Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Knitted Christmas Fare

Hold on to your hats, I'm doing a new post! I don't have any decent excuses for the 2 month silence - a combination of being very busy (first month) and then operating at a couple of gears slower than normal (second month). Sorry guys. Anyway, I'm back, and have got quite a lot of stuff saved up to share with you. I am now no longer involved in the lab which is great, and even better is that I have a part time job at Twist Fibre Craft Studio - hurrah! I'm really enjoying my job, especially when I get to make samples from the shop. It's very tempting to spend all my wages there and more, I think I'll end up working to pay off my debt to them rather than to earn money!

Bearing in mind the time of year, here are some pics of the knitted Christmas baubles that I made for the shop windows. Pattern is available if you contact us via the shop website here!

Also, here's a pic of the festive jumper I've been knitting for William that I alluded to in a previous post. I also made a matching hat and cowl, although the colourwork is not so good on the hat. It was a kind of practice run so that I knew what to do with the jumper. The jumper is passed on the knitty pattern called norgi, but since I wasn't using wool I chickened out of doing the steeks. Instead I moved the colourwork to the bottom of the jumper knitted in the round, then split at the armholes to knit the front and back top separately. I had to jig the arrangement of the trees and reindeer around a bit to make them fit in with the number of stitches I had.

Lots of festive wishes and Happy New Year to everyone :)

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Look what I won!

Hey guess what? I won this...

...for this (see previous post also)....

Hurrah! Big thanks to Laura and Peter at Twist Fibre Craft Studio for a fun day and a great exhibition, and congratulations also to Andrea and Diane who cleaned up the top prizes with their fantastic creations. Well done all round!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Silly season for knitters

Today I went with Diane and Andrea to Newburgh where Twist Fibre Craft Studio were hosting a very spectacular Rowan exhibition to celebrate the 30th birthday of the company, and national knitting week. Pretty impressive stuff, very inspirational... I was 'inspired' to add to my stash by buying some felted tweed, some alpaca and some kimono angora (the last two were in the sale box, hurrah), and also the Rowan 41 book which had quite a few nice things from the exhibition in it.

We spent most of the day there, and got stuck in to make a some hats for the Innocent Smoothie big knit 2008. Every year they hold a campaign to sell smoothies with hats, thereby raising money towards providing hot meals, blankets and advice to older people on how to keep their houses warm in winter.

I kicked off by making a snowboarding smoothie hats with jester horns and earflaps, and then went on to make a pineapple. Andrea brought along a fabulous creation named 'brain explosion' and also knitted a cactus in a pot, whilst Diane did a cheeky chicken with brilliant dangly legs. Apologies for the rubbish pics, Diane will defo have much better ones so check that out, but here they are...

And while we are on the subject of silly knitting, what do you reckon to my hideously bright legs-are-on-fire legwarmers?? I took these along to work on when we had a knitting group excursion to Di Gilpin in St Andrews, and I think my fellow knitters thought I'd lost the plot. They were very polite about my shocking acrylic creation, but eyebrows were raised! I don't have the full details yet so will save the story for another time, but it looks like they did their job and got me through selection for a very fun trip that will be coming up in November. Watch this space :)

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Malt loaf?

I had a big sort-out of my kitchen cupboards at the weekend, and was rather shocked at the mountain of dry food I have managed to stock pile. I've made a new resolution to use up store cupboard items rather keep buying stuff and putting it away never to be seen again.

A happy side effect of all this sensible behaviour is that I've been baking quite a lot. I used up my coconut in some coconut and lime muffins the other day, and then I was able to transform some rather soft branflakes into malt loaf. It's a recipe that my mum used to make a lot, and we always called it malt loaf. I have since decided that it doesn't actually contain any malt, although it does have that characteristic chewy texture and I bet the addition of a bit of malt extract would work well.

It's a great recipe for store cupboard stash busting, and takes about 5 minutes to put together. It's dairy free (unless you use milky tea) and fat free, so apart from the sugar it's almost healthy!I used a 500ml yoghurt pot as my measure, and had enough for 2 loaves.

Mrs C's 'Malt Loaf'

1 cup bran flakes

1 cup dried fruit/nuts

1 cup tea

1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar (cut down from 1 cup in the original)

1 cup self raising flour

Mix everything together except the flour and leave to soak for a few hours or overnight. Stir in the flour, turn into a greased and lined loaf tin then bake at 190oC for 1h or slightly longer, until a skewer comes out clean.

