Good times

Once a week, I’m up especially early to head out to work. But I thought she was a lady of luxury, sitting in her little washhouse, knitting and reading, or off on expeditions and travels all the time, you say?! Ah well, remember I am also a granny of four, and to earn the name of “Nana”, I try to do my bit… and that means getting up early.
(My husband described me recently as “Nana Lana” – granny of the wool lol!)

I don’t even arrive at my daughter’s house in time to see my eldest grandson off to school. Here in Switzerland, primary schools often start morning lessons around 7.25 am, and the 9 year old has to be out of the house by 7 to ride his bicycle down from the house and across the main traffic axis and back up the other side, where the schoolhouse sits on top of a hill overlooking the farmsteads, just like in an American naïve painting. It’s a Swiss naïve painting!
I’m barely in the door before the next one is donning her gear ready for Kindergarten, so I’m greeted more in passing. At 6, she is already a very independent young lady and has definite ideas about what she wants to take as a snack and what else needs to go in the bag. Jacket and boots on, the doorbell goes, her friend from next door is ready to go, both of them with neon visibility waistcoats to keep them safe as they walk the same route as their big brothers, up to the schoolhouse.

Most mornings when I arrive, it’s the nearly 3 year old who comes running to greet me, full of ideas for what we’ll play today. Will we colour, read, sing, dance, cook, drink tea, play with the cat, do puzzles and build towers? All of that! Together with his little sister, 14 mths, there’ll be running, chasing, hugs, tumbles, laughs and tears. They will ride bobby cars and motorbikes, he will rescue her by towing her car with a dog lead, and make repairs using the vacuum cleaner cable before they can be on their way again, round and round the table. They will stop to make a fuss of the cat and then be off again, sneaking into the kitchen to nab some crackers or disappearing upstairs with a particular toy in mind. Littlest one will topple over and bump her head on the carpet and big brother will charge off and return with plasters for her forehead that she’ll wear proudly all morning. I will be crawling around after them, replacing fallen-off slippers and socks and wiping noses, and suddenly they will demand books and plump themselves down on my lap to read the same books for the hundredth time, seeing more and learning more each time they do so. They love cuddles and tickles and both have an infectious giggle. “Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear…” is always a big hit all round, over and over again, “Hoppe hoppe Reiter…” as they bounce up and down on my knees. Nappies are changed, pyjamas discarded, fresh clothing sought out, breakfasts distributed. Ready for round two. Up in the playroom we’ll build train tracks, rearrange the farm animals, send the fire engines to an emergency, career around the roads on the play mat. More puzzles and games, more books and stories, some “shopping” and “cooking”, a tea party, the bed as a boat, a castle, a fort or a house, the clock striking the hours in animal voices – a lion’s roar at 9, an elephant’s trumpet at 10 and so on…






Perhaps the baby will take a morning nap if she was up early and little boy and I might have a short window of Fireman Sam, the Moomins or Teletubbies for a few moments of downtime, cuddled under a blanket, a breather between games. Though we might be too busy doing jobs in the kitchen or he might be absorbed in being an elephant with some tubing he’s found, or we could just be occupied blowing bubbles…


Anyway, at some point we have to start thinking about lunch for everyone. Hungry children will be home at 12! Little helpers can do lots of things, empty the dishwasher, put things away, set the table, make salad dressing, fetch ingredients from the fridge, or just bang a wooden spoon on the pots and pans! We’re clockwatching now, timing everyone’s needs to be ready on the hour… and trying to prevent more sneaked snacks when lunch is nearly ready.

12 o’clock. High noon! First one child in from school, rosy and sweating, then the other from Kindergarten, full of chat. What’s for lunch, Nana?? Now I get to gauge if it’s going to be a success! They are too polite to whine, as a rule, but I will see how successful my cooking is (compared to their mother’s!) by the leftovers…or none. Get the toddler into the high chair, bib on, avoiding any tantrums from the nearly 3 year old – where does he want to sit, which plate does he want, is he happy with a fork today or does he want a spoon and knife, too? What colour beaker will they each have without complaint – woe betide I offer pink plastic to a 9 year old boy or a Cars motif to a 6 year old girl!! Squabbles and tales, food everywhere, who likes ketchup, who prefers mayonnaise, who likes to mix them, who needs meat cutting, who feels their food is too hot and demands I blow on it…?? The two smallest generally eating with great gusto, oops, lets get their sleeves up, and we’ll ignore ketchup behind their left ear until we’re clearing up! The eldest impatient to push his plate aside and tackle his homework, his sister impatient to have lunchtime over and make playdates, the younger ones tired and beginning to flag.

