Friday, 23 December 2011

All the Breaks you Need*

So, I hope everyone has finished their Christmas crafting, or is at least pretty close ;)

I finished knitting the dishcloths I decided at the last minute to make for my granddad. I have no idea if he'll like them, it could go either way *laughs*

To make them more personal, I made them specifically for him to use in his workshop, with 3 different patterns to use different textures - hopefully making them suitable for different types of workshop job.

I shan't bore you with lots of badly lit pictures of the cloths, but I am quite pleased with how they look all bundled up together:

The tag reads "A trio of handcrafted specialist workshop cloths", and each cloth has its own label describing the reason for choosing a particular pattern/texture. I think it is a lovely, personal gift, so I really hope it is received that way!

The one I was particularly pleased with, was the basketweave cloth. I've never done basketweave stitch before, and I think it looks really quite smart:

Knitting with cotton is still not something I am keen on. Although this type is a lot nicer than 4 ply mercerized cotton, it's still not fabulously comfortable. And I was quite distressed to discover that I found it really hard to keep an even tension. I've always been quite proud of the fact that my knitting comes out nice and even, but this took a lot of work to even come close.

Well, chances are this will be my last post until after Christmas, so Merry Christmas to those who celebrate and have a wonderful holiday of your choosing to those who don't *smiles*

*"All the breaks you need in life wait within your imagination, Imagination is the workshop of your mind, capable of turning mind energy into accomplishment and wealth." Napoleon Hill

Thursday, 22 December 2011

To Do...

I don't make New Year's Resolutions. I don't stick to them and they are just generally a bad idea (for me!)

But I found this list of knitting techniques/activities and, as it is coming towards the end of the year, I thought I should mark down which I have done, and which I would like to try over the course of the next year or so...

Those in bold I have done, those in italic I plan to do. 

- Afghan
- I-cord
- Garter stitch 
- Knitting with metal wire
- Shawl
- Stockinette Stitch
- Socks: Top-down
- Socks: Toe-up
- Knitting with camel yarn
- Mittens: Cuff-up
- Mittens: Tip down
- Hat
- Knitting with silk
- Moebius band knitting 
- Participating in a KAL - nope. I hate deadline knitting!
- Sweater
- Drop stitch patterns (as long as Clapotis counts!)
- Knitting with recycled/secondhand yarn
- Slip stitch patterns
- Knitting with banana fiber yarn
- Domino knitting - don't even know what it is!
- Twisted stitch patterns
- Knitting with bamboo yarn - I have some in my stash just waiting for its turn
- Two end knitting - ???
- Charity knitting
- Knitting with soy yarn
- Cardigan
- Toy/doll clothing 
- Knitting with circular needles
- Baby items
- Knitting with your own handspun - I don't (currently) spin
- Slippers - bad bad bad, but that was my own fault
- Graffiti knitting 
- Continental knitting
- Designing knitted garments - well, I designed something for myself, that's only ok, but it counts ;)
- Cable stitch patterns
- Lace patterns
- Publishing a knitting book
- Scarf
- Teaching a child to knit
- American/English knitting
- Knitting to make money - doesn't appeal in the slightest
- Buttonholes
- Knitting with alpaca
- Fair Isle
- Norwegian knitting
- Dying with plant colors
- Knitting items for a wedding
- Household items
- Knitting socks on two circulars - no point, I'm happy with DPNs or Magic Loop
- Olympic knitting
- Knitting with someone else’s handspun yarn
- Knitting with dpns
- Holiday-related knitting
- Teaching a male how to knit
- Bobbles
- Knitting for a living
- Knitting with cotton
- Knitting smocking
- Dyeing yarn
- Steeks
- Knitting art
- Fulling/felting
- Knitting with wool
- Textured knitting
- Kitchener BO
- Purses/bags
- Knitting with beads 
- Swatching
- Long tail CO
- Entrelac - no intentions, I'm just not keen on how it looks
- Knitting and purling backwards
- Machine Knitting
- Knitting with self-patterning/self-striping/variegated yarn
- Stuffed toys
- Knitting with cashmere
- Darning
- Jewelry
- Knitting with synthetic yarn
- Writing a pattern
- Gloves
- Intarsia
- Knitting with linen
- Knitting for preemies
- Tubular CO
- Freeform knitting
- Short rows
- Cuffs/fingerless mitts/armwarmers
- Pillows
- Knitting a pattern from an online knitting magazine
- Rug
- Knitting on a loom
- Thrummed knitting
- Knitting a gift
- Knitting for pets - not mine, but I did make toys for a friend's dog
- Shrug/bolero/poncho
- Knitting with dog/cat hair - why?!
- Hair accessories
- Knitting in public
- Double knitting

