Earlier in the year…

….I knitted Bella by  Lene Holme Samsøe, from her book Essentially Feminine Knits -25 Must have Chic Designs.

Bella

The original pattern calls for Hjertegarn Alpaca Silk but I made a substitution for something I had in my stash.

The yarn I used, is Shilasdair Luxury 4ply Highland Inspirations. A cashmere, baby camel, angora and merino blend. Lovely to work with and when you wash and block it the characteristics of the fibre blend comes out and the fabric blooms gently.

Bella 3

At first I wasn’t sure about the reverse stocking stitch of the body (reverse stocking stitch not being one of my favourites) but I really didn’t want to loose that effect of the lines coming down from the yoke and continuing into the body. The yoke pattern would have been disjointed from the body which ever way I thought of working it.

Once knitted however, I am pleased that I just trusted the pattern and knitted it as written. Lene’s designs are well thought out and the flow between the yoke and body work perfectly.

I find Lene’s patterns engaging and enjoyable to knit.  The designs in this book are all pretty timeless. Let’s face it after putting a great deal of effort into knitting something, it’s a little disappointing for it to loose its appeal and look dated.

Bella Yoke

The book contains a good mix of warmer weather knitting such as this design and heavier weight cable and garter stitch garments for colder weather along with a few accessories.

Given the time, I would love to knit almost all the designs from Lene’s book, something that you can’t always say about knitting books.  I find it unusual to want to knit more than a few patterns from most books, some less – but perhaps I’m picky.

The designs use yarns from companies such as the Hjertegarn, Sandnes Garn, BC Garn, Rowan and Marianne Isager. If you cannot get hold of these where you are, the weight and yardage information is at the back of the book so you can substitute if you want to.

Some of these yarns are easily available in the U.K, Isager yarn is available from Loops knitting shop, SKD yarn stock Sandnes Garn and you will find BC Garn at Love Knitting.com. The only yarn I could not track down in this country was the Hjertegarn.

I recently had a bit of a sort out of my knitting books and sold off some that I have never used or couldn’t see myself knitting anything else from.  Essentially Feminine Knits is one book that I will be using again.

This short-sleeve vest will be winging its way to someone soon.

Happy Knitting.

 

 

Legato

Smooth and connected without breaks in the tones.

 

We all need something to whip up quickly when we need a gift for someone (especially this time of year), but as a hand knitter I always hesitate when considering my knitting for a gift if I don’t really know how it will be received. It isn’t just whether the item will be liked, I find most people like knitted items, but how it will be looked after.  Mention hand-wash to most people and it is enough to make them turn to stone. Mention throwing a beloved hand knitted item into the washing machine to a hand knitter and they will do the same! If knitting for children I usually make an exception and knit with something fairly bomb proof, although to be honest, it’s never completely enjoyable as it could be. I just don’t bond with the yarn in the same way and there’s no getting away from the fact that something knitted in natural fibres just looks and wears so much better.

A good yarn makes your knitting look better.  In my experience the majority of natural fibres are very forgiving of slight changes in tension between your knit rows and purl rows and other odd idiosyncrasies of pattern. Once blocked, they even out and bloom.  Often something lovely turns into something beautiful in the wash. You can’t say that about any pure acrylic yarn (in my opinion). The only exception to this is very fine Merino yarn, but perhaps that’s a discussion for another day. And yes, I know that there is a misconception that all wool yarns are scratchy and difficult to look after, especially here in the U.K for some reason, but that’s just a lack of experience I think. An unwillingness to try anything that isn’t cloud soft. Sometimes you need something with a bit of grip to it to get the best from your knitting. Try knitting fairisle with something silky and you will see what I mean.

So, when I was recently introduced to Elann’s  Pippilongcolors yarn, I was delighted to find that not only is it super wash treated wool but soft – very soft in fact.

The ball band states it is a mix of 24 and 26 micron wool.  This information means far more to you if you are a hand spinner, but I love the fact that they put this information on the ball band along with the nm 1.8 (the size, aran weight) and the fact that it is z-spun (the direction of twist).  Finally a yarn company that actually gives you some real information about the yarn you are knitting with and not just assumes that you couldn’t possibly be interested.

Just to bore you with the finer detail if you don’t handspin. A micron is one millionth of a meter. In this case 24 microns represents a wool fibre of the type from Merino or a very fine Corridale or Shetland sheep. A good Bluefaced Leicester sheep will have a fleece of around the 26 micron count. All these are classed as next to the skin soft. Just as an interesting piece of information, anything below 3 or 4 microns and you couldn’t see it as our eyesight just is not that good.  Emperors new clothes springs to mind!

