Knit and Natter Friday: 21 February (Part Two)

This afternoon was the weekly meeting of The Knit and Natter Group at Alnwick Medical Group, which is held every Friday from 2.30-4pm in the Lower Building Meeting Room.

This week’s completed charity knits include a hat, and some baby clothes, along with my twiddle mitts. We’ve also been working on some of our own projects, including socks, a baby cardigan for a group member’s first grandchild, due in May. One of the practice staff popped in for some advice on a top-down baby jacket they are about to start, also for an eagerly awaited first grandchild. There’s always some advice available and the little pink and turquoise top in the picture is a top-down construction too, so we had an example to show her!

I’d love to hear about any knit and natter or craft groups you are involved with.

Knit and Natter Friday: 21 February (Part One)

It’s the third Friday of the month and that means I spent this morning at the Amble Pincushion. Recently completed work by group members includes a toy cat, a cobweb scarf and some baby blankets. There’s a lovely sweater on the go too, in pretty heather, pink and cream, being knitted in a lovely light, soft alpaca mix boucle yarn.

We all fell in love with the stripy cat, made with yarn and magazine pattern won in a raffle held at a previous meeting of the group. He’s a cuddly toy, but could have a weight put inside to make him into a doorstop.

There are some great courses coming up at the shop in the next few months: I’ve booked on to the mosaic one. We’ve also arranged a trip to a knitting-themed show at the Alnwick Playhouse next month.

After meeting K for a lovely lunch, I took a leisurely drive to Alnwick, so I could pop to the shops before the second knit and natter group of the day. The wind was really getting up as I was leaving Amble and I pulled in by the river Coquet as there is a great view of Warkworth Castle.

The birds had come quite a long way up the river where it is more sheltered. I watched a couple of cormorants feeding. There were mallards and black headed gulls too. Usually you can see herons on this stretch of the Coquet. Today I could just make out three of them sheltering among the trees on the opposite bank.

Pretty well hidden aren’t they?

Coffee and Crumpets

Our regular Thursday jaunt took us to somewhere different today: Company B at Longhoughton…..and what a little gem it is!

We got got a very warm welcome and were found a table among a crowd of children and parents that were filling what is quite a small space. (I’d forgotten it was school half term holidays). All the children were so polite and well-behaved……it appeared that everyone knew everyone else, including the lady running the cafe. We had walked into what appears to be the heart of the village!

There was a good selection of home made cakes (no scones today) but we decided to ring the changes and opted for crumpets and coffee – all very nice and extremely reasonably priced (a fraction of the cost of many of our Thursday snack outings). They also serve breakfasts, soup, hot and cold sandwiches, baked potatoes and there’s a decent children’s menu too. I noticed other things for sale too – preserves and chutneys and hand crafted jewellery and other items.

I just loved the way that everyone was made to feel so at home – the parents chatted away; the children were all very chilled – some were making use of a basket of toys and books; Another regular customer, an elderly man, enjoyed soup and a cuppa. There is such a great sense of community in this little cafe. I think it’s dog friendly too.

I’ve since looked on the Facebook page and found that the dynamic cafe owner, Charlotte, also makes celebration cakes and has even run children’s cookery classes in the summer holidays and “Breakfast with Santa” at Christmas. There are a lot of young families in the village: married quarters for nearby RAF Boulmer are situated here. Charlotte also told us about the regular pensioners lunches – a 3 course hot meal for only £8 (I think that was the price).

What a lovely change it was from some of the other places we have visited that seem to cater more for tourists than locals. Well done, Company B – you know and love your community and serve them well.

As we left I noticed the rather unusual planters in the cafe garden and they made me smile..

Where is the heart of your community?

Double Twiddle

I made a couple of twiddle mitts this week. It’s been a while since I made any charity knits and the members of my Knit and Natter Group put me to shame with all their lovely work.

