Monday, 31 October 2011

A-Z Round-Up

As the ABC meme finishes this week, I thought it would be fun to do a round-up post... Click here to go to all posts with the ABC tag to read more.

A - I missed the first week thanks to my excitement to post something else entirely.
B - Bags. My obsession with handbags and my search for the right knitting bag.
C - Chaos. Following a weekend of trying out some new crafts and making a lot of mess.
D - Doodling. I doodle a lot.
E - Expectations. I enjoyed this post, looking back at some of the erroneous expectations I'd had when I started knitting. The comments were very reassuring too ;)
F - Fruity Fun. Or Adventures in Dyeing sock yarn with Kool Aid *laughs*
G - Gastronomy. This picture of my cookbooks all lined up is part of what inspired me to start my cookbook challenge!
H - Home. A small tour around my living room.
I - In the City. All about the book "Little Red in the City" by Ysolda.
J - Junebug win. A post about winning a giveaway on figknits and getting some gorgeous sock yarn.
K - Knit Nation. Fortuitous timing, as I would have been posting about it anyway *grins*
L - Random word list. As a "logophile" (lover of words) these lists crop up whenever I couldn't think what to write ;)
M - Many things beginning with M.
N - Natalie. That's me!
O - Outfits. A question for the reader - do you knit what you want and fit it into your wardrobe, or do you knit things that will already fit your usual outfits?
P - Plans. A post about my tendency to make (and then immediately break) lots of plans to do with my knitting...
Q - Quack. A photograph of ducks invading boyfriend's living room *laughs*
R - Random word list. The word "reremouse" actually inspired me to write a children's story!
S - Shakespeare. In which I confessed my love for the Bard and tried to demonstrate that he is still relevant and influential today.
T - Travel. The post conveniently co-incided with the trip to France boyfriend and I had taken the day before ;)
U - Random word list. The word "usward" was the best, and most popular *laughs*
V - Vastness (of space). A post about the time I spent on the back of a boat in Australia learning about the stars.
W - Writing. This post reminded me just how much I love writing, and how much I really want a writing room!
X - I completely forgot about X *ooops face*
Y - You. This was a fun one, looking at my stats and seeing what an "average" reader is like (although I'm sorry I forgot the small but vocal group of Chrome users!)
Z - Random word list. My favourite one was Zenzizenzizenzic ;)

I had fun doing this, and will probably carry on posting random word lists on days where my inspiration is lacking - from the comments they do seem fairly popular *grins*

For now though, after 26 weeks of this, I shall have to come up with posts all by myself...

Friday, 28 October 2011

Finishless Friday the Third

This week completes my trio of retrospective posts, in preparation for my "I've been knitting for a whole year" giveaway next Friday *grins* Thank you for the wonderful comments on these posts, and for indulging my little trip down memory lane, it's been a lot of fun.

First up this week, 2 projects that never made it to finished object status:

My green top and my feather and fan scarf. And do you know what these 2 projects have in common? They're both 100% cotton. 4 ply cotton at that *laughs* This might explain why they have never got very far, as I have determined that knitting with 100% cotton is the least pleasurable thing I have attempted in the last 51 weeks!

So, those certainly don't count as successes, but as they both helped me to define my knitting preferences I'm not counting them as complete failures either.

My very first socks, however, certainly count as a huge success *big grin* I was so excited to make them, and even more excited that they turned out properly. The fact that they look like real socks is still pretty amazing to me. Plus, they fit. Having made a second pair, it's clear that the first ones are a little tight, but they're mine and I love them!

