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Monday, March 30, 2009

Essential luxuries

A new Lilyflame candle for the bathroom.

Blue Hyacinth candle

A Maison Blanc cake for tea.

Cafe eclair from Maison Blanc

An exciting new sewing project.

Fortune Cookie clutch kit from U-Handbag

I'm just off to transfer my dart markings!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The stitching hour

I'm posting this at around midnight, a little later than planned, having just spent half an hour taming the stash in anticipation of the boyfriend's return from Egypt tomorrow. Who knew there was a coffee table under all that yarn? And I somehow seem to have acquired another dozen or so circular needles since the last time I had them altogether in one place. I suspect that they're hermaphrodites and are breeding.

I meant to start the tidy up when I got home from knitting this evening but I couldn't resist getting the sewing machine out to try the zipper tutorial that Ellen pointed me at on Monday. I also wanted to finally try out the iron-on plastic film from that I bought at the Festival of Quilts last year and I'm afraid that I was as disappointed with that as I was pleased with the tutorial. The stuff seemed to iron on quite satisfactorily and it was OK to sew but the plastic came away from the fabric as soon as I turned the piece right side out and the whole thing looked so awful that I ended up unpicking the right side seams and picking and peeling away all the plastic film.

Little blue pouch

Much better now. I'm currently using the pouch to store all my spools of thread. Maybe if they're all in the same place then I won't buy any more black cotton until I've used up the three full spools I currently own.

Whilst we're looking at sewed stuff I never got round to posting about the pincushions I made a few weeks ago inspired by the one I saw over at needled.


These things should come with a health warning! I ended up making four pincushions over a Sunday lunchtime and only stopped when I realised that I now had four more pincushions than I could sensibly use. It is fun to stitch little things though and I think I'll make a few more little pouches and cushions in readiness for the gift giving season. If I fill them with nice things they'll even do for non-stitchers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

FO - Minimalist cardigan

This has been finished for a week now but I only just got me, the cardigan, a camera, daylight and a photographer together in the same place at the same time.

I may have to rethink the ponytail

Pattern: Minimalist cardigan by Ruthie Nussbaum
Source: Interweave Knits Fall '07
Yarn: Rowan Pure Wool DK in Pomegranate; 7 balls
Needles: 4.5mm circs
Ravelled: here

The mural at the Royal Oak will be getting a lot more backdrop action now that I know how fabulous it is for FO shots. Thanks to Ellen for wielding the camera.

I'm just so happy to have a new cardigan

*love* this cardigan

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I had a great time at my first Oxford Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers yesterday. There was a really interesting talk on Shropshire sheep by Pippa Geddes and some gorgeous coffee cake with tea and it was just great to see lots of other people spinning and to get ideas for projects and tips on better spinning.

I'm already very excited about the Guild Artweeks competition for which entrants have to weave, spin or dye something inspired by the William Wordsworth poem Daffodils. In fact I was so excited that I got out the Supercook bottles this morning and set to work dyeing sock yarn.

Hand dyed sock yarn

The sock yarn didn't turn out quite as planned as when the dye hit the yarn it resulted in purple rather than a navy blue. This is what I get for being too lazy to trek up to the Co-op and buy black dye and instead trying to darken the blue with red and green. I'm not too disappointed as I really love it, but as it didn't really fit in with the "stars in an evening sky" sock pattern that I'd planned I had another attempt, this time using orange, yellow and green dye and the cream silk which was left over from the Kiri I knit for Aliki's sister's bridesmaid.

Daffodil silk

This one is much more like I intended and I've already started swatching for a small shawl with daffodil lace motifs.

Daffodil shawl swatch

I've been doing quite a bit of designing in a low-key way this week. I've been swatching in the Artist's Palette Buttersoft that arrived last week and I've nearly finished the first sock in a new pattern:

as yet unnamed sock

All it needs is the ribbing and a name.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Finished object: Bump sweater


Pattern: my own
Ravelled: here
Size: 1-2 years
Recipient: Laurie
Yarn: Rowan Pure Wool in blue (2 balls), white (1 ball), black (1 ball)
Needles: 3.75mm and 4mm circular needles and 3.75mm and 4mm dpns



Monday, March 16, 2009

Who ate all the pies?

That would be me, or at least a goodly proportion of pie, maybe (πr²) x ⅓. My lemon pie turned out very well. I'd been a bit worried that I'd made the filling too frothy as a result of whisking the cream in on the high setting but it was fabulously smooth when I cut into it. The only place that the froth had stayed was right on the surface, just enough to give it a bubbly golden brown finish. I want to try a lime pie next (as suggested by Kate) and I'm pretty sure that you could make a fabulous coffee cream pie along the same lines too (maybe with liqueur and dark chocolate shavings). Somehow I find pie much less stressful than cake - there's no pressure to have it rise evenly, or at all. In fact one of the main aims is to keep the pastry flat.

