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Knit and Natter Round Up – March

The group continue to knit, crochet and sew all manner of beautiful things. Here are a selection of their makes.

L has now completed her colourful Sweet Pea Blanket (pictured above), by adding the border.

This was a kit she received from her daughter at Christmas.

L has also been loom knitting this hat.

R has been making herself a cardigan in a self patterning yarn in soft shades of blue and beige.

She’s also been continuing a patchwork project that has been on the go for many years ands wondering how to do the border.

L came to the rescue with some advice as she’s made hexagon quilts before, including this lovely pink one.

That’s the beauty of social knitting/crafting. All that pooled experience means that there is seldom a question that cannot be answered.

We also put our heads together on this project that Y has been working on.

This is one of a pair of gentleman’s kilt stockings in a cable design made in very fine yarn. It involved purl twisted cable, which took some working out! Y is definitely the Sock Queen – she also made these colourful self striping socks, with bright shades alternating with black.

It took me longer to make my alpaca socks than she took to make both of these pairs!

C has made these lovely blue baby bootees….

…and has been working on a pink teddy bear!

A has been crocheting baby blankets, including this one in pretty pastel shades.

She also asked someone skilled in amigurami crochet to make this bunny – isn’t it lovely?

Another crafty friend, who is not in our online knitting group – showed me something she recently completed from a kit: a crocheted Harry Potter! The kit included the tiny broomstick!

Have you made any toys recently? I’d love to hear about them.

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A Month of Music: Part 2

In Part 1 I explained how I bought 4 pairs of gig tickets for K’s birthday and it just happened that they were all this month. We’ve already enjoyed 80s pop from Altered Images and punk from Buzzcocks. Read on to find out who we saw next…..

Gig number 3 was Gong. Psychedelic Rock is not a genre that I know anything about, but K has several Gong albums and raves about them, so when I found out that they were playing at The Cluny this had to go on the birthday list. I have to say I wasn’t keen. I even went as far as asking if any friends or their partners wanted to go with K instead of me but there were no takers.

K would describe Gong as more of a collective than a band, with many changes of personnel since they began in 1967 and no original members. Current frontman is Kavus Torabi. Legend has it that he was suggested by Gong founder Daevid Allen. shortly before his death in 2015. Torabi is quite charismatic, joined on stage by some pretty decent musicians on guitar, bass, drums and jazzy sax. All this with some in-your-face lighting and in front of an animated backdrop, with abstract images, morphing florals and characters from a mythology that accompanied the albums (pixies riding around in flying teapots no less!)

With all that going on the whole show was a bit of a hippy trippy assault on the senses. I certainly found it interesting, but can’t say I remember a single song or felt at all moved. Glad I went though. It was an experience!

The fourth and final gig of our Month of Music was A Flock of Seagulls. If you are more a fan of movies than music, then you’ll know that scene in La La Land when Mia is at a pool party and sees Seb playing in an Eighties cover band. She requests that they play “I Ran”. That was a Flock of Seagulls song, their biggest hit.

Only Vocals/Keyboard player Mike Score remains of the original line up, and in the last 40 years he’s gone from the craziest haircut ever to no hair at all! That electro-pop sound still works, both the hits (“Wishing”, “Telecommunication”, as well as “I Ran”) and the less well-known tunes.

Score has assembled some skilled musicians to join the Flock’s current incarnation – it was a great gig and took us straight back to the Eighties!

Our month of music is now at an end and it’s been a blast, with four very different gigs, all very enjoyable and all experienced at a lovely intimate venue, The Cluny, in Newcastle’s Ouseburn. We’ve had such a great time that I’ve booked tickets for four more gigs later in the year!

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A Month of Music – Part 1

The gift of an experience, whether it’s a voucher for a meal at a favourite restaurant, performance tickets, a trip, or a special activity, is a treat on many levels. It can be very personal if well-chosen to reflect the individual tastes of the recipient There’s the anticipation of something to look forward to, something we all need in these troubled times.

