You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.

Pablo Neruda

1-P1000973

Miniature Daffodil

It’s been too long.  I’ve been trying to get a post together for weeks but I just haven’t got here until now.  I started the month off sort of unwell – again.  I have a very tiny lump on my temple, had it for ages, and it was so small that the only time I knew it was there was if I ran a finger across my temple and I could just feel it under the skin. Some time last month it decided to flare up, as apparently they do, and it became very large and angry. To cut a long and rather gruesome story short, after a few weeks of trying to deal with it myself (don’t say anything!) I woke up one Sunday morning to find the whole of one side of my face rather larger than the other. It’s quite interesting being able to see two different people in the mirror at the same time; but perhaps not quite as much fun as you would think! It was another 24 hours before I could see a doctor, (our local drop in centre is to be avoided unless you are in immediate danger of death as far as I’m concerned) who put me straight onto a heavy course of penicillin/antibiotics.  We discussed what it may do to my weak digestive system, but in all honesty I had no other choice but to take the course. As my Dr. kindly pointed out, it was either that or be admitted to hospital where they would do the same anyway. I still may have to have the lump removed but at the moment it is all healing nicely and apart from a small mark, has all but disappeared once again. The drugs did make me very ill, as we knew they would, and have upset my system to such an extent that I am now back to where I was six months or more ago as regards to digestive health. I know from tests that I have already lost two types of beneficial bacteria that I should have in my system, ones that aren’t so easy to replace, now I don’t know if I’ve lost any more following this course of treatment. The good thing is that I’m starting from a much stronger point. I heal much better than I did, and at least now I know what I need to do to give everything the best chance of recovery. I’m hoping that, as with a lot of things, experience will make things much easier second time round. It’s frustrating, but it is what it is.

So, that is why I haven’t been around for a bit. Enough of the doom and gloom, since I have recovered some of my energy back I haven’t been sitting around.

Spring has started to, well, spring around here.  The blueberry is starting to make moves toward flowering.  Last year was a poor year, as far as this plant was concerned, so I fed it well all through the summer and am hoping that it shows its’ appreciation this year by giving us a bumper crop, weather permitting.

Blueberry 1

Blueberry buds

I’ve been spinning a little too.

Norwegian Tops

Norwegian Tops

A few years ago now I purchased two of these beautiful Norwegian tops from Wonderwool Wales. A natural humbug mixture. I’ve started with the white and plan to keep the colours separate, hoping to use them in something together, perhaps a pair of socks with different coloured heels, leg and toes.

Norwegian Tops

Norwegian Tops

I love handspun socks and have recently worn out a pair I made about 5 years ago, they lasted well so maybe it’s an ideal time to get back into a bit of spinning and replace them at the same time.

While I was taking the drugs it was all I could do to make it to work and although I wanted to knit, I just couldn’t settle to anything. I started things, ripped and started something else, then ripped again, but over the last week I’ve got back into a couple of projects that I had already on the go but suddenly had no enthusiasm for.

One is a cardigan for myself, started when the weather was very miserable and I felt in need of something big and warm to wrap up in.

Textured cardigan

Textured cardigan

Back a month or two ago I started a top down raglan, adding a simple textured pattern to the sleeves.  Basically making it up as I went along, I’ve ended up really pleased with how it is turning out.  I wanted it oversize so I could put it on over a couple of layers and snuggle up into it.  I’ve also knitted it much longer than I normally like my cardigans and have a plan to add big patch pockets to it when I’m done. I wanted to knit it in blue but just couldn’t find a colour that I really liked so I dug out this natural grey from the stash and decided to try it out in this. If I like it enough to knit two, I’ll look for something else next time.

Texturedsleeve2

Front and sleeve view

It only has the one, almost finished, sleeve so far. It’s been sitting like this for weeks so I’m hoping if I tell you about it, it will give me the needed push to get it done.  While I finish the second sleeve I’ll try to decide whether to put a collar or a simple ribbing around the neck. I think a collar would look best at balancing the chunkiness of it all but, well, I’m not always keen on them as they do add to the bulk around the top. Time to decide yet anyway.

