Saturday, 10 November 2018

Cake International

Just occasionally I manage to escape from the madness that is my life and spend some time with good friends. For the past five years we have made the annual pilgrimage to the NEC Birmingham for the Simply Christmas, Crafts for Christmas and the Cake International a 3 day event at the beginning of November.

We get to spend some quality time together mooching around the many stalls picking up Christmas gifts that you don't see every day on the high street, as well as picking up yet more stash for our individual crafts.

By the time we get to lunchtime we have more or less bought what we want or have a note of the stalls we wish to revisit to pick up that must have item you saw probably within the first five minutes of arriving. 

We then spend a good couple of hours wondering around the Cake International Exhibition in ore of all the magnificent cakes that have been entered each year. 

I thought  I would share some of them with you so that you too can sit back in amazement too.





















Didn't I tell you they were amazing

Mx

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Solid granny square Que Sera Sera snuggle blanket


In the last 8 years since taking up my current post at the hospital it has become a bit of a tradition when a colleague announces that they are expecting a baby that my yarn and hooks come out and a baby blanket is produced. Over the summer the total number of baby blankets made of one sort or another in the last 8 years has risen to in  excess of  30 and I've lost count as to how many I have made before that, in fact some of those babies are now over 30 and having babies themselves, that's a frightening thought. Most of the nurses I work with don't want to know the sex of the baby they are having, they want to wait and have a surprise.  These babies have become known as the whatever will be will be babies, hence the title Que Sera Sera (whatever will be will be).  Those of you of a certain age will know that  this was a song was recorded by many artists but was made most famous when sung by Doris Day, from the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock film 'The man who knew too much' which starred Doris Day and James Stewart. For those who are not a Hitchcock fan or like me  not born until at least the 60's it may just be a song you've come to know through your parents, my mum was always singing it when I was a child she was a big Doris Day fan and the end of a conversation quite often ended with que sera sera Mitzi.




I must admit I love making these blankets they have become almost second nature to make and I have a little collection of thank you cards expressing the recipients gratitude which is always lovely and is usually accompanied by a photograph of the new addition to the family lying on or under said blanket. 

.

The blanket is made up of 49 solid granny squares using Stylecraft Special DK in colours Parchment, Duck Egg and White.  I used 200g of each colour using crochet hook size 3.5 sewing all the little ends in with a darning needle (wool needle).



It is made up of  12 Duck Egg Squares, 13 Parchment squares and 24 white giving you a total of 49 solid granny squares making a 7 squares across and 7 squares down blanket measuring  92cm x92cm or 36" x 36".



For those already know how to make a solid granny square, you can scroll down to the graph below to see which squares go where to form the pattern, but for those of you who you are new to crocheting or could do with a little help then this is how I make mine.  In the early days I wasn't able to follow any crochet patterns so I worked on the visual, and still do a lot of the time, by  looking at a square and practising until I had worked it out, so this is my interpretation of a solid granny square and not from a pattern and is written in UK terms. A solid granny is essentially made up of lots of treble stitches and chain and is a relatively easy square to make once you've got the hang of it.

To get started 


1. Make a loop and insert your crochet hook

2. Chain 6

3. Join your chain by slipping your crochet hook through the last chain  (it will look like you have two loops on your hook) wrap your yarn around your book and  pull back through the two loops so that you have one remaining and you should now be at stage 3 in the photo above. 

4. Chain 5 (this will act as your last treble and two chain and you will use this to complete your round)


Round 1

5. wrap your yarn around your hook, put your hook through the circle wrap your yarn around your hook again and pull back through (you now have three loops on your hook), wrap your yarn around your hook and pull through the first two loops, wrap your yarn around your hook and pull through the remaining two loops ( you should now have one loop left on your hook and you have completed a treble stitch). Repeat your treble stitch until you have completed  four trebles in total.

6. Chain two (this will form your corner)  and continue repeating four treble & two chain twice more

7. To complete your first round make three more treble stitches.

8. To complete your round slip stitch into the 3rd of  the 5 chain  you made at the beginning of the round and now you should have a square which contains four trebles on each side with 2 chain at each corner.




Round 2

9.  Chain 5, now make 2 treble stitches into the corner, make your third treble as indicated in the photograph  (9)

10. Continue making a treble stitch in each of the treble tops as (indicated in photograph 10) until you get to the corner chains. Treble 2, chain 2, treble 2 in the corner space. Then as you did in round 1 treble in that first space as indicated in photograph  (9) and in each of the treble tops as indicated in photograph 10. until you get to the 5 chains at the end of the 4th side.

11. To complete your 2nd round make a treble in the first of  the 5 chains as indicated in Photograph           (11)

12. Now slip stitch in the 3rd of the 5 chain. You have now completed round two and should have 8 treble on each side with 2 chain at each corner.



