Thursday, 31 March 2011

Where are they now? (2KCBWDAY4)

yaaaaaaaaaaaaawnnnn and streeeeeeeeeetch. 

Morning all. I am a sleepy puss this morning. I'm on my second coffee and pootling around. Dean Martin is asking how I like my eggs in the morning (with a kiss, I'm with you babe) and I fear this might be one of my rambly blog posts. Feel free to fast forward to the more structured content at the bottom if you're here for my Blog Week post but I might need to ease myself in this morning. These things happen.

It's been a thrilling few days. Firstly, to all the commenters from the last few days- hi, so nice to have you here! Please, stick around, pull up a chair and get some coffee. Although not that coffee (points), that's mine. I've loved reading your comments and following you back to your blogs. Aren't you all awesome?!?! You clever things. And to answer one direct question: I'm hitting the US in September. I am seeing some much missed best friends and I can't wait. Distance may make the heart grow fonder but it can sure ache too. 

I slept heavy last night because I may have, at long last, found a job. Yup. I went to take a look around a place that is so playful and warm and before I knew it I was being interviewed, chatting to everyone and being asked to give a 'performance'. The playful delight was mutual and so this, and the comments is why I'm humming along (Frank Sinatra has me under his skin now FYI) to favourite music and feeling rambly and content. Oooooo Nina Simone now. Bliss. 

SO on to blog week topics.

I decided to talk about a project I made before the blog. I found knitting purely by accident about 2 years ago. I never meant to be a knitter. I meant to learn to crochet little flower corsages like my work colleague but I cannot work out crochet. Chains and knots yes, but something else? No. 

I actually come from a long line of knitters. My paternal grandmother was a beautiful knitter. I can dimly remember her trying to catch me long enough to knit little squares that would one day become a blanket. My mum encouraged, remembering that she too used to knit. I was.... a hyper kid shall we say? I was too busy hunting for dragons and driving my mother up the wall unfortunately so my grandmother has had to wait another 20 years for me to come round to the idea that knitting. is. life.

Sadly, my darling grandmother can no longer knit. A horrible tumble led to a plate being placed in her wrist, causing so much pain and she's progressively lost her sight so that she is rendered to dreaming of knits only. So when I learned to knit, it was from the internet and Ravelry and when I proudly showed my mum and grandmother my crooked scarf, they applauded and encouraged. My mum has begun knitting again with more relish too, and pretty soon I was moving away from scarves and wanting a challenge. 

I made this. Let's just look at it for a while. 

The pattern is Springtime Bandit and the yarn is Madelinetosh Merino Light in the colourway Warm Maize. It was my first adventure into luxury yarn and lace. There was purring whenever I fondled the yarn and tears and tantrums as I fought my way through my first lace. I was so proud of it. I loved it. To date, it's my most popular Ravelry FO and I knew just who should have it. 

My Grandmother unwrapped the shawl delicately and smiled down, letting her fingers feel the fine details her eyesight won't let her see clearly anymore. She scrunched her fingers into the yarn and sighed of yarns she missed. It was my best decision. She's worn it every night around her shoulders to avoid a chill and when she was sick recently she said it was her biggest comfort.

While I was sad to lose my first lace project, I was glad to finally give my Grandmother something back for all the many jumpers and cardigans she made me as a child. I couldn't think of a better place for it to find a home.

For more blog week posts, please click here

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Tidy mind, tidy stitches (2KCBWDAY3)

So..... organisation eh?


I am an ex teacher, possibly soon to be, a teacher (long story, don't ask). I am organised. VERY. I think in colour and folders so when it comes to photographing and blogging about my world, no problem. I have file names, temporary places for wanna be posts and Ravelry projects.

My stash however is not so organised. it began with high hopes, hopes that have rapdily become buried under jewel tones and dark and gothling. It started off in two boxes, from Ikea; a bit like a double shoe box if you like. I had needles in one, patterns etc. Stash in other. Then I bought more yarn... and needles. I moved out of boxes and got a third box. This became 4..... things were getting hectic under the bed.

