I might not be so mad after all! It seems my bee habit has placed me in good company!

a french garden

In May I was walking in the woods nearby and I saw something up in front of me that was unfamiliar.  As I got nearer I could see it was insects over a large puddle of water in the middle of the path.

As I got closer I could see it was bees.  I had never seen them drinking before and I went closer to watch them.  What I observed was that they were avoiding the deeper puddles of water and were more interested in the mud.  I immediately assumed that they were Mason bees collecting mud to seal up their nests.

Luckily, a bee keeper(Adventures in Beeland) http://adventuresinbeeland.wordpress.com/ saw the post and contacted me, (see my post comments “Summer approaches in the woods”).  These were not Mason bees but honey bees!   There may be some variation of types within the bees but with the photographs available it is not…

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Something is growing and Beehaving badly!

Lousy weather in the UK continues to hamper my plans for allotment domination, however there is something growing and growing fast. Unfortunately that thing is GRASS!

I have had to take action and managed to source a second-hand petrol lawnmower, which I finally managed to collect this week. I don’t remember what make it is, but it is a beast and I am told it is brilliant for horticultural use.

I managed to have a quick whizz round with it on Thursday night. Between rainstorms of course!

The grass had gotten so long that I did churn it up a bit, but it will recover especially as we are expecting yet more rain this week! Keeping the grass paths trimmed will help me to work out what is weed and what is vegetable!

Thanks to a friend who sent me the link from the National Biodiversity Network, I have downloaded a new app for my Iphone. It is called Pooter  and is a fun bee spotting game, which also links to a database aimed at helping the bee population, which have been in sharp decline for decades. Because of this app I was spotted this afternoon crouching behind a bush in Tesco car park trying to photograph a tree bee.

This is a tree bee – honest!

I was wearing my gardening gear and hadn’t brushed my hair so the person who saw me could be forgiven for thinking I had lost the plot!

Knitter Review – Block n Roll by Bagsmith

I have been road testing a new toy this weekend. Kath from “Littlehoundales Knits” sent me a message to say she had taken delivery of “Block and Roll” blocking mats and wondered if I wanted to borrow one for my newly completed “Rain forest Canopy” shawl in return for a review of the product. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I jumped at the chance!

I should point out that I am in no way a blocking expert and am only a beginner lace knitter. In fact I have yet to actually use lace-weight yarn and have only dabbled with “fingering” (or 4 ply) weight yarn. I am also not a ‘completer finisher’ in real life and my finishing techniques leave a lot to be desired full stop. I recently gave a dear friend a lovely jumper knitted in “Milla Mia” for her new-born son only to discover that one of the sleeves came off the second he wore it! So I can only assume that if it can make me a better finisher then it will do wonders for anyone.

For those not familiar with the term “blocking” is the act of wetting the fibres to coax the stitches into a finished fabric. It is particularly important when knitting lace, as the blocking process is what separates the stitches and makes the garments “grow”. Kath explained it much more eloquently in her blog.

We have wood floors on the whole ground floor of our house and I find this more of a challenge than blocking on carpet. I currently use 2 camping mats. This offers a challenge when it comes to storage as they are not small, as you can see.

A major advantage of the Block n Roll is that it rolls up easily for storage. As you can see it is substantially smaller and less of a challenge than 2 sleeping mats! The mat rolls up and is secured with 2 ties to keep it tidy.

The Block n Roll is foam backed mat which measure 38” x 50”. It has a heat proof Teflon surface comprises of 20 x 20 mm grid lines to help line up straight edges. For wet blocking items can be pinned directly on to the surface and left there to dry. The mat is also ideal for steam blocking and pressing. I found this really useful as I never know where to pin items when I am steam blocking them. Using this mat means that the item can stay on the mat until it has cooled without taking up the iron board.

Blocking inevitably takes up space; whether it is the dining table or a large section of floor. The Block n Roll offers the option of the item being relatively portable while the wet blocking is drying. This means you can feed the family at the dining table, clear the floor when the dogs come home or even use the bed for actually sleeping in!

I found this was only just large enough for my shawl and wouldn’t be large enough for a wider  items, however if I was knitting large shawls regularly I would buy 2 to use together. Wendy Johnson (Wendy Knits) has done this to solve her problem with large shawls.

Also as long as you don’t need to use don’t need to use the squares for guidance you can gain some length by laying the item diagonally.

My current mats (the camping rolls)  are also awkward as they want to curl up into their “stored state” all the time, so offer little resistance when I need to block something hard. By this I mean stretching out a garment which is knitted in a yarn with stretch, such as a sock yarn. I felt that it was easier to stretch out fabric with stretch using the Block n Roll, even though it did curl slightly, the results were very good and I didn’t feel that I was putting the fabric under too much pressure. The fabric was able to settle without feeling like it would rip at any minute.

