Monday, May 16, 2022

Cherishing The Ordinary & Reconnecting With The Lord

"We need to just enjoy where we are in life right now". 

My husband's words this morning echoed my own thoughts of late which I shared with you in my last post. It seems like the Lord has our hearts in tune, bringing us back to what is important.

Stop rushing. Stop striving all the time. Rest in me and my goodness.

In cherishing the ordinary we appreciate where we are in that moment in time and place. It's so easy to rush. It's so hard to slow down and be still.


May is a month when everything in nature suddenly gains momentum and explodes into swathes of lushness. Lately, I've been marvelling at how different everything looks. This fact seems to have passed me by over the past few years. Although my beautiful England is always green it takes on a different sense of green in early summer, one which is delighting my soul at the moment.

The green fills out, roads are now canopied tunnels; fields, meadows, hedgerows and towpaths are green but speckled with yellow buttercups, frothy white cow parsley and delicate pink blooms of the hawthorn.

Each little delicate flower is so perfect in its form. A work of art that I sometimes struggle to pull my gaze away and walk on.

Today we spent a quiet day in the garden. It started off beautiful and sunny. I took the opportunity to plant out the Lupins, Hollyhocks, Delphiniums and Dhalia's that I grew from seed.

They have done so well. I do hope that they don't get munched by a hungry snail now that they are out in the garden. I've enjoyed watching them germinate, peek through the brown soil then stretch for the light. Spindly baby growth strengthening and thickening week by week until we reach this time...time to move outdoors.

As I planted out all my seedlings a breeze picked up causing the spent flowers from the surrounding trees to tumble in a shower of delicate flower rain. I stopped to watch the flowers fall, to listen to the wind as it moved through the leaves. How beautiful!

I lay down on the grass to enjoy the moment and rest in the warm sunshine, my cat took that as an invitation to join me. So sweet!

These moments are so easy to move through without purpose. Have you ever found yourself driving somewhere in 'auto-pilot' mode and then suddenly thinking, "Oh gosh! I'm here already, I don't actually remember passing XYZ!"

This auto-pilot mode is how most of us live each day. Perhaps that is why it often feels like time has passed us by inexplicably. How often do you find yourself saying, "I can't believe we are halfway through the year already!"

I've said something like that at least 10 times this year.

It's a joy stealer!

I also believe that it separates us from the joy and peace of the Lord. I mean, rushing on by I find myself just getting on with life and not spending that daily time in God's Word. Then all of a sudden you realise that you are no longer walking in step with Him. have rushed so far ahead that when you turn around you realise that He is a speck on the horizon. How did I get here? How did I get to a point where I'm feeling exhausted because I am trying to do everything in my own strength.

Yet it happens.

But isn't it marvellous that we can stop at any time, reassess our position, re-adjust and get back on course?

The next two weeks are really busy in our home with various university graduation shows, and my youngest daughter's wings ceremony (she starts flying on the 1st of June!) as well as my own university deadlines. So easy to throw purposeful moments aside.

But awareness is key to getting back on course so although I have some busy weeks ahead I will do the following to hold on to my joy and not feel overwhelmed:

  • Make time daily to do my quiet time in God's Word and pray
  • Notice what is happening in nature around me. Whether it is taking a daily walk, or sitting out in the garden for 10 minutes with a cup of tea, I will take that little bit of time out each day to be still.
  • Find joy in the ordinary tasks such as washing the dishes. I will notice how the sunlight catches the bubbles, or listen to the sound of the water running into the sink and watch the dishwashing liquid change from a syrup into a froth of sumptuous bubbles.
  • I will take time to listen to the sound of nature: bees, birdsong, wind blowing through the trees and the beat of raindrops.
  • I will enjoy the smell of my own home baking and the thought of my family enjoying a tasty treat all through the week.
  • I will take time each day to do something creative whether it is knitting a few rows on my latest project or adding a few stitches to my cross-stitch.
Anyhoo lovelies, I hope that your week is beautiful and that you feel in control, at peace and most of all experience the joy that comes from living a slower more purposeful day!

