Van life, baby!

Over the past few years I have been watching many videos on You Tube from various people who live or travel in vans. One of my absolute favourites is Kinging It, and ‘van life baby!’ is something Craig often says to Amy, especially when they are discussing the joys and not so wonderful bits of van life (such as emptying the porta potti).

I have been on a very, very long journey of my own to try and join the van life community, regular readers will know that I started learning to drive last year, which was already delayed a year due to the pandemic, then couldn’t get a test date before leaving for Spain in September. This is why I have been living with my sister and doing driving lessons here in Worcester, as she very kindly offered me the opportunity to try and learn to drive on about the fourth attempt.

So I am very, very excited to tell you that last week I passed my driving test (first time with only a few minor errors). I really did not think it would happen, and I would have to come back from Spain and redo it but the heavens aligned and I did! I was nervous but had a lovely examiner and I have had a very patient instructor, Julian, from No Gears No Fears. They are a company who specialise in working with people with disabilities and understood when I was in a lot of pain.

Then after a very busy couple of days that saw me travelling the country visiting garages, I bought this gorgeous Renault Kangoo that I am going to turn into a no build mini camper. She was delivered today. Please welcome Katy, my companion on lots of future adventures! I know you are not supposed to choose a car based on colour but I am very glad that I have got this lovely blue one, it will go so well with the Liberty accessories 😉

I have changed my mind many times about what I wanted van wise. I would have loved to buy a Romahome but when I started driving lessons last year I was having a lot of pain in my keen and hip due to the arthritis, and this was affecting clutch control. So I learnt this time in an automatic, which meant that sadly those vans were out of my budget at the moment.

I then considered a small van, such as the Ford Transit Connect, as many people convert those as well but after thinking about being a new driver thought it would be better to have something with a rear view mirror 😉

There are many people who have converted Kangoos, along with Fiat Doblos, VW Caddys, Peugeot Bibbers and Citroen Berlingos, and I have been very inspired by these. Wild She Goes is one of my favourites and there is also an interview with some other women who have converted Kangoos and other tiny vans here that I am using for ideas.

For this year Katy will be a no build conversion, which means that I will be using things that can be removed so she can be used as a normal 5 seater car. She will live at my sister’s when I am in Spain, so my sister can use her if she needs something smaller than Eva, the lovely camper.

I am planning to spend the summer testing Katy out and may make modifications next winter but for now she will be a combination of things I already own from my minimal camping kit that I put together last summer and some new things that I have bought of a very practical nature. I have had great fun going through my Amazon wishlist for magnetic hooks, boot carpets and storage items!

This has been a long, and sometimes very emotional journey, I actually first started learning to drive 32 years ago but life kept getting in the way. One of things that I most wanted from retirement was to be able to do this and thanks to all my family and friends, especially my sister Jacky, my daughter Ellen and best friend Kerry, for supporting me so much along the way. I have especially valued their advice about how to chose a car. It means so much to me to be finally able to have this.

So many people have told me that I will have freedom with a licence. I feel I already have that and absolutely loved my UK camping tour last year by public transport. What this will give me is flexibility, to be able to stop if I see something interesting and to change my plans when I want to. I also get to have a cool micro camper! I have already created a Pinterest board for it, look at some of this for inspiration.

This first one is from Kangoo Cottage Camper, who has an Instagram account here. This just shows how much you can get in one of these vehicles.

This is by Dot, no further details supplied. I love the simplicity of this decor but mine will have to have far more Liberty and vintage linen 😉 There will be crafting needed as of course. I have already made some bunting and when I get back to Spain I will work on the soft furnishings that I need, pretty curtains and cushions for Katy will be at the top of my to do list.

These two are from House Beautiful and the Quirky Campers site. There are so many lovely ways you can personalise your van. Although we enjoyed looking round the vans at the recent visit to the Camping, Caravan and Motorhome show, many of them were very dull and boring inside. Plus I don’t have £60,000 in the budget for a new one.

So, dear readers, you can expect further updates on the adventures later this summer. Meanwhile I hope that you are all having a good week. Have fun, take care and thanks for visiting.

Foxes in socks

When the children were younger I often used to read Doctor Seuss books for the rhymes and today I am happy to share with you my two ‘Fox in Socks’, along with other garments. I have only had time to knit 3 animals while I have been here, (retirement is proving to be surprisingly busy!), and these are my first two foxes.

