Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Thursday

So, you'll all know by now that it was my birthday on Saturday and I made sure to start it early by getting Chris to buy me a workshop at the Bead Shop which was on the Thursday. And then when I was on my fateful trip to outdoor theatre version of the Musketeers I somehow managed to be talked into being a hairdresser for Vezza.

So, the day started with a coffee and cake, free thanks to Davina. I read the paper, did some knitting and listened to my podcast. There was nobody else around and it was perfect.

And then I was early for my lesson with Steph at the Bead Shop. The most difficult part of the lesson was choosing the beads and colourways. We all did very well, even if I do say so myself. And then the second hardest part of the lesson was threading up the needle. I managed to break one and make Steph open another packet to get one that I could use. Fail. Wasn't a great start to the lesson. But then we began with the beading and it was perfect.


Haha. I was a bit worried, but Steph was very positive so we managed to carry on and eventually came up with this:

WHICH LOOKS LIKE SOMETHING! Doesn't it!? It looks like something! I was really pleased with it and how fast I was managing to go. There's something very therapeutic about beading, in much the same way that other people feel about knitting and crochet. Unfortunately I'm too comfortable with both of them for it to be relaxing on its own anymore. Which sounds ridiculous. But I do find it difficult to just knit or just crochet. I always find myself having to have the tv on, or a podcast or reading a book or something. That's relaxing to me. Whereas beading, because it takes up the whole of my brain space, is relaxing. Much like yoga only less physical. Ha.

And then I finished it! About an hour early!


So I went downstairs and bought a load more beads to work on. I'm going to make something for my mum for her birthday in mid August. It's going to be good. I was going to do it on holiday but there wasn't enough time to even start and then when I got back I realised that I'd actually left my beading needles at home! Such a tit.

Anyway, as soon as I'd finished the lesson I hopped on the bus to Vezza's to get a bit messy. She answered the door looking like this:


Which was a bit of a shock! Ha.

She was having a stall at Fibre East over the weekend so she'd decided that she needed to have some mad hair. And I've been thinking for a while that I wanted to go back to having ridiculous hair so it all just came together. I bought some bleach stuff for my hair the day before, put it on and got on with doing Vezza's hair. It looked like this:

And then this.


And then that.

Then we realised that we should have wet her hair. Vezza has ridiculously long and ridiculously thick healthy hair. So jealous. But that, and the dryness of the hair, meant that it just ATE the three pots of dyes we had.

So, while it was going to be blue, purple and then pink, it ended up having bits of blue at the end

Then we shoved it all up in some clingfilm (Vezza has a lot of clingfilm in her house. Something to do with some job that she does on the sideline or something...  ;) ).

In the meantime, my hair was.... not doing anything. Ha. The bleach stuff that I'd bought was the wrong stuff. I was sure it was what I bought before and it did say lightening on the packet but now I'm thinking about it there were other colours in the range so maybe I used that same range but with red or brown or whatever normal colour I've used recently. When I washed it out, it did take every last bit of dye though. It had to be dried and then it looked like this:

Beauts!  I imagine this is going to kill any hairdressers reading this, so look away now, we sent Vezza's husband off to buy some proper bleach which he did valiantly and then it looked like this:

 Vezza put the dye on my hair, blue at the base and green everywhere else: 

So while I looked like this, she dried her hair and it looked. LIKE. THIS!  

 WHICH IS BLOODY GORGE AIN'T IT!?!!? But I was worried that the purple hadn't taken as well as anything else which was disappointing. We held judgement and kept taking photos and trying different dos and getting excited and eventually the decision was taken to go over the purple with the blue from the base of my hair. 

And I was pleeeeeeeeeased! So much better. And once she got it done in a herringbone plait for Fibre East all was right in the world.
How perfect is that?

In the meantime, my hair had done so I washed it off and dried it and it was glorious!  

 Not sure the kid was convinced though...

But I knew it needed curling to look its best. So I put some rags in over night, put some make up on in the morning and it looked a little something like this:

Which, for me, is perfect. I love it. Love it.

