My New Favourite Knitting Book

The weekend before last we went to see my parents. While we were there, my nan came round, and she gave me a present. She runs a lot of charity sales and sometimes, when someone donates something interesting that she thinks one of her grandchildren might like, she puts it aside for them and either she or we make a contribution to the cause she’s raising money for. In this case, someone had given her an old book that she thought I might like. And she was so right, I love this:

Knitting Book

It’s an encyclopaedia of knitting. It doesn’t have lots of patterns in (although it does have basic layouts for simple garment designs that you can use as starting points). What it does have is lots of different knitting techniques – different stitches and methods of making designs.

Knitting

Knitting

I don’t have that many craft books – I guess I’m a product of my age, and because it’s so easy to get patterns and tutorials online, I don’t tend to feel the need to buy physical books with them in. But this is an absolute mine of inspirations and ideas, of tips and techniques that I can already start to see how I might use. It’s not a book to read from cover to cover, but definitely one to dip into now and again when I want to be a bit more creative than just following a completely finished pattern.

Knitting

Knitting

I’m now on the lookout for something similar for crochet, as, to be honest, I tend to crochet more than knit. Although, now I have so much inspiration, I suspect I may find I do start knitting a bit more…

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Crochet Tin Covers

A couple of years ago, I was rather taken with a project I saw on the Attic24 blog, which was to crochet covers for tins and then use them as flower pots. However, I never got round to making them. Then, the other day in the supermarket, I saw the same daffodils in yellow pots that Lucy, who writes the blog, has in her house. And I remembered the tins. So, I bought a couple of daffodil pots and, yesterday, I made a tin cover to sit one of them in.

Flowerpot

I made mine slightly bigger than Lucy did; I think perhaps my tin was bigger. Also I haven’t embellished it with beads or buttons, as I don’t think it needs anything added. I chose the pinks and reds to match a flowerpot that sits next to these with hyacinths in. This is the window in my hallway, now looking very bright and cheerful with spring flowers and the new tin.

Hall

Flowerpot

Spring Flowers

I’m not sure what happened to the hyacinths, they seem a little short. They are, however, filling the house with a lovely scent.

Hyacinth

It was pretty quick to make – most of yesterday evening and I was done. I’ve already started a second, as I have two pots of daffodils, and a similar shelf on the other side of the front door that could also do with cheering up. I really shouldn’t keep starting more projects all the time, but this was very quick, used yarn I already had (Stylecraft special DK again) and has really brightened up the hallway. So, I’m not too bothered that I didn’t get any blanket making done over the past couple of days.

Tin Cover Construction

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Sticky Marmalade Loaf Cake

Last year I made orange marmalade. I realised the other day that it was coming around to Seville orange season, i.e. marmalade making time. And so, when Little Bean asked if we could do some baking, I decided to use up the last of the batch I made last year and make a marmalade cake. We put raisins in ours but I haven’t included them in the recipe as I don’t think they add anything and they all sank to the bottom – you can see this in the first picture. Thought I’d better explain what those bits are!

Ingredients

  • 200g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 tbsp marmalade
  • 2tbsp orange juice
  • 75g caster sugar

Marmalade Loaf

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180° C. Grease and line a loaf tin. Mine is 25cm long by about 8cm across and deep.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until they are all combined with the butter and sugar mixture.
  3. Add the marmalade and beat this in then gently fold in the flour until everything is evenly mixed. Spoon into the prepared tin.
  4. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes. The top should be golden and an inserted skewer should come out clean. Remove from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.
  5. Mix the orange juice with the sugar and drizzle this over to give a crunchy sugar coating.

Marmalade Loaf

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Mood Blanket Update – First Row Done!

I’ve finally caught up with where I should be on my Mood Blanket. Due to being ridiculously tired last week I let it slide and got about a week behind. Then, this weekend, the cold flu yukky bug that Clive and Little Bean had last week finally brought me down. I thought I’d got away with it, but on Saturday we went to stay at my parents’ house for the night and I woke up on Sunday with full blown flu. Aching muscles, banging headache, sore throat, coughing, sneezing. Just horrible. I’ve just about got over it now, but it’s been a couple of hard, miserable days. Looking after a toddler with flu, when you, and your partner, have flu as well is not a lot of fun. But I think we’re mostly on the mend now. One thing I have managed to do while I was lying about feeling sorry for myself was a big load of crochet squares for my Mood Blanket. As I’m going for an 18 x 20 blanket, this means I’m now 3 squares into the second row.