Then I broke up with my ex and realised I was going to have to move said stash. Not good. I started a stashdown and to redistributed things: yarns were organised by weights, things were destashed and I kept out yarns I'd be knitting with. Order was restored and I was feeling good- yes after a break up, it was THAT kind of break up. I hit a knitting funk and realised that this was an ambitious box of yarn I'd kept out of storage (yes, the others went to storage, it was hideous, let's try not to dwell on it).

With great joy I found digs in London and moved the stash out into plain view, all laid on top of the massive wardrobe, still in boxes but there to remind me not to go to wild again. It felt manageable and bar a fear of moths, I felt comfortable. Comfortable enough to have a yarn slip and buy more. Ahem. It was ok though, I knit my Christmas gifts from my stash, I was virtually a saint.

My stash now? Well. I moved again. At first it all seems rather perfect. See this? It's my space. I share it with the man beast but as you can see I have yarn, books, laptop and such all in one place. I can tuck myself in here and pretend I'm my very own knitwear designer. I even have pretty needles on display.
Closer inspection reveals it's not ALL THERE. See that under the desk? That wee cabinet? More yarn. Mooch into the bedroom to get a tshirt and tucked into my wardrobe? More yarn.

So my mission for 2011 has been to stash down. It's not hideous. I am aware there's a lot more terrifying stashes out there but I love my yarn and I want to knit it. Unknit yarn is pretty but it's unfulfilled. I will do my best and review the year in December. If only I wasn't doing that US trip in September... I feel my will power is only so strong!
lest we forget

To see others posts and enjoy the joy that is blog week type 2kcbwday3 into google for today's posts. You won't regret it- I've loved reading everyone's posts (and comments, oh yes, the comments are wonderful!)

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Skill + 1UP (2KCBWDAY2)

Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet (can you crochet cable stitches now where you didn’t even know such things existed last year? Have you recently put a foot in the tiled world of entrelac? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or crochet hook this time last year?

Where to start here? This is not going to be some smug declaration of my fabulous level of skills. Instead, I'm thinking about how far I've come as the direct result of the knitting and crocheting community. I only learned to knit a couple of years ago, I actually meant to learn to crochet but I couldn't figure it out, worked out knitting and have since been convinced that crochet is witchcraft. (Ask my crochetting friend, I get very distressed when she shows me lace that took her 2 weeks in return for my 2 months of swearing and weeping).

I discovered Ravelry and with that, knit sibs. Within a few short weeks I went from laboured scarves and headbands to shawls, socks and more. Safe in the knowledge there was always someone there to help, I got adventurous. Discovering I could make a sweater was thrilling, discovering it fit, even more so. 

This week I've learned two at a time socks. I'm in love. No really. It started slowly, teeth were involved in wrangling the cord and unknotting the yarn but I am now the proud owner of two identical socks. I learned magic loop and socks pretty early on but was terrified of the thought of two at a time. It just seemed...... octopus level knitting?!? But I got there, and would recommend Silver's sock classes to anyone wanting to learn basic socks, two up, two at a time and so on. This is the joy that is our knit sibs- sharing information and techniques and then logging on to Ravelry to show off, congratulate and commiserate.

I'm aiming for knee highs. This may take a while.....

Monday, 28 March 2011

A Tale of Two Yarns ( 2KCBWDAY1)

Does anyone else have 'that' skein? Something so precious that you think you might never knit it? I'm NOT a hoarder. I loathe the idea of yarn sitting, unknit in people's stash, hunted via scary updates just to be sat, unused. I rejoice in yarn and intensely plan projects. But I have about 3-4 skeins that I cannot plan a thing for. Nothing seems right. They are treasured and I will be leaving them till quite late in the stashdown, awaiting some kind of life altering inspiration I'm sure.

My first skein is one of these yarns. I received this beautiful skein of Julie Spins Merino 370, a fingering weight from a friend who actually, has a habit of sending such stunning skeins that I then precede to have a meltdown over when trying to match them to projects. That sounded ungrateful; I AM NOT. I just look at at the skein, photograph it, pet it and whisper 'what will you be?' to it. I'm met with what I feel is a quite judgemental silence. These reverred skeins can be quite aloof eh?

Let us pause and just look at this skein.