I have to say that I like this mat. It is a useful addition to your knitting toolkit. Although the Block n Roll is a brilliant tool for blocking knitting and crocheting, it would be equally useful for those who quilt, sew, cross stitch, tapestry and scrapbook. At £49.99 it is not cheap but it is an investment and I think the convenience it offers makes it well worth it. I should point out that this is a very competitive price for this item. There are few stockists in the UK and most of those are charging a higher price for this item.

Full Disclosure. I used my Inspinity Blocking wires to block the green Forest Canopy shawl. These have been purchased at full price by me and will be discussed at a later date.

Finishing Friday

The weather in the UK has been awful these past few days – windy and heavy rainfall. So much for the British Summer!

This has meant that I have been able to be very disciplined and finish some lingering WIPs. Today’s Finishing Friday are the Bargain socks for Mini-me.

The yarn used was purchased from Kemps and was a total bargain at 99p a ball. I recently spotted the exact same yarn in Danish yarn store for 45 kroners. (Which is about £4.86 a ball)  It’s not my favourite yarn but it will be hardwearing and. as you will agree,  a total bargain.

Allotment Love – part deux

I was looking through some snaps on my iPhone.( I call them snaps because they are not great quality and I blame the camera and the user equally for that!)

It occurred to me that it could be very easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of work involved in this allotment lark. I have had mine since the beginning of April and am still nowhere near completing the list of ‘set-up jobs’ I have in my head. Working full-time and the random British weather has meant that my ‘to do’ list grows faster than it can be ticked off. Dealing with living organisms compounds the problem as they don’t wait for you to catch up and before you know it your tomatoes have turned into triffids and taken over the glass house because you didn’t have time to ‘nip out the side shoots’  but that is another story.

So just to prove I have made a little progress.

The inherited “raised beds” which did not have wooden edgings, were made into these. But now look like this

This was what I had.

Before any TLC


Beginning to take shape……..

Turning Green

The thing I am most impressed with is my greenhouse. Bought for £60 from a bloke at work (Thanks C for spotting it and helping with erection.) it has brought me hours of satisfaction and I haven’t produced anything yet!

I didn’t get many photos of the greenhouse while we were putting it up as I was a bit busy! But you can read all about it here.

However, it is now looking less barren!

My fruit cage was purchased with dreams of summer fruiting raspberries, however the British weather has conspired against me and I never managed to get any in. We are using it temporarily to protect the strawberries although being of such a flimsy construction it hasn’t fared well in the windy conditions.

Fruit cage or pile of canes?

However it is looking better now and even promises some fruit………if we get any sun to ripen them!

So in short, there has been some progress but not as much as I would have liked. The weather and a job have conspired to prevent me from becoming a total obsessive, but maybe that’s no bad thing!

I have to say that “Ishbel” was my first attempt at shawl knitting and it is because of Ysolda that I no longer find charts so scary!
Well Done Kath on hitting your target!

Little Houndales Knits

Well, I’m feeling very proud of myself right now, I’ve kept to my target and finished my Ishbel Shawl by Ysolda Teague, from the booklet Whimsical Little Knits which contains lots of gorgeous ‘little’ knits for £12.00 or available as a download from the Ysloda Teague website for £3.75.  I started it very soon after my Malabrigo delivery arrived (about March), I was smitten by the irridescence of the kettle dyed merino sock yarn and couldn’t wait to cast on…..needless to say…..I didn’t wait and ten minutes later, we had another W.I.P !  (Work In Progress)

As per usual, I was soon distracted by other UFO’s (Un Finished Objects) and new yarns coming in so more projects cast on and even more UFO’s and W.I.P’s!!!

I think when I went into hospital last Friday, they put something in the mix of the anaesthetic that has given me a new found…

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Watch me grow!

My Rainforest Canopy shawl is blocked! I so pleased to say that I love it!

When I cast it off I was so disappointed as it was tiny. No bigger than a headscarf that my Nana would have worn over her freshly permed hair. What I failed to remember was that Malabrigo sock is 25% nylon and has a really useful stretch, so needed blocking hard. Knitting anything in lace needs blocking anyway, in order to stretch out the pattern.

Before Blocking

The pattern for this is “Forest Canopy” by Susan Lawrence. The yarn is Malabrigo Sock in “Lettuce”. I have called it “Rainforest Canopy” as I added some beads to the finished edge to represent drops of water, although they have not shown up as effectively as I would have liked. I do like the way the pattern forms leaves though.