Anyway, where was I? Yes. Gift knitting. So, over the last week I’ve managed to knit up a couple of quick gifts for some girlfriends of mine. None of them are knitters and really can’t understand at all my love of wool, so this yarn is perfect for us all.

Legato Pair 1

Leg warmers / boot toppers and a matching pair of fingerless mittens. They knit up pretty quickly and the rib pattern is interesting enough to stop me from getting bored but makes pretty good T.V. knitting too.

Legato Mittens 1

Taking really good photos is difficult with our gloomy weather at the moment.

I love this colour-way.  It is called ‘pleased as punch’ but there are several equally lovely colours in the range all with interesting names such as ‘Blaze a trail’ and ‘chasing rainbows’.  I have bought some more in a lovely colour-way called ‘Storm in a tea cup’ for my more reserved friends!

Legato Leggins 1

This pair of leg-warmers is for my friend who wears leggings and skinny jeans a lot. I have actually colour matched them by reeling off some yarn from the ball until I got to the same place in the sequence that I started with for the first one – but stupidly here one is upside down – if you see what I mean! Of course you don’t need to colour match them at all because they look good anyway.

You can get a pair of leg-warmers and a pair of small or medium fingerless mittens from just two balls of the yarn. The larger mittens paired with the shorter boot toppers also take the same amount.

I tried out the pattern as boot toppers in a plain yarn while waiting for some more to arrive.

legato cream 1.12

These are only 15 cm or 6″ long and will be great for stopping a draught down my boots but I admit that I prefer the Elann yarn.

I have written up the pattern and more information about yarn, yardage etc. is on the pattern page. It is now available to buy from here or through Ravelry and Etsy if you would like to have a go.

If you are in the U.K. the good new is that Elann now sell through Amazon so you can get the yarn (along with their other yarns)  here.

The weather here is about to turn much colder so perhaps a little brighter too? Good knitting weather whatever it will be.

Autumn – Delicious Autumn

My very soul is wedded to it and if I were a bird I would fly around the earth seeking successive autumns.

George Elliot.

Autumn Blueberry

Is autumn not a beautiful season?  My favourite time of the year – until spring!

Recently though we have slipped from the bright, crisp, colourful days of autumn where the light has such a beautiful hue, to those dark, damp, dreary days that are so common on this island.

It has been so dreary here the last few days that it is near impossible to take a decent photo.  Our cottage can be quite dark at this time of year when the light outside is so bad, much too dark for decent photographs anyway and outside it is raining so even with the best intentions it’s just not going well.

Time then for warm soups, and knitting!


sweet potato soup

Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

Serves 4 – 6

Gluten and Dairy Free

1 Brown Onion – diced
2 Sweet Potatoes approx. 400g – diced
1 Large White Potato – diced
1 Litre Vegetable Stock, your favourite, I use Kallo.
1  400 ml Tinned Coconut Milk –  not carton. Keep back a few tablespoons for garnish.
Salt and Pepper
Coconut oil for frying

Melt a walnut sized piece of coconut oil in a heavy based saucepan and add the onion. Fry gently until soft but not coloured then add the sweet and white potatoes and leave to sweat for a couple of minutes.
Add the stock and tinned coconut milk and bring slowly to a simmer. Continue to simmer for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are soft then take off the heat and allow to cool down before pureeing with a stick blender or blender.
Return to the heat and season, adding salt and pepper to taste.
When serving, swirl a little of the coconut milk on top.


 

On the knitting front, I have just finished Portage by Melissa Schaschwary.

Portage 2A little different from my usual knitting so far as the yarn is concerned.  On a recent holiday in Wales I somehow came across the Colinette factory, funny that!

Portage 3

The yarn knitted up beautifully and has a good hand, not too soft but not at all itchy either.

Portage

As I said, I am afraid that it’s near impossible to get a decent shot at the moment and these photos don’t do the cardigan justice at all.

The pattern is a top down seamless knit, raglan style.  The shawl type collar is added afterward by picking up stitches around the front and working back and forth in garter stitch. The pockets are integral to the collar and are sewn back to the sides at the end. You can’t see it here as my pictures are so bad but my pockets hang down quite a bit at the front of the garment.  Not a pattern error, I just think that I should have picked up less stitches around the fronts as my yarn has given a little with the weight. I may put it right if it annoys me that much but at the moment nobody seems to notice except me.

I do have another F.O. but that really needs some decent photography before showing you and being sent off to the recipient. No sign of doing that over the next couple of days though.

May your days be colourful and bright!

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.

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

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.

1_Photo0005

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

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.