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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On your own heid beet

beet heid

Pattern: neep heid (alternate colourway: beet heid) by Kate Davies
Yarn: Jamieson & Smith 2 ply jumper yarn in 27 (grey), 118 (green), 87 (burgundy), and FC58 (heathered brown)
Needles: 40cm/3mm circular needle, 3mm dpns
Ravelled: here

I was so chuffed when the lovely Kate asked if I'd like to knit the alternate colourway of neep heid - you can see from my outfit that I do like my beetroot shades.

beet heid

The pattern was lovely to knit and it came together in almost no time. I love the i-cord cast on and the corrugated rib at the brim, I'll be using both techniques again soon. I also love the J&S 2 ply jumper yarn. The colours just glow and like all Shetland fibre it has a wonderful bouncy handle to it. I'll be buying more J&S very soon - possibly to make matching accessories for my beet heid.

beet heid

Thanks to the fabulous Felix for taking the photos. Don't you think she's done a fantastic job of completely concealing the fact that I'm sat next to a dual carriageway in Reading at rush hour?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Even more reasons to love Never Not Knitting

I won a prize!

Row counter

My name came out in the Episode 22 drawing and I won a 100-row row counter with a tiny little sweater dangling from the end of it - so cute - so thank you Alana. I'm really looking forward to using it.

Phew! It's always a relief to get through Monday. It's so nice to get home, stick the dinner on and settle down in front of It Takes Two with the moss stitch scarf (one yard long already!). I would have been home even sooner except I had to trek around town in search of a "new baby" card for a colleague. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find a tasteful decent sized card (one that fifty-odd people can fit a message on) in this town. There were loads of lovely but tiny baby boy cards but it was almost impossible to find a large-ish card that didn't either state the bleeding obvious ("It's a Lovely Baby Boy!" - as opposed to what, exactly) or wasn't nausea inducingly sentimental (I refuse to buy any card which includes either of the phrases "lovely snuggly little bundle" or "ten tiny tootsies"). It's not as if Oxford is underburdened with card and gift shops! Anyway, card is bought (hurrah for Paperchase) and I can relax with the knitting.

Moss stitch scarf

I'm working through all the odd little balls of Rowan Big Wool at a most satisfying rate. It's lucky that I've finally got the hang of spit splicing as otherwise I'd have a lot of chunky ends to darn in.

The antidote to colourwork

After spending all week working on a stranded project in four colours on 3mm needles both my brain and my fingers needed a rest. Something quick and undemanding - some plain vanilla knitting.

Moreover, since I didn't have any uncomplicated projects already on the needles it had to be something that I could cast on with barely a moment's thought (must - start - knitting - again - immediately) and with no risk of having to rip it out once I come across one of those inevitable project issues that a moment's thought would have obviated!*

Moss stitch scarf in Rowan Big Wool

Plain vanilla scarf

Cast on 17 stitches using 10mm needles and Rowan Big Wool from stash. Knit until yarn runs out. Cast off.

I'm hoping for an easy win on all fronts here. After only an hour or so of knitting I already have nearly a foot of scarf so it should be a quick project. This yarn has been sitting in my stash in bits and pieces for several years. It was originally very expensive so knitting it up will be a weight off my conscience as well as freeing up a lot of space in the stash - they don't call it bulky weight for no reason. And a plain moss stitch scarf will make a splendid item to go in the - no longer imaginary - Christmas gifts box. I even have someone in mind for it.

* actually I did have to rip out two rows and the cast on as I didn't like the gauge I was getting with 12mm needles but when two rows equals all of 34 stitches it's hardly a tragedy.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Happy (belated) birthday

Birthday cake

Although it was the boyfriend's birthday last week I only just got around to baking his birthday cake today. I got the recipe from a colleague after she baked this cake and brought it into work. She describes it as her "bog standard chocolate cake" but as Sam is a fantastic cake baker her "bog standard" is my "pretty darn fabulous".

4oz caster sugar
4oz butter
2 eggs
1oz cocoa powder
3oz SR flour
2 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 190 C (or less for a fan oven). Prepare tin(s). Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs. Fold in flour and cocoa. Stir in milk.* Put in tins. Bake for 20-25 mins until springy.