I am new to blocking and frankly a bit of an amateur. I do need to attend a  class on professional finishing and must pursue that this year! I will need to redo this one as I didn’t manage to make the points on the edge prominent, but practice will make perfect I guess!

I used my new Inspinity Blocking wires to do this shawl. Another first for me. I first heard about them through “The Knit girllls” video cast. (I love these video casts and if you haven’t already you should really check them out. Laura and Lesley have a relaxed style but are both very talented knitters/spinners/sewists!) They reviewed the blocking wires by blocking a shawl on Lesley’s carpet.

Anyway I love the finished result, but it isn’t perfect and I can see where I made a mistake and tried to carry on. The irony is that I had a “life line” in the shawl and had removed it with a view to moving it further on and then decided to do “just one row” without it and that row appears to make been the fateful one! The life lesson here is NEVER remove a lifeline until you have put the new one in! (For help and advice on Lifelines try Knitting Daily.) The point is I can see the mistake so I am now hesitant to enter this in the show, as planned.

“Lettuce” in the lettuce!

Finishing Friday – Finally!

I have a FO today! Yay Go Me!

I first mentioned this project in the March Malabrigo Madness post over 3 months ago. I finally finished it yesterday.

It looks really small as I hadn’t blocked it at this point. I hope it grows or I will be very diappointed! I love the colour – Lettuce and I have loved working with the yarn. I am hoping for great things once blocked. Although I will have to do the job with pins and the foam sleeping mats as I have not yet bought the yearned for blocking pins.

Updated picturesto follow after the blocking deed is done.

Catch up

It’s been a month since my last post! Wow what a busy month it has been, although being busy isn’t the reason for the lack of posts.

I feel that I need to defend myself on the writing front. It is more a matter of technology than time. My OH did an amazing thing at Christmas and bought me an iPad. Wow! I was blown away at his generosity as this is a major purchase in my eyes. He did it because he wanted to make up for the loss of my beloved HP laptop earlier in the year. I do love it and find it really useful. I love that I can access knitting patterns,  listen to audiobooks, access the internet almost anywhere and other functions that I have not even begun to explore. However, I don’t love using it to blog using WordPress. I find it hard work and am sick of the number of times I have lost posts before getting chance to save them. So the result is that I only blog when I get chance to borrow my OH’s laptop, which at the moment isn’t often! I am trying to improve the situation and would be interested to hear how others manage.

Meantime I have been very busy on the allotment in the last month. I have to say I am pleased with progress but am nowhere near caught up with all the jobs that need doing!

The weather here has been awful, so everything is behind. We have had a burst of good weather over the past few weeks, which will probably represent the only Summer we get this year!

The shed is proving useful, although still needs staining and the guttering needs to be attached, as I am in fear of the threat of drought and am putting many strategies in place to reduce the impact on production. Rain butts galore me thinks!

The greenhouse is paying it’s way too. Currently bursting with seedlings and tomato plants. All the beds are finally filling up. I have just one empty bed at the moment but it is prepared and ready for the barrasicas that I am growing from seed.

My biggest problem is tackling the grass at the moment. I have bought a secondhand petrol mower, which will be kept at home, but am hoping will solve the problem of “jungle grass”.

The strawberry beds are doing well and are benefitting from the “borrowed” fruit cage. The cage was planned for the soft fruit area but as I was so late getting started I missed the window to plant summer fruiting raspberries, so havent needed the services of the fruit cage as yet hence it’s temporary home guarding the strawberies.

The pak choi bolted. It looks really pretty but tastes bitter. Pak choi has been the first casualty of the confusing weather.

The space it freed up in the bed has been replaced by more leeks, so its loss was no hardship.

We had of first harvest yesterday………small but beautiful. The smails obviously think so or at least I assume that’s what has been feasting on the leaves!

Allotment love

I have not blogged for ages! I don’t know why other than I might have been a bit busy.

Today has been a busy one in our household. It hasn’t rained in our lovely part of East Yorkshire – for a change! So we have been able to keep to our plans for the allotment. This weekend has been shed erecting!  Luckily I didn’t have to do it myself. That’s what we have men for isn’t it?

My man and I laid the base yesterday using paving stones which I bought really cheaply locally. I also used a weed membrane under the pavers to prevent any sneeky greenery appearing where they shouldn’t.

Today he has worked his socks off erecting the actual building. I will point out that this building is the cheapest shiplap shed you have ever seen! But it is an allotment! I will be staining it too so it won’t stay the bright yellow……… hopefully!

Shed complete with window box. A real live Wendy House!

While the man of the house built my “Wendy House” I had the help of a lovely friend, who also brought over her petrol lawn mower and sorted out the grass paths. It’s amazing what a difference short grass makes!

Before – looked a bit like a graveyard!