This one is for Ellen and I have named him Ferdinand for now. He has a little donut in his rucksack to keep him going on his travels.

Julie from Little Cotton Rabbits is an absolute pattern genius and I have loved doing these. As I mentioned in my previous post, I am going to concentrate on cross stitch for now and get all my ornaments done well in time for Christmas, but no doubt will feel the urge to do some more animals soon. I have not yet made any dogs, or reindeer, and only one bear. I know she is in the process of designing more so will keep an eye on her blog for those.

This one is named Freddie, and he is for my niece, who I made Milly the rabbit for. This one is hers though I hope she will share it with the baby 😉 I have made it very neutral as she does not like bright colours, but think the dungarees look great against the rust wool of the body.

I love the ears and the tail, Julie had a tame fox visit her garden for some years and she has some beautiful pictures on her blog of Kit, who no doubt inspired her. The ears are so easy to knit, despite looking complex.

I have had a very busy, and very exciting week, more of that in the next post when I will update you on all of the happenings here.

Meanwhile, my time in Worcester is coming to an end and I will be going back to Ellen’s at the end of the week. It has been a lovely few months, and although I have not done much crafting I have done so much other lovely stuff, like working on my novel and doing creative writing courses. I have a couple more of those coming up in the summer, which I am really looking forward to.

I hope that you all had a good weekend, and have a good week ahead. Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Baby love

My niece’s baby shower lunch went very well last week, we had a lovely time meeting her partner’s family and I got to meet one of my great-nieces for the first time. My nephew’s partner, Paige, had organised all of the pretty things for the do and everything looked splendid.

We played a few little games and generally had a lovely time. My niece is thankfully looking very well after a very rough time so hopefully there are only a few more weeks for them to wait until the baby arrives.

The nappy cake went well, I just followed directions I found on Google and rolled the nappies and it makes a pretty and practical gift. There is a rabbit with a teething ring at top but it is hidden in the ribbon.

I finished Milly rabbit with a few days to spare. My niece likes neutral colours so I used this beautiful variegated grey from the local wool shop for the dress. This is my 24th Little Cotton Rabbits animal, so I now have a list of them all, their names and recipients.

The moses basket was delivered to her last week. I made the liner out of this very cute hedgehog fabric. I have lost the details of where it came from now but it was about £5 a metre. I did try making sheets for the mattress but it was not suitable as the fabric seams split when stretched so just did the liner and bought sheets.

I didn’t use a pattern, just draped the fabric around the outer edges, then cut panels to fit around the handle. the bottom edge is elasticated so that if fits over the padded liner.

I have been working on my first two foxes so will post about them soon. One is for Ellen and one for my niece. I am then going to take a break from knitting for a while and get started on all the lovely cross stitch. I have found the bookmark function on my Readly app so now have many patterns bookmarked to work on over the next year.

I still have lots of museum things and embroidery to show you from the summer so will make those the next few posts before I can show you all the lovely trips in Spain. I am very excited to be returning home, Worcester has been lovely but looking forward to swimming in the warm pool and sea and more sunny bike rides. I am lucky not to have really had any bad weather here, winter seems to have passed us by here which has been wonderful.

Have a good weekend and week ahead and hope that you have fun whatever you do, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Prayers and plots

On the Sunday of Kerry’s weekend visit to Worcester we visited the cathedral for the morning sung Eucharist service which was beautiful. The choir sounded so amazing and it made a lovely start to the day. The cathedral is where Ellen graduated all those years ago so I have visited several times before. There is a lot of restoration work being done so opportunities for pictures of the nave and painted ceiling were limited but it looked stunning.

In the afternoon we went to Coughton Court, a Trust property that was involved in the Gunpowder Plot. I have visited before and was stunned to find that they have what is allegedly the nightshift that Mary Queen of Scots wore when she was executed. The house and the family that own it have a long history of involvement in the disputes between Catholics and the state that started in the Tudor era. The property was beautiful in the afternoon sun.

There was a very interesting talk about the plot in the small Catholic church on the property, built in the late 1800s when the Catholics were allowed to build churches once again. It is easy to forget that we have had religious persecution in the UK at many points in our history and that there are lots of things that people have forgotten about the whole story behind the Gunpowder Plot and why it happened.

The church had some gorgeous chairs with central needlepoint panels, there were about 40 of these so definitely a labour of love!

