Christmas Cards and Pompoms

Today I’ve been busy writing Christmas cards and finishing off a bobble hat for a friend’s little girl. I always seem to get very close to last posting date, especially for the cards that are going to family and friends abroad, but, with a little help from K this evening, managed to get everything written, addressed and with letters and photographs included for the people I’m not in touch with on social media. Just need to get them stamped and posted tomorrow now.

I also finished off this bobble hat.

I always knit (or crochet) something when anyone I know has a baby and somehow I missed this one, so when I saw L and her baby girl the other week I asked what she would like and this is what she was after – a warm bobble hat in a dark grey, to go with a pink and grey snowsuit. I used this free Cabled Baby Hat pattern by Marianna Mel that I found on Ravelry and used a really soft washable DK – Women’s Institute premium acrylic from Hobbycraft in grey.

I added a pompom made using one of these.

It works the same as two cardboard discs but as the plastic rings are hinged and fold out to two semicircles it’s much easier and quicker to wind the yarn round. I used the largest in a pack of three pompom makers and it produced a lovely fat, even pompom that barely needed any trimming – I just needed to snip a couple of stray pieces of yarn off.

It’s very stretchy, so I hope it’s not too big for L’s baby, but it’ll certainly be lovely and cosy.

Do you make pompoms like this or use the old-fashioned cardboard discs or another method?

Drinks Down On The Farm With The Dog

We visited our favourite pop-up bar this afternoon. Not far away, at Acklington Park Farm is the Rigg and Furrow Brewery. One of the barns on the farm has been converted into a bar, which opens about once a month and every December Saturday up to Christmas.

I got my favourite seat by the wood burning stove and toasted myself nicely (it was bitterly cold outside) while sipping a gin and tonic. K is the beer drinker, so he had a pint of his favourite Run Hop Run ale.

The Christmas tree is up and the lights and foliage over the bar give the place a lovely festive feel (along with the elves on the beer pumps).

There’s always a great atmosphere and I’m told the beer is excellent, though they serve gin, wine and fizz too. K has ordered a mini keg of Run Hop Run for over the holidays.

We ordered some rosemary salt fries to snack on (very tasty, nicely salted with a dollop of mayo) from Adventures in Aude, who are usually there with Audrey – a vintage Citroen truck which houses a mobile kitchen- they make the most delicious Mediterranean style flatbreads – my favourite is the chicken zatar.

Buddy the Lab loves it here – it’s very dog-friendly, with water bowl and dog biscuits available. Today he made friends with two greyhounds, an Irish Setter and another lab, as well as lots of humans, especially the people who had food!

In summer the lawn by the bar is covered in rugs and benches for people to sit out and enjoy the sunshine. Next to that is a paddock occupied by a Highland cow and her calf – we watched him get bigger every month over the summer.

Do you have a favourite place to eat or drink that’s a bit our of the ordinary?

Knit and Natter Friday

More lovely baby tops and hats were produced this week by members of the Knit and Natter Group at Alnwick Medical Group

We were given a lovely Christmas treat by Julie, one of the practice nurses who looks after the group. She’d made us this beautiful gingerbread house.

Julie has made 32 of these (she donates them to charities) and says that her kitchen is covered in edible glitter! In the end she had to open it because none of us could bear to break it up – it’s so pretty. She’d even personalised it with K+N for Knit and Natter.

It was absolutely delicious!

The group has now finished for Christmas and reconvenes at 2.30pm on Friday 10th January. I’m going to miss it over the next few weeks.

Have you had any nice surprises this week?

The 14 Cable Hat

No “Scone of the Week” post today – my fellow scone eater had a prior engagement so I made a big pan of broccoli and stilton soup and had some of that instead. Then I had a think about some of my past projects and decided to share this one on the blog.

Here in Northumberland, throughout the summer, there are agricultural shows held most weekends. We go to quite a few and there’s always a lot to see. Immaculately groomed livestock are judged; horses and ponies compete in showing and jumping classes; talented crafters bring their work to exhibit and try to win a prize; gardeners show their fruit, flowers and unfeasibly large vegetables! Barnacre Alpacas attend many of these events, bringing some of their cute alpacas and selling alpaca yarn and hand knitted items.

