A birthday blankie for Bernard with some bobbled corners…..

bobble pom poms

Over the past six weeks I’ve been taking part in Hanna’s #lentenwipdown…… something I find I do time and time and time again is to start something new when I already have a pile of half finished (or sometimes just barely started) projects that really deserve my attention a whole lot more….I don’t know why I do it, it’s not like I don’t love those half made pieces but I think it’s more a case of just wanting to try everything…..we don’t have a very large house although I’m lucky enough to have a room for all my sewing and fabric and yarn hoarding, but I’d much rather this room was free of all the half mades and just starteds, so the “wip-down” has been a good boot up the bottom to get me tackling some of those very slow wip’s…..

more nine square patches

After going through various half made items to assess how much really needed doing to each one before it was finished I decided to tackle this crochet blanket….and a couple of reasons were behind my thinking…..since using tapestry yarn for my crochet blankets I’ve tended to avoid using acrylic yarn, I don’t like the way it squeaks, it makes me feel all “stat-icky” with electricity (my hair always gets a bit bird nesty when I’ve been using it), and I’ve found it makes my hands ache more than when I crochet with wool yarn….in a corner of my work room I had a couple of big bags of brightly coloured acrylic yarn and a lady on the bus had told me that her grand-daughter used this to make blankets for various charities, so I thought if I finished joining in the little squares for the blanket then I could not only have a finished wip I’d also be able to get rid of those bags of yarn that I wasn’t really planning to use again…..

crocheting-along

Joining in the little squares actually didn’t seem to take that long to do at all, I love chosing the random colours and like to mix up rather odd colour combinations, it’s always been the main appeal of crochet for me, using up small pieces of brightly hued yarn to create multiple coloured squares……

Actually I’m trying to remember exactly when I started this blanket, orignally I made my two youngest nieces a couple of crochet blankets when baby Eliza was born (she was 4 in November so that’s a few years ago now) and I had lots of squares left over, I then used some of those to make a lap blanket for my friend Joyce and as is my way, made even more little squares for fear of not having enough so again I had some left over…….they ended up being shoved into the back of a cupboard where they were forgotten about……when I found them again at the start of 2015 I decided to rip out the third and fourth rounds, and join them together on the third round.  (The fourth round had been white and I’d wanted a more intense spread of colour rather than pops of colour in a sea of white)…..

making a new blanket

I stuck with it for a good while but somewhere along the way I got bored again and bundled it all back into the cupboard…..

layingtwo strips together

When I was making the blanket I’d found it easier to concentrate on crocheting lots of little squares then joining them into nines (rows of 3 x 3) and then joining those nines together (in rows of 7 by 7)…by the time I’d gotten bored there were a whole lot of big 7 x 7 square pieces which doubled up as small window blankets for Bernard to sprawl out on (he loves laying in the window and prefers to have something underneath him…for a cat that was originally found in a dustbin* he is very high maintenance)

sewing in the last dozen or so tails

But it’s always sewing in those yarny tails that are my downfall…..good intentions to sew them in as I go seem to fall by the wayside very rapidly, and while I know there is a technique where you crochet them in as you go, whenever I’ve tried to do that I ended up with fat old lumpy sides….

upside down

Anyway, a certain furry someone is always interested when a crochet blanket is being made, put it down for 5 minutes to go make a pot of tea and you’ll find it “just being kept warm” on your return…..

Because he loves blankets we decided that this would be a birthday present for him as he clambered up onto it every evening, and mewed if it was elsewhere, even needing to be carried upstairs on a royal cushion of crochet blanket come bedtime…(yes, he is one very spoilt cat).

rainbow tails

I really tried to keep on top of yarny tails while I was joining in the squares and as a nice incentive and way to keep track of tail sewing in progress I began saving all the tails in a bowl we normally have filled with Quality street at Christmas…and slowly the tails began to pile up……

I love seeing this mix of colours, combinations of colours that might seem a bit Hmmm in fact look great together, a bit bright and circussy perhaps, but this jumble of colour never fails to make me smile…..

crocheting over where two squares join

And finally…the day came when the last yarny tail was all sewn in…the blanket while an okay size wasn’t over huge or anything so I decided to add a few rows of single colour border, first white then pink and then red…….

