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

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.

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!

 

 

 

 

Menet v2

Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.

As you know I have been knitting two Menet cardigans for gifts whilst re-working the pattern to give an option for long sleeves. Well I finally finished them a couple of days ago, gave them a wash and then waited for the weather to brighten a little so I could take some photos. This morning, in between showers, there was a few minutes of vague brightness so I took advantage while I could. I would still have preferred it to have been a little brighter but what’s the chance of that here, I could be waiting weeks!

Menet with sleeves

Menet with sleeves

One Great Niece likes her colours bright and girlie. The other is too young to choose, so I chose for her. Menet with sleeves 1I love this turquoise. As I never go for particularly bright colours for myself, this gives me chance to knit in some different colours for a change.

Ready to be wrapped

Ready to be wrapped

Done, dusted and ready to be wrapped up.  Must be one of the earliest Christmas presents I’ve ever had ready! Along with adding the instructions for the long sleeves, I have also re-worded the pattern a little and jigged things about a bit which has improved the clarity of the instructions. I will be updating the file on Ravelry this afternoon, so if you have already purchased the pattern you will receive an update.  All new purchases will be sent the new updated file.

You would think that after moaning about knitting all those sleeves, I would give it a rest for a bit. Wouldn’t you? Well, my next project is a cardigan from Jared Flood called Ranger.  I’ll show you pictures when I have a little progress.  Guess what the pattern has you knit first? You guessed it, sleeves.  Obviously, I know that you don’t have to start with them just because they are listed first, and I did think about starting with the body.  But, then I considered the idea of getting them over to begin with – and ploughed straight in. So, more sleeves then!

I have also been trying out a (new to me) gluten free flour mix from Glebe Farm here in the UK.  It’s a very basic mix of just rice flour, potato starch and xanthan gum.  I bought some to try because although I love the mixes I use, I make all our baked goods gluten and dairy free now, for everyone in the house, not just the intolerant ones. It’s easier, and honestly, nobody really notices any difference. It’s also healthier but I won’t go into that now. So, I really need a cheaper, easier alternative for everyday baking saving the finer more expensive mixes for special bakes.  Doves Farm make a really good mix which I used to use but it has a lot of corn in there, so a no go for me now. I started with a cherry cake.

English Cherry Cake

English Cherry Cake

English Cherry cake. Recipe converted from one of Mary Berry’s. I used a little more flour than the wheat flour equivalent in the recipe but it looked promising when it came out of the oven.

Light and Fluffy

Light and Fluffy

Looked even better when I cut into it, although the cherries had sunk quite a bit.  The cake was light and fluffy, a little too light really which was probably why the cherries sunk.  It didn’t stay around for long, which was lucky as by the next day it was just a little dry but still good with a cup of tea. There was just a hint of a crunch with the rice flour as this mix isn’t super fine but it wasn’t unpleasant and it certainly didn’t deter anyone. I even gave a piece to someone who has never eaten gluten free before and  I think they thought I was having them on about it being free from.

Next up I used it for my new pastry recipe I’m working on. I wasn’t going to show you this today, but I couldn’t resist.

No matter how many different recipes I’ve tried,(and believe me I’ve tried more different recipes for pastry than one person should have to make in a lifetime)  I just couldn’t get a good – ‘almost behaves and tastes like gluten’ –  gluten and dairy free pastry. So in the end I decided to do some experimenting of my own.  I am still perfecting it so you don’t get the full version today I’m afraid but I am so pleased with it I’m going to give you a teaser.

Gluten and Dairy Free flaky pastry

Gluten and Dairy Free flaky pastry

I plan to make some sausage rolls with this over the week-end and get the final recipe written down properly.  I’ve made this twice now and both times it has behaved perfectly. It rolls out without breaking, and it bends, so no patching up cracks and NO hard edges. The batch in the photo above was so flaky that it left lots of crumbs on the plate that look like puff pastry crumbs.

Recipe soon.