That's essentially it, but here are a few extra thoughts...

It would work with other bran-based cereals such as all bran, or a mixture of whatever you've got in the cupboard. I think my mum has even used cornflakes too. The finished loaf varies quite a lot by adding different fruit and nut mixtures, and I would suggest altering the sugar content accordingly - a fruity loaf won't need as much sugar as one with more nuts. Normal tea (with anything from 0 to 50% milk) adds a nice flavour, but using fruit tea instead is a nice way to complement the dried fruit you have chosen to add to the mix. You can also vary the flour - white or wholemeal would both work, or a mixture of the two. I was able to finish up a packet of white then top it up with wholemeal for the loaf in the pic.

So I'll put the kettle on shall I?

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Slouchy beret

I used to not like this time of year at all - things dying off everywhere, worsening weather, darkness drawing in etc etc - but now I am quite the opposite. I'm loving all the autumnal produce (have been eating squash more or less non stop recently), and I have a sense of excitement and anticipation at the arrival of true knitting weather.

Out come the hand knits: shawls, jumpers, hats and scarfs abound. Hurrah! And of course there's all the Christmas knitting to get started on. I had a minor diversion over the last couple of days though, and decided to do a quick hat. I have only ever made beanie style hats before but have often admired berets and slouchy hats on ravelry. Jared at Brooklyn Tweed recently published his take on the style (ravelers go here), and I was inspiret to give it a try.

I used some yarn that I got in a stash from the charity shop, it's acrylic but super soft and a bit fuzzy, I really like it. No pattern mods required, I followed it to the letter. Not difficult but not boring, and finished in 2 sittings. I'm happy with the end result and will be knitting more slouchy hats soon!
Pattern: Porom, by Jared Flood
Yarn: Patons Chantal (discontinued) used less than 1.5 balls

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Space invaders and reindeer

A few months back, I decided to have a go at two-colour knitting after watching some tutorials on the web. It's a bit tricky to get the tension right when one colour is carried behind the work, because the carried colour tends to pull too tightly on the knitted stitches. Anyway, I took the chart for the fabulous space invaders socks on knitty called bmp, and turned it into a tank top for William.

A lot of sewing of ends later, the final result was ok for a first attempt, but I think I'm going to partly blame the cheap acrylic yarn for some of the uneven tension.

The Christmas knitting frenzy has begun over the last week, and although I'm going to wait for the full reveal, here's a peak at my most recent two-colour project which is looking much neater...

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Borough Market

After a very interesting and fun week of work experience at Notting Grill last month, I decided to set my alarm early on Saturday morning and head down to Borough Market for some shopping and breakfast.

I had a very lovely morning wandering around smelling and tasting as much stuff as possible, and struggled to carry home all the stuff that I bought. The range of fruit and veg on display was stunning, and there were plenty of not so healthy things to enjoy too...

As the crowds started to arrive I fulfilled another food ambition and went upstairs to Roast... for my third breakfast of the day! I munched through tomatoes on toast and a big pot of tea whilst looking down on the shoppers in the market, and would certainly go back there again for a full meal.

Monday, 29 September 2008

London knitting, Cambridge dining

It's been a bit quiet on the blogging front because for the last three weeks I've been in London on work experience placements. More on that later, but first it's time to catch up on knitting news. I was delighted to discover that my good friend Tom's swanky pad was 2 minutes walk from iknit London. Hurrah! I went along to knitting group when I was able to, and also added to my stash with some very very soft malabrigo laceweight, and a new yarn from Lang called West which might be turned into a Christmas pressie depending on how the colour variations work out when it's knitted up...

In terms of actual knitting I've been working on a Stefanie Japel pattern called Orangina, a lace patterned sleeveless top knitted in the round. Here it is stretched over Tom's ironing board to get an idea of the pattern. I took the lace pattern but reduced the number of repeats to make it the right width across my shoulders.

I also made a shrug which I wanted to wear at the end of my trip for a reunion dinner at Fitzwilliam College to celebrate 10 years since matriculating (I feel so old!). I used Paton's Smoothie and a knitty pattern 'I do'. It is knitted in the round from sleeve to centre back, then the two halves grafted together. The first half was no problem but I got a bit confused flipping the increases over for the second half and had to knit it again. I finished it on time however, and was quite happy with the final product. I modified the lace pattern to make all the knit stitches on one side rather than alternating chunks of knit and purl. There are no decent photos of me wearing it yet, but you can get an idea at least.

