Autumn

I sit beside the fire and think
Of all that I have seen
Of meadow flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
In autumns that there were
With morning mist and silver sun
And wind upon my hair

Part of a poem by J.R.R. Tolkien
 

It has been a beautiful summer here and I find it is much easier facing the cold mornings and evenings now, having had some warm summer weather between winters! Over the last few years here, our winters have more or less run straight into the next autumn without a summer in between!

Our mornings here have been looking very much like this,

Autumn

and the evenings have just been beautiful,

Autumn Evening

today we have cloud – back to normal then!

The chilly mornings have had my thoughts turn to warmer garments, as I know the whole knitting community is, and I have been swatching in some cushy wool / alpaca yarn.

Something textural with just a little colour I thought, and after a while came up with two interesting but slightly unusual stitch pattern combinations that compliment each other well.

Sample

I changed the colour to something a little more seasonal and let it take shape as I went on.

Patterning

Working bottom up, I am nearly up to the point where I need to knit a couple of sleeves to join with the body.  I have put in a rather large front pocket with plenty of room to warm your hands in and have a nice idea for the collar too. I hoped to be further on than I am but have also been tempted by this yarn that I found at my local LYS that is just calling out for some more attention.

Tweed yarns

It is a lovely tweed yarn, 97% British wool (spun in Yorkshire) with 3% viscose which I assume is the tweed neps. This yarn has very little spring to it but has a beautiful crisp handle that I find irresistible. I couldn’t resist buying one ball in each colour just to try them all out and keep thinking that they may look good all together in one garment, but that may change.

I blame the autumn weather, you just want to be able to knit everything at once.

I picked a whole host of wild blackberry’s and made one of my favourite desserts, blackberry and pear crumble.

Blackberry and Pear Crumble
Blackberry and Pear Crumble

I am still working on the final recipe for the topping.  I am intolerant to oats, even gluten free ones, so have been looking for a good alternative for my usual gluten crumble.  I’ve tried all the usual suspects such as quinoa flakes, which I like, but we here are partial to coconut and this latest version has dessicated coconut along with some chopped nuts to give it extra crunch.  The coconut toasts beautifully but I think I need to increase the fat content a little as this was quite crumbly and I also like my topping to ‘stick’ together a little. Fussy eh?

Cyclamen
Cyclamen

I am also working on the final draft of the Hathor pattern while the test knitters finish theirs and hope to have it ready to publish soon. The colours they have chosen are just beautiful and are up on the pattern page if you are a Ravelry member.

Mindie

Advertisements

I may not have gone where I intended to go –

but I think I have ended up where I needed to be. – Douglas Adams

 

Hathor

I pretty much decided that Hathor was done and sent the pattern off to the test knitters on Sunday.

I added an option for long sleeves which took a little extra time to work out but I think it will be well worth it.

Hathor
Hathor

Since then I’ve been spending a few days catching up with things (mostly ironing, but we won’t talk about that!) chatting with friends and just generally taking stock.

It’s that time of year again. The days here have been beautiful; warm, dry and sunny, but the mist laying across the fields when I get up in the morning tells me that these days are limited. Before too long we will be into a cold, wet and invariably grey British autumn.  Knowing this makes these days all the more precious, which is why it is my favourite season of the year. The days are to be treasured and it makes me feel more alive now, than any other time of the year.

The end of summer is also a time when I look back and take stock.  I know it is more traditional to do this at the end of the year, but somehow, for me, this time always feels like the end of the year. The growing season is nearly over, (although I sincerely hope not quite yet as my autumn/winter vegetables are not nearly big enough) the days are getting noticeably shorter and the plants and animals are making that final dash before the colder weather arrives.

HathorI am very pleased with the way this cardigan has turned out. I started in a completely different place to where I ended up.  Perhaps that is a good lesson to be learnt.

HathorThe yarn for this one, as I said in my last post, is Drops Karisma 100% wool, 100m to 50g in shades 01- off white, 52- mustard and 57- sage. It knits up very nicely having a good round, solid feel to it and it washes well. It is soft but not too soft, still retaining a slight crispness that I am hoping means it will wear very well. Not sure if I’d recommend it for children’s wear as personally I don’t think it would be soft enough next to their skin but I do like it. I am still contemplating another for myself in the same yarn but with long sleeves this time, although in the last day or two my attention has been taken up with other knitting.  I’ve been putting together some swatches for a textured and cabled pullover, so I shall see where that leads me first I think.