I probably would have left it at that but then remembered the wonderful blanket I’d seen in the window of Norfolk Yarn the other week….. so I decided to make some of my own fat and squidgy pompom like baubles…..I didn’t make them as dangly as I thought they wouldn’t last 5 minutes if himself was feeling mischievous, so attached them right up to the edge of the blanket…and filled them with some red fleece I’d bought ages and ages ago….

I’m sure if you have a cat you know what happened next….he’s chosen to pretty much ignore it…that’s been a few hard whacks with a paw of the baubles but for the most part he’s walked past it, nose in the air……no doubt when the fuss of a new blanket has died down we’ll find him all curled up asleep on it……

If you want to make your own baubles this is how I made mine….

pom pom bobble detail

Baubles for a blanket (UK terminology)

dk weight yarn, 3.75 mm hook (I like my crochet quite tight)

Round 1….Make a magic loop and then work 6 double crochet stitches into it, you’ll end up with 6 stitches, carefully pull your magic loop closed and finish the row off with a slip stitch…

Round 2….Work 2 double crochet stitches into each of the previous stitches, finish with a slip stitch, you’ll have 12 stitches….

Round 3….Work 2 double crochet stitches into the next stitch, 1 double crochet stitch into the next one….repeat this pattern all the way around, so you have 18 stitches, finish with a slip stitch.

Round 4….Work a double crochet stitch into each of the previous stitches, you’ll still have 18 stitches…finish with a slip stitch.

Rounds 5 and 6….Repeat as for round 4.

Round 7….Work a double crochet decrease, then make 1 double crochet stitch, repeat around 6 times, finish with a slip stitch, this will reduce your stitch count down to 12.

At this point stuff the bauble firmly, try to use the same colour stuffing as the yarn you’ve used….

Round 8….Work a double crochet stitch decrease all the way around so you end with 6 stitches, finish with a slip stitch.

Fasten off leaving a long enough tail to attach the bauble to your blanket corner.

 

It feels really nice to have at least one less work in progress in the cupboard of doom, and the last few weeks while finishing this has made me think about other pieces in limbo that have been shoved away, what do I really want to finish, what can be charity shopped etc and what can be worked on next……..

*Bernard was a stray cat that was found eating food from a big catering bin at the back of a row of takeaway shops…he wasn’t skinny but his diet wasn’t really very good….nor did he have shawls that have taken me weeks to knit to sleep on…..

 

One a penny, two a penny…my best hot cross buns yet…….

sourdough hot cross buns

I love baking bread, tinkering with the recipe slightly to create different tasting loaves….and while I’m happy to make a fruity loaf any old time of the year, I only make Hot Cross buns for Easter or Ostara weekend…..

When I was small my mum seemed to spend all day baking them, there were lots of hungry little mouths wanting “just one more”, and then my dad could eat 2 or 3 with a cup of tea no worries…..we’d eat them from Friday through to Sunday then that would be that for another year…and when I got older and left home I just started baking my own, something that has seemed as natural to do as any other seasonal eating like making jam or marmalade or gingerbread….

Over the past couple of years I’ve tried to experiment a bit more with what I call our daily loaf, using natural starters and leavens to make the bread rise, the dough this makes is really good for pizzas and fruit topped breakfast breads (a bit like a German style Kuchen) and last year I wondered how an even longer time for the sponge to sit and the dough to prove would fit in with my daily routine so the buns would be ready for breakfast……..

It was a tiny bit pfaffy because you need to make a bread sponge (which is just some flour and water added to the starter) on Wednesday evening, but then you just cover it with a clean cloth til late afternoon the following day, add the rest of the ingredients and allow the dough to prove til you make a pre bedtime drink, shape the buns then put them on a tray into the fridge overnight, next day you’ll want to set the alarm early, take the buns out so they have about a couple of hours in the warm kitchen before you pop them in the oven and bake them……but the mmm’s and sighs of appreciation you’ll hear as your friends and family eat them are well worth any extra effort…

These really were the best buns I think I’ve ever made and while I like my other recipes for hot cross buns just fine, I certainly do think these are the most mmmm ones yet……

My best hot cross buns yet (as far as I’m concerned)…..

fourth-stage-of-the-starter

Wednesday Night

Sponge

200g Bread Flour

160g Starter

300ml Tepid Water

A handful of currants

2 desertspoons of dark brown sugar

Now normally I use milk to make hot cross buns but as I knew this was going to be sitting out overnight I used water…..