It was Kevin’s birthday just before Christmas. He’s not the easiest person to buy gifts for, but I ended up getting him concert tickets for four separate gigs at a small, but iconic, independent venue in Newcastle: The Cluny

We both love live music. We met at college when we were both part of a student group that staged concerts. It gave us the opportunity to see many artists perform. K got particularly interested in the technical aspects of sound and lighting and as a result it sometimes seems like we can be at the same gig and experience two entirely different shows. He can detect problems with the sound mix that I never notice. We’ll arrive early so he can have a good look at the technical set up and we’ll hang around at the end to watch how efficiently the road crew pack up. I suppose all this means we get some sorted added value to going to see live music, which makes those tickets a great gift (and even better, I get to enjoy them too!) It worked out that all four gigs are this month and we’ve been to two so far, beginning with Altered Images.

We worked on one of their gigs back in college in the 80’s, when they had hits with “Happy Birthday” and “Don’t Talk Me About Love”, The band broke up in 1983, but in recent years, vocalist Clare Grogan has performed as Altered Images with new band members, recently supporting fellow 80’s band The Human League on tour – we were at one of the Newcastle dates. Grogan is a warm and engaging performer so the opportunity to see Altered Images headlining at more intimate venue was irresistible.

She doesn’t seem to have changed at all (alas, those of us in the audience are not all aging so well!) And with a room full of fans (it was sold out), singing along to those 80’s hits, the atmosphere was simply joyful. In addition, there was a sharp cover of the Ting Ting’s’ “That’s Not My Name” and material from a forthcoming album, the first in nearly 40 years, including the atmospheric ‘It’s a Beautiful Thing”. What a great start to our Month of Music!

We revisited the Punk era for the second gig. Some may remember the Punk Movement for outrageous behaviour and fashion, but for me it was all about the music. With fast furious lyrics and driving guitar riffs, Buzzcocks typified that.

The band is now fronted by original bass guitarist, Steve Diggle, since the death of Pete Shelley in 2018. They played a tight set including the hits ‘What Do I Get” and “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’tHave Fallen In Love With)”. There’s still a lot of energy there…..not something to sit still to!

Much as I enjoyed the band, I was less impressed with some of the audience, There was a bit of a “Lad’s Night Out” atmosphere, mostly good natured, with middle aged former punks getting a bit the worse for wear. There was a bit of an incident at the end when someone got up on stage, got chased off, drink was thrown and tempers got frayed, but only briefly. On the plus side, since COVID, spitting is unacceptable, even for punks!

It was a different sort of Thursday Night for me – normally I would be at my ukelele group, but missed it so I could go. ….I wonder if I could play “Ever Fallen In Love…” on the ukelele. There’s a challenge!

Have you seen any great live music recently?

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A Sock Knitting Revelation

Fresh off the needles today, one pair of socks in handspun alpaca and wool. This is the first pair I’ve made from the toe up.

This pair began its journey last summer with one of my first dyeing experiments. I gradient dyed a braid of alpaca in shades of blue, navy, purple, pink and red. You can read about where my alpaca fibre came from here

I spun the yarn and plied it with black zwartbles sheeps wool.

As I wasn’t sure about the yardage I’d need I decided on a toe-up pattern. If I’d knitted a top down sock it would have been a catastrophe if I’d run out of yarn before I reached the toe. On the other hand, working from the toe up could end up ankle or knee length without it really mattering! This pattern is Route 45’s Basic toe-up socks. It gives lots of options for needle size, and works whether you prefer DPNs small circular or magic loop. There is also a measuring guide so you can create perfectly fitted sock.

The other resource I used was this book I got for Christmas.

Who knew there were so many cast on/off methods? Several ways of starting off sock toes are included. The pattern uses the Turkish cast on, which was a first for me.

The book came in again for the cast off on the cuff – I used Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind off, which is a pretty good description….very stretchy.

I’ve really enjoyed knitting these. I love the the way the colours work, Both the gradient and the way that plying with black tones down the colour and gives a tweedy effect when knitted up. The gradients don’t match but I can live with that.

Toe up construction has been a bit of a game changer. I always disliked picking up stitches on the gusset with top down socks and there’s none of that here. I don’t think I’ll be going back to top downs after this.

And as for worrying that I might run out of yarn….well there’s just about enough for another pair!