HathorI am hoping to make the pattern available by mid-September but will keep you posted.

In other news – The original version of Duffers is now available in French as well as English and German.  A very nice lady called Frédi contacted me recently as she had translated a copy for her Mother and wondered if I would like to make it available. I am always overwhelmed with knitters’ generosity and would like to thank  Frédi once again for all her hard work in putting together this translation for me. Pop over to her blog, it is in French but translatable and also facinating.

Phalaenopsis
Phalaenopsis

Mindie.

 

 

 

 

 

Hathor

Hathor is an Ancient Egyptian goddess who personified the principles of joy, feminine love, and motherhood. She was one of the most important and popular deities throughout the history of Ancient Egypt and was often depicted wearing a Menet necklace.
I think that perhaps because of this I thought it only right to call the adult version of Menet, Hathor.

I am still working on the final details of the pattern. Juggling figures to get sizes from 32″(81cm ) to 42″ (106.5cm ) finished chest size is making my head spin just a little. I want to offer an option for long sleeves and as such want to add enough room in the sleeves for ease so that if they are long you could wear something underneath but on the other hand I don’t want them to be baggy at the top if you knit the short/no sleeved version. Does that make sense?

Here is my first yoke done for the sample short sleeved version.

-Hathor-
-Hathor-

As usual I have gone for earthy tones.

Hathor Yoke

 

But I have yarn for a slightly more lively version too.  The yarn I am using is Drops Karisma.  A DK/light worsted weight yarn in 100% wool, 100m (109yds) to 50g (1.75oz)  that knits up to 5.5 sts per inch (2.5cm).  This makes a fairly standard 22 stitches per 4″ (10cm) which is slightly heavier than the children’s Menet version at 6 sts per inch (2.5cm). I nearly went to 5 sts per inch (2.5cm) the standard worsted weight but it seemed just a little too heavy for this. The 6 sts per inch (2.5cm) would have been great but I know that it means quite a lot more knitting for a large adult size so I compromised. Yes, the 1/2 stitch per inch does make quite a lot of difference overall.

A quick example of gauge in this context.

A 40″ cardigan knitted at 5.5 sts per inch (2.5cm) has 220 stitches but knitted at 6 sts per inch (2.5cm) it has 240 stitches. An extra 20 sts each and every row. Obvious I know, but if I put it another way –  if you start with 220 stitches and your gauge is 5.5 stitches per inch you get a cardigan that measures 40″(101.5cm) -but- if your gauge measures 6 sts per inch (2.5cm) only half of one stitch difference you get a cardigan that only measures 36 1/2″ (92.5cm ). Quite a bit of difference in the amount of knitting which can make or break it for some people and in larger sizes this cardigan can take the slight extra thickness that that 1/2 a stitch makes without compromising the feel or drape.

That is how important it is to get your gauge right, boring I know, but it does make all the difference;  to the knitting, to the feel of the garment and to the size you end up with. So, always measure you gauge! I nearly always do!

To keep me going I’ve been eating far too many of these mini quiche.

 

Quiche

 

And far too much of this banana cake. (gluten and dairy free of course)

banana cakeI can’t recall now which recipe I used but you don’t need to look very far on the net to find a good gluten free version of this popular staple, banana bread.

I’ve also been trying to find time in the vegetable garden.  I have far too many cabbages, kale and broccoli plants to go in for the autumn / winter veg season this year. It is getting late for transplanting them and I need to do a fair bit of digging yet.  I love digging, strange I know but I find it satisfying in the same way as knitting.  The only problem is that since I have been ill, I still love to dig but my body doesn’t and rebels violently.  This I have learnt much to my cost over the last couple of nights. So, now I have had to give in, learn my limitations, as much as I hate it, (I can be quite independent and stubborn- something I have also learnt) and find me a willing victim helper to do it for me. I may be baking a lot in the near future as I’ve also learnt that cake always, always helps if you need a favour!