There are a few problems though. I don't want to wash it too much, but without washing it I can't curl it without heat. I look dead if I don't wear make up with it. And if you get it wet then it runs - including sweating at night. But I think it's worth it. 

When I got back on Thursday evening I packed for camping.

And that was the end of a perfect day.

Love Eleanor. xxx

Wednesday, 29 July 2015


I'm back off my holiday! It was a long weekend but it was so badly needed it feels like I've been away for two weeks. I'm feeling refreshed and excited again and ready to begin some big things. However, I also don't know where to start. There's some catching up to do after a holiday. June and Elizabeth very kindly stepped in to cover whilst I was away - I always feel very humbled that everybody rushes around to make sure I can get away, it's very much appreciated - but they can't do everything, including looking up missing orders and dealing with the back end of the website and stuff like that. So that needs doing. And I'd really like to get the accounting done. And I have a big plan that was scuppered a month or so ago by a whiny, obnoxious person who made me feel so terrible about doing it that I had to just kick it aside. But I'm feeling stronger and better now and I'm going to get on with it. Ahhhhh. Anyway, I'm starting the day by doing this blog because I want to relive my weekend and it makes me feel like I'm doing something. Then I'll get on with all the stuff that takes brain power and the stuff that takes a little bit of brawn (an order turned up in the meantime).

So, if you've been following the blog, you'll know that me and Chris went camping to Clumber Park which is just about half an hour up the road from the shop. We chose it because I wanted to go to an open air opera thing on the Sunday and it was easier to camp and allow Chris to enjoy a drink than it was to get home. I was very excited because I've not had any significant time off since Christmas! I usually have a coach holiday in May but this year I couldn't afford it because I was saving  to buy the business partners out. I did miss it even if I didn't realise it at the time.

So we set off on Friday at about half past five. The journey was smooooooooth apart from my knitting going seriously wrong. I'm doing a diamond-y type pattern thing but one set of diamonds ends with two stitches and one set ends with one stitch and I keep forgetting which is which and 'putting it right' at the end of the repeat which turns out not to be right... We got the tent up really quickly:

Miraculously, despite it raining allllll day, the sun shone whilst we set up and only started again once we were cosily ensconced inside our tent. Chris made me go to sleep at 9 o'clock! It was still light outside and there were children running around and there we were happily snoozing.

But that wasn't a problem because it meant that we woke up easily at half past six on Saturday which was the most glorious day. It was my birthday and Chris didn't bring me anything to open which I call a boyfriend fail. However, he did bring me chocolatey cereal and cook the most delicious sausagey breakfast so I'll forgive him. Two breakfasts for my birthday. Beautiful.

Then I did yoga. On my own with nobody to tell me what to do. I managed about a 20 minute routine which I was really pleased with because I don't feel like I know a lot and I'm not doing it as much as I was. But I know the poses that I like and made sure to do all of them. Really nice. Maybe next year I'll manage a half hour routine or something. Ha.

Then we headed into the park itself thinking we'd have a wander before hiring some bikes. We were really early so there was nobody about apart from a lovely volunteer who told us his life story about camping and losing weight. The courtyard bit (I think it's called the turning yard) is absolutely gorgeous:

We had a cup of tea and our first ice cream of the day whilst talking about some plans and hopes and dreams and that sort of holiday stuff before setting off once the bike place was open. Neither of us realised that it wasn't just bikes but trikes too!!!!! Because I hadn't written him a list, because he assured me he was a capable human being, Chris had forgotten his back pack which meant we were stuck with my handbag (essential for knitting, fags and sunglasses amongst a million other things) and his big old bulky camera and a picnic but the trike was the perfect option because it had a big old basket at the back. Everything went in there! BRILL! And then we had to get going. BUT HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TO RIDE A TRIKE!!???!?! It is not like riding a bike. You can't lean into corners. You have to turn with the handle bars which means that you mostly have to keep the handle bars straight which is really bloody hard. And you set off with both feet on the peddles instead of one on the floor and one on the peddle.  And it's wide. I do wish that Chris had filmed my first few attempts as I veered sideways and ran over a few people. But once I'd stopped for a photoshoot and a fag I was feeling a bit better:

ISN'T SHE GORGEOUS????!?!?!?! 