Twiddle Mitts are given to Alzheimers patients to distract them from picking at dressings and canulae when in hospital. Also, repeatedly twiddling the buttons and other adornments and stroking the different textures of yarn can have a calming effect. I was inspired to make these when a friend donated a pile of yarn which included some really interesting textures:there were fluffy mohairs, eyelash yarn, metallics, ribbon yarns and all sorts.. They are dead easy to make, so I thought I’d include a bit of a tutorial on here.

Using two strands of double knitting (or the equivalent) and 6.5mm needles, cast on 40 stitches and continue in stocking stitch (it’s easier to sew the embellishments on later if you use straight needles, but you could use circular). Change the yarn every so often to incorporate different textures. You could also vary the stitch to change the texture by using eg moss stitch, blackberry stitch or cable. When the work measures 23 inches, cast off. You end up with a long rectangle like this.

I use the duller colours for the first half which will form the inside of the mitt and save the colourful stuff for the outside.

Next, you add the embellishments…..beads, buttons and so on. I also added some tiny jingle bells and a crocheted flower.

It’s important to add embellishments to what will be the inside of the mitt too.

The most important thing here is to sew the items on very securely.

When everything is in place, sew the side edges together to form a tube (if you used circular needles you’ll already have one!)

Then, fold half to the inside and sew the cast on and cast off edges together.

I finished off by adding a little crocheted edging.

All done!

How do you use up your oddments of yarn?

A New Beginning

It’s been a strange sort of weekend. We were supposed to be going to a ball on Saturday, but Storm Dennis knocked that on the head. The event was to have been held in a marquee and the weather forecast was dreadful. It was simply not safe to proceed. The ball will now go ahead (fingers crossed) two weeks later the originally planned so I have two more weeks to agonise about what to wear.

They say that every cloud has a silver lining. Not going to the ball, like some sort of reverse Cinderella, meant that we’d be able to go to a leaving party for dear friends who are moving to Australia. This was arranged quite recently and we had our tickets for the other do, but all’s well that ends well.

Our friends, H and D, are moving to Australia this week, to join their two daughters. It’s a huge step. They have sold their home and got rid of all their possessions, staying in temporary accommodation for the last couple of weeks while they close down all their affairs here and say their goodbyes.

I’ve known them since I first moved to Northumberland 17 years ago – they moved here from Tyneside 22 years ago. We were all involved in the local drama group and have remained firm friends ever since. H and I used to have regular Friday evenings together over a bottle of wine, sometimes with our daughters around (mine is the same age as H and D’s younger daughter).

H is very creative and I’ve mentioned on the blog before that she writes, with one book , Secrets and Guardians, already published online and two more in production. I’ve worked closely with her on these on the editing and publishing process. With more work to do on these we”ll still be in regular contact.

The party was lovely and rather emotional, hosted by lovely mutual friends. Everyone brought food so we had a massive feast. There were lots of photographs taken and hugs given.

As most of the Ukeladies (as we call our ukulele group) are also long-standing friends of H and D too we decided to do a short cabaret at the party and picked a small selection of appropriate songs with a leaving/Australian theme. We only decided the set on Thursday night and had little time to practice but we did it.

After our little recital (with much raucous singing) H and D made a lovely speech about how they have loved living in the village, having such good friends and making such great memories, then the party continued into the night.

I’ll miss them very much – D is one of the kindest, funniest men I know and H is one of my dearest friends – I shall miss her vivid imagination, wisdom, and the laughs and hugs we’ve shared. I’m getting quite tearful writing this!

But to be positive! They may be far away, but I will see them again later this year. Their younger daughter gets married in October and my daughter and I are planning to go to the wedding, and take some time afterwards to have a holiday to visit other parts of Australia. It’s quite an adventure to look forward to.

Meanwhile, good luck H and D! We wish you every success and happiness in your new life in Australia.