Mood Blanket

This is giving me some sense of how big it’s going to be when I’m finished, as it’ll obviously be only slightly longer in the other direction. I’m really liking the colours although I’m not sure about using a solid colour each day, because it’s allowing me to cheat. By cheat, I mean that I feel a lot of different things during a day and I find I tend to just pick out one that I think will go well alongside the square I did the day before. Maybe I should have gone for squares of multiple colours, to allow me to really bring out what my moods were each day, thought it seems a bit late now. I like how it’s looking anyway, which is probably the important thing.

Mood Blanket

Bizarrely, I chose the bright blue colour today, which is supposed to reflect days when I’m feeling creative. This may seem odd given how much of today I’ve spent laying in bed or on the sofa clutching at my head, but it is justified, I promise. I woke up at 3am, and couldn’t get back to sleep because of my sore throat and snoring husband. I lay awake and, somehow, plotted out a book I’d like to write. I don’t know if I’ll do it or not, but I’m certainly going to think about it some more. And it means I get to use blue, rather than off-white (my ‘feeling bleurgh’ colour) or dark green (my feeling sad, down or sorry for myself colour) again. This is what I mean when I say I feel like I’m cheating. But I do quite like the idea of being able to look back and point to specific squares and know there was a particular reason for picking that colour that day, rather than just “I felt happy” or whatever.

I’ll probably do updates after the end of each row, which is about every two and a half weeks. I’m looking forward to watching it grow over the coming weeks and months, and sharing it on here.

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Sick Week

It’s been a bit quiet on here this week, I’m afraid. We’ve had a house full of ill which has left me utterly drained of all energy, and, to be honest, with not much to write about: the world doesn’t want to know about how much snot my toddler produced today (“gallons” as any parent will know).

So far I haven’t been ill myself. Little Bean has had a horrendous cold all week that has left her nose streaming, meaning she, and therefore I, haven’t slept very well. I’d forgotten what it was like to be so tired, to get through the morning powered by coffee and to get to the end of the day and just need to crash out. Clive has also had a cold, at one point coughing so much he managed to make himself sick. Fortunately I’ve not had the bug myself, so, although I’m tired, I’m not suffering. I think it would be pretty horrendous if we were all sick at the same time!

I think we’re starting to come out the other side. Little Bean seems much less icky than she was, and seems to just need to get some sleep – she couldn’t keep her eyes open earlier so we tucked her into bed a little early and she went straight down. Clive managed to eat a bit of dinner and, although he hasn’t gone to work tonight, seems like he’s on the mend. We’re supposed to be going to see my parents tomorrow so I hope they’re both feeling well enough for that.

All this has meant I haven’t got much done this week. The house got rather messy, although I was able to blitz the cleaning while Little Bean was at nursery this morning. I’d normally use that time to craft or bake or go to the allotment, so I’m slightly miffed I ended up cleaning, but at least the house is tidy going into the weekend. And I did get a few more seaside circles made while she was napping this afternoon. I’ve not quite kept up with my mood blanket, as I ran out of one of the colours. I’ll get some more tomorrow then catch up – fortunately I made a note of what colour I should have done each day.

It’s entirely possible I’ve avoided catching this bug because I’ve been drinking so much honey, lemon and ginger tea. I drink a lot of it at this time of year, mixing up the ingredients with hot water – a big spoon of honey, a generous squirt of lemon juice and a few slices of ginger root. Delicious, soothing, comforting and it fills the kitchen with the most wonderful smell. It feels like something you should drink when you are ill, but I reckon it’s the prefect winter drink even if you’re not suffering.

Winter tea

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Seaside Blanket Update

I’m making really good progress on my seaside blanket and thought it was time for an update. I finished the two and a bit balls of yarn that I had in my stash and this gave me 47 circles. This didn’t feel like was going to be a very big blanket – if I want it square-ish then I think I would have had to make it 6 x 7 which would use 42 circles. Having found that I could buy the same yarn in our local Hobbycraft store, I decided to get some more and make it larger. I’ve bought one more ball, but may get more. I think 8 x 8 i.e. 64 squares would be a nice size, and should be achievable with one ball, but maybe bigger would be even better?

Circles

I’ve also decided on a colour for the borders i.e. the bits between the circles. I’m going with a sandy brown colour, also found in Hobbycraft. What do you think? I like the contrast to the circles, I think it’ll look like a nice sandy beach when it’s all done. That’s the intention anyway.

Squares

Brown Yarn

As I don’t know exactly how big it’s going to be I probably won’t start joining the squares until they’re all finished. As each one is different that seems sensible, so as to make sure the different colours are evenly spread and I don’t have a big clump of circles all very similar together. I’m going to attempt to actually crochet them together rather than sewing with a needle, which is what I’ve done in the past.

