Hap Cowl by Ella Gordon

Following the last post, I thought I’d better show a bit of knitting around here.

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This is the Hap Cowl by Ella Gordon.

I love the look of Hap shawls but have never made a full size one as I would just not wear one on a day to day basis so when I saw this pattern on Ella’s blog I just had to make one.

I knitted this one in some Cascade 220 fingering from stash, plus an extra purchased skein of blue. The colours are surprisingly like the first colour-way in the pattern.

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This is such a great design, simple but very effective. I’ve received several compliments on it recently from non-knitters asking where they could buy one. The cowl is knitted flat from top to bottom (not lengthwise) and then seamed, which is easy and virtually invisible in garter stitch.

I have to say that the Cascade yarn is lovely. It softened up so much in the wash and blocked well while still retaining a good amount of bounce. I was surprised, as in the skein I was a little disappointed which is why it was marinating in the stash and not knitted up. I will definitely be using it again.

I loved both of the colour options that Ella listed in the pattern and was so pleased with the first one that I purchased more yarn from the Jamieson & Smith website in the exact colours for the second option.

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I am quite far through this one, virtually the home straight, but the project has been put on hold while I work on a couple of other things for gifts and something else which I will show you soon hopefully.

Pattern: Hap Cowl by Ella Gordon (Ravelry Link)
Yarn: Cascade 220 Fingering
In colours: 8400 Charcoal, 9332 Sapphire; 9566 Olive Oil; 8012 Doeskin Heather, 8010 Natural.

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After so much rain the other week that all the roads around here were flooded, we are now pretty cold with freezing fog and frost not lifting at all during the day.

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Where ever you are and whatever the weather, I hope you have a good weekend!

Diet Experiment

I have been keeping busy as usual, especially over the last …. almost three months since my last post apparently.

I wanted to spend some time just thinking, weighing up and sorting out. Sometimes it helps to shake things up a bit and see what falls out. Like that cupboard that you just keep throwing things into until one day you open the door and it all comes tumbling out at you. How much better is it once you’ve faced up to all the mess and given the whole thing a tidy up. And, what better time to do it than the summer when the weather and long days seem to spur you along.

I started out by taking another look at my diet. As you may know from some of my posts, I do not eat gluten, dairy or processed foods. I had been very strict over what I ate for somewhere between four and five years and this had basically taken me from being pretty unwell to being well again, better than I had been before I even became recognisably ‘ill’.

Over time though, I had come to feel a little fed up about what I was and was not eating. Following such a restrictive diet is fine if you are very organised, but our life lacked a certain amount of spontaneity and frankly sometimes I just didn’t want to have to think about food.

I decided that I would experiment and try all the things that previously bothered me, just see what happened. I don’t want to write a virtual book about it all, far too long and boring, but I did learn a great deal and feel that it was well worth the effort. I found that I still have problems eating all the foods that I had previously cut out but reactions to some of them have decreased in severity over time. On the whole though, my body will not tolerate these foods and I was left at the end of the summer feeling tired, uncomfortable, in pain and weighing half a stone more than when I began!

After feeling so annoyed about how I needed to eat, taking this time to re-evaluate things has been freeing for me and reminded me why I started out on my ‘food journey’ in the beginning.  Although eating this way takes a great deal of effort, I feel much, much better and my quality of life is vastly improved when I do take the time to eat carefully. I also found out that my family now far prefer gluten and dairy free cakes to ‘normal’ ones!

Pictures from early autumn. This little lot moved into the fields behind our house.

 

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And these are always about.

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July & August

When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky. ~Buddha

The weather here has been pretty good these past few weeks, dry and warm, and it has been good to take some time out and just contemplate things, taking the time just to be.

I spent the summer before last madly working away to cover holidays and maternity leave, not getting a break until the autumn, and last summer was spent indoors completely immobile after suffering a slipped disc. So, one way or another this summer has felt like my first real, able to enjoy, summer in some time. I  spent a good deal of the winter dreaming of afternoons spent in the garden with a glass of wine chatting with loved ones or on my own with an audiobook and some knitting and I have at last managed that. Small pleasures but no less enjoyable for that.