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Up the Tyne Valley, Down Memory Lane

It’s rather chaotic at Stitches By The Sea HQ as we are having some work done on the house. We had an escape last Tuesday, a trip out for what we call a “Because We Can” day. We do this from time to time ever since we retired because, back then, when we were working,…we couldn’t!

Many of our jaunts take us up the Northumberland Coast and into the Borders, but this time we headed south west until we reached the Tyne Valley, then followed it upstream to Corbridge, a place that holds many childhood memories for me.

Corbridge is a pretty village, with an old church, and some attractive shops, cafes and pubs. It sits perched on a steep bank overlooking the Tyne, only a fairly short drive from the City of Newcastle, making it a popular destination for visitors. To reduce congestion on the narrow streets, there is a large car park just over the bridge outside the village. Stopping there and walking (or in my case scooting) back over the bridge presents stunning views of the river.

Some of the properties on Front Street have steeply terraced gardens leading down to the riverside footpath. It was in one of these gardens that my paternal grandparents had a caravan.

I went there often as a small child. At the time, the garden belonged to the Tynedale pub. There are other businesses occupying the former pub premises now but the central archway and courtyard remain, from which steep steps descend to the flat area at the bottom of the garden. I was so pleased to see that this is still being used to grow vegetables as Grandpa was a fanatical gardener. Having cultivated his garden at home to grow copious amounts of produce, he ran out of space but managed to plant a few rows of cabbages and beans by the caravan.

The seating in the front of the caravan somehow converted into two double beds, separated by a curtain. At the back, opposite the little kitchen were bunk beds for me and my little brother. It must have been pretty crowded, though I remember that sometimes there was a large tent too. This was igloo shaped, with inflatable ribs that were blown up with a footpump until rigid enough to make the structure stable.

My grandmother (Nan) was a prolific knitter: we grandchildren must have had jumpers, cardigans and hats in every colour of the rainbow. She used the leftover yarn to knit squares that she sewed together into very colourful blankets. There were several of these in the caravan. It was always spotlessly clean, and smelt of TCP. Nan had been a nurse and swore by the stuff: she used it as a household disinfectant, an antiseptic on grazed knees and insect bites and even as a gargle for sore throats.

As we wandered through Corbridge I looked out for the Wheatsheaf Hotel. We would sometimes have Sunday Lunch here back then. I was always fascinated by the dumb waiter that brought food from the kitchen downstairs up to the restaurant. As my grandfather was a regular customer we got know our usual waitress by name. She was an older lady (well to me anyway) named Hilda. She would yell our order down the dumb waiter shaft to the kitchen. “Four soups for Mr Brown!”

A steep lane leads down to a footpath by the river. It was a little muddy and criss-crossed by tree roots but the scooter coped. There were masses of snowdrops and some early daffodils in flower.

We soon found the garden again. I thought of Grandpa’s constant battle to keep the grass cut. The rich alluvial soil made it grow long and lush At home he had an immaculately mown lawn (which gradually shrank as the vegetable plot grew) but there was no lawnmower here so he was usually to be found stripped to the waist, wielding a hand sickle.

The fence separating the garden from the path looks the same as it ever did – there was a gate that we used to get to the river. The water was quite high and fast flowing, especially as we got near to the bridge where the river narrows slightly. Buddy the Labrador loves the water, but we kept him well away.

The path floods sometimes. I remember years ago hearing that the river had burst its banks, which to my young ears sounded really dramatic – my grandparents had to clean and dry out the caravan afterwards. During the summers I was there, the river was at a much lower level, safe enough for me to play among the rocks in the shallows, fishing for minnows with a shrimp net.

My father told me that when he was a little boy, he wanted to go fishing with his dad but wasn’t allowed and didn’t have a rod of his own. Ever resourceful, Nan used a garden cane, a piece of string and a bent pin to make a rod. line and hook. . Off he went, with a piece of bacon rind to use as bait. According to the story he caught a pike with his homemade gear. I know that fishermen’s tales have a reputation for exaggeration, but whatever did happen that day, it must have inspired my father. He remained a keen angler all his life.

Have you ever revisited a place from your childhood?