I had a lovely end to my trip by travelling over to Cambridge to stay with Ange and Rich for the reunion celebrations. A classic case of baby logic - cakey jammy face and hands, plus freshly changed lady in a clean dres = time for a hug! Dinner in college is always a great occasion, even if the food leaves a lot to be desired. Just goes to show that sometimes a good meal is about so much more than what's on the plate, especially when we had the chance to fill up on Ange's teacakes when we got home ;)

PS I have to say a big thankyou to Smariek for giving me a blog award - my first one! She's the creator of the famous utopia hat and loads of other lovely knitting designs... a genius :)

Thursday, 4 September 2008


I am a big fan of afternoon tea. I think it needs to be reinstated as a regular ritual - a good chance to pause for half an hour during the day, top up on tea and snacks and catch up with a few friends. Oh and knock out a couple more rows of knitting while you're there too of course!
Here's what I've been baking this week...

And today I'm hoping to go blackberry picking over the river in Fife, they are finally starting to get ripe even up here in Scotland.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Bread for cheats

It's been a little while since I've done a foody post, mostly because I've been baking rather boring (though tasty) things like scones and muffins recently. One new discovery is worth a mention however: no knead bread. I had read about it some time ago but was very suspicious and not really interested to have a go. Loads of people in the ravelry bread and yarn group have been raving about it though so curiosity got the better of me and I jumped on the band wagon.

The idea is that you can mix up a big batch of dough and keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, ready to pull off a lump and bake on demand fresh every time. There is a book describing the technique and a whole series of variations upon the theme, and the authors have a blog on the subject here.

I tried their basic recipe for master dough, but found it quite salty so second time round I reduced the yeast and salt content. My master mix now contains 6.5 cups bread flour, 3 cups water, 1 rounded dsp dried yeast and 1 dsp salt. All that is needed is to mix these ingredients together to form quite a wet paste and that's it. You can see my tub of dough in the picture after an overnight rest in the fridge - it's quite bubbly and stretchy already. Because the dough is very wet and sticky it's quite difficult to handle, and this is the bit that requires some practice, but no kneading is required, just shape some dough into a round, prove for one hour and then bake. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the loaf, and it really only took a couple of minutes.

This morning I used some of the dough to make mini cinnamon whirls as suggested on the blog - I rolled out a piece of dough into a rectangle, sprinkled it with cinnamon and brown sugar then rolled it up into a long tube. I used kitchen scissors to cut the tube into whirls and baked them in a cupcake tray. umm, they've all gone already! I'd better make some more for the people coming over tomorrow.

And just to show you I haven't stopped knitting after all the ravelympics exciement, here's a preview of my latest project. Details to follow in a later post, but most of blogland seems to be knitting this one so maybe someone recognises the pattern? Yes I admit that I have been wearing it with one sleeve while I'm knitting the other one, it's cold in Dundee!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Ravelympic finish line

Today I finished my second project for the ravelympics, this time competing for team GB in the scarf stroke. As I dealt with the hundreds of ends that this kind of project creates, I was cheering on the real team GB as they got a good haul of gold medals in the sailing and cycling.

My scarf is made up from two types of 5 pointed crochet flower, with the two long strips of flowers joined together down the middle. The yarn is Gedifra chandra and I used a 12mm hook.

This weekend I also finished a felting project that I've been planning to do for ages. The pattern is here, and I followed it without making any modifications for a change. You can never have too many bags!

Here's a pic of the lopi roving at Twist Fibre Craft Studio, just about to be split up into 100g cakes...

Monday, 11 August 2008

Is it Autumn??

It's been a knitting-heavy couple of weeks what with the start of the ravelympics and everything, so I'm proud to present my two most recent finished objects to you. It seems like I'm very into leaf motifs at the moment, must be thinking of Autumn already. First of all, we have 'Iceland' from the Rowan 42 book in Cocoon (the shade is called tundra). It's been finished for a week or so, but I didn't get the buttons until we went to Twist Fibre Craft on Saturday. I modified it to make it a bit smaller than the smallest size. Follow the link to check out their updated website by the way - they've had a reshuffle in the shop and got in a selction of gorgeous fabric. More things to tempt my wallet!

