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Friday, 30 August 2013

Fondant Fibre Rolags



Yep, more handspun. I needed a break from what I had been knitting and crocheting lately, so I gave myself a couple of days off. A while ago I got interested in different fibre preparations and came across Fondant Fibre. She has been making the most amazing blended rolags with a blending board and her prices are really great too. If you keep an eye out for her updates on Ravelry she often has money off codes as well making her lovely fibres even more of a bargain. I chose this lovely set of rolags.


Well... I confess that's not all of the rolags, some of them were already spun into singles when I remembered to take a picture! These were made from BFL, Shetland, Merino, Bamboo and silver sparkle. Lots and lots and lots of sparkle! I am so annoyed my yarn pictures don't show how sparkly it is. But you can see it has lashings here!

So I spun just how they seemed to want to be spun, then chain plied with a high twist, nearly over twist but the yarn balanced in the soak and set stage thankfully. Just. So I have 366m and 100g of three ply high twist yarn. I am thinking hand wash socks. Shiny, hand wash socks...


They really were a delight and a pleasure to spin. Drafting so beautifully, jam packed with fibre and made a wonderful interesting yarn with no effort from me as a spinner at all. I had such great fun. So why don;t you hop on over and pick up some of these beauties to spin for yourself? Spindle or wheel, I guarantee you will have fun!

Till next time...

Kat xxx

Golden Dreams...

I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew:
Of wind I sang, a wind there came and in the branches blew.
Beyond the Sun, beyond the Moon, the foam was on the Sea,
And by the strand of Ilmarin there grew a golden Tree.
'Farewell to Lorien' - Lord of the Rings

 
Its done! Its finally done! This is my In Dreams Shawl by Susan Pandorf. I originally started this as part of the knit along in November 2011 when it was released. I picked out some lovely blue yarn from my stash... then hated it, ripped out out, and went yarn hunting. Then I found Eden Cottage Yarns, and Victoria's Theseus Lace in Harvest Gold and it felt right. The design is based on Galadriel's crown from the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films, and they had inspiration from the Mallorn leaves, which turned gold in the autumn but did not fall till spring when the new growth came through. So I bought two skeins and off I went.

I opted not to bead it after trying with the blue yarn. It was gorgeous, but the time investment... I wasn't up for that. I was slow enough already. I was a little slower than the clues release, but even though it was ambitious, I plugged away at it, and once, when I made a serious mistake in one of the lattices I did some major surgery to fix it. Then in February 2012, I found out I was pregnant with the princess. I had two options. Either plug on when I had zero ability to concentrate on something complex and not get any baby knitting done, or put it into hibernation and do the baby knitting. The latter won. 

Then last month I finally dared to pick it back up, find where I was, and tried to carry on. And carry on I did. A little here, a little there, until this week, I finally cast off. There was even a moment as I was on the last twenty rows when my husband looked up from his reading one evening and finally took in what I was knitting with a shocked 'bloody hell'. I could tell he was impressed when he started asking whether I would be too frightened to wear it for ruining all that work (and said he would be in my shoes). And could I repair it if it snagged. Bless him, he finally noticed just how much I have learned! But back to the shawl.

The yarn had been a joy to knit with, and I even learned the braided join for joining the two skeins together, because the merino content in the Theseus lace yarn is superwash (a little peace of mind when handwashing that you aren't going to ruin all that hard work!). 1114m of yarn and 4 months of work (when you take out the hibernation) and I was done. It was finally time to wash and block this monster. 

Oh my gawd the pins! The number of pins! My fingers and thumbs were numb from it, but I finally got there.


Not the best colour contrast to get an idea of the pattern but there it is, all pinned out. And to give an idea of size, those six mats almost entirely cover my king sized spare bed. Its wider than my entire arm span finger tip to finger tip. I am 5' 3 and a bit inches and it covers my rear in length from the back of my neck. It is not small! It also super soft. The merino and silk yarn really does feel luxurious and is lovely to knit with.

Finally it was dry, and let me tell you, finding a good spot to take a decent picture hasn't been easy but darn it I was going to find a way. So here you are, the best two shots I came up with. I still don't think they do it justice though.