I had a lovely time at Ellen's pie day. There was lots of knitting and Katie turned up with W and the baby, who is just gorgeous and very cuddly. I got loads done on the sleeve of the Minimalist cardigan and I'm now nearly up to the armhole shaping on the left fron which is the final piece. If I knit (and block and sew) like the wind I should have it done for the weekend.

Most of Sunday was spent spinning, either at the Wingham Wool Works fibre sampling workshop at East Hendred or afterwards when I got home and couldn't wait to try out the new fibres and tricks I'd picked up.

I sampled lots of different fibres on my lovely new Ashford drop spindle (stupidly I had not brought mine along - any excuse eh).

Plied fibre samples

From left to right we have: chestnut alpaca, green merino and tussah silk, dark grey Shropshire blended (rather unevenly by me) with lilac merino, white Falklnd, humbug Jacob, white Shetland, black Welsh and silk, red merino and silk, rainbow merino, beige cashmere, cashmere and silk, camel and tussah silk, and Wensleydale. The observant amongst you will have noticed that I have thirteen labels there but only twelve skeins. I'm not quite sure why, but I suspect that I plied the cashmere together with the cashmere and silk (oops). I should have been a bit more organized about alternating light and dark colours on the drop spindle I think.

Merino tops

Between all the sampling and shopping there were two really informative demos by Ruth Gough, one on spinning different thicknesses of thread and using gears and the other on Andean and Navajo plying and on making rolags and long draw spinning.

Long draw demonstration

I learnt loads and tried out some of the things she'd talked about, like counting treadles to get an even twist and the long draw technique when I got home.


My rolags aren't quite as impressive as hers but it's a start and I was able to spin a very little bit of yarn using long draw whilst watching a fabulous version of the Scarlet Pimpernel starring Anthony Andrews and Ian McKellen on ITV3 when I got back. I do love the Scarlet Pimpernel novels - they're a wonderful guilty pleasure.

There were quite a few people there that Ellen and I knew. Obviously Megan was there and also Sara and Ruth from the Sticks and String knitting group in Reading. It was really nice to see everyone's wheels and chat about spinning.

No spinning this evening as I cycled home in order to counteract my exertions in the pie-eating field on Saturday and my treadling leg's a bit tired.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Short-cut pastry

Lemon tart for pi(e) day

[Lemon tart for Ellen's housewarming]

I'm afraid I skipped the step where you're meant to chill the pastry in the tin for 2 hours or overnight but it doesn't seem to have done the pie too much harm. I did remember to leave a good overhang of pastry around the edge of the tin so that I could trim it off neatly after baking. I took a finished pie photo before doing the trimming just in case it went hideously wrong but I took it nice and slowly and it looks very neat.

Lemon tart for pi(e) day

The recipe is from Green & Black's chocolate recipes. Obviously in the book it's a chocolate crusted lemon tart (because a plain lemon tart would be a bit out of place in a chocolate recipe book) but I just left out the cocoa powder and made it up with extra flour. Now I just need to transport it 10 miles on public transport without any sort of pie disaster befalling it!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spring has sprung


[daffs in the graveyard]

I love daffodils - I love the white narcissi and the big floppy yellow ones which make me think of yellow labradors and the fancy double ones and the especially the miniature daffs which look like tiny fierce little dragons*. Of course I can't think about daffodils without thinking about Wordsworth and there's not so much a host as a veritable horde of golden daffodils about to make their appearance outside the gates of the 'big house'** opposite the bus stop. I'll get a pic as soon as they're in full bloom.

So, did everyone else know that Spring Knitty is up and if so why did no one tell me? I really love Cachoeira (obviously Cookie A. is not the only sock genius blogging over at Knitters Anonymous) and I think Hanne looks like great fun to knit and wear. Given its free-form nature it might be a good choice for all that BFL handspun I have hanging around.

The other pattern which I think is gorgeous but which I don't think I'll be knitting just at the moment is Shipwreck. The photos of this piece are just fabulous, I especially love the shot of it all spread out on the sand like a beached man-o-war.

* what, you don't see that?
** also known as Blenheim Palace.



I came home yesterday to a gorgeous parcel sent by Juliet of Artist's Palette Yarns. After I'd finished performing the dance of new yarn (where I bounce up and down squeaking "yarn, yarn for mee!") I opened the squooshy package and discovered not only 4 skeins of purply blue Buttersoft DK but also this beautiful little case for my Knitpicks dpns - so much more chic than the clear plastic sleeve they came in. Thank you Juliet!

needle case

I have big plans for the Buttersoft DK and I'm already swatching away.