A couple of years back I bought some of their alpaca yarn, in a creamy beige colour – I couldn’t resist any longer! It is sooooo soft! I didn’t have a project in mind at the time, but decided it would make a wonderful warm hat for the winter, so I had a look for a pattern on line.

I love knitting cable, and when I found the 14 Cable Hat pattern I couldn’t wait to get started – it is the busiest cable hat I’ve ever seen, with 14 different cable designs running up the hat. It’s the perfect one to knit if you are a cable fan. It’s a free pattern and includes a very colourful chart. Some of the featured designs I’d never seen before and are quite complex. It made for a really interesting project. I used double pointed needles, which wasn’t great – I’d definitely use circulars next time.

I bought a furry pompom to go on the top – it is attached with a press stud to remove for washing (or changing on to other hats). I wear it often during the winter months – it is delightfully warm and cosy.

What’s your favourite winter hat?

Taming the Knitting Needles

I mentioned in my post My Knitting Inheritance that I sorted out my large collection of knitting needles recently. I’d been storing them on a cardboard cylinder – a gift box that came with a bottle of bubbly in it, but everything was jumbled up and there were duplicate sizes so it took forever to find anything – even worse for the double pointed needles and having to to get the needle gauge out every time I wanted to use them.

I decided that it was time to make a storage roll, so I dug out a couple of pieces of cotton fabric, , bias binding, ribbon and a sheet of foam (previously some packaging – I do like to repurpose things.) I sort of made it up as I went along. Initially, the needles fell out the top, so I added an extra pocket along the top to tuck the needle ends in.

I’m so pleased with it! On the principle that everything is easier the second time, and because there was enough fabric left over, I made another smaller version to store my double pointed needles. I put strips of paper with the size on in each pocket (this will save a lot of time in the future!)

To complete the set, I made a wallet to hold all my circular needles,

I’m feeling super-organised now (well as far as my knitting needles go anyway!

Where do you store your knitting needles?

Baby Bolero

I’ve mentioned that I love making baby clothes (they are small and therefore quick to do, and of course very cute). I think this is the first crocheted item I’ve featured on the blog. It’s also my go-to baby girl gift. I think I’ve made it three times now: for my great niece, my friend’s granddaughter and my hairdresser’s little girl.

Having said that, I have run into some problems with it – I think there may be an error in the pattern and the sleeves are on the long side . Happy with the way it turns out though. It’s a discontinued DMC pattern, worked in DMC Natura cotton, so it’s not too heavy for the summer.

It has a really pretty scalloped edge – such a nice finish.

I was really happy with these buttons too. I bought them from Alison at Button Bothy in Poolewe, Wester Ross in North West Scotland. We always call in to her studio when we stay in that area on holiday. She makes button jewellery and stocks a huge range of buttons as well as cards and gifts. i always stock up on buttons when I’m there. Isn’t it satisfying when you find the perfect button for a garment?

Do you have a go-to pattern ? I’d love to hear about it.

A Canine Cardigan

I love it when you find the perfect item to knit for someone. I just have to knit something when anyone I know has a baby, so when my friends had a little girl I found this Sirdar pattern (since discontinued). I simply had to make it as they have a little black terrier.

I had to change the colours a bit – on the original pattern, the dogs were white with a black eye and collar. I did the dogs black of course, but that would mean there was something missing – I had to find a way of doing the eyes and I settled on using shiny black beads.

I figured that sewing beads on a baby garment wasn’t terribly safe, so I decided to knit them into the design. Threading beads with small holes on to double knitting weight yarn is not easy, but I found a solution. I painted the yarn end with clear nail varnish and rolled it between finger and thumb to make a sharp point. When it was dry, it was quite easy to thread on the required number of beads.

I knitted a bead into the front of the stitches that would have been the eyes on the chart.

Overall the cardigan came out well. It was one of my early attempts at colour work and the pattern section came out a little bit tighter than I would have liked. The little shoes were less successful- there was no way a baby could keep these on!