Mindie

Book review – Knitting Architecture

Rest and be thankful – William Wordsworth

Over the last week or so I’ve been struggling with a cold which has now morphed into a slight fever flu type thing. I was told to take it easy for a few days, which I did, sort of. Never could do exactly as I was told. I think the turning point was vacuuming whilst dancing to Status Quo. The virus was obviously not a fan and decided to put a stop to the fun. It was probably the guitar rift at the end that did it!

So, I’ve been listening to this

Inferno - by Dan Brown

Inferno – by Dan Brown

whilst spending time on sleeve island. Somehow I managed to knit two cardigans for gifts and left all the sleeves till last – I wonder why. No, really I do because now I have four to knit, one after the other. I love knitting, but really, four sleeves in a row, what was I thinking.

Luckily I recently bought a copy of Knitting Architecture – 20 patterns exploring form, function and detail – by Tanis Gray which has nicely taken my mind off sleeves for a while along with Dan Brown’s Inferno (great book by the way) and so I thought I’d put in a little book review.

Knitting Architecture is actually a compilation of patterns from various well loved designers, Amy Christoffers, Grace Anna Farrow, Kirsten Kapur and Suvi Simola to name just a few and includes patterns where architecture has been the inspiration for the designs.

Knitting Architecture

Knitting Architecture

It is a good sized book – 159 pages, with three chapters: Chaper 1- Form follows function, Chapter 2 – The Details and Chapter 3 – The Materials.

All the designs are well thought out and none are ‘fillers’ that you sometimes feel they put into books to bump up the pattern numbers. Most are patterns for sweaters but there are also patterns for a bag, hat, mittens and a shawl if sweater knitting is not your thing or you want a quicker project.

There is a good section at the back for abbreviations and techniques which includes seven different types of cast on along with the usual short rows, increases etc. The Sources for yarn section obviously lists mainly suppliers and yarns from the U.S. but most of us are used to that by now and substitution is not always the problem it used to be. There is also a good section on all the designers that have contributed patterns for the book. I do feel that the title should have an ‘et al’ in it, but that’s just a minor point.

So, the patterns. I can’t show you them all but I would like to give you a look at three of my favourites. I’ve chosen three very different projects from the book so you can see the variety of patterns.

Beaux Arts Cardigan - by Cecily Glowik MacDonald

Beaux Arts Cardigan – by Cecily Glowik MacDonald

First up is the Beaux Arts Cardigan by Cecily Glowik MacDonald. This is just what we have come to expect from Cecily.  A stylish, timeless knit with interesting details that would keep you entertained whilst knitting it and be wearable for years. I really like this cardigan. For me though, I would probably knit it in a smaller gauge than the 15 sts to 4 inch it is written for, but that’s just my preference for finer yarns.

Another pattern I really like is the Wrought Iron Tote by Angela Hahn.

Wrought Iron Bag - by Angela Hahn

Wrought Iron Tote – by Angela Hahn

The mitred detail on the base of the bag is both surprising and pleasing. A small detail like this can really lift something out of the ordinary for me and the patterning is simple but extremely effective.  There are instructions for lining the bag too.

My final choice is the Hotel Tassel Wrap by Åsa Tricosa.

Hotel Tassel Wrap - by Åsa Tricosa

Hotel Tassel Wrap – by Åsa Tricosa

This surprised me. On my first look through the book I overlooked this piece. I love wraps and shawls but very rarely knit them as I don’t wear them, so paid it little attention. But, on closer inspection, this is such a clever piece it may even find its’ way onto my queue. It has a very clever use of a mesh pattern which is intersected by panels of garter stitch that flow up the piece.  Between these is an unusual cable that I don’t think I’ve seen before. Looking at it I am certain you would not execute this without a cable needle and at the point of each intersection the cable requires two cable needles to work all the stitches. A little complicated perhaps but well worth it.

