Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Badger of the week (1)

I thought it might be fun to share, little by little, some of my favourite badger things. I'm sure nobody else is as taken with these lovely creatures as me, but no matter, perhaps I will convert you to their lovely snuffly ways. I'll pick one of my favourite badger things every week and tell you a little bit about it :) I have quite an extensive collection of badger related things, so there's plenty to share! I'll try and share some facts about the animals themselves along the way so maybe you'll learn a thing or two. If nothing else, perhaps I'll amuse someone out there with my rather eccentric obsession...

To start with, a photo. This lovely green fellow was spotted on a shop window in Brugge, Belgium last year. I love that he is clearly king of something and that not only is he having fun blowing bubbles, but he's also balancing on a particularly big bubble. I hope nobody bursts it!

More meles meles soon!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bobbly Stripy Circle Scarf (or Crochet Confessions of a Scarf-aholic)

I have lots and lots of scarves which may or may not have something to do with the years I lived in France and got somehow brain-washed into thinking that all outfits at all times of the year require at least one scarf. It's just the French way. When they're not wrapped around my neck, my scarfs get stashed in a basket on top of the cupboard and hung up in the wardrobe and flung over the backs of chairs and stuffed in bags.... I have square ones, long fat woolly ones, silky soft ones, crocheted shawl ones, scarves of every colour, size and shape and even scarves I bought specifically for the purpose of decorating my flat because they're just so pretty. There certainly isn't a scarf drought going on in these parts.

, amongst this vast collection, there was not one single circle scarf or cowl and having seen people wearing them over the last year or so, I couldn't help but notice that they seem so practical (no way they can unwind and fall off your neck) and so pretty and really quite necessary. Just call me a scarf-aholic. Anyway, rather than waste time justifying my decision, I got busy
last week with my hook and wool stash and whipped this circle scarf up (after all, it's finally started getting cold here so there's no time to waste!). Here it is laid out flat....

I was really inspired by the different stripes, stitches and colour explosion going on in
this beautiful blanket but wanted to translate it to my favourite part of the spectrum (you might have noticed that most of my favourite crocheted things are are mixture of these colours. These are the colours that make me happy, all warm and firey and so much like the falling autumn leaves that I love)..

image from here

I started with a chain of 120 stitches which I joined into a circle. This seemed like a decent length when I looped it around my neck. Then picking my colours pretty much at random as I went along, I got to hooking up the stripes, making my circle grow into a tube shape as I went. I used a mixture of single crochet, double crochet, half-double crochet and granny stripe stitches (which is why I made my original chain a multiple of 3) for variety and I also included some sweet little bobbles like the ones in the blanket that inspired it. Here are some close-ups of those lovely colourful stripes...
And here's what it looks like wrapped around my neck (funny how the light has altered the colours of the wool somewhat in the photos, it looks really different above and below! I would say the first photo right at the top and the pictures below are a better indication of the real life colours)....

Ahhh it's so snug and cosy. My neck will be very happy indeed this winter.

In other wool related news, I took a trip to the haberdashery last week. Here's my bounty, all lined up, a mixture of Robin double knit and Patons Fab double knit....

You may have noticed that it's the other side of the colour spectrum completely...
image from here
...but that's because this time this wool isn't for me. It's for some Christmas presents which means I'd better say no more. Lets just say that things are about to get real ripply around here :)

What have you been hooking up lately? Any other scarf addicts out there?

Friday, November 25, 2011

A haiku a day...

Un peu de variété cette semaine - I had a go at writing some of my haikus in French during my trip as I was somewhat immersed in a French-speaking bubble and was inspired to give it a go. French words certainly present a different syllabic challenge to English and it was fun to write something short and yet restrictive in a foreign language. So I'm sorry if you don't speak French - perhaps they'll seem more poetic that way anyhow, haha! Anyway, enjoy...

Les rues de Paris,

sont longues mais jolies, en me

perdant, je me trouve.

Matin à Paris,

Seule dans un café charmant,
j'attends tant de choses.

A thousand fireflies
dance, glimmers of magic light

up our happy night.


Miles of misty fields,

between here and home, betwixt
two worlds am i now.

