Sunday, November 27, 2011

Worth it

Oh goodness me - I really had no intention of taking such a prolonged break from blogging. I've missed reading your blogs. It seems strange not to know what you're all up to.

I couldn't quite work out what was keeping me away until I realised I'd convinced myself I couldn't just blog for blogging's sake. I felt I needed something worth writing about rather than just my usual show and tell of all my latest knitting projects.

I've spent simply HOURS on Ravelry just lately and I suppose because I'm always updating my projects pages over there it felt like more of the same if I did yet another knitting post on my blog. There has been a LOT of knitting. My knitting mojo returned with avengeance after it's summer hiatus.

Since I last blogged I've knit:
1 cardigan - for me
1 hat
5 pairs socks
4 pairs mittens
3 crocheted shawls - from the super easy super gorgeous Flying Diamonds shawl pattern

and on the needles right now are two more pairs of socks and a cardi for Minx.

So knitting is very much back.

Knitting is also the reason I finally felt I had something exciting to blog about. Just a few minutes ago I became a knitwear designer. Oh yes indeedy. I'm now officially a published designer dahling.

If you would like to help yourself to my free Misty Morning Mitts pattern, you can do so right now over on Ravelry.

Happy knitting!

Moogs xxx

Friday, October 7, 2011

It's been a funny old day

Do you know that feeling, when you can feel a blog post building up and sometimes it seems to need longer to stew? I've been blogging in my head for a few weeks but have not, for whatever reason, reached the 'must blog it' moment. There's been plenty I've wanted to share in terms of crafty doings but I couldn't build up the enthusiasm for another knitterly show and tell.

However, quite unexpectedly, that moment threw itself right at my feet today and all because I went out to work.

I spent a good bit of yesterday preparing a Powerpoint slideshow for a school assembly to 270 children, planned for 11.40am today. I made sure I was all packed and prepared for a 'Session 1' - as my colleagues and I call our first visit to a school (this was planned for straight after lunch with the same school).

Pledge pack?   Check.
Scrapbook? Check.
Photos of landfill site? Check.
Waste audit kit, including attractive elbow length black rubber gloves? Check.
Recycling monitor badges? Check.
Ready inflated Planet Earth  globe? Check.
USB stick with Powerpoint? Check....and double check....five times.

All done. Ready for anything. Especially if it involves brainwashing small children about the 3Rs.

So, I drove to Portsmouth to a very lovely school and was greeted by the Headteacher - this alone should have alerted me, as I'm rarely greeted by a Headteacher or indeed even meet them at any point during my three visits to their school. As I asked if he minded if I finished a little earlier than planned, due to needing to be 20 miles away at Minx's Star of the Week Assembly by 3pm, he breathed a sigh of relief and said 'No that'll be fine - we've got Same Difference coming in for the afternoon and the children will be pretty hyped up....although you might be a little late starting.'

Ok. Whatever. No idea what he was talking about. As long as I do my bit and am out of there in time for Minx's assembly, I'll live to recycle another day.

I was escorted to the school hall, plugged into the interactive whiteboard and within ten minutes was delivering my very exciting Powerpoint to 270 expectant little faces. Heh, you could feel the collective shudder of excitement as I showed them a nice big picture of the inside of the MRF , announced that I'd be visiting this term to do a 'Special Recycling Project' and then showed the photo of other children doing 'exciting recycling activities' with Lesley, the Recycling Lady.

Before I knew it, my performance was done. Technotastic Headteacher had photographed me (on his iPhone) and uploaded me to the school website before I even finished my assembly (!!! - love that...the technology bit not the photograph bit). The children were agog and enthused and sooooo hoping they'd be one of the chosen few picked to work with the Recycling Lady this afternoon and this term.

I was then whisked off to the Staffroom for a cuppa and that's where the day started to get really bizarre. I asked the teacher I was working with 'Who/what is Same Difference?'.

Apparently, they were XFactor finalists in 2007 (here, I've Googled their first audition....snort)! They were coming into school to do an(other) assembly straight after lunch, followed by singing workshops with Years 5 and 6 for the afternoon. The 270 potentially keen recyclers knew nothing of this poptastic surprise. You can imagine the excitement levels in the staffroom as the moment of their arrival neared (and passed....).

