Monday, 6 April 2015

Scrappy Sock Yarn Blanket is back on the needles!

Celebrating Easter in the UK, we are lucky enough to have a 4 day Bank Holiday.  After a bit of work on Friday, it was time to make the most of the time off.

The weather was favourable, so I got stuck into gardening at home, sowing seeds in my greenhouse and working down at the allotment.  This went on for most of the weekend.  Even my little fat man was laughing at me!

A perfect weekend you might think. Well my day job is as a......... gardener!  Still rewards were had with these lovely tulips from the allotment, as well as new season purple sprouting broccoli and rhubarb. Plus it's a lot tidier to boot.

Of course, I also managed to sneak in some knitting - well a girl needs some downtime!

So here I go again.  Another WIP (Work in Progress) is back on track.  Way back in 2010, I got a pattern for a double knit yarn blanket from my local yarn store. You create lots of individual diamonds to make the blanket and the best thing - there's no sewing together.  It's all done in the knitting.  I adapted it slightly for 4ply sock yarn, using 3.25mm needles.

A similar pattern is available here on Ravelry.

Well, it then got put in my knitting bag and promptly forgot about with only 20 diamonds done.  But no more! Its my next challenge.

My blanket is 12 diamonds across and nearly 1m in width.  When I started it, I had very little sock yarn, so the colours are a tad muted.  No chance of that now, as I have acquired an awful lot more.

I am now up to 35 diamonds and counting.  Not sure how long it's going to be yet.  Will just keep adding the diamonds until I am happy with it.  My plan is for a lap blanket to snuggle under when I'm TV knitting.

It is, by no means, going to be quiet and tasteful!

Perfect, easy TV knitting, though hopefully it won't take another 5 years to complete. It will have to be put aside for a while, as I need to complete my second sock for a test knit.  More on that soon.

Who would have thought it would be nice enough to sit outside early evening over Easter and do a spot of knitting.  Makes up for all that gardening!

Happy Easter and Happy Knitting all!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Ariel Bias Scarf - Only 2 1/2 years in the making!

So rather a long time ago (September 2012!!!), I was brought back 2 lovely skeins of Americo Original Cotton Alpaca 4ply yarn from Toronto, Canada.  With it came a pattern for the Ariel Bias Scarf.  A really simple pattern using 5mm needles.

I duly cast on my 67 stitches and did 2 purl rows.  You then start the 2 row stitch pattern of Knit 3 stitches, then repeat YO (Yarn over), K2tog (Knit two together) to the last 2 stitches, Knit 2.
Turn the work, Knit 2 stitches, Purl to the last 2 stitches, Knit 2. And so forth.

Except I only got a few rows in and then the scarf got cast aside for a new pair of socks....... and then another!

But 2015 is all about finishing my WIP's (works in progress) that I wished I finished ages ago and using up some of my yarn stash (then I don't feel guilty about buying more).

Its a super easy pattern to memorise and knit in front of the telly (or in a recent traffic jam - at least I wasn't a grumpy driver! I wasn't going anywhere, so might as well be time effective).

I kept at the pattern until I was nearly out of yarn - 200g later and over 2m in length, I finished with the 2 rows of Knit stitch and cast off.

My Ariel Bias Scarf at last.

Its an un-dyed alpaca /cotton yarn from Peru and I just love the colour.

I think it rather suits me!

3 languishing WIP's finished so far this year and its only April tomorrow!

Happy knitting!

Monday, 9 March 2015

Draped Top - The Great British Sewing Bee Book

A while back, I borrowed my Mum's copy of The Great British Sewing Bee Book  as I wanted to have a go at making the Draped Top.  There was always something else that wanted sewing, knitting or baking, so I didn't get around to it for ages.

Well enough was enough and last week I gave it a go.  My sewing skills are more geared to quilting, so dressmaking was a total change.  But I like a challenge!  Assisted by the cat, I set to, tracing and cutting out the pattern from the pattern sheets provided.

The fabric I was using is probably older than me and was brought back from Hong Kong over 40 years ago.  Its matt silk and much richer in colour than the photo shows.

I found it quite flimsy to work with, but has a beautiful drape.  Just what you need for a top like this.

The pattern was simple and easy to follow and gave separate instructions for the gathering required for the neckline.  I chose to do my gathering by hand and did the rest on the machine with Gutermann Sew-it-all thread and a size 70 machine needle.

A simple halterneck style neck tie.

And a nice scooped hemline front and back.

Its going to be just perfect for a beach holiday!

I think I like it so much, I will try it out in a variety of fabrics.  I bought this lovely fine cotton from Liberty about 4 years ago and think it would look great as a draped top.

However, it has sat in its Liberty bag since I bought it and I'm not sure I can bare to actually cut it up.

Happy sewing!

Friday, 27 February 2015

NordicWare Gingerbread House Cake

So as well as getting a nice new pair of hand knit socks, my Mum had to have a birthday cake as well.  Its the law!  It had to be able to withstand quite a few hours in the car and ideally stay tasty for a few days, so we could keep tucking into it over the weekend.

One of my Xmas presents from her was this brilliant Nordicware Gingerbread House tin.  So what better to use for her birthday cake, as it needed to be christened.

How do I look from this angle?

And this is my inside, that does all the hard work in creating a masterpiece!

On the inside of the sleeve that comes with the tin, you find a recipe for each different shaped bundt tin.  Not surprisingly for a Gingerbread House, you get a great recipe for Gingerbread Cake. There are many other free recipes on the Nordicware website, all able to hold the shape of the various different tins.

