Thursday 27 August 2015

Shimmer Cowl

In my family I am renowned for (and disapproved of because of) always being late with cards and presents. Last year I made a cowl - I love making cowls - for my sister-in-law for Christmas. Sis-in-law wears a palette of black, white and grey a-l-w-a-y-s, so colour choice was easy. Made in Rico Creative Reflection Print in multi-grey, the cowl is my own pattern, I used exactly 1 ball of yarn, and I finished it in time for Christmas! Whoop!

But then it needed something more and I couldn't decide what, I dithered and dithered and ended up in danger of missing the last posting date for Christmas, so I sent her something else instead. The cowl has since then sat in my pile of items that need a final touch - not technically a WIP as it was finished, just not quite finished

The piece was worked in a rectangle and then seamed along the short edges to make a cowl. I decided to sew a row of buttons along the seam - just for decamaration (as my Gran used to say - Norn-Irn-Gran for decoration).

This Rico yarn is 4-ply-ish, very lightweight, and is a colour-changing yarn. One of the strands is a sparkly silvery thread and adds a lovely light shimmer to the finished piece, so I'm calling it the Shimmer Cowl.

The finished cowl looks very smart I think, I'm really really pleased with how it's turned out :) And I'm going to send it to sis-in-law for her birthday. Which was last week. And no I haven't sent it yet.

Anyway here is the pattern, I'm writing it up from memory - it's fairly simple, and I've read and reread it a thousand times so hopefully it will be right!

Shimmer Cowl Pattern.
1 skein (50g) Rico Creative Reflection Print
4mm crochet hook
buttons (optional)

Please note UK terminology is used throughout, US conversion is shown below.
ch .... chain
dc .... double-crochet (single-crochet in American terminology)
tr ..... treble-crochet(double-crochet in US terminology)
sk .... skip

Chain 200 (or any even number of stitches depending on how long you want your cowl to be).
R1. Ch4 (counts as tr plus 1ch). Tr in 6th ch from hook, *sk next ch, ch 1, tr in next ch. Repeat from * to end.
R2. Ch3. Tr in next ch-space, * ch1, tr in next ch-space, Repeat from * to last ch-space. Finish with tr in 3rd chain of the ch-4 at start of previous row.
R3. Ch3. Tr in next ch-space, * ch1, tr in next ch-space, Repeat from * to last ch-space. Finish with tr in 3rd chain of the ch-3 at start of previous row.
R4-22. Repeat R3.
R23. Ch1, dc in tr, *dc in ch-space, dc in tr. Repeat from * to end. Do not fasten off.
Turn piece to work along short edge.
Ch 3, then 2-tr in the side of every treble/ch-3 along the short edge. Fasten off.
Rejoin yarn on other short edge.
Ch 3, then 2-tr in the side of every treble/ch3 along the short edge. Do not fasten off.
Join the short edges together, I used slip-stitch, you could also use dc or just sew them together.

Finished cowl measures approx 20 cm x 100cm (before joining).

** Please feel free to make and/or sell items made from my patterns, but please do not reproduce the pattern, and if you want to include a link back to me that would be lovely :)

Saturday 22 August 2015

Castleward Summer 2015

Hello lovely friends and readers :)
School holidays have rather gotten in the way of my blogging flow .... but hey-ho, here I am now :)

I've got another National Trust visit to share with you today. Whilst we were in Norn Irn we visited Castleward which is my favouritey favouritist most favourite NT property EvEr. I Looooooooove Love LOVE Castleward. Its got the usual NT goodies on offer - great grounds, lovely walks, second-hand bookshop, a fab tea-room, and playgrounds for the Little People, but best of all it is coastal and its grounds go right down to the shores of Strangford Lough.

As it was midday when we arrived we headed straight to the aforementioned tea-room. It's situated on one side of a gorgeous courtyard, so you can eat your lunch outisde, the children can mess around, and Mums can slope off to the second-hand bookshop for a sneaky mooch. I found some card-making magazines for 30p each, I bought 5 so just a teeny spend of £1.50 - but the husband rolled his eyes as usual anyway ...

