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Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Booties, socks and a dose of Christmas

Yes MORE booties! This time for little A who was born not long ago in (from what I hear) a very snowy Sweden. I tried my best to make them a bit more gender neutral, with the orange buttons adding just a touch of colour.

And then it was back to the Christmas knitting.. May I present  my first pair of top-down socks?

Taken from the book 'Knitted Socks East and West' these Japanese inspired numbers are probably the most intricate socks I have created. Somewhat depressingly they are called the 'easiest' in the book, which I should probably bear in mind if I ever decide to attempt any of the other pretty patterns.

Anyway, the description was clear enough and although complex, it was pretty satisfying to see the cables and twists starting to branch out and entwine. It was also fun to use my Possum blend yarn from New Zealand for this - very squooshy and super-warm! Perfect for bed-socks. Let's just hope that the recipient agrees..

To round off, my Swedish colleague persuaded me that we should mark this year's Lucia by providing our work colleagues with a taste of Swedish Christmas. She will bring the gingerbread biscuits, Julmust drink and sweets while I bring the lussekatter. So most of yesterday was spent covering my kitchen in flour. Thankfully it was worth it:

It had been a while since I did any baking with yeast and to be honest I was slightly dreading it. BUT it actually turned out to be pretty easy and while the yeast was rising I could get on with essential tasks like sewing buttons onto booties. Perfect!

Monday, 26 November 2012


Some quick and cute booties were the order of the day for little H who arrived safely on Friday:

Really can't recommend this pattern enough. Just the way it pops into shape as you stitch it together is so very satisfying!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Gathering Christmas momentum

In terms of gifting, this year it actually feels like I am achieving something in the run up to Christmas.
So here's the latest batch of crafted presents.

A very squooshy cashmere cowl in a punchy magenta shade:

Next knitting project soon to be cast on!

Last year I made a huge batch of pear, date and cinnamon chutney which seemed to go down quite well with its recipients. Therefore I decided to this year join forces with C for a jam and chutney making session - double the output, half the work!

After some research, we decided on rhubarb and vanilla jam and also some spicy apple and plum chutney. We weren't actually sure whether we could get hold of any rhubarb around this time of year, but luckily Waitrose obliged and we were soon smothering the pretty pink stalks in plenty of vanilla pods and jam sugar:

Meanwhile, we got busy chopping the apples before letting them slowly go mushy in the company of a large cinnamon stick and the rest of the spices. Mm, the smell!

Then it was time to add the plums:

 And left both concoctions to bubble away and fill the flat with Christmasyness.

Once cooled, I got out my trusty liquid chalk and labelled them all up as well as gave them snazzy hats courtesy of my fabric stash:

Not bad for a day's work eh? And the great thing is that while the chutney needs to mature for about a month, we can tuck into the jam in the meantime. Quality control and all that.

Oh, and one more thing! I've had some blackberry and vanilla rum brewing in my kitchen cupboard for about a month:

It was about time to harvest, so after a quick strain through some muslin it was time for bottling and labelling. Note the bonus boozy blackberries! Note quite sure what to do with those actually. Over some vanilla ice-cream perhaps?

So... still some projects to go before Christmas, but definitely getting there!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Ode to Iceland

Last weekend I was finally able to visit a destination which I have been obsessing over for some time: Iceland. I can't quite put my finger on what it is that particularly draws me to this mysterious place, but I think it may be a combination of dramatic landscapes, interesting nordic legends involving trolls and elves, wide open spaces and the abundance of yarn! Sounds like a dream come true.

I won't bore you with all the details, but perhaps a couple of photos will tell the story more eloquently than I ever could:

Oh and the yarn.. I had the pleasure of visiting The Hand Knitting Association of Iceland in Reykjavik:

The 50g balls of fine lopi came in at 270 Icelandic kr, which is just over £1 per ball. I had a very hard time choosing:

And plenty of ready-knit items too!

In the end I managed to control myself, perhaps even a bit too much in hindsight!

Not often you get views like this down the road from your local yarn store!

The only slight disappointment of the trip was that I really did want one of those pretty jumpers for myself. I spotted a perfect one in the Blue Lagoon gift shop already on the first evening, but surely I couldn't possibly buy one there like a common tourist?!
The Handknitting Association had a couple of nice ones, but they were all a bit too thick, so I assumed that they must have a wide choice at the airport - wrong! The airport shop was positively rubbish... so I guess I will just have to go back soon then! Either that, or buy the one I saw at the Blue Lagoon online from Farmers Market.

So perhaps this will be our honeymoon destination for next year? Only next time I want to stay for longer, and come back with more yarn - what a hardship!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Gloved up

Oh hai! Yes, I've been busy knitting again and since the last post two more pairs of gloves have come into this world: Lacey Long Gloves from the book 'Love to Knit' and Lacey Wristers.

First the Lacey Long Gloves:

Essentially a fairly straightforward pattern but I found this, as with many other patterns in the book, written in a slightly illogical way. Why say 'work another 52 rows'? Why not say 'repeat lace pattern 5 times'? I'm no maths whizz, so it does take me a bit of time to work these things out. And also, who makes sock patterns that involve seaming? Why??