4oz/125g butter
1.5oz/40g cocoa
6.5oz 170g icing sugar
2 tbsp milk

Cream butter with half cocoa/icing sugar mixture. Add rest with milk and work in. Use to sandwich/coat cakes. Decorate as desired!

* I used Nigella Lawson's food processor method which involves putting all the ingredients in the food processor plus one teaspoon of baking powder.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Oh shoot

I'm sorry I didn't bring my camera into work today as it means I don't have a good picture of the 1 1/2 inches of colourwork which I painstakingly knit last night and heart-achingly ripped out this lunchtime (long story short I M1, K1, M1, K1, M1, K2'd 30 times instead of M1, K1, M1, K2ing 40 times). I am now trying to look for the positives in this.

Ripping out means more knitting - I like knitting so this is a good thing (I'm trying hard to follow Anne's example and be win-win about this).
I wasn't really loving the length of the circular needle that I was using and I suspect that this was messing with my tension - I can switch to a different length needle and it will be better (and hopefully not quite so hurty in the wrists).
When I ventured out to the LYS in search of this better length needle I discovered I already have one (actually two) at home - I spent the money saved on a spinach and feta thingy and a Rachel's Organic rice pudding (nom nom) from the deli next door.
I am in very good company.
I will have fewer stitches (8 per row) to knit this time around.
I will be over it as soon as I've reached the place I got to this morning, before it all went dark.

Had better start knitting then.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Last of the summer puddings

I couldn't resist possibly the last appearance of the year of British raspberries in the supermarket yesterday but when I came to prepare them tonight I realised that it wasn't really the right weather for raspberries and cream, still less for raspberries and icecream (brr).

Instead I went for the perfect end of summer/start of autumn pudding - raspberry and apple crumble.

Raspberry and apple crumble

I love how the raspberry juice colours everything a vibrant red and it tastes delicious.

Seasonal knitting

I love autumn (or Fall if you swing that way). It's the season when knitting really comes into its own. I need to start looking around for an autumn/winter coat (actually I really need three coats but I'm still hoping to find the miracle three-in-one warm, smart, comfortable, trendy - oh wait, that's four ...) but just for the moment I can still get by with a cosy cardigan and a shawl tucked round my throat, even when waiting for the bus back home after knitting. I'm even starting to have fantasies about an amazing knitted coat - there are some great ones out there like Sylvi, Anise, and Sweet Pea Coat. Of course, realistically, to have a coat for autumn I really should have started knitting it back in May! Looks like I need to continue the search for the miracle coat for this year at least.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Square one

Sampler quilt block

Presenting my first completed block for the quilting group's sampler quilt. The block is taken from Lynne Edward's New Sampler Quilt Book. I'm really liking the combination of the fabrics I chose together with the lighter background fabric that we'll all be using. I think it's going to be a very classy looking quilt. This block wasn't too much of a challenge (I'm fairly used to machine piecing by now) so for the next one I'm going to choose something to take me out of my comfort zone - possibly the Carolina Lily or Drunkard's Path (I love quilt block names).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Just checking in

Hey there, just to let you know I'm still here and that normal blogging service will resume in the next day or so. I've been sick of the lurgy and consequently too tired to blog and, even more tellingly, too tired to knit! However, I'm feeling much better today, well enough for some vanilla knitting - a mistake rib baby scarf in alpaca - so tomorrow there may be some vanilla blogging to accompany it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Odds and ends

The bad thing about knitting a colourwork project is that you always have a bunch of half balls left over. Conversely the good thing about knitting a colourwork project is that you always have a bunch of half balls left over. I find myself in this position now after completing the Sheep Yoke baby cardigan. There are two strategies for dealing with this situation.

1) Buy a little bit more of the main colour and knit a second one of whatever it was.
2) Knit another project which uses a bit more of the contrast colours and a bit less of the main colour.

Having tried option 1 before, this time I went with option number 2 - introducing the stripey yoked baby cardigan.

Stripy yoke baby cardigan

I really like the pink, blue, brown, and green stripes together - in fact a few colours more and I'd have a tube line cardigan.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I *heart* Sundays

Sunday brunch banana pancakes

Two hours in the bath reading Atonement followed by Sunday brunch banana pancakes with golden syrup. It doesn't get much better.