Clear the table, fill the dishwasher, help with homework, prevent the phone being used in the lunch hour, make up a bottle of milk, get the toddler down for a nap, where’s the dummy gone?! find a quiet activity for the 3 year old if he won’t sleep, keep the 6 year old out of the 9 year old’s hair, give permission for screentime, replace some batteries, check hands have been washed, change more nappies, admire crafts brought from school, make sure parents will see any paperwork, let the dog out (especially when the postman comes to leave a parcel!), let the dog in, answer the phone, wash the pots and pans, let the cat in or out (or both), fold some laundry, admire the latest train or racing car set-up, do more difficult puzzles, more intricate colouring… eventually, each child is off for their own quiet time.
Make a cup of tea! Let the dog in to clear up after the toddler (aren’t dogs great at recognising a high chair and toddler and all they offer?!), run the vacuum cleaner, and finally, sit down and actually drink the tea…

My daughter comes in, looking fresh as a daisy after a morning in the office, ready for her own afternoon shift with all four children, plans for activities and appointments. I finish my tea, exchange news and notices and then it’s time for me to wrap up warm and start for home. If I can, I’ll take one of the kids to an appointment if it will save my daughter a journey, otherwise I will just make my way back down the valley, a warm feeling of contentment lingering that I’ve not only done my daughter a favour (hopefully!) by being there for the brood for a few hours, but also happy that I have a relationship with all four of my grandchildren. I know their likes and dislikes, favourite toys and activities, and they know me, too, and look forward in turn to coming to see me in my home and doing the activities they associate with us. Yes; this is what family is all about!!

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The Knitting Crazies

Hello… and welcome!

Here’s taking a flying leap into the new year and January 2018!

By now, I think my readers will have gathered that I always have something on the needles and anyone who knows and/or understands knitters will also know that the vast majority have UFOs (unfinished objects), WIPs (works in progress) and hopefully, at some point, FOs (finished objects)!! A new year is a new start and a very good opportunity to get a touch of castonitis – the condition where a number of projects appeal and are cast on and work is intense as long as the project is shiny and new. Some projects move on quickly or have a deadline, and others, well, others can linger by the wayside a little (or more). Let us hope that most will reach completion at some point or else be unravelled (frogged, in knitspeak) and the yarn re-used. But I digress.

For once, I had little Christmas knitting in 2017. A few pairs of socks made good and fairly mindless knitting, partly because the Nutkin pattern I introduced a few posts ago, which is lovely, kept turning out too big for me. That is, I kept getting distracted and making the whole thing too long so I had to watch my step (literally!) and manage a pair that are more suited to my short, broad feet. Finally, success!

And of course, the Fireside cowl (Ysolda Teague’s Fraxinus) was finished, too – I love this wool-silk blend of fiery colours which suits the pattern so well. Gorgeous to wear with my turquoise wool-cashmere coat! (The hat is also an Ysolda Teague pattern from a few years ago, Rose Red, a great favourite in a blend that has cashmere in it, too.)

My January got off to a busy start. I had two gifts to complete this month, neither of which I can yet show you, as the recipients haven’t had them, yet… sorry! I would just like to say they were both delightful projects that knitted up beautifully and blocked (washed and shaped) even more beautifully into accessories I am decidedly pleased with, in absolutely gorgeous yarns – let that be a teaser. And I really hope they find loving homes!

