A wildling green wooliness……

a-wee-wildling-of-a-skein

A while back the very lovely Joy of The Knitting Goddess sent me a wee sample of her Wensleydale Shetland yarn to have a little play with…I’d already seen and swatched some of the St Kilda yarn which Joy dyed for Blacker Yarns and so was more than a little curious about this blend….I know Wensleydale is a particularly lustrous wool and Shetland is more matt so I wasn’t really sure how the yarn would look and feel.

The colours for the St Kilda yarn were incredibly bright and vibrant, very different to the more muted shades I normally associate with Blacker Yarns and when I first saw the shade card I couldn’t help but laugh and think of the Can Can dancers in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge film…all flashes of colour admist twirling skirts and petticoats…..

walking-home

The sample I was sent of the Wensleydale Shetland is the most wild apple green I can imagine, you think you know a colour and then you see what Joy can do….it’s not a particulaly dainty or green green but has a slightly brown hue, it’s very like something I would expect to find growing in the hedgerows, those leafy natural greens you imagine wood nymphs and dryads to be………the yarn seems full of shadows, softer hues slowly becoming deeper and more mysterious…..I love how even on a “solid” colour Joy is able to capture so much more, and creates a yarn where colour seems to dance and twist around the ply…..

As you can see in the top picture, the yarn is really glossy, the vibrancy and sheen of the the yarn is really something special, there’s some very very fine floaty up strands but these are more like thistle down than anything coarse or kempy….there’s also a nice bit of bounce to what is quite a fine yarn and it also smells….mmm, there’s a very (this smell always makes me want to breathe it in deep) soft and warm sheepy aroma to the skein….holding it up to my face it feels a little tickly, like when my cat wants treats and he tickles me with his whiskers when he brushes against me with his furry cheeks….

 

knitting-goddess-wensleydale-shetland-swatch

I decided to knit up a swatch on 3.25 needles and try my hand at a simple little lace pattern (this is a Diamond lace pattern which has a repeat worked over 20 rows) as I thought I’d probably look to use this yarn for a shawl as it’s so fine…..(compared to the Blacker Classic I’m currently knitting with it seems barely there on my needles)…..

I also chose to knit the swatch on these Brittany wood needles, they are my prefered needle of choice when knitting up a swatch…the Wensleydale Shetland loved being on wood…..and I had no trouble with knitting or slipping stitches together, no poking needle tips through the ply or anything……also I found the yarn very good for not tangling up out of a ball (I like to hand wind my yarn on a “nostepinne*” and sometimes a yarn seems to really catch itself and knit up, however this was so lovely and slippy , no tangles…no tantrums….)…as always with lace knititng it’s a bit hard to see quite what is going on with the stitches but while they were on the needle my knitting was surprisingly easy to read….the markers either end of the needle are for the border which isn’t worked in the lace pattern.

After knitting about a dozen rows, I left the knititng for a day and then  I ripped all the stitches back which sounds a bit foolish but I was curious how the yarn would rip…I’m still very much at the stage with my knitting where most projects need a little correcting…the yarn slipped apart beautifully, there’s enough sticky to keep a stitch relatively in place if you accidently drop one, but if you need to do extensive un-ravelling then this is pretty straightforward….and nor did the stitches crimp and curl up too much, there was a little kinky curl but not enough to distract when I re-knitted…..

blocked-wensleydale-shetland

Once I’d knitted my swatch I soaked it in a little bath of warm water and Eucalan Wrapture, there was no colour bleed, and then I blocked it out and allowed it to dry…the lace work opened up a treat….I was really surprised at how strong the knitted fabric feels, I’d initially dismissed this for anything other than shawls but I can imagine it looking amazing in a cardigan, perhaps not one you wear where the cat will pluck it, but something for if you’re going somewhere fancy but a bit on the nippy side…..Actually the way the colours in the yarn respond to light I can imagine every head turning if you wore this somewhere where there’s lots of candles…

I’ve had this swatch tucked under bra straps and pinned under thermals and I’ve not been aware of any yarny tickles, although it is a tiny bit wispy held around my neck, I quite like that feel but I know for some people it’s not so pleasant.

on way to mill

I tried taking a picture near a candle to show how dappled the colours look in that sort of flickering light but it didn’t come out very well…..but the above picture of the little lane up to the local water mill captures what I’m trying to explain…all those shadows and bursts of green n the sunlight…..negative spaces and patterns created by them rather than clearly defined stitches (or in this case, leaves)….

wesleydale-shetland-swatch-detail

While I don’t think the yarn has the most defined stitch, the wispery haze sort of blurs them a litle, the stitches that it makes are no less lovely, the yarn overs and knit 2 togethers are held perfectly in place, and I think it’s made my relatively beginnery stitches look pretty impressive…..perhaps it’s a yarn that benefits from going up a needle size so the wispy fibres have room to stretch out rather than hunch up.

There’s also a wonderful feel to the fabric, it feels very silky and is reminding me slightly of an alpacca/silk blend I used recently but it has way more character….it’s a nice springy fabric.

I can imagine a shawl or wrap knitted up in one of the coppery, bronzey shades Joy also creates would almost look like ethereal armour….and those blue, turquoisey ones are so liquidy….you can picture how a piece knitted from those colours would look spilt, flowing….

Regarding stitch count….on 3.25 needles I was getting 20 stitches to 4 inches in stocking stitch…I forgot to write down my row count and I don’t think they’ll be the same as in the lace pattern….

knitting-goddess-coral

I really enjoyed knitting with the yarn, I loved how what I thought was a very delicate fine yarn has surprised me with it’s strength….

I’ve actually ended up buying myself a couple of skein, and I chosed the coral colourway….I really do like single coloured super sized shawls so I thought if I order 2 skeins I can knit something really wow factor….as I mentioned on my instagram when the yarn arrived the skein keeps shifting from browny pinks to warm almost faded rose petals with hints of vintage rouge tins and old tea bags which I know doesn’t sound too complimentary but there’s something really time worn and faded, almost Miss Havershamy about this colour, which has me proper smitten.

I know I’ve said this before but Joy’s parents couldn’t have chosen a more apt name for her as her yarn colours make me so full heart singy and smiley-ness….skeins of beauty, skeins of Joy indeed.

The Wensleydale Shetland blend is currently priced at £18.50 for a 100g skein.. the skein is 4 ply weight with approx 400 metres per skein.

The wool is all sourced and processed in the UK and has been custom spun by The Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall before being hand dyed by The Knitting Goddess.

*it’s the rolled up cardboard insert from the kitchen paper….not pretty but it does the job.

 

 

Wovember’s woolly needlewrap…..

folded-wrap

I’m so pleased to finally be able to share this project…for me it’s very much been where a love of knititng and sewing and embroidery and of course wool has all come together….

You might remember, back in November I wrote a couple a couple of posts on here about my love for wool and for knitting, how during the past year I’d been on a bit of a knitting adventure and had been knitting with various different British Breed yarns, not really to do anything with them, more of a get to know you, how do you do sort of thing….all this really can be laid at the door of Knit British podcaster Louise Scollay…her podcast has really inspired me to look for local yarn and to find out a bit more about the yarn I use….this background and story to my knitting has really fed my story/need to know addiction….whether it’s patchwork (so and so’s auntie Flossie had this leftover from a pinnie, this was a pair of pyjamies, this scrap was from one of my dad’s shirts etc) or knitting (what’s the breed, the story of the shepherd/ess, who bought me my needles and what do I use as stitch markers….)

