Sunday, 8 November 2015

Autumnal Sunshine

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."
 Nathaniel HawthorneThe American Notebooks
Rushmere Country Park
It's most definitely autumn here now. More leaves on the ground than on the trees and the cross country season is well and truly under way. Last weekend found me running around the muddy fields of Buckinghamshire clutching a plastic dog toy in the "Squeaky Bone" relay race. This weekend we drove over to Rushmere country park to run their inaugural parkrun event. Pouring  with rain galloping through gloriously boggy sticky mud and puddles it was my slowest 5k in a long time but great fun.
What you need when you come back from your run is a hot bath and a  steaming bowl of warming carrot, honey and ginger soup. I will miss my Chef son when he goes back to France for the ski season but for now I'm enjoying his creations at home.

Another of the pleasures of autumn is to cosy up on the sofa (feeling virtuous after the exercise), listening to the rain pounding on the conservatory roof with yarn and crochet hook.  I had some WI soft and chunky wool from a trip to Hobby  Craft and used three balls to make this scarf/shawlette for my daughter in law to be.

With a 9mm hook it grew very quickly and was beautifully soft and warm. I finished it with a simple crochet flower button so it can be fastened if worn as a shawl and sewed on one of my new labels. I love how the light catches the silver thread and make my crafting look so much more professional. D. seemed very pleased with her gift and I hear that her mum didn't believe that I had made it myself because of the "designer label".
  Sylvia x

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Dreaming Spires

An old friend had a significant birthday. We have known each other since our children were very small but, as they grew, went to different schools and are now adults, we hadn't seen her for ages.
Out of the blue, a few weeks ago I had a call from her husband to invite us a surprise dinner for her at her Alma mater in Oxford.
Of course, as usual I couldn't decide what to get as a gift. Several times I made a firm decision about what I would definitely buy but changed my mind when I got to the shop. Originally I had to buy a tree for her new garden before I thought through the practicalities of transporting it to Oxford. Finally, yesterday morning, I decided on some National Garden Centre vouchers which I know she will enjoy spending. 
The plain white envelope looked a little drab and boring. Lightbulb moment! I would crochet an envelope. It was, now, far too late but I grabbed a hook and some white cotton 4ply and leapt into the car where my OH was waiting to get going. 
The journey was just long enough to make a 6in doily and to attempt to "block" it by sitting on it for the last 10 minutes. Tied with a red ribbon and Ta- Dah! Oh well, I tried.
The dinner was fabulous. It was wonderful to catch up with old friends. I ate far too much of the amazing four course meal and had, maybe just a little, more wine than I am used to. This morning after breakfast we took a stroll in the college gardens.

A really lovely weekend and a great catch up with old friends. We mustn't leave it so long next time.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Crochet Bikini top

Gracious, where did the spring go? August already! We've not had much bikini weather in this country but with Beyonce and Abbey Clancy both pictured in boho crochet swimwear, Nightshadow*, back from uni and heading out to Outlook festival in Croatia asked if I could try and make a crochet top with a student, rather than designer, price label.

Stitched in Silver crochet bikini top
Of course, I went straight to Ravely's pattern search. At the top of the list was this Patons Grace bikini pattern for a simple bra top. Greater minds think alike, and I found Sarah at Repeat Crafter Me had adapted the very same pattern for her own top. Take a look at her tutorial with lovely clear photos.

Using one ball of Patons 100% cotton DK from my stash and a 4mm hook it turned out much to big for my super slim 34 C teen so I frogged the first cup back until it was a better fit. Just like Sarah, I picked up across the two cups to form a band. I started with 2dc (sc) 2ch all the way across. Then one row tr(dc), 2 rows V-stich and a row of scallops 5tr(dc),1dc(sc) to match the cups. I made two stitch icords for the halter neck with a longer one to weave through under the cups and tie round the body.

I took it into the garden to photograph so I could pretend that the gravel of the path was the beach.
Cotton crochet bikini top

Stitched in silver cotton crochet bikini top
Final cost £4.95. I hope she likes it.

*for a nickname its better than the one her older brother still calls her, derived from when she was a toddler in nappies and he was 9.


Sunday, 3 May 2015

Four go yarn shopping

"The quickest way to know a woman is to go shopping with her."  ~Marcelene Cox

Yesterday was National Yarn Shop day. No I didn't know it was a thing either!  What better excuse than to get together with friends and go on a road trip to visit a couple of our local yarn shops, drink coffee and talk knitting and crochet all day.