Once bathed and fed I settled down to finishing the embroidery on the sheep cardigan and by the time that Lewis Hamilton had crashed out on the final lap of the Italian Grand Prix it was all ready to post off to my sister.

Sheep Yoke baby cardigan FO

Pattern: Sheep Yoke baby cardigan by Jen Little
Yarn: British Breeds Blue Face Leicester Double Knitting in Natural, Denim, Sage, Rose, and Sienna
Needles: 3.75mm
Modifications: Extra yoke rounds and increases to modify the size to fit a two-year old, sleeves and body lengthened

I picked up the buttons yesterday on a trip to Village Fabrics in Wallingford with our quilting group (our inaugural fieldtrip).

Village Fabrics shop sign

It was my first visit to Village Fabrics and I loved it.

Village Fabrics display

They have a great selection and the displays are beautifully set out - little bundles of fat quarters and eighths tied up with ribbons and arranged in baskets everywhere.

We were there to pick fabrics for a sampler quilt which we'll be making as a group project. I'm really excited about learning some new quilting skills. I chose three fat quarters - two blue and one brown - which will coordinate nicely with the backing fabric (very light brown with slighter darker dots).

Fat quarters for sample quilt

Hopefully if we end up making a good effort of it we can raffle it for charity.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

We have a winner

This year's Parlour Games have drawn to a close with a stunning victory for Liz in the Hunt the DPN event. Liz found not one, but two 3.75mm needles in her straight needle roll along with a number of other DPNS (variously sized) and her seam ripper. Liz is now retiring from international needle hunting to spend more time with the sleeves of her Sheep Yoke baby cardigan (and have breakfast).

Sheep Yoke baby cardigan

A hiatus

The enforced interruption on the sheep cardigan does mean that I've been able to catch up a bit with my Arisaig.

Arisaig (left front)

Oddly enough - given that I've been struggling to photograph this sucker ever since I started it - this photo, taken in artificial light and with a flash gives a pretty good impression of the colour of the cardigan in daylight. I love the Shetland yarn so much. Knit at this gauge it's just so damn springy - there's nothing worse after all than limp ribbing.

I've had a horrible cough all this week (think bronchial sheep) so I took it easy this evening*. I ate last night's leftover stew (pork with cider, tomatoes, and mushrooms) for dinner followed by a chocolate cake from Maison Blanc whilst watching (again) a well-known blockbuster based on a well-known best-selling novel. I have to say I enjoyed it hugely.

Tomorrow is a busy day. I've got to head up to Headington in search of needles (especially after receiving a hurry up text from my sister) then it's off to Wallingford with some fellow quilters in search of fabric for a sample square and hopefully some buttons for the cardigan - I'm really looking forward to it. I hope you all have fun weekend plans too and have a great weekend.

* at least I took it easy after I got back from my run anyway.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Grinding to a halt

Sheep Yoke baby cardigan

I'm tantalisingly close to finishing the Sheep Yoke baby cardigan. I completed the bottom ribbing on the bus into work yesterday morning and worked the button bands at Bluestockings on Wednesday evening. There is only the embroidery and the sleeves to do and I'd be knitting them right now but I don't have the needles. There's no way that I can knit them on the circular 3.75mm needle that I used for the body and I can't find a complete set of 3.75mm dpns. A hunt around the living room has uncovered no less than 10 4mm dpns but only two 3.75's. The other two have to be around somewhere but it would be like hunting for a needle in a very woolly haystack. A trip to the nearest LYS after work today brought no joy - frankly I have more needles in stock than they do! There are a couple more local places to try on Saturday - after that I'll have to try further afield.


In the meantime I'll be working on the sheepy embroidery - that's my favourite bit.

Apple and Damson crumble

I finally got back to check out those damsons which I spotted whilst running on Sunday. There were more trees than I'd at first thought (about half a dozen of them) but either they were very sparsely fruited or someone had got there first as there were very few within reach owing to the sturdy barrier of nettles and brambles all around them. I only managed to pick seven, not enough for even a single jar of jam but sufficient for this apple and damson crumble, mmmmm.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

All the fun of the fair - part one

Today the boyfriend and I went along to the Wychwood Forest Fair at Cornbury Park. The forest fair is definitely my kind of fair with demonstrations of rural crafts (lots and lots of wood turning) and morris dancing and a brass band. The boyfriend was induced to attend on the promise of hog roast and we weren't disappointed.

