Monday, 24 December 2007
November and December definitely was definitely a felting phase. As well as the flowery bag you’ve already seen, I also made 2 smaller clutch bags. They are based on a free Knitting Daily pattern by Amanda Berka, which she calls the Squatty Sidekick. I followed the modifications that someone else on Ravelry had made, and added in extra rows between each of the shaping rows to make it slightly taller and rounder. I also made more of the handle in I-cord than the pattern said, because I thought it would be stronger and less stretchy than a flat strip.
The pattern calls for a 15st x 60 row rectangle which forms the base of the bag. You then pick up stitches all the way around the 4 sides of the rectangle and knit the rest of the bag in the round, binding off and separating stitches as necessary to form the top edge, the flap and the handles. The transformation items undergo in the washing machine never ceases to amaze me. It’s a scary moment handing over your latest project to the mercy of the wash and an agonizing 2h20min wait for the 60o programme to finish, but it’s always exciting to pull out the results!
I first did a striped bag which actually became much more colourful than I first intended because I got carried away with changing colours all the time, and then a plain red one. They’re really quick and easy and just took a few days each. The green one has a felted button which I made by casting on 15-20st (I’m not sure!) and then casting them off again and rolling the strip into a ball. It was purely a matter of luck that the button and the button hole turned out to be appropriate sizes to make it work ok, phew! For the red bag I added a magnetic closure instead (after felting), then put a couple of extra circles of felt over the top of the stud to cover it.
One was intended as a birthday pressie for Ange, but once number two was completed I decided it was a bit more sophisticated and that she might prefer the red one instead. Ange, if you like the stripey one let me know and we can swap!!
Thursday, 20 December 2007
It’s based on an old doily pattern ‘hemlock ring’ that was very cleverly adapted and expanded by Jared at BrooklynTweed to make a blanket/throw kind of thing. His is very lovely and earthy and neutral – with beautiful photos as ever - whereas this one turned into a bit of a crazy 70s style beast that was photographed in the dark at the last minute before wrapping!
I still haven’t quite got the hang of making the mental transition between what yarn looks like in a ball and what it will look like when knitted up. I really like the variation of colours in the balls of multicoloured yarns when you see the strands all wound up next to each other, but I’m often not so keen on the way the colours separate out into stripes as you knit back and forth with them. This particular yarn is Gedifra Chandra shade 7607 – a kind of woven chunky cord. I probably should have knit it on needles bigger than 6.5mm but was too impatient to get started as usual :) There are 4 more balls (7613 purples/greens) in the stash which I’m thinking of making a loosely knitted scarf or something with.
I had interesting experiences trying to get the beast into shape once it was finished. Fresh off the needles, it was very bunched up and curly because of all the increases and decreases in stitches. The whole notion of blocking knitting to set it into the required shape is a bit of a mystery to me, and I came up with a sort of cheaty way of doing it by pinning the throw to the carpet with drawing pins and blasting it with shots of steam from the iron. It must have been quite a sight because I got myself into all sorts of positions that wouldn’t have been out of place in a game of twister whilst trying to hold down and stretch out parts of the throw. Couple that with simultaneously trying to control the iron and avoid the drawing pins which were pinging up out of the carpet and flying all over the place, and you’ve got an extreme knitting situation!
Here’s a pic of the shaping in progress. I’ve already been over the whole thing so it’s less curled than it was originally, but you can see the near end is quite flat and nice, whereas the bit further away still needs a lot more pulling and steam blasting. It’s all done for now, but I think it could probably do with a more severe blocking at some point in the future.
Anyway, I’m describing this object as a throw for sitting on the grass in the sunshine with. It’s a Christmas/leaving present for Jane – who is probably going to be making the most of the Australian summer very soon! It is made by starting off with just 8 stitches in the center of the blanket, and knitting round and round increasing a few stitches every now and then. By the end I had well over 300 stitches on the needles and used more or less all of the final ball just to do a round of decorative bind-off!
