Every day, in every way, I’m getting better

At least, that is what Frank said that his mother always told him.

It would seem my colourwork has been improving. my first attempt at a properly stranded, in-the-round item was Eunny Jang’s Endpaper Mittens in October 2007. At first i found holding yarn in my left hand a real problem, especially as I was knitting English style in my right and continental in the left. It felt less awkward eventually and I even went on to knit a pair for my sister afterwards.

Eunny’s pattern is great and I wore the mittens most of that winter. I started to wear them this winter (just gone. Going? still here? who knows?) and took them on tour to Germany for a few days. In fact, I am almost certain they made it to most of the Blackforest and back, but for some reason they preferred Terminal 5 to my house, and only one came home :0(

So eventually I started and finished the replacement in February. Woo! my FO rate is improving. And so is my stranded knitting.

So much so, that my gague is looser! *(#&*($&*@(#$! (the newer, more annoying one is on top)

its actually far too loose although I didn’t notice it until I had done the thumb gusset and was past the point of no return. There is one less pattern repeat between the thumb and the ribbing to make sure they ended up roughly the same length. The pragmatic angel on my shoulder says, ‘its fine, they work, the untrained eye will never see the difference, they are mittens of gorgeous lovelyness’. But the perfectionist Devil on the other says ‘Madwoman, re-knit it to match AT ONCE!! before it drives you insane with its un-matchyness!’

What would you do?

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Sooooooo…..

Well here are my latest efforts. I’ve added some hexagons from a new yarn: Shelridge Farm Ultra Touch Handpaints. This stuff is amazing. At 6 quid a skein, its affordable and the fabric it knits up is just wonderful.

Shelridge Farm Hexagon

Shelridge Farm Hexagon

Actually, I bought it at Socktopus in Chelsea. That shop is such a find! I spotted it on Ysolda’s blog last year, but didn’t get round to doing anything about it until a month ago. I sing more or less once a month at a gig round the corner from there so left extra time before the soundcheck to peruse.

At the time the yarn didn’t really have fond memories (apart from that of finding the shop in the first place!) but someone remarked on how beautiful the colours were and was taken ill very shortly afterwards. So, this is a lovely reminder of him. His recovery won’t be rapid but maybe I’ll knit him some socks using it.

A few other pics:

I also picked this up recently at a Brighton market:

I’m not usually into ‘pretty’ things, but I love the collar on this and even the lace is nice. Have I suddenly turned into a girly girl?

So, I’m Back!

Knitted Hexagon Blanket

Hopefully not to any great trumpets or fanfares… This is purely for me. To keep a record of all the things I’m doing. I’ve been rubbish the last year or so, for various reasons, life just exploded on me. And Ravelry of course affected all things knitting, so I never really got round to posting anything on this page.

Anyway, my knitting has gathered pace: I’ve started to get into the swing of finishing projects, mostly because they’re intended as presents for people. I’ll post pictures of new stuff later, but for the time being I want to upload my current project, the real reason why I’m posting again…

Blue knitted hexagon

That’s right. I’m being highly original and knitting myself a blanket.

I’m using up mostly any DK I’ve got in my stash, but most 4ply held double works if I use the right needle. I’m finding it peculiarly satisfying, I’ve noticed the urge to nest recently. Not sure why, maybe just a part of growing up, or even growing down as some people would put it.

There is something restful about having a project to return to, something that is always there to provide interest. Its particularly nice because as I include new hexagons, each different yarn reflects a different story or episode. So the blue you can see here is from my first foray into designing – the remains of some top-down baby hats I knitted at Christmas (in RYC DK merino), often a bit fuzzy after something fizzy.

Pink knitted hexagon

The pink is from my first ball of Manos Del Uruguay from my favourite LYS, and I have very fond memories of it: Boxing Day 2008 I sat with some friends from New Zealand watching a NZ flick and some pavlova (very Kiwi dessert, so they tell me), knitting myself a scarflette.

Green knitted hexagon

The green is some Cascade 220 from Loop, and was purchased to make a present for a new, very dear friend and his daughter.