So we set off on the short ride which is five miles long and not very uphill and downhill. Chris is a much better cyclist than I am so he went off and circled back to me and went off again whilst I trundled as fast as my short, stubby and out of shape legs could carry me, which was not very fast. We circled round to the campsite for lunch of cheese and cured meats and cracker bread and it was fabulous. And then we decided to try another five mile cycle but added on a couple of miles. It's not cheap to hire these bikes/trikes and we were determined to get our moneys worth. I was really sad when we had to give them back but that's not the end of my wheely journey this weekend - more later.

So, we got back to the campsite, had a hot shower each and headed out for some food somewhere. We were hoping for a country pub or something like that but we were half way home before we decided we'd just go to the next place we saw which happened to be fish and chips which is what I wanted to order when I got to the pub anyway. BOOM!

So perfect.

And when we got back to the campsite again I managed to get a smile out of Chris:


And I believe that's the first time that's ever been caught on camera. We played mahjong and dominoes and drank wine (bought my numerous customers - fanx!) until about 11 when we were ready to collapse into bed and I realised that we hadn't toasted marshmallows which was a big plan for my day.  

And then we headed to bed.

Sunday started off beautifully:

 And slowly, slowly, everybody started packing up. The reason? This:

Yep. Sunday, if you remember, was rainy and blustery and bloody cold. But! This was my one chance at a holiday so I put on my borrowed 'cag in a bag' and went about my business with Chris and his miserable face dragging along behind. 

 We went to the kitchen garden which has the most inside space in the whole of Clumber Park - a beautiful glass house and museum-y type rooms. My favourite thing to do ever is walk around a museum reading bits and wondering about the people that used to be and work there whilst knitting a sock. Luckily, the cag in a bag had a front pouch where I could stash my knitting: 

Now, I know I like my garden, but I do find gardens boring, so I wasn't mega excited about looking at the plants before we went in but I was wrong. OH SO BLOODY WRONG! LOOK!

They had geranium trees! Puts mine to shame. I love geraniums. I did my work experience at a garden centre (believe it or not...) and the first thing that I had to do was arrange the geraniums. They're also the only plant that I can routinely smell. I really don't 'get' the smell of flowers - everything just smells like 'plant' to me apart from geraniums and tomatoes which is perhaps why I love them both. Ahhhhhhhh. 

My favourite kind of lettuce. I felt at home here. 

Vines! For WINES!

Spiky star flowers. 

AUBERGINES! I'm growing an aubergine and I was wondering how they appear. I have a mental block on googling things for the garden - I quite like that I know nothing and everything's a suprise but it is nice to know how it might happen when it does. I suspect I'll only get one. I don't know if I have to sex them up with an earbud like I do for courgettes and marrows. I do love a bit of al fresco earbud sex in the garden, don't you? Hopefully they'll grow like this.


I don't know whether this makes me feel sick or not. Have you heard of trypophobia? Don't google it if this image makes you feel sick...

Doesn't this look so English? It's a proper English country garden plant isn't it? I loved the colour. 

AND A BIG AND FOREIGN THING! I can't remember where they said that this came from but they made a joke about how similar it was to this specific part of Clumber Park - it was something like the Maldives or that kind of thing and... really... on that day, I didn't get it. Ha. It was beautiful.

Other things I enjoyed were the metal bits. Kind of Victorian-y I think and proper practical.


As we were trundling round there was a lady very efficiently cranking all the handles to open up the windows and it all worked perfectly. How exciting is that? Do you think that things made today would still be working like that 200 years down the line? Nuh uh. I think I was born in the wrong time, only I would almost certainly be in the wrong class and gender so I think I'll stay where I am. 

And the beautiful grates. Looks like a lace pattern to me. 


The other thing I enjoyed was finding these pots hidden away. Failed plants. Which makes me feel much better. It doesn't matter how good you are at gardening, how much you know, how much experience you have, there will always be dead brown things. Lovely. 

I've made this extra large so you can see his miserable face. He was badly dressed for the occasion. He's one of these people that things that those new fangled, fleecy, plasticy clothes will be warmer than old fashioned wool. Ha. He was miserable and cold and didn't cheer up until.... 