However, my pictures of said socks are pretty terrible *laughs* So here's an in progress shot to properly show the colours. I call them my happy socks ;)

The final project I wish to showcase is my poncho/wrap:

I finished this approximately 4 months into starting knitting, and whilst it was a pretty simple project it was also something I adapted from the pattern considerably. I changed the garter stitch edging to stocking stitch, as I thought it would be cute to have it roll in slightly. I changed the lace pattern too - the original was very structured and I wanted a more organic pattern. One modification to the counting and I got exactly what I was after *smiles*

Although other, earlier, projects also saw me deviate from the pattern, this was the first time I had done it deliberately and knew what I was trying to achieve. It went well ;)

So, there you have it. A few more projects from the archives *grins* Please head over to the usual suspects for more excellent Friday posts, and do come back next week for the giveaway (I'm quite excited to be doing it, my first time!)

Tami. Natural SuburbiaWisdom Begins in Wonder

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Stash Attack

I recently reorganised and took a photo of my yarn stash. Just to remind myself that I really don't need to buy any more!

The left hand first few rows are sock yarn, all excitingly available as soon as I finish my damn second-sock-syndrome sock.

I decided in July that I would avoid buying more yarn until I had reduced the stash to manageable levels, aside from my planned purchases at Knit Nation. Since then I have only bought 6 new balls. One skein of Old Maiden Aunt and 5 balls of angora when I went to France. I'm pretty impressed with this *grins*

More crucially though, I should really work out what I have used up in that time!
  • Blanket - 4 balls (3 of which came from a colleague, one I have had since possibly my second ever yarn purchase!)
  • Boyfriend's socks - used 1 ball (annoyingly I had bought 2 just in case, so I still have a ball left)
  • Crochet baby blanket - 2 balls (both from a colleague)
  • Slouchy hat - 1 ball (from a swap - so really I also got rid of another ball by swapping it away elsewhere!)
  • Baby Hoodie - 2 balls (from colleague)
  • Ruffle neckwarmer - 1 ball (from colleague)
  • Total: 11 (plus the one I swapped away)

2 things strike me about this list... Firstly, that I haven't finished many projects in a while, and have therefore not reduced my stash much at all! And secondly, my projects all seem to have used up yarn that I didn't actually buy, save for boyfriends socks. Interesting.

Now, as you know, I do have projects on the needles, and so perhaps I should also count the yarn used there...
  • Cria - used 5 balls so far, with another 6 to go (which were a gift from boyfriend's mum)
  • Sock - well, first sock used half, so second sock will finish the ball
  • Hitchhiker - almost finished and will have used 1 ball
  • Ballet sweater - used 2 balls so far, another 3 to go

So, the used total increases by 8.5, with 9.5 to add on once the projects are finished. That helps a little *laughs*

At this rate, though, there won't be any yarn buying for me for a while! I haven't determined at what point the embargo on new purchases ends, but there definitely needs to be a significant dent in the stash first ;)

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Work In Progress Wednesday Number 25

Subtitled: I really need a plan for these WIPs!

You may be forgiven for thinking I have simply reposted last week's picture - it feels like so little progress has happened that I might as well have done *exasperated laugh*

So, I need a plan. As I've mentioned before, I have the Christmas knitting projects on the go as well, which of course means more progress has been made than I can show. But even so, these projects seem to be dragging on forever!

Cria, the lovely but mind-numbing cardigan that seems to have become my nemesis, is slowly (very slowly) increasing in length.

I think I shall stick with my a-few-rows-when-I-can-summon-the-motivation approach to this one. I have tried just powering on with it, but that lasts for about 5 rows before I get so fed up I have to move on ;)

As the hitchhiker is so close to being finished, I have decided to get it done and off the needles. It shouldn't take too much longer, and the feeling of accomplishment of finally finishing something should be impetus enough (and if not, it's getting quite chilly out there now, which is another excellent motivator *laughs*)

My sock is still languishing, with a single row thrown on here and there just so I feel like I have done something to it ;) However, I have a couple of long train journeys coming up this weekend, so this will be the project I take. Hopefully some significant progress will be made.

The fuzzy ballet sweater - I've started the second front. I stopped almost as soon as I had started as I was extremely sleepy and convinced that I would accidentally make 2 left fronts or something stupid. Once I pick it back up again, it should move along fairly quickly... I hope. Once I have the hitchhiker out of the way, this will become project number one.