Through thick morning fog,
I spy a buzzard and crow,
deep in discussion.

Gloomy November

weather-wise, but in spirit

I'm sunny as June.

Night arrives early,
Pressed up against my window,
Its cold eyes peer in.


Language: alchemy,
verbs and nouns join together,
to create whole worlds.

p.s. I just realised that this post marks 4 months of writing a haiku everyday! I'm so pleased I've kept it up and now have a little insight into a moment of every day since mid-July :)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

On wandering in Paris...

"Not all those who wander are lost"
~J.R.R. Tolkien~

"I am the wanderer's wandering daughter"
~Kimya Dawson~

"J'ai souvent remarqué que c'est en déambulant que je trouve les idées les plus lumineuses. Dans le mouvement... Tandis que quand je m'acharne et que je reste à ma table, rien ne vient. Il faut que je marche à grandes enjambées, sans rien voir, tout à mes pensées..."
(I've often remarked that it's when I'm wandering around that I have the most enlightening ideas. In movement... When I'm desparately trying and I'm stuck at the table, nothing comes. I have to go out for a really good walk, without looking around, immersed in my thoughts...)

~Linda L

Ahh to wander a while around Paris, just for a day or so. It was wonderful. I covered quite a lot of miles, without any particular route in mind and without any sense of hurry. All alone with my thoughts, sometimes I was intent on taking in everything around me, delighting in the way the Eiffel tower occassionally popped up unexpectedly from behind buildings and the way the last of the leaves were falling from trees on the banks of the Seine. At other times, I was just day-dreaming away, happy as can be, totally lost in the imaginary world inside my head. It was a very inspiring few days, and as they say in French, ça m'a fait du bien..
Here are some of the sights I saw over the few days I was there...

Old meets new - this church caught me by surprise, peeking out at the end of a narrow street...

Winding streets full of pretty buildings and shops... ahh the cobblestones...

Autumn in full swing down by the Seine...

A pretty Parisian square, with buildings lined up in reds and creams overlooking the square where I imagine more than a few games of boules get played on sunnier days...

So many restaurants and cafes spill onto the pavements, even as the temparature drops at this time of year. It's the perfect city for al fresco dining, and I thought this little place looked especially picturesque...

On one of the many bridges, I stopped to take in the view back over the river and admire the giant Notre Dame cathedral and pretty autumnal trees...

There are so many beautiful flower beds in the Jardin du Luxembourg. They look as cosy as giant cushions, all nestled together under this lovely tree. On a warmer day, I would have loved to have a picnic here :) ....

Stopping to put my feet up and admire the little balconies on the building opposite my hotel room...

Out on another ramble a little later, I noticed this rather nice 'renamed' street - the street of sharing. And also a street where little red elephants can happily stroll along...

I stumbled across this art gallery, set up in a building that was formerly occupied by squatters. It was as colourful inside as the door suggests, with paintings and collages decorating the staircases, walls and floors of each floor. A fun unexpected insight into some very contemporary artists studios....

And some more traditional art is held here in the Louvre. I just admired from the outside this time (it's so big), and wandered under this mini arc-de triomphe before heading for a café for some much needed refreshement....

Later, the sun started setting as a storm drew in, hence the dark brooding clouds over this lovely view of the Eiffel Tower. I made it into a restaurant for a tasty omelette and frites just in time to escape the plump heavy raindrops...

Sunset a few days later in the Jardin du Luxembourg. It was the brightest autumn day, not a cloud in the sky. That's the tour de Montparnasse in the background

View of the Seine at nighttime...

My wanders ended here, at the bottom of the Champs-Elysée, with a nice cup of vin chaud from the marché de Noel which had just opened...

Paris, je taime.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

happy little moments... a Parisian haberdashery

I had a rather happy moment indeed when I emerged from a randomly chosen metro stop in Paris upon my arrival last week to start a-wandering to my hotel and immediately stumbled across the most marvellous haberdashery. Tucked into a narrow old building near a big building site, it was a little cavern of colour and delights full of rows of shelves which housed jars of fabric flowers...

