After the dust

This time last year we were up to our eyes in dust and stour as the kitchen from hell was being transformed into the kitchen from heaven. Well over the last 12 months we have really come to love this space and to be honest despite having a lounge at the front of the house we spend most of our time in this beautiful, light, open space.

So having spent so much time in so much filth you’d think that I’d have stayed away from major renovation projects? Woah no, not at all. And here’s the reason why.

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Despite this being a great party / dining space we haven’t been able to have lots of friends round for big meals because we just couldn’t seat everyone at the dinner table. Our lovely core group of around 14 friends just didn’t fit around the table that we have so we were in need of a flexible, not too expensive solution. Before Mum & Dad moved last year I managed to snaffle the dining table that, for as long as I can remember, the whole family sat around to eat. Now although it’s no great antique it’s a brilliantly useful piece of furniture that’s managed to endure all that a family of six could throw at it. Plus of course over the years with all those Christmas dinners and family events it holds a lot of great memories for me. The original is a draw leaf table made in1950 ( I know this because it’s been date stamped on the underneath but sadly there’s no place of manufacture given) with leaves that pull out at each end making it long enough to seat a couple of extra people. If you put ‘1950s draw leaf table’ into Google it’ll throw up lots of variations but our particular design featured a large, plain bulb at the centre of each leg and two runners rather than one at the base of the legs. Being the obstinate woman that I am I’d decided (much to Sam’s annoyance) that the ideal solution would be to find and buy the exact same table which could sit side by side or end to end with the current one to make a large dining table that could seat up to 14 people. Easy… right? Wrong!

After weeks and weeks of trawling the ‘net, and numerous messages over Ebay ensuring some greedy woman in London that applying a layer of chalk paint didn’t make the table worth £300 I found an exact match. Here in Brighton. For just £10.

Now I expected a bit of damage, the odd dent, scratch and watermark but as you can see below what I got was a truly knackered, pitiful piece of furniture with large areas of veneer missing and extensive rippling across the surface. Yep you’ve gotta love how students in rented acccomodation treat their furniture.

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As a child I’d watched my Dad make furniture from scratch and French polish both chairs and tables to within an inch of their lives. And so with what knowledge I got from him last Monday I set about renovating this pathetic table in order to give it some much needed love. Initially Sam and I talked about buying veneer to try and create an invisible repair but given my limited skills and the fact that I didn’t want to be working on this for the rest of my natural life only to end up with a poor result that would haunt me every dinner time we decided to go a la tomofholland and go with a ‘visible’ mend. 

So on Monday after filling in the worst of the holes with wood filler I set about sanding

……….and sanding

……….and sanding

……….and sanding

(stops to change grade of paper) 

………and sanding

…….and sanding

(stops to aplogise to neighbours for the noise)

………..and sanding

………..and sanding

…………. until eventually on Friday after two coats of paint and four coats of varnish (each interspersed with rubbing down with ultrafine grade wire wool of course) it was done. 

And so was I.

It had taken far longer than I’d expected and yes I moaned about it a lot whilst at the same time refusing Sam’s frequent offers of help. Being bloody minded of course I’d fixed in my brain how this was going to go and whilst Sam was tasked with painting the dining chairs the dining table was my project.

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Yes I’ll admit it’s not perfect but I really did give it my all. My hips still hurt, my neck is sore and my back is killing me but I am so, so happy with the results.  Our twin tables really make this room and whether there are seven of us sitting around it for our Stitch & Bitch sessions or fourteen of us eating and drinking at it into the early hours it makes the kitchen from heaven just that little bit more heavenly plus,  now the dust has settled I can finally get back to my knitting.

Have a great weekend all

J x

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From little squares…

TunCroAlthough it may not look like much this square represents a few hours spent in the company of a group of amazing women that I’m privileged to call my friends. Wendy, Lucy H, Lucy W, Katie, Clare, myself and Louby (when she can make it) get together once a month for our ‘Stitch & Bitch’ sessions.