So, that's the basis of my plan. I reserve the right to throw it out the window, as I tend to do as soon as I make a plan *rolls eyes at self* But it would be nice to actually finish some of these so I can move on. As much as I like and want the items I'm working on, I want something new and shiny now ;)

Finally, the book in the picture is "When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit" by Judith Kerr. Another book I read as a child that I have recently tracked down. I actually don't remember much of it at all, but I recall enjoying it so I wanted to revisit it.

So, that's it from me, but you know where to go for more works in progress and yarn along posts ;)

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Cookbook Challenge #4

I mentioned on Friday that it was my mum's birthday. So I grabbed my Gifts from the Kitchen cookbook to make some sweet treats as a gift *smiles*

I picked Salted Caramels (because I love them) and Raspberry and Passionfruit pastilles (because mum loves fruit jellies). Except the pastilles quickly became raspberry and vanilla when I couldn't get hold of any passionfruit.

I made the pastilles first, and loved the way the house smelled so warm and fruity. It's essentially a jam-making process, you just use different ratios of fruit to sugar to get a different set. 400g of raspberries and a vanilla pod became 250g of pulp and juice, added the sugar and boiled it away for ages.

After it had set, I cut it into squares and rolled them in vanilla sugar...

While the fruit was setting I turned to the salted caramels. I love the way salt brings out the flavour of caramel, and cuts through the sweetness, but every time I mention it, mum says how she can't quite get her head round it. So, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to make some to demonstrate *laughs*

The first attempt went horribly wrong when I somehow forget the fundamental rule of making caramel - do not stir the sugar as it is caramelising. Not sure how I managed to forget, but I did. The resulting crystallised structure was fascinating, if not desirable ;)

After managing to get it right, I finished off the recipe, left it to set and cut into squares. Large ones *grins*

They don't look fantastically appetising in this picture admittedly, but look how cute they are when they're wrapped in little twists of greaseproof paper...

Like proper sweets ;)

All that remained was to package everything up nicely and there you have it.

The caramels are so good *grins* Apparently they go brilliantly with coffee (I don't drink it so I wouldn't know) and the pastilles are nice and tart - which was the plan as mum prefers tart things to overly sweet things. All together, I consider this a success. Admittedly, these recipes have no place in the day to day cooking repertoire, but I'm glad I used this book as it is really gorgeous.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Z is for....

Zone, Zebra, Zenith... I can't decide what to do with Z (but, as I accidentally skipped X, I really should come up with something!)

So, as ever, I turn to my trusty source of unusual words and present to you the letter Z...

Zamarra - sheepskin jacket (as ever, I do try to include some knitting/fibre related content *grins)
Zebroid - resembling a zebra (because saying something "resembles a zebra" is inefficient)
Zendalet - large black woolen shawl worn over the head or shoulders (oooh, 2 knitting related words)
Zenzizenzizenzic - eighth power of a number (seriously, how many times does one word need to include the letter Z?! I could have just posted this word and been done with it *laughs*)
Zibeline - soft, plied wool (anyone else surprised by the fact that there are multiple unusual words beginning with Z that are actually relevant to a knitting blog?!)
Zorino - euphemism for skunk fur (I do have to wonder why on earth there needs to be a euphemism for this)
Zumbooruk - small canon carried on the back of a camel (I just love that this exists and has a name)

I have to say, I have really enjoyed putting together the unusual words posts, so I may post one now and again even though the alphabet meme finished ;) Well, it finishes next week technically, as I skipped a week, so I'll probably post something to finish everything off properly.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Another Friday Of Unfinishing

As I haven't finished anything again this week *sad face* and I really enjoyed doing a little "history of my knitting" post last week, I shall continue the theme again today. I hope you'll indulge me once more. Thank you to everyone who left such lovely and encouraging comments last week, it was so nice to hear that I'm doing pretty good for a relative newbie ;)

So, first project plucked from the archives is in honour of the fact that it is my mum's birthday today *waves at mum* This is the scarf I knitted her for Christmas last year:

Now, this was the second thing I ever cast on (and the third thing that I finished - I started on multiple WIPs early!) I would not recommend eyelash yarn on small needles as an early project - I had a terrible time with it *laughs* My tension was all over the place, finding what was a stitch and what was fuzz was a challenge and it seemed to take forever. Having said that, it is a functional scarf.