 

osteospermum
osteospermum

Have a great weekend and thank you to all those people who have offered to test knit Hathor, the pattern should be with you shortly.

 

 

Menet

Finally,  the pattern for the child’s cardigan, Menet, is done.

Menet Child's
Menet Child’s

A long time coming, I know, but I did play around with this for quite a while (as usual) and it has had a couple of reincarnations –  which I suppose is only fitting for something named after an Egyptian necklace and the daughter of Senusret III.

Menet Cardigan

Top down and seamless, it has a garter slip stitch pattern on the yoke in three alternating colours and a plain, stocking stitch body.  The neck, body and sleeve edges are knitted in moss stitch which I thought went well with the knobbly pattern of the yoke.

I hope to be listing the pattern later today.  It covers finished chest sizes from 20″/50 cm to 30″/76 cm in two inch/5cm increments. It can be knitted in any DK or perhaps fingering yarn that knits up at 6 sts per inch / 2.5 cm.

I tried several different DK weight yarns for this. The red and white version in the above photo is knitted from Wendy Merino a 100% superwash merino yarn. It knitted up (and ripped back) nicely but isn’t a soft, soft, merino as some are.  This suited me quite nicely as for some strange reason I’m not that fond of very soft merino, however I’m not sure this would be suitable for very small babies as personally, I don’t think it soft enough.  Your opinion could differ. The pink yarn was one I had lying around that I thought would go nicely.  It’s not the Wendy Merino but joined in and played nicely.

Menet 3

 

The version above is the smallest 20″ finished size.  I knitted it in Patons Diploma Gold DK, a wool blend machine washable yarn.  The content is 55% wool, 25% acrylic and 20% nylon.  It’s a very popular yarn for its’ easy care and knits up nicely.  Although I’m not too keen on man made fibres, I know that it is the go to choice for children’s wear as it is easy on the pocket and hard wearing.  This yarn also comes in a huge array of colours.

The pink and purple version at the top in the first picture above (which is not quite finished yet) is in a yarn called Wendy Mode, a 50/50 blend of Merino and Acrylic.  At first glance this looks rather man made and has a little fluffiness to it but I must admit that is is easy to knit with and doesn’t look bad once knitted up.  I can’t say what it is like once it is washed and blocked as I haven’t got that far with it yet but if anything untoward happens I’ll let you know.

 

This cardigan makes quite a good cross season knit.  A cover up for chilly summer days and evenings but equally as good with something like a long sleeved T underneath for spring or autumn.

Menet Red 3

The sizes listed on the pattern are finished chest sizes.  I would recommend knitting a size 2″/5cm larger than the actual chest size you want to allow for ease of movement and a little growing room, perhaps more depending on how much growing room you want.

This cardigan knits up pretty easily and quickly.  You will need to know how to pick up stitches for the button bands and knit in the round with two needles or dpn’s for adding the sleeve edging. A knowledge of seamless knitting and moss stitch is helpful but probably not essential.  Apart from that and a little sewing in of ends and putting buttons on, it is all pretty straightforward.

Menet 6I’ve had  a few false starts designing this but its been fun. I’ve knitted and knitted on these, which is unusual for me as I usually get bored if I have to knit more than one of something. There is just the right amount of interest in the yoke knitting and the body makes pretty good TV knitting so they go pretty quickly and no added sleeves is a bonus.

I am now looking forward to writing up the adult version of this pattern, after all this knitting it would be nice if I get one I can wear!

Menet Red 2

Mindie.

 

 

Change is good

or so I keep telling myself. Change is one of the certainties of life.

Someone once said “There have been some minor changes and a little tweaking of the project”

I’m pretty sure they weren’t talking about knitting but still… if the cap fits.

Child's Menet Cardigan

I started out with the intention of having this project more like a pinafore dress, but along the way I changed my mind….and changed it again.  I like the pinafore idea but with this stitch pattern and yoke design I just thought it wanted to be so much more.

Menet Red 3

There are limitations to using three different alternating colours when working seamlessly in the round. Namely that there is just not a good enough join where you change colours.  Each colour comes from three rounds down and although you twist the old and new colours together, the join just doesn’t have the integrity to it to hold the knitting together. Not enough to stand up to any stretching anyway, which is what you would get if this was a sweater. So after a lot of swatching I came to the conclusion that this had to be a cardigan or I needed to put buttons all the way down the yoke, at the back or the front, and then join in the round to knit the body. With this particular pattern I didn’t like the button idea, to me it just didn’t look right with the highly patterned yoke so I have gone for the cardigan.