So, out of 100 I have already done/attempted 43. Not bad for a little over a year of knitting *grins* 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Work In Progress Wednesday Number 33

As I'm sure you can imagine, the time of year means that the majority of my crafting time has been taken up with gift knitting *laughs* However I have had time for a small amount of other knitting as well...

Although, technically the scarf is a gift for mum, she knows about it and bought the yarn herself, so it isn't a Christmas gift but I'd still like to finish it soon so that she can enjoy it during the cold weather. It's a few inches longer than last week...

It looks a different colour in every picture, thanks to the hideously grey weather and overhead light combination *sigh* It's much more attractive in real life. 

In the top picture you can also see a small purple item poking out. I cast on for something very quick and simple for myself, but it does also have a Christmas-related reason (see, I can justify knitting for myself even at this time of year!) The yarn I'm using is some Sirdar Crofter that my lovely brother bought me for my birthday. He bought a couple of small balls of different yarns, and I think he was a bit saddened to discover that they weren't big enough to knit anything substantial. So, for when I see him, I wanted to be wearing something useful that I made from his gift, to show how much I really appreciated him buying me yarn *smiles*

You will notice that my Cria cardigan is absent from the picture... Well, partly because it is too big to easily pick up and put down between other projects, but mainly thanks to this:

This is the remainder of 3 balls of dishcloth cotton I have been frantically knitting up for a final gift. As Cria is also a cotton yarn (albeit a blend), I decided against working on it as well. Which is a shame, as there is only one sleeve remaining, but important for my continued enjoyment of knitting *laughs*

As for the book, well I think I have read about 6 pages in the last week. Which is horrifying really, as I usually read at least 2 books in that time! But, everything has its time I guess ;)

Have a look at everyone's work in progress Wednesday and yarn along posts... I have a feeling they'll be the last of the year this week (for me they will anyway!)

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Brown Paper Packages...

... albeit not tied up with string *laughs*

I wrapped most of my Christmas gifts at the weekend. I love having wrapped gifts by the tree, everything looks so much more Christmassy once that happens.

And to fit in with my slightly more rustic decorating theme this year, I decided to go for a brown paper wrapping look. I love it (and I hope the recipients do too!)

I found all sorts of perfect ribbons to go with everything, as string seemed a step too far *laughs* And you can't really see it above, but all the gifts have the recipient's name stamped onto them in copper or silver ink.

Don't they look cute by the tree? *smiles* Sorry for the overly cropped picture, I'm trying to show them off while hiding the resulting mess!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Talk of Joy*

Although it isn't from a cookbook, and therefore doesn't qualify for my cookbook challenge, I wanted to post about my fabulous made-up beef stew/casserole...

I've made it a few times, and decided it would be a good dinner last night, as it was so bitterly cold yesterday *shivers*

The recipe is pretty much made up by me, so there aren't really any proper measurements, but that's kinda the point *laughs*

One thing I should note is that I don't tend to put vegetables in. I don't like the texture of them when they've been cooked in a stew, so I serve roasted root veg on the side. But you can throw in any veg you want of course ;)

So, how I make it... This isn't so much a recipe as a bunch of stuff I do, but it's good!