On reviewing what I have on the needles at the moment to write about, I was slightly embarrassed that there are at least six projects on the go, some are more, some less complex, but all have their merits…

Firstly, I have been working on another Quill shawl/small blanket (pattern by Jared Flood, yarn is Drops Flora, a great alpaca-wool blend), as I have mentioned previously. It’s the one that will need a tea bath when it’s finished to tone down the colour, as the yellow is rather brighter than I had intended. I’m on the last leg of this, the lace edging, so it’s a matter of picking it up and actually doing a repeat here and there until it’s finished, though the 700+ stitches on the needle right now make me twitch a little (and yet another KnitPro wooden needle broke, grrr). I had got a start on it and found, with much facepalming, that although I made two of these in 2017 and showed them off proudly, the lace was in fact incorrect (done in stocking stitch instead of garter…). I started this last one in the correct fashion but then after about 20cm found I actually preferred my “wrong” version, so ripped it out and recommenced… On the needles, it looks like a limp bag, but believe me, it will unfold from its chrysalis-like form into all the same glory as the two predecessors. Promise!
The point at which the needles broke and I had to reconstruct lace stitches 😮

As if I didn’t have enough blankets, I suddenly had a rare urge to crochet. This does not happen very frequently in my world, my mother is the crocheter. However, I came across a rather large box of superwash DK-weight merino in a pleasing range of colours and as I don’t use this type of yarn much any more, the idea of a simple granny-stripe blanket to “use them up” came to mind. Crochet eats up yarn at an alarming rate, so surely this would be perfect…. Friends, I have already had to go out and buy more yarn (and try and match up colours, not always successfully!) in order to actually get a blanket of useful dimensions. At the moment, it’s about 120cm wide and 60 cm high, so only about 1/3 done, and a lot of work to be done, yet. The colours are still lovely and go with my home, so it’s worth keeping up with it. There will be a million ends to sew in and it will be even larger than intended by the time it has an edging and I may well hate it by the time it’s finished and have to put it into hibernation until I can look at it again. But it will be a wondrous thing!! And as I chose a 3.5mm hook, the fabric is quite dense; it will be warm. A 4 or even 4.5mm hook would have been perfectly adequate (but it would have been even wider :o).

As a keen Skeindeer podcast fan, and with a daughter who seems to be churning out fabulous colourwork mittens in sensational rare breed yarns at an alarming rate, I felt I wanted to join the party. I have done colourwork mittens before, so it shouldn’t be an issue. However, much as I love the Julebukk pattern by Skeindeer, and I really adore the John Arbor yarns I bought in Oxford a couple of years ago (Exmoor Bluefaced Leicester/Alpaca), too, but after a promising start, I just don’t seem to be getting anywhere fast. I have just transferred the first mitten from DPNs (double pointed needles) to a circular to use the magic loop method, so maybe that will help. It requires a fair amount of concentration to follow this kind of chart so no reading or watching Netflix or podcasts, or even audiobooks, while working on these :o. I do truly love the yarns and hope to get my hands on more in the future, they are pure luxury. But possibly not ideal for the type of project, it has to be said. I mean to persevere and then to delve more into the world of Norwegian mittens, but for now, I need to concentrate on these!
The beginnings of the very pretty cuff…

While on the subject of luxury yarn, I have embarked on another Mandarines pattern (Melody Hoffman), Skogur. This looks to be a very simple knit, for a change, with a lot of very mindless garter stitch – it also looks as if the first section could take forever, as I have already invested countless hours and don’t feel I’m getting anywhere!! However, the yarn is another very worthwhile one, from the Faroe islands this time, a blend of Faroe island and Falkland wool, I believe. Or are the Falkland sheep on the Faroes?! I’m not entirely sure (how much farther apart could the Faroes and Falkland be?!). Still, for a so-called “rustic” yarn, it’s very smooth and soft and I’m definitely curious to see how it will come up when washed and blocked. I have chosen the same colour as in the original pattern, a silver grey, and am really enjoying working with the yarn, which I got from Laines des Iles in Brittany last summer. It’s supposed to become a fairly large crescent-shaped shawl…

The next items are FOs! My dear Canadian friend, who is not a knitter, has for several years running sent me a knitting calendar, with a lot of great little projects that take anything up to a week each to complete. What a fab idea to keep a knitter on her toes! Last weekend these Cindersmoke mittens popped up, in fairly thick yarn (I had some Drops Nepal to use up!) and needles, so I dived straight in and made them pretty much in the time frame suggested. As I made a sweater in this colour recently and I have a Shetland hat with this mustard yellow in it, too, I liked this choice… Now I come to think of it, my slippers are this colour, as well, and looking around, it seems I’m really fond of this shade… lol!!


