Friday, 19 January 2018

Regaining confidence in driving after several years

My new car - grey Mini Cooper S

I used to drive all the time, I never used to give it a thought, it was something I needed to do to get to work every day. I've owned several cars. My first one was a beloved yellow VW Polo which I got in 1983 ATO 148T I think was the registration!

I went through a Datsun Cherry and a Ford Fiesta. My first sporty-ish car was a red Scirocco which ended up being faulty. The bonnet flew up on me at 70mph one day, I was terrified but survived by not panicking, braked smartly but not too hard, I kept the side of the road equidistance and watched whilst rolling to a halt with my hazard lights on, praying there was no-one in front of me. I put the car through an Engineer's inspection and found extensive accident damage which hadn't been repaired properly, the Engineer condemned the car and I got my money back. I'm not sure whether to count that as an accident as I didn't hit anyone else but the car was badly damaged. Both sides of the bonnet where they join onto the chassis were bent back double! Even after that, I still drove around with confidence and it never occurred to me to stop driving.

I loved Sciroccos so much I got another one in silver and then (when both MTM and I were both earning good money), we got a brand new MGF VVC when they first came out, our very first (and only) sports car. The top folded down in good weather and I had a hard top for the winter. It was a beautiful car, the archetypal shiny red sports car and I felt like a million dollars in it.

The MGF was principally my car but MTM used to like to drive it too. As well as transporting me to work every day, we took it on many UK holidays to Northumberland and he would take the wheel whilst we were away.

I had that car for quite a time before I had a series of accidents in quite a short space of time. I skidded in wet weather into the back of someone at a roundabout on a worn out road surface. The pick up truck said I was the third vehicle he'd rescued from the same spot that day. I kinda felt like that wasn't my fault (even though it really was!) I can still feel the sensation of sickening helplessness as the ABS juddered trying to regain traction on the road and then a big bang.

After that, it felt like I was a magnet for accidents. Someone drove into the back of me (not long after I got the car back from the repair shop!) on the A46. Definitely not my fault that one!

Then, after I'd left my full time job and was doing my HNC, I was driving back from college and I ran into the back of someone AGAIN at low speed. I know this time it was definitely my fault, I was in a line of traffic in town, I glanced at my laptop on the passenger seat which looked a bit precarious. I adjusted its position, looking down again for just for a second, in the meantime, the traffic in front of me had stopped because someone several cars further up the line had jammed their brakes on to avoid a piece of metal in the road and ... a bit of a bang, not as dramatic as the first time more of a sudden stop with damaged bumpers thrown in as a bonus.

The worst accident I had was when going to visit my mum and dad on Mother's Day, driving with a bowl of colesaw in the footwell for a family party.  MTM was going to see his own mother so I was on my own but I was very comfortable being unaccompanied in those days. I was about 20 minutes into the journey, slowing down and then stopping at a roundabout on the A1. I checked my mirror routinely and noticed the car behind wasn't really slowing down, they were going quite fast when their brakes failed. So I saw them coming in the rear view mirror. It all happened quite fast obviously but it felt like time collapsed into a slow motion still-by-still film show as I sat and waited for the impact. When the bang came, it was so big, it pushed my handbraked and immobile car into the car in front of mine. I got a mild whiplash which gave me a sore neck for a few days, coleslaw all over the passenger car mat, a chipped bowl and the MGF was nearly written off.

The lady who was driving the offending car had to go to hospital as a precaution because she was pregnant, we had police sirens, statements .... the whole lot, not just a question of exchanging insurance details and phone numbers this time. MTM turned his car around and came and joined me to await the AA to tow the MGF away.

The repairs took several weeks due to difficulty in obtaining parts. In the meantime, I got a courtesy car from the insurer, I'd only had it a couple of weeks when a Post Office van opened its door on me scraping and gouging awful scratches down all three side panels. At that point, with two cars damaged and off the road simultaneously whilst I was in charge of them, I pretty much gave up driving. I told the insurance company not to bother replacing the courtesy car. I was working from home at the time on my jewellery business, just travelling into Cambridge every Saturday with my sister so I didn't need to get into work every day. I started getting on-line grocery deliveries and anywhere else I had to go, someone chauffeured me. We sold the repaired MGF and I didn't have another car from 2005 onwards.

In the intervening 12 years, I have driven only a handful of times. The single time I was on my own was in MTM's car, I was going to see my mum and dad. Dad was very ill with shingles and mum needed alot of support. Unfortunately, only a mile down the road someone came straight out of a service station right in front of me without looking, causing me to do an emergency stop (good job I remembered how!) I drove the rest of the way to mum and dad's house (a 45 minute journey) with me and Missy, our dog at the time, both of us shaking like a leaf!

When MTM got a company car in April last year, we decided to keep his previous business vehicle, a Mazda, we bought it off the leasing company. We'd had it since new and it was a good car, we knew its history. We decided it would become my car and I would try to overcome my anxiety about driving again.