Weather permitting, I’ve been planting seeds. I’ve got some tomato and pepper seeds in and have sewed the first of the carrot seeds up at the allotment along with the onion sets. These little seedlings I’m especially proud of though.

marigold seedlings

marigold seedlings

They may not look much but I collected these seeds from plants I grew myself………………  wait for it……….. Five years ago!  I picked off the seed heads and put them into an envelope at the end of the season, threw them into an old shoe box in the cupboard where I keep my seed packets and just really never got around to sewing them.  This year I went through to box turfing out all the old out of date seed packets to see what I needed to buy this year and came across the collection of envelopes with seeds I have collected myself. On a whim I decided I had nothing to lose and, well here they are. Who says seeds don’t keep well for more that a year or two. I don’t know what the final germination rate of these will be of course, they’ve only just started to pop up, but if I get half I’ll be more than happy.

I have also spent some time cooking, as usual, and have a great recipe that I adapted for a gluten and dairy free Manchester Tart. A Manchester tart is a pastry case spread with jam and covered with a custard filling topped with toasted coconut.

Manchester Tart

Manchester Tart

This one also has a little something extra inside!

Recipe to come.

Mindie

Gracie Baby Blanket

First of all, thank you all so much to everyone who contacted me regarding the baby blanket.  Your support was overwhelming, I was so taken aback that I had to have a little re-think on this pattern.

I have made a few changes that make me feel better and have re-listed it as you all requested.

Daisy 1

As you can see from the title of this post, the blanket also has a new name, the Gracie Baby Blanket.  The lovely lady who I first designed the blanket for has now had a beautiful baby girl whom they have named Gracie. As I was making other changes, I thought it would also be nice to call the blanket after the little one who inspired the making of it.

New baby blanket.

New baby blanket.

So, once again it is available.

And, in honour of the new baby Gracie, the pattern will be available for free until the end of February, just put in the promo code gracie at the checkout.

blanket8Once again, thank you all so much for your kind comments and support over this, you are wonderful!

Mindie

 

Daisy Baby Blanket

I know that I promised a give away for the baby blanket pattern but, well, I can’t, I can’t even sell you a copy, and this is why.

Before I write-up the pattern for something I have designed, I do a good deal of research to make sure that there is not too similar a pattern already available.  This is harder than you might think as there is an abundance of knitting patterns available from spinners and indie designers all over the world. Some designs are similar, but also, some things that look similar are in fact very different in terms of construction etc. It can take hours of scrolling through pages of designs all over the net to check them all out.

However, this is one time I have had my fingers singed a little.  As you know, I’ve been working on baby blankets lately and wrote up a pattern for one that I recently gave as a baby shower gift.

This one.

New baby blanket.

New baby blanket.

I had spent hours looking at blanket patterns and not once did I come across one  like this one, not even similar. So, after checking and editing the pattern I uploaded it to Ravelry as usual with a promo code which made it free for a month. It’s a very simple pattern and I only charge a nominal fee after a while as I’ve been burnt with free patterns before. Some of you may remember the original Duffers pattern fiasco! Anyway, all uploaded and everything hunky dory until I went back to check the listing to make sure that it was working and…. when I put in the search what pops up but a very similar blanket, too similar for my comfort zone. Of course I prefer my version, but I’m allowed to aren’t I?

I just can’t do it. Sorry. I have removed the listing, but it is still showing at the moment.  I assume that it will disappear over time.

blanket8

If you want a similar blanket to this one you’ll just have to purchase the other pattern.

Scone or scon(e)

If you don’t know how to pronounce a word, say it loud! … Why compound ignorance with inaudibility.

E.B. White

However you pronounce the word, scone means different things to different people depending where you live.  There are scones that are served with jam and clotted cream; drop scones that are more like pancakes; potato scones that you can have with your breakfast; scones made from oats and scones that you have with gravy. Some are fried and some are baked, some are sweet and some are savoury, some are large and cut into triangles and some individual and round, (fluted for sweet, plain for savoury) – the list is endless.

In our house, no particular pronunciation is correct.  If someone pronounces it one way, you can be sure that somebody else will pronounce it another – just because. The other week I decided to try to make some allergy friendly scones, also – just because.  I’m not a huge fan of scones, the baked with jam variety anyway, never was, but gluten and dairy free ones are particularly difficult to master so ever up for a challenge I decided to give it a go. I found this book,

Serously Good Gluten-Free Cooking by Phil Vickery

seriously Good Gluten-Free Cooking by Phil Vickery

which used to be my Mothers.  I haven’t really cooked anything from it to be honest as most of the recipes are for savoury dishes and I long ago (mostly) mastered gluten and dairy free mains. In it Phil Vickery has a recipe for scones (the English jam and cream variety) using polenta which I thought worth a try. As a comparison, I also found a recipe online for scones which had very good reviews and decided to give that one a go as well.