Lunchtime over, I was led (again) to the school hall and took my seat in the Royal Box (a weird little bit separated from the main area by a waist height wall) and watched (again) 270 sweet little people file into the hall and sit cross-legged on the doubt wondering why on earth they were having THREE assemblies in one day (they'd already had one first thing this morning - before mine) and had Mr Headteacher gone quite mad???

Then, it happened. Mr Headteacher did a quite fantabulous introduction, asking lots of leading questions along the lines of  'Who's heard of a TV programme called XFactor?' (270 hands shot straight up); 'Who's heard of someone called Simon Cowell?' (270 hands shot up even higher); 'Who'd like to be on a show like XFactor? (about 230 hands shot up, while a few wavered and some stayed firmly down). Mr HT then announced that their school was very very lucky as that very afternoon they were hosts to none other than 'SAME DIFFERENCE - XFACTOR FINALISTS OF 2007!!!!!!'.

The excitement levels then went stratospheric, despite the fact that not a single one of those wonderful 270 children knew who the heck Same Difference were. That's not (just) sour grapes talking (thanks to me getting a much less dramatic assembly introduction) and it's also not a reflection on the very lovely Sean and Sarah (brother and sister duo that makes up Same Difference) but it's a fact that in 2007 at least 135 of those children were three or four years of age and their older peers only five or six.

I then sat there and watched as Sean and Sarah raised the roof, getting every child singing their heart out and you could see the spark of little dreams lighting up in those sweet innocent faces - dreams where one day they too would be standing in front of those judges in Wembley arena, making Louis Walsh cry at the specialness of their performance and knowing that they had that all important 'X'. One little dot with blonde curly hair was right there, giving it her all, doing the whole arm thing as she connected with her audience.

I'm such a cynic about the whole celebrity thing. In fact, I'm a right old Bah Humbug about all that kind of stuff but there was no doubting the power of it as I witnessed those children lose themselves in the wonder of real-life XFactor success right there in their very own school hall, where an hour or so earlier some frumpy old dumpy woman in a long grey cardie  had tried to get them all gee'd up about saving the Earth by being good recyclers.

If I was them I'd choose celebrity and to heck with Planet Earth.

I'm me. I choose Earth (although I'd win XFactor hands down if I entered of course).

I'm pleased to say that despite the competition I did in fact have a very good, albeit slightly short, Session 1 with my 'Team' of apprentice recyclers and made my way back home to Minx's celebration assembly to hear her teacher extoll the many virtues of my brilliant daughter, beaming in the afterglow of my brush with real live 'celebrity'.

All in a day's work.


Did you make it through all that? Sorry it was so long. I needed to get it out of my brain.

Here's some knitting, by way of reward for sticking with me.

Minx in new chunky cardie.

Smoothie hats for this year's Innocent Big Knit.

Augustine scarf that Mrs Stashbasket forced me to knit - in the softest, most buttery wool/cashmere raspberry ripple coloured yarn.

Bloody nightmare Sunshine socks - great pattern, hated the skinny wool, didn't concentrate and have one odd sock 10 rows shorter than the other - to only  be worn inside boots and under jeans. 

Happy weekend xxx

Monday, September 19, 2011

Signs of change

There's a definite seasonal shift going on around here. Autumn has its feet firmly under the table with chilly mornings, darker evenings and holes in the lawn where a naughty squirrel has been burying nuts nicked off our twisted hazel tree.

In Moog's House we have our own little signs that herald autumn every year. By far the most important is seeing one of these perched by the dining table. Five wonderful gallons of Mr Moog's homemade Pinot Grigio, burbling away and making my whole house smell like a brewery!

 The chilly mornings have led to the heating clicking on for an hour or two, just perfect for drying my favourite type of laundry. Yup, it's time to dig out the handmade socks again - lovely.

This time of year always makes me want to snuggle down and indulge in a little nesting. After a summer of sewing, doodling and sketching I've rediscovered my knitting mojo and I've thrown myself into all things woolly with great gusto!                                 
 My lovely knitty friend Mrs Stashbasket was in no small way responsible for the return of my urge to knit, having sent me the most gorgeous skein of Rowan Colourscape with which to knit myself a lovely new winter hat. This is a fantastic pattern - Quincy by Jarel Flood - very cleverly knitted flat, given a little twist, joined and then the crown is knitted. It took me just a few quick hours and is quite simply the best fitting hat I've ever made.

