A new knitting project- Slippers.

On a recent trip to the Lake District I was charmed by the endearing Herdwick lambs. Sadly, the wool from the sheep is too coarse for knitting but in a shop dedicated to sheep things I found some lovely 100% British Wool called Herdy. I just had to have some as a momento of my trip.

Herdwick sheep and lambs.

Returning home I had a pair of socks for my niece’s fiancĂ© to finish before I could get to ‘play’ with my new wool. A few months ago I printed off a free Ravelry pattern for slippers using chunky wool so decided to try it out with my Herdy wool. After trying 3 different sizes of needles I still couldn’t get the gauge right so had a few brain aches trying to work out the correct number of stitches. The first slipper was slow going due to having to make adjustments but the second was ‘a breeze’. I’m thrilled with my finished slippers and my mother has already hinted at a pair which I’m more than happy to knit for her. There is more than enough wool left for her pair too.

Herdy slippers.

The original pattern can be found at http://www.Ravelry.com and is called Non-felted slippers by Yuko Nakamura Designs

 

Perfect for some craft storage

Image

Perfect for some craft storage

I bought this a few years ago in Ikea in Edinburgh. Having left all my handy storage boxes in Saudi- for which some other crafters were more than grateful- I now have to start again. Luckily, this was stashed away in a cupboard. But it looks a bit ordinary. A paint job required I think!

Procrastination

It’s the weekend here in Saudi so a perfect time to catch up on some serious study for my Open University course. Having received my books a few weeks ago I’ve been really proud of how far ahead I’ve been able to get with the reading. Now comes the first assignment. This week I’ve been trying to get together the notes I think I need to make a start on writing my essay.

20131004-222941.jpg
So this was how much of my day should have been spent.
Wrong!
This is what was achieved instead.

20131004-223126.jpg
Five flower brooches that I hope will appeal to a few people at the Christmas Fayre on our compound in December.
I’m really happy with them -only feel a little guilty about doing zero work on my essay and feel positive that tomorrow I’ll be in a more literary mood- Inshallah! As they say in Arabia!

Felting.

A few years ago I took a felting workshop in Switzerland. I was in heaven – a whole week of being in the mountains with like minded people playing around with wool.
Sadly, since then I have done very little with the knowledge I gained.
Living in Saudi I only wear warm clothes for a short time in the winter so now that the days are a wee bit cooler I decided to wash some of my cardigans in readiness for cycling to school in the cooler mornings. One of my cardigans was becoming a bit holey so I thought it would be fun to have a go at felting it.

20130922-203119.jpg
So in my usual slap dash way I chucked it in the washing machine on the hottest setting and waited to see what happened. Success – it shrunk! Next a dry off in a hot tumble dryer and I had a felted cardigan to play with.

20130922-203534.jpg
I set to with scissors and cut it up into all its original pieces.
With a piece from the back I’ve made this cafetiere cosy.

20130922-204106.jpg

20130922-204133.jpg
I’m really pleased with how it looks.
At the moment I’m not sure what to do with my other pieces. Ideas very welcome:)

More socks!

Another pair off the needles:)
The unknowing recipient of these socks will be my brother who lives in London. I’m sure as winter is approaching there will be times when a cosy pair of socks will be appreciated- I hope!

20130911-192658.jpg
So who will be my next ‘victim’! Sadly, my stash is dwindling to the choice of 3.

20130911-192816.jpg
Living in Saudi Arabia and especially in the town of Tabuk means I have to either bring back my sock wool or order it and run the gauntlet of the mail and customs. So which colour combination will I choose for my sister-in-law who I’ve decided will be next for my socks. Well at least that was what I had intended until last night when I received a message from my niece who was ‘pretty pleasing’ for a pair after she’d seen the pair I’d knitted for her cousin!
2 of the yarns are Regia which I have so far used for all my socks but the other is the hand-dyed yarn I bought in Harris this summer. It feels so cosy being made from merino and bamboo that I’m just dying to see how it knits up. Decisions, decisions! Who will get what?

What will I do today?