It has an extensive collection of family portraits, which I wrote about in my last post, which are such good illustrations of costume of the era, and some lovely little displays. I loved this little beauty case with the scissors and the little souvenir book.

There were also some of my favourite things to find, like this needlework case and the lace making tools.

There were clearly some dedicated needlewomen in the family as there were some very large projects, most of these were in one bedroom. I have been doing a lot of research for my first novel so have been thinking a lot about the role of needlework in women’s lives. There are very few modern crafters who would take on projects of this size and the amount of hours that must have gone into these pieces is incredible.

Just looking at the thousands of tiny stitches in this seat cover above I can’t help but wonder about how made it, did they ever feel like giving up and how long did it take them? I did some needlepoint many years ago but have not returned to it due to how long it takes, so really admire the dedication of these needlewomen.

I have had a fairly quiet week, most of the crafting has been finished so I will be posting about that next. I have been spending the last few weeks before I return to Spain stocking up on things for the rest of the year that I can’t easily get there. I have more Liberty fabric arriving this week from a new supplier that I have found byLaurenRuth and have bought some more stitching threads. Next week will be mainly sorting and packing up ready to go to Ellen’s the following week, then back to Spain with my new machine and all of my goodies!

I hope that you have a good weekend and a nice week ahead, the weather forecast for the UK is very good so we will all be enjoying a glimpse of sun. What ever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

The delights of Worcester

Kerry came down to visit me so we had a jam packed weekend visiting the majority of what the city has to offer in the way of historical and heritage properties. There is such a wonderful mix of architecture here, Tudor, Georgian and Victorian, as well as the riverside walks and the canal heritage so it is well worth a visit.

Saturday was mainly Tudor at first with the Tudor House Museum and Greyfriars, both on the same street where there are other wonderful Tudor buildings, including some lovely places to eat. The Tudor House Museum was originally three cottages and the displays concentrated on the importance of the trades in Worcester, very much textile related with the production of broadcloth and glove making dominating.

The museum has been extensively restored as it has been a pub, and café owned by the Cadbury family in recent times, so there is a nice mix of history in the small space and some lovely reproductions of costume and artefacts as well as the historical collections.

I have previously posted some pictures of the Tudor group at Greyfriars but this visit was for a tour which told the history of the property throughout its 400 some years. This was very interesting as it ended up being used as slum dwellings, with other tenement housing built within the garden. The restoration in the later 20th century was by a brother and sister, Elsie and Matley Moore, who were passionate collectors and she was a keen needlewoman. Therefore there is an extensive collection of beautiful textiles.

This is one of my favourite pieces, above the fireplace. I love the colours used in this piece. I think this is one of Elsie’s own embroideries.

I also really loved seeing the little touches of her life, such as the worn pincushion next to the chair, and the collection of needlework tools in a display case.

The library was also beautiful, in a different way to the libraries in other Trust houses. This was full of well loved books, but still with some beautiful decorations on the spines. I wish all books looked like this today, rather than just name and title on the spine. I think that they look so exciting!

We had a quick look around the city museum as well, where they have a display devoted to Worcester Sauce, as well as some lovely military costume. We were very admiring of the braid on the tunics here.

I loved this painting of a Spanish girl, making me homesick for my adopted country as these type of outfits are still worn for fiestas.

I have been busy booking lots more coach trips with mum so will have more adventures to share with you in May and June, the Spanish do love a good costume and I will be there all over the Easter weekend which is always exciting.

Our last heritage venue was the amazing Georgian Guildhall built in 1721. This is a beautiful public building in the centre of the town which is free to enter, and is used for weddings as well as official business.

The ceilings in the Assembly Room and the Council Chamber were stunning and I can imagine there must have been some amazing events there in the Georgian era. I am of course channelling my inner Bridgerton here as we eagerly await the second series in a couple of weeks!

After a quick stop for tea and cake at the same vintage café I visited last time, we had a lovely wander around the canal basin. We then had a drink in the oldest pub in Worcester, and ended up in a very lovely restaurant called Bill’s. I must admit to choosing it partly based on the décor, (as I did in Edinburgh), but the food was delicious as well.

A very lovely day out and it was brilliant to catch up with Kerry. We will next meet at my first re-enactment event of the season in July. I do have more pictures from Sunday to show you as well, but I will leave that until next week.

I am pleased to tell you that the moses basket is done, and to confirm that I intend never to work with jersey ever again 😉 It is too stretchy and slippery so I am going to confine my future makes to my favourites of linens, denims and Liberty, as well as some nice, non slippery fabrics for Steampunk, and no velvet.