In a medium sized bowl mix together the above ingredients, then cover with a clean cloth and leave overnight until late afternoon the next day…..the sponge will be lovely and light and airy and all hubbley bubbley….

Thursday afternoon

Making the Dough

100g bread flour plus as much as the dough will need

30g melted butter

1 large egg beaten

Spice mix*

1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt

*1 tsp of cinnamon, some nutmeg, 1/2 tsp of ground clove and then 1/2 tsp of ground cumin

Add all the ingredients into the sponge and mix together with a silicon spatula (it’s going to be really sticky)…keep adding a small handful of bread flour at a time and once the dough stops being quite so sticky, empty it out onto a worktop and begin to knead it together…add more flour as and when the dough requires…once the dough becomes cool and silky, lightly oil a large bowl, place in the dough, turn it over so it’s lightly coated and again cover with a clean cloth….allow to prove for a few hours…..

sticky and still hot from the oven

Making the buns

Once the dough has been left to prove for a few hours, gently knock it back and then cut the dough in half, then half, then half and finally half again so you end up with 16 pieces of dough which you will want to roll in your hand to make a nice shape….

Place the buns onto a lined baking tray and then with a plastic spatula or fish slice, press down and then again at 90 degrees to make a cross in the top of the bun (I find dipping the spatula into flour every other time stops it from sticking in the dough)…then leave the buns in the fridge overnight.

The next morning

Egg Wash

1 egg

a splash of milk

Just whisk the two ingredients together….. Any left over can be put in the fridge and used for lunch in an omelette)

Flour Paste

3 or 4 heaped tablespoons of plain flour

2 teaspoons of castor sugar

2 or 3 tablespoons of water

Mix the paste well, you want it to be nice and thick, not runny or the cross will just slide right off

Sugar Syrup

A tablespoon of castor sugar

A tablespoon of just boiled water

Try to make this just before the buns come out of the oven, I tend to make it in a little cup and then as soon as the buns come out, I quickly smear them all with this……it makes them all glossy and completely irresistible to all and sundry…..

Method

Take the buns out of the fridge and depending on how warm the kitchen is you’ll need to give them between one and a half – two and a half hours to come up to room temp….

Before they go into the oven, give them a light egg wash and then dribble over the paste to highlight the cross…..

Bake in a gas mark 6 oven for approx 17- 20 minutes ….it depends how hot and tempermental your oven is……

As soon as they are out of the oven, quickly daub over the hot sugar syrup and then prepare to watch them disappear at an alarming rate……

The extra time for the sponge to do it’s hubble bubbling and for the dough to prove means these buns become incredibly light and airy, and yet they aren’t all pappy like a lot of shop bought ones, but still have a nice bit of chew and have lots of depth to the flavour…..

Same day Hot Cross buns….these won’t be ready for breakfast but are nice to have in the afternoon or to have toasted over the weekend….this recipe also uses a natural starter….

If you don’t have a starter in the bottom of the fridge then fear not, you can still make a very nice bun with dry yeast….This is my recipe for regular hot cross buns…….

 

 

 

 

My stay at home Norwich Yarn Festival…..

 

 

norfolk yarn windowA few weeks ago it was Edinburgh Yarn Festival and although I would have loved to have gone and join in all the fun and community and yarn squishing it wasn’t something I was able to do, so rather than sit at home and feel in the doldrums I decided to have my very own little celebration of yarn…a bit of a stay-cation crossed with a festival at home….it all coincided rather nicely with one of my local yarn shops (the very nice Norfolk Yarn) running a stranded colourwork/Fairisle knitting class on March 11th…ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved the look of this style of knitting, but never thought it would be something that I could actually do….however this past year or so has seen my knitting come on in leaps and bounds…. personally I’d still call myself a beginner, but an adventurous one and I’ll pretty much rush in where angels fear to tread….so when I saw the sign for the class I thought “yes please” and booked in…… then ,as it all tied in nicely with the dates for EYF I decided to have my own “festival at home”….really this was just a good excuse to buy a couple of books I’ve wanted for ages and perhaps order some new yarn and needles…….