As a teacher I am blessed with a lovely long 8 week holiday in the summer. Interestingly, that’s usually when others envy my job- at other times of the year they don’t want to know! My husband isn’t a teacher so he gets a lot less holidays which means that very often in the summer we will spend a month in UK and I will spend the other month chilling in the villa. I love the freedom this allows me to begin most days with the luxury of ‘what will I do today?’. One thing that I never get is bored, but I suppose I know that my time is limited and the school year will begin again and I will be once more back to fulfilling the National Curriculum and all the ‘paperwork’ that goes with the job.
So how have I filled my days so far?
I’m still hooked on knitting socks. My latest ‘victim’ is my brother, Billy. So far, all my sock knitting has been using Regia 4 ply and following the free pattern I received when I mass ordered a selection of wool awhile ago. I love looking at the wool I have and thinking about the person I am going to knit for. This is my choice for Billy:-

20130827-225959.jpg
I usually knit while I’m watching T.V. which tends to be for about an hour in the evening, but as I’m on holiday I’ve been able to go to the Ladies’ craft morning on Mondays and this has given a boost to the speed in which the socks have grown:) it’s also to great to catch up with some of the other women in the community and meet some ladies who are relatively new and I would probably not have the same opportunity to meet when I’m working.
Normally, I wouldn’t regard myself as much of a baker but today I excelled myself by baking a banana and walnut cake and some Stilton and walnut scones.
The banana cake recipe was in the ‘Landlove’ magazine that I brought back with me from UK. It required 700g bananas and as I was weighing them out I began to think there had been a misprint as this seemed a LOT of banana to me! However, it seemed to turn out fine and tasted good.

20130827-231138.jpg
After the sampling it got sliced up and put in the freezer- probably to be used on a couple of desert trips once the weather cools down next month.
I made the scones to use up some Laban (sour milk) that I had bought to make cheese scones at the weekend. I love cheese scones and usually buy some from a friend who makes them to sell in the compound community shop on Thursdays. However, she has gone on holiday so I thought I should give them a go. They turned out a bit thin but tasty and didn’t last long.

20130827-232029.jpg
I also had some Stilton in the fridge so googled Stilton scones and found a few recipes. I used one from the UK magazine ‘Delicious’ which also added walnuts. It was interesting as instead of rolling and cutting out circles it said to roll the dough into a fat sausage shape and then slice it to make the individual scones. Again, mine didn’t rise much but as they’re just for my husband and me and they taste good I won’t worry too much about that. Perhaps I should ask my friend for some advice when she gets back, but then again it’s just so much easier to get her to make them!

20130827-232840.jpg
So that was today- what will tomorrow bring? I have few ideas but when I wake up in the morning I know it’ll be my choice whatever I end up doing- how wonderful:)

Harris Artisans

Many years ago, when I first visited the Outer Hebrides there was very little in the way of art and craft items for sale. Possibly, there just wasn’t the tourist trade and anything made was very much for personal use and most people made their own knitwear and tweed items. Since then there has been a growing community of art and crafts in the islands and especially on Harris. Many of these talented people have settled there from mainland UK and have very much embraced the local way of life. Visiting in the summer when the days are long and the sun is shining it seems a very desirable option, but knowing how long and dark the winter months can be when the Atlantic gales are battering all in its way I’m not so sure I would last very long.
This summer, I visited a few new (to me) artisans and enjoyed some lovely chats about their work and general life in a remote area of UK. A shed definitely seems to be an essential addition and a great asset for a personal place to work. 3 sheds I fell in love with were-
The Scalpay Linen shed which smelt so good with all the wool that was being worked as well as the linen.

20130818-192621.jpg

20130818-192702.jpg
The weaving loom.

20130818-192745.jpg
Hand spun art wool.
The food shed at Northton where you can be tempted by home baked bread, scones, cakes as well as fresh caught shellfish.

20130818-193041.jpg
All the purchases here are made on trust- loved the box which asks you to roll pound notes up tight to feed into the hole on the top!

20130818-193401.jpg
And thirdly this cheekily called ‘Northton Trading Co’ shed with an eclectic mix of items. Again, trust is an essential part of its success as you are asked to ring the bell if you want to buy anything!

20130818-193814.jpg

20130818-193911.jpg
Handbags for sale.

20130818-194008.jpg
An inside view.
How heartening it was to think that there are still areas where people can live in harmony without taking advantage of each other so readily and that they extend this trust to us,the visitors, who come from very different backgrounds.
And how do they survive? I’m not too sure. I know that for some the Internet is a vital link for selling their goods, and perhaps for others, who have partners with regular paid jobs, the financial reward isn’t the ultimate goal. Whatever, I know I met some very happy, contented people living on the Island of Harris this summer and hope when I return next time they will still be there …and their sheds of course!