A whole room full of buttons and beans, all sorted into colour and shape and lined up like sweets in an old-fashioned shop...

And an entire wall of beautiful ribbons of all colours, sizes, intricacies and delicteness...

In the back of the shop, a lady was spinning wool on an old fashioned machine, and there were various nooks and crannies full of bundles of fabric, loops of luxurious wools and yarns and pretty little craft kits. I could've spent hours browsing, admiring and picking out treats, but I was rather conscious of the gigantic backpack I was carrying and its potential to knock over all the pretty fragile things and alas, I had many miles to wander to my hotel, so I left empty-handed. But not without a smile on my face :)

I looked up the name of the shop online when I got back - it's called La droguerie and it's right by the metro stop Les Halles - well worth a visit if you're in Paris and looking to stock up on buttons/ribbons/beads/smiles... In fact, there are similar shops in lots of French cities (with different names I believe - the one in Lyon where I used to live is called La marchande des couleurs and I still have pretty things that I made with some of the treats I got there)

*sigh* even the sign is pretty as can be!
image via Craftzine

Later, in another quartier entirely (right near the Louvre) I sat in a pretty café, admiring this metro station entrance. It hardly looked real. It was as if some mischevious fairy had paid a visit to the lovely haberdashery, strung some beads and christmas baubles together in the shape of a miniature door, and then sprinkled them with fairy dust so that they grew to human size. Clearly, it's *actually* a magical entrance to some other place - probably a French fairy land or some extravagent pixie palace - and not a metro stop at all....

pretty pretty!

Here's to happy moments in haberdasheries all over the world!

Friday, November 18, 2011

A haiku a day...

One less haiku than usual for this week's serving as I'm scheduling this post in the past before I leave for Paris and what with it currently being Wednesday, Thursday's haiku isn't written yet (although it will be by the time you're reading this in the future, aka the present - but I won't be anywhere near the internet in order to include it). I'll make sure to put it in next week's installment... anyhoo, here be the rest of the poems...

Quiet evening
to myself, haven of calm,

before more mad days.


Huge tides of people,
Swarm the streets, rushing, pushing,

all going somewhere.

Glass pod floats over

the murky Thames, London shines

through the hazy fog.


Oh awkward chit-chat,

I've missed your ways, coffee cups

clink as we mingle.


Running familiar
routes, watching the seasons change,
simple pleasures, these.


Don't forget to breathe,

or to pack your passport,
(mantra to myself)

And seeing as I'm one poem down, here's a bonus piccy to do with Sunday's haiku. Guess which London tourist attraction I went on...

(It's peeking out amongst the autumn leaves)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Little diamond patchwork blanket.... almost done!

After 40 days of hooking it's almost done. Almost. Just a few rounds of grannying around the edge to go once I've stocked up on some dark green wool to match the outer triangles. Having made this blanket almost entirely from scraps I think I can justify investing in one ball of wool to get a nice co-ordinated edging :)

I've started weaving in the dreaded ends underneath too, a few at a time. Don't think I'll be in any real rush to tidy up the underside tho, the main thing is it's pretty! And very very cosy!

I'll share one last TA DA! when it's done, and then it'll be time get my hook started on some other projects. Christmas is a-coming after all...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Paris: a soundtrack for wandering...

I'm off to Paris for a few days this week, and you can bet I'll be having a wander around, seeing some sights and stopping in a café or two for refreshments. In order to make my ears as happy as my eyes, I've put together a little playlist of songs - some French, some about Paris, all magnifique... have a click and the let the music transport you there...

First up... well Paris is hardly l'autre bout du monde, but it is at the other end of the Eurostar tunnel, and I am going for an adventure and Emily Loizeau is one of my favourite French singers. There you go, three reasons to listen to this song and enjoy the sumptuous video...

I already waxed lyrical about my love for the film. You probably don't need me to tell you that the soundtrack to Amélie is simply lovely. Fun fact: one of my old French housemates could play this on the accordion and the rest of us used to waltz around the living room as she played...

An old French song! About autumn leaves! Je l'adore...

la la la laaaaaa la la la laaaaaaa

This song is just mental (in a good way) haha! boum!