So this blanket is probably going to take me most of this year (can’t see that i would want to knit a wool blanket in the Summer) but will hopefully be a labour of love. I’ll post pictures periodically to keep up my interest and motivate me to finish, and I will do my best to tell the stories that fit each shape…

Knitted Hexagon Blanket

FURY




PICT1698

Originally uploaded by Liz Swain

I am being driven round the bend by this lace shrug, named convertible. Go find it on Ravelry because I am too annoyed with it to link it properly.

I’ve already completely frogged it twice.

AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH

oh well

Well, I’ve already failed in my aim to post every day, but I have been discovering some wonderful new things everyday:

Flight of the Conchords. Possibly the funniest thing I’ve seen since the Mighty Boosh (which was about 4 years ago now). Go check them out.

iKnit. Possibly the best knitting shop I’ve been to. Ever. Its more about the location and the atmosphere of the shop, although they have a fantastic range of bamboo needles and yarns. If you can get to Vauxhall train station, you should pay them a visit.

Sweet Paul. Possibly the best food photography sight I’ve seen (but I’ve only seen his). There are some very inspiring photos of cakes on there. Do you need to know more?

Cupcake Bakeshop. Possibly the best baking site I’ve seen. This crazy woman does nothing but post about cupcakes with wacky tastes and colours.

And I’ve started knitting this:

Convertible

Its called convertible and you can find it on http://www.knitty.com. Its a gorgeous lace shawl which can be buttoned in a variety of ways. It’ll be perfect for me if I can knit enough repeats without frogging it too many times, but its been a b*gger to start. I’ve used a provisional cast-on as the yarn I’m using is much more fine than the original and I’m not sure I’ll have enough, so I figured this way I can always add more to the ends. There are some gorgeous examples on Ravelry too.  Anyway, enough of my ranting, its late – I apologise if this post seems incoherent! night.

excitable

Ever been so excited about how close you are to finishing a pattern that you just have to keep going until the end?

It doesn’t happen to me very often, but its a little like reading a book you really love – most recently it was the last of the Northern Lights trilogy. Well anyway, I’ve recently started Ysolda’s  Gretel. I completely miscounted the tubular cast on and got 3/4 of the way through before realising I had to frog it back. Anyway, I cast on again a couple of days ago and basically stayed up until around 3am finishing it. Perhaps it was the challenges the hat had to offer – learning how to cable without a third needle, a tubular cast on blah blah. It made me realise that the reason I stop halfway through so many projects is because they aren’t challenging enough, or perhaps, interesting enough. There simply isn’t enough reward in continuing. Its also made me wonder if that applies in other areas of my life. Anyway, has anyone else had the same problem or found the same solution? Has anyone found a different solution?

Blinkin duckberries

You see, I have become a recent slave to the seasons. I’m a little addicted to foodie magazines at the moment and the current foodie trend is seasonal eating. Quite how the british can justify eating bananas is beyond me if you look at the world in those terms, but maybe we can work out some moral loophole.

Anyway, the recent faddy thing for me has been gooseberries. No idea why. However, I was all set to make Sarah Raven’s Gooseberry tart, except for some reason there were no gooseberries. Not even in Waitrose. bum. So I bought rhubarb instead – Rhubarb tart, how terribly middle england. Now, since rhubarb is slightly more dense than the old gooseberry, I thought I’d poach it very gently in orange juice and ground ginger. Except I got a little distracted while I was making it and ended up with rhubarb sludge. So I bunged it all in the oven and got rhubarb quiche. It went down very well at last night’s gig I can tell you.