Also on the crochet front, the mood blanket is coming along nicely – I’ve managed to make one square per day, and so far I’ve actually managed to make them on the day itself. So as to keep them in the right order I am joining those ones as I go. I’ll give the mood blanket its own post some time in the next few days so you can see how I’m getting on properly.

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Winter Sunshine

Sky

We’ve finally had a break in the weather – today has been gorgeous! It feels like it’s been raining and windy for ages, so when I woke up this morning to glorious, bright winter sunshine I could hardly believe it. I decided to make the most of it and took Little Bean out on my bike. She has a seat attached to the back that I strap her into, which got a lot of use last summer but which has been rather neglected recently. She’s just about not too big for it, so after breakfast I bundled her up in coat, gloves and helmet, strapped her in and off we went.

Duckpond

The first stop was the park. Hatherley Park to be precise. Apart from a few dog walkers we had the place to ourselves and she got a good run around in the fresh air – I think she’s really missed being outside recently. When we’d worn ourselves out we went and fed the ducks and then decided we were getting hungry ourselves so jumped back on the bike to cycle over to Bath Road. This is a street of shops in Cheltenham that’s all by itself, not part of the main town centre, and so is full of small, independent shops, which I love. We went to the Curious Café, where I had a lovely foamy cappuccino and pretended to be healthy by having a flapjack, and she had a milkshake and cookie. Definitely well deserved after all the cycling and tearing about the park.

Cafe

We then spent the rest of the morning pottering round the second hand and craft shops, and the vintage market where I bought a pair of owl earrings from a trader whose stall had the marvellous name Ramkin’s Tump (we got chatting, it’s a Discworld reference, which she was impressed I spotted). Do you like them? I bought Little Bean some books from the second hand bookshop. Three books for £2 makes for a happy mummy and a happy little girl.

Earrings

It was getting towards lunch time so we headed home, tired and happy, with faces flushed from the cold and sunshine. It might be rainy and windy again next week or even tomorrow, but for me it feels like spring is on the way. When we were in the park I saw the daffodils starting to come through the mud, which definitely feels like a taste of spring to me.

Daffodils

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Pear and Raspberry Traybake

On Sunday we had some friends round that we haven’t seen for a while. They’ve got two young children who spent the afternoon playing with Little Bean, so our house was a manic whirlwind of den building, racing about, stories and games. I made the kind of lunch that could all be done in advance and then just served – a beef casserole and this raspberry tray bake. I kind of made this up as I went along but it turned out surprisingly well for all that.

Raspberry and Pear Traybake

Ingredients

  • 320g self-raising flour
  • 220g unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 250g raspberries
  • 2 ripe pears, peeled and diced
  • 60g flaked almonds

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 180° C and grease a deep rectangular baking tray – mine is 33 x 23 x 5cm, but anything approximately this size should be fine.
  2. Use a mixer to combine the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating after you add each.
  3. Fold in the flour and combine to an even consistency. Spread half of the mixture across the bottom of the tin then dot with the raspberries and pear chunks, distributing each evenly.
  4. Spread the remaining batter on top of the fruit to create a sandwich. Sprinkle the flaked almonds on the top then bake in the oven for 45 – 50 minutes. The top should be golden and an inserted skewer should come out cleanly.

Pears and Raspberries

  1. Allow to cool in the tin slightly then slice into appropriately sized pieces – I made 15 large squares but you could easily make more smaller ones. Finish cooling on a wire rack.

I served this as a dessert with custard, but have been merrily eating the spare pieces by themselves for lunches since the weekend and they’re great by themselves. You could probably substitute most fruit for the pears and raspberries: I think I made an apple and blueberry tray bake once very similar to this, or what about peach and raspberry? I’ll definitely be making this, or a variation of it, again as it was really easy and everyone liked it.

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Photo removal

I’ve made a decision to remove all the photos of my daughter that were publicly accessible. I generally put all my photos on Flickr and just leave the permissions set to ‘anyone can see this’ for everything. There are some things I don’t put on there – we have photos of her in the bath, for example, that I haven’t uploaded, but I’ve never really worried too much about putting everyday photos on there. However, earlier this week something happened which did make me worry. I might be over-reacting here, but that’s what mothers are supposed to do isn’t it? I uploaded our Christmas photos and then was surprised when someone favourited a couple of her playing in the park. Now, I have real-life friends who use Flickr and who sometimes favourite my photos, but this was someone I didn’t know. When I checked out their profile they didn’t seem to have any real photos on it. Alarm bells began to ring – why would someone I don’t know favourite a not very artistic or well-taken photo of my daughter playing in the park? I went into overprotective mother mode and have now gone through nearly 3 years of photos and changed the permissions to ‘friends only’.

