Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Crayon blanket - WIP Weds

Thanks to Tami for hosting!
I had thought my next project would be the Hooded Jacket, but it turned out I couldn't wait that long to start something new. So while we all get set up ready to start the crochet along I've started on the colour me blanket. It's made up of six giant crayons pointing in opposite directions. I'd already bought some red yarn before Christmas, intending to have a go at one crayon before I buy the other colours. The pattern is made up of alternating single and double crochet (US terms), which gives it a bumpy textured look. This is my progress so far:

It's going well. I'll try to be good and buy each colour as I finish the last one.

For people who want to join in with the crochet along, what start date would you like? Would halfway through January give you enough time to buy yarn? Say the 16th ish. Or would you prefer a whole month to shop and start on February 1st?

Monday, 27 December 2010

A cunning plan...

Hands up crocheters - wanna join in?

I'd like a head count for people that might be interested in making the following pattern:

It's from an old magazine pattern. I found it through Ravelry and fell in love, but there is a shortage of examples of the finished coat floating around the internet and it seems to be putting people off attempting it, myself included. I've only made 6 things out of crochet so far and I'm still learning as I go, but I think I really want to make a start on this as my next pattern.

I'm wondering if others want to join in and make it into a crochet along? I would host it here on my blog and those with blogs can join in here, those without could join in on Ravelry if you've got an account there or want to make one. Or you could just email me your progress shots and I'll post them here.

The pattern is free, and covers sizes 10, 12, and 14 form the misses' section of this chart:

I'm fairly confident that someone with beginner/intermediate skills can attempt it as it seems to be constructed from rectangle-ish pieces and then sewn up into the coat shape. The instructions are in American, you need the following stitches: chain, single crochet, and half double crochet. In UK terms that would be chain, double crochet, and half treble.

Who's interested? Drop a comment below if you want to join in.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Homemade Gifts

Merry Christmas everyone!

Now that everyone has received their gifts I can finally share some pictures with you. We haven't gone completely homemade this year but we have done a few handmade presents. 

Firstly a secret santa gift for someone on a forum I use. They said on their inspiration list they liked handmade things and celtic art, so I decided to try a crochet scarf with a celtic knot pattern on each end. I used the "Dan's minimalist scarf" pattern from Ravelry and combined it with the chart pattern for a celtic knot from the "Vantar mittens" from Inside Crochet magazine.

I think it came out quite well. It was my first crochet scarf, my first attempt at following a chart and my first go at carrying a second colour through the stitches. I lost a few stitches somewhere along the way and it's a bit wavy on the edges but not terribly noticeable when worn.

Next was a crochet blanket for a friend. I used a pattern for a granny rectangle as I didn't think a square would make a good blanket (I didn't have time to make a square big enough!). I love granny stitch as it's really quick to make but all the colour changes meant about 50 ends to sew in before I could call it finished. I completed this in the early hours of christmas eve because I'd been putting off the sewing till the last minute.

For my partner's mum I made a convertible hat from this pattern. It can be worn as a scarf or be tied up one end and worn as a hat. This one I finished in the early hours of this morning. Next year I really need to start making things earlier. Christmas sneaked up on me somehow this year.

Remember the sloe gin I started back in September? That has been bottled and labelled. Some were given as gifts, some are being drunk today by visitors, and I've hidden one in the back of a cupboard to warm me up next autumn when I get in from picking the sloes for the next batch! 

We also made some balsamic pickled onions, following a recipe from the Hairy Bikers. No one has tasted them yet so I hope they turned out ok. My partner did the labels for these and he named them Hairy Pickles, in honour of the bikers.

Whatever you're doing today I hope you're all enjoying yourselves!

P.s. I added this post to Tami's FO Friday party, even though it's technically FO Saturday.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A year ago today...

Happy blog day to me, happy blog day to me.......

One year ago today I wrote my first post for this blog. I haven't had chance to organise a give away competition or anything but I didn't want to let the day pass unmarked. 