Waffling aside, November is also Wovember…a month long celebration of wool and how wonderful it is….most of the focus tends to be on yarn and fibre, knitting,spinning, felting and the sheep…Wovember 2015 was such a revelation for me, it really opened my eyes, and by the end of the month I was very much all about the wool.  So I was very excited thinking about Wovember 2016 and wondered how I could give the organisers a thank you.

embroidering-hand-woven-donegal-tweed

Earlier in the Autumn I’d been in touch and asked if they would like a prize for one of their competitons, and I’d be happy to make a bespoke made knitting needle-wrap made from and lined with all wool fabrics…..

Various Wovember competions take place including one on Instagram, all set up by Louise and Felicity (Felix Ford)…you needed to add #wovember2016 to your pictures…you can see the amazing photos just here ….

I’m really lucky becasue we have an amazing fabric shop in Norwich called Anglian Fashion Fabrics on Magdalen Street and they often have very limited runs on the most beautiful wool cloth….and I happened to pop in when they had some hand woven Donegal tweed…..

tweed-fabric-once-it-has-been-embroidered

I had to wait until the winner was announced and then got in touch with the lovely Sherrie @woollykindknits (this was her winning picture…) and asked her what sort of wrap she would like…Sherrie lives in the US so this was all done with text messages rather than being able to chat with her on the phone…in the end we decided to go for a wrap for her dpns…she has possibly one of the largest collections I’ve heard of though I think Evaowl could possibly come in very close….

Once I’d drafted a pattern for the wrap that would not only hold all the needles Sherrie has at the present, but which would also allow space in case she buys some more….I cut the fabric and embroidered particular areas of it using a selection of vintage wool threads, mostly crewel-work yarns for the fifties.

inside-embroidery

I tried to highlight the tiny flecks of colour that is worked throughout the Donegal tweed cloth….the sprigs of embroidery were worked in small areas on every side, as I felt that would be like little surprises whenever the wrap is opened……

lining-reveal

As well as choosing Donegal tweed for the wrap I also bought a very lightweight wool cloth for the lining….this is a slatey grey/blue colour which complimented the tweed.

The wrap was sewn so that there’s room for two rows of needles, the left hand front pocket is designed to fit both 6 and 7 inch needles….and then the pocket behind fits the 8 inch needles.

finished-wrap

The wrap is kept closed with a piece of vintage leather thonging, and folds over quite snug so it will fit nicely into a knitting basket.

I was starting to fret a little as it was a bit slow in arriving, and thought it might have got lost in the post so was all about to make a second one but I was worrying over nothing as I had a lovely message from Sherrie this morning saying it had arrived safely and was already full of needles….

Huge thank yous to the inspiring team at Wovember, for encouraging me to learn all about the woolly wonderfulness that is just on my doorstep, and big hugs and thank you to lovely Sherrie who was so patient while I sewed so slowly….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woolly ripples and rose pink stitches…

nannys-face-powder-socks

Over the weekend I shared a wee peep of these beautiful socks I managed to finally cast off over the Winter holidays, they weren’t a fast knit for me by any means as they took just over 3 months to knit (though, as always, I was making other things at the same time) but I can say I am very proud to look down and see these pink poppets on my toes….

I’d bought the lovely rose pink sock yarn from Meadowyarn in the Spring last year, it’s the Exmoor sock yarn by John Arbon and the colourway is blossom.  I liked how it looked just the same rosy pink as my Nanny’s face powder (it’s actually her old compact in the above photo)….and like Mooch in the Mutts comic strip, I’m very much a fan of little pink socks

The pattern is called Lunar Tides and it’s by Louise Tilbrook..it blends a series of different stitches into a beautiful flowing and very natural feeling design… with lacework and cables and moss stitch, it really echoes the pattern left by waves along the shoreline …… incredibly the pattern is written both top down and cuff down (I still find it amazing that Louise writes most of her sock patterns this way, she’s definitely a knitting wizard in my eyes) and even more awesomely…this is one of her free patterns.

The advantage to starting a sock at the toes rather than the cuff, is that you have somewhat better control over how much of your yarn you’re then using for the leg…if you want to use up all your skein then you don’t have to worry that you might run out like when you knit cuff down socks….I really wanted these socks to be a fancy luxourious pair that used up as much of the skein as possible and I ended up working quite a lot of repeats to create that lovely leg length….(I’ve not actually washed and blocked these yet, I’m too busy enjoying having them on my feet for any of that)

toe-up-lunar-tides

The wonderfully kind Isla from Brit Yarn gifted me a sock shop amount of assorted dpns last year and I thought it would be a good opportunity to try out the Knit pro ones…as a rule I don’t really like their patterned wood needles, they make me feel a bit nauseous, like I’m on a rollercoaster…but actually these weren’t too swirly at all and were wonderfully sleek, the woolly stitches slid over them a treat, not so slippy as a metal needle, not quite so sticky as a regular wooden one…a real mummy bear of a needle….

I’ve not yet attempted magic loop or any proper two at a time knitting ( if you’re not a knitter I’ll try and explain magic loop a little….it’s when you knit something on a pair of needles that have a big loop of cable between the needle tips…some incredibly amazing kntters who I feel should all be in the Magic Circle with their “that’s magic” skills, can knit two socks at a time using this method…and I’ve even seen pictures of people …possibly wizards…knitting 2 pairs…that’s 4 socks at a time….however I know I can be a bit muddley with things like this so am happy to knit one sock at a time on little wooden pointy sticks)…..so instead I just did what made sense to me…..I had a set of Brittany wooden needles the same size as the Knit Pro ones so I mixed up both pairs so I’d have enough needles and worked a bit on one sock, and then a bit on the other…..just because the last pair of socks I’d made came out rather different in tension and I thought this would keep me on more of an even keel……actually I ended up liking the Knit Pro needles so much I bought a pair so I could knit both socks on those.

The only thing I would change about the pattern is that next time I knit these (and there will be a next time as I really liked the pattern) is to make the toe a little softer, just because I have very round toes and I find this suits my feet better….but that’s a very small change.

lunar-tides-detail

Working the increases around the heel and gusset of the sock was proably the hardest part of the sock for me, I’ve only knit one pair of toe up socks before and that pattern was very different in the heel construction, I’m more familiar with cuff downs and so everything here seems like it is being worked backwards….there was lots of ripping out and doing it again on both socks as I kept making silly mistakes but I got a real bee in my bonnet and kept on until that wonderful moment where the sun comes out and you understand exactly what you need to be doing…..it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, knitting socks, making creme brulee or baking bread, that moment where the cream starts thickening and resisting the spoon (it’s ready to cool and set for tonight’s pudding) the kneaded dough cools and becomes silky (it’s ready to leave it be so it can prove)…tiny happenings where understanding just dawns and a smile beams across your face.