This week, back to the mustard yet again for some socks called the Thankyou Socks, with a simple cable… This seemed a good option for plain-coloured sock wool I had picked up at the general store where my youngest daughter works and wanted to put to good use. Looks like these are going to be warm and squishy – and go with most of my wardrobe :O Just goes to show that even bargain yarns from non-specialist stores are worth looking at.

As if that wasn’t enough to be going on with, I have had both yarn and a pattern in mind for quite a while, now. I know that Drops has blotted their copybook with a lot of knitters lately, but it has to be said that their yarns are great value for money and I do have quite a bit in my stash – and stash is there to be used. This is Drops Alpaca, which is wonderfully soft and fine, in a beautiful rich red, and the pattern is Belmont by The Shetland Trader, Gudrun Johnston, from her book The Shetland Trader Two. It will be a nice little cardigan with a lace-pattern front; it’s cropped and although this isn’t something I generally go for, I do need a short cardigan to go over some of my dresses and skirts and I rather like the vintage look. And I do adore red (despite that penchant for mustard/gold!). I am just getting into the body of the garment, which is a bottom-up, in the round pattern, something I haven’t done for a couple of years, now, possibly not since I did Soay (also a Gudrun Johnston pattern)! I’m not yet sure if I will do the 3/4 sleeves or lengthen them to the wrist, but as they are top-down set-in sleeves (a technique I very much favour), I will see when I get there.

Oh, and remember the Oa?! There’s that, too… If you’re looking for me, I reckon I’ll be – knitting!

Season of lights

I have talked here before about Advent, that run up to Christmas over 24 days that is so well known in German-speaking countries, as well as elsewhere. It seems to have had something of a renaissance – perhaps just something else to market in our consumerist world – and I admit that it’s something I look forward to. Possibly because my birthday is, and has always been (!) on the first day of Advent! Since I was a child, I have had Advent calendars (most frequently with or without chocolate but this year, TWO, full of different tea varieties!) and Advent candles and we have, I think, almost always had an Advent wreath with four candles on it, lighting one more each Sunday before Christmas, whether we celebrated the German, or later, Swiss Christmas Eve or English Christmas Day. Candles have always been a part of it, that lovely warm glowing light emanating with the particular scent when the lights are low and the weather outside is atrocious…the epitome of hygge, I suppose.

I don’t remember there being much in the way of electric lights around my childhood Christmasses. Perhaps they weren’t so common in Europe in the 1970s/80s. Even when our children were younger, we never had electric lights, but in the last 10 or 15 years, they have become more and more popular. Whereas candlelight lit up the lametta draped on the wondrous silver or gold Christmas Eve tree (in Germany and Switzerland), it twinkled on colourful tinsel on the artificial tree in England, but that all seems passé now. More and more houses and gardens feature electric light decorations in some form and the advent of the LED has meant that it’s a cheap and cheerful form of seasonal decoration trend. Fortunately, most people in my part of the world seem to prefer plain white and non-blinking, and I myself am partial to pretty little lights – all the year round, if I’m honest! – but almost only indoors, and hopefully tasteful!
The two pocket watches belonged to my great-grandparents and have a history of their own!

These days, no self-respecting town or city can get away without a light show of some kind. Even the local villages in my area proudly attach some kind of lights to each lamppost along the main thoroughfare(s), one has stars, the next candle shapes or snowflakes or… I’ve often seen cranes on a building site with electric stars in addition to the red warning light for planes. A few years ago, shortly after we moved to the little washhouse, our town lights extended to just in front of our house. Mid-November a truck pulls up patiently at each lamppost from the roundabout until opposite our house and deposits a smallish spray of lights and a snowflake that is quickly and efficiently fixed up on high. From the first Advent weekend until Epiphany (January 6th), the lights come on each evening, come rain, snow or wind, and put a gentle glow over the plain, tarmac street. Mid-January, the patient truck pulls up again to dismantle everything until next year.