Socks and darning!

So here I am back in Scotland- my home country. Unfortunately, I live in an area where the Internet isn’t very reliable so it gets a bit frustrating to try and blog regularly, as often by the time I’m finished writing the connection goes and it seems impossible to get reconnected- hmmmm! Who knows if this will actually go later?!
Anyway, it’s lovely being at home and so far the weather has been great with lots of opportunity to be in the garden.
My sock presents are slowly being presented. First, was my father’s pair. He actually looked very happy to receive them- whether he ever wears them is another story!
Someone who might appreciate their socks a bit more is my sister-in-law. I have just sewn on some buttons down the side to add a little bit of a special feature. I actually recycled some buttons I got on a couple of clothes price labels from ‘white stuff’.

20130716-211641.jpg
The other socks that I’ve been working on are a wee bit different- I’ve just found out they were knitted by my maternal grandmother for my grandfather at least 55 years ago! I really don’t know how they came to be in my house but I started wearing them last time I was home and they became quite holey! Last night, I decided it was time to do something I hadn’t done in perhaps 30 years- darning! I remembered I used to used a darning loom thing, but having moved house 18months ago had no idea where it was. After a little bit of searching and rummaging through a few sewing repair type boxes I unearthed not one but 2 of the darning looms. I was back in darning business!

20130716-213210.jpg
Today I asked my mother about the darning loom as I remember it being in her house when I was a small child and I reckoned 5shillings in those days was quite expensive. She was pretty sure that it had only belonged to her and not my grandmother, but couldn’t remember how she got it etc.
So now the socks are darned I will carry on wearing them around the house for a long time to come.
I wonder if my newly knitted socks will still be worn in 55 years time by someone not born yet!

Socks for my Dad:)

Well They’re finished!:)

20130515-180235.jpg
My Dad’s new socks.
The last thing I knitted for my Dad was a scarf, about 50 years ago, when I first learnt to knit. It was a long colourful thing in whatever wool scraps my mum had so it widened and narrowed depending on the thickness of the wool. Despite sounding pleased he never wore it so the next time my uncle came home from the Merchant Navy the scarf was recycled to him! I doubt he wore it but as he was away at sea for months on end my feelings didn’t get hurt in the same way! So 50 years later I wonder if my socks will be appreciated? If not maybe I’ll be doing the prince in Cinderella thing and trying to find someone with size 9 feet!

20130515-181002.jpg
I used Regia 4ply wool for my Dad’s socks and loved the way the pattern evolved all by itself. I am now hooked on knitting socks and just have to decide who the next lucky recipient will be before I cast on the stitches.
I’ve also been checking out some other sock patterns on the Internet. Very inspiring and some will need a lot more concentration than this last pair but definitely a challenge I’m very keen to try:)

Abayas, Gahwa and dates.

This morning was craft morning. So I got myself organised quickly, grabbed the new sock on my knitting needles and wandered across to ‘Bunnies’ to see who was there. It was busy!
One of the ladies had completed a beautiful handmade quilt and had brought it to show. It was her first ever quilt and it was certainly a quilt to be proud of. It made me determined to get one of my long term quilt projects out of the cupboard soon and restart the process as I really love this craft.

20130408-231500.jpgGahwa pots and old Gahwa cup.

We were all having a chat and catching up with people who had just come back off holiday when Kate mentioned that an American woman who is married to a local Saudi was coming to join us. She did not come alone but brought some Gahwa (Arabic coffee) and dates to share:) so lovely. I think she finds it a bit lonely at times and although she loves her husband dearly, craves some ordinary chat with other English speaking women. She is pregnant with their first child so will be travelling back to U.S for the birth next month. I certainly didn’t expect that as I would have thought that she would have been obliged to have the baby here.
She also brought 4 abayas with decoration to sell. I got the idea that some of the others had been expressing difficulty in getting ‘nice’ abayas. She certainly came through for 2 of the women as they quickly ‘snapped up’ a couple of the abayas for 300 SR each. I heard a while back that many Saudi women were getting hassle for wearing abayas with adornment on them by the matouaya (religious police) down in Riyadh, so it will be interesting if any of the ladies have any problems here.
All in all, although I came home again without knitting a stitch, I had a very enjoyable couple of hours and a very interesting time meeting another ‘western’ woman who lives in Tabuk under very different circumstances to us other ex-pats.