Sunday 30 August 2015

The wedding blanket

You may remember that when I started this blog I was hooking a Beatrice blanket for my friend's wedding in December. I might even have finished the blanket on time, but for the fact that I realised I'd made a mistake about 8 rows after I'd made it, and fixing that took so much time that there was no way I could finish it on time. So I took a photo of the blanket, put it in a nice photo frame and gift-wrapped the photo as an IOU wedding present, then put the blanket to one side for a bit. I finally finished it at a slightly more leisurely pace in February. As I knew I wasn't going to see the recipients for a while it's taken me until now to get round to photographing it!

I really liked this pattern. The photo tutorial is very clear, and the pattern is easy to memorise - after the first few rows I didn't need to look at the pattern until I got to the final few rows to work out which row I needed to finish on.

There is one minor error in the blanket, but I didn't notice it until so far after I'd made it that there was no way I was going back to fix it. Sometimes it's nice for homemade gifts to have minor defects, they add character. That's what I'm telling myself at least! I also had to use two different dye lots of purple as I was aiming to work from stash. Unfortunately one dye lot is a bit scratchy but the individual stripes are small so the blanket as a whole feels ok.

I was so enthusiastic about making the actual blanket that I didn't darn in the ends as I went. I really should have done as it took me two whole evening to darn them all in. Maybe one day I'll learn (but probably not; I don't hate darning in ends, but I do procrastinate about getting started).

I did have to look at the pattern for the edging, and while there was no photo tutorial for this bit, I managed it fine. I did have a slight problem at the start as I did UK not US doubles for the first bit of edging and it took me half an edge to realise - I only noticed when I looked at the picture of the finished edging to work our how the corners should look, so maybe a photo tutorial would have been useful, but never mind. The edging did take a while: as each edge is 2 m, there were 8 m of edging per round! 24 m in total! I found crocheting into the bumps on the reverse of the foundation chain, especially tricky, but it was plain sailing after that.

The blanket has now made it to its recipients, who seemed to like it. One disadvantage of large blanket type gifts is that you have to wait until you see people in person to pass them on!

Monday 24 August 2015

Bake Day Wednesday week three: Catch Up Sunday

Yesterday morning we were greeted by heavy rain, so I decided to make the most of it and catch up on the baking we missed on Wednesday when the weather was good. This week was bread week on Bake Off, and I'd seen a recipe for iced buns on the fridge at my in-laws, so decided we'd go for those. 

I used a Paul Hollywood recipe, which was easy enough to follow, although the dough was very wet, and the instructions said to turn the oven on before you starting mixing the ingredients. Even if your oven is slow it shouldn't need two hours to heat up!

Somehow I manhandled the proven dough into eleven approximately circular lumps (the dough was too wet for anything more elegant) and baked them for the stated 10 minutes, which was a little too long for these buns, but other than being a little dark they were fine in terms of taste and texture.

We iced them with glacé icing and three colours of glacé cherry. We also threw away seven bottles of out of date food colouring, which did prevent us from having pink iced buns (at least until one of us had done a dash to the corner shop)! An excellent bake I'd definitely do again, but I'll keep a closer eye on the oven next time.

Saturday 22 August 2015

Ooh, yarn: Devon Sun Yarns

Ok, I am trying not to buy yarn. But my Facebook feed is essentially pages and pages of indie dyers trying to sell their wares. Which makes it a bit tricky!

A few weeks ago Devon Sun Yarns had a market night, and I couldn't resist a couple of her single sock blanks: one rainbow striped and one sky blue gradient. And while I was at it, I thought I'd rejoin the yarn club for one month (a saving, obviously as I only had to pay one lot of postage a packing. Hmm, my maths may not be great there!). So I waited a few days and came home from work to find a lovely yarny package waiting for me.

The gradients are exactly what I wanted; the colours are vibrant and they are screaming at me to be knitted, I just need to find the perfect project.

The yarn club yarn was a surprise. It is mostly orange, which is not one of my favourite colours, and it's a single ply, which isn't my favourite type of yarn to work with. But it spoke to me. Within a couple of hours of it arriving it was on my needles as the beginnings of a Melodia shawl. I have no idea who's going to get the shawl, but I am loving working on it.