Dust the beef chunks with a mixture of flour, salt, pepper and a teaspoon(ish) of dried mustard powder, before browning in a pan (by the way, if you want to make this in the slow cooker, it works perfectly - apart from needing some thickening at the end - and if you put it on in the morning then I really wouldn't bother browning the meat, who wants to do that first thing?!)

Throw the meat into the casserole dish/slow cooker. 

I then cover it in a sauce made from the following:

  • Stock - whatever you fancy. I put a lot of extra flavour in, so it really doesn't have to be beef stock. Vegetable stock actually works really well
  • Oxo cube (or 2 - depending how much I'm making!)
  • Generous splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Few drops Tabasco sauce
  • Tablespoon of Bovril. You can use Marmite instead, but I like to use Bovril for the really meaty taste. I don't actually like marmite or bovril, but they add a wonderful savouriness to stews and gravies. 
  • Generous glug of HP Steak Sauce. This one I add because it is kinda tangy and cuts through the rich flavours, but it isn't necessary. 
  • Generous squeeze of tomato puree
  • Splash of red wine if you have any going spare ;)

Of course, you can add any flavours you like, and omit any you don't, but this is the combination that I have found to give a really wonderful, rich stew. Enough liquid to cover the beef is perfect. 

Just in case you're not familiar with some of those ingredients:

Cook for hours... Scientific, I know *laughs* In the slow cooker, I would put it on low and cook all day, in the oven, probably 180 degrees for 3-4 hours, on the hob over a low heat for 3-4 hours. But it depends really, so I just keep checking on it. 

Like I said earlier, slow cooker versions will probably need some thickening as there is less reduction of the liquid. 

You can put the veg in with the stew, or do as I do and serve it alongside honey roast root veg:

I love having slightly crisp, caramelised carrots and parsnips to dip into the gravy *grins* I roast them in duck/goose fat, with seasoning and a drizzle of honey. I had some baby potatoes needing to be used up, so I threw them in as well. 

* "Talk of joy: there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes and home-made bread - there may be." David Grayson

Friday, 16 December 2011

Hide Your Sources*

Well, I do have a finished object this week, but unfortunately I can't really show you *laughs* Here's a sneak peek though:

Enticing, no? *laughs*

What I can do, however, is tell you about the yarn. I received 6 balls of it in a big bag of yarn given to me by a colleague.

It started life like this:

Not something that appealed, if I'm honest. Very short colour repeats and a cream and blue combination meant that it was unlikely I would use it. But, it's a good quality 100% wool, and it seemed a shame to get rid of it... So I stashed it. Just in case *smiles*

And then the cunning plan of overdyeing it came to mind... So I grabbed the trusty Kool Aid and had a go. Most of what I used was dyed with grape, and some with black cherry. I'm really pleased with how it came out, and it became perfect for some secret knitting... So I got to use some stash and make a cool gift *grins*

I do have 3 and a half balls left, but they can wait until I come up with something else to do with them ;)

* "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources" - Albert Einstein

For actual pictures of creative, fibrey and finished content, you know where to go: TamiNatural SuburbiaWisdom Begins in Wonder

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Behind the Times

Ok, so I know I'm totally behind the times on this, but I finally got round to playing with "That can be my next tweet".

For those not already over and done with it, the premise is that you type in your twitter name, and the site analyses your past history and generates some... well, gibberish really *laughs*

  • That where she possesses her sister.... wtf! ok, you've convinced by the concept but I made bread too! Apart from making bread, which I do do, I cannot fathom where this came from!
  • Yay, go for kidlets too : Glad the musical biscuit tin! I finished my comments : hmmm, strange The biscuit tin is a clear reference to the M&S rotating musical Christmas biscuit tin I bought thanks to a dangerous tweet from Mooncalf. 
  • Damn right, sometimes I made yarn so pretty much quicker ; I can't do evening - I had such amazing things This sounds bizarrely wistful to me *laughs*
  • I don't know for reverse stockinette in ears and always think just got a year! It makes no sense, but I find it pleasingly lyrical ;)
  • Glad the bookclub section in my willpower is currently intact This is the only one that actually appears to be a correct sentence, although it makes very little sense! 
  • Yay - I find patterns or cookery books - I pretty - your tweets are always forget that I don't remember? Why thank you, I am pretty *grins* And I do like patterns and cookery books.

