Saturday, 26 November 2011

Christmas Presents in the making...

Life is very busy at the moment in the Crafternoon household!  I guess with two littlies, life is never going to be quiet (and come on, let's be honest- who want's a quite life?).  I am doing a little tutoring, a little child minding, and in amongst all of that, trying to be organised with Christmas gifts!

Al has been making lots of chutney.  I made several pots of Marmalade, and plan to get on with some jam and tomato sauce (great gifts for relatives who we don't necessarily see very often).  

E has been doing some Christmas stamping to help make labels for the said jams, marmalades and chutneys...

I am making good (but not speedy enough for my liking) progress on my Mum's cardi (though thankfully it is sleeveless, so I'm well over half way now.  Having said that, an hour of good old knitting time was spent today transforming that messy mound of wool into a nice neat ball (below).  I hate that about buying large balls of yarn- so often they are OK for the first little while, but then start falling apart and getting knotted.  This morning I was hanging out with my smallest one whilst the others were still asleep, and decided to bite the bullet and just unwind it and neatly ball it.

In other news, I had the pleasure today, of taking my son out for a Hot Chocolate- his treat for getting 20 stickers, and a really lovely opportunity to have some quality mother-son time.  I've been thinking a lot over recent days and weeks about how precious it is to make special memories.  This morning I was remembering how in the run up to Christmas, when my sister and I were at primary school, my Dad would take each of us out of school for a day (on our own) and do something really special.  I once had a day out in London, and remembering us going to the cinema and spilling pop corn everywhere!

What precious memories do you have?

C x

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Market Treasures

On our bi-weekly trip to the market for fruit and veg today, I spotted these beautiful hand-knits!  

Gorgeous little knitted dresses just the right size for Poppy (and an absolute steal at £2 each!)

Hooray for little hand-knitted treasures.


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Poppy for Poppy

With Remembrance day approaching, I, as is usually customary, bought a poppy.  This did not last long, as my seven month old daughter grabbed it, dribbled on it and tried to chew it...
As I arrived at church this morning, I saw these lovely hand crocheted wire and button poppies being sold.

Perfect! It fastens on with a catch, and is reusable.  The money goes to charity- half to the British Legion, and half to ingotec- the company behind the Dragonfly Co-operative.  Dragonfly co-operative was set up by an extremely enterprising friend of mine to fund I.T. projects for charities.  The jewellery made is largely up-cycled, and creatively knitted or crocheted together.  One for me.  One for Poppy (I couldn't pass up the opportunity of getting something with her name sake...!)

I am having fun knitting and sewing Christmas gifts and a commission, though life is rather busy, so I am having to do a little here, and a little there...

Have a lovely week.

C x

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Various Crafts and Cookery

For dinner tonight we are having spinach and feta filo pie.  I used the recipe from BBC GoodFood.  It looks very tasty, and to make it even scrummier, I added some chopped chorizo (a very nice way to make a mostly vegetarian [and therefore less expensive!] meal taste slightly meatier) as one of the reviews suggested and I can't wait to tuck in later.

On the sewing front, I have just completed a gift for a family member (who I'm almost 100% sure won't be checking the blog!), which was a travel sewing case from the book I love patchwork.  I'm mostly very pleased with the results, bar a couple of things.

I enjoyed making the patchwork bias binding to go around the edge, but looking at it later, it's not quite as straight as I'd like.  I also really struggle with sewing corners with bias binding.  Any tips for this one? I generally sew the binding on the proper way (i.e. opening it out, sewing on one side, and then slipstitching the other side) but the corners are always difficult, and never seem to go the way I have planned.

I just need to pop some pins, needles and threads in it now and it'll be ready to go.

Here's a sneaky peek of something I am working towards for Christmas...

I'm totally loving the lace knitting.  It feels lovely and methodical, though I hate it when on occasion, I lose concentration and then go wrong!

I end today's post with a picture of my two littlies.  Purely because they are gorgeous, and I enjoy posting pictures of them.  Her knitted outfit is a bonus!

Happy Wednesday, friends. I hope it's a good one for you...

C x

Friday, 28 October 2011

Folksy Shop: Autumn Relaunch

So. After many months of being a little thin on the ground, my Folksy Shop is once again running.
Please come and visit- especially if you are looking for a home made Christmas gift or two...

Back by popular demand are the ruffled scarves

Some hand knitted cabled fingerless gloves (I don't know what it is about fingerless gloves, but I love them rather a lot...)

And a host* of other things.

Hope to see you over there....

In other news I am having a lot of fun making some Christmas gifts.... A sneak peek at one of them...

What a lot to be getting on with.
I hope you are enjoying the beautiful Autumn weather, friends.

C x

* Well maybe not a host, but quite a few lovely home made things....!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Guest Blogger :: A Vine Excuse

Appearing this week by kind permission of, rather than at the invitation of Caroline, is her husband Al.