Thursday, May 12, 2022

My Knitting/Stitching Notebook & Shop Updated

The Knitting Notebook

About 8 years ago I started keeping a knitting/stitching notebook. I love Ravelry and the ability to keep a record of projects you have made however being a pen and paper kind of girl and having a love for journals and notebooks, I decided that in addition to Ravelry, I would keep a physical notebook too.

I chose a spiral-bound notebook because they lie flat when opened or you can bend them right back on themselves which is great when you have loads of threads, needles, patterns and yarn lying about.

When I first started this particular notebook I had intended for it to be only for cross stitch. I have a Pinterest board full of little cross stitch charts which will obviously never get stitched unless they are off the screen and in hard copy in front of me! So I printed off my favourites and pasted them into the notebook.

Then one day I was knitting and crocheting some Christmas gifts. I wanted to remember what I had knitted, for whom, what yarn I had used and the yarn details. 

Now as I mentioned earlier I was doing this on Ravelry but you cant pin a sample of the yarn or paste the yarn label in Ravelry can you. I can link the yarn to a project in Ravelry but I like to have the yarn label with all the information at hand.

For each project I noted down the following information:

* Name of the project

* Who I was knitting it for

* Needle Size and Yarn

* What size I was knitting and any adjustments I made

I then stuck the yarn label onto the page and wound a little of the yarn on a bit of card, punching a hole in the yarn sample card and attaching it to the spiral.

Once the project is completed I then photographed the finished garment and stuck that photograph in my notebook.

I use this notebook to death and as a result the elastic closure is all stretched and it has a well-worn look to it which adds to its charm I think. 

Under An English Sky Yarn Update:

My Etsy shop has received a make-over. New Photographs which took an absolute age to get right and some new colourways added and some old favourties.

I'm not sure if I have mentioned it here but I am working on an independent website/shop for my blog and yarns. Reason being that it would be nice to have shop and yarns in one place but the long-term plan is to move away from Etsy as their fees are just becoming astronomical. 

The Seasonal Home

If you have followed my blog for any length of time you will know how much I love to gently observe the seasons. Day by day, month by month, the seasons change. Each month has it's own unique characteristics to observe, enjoy and mark.

I have to say that since going back to work 3 years ago things have fallen by the wayside. I hadn't quite appreciated actually just how much falls by the wayside when you are working full time. How quickly you throw off the small things that mean so much to you as you get swept away in the swirling torrent of life in the fast lane. 

I don't like feeling like I'm being swept away in a flood of mindless living. But since dropping my work days down to 3 days a week I have been able to slowly start claiming back a bit of slow living. There is no doubt that if you are wanting to slow down, to live a more mindful life you need to be very purposeful in doing so. You need to take joy in the small tasks that you may otherwise classify as mundane.

In an effort perhaps to get back into the habit of taking joy in the small things, of being purposeful, mindful and observing the small changes that occur each day month by month, season by season, I thought it would be nice to share such posts here. If you would like to do the same, to train yourself to slow down and be more mindful then perhaps you would like to leave a comment here and let me know what you are doing in your own home to observe the seasons. Or perhaps I will post on Instagram using the hashtag #myseasonalhome and you can join in. Be sure to tag me @underan_englishsky - I would love to share your photographs in my stories as we encourage one another in slowing down and living with purpose.

So glad that it is Friday tomorrow! Any plans for the weekend? Not much from my side, I have my final law assignment due in at the beginning of June and it's a big one - so I expect the next few weeks will be taken up with that. But once that is done then I am freeeeeeeeeee! Anyhoo lovelies, I hope you have having a glorious week. See you back here very soon!

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

On the Needles - WIP's & Creative Inspiration

Hello my lovely friends! We have had some lovely bright days this past week plus we enjoyed a lovely long early May bank holiday weekend.

One lovely afternoon I made a cup of tea  then took a slow stroll around the garden. I spent a few minutes watching the fish swim under the Marsh Marigold which is looking beautiful right now and enjoyed just being still and quiet, listening to the sound of the water splashing back into the pond and enjoying the birdsong.

The late afternoon light was just beautiful so I thought I would pull out some of my yarns and start taking some new photographs to freshen up my Etsy shop listings. Most of the current listings were done over the winter and the lighting is never very good. The colours can either seem a bit lackluster or take on a really strange luminous look - that's usually the reds, so difficult to photograph them. 