Nemet – V2

Menet Red

I’ve written up the pattern and am just working one more sample as I want to get the button band just right.  I am also knitting the next one in a different yarn just to see if that makes a difference.  Picking up stitches through the yoke pattern and getting it just right to marry with the moss stitch button band has proved to be difficult, there are a lot more rows in the yoke than there are stitches in the button band and I want to be able to put exact button band instructions into the pattern, and have them right.  The only way to do this, although I have estimates, is to actually try it out again and perhaps again.

The chest sizes I have written up so far are from a 20″ to 30″ chest in two-inch increments. The pattern should cover ages of approx. 6-9 months up to 9-10 years.  I will be working on some adult sizes next week and giving that a go.

Menet Red 2

If you would like to have a go at test knitting this for me please do get in touch and as soon as I’ve made the pattern presentable I will contact you with the details.

The colour combinations for this are endless and for the next one I’ve chosen slightly less bright colours for the yoke with a cream body, but as I said there are endless possibilities and I have some darker more autumnal colours for the adult version as well as a lighter spring combination.  I can see my fingers will be very busy over the next couple of weeks as I have also promised to finish a UFO for a very dear relative of mine.

Still, lucky I have plenty of these on hand to keep me going then.  I changed this recipe from a gluten and dairy containing one and am so pleased with the result.

Gluten and Dairy Free Cupcakes

Orange and lemon cup cakes.  Gluten, dairy, corn and soya free, but they do contain eggs and refined sugar.

As I want my cakes to be as light and airy as they can without any grittiness, I used a version of Cybele Pascal’s gluten-free flour mix for these.  Rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch. Cybele uses a super fine brown rice flour for her mix which we cannot get here in the UK, so I use super fine white rice flour or Chinese rice flour instead. You can easily get it in most Asian/Oriental food shops here, it comes in a white packet with red writing and a red elephant on the front.  I pay approx. £1.05 for 450g so it’s not very expensive considering and the flour is ground as fine as cornflour.

There is no way anyone would be able to tell that these are gluten and dairy free, no way.  They are just soft and light without the slightest amount of grit or dryness anywhere. Exactly the same as the gluten and dairy version.  They do have a lot of eggs in them though so you just can’t sub them out; unfortunately these do need the eggs to make them what they are.

 

Orange and Lemon Cup Cakes

Pre-heat oven to 170 C (338 F)

200g of dairy, soy free margarine (I used pure sunflower)

200g of caster sugar

4 free range eggs, medium

200g superfine rice flour, potato and tapioca starch mix (see above)

2 tsp xanthan gum

1 tsp of gf Baking powder

(if you want corn free mix your own as I do: 2 parts cream of tartar to 1 part baking soda)

Zest from 1 Orange

Lemon curd, or Lemon icing to decorate

Muffin tin lined with cases.  (I used natural, bleach free ones)

METHOD

Mix the margarine and sugar together until pale and fluffy, add eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly, the mixture will probably curdle but don’t worry. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and xanthan and fold into the margarine, sugar and egg mixture along with the zest.

Spoon into muffin cases until 2/3 full.  I got 14 out of this mixture so baked in two batches.  Bake in pre-heated oven for 15 to 20 mins or until a toothpick inserted into one comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack and then decorate as you will. I cut out cone shapes from the top and put in some lemon curd or jam and turned them into butterfly cakes but plan to put some lemon icing on the rest. You have fun with whatever icing etc. you wish.

Orange and Lemon Cup Cake

Make Hay while the Sun Shines

We have some summer here. We’ve been waiting a while. The weather man on the  local news said that it’s been seven years since we had such a spell of hot weather here in Devon. Seven years. I don’t know if he is right and I can’t be bothered to look it up and check, but it does feel nice at last to be able to walk around in summer clothes in the summer!