Caroline's blog is a constant reminder to me of her ability to take raw materials, perform some seemingly inexplicable mystic art on them, and produce an end-product that is worthy of wearing, giving or even selling. She does all the food shopping and acquires yarn, card and other crafty bits throughout the week, so quite often the first I experience of these raw materials is in the finished product:

Me: "That's a nice jumper you're wearing - is it new?"
Caroline: "I knitted it while you were playing Angry Birds on your phone while we watched Numb3rs yesterday evening. Oh, and it's not a jumper, it's a bolero."

So it was something of a novelty when, in the process of some routine tidying-up, I was the one to spot our larger-than-expected crop of grapes. We have a grapevine that covers most of one wall of our garden, but it had been sporting a solitary bunch of grapes all Summer - that is, until I looked inside the rather overgrown greenhouse-cum-shed. bunch after bunch of grapes emerged from the foliage - all roughly blueberry-sized and quite tart. The question remained: what to do with them?

Élysée was keen to try one, but was put off by the sharpness. I wasn't too keen on making grape juice - I love it, but it goes too quickly. So I decided on grape jam as the way forward. I quickly evaluated my strategy for this project.

Obstacles to success:
  • My lack of any experience making jam
  • My ability to take four times longer than is reasonable on any given recipe
  • My relatively uncommon choice of fruit for jam-making
In my favour:
  • Google
  • An evening when my Mother-in-law was arriving late and when I therefore needed to stay up
  • The end of a bottle of pink champagne that needed finishing
  • Google
  • The fun of writing a post for Caroline's blog that she might actually want to publish
Taking all of this into consideration, I ignored the odds and decided to press ahead anyway.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon this article about making grape jam early on in the proceedings. I always prefer and am more inclined to trust blogs that explain how the author made mistakes and had to start again: firstly because I love to know everything about a subject, and secondly because it makes me more confident that the author doesn't take for granted some obscure bit of knowledge that will scupper my attempts to replicate their efforts.

(Caroline winces at the photo of such dirty scales!)
After removing all the stalks (well, close enough for jazz) I had 1.4kg of grapes. Having skirted such difficulties as finding a spider in the jam pan, I obediently added 700ml of water and simmered the grapes for about 40 minutes. Sure enough, the skins burst around the 35-minute mark and the pips emerged. The time needed for the grapes to cool afforded me a few levels of Portal 2, and then the work began in earnest.

The juice filtered out nicely, but after ten minutes of pressing squishy grape skins through the sieve to remove the pips, it became clear that my knuckles were not going to survive this method. I resorted to pushing the skins through with a spoon, and ended up with only a small amount of residue left over. However, having read that the skins and pips provide all-important pectin, I decided to leave the residue in the sieve and allow it to rest in the juice while I brought the mixture to the boil.

With the sugar added, the recipe optimistically told me that I should boil for 5 minutes and then test every 2 minutes for setting. There was no mention of whether to keep boiling it while testing, so I guessed that I should keep it on the heat. After ten minutes or so, the mixture was still not setting. With 3:30am fast approaching, I was starting to worry a little: what if the grapes didn't have enough pectin and the mixture never set? At what point should I give up and go to bed?

It turned out that that point was circa 4am. The jam simply wasn't setting as much as I'd have liked - but it was good enough to spoon onto toast or a croissant. Apparently pears have lots of pectin, so if I were doing this again next year (which will depend on the taste!) I suppose I could add some pear to the mix to improve the setting.

  • Grape pips are a pain
  • Follow the instructions to keep more of the skins in the jam
  • Start this project before midnight
Do you have any experiences of making jam from unusual fruit? Can you think of other uses for slightly-too-small-to-eat grapes? Let me know!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Cabled Legwarmers (mini!)

I think these are rather cute...  They were a quick and easy knit using Debbie Bliss Cashmerino yarn and some circular needles.  As mentioned in my last post, I saw a very similar photo on a Debbie Bliss picture:

Pinned Image
Image from Design it Knit it by Debbie Bliss

...are they not rather scrummy? So, I figured that they must be pretty easy to work out pattern-wise, and, although there are some tweaks I will do next time, I am pretty content with the result...

Right. What next?
Happy weekend, friends.


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Two is busy

Having two little ones that are very active and energetic means that time is often scarce in which to write my blog.  But I craft on.

At the weekend I finished my cardigan! Hooray for home-knits!  I am really pleased with the result, and am particularly proud to have made something for myself that I enjoy wearing so much!

I'm glad that I checked my tension before starting, because it is exactly the right fit (having used Aran yarn rather than the recommended Tweedie Chunky yarn that the pattern is actually designed for).

The one area that I wasn't super happy with was the button hole.  I followed the instructions, but I didn't like the result.  I felt that the button hole was much too close to the edge of the cardigan, and so it just didn't sit right.  I have instead sewed on a few little snap fasteners, although they are small and fiddly, and it still doesn't sit right.  I've ordered a larger snap fastener (about the size of a 1p piece) so I'm hoping that that will do the trick!

So. A satisfying project.  (Even more so once I have corrected the button-hole/Snap fastener situation!).

