Cotswolds

The second half of our holiday we spent wandering around Gloucester and the Cotswolds.

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The area is at least as beautiful as Wales, though it’s a lot busier. Every valley hides another lovely town or village, though.

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Wonderful medieval market towns that used to earn their money with wool. The town names amuse me so much, they almost seem like a parody of the British countryside.

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Small passages between the tilting houses.

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And more gorgeous churches…

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Apparently the Romans quite enjoyed this region too. The limestone bedrock apparently creates a rare sort of grassland in the UK, which is probably the reason why this region has become so rich in the past. Also probably explains the flourishing medieval wool trade. Okay, true, as a Roman the weather here would desperately disappoint me, but then the fertility of the area and the outstanding natural beauty would probably make up for a lot of that.

It was fascinating to look into the past of the wool trade. We visited the so-called ‘wool churches’ (very rich churches that were paid for with the money earned in the wool trade), wool mills and of course shops! One place we really enjoyed was the Cotswold Woollen Weavers. This combination of shops, studios, museum and artizan community was very inspiring.

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The gorgeous clothes were a little bit out of our price range, though….

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We also visited Cooper’s Hill, where the annual cheese rolling takes place. A couple of years ago the husband decided to live up to his heritage and flung himself off this ridiculously steep hill amongst a bunch of idiot men. Managed to get down without breaking himself too badly, which is lucky for me. It must be one of those things the male gender does to weed out the silliest genes in their midst….

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Also pretty bees!

Oh and last but not least – we went to a lot of pubs. Did I gush about pubs already? Pubs are awesome. Seriously, why does this never take off in the Netherlands? The food, the cider, the atmosphere, the fact that in the best pubs your dog is more welcome than you… Oh man, pubs are the epitome of gezellig. Which is probably why we don’t have them *innocent grin*

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Look ancient medieval pub with ceilings lower than we were tall! So pretty.

Now I want to go back…

Family wedding present

As said, my brother in law got married this summer. As family you want to give the happy couple a meaningful present. My mother in law and I had talked about the possibility of all of us together making a gift for them – or at least, all of the women of the family. When the wedding plans got more definite, so did our plans, and after discussing it with my five sisters in law, we decided we were going to go for it: we were going to crochet a blanket for them.

Some of us, like my MIL, one sister in law and myself, were familiar with crochet. The other three though had never crocheted before. But, daunted though they might’ve been by the idea, they all agreed it would make a wonderful present and they would love to learn the technique and make something wonderful for our brother in law and his wife to be.

So off we went, ordering a lot of yarn. It’s a cotton yarn, Drops Paris: soft, in lovely bright colours that we spent quite some time picking out.

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Of course, then we had to figure out how to go about it. We decided quickly enough we were going to make a granny square blanket, the squares twenty by twenty centimetres. A granny square can be relatively easy, which was helpful for the less experienced among us. But you can make them as complicated as you like, which meant the more experienced could make it as interesting as it needed to be for them. We figured if we each made twenty squares, we could make a nice, huge afghan for their marriage bed.

So off we went!

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At first I checked out how big they were going to be and how much time it would take to crochet a square. For me, as an experienced crocheter, these basic squares took about half an hour. Of course a beginner would have to spend much more time on it. But at least this way we knew that we as more experienced crocheters could, if necessary, crochet a few of the squares for the less experienced people among us.

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My MIL tried out the first proper granny squares. She also taught my sisters in law how to crochet. Of course she is a teacher, which is probably the reason why they learned so quickly *grin*

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The very first beginnings!

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Those quickly turned into the very first squares, which sometimes had to be taken out and started over. It was lovely to see their fast progress and enthousiasm for the project and the craft.

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Before long, more and more squares were made.

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As time progressed, so did our squares. Of course us more experienced crocheters couldn’t help but show off our skills a bit.

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We made more squares….

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And more….

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And more….

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And more…

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It was starting to look like a blanket..!

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At some point, we had to start thinking about how to put all these squares together, so we researched different joining techniques. It wasn’t that easy, really. We didn’t want to sew them together, because we wanted a visible linkage between the squares. That way we could use a neutral colour to pull all the different squares together into a harmonious whole. Most ways of joining granny squares though work best if your squares are all the same pattern, or at least have the same amount of stitches on the last round. Because of our different techniques and patterns, though, the amount of stitches of the finished squares varied a lot.

Eventually we found a deceptively easy way of joining squares.

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It’s simple: sc in the first ‘hole’ of the granny square, chain 1, sc in the first hole of the other granny square, chain 1, sc in the second hole of the first granny square, etc. It doesn’t take up much time or yarn and it leaves the linkage visible without being either too chunky or too dainty.

At first we’d planned on joining with white yarn, but upon trying it, we realised the colour was too bright for the linkage. It took the attention away from the squares, which was obviously not what we wanted it to do. So we decided on a greyish beige, which made the colours pop very nicely.

By then we had made a hundred squares between the six of us. But… how to arrange them?

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We tried grouping the colours together…

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…and mixing it all up.

After many heated discussions (well, okay, not really, but it sounds better) we decided on mixing it all up. It’s important to realise though that it probably takes more time to make it look “naturally mixed up” than it would to just arrange them by colour. So we spent an afternoon simply switching squares around, much to the amusement of the men of the family.

Another great thing of putting them all together was that it showed our progress so wonderfully. From the first few awkward squares to the more complicated ones that showed how confident we’d gotten. If you look at the pictures closely, I bet you can pick out which ones are which.

Eventually we decided on a pattern. I ended up with the task of joining them all together. Okay, well, I offered, because of the three experienced crocheters, I had the most free time to actually do it in.

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So then I joined some squares….

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And some more…

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And it turned into a blanket.

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It looked so lovely on my own bed, that I was very tempted to keep it. But we weren’t finished yet!

My mother in law took it upon herself to finish the blanket. Because the squares were all so different, we decided that a complicated border wouldn’t add anything to it. Instead she crocheted a simple border out of dc’s in pink. Because, well, that’s a good colour for a border.

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When she was finished, she added a little tag and packed the whole thing up. Feeling very satisfied with ourselves, we went to the wedding with our wonderful, homemade gift – hoping they would love it as much as we had come to love it. (And if they didn’t, each of us was secretly planning to just steal it and put it on our own beds).

Luckily for us, they did love their present, or at least told us so *grin* It was put on their bed when they were off on their honeymoon.

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Doesn’t it look right at home there?