This is the window of Norfolk Yarn at the moment, I love the blanket and those crocheted bobbles inspired me when I finished off my crochet blanket…..

my norwich yarn fest

A book I’ve really wanted even before I could properly knit was Yokes by Kate Davies, I love the patterns and am very much of the opinion that it does you the world of good to look at things to inspire you to get better at something, a bit like a woolly carrot dangling in front of you…..I think the hardest thing is going to be which to cast on first but there are a couple that I keep turning back to look at……

The purple knitting was some travel knitting, something to do on the bus and to have in my lap while drinking a coffee (more of this another day as it was some of my gift knitting which will be it’s own blog post) I’m finding that I like to start off most of my knitting on wooden needles, I love the way they feel and also I find small cables want to curl up under my chin which these long needles don’t do….

I’ve used West Yorkshire Spinners Aire Valley dk in the past to knit squishy socks for my boyfriend and I really feel it’s about time I made some for me…this yarn is slightly thicker as it’s aran weight but it was reduced and I like these bright colours….In case you’re at all interested you can find a nice simple pattern for aran/worstead weight socks just here…these make lovely comfy house socks and I think if you used a softer, fancier yarn then you could make some beautiful bed socks (I’m thinking to make some with eyelets around the cuff, then thread ribbon through them)….this yarn was purchased from The Crafty Ewe which is brimming full with a really wide selection of yarns, needles and books for every pocket…(they also sell KA needles which my friend Claire uses, (I totally trust her needle suggestions, so I’ve recently bought some of their dpns to try out and they are as smooth as William Powell in The Thin Man films… I can certainly see myself buying more in the future….)

Along with the yarn I also bought a packet of Hiya Hiya bamboo tips from The Crafty Ewe and a packet of Knit Pro wooden tips from Norfolk Yarn…..although I have plenty of metal tips I find I like the feel of wooden/good quality bamboo ones more…..

The Colman’s Mustard postcard is a nod and a wink to my lovely friend Eva in Italy, I noticed a Colman’s Mustard tin on her bookshelf in an instagram picture she shared, and Norwich is after all home to Colman’s…

Both yarn shops are located very centrally in Norwich and are just a few minutes walk of each other, Norfolk Yarn is on Pottergate near Head in The Clouds, and Crafty Ewe is just up past The Guildhall…..

stranded colourwork rowan tweed

The workshop on the Saturday was much easier than I was expecting it to be, I still need to work on my tension and not pull the strands too tight but on the whole I was pretty impressed with what I was able to do (I know I sound like a right old head swell saying this, but I really was pleased with these and to say otherwise would be silly)…..the yarn we used in the class was a Rowan one and while I know a lot of people do like this yarn it didn’t do a lot for me, I think I like those wilder yarns with a bit more baa ram ewe to them, all Gabriel Oak with a little Heathcliffe on the side….however the colours were very pretty even though I know the ones I chose are too similar in tone……

I managed to knit about a quarter to a third of one fingerless mitt in class and then finished it and it’s twin off at home during the week….they are lovely and warm to wear though I think now it’s all sunshiney I’ll be tucking them away until the Autumn…

The workshop was very well priced as it included materials including yarn, a pair of needles to keep and cups of tea and coffee….

 

my own yarn fest

I also made a few other “festival at home” purchases….I ordered some yarn from Isla at Brityarn,  because I knew I was doing the stranded knitting class and thought it would be nice to then have some sticky Shetland yarn to play with (and if I’d gone to EYF I would definitely have made a bee-line to the Jamieson and Smith stall )…..last year I bought this fabric and think it would be interesting to try and match the colours for a pair of mittens or wrist warmers to start with….I was really inspired by the Knitsonik Colourwork Sourcebook which I’ve mentioned here before, not just as a very inspiring resource book for knitting, but I’ve used some of Felix’s ideas and suggestions with my crochet, embroidery and patchwork…and as Isla is totally awesome she’s also ordered in some other colours of the Jamieson and Smith yarn so I’ve since been able to match the lighter pink in the above print….

knitting goddes yarn

The other book I’d really been wanting to buy was The Book of Haps, and I think my first cast on will be the Houlland Hap by Donna Smith, this book was just waiting to come back into stock when I did my workshop at Norfolk Yarn but I was able to pick it up the following week (which meant my yarny “festival at home” was able to last a bit longer….I’ve got some beautiful yarn my big sister bought me for Christmas and think that would suit the Houlland hap really well, but I’d also like to try knit it with yarn that I’ve hand spun…oh, but telling you all about that will need to wait for another day….