I am very proud, and can't wait for an excuse to wear it!

For now, I am back onto small projects for the winter and the missy's birthday, christmas presents, then I have something special to work on. But more on that nearer the time!

Till next time

Kat xxx

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Sample knitting

So recently I got the opportunity to do some sample knitting, to be photographed to go into a book of patterns by Jon Dunn-Ballam of Easyknits.co.uk. So I volunteered myself. In return all the knitters were offered a skein of his yarn. So I sat and awaited delivery of my knitting kit, and here is what arrived:


The smaller skein was what the pattern was to be knitted in, and is from their Deeply Wicked 4-ply range, this colour being call Aquillian. The skein of yarn top right is my payment skein from their Twinkle range of yarns, a lovely 4-ply with stellina for a fine silver sparkle my camera just would not pick up. this is one of their heavy weight skeins at 150g so lots and lots of yardage, in a beautiful sage, destined to be something for the princess.

The pattern in question is Thin Ice. A lovely pattern which is left open to interpretation, leaving you to make design decisions to suit you. Finished with a lovely feather and fan edge. I say lovely but.... despite being a simple lace pattern I have knit before... this just decided to kick me in the butt, over and over just because it could. It was a quick knit at ten days, but t could have been quicker if I wasn't ripping out mistakes constantly. Because I wanted it to be perfect. I got there in the end with less than 2m of yarn left at the end. And a job well done.

The yarn is a lovely yarn base to work with, a real pleasure to knit with, and  wonderfully frog resistant since I had to frog back a lot.

Here is a not so fab picture of it to give you an idea of the unusual shaping, the 'shards' at the sides giving you a way to tie it round the shoulders so it stays on:


And out in the daylight. The colour is so hard to take a picture of! Teals are murder on a camera!



Its now on its way to Easyknits HQ and likely arrived and I hope its everything Jon was hoping for.

Till next time

Kat xxx

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Gluten free Chocolate Brownies




So who doesn't like a lovely, soft, decadent chocolate brownie? Anyone? I thought not. I know that when I came across this recipe I was very excited. Simple, a few ingredients, and seemed to produce great results. So I just had to give it a try. Once again I am using Doves Farm gluten free flour and it works a treat.

3 eggs
200g sugar
100g self raising flour.
150g chocolate
100g butter

Thats it, five ingredients. To make lush cake goodness.  So how do we do it?

Beat the eggs and sugar together till light and fluffy.

Beat in flour and set aside.

Gently melt butter and chocolate together in a separate bowl. Gently fold into the egg and sugar mixture till you end up with a batter like this


Pour into an oiled and lined backing tin.

Bake for 35-40 minutes at 160 degrees in a fan oven, 180 degrees in a conventional oven.

I will say that it creates this film like skin that has a life of its own in the oven but that is perfectly alright!


Wait till cold and cut into pieces as suits you.


I have to say, they are far from the prettiest brownies I have ever made. However, they taste wonderful! And they do remain soft and perfect and the texture remains even a few days later as you are slowly making your way through the batch. Well worth a try!

Till next time

Kat xxx

Courgette soup



So our courgette plants have decided to go mad with their fruiting. I don't think it helps that the man of the house insisted on growing more plants than ever either. When the good weather hit it kicked them into overdrive and I currently have five in the fridge. And that's after making a concerted effort to use them as fast as possible! The four you see above are all home grown.

So looking for ways to use them it occurred to me that I have never had a courgette soup. As I hunted for recipes I soon found why. Finding a recipe I liked proved impossible. So I decided to pull out the one pot cooker, experiment, and came up with this soup.

800g courgettes sliced
700 ml of stock (chicken or vegetable, whatever you prefer/have to hand)
1 medium onion sliced
5 cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Fry courgettes, onion, garlic and oregano in a large pan till vegetables are soft and brown.

Add the hot stock and bay leaves and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Blend till smooth, season to taste and serve any way that suits you.



Why not try adding some grated cheese, or a swirl of cream?