Now despite not being a great fan of the phrase stitch & bitch which to me conjures up negative images one alternative, Knit & Natter, is definitely far too tame for who we are and what we do. These women are my ‘bee-at-ches’ who were there for me when Sam & I we were at our lowest point just before my brain op in 2016. Together we form an incredible support network within which we talk about pretty much anything and everything accompanied by fantastic food oh yes…. and a bit of crafting. Some of us are accomplished knitters, some prefer to sew and sometimes if there’s been too much alcohol consumed we forget about being creative and just talk, talk, talk.

Last night my inspirational friend Jenny joined us for the first time and being an accomplished crochet designer (her work is regularly featured in Inside Crochet magazine) she introduced me to the basics of Tunisian crochet. It’s one of those techniques that’s been on ‘The List’ for a number of years now (along with top down knitting, a fair isle design etc etc) but with one thing and another I just hadn’t got round to it. So having ferreted through my loft I found a Tunisian crochet hook that I kept after closing my Edinburgh yarn shop all those years ago and a ball of DK yarn from my all too large stash. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the basic stitch really isn’t that taxing to learn even for my constantly furred up brain and I love both the feel and look of the fabric. It’s an intriguing mix of knit and crochet and it has a lovely firm feel that would be ideal for bags so no doubt I’ll experiment along those lines if ever I get the chance. What each chain, loop and stitch in this tiny square really does represent though is a precious few hours of catching up, problems shared and raucous laughter washed down with a few glasses of wine or in my case lychee juice and decaf tea. (Not in the same glass obviously).

So thanks to my bee-at-ches for another amazing night, Jenny – welcome to the group and  above all Katie thanks for the outstanding bowls of superfood salad that given our ages no doubt made us all flatulent for the rest of the evening. (Even so Wendy & I polished itoff when everyone else had the good grace to stop eating). Looking forward as ever to next month.

You can find out more about Jenny Reid’s work by following her on instagram where she’s millieroseuk or you can find her designs on Ravelry here

J x

Riley Stripe Wrap, The Knitter issue 122

IMG_4271There’s been a significant lack of knitting & designing going on in my life recently and rather than bang on about the reasons why I thought instead that I’d focus on something more positive. My latest design for issue 122 of The Knitter magazine which has just hit the shops.

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‘Riley Stripe’ is a design that’s partly inspired by the work of British painter Brigit Riley. Her signature Op Art paintings play with simple geometric shapes like squares, circles and rectangles to stunning optical effect. She began her first Op Art paintings in 1960 whilst on a part time teaching post at Hornsey College of Art initially choosing to work just in black and white and only cautiously introducing colour from around 1967. At this stage she began to explore the precise placement of colour, line and shape in addition to the grouping of colour in order to convey a feeling of movement in the paintings which led onto works like Cataract 3 below.

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Cataract 3 Bridget Riley

Anyway back to this design….

More generously proportioned than a simple scarf I’d call this more of a wrap as the size makes it perfect for draping around the shoulders to keep out the slightest chill and it’s lightweight enough for wearing whatever the season. Riley Stripe features two different stitch patterns, each made up of a combination of slip stitch blocks, single columns and garter stitch stripes. RileyStripe5JSloan

The first section of the wrap begins with a two colour cast on and a textured pattern with large blocks of slip stitch alternated with garter stitch stripes.  These square blocks create a series of attractive curves up the side edge of the piece that eventually become the bottom edge of the wrap once you’ve picked up from the other side edge to knit the longer section in the smaller scale pattern.

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This is really a design that explores contrasts; there’s both large and small scale pattern plus the ‘pick up and knit’ off the side edge of section one which places them at 90 degrees to each other. Then there’s the contrasting yarns which both come from the Isager yarn range. It might seem slightly odd to bring together Highland Wool (a 100% wool light fingering weight) with Viscolin (a 50% viscose 50% linen 4ply weight) but I really love the mix and actually it was playing with yarn combinations that inspired this particular match. As well as being beautifully lightweight the finished knitted fabric has a softness and warmth but there’s also a lovely bouncy quality due to the garter stitch. Once the finished wrap has been cast off (a two colour cast off to match the cast on of course) and given a gentle block and steam it also drapes like a dream.

