Posted on 5 Comments

5 Creative Shows to Relax and Inspire

With the UK under lockdown 3, maintaining good mental health is quite the challenge, especially in the middle of a dull and dreary January. Finding a hobby – and therefore having something positive to focus on – is great for one’s mental health. If you’re struggling to find a passion, here’s five creative TV shows to inspire you.

#1 The Repair Shop

Photo of the Repair Shop shed,
Photo courtesy of the BBC

This is a must-watch show for anyone who loves old things. Each week, people bring in their battered and broken antiques, and the crew at The Repair Shop bring them back to life. Most of the objects have sentimental meaning, and I often find myself brimming when they see their treasured possessions as good as new. Slow and sweet, this show is heart-warmingly feel-good and will leave you with a huge smile on your face.

Available to watch on BBC One and iPlayer.

#2 The Great British Bake Off

Photo courtesy of Channel 4

Known as the Great British Baking Show in the US, Bake Off is famous the world over. Each week contestants have to bake in three challenges – a signature bake, a technical challenge, and a show-stopper – with one winning “Star Baker” and one being eliminated. Despite the competition, bakers often help each other out, and there’s a good-natured spirit that gives truly positive guides. Those at home can also join in with recipes appearing online after each episode, and a series of tie-in books that always fly off the shelves when they launch.

Available on Channel 4 and More4

#3 Nailed It

Photo courtesy of Netflix

The antithesis to Bake Off, this Netflix show has very amateur bakers attempt to recreate intricate cakes with often hilarious results. Though some bakes are terrible, there’s no nastiness in the judging, with contestants laughing at themselves as much as everyone else. A funny, light-hearted show that’s ideal for those that can burn water as well as better established cooks, Nailed It is a great way to lift your spirits.

#4 The Great British Sewing Bee

Taking its basic idea from Bake Off, The Great British Sewing Bee swaps making cakes with sewing garments. Responsible for a surge in an interest in sewing, Sewing Bee shares the low drama of Bake Off and again usually sees contestants helping each other. The Alteration Challenge in particular is great fun, and food for thought for recycling garments.

#5 The Great Pottery Throw Down

Photo courtesy of Channel 4

In last position because pottery is a difficult to do at home, the Pottery Throw Down is another show built on the popularity of Bake Off. What I love about this show is the history given on the making of certain items. It’s absolutely fascinating, and then of course there are the makes themselves. My only quibble with Pottery Throw Down is the technical challenge, which sees “failed” makes thrown into the clay bin. The contestants laugh, but it feels a little cruel to me.

Do you watch any creative shows? If so, what are they and why do you watch?

Posted on 1 Comment

Take Back Control

After last week’s tale of woe, this week I’m sharing how I plan to take back control. Using my trusty bullet journal and a stencil from the wonderful Oops A Daisy*, I drew up a list of things to do to secure the shed. I think once this is done, I’ll feel better about moving forwards.

#1 A decent lock

The shed’s current lock is a padlock and hasp, which isn’t ideal. I did buy a key lock on Ebay some months ago, but despite following the measuring instructions to the letter, it didn’t fit. The replacement I plan on buying is from B&Q and made by Yale.

#2 An alarm

Costing less than £20 on Amazon, the alarm I’m after is again a Yale product, and is a simple motion sensor with keypad. It is battery powered, so I’ll have to keep a supply of AA batteries to hand, but it should do the job.

#3 New gate

Our current garden gate doesn’t close properly and, despite contacting the council about this on several occasions, remains a problem. I initially bought one on Ebay, but then found that B&M Bargains do them at half the price, so I cancelled my order. I’ll be going to B&Q for the hardware and hopefully doing this over the weekend.

#4 Security light

Again, this will be a motion activated device, more aimed at putting people off entering the garden. It’ll also light my way if I need to access the shed after dark.

So that’s my plan

How does it sound? Have I missed anything off?

*Non affliate link

Posted on 3 Comments

No One Cares About Your Plans

It’s talen me over a week to write this post. A week in which I’ve not done much. You remember my plans for this year? Well it turns out people don’t care about your plans. They don’t care about the months you spent building something you love. They don’t care how much you need that space.

Why steal yarn?