The bonus gift from the yarn club is also lovely. A couple of pencils that say 'I love yarn'. Yarn and stationery in a single item, perfect! The first pencil has been put in the Quiver on my Valentine's Day notebook, and the other is going to my friend Amy, who loves stationery and yarn as much as I do (Note to Amy: sorry for spoiling the surprise, I will post it eventually!).

Happy knitting everyone. Does anyone else have any yarn purchases they'd like to share? I really need to work on making the stash smaller, not bigger, so I might have to enjoy sharing other people's yarn purchases for a bit.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Bake-free Wednesday

I had the best of intentions today, and had planned to bake some bread, possibly Chelsea buns, after work this afternoon. But there are previous few weekdays with my son before he starts school in a couple of weeks, so we spent the afternoon enjoying the sun, revelling in being 4 years old, eating ice cream and running around instead. Baking can wait; babies grow up too fast.

Monday 17 August 2015

A sock washing line

A few weeks ago I read about an appeal for socks for a sock washing line at Yarndale, which sounds like a fantastic idea. For the weekend of Yarndale, the socks will be creating a lovely colourful display, but after that they're going to be donated to charitys that distribute socks to people that need
them. So when I went away for a weekend a couple of weeks ago, I picked up some self-striping sock yarn and the appropriate needles and set to knitting a pair of socks.

For ease of measuring I went for making socks that fit me, even if not everyone with UK size 10 feet will want brightly coloured rainbow socks (I have huge feet, finding nice socks in shops is hard!), and used a pattern I'd used before (Lifestyle socks - toe up, no swatch needed) so I didn't have to pay too much attention. Usually I knit socks two at a time, but I didn't have time to rewind the yarn, so went for knitting them one at a time instead to avoiding reversing the stripe sequence between socks.

I cast on at the start of a long, trafficy car journey to Wells Next The Sea, and had to got to the heel but the time we'd got back to our cottage at the end of the day. I used a combination of k2tog, kfb and p2tog, pfb for the heel short rows, and they worked, but have left little holes, so I'll rethink that technique for the next pair I knit. But otherwise these socks went perfectly. It was easy to make both socks the same length too as all I had to do was match up the stripes.

I love the finished socks. They're DK weight so are cosy, and they're so bright and cheerful. Now all I need to do is label them and put them in the post. I hope whoever eventually receives them loves them as much as I do.

Sunday 16 August 2015

A month in yarn: July 2015

Again, a little late in the month, sorry!
Ruffle skirt for a friend's daughter
Yes, the yarn is a pain to work with, but the finished skirt is just so cute!

Some mitts for a commission 
Shh, top secret!

Hermione's everyday socks
On the needles since May, I think. I've not made any progress on them in weeks, and last time I picked them up I noticed an error...

Whale blanket
Three whales left to go
Socks for my husband
Almost there

Charity mitred blanket
No progress on this one
A cardigan for my daughter
Just needs sleeves; probably ought to finish it before she does much more growing
Melodie shawl
Waiting for a long car journey!

Yarny arithmetic
Yarn in
300g yarn from Devon Sun Yarns
A beautiful subtle gradient, a crazy striped blank, and some bright summer sock weight yarn.

100g crazy bright variegated yarn for a submission, but at least the submission got accepted, so that's ok!
100g for commissioned mitts

Yarn out
223g for ruffle skirt
78g commissioned mitts

Plans for August 
Finish my husband's socks; finish the whale blanket; finish my daughter's cardigan. Anything else is a bonus.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Bake Day Wednesday 2015, week two: Biscuit week

Last week was cake week on the Great British Bake Off, and I baked a lemon cake and some chocolate brownies in celebration. Nothing as grand as anything the contestants came up with - when you say Madeira cake I think plain loaf cake, possibly with jam in the middle and white icing on top, or maybe a children's birthday cake, certainly no basil in sight! This week it's biscuit week on the show, so I had a think, and realised that the only biscuits I ever make are essentially shortbread to use with cutters.

I briefly considered biscotti, which will be tonight's signature bake, but I don't actually like them all that much; tonight's technical challenge, Arlettes, don't look like the sort of thing I like to eat; and I'm not making a box of biscuits out of biscuits as I have other things to do this week! So I looked on the shelf of cookery books and fished out a book I hadn't used in a while: The Hairy Biker's Big Book of Baking. The books was written to accompany a television series a few years ago, and I have used the book before, so know that the recipes have a decent chance of working, and that the writing style is nicely no-nonsense. Handily the index has a section titled biscuits, so I didn't have to browse the whole book. I plumped for Amsterdam Caramel Cookies, or Koggetjes, which are basic biscuits with caramel shards cooked into them.