If you follow the decorations along, you will see more Advent lights, this time in the old schoolhouse windows, where the children decorate Advent windows ready for their turn, as 24 buildings, mostly private homes, pick a day in December to star in the Advent window show. If you hang or place a jug near the entrance, it means you’re willing to host light-goers for a drink and/or snack, maybe some mulled wine or hot chocolate. By the 24th it’s well worth a walk around this part of town to see all the windows and what people came up with this time round! All kinds of winter and Christmas scenes will be your reward.

Next come my very favourite lights – a large tree just after the bridge looks as if someone has daintily dropped flower lights into its winter branches. It’s such a delicate rendering of lights and I enjoy it almost daily as I drive by. Or are they snowflakes? You tell me.

After a stroll along the river – where there are no lights, but the water captures and reflects plenty of twinkles as it flows along behind the railway station – you will get to one of the older parts of town, the first part of town to have escaped the old town walls. From here throughout the centre of the old town, our council has invested in a whole new light show. Instead of strings of lights in various shapes, there are projections onto the most prominent buildings, some taking the building’s features into consideration, others just glad of a blank space. And they tell the Christmas story!

The style is consistent throughout and also with that of golden figures strung across the mostly pedestrian streets of the town’s core. These are not electrified or lit up, they shine only with the glow from the projections or the individual shop lights, characters made famous by the Christmas story, camels and sheep, shepherds and kings.

Our little town is not a tourist attraction, it has no particular notoriety. But it does have some attractive old buildings, like most places in Switzerland. It is a town of only about 25000 inhabitants but with a great infrastructure and a loyal population which enjoys buying locally. Again, like many towns here, it has both a Catholic church and a Protestant church, a town hall, administrative buildings. It has an elegant old railway station but also supermodern commercial premises next to it. Some 19th century buildings have attractive bay windows, some of the houses have a specific connection to people or events. The projections are on all kinds of facade, regardless of age, and unite them. Sometimes also with the more familiar strings of electric lights!

And lastly, what was conceived as an elegant shopping street with a huge post office building at the top end, a smart confectionary and café halfway down and a representative bank building at the other end regains its poise with a row of young trees garlanded in strands of stars that glow modestly across the way as our little tramway train passes by…

(A small reminder: the Twelve Days of Christmas traditionally begin on Christmas Day and run on to Epiphany. This is the actual feast of Christmas (Advent was generally a fast in anticipation of the great day)… a really good excuse not to consider Christmas “over” after the 25th December, concentrating on the coming year, but to keep the festivities going! Take note, young bloggers and vloggers – I was bemused to see “12 days of Christmas” featured during Advent! :o)

PS The city of Geneva is so international, it’s hardly Swiss – and yet, look at its lights! 😉

More history and another challenge

From the age of 10 or so, I spent my long summer holidays with my English grandparents. We generally had 8-9 weeks, so it was much longer than the standard 6 weeks (or 5 if you’re a Swiss child!) and although there was plenty to do and see, there were times when I went looking for something to read or make. On my quests for inspiration, I frequently browsed a large collection of Family Circle magazines that my Granny picked up at the supermarket and kept in a cupboard. They were full of all sorts of fascinating information and tips, and yes, ideas of things to make. Within reason and if Granny had the bits and bobs, I spent many an hour crafting something I’d seen. It was understood that eventually, I would inherit this collection! Especially as I have gone on to develop a love of vintage magazines and books…

Unfortunately, the pile of magazines turned up so late in our packing-up of Granny’s belongings that I was restricted to a small pile to bring home with me, and I sadly had to dump the rest (though not without scouting through them for knitting patterns!). Now I am back home and the weather has taken a turn for the worse, I’ve started reading them and found myself taken back in time.

The first issue of (British) Family Circle came out in October 1964, shortly before my birth, and this issue has been faithfully kept – probably in the hope that it would become valuable! I did check online and it seems that it has gone from an original price of 1/- (one shilling in old English money pre-1971) to a value of around £20 now, so not bad. I suppose there aren’t many that have survived 53 years.