This picture represents my first attempt at using DPNs. I made these (I did make a pair, I just never photographed both of them together) just before Christmas last year and was pretty damn proud of myself. Took a while to get used to the fact that I felt like I was wrangling an unwieldy game of pick up sticks, but they came out perfectly, if I do say so myself *laughs*

Quick edit to add: a few people have asked for the pattern for these... I actually just made it up as I went along. The yarn is Sirdar Crofter, which self patterned beautifully. I just did some ribbing, stocking stitch, stopped working in the round for the thumb hole, couple of rows of reverse stocking stitch before regular stocking and more ribbing. 

And finally, for this week anyway, my very first attempt at a garment. Looks successful, right? Well, it kind of is... I didn't know a whole lot about gauge when I started, so early on it was clear that the sizing was off. Rather than start again, I just added some random (and I do mean random!) increases in the body and then blocked it to within an inch of its life *laughs*

It's not remotely similar to the pattern, but hey, it's pretty cute ;)

Next week (I'm certain I won't have an FO again with a busy weekend coming up!) join me for less successful, never to be finished items ;)

For actual, current finished objects head on over to see Tami. And for other fibrey and creative loveliness it's Natural Suburbia and Wisdom Begins in Wonder.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Cookbook Challenge Update

So, this week has not seen a cookbook challenge happen *sigh* But then, I knew there would be some weeks where things were a little too busy to be worrying about an untested recipe.

However, I am really pleased to say that last night, I made the Griddled Mustard and Herb Chicken that I posted about here. It was the second cookbook recipe that boyfriend and I had tried, and we'd really enjoyed it. As the only time it takes really is marinating, it's an easy one to add to the weekday repertoire ;)

The recipe calls for tarragon, but we first used thyme (because I prefer it). Last night I used lemon thyme, which I like even more *laughs* It really worked well with the mustard, so I think that will be the herb of choice from now on.

In other news, I have added my blog to CraftRie's Universal Craft Blog Directory.


The aim, I believe, is to find out how many craft blogs are out there and compile a giant list of them. Pretty huge undertaking, but the principle is that you add your blog and then post about it... That way the idea should reach through lots of different bloggers fairly quickly. Just click the image above to go direct to the relevant post :)

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Princess Soles

So, after quite a few comments on my Friday post asking what a "princess sole" is, I thought I should pop up a quick post to explain!

Essentially, a princess sole is where you knit the sole of the sock so that the knit side is on the inside of the sock, against the skin.

So, your foot rests on the smoother side:

While the rougher purl bumps are on the outside:

Does that make sense?! The princess part obviously comes from the old princess and the pea story *laughs*

I decided after knitting my first socks that I would knit socks this way for the boyfriend as he has sensitive feet and I wasn't sure if he'd like the feel of walking on hand knit socks. At this point I didn't know what they were called, I just figured that I should purl the base of the sock to make them more comfortable for him.

Unfortunately I can't remember on which blog I read about it, but I recall seeing a post about a pattern called the Daylong Socks, where the pattern was designed so that you didn't have to purl the entire sole. Good plan I thought ;)

In the end, although I bought the pattern, I didn't really follow it. I just knit the top of the foot and the leg in rib and knitted the sole, then flipped them inside out *laughs* The pattern does have a more involved approach, so that the toes and heel look better, but I figured that they're inside a shoe anyway, so it doesn't matter too much ;)

Boyfriend tested out his first sock and came to the conclusion that he does indeed prefer the knit on the inside (and was surprised how much of a difference it made).