I probably need to now knit another pair of toe up socks, no fancy pattern just basic plain vanilla socks, so I can go over this process again then I’ll have it fixed in my mind a little better….perhaps a pair of really tiny baby socks (no….not dropping cryptic hints about storks arriving, but I’ve seen other knitters do this to learn a technique)

lunar-tides

There were a couple of other little mishaps while knitting…not the patterns fault but knitting on the bus in fingerless gloves using dpns is possibly not the best idea when the driver of said bus is a lumpy and brake screechy driver…..at one point the needle caught n my gloves and before I knew it….a section of live stitches were all exposed….I had to just sit still and wait til I was off the bus and then was able to pick them all up…..but it was hairy scary for a minute though….

And the tah dah moment when I cast off the second sock to show my boyfriend and we both did a Cary Grant double take at the socks…..one was somewhat longer than the other…. I had some how managed to knit different lengths even though I was sort of knitting them at the same time together….anyway, we ended up laughing as there’s not much more you can do at times like this, and then after trying them both on I felt the shorter sock fitted better, so I just chopped off the very top edge of the longer sock, ripped it back to where I needed the new rib cuff to start and picked up the stitches……

However….after many weeks of picking up and putting down my socks were finally finished….the yarn is lovely, there’s a soft gentle haze over the stitches, my toes feel warm and and the socks are wearing well…I’ve saved a little yarn back for darning (I’m quite heavy on my socks) just in case…..

If you’d like to know a bit more about Louise then there is a great interview with her just here on the Shiny Bees podcast, or you can pop over just here to her website.

If you’re on Ravelry then more sock notes and waffles are over on my project page.

And I totally appreciate this will sound like I’m showing off, I’m just so super chuffed and excited about it…..I had a little message from Louise asking if my picture of the finished socks could go on the pattern’s Ravelry page….

 

 

 

Not really been “feeling the burn” this January but instead I’ve been baking bread and knitting, and flirting something terribly with the neighbour’s cat…..

karise-shawl-2

And all of a sudden it’s nearly the end of January, I’ve barely touched “things to do” lists and while I don’t really do New Year Resolutions , even good intentions to feel the burn with Jane Fonda or Mister Motivator have been a bit neglected (maybe I need to knit up some stripey legwarmers so I cna at least dress the part)….. however, I’ve had some good tidy ups of cupboards where fed up with wips go to die, or are shoved at the back of or ferreted away until I feel inspired with them again….

One such wip, though this wasn’t tucked away in a cupboard but was at the bottom of a knitting basket, has been this Karise shawl by Karie Westermann…this will no doubt look a bit like Deja Vu as not only have I knit this shawl before (this is now the fourth time I’ve knit this pattern) but I’ve also knit it in this very same yarn (but that one was a gift for my sister Rachie and this one is for me)………now I want to make this very clear, I love love love this pattern, it’s incredibly easy to follow and because it was the first lace knitting I ever did, the pattern will always own a huge chunk of my heart….however I fell so out of love with the yarn that it just put me off finishing it (I love the colour but the yarn is an alpaca/silk blend which now feels a bit on the scratchy and dry side)….perhaps I should have bought some bamboo needles as I was using metal ones and the yarn was just very slippy on my metal tips…..I don’t know why I thought one pair of needles would work for all the yarns, coming from a sewing background I have umpteen assorted needlecases each with different needle types in them and I suppose the variations in knitting needles works much the same way……

Anyway, other newer projects took over, and for the most part these were all using woolly and sheepy scented yarns, those are by far the yarns I love to touch and hold and to knit with….but I really wanted to start the New Year with clean knitting needles, no new cast on’s until the knitty wips were finished…..I haven’t got a finished picture to share yet, but the shawl is all blocked and I know come Summer when I want to sit outside right early in the morning or on the back door step in the evening, then this will feel lovely, but at the same time I know it’s not a yarn I’d make a special effort to purchase again….if you are at all interested then more notes are just here on my Ravelry project page.

 

ready-to-eat

Other things I’ve been doing have included baking bread again….for the past year our main oven has been playing up, the temperature has been rather erratic and fingers would be kept crossed while bread and cakes were baking….but finally we had to stop using it, we can still use the top stove or rings and we have a very small oven to use while we save up for a  new, sadly bread was one of the things that had to stop being made as I found the little back up oven a bit complicated and I was worried I’d break it….but then in October my boyfriend became rather poorly and where as normally I’d call him down to turn it all on for me, I really had to get to grips with it myself….and after a couple of months of getting a bit more used to it and a bit more confident I wasn’t going to burn the house down, I decided over the holidays to wake up the natural starter in the fridge and see how a loaf of bread would bake in it…

Well actually I was quite pleasantly surprised…I’ll be the first to say they aren’t quite as good as when they were baking in the gas oven, but the boyfriend is giving them thumbs up and that is what counts…..I’ve had to tinker a bit with cooking times, and to make the dough a little drier than normal….the sponge seems to like being left over night, and then the dough has some hours to gently prove in the morning before I need to bake it….but the loaf I baked early this week came out so well I was actually tempted to have a small taste myself….(I ended up with terrible stabby pains and felt like the wolf in Red Riding Hood with rocks sewn up in his tummy) but it was nice and crumby, with a gentle mellow flavour of sesame seeds and honey……

winter-blossom

I’ve not really been out over the marshes for the long walks I’ve been sharing over the past few years, it’s felt bitter cold and has been a bit wet…a local farmer grazes his cows on the comman land and marshes and I think they were on there a bit later than normal as the ground is all hoofed up, and huge areas are a right old mud bath…..when it’s like this it’s not very tempting to bundle up and head out like when it’s nice and sunny…..but the signs of Spring are coming up all around us….just down the road there are trees in blossom, I think some of these are winter flowering cherries but already I’m seeing sharp green shoots poking up out of the ground and most walks down to the shop involve stopping to notice what’s growing and coming up in all my neighbour’s gardens….

And it’s not just things growing…..one of our neighbours (not a next door one but a chap I say hello to because he has a lovely Newfoundland dog that is very friendly…a couple of months ago she ran off with my basket and we had to chase her…it was a bit like a Benny Hill sketch as we chased her around the green…..she’s completley gorgeous and I happily give her cuddles even though she’s a bit slobbery), anyway he mentioned he had a Maine Coon cat and ever since I’ve been keeping a look out for it…..well guess who I’ve now met…..oohh he’s so beautiful, and so so big, almost twice the size of our Bernard….I’m none too sure how Bernard would feel if we took on another cat…hmmm….yeah, maybe I do,  he’d be right pouty and those whiskers would go all forward and he’d put his parts on and play up so perhaps it’s best we’re a one cat family…..

lunar-tides

Another wip I’ve finally manged to finish were these socks…the pattern is called Lunar Tides and it’s by Louise Tilbrook…what I thought was so clever about them is that the pattern can be followed either top/cuff down…or toe up…..I’ll be writing more about these socks in the next day or so, but they really were a great knit…there were times I found them rather difficult, however once I got going and understood what I had to do aroud the heel I was fine….this was a great introduction to knitting cables and I would certainly look at not just knitting these again but also at knitting more of her patterns as a lot of them use softly flowing cables….