Isn't it beautiful? The colourway is Banff and what I can't work out is: is this going to come out decadently variegated or become some multi tonal blue that makes me weak at the knees? I know, I could check Ravelry, but alas, no FO pics. I could swatch. But then I'd have COMMITED to the skein and as I mentioned, it's quite judgemetnal of me already.

So now onto the tale of the second yarn. It would be cruel to make a comparison. It'd be like comparing a new F1 team with Maclaren (the season just started, expect lots of F1 references). Instead, I will tell you a story that proves why I should not live in fear of 'too precious skeins'. 

I am a relatively new knitter, only two years really. I went on a yarn crawl with my newly found knit group a few short months into knitting. I was bullied by an overzealous sales assistant at a fibre event which led to me falling in love with a grey and white skein of fingering, Aspen Moon superwash to be exact. I thought it was exciting, a far cry from the discount balls of Sirdar I'd been practising on. 

I was nowhere near making socks and I didn't have a clue yet about shawls so it sat, awaiting a project for over a year. I eventually found it a partner and gleefully decided on a Daybreak by the yummy Stephen West. I got the ball winder out and swift and prepared to be dazzled by it's colour as I wound it. 24 hours later, I had a killer hangover and a half wound tangle..... I'm not saying it drove me to drink but it didn't help me stay sober. Two friends had helped unwind this mess and it still sat on the swift, taunting me. Admittedly, they'd shared in the drunkeness too but I was convinced the skein knew what it was doing. It had MADE us get that drunk. 

The DayBreak did come out beautifully but the yarn was nothing short of disappointing. It was soft but probably too soft. Socks would have laid down in submission and died to be honest. This doesn't mean I'm ready to say I've learned my lesson and wind the Juliespins, however. I mean, not before I've emptied my house of alcohol anyway....

Friday, 25 March 2011

And the winner is.....


You are the proud owner of a Lollipop stop original knit tote. The random number generator has spoken and chosen YOU. Please get in contact at to claim your prize within the next fortnight.

For all those of you who entered, fear not I have another giveaway lined up of knitterly goodness (sorry crocheters, you'll get a turn) in a few weeks. It's been great fun getting to know you all doing this so please keep coming back as your comments warmed my heart this week.

And another quick note to say a warm and heartfelt thank you for all those of you who took the time to respond to my birthday post. It made me feel so much stronger to cut myself some slack and say '30, yup.... it's a number'. xxx

Thursday, 24 March 2011

I had to share

There is a march happening this Saturday. Sadly, I am unable to go and I feel like I'm really letting the team down. The papers have already begun hyping things up. I'm sure there will be ill reported 'scenes of violence', as always pointing the finger at the protesters, rather than the police who will be kettling people and woe betide anyone who questions being locked in a confined area without food or water in the cold for hours.

This video is inspired. If you do anything today, please check it out.

It's COOKIE time!

Oh yes

On my recipe day, I was determined to make a perfect cookie with the Cinnamon chips my friend sent me. I had been eyeballing the crazy mixer on our kitchen side, nervously, since I moved in. It had several attachments and looked like I could lose a finger. I'm accident prone, this is highly likely. I decided today was the day I would take that risk in the interest of my cookie hunt.

In the interest of research (ahem), I broke open the chips and tasted a few to help me decide what they should be. They are, quite frankly, delicious. I was slightly put off by the Hershey's branding and if you grew up eating cadbury's you'd understand why. But no hints of sour chocolate here- all cinnamon goodness.

---- interruption of blog post to inform you I do not like the word cinnamon. It looks wrong. I keep retyping it. From now on I will refer to it as C. Ok?----

I decided they stood alone and wasn't sure if they'd melt so a good basic vanilla-rey dough was in order. Here's the recipe, enjoy!
Makes 12 approx

75g butter, softened (I cheat, I pop mine in the microwave for 15 secs)
50g soft brown sugar
50g caster sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
160g plain flour (I whisked it with the magi mixer thingy, has same effect as sieving FYI)
1/2 tsp baking powder
150g C chips