Here is the UK recipe for the Gingerbread Cake, which you could use is any cake tin.
  • 345g cake flour - in the UK = Plain flour
  • 225g Castor sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 135g light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 230g butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 300ml milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Heat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C - static oven, gas mark 3). Grease and lightly flour tin (I used Wilton's Cake Release again); set aside. In medium bowl, sift together flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt and baking powder; set aside. In large bowl, combine Castor sugar, brown sugar and butter. Beat 3 minutes, until light and fluffy, scraping bowl often. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low. Blend flour mixture into sugar mixture, alternately with milk. Spoon batter into prepared tin, spreading batter slightly up onto the sides of the tin. 

Place tin on a baking sheet and bake for 55-66 minutes (I baked for 66 minutes as in a static oven), until toothpick (?) or skewer inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool upright in tin for at least 10 minutes. 

Remove from tin onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

My cake then got popped in a cake tin and travelled up the M1, before getting a dusting of icing sugar.  It really makes the details pop!

The end result being a dense, but moist cake with a syrupy taste, that was just delicious.  We reckon it would be perfect with stem ginger ice cream and also a great cake to decorate with kids. Oh and I reckon, one happy recipient!

I love these Nordicware tins!

Happy baking!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Hedera Socks - Look what was in my WIP's basket!

So my plans to do lots of knitting this year are coming along well.  Plus I am working though my WIP's projects (work in progress), that have been hanging around for far too long.  Obviously I'm not finishing things just for the sake of it.  That would be a terrible waste of yarn!  However, sometimes things jump out of the WIP's basket and shout 'finish me'.

I started a lovely sock pattern called Hedera by Cookie A, back in November 2013.  But for whatever reason, I started another pair of socks and the Hedera's languished in the pile.  Such a shame, as I was using gorgeous high twist yarn by Five Moons in the Blackberry Twist colourway.

When I started the socks back in 2013, I knit about 2" of the first sock and that was it.  I used 2.25mm needles and cast on 60 stitches.  My usual number for socks, but normally on 2.5mm needles.  Just a 1/4mm makes such a difference to the gauge and as I was knitting them, I realised they would be a bit snug.  Cue a well timed comment from my Mum with little feet, when she heard I was back sock knitting with a vengeance.  'Well, I could certainly do with a new pair of hand knit socks'.  Subtle she is not!  Well yesterday was her birthday and purple is her favourite colour, so I think it all came together quite well.  I managed to get them finished a couple of days before I went up for a visit. Phwew!  And they fit!

I love to knit and I love knitting socks.  Quite an apt book for me to knit from then really.  The pattern should follow down the top of the foot, but I wanted a smooth foot (except the purl, purl, ktbl detail along each side). Plus it shows off the yarn better I feel.

The yarn gave really good stitch definition.

All in all, a joy to knit and a pleasure to gift.

My Ariel Bias scarf is coming along a treat, especially as I knit some rows in the traffic jam going up north and I've decided on a new sock challenge.  Knitting two-at-a-time.  I must be mad!

Happy knitting!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Jo Wheatley's Banana Loaf - Re-blogged!

I really, really didn't mean to bake tonight, but sometimes these things just happen.

So, I guess you know you are a keen baker when:-

A)  Your clients give you overripe bananas just as you are leaving saying 'Just in case you'd like to     bake a cake, dear'.
B)   You know exactly which recipe would do for the above said bananas and in which of your many baking books the recipe can be found.
C)   You get home and find you have all the ingredients you need (bar the bananas) in your store         cupboard.
D)   The cake is prepped and in the oven within 30 minutes of getting home!

One of my most viewed blog posts is for Jo Wheatley's Banana Loaf , from her 'A Passion for Baking' Book.  This has to be my go-to recipe for anything bananary!

I follow the recipe, using the suggested 2lb loaf tin, baking in a 170c static oven, but replace the pecans and cinnamon with 100g of dark chocolate chips in the cake batter.  You could also divide the mixture into two 1lb loaf tins and bake for 50 minutes.  Then you have one to eat and one to freeze.

Its a fab recipe to whip together in no time for instant taste gratification.

Perfect with a cup of tea and to enjoy in the garden if you are lucky enough to see some sunshine in February!

Happy baking!

Friday, 30 January 2015

My Cup Of Tea Socks - The Knitting Mojo Returns!

Last year saw a bit of a knitting hiatus for me.  I only manged to knit 1.5 pairs of socks in a whole year.  Crazy!  Well my New Years Resolution for this year was to get back into doing all the things I love. Running regularly, baking (you might have gathered that from previous posts this year!) and knitting to name a few.

Last year I manged to start and finish these lovely Betula Socks by Rachel Coopey.  They were a Christmas gift for a lady I work for and well received.

I also started My Cup of Tea Socks by Robin Lynn back in July.  They then sat at this stage of Sock 1 in my knitting bag until ......... well, mid January, I am ashamed to say.  But no more!  The knitting mojo has well and truly returned.  That is, when my cat will allow it, as he doesn't care to share a lap with hand knit socks.

I am totally chuffed with myself, as the pair is now finished, ready for the arrival of Spring, which the colours remind me of.  The motif down the front is based on a Crocus pattern,  

Quite apt as the Crocus are starting to open in the gardens around me.

So I aim to finish some more of my WIP's (work in progress) in the coming months, that have been languishing for far too long, including this Ariel Bias Scarf, which I started back in 2012.  Ooopps!

Then again, there are lots of lovely new patterns to try in my Ravelry Library.  Oh the dilemma.

Happy knitting!