So, I'm not an expert on the topic, and I don't know where the idea or the name originated, but I hope it's a bit clearer now!

Work In Progress Wednesday Number 24

Just a group shot today, as nothing has progressed enough to warrant its own picture ;)

Cria - well, I'm not surprised to say that another week has gone by with very little work on this. I keep meaning to just focus and get on with it, but after a few interminably long rows I get fed up ;)

Sock - about half an inch of progress. I tend to only pick this up when I can't decide what else to knit *laughs* I would like to get on with it, so I think a long car or train journey will be in my future - knitting socks seems the best plan for a train journey, otherwise I worry about poking people with my long needles *grins*

Fuzzy Ballet Sweater - probably the project with the most progress so far. I've finished the left front, but haven't cast on for the right yet. It's a fairly quick and easy knit, which is good as I need to be seeing some progress on something at least!

Hitchhiker -  as the rows get longer, it's hard to see the length increase as quickly, but I think I've completed another 6 "teeth" since last week. In fact, I need to switch to longer needles as I started it on a bizarrely short pair and I'm running out of space *laughs*

The reason for the lack of discernible progress is, of course, the time spent working on projects that I can't blog about. It's frustrating, but the recipients of the secret projects wouldn't be too surprised if their gifts had been showing up here every week for a progress update!

Book - another Christopher Brookmyre (one of my favourite authors). "All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses an Eye". Great title; easy and enjoyable book. I tend to go for books I have already read when I'm busy/tired/stressed/not feeling 100% - they require so much less attention *grins*

So, that's it from me, but you know where to go for more works in progress and yarn along posts ;)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The High Street Is Ruined

You know, knitting has ruined shopping for me at this time of year *laughs*

I used to love the autumn/winter collections, all chunky knitwear and cosy accessories. But now, when I walk through the shops all I can think is "But I could make that". Never mind the fact that I have plenty of projects on the go at the moment, and I am not an octopus with knitting needles [side note: how cool would that be - 4 projects going simultaneously!]... So I'm not going to be making all of the things I see out there.

But I still can't bring myself to buy them.

If I'm honest, part of it is because I enjoy showing off my finished garments to friends/colleagues/that guy walking his dog/etc... I don't want to be wearing knitwear and have them ask if I made it and have to say no!

Just as an example, I really like this top from Next... There are loads of gorgeous chunky knits in all of the shops, as well as finer gauge items like this, but I just can't buy them.

The high street is ruined I tell you *laughs*

Monday, 17 October 2011

Y is for...


Yep, I'm talking to you *grins* And I must say, your hair looks lovely today.

First up, I want to thank you for reading. When I started this blog, I never thought anyone other than my mum and boyfriend would read it, so it means a huge amount to me that you do too. Your comments make me smile and I love being able to "meet" bloggers and read what you have to say as well. So thank you *smiles*

Now, I have had a look at my stats, and I have some information about you - well, an average you. Though, of course, you are clearly more than average... As a reader of this blog, you are a person of excellent taste and character ;)

  • You are 50% American, 30% British, 6% Canadian and 14% very well travelled ;)
  • Your web browsing preference is Firefox, very closely followed by Internet Explorer
  • Chances are you are using a PC, although 15% of you have a Mac, and 2% have the good fortune to be visiting from an iPad
You most likely came here for the first time through one of the lovely link parties I join - WIP Wednesdays, Yarn Along, Finished Object Fridays, Creative Fridays, Fibre Arts Fridays... However, you could be one of the people who found my blog through some interesting google searches. Such as:

  • ratio of monkeys today 10/13/11
  • princess soles
  • fabulus friday crats
  • the babe with the power
  • marvin the martian reading
  • messy kitchen
  • craft ideas for the number 13 
  • beautiful+things+to+knit
Now, some of these searches make sense, others not so much *laughs* As for the last one, I'm just flattered that it brought you here.