Anyway, enough rant and onto the next project, the Wristers:

Also quite straightforward, especially as the pattern is only on one side of the gloves. Can't help thinking that this pattern has a sort of 'elegant emo' look about it. Especially in black.

Ok, so I'm on roll. Next project please, before I run out of steam!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Christmas knitting has officially started!

Yes, it's official: I have finished my first Christmas present! This must be a record, and yes I am feeling incredibly smug.. although this most likely means that I will be lulled into a false sense of security and realise by about mid December that I *still* only have one Christmas present completed.
So anyway, it's a start. 

The yarn and pattern for these cosy hand warmers actually came from iKnit day way back when. You may recall this post.
Using the lovely Debonnaire DK merino/alpaca yarn was an absolute pleasure after my prolonged diet for lace-weight. There's something so satisfying about handling yarn that has a bit of body:

The finished result was super soft, and rather larger than expected. I think these are the type of hand warmers that will go perfectly over a pair of long leather gloves.

One down.. and *how* many to go?!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Post-summer post

So what has this summer been all about? 

Well, mainly:

Trying out new things like Guinness cake, courtesy of Nigella, which turned out to be very tasty despite the lack of quite enough cocoa powder. It was christened the Unchocolate Cake.

Making the most of our weekends in the countryside and having every possible meal outside.

Finally finishing off another of H's 'Afternoon Tea' shawls for S's Birthday.

Spotting mushrooms in Sweden.

All the fiddly cleaning was worth it!

Admiring the mini apples.

Saying hi to the local sheep.

 So finally it's time to wrap up warm and start longing for sausage casseroles... It also means, of course that it's time to start the Christmas knitting. Lacy hand warmers seem to the order of the day. I wonder how many I can churn out before December?

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Courvoisier Institute of Grand Cocktails

Ever since attending the extremely excellent 'History of Food', we have been in anticipation of the next Courvoisier event. Of course it helped that Bompas and Parr were in on the last one, but we still had high hopes when an invite to The Courvoisier Institute of Grand Cocktails arrived in our inboxes.

The confirmation email that arrived after our flurry of activity to book tickets was fittingly flamboyant, and told us under no uncertain terms that we needed to:
1. Bring a piece of fruit with our name on (this fruit was to represent us in some way).
2. Embody one of the key characteristics of Courvoisier: Creativity, wit, maturity, taste and character.

Ok then. I chose a passionfruit and M decided on a lime ("I'm sour."):

We arrived at the imposing marble building on Bloomsbury square surprisingly early. The place was pretty impressive. The bits that were not solid marble seemed to be oak panelling, all in all giving the impression of an old financial institution of such grandeur that they would never dare build nowadays.

After a short waiting time, we were ushered into our first room. It was full of fruit, complete with a couple of fruit sellers waxing lyrical about their nice oranges:"Pahnd, for a pahnd luv!"

There were also two nice gentlemen ladling fruit punch into jam jars for our delectation:

There was also an enormous block of ice which I got to chip away at for some unknown reason.
So after some hanging around, we were ushered into our next room, this time full of spices:

I nice Moroccan man talked to us incomprehensibly about spices and poetry for a while:

Before giving us each a sugar lump which would apparently come in useful later.

Another room, another experience: These two posh gents told us all about the Courvoisier maturation process and gave us each a test-tube of the amber nectar to take away. Thanks guys!

Next it was time for a bit of a song and dance. We were led into a ball room, complete with a Miss Haversham-esque decaying banquet, bonkers guests and eccentric host.
At one point M was grabbed by one of the dressed-up ladies and they disappeared into a cupboard. Well, of course I had to pursue so we both ended up a in small dark cupboard listening to the lady harp on about aromas. I was also relieved of my passion fruit, although it was eventually returned to me by another of the 'servants'.
Oh and did I mention that we were given champagne cocktails into which we deposited our sugar cube? Very nice.

Before moving on again, we were each given a coin by the servants and urged up the staircase to a little jazz bar. This nice lady gave us yet another drink served in a small glass beaker, in return for our coin:

Jazzing it up:

The bar:

The idea was that small groups were taken aside, blind folded and 'experimented' on while sipping their drinks. Our palettes were first cleansed with apple juice, followed by various smell tests (including horseradish) and a sensory test where we were subjected to various sensations whilst drinking your cocktail (tickled with a feather, brushed with course bristles or rubbed with a teddy-bear) and asked whether it heightened or distracted from the flavour. Interesting.

After quite some time hanging in the bar, eating Twiglets and *possibly* two small glass beakers finding their way into my bag, we were summoned to our last room: the Boardroom.

Here we were told of our success at becoming members of The Courvoisier Institute of Grand Cocktails (having displayed the necessary characteristics) and swore our allegiance on the Courvoisier books provided. We also took a swig of our test-tube for good measure.

And that was it! An interesting way to spend an evening and all quite well orchestrated too, although for most of it, it wasn't quite clear what we were supposed for be doing or why it had anything to do with Courvoisier - I missed something of a cohesive story.
Still, the cocktails were tasty and plentiful, even though I never really did understand what I was supposed to do with my passion fruit..