Domestic bliss was the aim for the 1960s housewife, but she was a modern miss, too. The title page advertises the competition to win an all-electric £5000 house – a real 1960s detached with all mod-cons, even things like dishwashers that didn’t become common in the UK until 30 years later.

Scandinavian style had reached the British Isles and jumps out every couple of pages – much like today!

Some of the fashions wouldn’t look out of place in 2017, either, albeit with slightly different styling. but really, Mad Men?!

It’s a treat to read real English that has been proofread, too, and the level of common sense is fantastic – sigh. The recipes look tasty and simple (in those days, few people were prepared to attempt any funny foreign food…), the embroidery timeless and the adverts no less ridiculous than in a modern magazine. I spied a few things that are of their time and yet – my mother still has a bamboo rocking chair exactly like the one in the home decor section

and I could knit up several of the patterns without the garments even looking “vintage”.


Tweed is in!

To a young 2017 mum it might seem shocking to see that babies were being given additional foods from the age of only 2 weeks, but the article about children’s imaginations v. lying is just as topical for any mum of a 4 year old, I’m sure. PG Tips and Ovaltine (Ovomaltine here!) still exist, while most of the offices you could write to (with a stamped addressed envelope, please…) probably do not.


LOL!!

So, the challenge I am setting myself is to implement some of the things I found in this stack of 1960s magazines! Let’s see how I do, shall we?

Autumn knitting

Let me just squeeze this in before winter is completely upon us!

First of all, the final item in my Four Seasons challenge from the beginning of the year.
If you remember, I began with a beautiful winter hat, the Constellation hat by Hunter Hammeson (a paid-for pattern on Ravelry), not difficult but probably the most complex of the four patterns.

This was followed by the easy spring shawl, Linus by Annett Cordes (free, see Ravelry), in iris colours

A light summer shawl came after that – a simple and bright candy-coloured riot! Reyna by Noora Laivola (free Ravelry download).

The last in the quartet is autumnal indeed, cosy socks which are the brilliant and easy Nutkin pattern by Beth LaPensee (a free Knitty pattern also available on Ravelry). I have made this pattern before – and since! – and love it. It’s the perfect combination of slightly lacy and stretchy but warm and cable-y, without needing any cable needles: truth be told, it’s just a wandering stitch of increases, decreases and yarn overs and very quick, too.

A reminder – all the yarn is Malabrigo Mechita single-ply Uruguayan fingering, a super-soft yarn, and the colours were Unicornio, Lluvas, Aniversario and Piedras. Thumbs up all round!

Other autumnal projects started off slowly. On our short stay in Portugal, my efforts to get going on the Woodland Tales pattern by Melody Hoffman with the West Yorkshire Spinners’ Wensleydale in a luscious cranberry shade were thwarted by endless difficulties. Eventually, in France, I managed to get a reasonable gauge and get past “Go”, but I must admit it was a bit of a struggle, dare I suggest due to the pattern being one of her first and marked with inexperience? However, the resulting lacy mittens are a delight and I’m very pleased with them. Being lacy does not make them less warm, however, in a pinch (or a very cold day) they could be worn over machine-knit gloves or mitts, for pretty, if you will. I like the fact that the wool is Yorkshire Wensleydale and this particular colour being what it is – in case you don’t know, Wensleydale Cheese with Cranberries is a “thing” and something we’ve often brought home from England with us ever since the children watched Wallace and Gromit years ago and Wallace loved his Wensleydale cheese…and we love cranberries lol. So again, a big positive result!!
That’s a gratuitous shot of Sophie the cat, one of the last ones, unfortunately, as we had to have her put to sleep last week… as I’m not ready to write about her, yet, here’s a link to my mom’s lovely obituary! https://catterel.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/miss-sophie-the-sophisti-cat/