Have you ever found the perfect item to knit for someone? I’d love to hear about it.

Silly Games and Festive Tunes

My ukulele

I’ve been playing my ukulele rather than knitting for the last few days. The group I belong to had a couple of performances this weekend so I thought I’d better do some practice.

The first one was last night at the Book Club Christmas Party. We had a bit of an informal recital (most of the ukulele group are in the book club). We have a great (and tried and tested) format for the party which we’ve been doing since we started, some years ago. It’s a good alternative to going out somewhere for an over-priced turkey dinner, and let’s face it, if you have a lot of Christmas parties to go to you can get a bit sick of eating the same thing. We have a really lovely Indian restaurant nearby. so we order a banquet selection to take away and go to the house of one of the club members to eat it. She always has beautiful festive decorations and serves mulled wine and mince pies. We always pay for her meal to thank her for being such a wonderful hostess. It works really well (especially thanks to our lovely hostess). We always have an activity too. In the past there have been murder mystery games (which involved a lot of dressing as the characters.

We had two activities this year. We’d all supplied baby photos and had to guess who they all were. The other game is a bit more complicated. Everyone had to buy the most ugly, tasteless, horrible thing they could find, value under £5, from a charity shop, then gift wrap it and bring it to the party. These were all placed in the middle of the table and we each threw a dice in turn. Anyone throwing a six opens one of the gifts. As the dice continues to be thrown in turn, anyone throwing another six after they already opened a gift must swap with another person’s gift. This continues until all the presents are opened. We then had two more quick fire rounds of the dice, where those throwing odd numbers had to swap. We then vote for the worst gift and a small prize is awarded to the winner. It’s hilarious!

Gig number two this afternoon was entertaining residents at a local care home. It was a great success and they were a very appreciative audience, enthusiastically clapping and singing along. Such a nice thing to be able to do.

Do you go to any unusual Christmas parties? Do tell us about them.

Knit and Natter Friday

The Knit and Natter Ladies have been busy again this week

We had another lively session at this afternoon’s Knit and Natter Group at Alnwick Medical Group. In the last week alone, our members have made another big batch of charity knits: hats, bonnets, tops and bootees.

You don’t need to be able to knit to contribute to the charity knits. Most of these hats were made on a knitting loom .

making a hat on a knitting loom

You may have used this sort of technique before . I know I did as a child, when it was known as French knitting or bobbin knitting . We used a cotton reel with nails stuck in the top or a purpose-made wooden figure with four metal loops stuck in the top – I think it was called a Knitting Nancy. They produced a thin knitted cord, but the modern looms like the one in the picture produce a wider tube. When the tube gets long enough, one end is gathered closed to make the hat.

The bigger the loom, the wider the tube and the bigger the hat…..and they are very quick and fun to make. Group members have made tiny ones for babies and large ones for homeless adults.

Have you used loom or French knitting before?

Scone of the Week – The Old Stables Tea Room

Today took us to the The Old Stables Tea Room, just outside Alnwick (on the roundabout just up from the Lion Bridge on the B6352). This lovely little cafe is situated in part of the stable block of a big old house.

Although they serve a lovely selection of yummy cakes and light lunches, we opted for our habitual cheese scones.

We were offered these slightly warmed and they arrived just warm enough to feel fresh from the oven, but not so hot as to melt the butter – perfect!. They were served with a very generous pot of butter, soft enough to spread easily (don’t you just hate trying to spread hard straight-from-the-fridge butter?) . The scones excellent: soft and very light with a little bit of cheese baked on the top. We accompanied them with a pot of tea for mum and hot chocolate (choice of milk or dark chocolate) for me, served with a big swirl of cream.

The cafe has a friendly team of staff and also includes a small shop area with a selection of cards and gifts. It’s usually quite full, especially in the summer holiday season and even today most of the empty tables were reserved when we arrived. It’s probably work booking in advance at busy times

As we were leaving, afternoon tea was being served to one table, complete with dainty sandwiches and cakes . It looked lovely – something to think about for another time.

What’s the nicest afternoon tea you’ve ever had?