I took him for a pot of tea and let him hold the sock. By this time I'd given up on the lace pattern - too much stuff to do and see for me to concentrate, so I started a toe up sock out of a sock blank that Jem Weston gave me a few years ago. It's one of those blanks that's all in one and the colour mirrors itself down a middle line so I'm going to do the next sock top down but now I know exactly how long I can make the second sock because I've made the first toe up. (I'm on telleh tonight so you can see if being made if you're interested at all). 

Annnnnnyway. We got back to the tent, and found that because Chris had insisted on a small tent that was easy to put up and it meant that the bed touched every side.... the whole bed was soaking wet. But bugger it. We carried on. I'd bought some delicious port and we drank through it. The whole reason we were there was to see the play on the Sunday evening so we weren't about to pack up and leave. We went. Along with about 20 other hardy people wrapped up and covered in umbrellas. It was all very British

The sock came too. Obvs.

And I managed to get through the heel!

And then by the time we got back it was clear enough to have a few games of mahjong and a discussion on social housing. With lots of wine. How perfect is that!?

We were always leaving on Monday but we were planning to pack up and have a bit of a hike but because Chris had made me take the smaller tent instead of my mum's palatial one the bed clothes had touched every single bit of the tent and with the rain over night everything was soaking wet through. Including us. So we packed up and headed straight home. I was wearing my leggings and a jumper of Chris's, no pants or bra because they were all wet so I made Chris take the duvet to the dry cleaners because I didn't want to get out of the car but as he was in the shop I saw a man knocked over by a car and had to get out to help anyway. Not for long because there was a nurse there and I thought I'd get out of the way but for a short while you could have seen me on Bramcote Lane in wet leggings with no bra on. What a sight it was!

So, we got home, put three loads of washing on, did the washing up and tidied and sorted a little, and then I started googling about getting a trike. They are SO expensive! I've never known the like! And also, nobody had them in stock in Nottingham. So, we had to go to Halfords anyway and thought we might have a little looksie, and I found the most perfect bike in the world. It's red and it's a ladies bike so I can wear a skirt and I'd realised that part of the reason that the trike was so comfortable was the lovely womans seat so I spent a lot of money on a good saddle that's wide at the back, thin at the front and full of gel and it is beautiful! But because there's three for two on accessories and I wanted a lovely basket I also decided to get a helmet. So my lovely bike that was in the sale and a really good price ended up costing me. A. Lot. So I've got to use it!

So on Monday we went on a nine mile bike ride (Chris kept saying it was six miles, I thought it was seven and then we worked it out together and it was nine. Boom.) which was great! My bum was only slightly painful but I've ended up with bruises all over my legs and bites right up to the small of my back because we were near the river. Tonight we're going on a quick five miler to practice some slightly harder roads because eventually I'm hoping to ride to work. That can can be kicked down the road a little though because I have to get up either Ilkeston Road or Derby Road and there's no way I can do that at the minute - getting up bridges is still causing me grief and to be fair it's all I can do to stay up right... But, imagine that! Eleanor the cyclist!
So that was my weekend! I realised when I got half way through that I hadn't spoken about the Thursday before I went on holiday which was also a lovely day and I think you'd like to know about it. And also, I never got round to sharing the pets with knitting/crochet photos which was the plan for Saturday's blog. So I need to do that too. But for now I'm just pleased that I've managed to tidy some stuff, send one particular order and write this blog. I'm going to call that a win for today.

Love Eleanor. xxxxxxxx

Monday, 20 July 2015

An Update on the Hat

I thought I ought to update you on one of the recent Pattern of the Weeeeeeeeeeeeks because nobody likes a floppy brim. So, if you remember rightly I was making pattern 4336 out of the King Cole Raffia and I'd steamed it and starched it and it looked great! Until the next day when it went flooooooppy. So, after speaking to Zoe Halstead about it, I decided to PVA it. But then I lost the hat and forgot to buy the PVA and long story short, I didn't get to do it until yesterday. I was planning to do it at home in a much more relaxed manner but once I had all the stuff together I thought I ought to make hay whilst the sun shines and get it did.