Next is technically still a WIP (well, not when it takes me an age to write a post!), but should be easy enough to remedy: the Treehouse Mitts, also by Melody Hoffman (from the video podcast Mandarine’s) in Blacker’s 12th Anniversary wool called Brushwork, in the colourway Wash. These are lovely and dense and the colour is so pretty, with tiny specks of grey, pinks and blues in it. This pattern is also a bit fiddly, but not hard. As it’s a DK weight, they are knit quickly and it’s only due to distractions and castonitis that I haven’t yet done the second one! Due any moment… tada…

Back in April my daughter lent me her Traveling Cables hat (Purl Soho) when we went sailing. My initial plans with the Baa Ram Ewe Titus in White Rose were abandoned – another Yorkshire yarn and the colour in memory of my Granny had been intended for a Celtic shawl but I wasn’t happy with the fabric and when my daughter mentioned that the hat was made of the same yarn (in a different colour), held double, well there was nothing holding me back. Now I, too, have a dense and cuddly hat to wear against biting winds… I loved this free pattern, especially the way the cables come together at the top, very clever. 🙂

The Drops Nord I was trying out – a wool, alpaca, polyamide blend that isn’t machine-washable – turned into two pairs of what are essentially bedsocks, or lounging socks if you like. The blue is fog, the pink I believe is just antique rose, both lovely soft colours and the general impression of the wool is supersoft, cloudy, squishy and actually a pleasure to knit. The recipients are both blue-eyed and fair-haired and I think the colours suit them! I didn’t get a picture of the blue socks with pink heart heels, but these are made from the leftovers – two balls of blue and a bit of the pink, plenty left.

Two sweaters have fallen off the needles, I’m not quite sure when – the first certainly knitted itself and is a Flax by Tincanknits (free!) in Drops Lima (wool/alpaca) in a lovely mustard colour. Sorry about the selfie, but heyho, a girl gotta do what a girl gotta do! I’m very happy with this slightly cropped (by me!) sweater, ideal with a skirt.

Then some Drops Puna arrived, a wonderful 100% alpaca yarn that was so wonderfully rich and squishy. I had chosen the purple because I like purple, but the following day after I received it, Pantone announced their tribute colour to Prince – “Prince Purple” and I swear this is exactly it, so my sweater is now dubbed Purple Rain!! It’s the Wind Down pattern #175 by Drops, another free one. This knitted up beautifully and like the other, is a dream to wear. Very warm but light! The little bit of lace at the raglan is pretty and there’s a sneaky little row of eyelets along the underarm “seam”, too.

I’ve been knitting like a fiend to use up as much of the acquisitions as possible!! Some more Nutkin socks in a plain grey, Poppyseed, by West Yorkshire Spinners in their very lovely Signature Blue-Faced Leicester sock yarn happened, too, but I haven’t photographed them, yet (ah…time lapse…)! The same goes for Sjärbo.se Maja’s Mamelucker woolly knickers, yes, you read right, big pants!! I made these out of solidarity for Maja, whose pattern was apparently duplicated by Drops without permission, a big no-no – I agree with Skeindeer about this, as well as a number of other podcasters and designers who called us knitters to arms, or rather needles, in defence of Maja’s pattern. As I like wearing skirts and tunics in the winter, a pair of woolly (over)knickers sounds just the thing, so why not?! I used a large 100g ball of Wolle Rödel’s Paint sock yarn in grey and a smaller 50g ball of Drops Fabel (I know, ironic, but I do use a lot of Drops yarn…) in a soft pink and when I ran out of that, a slightly more mauve Wolle Rödel Paint for the crotch – it’s hardly noticeable and nobody will see, in any case :o. It is very pretty, though, so looking forward to using the rest of that ball soon!
See that little dish of buttons? Dish and buttons courtesy of Granny! So nice to have things around to remind me of her! And the flowers were a generous offering from my daughter and her BF for my birthday, lucky me!

So, that leaves current WIPs – works in progress… The biggest is also a challenge, The Oa by Kate Davies, a lovely stranded colourwork hoodie I’ve coveted since the pattern came out. It’s in her own lovely Buachaille wool and I’ve got about 6″ up the body, so quite a while to go.