Round 3

13. Continue as you did for round 2 at the end of which you should have 12 treble on each side with 2 chain at each corner. (photograph 13)

Round 4

14. Continue as before and at the end of this round you should have 16 treble on each side with 2 chain at each corner. (photograph 14)

Round 5

15. Continue as before and at the end of this round you should have 20 treble on each side with 2 chain at each corner. (photograph 15)

16. You have now completed your  square and can finish off by cutting your yarn and pulling through your last stitch.

Finishing off

1. Using your darning needle thread the yarn through the backs of the stitches on the reverse edge of your square and fasten off.

2. To finish off the centre,  thread your darning needle and thread through the back of each of the four sets of four treble stitches

3. Draw the your yarn so that it pulls together in the middle

4. This will give you a nice neat finish to the centre of your square on the right side.




Blocking 

Once you have your 49 squares and you have sewn in all the little ends you will need to block your squares. I do this by pinning to a set of playmats which are available here or you may find a set in your local DIY store, garden centre or toy shop. Slightly stretch each square keeping their shape and pin to the board  and then with a houseplant sprayer available here  or in your local garden centre, lightly spray with cold water so they are damp to the touch and leave to dry. In doing this all your squares should lie flat and be the same size. Once blocked  you will need to lay them out as the graph below shows you ready for joining.

P
W
D
W
P
W
D
W
P
W
D
W
P
W
D
W
P
W
D
W
P
W
D
W
P
W
D
W
P
W
D
W
P
W
D
W
P
W
D
W
P
W
D
W
P
W
D
W
P

D = Duck Egg
P = Parchment
W = White 



I then gather them up a row at a time from right to left i.e. row one starts with Duck egg and ends in Parchment therefore once you have gathered them up you should have the parchment square on top for set 1. Continue you gathering up your squares in this way until you have seven sets of squares. I find it easier to number them so I know exactly which set of 7 comes next.

Joining





I like to use two different colour yarns when joining my squares together, in this instance I have used parchment and duck egg, so that you have one colour running in one direction and the second colour running in the opposite direction but you can of course use the same colour both ways. I also like to join from the right side so your finished blanket almost looks like patchwork but you can also join from the under side if you prefer.


To start joining the squares I take the top square from sets one & two and place back to back so that the right side of your work is facing outwards.




Joining at the corner and using double crochet go through the tops of the first treble of each square (it will look as though you have 4 loops on the hook) wrap your yarn around the hook and bring back through all 4 loops, wrap the yarn around your hook and pull through the 2 loops on your hook. Continue to make a double crochet through each of the tops of the treble stitches until you have reached the end of the row and have joined 7 squares fasten off and get ready to start joining row 2 and set 3 together. Once you have joined all 7 sets together turn your work around ready to join in the opposite direction using the same technique as before. Once your squares are joined in both directions,  I sew in all the little ends as there are quite a few, 28 in fact.

Border

You are now ready to add the border.  You can of course add any border you wish there are a number of good books out there that are specifically for borders, but for baby blankets where little fingers can go through I tend to keep it quite simple using a slip stitch border. I like to make the border using all three colours by doing two rounds of each, but again you can do which ever way you choose using one, two or all three colours.  Starting two to three stitches away from the corner join your yarn and chain one. Work into the tops of each  stitch in double crochet.  When you reach the corner double crochet x 2, chain 2 then double crochet x 2 to make your corner.. Now continue until you are back to where you started and slip stitch into the 2 foundation chain. 




Now you have completed the first round you will start and slip stitch into the top but through the back only,  which will prevent the border from curling up once completed. When you get to the corner slip stitch x 2 chain 2 and slip stitch x 2. Once you get back to your foundation chain slip stitch to finish your round. Now fasten off and join in your next colour and chain 1. Now continue with your slip stitch and corners as before until you have completed two further rounds and fasten off. Now join your third and last colour and complete a further round. You should now have completed one row of double crochet and four rounds of slip stitch. You are now ready to complete your last round. Working as before continue with your slip stitch border but this time working 3 x slip stitch into each of the corners to give you a nice neat edge to complete your border.

Your blanket should measure 92cm x 92cm or if you work in old money 36" x 36"  and is great for a cot or lying on the floor to have a play and equally as good for lying on grass outside in the sunshine. This one is already to go to it's recipient at the end of the month when they go off on their maternity leave and would you believe it I already have another one on the hook for yet another new arrival  It's all go here at the farm house it feels like a permanent production line at the moment with making blankets for my little grandson too.



Mx


The photograph below is of one of these lovely blankets that I finished in the summer and is now waiting patiently for the stork to deliver the new arrival.   