I started the month finishing up the Sprössling cardigan by Anne Hanson.

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The details on this are just lovely and I’m going to enjoy wearing it when the weather gets a little cooler. The only slight change to the original pattern I made was to lower the neck line a little, maybe an inch or so, apart from that it is pretty much as written.

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The yarn, Blacker Yarns pure Shetland, is a pleasure to knit with and has that unmistakeable beauty of a good wool with a firm-ish hand and good stitch definition. It will soften and bloom with age and look just as good in 5 years time.

I had a funeral to go to the week after I finished the cardigan, never a happy event, but the human sprit never fails to amaze me, we are at our best, I think, when times are hard. The woman, a relation by marriage was only a few years older than me, and it was a pointent reminder of how fragile life is. Her children are only a couple of years older than mine and my mothers words rang in my ears throughout.  When my mother  found out she was dying she turned to me and said, ‘but what will you all do without me?’ She never, for one reason or another, spoke to me again. I could not help but think all the way through, what was a beautiful woodland burial, ‘but what will the children do without her? ‘ Survive is the answer, and find joy in the smallest of things, as we all do, or should do. I have a friend who thought that going through one bad event in life meant that she had done her ‘penance’ and that everything would be good from then on. She is constantly surprised and disappointed now when life throws her a curve ball. One thousand joys and one thousand sorrows I tell her, you’ve a little way to go yet! Make blueberry waffles is what I say.

I had been wanting to try the new yarn from Drops called Puna, a pure Alpaca yarn in a DK weight. I ordered myself a few balls just to try a while ago and it had been sitting waiting for me to finish up the cardigan, so when that was done I knitted up a few swatches and was pretty pleased with the results.  I put some figures together and came up with a design for a waistcoat.

This was the first draft of the pattern. I wanted to make the front and back slightly different as they would be in a traditional waistcoat so the back has a simplified version of the front pattern. Different but still echoing the stripes of the pattern.

For the second draft, I dropped the front a little and changed the way the decreases worked. It makes the v-neck sweep a little better and has no fully fashioned decreases so the lines look smoother.

You can see the front patterning better in this picture. The back has the same columns without the garter stitch horizontal lines.

It works well with a shirt for a bit of a formal look but also goes pretty well with just a t-shirt.

 

The Alpaca gives a lovely drape and weight to the fabric which means it moves and flows as you wear it although a wool or wool mix yarn would look as good I think.

The waistcoat is knitted flat and seamed, with garter stitch bands and lots of buttons which I think finishes it off. I am working on writing up the pattern, slowly though, it won’t be ready for a couple of weeks or so. As usual if you would like to have a go at a test knit, just drop me a line and as soon as the patten is ready to go I’ll forward you a copy.

Here are some other things that have been taking my attention over the last few weeks.

The tortoises have been enjoying the warm, humid weather,(which is more than can be said for the cats) it suits them perfectly and they have been keeping us entertained with their antics.

The cup cakes are a new recipe that I have converted from a gluten and dairy containing one to gluten and dairy free. I want to try it a couple of more times before I write it up but it seems pretty much bomb proof and only takes a couple of minutes to throw together.

Some of the roses are on their second flowering, I’ve found that it really does make a difference to keep dead-heading them all through the summer. I had been told but had never been on the ball with it before! Live and learn.

I hope the summer is treating you well.

 

June..

It was June, and the world smelt of roses…….

Yes, I know it’s not June any more but please humour me, I’m a little behind !

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June, the beginning of summer. Not that you would know it. As usual our weather has been a little typical, muggy, wet, chilly, windy and occasionally sunny.

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The roses have taken a bit of a bashing in the recent winds and have some blackspot on them, but they have still managed to put on a pretty good show. I have several more and are adding to my collection slowly. I find myself drawn to roses more and more recently and are secretly planning a small rose garden, I just haven’t told anyone around here yet!

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A recent day out in Cornwall looked disappointingly like this…

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But it was a lovely drive out anyway and blew out some cobwebs.

We did however, have better weather later in the month for a trip to Buckfast Abbey. I love the Abbey grounds and gardens but the main joy for me is the architecture.