I’ve mentioned The Knitting Goddess several times before, I love the way she colours yarn and I was lucky enough to test swatch some of the St Kilda yarn she dyed for Blacker Yarns last year….when I saw she had released another limited palette which included this mid blue green I decided to buy two skeins as I want to knit a fancy shawl to take away with me on an equally special holiday in September….. Buying this yarn I was able to support my favourite yarn company and favourite dyer, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to thank them both personally for all their hard work in creating beautiful yarns and sumptous colours.

rob's handknit jumper

Another highpoint of EYF after seeing all the amaing pictures popping up on Instagram is wowing at all the wonderful handknits that people wear…..and I was even able to participate a little in this…..when I went to buy some vegetables on the market that Friday, lovely Rob from Folland Organics had his coat open and a peek of handknit was on show, so after kindly taking off his coat on what was quite a nippy morning, he let me take a picture of it….what is so nice (and not just becuase I really like the pattern and colours) is that this was knitted by his wife’s granny for her husband, and once he died the jumper was passed onto Rob….I love that there is a real sense of family and love in all those stitches, and how this didn’t just end up going to the charity shop…..I love the warm almost toasty and chocolate hue of the brown, and Rob said it’s super warm and cosy to wear.

devonia

And then, when I thought all the yarn excitement was over, this beautiful braid of John Arbon Devonia fibre arrived as a “sorry you didn’t get to come to EYF” present from the awesome Meg who writes a very interesting blog called Mrs M’s Curiosity Cabinet …. this is a real deep and eerie underwater green yet somehow makes me imagine those huge forests from the dawn of time in dinosaur films …It looks like a huge piece of green apatite quartz with those deep pine tree hues all swirled alongside silvery slate and gunsmoke……. Along with this stunning fibre Meg also sent me one of her beautiful handmade notebooks which is even fountain pen paper friendly inside… and while there is still a way for me to go with my handspinning before I dare spin this, tiny ideas at the back of my mind are thinking to try and find some knitting patterns inspired by Devonian fossils…thank you again so so much Meg, your kindness and thoughtfulness just blows my breath away.

I know this post was all about knitting, and that not everyone knits so hopefully it won’t have been too boring, but I think most people who read my blog craft in some way or another, and so will know about other festivals, and events, perhaps Quilting ones or The Knitting and Stitch show, which again might not be possible for everyone to travel to, having a “Festival at Home” is very easy to do and can be tailored to whatever your interest or hobby, and it means you can support local to you shops, especially if they are having a workshop that weekend where you can learn something new or perhaps support favourite vendors that you know would have been at the official do/show etc…. I know it’s not the same as going to the bigger shows, especially whre meeting up with friends is all part and parcel of the enjoyment, but at least it still feels like you’ve participated in a little way, especially when you can compare yarny or fabric purchases on Instagram.

 

 

A cosy spot, knitting socks for Ivo, sheep spotting at The Forum and baking bread…..

a quiet spot

Goodness, and where has the time gone…..it really doesn’t seem like 5 minutes ago I was thinking about what we were going to eat over the Winter holidays and now all of a sudden the front room windows are open, the apple trees in the garden are in blossom and I can hear fat bees buzzing about for pollen filled flowers to tumble around in….and if you’re wondering about Bernard, well he’s taken refuge today behind the sofa, while he seems to get on for the most part with the little cat from next door, he also knows when he’s had enough of her playful ways and then it’s tappety tap tap at the cat flap (yes, he can let himself in but he likes us to open the door to him…and now said little cat from next door does it too, not that we let her in but we often hear a tap tap noise only to see her face through the cat glass…)

