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!



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


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.


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!

Winter of socks – part II

It’s been nearly three months since I posted about how I needed to knit Steven and me a lot more socks. Unfortunately, despite a lot of sock-related activity (two new patterns and a book review) I’m sorry to say that I haven’t completed even one pair that we can wear.

I have finished the first of a pair of my Real Ale Socks in Regia 4 ply for Steven but I seem to be suffering from a particularly extreme form of second sock syndrome.

Real Ale Socks

Second sock syndrome usually applies to a knitter’s reluctance to knit a second sock due to the repetitive nature of knitting a second item that’s identical to the one you’ve just finished. In my case, the spirit is willing but the flesh appears to be weak. What you see here is my fourth attempt to knit the second sock of this pair:

Second sock

The first three attempts have fallen foul of bizarre combinations of casting on the wrong number of stitches, working the wrong type of rib for the cuff and twisting the cast-on. I would cross my fingers that I’m past the worst of it but I don’t think that’ll help with the knitting!

Yarnwise, issue 57 – Leominster Socks

This weekend has been one of the most exciting in my short career as a knitting designer. Why? Because the latest issue of Yarnwise is out and I have a pattern in it!

Yarnwise, issue 57 - Leominster Socks

Back in November, I saw a post on Ravelry by the editor of  Yarnwise looking for last minute submissions for their Winter/Spring issues. I usually ignore submission calls because the deadlines rarely work well with my day-job and studying and, well, the rest of my life. However, I realised that for this one I had a pattern already mostly designed that fitted one of the themes really well and I had a few days booked off work that I’d be able to spend tweaking the design and actually writing the pattern. So, I knitted up a swatch/sample, put a submission together, sent it in and the rest is history.

Here are the sample socks before they were posted off to have their “proper” photographs taken:

Leominster Socks

I’ll do a full “Story of a design” post at some point but for now I’m too busy grinning at seeing my pattern in print!

Book review: Sock Innovation

Sock Innovation by Cookie A. manages the difficult task of trying to be two things at once and succeeding brilliantly at both.

Sock Innovation

Not only is it a great collection of sock patterns but it’s also an amazing resource for anyone with an interest in designing their own socks. It straightforwardly walks you through many of the issues that need to be considered: how to convert flat stitch patterns for knitting in the round; how to work out where to place the patterns so that they flow nicely into heels or toes; how to invert cable and lace patterns so that they can be knitted in the other direction. There are also descriptions of how to work some of the most common types of heels and toes.

The most important resource in this book for anyone wanting to design their own socks is a table of stitch counts for flap heel and turn variations. Heel flap patterns traditionally say something like:

Row 1: Sl1, kX, ssk, k1, turn work.

Row 2: Sl1, pY, p2tog, p1, turn.

Row 3: …

Row 4: …

Repeat rows 3 and 4 until Z stitches remain.

Until I started designing my Irish Stout Socks, I had never given any thought as to how someone would determine the number for X, Y and Z. For those socks, I figured it out by trial and error but going through that for every sock design would be extremely frustrating and time-consuming. Sock Innovation contains a comprehensive table for values of X, Y and Z based on the total number of stitches in your sock so I never have to do my own calculations again!

Sock innovation

The second half of the book is a collection of 15 patterns that demonstrate the techniques from the first half. There are patterns with multiple stitch patterns that transition into each other; socks with mirrored patterning; socks with non-standard gusset decreases. One of my favourites is Rick, shown below, which has a diagonal twisted rib pattern.

Sock innovation

So, whether you want to design your own socks or just knit fantastic socks with interesting construction, you’ll find something of value in this book.

Story of a design – Southwark Spire Socks

When we lived in London, my train journeys regularly took me past Southwark Cathedral. It’s an impressive building from all angles but I was always fascinated by two of the spires which are leaded with a beautiful geometric pattern.

Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral

A bit of trial and error got me a twisted stitch pattern:

and quite a lot more trial and error got me a sock pattern that incorporated it:

Southwark socks

Southwark Spire Socks are now available from Yellow Ginger Designs and Ravelry.