So, you now know a little bit more about yourself. And you thought this blog was all about me... ;)

Friday, 14 October 2011

Not Finished Friday :(

One of the problems with having so many WIPs is the fact that I don't work on any one thing long enough to get it finished as quickly as I would like. So I have plenty of things I am working on, but nothing finished *sigh*

In light of this, and the fact that I am 3 weeks away from my 1 year knitting-versary, I thought I would have a look back through some of my finished projects and see which ones have been successful and which have vanished without a trace ;)

I think the most successful FO I have made is the Lore Hoodie from Vampire Knits (note to self, get better pictures of this!):

I wear it fairly regularly (wore it last night in fact *grins*) and really, really like it. If I were to make it again, I would definitely modify it to have long sleeves, a hooded item with elbow length sleeves is a little strange ;) This is also the only thing I have made with lace (I don't count some of the attempts I have made that never got finished), and the lace part only has one mistake - score!

A project that I initially thought was successful has not really stood the test of time/greater experience. My self-designed tank top:

I still like this, but there are quite a few changes that would make it so much better. I didn't do any waist shaping (didn't know what it was at the time!) so it is a little boxy. Because the shoulders are plain stocking stitch, they roll in, apart from at the top seam where my ability to join pieces together shows a painful lack of skill ;) Overall though, I think it is still pretty cute.

A complete failure project was my Ugly Slippers:

Yeah, wrong yarn, wrong size... just wrong *laughs* They were wonderfully cosy despite their revolting appearance, until they stretched, and stretched, and stretched. Then I decided to try and salvage them by felting them... The less said about that experiment the better!

Well, it's kinda fun to look through the projects I've made and remind myself of how far I have come. Given that I am unlikely to have any FOs for the next couple of weeks, I might continue this theme in the lead up to my year-of-knitting anniversary. At which point it'll culminate in a giveaway and probably a party for everyone... Ok, maybe not a party, but definitely a giveaway *grins*

For actual finished objects, pop over to Tami's, and for more creative and fibrey posts go to Natural Suburbia and Wisdom Begins in Wonder.

Fabulous Friday Foot

Check it out, boyfriend has a sock!


He seems to be pretty pleased with his sock, and is waiting impatiently for the second one to materialise. Because of the way it is knitted (ribbed leg and top of foot), he can wear it either regularly or inside out to have the princess sole. Having thoroughly tested the fit and comfort, he has decided that the princess sole is preferable *smiles* I figured that might be the case, so I'm really pleased that was the approach I went for.

So, second sock has been started (same pic as Wednesday, because it isn't actually any longer yet!)

This will be my in-car knitting in a few hours time, so hopefully lots of progress will be made. I had to start it before travelling, there's no way I would have managed the really fiddly toe part in the car!

More details about yarn and pattern when I actually have a finished pair (I know a single sock only just counts as an FO - but it is an object and it is finished, so I'm going with it!)

As ever, you know the Friday drill... head over to Tami's, Natural SuburbiaPlumslife and Wisdom Begins in Wonder for more crafty and fibery loveliness. Well, I won't be around too much today, but will try and catch up on as many Friday posts as I can!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Sock Monkey Swap

A little while ago I posted a picture of the sock monkey I had made for a swap...

Well, I got my parcel in return *grins*

I got a whole lot of monkey themed goodies; a monkey pad, bookmark, fabric, apron, facemask... Plus 2 skeins of Lang Jawoll yarn in black and brown and a fold up shopping bag in a lovely bronze colour (my mum swears by these little bags). And, of course, the awesome sock monkey (oh, also, not pictured is a cute little "grow your own monkey" thing that you put in water and it gets bigger - not pictured because I got excited and put it in water before taking the photos *laughs*)

One of the things I like most is the apron. I made boyfriend an awesome batman apron for Christmas last year and he wears it all the time. But I never got round to making one for myself. Well, now I have a handmade apron of my own, and it has monkeys on it ;) And I got extra fabric, so I can make something else for myself too. I'm thinking a chef hat *grins*

But the coolest thing in the swap was the monkey:

Yes, he is a Malcolm Reynolds Monkey (from Firefly/Serenity, if you don't know it - and if not, why not?!)