Foxbury Farm hog roast

Yummy hog roast from Foxbury Farm which is good and local. There may have been a few food miles on our pork but they were only just into double figures.

We ate our hog roast with a half of Hobgoblin bitter from the Wychwood brewery bar whilst watching the brass band and the morris dancers (I love morris dancing).

Morris men

The Accidentals brass band

After lunch we browsed round the craft tent. There was some lovely sewing and knitting but I'd already spent all my cash on the scrummy food. We also dropped by the Oxfordshire guild of Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers to see how they were getting on. Apparently they'd been busy demonstrating all day so hopefully that means lots of new members.

More exciting craftiness tomorrow as I'm off to a new quilting group that's just starting up at my work. Should be a good impetus to get finished on the hand quilting of the baby quilt that's been languishing next to the sofa for a few months now.

Small celebration

I went out for my first run of any distance in about a month (due to a combination of visiting with Laurie, preparations for holidays, holidays themselves, and good old laziness!) and managed to get all the way to Begbroke and back (just under 6 miles). This called for a small celebration of tea and homemade (by me) gooseberry jam on homemade (by the boyfriend) toast.

Jam on toast

The boyfriend put the bread maker on before going to bed last night and fresh bread in the morning more than makes up for being awoken around 6am by the sound of it whirring into action. At first I couldn't work out what the grating noise was and wondered why the workmen had turned up to scrape the road on a Sunday morning when they hadn't turned up during the week. Must remember to shut kitchen door next time.

I noticed a big change in the landscape between this run and my last run along the same route. All the wayside flowers have now gone and in their place the hedgerows are full of blackberries, elderberries, and even a few damsons! If I can get back there with a punnet I'll try to get the ingredients for a hedgerow jam.

I really like running on a Sunday morning. The roads are pretty quiet so I can listen to the birds and the wind in the fields and there are just a few walkers and cyclists out like me on their regular Sunday routine. There's one lady in a stripy top who I see every Sunday when I run out that way and it's nice to say "hello" and "hello again" when I meet her going both ways.

It's harder to make a connection with the Sunday morning drivers. I hate, hate, hate it when drivers pip their horns at me whilst running. Even if it's meant as a friendly gesture (and in many cases I'm sure it's not) it makes me jump right out of my skin and feel pretty vulnerable out there on the road. However, today I had one Eddie Stobart driver give me a flash of his lights and then a really friendly smile and wave and it put a smile on my face too for the next half kilometre or so. When you're out there on your own, whether cycling, running, or driving, it always feels great to connect with another person.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Fast and fruity

Fastest ever fruity pudding

Last week in sunny Geneva it was all about the ice cream. This week back in the autumnal UK I'm suddenly craving hot puddings with custard. This is a twist on one of our favourites and literally takes about 10 minutes to prepare and bake.

Fastest ever fruity pudding

You'll need two small microwaveable pudding bowls and a microwave. I use two teacups but you can always re-use the plastic pudding moulds that come with shop bought puddings!

Ingredients (makes two puddings)
50 grams each of self-raising flour, butter, and sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 dessert spoons of mixed berries with juice

Soften the butter then combine with the flour, sugar, egg and vanilla essence.
Place a spoonful of mixed berries into the base of each pudding bowl and then divide the pudding mix between the two bowls covering the berries. Make sure that there is some room between the top of the pudding mix and the top of the bowl as the pudding will rise.
Cook in the microwave for 3 minutes on high, then leave to rest for one minute before loosening the puddings from the bowls using a knife and turning them out.
Serve with custard, cream, or ice cream.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Do put your dinosaur on the stage

Bollo the bifflosaur has just returned from his theatrical engagements in London. He was very excited when he found out that he would be travelling first class but a bit miffed when he realised it would be in a padded envelope. He's not said much yet about his experiences but luckily Matthew very kindly sent a photo of Bollo (centre) on stage with his dinosaur co-stars.

I'll be putting up either a pattern or a recipe for a dinosaur soon I hope - depends how much I can remember of what I did.