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I have a deep fascination for that period in history, the architecture and the people.

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Buckfast Abbey has been beautifully restored and the grounds and Abbey Church are free to visitors. The Monastery was founded in 1018 and is still today home to a group of Benedictine monks.

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On the knitting front in June, I found some alpaca silk mix yarn from Drops in the stash, a ball or two each of a few colours, and searched around for something small to knit. I eventually decided upon Cameo by Paulina Popiolek. The pattern, as it stood, was a little large for both my taste and available yarn so I modified it a little, cutting down on all the sections to make a shawl/scarf.

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I am really please with how this turned out. Even my modified cut down version is about 2 meters from tip to tip, more than enough to wrap around comfortably but not too deep. The alpaca silk yarn is soft and drapey with a weight from the alpaca that makes the edges of the shawl hang beautifully without any curl.

I also published another blanket pattern in June. Babies abound in our family at the moment for some reason and it has sort of become habit that I design a new blanket.

Trillium Folded Main

I called this one Trillium because of the three petal design I used for the body of the blanket.

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This one was knitted in a 4ply yarn but I also wrote the pattern up for a DK weight version as well. An easy relaxing knit, all details are on the pattern page.

I have been interested in getting back to garments that are knitted flat and then seamed. Back in the history of my knitting adventures, I began by knitting garments this way but moved over to seamless knitting some, maybe, 10 years or so ago now. I have enjoyed knitting this way, but there have always been some aspects of it that I have not been completely happy with.

I’m not about to get into the long debate amongst knitters as regard to seamed vs seamless knitting, that’s just dangerous! There are advantages and disadvantages in both methods and I do really like both methods. My renewed interest in knitting seamed garments coincides partly with my recent interest in a more tailored garment and the type of design that also seems to be particularly suited to it. And before you say it, yes you can knit tailored garments seamlessly but there is something to be said for the structure that seams give. I have much more to say on the subject but will save that for a later post.

For my first seamed garment for a while I decided on a design called Sprössling by the lovely Anne Hanson. In the stash I found some pure Shetland yarn from Blacker Yarns, which had been overdyed a sort of turquoise colour. I bought this a year or two back intending it for something completely different but some yarns and patterns just don’t work together for me. However this pattern and yarn just seemed to love each other and in a few weeks all the pieces were ready for seaming.

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Here the pieces are all steam blocked and ready to put together which is what I will be working on over the next few evenings. You can see the pattern and colour slightly better in this photo.

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So, that has taken us up to the end of June. I have another completed project to show you as well as this cardigan all seamed and finished and another large project started for July.

Hoping to make it back here soon!

 

Spring is the time…

of plans and projects.     Leo Tolstoy

I’ve been out enjoying the increasingly warm and sunny days we have had lately. Spring is truly here, all be it dipping in and out as it often does. The birds and insects certainly feel it and I have been making plans and starting projects all over the place, so I guess deep down, I must feel it too.

I saw a deer in the field behind our house this morning. They often appear but strangely only one or two at a time. You have to forgive the quality of the photo, I’ve had to blow it up a fair bit.

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The deer wander quite far as the main herd is about half a mile or so away. This one has come to the end of its roaming though.The corridor of land that it has travelled along runs out a few hundred meters from here where it is intersected by a road and some houses. After a day or so they usually find their way back.

The garden is bursting into life.

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This is an ornamental cherry tree. We moved it last spring and kept our fingers crossed that it wouldn’t mind too much. At first I thought that we had killed it as it was pretty well established where it was, I had initially planted it about ten years ago, but it rallied round after a while and produced some leaves. This year it seems it has come back with gusto, perhaps even better than before.

As I was out with my camera, I noticed that the Pieris that we also moved had settled into its’ new position and putting on a good show.

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The bees love this as it flowers early, after the daffodils and before other more tender plants.

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And just to prove the point, this one turned up as I was taking the last shot. I had to chase her about a bit though, she was moving from flower to flower like, well, like a busy bee (sorry!).

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The blueberry is getting ready to burst into flower. Looks like it might be a good crop this year.

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Unfortunately even the weeds are celebrating. Pretty though.

