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).