I absolutely hate it that my first instinct is to feel like this, that I can’t be more trusting. However, it’s my daughter, and I have to go with my gut on this one. I haven’t gone back through my Twitter history and deleted every photo I’ve ever tweeted, but I have gone through the posts on this blog and edited them to remove the photos and also her name. From this point on I’ll refer to her as Little Bean. I rather like the way that some parent bloggers make up names for their children, and manage to capture them in photos without capturing them, if that makes sense – my favourite approach is that of Lucy from Attic 24, who often includes photos of her children’s hands and feet but never much of the rest of them.

I’m also reminded of a recent blog post I read by Sam Candour aka the Ninja Worrier, in which she says that the reason she doesn’t share pictures of her children is that she respects their privacy and that they have the right to reach adulthood without their entire young lives being freely viewable by, say, prospective employers etc. This also seems a fair point to me: my daughter isn’t old enough to understand or make a choice about sharing her photos, so is it fair for me to make that choice for her?

What do people think? Am I over-reacting? A fool for not doing it from the beginning? I think that in the world of parenting there is often no ‘right answer’ and all we can do is what seems instinctively right, so that’s why I’ve done what I’ve done. If you do want to follow my Little Bean photos, please add me on Flickr, and as long as I can tell “oh it’s so-and-so from twitter” or similar, I’ll accept.

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2014 Mood Blanket

I mentioned yesterday that this year I’m going to be making a crochet mood blanket. I’m sure you’re wondering what exactly that is. It sounds like it ought to be a blanket that changes colour depending on your mood, as in the temperature-sensitive rings bought by teenage girls, but sadly it’s not (although wouldn’t that be amazing?). No, it’s a patchwork blanket made up of squares, one for each day of the year. The colour of each square represents my dominant mood for the day I made it (although if a day really is half one thing and half another then there’s no reason I can’t make a multi-coloured square that day).

As far as I know, the idea began with mummy_stacey, who thought a few friends might join in. What’s happened is that hundreds of people around the world have all signed up to take part. I first heard about it over on Cozy on the Prairies and while I initially thought it sounded like a cool idea, I didn’t think I could justify another project, especially as I was starting my sea blanket. However, the more I read about it, the more I thought I wanted to do it, and so, on New Year’s Eve, I sat down and went through my yarn stash to see what I could find: I’d decided this would be a good excuse to use some of it up and get a free blanket out of it.

These are the yarns I picked:

Mood Yarn

They’re all Stylecraft Special double knit, which I seem to have balls of in a great many colours. I’ve picked these colours because it means I should end up with a blanket that matches my living room colours:

Cushion Inspiration

The project rules are quite adaptable. You can knit or crochet your squares, you can use whatever design you like and it doesn’t have to be every day – you could do 52 squares at one per week, or whatever you liked. I’m going to try and do 365, although I think if I go for 360 that will firstly allow me 5 breathing days in case I get ill or otherwise can’t do it one day, and secondly produce a quantity of squares that will form an even quilt. 360 could be, for example, 18 x 20, whereas 365 doesn’t really work unless I don’t mind a very long thin quilt!

The colours will represent moods fairly arbitrarily. I’ve just selected moods I think I’m likely to feel and then dished out colours as follows:

  • bright pink – happy in an excited way
  • pale pink – happy in a calm, restful, contented way
  • dark green – sad
  • blue – creative, having ideas
  • light green – confused, uncertain
  • purple – angry
  • cream – meh, bored, empty
  • mauve – satisfied, achievement

I’ve never been great at describing feelings, but I think I know what I mean by each of the above, which is probably what matters, even if you’re reading it and thinking “what?” or similar. I’m not sure the photo above really captures the colours all very well, especially the deep purple and dark green, which are nicer than that photo makes them look.

The good news is, I have indeed completed two squares. I’m going for a traditional granny square pattern of four rounds and will be joining as I go, as I don’t much fancy joining 360 squares together at the end. The other good news is that each square has taken just over ten minutes, which is not very long at all. I think of granny squares as more time-consuming than that, but that’s probably because when I’ve made them in the past I’ve changed colour after every round, whereas here I haven’t been. Here are the first two days:

Days 1 and 2

So, that’s happy and contented yesterday and feeling like I’d achieved something today. The something, if you’re wondering, was that I managed to completely clear out my daughter’s bedroom and sort out her old toys and clothes into bags for selling, recycling and donating to charity. I also spruced up our room while I was at it, so now the upstairs of our house feels much nicer to be in. Anyway, I felt I achieved something, so that’s the colour I went with today.

I’ll be posting regular-ish updates on how I’m getting on, so watch this space. If you want to take part, it’s jus about not too late; check out the links above, or you can follow everyone taking part using the Twitter hashtag #crochetmoodblanket2014.

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