1. Preheat oven to 190c and line two baking trays with paper
2. Mash together butter and sugars, getting excited that the mixer is doing a wonderful job while you prance around in the background.
3. Thoroughly whisk (MIXER) in the egg and vanilla.
4. Mix in the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt, dancing still at the joy that is your mixer and count your fingers- all there? Good. 
5. Fold in C chips. Add them all, don't start eating them. Or atleast eat from the bag not the bowl you measured out.
6. Flour your hands and roll into ping pong size balls, placing haphazardly on the tray, allowing space for them to grow. 
7. Cook for 12-15 minutes while you realise you still have to wash up the mixer and feel a bit sad that there isn't a setting for this.
8. Remove when still soft to touch in centre but crisper on the outer side and browned. Allow to cool.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Youth fading

This week's You Capture struck an instant chord: Youth. I sighed, I had a milestone birthday, it seemed I was fated to write one of those reflective posts I love from other bloggers about where I am in life right now. 

I have no idea. Really. I hit 21 with optimism and a world full of possibilities: I had time to make mistakes. Now at 30 it seems a little less free. Words like mortgages, career goals, work-life balance have entered my vocabulary. There's also the alarming amount of friends married or having children. I've never had that as a goal so I remain confused but seeing them all doing it sure makes you ponder.

Why is it that we hit birthdays and decide 'I had to be HERE by NOW'? I was never going to be married to Colin Firth, even I knew it was a whimsy but still, there were a few things I'd like to have knocked out the park by now. To be honest, lately, life has kind of kicked my ass and I'm not entirely sure I'm ready for my 30s. Shouldn't I be done with hangups and lack of confidence by now? I look at girls in the bars in their early 20s and think 'Slow down girly, you have so much to enjoy. Lay back, enjoy the ride.' So I know I must have dropped some of that. But still, I'm not exactly reaching for the stars or hitting my stride yet. I kind of hoped I would be.

So do I make resolutions? Goals? Reinvent myself? Nope. I make more tea and watch the pretty cat dancing in the sunshine over there by the stunning cherry blossoms and think about laundry and going to pilates at long last. 

I never did make it to dance this week.....

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Recipe Day

It all started with an effort to support my local library. For those of you who don't know, hundreds of libraries across England are under the threat of closure due to cuts. As with many of this current governments cuts, this is an ill thought out, and perhaps illegal move. Those of you following for a while, will know I've highlighted this threat mutliple times, its something I feel particularly strongly about. If you're an English reader, I urge you to support.
I realised that I might not be 'doing my bit' as I wasn't a member of my LOCAL library. I went in often, used libraries to study in but with so much fiction exploding from my own personal library, tended not to take out anything. I realised I was not thinking correctly, there are RECIPE books in there! So I marched in, joined, signed every petition I could (and made everyone else in the queue sign too) and withdrew some recipe books. 

I gleefully read my way through Nigella Lawson's 'Express' and while I found myself rolling my eyes at another book containing 'jar of ready made sauce', I still believe this woman knows good food. Further into food heaven is Nigel Slater, my personal food hero. What I love about these food writers and chefs is their knowledge of food. I have started to really enjoy reading books about the subject of food, eating habits and so on. What Nigel and Nigella both manage is to convince you how fuss free food can be, not by stating 'It's simple' and listing 15 ingredients that the average family doesn't buy (hang your head in shame Mr Oliver) but by concentrating on the depth of flavour an ingredient can bring. 

I felt inspired.

I 'reinvented' a cookie recipe to include some cinnamon chips a friend had sent me, reflecting on the flavours I really wanted. The chips are creamy, strong and moreish so a good vanilla cookie dough was all that was needed. There'll be a recipe later in the week, I promise.

Pausing for more tea in THAT mug, I then turned my attention to the much craved bread. I dabbled with a triple mustard recipe, adding a little extra yeast, checking mustard contents for sugar and salt, to make the perfect loaf.

Oh and for anyone who wants to know how I go about working out 'perfect recipes', my 'recipe goes like this:
1. Get comfort food (I am ashamed to say the fish and chip shop provided this)
2. Get drink (alcoholic or other)
3. Sink into sofa with mountains of recipe books, pen and favourite note pad. 
4. Daydream about a certain flavour. 
5. Research flavour, recipes and jot down a remixed recipe idea

I highly recommend this process. Although perhaps not with the chips if you're watching your weight. Ahem.