Till next time

Kat xxx

Owls!



Yup, that is my princess posing in her new hat. Note the hand behind the head in perfect 'pose' mode. Little lady is a poser through and through.

The truth is I never intended for her to have an owl hat. I was actually making my boy's annual hat. He loves hats, and the funnier the better. Two years ago it was the fish hat from knitty. Last year it was a monster hat complete with stuffed spikes. This year, it was to be an owl. I decided to take the plunge and try some cotton yarn. I found some Drops Muskat on sale really cheaply so bought some supplies.


It was the colours an washability that brought me to cotton, and this cotton particularly. The pattern I chose was the Inner Hooker's Owl Earflap beanie.

The boy has a sixth sense for when I am making something for him. So when I needed a break from some sample knitting I was doing, I grabbed the hook and got going. And was then nagged incessantly till I got it done! You can see what he thinks of his hat.


It hasn't been off his head much since I made it. Practically snatching it off me after standing over me while I wove in the ends. Could not wait for this year's hat for the winter.

But I was left with a lot of leftovers. It had been quick to make and although I already have a hat planned for his sister, well she could have two right? So I made a start. Only to be harangued from start to finish by the boy! And as soon as I had finished weaving in the ends... yeah it had to be on her head! He loves that they both have matching hats. Well, at least I made them happy.


Till next time!

Kat xxx

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Gluten free bread and butter pudding?



I know, I know, it sounds like a complete paradox right? But the truth is there are more gluten free products on the market than ever before.  Bread has always been one of the trickiest things to reproduce. How do you get the softness you want for your favourite sandwich loaf, how do you recreate that texture in a product with no gluten? There have been many bread substitutes over the years and the ones I have tried have been dry and horrible. I have not found anything suitable at all. Till recently.

I am a convert to Genius bread. I can honestly say that. Bread that tastes like bread, with a nice texture, is soft and makes great sandwiches, toast, fried bread, French toast.... These are a few of the paces I have put Genius bread through, and its met every challenge. So I have been having a loaf every week. It's not the cheapest at £3 for a large loaf which has just enough slices to do me a sandwich every day for a week, but no gluten free bread is. But one week I found myself with most of a loaf left due to an odd set of circumstances.  I wasn't going to waste all that bread so... Time to gamble. I made bread and butter pudding. And it was wonderful! Just how it should have been! So I thought I would share the recipe I have used, and say that yes! Gluten free bread and butter pudding is indeed possible!

  • 25g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 8 thin slices bread
  • 50g sultanas
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 350ml whole milk
  • 50ml double cream
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • Nutmeg, grated, to taste

    Grease your container with butter. It needs to be about 2 pint or 1 litre in capacity.

    Butter your bread, cut the crusts off and cut into triangles. 

    Start arranging your triangles in your container as you like. With each layer throw on some of your sultanas and dust with cinnamon to taste. 


    Crack your eggs into a bowl and add three quarters of your sugar. Whisk gently till the eggs are pale and set aside.

    Gently warm your milk and cream slowly up to scalding point, do not let it boil. If you are like me and have never done a proper custard before, this means heating it while you stir it to prevent a skin forming, and watching for when it starts to steam and bubble a little, before it comes to the boil. It needs to be hot enough to cook the egg, but not so hot as to scramble it when you add it to the eggs.

    Pour over your eggs while whisking to mix thoroughly into custard. Pour your custard over your prepared bread and leave it to rest and soak up the custard.

    Preheat your oven to 180 degrees

    Once the pudding has soaked up the custard, sprinkle on the rest of your sugar and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the custard has set and the top is golden brown.



    Enjoy!

    Till next time.

    Kat xxx


Monday, 12 August 2013

Ruffles, Ruffles Everywhere!



Pattern browsing on Ravelry is a really dangerous thing. I was looking for a pattern to use up some handspun I had been given in a magic ball swap. I found the pattern alright, well... it would use about half my ball, but I fell in love with it so hard I don't mind. I will measure the remaining later and decide what to do with it... again.

