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Monday, 30 November 2015

Cough Remedy

It's that time of year again when the coughs and colds start to rear their ugly heads.  Last week it was my turn and, as we were travelling at the time, I found it particularly difficult to shake off.  I was so glad when we got home to find these in the garden :-

This plant (Verbascum thapsus or Great Mullein) grows wild around us and is particularly useful for getting rid of that persistent residual cough I always seem to be left with - even annoying tickly coughs.  I normally use 2 smallish leaves and make an infusion with thyme, honey (both good for the throat) and mint for extra flavor.

Three or four cups per day over a two day period will generally get rid of the worst of it - much better than taking medication!

In the summer it sends up a tall flower spike, the stem of which is surrounded by tiny yellow flowers.  Apparently these, soaked in olive oil, make a good earache remedy, although I've never tried it myself.

So, if you come across this "weed" in your garden, don't rip it out, let it seed in various places and you'll always have cough medicine at hand.

I even found one growing in the middle of the road outside the house!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Reuben's Blanket

You might be forgiven for thinking that I've been totally idle since my last post in early October, but actually it's been a really hectic time.  We went off on our annual pilgrimage to visit family in early November and were away almost 3 weeks; just got back Tuesday night, pretty tired and full of a cold virus.  Now we need another holiday to get over it!

The run-up to our trip away was pretty busy for me because our first port of call was to be with Eric's youngest son and family.  Baby Reuben was only 6 weeks old when we got there and I'd been making him a baby blanket for what seemed like forever.  By the time we left home it still wasn't finished!  However, I did manage to get it done just in time to hand over the day before we left them!

I chose the Motherhood Blanket by Amanda Bjoerge firstly because I loved the Celtic knot patterns she'd used, and secondly because the knots actually represent motherhood - perfect.  I have plenty of nice fleece I could have used for this but, mindful of the fact that it's for a baby, I wanted it to be easy to wash.  The blanket I made for Reuben's older brother, Brody's Elephant Blanket, was made from handspun merino and his Mum's still very nervous about washing it.  This time I bought some super wash Falkland fleece which means it can withstand a bit more handling without the risk of it felting.

I started spinning for this project back in September which (I thought!) gave me plenty of time to get it finished.  After all, apart from the cables (and I've knitted lots of complicated cables in my lifetime), this was a pretty simple pattern.  Yeah right!  The first obstacle was when I realised it was a charted pattern - I'm not good with charts - and it took a bit of figuring out for me just to get started with the knitting.

The Falkland spun up well but it did have a bit of a funny smell until I'd washed it.  This was the first time I'd used super wash wool so I really didn't know what to expect.

The blanket begins in the centre with quite a complicated cabled Celtic knot, which isn't represented very well in this photo, but you can see it's fairly complex.  I must have pulled this back at least five times before I finally got it right - at one point the wool was getting so grubby and messed about with that I had to cut it off and start again.  No problem, this would be plain sailing from here!

The problems started at the very beginning of the next cabled section and I just couldn't get it to work out.  Whatever I did I was two stitches out.  What with pulling back, re-knitting, checking the pattern for the umpteenth time and throwing it into a corner for a few days until I felt like trying again, it took me two whole weeks to move on from this.  I finally had a "lightbulb moment" one morning at 5 a.m. - at one point whilst knitting the central knot we had to move the stitch markers by 2 stitches in the middle of a 5 stitch increase.  Voila - we had the same increase stitch here!  I checked with Amanda Bjoerge to make sure it was right before I carried on.  Hopefully she'll mention this in the pattern for future buyers.  It might have seemed obvious to the designer, but people like me (duh!) are bound to buy this pattern occasionally!

By now, I was really short of time for finishing this but, thankfully, everything went well from there (apart from one tiny mistake I found in the pattern which I've still to tell her about) and I only had a small amount to do by the time we left.

Oh, I almost forgot.  Sod's law dictates that nothing was going to go my way with this project.  This was my final ball of wool just after the end fell off my bobbin!  That took a bit of sorting out!

Finally, here's the finished blanket, washed and blocked.

Plus one of the spinner/knitter :-

and Baby Reuben seemed pretty happy with it too.

Mum and baby :-

and a final bit of detail :-

Lovely pattern, lovely blanket . . . but would I do it again?  Absolutely!!  I love a challenge!