Tuesday, 18 December 2007
Recipe is in the post below - I doubled the quantity of dough and added cranberries to half, and figs/sliced almonds to the other half. This made about 55 or 60 biscuits - enough for 10 parcels and a few leftovers and rejects for us to eat at home. Thanks to Michale and the man from the Italian Deli in St Andrews for the bags!
Sunday, 16 December 2007
Here are a few pics of the wreath in various stages of construction, including me having extreme difficulties with a needle and thread!
In other knitting news, I bought way too much yummy sock yarn this week, for knitting wraps/shawls rather than socks though. I didn't knit a stitch while we were in Newburgh, but spent a lot of time winding this Stroud Supersock yarn into balls with the help of Peter's handy skein holding gadget. And then I got over excited in the shop and bought some trekking xxl as well, oh dear!
Sunday, 9 December 2007
Thursday, 6 December 2007
Tuesday, 4 December 2007
Jane made soup so I decided to get my hands sticky and make some bread to go with it. The larger loaf is olive bread made with spelt flour, and the rolls are malted wholegrain - I think they were my favourites, I'm still unconvinced about the shorter texture you get with spelt. Both very easy recipes from the back of the flour packet. The flours were excellent, and it was a textbook demonstration that good flour makes good bread. Check out Doves Farm website, lots of info about flours and grains etc and plenty of recipes.
Unfortunately there wasn't time for a trip to Mellis cheesemonger in St Andrews, but I went a bit mad at the cheese counter in Tesco instead. This is the start of cheeseboard season, and we were nibbling away for the rest of the evening even though we weren't hungry! Diane brought along some yummy home made oatcakes which went beautifully with the cheese, and also some tasty smoked mackerel pate. For me, the top cheese award went to the Strathdon Blue (top R). It's quite soft and squidy but very tangy and blue at the same time, not a million miles away from gorgonzola. The stinky unpasteurised brie de maux was good too, oozing all over the place.
It's a beast. I'm calling it a FO because all the knitting/sewing up is done, but to finish it off I have to find some beads to put on threads hanging down from inside the flowers. I'm guessing I'll be doing that on Christmas eve probably!
I have another felted project that I'm very excited about which will go into the washing machine tonight. At the weekend I also made a little hat for Anna's model mouse as part of our lab christmas decorating effort. Dilly liked it too...
Saturday, 24 November 2007
I usually make carrot cake as a traybake for feeding people at meetings/parties etc, but this is a bit more special, and hopefully the syrup, toasted pecans, and yummy mascarpone/fromage frais topping lifts it into a new category. Much more of a dessert rather than a teatime cake. And dessert it shall be! No pics of a nice slice I’m afraid because we’re off to Eris and Ian’s for dinner tonight and this baby will be desert :)
200g wholemeal self raising flour
1tbsp mixed spice
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
175g dark brown soft sugar
2 large eggs
150ml sunflower oil
grated zest of 1 orange
200g coarsely grated carrots
50g dessicated coconut
50g pecan nuts, plus another 50g to finish
Juice of 1 small orange
1tbsp lemon juice
75g dark brown soft sugar
200g fromage frais
1 rounded tbsp golden caster sugar
1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
Toast the nuts on a baking sheet at 200C for a few minutes (KEEP AN EYE ON THEM...my first batch got burnt and went straight in the bin!). Chop half roughly for the cake mixture and the other more finely, for the topping. Turn the oven down to 170C for the cake.
Whisk the sugar, eggs and oil together in a bowl with an electric hand whisk for 2-3 minutes, then check that there is no sugar left undissolved..Sift the flour, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl, tipping in the bits of bran left in the sieve, then stir all this in gently followed by the remaining cake ingredients.