Rhubarb Quiche

Shopping List
400g untrimmed rhubarb
juice of 2 small oranges or one large one
1tsp ground ginger
caster sugar to taste (i used about 50g)

Pastry
1 egg yolk
150g plain flour (I use Shipton Mill)
50g caster sugar
75g fridge-cold butter
ice-cold water

custard
3 eggs
284ml double cream
100g caster sugar
zest of 1 large orange or 2 small ones

method
first, trim and chop the rhubarb into 2cm cubes. Pare the rind from the oranges and set aside. Juice the fruit and add it to a saucepan with the rhubarb and ground ginger. Add some caster sugar and leave to simmer until soft, about 5-10 minutes. Use your judgement here – I prefer my rhubarb a little more sharp than others, but you may prefer it sweeter so be careful with the caster sugar. Leave to cool once cooked.

Now, make the pastry. Briefly mix the sugar and flour together in a food processor. Add the butter in small chunks and pulse very carefully until you have a mixture resembling breadcrumbs. Be careful not to over mix as you don’t want to warm the butter and create the pastry in the processor. Turn the breadcrumbs into a mixing bowl and add the egg yolk. Mix with your hands and add only enough of the water to create a dough. turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll the pastry so you can line a 22-23cm flan tin. Don’t trim the pastry! Put the tin on a baking try and leave to sit in the fridge for 30mins.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4. Place a sheet of greaseproof paper on the lined flan tin and add baking beans. Place the tin in the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes.

While the tin is cooking, mix the cream, eggs, sugar and orange rind together until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the cooled Rhubarb. When the pastry is finished in the oven, take it out and leave it cool slightly. Add the rhubarb mixture and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the centre is set and the tart is starting to brown lightly.

————————————————

Can I rant?

One of the drawbacks of performing at functions so often is that you often end up eating the same typical celebration food, usually leg or breast of chicken (corn-fed or not) in a white wine sauce with a medley of seasonal vegetables. We refer to it as a ‘substantial chicken dish’.

Or worse, if you’re in a hotel, sandwiches and chips. That particular combination is the bane of my life. For some reason, this classifies as a hot meal in a hotel. I mean, would you offer sandwiches and chips to someone in place of dinner? No, probably not.

Then why is it customary to feed this to the wedding band who have driven up to 2 hours to get there, have to sit around for another 2 because the wedding is running late, have to remain sober because they’re driving but put up with the drunken rantings of the wedding guests, play I Wish for the 18 millionth time in their life, explain why we can’t play for another hour for free and then drive the 2 hours home. Yes, we’re getting paid but considering we have to pay 22% tax, 8% national insurance, petrol and subsistence costs, and that we might only gig twice a week, then £150 per musician is a fairly reasonable amount of money. PLEASE can you feed me something other than sandwiches and chips or a substantial chicken dish? After all, the hotel or caterer is probably charging you about £5 a head and when you think they probably make it for about £1.50 a head they’re taking quite a cut. Get your money’s worth.

Rant over.

Anyway, the reason I say all this is that sunday lunchtime jazz gigs normally mean you get fed a roast lunch. I’m not arguing about that. It just meant that after today’s jazz gig I didn’t feel like another roast when I got home so I made this light lentil soup.

Light Lentil Soup
500ml chicken stock
2 bayleaves
1 large glass white wine
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2tbsp chilli oil (mine is fairly mild – dilute yours with vegetable oil if necessary)
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, ground
250g Red lentils

Method

Fry the onions in the oil until they are translucent. Add the garlic and after 60 seconds add the ground spices. Toast them for another minute or so and then add the lentils. Coat them until they are glistening with the spices and oil. Add the wine and simmer until reduced and then pour in the chicken stock and add the bay leaves. clamp a lid on and simmer gently for 30 mins.

*snuffle*

I’m sick.

With a chest infection and some kind of sinus problem. Its my own fault, I shouldn’t have started training for a 10k race so soon after my cold, but I can’t change that now. Instead, I am taking it easy and am on a serious immune-boosting trip. So I’ve included a few recipes of what I’m dosing up on.

Melon, Orange and Lime smoothie
As well as being full of beta carotene, this is full of Vitamin C and the lime juice gives it a nice tang.