Conclusion: Well. There are always going to be patterns in a book which you don’t like or are never going to knit.  I tend to feel that if there are at least three patterns I love, well, then I’ve had my monies worth.  Out of the 20 patterns, there are perhaps two which I don’t really like (not telling which ones though) and maybe another three or four which I like, but would never knit. That leaves 14 or 15 viable patterns for me which is well within my criteria for money well spent.  The patterns a varied and well thought out and there is something for every taste. As I said before, I think it would be nice for there to be a nod to that fact that the pieces are from various designers somewhere on the cover of the book but that’s just a minor quibble.

All in all, I’m glad that I have this on my shelf.

Another purchase I made recently was a set of these,

Knitted Basket

Knitted Basket

How could I not.  It actually took some time to track these down as my local store had them displayed near the bathroom section. Eh? If you are in the UK you can find them here.

Mindie

Blowing the cobwebs away

I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.

Nikos Kazantzakis

Since the glorious sunshine the other day, our weather has turned very wet and windy. On Saturday our usual shopping trip was cancelled because our fridge/freezer is freezing what it should not and not able to freeze that which it should. I tried talking to it, everyone else tried giving it a swift kick every time it made an awful howling noise, but it was having none of it and finally we had to give in and have a look at it.  The new part has been ordered but until it arrives and we know if it has fixed the problem we effectively have a freezer for a fridge and no freezer.

So, shopping cancelled and with time on our hands we decided on a walk along the beach.  The rain had stopped but it was still very windy – perfect weather for beach walking as far as I am concerned.  We are very lucky here to have a choice when it comes to beaches.  Living on the south coast of Devon there are several within a half hour drive. My favourite though is Budleigh Salterton beach.  A beautiful pebble beach with a long stretch for walking and, with the wind up and the sea raging, all the pebbles make a truly magnificent sound. Of course I always forget that what is very windy here translates into a gale when on the beach;  we had trouble standing up a couple of times but wow, does it blow the cobwebs away.

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Forgive the lopsided photo. This is probably the only photo I’m able to show you as I have just wasted half an hour trying to get the other, more interesting ones off my phone onto the computer to no avail.  Technology.

The smell of the sea instantly takes me back to my childhood.  Reminds me of summer holidays. You smelt the sea before you saw it and even now, after all these years, no matter how many times we come down to the beach, every time we do I remember the excitement of it all.

We always come away with a couple of pebbles in our pockets.  Taking pebbles from the beaches here is not allowed but we can never seem to resist taking one or two pretty ones, however old we get. Perhaps again, it’s that childhood memory.  Once home, we add them to our small pot along with all the others we have stolen brought home through the years.  Our clandestine stash of memories, collectively representing those quiet walks together on the beach. Peaceful moments before returning to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Clearing out my knitting basket and trying to decide which projects will be completed and which are going to be frogged, I came across two lonely socks, each the first of a pair.  As some of you may know, I only wear hand knitted socks, so I always have a pair or two on the go.

Opal 4 ply - Vincent Van Gogh series

Opal 4 ply – Vincent Van Gogh series

I’m not sure why these fell by the way, just got lost amongst the UFO’s I expect.  Anyway I whipped up the second of each to complete the pairs and now have two pairs for the price of one, or that’s how it feels.  Shame I can’t find any more half pairs!

Regia 6 ply - World College

Regia 6 ply – World College

This afternoon I am going to be baking some Gluten Free Pumpkin Bars, recipe courtesy of the Gluten Free Goddess, so you know they’re going to be good. I have a small pumpkin that is roasting as I type and the left overs will become roasted pumpkin soup which was specially  requested this morning.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin

Mindie

Sunlight

All the diversity, all the charm, and all the beauty of life are made up of light and shade.”