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If you haven’t tried a two colour cast on before I’m planning to do a couple of video tutorials to demonstrate this and the two colour cast off so keep an eye out for a blog post when they’re done. There really aren’t any other tricky techniques to master other than that and once you’re set for alternating the yarns it’s a really enjoyable knit, especially if you’ve had enough of heavy winter projects.

Brigit Riley may well have used black & white to knit her version of Riley Stripe but as you know I’m very much from ‘the brighter the better’ school of thought so I chose to use Highland Wool in Rhubarb (shade 3) and Viscolin in shade 40. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of creating and knitting this design and really hope you like it too.

Happy knitting

J x

 

 

 

 

 

Last time of asking

KM178coverIt’s a dreary and wet Saturday morning and the March issue of Knitting Magazine has just hit my doorstep. Great you may think, a perfect excuse to hunker down with a(nother) cuppa and linger over the designs, articles and reviews held within the covers. But this issue  is a little different for me as it marks the end of an era ….my last Ask Jeanette column.

I was very privileged to have been asked by Knitting’s previous editor to take over the column from Jean Moss and I can’t believe that was something like 10 years ago. Within that time I also took on other features including the yarn reviews and truly enjoyed all the drooling, petting, swatching and writing about yarn for ‘work’. It’s truly been one of the best jobs in the world. But, as you’ll know if you read this blog regularly life has taken a few unexpected turns in the last couple of years with the diagnosis of my brain tumours. Although mercifully they were both successfully removed in 2016 the surgery has left me quite a different person and no doubt along with getting older, has left me with a number of difficulties. This may sound odd but I no longer feel ‘present’ in much of what I do so on a good day I’ll write something – much of it back to front or spelt incorrectly (thank god for autocorrect) – but without a great deal of focus or concentration which means constant reading and re-reading in order to try and get it to penetrate my brain. Even then I may come back to it 24 hours later and it feels like reading someone else’s work. Alternatively on a bad day there are the migraines which I’d hoped to have seen the back of after the craniotomy.  Fellow migraine sufferers will know how debilitating these can be and despite being caffeine free for over 5 years and trying to avoid cheese (boo!) & red wine (boo hoo!), getting lots of rest and drinking lots of water they still rear their ugly heads.

Unfortunately all this this has meant that trying to meet deadlines has become increasingly more difficult along with trying to juggle looking after my elderly parents day to day. I felt that something had to and has to change. So I took the difficult decision to bring to an end most of my work for Knitting Magazine. You’ll find my final column on page 44 but you won’t be getting rid of me entirely as I’ll still be responsible for the A to Z of Techniques along with the occasional design. As for who will replace me I’m very happy to say that the reigns will be very ably taken over by the wonderful, and hugely talented Sarah Hazell who I was fortunate to meet only last year at Ally Pally and will hopefully see a bit more this coming year.

Thank you for letting me into your favourite knitting magazine. It’s been an absolute pleasure to write for you. I hope you’ve enjoyed picking my brains over the last 10 years…it’s just time to put less stress on what’s left of them.

J x

 

50 sense

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I know it’s a couple of days into 2018 but it’s never to late to wish you a Happy New Year! Well obviously saying it in August might be a little daft but you know what I mean. Happily for me the dawn of a new year also means celebrating another birthday and this year it was the biggie – the belter – the big 5 – 0.

If you’ve read this blog for a while you’ll know that there have been several interesting occurrences in my life (I normally hate the phrase ‘challenging’ but that is what they’ve been). A number of serious illnesses over the last 30 years meant that I genuinely didn’t think I’d get to 50 at all but I am truly blessed to have done so meaning this New Year’s Eve celebrations were extra special. If you follow me over on instagram (@jeanettesloan) you’ll have seen a number of videos where I’m dancing around like an idiot and to be honest I make no apologies for that. I’ve embraced my 50th birthday with all the enthusiasm of a small child and whilst that meant that a whole evening prancing about the lounge in high heels made my knees and ankles agony when I woke the next morning I’m still giggling about the amazing time I had surrounded by the some of the best people I’m privileged to know. Among them are my friends Lee & Nicci who part way through the evening, produced this incredible birthday cake which literally made my eyes well up with tears. I’ve known Lee since we lived up in Edinburgh and have come to know Nicci over the last few years and for this beautiful couple to take so much time and trouble to create this stunning confection for a knitty old lady like me really blew me away.