So there is my little preview of my finished piece. Its the Ballerina Ruffle Skirt pattern. I saw it, and I just knew I had to make my daughter one. Within hours of seeing the pattern I had ordered my ruffle scarf yarn and grosgrain ribbon for the waist. So Sunday morning, feeling burnt out on the sample knit I am doing, I wanted something different, some instant gratification So I assembled my materials


Two skeins of Ice Yarns' Salsa in blue/green mix, one ball of blue green handspun (super soft!) in roughly worsted or aran weight, and one length of blue 38mm wide grosgain ribbon. I experimented with my hook till I got my initial chain where I wanted it, then switched to the pattern's 5.5mm hook.

I won't lie, the Salsa was not easy to get going with but none of the scarf yarns are. However it is so soft and works up so nicely I can forgive the ruffle rows being so slow to do. For saying that the process was slow, I started in the morning, and it was finished by tea time. I threaded in the ribbon, cut and then heat sealed the ends. And voila. One ruffled skirt!


Its a touch big for my princess, but that's no bad thing to be honest, means she will grow into it, get more use from it, even if it is just the dressing up box. And she is likely to be toddling in it which would be super cute. Even her father likes it, which surprised me, and he called it 'a lovely piece of work in really nice colours'. That's two thumbs way up from him. So while I may be waiting a while to put it on her. I couldn't resist getting a shot of my little princess trying it on. And she just had to pose. 

Meet Miss Katy Lulu. 


No her middle name is not Lulu. Its Niamh, but Lulu somehow became her nickname and has stuck. And she makes an adorable princess. And I know I am massively biased. As my mother said to me yesterday. Having a little girl does give you a heck of a lot of excuses to make all sorts of cute things!
I am sure many more will follow!

Till next time!

Kat xxx

Friday, 9 August 2013

Gluten Free Banana Cake


Yup, more from the gluten free baking round. I seem to be on a roll with this at the moment, discovering great things which are fun and easy to make, and oh so tasty pay off. My four year old seems to love them too. So what do you need?

1 large banana
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
100g butter
100g brown sugar
100g self raising flour (preferably wholemeal)

This is super easy. Well, there is always one part that drives me nuts. Lining the loaf tin. I am not even sure if this is a 1lb or 2lb but you should use a 1lb tin. That was by far the trickiest part, but I managed.


So, mash your banana, egg and vanilla extract together. The browner and softer the banana, the easier to mash, the sweeter the taste in your cake.

Cream butter and sugar together in a separate bowl then add to the banana mixture.

Mix in your flour. I used white but wholemeal is best.

Pour in your tin and you are done!

Bake for 45-50 minutes @ 180 degrees (160 degrees for a fan oven) and voila:


Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before turning out. Then enjoy!


Its a lovely, not overly sweet cake, that stays moist and sticky over the few days after its baked, staying really nice while you enjoy it. Popular with small people too. So have a go at it and enjoy!

Till next time

Kat xxx

Monday, 5 August 2013

More Fleece Adventures

So in the midst of the sudden downturn in weather there was a nice day last week. Coinciding with a day where I had no plans or jobs that would have me running in and out of the house so I could give the slow process of washing fleece a try. 

My Bowmont fleece was lovely and soft, but greasy, and the creamy colour was almost creeping into orange. Some people spin in the grease but I really wanted some of that lanolin out! So it was hot wash time. Some people use mesh bag, so when hubby wanted to toss out a mesh bag that held a set of toy golf clubs for the boy... it got commandeered. So hot wash time. I ran my sink as hot as it would go, added a swish of fairy, split my fleece into three, tucked a third into the bag and prayed I didn't felt it!


Not quite what the bag was made for, but it worked. And I was surprised at how little dirt came out of the fleece. Obviously clean sheep! The tips remained dirty even after two hot detergent washes and 1 hot rinse. But I knew that would card and spin out. I didn't rinse further because the  fleece was now lovely and white and the detergent had rinsed out nicely and I was happy with it. And trying to do as little as possible and not felt it!