Shopping List
1 quarter Charentais melon
2 juicing oranges
juice of half a lime

destructions
Peel and chop the melon flesh. Juice one of the oranges. pare the Orange rind off the remaining orange using a knife. If you don’t want to use a knife then you can peel it with your fingers but make sure to remove all the white pith – it’ll taste bitter if you leave it in. Put the whole lot in a blender and blend until smooth.

Pancakes with summer berry sauce
yes yes, I realise this is not the healthiest recipe around but it is one of the most comforting and there is some fruit in it!

shopping list

Pancake batter:
50g flour
1 egg (make sure its at room temperature)
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 pint of milk
(I used semi-skimmed as that’s what I had in the house but please don’t use skimmed, its like white water. Do you even realise how little fat there is in a pint of milk?)

Fruit sauce:
160g summer berries
2 tbsp caster sugar or to taste
1/2 tsp arrowroot
juice of one small orange (literally 2-3 tbsps)

Destructions
Add the flour to a mixing bowl and crack in the egg. Whisk the egg into the flour and then add the olive oil*. You should have a sticky mess at this point. Add the milk little a little at a time, each time beating until the mixture is smooth. If you do it this way you will avoid a lumpy batter. Once all the milk has been added leave it to sit for about 20-30 minutes.

If you don’t have someone to help you eat this as you go then heat up the oven to the lowest temperature possible and stick in an ovenproof plate. When you’ve made one pancake, stick it on the warmed plate in the oven, and cover it with a sheet of baking paper to separate it from the next. Don’t use foil as it will make the pancake sweat.

Pour it in to a jug or use a ladle to help you cook the pancakes. Add a little oil to your pan – it only needs a little – and heat it until it is smoking. you can use butter but make sure you add a little oil to prevent the butter burning. You will only need a couple of tablespoons at a time in the pan, and make sure the batter distributes evenly around the pan when you do add it. After a minute or so, try jiggling the pan. If the pancake can be dislodged from the bottom, its ready to flip over. Give it a few seconds on the other side, slide it onto your heated plate and warm up some oil for the next pancake.

The Fruit sauce won’t take very long, so do this once your pancakes are cooked. Add all the ingredients (except the arrowroot) to the pan, and cook over a medium heat until slightly softened and the sugar has dissolved. It shouldn’t take more than about 5 minutes, but do taste the sauce to check the sugar level, and bear in mind you aren’t trying to make a fruit coulis. Take off the heat and add the arrowroot, mixing until it has disappeared completely.

Serve the pancakes with the warm sauce and some greek yoghurt, although creme fraiche and cream would work just as well.

* I’m sure a food chemist would tell me not to add the oil at this point but if you add it at the end after the milk, the oil sits on the top and mostly ends up in the first pancake, which defeats the point if you ask me… ———————————————————————————————————————————————-

I have done some knitting on a grey cardigan, but then realised I’d done it wrong so I undid it rapidly and havn’t found the energy to do anything with it.

Sorry.

so here’s the thing…

Lickety Split in progress

It wasn’t quite a cat that caused the mayhem of a couple of days ago. I was in the mood to knit something not-too-taxing and rather than go through the rigmarole of starting a new thing I decided to dig out an old project. Hence, the lickety split socks from the Knitty website.

Remembering they were probably in the ole wool stash I grabbed what I could see of it and pulled. It didn’t come out instantly and as I was tired didn’t stop to think that I should probably investigate further before pulling anymore. And thus, the mess was born. And, thanks Janabanana for the tip about the clear shoe hanger, I might try that one.

I’ve actually knitted the left sock already but as I’m in the house on my own at the moment I can’t get a decent enough picture of it on my foot. However, here are the toes of the right sock. You start knitting the big toe with an invisible cast on and then leave it to one side, then you start the rest of the toe and join the rest together. Anyway, knitting from the toe up means you can try it on as you go, making it easier to gague your size.

Well, I’ve got some last minute teaching that’s just rolled in so I have to head off and prepare.

How did it get so bad?

There comes a point in every knitters life when it is time to deal with that wool stash and tonight was that night. Jeez. I inevitably got the scissors out at one point, but didn’t have to cut too much. Wool stash

What a nightmare