I've managed to stick to blogging for a whole 12 months, aiming for roughly 1 post a week. Sometimes I've managed more sometimes less. It seems I've mainly blogged about fruit/veg and crochet according to my tags. As usual I'm going to continue blogging in a random fashion according to what takes my interest at the time. At the moment I'm making a few gifts for Christmas but I won't be posting about them till afterwards. 

So thank you to my readers and commenters for sticking with me so far, and here's to another 12 months together. I'll come up with something good next time, I promise!

Is there anything you'd like to see more of or any post you've particularly enjoyed? Just let me know.

* images taken from a google search *

Friday, 3 December 2010

Fleecy dog coat

I haven't felt inspired to post as much as usual as my Nan has been ill and passed away on Nov 30th. The whole family has being doing shifts caring for her at home. I'll probably write a post about her tomorrow or Sunday after we've gone through all the photos and spoken to the vicar.

I have managed to make something for Finished Object Friday though (as usual hosted by Tami). 

Like most of the UK at the moment we've had some early snow and unusually cold temperatures. This is our second winter with Darcy and our first with Jess. Darcy has quite a thick coat and doesn't seem to feel the cold no matter how long we're out. Jess, on the other hand, has a short wiry coat and is shivering within five minutes in the snow. I decided to make her a coat so she can play in the snow without freezing. We could have just gone out and bought one but that wouldn't be half as much fun.

I had a google and found this pattern which was only a little bigger than Jess's measurements already. I drew a rough copy of the pattern pieces onto newspaper, trying to get them a little smaller but still the same shape. It looked too big for her so I cut the pieces out of an old sheet and held them against Jess, they seemed about right and the fabric pattern pieces turned out to be easier to work with than the paper. (Look how wonky they are, I need some better scissors!).

I used some thick fleece to make the coat. The fleece is from the blankets handed out at the end of the Douglas Macmillan charity walks so it was free, it's also bright pink which is not really my taste, but at least I can finally use it for something. After a false start where I tried to sew it up with normal cotton thread I realised I needed something thicker. I ended up using some spare purple wool and a yarn needle. I decided on blanket stitch to hold it together and for decoration. I also considered embroidering a pattern but decided to wait and make sure Darcy doesn't rip it when they play before I waste the effort. 

Now Jess is warm enough to play outside, but I think Darcy is a little jealous that she gets to wear something extra. 

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Radioactive Cat

I did get this finished in time for Finished Object Friday, but was too busy to actually write the post up, whoops.

Here is my finished crocheted radioactive cat:

Made using this pattern from Marmalade Rose. The yarn is a really bright lime green but I couldn't get the camera to pick up the real colour. That's my partner's hand by the way, I don't have man hands.

It's a really simple pattern. The body of the cat is a square (although mine came out rectangular...) and the head is a shaped piece made using decreases ad increases. It's then folded to the right shape, stuffed and sewn up. The tail was the trickiest part. It's just a tiny hollow tube. I couldn't figure out what the pattern wanted me to do to start the tail so I just played about until I got something that looked right. I sewed a face on with purple yarn, because I don't have any black, or any embroidery thread yet. 

So that's my first attempt an an amigurumi. Jess approves anyway:

Monday, 15 November 2010

Slightly addicted

Cor blimey! Halfway through November already and not a post to show for it. I wish it was because I was doing NaNoWriMo but I haven't got anywhere with that, yet again. I have, however, started some new crochet projects, but since they're intended as xmas presents I can't really blog them until after the recipients have seen them. I'll try to remember to take lots of pictures though!

Crochet has become surprisingly addictive. As soon as I've finished writing this post I'm going to start on this crochet kitten, which I can share with you as it's not intended for anyone specific. I just decided to try making an amigurumi and this looked like a nice easy pattern to start with. An amigurumi, by the way, is a Japanese word that means any small crocheted or knitted animals or inanimate objects that have been anthropomorphised (and that one you'll have to look up for yourselves). I found an amazingly bright lime green acrylic yarn in the market today and it was just asking to become a radioactive kitten.... 

There was also a nice bright purple. Purple and lime green happen to be one of my favourite colour combinations. I may experiment with them to see if I can get a two tone kitten after I've made the first one.