The second FO is one of my ravelympic projects, the Kevat Shawl (kevat means spring in Finnish). I knitted it with the Utiku possum merino yarn that Jane sent for my birthday on 6.5mm needles. It's a nice easy lace pattern, easy to memorise and 'read' the pattern from the previous row of knitting, and it went especially quickly because I was using such big needles. Cast on at 1pm on Friday during the opening ceremony, cast off at 11.35pm on Saturday and blocked on Sunday! I'm wearing it right now to protect myself from this decidedly cold Scottish August.
Somebody on Ravelry tells me that the reason possum fur is so warm is that it has hollow fibres, which rings a bell now that I think of it. And apparently polar bear fleece is the warmest fibre of all for exactly the same reason.

Yesterday I made a start on my second ravelympics project, this time for team GB. I'm crocheting a scarf with large flower motifs. I've done about 30% so far, it's looking ok, but a bit skinny, I might decide to double up and do two flowers side by side if it's looking long enough by the time I get half way through the yarn.

Friday, 8 August 2008

ready, set, ...and they're off!

The ravelympics have started, hurrah! The ravelympic fever has even made it onto youtube here. As tensions mounted for the Olympic opening in Beijing, we ravelympic athletes gathered at Laurence's house for a casting on ceremony while we watched proceedings in the Bird's Nest stadium. Tasty snacks, tasty yarn, lots of excitement. We all knitted like mad to get going on our entries for team scots can do it too - see the before and after shots in the lower picture...

Follow the links to read more about Laurence's shawl for the shawl relay, and Diane's jacket for baby dressage.

I had a go at making some bread rolls from my new book to take along to the olympic gathering, using the recipe for scottish morning rolls. I made an overnight 'sponge' with a small amount of yeast, flour and water, then left it to grow for about 14 hours. In that time the yeast begins to grow, metabolising the nutrients in the flour as it goes and turning it into a bubbly sticky goo. In the morning, fresh flour and more water is kneaded into the sponge, and it is shaped into rolls after a relatively short rise.

Pittenweem Arts Festival

This week, the residents of Pittenweem in Fife have been flinging open their doors to welcome visitors to the Pittenweem arts festival. The whole village is taken over by resident and invited artists and every possible space, becomes a mini gallery for their work.

It was lovely to stroll around the pretty cottages and gardens looking at the work of some talented local artists along the way, and some of the gardens were almost like galleries in there own right with a whole load of summer flowers.

Every year, there is an installation in the harbour itself, and this year it was designed by Yoshihito Kawabata. He collected 1000 stones, labelling each one with a number, a Japanese character, and details of where and when it was found. The stones were then laid out in a huge circle, spanning across the pier, down onto the beach and into the sea. Over the course of the festival nature and human activity will take their effects and move around the stones to change their order and meaning.

As we made our way across the Tay towards Pittenweem I was amazed at how low the tide was and how much sand was exposed, so the following day I took a walk down the road to take a few pics. The tide was higher than the previous day and rapidly coming in, but still there was so much sand around. You can't see from these pics because they were too far away, but there were a couple of seals on one of the more distant sandbanks. When the tide isn't so low, only the bank nearer the wall is exposed so they sit much more closely in view.

On my way home across Magdalen Green, I got very excited when I discovered how many cherries there were in the trees lining the path. They look fab, and it seems like there are a few varieties because the fruit looked quite different in each tree. Some of it was ready for picking, so now I'm trying to pluck up the courage to go down there (maybe at night!) with a step ladder to pick some. Unfortunately they are all too high to reach without having someone's shoulders to sit on!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Summer's in the bag

It's amazing how many things become so urgent and important when there's the small matter of having to write a thesis on my mind. After a frantic few days of knitting (the results of which you'll see shortly once I've put the buttons on), I suddenly got the urge to dig out the sewing machine last night. I'm not normally good at sewing by any stretch of the imagination, but I came across a straight forward pattern for a shoulder bag here at tiny happy so I thought I'd give it a go.

The flowery fabric was originally a summer shirt that I persuaded Barry to buy last year, forgot to take a pic before starting, sorry. He's only ever worn it a couple of times and I suspect he didn't actually like it that much, especially since he decided to leave it behind here in Scotland. I decided to give it a new lease of life and convert it into something that I could use and enjoy, hope he doesn't mind hehe...