Tuesday, 30 October 2018

This is Going to Hurt - Secret diaries of a Junior Doctor - Adam Kay


Welcome to the life of a junior doctor, 97 hour weeks, life and death decisions, a constant tsunami of bodily fluids, and the hospital parking meter earns more than you. 

Scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, Adam kay's This is Going to Hurt provides a no holds barred account of his time on the NHS front line. Hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking, this diary is everything you wanted to know and more than a few things you don't - about life on and off the hospital ward. 


I had seen this book on the supermarket book shelf many times and never really thought about picking it up to read.  I have worked in the NHS for 30 years and over that time some things have changed for our junior doctors but for the most part there is an incredible responsibility put on their shoulders at a very young age. The hours they are expected to work have improved but for the majority they are still working incredibly long shifts.

A colleague at work was given the book for her birthday and passed it onto me to read.  Even then I wasn't sure whether it was a book I would be able to get into.  How wrong I was.  It is written as a diary at varying points within Adam Kay's career.  His account is a true reflection on the highs and lows of a junior doctor. Adam Kay tells his story in good humour and will have you laughing out loud. At times he will have you shedding a tear as he also tells you of the emotional turmoil our doctors go through when presented with life or death decisions and what ultimately made him give up medicine. 

Brilliantly written unputdownable and definitely worth reading. 




M x

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Hat & Scarf set {Adult}




Firstly I would just like to thank all of you who left such lovely comments on my previous post about our little grandson.   He's had a slight cold this week so has not been his usual self as this also meant he earned himself a few days back in his little incubator. 

The photograph above shows the scarf and hat sets that I made for three members of the family last year and as it turned out with the winter that we had with so much snow and ice they were much needed.

Now that Autumn is in full swing I usually start and turn my attention to any Christmas makes. Yes I did mention the dreaded c word - sorry.  This year seems to have flown by and I've really not turned my attention to much other than to making some very tiny items for a very tiny young man. I suddenly realised this morning that it is in fact only 62 days until Christmas or just shy of 9 weeks if that makes you feel better.


It was a few years ago now that a boyfriend of my daughters requested a knitted scarf for Christmas.   Now my daughter can knit but very, very slowly.  She didn't say she wouldn't do it but did enquire as to which Christmas he would in fact like the scarf. The task was then passed over to me and a scarf duly made and he was very pleased with it.  Since then the boyfriend has changed but thankfully not the appreciation of something hand knitted and all the many hours that entails.

I know some of you have been thinking of making up hats and scarves for the homeless and these sets are easy to make and quick to knit up too. Each scarf took approximately 250g of wool and the hat took just under 100g. 
The scarf is worked over 70 stitches in 2 x 2 rib for 60 rows or until it measures 145 cm or 58 inches when completed using a 4mm needle.
The hat is 146 stitches for an adult female and 162 for an adult male working in 2 x 2 rib throughout. I have used a 40cm circular needle but can be worked on straight needles or DPN’s too . The first 10cm are worked on a 3.25 mm then change to a 4mm and continue working 2 x 2 rib until  21cm has been worked or required length and then shape the crown as follows:
Shape crown
1st row (K2tog, P2, K2, P2) 18:20 times, K2 128:142 sts
2nd row P2 (K2,P2,K2,P1) 18:20 times
3rd row (K2tog, K3,, P2) 18:20 times, K2
4th row P2, (K2,P4) 18:20 times
5th row(K2tog, K2,P2) 18:20 times, K2
6th row P2(K2,P3) 18:20 times
7th row (K2tog, K1,P2) 18:20 times, K2 74:82 sts
8th row P2 (K2, P2) 18:20 times
9th row (K2tog, P2) 18:20 times, K2 56:62 sts
10th row P2, (K2, P1) 18:20 times.
11th row (K2tog, P1) 18:20 times, K2 38:42sts
12th row P2, (K1,P1) 18:20 times.
13th row (P2tog) 18:20 times, K2tog 19:21 sts
Break yarn, run yarn through rem sts, draw up and fasten off.
Once drawn through the remaining stitches if worked on straight needles leave enough yarn to be able to either stitch together using blanket stitch or I have used a crochet hook {3.50mm} and slip stitched together to give a more even seam.

As these sets were for gifts the Yarn I used was 100% wool but if you are making for one of the homeless charities a good quality acrylic wool of double knit weight would equally do the job and is great for using up oddments from your stash if you want to go all creative and use more than one colour. 

Whether you are thinking of  making as a gift or for charity I am sure they would be very much appreciated by the recipient I know mine were.  