I am still on my cooking quest but have come to a temporary lull as I wait for some specialist ingredients to arrive. I’m trying out a different flour mix from Gluten Free On a Shoestring.  I have both of Nicole’s books and am awaiting the new one on bread to come out; even though I am yeast intolerant I understand that there are some yeast free recipes in there. All I can say is that her yeast free English Muffins are to die for, they have such a good flavour on their own but even better with jam or a poached egg. As a whole I don’t even bother with gluten free ‘bread’ recipes. Being a bit of a baker for years and making my own bread, bagels etc. the gluten free alternatives (even the ones I can eat) are enough to make me feel ill. The nearest I’ve come to a sandwich up until now are the gluten free flour tortillas from Jeanne’s – Art of Gluten Free Baking. These make great wraps and are the best I’ve found so far and, believe me, I’ve tried a few over the last 10 years I’ve been baking gluten free, first for my son and now for us both. I use lard in place of the butter and they come out just perfect, even better if you leave the dough in the fridge overnight and make them the next day. Try them, you won’t be sorry. Anyway, where was I? Yes, so, to make one of Nicole’s flour mixes you need pectin, not just any pectin but a particular kind. I’ve ordered this and it should be with me sometime this week. I have high hopes. I’ll let you know.

I did make this though

Coconut flan

You will find the recipe from the Real Food Forager. It is called the GF Coconut Multi-Fruit Tart, although as you can see I used only strawberries to top it as that is all I had. All I can say is that I had to fight to get a bit of this.

P1000126 Knitting then.

I promised to show you what I have been knitting and would I let you down? Well, yes I did last time – but not today. In the absence of a small child to model this you get to meet Agatha, don’t ask, I don’t know why I called it that, it just came to mind.

Menet
Menet

This is the first draught of the pattern I’ve called Menet.

Menet 106As I can’t stop playing around with things, I’ve decided to put some short sleeves onto this,

Menetand am knitting another in a different colour way to see if I like the sleeved version better.  I also have some lovely Wool/Alpaca mix yarn that I would like to try out for an adult version for the autumn.

The design is very simple and the stitch pattern easily remembered so it knits up pretty quickly. Menet is knitted seamlessly from the top down with minimal finishing. There is a button band at the back on the small sizes for ease of fitting (you can’t see in these photos), which is added at the end. This one is sized for a two-year old and took just less than four balls of yarn. The extra two colours used in the yoke could be knitted out of odd balls of yarn, only a few metres/yards are needed of each.

Keep your fingers crossed for the weather, tonight I’m getting the BBQ out for the first time in ages, it could put an end to the nice summer!

Failing miserably

Now, I know that I said that I would have the start of a new design to show you by this week – well I was wrong. I have been a little side tracked and just don’t know where the time has gone, really, it feels that this week has only had three days, where the other two went I have no idea.

Firstly:  I had a birthday this week which, unusually for me, took up a whole day.  Oh, that sounds odd doesn’t it.  Birthdays do last for a whole day, obviously.  I should explain.  I am very ‘relaxed’ about birthdays. We celebrate them with presents and a cake, lots of smiles and hugs etc. and sometimes a special meal but we don’t go overboard.  I know people whose birthdays seem to last all week – something special going on for days – I can’t do that I don’t know why, something in my upbringing that has stuck fast I suspect. Plus, due to unusual circumstances here with other things taking priority, I haven’t actually celebrated one for the last two years. So this week I was treated to a day out and a lovely meal in a pub to round the day off (one that serves gluten free meals). Lovely.

Secondly: I have also become a little side tracked with chocolate chip biscuits/cookies.  I am trying to find my perfect one.  I like my biscuits to be crunchy, not chewy; flat and relatively thin not thick and mounded; like the size and shape of the ones that come in packets, but a whole lot better obviously. Oh, and pretty allergy friendly. I can’t buy gluten free biscuits because they always have other things in them that I’m intolerant to such as corn or maize flour and besides, I mostly made my own before anyway as they are so much better for you so I don’t see the need to change this.