Now, the pattern I think says to do it on the underside of your hat, which means that there is a little operational tricksy problematics. You need some sort of bowl or something that's big enough for the whole of the bowl of the hat to fit in and not too much of the brim to fall in. The closest thing I had was a vintage Roses tin given to me by a customer full of buttons that have since been sorted and what have you.

It's lovely isn't it?!

After you've plonked the hat inside you need to build some sort of contraption to support the brim. I'd use cardboard or kids building blocks or something very stable only... I was at the shop. So I used lots and lots of crochet hooks. Which held it beautifully, until I looked it its direction and then they all fell down. So I laid a towel down and started again and that was enough to hold it. Precariously.

Then I mixed up some PVA (just white, kids glue) with about half and half water and then I used a teaspoon to layer it thickly all over the top of the brim. It looked like this:

At this point, I facebooked Sue (who's been anxiously waiting for me to get on with it so she knows it works) making her promise me that it was going to go see-through. Turns out she was more worried about the drips all over the place and knew nothing of the joy of peeling PVA of your fingers so she wasn't the person to turn to. As an aside, PVA peels off fingers (and floors and walls) beautifully. It's also non-toxic so as long as you wash your implements well they're safe to use again. I wouldn't suggest drinking it though.

And then I had to wait. This is the bit about knitting/crochet that I don't like. The bit where it's nothing to do with you how long the thing takes. It's the same with blocking or even just washing and waiting for it to dry. But you have to be patient. I left it all over night and then the whole of this morning (Saturday as I'm writing) so I could get this blog done and answer the e-mails and tidy a little and do customers and stuff.

And then it was time. I gingerly knocked the crochet hooks from underneath. They were a little stuck but not drastically so, I could move them with one finger and then I carefully removed it from the tin and plonked it on my head.


It bloody works!

It's a little bit wibbly and I think that's because of my lazy/genius plan of using crochet hooks to support it so I really would suggest using blocks or some other sort of proper support all the way around. But to be honest, I'm a bit wibbly in general aren't I? So I really don't mind.

I would also suggest the use of a hat pin to keep it in place. I think a lot of us have lost the art of wearing hats because... well... we don't do it like we used to do we? It's mainly just beanies or whatever but a sophisticated hat like this deserves a sophisticated hat pin. For now that's going to be a kirby grip because for some reason I used three on my quiff rather than the two that I actually needed - it's like my reptile brain new what kind of beauty was going to be on my head this morning. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH! But, I'm going on a workshop at the Bead Shop on Thursday (Chris's birthday gift. What a man) so I'll pick Steph's brain about how best to do it.

And that's that. Hope that helps. Not scary. In the slightest. Get to it.

Love Eleanor. xxxxx

P.s. the pattern is still on order but I've got my fingers crossed for Monday.

P.p.s. I've bought a lot of copies. Don't worry.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Eleanor's Pattern of the Weeeeeeeeek: Fish Lips and Kiss Heel

Something a little different today - I haven't finished the project! But I've finished enough to say that it's worth talking about.

So, this is the Fish Lips and Kiss Heel. If you spend any time looking at socks on the internet you'll know about this heel. It seems to have ripped through the Addicted to Sock Knitting group on Facebook like wildfire. I've noticed it for nigh on a year but finally got around to making one last night:
 I've been thinking about socks in this yarn (King Cole Drifter - the new one) for about a week and managed to hold myself back until the never ending dress was finished (kinda, just needs blocking). I know I'm always on about how shit DK socks are but I'm thinking of these are more around the house socks - you know when it's summer and it's been a hard day and you get home, have a shower, get into cotton pjs and sit around knitting watching the sun go down? Bliss. Footwear is difficult there. Bare foot is the obvious option but then they get dirty and you're feeling pink and clean from the shower. Flip flops next but I wear them all day so it's like work wear for me. Slippers too hot. Hand knit socks too warm. Hmmmm. DK cotton-ish socks knitted at a looseish gauge!? Perfect! I hope.