Firstly I made these,

scones1

You will find the recipe, from the head chef at the Whitehall Hotel here. The hotel is pleased to cater for special diets, a great idea, and if the scones are anything to go by, well I think you would be in for a treat.

Then I made the ones from the book.

scones3

They look quite different but are both very scone like in taste and texture.  I made everyone try one of each and then asked for their opinion. The verdict was that they were both equally good  -  the Whitehall ones being sweeter were nice on their own if you just wanted some with just butter or DF spread, the Phil Vickery ones looked more like traditional English scones and, being less sweet, lent themselves to being smothered with jam. They were all gone within 36 hours anyway, none lasting any longer that the other so I guess that’s a hit for either recipe. Sweet or less sweet, the decisions is yours, as is the pronunciation!

There has been knitting, if you were wondering.  After posting about my dilemma with the blanket mistake, my old friend Alison, aka MidlandSpinner on Ravelry, always a mine of information, contacted me about fixing it without ripping back all that work. After a short discussion she advised that perhaps the best way to approach the problem was to snip the yarn at the mistake, unpick and re-do just that section.  I admit that I dithered quite a bit before taking the plunge, but, take the plunge I did and after a good deal of swearing (and perhaps wine) I managed to get it all sewn up again and looking not too bad.  Thank you Alison, as always you have the best advice and support just when I need it.  I still can’t show you the finished article yet, but what I can show you is the blanket I designed after that one.

New baby blanket.

New baby blanket.

When I chose the pattern for the baby blanket, I had trouble finding one that was a) pretty enough if the baby was a girl,  but  b) not too pretty if the baby was a boy,  c) was quite quick to knit up but looked as if it wasn’t! and finally  d) looked pretty good from both back and front.

So after the hair-raising first blanket, I gave some thought to what I would knit that fulfilled all of the above and came up with this one.  Knitted in 4 ply or fingering, it’s light enough that it doesn’t look too heavy on a newborn but if you went up to a DK or light worsted weight yarn it would make a good cot blanket for a bigger baby. This version is just the right size for a basket or small crib or when around and about in a pram or car seat. I made this one in white as I intend for it to be given away with the first, but I think would look great in a semi solid or brighter yarn as the raised pattern catches the light wonderfully. It is so simple to knit, as soon as I get a few hours I plan to write the pattern up as a give away, so stay tuned!

Things have been just mad around here the last few weeks, which is why I haven’t been by, but with the tax out of the way and some ‘must do’s’ under my belt, I hope to be back next week with some more knitting and news of the blanket pattern.

scones2Mindie.

A beginning ends what an end begins

- James Richardson

Happy New Year!

I know it’s a bit late and I do feel a little guilty that I haven’t popped in and said it before but I’ve been a bit slow getting started after the holidays. I have an excuse.

I came down with an awful cold on Christmas eve, which has refused to leave completely (as is normal for me now) and I am still struggling with the tail end of it. But, I did manage to ‘do’ Christmas. We had a good feast, completely food friendly for all concerned. It really wasn’t that difficult although I did end up spending a huge amount of time in the kitchen, especially considering I felt so bad, but it was well worth the effort.

Mini Christmas Cakes

Mini Christmas Cakes

I even managed to bake two dozen of these little gems.  Mini Christmas cakes, complete with marzipan and icing (and a little alcohol for good measure). I used a gluten & dairy free Christmas cake recipe but simply spooned the mixture into little fairy cake cases instead of one large cake tin and baked them for about 20 minutes. They came out great, not dry at all, which I was a little worried about, and made just the right size cakes to have with a drink when guests arrived. They were a little sweet for my taste, which was actually more to do with the dried fruit than the icing strangely enough but as they were only small, I did manage to force down a few!

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? Even secret ones? I always do, although I prefer to call mine ‘goals’ or ‘changes’ rather than resolutions for some reason. Perhaps it’s because I find it difficult to be completely resolute about anything, always preferring to take the more laid back, perhaps humorous line! More of a ‘this schedule is subject to change’ rather than ‘this is the way it’s going to be’ sort of thing. Don’t get me wrong, I take all my ‘changes’ very earnestly, but life is just too unpredictable, I find, to be unwavering. Anyway, I have a few changes this year which I’ll probably mention as time goes on. This resolution or changes idea did cause a bit of an argument on New Year’s Eve though. Must have been because I was feeling ill as I never usually take such a strong line, but I did get a little stroppy with my Brother who feels it totally unnecessary to make any changes to his life, ever. hmm.