Tolstoy

The sunlight is beautiful today.  The light that we get at our latitude this time of year (when it’s not cloudy) has a beauty that just fills me with wonder.  In June on the solstice when the sun is at its maximum elevation, its angle to where I live is 62.54 deg. Today it is 30.62 deg, about half, but by the shortest day of the year, 21 December it will only be 15.8, roughly half again. If only we could have the beauty but it not be cold; can’t have one without the other though so it’s swings and roundabouts I suppose, you can’t have everything.

I am still knitting up another pocket sweater, all be it slowly.  As usual I have been sidelined by other things.

Hats

Hats

I’ve been knitting up some hats.  To be precise, I’ve been making up a tam pattern to match the Menet cardigan.  It all started with some gift knitting that I needed to do.  Mostly, each year I knit for my nieces daughters and other small ones in the family.  Last year I wasn’t well enough so this year I thought it best to start early – best intentions and all that. I did knit the test Menet cardigans in handy sizes so that I could pass them along when done and two went to good homes but not where I had originally intended them to go. So, on Thursday I bought some yarn to start knitting a couple more and realised that if they were to be worn before spring they needed sleeves.

If I was going to work out sleeves for two sizes, I thought I may as well do all sizes and add them to the pattern as in the Hathor version. I should have done it in the first place really, but at the time I was only thinking about warmer weather. I have yet to test the pattern but it will be available as soon as it has been edited for any mistakes and I have knitted one up for the pictures.  If you have already bought the Menet pattern, the sleeve addition will be available as a free update.

Menet Tam

Menet Tam

So you ask, how did I get from sleeves to hats. Well, my gift knitting always involves at least a hat or two. This year I will be making one of these minion hats (Ravelry link). Don’t ask – suffice to say it’s not for a child! I thought it would be nice to use up the extra yarn left from the cardigans on a hat and I suppose it went from there. I knitted up a quick trial sample, then another.

The brim is knitted flat, then joined and the rest is knitted seamlessly in the round. The slip stitch pattern must be flat as the colour changes stop the knitting from holding together well enough. The same reason Hathor and Menet are cardigans not sweaters.

The decreases for the crown swirl in a circular motion and the top of the hat ends in a long I-cord and bobble, which I couldn’t help adding purely because I thought it cute.

Bobbles

Bobbles

The hat is a tam shape which could be worn floppy or with some slouch at the back. As you can see, the test knit hats are drying in the autumn sun. When they are mostly dry I’ll bring them in for some gentle blocking. I’ve knitted these in acrylic, as they will go to my niece who needs them to be machine and dryer proof. The pattern is written and is just waiting for some tech editing and photos.

I did have a whole post written up about the benefits of chicken soup but that seemed more appropriate for a wet and gloomy day, something today is definitely not.

Clematis

Clematis

Mindie.

What we think…

we become.

Buddha

I have some shop bought sweaters (I know!). I buy them, but then hardly ever wear them. They are like those cheap earrings I like to buy even though I know they will make my ears swell. I see a sweater I like and think it will be far easier and quicker to buy it rather than make one. It always seems like a good plan to me and I never learn. When I get it home and start to wear it I am never pleased. There is always something wrong, the fibre composition, the fit, the feel – always something.  If DH is with me, he stops me in my tracks the moment I head towards the sweater rack in the shop, saying things like  “You don’t want to do that.  You know you won’t be pleased with it in the end.”

Don’t you just hate it when people are right.

Last year I saw a lovely sweater on-line from a well-known shop. They didn’t have it in the colour-way I liked, so I waited.  Then they came up in the sale but of course only in the ‘not so popular’ colour.  I bought one anyway. The fact that it was shop bought and in a colour that I wasn’t too happy with seemed to escape me. It actually turned out to be a little tight as well just to add insult to injury. But – I had finally bagged myself one and I had saved 50%! I was pleased. Don’t say a word, you know you have done it too (and if you haven’t, I don’t want to know). Of course, you also know that I was sorely disappointed. The yarn is squeaky, the colour-work doesn’t match up properly and is also a slightly different gauge than the rest of the sweater and for some reason it is far from comfortable in any way, shape or form.