For lunch we decided to keep it simple and have toasties and scones. Look, how lovely, the tea even came in a tea-cup. That hardly ever happens these days :)

After lunch we met up with my cousin as she was joining us for the afternoon. She has 2 children, who I think are my children's second cousins ? Anyway, they are similar ages to my children, but they live in Texas so we don't get to see them very often, but they all get on like a house on fire so lots of fun was to be had. We went for a wander (or a wee dander as we say in Norn Irn) down to the clock tower, and the chat got to geocaching ( Have you ever tried geocaching ? We had, once, years ago when it was in its infancy, and we found it a bit tricky (or maybe we were just rubbish??). My cousin goes geocaching loads but hadn't found the one at the Castleward Clock Tower and wanted to give it another go.

So what is geocaching I hear you cry ? Well, it describes itself as "the world's largest treasure hunt". In a nutshell, any random person can hide some "treasure" - usually a plastic box with a little something in it like a car, shell, matchbox, plus a logbook and pen. They then log the GPS position of it on the geocaching website. Then when you want to "do" geocaching you go on their website and look for the caches near the position of where you are (or where you want to go a-looking). When youhave the coordinates, and with the help of a GPS device (eg your smart phone), and some hints if needed, you go off, find the treasure, add something to the box if you want to (providing you've found it of course!) and log your name in the log book. And put the box back in its hiding place. And then you can log on the website that you've found it. Yes I realise it sounds a bit pointless but its actually a lot of fun :)

After a bit of random wandering, and then by using our phones' GPS we managed to find the Castleward Clock Tower cache - hurrah! Inside the (very very grubby) box were crayons, a barbie bat and ball, and some other bits and pieces. Oh and the logbook of course.

We wrote some little messages in the logbook, added a pinecone and a stick (that was from one of the boys - what is it with boys and sticks ???) to the box, re-hid it, and went off exploring the rest of the grounds.

Oh one other interesting thing about Castleward is that a lot of the TV series Game of Thrones is filmed here. Do you recognise Winterfell ?

Lots of the TV series is also filmed in the Titanic Studios in Belfast, more of that another time :)
Just down from the Clock Tower you get a lovely view of Strangford Lough - you can see the little town of Portaferry on the opposite shore, I'll be posting about Portaferry next time.

The children wanted to say hello to Mervyn the donkey - I don't remember him looking quite so alarmed! During our visit there was a wedding going on - I tell you, they were bloomin' lucky with the weather, they had the ceremony outside - very risky - it rained every day the week before, but was completely still and dry for their wedding. We reckon they had some photos taken in a boat because we spotted someone (the best man ?) retrieving said boat in his kilt with his wellies on ...... random or what ....

... and he carried it back ashore. On his head. As you do.

See what I mean about lovely views ....

Through the arched window (remember Playschool anyone ??!) there is a sort of quay thing which is perfect for crabbing from. 

Although I find it totally heart-stopping and can't stop myself from telling everyone to be careful all the time! Hubby and I are vegetarian but we are ok with crabbing as the crabs don't get hooked on the hook, they just grab the bait with their pincer thingy. Our bait was prawns which weren't too successful, the crabs just grab the prawns then the prawns disintegrate and the crabs fall off the line, with the prawns. So you don't get the really fun part of watching the prawns scuttle back to the water!

We did manage to bring one all the way up though - the children were braver than me, I wasn't going to hold it for love nor money!

It was getting late and there was just time for a quick wander along the shore (ie a slither around on the seaweed) ....

.... before heading off for home.

Well actually not home, but to the distant shores of Portaferry for tea.

Looking forward to sharing Portaferry pictures next time :)


Monday 10 August 2015

Mountstewart, Summer 2015

Hello dear readers and a Happy Monday to you :)

We are back from our holidays; the unpacking is almost done and I'be made a good start on the dreaded post-holiday laundry. Today I thought I'd share some photos from one of our days out - a visit to Mount Stewart, a National Trust property in Co. Down, N. Ireland.