Once I started with the knitting needles there was no stopping me but I resisted the urge to cast on a hundred new things and got cracking on some finishing off. First it had to be my lovely loud Hexagon socks - wearing them right now with a new pair of shoes bought specifically to show them off :o)

Then, it was a matter of a few short hours to finish off some new socks for Monster. These were a gamble. I started them back in May and since then that big boy's feet have grown like mad but luckily they turned out to be a perfect fit!

 Another languishing work in progress was my second attempt at an Ishbel shawl. The first attempt nearly ended in tears a couple of years ago but this time I was determined, if a little slow, to finish it. This is knitted in the most gorgeous pink laceweight yarn, very kindly given to me by Maria - it was like knitting fluffy fresh air but oh so gorgeous! This had also sat there nagging me in the WIP pile for several months and naturally took a matter of just a few hours to finish off.

Although no photographic evidence here, that leaves just one knitting project in the neglected pile - another pair of socks that were cast on in May! However, sock #1 has been completed in the past week and sock#2 is now on the needles.

Of course, I now need to replenish the works in progress and have already made a start on achieving that particular goal. This little screwed up heap of knitting will soon be a beautiful Augustine shawl.

And this will soon be a pair of Charade socks - a fabulous pattern that is perfect for just picking up whenever the fancy takes as there are only two rows that make up the pattern so it commits to memory very quickly.

I was pondering this autumnal urge to knit and realised it has a great deal to do with me returning to work and the whole busy school thing starting again for the children. For me, knitting is the perfect manageable creative outlet for times when life is full steam ahead. I can pick it up and just knit whenever I get a  spare few minutes. There's no need to get loads of stuff out or clear loads of stuff up in order to produce something creatively satisfying.

I have no desire to add extra work to my day by getting out piles of sewing stuff or paints and pencils which will only need to be put away again when I'm finished. Sadly, the housework fairies don't help out if I ignore the dust and the ironing and they certainly don't help tidy up my crafty doings.

Knitting, and sometimes crochet, therefore wins every time. For me.

What's your enduring creative outlet that you always turn to when times are busy?


Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Well, I hadn't anticipated taking quite such a prolonged blog-break but after my last post our summer got much busier than expected.

We've had visitors, lots of visitors. The children were whisked away to London by dear friends of ours and I was lucky enough to have a whole day all to myself.

Naturally, I ignored the housework in favour of sewing, crochet and doing more sketchbook work. 

 Minx caught the arty bug and spent many happy hours sketching - talking non-stop the entire time, of course.

In fact, that girl of mine talked non-stop for the whole five and a half weeks!

She even managed to squeeze in plenty of bickering, arguing and niggling with her beloved brother.

She went back to school yesterday, and headed straight off on a whole week residential trip.

It's very quiet here this week!

Despite the noise, she did redeem herself with the odd bit of baking.

It seems I'm all but redundant when it comes to fairy cakes these days, being required only for oven lighting and the fetching and carrying of ingredients :o)

She can do a mean chocolate brownie too, and her ginger biscuits were a resounding success. I've come to realise this girl of mine is at her happiest (but not quietest) when she's busy doing - preferably busy doing with me by her side, lending an ear to the continuous stream of chat that she emits.

We both got rather heavily into making bracelets a couple of weeks ago. This cute daisy bracelet is from a very old beading book that's been gathering dust for rather too long.

It took about an hour, with Minx chit-chatting next to me....

....are you noticing a bit of a theme to my summer?

During my one and only day of silence this summer, I managed to finish off a bag that I'd been crocheting. I was hoping it would be mine but the mother in me ended up giving it to Minx, to make up for her having a poorly day the week before - she  must have been ill that day as she was quiet for about three hours!

She loves her new bag.

Hasn't used it once.

If it had been mine I'd have almost worn it out by now!
The penultimate week of our summer break saw us spending a very relaxing, and surprisingly dry, day on the beach with my lovely friend Trashy, while various children and dogs kept themselves entertained :o)

Old black dog, exhausted by the silly puppies.

So, before you know it, September is here. Another lovely summer has been and gone. There's the chill of Autumn in the air and it's back to work for me and back to school for them, although for my boy it's no longer junior school but the big and scary world of secondary education. Yup, my baby started secondary school today. I watched him go into school with his shiny new uniform, looking far too grown up and wandered back home with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.