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Nicci & Lee are huge foodies and with Lee being an art director with a perfectionist’s eye for detail it’s no surprise that the cake is so wonderfully bright, skilfully executed and of course ….delicious.  (It had a spiced apple cake centre and the balls of ‘wool’ were made from sponge mixed with chocolate ganache). Nicci & Lee are a lovely couple and as they’re getting married this summer whoever is tasked with making their wedding cake had better up their game.

You’d assume that reaching the ripe old age of 50 I’d have some sage words of advice to give? Nah, not really. That the new year has prompted me to write another long list of resolutions I’m bound to break before the month of January is out? Not a chance.

My only resolution is NOT to make any New Year’s resolutions. Having reached this ripe old new age I’ll be holding my family and friends more closely (sorry guys) and enjoying every moment of the new challenges (that word again) that 2018 will bring. A number of them will take me away from knitting but the ‘pins’ will never be too far away. Like many of us I’ve put on weight over the festive period and knitting in front of the telly is the only thing that will stop me stuffing my face with food. So as part of spreading the love I’ve got a bit of a promotion going in my Ravelry Pattern Store where there’s 50% off all my patterns for the next 5 days (discount ends at midnight 8th January GMT) just click here

Thanks for reading my ramblings and whatever you’re doing in 2018 I wish you love, peace, happiness and health

 

J x

 

 

Changing times & tools

I’m loving my knitting at the moment. Now that may sound a little odd but when knitting is your day job  the joy of it can seem to go out the window when a deadline looms large and a million other things get in the way of what you actually should be doing. Happily though that’s not the case for me at the moment although I do have my hands full looking after Ma & Pa Trot. I’m currently working on a scarf design for The Knitter which is due for publication in the February issue and that’s why I’m keeping it under wraps rather than posting any pics of my progress online. Well, that would  spoil the surprise wouldn’t it?

I’ve chosen an unusual combination of yarns from the Isager range for the scarf and, mixed with garter stitch, the results are much nicer than I could have hoped in terms of colour, texture and drape. So I’m knitting away happily with that little excited knot in my stomach hoping that others will like this design as much as I do when it’s finally published. What has also occurred to me is that it’s been absolutely years since I worked on straight needles. Years ago, probably around 15 years when I ran a yarn shop in Edinburgh I fell in love with the feel and colour of Boye needles. So much so that, a bit like Victor Kiam who famously liked a razor so much he bought the company, I liked them so much I started stocking the range. Straights, circulars, crochet hooks and dpns I pretty much bought in the lot and worked on nothing else because they were light to handle, smooth to knit and oh so very purdy to look at.

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Fast forward to today and my tools of the trade have changed. Nowadays my ‘go to’ needles for knitting are Knit Pro Interchageables because whether I’m working in rows or rounds they’re light in the hands, will accommodate almost any size of project and wherever you are there’s no chance of jabbing innocent bystanders in the eye with the end of the needle whilst you work. So why am I back to the Boye’s for this project? It just felt like the right thing to do to be honest. Horses for courses as they say. The yarns I’ve chosen are quite fine and I’m finding the knitting is much quicker on straights especially as I can revert to shoving the left needle under my arm for stability… plus of course although the deadline isn’t exactly looming it’s for work so I need to get on. I wonder if any of you find your tools of the trade have changed over time? Do you look for the latest trend in needles/hooks and buy those or do you prefer to stick with your favourites? Or perhaps like me it depends or what you’re knitting?