Happy knitting

Mx


Thursday, 18 October 2018

Early arrival





Some of you may  remember that back in March I shared my news that I was to become a grandmother.  I was beyond excited as this would be our first grandchild and baby was due in November.  At the time my son and his squadron were based down in Salisbury following the aftermath of what has become known as the Russian affair.  Because of this it meant his partner spent a lot of time on her own.  Luckily she has a very supportive family close by and I visit as often as I can.

It was after such a visit with my daughter for a girlie weekend that things went a little crazy.  We had, had a lovely relaxed weekend which included heading into their local town for a bit of baby prep retail therapy.  Much to my son's partner's amusement as this included buying all the necessities for going into hospital.

After dropping my daughter off home I arrived home around 10.30 in the evening and after a quick catch up with the bearded one and a much needed cup of tea I headed off to bed.   As my head was about to hit the pillow my phone signalled I had a text message.  I sat back up thinking  I'm sure I sent a text to both girls informing them I had reached home safe and sound,  as I do get told off when I forget just the same as they do.  The message was from my son's partner saying 'if you are still awake could you please call me'.  I duly called her and she said that after we had left she had not felt quite right.  She had spoken with the out of hours Gp and they advised she should go to her local maternity unit.  Upon arrival she thought it would be a quick check over make sure that baby was behaving and back home before midnight.  On speaking to her it appeared she was going into premature labour and her poor mum had rushed back to their house to grab the bag that we had only packed that afternoon. At this point she was almost 26 weeks.  She informed me that she was to be blue lighted to the nearest hospital with a NICU bed available for babies under 30 weeks gestation.  Her main concern was to get my son back from Salisbury which is 3-4 hour drive from their home.  On that score she need not have worried as by the time I spoke to him he had already spoken with his Sargent and was put in a car and driven back to Suffolk arriving at the hospital in the early hours of the morning.  I don't think any of us got much sleep that night but by the morning they had managed to stop labour but were monitoring her closely.  Little baby was still at this time playing fantasy football inside his mummy and the doctors didn't seem to have any major concerns about him, but had started preparing him for arriving early by giving mum steroids for his lungs and extra fluids for his brain.  For the next 48 hours things went a little quiet and we were hopeful that things would settle back down at least for a couple more weeks. Unfortunately by the Wednesday labour had started again and this time things were progressing rather quickly and they were unable to stop the labour.

Our little grandson Freddie arrived on Wednesday 8th August at 12.20 in the afternoon weighing 866g, not even a bag of sugar bless him, but he came out with arms and legs flaying and soon found his voice much to everyone's relief.  They were told that the first 48 hours would be critical and every day after that a bonus.



He was so tiny that even the smallest knitted hats I made were still too big. 


The first weeks of his life were spent in an incubator and at the beginning these little bonding triangles were the only skin to skin contact he could have with his mummy. I made several batches of these in very bright colours so after they had been washed she would know which ones belonged to Freddie. He even had a trip down to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London for a procedure. I don't think either of them dared to hope everything would be alright for at least the first 6 weeks.  I am so incredibly proud in the way my son and his partner have coped.  They are still only in their 20's and to me at least, have dealt with this whole situation so amazingly well and should be very proud of themselves. 



There were several occasions when he was put under the lamp for jaundice although he teetered on the threshold for requiring treatment.  He looked so funny with the mask over his little eyes. We said he looked like he was on a spa day or heading to the disco.


At 8 weeks he upgraded to a cot within the NICU unit and classed as high dependence rather than intensive care.   He is now 10 weeks old and doing so well that I felt able to share our news with you. He still has away to go before he can go home with his mummy, daddy and Ralph Cat, but his mummy and daddy have been working very hard to get his room ready for when he does come home. 

    

Even I have had a job to do.  This old chest of draws was in need of a little TLC before its upcycling transformation, using  Rustoleum chalk paint in Winter Grey and sealed with their finishing wax.

It has been an incredibly worrying time for all the family but I finally feel we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for this little one and I will finally get to have my grandma cuddles.




Saturday 17th November is  World Prematurity Day and you can find out more about this here on the BLISS website. I was amazed to learn that around 15 million premature babies are born around the world each year and sadly is still the biggest cause of death in the under 5's.  Those babies born at 26 weeks like our Freddie now  have a 95% chance of surviving. My own sister, now in her 40's was born at 28 weeks and we were told she only had a 50% chance of survival.  Babies as young as 23 weeks are now surviving, so it just goes to show how far the medical teams and the research into premature birth has come.

This week marks Baby loss week and  many have been lighting candles for those little ones who could not stay.    I never thought as a family we would find ourselves in this situation but I am so grateful that we have had such support from the medical staff who have been looking after our beautiful boy.  He is truly a little fighter and our little miracle.


Mx

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