Photos to follow, either for Work in Progress Wednesday, or Finished Object Friday, depending how I get on with the pattern...

Sunday, 31 October 2010

I love Halloween

It's the time of year the air cools and stays chilly, the leaves change and fall, giving me plenty of opportunities to kick and crunch through them like a child while my partner Sam pretends he doesn't know me. Pomegranates are in season and provide a whole evening's entertainment trying to extract the juicy sticky seeds in front of the tv. Pumpkins are everywhere, but most important of all it's Halloween season! I've always loved Halloween, it's my favourite holiday, much more exciting than xmas. I was due to be born on Halloween but ended up 5 days late, so I almost had the chance to have creepy parties every year.

For Wiccans October 31st is Samhain. It's a pagan equivalent of new year, celebrating the end of the harvest season and the start of the dark time of the year. This is the night when the divide between the living and the dead is thinnest. It's a time to remember loved ones who've passed on, and some people may set an extra place at the dining table or leave food out for the dead. It's also a time to look into the future with divination tools like scrying, tarot or runes. 

How are you celebrating this year?

The Halloween collage above was created using images from Flickr:

Friday, 29 October 2010

First finished crochet

This post is part of Tami's Finished Object Friday blog party. Thanks for hosting Tami!

I've finally mastered crochet enough to create things! I've finished the two baby blankets bar the final blocking and wash:

I've also made some purple wrist warmers/fingerless gloves for myself using this pattern from Ravelry. You may need to register there to view the pattern, I'm not sure. This is my first real crochet made from an actual pattern. I didn't follow it exactly. I added and subtracted a few stitches here and there so they fit my hands exactly and no one can steal them. Mwah ha ha ha.... 

This is the kind of dodgy photography you get when you have to switch on the timer and run across the room to wave your arms in front of the lens. I think I'll let someone else take the pic next time I make something involving both arms...

I'm now wondering what to make next. I'm considering the lion brand yarn best bunny, a peace sign granny square throw, or an ugly bunny pin cushion....

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

WIP Wednesday already?

Wednesday again? Already? Ok, well since last week I've  been plodding along making the granny squares for my blankets. I've got one almost done, it's all sewn together now. I'm thinking of putting an edging on it to make it look tidier, and then I'll attempt to block it.

The second blanket still requires one last green square, and most importantly of all your kindness in not mentioning that one green and one white square are larger than the others. 

Be gentle please, it was a gauge issue that I sorted by dropping down a hook size, but I don't have enough yarn to do extra squares and I can't face frogging it and re-doing them. I'm hoping since there are exactly the same number of stitches that it won't be too noticeable once it's all sewn up and edged. My baby nieces won't notice anyway.

Thanks again to Tami for hosting the WIP Wednesday posts.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

WIP Wednesday

Here's a Work-In-Progress Wednesday post inspired by Tami's weekly party. I have three WIPs to share this week:

I've become quite addicted to something over the past week or so. Crochet! Remember my first attempt way back at the start of this blog? Well I hadn't done any since then and I suddenly had the urge to try it again. Luckily this time I was spotted by a helpful auntie who has showed me how to hold the hook and yarn properly and taught me the dreaded granny square! I can't stop making them! 

I've done 6 so far since Friday and have started on a 7th. I've come up with a vague plan of sewing them together to make baby blankets for my nieces who are due any time now. I'm not sure whether I'm just trying to use this plan as a cover for my crazy granny square obsession. 

Remember my wall hanging WIP? Well I'm still working on it. Hand sewing it is taking soooo long, and I admit to abandoning it for days at a time, but it will be done before xmas! 
I need to sew eyes on the tortoise (top left) and eyes/nose/tongue on the dog (bottom right) and then back it and it will be finished. Everyone's favourite square so far seems to be the fish:

After that the plan is to dig the sewing machine out and figure out how it works (with the aid of aforementioned helpful aunt) and get cracking on two more wall hangings for my nieces!