When you have been cooking for many years, you naturally build up a ‘stock’ of favourite recipes.  The important go-to recipes that you like and cook over and over again. From time to time you try new things; some things you only cook once, some are added to your list of favourites and it goes on. I have a good selection of biscuits in my ‘stock’ but none of them now conform to all of my diet requirements, which are quite a lot I know. So, I’ve been on the hunt for new ones and at the moment it is chocolate chip biscuits.  I’ve already tried a few.  All taste good but so far all have at least one thing that stops them from becoming perfect (for me). Trouble is, so far this hunt has been a little hap-hazard in its’ execution.  So for posterity (and the fact that I can’t always remember what each recipe was like) I’m going to document them here. One recipe each week (how many biscuits can a girl eat each week? Don’t answer that, I know) and hopefully I will find my ultimate chocolate chip heaven.  Feel free to ‘chip’ in (oh dear!) if you have a suitable recipe that I could try. (1st Recipe below.)

Thirdly: (note to self) Knitting Gauge. It is an important thing.  Very important if you want something to come out the size you expect it to, even more important if you are trying to mix two very different types of stitches together in the same piece and you would like them to marry together without stretching or puckering.

This is what happened with my knitting. I checked gauge. Then I checked it again and again.  Then I forgot that my gauge differs between flat and circular knitting, not by a lot, but enough, and the whole thing went wrong.  So, I’ve had to start again.

My problem is this.  The picture of the stitch pattern I showed you last week is a yoke.

Yoke

And, unusually, this yoke is more like a big collar in that it doesn’t go all the way down over the shoulders like they usually do.  More on the difficulty of that later. My problem at the moment is that this slip stitch pattern has to marry with an area of stocking stitch that is knitted flat, then joined and knitted in the round. To make them marry the gauge needs to be right. And mine wasn’t.  Strangely, this pattern has the same gauge at the edge that my circular knitting has. Circular stocking stitch- knitting rounds of only knit stitches – quite often gives you a tighter gauge than when you knit stocking stitch flat and incorporate a row of purl stitches every other row.  Not always but mostly. This happens with other stitch patterns as well but here I’m focusing on stocking stitch.  So, although I had measured gauge on the patterned and circular sections, I had not done this for the flat section, forgetting that they can be a little different. Stupid mistake. Still, at least it’s only knitting and can be ripped and re-knitted.  If I couldn’t re-use the yarn for this each time I’ve ripped back, well, I hate to say how much I would have gone through by now. Once again, hopefully, I’ll have a completed item to show for next time!

Chocolate chip biscuits – recipe 1

Free From: Gluten, dairy and eggs

Not Free From: Nuts or sugar

This recipe is one of my own that I adapted.  It originally comes from a very old and out of print book entitled –Readers Digest Complete Guide to Cookery. A huge book covering everything from boning a chicken to making puff pastry; more of a technical book than cookery book although there are one or two recipes in each section using the techniques covered.

INGREDIENTS

150g Gluten free flour, (I used Jeanne’s mix)

1/2 tsp Salt

125g Butter replacement (I used Pure)

75g Caster sugar AND 75g brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg ( I used 1tsp egg replacer mixed with 2 tbls water)

1/2 tsp baking soda mixed with 1 tsp hot water

125g Pecan nuts, chopped

175g Dairy free chocolate chips

 

METHOD

Pre-heat oven to 374°C/190°F/Gas 5.  Line baking tray with parchment.

Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, beat in egg replacer and

then vanilla and baking soda mix. Stir in the flour and finally the nuts and

chocolate chips. The mixture is quite stiff. Drop small teaspoon sized pieces

onto the baking tray and flatten slightly. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until golden

brown.

There is a note in the original recipe that says not to underbake the biscuits as they should be crispy. The original looked like this:

Original recipe

Mine however, turned out like this:

My own version

Just a little different looking wouldn’t you say? But how did they do? Well,

On the plus side, these taste lovely.  The addition of nuts in with the chocolate gives them a nice flavour and an added texture.  They were quite solid and not too sweet. However on the down side they don’t really fulfil the flat/thin and crispy requirement.  They didn’t spread much in the cooking at all choosing to stay thick and lumpy.  Now I know that you can’t expect things to just work out if you are changing important ingredients in the recipe as I have.  And these didn’t hang around in the kitchen for very long, everyone ate them, dietary requirements or not so that does say something.  If I try the recipe again though I will need to work out how to make them spread out more.

Back to the drawing board for now. I’m going to try another recipe later today and I will let you know how I get on but for now I think I need to do some knitting.