My knitting projects are going well (part of my New Year thing is to find much more knitting time) although I don’t really have anything that I can show you today.  I am working on a blanket for a friend who is expecting a baby in February. I can’t show you though as I want it to be a bit of a surprise and she might see it if she passes by here, which she does sometimes. I noticed a small mistake in it last night, about 40 rows below where I am now. Do I rip out and start again? Or, do I just ‘not notice’? I haven’t decided yet. Although I hate to leave mistakes in things, I equally dislike ripping back what is probably 4 or 5 nights worth of knitting. I’ll have another look tonight and see if I can live with it. Other things are also coming along. The Ranger cardigan is almost to the point of joining the body and sleeves, just a few short rows to put in on the back, then I should be on the home straight. I also have a boy’s sweater on the needles, one that I should have finished before the Christmas break but is only now coming together and a lacy cardigan which I sneaked and started quickly before I could object that I had too many things on the go! The cardigan is from stash yarn, something else I have promised myself I will use some of this year. I should have some pictures of both of those by next week but for now neither things look very exciting.

Well, I suppose I should get back to doing our Tax Returns. I always leave them to the last-minute so it serves me right really. This coming year will be different though – I have resolutions changes!

Know your limitations

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.
W.C. Fields

This, is how I feel about my gift knitting at the moment. With only two weeks to go, I know that everything on my knitting list is just not going to get done.  You can only knit so fast and the amount done in any day is finite.

The Ranger cardigan was always a shot in the dark. I knew in my heart of hearts that it was never a serious contender for finishing before the holidays, but I try and please. Actually, this is never going to be finished much before Easter if the truth be told. Its’ just too big and heavy for my little hands to knit on for any great length of time in one go.

Marks cardigan

 

The sleeves are done (thank goodness) but the body, so far, is only at the five inch mark, another nine to go I think before body and sleeves are united.  I love seamless knits, but at this point in the proceedings, as the back and fronts are knitted all in one, it’s just so damn big! Luckily I’ve been asked for a quick hat in the meantime and I’m sure I can pull that off instead.

I also must confess a guilty pleasure that I have been knitting on, a little at a time, when I’m too tired to knit anything else. Sprig, by Alana Dakos, fell into my knitting basket a couple of weeks ago.  I have had some yarn for a couple of years that, although beautiful, I couldn’t match to a project. It wasn’t a great deal, only eight balls, bought in a moment of weakness; one of those yarns that you must have but have no idea what for.  I have been trying to match it to a pattern that  a)  showed the tweed yarn off in all its’ glory, and b) didn’t take too much yarn. When I saw Sprig I just knew that it was perfect and as I had waited for so long to find this yarn a home, couldn’t resist casting on.  In my defence, I have only, as I say, been knitting on it when I was too tired to concentrate on other knitting. Most of it is stocking stitch in the round and completely mindless.  It is knitted from the top down with short rows to produce an interesting lower yoke shape, from which the stitches are picked up later and the leaf pattern yoke is knitted and joined at right angles to.  Is it just me or does that sound confusing. Anyway, it is easier to knit than it sounds, far easier that writing the pattern for, I’m sure.  It’s a great pattern and one that I am enjoying immensely, all be it a little guiltily.

Sprig

 

I am putting on the yoke before knitting the sleeves as I am getting short of yarn. I plan to split what I have left and knit the sleeves to whatever length my yarn will allow.

So, with knitting plans crashing and burning, on Monday I decided I would have to put in place some sort of contingency plan and I dashed out to find some fillers to replace the hand knits that will be missing from gifts. It won’t be the same, but I think I may just be able to carry it off.  It all started off so well too, having finished the girls’ cardigans in plenty of time. I think that I always underestimate what needs to be done because I can never factor in the unexpected, and believe me, around here there is always the unexpected. Our household consists of three males to one female, when would that not make life interesting!