As this song suggests, walking by the water will be nice...

Clearly no French song list is complete with something by Edith Piaf and this one's one of my favourites. Perfect for wandering along the Seine feeling 'heureux heureux' And because I know Frenchies are pedantic, yes I realise that as a female I will actually be 'heureuse heureuse' :)

Hehe, speaking of Edith, here's an aptly named boat I once saw in Paris...

There on the left at the bottom of the picture. Sorry, bit of an odd photo!

An amazing live video of my lady, Joni Mitchell singing about taking a wander down the
and feeling free. One of my most favourite Joni songs from probably my favourite album of hers, Court and Spark (shh! don't tell the other albums, I don't want to upset them)

Aww heck, not wanting to overload you with Joni or anything (is that even possible?) but she also mentions 'sitting in a park in Paris, France' in the song California on Blue. And this video is just too good not to share here too.,,,

I'm kind of going at the wrong time of the year for this one. No matter, it's lovely. Paris and jazz go together like red wine and cheese (which you can also count on me indulging myself with à Paris). I once found myself in an amazing jazz club somewhere in Paris, but alas I lost the card with the address on it. Maybe magic will happen and I'll find my way back there one day...

Another song from a film (Before sunset). This one's really just a reminder that you really ought to watch that film right now. Go, on, this'll still be here when you've finished....

Did you watch it? Good, ok, I will continue. Next, another oldie. 'Emmenez-moi au pays des merveilles' (for me, that'll be France, ta very much)

Hehe this one's a bit different and not my usual kind of music at all. But when the cheesy beats and beeps and ridiculously catchy melody involve French, it somehow becomes acceptable to my ears. Plus the video is pretty....

And last but not least...
Parfois on regarde les choses
Telles qu'elles sont
En se demandant pourquoi
Parfois, on les regarde
Telles qu'elles pourraient être
En se disant pourquoi pas....
*Sometimes we look at things as they are and wonder why, sometimes we look at them and say, why not*
A nice frame of mind for a trip to Paris I think...

Hope you liked the songs... I'm sure I'll take plenty of pictures to share on my return. Au revoir!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

happy little moments...a real life pirate

I couldn't help but smile when I saw this man out for a walk along the river Thames on Sunday with a parrot on his shoulder. He was just walking along with the bird just casually perched there happy as can be....

I wonder if he is secretly a pirate :)

It made me think back to other times when I've seen people walking around with animals about their person. When I lived in Lyon, France, I would sometimes see a man walking about in the strest with a cat on his shoulders. A cat!!! (clearly the coolest, calmest cat in the world). Also in France I spotted quite a few people with their pet mice crawling all over them (once on the metro -eek!) and on one memorable occasion I saw a girl with a rat perched on her shoulder in a lecture theatre at the university. He crawled all over her, disappearing down her top and sitting on her shoulder when she rested her head on the desk for a nap. He even accompanied her outside when she went to smoke a cigarette in the break! Alas no photos, of these other animal occurences, you'll just have to imagine the scene for yourselves. I'll leave you with this picture of the man walking away with his parrot friend...

What's the strangest animal you've ever seen on someone's shoulders?

Friday, November 11, 2011

A haiku a day...

Another busy few days here, so just my little haikus again this week. But it's a neat little collection I think - all my non-work based inspiration has been squeezed into these lines. Anyway, hope you enjoy....

The room sways, we stay,
Pour another glass, laugh, and
devour all the cheese.

Hillful of strangers,
gathered to watch explosions,
huddled in the mist.

We sleep on, morning
passes us by, are we lazy
or busy dreaming?

Dazed pigeons coo,
peck the ground in unison:
feathery robots

Afternoon fades out,
the skyline vanishes as
night falls on London.

After nightmares, blind
panic floats away at last,
clarity descends.

Squirrels stop to watch
the hula hooping girl twirl,
Slow motion park scene.


Saturday, November 05, 2011

A haiku a day...

Fey ballerinas,

Tiny statuettes whirling,

Amidst the splendour.


My head so groggy,

As we wander to the park

'Neath a mottled sky.