Gemma and I arrived early at our favourite coffee shop and started the day with a slice of homemade cake.
We were joined for our breakfast, by my OH who was going off for one of his long runs and Katie who was recovering after last week's London marathon. Neither were coming on the yarn crawl but never turn down the opportunity for Fancy's cake. When they discovered that we were meeting up with other friends whom we had originally met on the internet, they joked that if we disappeared they would check the Shreddies factory in case we had been press ganged into becoming Knitting Nanas.

We were soon joined by Sam from  who had planned and organised the day and Penny, another crocheter from the Catchup and crochet group. We almost persuaded Katie to come with us, I could see that she was tempted but she had other commitments that couldn't be changed.

So four intrepid yarn shop explorers leapt into Sam's car and set off for Manfield Crafts  in Rushden. Emma, an experienced knitter, set up the shop in 2007 after struggling to find a quality yarn shop locally.  She was very welcoming and put the kettle on straight away. She is keen to share her knowledge of knitting and of her stock to beginners and accomplished crafters alike. She runs popular knitting groups and workshops weekly and even opens in the evening twice a month. I was very taken by the cute sheep and lamb knitting kits which, I think, will definitely be making an appearance on my shopping list when I next visit.

Inspired by the others, I bought these to attempt to knit a pair of socks. The Rowan for the cuff, heel and toe with the Mirasol Hachito  for the rest.
This wool and silk blend is to make a scarf inspired by the knitted one on display at Manfield Crafts. I'm not sure yet if I'll knit or crochet with it. I learned about about Fibre East where both our shops will be represented, just down the road from us I'd not heard of it before, but it is now firmly in the calendar.

After choosing our purchases, discussing patterns and trying out different types of knitting needle (carbon fibre ones please Santa if I can wait until Christmas) we piled back into the car for the second shop on our itinerary. We drove back down the A6, and out to All Stitches in Wilstead. Helen was equally welcoming and helpful. Offering a completely different range of yarn and patterns she has a large stock of King Cole brand but for me the more exciting was the range of cotton for crochet. Overwhelmed by choice I only purchased a couple of different types but will definitely go back when I have a particular project in mind.

This recycled King Cole Cotton Aran will probably make a crochet summer top.

By now it was gone lunchtime and we were getting hungry so it was back into the car to return to Fancy. Here we ordered warm flat bread with hummus, avocado and salad and shared our purchases. Of course, as soon as you get your yarn out of the bag it clamours to be crafted so inevitably samples were started along with the coffee and cake.
It was a lovely day. I have two new yarn shops to visit, come away with a wikipedias worth of new knitting and crochet tips and got to know my travelling companions much better.

Thank you Sam for organising the trip, can't wait for the next one.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

WalkAway dress #GBSB

For a crochet blog there seems to be a lot of sewing going on! I blame the BBC. The long Easter weekend meant that I could make a start on the vintage Walkaway dress featured on the Great British Sewing Bee. The walkaway dress was originally advertised as a project that could be started after breakfast and finished for lunch. I started after breakfast on Good Friday and wore it for my Birthday lunch on Easter Monday. Probably not the time frame they envisaged and definitely much longer than the time the contestants in the Sewing Bee were allowed.
I chose a good quality cotton fabric in purple with white dots from my local sewing shop. Having read mixed reviews on the internet I took advice from Edelweiss sewalong and re-drew the bodice pattern using the upper bust measurement as a starting point. I cut the bias binding from the same fabric as the dress, turned it to the inside and hand stitched it. I  also turned and stitched the long circular skirt hem by hand. That took for...ever. The back is fastened with a hook and eye and the front with three buttons I covered in the smaller spot fabric.
Here I am on my birthday posing in my new frock! I've had loads of compliments so definitely a success.

I'm really happy with the fit. I wore it all day at home on my birthday and all day at work on friday including a lunchtime walk along the river. The fit around the waist is perfect. It doesn't pull down at the back. The front does ride up a little but I wore a slinky petticoat underneath to work which seemed to solve the problem. The one thing I would change is to raise the waist up about half an inch as it sits a bit low on me. Also the neck was very wide so I had to put a couple of tucks in. Another time I'd cut it differently.
On the whole though, I love it. I'm wondering about making a second in something much fancier for a summer ball.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Love Locks and Splash knit mitts

How has the weather been where you are? It's been pretty cold here. I suffer from Raynaud's syndrome and when the weather is frosty my fingers can get very painful.
The other day I wanted to take pictures of the love locks on the Butterfly Bridge for a local "Photo of the Month" project. By the time I got back to the office I'd lost all feeling in the ends of my fingers. I had to wrap the camera strap tightly round my wrist for fear of dropping it in the river from the bridge.