Another thing that is taking up a great deal of my time lately is the menu for the holidays. Of course, everything must be allergy friendly and completely unprocessed (I’ve had some very nasty reactions to one or two foods recently, that although the ingredients appeared totally natural, the food itself was pre-made. One was a pasta sauce, bought because I was so short on time. I have vowed that I will never touch anything like that again). No short-cuts.  Last year I was still quite unwell so the family cut me a lot of slack when it came to food preparations and I did buy in some ready prepared things for those that could eat them; those that couldn’t just went without.  It was fine. But I have no real excuse this year, and honestly I don’t want any. What I have in mind is a table laid with all the usual suspects, that looks and tastes, well, normal, but which everyone can eat whatever their limitations without any worry of repercussions afterwards. I don’t want the ‘normal’ eaters feeling that they are being sold short or the one’s with allergies/intolerances to have to ask if something is OK to eat. Over the festive period we will have at least three people with various food limitations at any meal.  A tall order, but one that I now feel (almost) able to pull off. It is just taking a lot of organization.  The thing I’m really stuck on at the moment is a stuffing. For us, even a gluten free stuffing just won’t cut the mustard as they always contain some sort of gluten free bread which is off our list.  I’m getting there with some that substitute rice, but again, I need to please the gluten eaters and I really don’t want to have to have two separate ones.  Next I will be trialling some paleo stuffing’s, there’s a great list here on Mark’s Daily Apple. I think I will start with the Paleo Thanksgiving Stuffing as I like the idea of the pork and peppers and it looks the most likely to please all.

Mindie

 

Trial and Error

It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Recently my knitting has been a lot of trial and error. I’ve been trying to knit three sweaters for the little boys in the family for gifts. I’ve got the girls sorted with Menet cardigans but the boys have been causing me a few problems.  It would have been a whole lot easier if I had decided to buy a pattern, but, as usual, I wanted to put one together. I had this idea of a lovely textured sweater in two colours and started to swatch to see which patterns I thought would work well together.  After quite a lot of false starts, I came up with these two.

Samples

 

I liked them a lot, but the patterns would not flow into one and other in the way I liked, the symmetry was all off. I spent a couple of days trying to modify them slightly to get the same pattern effects but with more of a flow at the transition point, but could not get anything near as pleasing as they are separately.  One of those instances where the whole was not greater than the sum of its’ parts.

So I dropped the textured bit and went for a plain stocking stitch with the same overall design idea.  I also had to drop my yarn colours when someone around here didn’t think it suited the intended recipients. I put together a mini ‘quarter’ sweater to try out the idea in some spare yarn I had floating around and came up with this version.

Mini SweaterI liked this one almost as much. It’s pretty plain but it meant that I could add a few embellishments that I wanted to use but would have been too much on the textured version. It took me another few days to write-up the pattern as I decided to knit the sweater pieces flat, and then seam them together, not my usual seamless method.  It will be much easier to add the extras that I want that way but I’m out of practice writing patterns on the flat.  I know it should be much easier, but after thinking three dimensionally for so long it was strange to think on the flat.  I also wanted to put in a button opening on the shoulder as two of the boys are quite young, so for this I needed to think very carefully about shoulder width and ultimately the sleeve cap. In the end I have decided to go with a straight drop shoulder.  I’ve always stayed away from this design for myself as I am quite small framed and the extra bulk these types of sweaters have just look too big on me, but with children, especially small children, they are so practical. They are easy to get on and off and provide a lot room for movement. So, finally, I think I’ve nailed it. I hope so because I nipped along to my LYS yesterday and bought some yarn and have started knitting.

SweaterI’m up to the colour change already so I hope the rest goes as smoothly as I am getting tight for time.  One thing about drop shoulder sweaters is there’s no thinking about shaping until you reach the neck so they do go pretty quickly.

I am supposed to have the adult cardigan, Ranger by Jared Flood, ready in time for Christmas but so far all I have done is one and a half sleeves. Another evening on this though and I should have it done and then at least I don’t have to think about sleeves for a bit.

Sleeve

 

This rib is similar to one of the samples I knitted for the textured pattern.

Cartridge rib

It’s basically a type of garter slip stitch. There are quite a few different versions, cartridge rib being another. The single version on the cardigan, put together with the wool and alpaca blend yarn makes a very thick and warm fabric. I may have to borrow it from time to time!

Oh, actually it has just occurred to me that on three boys’ sweaters there will be six sleeves to knit. Well, thank goodness two at least will be fairly small.

I think that what you see here is perhaps all the gift knitting I’m going to get done in time this year. I have just been asked to cut back the hedge at the end of my allotment as apparently the council thinks it looks ‘unruly’.  I call it a wildlife habitat, but I suppose you win some, you lose some. In all honesty I have been waiting for it to dry up a little before tackling it (my allergies don’t really like the damp at this time of year) but now I have no choice but to get stuck in. Once I get up there though I always enjoy myself so it’s no real hardship. I have also taken on some extra work to help someone out over the next couple of weeks, so I’m going to be pretty busy.

We had visitors at the weekend and one little person found my sample of Menet, the first one that I knitted.

Menet worn

 

If I have time, I think that another one of these may be on the horizon. At least it has no sleeves!