'unfit for service'. He was castigated by his family, and indeed the whole village where he lived, for being a coward. Three weeks later, he committed suicide. Of course, we now understand that he was suffering from PTSD (shell shock). Nobody mourns him. Enough is enough. Let them all rest in peace.

Friday, 6 June 2014

A-Z of Music - O

Today, the greatest 'O' of them all. I'm talking about The Big O - Roy Orbison.  (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988)
Orbison grew up in Texas and began singing in a rockabilly/country and western band in high school until he was signed by Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. His greatest success came with Monument Records between 1960 and 1964, when 22 of his songs placed on the Billboard Top 40. His career stagnated through the 1970s, but several covers of his songs and the use of "In Dreams" in David Lynch's film Blue Velvet (1986) revived his career. In 1988, he joined the supergroup Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne and also released a new solo album. He died of a heart attack in December that year, at the zenith of his resurgence. His life was marred by tragedy, including the death of his first wife, Claudette in a motorcycle accident, and his two eldest sons in a house fire. Orbison's vocal instrument bridged the gap between baritone and tenor, and music scholars have suggested that he had a three- or four-octave range.  He was known for performing while standing still and solitary and for wearing black clothes and dark sunglasses, which lent an air of mystery to his persona. One of his earliest hits was this, 'Only The Lonely', which really shows off his tremendous range, and depth of feeling

For this episode's classical choice, I've gone for a musician, rather than a composer. I've long been a huge fan of pianist John Ogden,(27 January 1937 – 1 August 1989) and his incredible interpretations of Chopin and Liszt.
 Ogdon's health was good, and his physical constitution was strong, as his wife often recalled in her biography. Regarded as a "gentle giant", known and loved for his kindness and generosity, he had tremendous energy. But an everyday business argument seemed to upset him more than expected and then suddenly in 1973 he experienced a severe breakdown. This sometimes changed his personality completely. His illness was initially diagnosed as schizophrenia, but then changed to manic depression (now referred to as bipolar disorder). Either condition may have been inherited from his father, who suffered several psychotic episodes and a mental breakdown. Ogdon spent some time in the Maudsley Hospital in London, and in general needed more nursing than it was possible to provide while touring. Nevertheless, he was reported to maintain three hours' practice a day on the hospital's piano.
 In 1983, after emerging from hospital, he played at the opening of the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham. He died in August 1989 of pneumonia, brought on by undiagnosed diabetes.

I've chosen Liszt - Dante Sonata.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

My latest project

If you've read my piece 'spontaneous storage'. then you'll realise I'm not always the most organised of people. And so it was, whilst looking for something amongst all my craft goodies, I came across some pretty little butterflies that I'd forgotten I had.

 I think I bought them originally with the intention of using them on greetings cards. As usual with stuff bought on impulse, they got 'filed' in one of my storage boxes and forgotten. However, having found them, I thought they really should be supping nectar from pretty flowers, and thus the 'Butterfly Garden' necklace was born! 

The main body of the necklace is Kumihimo silk braid in pale green, grey and silver. To this are stitched a veritable herbaceous border of brightly coloured polymer clay flowers and green glass leaves. The butterflies, which have jewelled bodies, are cemented to the flowers. The nice thing is, the wings of the butterflies are sprung, so they quiver as you move, giving the illusion of life.

I must admit to being quite proud of this one, which is available in my Etsy shop for £25 plus post and packing.

Time for another poem, I think.

This one is by Welshman, Dylan Thomas - long one of my favourite authors and poets. There is more information about him here on my history blog

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Spontaneous storage

No, it's not storage that bursts into flames, or storage that just pops out of nowhere.......
It's actually a sign of how my life (and craft room) are organised.

Now, I am generally well-organised. All my tools are held in neat racks. My hundreds (and I'm not joking!) of embroidery threads are neatly wound onto plastic bobbins, labelled with their type and colour, and stored into neat plastic storage drawers. My beads are sorted into containers by size and colour, and this organisation extends to stock control. I am sufficiently well-organised to be able to re-purchase items I am getting low on before I run out of them.

But, I do have a big problem. When I'm out and about, and I come within 100 yards of a craft shop, something strange happens. It's as though a huge magnet drags me off my motorcycle and in through the door of said shop. And the same magnetic force will not permit me to leave until I have bought something.

I'm sorry, but I'm a spontaneous buyer. I see something I like and it's 'Ooooh, must have one of those. I might find a use for it one day'

So, I buy it and when I get home, I have to decide where to put it. My craft room is a mass of boxes and plastic containers, and of course, I don't have one specifically labelled for the item I've just bought. Now, this is where the problems start..........

Let's say I've just bought a red star. I look at my storage, and there's nothing labelled 'red stars'. So I pick a box say in pile A and in goes the star. I then promptly forget I've got it.

So a few weeks pass, and I'm out and about, and the scenario above repeats itself. Except when I get home, I put the new red star in a box in pile D.