The yarn used is by John Arbon which I bought last Spring from Meadowyarn (they are an on-line shop but are actually based about a mile or two from where I grew up and are in the next village along to where my mum and one of my sisters still live), it’s a lovely and sticky woolly yarn  (which is handy if you manage to catch a needle on your fingerless mitts when you’re knitting on the bus and suddenly there’s no needle holding the stitches together……) and has a soft haze over the stitches….

And I think I’ve mentioned this before but I’m now on Instagram…I’m still at the oooh this is very exciting stage and tend to post 2 or 3 times a day on there with a fair bit of waffle but you know me….mostly it’s a little bit of everything, sort of like how I write my blog I suppose , though I know for some people my blog has been a bit too yarny, a bit too woolly this past year……I’m sorry those people feel that way, I’m certainly not sorry for writing about the incredible enjoyment I’ve got this past year from playing with pointy sticks….I love story, knowing about something’s history or background, whether it’s is bit of old cloth belonging to your great aunty Frieda, uncle George’s gardening tools etc…and I’m having a lot of fun finding out about different sheep breeds, and local to me yarns….I love all the different stories behind the yarns and  I’m enjouing discovering similarities between knitting and embroidery and patchwork…more of which I’ll write about soon..

a-lichen-miten

We did mange to get out of the house a couple of times over the Winter holidays on one of those glorious sunshiney but still bitterly cold days…..while we were down near the river this lichen caught my eye, I thought the colour was particularly splendid but also was fascinated by how it looked like a mass of tiny mustardy blossoms….I shared it on Instagram and had lots of people say how much they thought it looked like a woolly mitten….I’d totally not seen that but now…I just can’t not see it…so some little thumbnaily scribbles are being made as I’d like to knit a little pair of something woolly which reflects those colours…

bernard-shawl-testing

And it wouldn’t be a proper catch up if I didn’t share a Bernard up-date…he’s all fine, as I said back in September, the vet is very pleased with how he’s doing, and there seems to be no sign of the cancer returning …so hoorah….being told that was such a weight off our shoulders, we don’t have any children so all that love gets spent on our furry and rather windy bottomed boy…. he’s still pretty mischievious and is firmly of the belief that anything knitted is for him…he’s definitely king of the shawl thieves, and while there are a couple that are kept well out of his way, I don’t mind too much if he likes to nap on this one……

You may remember this was the first real bit of knitting I did,  I was waking up super early to work on it, and while the rest of the house was sleeping and it was all dark outside, Bernard would keep me company on the sofa while I purled or knitted…and more often than not, un-knitted to correct a mistake…so I very much feel it’s both our shawls, and a few bits of grey fluff aren’t the end of  the world by anymeans……

That mostly brings me up to date, and more posts are already being written, lots of things and ideas to share but I’ll save those now for another day…and in the meantime, hope you have a great weekend.

 

Using a starter for an everyday loaf……..

starter-is-ready-to-use

Making a bread with a natural starter takes a little longer than a dried yeast loaf but to be honest, most of the extra time is” leave it alone so it can do it’s thng” time, time where you can pretty much forget about it for a few hours and get on with whatever else you’re doing……

You need to start off with a natural leaven or starter, if you’re not sure how to make one or have one lurking away in a jar at the back of your fridge then yesterday’s post explains how to wake the leaven or starter from hibernation, and also how to make a natural leaven if you don’t already have one…..

Our main gas oven which I’ve used in the past to make big family sized loaves has been on the blink so I used a small top heated oven…it’s not ideal but I was curious as to whether I could use it to make a loaf of bread…..the measurements aren’t written in stone, more often than not I tinker with my bread recipe so no two loaves are ever really the same, but this should give you an idea of the stages involved…..

making-bread-with-the-starter

First you need to make a bread sponge…I decided to make two small loaves as I thought they would bake better in our little oven…..normally I make a sponge before I go to bed and leave it overnight, then as I’m a really early riser I can give it a gentle kneed in the morning while the house is still sleeping….this way you can have a loaf ready to eat for lunch time, if not it will be a supper time loaf…..

150 g of starter

250 ml of tepid warm water

200g of strong bread flour

1 teaped spoon of honey (the size you use to eat pudding or soup with)

small handful of sesame seeds (this is optional but I think it gives the bread a lovely mellow smell and flavour)

Take the starter or leaven out from the fridge,  weigh out the amount you need of your leaven in a medium sized baking bowl* (I like to use ceramic bowls) pour in the tepid warm water, mix and stir in a good dollop of honey and add about 200 g of strong bread flour…if you like you can now also add a small handful of sesame seeds……. (if I’ve got them, I’ll also add a handful of strong porridge oats…for this size loaf I’d use 125 g flour and then 75 g oats…)

Cover with a clean cloth and leave until the starter/leaven is all bubbling up lke something out of a Shakespearean witches cauldron… (this is where leaving it overnight comes in very handy…..you can leave it for a few hours if you like but I find leaving it overnight gives me the best results)

Next morning, add a little more bread flour to the sticky mix (I often use spelt flour at this stage, I never use rye flour as my boyfriend doesn’t like it but feel free to use it if you want…..) along with a glug of oil and a good pinch of salt….I use sunflower oil but if you’re making a foccacia style bread or pizza base then olive oil would be ideal, and for spiced buns I use cooled melted butter…..before adding more bread flour…..how much is going to depend in part on your bread…for these loaves I ended up using another 200g….just add it a sprinkle at a time….

You need to knead the floury mess into a dough but for just long enough for the dough to go from feeling sticky to silky and smooth, it also feels a bit cooler to the touch……this won’t take too long at all….

Now lightly oil a large baking bowl, place the dough in there and move it around so it’s lightly covered, this helps the surface from drying out as it rises…now cover and leave for a few hours until the dough has about doubled……

Top left, mix flour in to the starter/leaven…. Top right, Cover the leaven and leave to bubble up…Bottom left, knead the ingredients into a dough….Bottom right, allow the dough to rise in a lightly oiled bowl….

add-extra-flour-and-kneed-the-dough-until-it-stops-feeling-sticky

Once the dough has swelled up you want to gently knock it down, you want to be firm but not bash it…… and just very gently knead it back into a round ball again.

second-part-of-making-bread-with-the-starter

If you are using tins, line or oil/flour them before placing in the dough and allow the dough to prove or rise again…….more often than not I bake those Venus of Willendorf looking loaves, so I use a wooden proving bowl, I lay in a muslin cloth well sprinkled with flour and place the dough in there, then when it’s risen, I place a baking parchment lined tray overtop, and flip everything over just before slashing the top and putitng it in the oven….however as I was using our small oven I used these little panibois from Shipton Mill….allow the dough to rise again, when it’s almost doubled (generally around an hour or so) turn on the oven to a good hot temperature…just before placing the loaves in, slash the top, I used a really sharp kitchen knife but you can buy a grignette or bread lame if you want……..slashing the dough allows the loaf to expand and stretch….