Holiday knits

Shetland striped mittens

Whilst on holiday I finally figured out what to knit with my two balls of fingering weight Shetland from Garthenor Organic Pure Wool and acst on for a pair of striped, flip-top, mittens. Although I was knitting them on the train and in Geneva at the end of our holiday where the temperature was in the high twenties I think that the thought of warm woolly mittens was inspired by our trip to the Mer de Glace near Chamonix where a pair of gloves really would have come in handy. I love the natural look and feel of the organic Shetland yarn. You can really pick out the individual fibres and imagine the raw fleece or even the sheep that it came from, so unlike an anonymous merino.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sheep may safely graze

Because I've knit them a fence.

Sheep Yoke Baby Cardigan

Progress between Tuesday night and today doesn't appear quite so rapid due to that fact that I'm working on many more stitches but I'm nearly ready to divide for the arms. Even if my pattern (with modifications) didn't tell me that this is the point to do so I'd have a pretty good idea from the fact that knitting all the yoke stitches is now really awkward. Maybe it could be a new rule of thumb that you should divide for the arms when the whole yoke becomes a pain in the arse to knit, like Elizabeth Zimmerman's maxim that the ribbing at the top of a sock is long enough at the point when you get bored of it.

I also had one small set-back last night when I had to rip back two rows of the fence after realising that it looked more of a size for keeping in the exhibits at Jurassic Park rather than a field of sheep. I'm still not completely sure about the fence but I suspect that everything will look great as soon as the sheep have their little black faces. So sweet.

Sheep Yoke Baby Cardigan

I'm really pleased with the back of the work. I've followed Kate's example and not tried to weave in any of my floats - even the super long ones - and I think my tension is much better as a result. The only place where the floats aren't quite long enough is behind the sheep but hopefully this will just make them stand out a bit more from the body of the jumper. Although I got through the stranded portion quite quickly it has made me realise that I need a technique for stranded knitting (other than dropping the yarn every time Ichange colours), especcialy when purling. Luckily I'll have plenty of leftovers from this projects for some colourwork practice.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Seasonal knitting

Looks like the weather got the memo about it being September. It's turned pretty wild, wet, and woolly outside - I barely dodged one huge rain shower catching the train to the Sticks and String group in Reading last night. It's been ages since I visited and it was really nice to see Ruth, Judith, Gabrielle, Mark, and of course the lovely Felix (who gave me yarn!).

What with the weather being on the chilly side by the time I left it was good that I'd just started working on the warmest little baby cardigan so at least my fingers were cosy whilst waiting for trains and buses.

It's another Sheep Yoke Baby Cardigan by Jen Little which I'm knitting as a 2nd birthday commission for one of Laurie's little friends (whose mum happens to be one of my sister's big friends).


The yarn is Blue Faced Leicester worsted spun DK from the Yorkshire based British Breeds Yarns. Their DK and aran weight yarns come in a range of 20 colours. The colours I chose are Natural (undyed), Denim (blue), Sage (green), Pink Rose, and Sienna (brown - not shown). I hadn't quite finished the swatch yesterday so I took along the green and pink yarn just to show the other knitters and it was lucky that I did. By the time I got home I was onto the SHEEP! I had forgotten how quickly this pattern races along.


Although I'm knitting for a two-year-old I'm currently knitting as per pattern but with a larger gauge. My swatch says that this should leave me (or rather my cardigan) with around a 25" chest which really should be ample but I've always got the option of adding in some extra yoke increases before splitting for the arms if I think it looks a bit on the small size. Apparently Laurie (who is a couple of months younger than the recipient) still just about fits into her 6-9 month sized one so I'm not too worried.

Just a word about British Breeds Yarns. They're a small company based in Yorkshire who sell natural coloured and dyed yarns in DK, aran, and Guernsey weight. Their range of natural coloured yarns includes Herdwick (light and dark grey), Jacob (in cream, grey, and marled), Suffolk Grey, Swaledale, and Blue Faced Leicester. They're not quite fully set up for online ordering by credit card so the payment is made by telephone but once the payment has been confirmed they're very swift to send out orders. My yarn arrived with me the morning after I made the payment! I was really pleased to find a supplier of British breeds wool with such a good colour range as this project (a colourwork commission to be given as a birthday gift for a baby) was my first big challenge in my attempt to knit only in British wool (or from stash) this year.