Somewhere between 11th and 12th January, a selfish little git broke into the shed. They took the sewing machine, plastic drawers full of craft projects, in progress blankets, and yarn.

A lot of what was taken will have no value to anyone else. I hadn’t left notes as to what the blanket projects are, so now someone has a pile of motifs and no idea how to complete them.

Worse, they made an absolute mess of the place. Everything was turned upside down and pulled out, and there’s mud all over my once lovely floor.

Sanctuary violated

I’m heartbroken. Shattered. I can’t stand to be inside the shed. I can barely stand to look at it. And I have no idea how to move forward.

My Mum says to give it time. I’m… not good at that. I hate feeling out of control (no doubt a left over from H’s extended stay in hospital.) I think I need to do something to reclaim my space, but have no idea what.

I am planning on buying a better lock and securing the door. There are also shed alarms and floodlights, and the garden gate needs to be better. Maybe I’ll make a list and work through it. Life’s always better with a list.

Have you ever been broken into?

I’m sure if you have, you share the same feeling of violation and loss of control. How did you get over it? I’d love to hear your advice!

Posted on Leave a comment

Walk 1000 Miles: On the Linnyshaw Loopline

I signed up for the Walk 1000 Miles Challenge last year, but lost enthusiasum when the UK got put into lockdown – I had planned on getting several miles done on our anniversary holiday to Derbyshire, but that got cancelled.

Starting the challenge already in lockdown (more or less) meant I could plan around it. I downloaded an app called Footpath, which allows you to make your own walking routes. It also gives you the distance – very handy when you’re wanting to track miles.

One of the bridges on Ashton Fields

I’m fortunate enough to have some green land nearby. The old railway lines were taken up many years ago, and a series of walking/cycling tracks known as looplines were created. The Linnyshaw runs almost past our house and can be followed to Walkden or to the Four Fields. I did the latter with my daughter, and our mad pup Abby.

We then crossed the road to Aston Fields, which used to be a coal mine back in the day. There was a canal that took the coal away, which is respresented by a shallow stream and iron facsimilie locks.

The “locks” at Ashton Field, featuring Abby

We walked around the Fields and then headed home. All in, the route is 2.47 miles and will be my regular walk until travelling further is allowed.

Posted on 4 Comments

Plans for 2021

For The Shed

The Shed has been on hiatus since October time, or since the weather turned chilly. So my main plan for 2021 is to get it insulated. I’m debating pulling off the panels and replacing them with tongue-and-groove, with some kind of insulating material between the two walls. Given the lack of action, it has become something of a dumping ground, so I also need to get in and tidy it up.

In The Shed

I want to really get into sewing. My poor machine has sat mostly unused, which strikes me as a waste of money. As coronavirus is still very much a Thing, any lessons will have to be YouTube, though I might see what college courses open up if we actually get into Tier 2.

Gosh, I make myself laugh.

My other craft goal is to relearn drawing and painting. I was pretty good at a teen, but wasn’t allowed to study art as it doesn’t pay. Art has been sporadtic over the parenting years but now they’re all grown up and can look after themselves, I’m going to try and keep it up. I signed up to Sketch A Day as a way to encourage myself while being accountable. It’s very low-key, that said.

Out & About

I’ve signed up for the #walk1000miles challenge again. I was managing a slow but steady pace last year before lockdown happened. Having to cancel our anniversary holiday really disheartened me and I stopped logging walks. This year I’m planning on more solo outings so I’m not having to wait for conditions to be ideal for H.

I’d also love to visit the art galleries and museums dotted about Manchester, though that obviously has to wait for the time being. Theatre is another thing on hold until the virus is under control. Given the UK government’s terrible response, I’m not writing these goals in stone.

In The Kitchen

I am not going on a diet. I’m not doing Veganuary. I am, however, going to be cooking healthier dinners, and that might include vegetarian/vegan options if I can sneak them past the kids. My mantra for 2021 is “fit, not thin” because this is a) more attainable, b) more sustainable, and c) weight is a poor indicator of health anyway.

I managed to bag Jack Monroe’s Tin Can Cook for £3 at Aldi, as I’m going to be cooking healthy on a budget. Wish me flipping luck with that! But hopefully the book will help. I’m also eyeing Pinch of Nom’s Lighter… whatever it’s called – currently a tenner in Tesco. I need to flick through that and make sure it’s worth the money in terms of what I can cook.