Now, if you would kindly excuse me, I must go and throw the computer through the window - blurry Blogger has gone all 'new and improved' while I've been away and I can't get my words or photos where I want them....grrrr!!!

Happy blogging!


Saturday, August 13, 2011


I feel it's only fair to warn you that this post is rather photo-heavy!

It's been a funny old week. We're having our driveway block-paved and in our efforts to disturb the workers as little as possible, the children, Merlin and I have tended to avoid going out too much and have spent rather more time than we'd like confined to quarters.

This hasn't been entirely without benefits, as I've had more time to be creative than I have for a very very long time.

First off, I got stuck in to my next sketchbook page. For this challenge, Gina had asked us to choose a portion of one of our potato print images and enlarge it to fill a whole page. I loved doing this and really want to do more - unfortunately I got somewhat obsessed with something else (so unlike me!).

Too much time indoors led to me getting the urge to give some (more) of my cushions a makeover. The crocheted covers I made a while ago were starting to look more than a little tatty, especially as I didn't actually make removeable covers so they were decidedly grubby too.

Initially I only planned to make one cushion cover - a circular Granny cover in Cath Kidston inspired colours, using the fab Granny Mandala tutorial from Crochet with Raymond.

Could have done with making the semi-circles on the back with a little more overlap but no-one will see this bit unless they're being nosey!

Being me, I didn't stop there. I've seen so many lovely crocheted Granny things on Ravelry with a neutral background colour and this idea had been stewing in my brain for quite some time. So, here's cushion number two, again with a little nod to Cath Kidston's colours.

...and the back -again, the overlap could have been a little longer.

By now I was on a roll and as soon as cushion two was assembled and on the sofa, I got stuck into cushion three. This one popped into my head as I crocheted the back of cushion #2 and I obsessed about it the entire time I was finishing off the second cushion!

Luckily all but two of these colours were already in my stash and a quick nip out to the wool shop for a ball of lilac and a ball of blue cotton this afternoon helped me keep the manic crochet going. Mind you, this time I just couldn't face crocheting another cushion back and tried something new(to me) by backing it with fabric.

Here they all are, making my manky old charity shop sofa look really rather gorgeous - if I do say so myself!

It wasn't all plain sailing, however. My first attempt at the circular Granny didn't quite work - a combination of the colours not being quite right and me not reading the pattern - I increased too many stitches on one round and ended up with a very frilly circle.

Not wanting to waste it I set to and blocked and pressed it to within an inch of it's life, turning it into a nice flat circle.

Just perfect for my new jug and bowl :o)

In amongst all this hooking I was forced to take a break for a spot of birthday sewing for one of Minx's 'friends'. Apparently a fiver in a card would not suffice as the little madam in question (and she is a little madam, believe me) had already told my girl that a bag was expected. To make Minx's life easier I agreed to just make the bag....although it wasn't done with much positive energy on my part!

I'm not the only one who's been busy making this week. As soon as Minx saw Jodie's latest patterns she just had to make her very own Smith, with a little help from her Mum. This is Spot Smith - made with some gorgeous fabric given to me by the lovely Kitty quite some time ago.

Thank you so much for the pattern, Jodie - this made my girlie very happy indeed.

All of this creativity has made me so happy this week but the thing that has made me happiest of all happened just an hour or two ago.

A metre of crocheted chain. Minx's very first attempt at crochet. I'm now wearing a turquoise crocheted chain around my wrist - a friendship bracelet made for me by my baby as I was writing this post :o)

Phew! Well done if you made it through all that lot! Here's a little something to end with - one very big, and pointy eared, seven month old puppers.

Wondering where Trashy, D'boy and the little black dog have disappeared to after a very successful visit to Moogshouse on Thursday. Both pups were thoroughly exhausted after a very full-on play session :o)

...and yes, that is one of my beautiful new cushions the little git is standing on!

Happy hooking xxxx

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Home again, home again, jiggety jig...

We're back!

The past week has been by turns both lovely and a bloody nightmare (Locket and Trashy have the texts to prove it!). Luckily, the good bits won out and we ended on a happy note.

We've been thoroughly spoiled by the in-laws, who treated us all to a week at the Manor House Hotel near Okehampton (as advertised on TV, people!!). This was a totally different holiday for us and all eleven of us found plenty to do.