Scone of the Week #8

Today’s Scone of the Week is from Bari Tea on Narrowgate, Alnwick. Bari (pronounced bar-ee) is a Northumbrian dialect word meaning” lovely” and this is indeed a lovely tea shop. They refer to it as a tea brewery and it really is all about the tea, whether you want to sit and drink it on the premises or buy some to enjoy at home.

Unlike some places, where the tables are crammed in, there is enough room to move around (especially when you rock up on a disability scooter as I did). They serve things like cakes and scones, soup, filter coffee and very nice hot chocolate……and a comprehensive range of teas – the tea menu is quite lengthy.

There are some quirks that make you smile when you visit Bari. The toilet is twinned with one in Kenya(!) and all the staff on duty are named on a blackboard.

It was a quiet weekday lunchtime so only the “Maitre T” and the “Teas Maid” on “Sconage Duty” were named.

Our scones were really good – we got the last cheese and mustard one, which had a lovely flavour and gorgeously crusty top, and a sweet sultana one with just the right amount of fruit. Both were good-sized rustic hunks of scone, soft and crumbly without being dry. They were served with pats of butter on a tiny dish, (no foil wraps to fiddle about with), though it was hard from the fridge and hard to spread. Another little dish held a generous dollop of strawberry jam.

Mum ordered a pot of breakfast tea, with arrived in an earthenware pot with a timer and a receptacle with tongs to remove the tea bag when the allotted brewing time had elapsed.

I am not (and never will be) a tea drinker – I simply don’t like the taste, so I opted for a hot chocolate (they also serve filter coffee). My drink was lovely too – a piece of proper chocolate on a stick (two kinds available), to melt into hot milk, served with grated chocolate on top and mini marshmallows on the saucer: heaven!

The staff were really helpful and friendly too.

Situated in the part of Alnwick that is popular with tourists, sometimes referred to as the Castle Quarter (close to Alnwick Castle and surrounded by other small independent shops), Bari Tea is well worth a visit if you are in town, especially if you like tea.

A Quick Crochet Headband (and a Covering of Snow)

I remembered that I’d promised to make a headband for my hairdresser’s little girl the last time I was getting my hair done. I’m there on Thursday so I thought I’d better do something

Fortunately it didn’t take me very long at all (it was made on quite a chunky 5mm crochet hook). The pattern was a free one on Ravelry – the Turban Knot Headband by Olivia Kent of Hopeful Honey. I used an oddment of bright pink double knitting from my stash. It was delightfully quick and easy to make once I’d established that the pattern uses US terminology. (American double crochet is a UK treble and it follows that a US half double is a UK half treble).

I hope D and her little girl like it – I’ll ask if she’ll take a photo of the headband being modelled to post on here – if she does I’ll update the post.

Here in Northumberland we seem to have escaped the ravages of Storm Ciara. It has been very windy and the sea was raging but we haven’t sustained any damage that I’m aware of. We certainly haven’t had the floods and raging seas experienced elsewhere in Britain. although the sea has been fairly rough. K took these photos on Sunday (he’s a much better photographer than me).

It tried to snow overnight and it hadn’t melted on the hills so this was the view when I set off to go to Newcastle for choir today.

We had snow showers on and off all day and I drove most of the way back in a blizzard, but it cleared before I reached home. I thought it would be interesting to stop and take a photo in the same spot .

I thought the hills would be snowier but apart from the sky looking more interesting, with the late afternoon sun disappearing behind a bank of cloud, there doesn’t look to be much more snow. You can see the slush on the road though, and further up the road you could see where the snow had blown on to the trees – they looked like they had thick white lines painted on them.

Have you had snow this week?

An Animated Evening

Nearly every month I take my Mum to the meeting of her Inner Wheel group. I always enjoy going but this week’s meeting was especially good

The guest speaker was artist and animator, Sheila Graber. I remember Sheila from a long time ago: she taught art when I was at school. She was a very popular teacher and ran after-school groups, including an Animation Club for pupils – we were sometimes shown the group’s films as well as Sheila’s work at the end of term. Eventually, she left teaching to work on her animation full-time

On Thursday night we were treated a compilation of some of these animations. The River Tyne featured strongly in Sheila’s work (she was born and brought up on Tyneside).