Wilfred's' Birthday Picnic is Available in my shop.

I then unpacked some lovely yarn that arrived earlier in the week. I found a lovely poncho pattern on Ravelry and immediately fell in love with it. It's a simple knit that suits my boggled brain at the moment and I think it will be the perfect between season garment.

I've purchased the patterns recommended yarn, CaMaRose Snefnug (found at Loop London). It's beautifully soft and squishy, I've already cast on and am so enjoying knitting with it. I think I may purchase some more in a lovely mustard colourway and find a lovely autumnal pattern on Ravelry.

I also have a pair of gloves on the needles. This pattern is one I have been meaning to do for years. It's from the 2015 Shetland Wool Week Annual. I really enjoy stranded knitting but I'm still not entirely happy with my tension - it takes a while to get it right with stranded knitting.

I have some really exciting news! I have secured a stand at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching show in November! I'm so excited and petrified at the same time. I've booked my accommodation and am busy planning some lovely new yarns and Christmas gifts that people can buy. So much to do!

I will also be launching my new website - planned for the end of May - where I will have my own independent web-shop. I will still be selling on Etsy but I am trying to transition away from it as the fees are so high. It's slow-going on the website because I'm doing it myself. I'm hoping that I don't run into any tricky issues - I just don't have the skills to deal with anything that is overly complicated. I will be able to integrate a blog on the new website so if one day you find yourself visiting and it looks a bit different its because I will have redirected to the new site.

Digging a trench to lay electricity cables - The cat having a ball!

So much has been happening of late! Last week the electrician came round to connect our summer house studio to the electrics. This means that I am now able to have heat, light and run my sewing machine out in the little studio so it's all coming along rather nicely. The next thing I want to do is convert the garage to a dye studio. A starting point is a few visits to the recycling center! Honestly, how does one gather so much junk!

We have another full-on week this week. Miss J-L starts her cabin crew training tomorrow. There has been so much to do to get to this point. We were in Manchester one afternoon last week as she had a medical - which she passed. She is officially "fit to fly". Training is in Manchester so it will be a really early start for us all for the next month. Her train leaves just before 7 am each morning so no lie-ins for us for the next month at least! It's all terribly exciting for her - I can't believe that she is starting a new chapter in her life so soon after university! It's good to see them making their way.

That's about it for today, have a lovey day and I will see you back here very soon.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Musings on Building a Homespun Business

From the moment I became a mother I knew that I wanted to be at home and have some sort of creative business that I run from home. Why? because I am in my element when I enter any type of needle work store. Fabric, wool and threads make me happy. I suspect other crafters are the same hence the 'stashes' we acquire.

Years ago I had dreams of spinning my own yarn and dying it up. Except I had no idea how to spin yarn, there were no spinners nearby to take classes from and part of my ideal was that it would be my own homegrown fleeces that I would be doing this with. For the longest time that fact that I did not live on a smallholding and have my own sheep is what held up my dream of starting a homespun business. It was my excuse not to start because the ideal in my head did not match up to my suburban reality.

Then I started to think outside the box. I may not be able to live on a smallholding, raise sheep and spin my own yarn but I could source undyed yarn and dye it.

A fellow home educator had dabbled in dying yarn and she was only too happy to share who supplied her undyed yarn and where to get dyes etc. I will forever be grateful to her for her generosity in sharing that information as I really did not have a clue on where to start. 6 years later I have a little crafty business that is ready to grow.

History repeats itself... for the past year I have wanted to develop my business in two ways. First I would love to be able to design my own knitting patterns. But where to start? I feel that I'm in the same space I was 6 years ago wondering how I start a yarn dying business. 

The second bit that tugs at my heart strings is to host cozy gatherings every so often. But in my head I'm thinking...but I need the perfect setting! My home has to look just right, I want to have a little mercantile store where workshop ladies can go shopping. My dream looks so different to my reality!

Recently the light switch suddenly went on and a new realization dawned. Funny how that can just suddenly happen don't you think?

