Preparing for spring

Over the past few years, I’ve come to make the winter months precious by filling them with winter-only activities. Come spring, I’ll be needed in the garden, and I’d like to immerse myself in a fleece or two on rainy days. That means that there won’t be much – if any – time for knitting. So I’m doing a little pre-spring cleaning, and using up the bits and pieces left over from other makes.

So far, three such projects have graced my needles: a long-awaited (we’re talking years) tea cosy for our house, a pair of colourful wrist warmers and the start of a sweet little bonnet for a soon-to-be-born little person. I started the bonnet on Sunday afternoon while watching a film with the girls and went wrong twice before finally reading the pattern properly. I have to say, I didn’t mind a bit. I was so cosy, wrapped up on the couch in front of the fire, and working on something so small that it was the work of an hour to pull it out and start again. The yarn is leftover from the socks I designed, with the idea that the busy new parents will be able to throw it in the machine when it gets grubby. I’ve been there.

The wrist warmers were a bit of a slog, if I’m honest. Not because they were hard (they aren’t) but because there were three yarns used in every colourwork row, so I had to keep dropping and picking up two of them. They were one of those projects that I had to set an end date for. I’m glad I did, though, because Fliss loves them and I’ve set them aside for next Christmas.

Bringing me the most pleasure, though, is the new tea cosy in my life. This is going to sound ridiculous, but why did I not know how effective these things are? They keep the tea piping hot for ages, even in our somewhat chilly house. I used a pattern from this book, and have plans to make little birds with the last of my leftover scraps. More Christmas presents, you see. The pile on the present shelf is growing, as there have been some little sewing additions too, of late, and it is so satisfying to reach for a gift you made a few months earlier with just that person in mind. Come next Christmas, it really will feel as though the elves had made it all.

With the lengthening days, the urge to read about the natural world has come again, and I found myself scanning the library nature writing section. In the end, I plumped to reread The Shepherd’s Life. We’ll be going to the Lake District in the spring, and journeying through its pages feels almost like setting off on that little jaunt a few weeks early.

I love having so much to look forward to, but instead of thinking I can’t wait, I find that really, I can. I can because I have so much to enjoy doing between now and then. Next up will be another pair of wrist warmers, and a second snood, and perhaps even a second little bonnet to tuck away for another, as-yet-unknown baby. A few little birds might find their way into the children’s rooms. There are winter walks to enjoy, still, before reading about the rest of the year indoors, in the warm. Come the spring, I’ll be out there all the time, with my hands in the cool dark soil. For now, though, I’m preparing for spring in the most pleasurable ways I know.

Madeleine

Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along at Small Things

How are you preparing for spring? Or is it not on your mind just yet?

Winter Flora publication – and we have a winner!

Thank you so much for your comments on the Introducing Winter Flora post. I’m delighted to announce that the winner of the pattern is Cathy. A copy of the pattern will be landing in your inbox later today.

The pattern is now available in my Ravelry and Etsy shops.

Madeleine

Introducing Winter Flora

Winter has most definitely arrived in the UK. This is what my garden looked like this morning:

and now it is hung with freezing fog.

I, for one, am rather pleased with this cold spell. The frozen cobwebs and candied blades of grass are magic enough to make cold toes and fingers bearable. We don’t get many days when the temperature stays below freezing through all the daylight hours and each leaf, each twig, each little bit of gravel is locked in a perpetual dawn.

No matter how cold it gets, there are flowers out there to brighten my day. Last autumn, for the very first time, I planted little winter violas in the hanging baskets, and their purple blooms greet me every time I come home. The children were incredulous that they would last all winter, but there they are, flowering on either side of our front door. I am looking forward to a rush of new growth in the spring.

Much older are the hellebores and snowdrops, planted under the old apple tree soon after we moved in. It’s a tricky little bed, shaded and drought-ridden thanks to the tree but directly outside our patio windows. Of course, it’s the winter and spring flowers that do best there, and the nodding hellebores are one of my very favourite. Modest and demure, they wait the winter out with quiet stoicism, eyes to the ground, adorned in gentle purples and pinks and creams. Nearby, the snowdrops have been appearing almost overnight, unnoticed until they ring their little white bells. They are both the sort of flowers that you have to look for, crouch down by, gently lift to admire their blooms. Winter flora, even in the midst of all this frost.

These little dabs of colour are such a joy in the midst of the grey that so characterises the British winter. And, it seems, no month is greyer than February. January I can like, with its energy and sense of renewal – and my birthday. But February? February needs a little colour.

So what better way to celebrate the colour and beauty outside the back door, than to bring a bit of it inside to work on by the fire? This month’s pattern celebrates the gentle colours and delicate shapes of my two favourite winter flowers. I’ve laid them in a bed of moss, with moss stitch borders at either end to complete the illusion. Laid flat, the flowers are clearly depicted, but once on, the design is more subtle.

Unlike all my patterns to date, this is not for beginners, and there will be no tutorial. This snood isn’t very complicated to make, but you do need to know how to knit with two colours at once, twist in your yarns as you go, and read a simple chart.

I really enjoyed designing this project. I started it on Christmas morning, working out the chart in an old maths book, and finished it in the car on the way to my birthday weekend. It blocked in the bathroom overnight, and we took these photos on our walk the following day, when the sun popped out unexpectedly for all of twenty minutes. Of course, I wore it the ‘wrong’ way up, as the snowdrops are meant to face downwards. I even managed to photograph it upside down… But we didn’t see the sun again for a few days, by which time it had been parcelled up and sent to my sister in law for her own special birthday. So these are the photos I have.

I have enough yarn upstairs to make another, so that’s what I’ll be doing in February. Knitting with colour, running the soft yarn through my fingers, and enjoying every tiny detail of the winter flora. And then having something new to wear for those tricky final weeks of winter, when spring seems so long in coming.

Madeleine

The pattern will be published in my Etsy shop and my Ravelry shop next Thursday, 7 February 2019. It calls for Drops Alpaca yarn – one ball of each colour 7238, 0100 and 3800 – and a 3.5 mm circular needle.

I would like to give away a copy of the pattern, so if you’d like to enter a little giveaway, please leave a comment at the end of this post by midnight GMT on Wednesday 6 February. I’ll announce the winner on Thursday 7 February.

What are you knitting at the moment? Are you reaching for the colour, too? I’m looking forward to sharing my other knitting projects with you next week.