Image from The Tyne by Sheila Graber

My favourite was a charming film about a little boy playing with his cat in the snow (Sheila explained how this was inspired by her own cat). Other animals featured too: she made animated versions of Kipling’s Just-So Stories.

Image from “The Elephant’s Child” film by Sheila Graber (part of series: The just So Stories)

At the end of the evening my Mum bought me a copy of Sheila’s Book, My Tyneside, which she signed for me. We chatted and amazingly she remembered me from school. It was fun to remember some of my old teachers from back then.

Since the other night, I’ve read the book, which includes a load of Sheila’s pictures of my home town, South Shields. I’ve also been looking at her website and Youtube channel, where I found a film of an old school sports day. She’s done some amazing stuff and I’m hoping to get to an exhibition of her work that’s coming up later this year at The Customs House, South Shields.

Are there any inspirational teachers that you remember from your schooldays?

Knit and Natter Friday 8th Feb

Here are some of the beautiful clothes for premature babies that some of our group members have knitted this week.

We have collected quite a haul recently and one of the members has kindly agreed to take them down to the Royal Victoria Infirmary Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Newcastle. A batch has already been sent to to the Special Baby Care Unit at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, Cramlington

The group, which was set up as part of a social prescribing initiative, meets at Alnwick Medical Group Lower Building every Friday afternoon from 2.30-4pm. Tea/coffee and biscuits are provided. Group members work on either charity knits or their own projects. Support and tuition is also available for novice knitters.

Cake (Not Scone) of the Week

This week we visited the Old School Gallery at Alnmouth. Situated just outside the village centre on the road out towards Foxton, the Gallery has a small cafe area. They had no scones (so not exactly a “Scone of the Week” post} but five different cakes to choose from. I think they may have a bigger menu at busier times of year. Today we were the only customers there at the time of our visit.

We had a wander round to look at the art while our cake and coffee were being prepared and there were some lovely pieces, in a variety styles and media. They included a lot of seascapes and other sea-themed pictures. Many are available as prints and there a few other items too, including ceramics, textiles, cards and gifts.

The Gallery’s Spring Exhibition is currently being prepared ready for opening on 14th Feb so we could see many of the exhibits ready for hanging. My favourite was a huge seascape on canvas – I don’t know who the artist is but it was stunning.

Our home-baked cakes were excellent. I chose the lemon drizzle (one of my favourites) and Mum had the polenta and lime cake. Both were moist, light and full of flavour. For those preferring something with icing, there was coffee cake, chocolate, or victoria sponge. We had very nice Illy brand barista-style coffee to go with it.

The only issue with visiting the Gallery is the access. They have tried by creating a ramp from one of the entrance gates into the building , but then there is a single step inside, quite steep with no handrail. Apart from that it’s quite a nice place to visit.

We couldn’t visit Alnmouth without looking at the sea, so we drove down to the beach. It was a beautiful clear day and the sea looked almost inviting.

The afternoon sun lit up the Aln Estuary and shone on the wet sand.

As we drove away we saw one of the skiffs that are based in Alnmouth. Skiff racing is becoming quite popular around British coasts and as the boats are very traditional in design, this is keeping the old boat-building skills alive. They are quite often to be seen wheeled out of the boathouse by the beach like this and I love to see them.

It has been a week of seeing old friends. On Tuesday I had lunch with two fabulous former colleagues. It was so good to catch up (and far too long since we last got together). Later on I met a dear friend for coffee. She is off to Australia in a couple of weeks and I’m missing her already. Today we saw a lovely couple who live near my Mum for the first time in ages…..it turns out that this lady reads my blog! I didn’t realise. It was so nice to see them both.

Have you had any reunions recently or been back in contact with people after a long time without? I’d love to hear about it.