So it turns out the boy's climbing frame makes a good drying rack:


So once I had all of the fleece washed and dried I took a handful and got out the carders. The little bit of vegetable matter still in the tips made it easy to pull out locks and load the carders, and soon my small handful had made four lovely little rolags. I'd managed to leave just a little lanolin in the fleece, just enough to make spinning easy. So I got out my spindles to have a test spin.


I love this spindle, its from Wildcraft, and its so hard to get a picture of it, but inside the clear resin whorl are tiny little bubbles and two small barely there feathers. Its stunning and I love it. I can admit I didn't take my time about spinning, just literally spun the fibre by feel. It drafted beautifully, was soft and crimpy. And spun up fine so very nicely with no effort whatsoever. I did a rough chain ply and made a little mini skein from the singles to give a light fingering three ply.


Its so soft and bouncy and wonderful! I have well over 200g of  washed fleece left, all ready to card and spin for a nice project later! Very, very pleased.  Mostly that I didn't felt it! It came out perfect. There's definitely more fleece in my future!

Till next time

Kat xxx

First Harvest


Just a little short post today! Featuring the garden starting to turn up produce. The courgette plants are obviously going a little mad as you can see. And while that potato haul is hardly impressive, that's our little tester pot. 

We always plant one small potato in a little pot that we know potatoes are unlikely to do very well in, as well as filling out potato sacks. When the plants die off we always pull that pot out first, a bit of a dipstick test. If it produces decent potatoes and a decent amount, the big sacks will definitely have come good. we've yet to have a bad year. And the first of the tomatoes are starting to change colour. Going to have some scrummy eats in the coming weeks... and eat a lot of courgettes. There are more that are ready to come in already!

Till next time

Kat xxx

Friday, 2 August 2013

Smaug Hide Mitts



A finished project! This is the first of my winter/cold weather projects. Yes I know its the summer and blimey we've had some sun and heat here in the UK! But now is the time to do it or I wont have anything to keep me warm when it gets cold. My hands particularly need to be kept warm when outside or in the car on a cold day as I have circulation issues, and cold hands equals inflamed, swollen, painful misery. So a good warm pair of mitts or convertibles are a must. Actually I tend to keep a set solely in the car because I can be a twit and forget to put a set on before I leave the house. So I have a pair to hand. 

This particular choice of mitts came from the yarn itself. It was received in a handspun yarn swap as part of a parcel themed around my favourite authors Tolkein and Pratchett:


Lots of lovely things and great quotes. The yarn was handspun from hand blended roving from Hilltop Cloud. It was a truly decadent blend of 40% Shetland, 40% Merino, 10% Firestar, 10% Llama. So should be hard wearing while cosy and warm. My swap partner had spun it into a fulled single, something I have yet to be brave enough to do:


Given the colour of the yarn, the gold shot through it, and the them of the swap, there was only one thing I could think of, dragon scales! So I went pattern hunting and came up with Dragon Master by Melodye Swysen, it was perfect for the yarn weight and amount, I needed some warm outside mitts, and the crocodile stitch used to make the scales results in a thick, warm fabric. Job done. 

Making the mitts was an interesting experience. How well they fit you is dependent on getting the gauge right with the right hook and takes a little experimentation, because there is no way to adjust and resize the pattern, its nature of it. And I made one mitt in the height of the heatwave, and the other when it had cooled off again. And that caused issues. Obviously in the heat I must have been crocheting much tighter, because I made the first mitt with a 3mm hook and it fit nicely. When I came to do the second it was coming out baggy and huge. The change in weather meant I had to go down a hook size to a 2.5 mm hook to match the gauge on the other one! Just goes to show!

So after ripping out the second mitt once after I did the thumb, I started again and finally finished on Wednesday so I have a perfect pair of mitts!


They really aren't two different sizes/lengths, they are identical in that regard. But its a real pain trying to take pictures of your own hands by yourself with only a timer on your camera! I think its a good shot considering!

I am very happy actually, and my hands are going to be snuggly and warm in some faux dragon hide ;)

I have also discovered that the designer wants to use my picture on her pattern page on Ravelry! Awesome!

Till next time!

Kat xxx

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