Monday, 21 March 2011


Some random thoughts. I'm in that kind of mood.

1. I am overwhelmed by the comment response to the giveaway- how lovely to see you all. I've had fun following some of you back and yes, if you can answer for each one, it'll save me writing things out before hitting the random number generator. But I'll do that anyway in the interest of fairness. I'm like that.
2. I accidentally took one of my favourite photos the other day. It's a close up of an actress at an event we went to recently. She was 'exploring' my iphone and I snapped pics while we played. Her eye make up was fabulous and there's something about this image I just love. 

3. I love row 27 of my Spring Leaves stole. It's even better than row 11, which is also quite fun. It has a pleasing rhythm. As I'm almost finished, I just realised I knit it for the last time. This made me a little sad. 
4. I finish Cedar Leaves. I just need to weave in ends and block but I'm having a real lazy attack with this- very unlike me. I keep stating it's because I need to clean. 
5. I have not cleaned. Again, not like me.
6. There have been lots of bread making entries on blogs recently. I now have bread envy and will need to make some today. 
7. I am GOING to dance tomorrow. I am. Hold me to this.
8. My sister is the most beautiful person I know.
9. My man beast is the kindest
10. I accidentally found my best friend. She lives so far away, in a different time zone and yet we chat everyday. I am very glad for the happy accident that brought her into my life. 

Have another 'favourite' picture xx

Love you little sis xxxx

Friday, 18 March 2011

Featuring: The Lollipop Stop

Today I am featuring a very talented little lady indeed. Lauren is the owner and creator of The Lollipop Stop, one of my favourite project bag and stitchmarker sellers. I've known Lauren for a few years now and swooped on the first few bags she made, demanding robots and cherries. They're always lusted over whenever I swank them in public so I thought I would share further still.

You're also doubly lucky today, as Lauren is offering you, yes YOU the chance to win a project bag. There are 3 designs to choose from. To enter, simply reply to this post telling me which bag you'd like to receive before Midnight (GMT) on Thursday the 24th. If you'd like to increase your chances of winning, you can get an extra entry for following me and another one if you mention this giveaway on your blog! So that's 3 chances to win; please don't forget to leave a comment to tell me if you have mentioned me out there in the blogosphere.

Knit Tote

What are your favourite hobbies?
Knitting goes without saying! I started sewing due to some wrist problems, but now I also love the quickness and cuteness of sewing projects. Other than that, I love playing and watching sport, socialising and eating (what do you mean, that’s not a hobby?!)
Favourite Childhood Game?
Kiss chase. Well, that’s one I remember! Also, Stuck in the Mud, British Bulldog, Tag…I was quite active. But I was also addicted to the local libraries after I outread my school one, and would regularly read well into the night and wake up tired the next day.
Where do you find inspiration?
I don’t really know; I browse the internet a lot when looking for materials, but you can’t beat a good walk out in the woods or down by the river to get invigorated. I love mini-trips around England (and the rest of the UK!) as there is such variety in the landscape and so much to explore.
Are you an early bird or midnight owl?
I get grumpy if I don’t get my sleep or if I’m tired, but put on some cheesy music and I could dance all night! I’m quite cheerful by nature, and mornings are great, especially if you’re up early and have achieved something before you’re usually awake.
Tell us about a dream you recently remember
Eek, I dream about work quite a lot –recently I stood up to an annoying senior member at work and that was quite exciting (in the dream!) I have quite vivid dreams, and apparently I eat a lot in my sleep!!
Robot Tote

Comfort Food of choice?
Crunchy peanut butter on a cinnamon and raisin bagel, yum.
When you daydream, where do you tend to end up?
On a summer’s day, outside on a comfy seat, upbeat music on to singalong to, drink in one hand, project in the other :D (even better with friends!)
Tell us about the Lollipop Stop
Learning to sew bags all originated from inheriting a friend’s sewing machine [edited to add- that was yours truly, ahem] and discovering free online tutorials. The Lollipop Stop came about because I was lucky enough to have a great knit group who were suitably impressed and demanding of the bags I made; and selling them means my living room isn’t overflowing with cute colourful project bags!
Strut Tote

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Joyfully You Capture

I have been off the boil lately in terms of this weekly challenge. I saw 'emotions' and groaned.... I felt like poop, did I want to photograph that? NO

In my efforts to revive playfulness this weekend, I had lots of fun. I posted about dancing in a random tent in Deptford Market here. Here's shots of the best emotion ever: happiness. 

