It’s a slow battle

4 Oct

I’ve been breaking the cardinal rule of blogging a lot recently. One must blog regularly, and I have been rather sporadic with my posts over the last couple of months. This is partly to down to my previous post and feeling a little uninspired.

Another reason for being so quiet is I’ve been hiding away in a lovely holiday cottage in South Wales for a week, switching off from the world and enjoying a much slower pace of life.

I’ve returned to London feeling energised and refreshed, so at the weekend I picked up my tunisian crochet and gave it another go.

I’ve scrapped the pattern I was working on. I decided it was far too complicated for me to follow as a beginner to the technique, so I’ve picked something from a book I bought recently on tunisian crochet and I have to say things are going really well!

I can’t talk too much about what I’m making at the moment as it is a gift for a friend who got married recently, so unfortunately I can’t share any photos of my progress (although there may be a few sneak peaks on Instagram, my username is rusty_fj).

What I will share are my thoughts and opinions on tunisian crochet so far.

1) It’s slow going! I don’t know if it’s because it is a new technique and I’ve yet to find my rhythm, or the fact that each row has two parts to it, but on average I’m managing to complete 6 rows every evening once I get home from work. I’m working 149 stitches to a row, and if I was doing ordinary crochet I’d be a lot faster at it.

2) A lot of yarn is needed for something that in my eyes is still quite small. I was quite surprised to reach the end of a 100g ball of yarn after only 26 rows. I’m a little worried I’ll have to buy some more yarn to finish it off.

3) I love the look and texture of the stitches. I have to say that what I’m producing looks pretty amazing, and is something that wouldn’t look out of place in the home department of a department store.

I’ll continue to update you on my progress, and promise I will try and get back to a regular schedule of posts. In the meantime, here are some of the highlights from my recent trip to Wales:

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The view from Dryslwyn Castle

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Steam train at Teifi Valley Railway

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Swansea Castle

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A Gibbon at Wales Ape & Monkey Sanctuary

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A Tamarin at Wales Ape & Monkey Sanctuary

Defeated by a hook

11 Sep

I was very excited when, the other week, I received some tunisian crochet hooks through the post. I had already ordered the yarn and selected the project that was to be my first proper tunisian project (aside from all the squares I’ve made using a normal hook with a rubber band on the end to practice).

I was so sure this was going to be a technique I could really get into. It combines both the techniques of crochet and knitting, where certain stitches replicate the stocking stitch of traditional knitting.

So I got to work. I created my starting chain, and (awkwardly) brought up 154 loops onto my new hook. I completed the row by pulling the yarn through each loop in turn. Great. Then things started to get complicated.

The pattern called for a slightly different way to bring up the 154 loops onto the hook, and in different combinations. I lost track of where I was at. I couldn’t work out what I did with my last few stitches without counting all that I had on the hook. Watching TV while also trying to concentrate on what I was doing was impossible. Mr Farr-Jones would talk to me and I’d ignore him, or worse, angrily ‘Sssshhh!’ him. Basically, it was a nightmare!

3 evenings later and I had only done 3 complete rows! In frustration I unravelled the whole lot and sulked.

It’s not like me to give up on something like this. But for some reason I’ve found this technique just too difficult to follow. I like knitting and crochet as I can multitask. I can watch tv, have a conversation, while my fingers are busy working needle, hook and yarn. But this demands my complete concentration.

I’m ashamed to say that all this happened 3 weeks ago, and I haven’t attempted to pick up the tunisian hook since. I’ve felt annoyed and frustrated each time I look at the balls of yarn waiting to be worked into an afghan, and this frustration has also affected my ability to do even the simplest piece of crochet or knitting. I’ve picked up my needles and hooks several times in an attempt to focus on something else, but all I can think about is the pile of yarn, and that damned hook, and the fact I need to make something out of it all.

This also explains my absence from my blog. I’ve been struggling with topics to write about, and the thought of writing a post about my defeat has, until now, put me off writing the post!

But I’ve decided to share my feelings in the hope that it spurs me on. I will produce a tunisian afghan, even if it is the only time I use the hook! I will share my progress each week until it is completed, even if it is a week where I feel the hook has won.

Wish me luck!

Tea Cosy Tuesday: Fashion accessory?

21 Aug

“Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn’t try it on.” – Billy Connolly

Wearing a tea cosy on your head is not just a sign of trustworthiness (in Billy’s opinion), or insanity (in most other people’s opinion), but also a sign that you are doing something worthwhile for charity.

It’s National Wear A Tea Cosy On Your Head day on 27th September. This is not something I could have even dreamed about coming across in my searches of the internet for all things tea. It is an event run by the White Stuff Foundation, who are the charitable arm of the clothing retailer White Stuff. The foundation supports disadvantaged children and young people in each local community that White Stuff has a shop, and every September they run a fundraising day to raise money and awareness of the local charities they support. All you have to do is pick your favourite tea cosy and wear it as if it were a normal part of your everyday wardrobe.

If you take a photo of yourself wearing your tea cosy and post it on their Facebook page or on Twitter you may even win White Stuff vouchers and a donation to the charity of your choice!

So, add the date to your diaries, and read more about it all here. You may notice that Jamie Oliver is photographed wearing the same tea cosy I posted about recently (not the actual tea cosy, but another knitted to the same pattern). This excited me more than I care to admit.

In other news, I’ve been busy planning and working on a couple of projects which I’ll post about later this week. None of them are tea related!

Tea Cosy Tuesday: A brief history and some cosy diversions

14 Aug

I spent some time over the last week reading about the history of the tea cosy. I quickly realised that, after reading blog after blog about tea cosy history, that the story has been told many times already. I guess that saves me a topic to write about, however it leaves me quite stuck on what I should write about for this Tea Cosy Tuesday.