Place the dough in the oven and allow to bake…… these loaves were on 230c which is about gas 8 for 35 minutes……

Top left, divide the dough into the panibois….Top right, allow the dough to rise….Bottom Left, slash the dough immediately before the dough goes into the oven…Bottom right, Remove from oven and allow to cool……

ready-to-eat

So how did the first loaves in a long time turn out….boyfriend said the bread was lovely as he ate a piece smeared over with a local honey…..it certainly smelt nice though not as rich and deep as when I’ve used the gas oven…next time I’d bake the bread in a metal tin on a metal tray so more heat is conducted underneath….before I didn’t have to worry about that as the gas flame was beneath……

I’ve always gotten really good results using Shipton Mill flour, their mail order service is excellent and along with a wonderful range of flours they also sell some nice baking equipment such as proving bowls and panibois and bread scrapers…..they don’t sell grignettes or bread lames but they aren’t hard to find on-line….if you’re lucky enough to be able to buy a locally milled bread flour then try and support them, a local miller is a real wonder in this day and age.

I’m not a fancy baker or anything like that, this is just how I bake an everyday bread, one we can use for toast and sandwiches…..some loaves look a bit rum and lumpy…others I could happily cuddle….but all smell wonderful and soon seem to disappear…..

*Don’t forget, once you’ve made your sponge you’ll need to “feed” your starter…all this means is topping up with tepid water and flour in a ration of 4:5 to the amount you’ve taken out….so if you used say 225g of starter you will need to stir in 100 g of water and then 125 g of flour…re-seal and put back in the fridge…..

Waking and making natural leavens and starters for the best tasting home baked breads…….

waking-up-a-natural-starter

I’ve always loved baking bread, mixing ingredients and allowing the dough to magically rise has never failed to delight…it’s very calming and even if I’m really busy and have like a million and one things to do, just taking a few minutes out to tumble in flour and yeast, warm water into a large bowl….allows me to breathe…..feel human again.

A few years back my friend Daisy gave me some of a natural leaven or starter she’d made and by “feeding” it regularly with flour and water I was able to make some rather wonderful loaves…..the past some months we’ve been without a main oven and the small one we’re using doesn’t get over hot so I’ve allowed the leaven to hibernate at the bottom of the fridge……but over the holidays I thought about waking it up and seeing how a loaf would turn out in the small oven.

Waking a leaven isn’t that hard, it just takes a bit of time to allow the ingredients to slowly stretch back into feeling all perky again…..

Waking the starter or leaven….

Day one…..The top picture is the leaven, it doesn’t look too pretty at this stage, it’s all sludgy covered with a tangy pickle juice liquid, tip this off (you’ll want to save it) …under the liquid the leaven is a bit like putty….remove a heaped teaspoon of it into a bowl and mix in 100 grammes of tepid warm water…..it probably sounds odd to measure your water but it’s more accurate. You can pour the pickle smelling liquid back over of your hibernating leaven and put it back into your fridge.

Top Left, the hibernating leaven…. top right, pour off the liquid….bottom right, a teaspoon or so of leaven….bottom left, mixed in with some water

second-part-of-the-natural-starter

After you’ve mixed in the tepid warm water and the “putty” has dissolved, add 125 grammes of strong bread flour (I like to use bread flour from Shipton Mill, I don’t use a rye flour or anything fancy, just a good strong flour that is especially for bread)..at this stage you might prefer to mix with a spoon but I like using a whisk….mix it so the flour is all blended in and then cover with a clean cloth for 24 hours……..

Day Two….you’ll now see that the floury mixture will look rather putty like.

Top left add flour to the leaven….top right mix in the flour…bottom right leave the bowl for 24 hours …bottom left, the leaven after 24 hours.

third-part-of-the-natural-starter

Day Three….Take a good heaped teaspoon of the putty like leaven and again mix in 100 grammes of tepid warm water, you’ll find the putty is more springy this time and I find I need to add some of the flour to help it blend in…..in total you ‘ll need to add 125 grammes of flour, and you’ll find using a spoon now easier than the whisk……. cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave for 24 hours

Top left, place some of the leaven in to a bowl…. Top right, mix in water….Bottom left, the leaven after about 12 hours …..Bottom right, the leaven after 24 hours

fourth-stage-of-the-starter

Day Four….the leaven will have a glossy sheen, its full of air and has a nice fresh yeasty aroma…… using a bread scraper or spatular, transfer all the leaven into a medium sized bowl, add 100 grammes of tepid warm water and then slowly mix in 125 of flour……

Cover the bowl and leave for a couple of hours.  The leaven will now be fully awake and look very lively…it looks a fair bit paler,almost white, and is ready to now use to make your bread…………

Top left, add water to the leaven and mix…..Top Right, add some flour and mix in ….Bottom left,add the last of the flour and mix in ….Bottom right, the leaven after it’s been left and is ready to use

Making a natural starter or leaven…..

If you need to make a leaven from scratch it’s very similar to the stages above, it’s ready to use on day 6 so it’s a good idea to make on a monday and then will be ready to use at the weekend…

Day 1…50g tepid warm water and 2 fat teaspoons of strong bread flour…. mix in a bowl, and cover (or you can use a 500 ml Kilner jar) .leave at room temp.

Day 2…50 g water and 4 heaped teaspoons of bread flour….stir the water into the leaven and then add the flour…..cover and leave for 24 hours

Day 3…100g tepid warm water and 8 heaped teaspoons of bread flour….add the water, stir well to combine everything and then add the flour, stir ell again and then cover…leave for 24 hours

Day 4…100g tepid warm water and 125g bread flour….mix the leaven and remove and discard 3/4 of it……to the remaining 1/4 add teh water, stir and and then add the flour, stir well and cover….leave for 24 hours….

Day 5…100g tepid warm water, 125 g bread flour…..stir the leaven, remove and discard 3/4 of it…to the remaining 1/4 add the water, stir well and then add the flour so you have a nice thick paste….cover and leave for 24 hours.

Day 6….the leaven or starter will now be all bubbles, light and airy and smeling slightly pickley…it’s now ready to use…..

 

 

 

A year of cats and knitting, frosty mornings and Summer strolls, handbaked bread and foraged fruits part two…….

July was really glorious this year, early sunshine filled my work room and many was morning where I found myself  waking around 5 and with a pot of tea would settle down on the back door step or at a table on teh patio and have a few quiet moments knitting…..

We’ve got a big laurel tree at the bottom of the garden and I can always hear when the wood pidgeons are in there, shufling about and sounding all the world like someone fussing with their umbrella….even though the house and neighbourhood is still sound asleep the garden seems a hive of activity in those early hours…… the rosemary gets the first of the sunshine and by 8 the garden is filled with a nose tingle of fragrant herbs, the air almost shimmers with it’s oily aroma…..I like to pick the delicate blue blossoms to scatter over goats cheese and salad…….

July was also the month of the Karise shawl…..I’d asked on ravely if anyone could suggest a nice easy shawl pattern that I could knit for my boyfriend’s mum and lots of people suggested looking at Karie Westerman’s patterns….I ended up choosing Karise and even though the lace work was charted which made me have a bit of a panic at first, within stitches I found the chart much easier to keep track of what I was doing…… I’ve ended up knitting 4 of these shawls now, 2 were knitted in the Tamar yarn from Blacker Yarns (I’d won one of the skeins a month or so earlier) and this yarn loved lace work so much……I still can’t really believe I made these…almost as soon as I cast off the gift shawl I started knitting a Karise for me, all pollen hued and sheep kissy….and the others were knitted using the yarn I’d un-ravelled in June….I found I did need to use stitch markers as I was a bit nervous in case I made a mistake and wouldn’t be able to correct it….I’d already made stitch markers in the Winter from some vintage glass beads but this time I made some more using beads which I’d been given by my friend who’d died in the Spring……I use the markers a lot and can’t see or touch them without thinking of happier times with her…..

