Easy like Sunday morning

I enjoyed a thoroughly domestic Sunday morning this morning. Not pictured: my cup of coffee and a plate of crusty bread spread with home-made elderberry jam.

Sunday morning

Today is my last day of a week’s holiday before going back to work tomorrow and I’m squeezing in as much relaxation as is possible. My day-job got particularly stressful round about last July and has pretty much remained that way ever since. This week has been my first proper break of any length since then and it’s turned out to be just what I needed to start feeling more like me again.

In fact, I’ve been feeling so little like me that the pair of socks I cast on for the Indie Design Gift-a-long only got finished on Friday since the cable pattern has just been too complicated for my tired brain to knit. (Which is more a reflection of how tired my brain has been since the pattern isn’t really complicated so much as hard to memorise which means lots of checking of charts.)

The socks are Kilworth by that bald guy knits.

Kilworth socks

I made a few minor mods to the pattern (noted on my Ravelry project page), mostly to do with the direction of the cable crossings, but otherwise these are pretty much knitted exactly as written. I did re-chart the pattern since I didn’t really like the way the pattern was laid out in the PDF. I hate having to flick backwards and forwards between several charts and the written instructions on a single round (particularly in electronic patterns) so I created new charts that included both my mods and all the cable charts in a single place.

Kilworth socks

I love the finished socks though which is just as well because Friday was the day that a series of British Gas repairmen proceeded to make our central heating problems worse rather than better so the socks are getting a lot of wear already.

Finishing them has also inspired me to start the other project pictured in the first photograph. These are Mirri mitts by ambah. I bought the Mirri collection during the Indie Design gift-a-long as well but, due to the aforementioned lack of knitting over this winter, totally failed to cast on during the gift-a-long never mind finish them.

Mirri mitt in progress

These are proving to be a fun, quick knit. The yarn is Bonny from The Yarn Yard in Stoplight and is such a cheerful colour that it’s making me smile even as the rain lashes against the windows of my currently unheated house on this rainy February morning. I might even manage to get them finished today so that they can cheer me up on my commute to and from the dreaded first day back at work tomorrow!

Indie Design Gift-a-long and pattern sale

Apparently, there are people out there who are already contemplating their Christmas shopping and crafting (not me — I’m in total denial about the fact that it’s already November). So, a group of independent designers decided to get together and help make Christmas knitting and crocheting a bit more fun and exciting!

The fun comes in two parts. First: a sale. Use the code “giftalong” on Ravelry between now and midnight on 15 November to get a 25% discount on a huge selection of patterns from more than 100 indie designers.

Second: a giant knit/crochet-a-long in the Indie Design Gift-a-long group on Ravelry. Cast on for any of the participating patterns between 1st November and 31st December and join in the discussion on the group forum board for chances to win some great prizes. (If you already have a copy of one of the participating patterns, you can still take part in the knit/crochet-a-long, just so long as you cast on for the project on or after 1st November.) You don’t need to finish your project before 31st December to be in with a chance of winning (says the person who frequently doesn’t finish her Christmas knitting till January) but it will increase the number of prizes that you’re eligible for.

All of my self-published patterns listed below are included in the event.

Strawberry shawlOren shawlWaterlilies shawl
Southwark Spire socksIrish Stout socksReal Ale socks
Celandine shawlKentigern shawlThe Hill House scarf

If you’re interested in patterns from a particular indie designer (other than me!) check out the full list of participating designers to see if they’re taking part.

Alternatively, take a look through the Participating patterns thread to see if anything catches your eye.

The really good news is that gifts for yourself are eligible for the discount and prizes too so even if you’re not planning on giving anyone else a knitted or crocheted gift this year, why not treat yourself!

Glasgow School of Yarn 2013

It was the Glasgow School of Yarn this weekend and as usual it was chock-full of interesting classes, beautiful yarn and lovely people.

I attended the Two-handed Colourwork class taught by Jon of Easyknits. I originally learnt to knit English-style but I’ve been meaning to learn Continental for a while.

Two-handed colourwork

The class was great. Jon was an engaging teacher and it turns out that learning another style of knitting, while somewhat frustrating, isn’t nearly as hard as I had thought it would be. Being able to hold a yarn in each hand when working in two colours also really speeds up colourwork knitting. Now I just need lots and lots of practice!

Two-handed colourwork

I didn’t have very long to spend in the marketplace and, despite being very tempted by the stitch markers by Owl Print Panda, I came away with just one skein of yarn. This is a skein of Deeply Wicked by Easyknits in the Rude Red colourway. I don’t use red yarn very often but every so often one just speaks to me and this was definitely one of those. I’m already formulating plans for a new sock design using it.

Easyknits Deeply Wicked in Rude Red

In other GSoY news, I finally got around to publishing my Kentigern Shawl pattern that was my entry into last year’s Glasgow School of Yarn design competition.

Kentigern shawl (full circle version)

It was a long time coming but the final pattern containing both the full circle and semi-circle versions is now available on Ravelry.

Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness – part II

In spite of the time and effort involved (and the number of jars and bottles that I’ve ended up buying!) it seems I may have gotten a little carried away with the idea of harvesting and using produce from our garden, since I found myself last weekend picking rosehips and elderberries as well. These are probably of most interest to me because, despite being aware that you could harvest and use them, I’ve never done it before nor did I have any idea what the end result would be like.

Rosehips

The rosehips have been made into rosehip syrup which it appears to be obligatory to mention was highly praised by the Ministry of Food during WWII as a great source of vitamin C. I think that they might have been less keen on my plan to pour it over ice cream or pancakes or use it in cocktails.

Rosehip syrup

Similarly, elderberries are also supposed to be full of vitamin C but I have a feeling that some of the health benefits may be lost by steeping them in vodka for months to create elderberry schnapps, which is exactly what is going to happen to this batch.

Elderberries

When searching for ways to use elderberries, I came across Danish-Schnapps-Recipes.com and fell down a rabbit-hole. I had no idea it was possible to make schnapps from so many different things. Since I only have so many jars I’m avoiding the temptation to make them all but I do now have batches of elderberry, apple and rosehip underway.

I think this is probably the last of the harvesting for this season, other than the few remaining apples still to be picked. Now we get to enjoy the fruits of our labours!

Recipes

Rosehip syrup
Elderberry schnapps
Apple schnapps
Rosehip schnapps

Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness – part I

We moved into a new house at the beginning of August and, as we move further into Autumn, have been gradually learning that the fruitfulness around here is anything but mellow. The house has a wonderful, big garden and we knew before we moved in that there were a number of fruit trees and bushes but we’ve been a little overwhelmed by just how good this year’s harvest is. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks researching ways to make the most of the bounty so if you’re interested in particular recipes, jump to the bottom of the post where I’ve included a list with links to online versions where available.

Back garden

This post mainly features apple pictures but it was the plums that were the real stars. Despite giving away, literally, kilos of them, we still had enough to make two different types of jam (and several batches of each of these), two kinds of chutney, plum sauce, plum cake, plum crumble and a plum shrub similar to the strawberry shrub in my last post.

Apple tree branch

The apple harvest has been slightly more restrained so we only made one type each of jam and chutney, some apple sauce, apple crumble and an apple pie. (I’m ignoring the large quantities of apples that are sitting in the kitchen that still haven’t been used up yet and the fact that there are two more trees with later ripening varieties that we’ve barely started harvesting yet.)

Apple tree branch

As well as the plums and apples, we’ve also been picking pears, blackberries, and gooseberries. We only got a handful of gooseberries so they got cooked down in some cider as a sauce for pork chops. Similarly, there were only about a dozen pears so those have just been eaten as they ripened. The ½ kilo of blackberries went into a batch of apple and blackberry jam although I’ve since found a recipe for blackberry schnapps that makes me wish I hadn’t used them already.

Bowl of apples

As if the list below wasn’t enough (and we really have made everything on the list below over the past month or so), I’ve also been picking our rosehips and elderberries but more on that in part II!

Recipes

Plums

Plum, cinnamon and orange jam – my recipe is similar to this one but without the cloves and only using the same weight of preserving sugar as you have fruit
Plum jam – a simpler, sweeter jam than the one above
Plum chutney – still mellowing in the cupboard so haven’t had a chance to try this one yet
Indian-style plum chutney – brilliantly tangy and great with poppadums
Plum sauce – I didn’t like the results of the recipe I used so I won’t link to it but let me know if you have a good one
Plum pudding cake – almost gingerbread-like, but with plums
Plum crumble – I used the filling from this recipe but with the topping of the apple crumble recipe below
Plum shrub – the shrub is currently mellowing so I don’t know how this tastes yet but I’m looking forward to trying out their cocktail recipe for it

Apples

Spicy apple and tomato chutneywe made this to give to people at Christmas a couple of years ago and wished we’d kept more of it
Apple and blackberry jam – not the exact recipe I used but very similar.
Apple sauce – really easy to make
Apple crumble – a definite favourite around here
Apple pie – again, not the exact recipe but similar.

Gooseberries

Pork chops with gooseberries and cider – pretty much made up on the spot: Brown two large pork chops in a pan and then add ½l of dry cider and several handfuls of gooseberries. Cook until chops are cooked through and gooseberries are softened. Mash gooseberries into pan juices to create sauce.

Summer refreshments

It’s been a bit hotter than usual here in Scotland over the past few months which has led to some experimenting with some new-to-me (non-alcoholic) beverages to cool down and stay refreshed.

First up, cold-brewed coffee. The only way to separate me from my morning coffee would be to pry it from my cold, dead hands. However, I struggle to drink hot coffee in hot weather and while I love iced coffee I am horribly fussy about it. I don’t take milk in my coffee so don’t want it in my iced coffee either and hot-brewed, black coffee has a tendency to bitterness when it cools. The solution: cold-brewed coffee (shown below before filtering).