For the topping, whisk all the ingredients together until light and fluffy. Then cover with clingfilm and chill for 1-2 hours, until you are ready to ice the cakes. To make the syrup glaze, whisk together the fruit juices and sugar in another bowl and then, when the cakes come out of the oven, stab them all over with a skewer and quickly spoon the syrup evenly over the hot cakes.
Tuesday, 20 November 2007
The first is a traybake. Something miraculous happens when you use a roasting tin instead of the traditional round tins, you are suddenly able to feed an awful lot of people using the same amount of cake mixture one would normally make an 8in sandwich with. It’s the only choice when numbers of mouths are high and time is short, and there are endless variations to the basic sponge recipe. It’s also amazing how changing the shape of the slices you cut from it can give an entirely different feel to the end product. I like to do lemon cakes and marble cakes by slicing the traybake in half lengthways and then into 1/2in thick fingers – of which you can squeeze 24 out of a single traybake. For coffee and walnut or carrot cakes I tend to cut them into squares instead. I don’t know why, that’s just what seems right!
Aside from a plain sponge, lemon cake is just about the quickest traybake of all: I made this one on Thursday morning whilst having my breakfast, and it was out of the oven in time for me to head off to work.
Crunchy top lemon traybake
225g self raising flour
225g caster sugar
2tsp baking powder
grated rind of 2 lemons
for the topping:
juice of 1 lemon
100g granulated sugar
Beat all the cake ingredients together and pour into a greased and base lined 30cm (I think!) tray. Bake at 180C for 35-40min.
Whilst the cake is cooking, mix the topping ingredients together. When the cake comes out of the oven, pierce all over with a skewer and pour over the topping. Allow to cool in the tray.
My second recipe is another good one for feeding lots of people, but also good if you need the baked goods on a day when you’re too busy to bake because these cookies keep really well. I might even go as far as saying that they are actually better a day or two after being made, because I like them when they’re a bit soft and chewy. Makes 27-30 large cookies…
Double choc monster cookies
200g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
200g milk chocolate, 140g dark chocolate
340g light brown sugar
150g unsalted butter
1tsp vanilla extract
Milk and/or white choc chips
Melt the chocolate over simmering water and set aside to cool slightly. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well. Beat in the vanilla and melted chocolate, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Sift in the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder (and some choc chips if you like). Beat until well combined.
Dollop 2 heaped tbsp lumps of the mixture onto baking sheets leaving space for them to spread out, and cook at 180C for around 18mins. Allow to cool for 5-6 mins before transferring to a rack to cool (they’ll be soft when they come out the oven and will harden up as they cool).
Wednesday, 14 November 2007
I've also been working on a few very girly projects to be felted. Here are some flowers and leaves that will become part of the fuscias bag by Nicky Epstein. I'm working on the boring main body of the bag at the moment, and then I'll need to do the handles and 2 more flowers before the fun part of throwing it all in the washing machine with fingers double crossed. Before/after shots to follow so that you can get a sense for how much it shrinks, it's really amazing.
Some of us from the Newburgh knitting group have begun work on a felted poinsettia wreath which will hopefully be done in time to take to the next meeting in December. We're each doing one or two flowers so there will be seven in total, then the stems get wired together after felting. Here's the first one ready to go in the wash...
Monday, 12 November 2007
Pattern: Stitch Diva Simple Knitted Bodice
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk DK
Mods: fewer increases on the sleeves and lower body, and did the ridges with 4mm needles to tighten them slightly.
I'm now storming ahead with KnitScene's Central Park Hoodie in Rowan Scottish Tweed (wild plum), which is well served by an online knit along, and loads of people are making it on Ravelry. I urge all knitters to go and get on the waiting list for an invite to the beta version of ravelry - mine came through today after a few weeks in the queue and it is BRILLIANT! I've spent some time today adding all my projects and pictures to my notebook, archiving my stash and queueing up other stuff that I've seen and liked. You can take a tour to get an idea of what it's like before signing up, but it's way better than I ever imagined. Do it now, it's a revelation for the web-savvy knitter!!