It would be good for me to have a car again for myself. MTM took me out in it a few times and declared he thought I was safe. I vowed that I would get into driving again so I could be more independent. I especially wanted to be able to go the garden centre and plant nurseries without feeling like I was boring the tears out of him having to go round with me. I used to spend hours in garden centres and nurseries by myself, taking as much time as I wanted. The Manager at Pennells told me I was his best customer!

The Mazda was a really big car compared to my MGF and visibility out of the back wasn't very good, I did go out in it a couple of times with MTM with the idea being I would then start taking it out myself but I never felt safe in it and I couldn't park it at all, it felt far too big for me. I just kept putting it off and consequently, it just languished unused pretty much permanently. When we moved it recently, it had half an inch of leafmould underneath it which I had to scrape off the road!

So we decided to trade it in for another vehicle in a last ditch effort to get me back into driving again. I need something small with good visibility and so we started looking at small cars recently. Last weekend, we came across the perfect one, a Mini Cooper S which is really sporty. MTM test drove it for me and I fell in love with it, it's the first time I have been excited about owning a car since we got the MGF. I had really lost interest in cars completely but now I’m enthusiastic and eager to get out and about in it.

We picked it up yesterday, here I am at the dealer's. MTM drove it out of Nottingham for a few miles past the big, complicated roundabouts and then I drove the rest of the way home, I was a bit nervous joining the A1 but fortunately from the A52, it's a nice long slip road (unlike the one near us) and it went very well. I wasn't too worried because I knew MTM was keeping an eye out for me. So far so good!

I'm shortly to have some driving coaching lessons from an instructor friend in the village, MTM thinks I will take more notice of what he says (!!) Hopefully we'll practice lots of slip roads and parallel parking as those are the things I feel most anxious about. I'm going to do lots of short trips round quiet roads at first. When we're out together with MTM driving, he has started telling me about what he's doing and why. There are lots of defensive driving techniques which I didn't know about. MTM taught driving for five years so he's very good at explaining it.

I am quite excited about it all; wish me luck in getting independently mobile again!

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Chunky ribbed crochet scarf pattern

Crochet scarf pattern in ribbed yarn using front and back post treble
This is a new pattern posting for a ribbed scarf which I have designed specifically to go with my chunky crochet fingerless mittens pattern. The scarf is made using front and back post trebles using UK crochet terminology and therefore mirrors the mitten's top and bottom ribbing. On the scarf, the ribbing goes the entire length. It's a two row pattern repeat and therefore the ribbing will go the entire length of the scarf. Hopefully the progress photo above shows enough for you to visualise the finished article.

The front and back post stitches are worked as usual, there are links to how-to videos on the chunky crochet fingerless mittens pattern

For now, there's just the above progress photo. The text of the pattern is printed below for more experienced crocheters but I will be developing this post in the future into a tutorial with more pictures. I haven't finished making the scarf myself yet so I'm not sure exactly how much yarn it will take. Of course, I will take pictures of the finished article, this is a pattern-in-progress!

Hopefully, there's enough here for Amanda (who originally requested a pattern to match the gloves) to get going on, if not, hang in there, Amanda, I should have it all finished in a couple of days or so!

Adapt the pattern to make it wider or thinner by adjusting the stitch count. The prototype is working out at six and a quarter inches (16cm) wide using the number of stitches the pattern specifies.


Chunky yarn
5.5mm hook
2 stitch markers


ch - chain
st - stitch
tr - treble
htr - half treble
FPtr - front post treble
BPtr - back post treble

Foundation row: Chain multiples of 2 plus 3. I have chained 26+3=29, turn, skip 3 ch (counts as 1 tr), work tr (uk terms) into 4th ch from hook. Place a stitch marker into ch at the top of the skipped chs, work 1 tr into every remaining ch (27 trs) turn

Row 1: ch 2 (counts as 1 htr), 1 FPtr, place stitch marker into top of 2 ch at beginning), * 1 BPtr, 1 FPtr, repeat from * (ending with a FPtr) up to (but not including) st with stitch marker, remove stitch marker and then work 1 htr into where the stitch marker was (13 FPtrs, 12 BPtrs and 2 htrs = 27 sts in all) turn

Row 2: ch 2 (counts as 1 htr), 1BPtr, place stitch marker into top of 2 ch at beginning, * 1 FPTr, 1 BPtr, repeat from * (ending on a BPtr) up to (but not including) st with stitch marker, remove stitch marker and then work 1 htr into where the stitch marker was (12 FPtrs, 13 BPs, 2 htrs = 27 sts in all ) turn

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until scarf is the length is required

Finishing row: 3 ch (to count as 1 tr), work 1 tr into each stitch (27trs), break off yarn. 

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Winter Sale 2018 - 20% off lampwork beads

20% off lampwork beads in my Etsy bead shop

Special winter sale now on. My 24 hour pre-sale to customers on my mailing list has gone very well, over half the shop listings have sold already!

Sale continues for six more days until Monday 15 January 2018.

Click on the SALE image to visit and see what's left!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

The best day of Christmas

Never mind the twelve days, the best day of Christmas for me is when the decorations go back into their box.

