Just catching up….

I’m still in a ‘no-sew’ mode so progress on anything is very slow. I have started to feel just the merest stirrings of a sewing urge so I’m hopeful of something to show you guys sometime soon!

I have, however, been knitting. I have finished the Purl Soho Botanical Yoke sweater that I was making. Hurrah! Pictures and details….

Heath Robinson knitting

You may remember that back in the mists of time I bought this gorgeous yarn from Colourmart. It was very fine and needed to be ‘navajo plyed’. If you need information of this click HERE . Basically this meant that the fine 80%Merino/20%Cashmere I had chosen was used three strands at once which brought the yarn weight up to be perfect for my sweater.

Now all of the yarn from Colourmart is actually intended for industry rather than hand knitting (not that that is an issue!) and comes on cones. After spending an unreasonable amount of time chasing the cone around the floor I came up with this rather odd looking but very effective way to cope. The cone is sitting on top of an egg cup, which in turn is sitting on top of my kitchen paper holder. Not pretty but very effective in allowing the cone to spin freely as I pulled on the yarn. That speeded things up significantly 🙂 .

Yoke detail

Happy? Yes!

Having said that, this isn’t a particularly ‘quick’ project. All of that knit 2 purl 2 rib gets old pretty quickly, and when you get to the exciting part on the cabled yoke it can get a bit tricky. Cabling ’24’ is a bit, well…… tricky. And not entirely easy to knit. Fortunately you only need to do that massive cable twice. Things get much easier after that.

Another feature of Colourmart yarns is that they are treated to run smoothly through industrial knitting machines. That makes them a bit firmer knitted up before they are given a bath. I did wear my sweater a few times before I washed it and found the polo neck a little bit ‘scratchy. I washed it by hand so that it didn’t all go horribly wrong in the machine and it has softened up nicely. It took AGES to dry as it has been so cold and damp here in the UK. I think we are all desperate for some consistently warm (and sunny… please!) weather. Anyway I am counting this as a win and I’m sure I will get lots of opportunities to wear it .Through our ENGLISH SUMMER 😦

Quilting progress

I have been trying to clear things around the house. You know, those odd jobs that I have been trying to ignore, all the things I would rather not do … so I haven’t. It’s been the equivalent of the ‘crate of shame’ or the ‘drawer of doom’ where sewing projects go to be ignored. Some of you with very good memories will remember the quilt I started to commemorate The Managements 60th birthday. I confess some time has passed since then and the quilt has been largely ignored. Actually not true, I snarl at it every time I have to move it to get to something I want in the sewing room. Well bullets needed to be bitten and I have got the whole lot out again into a much more prominent position so that I am totally shamed into getting on. It has grown fairly well over the last couple of weeks (hey! I have been sewing!) and I am starting to feel that it might actually become a functioning quilt. I did have a short time when I considered the whole thing ‘migraine inducing’ but the colours and patterns seem to be settling down as they get bigger. I still feel unbelievably stupid for taking on such a large and complicated project as my first attempt at quilting. Hey ho.

Celias Hot Cross buns

Perfection 🙂

One of the things I have been enjoying very much of late is baking sourdough bread. Celia recommended ‘Artisan Sourdough made Simple’ by Emilie Raffa a while back and I really love this book. If you love sourdough and don’t have it yet I heartily recommend it. There hasn’t been a dud recipe yet, and Emilie blogs as The Clever Carrot so you can check her out there before investing if you don;t want to take my word! Not in the book but absolutely delicious were Celias Hot Cross Buns. Shared with friends (those that didn’t get scarfed down disgracefully quickly by Himself and I) they were a roaring success and will be made throughout the year without crosses and just called ‘buns’!