Enjoy life people! x

Featured: Yarn to Knit

This time my featured crafter is Yarn to Knit, an indie dyer who very kindly invited me and my friend into her home to craft and yarn gaze. It all begun as a suggestion to my friend of Yarn and Spices that we should check out some local dyers/ yarn shops. She casually replied to the Yarn to Knit, 'Oh Martina? She's lovely'. I was there!

We arrived and sat round happily, talking knitting and crochet, each with projects in our laps and plenty of tea to keep us refreshed. We chatted about recent shows Martina has attended (Unravel has just gone and she will be at Wonderwool- so keep your eyes peeled). Then Martina thought she'd get out some skeins to show us, and my friend and I promptly lost all ability to speak, save for some Gollum impressions. 

I mean look at just these two boxes? Aren't they delicious?

I dived in, pulling out warm skeins of plush british breeds and cool skeins with silk and bambo blends. I had a hard job narrowing things down....

 I reduced this pile one sad skein at a time, it was not easy! I finally settled on a sock yarn in the colourway 'Red Wine' and two skeins of DK in 'Peacock'. Yes, yes, I know that I'm dewstashing but it's my birthday soon so I'm allowed. Especially as I've been so discplined. It would've been rude not to buy after all that fondling anyway right?
We finished with more cake and cookies. It was generally a day made of win. Thanks Martina- you were such a poppet to feed us and supply us with yummy yarns!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Knit news

No you are not seeing double- that is TWO copies of Cookie A's new book 'Knit.Sock.Love'. I have been keeping very quiet about my double purchase since the beginning of February! I had the pleasure of meeting Cookie at my local LYS, Loop, over a month ago but having had one of the books signed for a friend, I wanted to wait until her book arrived. Thanks to increases in postal service security in the US however, it took an AGE to get there. 

So I can now tell you what a prize num-nut I made of myself with Cookie A. Joy! I had thought the book signing was being held the day before and that was the day I lay on the sofa with plague, or flu depending on whether you believe me or the doctor. On Sunday, I dragged myself to the farmer's market to get fresh produce to make me better and walked past Loop..... Cookie A was there! 

So I nervously went in and wished I'd worn better knitwear. I pretended to be looking at several skeins before finally plucking up the courage to say hi and ask for two signed books. Cookie was lovely and so charming. I was all excited to chat to her about her recent travels, having been following her and Anne Hansen's progress via blogland. I then froze, realising I must sound like such a stalker! It took her a while to coax a sentence out of me after this, then she blew it by saying 'I love that scarf' (pointing at man beasts Daybreak), 'Did you make that?'

I recovered speech just to squeak 'yes, thank you, bye now'.

What a dork.

I redeemed myself by getting into a conversation via blogland commenting and email with Anne about missing her that day, making a dork of myself and recommending a few last places for her to try in London. I'm hoping she told Cookie that I'm not such a muppet really, I just get scared by someone who can thinking in cables and socks that way she does....

Sunday, 13 March 2011

South London Wonder

It's definitely a slow and sleepy morning this morning. The South London exploration was indeed, fun but I am tired tired tired this morning. 

The invite outlined our itinerary for the day:
We'll be meeting in Brixton Village Market in Brick Box.
The walk will snake through Ruskin Park, go through some of the more scenic parts of Peckham, en route to Deptford Flea Market. If there is sufficient energy to continue we'll push on through Greenwich to Woolwich ferry which will be the final destination. 

That's about a 9 mile walk, with 30 odd people and stopping en route for activitities. Such as:
More libraries to save
Games of Pass The Parcel in the park with some very suspect drinks

Lunch at The Train- a cafe inside a train
Dancing to reggae
And some pubs, Mexican food and.... suddenly it was all quite late

We didn't make it to Woolwich......