Cold brew coffee

This takes a bit of advance preparation since coffee takes a lot longer to brew in cold water than in hot water but, that aside, is brilliantly simple. Put coffee (I use the same ground coffee that I would usually use in my cafetière) and cold water in a jug in a 1:2 ratio (I use 1.75 American measuring cups of coffee to 3.5 cups of cold water). Cover and leave to stand for 12 hours. Then filter the coffee, which I do using my usual cafetière, re-cover and refrigerate. Once it’s cold, it can be served as-is or with milk or over ice depending on your preference.

Next up, strawberry drinking vinegar, also known as strawberry shrub. Despite the unappealing names, this is a tangy, fruity cordial-like drink which is delicious diluted. I used this recipe but didn’t wait the full week after adding the sugar, just until the sugar had fully dissolved.

Strawberry Shrub Strawberry Shrub

Perfect when diluted with fizzy water. Now all I need is the warm weather to come back!

A “little” bit of knitting

I said in my last post that there had been a little bit of knitting while I had been offline but looking back I realise that there was actually quite a lot of knitting just not very many projects.

Most of the knitting went into this:

Tweed baby blanket

which is the Tweed Baby Blanket by Jared Flood. The blanket is a modern take (colour-wise) on a very traditional blanket style (garter stitch square knitted on the bias with a feather and fan border).

Tweed baby blanket

I’ve been wanting to knit one of these for a long time but, given the cost of the yarn and the effort involved, I was waiting for a good excuse. Becoming an aunt for the first time at the end of April was the perfect excuse!

Tweed baby blanket

I used Rowan Felted Tweed DK on 4.5mm needles, which gave a nice drape to the blanket and enough openness to the lace border that I didn’t have to block it. The Felted Tweed is machine washable (which I insist on for baby presents for new parents – they’ve got enough to worry about without worrying about hand-washing woollens). After knitting, I washed the blanket in the machine and then just laid it flat to dry.

Tweed baby blanket

I have mixed feelings about the Felted Tweed yarn. I love the colours and the finished blanket is lovely and soft and squishy. However, it sheds a lot even after washing. After knitting with it, my clothing looked like I had been sat on by a small, white hairy dog. As much as I love the finished result, I will need to think very carefully about whether I use the Felted Tweed again in future.

For now, I have to get this blanket posted off before I decide that I’m keeping it for myself!

Emerging from my cave

View from my front door

The view from my front door yesterday.

The past couple of months have been insanely busy between my day-job and exams but the exams are now over and things are getting a little quieter at work so it is time to dust off the blog and get crafting again.

There has been a little bit of knitting while I’ve been offline and even more crafting that I didn’t manage to blog about before I disappeared so watch this space!

Vintage sewing machine adventures: part 5 — vintage sewing machine no. 2

Possible alternative title for this post: You need three before it counts as a collection, right?

A trip to an antiques and collectibles fair recently ended up with me bringing home another vintage sewing machine:

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

It is another Singer, this time the hand-cranked No. 20. It is probably not clear in the pictures but it’s only about 6″ high since it was designed a child’s machine.

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

Like my first vintage machine, it was in pretty good condition when I bought it and just needs a little bit of oil and cleaning.

There are lots of nice little touches due it to having been designed as a first machine, like the clear numbers shown below to guide you in threading the machine…

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

… and the arrows to show you which direction to turn the hand-wheel.

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

Unfortunately, these machines don’t have serial numbers so they’re not quite as easy to date as the full-size Singers. A little bit of internet research leads me to believe that this machine was probably made some time after 1926 and before the 1950′s so from the same time period as my treadle machine.

One of the best things about this machine is that it still has its original box:

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

The caption above the picture on the front says “As the twig is bent, so the tree is inclined.” The machine itself is described as being both “Practical and instructive” and “Useful and amusing”. I certainly hope so!

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

Winter of socks – part III

The second sock syndrome was even worse than I feared. Not only did it take me four attempts to get started but it then took me four attempts to knit the heel. Four seemed to be the magic number though and all was well after that:

Real Ale Socks

(Technically, this is the same picture of the first sock that I showed before but the second one does look exactly the same, honest!)

So now it’s time for a pair for me. I’m making me a pair of my Southwark Spire Socks, since I don’t actually have a pair due to having left one of the sample pair on a train.

Southwark Spire socks

The yarn is from The Yarn Yard and is their Bonny sock yarn in “Matelot”. I wanted something similar to the blue that I knitted the samples in and I had heard lots of nice things about Yarn Yard yarn so thought I would give it a go. It is 75% wool, 25% nylon so should be perfect for socks.

Yarn Yard Bonny sock yarn

I’m really pleased with how it is knitting up so far: the stitch definition is lovely and the subtle variation of the semi-solid is just enough to be really pretty without overpowering the pattern at all. Fingers crossed that this pair isn’t as much trouble as Steven’s socks were!