A few things have made my bread making more pleasurable recently. Firstly I reclaimed a electric heated pad which was bought years ago for an elderly Siamese cat I was slave to. She felt the cold something chronic so during the day (when she couldn’t sneak into bed and be my furry hot water bottle substitute) she enjoyed this. It did go off to my mothers elderly cat until her recent demise when it was returned. Mine looks a bit like this one and makes a great job of the ‘overnight rise’ when my kitchen is freezing. I do use it for the other rises at the moment as its still cold here. Once the sun starts to show its face again maybe the bread will manage without it. The next thing is the  Lékué bread maker. No, not electric. This is a silicon bowl which you can use right from the start – measuring and mixing the dough, kneading, leaving to rise  AND COOKING! Yup, this baby goes in the oven. And the dishwasher – I’m officially in love. Finally is a Lakeland Magic tray liner. Fabulous. Absolutely non-stick – even for the filled focaccia from Emilies book which stuck like to the tray like it would never come off just slid off this baby. Reusable and dishwasher friendly if needed – but it’s unlikely as it is so slippy and any residue just wipes off mine. I’ve used it about a dozen times at least and it still looks great. I would definitely buy this again but think it will be a while before I need to!

EZ and Alpaca

I have started knitting again. This time I’m knitting one of the basic Elizabeth Zimmerman yoked jumpers that I became aware of from Kate. I would have loved to join in her knit along but had other projects that made it difficult. I’m using some beautiful alpaca DK that I bought from the WRE It’s knitting up beautifully, and The Management (who has been helpful winding those skeins into balls) says he likes it because ‘it’s not a girly pink’. It’s still for me.

Wax Cloth I shouldn’t have bought….. but did.

I had a lovely day out in Birmingham yesterday with Fairy and friends. It was unusually clement – sunshiny even (sadly didn’t last) – and we were able to enjoy a walk round the markets. Neither Fairy or I really needed to buy anything. We had both said so. So why did I come home with this length of African Wax Cloth? Other than the fact that the colours are absolutley fabulous, and will mix with a number of the fabrics already in my stash? Anyway it’s home now and I just have to locate that sewing mojo. Do send it back if you find it 😉

Enjoy life out there

Kim x

 

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Do you have Gremlins too?

I have had the sort of spell with my sewing (and knitting!) that makes me think that there are forces at work to prevent me from making progress. Bits of pattern seem to walk off alone, instructions go missing, and knitting patterns go missing from the bag. It would be nice to blame someone else but I suspect it is happening because I feel so disorganised at the moment. I have been trying to be organised, but clearly not hard enough.

My workroom usually looks OK as it has to be ‘within bounds’ for when clients come for fittings and such. Not so my ‘back room’. OMG it is a mess. This is where all of my fabric, patterns, magazines, and frankly anything else I can’t find a home for tends to lurk. I know that I am better at starting projects than finishing – and that tends to get as far as the planning stage where I have got the pattern drawn/copied, found fabric and notions, and….. ground to a halt with it all in a pile. Add multiple projects into the mix and you can see why it has gotten into a state.

Well, I decided that it couldn’t carry on. Inside every Mess Monster is a tidy beast who really wants to get out. Or so I decided.

Pattern pieces, paper and fabric

Pattern pieces, paper and fabric

Tidy pattern and finished hat

Tidy pattern and finished hat

Digging through a pile of papers (a very wobbly pile it has to be said) I discovered the pattern pieces for multiple projects still in my dreams, and also the paper pieces and fabric pieces for a bucket hat that was cut out before we went to the USA. I found the pattern on Rhondas blog, but it was from a site called ‘Lost in Paris’ and the link to Rhondas tutorial is HERE .I did take two of these with me and this one was clearly left behind with not enough time to make up. I abandoned the mess and spent less than an hour sewing this into a hat, and also putting the pieces (all sizes – now correctly marked) into an envelope and into the right place. Score! Multiple stray pieces now turned into a tidy pattern and a hat that can be worn. That can live in The Managements car – he has a sporty two seater which has a roof which folds off and when it does I inevitably end up with the sun in my eyes.

Seam guide

Seam guide

One thing I was reminded of while I was making this hat was how I mark seam allowances that aren’t standard – or just aren’t marked on your sewing machine. It isn’t particularly clever, and I’m sure loads of you already do this, but this is so simple it’s almost not obvious. I use Post It notes (Sticky notes) with the sticky edge along the point that the fabric slides against. I already have a magnetic seam guide which is brilliant on my old Singer machines but not quite so amazing on modern machines. I sometimes use the ‘quilting bar’ thingy to guide wider seams but sometimes that isn’t wide enough. Again, the Post It comes to the rescue. And they are dirt cheap so I’m happy to throw them away once they loose their ‘stick’.