So, conclusions... I say "yay" too much and use too many exclamation marks *laughs* 

PS: Sorry to everyone who doesn't do twitter, please ignore this post entirely ;)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Work in progress Wednesday Number 32

Hey look, a progress picture with multiple colours *laughs*

No book picture again, I'm more into flicking through magazines at the moment, much faster ;)

So, mum's scarf (which isn't a Christmas present technically, so it's bloggable!) I've probably doubled the length since last week, although it's hard to tell in the picture. Not sure it'll be finished before Christmas, even though that was the original plan. Sorry mum!

New knitting is a Christmas present, but as my grandparents don't read the blog, I think it is safe to post *laughs* The dishcloth cotton I ordered arrived so I cast on to try it out. I need to go down a needle size, I think, as I'm not completely happy with how the fabric is coming out. Luckily, it is not quite as horrible to knit with as 4ply cotton *sighs with relief* But I still don't think I'll ever be a lover of cotton yarn!

And in my most exciting update, Cria is now only one sleeve away from completion *cheers* I've even been weaving in ends as I go to avoid having to do it when I finish. Looks like this cardigan may get completed someday soon *grins* Sorry for the crap picture though, I'm still getting used to the fact that my Christmas tree is now in the way of my usual photography spot!

I'm posting this update in a bit of a hurry, as I'm heading into an all day meeting momentarily, so I won't be able to catch up on everyone's work in progress Wednesday and yarn along posts until much later... Hopefully I made sense though *laughs*

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Bringing the Spirit...

... of Christmas to the office.

My colleagues and I decided that our desk area needed a Christmas tree (can you tell that we're the marketing department?!)

It's a little 2 foot, beautifully tacky pink tree (and I will admit that it belongs to me *laughs*) that now resides on the join between our desks. This location puts it just above my monitor, where I can revel in the joy of a pink plastic tree all day long ;)

I should mention that one of our company colours is pink, so we can even pretend that it is "corporate" *grins*

To counteract the tree, I have also added a further decoration to my desk:

No, your eyes do not deceive you, this really is a Darth Vader wearing-a-santa-hat Bobble-Head. He sits proudly on my desk, bringing a whole new dimension to the concept of Christmas cheer.

Monday, 12 December 2011

It's Been A While...

... since I did an "unusual words" list. And, as I completely forgot about the letter X during my ABC posts, I thought I'd finally get round to it ;)

So, unusual words beginning with X...

  • Xanthippe - ill-tempered woman *laughs* 
  • Xenium - gift made to a guest or ambassador/any compulsory gift... I'm not sure I love the idea of compulsory gifts, but then, I do like presents. Hmmm.
  • Xenodocheionology - love of hotels. Who knew there was enough of a love of hotels to justify a word for it?
  • Xerography - photocopying. I like that there is a much posher word for such a mundane task *laughs*
  • Xilinous - of, like, or pertaining to cotton. See, there's always something topical to include ;)
  • Xiphoid - sword-shaped. I'm amazed how many words there are relating to the shape of something (another good one, although not an "x" word, is Natiform, meaning buttock-shaped... No, really!)

Friday, 9 December 2011

Friday Fibre Frequency

Well, it's a Friday with no FO... And you know how much I hate that *laughs* And I've already done a few retrospectives, so no point boring you guys with another one of those.

But then I had an idea, as I was putting on my slouchy hand-knit hat... I wondered how often I have worn some of my knits, and decided to do a graph. Yep, I can be a bit of a geek sometimes!