Check out the holster, with a ray gun inside. It even has a button closure. So clever. The embroidery on his chest says "I aim to misbehave", the fabulous quote from the film Serenity, and he has a pendant with the ship's logo on it.

And because I think he is so very cool, check out the back for a better view of his brown coat with a hole for his tail, and he has hair...

I love how much work my swap partner put into this *grins*

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Work In Progress Wednesday Number 23

Crappy photos today, thanks to the terrible light and being in a bit of a rush!

[By the way, if you missed the big blanket reveal last week, you can find it here]

So, works in progress/reading update...

Well, Cria has had a few more rows added, nothing worth taking a new solo picture though. Same for my sock - a little longer than last week but not by much ;)

On to the projects with worthy updates *grins*

The Fuzzy Ballet Sweater has been coming along nicely:

I've finished the back and have started on one of the fronts. This picture is a slightly more accurate colour than last week's, which made it look like I was knitting with pure gold *laughs* The yarn is Rowan Kidsilk Aura, and the silk in it really does catch the light when you try and take a photo. It's lovely, soft, silky and fuzzy ;)

You may have noticed, there is another project on the needles. I really don't need another project on the go, but I am bored of my sock, not enjoying Cria, and the ballet top reminded me that I should have things I enjoy working on to make up for it. Plus, after finishing the blanket, I found myself missing the pure simplicity of garter stitch (weird, I know, I used to hate it with a passion!)

So I have cast on for a Hitchhiker. I love the shape, with the sawtooth edge and the gentle widening of the scarf. It is really simple to do, making it perfect TV knitting. And I love this yarn. Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend. I've used it once before and fell in love  and I'd forgotten just how much I enjoy knitting with it.

The only problem with it is making sure the yarn and pattern match. I'm not usually a fan of variegated yarns, they can look a bit messy to me, but I got this colourway cheaply on ebay and couldn't resist ;)

The pattern is for sock yarn/4ply but I think it works just as well in DK.

Close up, to demonstrate 2 things; firstly that I can take a photo that is in focus and secondly because I think it shows how the garter stitch works in this yarn...

So, that's the knitting I've been doing. Of course adding projects leaves less time for reading, so I'm rereading another old favourite, Fight Club. One of the rare occasions where the film is as good as the book, if not better.

For more knitting and reading goodness, head over to Tami's and Ginny's :)

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Cookbook Challenge #4

Another cookbook post - I'm quite impressed that I've kept this up! This one is once again from the James Martin book...

Braised Lamb Shank Pies. Definitely a weekend meal, due to the hours of cooking time. Perhaps I should try some quicker meals, as the point of the challenge was partly to expand my repertoire of recipes so that boyfriend and I have a bit more variety *laughs* At least it fulfils the second part of the challenge - actually using the cookbooks I have lying around ;)

Here's a shot of the ingredients (something Mooncalf has done on her posts, which I've stolen because I like it *grins*).

Instead of making a large pie, I made a medium pie in a 2-person sized dish and 2 tiny pies in my adorable Le Creuset casserole-style pots. I like a fair amount of pastry and I figured smaller pies would increase the pastry to filling ratio ;)

Yes, that is a heart on the top - who said you had to have leaf shapes anyway?!

Please excuse the angled shots, I was feeling a little arty ;)

So, verdict... It was tasty, but there were a few things that I would change if I made it again...
  • I don't really think it was necessary to use lamb shanks, any braising lamb would do. It makes it sound fancy, and the flavour of the lamb is great by having the bones in, but not great enough to warrant the cost of shanks and the extra faffing around!
  • The redcurrant jelly gives the sauce a lovely taste, but I'd use less as it also makes it a little sweeter than I would like. 
  • I'd put the onions in later in the cooking process - having them in from the start means they soften so much that they're barely there by the end!
  • The sauce wasn't as rich as those I usually make for stews/pies, so I'd probably tweak the flavours and add some other bits to give it a little more depth.
So, although we both really enjoyed it, I'd make so many changes that it would be a fairly different recipe by the time I got through with it *laughs*

Monday, 10 October 2011

W is for...