DH has never said anything about this episode. Which is actually more annoying as it turns out.

I still wear it from time to time though in an attempt to prove that I like it. But in all honesty I only manage to wear it once before consigning it back to the wardrobe and I don’t think I’m fooling anyone. Yesterday was one of those days and after not wearing it all summer I had forgotten just how damned uncomfortable it is.

Today I have gone back to this one.

Arya

Arya

This was what I thought of when I wanted a squishy, comfortable sweater and put it together as I went along. The neck-line needs a little tweaking and will change on the next one, but on the whole I am quite happy with it. Above all it is warm and comfortable.

Arya -collar-

Arya collar

I put in short rows to shape the neck. I worked this one in the same way as I have done for others and put in short rows to bring the back neck up while working the last few raglan decreases. It worked fine, but just made the neck a little too small and high, which wasn’t quite what I was after. I wanted a slightly wider, deeper neck, so next time I am going to bind off/cast off some neck stitches as I go and pick them up again to work the collar.  I also should have used Japanese short rows as these conventional wrap and turn ones still show in this yarn. But, regardless of my ‘picking’ at it, this sweater is far superior than the one I was wearing yesterday. I still won’t learn though!

Pocket

Pocket

I love this textured stitch. It is too fiddly to use all over but gives the pocket some interest and firms it up a little so it doesn’t sag too much when you have the weight of your hands inside. I tried the pocket with an I-cord edge so that there was no need to pick-up stitches and add the rib edge, but it didn’t look as ‘finished’ as this one so I dropped that idea.

I put the textured stitch on the fold over collar as well to balance the design and used purl stitches on the raglan decreases so they look similar.

Arya - Raglan

Arya – Raglan

This one is in a wool/alpaca mix yarn but I am trying it out in a pure wool yarn too.  At the weekend I was told that it would be nice in grey and blue.  When I replied that the one that I am knitting now is in natural grey and dark grey he said,

“Yes, but after that, grey and blue but in a much larger size would be nice.”

I think I get the hint! Lucky Arya is a unisex name then. I will probably be putting a pattern for this together when I have ironed out the neckline issue as it looks like I will get plenty of practice knitting them!

-Arya-

-Arya-

Mindie.

Hathor Pattern

Finally I have finished the Hathor pattern and it is now listed here and on Ravelry for sale.  I know it has taken some time for me to put it together but I hope all the wait was worth it.

Hathor

Hathor Cardigan

I have added an option for long sleeves which makes Hathor a more versatile pattern.  I like some options in my knitting don’t you!

The colour options are endless and I am sure, as I have seen from the test knitters, that there are many more interesting combinations than mine.

Hathor / Menet Colours

Hathor / Menet Colours

Don’t let the fact that the yoke pattern looks complicated put you off.  It is very simple to knit once you have the hang of it over the first few rows and looks like you have taken hours over intricate colour-work.  In fact, only one colour is used on any row and the ‘clever’ patterning is achieved by slipping stitches and working in garter stitch which makes the colours travel and mix in a fascinating way.

Hathor Yoke

Hathor Yoke

The only thing you need to remember when working this stitch pattern is that all stitches are slipped purl-wise and the yarn is always held at the back of the work when slipping them.  Sometimes this just means slipping a stitch then knitting one but sometimes you will need to bring the yarn to the front to slip a stitch and then take it back again to knit the next stitch; this only happens one row in four though, so even that isn’t too much work.  Once you have the hang of that though, the rest is child’s play.

Hathor

Body

The body of Hathor has a gentle waist shaping which gives it a more fitted feel and a feminine shape.  As Hathor is knitted from the top down, I have given instructions for adjusting this shaping by trying on your cardigan and positioning the waist to suit.  It is also easy to adjust the length of the body and sleeves to your own measurements.

Hathor

Hathor

Available for £ 3.75 by instant download.

I am always contactable through the email address at the top left of the page for any pattern support or questions you may have.