I have an enormous pile of pictures pulled out of magazines and newspapers of garments/outfits I like. I could probably use Pinterest or some other clever electronic way of storing these to good effect but I actually enjoy just leafing through a pile of these pictures from time to time to see what jumps out. Sometimes it’s not obvious, or something has past its ‘sell by date’ and can be thrown away. If I had just put all of these straight into the folder where they live there wouldn’t be half the problem – but it seems quicker sometimes just to drop them on the pile in the right room. More haste less speed?

I also have boxes that my magazines are meant to live in. The copies of Burda are mainly in their box – but occasionally I do get one out just to check the actual picture against my interpretation of the scanned sheet from the magazine. Again, it would be so easy just to put it straight away rather than just adding to the pile. Are you getting a theme here?

If I can keep up the sorting and tidying I am sure it will make me more productive. I could never ‘Kondo’ but I can certainly see the benefit of getting shot of some of the clutter in here. There are projects (with pattern and fabric at the ready) that I had totally forgotten about. It’s truly shameful. The client work is thinning out a bit – although there has been a tendency for some of my clients to come with a ‘shipping order’ now that they know that time is limited. That certainly wasn’t part of my plan!

If I can actually plan my sewing as an extra ‘client’ I am more likely to actually shift some of these. I have always said that I don’t have UFO’s – do these count? If they do I have LOADS of UFO’s! Oh dear.

Larry has a hole!

Larry has a hole!

Larry front

Larry front

As it has started to get colder here now I have started to dig out my jumpers. I do wear them during cool summer evenings rather than a coat, but as I am a fairly warm person they have been tucked away for a little while. Imagine then my horror when I got my lovely brown Larry out the other day and discovered a hole in it. Right in the centre of the front. No hiding that! It is a fairly neat hole so I wonder if I have actually cut one of the loops whilst I have been sewing and not noticed. I have checked all over and can’t find any more so I don’t think it’s moth. I loved this sweater but it had got a bit large (I have shrunk a bit but not too much so I think it has grown), and it was a pretty expensive Rowan yarn so I am thinking of pulling this out to re-knit. Kate from Fabrickated has been knitting lately, and seeing all of her posts relating to knitting has been making me want to start a new project so maybe I should concentrate on this.

 

Tea and warm crust. Yum!

Tea and warm crust. Yum!

Thankfully not everything has been working against me. My sourdough starter, from which I make bread and cakes, has been behaving beautifully. I may just be imagining it but I find sour dough bread easier to digest than store bought bread – maybe something to do with being allowed to take ages to go through the making process? Anyway, my loaves came out of the oven in fine shape, and since The Management wasn’t around I got first dibs on the still warm crust with butter. Delicious!

So, maybe I just need to be better organised and that darned Gremlin will move out!


A Post about cake. Sourdough cake.

Yes honestly. Cake made with a sourdough starter is fabulous. I made two versions for a fundraising coffee morning today and have been asked to give recipes and starters to three people! (Perhaps I should have asked for a donation for them?)

Debris from what was sourdough cakes (and others)

Debris from what was sourdough cakes (and others)

I really should have taken my photograph before the hungry hoards arrived! However, the cake stand had been filled on both layers with my own lemon cake adaption of the chocolate cake recipe from King Arthur Flour website. You can see the plate of chocolate cake just behind and to the right of the cake stand. The chocolate cake has been declared the ‘best in the world – all of the world’ by my nieces boyfriend and is always popular Chez Hood.

It was only after several batches I decided I was going to have to find an alternative before The Management decided he was bored with it. Truly, I didn’t want to find another recipe as this one is so easy and I have found it pretty much foolproof.So….

If you use the recipe from the link and make the following changes I have made a Lemon cake (declared the best today), and an Apple and Cinnamon version.

Lemon Cake:

  • Don’t add the baking cocoa – replace it with flour. Don’t add the espresso powder either.
  • Add the grated zest and all the juice from 2 lemons. (Mine were fairly small but gave lots of juice).
  • For the icing (I only used 1/2 quantity) leave out the espresso powder and use zest/juice from 1 lemon.

Apple and Cinnamon Cake:

  • Don’t add the baking cocoa – replace it with flour. Miss out the espresso option.
  • Add 8oz of grated apple (or rough quantity – I used eating rather than cooking apples but either would work), 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 4oz Sultanas if you like them.
  • I left the icing plain but you could add cinnamon to it (leaving out the espresso).