And that’s a wrap. All the best for 2021!

Posted on Leave a comment

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Cake – the best cure for a bad day. I decided to make a pineapple upside-down cake, using the Great British Bake Off recipe, but in a single cake tin as I don’t have seperate pudding moulds. I even did the caramel sauce!

I goosed this on my first attemt, but the second was successful. As my cake tin has a push out base, I lined it with aluminium foil before putting the sauce in. Then I added tinned pineapple (sorry, not sorry, Paul) and the cake batter.

I cooked the cake for about 30 minutes, on 160°C fan, testing the bake with a wooden skewer. The resulting cake was very nice, and did not last long!

Posted on Leave a comment

Highland Heathers Blanket

I was desperate to try out Stylecraft’s new Highland Heathers yarn from the moment they shared photos. Then Deramores offered 20% off all Stylecraft yarn, so I bought a ball n each available colour!

I’d seen the knitted projects, and Patchwork Heart’s granny shawl, so I wanted to make something different. I opted for solid granny squares edged in Shale.

I used Shale to join, then crocheted a linen stitch border using all the shade. If I do another blanket like this, I’ll go up to a 4.5 mm hook for this, as it is a little tight.

Stll, I was happy enough to post the finished article to Stylecraft’s Facebook page, and am delighted to share that it was picked as one of their #Clevercrafters

Posted on 4 Comments

Yarn Shelves

I am SO happy with my latest project! I’ve been after yarn storage for ages, drooling over the lovely creative spaces on Instagram but unable to afford a certain cubed block from a certain Scandinavian store. So when I happened across this unit for sale on Fb Marketplace for just £20, I jumped on them.

As you can see, they weren’t in top notch condition, but that didn’t bother me. Neither did the missing shelf. My plan was immediate – I’d remove the doors and use them to make a new shelf.

Andrew helped me pick them up and then… rain stopped play. There was no way we could move the unit into the Shed when it was tipping it down! Eventually the rain let up enough to dismantle and reassemble it. He also helped me cut down the doors. Then I screwed the parts to where the old broken shelf was and refitted the upright sections.

It went together exactly as I’d planned and looks pretty close to how I imagined it. Once it was filled with the yarn that had previously been hidden away in my Ottoman, it made the shed look and feel very cosy. It was hard work, but well worth it.

Posted on Leave a comment

Stylecraft Highland Heathers

Highland Heathers is one of Stylecraft’s autumn releases and it. Is. Gorgeous! It feels very like Batik to crochet, but it’s 100% premium acrylic, making it ideal for everyday wear.

Each of the 12 shades is a blend of two colours, creating a subtle heathered effect. The palette is influenced by the Scottish countryside and sees purples and pinks alongside greens and blues, with a couple of greys for contrast. Being tonally similar means the shades harmonise brilliantly.

Of course, the big question is what to make. I’ve only gotten my hands on 7 of the 12 shades, so I think I’m going with a basic solid granny square blanket. Be sure to check out my Instagram for updates!

Posted on Leave a comment

Why I love crocheting

I taught myself to crochet in 2015. I had two copies of Your Knitting & Crochet magazine, one open on the pattern, the other on the how-to section. I made an elephant. It was imperfect and wonky, but I loved it. And I’d fallen in love with crochet.

Since then, I’ve made several projects and even designed a couple of my own. When Stylecraft brought out their Mystique yarn, I had an idea immediately and bought three balls from Black Sheep Wools. The resulting bag was chosen as one of their #CleverCrafters and was later published by Essential Crochet.

At the end of 2018, my husband had a stroke. He was in hospital for seven months. I had never learned to drive and commuted on the bus. 40 minutes there and back at first, then he was transferred to a rehab unit, which took almost two hours. As crochet is a portable craft, I would put in my earphones, listen to an audio book and crochet. I believe that ability saved my sanity.

My husband is now in a wheelchair. Our lifestyle has changed completely, and this hasn’t been helped by the Covid situation. As a full time carer, I need my sanity-saver more than ever. I love to make baby blankets, but I’m also designing again.