So I hope you’ve put the kettle on and have a cup of tea as this is quite a bit of a catch up and round down of what I’ve been up to of late, and you know by now how I do go on…..I know my blog posts have been a bit sparse these past months and I’ve had a couple of worried emails asking if I had stopped writing it, so many thank yous for those..we’re all okay but I just needed a little time to me….so come on in,  sit down….the cushions have just been plumped, and I know there are some tunnock biscuits in the cupboard……

As a lot of you will know I finally got round to gettitng a new phone, one with a camera and so I’ve been able to share pictures over on Instagram, and back in February there was a daily photo challenge called “yarn love challenge”…and while it was centered more on knitting and crochet it really made me think a whole lot about my other crafting and making…from sewing and patchwork to cooking in the evening and baking bread….one of the prompts was “where I craft” and while for the most part I do all my sewing, embroidery, patchwork (anything where pins and needles might drop and lurk, waiting for the boyfriend to come home and stand on them) upstairs in my work room, I love tucking myself into this corner to do my knitting……there’s a little coffee table just out of shot where I can have a pot of tea, and most days Bernard jumps up alongside me, sprawls all out, has a wash then a little nap…..it’s a nice cosy spot nd it just feels good to have squishy hand made cushions all around me……(you’ll probably recognize these cushions from when I wrote about making them the other Summer)….the side lamp was a charity shop buy, it had a very boring wicker shade on it but I cut that all off and covered the wire frame with vintage Sanderson prints…..and on the wall are some of my tapestry pictures which have been picked up from all over……..

finished socks for Ivo

Quite a lot of my time this year has been spent trying to catch up with Christmas/ birthday presents (I know, I’m terrible but I just ran out of time in December)… I always forget how long a handmade gift takes to make, it’s never the cheap or fast option is it, and I probbaly take longer making things as a gift than I would if it was someting for me, I want it to look just right, be as perfect as I can get it….anyway, a whole lot of gift knitting went on because we got to see some friends who live in Norway, this was the first time we’ve seen them in just over 3 years so it was really exciting, we all met up in Cambridge and had a really lovely day out there (I definitely want to try and pop back for the day at some point this year)…sadly one of their children had to stay with granny for the day as she’d come down with chickenpox (the little girl, not granny) and I haven’t had it so ….. but we sent back lots of hugs and kisses for her…..one of the gifts I made was this little pair of socks for “baby” Ivo….he’s not a baby anymore and is actually 3 in about a weeks time….the yarn was some that I bought from Meadowyarn which is a really nice on-line shop which is based very close to the village where I grew up, so buying from them most certainly feels like I’m shopping local (for Christmas my boyfriend’s family bought me a beautiful swift to wind yarn on that was made by Mister Meadowyarn so that always feels very special to use)…the yarn for the socks was quite plump, it’s almost an Aran weight so these are lovely and squishy, a bounce with every step…..I used this pattern (it’s a free one) and my making notes are just here in case you are interested……it’s a very easy to follow pattern, and has a nice range of sock sizes from baby all the way through to 8 years old….

knit pro needles from meadowyarn

Along with the socks for Ivo I knitted his mum a big shawl (I used the Open Sky shawl pattern by Andrea Mowry as this was the shawl pattern that made me fall in love with knitting) the notes for Goska’s shawl are all here…and for the two girls I knitted each of them cowls which I pretty much designed myself….that sounds way more fancy than what I actually did….this was the cowl for Saski with the notes here..and this is the one for Hanja…..and the notes are here...

The yarn was Hjertegarn Lima and it’s a Danish all wool yarn, I wanted to use the same yarn for all the projects and then with what is left over I thought I would knit something for myself and then whenever I wear it they’d be in my thoughts in an instant……

There’s also been some other knitting going on for friends and family who live much closer but I’ll share that for another day…..

end-of-january-loaf

I’ve also been baking lots of bread again, our stove has been playing up for a long time and we’re just waiting to buy a new one, in the meantime we have a smaller one which isn’t really as good but with a bit of experimenting with dough and cooking times I feel reasonably happy with the loaves I’m able to bake in it…..mostly it’s just a very simple loaf made with a natural starter/leaven….and then a dribble of honey, good bread flour from Shipton Mill, some oats, sesame seeds, oil and salt……it’s best to take your time making it, not rushing the proving times, but there’s lots you can be getting on with while the bread is resting under a floury cloth…..