My hands pull out pulp,
The knife carves its spooky face,

Now glow, Pumpkin King!


As I run, my path
is crossed by a handsome beast,

Black cat: lucky me.


Funny how feelings fluctuate,

the whole spectrum

revealed in a day.


Run downhill through a

tunnel of trees, orange light,

rejuvenates me.


Perpetual motion,
keeps my thoughts ticking over,
Stops me from sinking.


Friday, November 04, 2011

Little diamond patchwork blanket.... more crochet progress (and a bit of pixie chat)

I've been busy hooking away more little diamonds for my patchwork blanket and it's finally big enough so I've started working on the edge. Here's how it's grown in the last couple of days/weeks...

gif make

Haha -It's fun watching it grow on screen! Almost like those little patches just grew themselves overnight. Maybe I have a clan of mischevious crochet pixies hiding out in my flat, coming out of hiding at night time with giant hooks, rolling the huge balls of wool across the floor and working in teams to get these squares hooked up...

I love this patchy blanket already - it's so colourful and cheery, and really really cosy too as there aren't many holes/gaps in it and with all the wool I've used, its nice and heavy. It's been keeping me ever so warm on these chilly autumn evenings whilst I work on it. Who needs central heating when there's a blanket growing on your lap?!

This is where up I'm to at the moment- after 32 days of crocheting (it's taken me longer than that, but I'm not counting the days when I didn't do anything)

And here's a close-up of the first round of the border. I'm going to give it quite a wide and colourful zig-zaggy border to frame all these lovely little squares and make it that little bit bigger...

Confession: I still haven't woven all those pesky woolly ends in yet. Think I'll pobably save that for the end. What a treat! It would be really rather wonderful indeed if those crochet pixies weren't just a figment of my imagination.... I'd love it if they
could do that particular job for me! Maybe I'll leave out a few thimblefuls of wine to tempt them out of hiding?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A Happy Birthday Crochet Hat

To keep myself occupied on some of my rather long train rides last weekend, I took my hook and wool with me and got busy making a crochet hat for a birthday present:) It's for a friend who loves all things yellow and for whom I made some yellow daisy fingerless gloves last year. I don't have a very good picture, but here's one of them, creeping towards what I suspect is a gin and tonic...

She has subsequently (not so) subtly requested a matching hat (hehe!) and seeing as it's her birthday I thought it was about time that I obliged.

I got some rather lovely wool for this project, Some Rowan creative focus worsted wool in Saffron which is a wool alpaca/blend. It's lovely and soft and easy to hook up and the colour is lovely and rich - a happy blast of mustardy sunshine goodness.

The pattern I used is a variation of a beanie hat pattern I found here. I've made this hat a few times and always had to adjust the pattern quite significantly to make it big enough for grown up heads. Plus I've omitted the different coloured stripes that are in the original. All in all, enough to warrant writing out the version I made here...

The hat is made by crocheting in rounds, each round starts with a number of chains which counts as the first stitch, and is ended by joining the last stitch with the top of the beginning chain creating concentric circles.

Finished measurements:length = 22cm, circumference = 52cm unstretched. This means that the hat is slightly longer than your average beanie hat - so it can be work 2 different ways (see below)

Gauge: I crocheted this using a 6mm hook (slightly smaller than the suggested hook on the wool, in order to make it cosy), and after round 4 the circle had a diameter of about 12cm. (If you are using different wool or a different size hook you may need to do more or less rounds with increases)

ch = chain
sl st = slip stitch

sc = single crochet
dc = double crochet

sc tbl = single crochet through the back loop only

c tbl = double crochet through the back loop only

- ch 3, join with a slip stitch to first chain to form a ring.

Round 1 - ch 3, 9 dc into ring, join with sl st to top of ch 3. (total of 10 stitches in round).

Round 2
- ch 2, dc into same stitch, 2 dc in each st around, join with sl st to top of ch 2 (total of 20 stitches in round).

Round 3
- ch 2, dc into same stitch, dc in next st, *(2 dc in next st, dc in next st), repeat from * 8 more times, join with sl st to top of ch 2 (total of 30 stitches in round).