I only ever put a half quantity of icing onto the cakes and find that is ample, and I am never patient enough to make the drizzle to go on the top before cutting into the cake!

This cake also freezes beautifully (cut into portions before freezing – you can ‘snap off’ the number of pieces you want to defrost) with the frosting on the top. Please don’t ask how long it lasts – we never have it for long before it is all eaten!

And the fundraiser? We managed to raise just over £200 towards Jess’ target. I’m happy but exhausted.

I think I deserve a cup of tea and a piece of cake.


A weeks review

I have been pretty busy this week but had fun all the way.

London Bag

London Bag

London Apron

London Apron

I have made four aprons, and six shopping bags ready for fundraising events. There are more items listed ready to make this week but I really wanted to make a start with things in this wonderful fabric showing the major sights in London. It is a lovely heavy 100% cotton that I am sure will be really hard wearing – and obviously washable since no-ones aprons (or shopping bags) stay clean for long.

I would have liked one of these for some cooking I did myself this week – but not allowed! I have been making sour dough bread about twice a week since I was given my starter and last week was no different. I like real ‘loaf tin’ shaped loaves as they are really easy to cut and make into toast – and sour dough toasts brilliantly!

Sour dough loaves

Sour dough loaves

I also made some Hot Cross Buns. I love Hot Cross Buns so when I saw a sour dough recipe on Fig Jam and Lime Cordials blog I had to try them. This is a fabulous blog but comes with a warning. She is an amazing cook and you will want to eat everything you see. I can almost feel my waist expanding as I read each post. And the Hot Cross buns are wonderful. I like mine well spiced so I will probably increase the amount of spice in the next batch. There will certainly be many more batches. Just look how good even my first batch looks (and there aren’t this many any more!)

Fabulous hot cross buns

Fabulous hot cross buns

Between client and fund raising sewing, cooking, and just general life there hasn’t been much spare time but I have eventually finished one of my ‘Little Minx’ socks. These are another toe-up pattern from Ravelry – and I have to say that the jury is out on this style. It has taken an age but only because this is the third time I have knitted this up. The first time I forgot to knit into the back of the knit stitch and the pattern wasn’t anything like as nice (it took a while to work out what I was doing wrong. Note to self – READ THE PATTERN PROPERLY). I love the yarn but at the moment I don’t love the sock. I have managed to make ‘pairs’ of every sock pattern I have made so far. I don’t want this to be the first singleton, but I think I am going to have to leave this a while before making the second.

Little Minx sock

Little Minx sock

I have lots of sewing planned for this week – but I am also hosting a fundraiser for my daughters marathon at my home on Friday morning so I will be knee deep in cake mix later in the week. I hope they all work right. I will report on fundraising progress next week.


I meant to sew today……

….. but I got completely engrossed in other things.

Yesterday I met a very warm and generous lady who replied to an appeal I made on the Freecycle network  for a sour dough starter. Several people,including Tanya at Chica Andaluza and Nothing But Knit (clearly not just knitting!) have been making sour dough bread,  and I was terribly envious. My own efforts at making a sour dough starter ended in dismal failure – hence the appeal on Freecycle.

Janice Bell lives in Bewdley and runs Bread at Home courses, and very kindly gave me starters for both white and rye bread. Needless to say I started the ‘sponge’ as soon as I had cleared away tea last night and have continued the bread today. My house smells fabulous – and I am now stuffed full of samples from both loaves which I ate at tea time. Yummy.

Sour dough loaves - no longer this big!

Sour dough loaves – no longer this big!

In addition to making these loaves I have been gathering what I need for my next project. I am going to allocate an hour per day before I start work on client jobs to make this jacket. I bought the course from the Craftsy website to see what could be learned from someone who has sewn in industry, rather than just domestic sewing. I have made a start watching some of the lessons, and have already gained some new ideas (Fluxion pens are new to me – I can’t wait to try them out!). The cotton twill was bought a little while ago for peanuts from Birmingham Rag Market so if I don’t like the eventual outcome it won’t have cost a lot and hopefully I will have learned some new skills.

All I need to start?

All I need to start?

I will show you how I am getting along through the week. If I eat much more bread I may need to cut a larger size!