Not so much a crafty one but still a WIP. My laptop is showing it's age now and the windows operating system it came with was never great, so it's all gone terribly slow and frustrating. I'm trialling a Linux operating system on it at the moment (from inside windows so nothing has really changed permanently yet). I've chosen Linux Mint as it seems the most user friendly. It's going well so far, it's working with my ipod and my camera, there's just the printer left to test now. If it all goes well I'll wipe the laptop and do a proper install.

Now, back to the crochet...

Sunday, 3 October 2010




How many of you have heard of NaNoWriMo?  It stands for National Novel Writing Month and was a crazy idea dreamed up by a group of friends in America in 1999. The main idea is to write a novel of at least 50,000 words over the 30 days of November. Here's NaNo in a nutshell (taken from the website):

"NaNo in a Nutshell

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month's time.
Who: You! We can't do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let's write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.
Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era's most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.
When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.
Where: You write wherever you’d like. On your computer, on your iPad, on a typewriter---anywhere is fine, just as long as you’re writing! For a more in-depth NaNoWriMo overview, visit the devilishly handsome "What is NaNoWriMo?"and "How NaNoWriMo Works" pages."

The website and forum have just finished their annual reset. From now to the kick-off on 1st November the forum will be getting busier and more excited. Each year the number of people joining in increases massively, and a few of the participants have gone on to get their NaNos published as real books. I've hung around in their forums for the past 2 NaNos but not actually written anything. I may actually start something this year! 

How about you? Throw me a comment below if you'll be NaNoing this year. I am giving you almost a months notice ;)

Friday, 1 October 2010

Rosehip Syrup

I've finally made some rosehip syrup from the hips I gathered on my first foraging attempt. They weren't quite ripe enough so I had them in the freezer for a while and then thawed them out in the fridge before starting the syrup recipe. I didn't write down exactly what I was doing at the time but I'll give you a rough guide.

First I roughly chopped 250g of hips (you could possibly chuck them in a blender, or through a juicer to do it more quickly). Then I added them to a pan with 500ml of boiling water and let it simmer for 20 minutes. I strained this mixture through muslin, kept the rosehip water to one side, and put the solids from the muslin back in the pan with another 200ml of boiling water. I simmered this for another 20 minutes then strained it again into the first bowl of hip water.

I added 50g of sugar to the rose hip water and brought it up to the boil for 15 minutes. The only suitable bottles I could find were some empty Jack Daniels miniatures, so I boiled these in a pan of water to sterilise them. I poured the syrup straight into the hot bottles. Apparently they should keep unopened for quite a while. Each bottle should be good for a week once it's open. 

This was just a trial run. You'd need to scale the recipe up to get a good amount if you wanted it to last all year.

Meanwhile the turbo cider has been bottled. I'm not sure if I left it too long in the demijohn to get fizzy cider, I've bottled it with a teaspoon of sugar each to see what happens. It's not quite drinkable yet but it smells like cider.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Homemade alcohol

My favourite alcohol at the moment is Jack Daniels. Not that I've had much chance to drink since I passed my driving test two years ago, but even when I do want to I find it's horribly expensive. So I've decided to have a dabble at homebrew, not proper homebrew with beer and wine (neither of which I drink), but cheats homebrew in the form of sloe gin and turbo cider.

Sloe Gin

I've started off two batches of sloe gin. The first I made with the original sloes I picked and put in the freezer overnight. All the sugar has dissolved and it's changed colour. This one's been going for five days now:

The second I made with twice as many sloes and didn't bother with putting them in the freezer first. I made this one in a 2 litre jug that used to hold scrumpy. This is what it looks like after the first good shake, you can still see the sugar in the bottom:

Here's the recipe I used, you can scale it up depending how much gin you have:


    * 1lb/454gm of sloes
    * 4 ozs/112gm of white granulated sugar
    * 70cl bottle of medium quality gin

Make sure you've taken all the stalks from the sloes, you could wash them if you like but I didn't bother. My sloes weren't near a road so shouldn't have been too polluted, and the gin will take care of any germs. Find a clean container big enough to take the gin and the sloes, you could buy a bigger gin bottle than you need and drink some first to make room! 
Prick each sloe with a fork before you drop it in the gin, add the sugar, seal and give it a good shake. Shake each day till the sugar has dissolved then shake maybe once a week or so. Store in a dark place to preserve the colour. After three months you can strain out the sloes (save them for eating with ice cream or try flapjacks) and drink the gin, or leave them in for a maximum of six months. The gin will keep for a long time and should mature well. Try to save a bottle till next year to compare!