I love writing. I got out of the habit for a long time so, when I started this blog, part of my enjoyment of it was to do with the simple fact that I was writing again. Not a lot, and not anything earth shattering, but putting my thoughts down into a coherent form and enjoying the process.

I have ideas and rough notes for 2 novels (although I am sure that everyone has their dream novel in their head, so until I actually write them they really don't count!) They're both utterly different, one is a fantasy novel with a heaven/hell theme and one is based on politics... Not quite sure how that works *laughs*

I've also written 3 children's stories. They do count, because I have actually written them ;) Boyfriend would love for me to get them illustrated and then attempt to get them published. I really enjoyed writing them, I have a very different style depending on what I am writing and the one that comes most naturally is the one where I feel more like I am talking to the reader than setting out a story. It just so happens that both my blog and the children's stories are written in that sort of style (albeit with fairly significant differences).

One thing I found with these stories is that I can't force them, I don't decide on a subject or character or storyline  Inspiration strikes randomly and I write. The last story I wrote was actually inspired by a post on this blog. My "R is for" post...

I mentioned the word "reremouse" meaning bat, which I read as ra-ra mouse. I ended up writing about a slightly odd bat, a little bit flamboyant and playful, who saves the day through his eccentricities *laughs*

Unfortunately, the adult sized stories I want to tell don't flow as quickly and easily as those for children, so I struggle to force the words out. One day I would love to have a writing area with a huge whiteboard where I could plot out the details/timelines/characters/relationships, so that I could just get on with the writing part.

Until then, I shall continue to seek inspiration in the unexpected and enjoy writing at all.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Swift Enough*

I think you may know what this is *laughs*

Yep, the long-awaited blanket *grins* Now, I feel that I may have hyped this up so much that it'll only be a disappointment! If it is, please don't tell me ;)Incidentally, that first picture is the most accurate in terms of the colour.

I started it in July, even though my subsequent posts may have confused the issue and made it appear as though it has only been a couple of weeks since I started. Ooops, sorry about that! I wish I did knit that quickly.

It was a surprisingly enjoyable knit, given that it is all garter stitch and the yarn was acrylic that was given to me by a colleague. Somehow that all added up to a relaxing, mindless project that gave as much comfort during the knitting as I hope it will as a blanket *smiles*

So, finished blanket, in all its glory...

I know it looks a little wrinkled around the edges. This is probably because I crocheted the border and my tension in crochet does not match my tension in knitting *laughs* A bit of steaming will probably help that.

Another full size picture, this time with DVD sized case for scale (see mum, I remembered!)

It's probably not as big as it should be, which may become a little annoying, but I used up most of the yarn that I was using for it. As the aim of making it was to use up some yarn, I didn't want to buy any more for it.

As I mentioned, I crocheted the border and was very pleased that I had learned crochet recently so that I could! It's 3 rows of single crochet, which certainly went more quickly than picking up stitches along the edges and then knitting them!

Here it is on the back of the sofa for which it was designed:

*grins* Cool, huh? Well, I think so anyway ;)

Pattern: Moderne Blanket
Yarn: King Cole, Stylecraft and Something Else acrylic DK
Modifications: I didn't follow the dimensions in the pattern, choosing to end the sections when I liked their shape and size. Added 2 rows at one end and 1 at the other to lengthen it. Crocheted the border instead of knitting it. 
Happy? Yep *grins* I love it.

And, because I love the fall/autumn colours of my blanket, I am entering it into the Stitched in Colour, Celebrate Colour competition *gins*

Celebrate Color

* "Wanted: a needle swift enough to sew this poem into a blanket" - Charles Simic