Almost every time we go over to Norn Irn we spend a day at Mount Stewart. It's very local to where we stay when we're there, and we can easily spend the afternoon exploring the grounds and gardens.

It was looking a bit dark and damp when we arrived, but the drizzle soon abated and the sun almost came out :)

Just at the entrance there is a Lookout Hut, inside which is lots of information about the wildlife of the area, and the deck has a gorgeous view over the beautiful Strangford Lough. Strangford Lough is in fact part of the Irish Sea, and therefore is tidal - the tide is out in the picture below.

And on the side of the Lookout Hut there is a fabulous mosaic mural depicting the lough with geese flying overhead.

The house's recent history dates back to 1744 when it was bought by the Stewart family, later to become holders of the title Marquess of Londonderry. 

The house has undergone an extensive refurbishment, and I'd love to have a look inside, but the Little Peeps aren't that keen, so we stuck to the gardens.

And the gardens are beautiful, we only managed the "back garden" which consists of a large lake surrounded by pathways and gardens.

There are more manicured "front" gardens, but the lake and its surrounding is much more fun for tree-climbing, and exploring in general.

The gardens are FULL of hydrangeas, I could easily have filled an entire post with photos of hydrangeas alone. Such beautiful colours, mine never look this good at home!

The insects were busy doing their insect-business ....

.... and there was colour everywhere ....

Upon arrival we had picked up some of the National Trust's "50 Things to do before you're 11 3/4" books ....

.... and we saw that one of the things was to make a grass trumpet. I don't remember ever doing this myself as a youngster, but had a vague idea of how to do it, so I picked some nice fat blades of grass and gave it a go - it worked! So I showed the Little People how to do it - and they picked it up straight away. Happy sigh. My parenting was a success that day!!!

It was really funny. There we all were, screeching away on our grass trumpets, giggling like anything, and every family that came along clearly saw this as either a challenge or an invitation to join in, soon there were little grass trumpet orchestras screeching away all over the place!

Other "50 things ..." things included roly-polying down a hill .... now that's one I definitely did when I was the same age as as Little Tomboy ....

.... and everywhere we walked gave us a new view of the lake .... so pretty :)

In a small clearing is a rather bizarre statue of a white stag. There's no mention of why it's here. I suspect it's been donated by a local artist, but I could be totally wrong. Whatever, it is beautiful, if a bit surreal!

Halfway round the lake you stumble upon an intriguing little staircase leading to "Tir n'an Og" ...

Tir n'an Og is Gaelic for "Land of Youth", and was the name for the Underworld (or nicer sounding Otherworld as it was called) in Irish mythology. At Mount Stewart the Tir n'an Og staircase leads to the private Stewart family cemetery, and as it's private obviously I have no photos, but in the pathways and stairways surrounding it there is a riot of colour, the flowers really come into their own here ....

We loved the way the red fallen leaves looked so vibrant in the cobbles below ....

There was lots of nature-gathering - I love these photos of booty from our trips ...

After a full circuit of the lake we made our way back to the cafe for ice-creams outside. I love the super-size flower pots ....

... and I had a little peak in the plant "shop". The window in the fence is actually a mirror. I LOVE this, I totally thought it was a window until my own reflection surprised me!

The plant area had some fabulously quirky olde-worlde bits and pieces dotted about ....

By this time it was time to head home, but not before a quick nosy in the second-hand bookshop. And of course I couldn't leave empty-handed. You've probably heard me say it before - what I love most about second-hand book shops is the randomness of the books. This time I bought, for the princely sum of £1.00, this book by Betty MacDonald.

Onions in the Stew, memoirs of Betty's time living on an island near Seattle, will be on my next month's reading list :)

Right, the washing machine is finished, I'm off to reload it for the millionth time today!
Bye for now