First, if I want to learn how to design knitwear than I need to invest in the tools and time to learn to do so. So I bought a book on designing knitwear and for the foreseeable future I will need to learn all I can about it and practice, practice, practice. I mean you are never going to get good at anything or grow if you don't invest the time right?

Secondly, I may not have that adorable little mercantile store attached to my home like Chris from the Cozy Club has (*sigh* I wish) but I can still begin to develop my classes and now that I have my little summer house it can be utilized as a creative studio/mercantile. 

Point is...I know that I for one can find every excuse under the sun and every reason why I shouldn't do something and then feel frustrated that I am not moving forward in my (humble) dreams. Yet I am the only one standing in the way of building the life that I want. I'm waiting for the 'perfect' this or that 'perfect' that instead of doing anything at all!

Do you find that? Is there something you are hoping and wanting to do but it feels that you are stuck in treacle and unable to move?

What steps could you take (even baby steps) to build the life you want? These are questions I am currently mulling over in my head. 

I think back to my young 20-something self with a baby on her hip and a dream in her heart and I think that I am finally brave enough to stop making excuses and actually turn that dream into a reality. My reality is starting to look like I will be able to do this. 

Last year reduced my work week to a three day week. This has been wonderful but still not enough. I plan to be home full time in the next few months - by September at the latest.

The goal? Not to make millions! But to bring in enough with my business so that I can turn my attention to it full time in the near future. 

Why? Because having worked for 3 years in a professional environment I know that it's not for me. Its time to be brave and try build the life I want. The simple life. A life where I have time to focus on my faith, on being available for my family and friends in the way I want to and doing things that I love to do. Things that bring joy to my heart.

Do you have any dreams that you are holding back on because you are waiting for things to be just perfect? Perhaps 'just good enough' is better than waiting for 'perfect'. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Yarn Stories - Swallows & Amazons

It's time for another Yarn Story and today I want to share with you the story behind the lovely speckled blue colourway - Swallows & Amazons.

As you know my yarn is inspired by the English countryside, literature, art, customs and traditions. I count myself so incredibly lucky to be living in Britain. I was born in a British African colony so my formative years were largely British but with sunshine. We left once the country gained independence and moved to South Africa which always felt strange to me.

When we finally immigrated to the UK in 2011 I felt like I had come home. The landscape was familiar because I recognised it from the vivid descriptions in favourite childhood books. 

Have you thought about the power of a good book? The power to take you to far off lands, to escape, meet new and fantastic people, go on adventures that you never in reality could dream of going on. I was extremely privileged to be able to have living books included in our Charlotte Mason homeschooling years. One such book that took us on an epic adventure of the English Lake District was Swallows & Amazons by Arthur Ransome.

We traveled on an old steam train with a mother and her children to holiday in a cottage along the lakes. Where we collected fresh bottles of milk from a local farmer down the lane with the children, ran through fields barefoot and then went along with them on their epic sailing and camping adventure on a small island in the lake.

It inspired us to head out one summers day to visit this wonderful place in our book, to gaze upon the landscape that we had become familiar with in the pages of the book, to dip our toes in the gentle lapping water of the lake.

It was JUST as we had imagined. The author's love of the lake district had shone through in his descriptive writing and there we were, we stepped out of the pages and straight into the location of Swallows & Amazons!

After a bit of exploring we sat beside the lake. It was a warm summers day and there was a regatta on - just like one described in the book. We slowly ate our ice-creams feeling the sun warm our heads and back as we watched the coloured sails dotting the lake as they tacked back and forth.

And that is what inspired this skein of yarn. The glittering lake with the dotted colours of the sailboats on that summers day.

If you have not yet read Swallows & Amazons or watched the delightful 2016 film you are missing out on a treat! Even though I'm an adult I simply love escaping into a time and place where family and simplicity was treasured. I think that's what appeals to me in this book and if you are a kindred spirit then I think you will enjoy this book and film just as much as I do!

I'm currently out of stock of Swallows & Amazons but  I shall be restocking in the next few weeks. All yarn updates will be shared on my Instagram feed @underan_englishsky or on my Facebook Page - link in sidebar.

That just about wraps up todays post. Have an AWESOME day and I shall see you back here very soon.