And I also picked up some rather excellent vintage sewing and knitting books along with vintage haberdashery notions….zips, binding s and threads…., none of them cost very much and the quality is superb….

 

 

I finishd my third Karise shawl in August, this was using the yarn I’d ripped out, washed and re-skeined earlier in the Summer…..this was a gift for my sister Rachie and I think it was a nice surprise for her to receive in the post as the last time I’d sent her a hand knit it had been a dish cloth……and I also knitted my first Ishbel shawl…this was a really big deal for me as I’d bought a skein to knit this with 5 years before, back then it was just a “one day when I can knit” dream so actually being able to wear the finished shawl was more than a little special……

On nice days we try head out for walks over the marshes and while there had been some wet days for the most part the marshes and surrounding pastures are dry enough to walk from what seem like meadows of wild flowers….the Rosebay Willowherb and Purple Loosestrife grow shoulder height and higher,there are  smudges of vetch and swaithes of meadowsweet wherever you look…..this time of  year the colours are now fading though. Look close at any blossom and you’re bound to see bees tumbling around and getting covered in dusty pollen……the blackberries seem a bit small again this year but we’re able to pick enough for some jam and junkets…..

Another rather special knit was knitting a pair of socks for my friend Anne and also making her a needle wrap from an old coat that had belonged to her mum… I embroidered on the fabric and used some vintage thonging to keep the wrap closed……and decided to make some wraps for my Folksy shop…..

We also got to experience the naughtiness that is the cat next door…we soon find out that she is a knitting needle thief and will happily rip out and play with any knitting that gets put down even for 5 minutes……

September was a real Indian Summer, the days were still hot and full of sunshine, the hedgerows fair teeming with fruits but the nights soon felt they were drawing on in and on more than one occasion a huge hairy spider is spied scuttling across the living room carpet (you should see me move, legs up off the floor and tucked underneath me on the sofa)…… the huge copper jam pan is un-packed once more and seems to live on the stove as I simmer hedgerow fruits into panty jams and jellies…..the joys of a pan of bubbling blackberries fills every sense with pleasure….

Towards the end of the month I realise it’s now been about a year that I’ve been knitting, at first it’s just been wobbly practise stitches, knitting up tiny swatches and then slowly gaining in confidence…..

I had a lovely email from Blacker Yarns asking if I’d be interested in having a play with a couple of new yarns they had coming out, the answer is “yes please” and I’m in for such a treat….firstly it’s Cornish Tin II which is all full of bounce and plumpness, so stuffed full of goodness like a Christmas pudding…..and then I’m sent a wee skein of St Kilda laceweight, hand-dyed by Joy of The Knitting Goddess…the swatch card is as bright and vibrant as the can can dancers in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulon Rouge…..

And finally himself gets a day out on the bus to the vets for annual vacinations but this is when he finally gets the all clear with his cancer….I’m so thankful that my vet was suspicious about the lump and advised getting it removed before any further tests and what not, without her I don’t think we’d have our boy today…. (currently sitting alongside me having a right good wash)…so huge huge thank yous to Chantelle at Chapelfield Vets….we think you’re awesome.

Right at the start of October my boyfriend felt rather unwell and when he went to the doctors was told it was shingles….as he doesn’t have the best of health this was a bit of a worry and so the month passed rather quietly….I went out for a few marshy meanders and did some foraging but a lot of days were spent at home where I was able to potter in the kitchen making more syrups and jellies and apple falvoured vodka when the cat wasn’t napping in the jam pan……

Even though this is the second year the blackberries here haven’t come to much, the other wild fruits have been amazing, the leaves seem really slow to turn and the lane is beautifully lit with sunlight glowing through vivid green leaves, illuminating acorns like tiny lamps….

I finished another needlewrap for Anne again using the fabric from her mum’s coat and made a project/workshop bag to go with it…..

The yellow socks were actually knit during August and Spetmeber but it’s been so mild I just tucked them away…the pattern is called Hermione’s everyday socks but I don’t know what happened but the tension is rather different between the two and so one is a bit bigger than the other….it looks like Hermione’s been at the butterbeer….

I also knit two more Ishbel shawls but as my boyfriend is poorly it’ll be a good few weeks yet before I can get them properly photographed…..one is knit using the Cornish TIn II I’d had a sample of…the yarn is a bit greedy soon gets all gobbled up and only the kindness of Montymouse on ravelry means I have enough for my shawl….the other is knit with yarn that I’d previously crocheted into a scarf but hadn’t worn for ages…..

November was for me all about the knitting, all the wonders of wool, local yarn and celebrating all the people who create beautiful yarns for me to knit with…..

Last year I’d not been knitting for all that long when I found out about Wovember, but reading all those woolly, sheep praising  posts was what made me really fall in love with what was on my needles…. Anyone who has been a reader of my blog knows I love using vintage haberdasheries, vintage fabrcs that friends and family have passed on to me, fabric that has a bt of a story to it, needles that came from a friend’s mum’s workbox…. over the years I’ve really struggled to find that same connection with my knitting but thinking about the different breeds the yarn comes from, who’s spun it, where the sheep live, how local to me they might be has fare captured my heart and swept me good and proper right off my feet…I love story, I love a good yarn (whether it’s a yarn on my needle or a right good chatty catch up) but hadn’t ever thought that that might be the way I would fall in love with what a pair of pointy sticks could do……

This past year I’ve knit with yarn that comes from sheep 15 or so miles away, I’ve bought beautiful handspun yarn from a sheep called Delilah…..I’ve been sent hand spun yarn from a complete stranger, I’ve knit with yarn from sheep that graze on seaweed, and fallen in love with yarn that feels like old worn velvet……most precious is the yarn I’ve bought because someone believed in her dad, and felt his sheeps fleece should be valued……

 

The best part of December was that my boyfriend was finally feeling a bit better, we took a couple of leisurely ambles across squishy meadows and marshes, and were even able to take some pictures of my two Ishbel shawls I’d finished back in October…(and yarn has already been tucked abway for Ishbel 4 but that will be a 2017 knit now)…..the shawls are rather chalk and cheese, one is small and rather plump and the other is like a waterfall of soft stitches…..both equally beautiful.

Another smiles and heart warming knit was knitting a pair of socks for my boyfriend’s dad’s birthday….wish so much I’d have been knittingn while my own dad was alive but Phil is lovely and very knitworthy so it was a pleasure to make these, and seeing him wiggle his toes as soon as he tried them on felt more than a bit special……

I’ve got a bit of chocolate and cheese head confusion as I clear forgot to mention that one of my wee little stockings was featured in the December issue of Country Living magazine and felt proud as punch at seeing my work in such a high quality publication….

The needle wraps I’ve made have been selling well, and I love that by knitting and finding out about interchangable needles that I’ve thought to make these wraps…..and I’m hoping to make some project bags that compliment them in the coming months….