I have already mentioned that I have been spending lots of time reading cross stitch magazines through my wonderful Readly app and I have been inspired by one article to buy a gorgeous pattern to stitch for my sewing room/bedroom in Spain.

It is from a French Company called Jardin Prive and is called ABC de la Brodeuse, pictures from their web site. It is so cute and I love all the Quaker inspired motifs.

It will take a while to stitch but I have also ordered the band to stitch it on from Willow Fabrics as I needed a metre of it.

I also treated myself to this lovely Christmas design to use the individual motifs for future ornaments. I am going back with all sorts of wonderful things to add to my craft stock so will definitely have to sort out my storage as soon as I get back!

This week’s task is to make up the knitted rabbit as we are meeting with my niece at the weekend for a little do, not really a baby shower, but more a family lunch. There will be some baby related gifts though and I am making the nappy cake, out of real nappies and lots of ribbon and cellophane.

I hope that you have all had a good weekend. Have a good week ahead whatever you do and as always, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.

Geeks day out

We had a very nice time at the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome show last week. Surrounded by fellow outdoor enthusiasts we saw many marvellous versions of camper vans, caravans of all sizes and came home with some nice practical and very cute things.

I mentioned in my last post that I was sorting out my things for this summer. Last year’s tour gave me a good idea of things that I need to adapt or improve on, as my kit was put together in quite a short space of time and needed to fit in a very small space. Even though I have camped for years, doing the whole thing by train and bus meant getting everything into two bags and so some things had to be minimised and others done without.

One of the things that I know I needed to improve on was cooking. I have a small table and a little one ring stove but just used the other cutlery and storage that I already had but found that my meals lacked a bit of variety. I have been thinking about how to do more camp cooking and came across this brilliant company Nomad’s Kitchen at the show.

I was drawn in by the ultimate cuteness of the ‘kitchen’ that they sell, so bought one of those as this means that everything is in one handy little case. Look it even has a mini chopping board! I also like the fact that they are a small start up company founded by adventurous friends and will be buying a utensils set from them soon.

As well as that I could not resist this cute and practical doormat for the tent, to save the groundsheet from my muddy boots.

I also bought some practical heavy duty clips and a fab light that is a flashlight, mini table lamp and reading lamp in one. It is all very exciting planning the adventures, final booking will have to wait and see whether I have a vehicle this summer but there will be three months of a UK tour happening! 3 weeks of that is taken up with a music festival then our trip to Scotland so just got the other 9 weeks to fill 🙂

Although I may never buy one I really loved all the little caravans at the show. There were so many cute versions of the little vans that I have often seen at campsites and they were helpful as well for ideas about storage if I do have a van of my own, like this worktop with hidden storage in the rear kitchen of this teardrop trailer.

These slightly bigger ones were also very cute with everything you could need. I do love small spaces, I am so happy now to have a small house, a small tent and to have minimised everything, it feels very freeing.

One of my options for the future is to buy a little caravan, when I get too old and crumbly for tent life, so it was nice to see that they are so comfortable and affordable. I would be very happy living in something like this.

We also loved the top of the range static caravans and lodges. We had many lovely caravan holidays when we were children and although they never looked like this there is just something about a caravan that I love. These larger ones look more like a £500,000 show home than a lodge for about a quarter of that price.

I have had another busy week, with two very interesting short courses by the WEA, one on women who worked on canals during WW2 and the other on women in textiles throughout history. I also had a mock driving test which went well on the whole, though I was very nervous. It is only two weeks now until the real thing, only 50% of people pass first time so I am not expecting to pass then but I am enjoying the driving lessons anyway.

This weekend there is more crafting planned working on the gift for my niece. The fabric I am using, jersey, is a challenge but hopefully I will finish it all this week. There is obviously a time limit as I am redoing the moses basket covers and that is needed when the baby is born. I have just about finished the knitting for her animals as well.

It is a lovely sunny day here, after quite a wet week, I am not used to rain anymore, now I am not living in Yorkshire 🙂 so am hoping that this continues as I would like to get a bit more walking in before I leave Worcester in just over 3 weeks.

I hope that you have all had a good week and have a good week ahead, and are enjoying signs of Spring if you are in that season, it makes everything better to have sun, crocuses and daffodils! Have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.