crocheting-along

I’ve also taken part in “Lentenwipdown” which Hanna from Patch Aesthetic writes about here …basically it’s all about finishing off those wips (works in progress) that are laying around, or are lurking in the back of cupboards before you start any new projects….gift knitting or making is still allowed though….I like not doing things for Lent even though I’m not Christian, it makes me really appreciate it when I start doing them again….and while I seem to have spent most of the “wipdown” gift knitting, I have managed to finish one of my crochet blankets which really does deserve it’s own blog post……I actuallly finished it last Sunday and was so pleased…..being made of acrylic the colour combinations are certainly on the gaudy side, and it’s already been plucked half to death by Bernard (I find acrylic yarn is a devil at plucking, whereas wool yarns seem able to resist his attentions much better)…

whiteface woodland

Other fun and exciting things, The Forum in Norwich was once again home to Maker’s Month in February, and one of the highlights for me was seeing these beautiful Whitefaced Woodland sheep…….it’s actually a breed I’d not heard of before and is on the “vulnerable” listing by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust , oh but aren’t they sweet…..Their colouring was lovely, a really creamy white fleece, with beautiful milky faces and legs with the pinkiest of rose petal noses…..Their horns are quite small and were the prettiest fawn colour….if you’re at all interested in their yarn then I believe you can buy it from www.blackbat.com…after seeing them it’s certainly made me want to knit with some.

The other really fun thing for me during Maker’s Month was getting to do an afternoon workshop with Jen Monahan (she’s Fibreworkshop on instagram and she also has a very interesting blog and sells beautiful hand spun yarn and fibre in her etsy shop)….I met Jen last year at the Maker’s Month, the fibre she’d spun was breathtaking and she kindly showed me how to use a drop spindle…so I felt I really needed a refresher and booked in for a workshop this year, and have come away feeling much more confident with my spindle using…..this has actually set some “wheels” in motion…more of which another time……if you get the chance I wholeheartedly recommend her classes, she’s very patient and is very good at demonstrating what it is you need your hands to do……

Phew…I think after all that we both need another cup of tea, now who’s going to put the kettle on…..

 

 

 

 

Liquid moonlight and silk woollen stitches……

samite colours

Last week I received the most exciting package from Blacker Yarns…a wee skein of their latest yarn blend which truly is, more than a little bit special.. The yarn is a luxurious blend of Blue Faced Leicester, Shetland, Gotland and 20% Ahimsa silk* and has been named Samite after the richly woven silk cloth produced in Medieval Europe…the colour palette has been inspired by the Arts and Craft and Pre-raphelite movements, rich tones that are a little brighter than some of Blackers other ranges, each one by themselves is a Pre Raphelite “stunner”..but seen together…they leave me breathless…

The range of colours is so appealing, I’m particularly drawn to the two green shades, especially the lighter one and there is also an almost egg shell grey that is making my heart ache….

swatching samite

The little skein was incredibly soft and I needed a few days to pet it before casting on (pet it is exactly the right way to describe all the pats and rubs against my face I gave it, it’s all muzzley and fur warm)…actually when I opened the package I straight away was all “ooohhh” and closed my eyes with pleasure as I held it against my cheek….it’s one of those yarns that just feels so …sigh… (I’m sorry, when you feel it you’ll understand why it’s made me go all weak kneed and wobbly) wonderful……it’s nice and silky, it’s soft but there’s a lovely woolly bounce and feel which gives it some body, some stability, a little fudgey-ness…it’s slightly finer than a 4ply/fingering weight yarn, however being from Blacker Yarns it’s still very generous in girth, certainly not a laceweight….