  • So, as you can see, socks are (unsurprisingly) the most frequently worn item. 
  • My Lore hoodie cardigan is my favourite garment, as is obvious from the graph. 
  • Some of the winter accessories have recently seen the light of day again, such as my pink cowl and my mitts, as it is now cold enough for them, so their frequency should increase fairly quickly
  • My first proper garment, the brown jumper (or sweater for my international readers!), has been disappointly under-worn. I should rectify that this winter. 
  • My Dragon Tail scarf (my hitchhiker) has seen quite a lot of wear already, considering that it was only recently finished. 
As I was already having fun with graphs, I also decided to plot out how often I tend to use certain types of fibre in garments and accessories for myself...

This isn't representative of my stash, and I'm pretty sure my tastes have changed since I started knitting, but I do still love alpaca and wool. As you can see, though, I have a place for all different types of yarns, and although I prefer working with soft and beautiful yarns (although I haven't split out the cashmere and merino from the wool section), sometimes acrylic is the best option for the project. 

And I haven't included stashed fibres, like my bamboo or llama yarn, but I'm looking forward to both of them *grins*

So, despite my lack of proper finished object, I hope this hasn't been too disappointing a post ;) I actually quite enjoyed looking at my knitting stats!

For actual creative, fibrey and finished content, you know where to go: TamiNatural SuburbiaWisdom Begins in Wonder

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Plans of the Cunning Variety

You remember the little felted balls I made recently? Well, I have come up with something to do with them *grins*

The Christmas decor at boyfriend's flat is orange/cream/brown... Finding orange tree decorations is almost impossible... See where I'm going with this?

I also found some cute little present shaped decorations I had bought some time ago. They open up to put sweets and such inside, but I thought they might look good with orange balls:

It's a little sparse at the moment, and it is extremely difficult to get a picture that represents what it actually looks like *laughs* But I think it will work. And I have plenty of feltable merino left to fill this and the other 3 decorations up:

I have also had a small amount of inspiration for presents. I have no idea whatsoever what to get my grandfather as a gift. And then it came to me - I can make him some cotton washcloth type things for him to use in his workshop! It might not be a perfect present, but I think it is thoughtful and useful enough to be a good idea.

You may wonder how this equates to a cunning plan - and given that I'm not a fan of cotton and don't have much time before Christmas to add more present requirements, you may have a point *laughs But I'll work it out ;)

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Work In Progress Wednesday Number 31

Well, I don't have a lot to show for myself this week *laughs* Most of my time has been spent focusing on Christmas knitting to try and avoid a mad panic in a couple of weeks ;)

So, Cria hasn't had more than a couple of rows worth of attention, but I am itching to pick it back up which is definitely a good sign. And I haven't forgotten about my fuzzy ballet sweater, really! I just put it to one side when the Cria motivation kicked in and haven't got round to finishing it off. Well, that's something that can wait until deadline knitting is done *smiles*

However, I have started mum's scarf. I haven't done very much, but I wanted a relatively simple but small knit to pick up when I need a break from the present knitting, and this seemed like the perfect project. Plus, mum would probably like it sooner rather than later *laughs*

It's also nice to be working with yarn that isn't dark blue this week ;) It's Colinette Art, a wool and bamboo blend and I'm enjoying knitting with it.

Mum - I hope you like how it is turning out!

As ever, you know where to go for more works in progress and yarn along posts ;) Although you may have noticed the lack of a book in my pictures for the yarn along - unfortunately I am rubbish at balance and can't get enough knitting done if I'm enjoying a book too *laughs* I know some people swear by audio books, but I read so quickly that audio books always feel so slow to me. Ah well, plenty of time to read soon!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


A couple of days ago, I got an unexpected letter from my Grandmother. I should probably preface this with the information that my Gran is not the most emotionally available individual. I don't want to say too much, although I have many fond memories of her from my childhood but it is fair to say that we have a difficult relationship at times.