I don't know how it happens but I manage to make holes in the fingers of my gloves really quickly. I decided I'd make myself a pair of fingerless gloves for my lunch hour walk along the river.

I'm not much of a knitter, I knit continental style, holding the wool in my left hand. It means that I sometimes a twist in my stitches but I wanted a close textured fabric to keep the wind out. My daughter had given me a ball of King Cole Splash in lilac, for Christmas that needed a project.  I made it up as I went along. 40 stitches on two 4mm needles starting with couple of inches of rib. Stocking stitch for another inch then increase in the middle over 15 rows to make the thumb shaping. Dropping the thumb stiches onto a holder I carried on knitting until it was long enough to cover my little finger. I picked up the thumb stitches on dpns and finished them in the round.

I lined the mitts with a rectangle of fleece for extra toastyness and joined the side seam with double crochet. It's neater than my sewing and makes a bit of a feature.

And that's it.
Warm hands for my next photography walk.

Sylvia  x

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Mango Chutney

I love mangos. They're quite my favourite fruit. I love fresh mango, mango yoghurt, mango bath bombs and the smell of my mango handcream is just divine. Walking through the market on wednesday my eye was caught by large box of beautifully blushing mangos and for only £2.  Now a bargain's not a bargain if I only eat one mango and leave the rest to go mouldy in the fruit basket. Inspired by the Indian lunch I had just eaten, I decided I'd try a batch of home made mango chutney.

I struggled to find a recipe I liked.  They either called for a specific number of mangos and I wasn't sure if my enormous mangos were the same size as theirs or they called for a score of expensive ingredients that I'd have to go out and buy.  In the end I found a generic chutney recipe here and threw in whatever I had in the larder that I felt would work.

This is my mango chutney recipe. I'm waiting for it to mature before I let the family pass judgement but I'm secretly really pleased with how it turned out.

4lb fruit comprising 3lb chopped mango and 1lb cooking apples
3 onions chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 lemon thinly sliced and halved
7 cardamom pods crushed
black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
Piece of fresh ginger chopped finely about 2 tbsp
4 small dried chilli peppers from last year's crop, crushed.

11/2 pints vinegar, this is what I had in my cupboard -
1/2 pint white distilled malt vinegar
1/4 pint brown malt vinegar
3/4 pint white wine vinegar

2lb sugar
1/2 teaspoon saffron soaked in a tiny amount of hot water and and teaspoon powdered cumin waiting to be stirred in right at the very end.

I put everything on the list up to the sugar in the pan and let it simmer for about 20 minutes until the fruit was soft. Then I added the sugar and bought it up to a gently rolling boil for another hour until it had thickened and I could make a trail with my wooden spoon. I then spooned it into glass jars rescued from the recycling, dishwashed and heated up in the oven.

I foolishly let it catch on the bottom of the pan whilst I had picked up my crochet instead of stirring. It's perhaps a little more golden brown that it should ideally be but I couldn't taste it. In the spirit of St Valentine's day the jars just had to have tiny crochet entwined hearts for a label.

There is something very satisfying about having a row of homemade preserves on the shelf waiting for the family or friends to come visit for a curry night.


Sunday, 1 February 2015

Well how lovely to see you!

Come on in.

Take a seat.
    How have you been?
          Cup of tea?
                 One of my Blueberry and Chia seed scones?

I know they look a bit "rustic" but that's because they're home made and warm from the oven mmmmm.  Lovely with my homemade hedgerow jam.

I haven't been around much here over the last few months as my father was very ill but I've still been busy with my crochet. There are lots of WIPs. Crochet has kept me sane. I made sure I always had my craft bag in the boot of the car to keep my hands occupied on the many unscheduled visits to the doctor and hospital. I didn't manage to send out Christmas cards but I had lots of homespun yarny gifts to give to my fabulously supportive friends and family.  My goodness I don't know what I would have done without them.  
Here are just a few of the things I've made.

From top left, Ruffle scarves, A block of my own design from my daughter's "Going to Uni" blanket, Cushion made from Sophie's Garden pattern which I absolutely love and have two more on the go in different colourways and Santa brooches. I made loads of these and sold them in aid of the Bedford Hospital Primrose unit.

I'll blog more about them and my latest projects in the weeks to come. 

Now!  Another scone?