Semi-rethatched cottage

You know you're living in the country when you get a demonstration on rural crafts on your way to work.

semi rethatched cottage

[taken from the top deck of the bus]

The thatcher was really making a lovely job of it, smoothing out each bundle of straw as he laid it down and then adding the straws that he'd plucked out to the next bundle. I'll try and get another progress shot tomorrow.

I was hoping to have a finished object shot of the Bump sweater but ... I left my yarn at the pub, a fact that I only realised when the bus was halfway home. Luckily Ellen had already noticed it and picked it up by the time I texted her so I've been spared the shame of traipsing in there tomorrow and asking for it. I did make a mental note to pick it up shortly before I left but then I got distracted when I dropped one of my dpns down the back of the banquette. Maybe I should lay off the beer on knit nights. Anyway, here is the sweater at the point where I ran out of black yarn.

Bump sweater

I've just measured the sweater again because it looks very short-waisted, despite measuring nearly 7" from the underarm to the cast-off edge, but I think it's just an optical effect caused by the stripes. Still, the stripes are meant to go right round the middle and it's not like a 16 month old has any figure to be distorted by the apparent position of the waist! It has, however, made me think again about the position of the waist ribbing in the short-waisted vest top that I've just started swatching for. Am I right in thinking that layering over a longer shirt would negate the distortion that a short-waisted top can create? Thoughts please!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Dough on the go

Just a quick post while I'm waiting for the breadmaker to go "ping!". I'm making pizza for dinner, a task which is immeasurably more straightforward using the dough setting on the new breadmaker. No flour encrusted bowl (or fingernails), no washing up and hardly even any rolling. Next time I might even be organized enough to put the ingredients in before work and set the timer delay so that I can come home to pizza-ready dough.


I might have mentioned (once or twice) how much I love the near instant gratification of baby clothes. In my view they rank way above accessories like hats and gloves as they're way more usable. You really only do need one or two pairs of fingerless mitts whereas baby* always needs a new sweater having grown out of the last one about 3 minutes after you blocked it. On Friday night I just had a neck band, it's now Monday evening and I have the best part of a sweater, the best part in this case being the ultra cool stripes round the middle. I've made them nice and deep, partly because they were looking good that way, partly because I don't want to run out of yarn, I only have three balls in the blue and the yoke took a whole one!

Having said all that I am craving a new scarf - actually two new scarves. One needs to be tweedy and rugged as I decided last week that my bright pink lengthways scarf doesn't really fit in with the rural aesthetic when I'm fell walking. The other has to be smart and glamorous and I have the perfect match up. The boyfriend and I went to see The International on Friday evening and whilst Clive Owen is pretty hot and the action is very tense the movie was completely stolen by Naomi Watts' 1x1 rib grey scarf. It's early in the year but I'd say it's a shoo-in for Best Supporting Knit on an Actor in a female role at this year's KNIFTAs.

* sorry Aliki!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Spring flowers

I'm really happy that in the midst of all the March winds and April showers (which have arrived way ahead of schedule) we're being rewarded with some very pretty floral displays.


We passed whole banks of snowdrops whilst driving around in the Lake District last weekend. I would have snapped the ones we passed near Loweswater village on our way to the Crummock water car park but we were far too wet by the time we got back to the car to consider anything other than dry clothes, a real fire and afternoon tea at the Borrowdale Hotel where we were staying.

Mum at Crummock water

Dad at Scale Force

I'm not sure whether these photos convey just how wet it was but the only way that my top half could have got any wetter was if I'd stuck my head under Scale Force (pictured behind me).

Scale Force

It was much drier the next day when we went for a quick walk up the Langstrath valley which contains the Langdale beck which, against some pretty stiff opposition, is maybe the prettiest river in the Lakes.

Langdale beck

Every stretch of it is charming, there are foaming cascades and rapids, smooth glassy curves of water over boulders, deep green pools with big round stones at the bottom. I so want to go back and swim there in the summer!

I'm taking a break on the Minimalist cardigan whilst I waited for yarn reinforcements to arrive from Get Knitted. I was expecting my yarn to arrive on Thursday or Friday but got an email today to let me know that they didn't have any in stock and it would be two or three weeks. Rather dumbly I confirmed that I'd like them to order in the yarn before realizing that I'd most likely be in Reading on Tuesday so could pick some up there. Hopefully they'll read my second email cancelling the order before they send off for some more!

Anyway, in the meantime I'm working on a new sweater, also in Rowan Pure Wool, for my niece Laurie.

evil eye

It's a top-down raglan with white and black stripes a la Mr Bump - very fitting for her nearly toddling state.