For those interested in the history of the tea cosy, read this. Out of all the blogs I read, this perhaps sums up history the most succinctly.

However, what I will say is I’m incredibly grateful to the Duchess of Bedford who, in the mid-19th century made the ritual of Afternoon Tea a popular pastime among the aristocracy, and in true Victorian style this was emulated across the nation. Tea became fashionable, as did the cosy, and designs became more elaborate thanks to the Victorian obsession with decorating items in the home.

Without the Duchess, I wouldn’t have had so much fun over the last couple of months. I raise my tea cup to you!

On my voyage of discovery through Google and the blogosphere, I came across some great blogs dedicated to the tea cosy which I thought I’d share with you all:

Cosy Tea: This is the blog of a great company who sells organic tea (see their main website). Their company had the ingenious idea of pairing a particular tea with a tea cosy pattern. Their packaging is amazing, each showing a pattern that they asked local knitters to design for that particular tea. Their blog is full of inspiring patterns, along with reviews of each design.

Queen of the Tea Cosies: tea cosy designer and author of several books, including Really Wild Tea Cosies, Loani Prior has a great blog than entertained me on my search for all things tea.

Until next Tuesday.

Tea Cosy Tuesday: a change to the advertised schedule

7 Aug

I have to admit that tea cosies have been taking over my life (and blog) recently. I’ve been so focused on posting about a new tea cosy every Tuesday that it has left time for little else in my yarn-obsessed life. Projects I’ve been working on, or had planned to start, have been put on hold and to be honest it is starting to stress me out. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that I want to do. It feels like my day job, which provides me with the funds to supply my yarn addiction, is getting in the way.

So I’ve decided to change my focus a little. I love the idea of Tea Cosy Tuesday, and it is going to continue, but future posts won’t necessarily be about the tea cosies that I have made. I’m going to be trawling the Internet, searching for great tea cosy patterns, other bloggers who share my love of tea cosies, and researching the history of the tea cosy in an attempt to vary what I write about, which should also give me time to focus on my other projects and hopefully come up with other posts that have nothing to do with tea! Otherwise I may bore you all to death.

So stay tuned! Tea Cosy Tuesday will return next Tuesday, with something a little different. And in the not-too-distant future, a blog post shall appear that has absolutely nothing to do with tea.

For now, I will leave you with an article I found from the Guardian in 2001, about the strain (is that a pun?) the humble tea cosy has put on the UK National Health Service. It made me chuckle.

Tea Cosy Tuesday: Spots and Stripes

31 Jul

Hello! And welcome to another Tea Cosy Tuesday. It’s been another exciting week in London Town, with the London 2012 Olympics officially starting on Friday. Mr Farr-Jones and I watched the opening ceremony live, and I have to say that for most of it we sat in open-mouthed awe at the brilliance of it. Never have I ever felt so proud to be British, and it was as if I could feel the pride emanating from the whole country. Even The Queen got in on the act, which is a complete first for any member of the royal family (except for Fergie and that cameo in Friends she did, but I don’t think she counts).

In amongst all of the excitement of the Olympic Torch and the beginning of the games, i have still found time to whip up another tea cosy!

This week’s tea cosy is called ‘Spots and Stripes’, and is a truly reversible cosy. On one side of the tea cosy are spots:

The Spots

And if you turn the tea cosy inside-out, you get the stripes:

The Stripes

It was knitted in one long strip, with two panels of stripes, followed by two panels of spots, and then folded in half. I then used a circular needle to pick up the stitches and knit the ribbed borders around the handle, spout and top of the cosy. It was quite a challenging one to make, so it isn’t perfect, and it has definitely highlighted that I need to work on my technique to pick up stitches so that they blend in with the main body of the item I’m making.

My tea pot is a bit big for this cosy (I think it’s a 4-6 cup one), and I had to stretch cosy to get it around the circumference, so this one would be more suited to a smaller tea cosy.

This pattern came from Tea Cozies.

In other news, I have a photo of the tea cosy I made in my previous post:

The ‘School Tweed’ tea cosy being used!

Thanks Hannah for sending me the photo – love the tea set!

Tea Cosy Tuesday: School Tweed

24 Jul

It has been an action-packed week so far, and it’s only Tuesday!  My partner, Mr Farr-Jones, had the honour of running in the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay yesterday for all of the work he does for the charity Beating Bowel Cancer.  I can’t describe the deep sense of pride I felt while watching him carry the flame:

Mr Farr-Jones caring the Olympic Torch

The weather in London has also finally decided to play ball, following weeks and weeks of rain, wind, and temperatures that are more fitting for Autumn.  Yesterday the temperature peaked at 30C, without a cloud in the sky, which made it the perfect day to watch the torch relay.  It is set to continue for the rest of the week, and somehow it doesn’t feel like the weather for tea (unless it’s iced!).  However, I have to say that this week’s tea cosy is perhaps the best one yet!

The pattern for this tea cosy is called ‘School Tweed’, because it is supposed to look similar to the pattern on some school uniforms.  I love the ribbing of this cosy as well as the contrasting colours.

This was the first time I followed a pattern that requires you to slip-1 stitch every 3 stitches.  It creates this ‘bridge’ across multiple rows, to give the great effect you can see in the photo.

The pattern comes from Tea Cozies 2.

This cosy was a gift for a fellow blogger and tea lover.  She is blogging about her experiences as she goes through treatment for bowel cancer, and she is an incredibly talented writer.  I got the opportunity to give it to her in person when she came to support Mr Farr-Jones when he was carrying the flame.  Read more about her here.

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