It’s been lovely to look back and review my year….I hadn’t realized there’d been quite so much knitting, sadly not so much sewing this year which I hope to ammend rather in 2017 as I have bolts of fabric for new frocks, and a stack of resting patchworks that really need to get made up into quilts,many thank yous to people who’ve bought from my shop or requested commisions, and lastly thank you to you for reading my blog this past year…..but for now lets raise a toast, whether it’s a glass of something cheering, or a cup of tea, and wish each other health and happiness, peace and kindness for 2017…..

 

A year of cats and knitting, frosty walks and Summer strolls,homebaked bread and foraged fruits…..part one…..

bernard-shawl-testing

Sometimes when I take stock of a year I find it too easy to remember the bad stuff, the sad times…horrifying world wide events can all too easily make us forget those little moments of smiles, and happiness and everyday pleasures, a spiral of despair and feeling hopeless can take hold in the blink of the eye and all those good things, however small and unimportant to others just seem gone……

One of the many things I’ve enjoyed so much about writing my blog and sharing pictures along the way is there’s a record, something tangible I can touch and look at and think “yes, that happened and it was a good thing” or “mmmm that tasted delicious”…remember how it felt to sit on the back door step with the sun on my toes or heading out for a walk when it was all frosty out and my nose turned numb before I’d even turned onto the lane…

I know it’s really not the same but all these tiny moments and occasions remind me of the bit in the sixth Harry Potter film, where everyone stands in the Hogwart’s courtyard with their wands out, shooting up wisps of light, sending out memories of love for Dumbledore and the dark mark of skull and snake in the sky slowly breaks up and fades under all that love…..as I say, I know it’s not the same but sometimes it’s necessary to remember the good bits and focus on that, to gather a bit of strength to be able to deal with everything else……

And so that’s what I’m trying to do today…..so go put the kettle on, make a hot drink, and get a plate of biscuits and sit down somewhere comfy as there’ll be waffling and rabbiting as I look back over my year……

Guess who has pinched my shawl

I’m starting with these pictures of Bernard cuddling in a shawl as they sum up my year better than anything else……after being told last Christmas Eve that the lump we’d had removed from Bernard’s paw was cancer we spent the first weeks of the year on tenter hooks….every morning his paws were checked for anything suspicious and days were spent with him curled up along side while I slowly re-knitted my shawl and fell very in love with the scent of sheepy yarn and the gentle click of my needles……. this is pretty much how the whole year has been but it wasn’t really until September that we got the thumbs up all clear from the vet regarding his health…it goes without saying that everyday this year has been so blessed, regardless of windy bottoms and swipey paws….

 

Most of Janurary was pretty much devoted to sock knitting (I’d been warned it’s somewhat addictive…..) my dear friend Anne gifted me not only another pair of hand knitted socks but also a ball of yarn, a set of needles and the lessons in which I learnt to knit a pair of socks for myself……yes there were grumbles when it went a bit wrong, but even better was the feeling of wriggling toes in socks I’d knitted myself…..

Most mornings started off cold, a bit damp and dreary outside, but we were treated to a spectacular frost near the end of the month, all silver and twinkles, glittering cobwebs and frozen marsh ponds…..I bundled up warm  in my first ever shawl and headed out over the pastures, it’s so cold my cheeks ached and felt incredibly rosy and pink….along the back of the golf course there’ss a small copse and it’s shaded, protected from the frost…the sun shines through the trees and the dry bracken just glows golden in the morning light…so beautiful and felt glad I’d got up and out to see it.

February was a bit of a frosty old month, we had one really foggy and frosty morning where the walk over the marshes was proper eerie, all mysterious shapes looming up out of the mist….fog totally transformed the meadows there and while normally I’m a bit loathe to step out where I can’t see more than a couple of feet in front of me, when the ground is so frozen underfoot I felt a lot safer.

I made some more sourdoughs, each one seemed to come out a bit different but I found I really prefer the smell of just a sesame loaf to those made with other seed mixes….the beloved says he doesn’t have a preference so I ended up baking to suit my nose rather than his tummy.

I finished my first ever pair of socks and was proud as punch to wear them out and about, (going so far as to wear them with red heels and leggings so they wouldn’t be covered up with boots) and hot on the “heels” of those were the ones I’d began knitting using some Shetland Spindrift I’d found lurking in my stash…so warm and the most gorgeous tweedy colour….all plummy and fruit crumbly.

On particular days it feels like Spring had very much sprung, the hedgerow that lines the lane behind where we live is bursting into bloom right now, wafts of heady blossom scent the air and it makes me just feel so happy.

And it’s not just nice scents that the air is filled with, there’s also that underarm farty sound which small boys like to make….it’s what I think Long Tailed tits sound like, we’ve got a least one little colony living near by and the garden is regualrly filled with them, they swoop around the the garden and are as impressive as anything by the Red Arrows…..I love their dainty colouring, all soft dove grey, milk white and rosy tinges on their fronts with a charcoal tail.

High point of the month was popping into my local library and finding the floor space there given over to the local guilds of Dyers,Spinners and Weavers…I had a go on a drop spindle and spun a wee skein of wool, so exciting, and I even had a go on a spinning wheel….so relaxing and I just loved it.  I went back the following week and bought some amazing handspun dk yarn, one skein of Castlemilk Moorit and one of Shetland….absolutely increbible to touch and the smell….sheepy heaven.

March was a really sad month for me, my oldest and dearest friend passed away….I was lucky enough to have known Joyce since I was about 11 or so, originally she was the mum of my oldest sister’s boyfriend, and soon she become such a warm and freindly addition to our circle of family friends….she’d always appear on her bike with a beaming smile and a jolly wave, bicycle basket laden with a harvest from her garden, a bunch of something bright and cheery for my mum……we really looked on her as a surrogate grandma, we certainly loved her as such. The past couple of years she’d been lost in a hazy confusion of dementia so in a way I’d already said goodbye to the lady I loved, she was one of the nicest people I think I’ve ever had the good fortune to know.  She’s left a real ache in my heart.

The rest of the month was rather knitty based  (as I said at the start this was my year of knitting)… I joined up for a new kal (more of an unkal) over at the Caithness Craft Collective, and nominated a couple of unfinished woolly bits for that, firstly the grannies paperweight crochet blanket with it’s never-ending amount of tails to sew in, and a forgotten about tea cosy that I super-sized knitted by mistake…I began a “unicorn” in soft blue alpaca and silk….and this gave me the kick up the bum to start (and finish) my Nature’s Shades kal, a beautiful Moonraker shawl in soft and sulky greys, with accents of coffee bean and golden cream pips.  I also finished a pair of socks I’d began knitting for the beloved’s birthday, watching him put them on and wriggle round his feet as he admired them….well my heart near burst.  Even now a year later, I still can’t believe I’m knitting socks…thank you awesome Anne for the lessons…

Other highlights included making possibly the best hot-cross buns ever, making a real nose runningly spicy thai style soup (it was nice, just a bit hot), doing a Spring Fair over in Holt organised by my friend Ruth and bird-watching in the garden with Bernard on days when it was all sunshine and birdsong.

After what seemed like a long, damp and dreary start to the year, we started to see signs of life in the garden in early April…a little smudge of blue forget-me-not blossoms by the side of one of our raised beds and spotted lady birds scurrying about as we began a bit of weeding and tidying out of doors.