So I started them on the bus last night, knit knit knit whilst catching up with Question Time (gah! I hate politicians) and finally, at about 11 o'clock I was ready for the heel. I had a little spare money in my papal so I went ahead and bought the Fish Lips and Kiss instructions that I've been looking at for a while and then kicked myself because I had no idea that this is not just a heel pattern, it is a lifestyle. Haha.

The woman starts with an explanation of how you work through the instructions. Then an explanation of how she came up with the idea - a deep deconstruction of shop bought socks and why they always seem to fit everybody (hint - negative ease and a bit more). Then an explanation of how to measure your foot (or anybody else you're making for) which is where I fell down because that really needed me to start from the beginning but I was already in bed , the the foot knitted and ready to knit the heel. Then detailed (and bloody brill) instructions on how to make the heel. And finally photographic explanations of the unusual stitches therein.

It's basically a short row heel - similar in my head to the sweet tomato heel that I still haven't tried but is free but the way that she does short rows is ridiculously easy! She says somewhere in the information that this method can be used for all of your short row needs and I think she's right although the wrapped(ish) stitches seem kind of.... bouncy. A bit like the difference between normal rib and fisherman's rib. If you know it.

I've made that extra large because I don't trust my photography...

I suspect that this is my fault because I ended up with a hole on one of the sides of the heel and not the other and I know that I forgot to give it a good tug which she suggested, so basically, I need to get into the swing of it.

The instructions are great! Really great. But maybe a little overdone. If I were her I'd do a cheat sheet at the beginning or end which is just written words in sentences that the more experienced can follow and then the rest of the bumph (in the nicest sense of the word) can be for later. I was a bit taken aback by the amount that I had to read, especially as my glasses were downstairs and there was no way I was getting up so I struggled through... the struggle is real. However, the stuff that you may think is extra, like the explanation of how she deconstructed shop bought socks, actually helps work the sock and explains some of the weird bits that she asks you to do. Obviously, the information about how to size and shape your sock is necessary - no quibbles there - but I stand up for the rest of it too. Print it out/download it to your ereader and call it bedtime reading some time???

Good pattern, well recommended. Especially if you find yourself stuck in a rut with your sock knitting. I know I always come back to the heel flap and turn (and now I know why.... not giving anything away) but I think this will be on all of my Christmas socks just to give it a fair go.

Now, my top tip this week is a bit preaching to the converted. I've had a lot of new customers this week who've been frequenting other shops (tut tut) but these other shops are old fashioned in the way that they try and keep customers within their four walls when we have a WHOLE INTERNET out there! And the internet isn't just computers talking to computers (well, it's that a bit) but for the time being those computers need humans to put stuff on them. The internet is therefore just humans speaking to other humans. So it's like going to a big knit club and hearing all the amazing stuff that people have been getting up to, or the comments they make on patterns or the problems that they face but HUGE! Refusing to engage with the internet in your knitting life is like sitting next to the bath and wondering why you still stink.

There are some incredible things out there! This woman who spent years knitting socks and refining and researching and working out and finally writing up a beautiful pattern and offering it to us for one measly dollar. Boom! And without the internet I wouldn't have that. No doubt I'd simply have the King Cole Zig Zag pattern which is great but it's not the be all and end all. It has six variations and that's only in stitch pattern on the legs, the cast on, rib, heel and toe are all the same for every variation. How boring would that be!? And what if that doesn't fit you? And what if one little variation like lengthening the heel flap would make it perfect for you? How would you have the confidence to do that if you'd never heard of people designing their own pattern or reverse engineering or whatever it is we hear of these amazing people doing on the internet?

Yarn shops tend to be conservative, slightly old fashioned place and that's part of the charm. That's why we like them. But we also like radical knitting don't we? We like the kind of knitting where it isn't about our size or your shape but about engineering something that fits you to a tee. That is radical. That is self love. That is important. And people that share that information are out there, unlikely in your local yarn shop (although we pride ourselves on being part of the movement), they're on the internet. Unburden yourself - free your needles, free yourselves!

Oops. Got on me high horse a bit there, didn't I? I'm off to put a sock in it. Once I've finished it.

Love Eleanor. xxxxxxxxxxxx