The letter was particularly suprising in that it talked about someone she has never mentioned before. From the sound of the letter, her Aunt Edna meant a huge amount to my Gran and as I've never heard anything about Gran's childhood, it was a pretty big deal to get this long, detailed letter about some happy memories.

Enclosed with the letter was this:

A gold brooch. This was given to Edna, who I think works out to be my Great, Great Aunt, by her Fiance some time before the First World War.

It means a lot to me that Gran gave me this brooch. I have a really small family, without much in the way of history, so having this beautiful antique that has been passed down to me makes me feel a little more connected to the past. A past that had never even been mentioned before now. Knowing my Gran, it won't be mentioned again, but it was nice to get a small snapshot *smiles*

Monday, 5 December 2011

Twinkle, Twinkle...

I put my Christmas decorations up *grins*

In fact, I am currently typing this in my gingerbread scented grotto with a glass of Baileys and a satisfied smile... In previous years, my decorations have been teal, silver and black, on a white tree but since I have changed my interior design style and no longer have a black and teal room, it seemed like a good time for a chnage.

Finding copper/brown/cream/etc baubles was a bit of a challenge, everything was either overly rustic or shiny and gold. But I am pretty happy with what I got in the end. I love these particular metal decorations:

You can barely see it in the main picture, but my new pride and joy is a snowglobe... Snowglobes aren't my usual style, admittedly, but this one just had to come home with me *grins*

Ok, so skeletons aren't fantastically Christmassy *laughs* But I love Jack Skellington.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Bright Cave*

So, as I mentioned yesterday, I finished boyfriend's hat:
Hmmm, headless hats look a funny shape, don't they?!

As with his socks, he was extremely excited and grateful for his hat... There was a small amount of dancing in front of the mirror, followed by a little song... No, really *laughs* I won't embarrass him by recounting it here, but it was to the tune of "the sun has got his hat on" and was very cute.

It's quite hard to take a picture of hat-on-head when the wearer doesn't want his face in the picture *rolls eyes* 

As you can see from the picture, he likes his hats slightly shorter than most people, which has the excellent result of leaving me enough yarn for a (non-matching!) hat of my own. Following Tink's suggestion yesterday, I used the decreases from the Watchman's Hat pattern, which I think look really cool:

I love the way the varied colours in the yarn seem to spiral.

Pattern: 2x2 rib, shorter than most hats, Watchman's hat decreases
Yarn: Malabrigo Worsted, in Marine (love this yarn!)
Love?: Oh yeah, he seems to love it *laughs* He refused to take it off for some time in fact ;)

*"Everywhere you hang your hat is home. Home is the bright cave under the hat" - Lance Morrow

As ever: Don't forget the usual suspects: TamiNatural SuburbiaWisdom Begins in Wonder.Plumslife

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Refrigerator of the Mind*

I finished boyfriend's hat last night (more on which tomorrow, of course!) and had an excellent realisation...

I seemed to have quite a lot of yarn leftover. In fact, having weighed the yarn and the hat, I have just over half left *big grin*

So, boyfriend's hat is safe from my grubby little mitts, because I can make one for me too. Which is good, because trying on the finished hat yesterday made me want it all the more, not just because the colour works so well with my cardigan, but also because it really is crazy soft ;)

Which means I now get to choose a pattern for me. I somehow don't think I want a matching hat *laughs* I won't cast on for a while, plenty to get finished in a short period of time, but I can start choosing now, right?!

I could go with a simple beanie sort of shape, but I'm thinking something a little more interesting...

Hurricane Hat:

by Abandonada

Or perhaps the Eyelet Rib Beanie:

© Beka Inman

I have about 110 yards of yarn left, and a fairly small head, so if you have any other ideas, I'd love to hear them!

*"Leftovers in their less visible form are called memories. Stored in the refrigerator of the mind and the cupboard of the heart". - Thomas Fuller