There are other (secret!!) projects and a few ideas milling around but when I want a soothing knit, I head for my birthday yarn, a very generous gift from my good friend who knows me well: Blue-Faced Leicester and silk blended and hand-painted by Artist’s Palette Yarns. Ooooh yummy!! It’s a colour called Fireside and I have been sitting by the stove knitting Ysolda Teague’s Fraxinus cowl… it’s a while since I knitted one of her patterns, but I do love her work and admire her as a young designer. It’s a lovely pattern and not difficult so I’m really enjoying making progress 🙂

And that, my friends, I think, is that! Phew.
My knitting space now looks like this, btw…

In Context

A question that pops up now and again tries to divide those of us who lived through the 60’s according to whether you were a Beatles fan or a Rolling Stones fan. Since I was still rather small in those days, I became, vicariouly through my father, more of a Beatles fan. I learnt to read fluently by following the printed song texts on the White Album…

One thing I had actually never seen, though, was The Magical Mystery Tour. This was shown on Boxing Day 1967 on British television and caused something of a sensation. Although I know all the songs and had come into possession of a booklet with a couple of 45 rpm singles featuring them from my uncle, we didn’t live in Britain in 1967 – and anyway, I was only 3! A recent documentary celebrating the 50 year anniversary inspired me to actually go and watch the one-hour classic (found online though not on the ubiquitous YouTube!) and a delightful hour it was.

So you think the British have a “bonkers” sense of humour?! Indeed they do – if you love Monty Python, revere Top Gear (and enjoy the Blues Brothers!), you could well appreciate this crazy spectacle. In the documentary, it was interesting to hear how teenagers at the time did or did not understand what they were watching, and also to hear the reactions of their parents or the older generations, which varied from switching off to humphing about “utter nonsense” to recognition and acceptance that this was simply what the younger generation had creatively made.
BBC Four Arena – Magical Mystery Tour Revisited (available on BBCiPlayer but not online, unfortunately)
Another documentary link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymmcyH2Zscw (lots of outtakes at the end!)

Personally, I was very much struck by the context. 1967 – 50 years ago. Society was different, people thought differently, had a different background, often with wartime a not-so-distant memory. Television was still fairly new for anyone over 18, and so hadn’t defined their lives as much as it later came to do. Radio and theatre were far more familiar and appearances didn’t count for quite so much as having a good time.

With all this in mind, I was both touched and amused by the madness that is the Magical Mystery Tour. My grandparents, who reached their 60s about 10 years later, still went on many coach tours and while probably not quite as lively as the group in the film, I’m sure they enjoyed a sing-song on the way home. Perhaps that’s why the film worked and was even accepted for Christmas TV in 1967 – there are enough elements in it which were perfectly normal to the bulk of 1960s society. Oh we do like to be beside the seaside and a nice cup of tea (or bottle of beer!), ballroom dancing (Granny did a bit of that – and before Strictly on TV there was simply, Come Dancing…!) and a good old family get-together that brought together all ages and all sorts, just like the film. Hours spent looking out of a coach window watching scenery or motorway go by, stops for a trip to the loo, squabbles… it was all just a part of it.

What I can’t really imagine is that the 1967 showing was in black and white…!!

Another point that pops up is that of moral values. Listen to how people talk to each other, appreciate that the little girl Nichola sits on (stranger alarm!) John Lennon’s knee and enjoys the attention without any ulterior (danger!!) motive, everyone is just having a good time. There is nothing “PC” (politically correct) about most of what goes on – the little man is not ridiculed and nor are the “midget wrestlers”, but could this film have been made in 2017? I rather think not. The men go to a strip show (shock-horror-feminist-gasp) while the ladies swoon over the elegant white-suited Beatles and the ballroom dancing dresses in true show-style (a great finale!), while the marathon no doubt suffered no limitations from ‘health and safety’…

To me, it was a feel-good film where everyone just had a good time and extremely funny. On the one hand, I can see how very 1967 it is, to some extent a heightened normality, and yet on the other, so very counter-culture and shocking. Fascinating stuff. But yes, controversial both in 1967 and 2017. How far have we come? Or not?!

Fun fun and more fun: Highly recommended!

PS and what about Paul McCartney’s wonderful Fair-Isle jerkin?!