One of the projects I have started is to renovate some old chairs. When we moved here, we put some old chairs up into the attic and, as often happens, they stayed for much longer than we ever anticipated. I thought it was time we brought them down and re-covered them to match the kitchen, the chairs we have been using are so uncomfortable I don’t know why we’ve put up with them for so long. What I didn’t realise was that in the intervening years they had been so badly damaged, probably by rodents. This house is over 100 years old and from time to time we have undesirable visitors!

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I have no idea where the chairs originally came from. I inherited them from my mother but they weren’t the set that went with her dining table so I imagine she got them from her mother at some point.

This one pretty quickly became this,

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then this,

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I am working my way through all of them but it is a slow process, each one taking four coats of paint. I have managed to get some re-cycled wool stuffing for the seats and found some plastic covered material, the type used for table cloths, which I think will be ideal to make a durable seat covering.

I have also started three new knitting projects, each time reminding myself that if I just worked on one, I may have a chance of actually finishing something. It didn’t help that this morning I saw that Lene has written up the pattern for her beautiful new socks. I may just have to find time to knit myself a pair. Following a post by Jem Arrowsmith, I got hold of a copy of 2 at a time socks by Melissa Morgan-Oakes, the top down version, as that is how I prefer to knit my socks. Having been a dedicated dpn user up until now, I thought perhaps I would give this method a go and Lene’s socks are a perfect excuse. Now all I need are more hours and perhaps a few less projects and I may make some progress on something.

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Floe

I have now managed to finally publish Floe.

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As with most of my patterns, Floe is knitted seamlessly in the round but this time from the bottom up.

The yarn I used for the sample here is actually two yarns held together. The first a 4ply pure wool yarn from Elann called Soft Embrace, which really is soft, and a mohair and silk blend lace weight yarn called Silken Kydd.

These yarns together knit to a standard DK gauge of 22 sts x 32 rows per 4 inches. So you can substitute any DK weight yarn you like.

Full details are on the pattern page.

Hope you have a good weekend!

 

Roast Chicken Stock

Someone once said ‘Patience is the secret to good food’. I agree, good food takes time, but to make a good stock takes no time at all.

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I used to buy fresh chicken stock from my local supermarket. It’s good and allergy friendly, but expensive.  I think that the last time I bought some it was the equivalent of about £6.50 per litre, if my maths serves me right that’s £3.71 per pint.

I understand, in a way, why it costs what it does. It takes time to make a good stock and the containers they put it in probably amounts to a fair percentage of the over all cost. But, it is so easy to make your own, especially in my beloved slow cooker that, as they say, it’s a no brainer. All you need is a little planning and a chicken carcass or two.

We have chicken on a regular basis so whenever we do I save the carcass.  I put it in a plastic bag and pop it into the freezer until I have a second one (or other chicken bones) to go with it. You don’t need two, you can use just one but I find that two (or one with some extras) makes a good amount of tasty stock.

Pre-heat your slow cooker on high and put the chicken carcass, bones etc. in, along with a large carrot or two, cut into chunks and an onion quartered. Leave the skin on the onion if you like a darker stock. The rest is up to you. I like to add a bayleaf, pepper corns and some mixed herbs but I don’t like celery so never put it in. Some would say that you need celery, for a stock is not a proper stock without all three veg but I don’t think you’ll ever notice the difference if you choose to leave it out and of course it is more allergy friendly without. I don’t put in any salt either as I like to adjust the seasoning later when I use the stock.

Pour on enough boiling water to cover everything. Put the lid on and leave the slow cooker to do its thing for a good 6-8 hours.

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That’s it. Walk away. When done, allow to cool and strain off the liquid. I pot mine up as it is but you can take off any fat that sits on the surface if you want to. You can also boil it down to concentrate it a little if you prefer. This batch was in the fridge and turned to jelly before I potted it up which is why it looks very cloudy.

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Use fresh within a few days or put into the freezer for up to a month.

Over all it takes about fifteen minutes to put on and perhaps half an hour to strain and pot up. I have no idea of the total cost but probably no more than £1. From my large slow cooker with two leftover carcasses I make almost 2 litres of stock, that’s a saving of approximately £12. As I said, a no brainer.