Turbo Cider

Another experiment for me in homebrew land. I'd never heard of turbo cider before discovering it on the net a couple of weeks ago. The idea is to take ordinary cheap apple juice from the supermarket and make it into cider. No actual apples to gather/chop/press. 

There are many varied recipes out there for this one. You're best googling "turbo cider" and picking what suits you. At the moment I've got 3 litres of apple juice, 3 teaspoons of brown sugar, and 7g of wine yeast in a borrowed demijohn. I've sat in on a hotwater bottle and wrapped in fleece to try and keep it warm enough for the yeast to react.

If it looks suitably foamy tomorrow evening I'll add some more apple juice. If it works this could be a drinkable cider within a week or so....

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Foraging fun

I've attempted foraging for the first time today. Quite successful I think, as I've come home with 450g of rose hips (two different varieties) and 1lb (454g) of sloes. 

I'm not sure if I'm too early or late for the rose hips. One variety is quite soft and the other is still hard. I'm going to attempt rose hip syrup with them anyway. I'm just waiting to find out if I can mix them or not... 

I was surprised to find the sloes so easily, I was walking on greenbelt land that used to be a railway line for a coal mine. Sloes are a lot smaller than I'd imagined them. Only about the size of my thumb nail. I picked the slightly softer ones that had a bluish tint, there are plenty more that are still really dark and hard so I may well head out again when they're riper for a second batch. 

One of the dogs, Jess, surprised me by happily munching the sloes right off the branches that she could reach! They're supposed to taste disgustingly sour. She's a strange dog, she nabbed some of my strawberries straight from the plants and started on the blackcurrant bush over the summer, I think she's part goat...

Anyway, the plan for the sloes is of course sloe gin! I just need to pick a recipe now and figure out what kind of container to make it in. I've also got a recipe for "turbo cider" I'm going to try once I've got a demijohn for it. Busy busy busy. I will of course share recipes and results on here once I get going.

Apologies for the shoddy photographs, they're from my mobile phone which wasn't being entirely co-operative today.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Veg box trial

So apparently autumn is upon us already. It's been really windy and wet here (interspersed with the odd bizarre summer day) and the leaves are falling. All of my container grown potatoes have been dug up and stored away, and I only have a few carrots left in the pots. I have two apple trees but they only managed three apples and two of those blew off in the wind, so I'm not doing very well on the fruit front. They are only recently planted though and the dogs did eat all the lower branches so they've done quite well to survive at all. I'm hoping to build some raised beds next year and get more planted in the ground rather than pots.

I've been thinking about trying a veg box until I get better at growing my own, and after reading this post at Useless Beauty Designs I decided to try a box from Able and Cole. They deliver in my area every Friday and apparently my driver is named Dave, I didn't get to check that though as he had come and gone before I got up this morning. I ordered the small fruit and veg box which is suggested for 1 or 2 people.

My partner Sam almost stepped on it on his way out of the door at 8 o'clock! The box was a bit soggy at it's been raining, if I keep getting boxes I might have to build a shelter for them to be left in... 

Inside the box I got potatoes, carrots, sweetcorn, broccoli, onions, apples, plums, and grapefruit, and a bonus snail, but luckily he hadn't had time to munch on anything!

The box I chose has fairly basic veg in it, but Sam is not very adventurous yet so that's ok for now. They do have other boxes which promise more exotic choices. I haven't decided yet if I will keep having the boxes. On the plus side they contain mainly organic fruit and veg, they don't support a supermarket chain, they are delivered in re-usable and recyclable packaging, and I don't have to leave the house to get them! On the negative side they are more expensive than normal shop bought stuff. 

Hmmm..... decisions.......