Monday, 24 December 2007

More felted bags

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

Murphy's Monster

Here’s another project that has been hiding for a while...

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

Biscotti for all

As promised here's the biscotti - a virtual festive nibble for all you blog readers, enjoy! (meanwhile, the support staff at work will be munching on the real thing with their coffee this morning!....) HAPPY CHRISTMAS to everyone.

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

Christmas Poinsettia Wreath

Yesterday we had our monthly trip over to Newburgh for the knitting group at Twist. There were lots of yummy treats because it was the Christmas meeting, and I made some biscotti - one batch with cranberries and lemon zest, one plain, and the other with figs and flaked almonds. Pics to follow once I've made another batch in the next few days but the basic dough was 150g flour (some recipes say plain, some say self raising), with 50g sugar and 2 eggs. It's a bit sticky so I added enough extra flour to handle it easily, then shaped it into a long sausage shape. Bake at 200oC for 15 mins, cool for 10 mins then slice into thin slices and put back into the oven for 5-7 mins each side until golden and crisp.

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

More Christmas FOs

I've been very busy knitting Jennifer Thurston's Xtreme Knitting dinosaurs as a Christmas present for William. I managed to get both of them from 1 ball of sirdar snowflake dk, adding in some dark green charity shop dk to knit the horns and spikes so that they were a bit more interesting and also stiffer. I'm really pleased with these guys, especially stegs. They're soft and friendly looking, and they even more or less stand up on their own. It's amazing how hard it is to put limbs in the right place!

PS I've also put the beads on the bag for my mum... another crimbo FO, hurrah!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Christmas decs

The lab is ready for Christmas, and we celebrated the lighting of the fairy lights with a pilot experiment of some VERY alcohol gluhwein from Stephan....

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Cheese and bread

On Saturday, Diane and Laurence came round to sew up the felted poinsettia bits and wire the stems so they are ready to twist into a wreath. I put on a spectacularly bad display of my sewing skills and managed one flower in more time than it took Diane to do 3 but that's another story. I'll do a post about the wreath once we've added the yellow bits to the centre of the flowers, and for now they remain in a vase on my dining table looking very pretty.

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.

A Christmas FO

Knitting has really moved up into top gear as we hit T minus 3 weeks to Christmas. Some stuff I can't show you yet because their future owners will see, but here is the felted bag that I'm making for my mum. Before felting...

...and after...

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...