The first step was to make the caramel, which I have done before, but have burnt it once and undercooked it once, which isn't a great record for two attempts. So I was delighted when it worked out fine first time! As I said, this book is pretty no-nonsense, so comes with handy advice, such as to make sure the sugar has dissolved fully before turning up the heat, and to not touch the caramel until it's well and truly set as it is HOT. All good so far.

The biscuit mixture was really easy: sugar and butter, flour and baking powder, stir it all together, then crush the now-set caramel and stir that into the mixture, easy peasy.

Weirdly, baking the biscuits was the most difficult thing. I'd just removed dinner from the oven, so thought it might be a little hot, but these biscuits took well over the stated 10-12 minutes to cook. No idea why (it's possible my daughter had 'helped' by turning the dials, but I don't think she did on this occasion), but after about 25 minutes minutes they looked golden brown as described in the book.

And the final verdict? Crunchy, chewy, sticky, sweet. The caramel tastes delicious, but the biscuit is a little greasy for my liking. I don't doubt that they'll all be eaten, but other things would probably go quicker.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Bake Day Wednesday is back!

Tonight is the first in the new series of The Great British Bake Off, so I am celebrating with the return of bakes on a Wednesday (I can probably manage twelve weeks of bakes...).

First off was meant to be a battenberg, but I forgot that I had lemons that needed using, so I went for a lemon drizzle cake instead. Classic and very lovely.

We also made chocolate brownies at my son's request, and he made them pretty much by himself (I did help with the weighing out though, otherwise he would have added all the flour, all the sugar, all the butter, quite a lot of eggshell, possibly not that much egg, and no chocolate as he would have eaten it all). He had a lovely time mixing all the ingredients together, even if he did cover himself in batter, and an even better time washing up afterwards - I think that was mostly the bubbles. He did an excellent job, they're delicious.

Clearly we couldn't wait to get started on these!

Fingers crossed we'll be back next week with something a little more ambitious.

Monday 3 August 2015

Speed knitting a dinosaur

Let me introduce you to Fergus, the friendly dinosaur. Isn't he adorable?

One of my knitting friends announced that she was three months pregnant just before Christmas, so after all the festivities were out of the way, I emailed her, saying that I would like to knit a present for her new baby, and would she prefer unisex or gender specific, pastels or bright. She responded saying she'd like a bright, gender-neutral present. I then sat on this information for about five months, before finally deciding when she was 38 weeks pregnant that I really ought to order some yarn and cast something on!

From a conversation we'd had one evening at knitting, I knew I wanted to knit her a blanket with a dinosaur on, but hadn't got much further than that. As time disappeared I realised that knitting the blanket in chunky weight yarn was inevitable if the blanket was to be knitted on time, so started looking through lots of online yarn catalogues before eventually plumping for King Cole Big Value Chunky, mostly because it comes in an amazing shade of green that would be perfect for grass. Handily I had some of this yarn in my stash, so managed to get a tension square knitted before the yarn arrived, allowing me to chart the dinosaur. This blanket required a large chart, and as I like to chart on paper, I had to spend an hour or so wrestling with some chart paper and quite a lot of magic tape, but I got there in the end. 

I knew in my head how I wanted the dinosaur to look - nice and plump, with a friendly face, very child-friendly. It didn't take me too long to sketch the dinosaur out and make a rough chart, and as I was running short on time I decided that I'd just work from the enormous heavily taped chart, rather than making a nice chart on the computer.

This blanket was a real joy to knit. The intarsia is simple once you're past the toes, so I sped through him in under a month. I even managed to finish just before the baby arrived (kindly this baby decided to be rather late, thank you!), although slightly annoyingly I did have to start a new ball of blue just for the cast off. It could have been worse, I could have run out of yarn just before the cast off - I am very grateful I over-ordered on this occasion (over-ordered by so much that I have three un-started balls - one each in red, green and blue - and about 550g left on balls that I started, so I used less than half of what I ordered, oops).
So here he is, my friendly, chubby dinosaur. Now I want one!