I finished my Nature’s Shades shawl for the Knit British/Brit Yarn kal on Ravelry…I was so pleased with how the shawl turned out…it’s very drapey and light, and much warmer than I thought it was going to be….the weather held up well and treated us to a couple of really smashing Spring sunshine days so we headed out with the shawl to take pictures and then walked round to Keswick Mill and saw fish for the first time in one of the streams (which we found very exciting) …  I also took some pictures of the beautiful dappled marking on the Keswick Mill brige, soft speckles of pink lichen amongst the grey stone work, walking home we saw an incredible puffy fungi on one of the posts near the golf course, soft rhthymic scallops in gentle shades.. ..everything you need for a shawl design is there in that fungi…colour, and shape…

Pudding of the month has been Creme Brulee/Trinity cream……so easy to make, and so easy to eat. I didn’t bake as much bread as usual as our oven is starting to play up, but each time I open the oven door it’s such a surprise to see what the loaf will look like, no two have ever looked quite the same, subtle changes in colour and shape…but all smelling so good.

I had such a thrill this month, I won a skein of the beautiful and lustrous Tamar…the colourway was Tiddy Brook and it’s a real powdery pollen yellow green…the colour changes in the sunlight, the twists in the yarn capture and hold light and shadow like you wouldn’t believe….the competion was held by lovely Isla at Brityarn. I really was over the moon when I realized I’d won this yarn, along with a gorgeous Ethel the sheep bag which I soon filled with all my Natural un-dyed British yarn….little did I know this would be the start of my Karise shawl addiction and love for Blacker Yarns….

I bought a couple of old books from charity shops, my favourite being this knitting book from the seventies, all the pieces in the book are knitted by children. I couldn’t resist the cover with that dear little knitted horse.

 

The weather was really splendid for most of the month, the air just seemed filled with sweetness and floral scents each time we stepped out the door…just up the road form us is a big patch of grass where all the dog walkers meet up and if I time my trips just right I get to have doggy cuddles with some of my four legged friends….at one side of the green there is a clump of Stag Horn Sumac growing and at this time of year those first leafy fronds look all the world like phoenix feathers or dragons feet…fancible imaginings but I think you can see where I’m coming from..I can’t walk past these without stroking them, it’s always the simplest pleasures make me happy…..

I also finished my second Moonraker shawl, this was using an alpaca/silk blend with the woolly pips of colour knitted with vintage tapestry wool…at first I was quite pleased with it but after wearing it a few times the different weight of the yarn I used didn’t really feel right…..definitely a case of (k)notting rather than knitting…. oh well, not the end of the world but I did feel a bit disappointed.

I also wrote a rather lengthy piece on what I like to use for my quilting….it really gets my goat that a lot of people seem to think you need to spend lots of money to be able to make a quilt…yes you will need to spend a few pounds but if you spend it in the right places and not on a lot of what I find un-necessary or not needed straight away equiptment then a quilt needed cost an arm and a leg to make….

As the weather is nice lemon possets become a favourite pudding to finish off a meal, and I baked some Moomin Mama buns….

June was rather damp….barely a day seemed to go by without it raining, though the garden seemed to thrive on all the water and almost overnight our raised beds were full of wild flower blossoms and smudges of forget me nots and dandelions lined the steps and path to the compost bin…..

Back in May I started knitting my first ever cardigan and in June I was able to cast it off the needles…. the pattern is Ramona and I love that the techinques for making increases in the Open Sky Shawl are now used to make increases in this…..the yarn is some I’d bought years ago from a charity shop, it’s all wool but reminded me of the pebbly beache sof the Suffolk coastline where I grew up…(however looking down at it now while I typ I’m all too aware of how it’s bobled and pilled so not great yarn but it is nice and cosy to wear….)

I also knit my first ever pair of toe up socks…the pattern is by Rachel Atkinson and was a gift from my friend Julia in Scotland…it’s all nubbled in texture…I used a now discontinued homemade strawberry ice-cream pink from Blacker Yarns and can’t not think of holidays in Italy where gelatto is served in glass dishes……

I also made some elderflower cordial, not so much as last year as it was too wet, but once again I had a little furry asisstant to help me check for insects in the blossoms..and I also made a fruity semi-freddo….

After listening to podcasts by both Caithness Louise and Shiny Bees Jo I ripped out the alpaca/silk shawl…..no tears, no sighs of bother….this is one of the joys of coming to knitting from a background in sewing…the ease with which a yarn can be re-used…..so with the help of an upturned chair, a sink of warm water and a rolled up card tube from the kitchen roll to use as a make shift nostepinne the yarn is re-balled and looks good as new…..

 

Part two tomorrow……

 

A little bit of seasonal pottering in the kitchen and a round up of our favourite Yuletide recipes…..

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I know not everyone likes pottering about in the kitchen but I’ve always enjoyed using my time in there to mark the seasons…we try to eat seasonally with our vegetables and I find my baking or jam making shifts accordingly too…..I’m always happy to try out new recipes but over the past some years I find myself returning to the following tried and trusted recipes, which for us, have become a big part of our seasonal celebrations….I’m currently writing up a selection* of our favourite recipes as part of a Christmas/New Year present for some friends that live a really long way away which means we only get to see them very occaisonally… (I thought they could add to what we send with favourite recipes from their family)….I’ve gone through the things we like the most and thought I’d round them all up and put links to them here tooo which makes it easier to share them with other people too….

Citrussy almond biscuits…..(light and delicate and all citrussy, these aren’t only nice and refreshing but if you get a gippy tummy at all or wake up a bit nauseus due to overindulging rather the night before then they seem to very good at helping to calm down the flutters)

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While you probably won’t see the seville oranges pre Christmas, for some reason I always think of this as a Christmas make…..the smell of those oranges is so wonderful and fresh…just watch out for little bears who may want you to make them a sandwich…..

A slow simmering marmalade…..

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You can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man…sticky and dark or crisp and biscuitty…I love both versions of gingerbread…the spicier the better….

dark and sticky…slowly filling the house with good smells while it bakes….

crisp and biscuitty…good for building houses and cutting little figures from…

homemade mincepies

I love mincemeat, the smell of it wafting up throughout the house while the fruit is simmering away on the stove is such an evocative Christmassy smell….while I have a really silly amount of different recipes for making it, these are the two I find I use more than any other…..

mincemeat made with cider…..

mincemeat made with vegetable suet….

breakfast buns

And I don’t just save mincemeat for the mince pies….. a good old dollop or two of mincemeat makes for an instant fruity loaf if you fancy baking some bread, and if you enrich the dough with butter milk and eggs you can easily make a sort of panettone style mufffin…..I also like adding a heaped spoonful or two of mincemeat into a plum or apple crumble……

It also works well in this recipe for fruity breakfast buns…..so good with salty butter and a smear of dark jam…..but you could also use it in a dough mix for hot cross bun style buns…..

And if you have bits of pastry left after making any mincepies then this recipe for tiny spiced biscuits makes use of every last scrap……

cinnamon swirl biscuits…..

Hope you enjoy baking and cooking these as much as we do……….

*The book will include recipes that we regularly cook and bake such as casseroles and breads, cakes etc but will also include recipes for jams and jellys, furniture polish and hand salves…..