There was indoor and outdoor tennis, badminton, bowls, crazy golf, ten-pin bowling, swimming, golf and even aqua-aerobics, salsa and zumba and falconry. Then there was hot-press printing, t-shirt painting, jewellery making, pottery underglazing, bisque painting, woodwork and pottery transfers.

I managed to make all of two things but both make me very happy. First there is the little jug that I painted with underglaze. I went back to collect it the next day, all shiny and ready for use.

I could have done patchwork, embroidery and drawing and painting but I chose to do crafts that I wouldn't normally get chance to do. The craft studios were so well equipped and staffed by a great team of very helpful folk and we all made plenty of lovely mementos.

I was really thrilled with my jug but the bowl I made in the pottery transfers class is my absolute favourite.

(I've just remembered that I did also make a couple of pendants in the enamelling class but they're still packed.)

I even managed to treat myself to some minx nail transfers, an eyebrow waxing and an Indian head, back and arm massage - according to the therapist my back was 'very tight'. After an hour of kneading, pummelling and stroking it was more relaxed than it's been in years.

I was a total beauty therapy virgin before this holiday but I may have seen the light and will become much more high-maintenance in future!

For now, I'll just make do with a decent night's sleep in my own bed, ready for my next Colour Sketchbook session.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Colour sketchbook

Yesterday, after spending five hours grumbling my way through the two biggest baskets of ironing in the world ever - thankfully aided by some good DVDs - I felt I deserved at least a little time to do 'me' things.

As luck would have it Gina had posted the next installment of the Colour Sketchbook project. I totally lost myself for over an hour. Who would have thought potato printing would be the perfect antedote to domestic drudgery?

I did seven pages of potato prints in my sketchbook! All still need to be worked into further but once I'd started I just couldn't stop.

I wasn't thrilled with the first prints as the paint was a bit thick and made the echinacea look a bit heavy - this may change once I work into them a bit more with watercolour washes.

However, after stamping all over some scrap paper to clean the paint off my potato stamps I realised I loved the softer, almost ghostlike images that were made once the stamp was less painty.

So, I found a big sketchbook and did a page with softer looking images.

I've even had to keep the scrap of kitchen paper that I cleaned my stamp on!

Just to finish off, and to get the very most out of my potato stamps, I hauled out some Scrapstore cotton for a bit of fabric printing. Not sure what I'll do with this yet but it's ready and waiting for inspiration to strike.

No post would be complete without a little Merlin Moog snapshot.

photo taken by Mr Moog when he discovered Merlin looking mournfully out of the front door wondering where his Mummy had gone - my boy loves me :o)

Now, I'm off to furtle about in the loft for holdalls - the Moogs are off for a little break and will be back very soon.

Happy stamping xxx

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

At last!

This has been a looooong term but finally the children have finished school and I've finished work and we have five and a half weeks (whatever happened to six weeks +??) to kick back, relax and get up in the morning when we're good and ready.

Yesterday was an emotional day for some (me) because my tiny baby boy left primary school for the last time, ready to go out into the big and scary (for me) world of secondary school, come 5th September.

My Monster didn't give into the overwhelming urge to blub and cry (unlike me) as you can see.

Earlier this week I picked this up in Sainsbury's, along with a more boyish version. The idea was that it will keep the children happily occupied during our relaxing break from school.

I sat down with a cuppa and had a browse. Oh my....

Ooh.....I want....

I suggested to Minx that she give me the book but she said a very firm 'No, buy your own!'. Charming!

By that time the shop was shut but the urge was strong - okay, the urge was more than a little overwhelming....

Suddenly no piece of paper is safe....

Most unlike me, I know, but I would appear to have become just a teeny bit obsessed.

So much so that I doodled in my diary all the way through a long work phonecall

and doodled while I waited for my overlengthy work computer log-in to happen

and stopped for a break for lunch and doodled my way through couscous and salad - and coloured in

This morning I was determined to have a bit of a lazy get-up but rather than waste time sleeping I doodled and doodled and doodled some more!

Might still have to buy me the book though - I need to do those doodled teacups!

I'll leave you with a very long-leggedy and suddenly un-puppy looking salty old sea dog - taken last Sunday at Hengistbury Head (yay Trashy - dog's allowed!!!).

Happy doodling :o)

Moogs xxx