Round 4
- sl st into back loop of same stitch, ch 2, dc in next st, 2 dc in next st, *(dc in next 2 sts, 2 dc in next st), repeat from * 8 more times, join with sl st to top of ch 2 (total of 40 stitches in round).

Round 5
- ch 2, dc into same stitch, dc in next 3 sts, *(2 dc in next st, dc in next 3 sts), repeat from * 8 more times, join with sl st to top of ch 2 (total of 50 stitches in round).

Round 6
- sl st into back loop of same stitch, ch 2, dc in next stitch, 2 dc in next stitch, *(dc in next 9 sts, 2 dc in next st), repeat from * 3 more times, dc in last 7 stitches, join with sl st to top of ch 2 (total of 55 stitches in round).

Rounds 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13
- sl st into back loop of same stitch, ch 2, dc in each st around, join with sl st to top of
ch 2. hold MC to back of work
(If you want an even longer hat, add more rounds here. If you want a shorter hat, you can omit some of these rounds). From here on, you crochet in the back loop only in every other round - this creates a slightly stripy pattern, differentiating the rim of the hat from the main part of it whilst also tapering in the rim slightly).

Round 14
- ch 1, sc in each stitch around, join with sl st to beg ch.

Round 15
- ch 2, dc tbl in each stitch, join with sl st to top of ch 2.

Round 16
- jch 1, sc in each stitch, join with sl st to beg ch.

Round 17
- ch 2, dc tbl in each stitch, join with sl st to top of ch 2.

Round 18
- jch 1, sc in each stitch, join with sl st to beg ch.

Round 19
- ch 2, dc tbl in each stitch, join with sl st to top of ch 2.

Round 20
- jch 1, sc in each stitch, join with sl st to beg ch.

Round 21
-ch 2, dc tbl in each stitch, join with sl st to top of ch 2.

Round 22
- jch 1, sc in each stitch, join with sl st to beg ch.

Round 23
-ch 2, dc tbl in each stitch, join with sl st to top of ch 2.

Round 24
- ch 1, sc in each stitch, join with sl st to top of ch. Weave in the ends of the wool.

And you're done!
All in all this is a very quick project. The only thing that slows you down is checking that you have the right number of stitches in the first few rows and after that its plain sailing round and round the hat. If you're quick with the hook it probably won't take much more than an hour or two. It used up about half of the ball of wool.

Almost there!

In order to make it 'match' the gloves, I whipped up a lovely crochet flower which is a variation on the design which you can learn by watching this video by Teresa Richardson...

Then I stitched the flower onto the hat and tada! It's finished!

Daisy close up

As I mentioned above, the hat can be worn in two different ways:

1. With the flower facing the front and the edges rolled up at the back and sides so it fits like a beanie...

2. With the flower to the side, worn further back on the head with the back of the hat loose and slouched down...

Haha that badger sneaks into so many of my photos!

Why not have a go hooking up a lovely hat in your favourite colour to keep you warm this winter? Or better yet, hook one up for a friend!

p.s. Happy Birthday Ame!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

happy little moments... the prettiest autumn tree

It's no secret round here that I'm more than a little bit obsessed with autumn leaves. So imagine how happy I was when I saw this beautiful red tree on Sunday afternoon. The autumn fairies must have used up an awful lot of their red paint supplies on this beauty and spent hours fluttering amongst the leaves, delicately painting each leaf. And their magic yielded great results- it shone out amongst the other orange, yellow, golden beauties in Waterlowe park on sunday afternoon. If you live in London get there quick and admire it before one by one the leaves twist, twirl and float thier way to the ground....

And the happy moments were not just limited to tree admiration that day... I also enjoyed the extra hour brought by daylight saving time witha guilt-free lie-in, wandered around the rest of the park, went to a lovely craft fair in Lauderdale house, found a pretty plum dress in a nearby charity shop for just £7, made the tastiest roast potatoes for dinner, helped carve a pumkpin, crocheted on the sofa late into the evening and had a foot bath treat :)

It's nice to take a step back from stress and work to enjoy and remember these happy little moments.
What's been cheering you up lately?