It was nice to keep stopping and really look close at the yarn, the surface of the knitted cloth becomes a soft haze of silky fine fibres, tiny shadows sit and hide amongst the twists, every so often cobweb strands of dark hair lift and poke up from the stitches…

swatching detail

If you’ve read any of my yarny reviews and ramblings before then you’ll know I like to swatch on wooden needles, generally the yarns I like to knit with love being on wooden needles and the Samite was no exception, the combination of silk and wool just flowed along my needles, it’s a very easy to knit yarn….the only thing, and this is more because I I’m still very much at the stage where I have to rip a lot with my knitting so I find it helps me to know what a yarn will do when I inevitably make mistakes, it didn’t like being ripped back too much…now I appreciate I might have gone a bit overboard with this but I knitted up about an inch of stocking stitch and ripped it back about half a dozen times, by the time I’d knitted and ripped, knitted and ripped the ply had definitely loosend up and didn’t feel quite so soft however once that section was washed and blocked, you’d never know it had been treated so horribly, so just in case you need to rip and rip and rip like I seem to do then worry not, it might feel a bit “oh dear” while you’re knitting the ripped yarn but it will wash and block perfectly.

catkins

The colour I was sent is called Aspen’s Shiver and it’s so like the velvety soft catkins that are starting to make an appearance, silvery and furlike to the touch..it’s a very warm stone colour and reminds me of medieval Italian palaces, time worn and fingertip smoothed edges or statues where peole touch them for luck….

As I write this it’s gone a bit overcast outside and my swatch isn’t quite so luminous, however the silk becomes alive when I hold a flame in front of it and the defined accents of the textured stitches becomes much more pronounced….

blocked samite

I really wanted to try out a range of different stitches, textured, combinations of knits and nubbly purls, lace work and fat rows of garter stitch..this yarn loves texture, smudges of shadow sit deep amongst the stitches…..it’s a very elegant feeling yarn and even though I’ve not knitted anything like this before so I’m only guessing, but I think it would be rather wonderful to use for a Shetland Spencer (there’s a pattern in the 2016 Wool Week Annual) or one of those beautiful and delicate looking ladies undergarments which are often featured in Vintage knitting books, the blend of silk and wool being like pearls and benefitting from being worn agaisnt the naked skin….

blocked samite texture stitches

The blocked fabric feels really special, it’s definitely woolly but that added silk just takes it to a whole other level, it’s so warm and velvetty to the touch and there’s a very gentle lustre to the knitted cloth, it’s not so lustrous as Blacker Yarns Tamar but the more I keep touching and stretching out the fabric, the more and more I find myself captivated by it….Samite just seems so made for touching, for stroking (and now I worry about sounding like one of those Marks and Spencers adverts where with a deep Marlene Dietrich voice I say… “Samite isn’t just any yarn”…but it’s so true…

I’ve had the swatch tucked under my clothes and there’s a few seconds tickle but it’s like the gentlest sheepy kiss more than anything else, it’s very warm and when I moved it around to try it against different areas I was very aware of the cold spot….I also tried rubbing it up against itself for 30 seconds at a time, I’ve done this about a dozen or so times and the swatch still looks good…

blocked samite lace stitches

The swatch did grow a little, I used a 3.75 mm needle as I wanted to knit a drapey piece of fabric, with ideas initially to consider the yarn for a shawl.  My cast on was 23 stitches and the unblocked swatch measured 8 3/4 high by 4 1/4 wide, blocked it then measured  9 3/4 high by 4 1/2 inches wide.

Using the 3.75 mm meedles, my gauge over 4 inches had a row count of 28 in stocking stitch with a stitch count of 21, the fabric this created was flowy and drapey, all liquid and moonlight, and yet it still felt substantial (seriously the vest isn’t such a daft idea, you would keep wonderfully warm wearing this as undies)….

samite skein

I believe Blacker Yarns will have some Samite over the next couple of days at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and then it will be offically released on the 23rd of March on their website and also with their stockists, but you can order a shade card from them before hand if you like….

Now this isn’t the cheapest yarn in the world but it might well be one of the most beautiful, it’s going to be retailing for £24.60 for a 100 gramme skein, the 3ply thickness means there is around 460 metres/478 yards on a skein and I’m very happy to say this is going to be a permanent addition to their range, so you can save up or if you have a birthday etc you could ask for Blacker vouchers and then knit yourself something totally beautiful which you will treasure forever….but you really are going to be buying a very special and unique yarn.

Many many thank yous to Sonja at Blacker Yarns for asking if I would like to have a little play with this wonderful yarn…aaagghh Blacker, you’ve done it again with another incredible blend….this is definetly a #yarnthatsbetterthanchocolate.

 

*Ahimsa silk is the only method of silk production which allows the moths to reach maturity and emerge from their cocoons.

 

 

 

 

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.