I’m sure I’ll be back to my Knit Pros when this is finished but in the meantime what I can show you is how pretty my Boyes look with what I’m knitting today

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Oh yes and for those of you wondering who the hell Victor Kiam is click here 

J x

Building the kitchen from heaven

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The Kitchen From Hell

Sam and I don’t do things by halves – we never have. We moved into this house last year 8 weeks after my brain surgery and within 2 weeks I had it looking like we’d been living here for …well much longer than that. I can’t stand chaos and disorder and as much as I loved and still love this house when we first moved into it the one thing we knew would change was the kitchen.

It was bad, I mean really REALLY bad. In fact in terms of layout it was the worst kitchen in which I’ve ever had the misfortune to prepare food. So back in March we saw the beginning of a major building project to transform the Kitchen From Hell or KFHL (as I came to refer to it) into the Kitchen From Heaven or KFHV. The build took around 3 and a half months, it cost…well more than a fiver….and if you follow me over on Instagram (where I’m @jeanettesloan) you’ll have seen some of my regular posts as the work was progressing.  It wasn’t however until a couple of weeks ago when I was at Ally Pally for the Knitting & Stitching Show that I kept being asked what the final results looked like. Well here’s the (shortened) story

The house was built in the 1930s and had a number of original features like stained glass  on the interior doors that thankfully the previous owners had kept but they’d also knocked the two downstairs rooms into one long bowling-alley type space. This used to house the living & dining area with a strange play area at the end leading to the garden. The KFHL was just off the dining space backing onto a utility room and all together this strange arrangement made up the ground floor of the house. The main aim of the building renovations was to make sense of these 5 spaces and turn them into a more clearly defined kitchen/dining area that backed onto an open plan living room with a utility room, office and store room built onto the side of the house.  This meant knocking down walls and making a mess……a LOT of mess.

In order to give us somewhere to eat in relative peace and away from the chaos our lovely builders erected a wall to create a new living room which became the ‘camp kitchen’ for the duration of the build. Then they started knocking seven bells out of the rest of the house and this meant lots of early mornings, the consumption of literally gallons of tea and coffee, washing up in the middle of a half built room, storing all our downstairs furniture in the middle of the garden and living on ready meals and takeaways for 3 months.

 

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Mess with more mess beyond
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Alfie up to his knees in it

Before you get the wrong idea we knew it wasn’t going to be easy and the disarray sort of reminded me of living as a student but throughout  both Sam and I kept our eyes on the prize, the bigger picture. I kept envisaging how my dream kitchen would look when it was finally finished, how I would no longer have to wash up in the  bath, how I could eat steamed vegetables rather than ‘nuking’ our dinners in the microwave every night and how I could actually bake in my new Neff oven!

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Ricky taking a breather having erected the steel frame

Now I could go into minute detail about the visits from Brighton & Hove Council’s building control, the enormous picture frame of steel girders that could hold up an entire block of flats let alone our modest semi or the countless cock ups by the ‘kitchen designer’ from a well known supplier that meant the completed kitchen is around 2 cubic metres larger than we were first led to believe. (Better bigger than smaller though, right?).

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Yes I washed up in this sink before they had to remove it

But I won’t. The main thing is that the building work and the months of filth and disruption were more than worth it. It has transformed our house into a beautiful, welcoming space that makes me smile every morning when I come downstairs. In fact I can’t believe this is actually MY kitchen.

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fullsizeoutput_6baI finally found a home for the Charlie Harper bird decals I bought at Bristol’s Arnolfini

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along with the mounted section of locally produced linen that was gifted to me by my friends Ian & Jo who live in the south of France.

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My favourite spot in the Kitchen From Heaven

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And amongst the many features and gadgets in the ktichen I love that choosing to install one orange and one turquoise cable on these pendant lights still drives Alfie absolutely mad.

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I could dribble on and on but I think the pictures say it all. Huge thanks to Ricky, Bailey, Alfie our first team who did the structural work, David & Robi our sparkys, Mark our plumber, Ian, Chris & James the chippys and everyone else who helped to work this miracle. I’d also like to give a special mention to Boysie; a lovely lad with a cheeky sense of humour who was a member of the first team and sadly was killed in a car crash just a couple of months ago.

J x

PS. Yes boys we know we still owe you that barbecue!