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Saturday, November 26, 2011

FO - Peerie Flooers hat

Peerie Flooers hat

Finally I get to reveal the genius that is the flooers. I was so excited when Kate released this hat pattern that I instantly began working out how soon I could get to John Lewis, get my sticky mitts on some Rowan Fine Tweed, and cast on in order to have the hat ready before the weather turned.

And turn it has. In contrast to the scorching October day when I bought the yarn it is cold and wet outside now and I thoroughly appreciate a hat that can be pulled right down over my ears. For this reason I cast on for the medium size*, which Kate describes as a slouchy beanie, and it's just perfect.

Peerie Flooers hat

The crown is a little tricky to work after the simple flooers pattern but it's worth it - it's like a sunburst of colour on top of the hat.

Pattern: Peerie Flooers by Kate Davies
Yarn: Rowan Fine Tweed
Needles: 3mm circulars

The only change I made to the pattern is to use Skipton rather than Muker for the darker blue and that was only because John Lewis were all out of Muker.

* full disclosure - one of the reasons that this took so long to make it to the finished objects pile is that I originally and accidentally cast on for the small size and didn't realise until I'd worked about three repeats of the flooers pattern.

Wool on the move

I just found another candidate for the Wovember gallery!

Running sheep

Stampeding sheep in Stonethwaite in 2009. Photo taken the day after one of the wettest walks I have ever taken, to Scale Force with my parents.

Mum at Crummock water

Hardy souls that they are, my parents plugged on through solid rain I think mostly to humour me (I hate turning back with a walk half done). Besides, you can't really appreciate afternoon tea in the cosy lounge of a traditional lake district hotel with a crackling fire and a pile of weekend supplements unless you've been soaked to the skin for three hours first.

The Langstrath Valley (in case you're not familiar) is the prettiest valley in Lakeland - photos really do not do it justice.

Langstrath valley

Friday, November 25, 2011

100% wool

It's pretty late on in Wovember (if you're not up to speed on Wovember please do pop across to Kate and Felix's fabulous site, and then pop back again) but I've finally got around to picking out the contenders for my contribution to the Wovember gallery which features many amazing photos (mostly of beautiful sheep) illustrating the idea of 100% wool.

Contender #1
The fleece!

Taken at the Oxford Guild of Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers fleece day back in 2010, this is a fabulous Oxford Downs fleece - that's local fleece for local people.

Or we have this series of photos from the OGWSD's fleece to blanket day in 2009. Held at an idyllic smallholding in Bledlow the guild took the fleece of a dearly departed sheep, graded it, spun it in the grease, and knit it (also in the grease) into blanket squares.

Grading the fleece

Here, Carol is showing us newbies how to skirt a fleece.

Spinning in the grease

I'm not sure anything says 100% wool quite like 15 or so industrious ladies all spinning away at the same time. You can see that pile of fleece on the floor has got quite a bit smaller.

Knitted squares

The finished-ish product. You can see how crisp those square are with all the lanolin still in them.

Shorn Kendal Rough Fell sheep

Also from 2009 we have a photo of freshly shorn Kendal Rough Fell sheep at Woolfest which was just the sheepiest knitting event I've ever attended. Not only were there a high proportion of breed specific vendors there (it was the first time that I came across Garthenor and Blacker yarns) but there were rare breed sheep actually in the same space as the finished yarns. It was fantastic to see the connection being made between the sheep breeders and the end users in this way and I know that Felix, Kate, Lara and I all came away feeling very inspired.

More recently I even managed to find some sheep whilst on honeymoon in Australia. I know I shouldn't be surprised to come across sheep in Australia, the place is swarming with them, but I felt pretty lucky to find a herding and shearing demonstration quite by chance at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (we had gone for the koalas after all).

Herding merino sheep

Sheep shearing in Brisbane

I love watching sheep being sheared - it's an amazing skill to be able to manhandle a couple of hundred pounds of sheep in such a way that the sheep is entirely docile throughout and the fleece comes off in one beautiful piece. I prefer the character of Shetland yarn for knitting and spinning but there's no denying that merino is soft.

One bag full (of merino)

Any thoughts on which of these I should submit to the Wovember gallery?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Birthday princess

Laurie's birthday cake

My most recent culinary commission was a birthday cake for my four year old niece who had a very clear idea of what she wanted. The creative brief which I received via my sister specified that it had to be a chocolate cake with chocolate icing with pink smarties around the edge and a pink ribbon and a ballet dancer on top. Think I fulfilled it?

Laurie and cake

She looks pretty pleased doesn't she.

The dancer and candles are from The Cook's Cupboard. There was a sharp intake of breath at the postage and packing fee (which was the same amount as the cost of the items) but they came really quickly and wrapped in lovely pale aqua tissue paper - almost as if they knew they were for a VIP (that's very important princess) birthday cake.

From scratch

There's something very satisfying about the words "from scratch" and it's something that I've been doing quite a bit of lately. I think I've got more use out of the pasta maker in 3 weeks than my parents did in 3 years and today I finally got around to trying my hand at ravioli.

Butternut squash ravioli

I still aspire to owning a ravioli cutter but in the meantime I've found a use for my smallest scone cutter.

Butternut squash ravioli

Ideally I would have used fresh leaves in my sage butter but I couldn't find any in the Co-op, Marks and Spencer, or even that out-of-season-produce giant Sainsbury. I must start growing my own.

Butternut squash ravioli

I was so pleased with these, they're not quite as amazing as the filled pasta I had at Eataly in New York but they're well up to Strada standard. They are, I'm afraid, a right faff to make but good fun and well worth it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Last night, inspired by the start of the new series of MasterChef The Professionals, I brought out my new-to-me* pasta maker and made lasagne from scratch** with homemade pasta. The really lovely thing about making my own pasta (aside from the fact that that always gets you bonus points in the MasterChef kitchen) is that I could cut individual sheets fit the round baking dishes rather than having to create a kind of crazy paving lasagna by breaking the corners off the rectangular sheets from the supermarket.

homemade pasta

Perfectly round lasagne.

Lasagna from scratch

The next challenge is ravioli. Maybe I can make a few to accompany tonight's episode.

* bought some time ago by my parents and never used
** full disclosure - husband made the bolognese sauce yesterday but otherwise I made it from scratch