I’ve put everything away early this year. I know twelfth night is the traditional time but if over-enthusiastic people can start the dratted season early, I can also be a bit previous in calling a halt. 

It’s been even easier to pack up this year, I got an artificial tree for the first time. For 35 years, I always favoured  a real tree in the interests of authenticity but Christmas doesn’t have any credibility any more so why continue to strive for that. 

No needles has meant the happy task has been completed a bit too quickly but it’s still just as satisfying to tape the box up! My heart feels lighter and gladder when Christmas and New Year are over; now that really is something to celebrate. 

Monday, 1 January 2018

Toilet roll cover-free crochet pattern in Scheepjes Catona

One of my Christmas presents this year was a box of 109 mini balls of Scheepjes Catona yarn. When we were in the Wool Zone in Oakham a few weeks ago, MTM pretended to be reading a text on his phone whilst I enthused over it with Julie, the shop owner. I hoped he was listening to my heavy hints!

So 109 ... one ball of every single delicious colour in the 100% cotton range ... I couldn’t wait to get started; my first project uses nine colours!

I made a prototype first, many rows were unpicked time and again getting the details right. I had to change hook size on the final article but eventually it was made and I love the cheerful rainbow colours I have selected to chase away the overcast skies so redolent of December 2017. My new year gift to you is the first free crochet pattern of 2018 (see below). I wish all my blog readers health and peace of mind in 2018.

Happy New Year!

TOILET ROLL COVER - free crochet pattern

The pattern is written using UK terms throughout and will fit a toilet roll measuring 11.5cm (4 and a half inches) diameter


3mm hook 
10g each of nine different colours of Scheepjes Catona 
Pom Pom maker or cardboard to make your own 
Sharp scissors

ch - chain
tr - treble
sp - space
beg - beginning
st - stitch
col - colour
sk - skip
comm - commencing

col 1 - light green 513

col 2 - aqua 397
col 3 - blue 261
col 4 - lavender 520
col 5 - purple - 282
col 6 - red 516
col 7 - pink 256
col 8 - orange 411
col 9 - yellow 280

GAUGE (measured over pattern)
21sts x 14 rows = 4 inch square

Row 1

With col 1, ch 5, (1 tr, 1ch) 9 times into 5th ch from hook, ss into 3rd ch of beg 5 ch to form a circle (10 spokes and 10 ch sps) 

Row 2

ss into first ch sp, 3 ch to count as 1 tr, tr into same sp, 2 tr into each ch sp all the way round, ss into top of beg 3 ch (20 tr) fasten off col 1 

Row 3 

Join col 2 inbetween any two trs, 3 ch to count as 1 tr, tr into same sp, *2 tr inbetween next two tr, repeat from * all round, ss into top of beg 3 ch (40 tr)

Row 4

3ch (to count as 1 tr), tr into same st, *tr into next st, 2 tr into next st, repeat from * until 1 st remains, 1 tr in final st, ss into top of beg 3 ch (60 tr) fasten off col 2 

Row 5 

Join col 3 in sp inbetween any 2 tr, 3ch to count as tr, tr into same sp, ch 1 *(sk 2 tr, 2 tr in sp before next tr, ch 1) twice, sk 3 tr, 2 tr in sp before next tr, ch 1 repeat from * 7 times (sk 2 tr, 2 tr in sp before next tr, ch 1) ss into top of beg 3 ch (26 groups of 2 tr+1ch)

Row 6

ss into top of next st, ss into ch sp before next group of 2 tr, 3 ch (to count as 1 tr) 2 tr in same sp, *3 tr in next ch sp, repeat from * all round, ss into top of beg 3 ch (26 clusters of 3 tr) fasten off col 3

Row 7

Join col 4 in sp between any cluster, repeat row 6 comm with 3 ch but do not fasten off col at end of round

Row 8

(ss into top of next st) twice, ss into sp inbetween clusters, repeat row 6 comm with 3 ch, fasten off col 4 

Rows 9-22

Repeat last two rows, changing col as appropriate. 

Sew in yarn tails.

Make a pom pom using a Pom Pom maker (see instructions below if you don’t have one). Stitch Pom Pom to top


Draw two donut shapes on the back of an empty cereal packet. Use a wine bottle for the outer circle an a 10p piece for the inner. Cut the shapes out.

Place the two donuts together and wrap lengths of cotton around them. I used a few yards of each colour in the same order used to make the cover.

At first, you’ll be able to use your fingers to pull through the hole but when it gets thicker, use your crochet hook to do it.

 When you can’t fit any more yarn onto the donuts, push aside some of the strands to expose the edge of the two cardboard donuts.

Insert the scissors inbetween the cardboard donuts and cut the strands all the way round.

Wrap a length of yarn around the middle of the pom pom very tightly and tie securely. Remove the cardboard donuts and fluff up the finished pom pom using your fingers. 

Leave the ends of the yarn long enough to stitch to the middle of the top of the toilet roll cover.