I need to sew on the central band (should have thought of that before I sewed the outer and the lining together!) and then find a toggle or button for the front. I cut out the existing shirt pocket and sewed it to the lining inside. All in all, I'm happy with the result, especially given my lack of coordination when it comes to cutting and sewing fabric. I've got loads of the lining material left so I'm thinking of making a slightly larger one with the beige fabric as the outer, then sewing on some flowers cut out from the leftover shirt material. My next challenge might be to work out how to incorporate a zip for that one.

I had some lovely boiling hot weather in Cambridge last week, and although it's definitely less warm and summery here in Dundee, I have sprung into summer eating patterns. For me, this is summer on a plate, yum yum! And ooh, look at those lovely yellow tomatoes! I would urge you to spend as much as you reasonably can on balsamic vinegar for uses such as this, you're looking for the thick and sweet stuff rather than runny and overly acidic. I'd say aim for the 4 leaves mark (balsamic is graded from 1 leaf up to 4 for quality/maturity etc), aged for over 10 years and priced at upwards of £10 to £12 a bottle. A little goes a long way and it's so worth it :)

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Ravelympics 2008

Next week brings the start of the Beijing Olympics, but for knitters it also means it's nearly time to kick off with projects for the Ravelympics! Ravelry has a rapidly growing olympic village which is hosting a version of the games for fibrecraft athletes. There are a whole host of events to participate in including the Afghan Marathon, Designers Discus, and the Laceweight Longjump, and loads of different teams to compete for.

The idea is that knitters cast on their ravelympics projects during the opening ceremony on Friday 8th August, and must finish by the time the flame goes out at the end of the games. I have been a little over-ambitious and have chosen two projects to enter, although I might not be able to finish both in the time. My main ravelympics project will be a shawl called Kevat, by Ziina. I'll be knitting it with Utiku merino possum yarn that Jane sent for my birthday. It's really really warm, my hands were feeling nice and toasty even after knitting a small swatch, and then I went to the website and discovered that it's the second warmest fibre on the planet apparently. Does anyone know what fibre wins the title of warmest?? Here's my 'training' for the project (which is permitted to be done before the opening ceremony), and an aftershot just to show you that I'm not cheating and I unwound it all!

Project: Kevat shawl
Yarn: Utiku merino possum (70% merino, 30% possum)
Event: Shawl Relay
Team: Scots can do it too

As a bit of a side project, I'm hoping to have a go at a crochet scarf with Gedifra Chandra yarn - the same stuff that I made the hemlock ring blanket with. It's quite a bulky yarn, and I'm planning to make a scarf by crocheting 2 alternating types of flower joined together at the petals to form a chain. With a bit of luck the colour changes in the yarn will make each of the flowers look different.

Project: Garden scarf
Yarn: Gedifra chandra (greens and purples)
Event: Scarf Stroke
Team: TeamGB

Thursday, 17 July 2008


The last month has disappeared into a haze of cheese, steak and strawberries - I can't quite believe that Taste is all over so soon, but in other ways it seems like a hundred years since we started out in Edinburgh. I've been doing a fair bit of cooking, but have been totally useless at taking any pics so the blog has suffered. Sorry!

I did however bring home some lovely looking chillies that were left over, so I think it's time to make some more chilli jam. I'm also working my way through a new book: 'bread matters' by Andrew Whitley, so there will be lots of bread-related posts coming soon. My task for this week is to find somewhere in Dundee that sells fresh yeast. 24h bakery perhaps? hmm, they don't even sell bread...

One good thing on the knitting front is that I've FINALLY finished Oranjeanie (Keri Williams' Jeanie, from knitty winter 07/08). It's been a 6 month on and off kind of love/hate thing, and this project really suffered by me getting bored and starting lots of other things along the way, but here she is...

I never thought it would be such a slog when I embarked on this one, but I'm pleased with the final article. The slog is my fault for not being dedicated enough, the actual knitting time was not so great. I had an internet splurge on materials for a new project whilst separated from my stash in Birmingham - I'm making 'Iceland' from Rowan 42. Love the yarn (let's gloss over the price tag for now), v soft and hairy, love the leafy sideways pattern. It's going nice and quickly, I'm up to the split for the neck already.