I have also had my eye on this pair of baby leg warmers by Debbie Bliss for a while.  I had got the pattern, but I seem to have mislaid it somewhere, so I decided to try and work it out from the picture!  I'm at the start of the second one, and am loving the little project that grows fast!

So cute! I will post a photo when the other is complete and I can put them on my (now crawling!) littlest one.  They will make a nice gift for some new small ones that I know...

Right. Must dash.  Both children asleep and I don't know how much longer for.  I must try to do *some* housework!

(Oh, and I have just made some of these... haven't tried them yet as they are just out of the oven, but they smell GOOD).


Saturday, 24 September 2011

Cardigan for me

Having finished the Charlotte Dress for P last week, it is now time to get on with the project I've had going on for me! It's a lovely Autumn Cardigan, and I'd like to finish it soon, given that we're now officially in Autumn!

It's from the Sirdar Tweedie Chunky pattern book, though I confess I'm not actually using Tweedie Chunky wool, but a nice Aran I spotted a while back.

I'm going for the 'One button cabled jacket' and I've made good progress (especially considering the time spent decorating recently, and general lack of coherence left in my head once both kids are in bed and the house is reasonably tidy/clean*)

To date, I've completed the back, both fronts, and am about 2/3 the way through the first sleeve (though am once more gathering momentum, although also have a carpet to lay in our almost up-and-running new guest room in the loft, which will undoubtedly be taking some of my time in the next day or two...!).

It's a lovely and simple pattern to follow, though when particularly tired in the evenings I have been known to mess up the cabled pattern, then undo and restart whole chunks, as it is more than my brain can fathom to correct cable patterns through dropping down rows!

I've recently puchased a copy of Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac

It's wonderfully old school, although some of the patterns I'm afraid I wouldn't touch with a barge pole (knitted 'nether garments'? I don't think so, thanks!).  I got it after seeing this beautiful picture on Tikki's blog, as I quite fancied that beautiful yellow cardi for P somewhere along the line.  But, having read the relevant pattern, I've found it pretty difficult to follow, being for extremely experienced knitters (I'd count myself as very proficient, though not extremely experienced yet!) and it has no sizing- just a gauge of "about 5 sts to 1"- though babies come in various sizes!".  Help- where on earth do I start with that? I have a nicely rounded 6 month old (I know- when did that happen? She was only just a new born the other day!) but haven't the first idea how to adapt a pattern to fit various sizes...

Any ideas very warmly received!

Is anyone else loving the start of Autumn? It makes me want to make soups and stews, and start knitting more fingerless gloves...

C x

*On this front, I am sorry to say that since producing a second child, my standards of house keeping have dropped considerably!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Charlotte Dress

So, after three months of knitting I have completed the Charlotte Dress (designed by Nicole Montgomery, * and available here on ravelry).
I loved knitting this, and found the pattern excellent- clearly worded and very easy to follow.

Having knitted a tension square, I adjusted my needle size down, and knitted it using 2.25mm circulars.  I got slightly bored knitting the skirt, since, with such small needles and 4 ply wool, it took a long time to knit about 11 inches!  Doing it in the round was, in some ways, even harder, because you didn't even know when you had completed a row, given that it was all knit!  Still, I was delighted when I finished the skirt!

Having got that under my belt (pardon the pun!), I was convinced that it looked too big for 6-12 months.  However, I'd been good and done a tension square, so I kept going and got on with the bodice, which was so much fun!   I loved working the smocking stitch, and seeing something other than stocking stitch appear on this pretty little dress.  I was impressed by the attention to detail, for example, the pretty little button band at the back.

I also loved knitting the little arm borders- very simple and elegant.

The little one fits beautifully in the dress (being 2 weeks shy of 6 months), and it will be perfect for the colder months ahead.

A thoroughly enjoyable knit, and a very satisfying project to have completed.

I hope your week is going well.

C x

* Nicole also has a very beautiful blog here.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Changing Rooms

So the last week has seen big change in the Crafternoon household.
Biggest one has moved from his tiny little room into a brand new room that has just been shifted around and lovingly painted and decorated by Al and I.

The little man is rather excited about his new room- particularly about the fact that he now has a train set in there!

And the smallest one has moved out of our room (gulp!) and into her own room!  At first I felt rather mortified that it was totally bare and bereft of anything girlie at all (not that she would notice, I know, but I minded!). However, after a little creativity, I felt much happier with her new little space.

Not a bad little space to call home (what difference a little bunting makes!).

I'm sure that I wasn't particularly emotional when we moved E into his first room, but last night I could be found weeping into the washing up.  Possibly the product of much sleep deprivation (one of the reasons for her going into her own room) and possibly just that I am getting increasingly emotional with age...

The Charlotte dress is now complete, and has been washed and blocked.  Photos will follow once it has dried and been tried on its lucky little recipient.

Have a lovely week, friends.

C x

Friday, 9 September 2011

Kitchener Stitch

Today I have learned how to do the Kitchener stitch- a stitch, used to graft together the top shoulder seams on the Charlotte dress.

I used this helpful You Tube tutorial.

The dress is still coming on, although progress is very slow.

Any nice plans for the weekend?

C x