A couple of months go by, and I get an idea that calls for a blue butterfly. Now, I vaguely recall having bought a blue butterfly some time ago, and I start to search for it. Whilst searching for the blue butterfly, I find the first red star, and I think 'hang on. Didn't I buy one of these a few weeks ago?'. Now I start searching for the second red star, and in doing so, I find the blue butterfly AND the second red star.

I put the second red star in the same box as the first red star, and carry on making what I wanted to do with the blue butterfly.

A few weeks go by and in a craft shop, somewhere, sometime, I see a pretty red star that I simply MUST have, and so it goes home with me and into an empty box in pile G and the whole process starts over..........

About once a year I empty EVERYTHING out of my craft room, and sort it logically..........but it doesn't last.............

The moral of this story is, you can be either organised or spontaneous, but not both :(

Saturday, 10 May 2014

New blog

I've been busy creating a new blog, that will deal with the history of the British Isles.

It's still very sketchy at the moment, but if you're interested in a history that will dovetail with both this blog, and My British Isles, you will find it here

Monday, 14 April 2014

A-Z of Music - N

So, after all the traumas of the last few months, I've decided to make a concerted effort to catch up with my blog, starting with the latest installment of our musical meanderings.
For the letter N, I've chosen two characters with very similar names................
Firstly, on the lighter side, we have Harry Nilsson, who came up with what I think are two of the most beautiful songs of the period - 'Without You' and the ever-popular 'Everybody's Talkin'. 
He was born in 1941 in Brooklyn, New York, of Swedish descent, and died in 1994 of a heart attack.
Now is this curious, or is this curious? Nilsson had a flat in Mayfair for a while, which he would lend out to friends when he wasn't using it.  During one of his absences, ex-Mamas and Papas singer Cass Elliot and a few members of her tour group stayed at the flat while she performed solo at the London Palladium. Following a strenuous performance with encores, Elliot returned to the flat to relax and sleep and was discovered in one of the bedrooms, dead of heart failure at 32, on July 29, 1974.
On September 7, 1978, The Who's drummer Keith Moon returned to the same room in the flat after a night out, and died at 32 from an overdose of Clomethiazole, a prescribed anti-alcohol drug. Nilsson, distraught over another friend's death in his flat, and having little need for the property, sold it to Moon's bandmate Pete Townshend and consolidated his life in Los Angeles.
So, going back to 'Everybody's Talkin', which was used to great effect in the film 'Midnight Cowboy', this was not Nilsson's first choice of song for that film. He also penned 'I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City', which to me, suited the story line far better. However, it was rejected in favour of the former.
See what you think:

And so onto our classical composer, Carl Nielsen, who was born in 1865, and who grew up in a poor but happy home on Funen, Denmark’s second-largest island. He worked variously as a goose-herder, a cowherd, a wedding musician, and a military bugler before winning a scholarship to the Royal Danish Conservatory, in Copenhagen. His major pieces—which include not only the six symphonies but the operas “Saul and David” and “Maskarade,” a beloved Wind Quintet, and concertos for violin, flute, and clarinet—are grounded in ruddy, earthy, insistently singable melodies; more than a few of his songs have entered Danish folk tradition. (When the composer turned sixty, in 1925, a national holiday was declared, and he woke to find a brass band playing outside his window in Copenhagen.)
Although best known for his symphonies, he wrote many other fine pieces. This is his Helios Overture Op.17:

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Art Deco - worth it?

Every now and then, a trend comes along which shocks the world, and makes us rethink our ideas of fashion - for example, the mini skirt in the '60s. Such an idea was Art Deco.
After the fussiness of the Victorian and Art Nouveau periods, and the rusticity of the Arts and Crafts movement, the clean simple lines of Art Deco came as a surprise to an awful lot of people.
The designers of the period used modern materials, such as chromium steel and Bakelite, the first true plastic. Pieces made from Bakelite were often junked later as being tacky and the materials not worth anything - but they didn't look at the wonderful shapes and designs.

Sadly, in the post-war era, people didn't realise what they had, and important buildings were wilfully demolished to make way for concrete structures with no form or style.
The A40 Great West Road in London is a prime example of this. At one time, it was lined with elegant Art Deco factories, now, sadly, all gone, with the exception of the wonderful Hoover Building, now thankfully preserved.

Much the same as Clarice Cliff's striking Bizarre range of pottery. I bet a lot of folk are cursing now that they threw out their grandmother's hideous teapot!
Well, I love Art Deco. Always have done. And I own several pieces of Art Deco jewellery, that I have either inherited or bought. I've also got several pieces of Art Deco jewellery that are damaged beyond repair, and mostly made from relatively cheap materials, which I can never bring myself to throw away. So I've decided to incorporate those items that I can recover into my own range of jewellery (for sale in my Etsy shop)
This is the first - just two glass beads from an otherwise completely destroyed necklace were recoverable, and so they've been turned into classy earrings. Just a little bit of Art Deco preserved in my own way