Thursday, 26 January 2012

A Christmas of Baking Goodies

I'm very conscious that Christmas is actually now quite a while away, but I do want to share some of the lovely gifts I received - particularly as I've been able to put them to good use. The biggest theme in gifts this year seems to have been cooking, with very kind people giving me more beautiful silicone bakeware, drying racks, cookboooks, and a cupcake tower.

They've all been tried and tested, and I'm loving the additions to my cupboard. In fact, I may have to get a bigger cupboard.

These are some coffee cupcakes from Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery, and a version of red velvet cupcakes... They tasted great, but I am a bit sad that I didn't find the energy to ice them - they look so much better then! Since making these, I've also been playing with my new recipe book, Rachel Allen's Easy Meals, and have made the Orange and Almond cake and Vanilla and White Chocolate baked custards. The recipes are clear and easy to follow, though I found preparation times were longer than stipulated (might be me being slow, of course!), and both worked well. I made the foolish error of allowing myself to feel rushed, and taking the cake out of the tin too soon, so it collapsed somewhat, and the syrup (which should have been condensed further) was used to stick it back together! The custards were nice - I wanted to give them a go as slightly more exciting versions of the blamanges and crème caramels that certain relatives love, and they seemed to work... but I just don't like the texture when there isn't a strong flavour to take my mind off it. I might try them again with a strong dark chocolate, and see what happens!

As I'm more often at home at the moment, I'm enjoying the ability to socialise more from here, and I'm hoping the spring will see me experimenting with new recipes (and finding more guinea pigs to share them with). The only downside to the power of baking is that I have all this cake. Is it too late to suggest that a goal for 2012 may be to develop the willpower to resist eating it all?

Friday, 20 January 2012

Rudolfina accessories released

So, you wait ages for a pattern, and then two come along at once. Not only that, but once again, this is a pair of patterns in disguise.

The Rudolfina Accessories set comprises a pair of fingerless mitts and a beanie, featuring co-ordinating cables assorted to the scale of the projects. The mitts take approximately 130m of yarn, and the beret about 170m, meaning the entire set can be knit comfortably from three 50g skeins.

Both knit in the round, the beret alternates wide 'Horn' cables with narrower plaits, decreasing at four points to create an effective four-pointed star pattern.

The mitts feature a smaller 'Horn' cable on the back of the hand, and a plait along the far side (down from the little finger), with the added detail of a simple mock cable pattern over the palm, making the fabric softer and thinner for ease of wear.

Rudolfina Accessories: £3.00

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Allegra/Alletta : patterns released!

I'm coming to the conclusion that the New Year (growing older so quickly!) is going to be the year when I stop promising myself that I'll do things, and actually take the steps to make them happen. Rather longer ago that I initially planned, I mentioned that I'd had a lot of fun on a photoshoot with Rachel, and shared some of the shots with you.

I can now explain that this is a shot of Alletta: a top-down oblique triangle shawlette worked mostly in stocking stitch, with a diamond lace edging. Named for my aunt, who has since received the sample, Alletta is a relatively simple knit, which grows quickly, and works well in a range of solid and semi-solid - or even, as you can see, self-striping - yarns! It takes about 400m of a fingering weight yarn.

But that's not all. Alletta is one of a pair of shawls, the other being Allegra. Using the same lace pattern, and knit from the top down once again, Allegra is a right-angled triangle shawlette with all-over lace work. Needing about 400m of fingering weight yarn, Allegra is a great use for a precious semi-solid yarn with a little drape. The sample shown here was knit using Artist's Palette Smoothie Sock, which is a beautiful, beautiful yarn, and very easy to work with.

Either of these shawlettes would be a great intermediate lace knit - whether you like a relatively plain knit in stocking stitch but with a bit of interest at the end, or whether you prefer to work out the lace pattern over a small number of stitches first, to gain familiarity before you embark on the bigger project.

The 'eBook' (Alletta/Allegra: a pair of shawls) can be found on Ravelry here for the princely sum of £3.00, or click the button below.

[First time I've used the button, so please let me know if there're any problems!]

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Sharing some of my Christmas Crafting

Christmas 2011 was not a very crafty Christmas for me. I made things... I hope people liked them. But I did also buy a relatively high proportion of my gifts this year. Mostly, this was a decision based on time. I was knitting a jumper for Mr P, after all, and was conscious when making my Christmas lists that I simply wouldn't have time to knit a lot of other things.

I did, however, decide that a very special couple deserved something handmade. I've made embroidered cushions / pillowcases before, but I thought that an actual portrait demanded an actual frame. Mr P was sure there would be some way to make technology provide me with an outline sketch of a photograph, but I decided that elbow grease might work just as well, dug out a spare lamp, and cleared the lightbox section of my desk. In fact, it got double use this time - once to trace the outline from the printed photograph, and once to trace that outline onto the fabric. I'm afraid I failed to take any pictures of the work in progress, but here's the finished item, in its frame and ready to travel north to its new home. It isn't the most artistic of productions, but I'm pleased with it, and that will do for now.

And then there were the curtains. I've been promising Mr P (and myself, if I'm honest) that I'd make our flat some curtains for a very long time, and splurged on some sale fabrics in early October, only for them to sit in a tidy pile and wait. When my sister mentioned that she and her boyfriend would really like some plain curtains for their new cottage, I decided it was time to finally work out how a proper pair of curtains was put together. A bit of googling (and yes, I did turn to Kirstie Allsopp amongst others) and advice from the local curtain shop later, and my sister's new bedroom was draped. What more could my own curtains be waiting for?

Well, other than header tape, which I couldn't get until the shops opened again after the New Year, nothing but the imminent arrival of guests, apparently.

I love the sailing curtains in my office (which doubles as the guest room), though I do need to take them down and rearrange the gathers. Elsewhere, our balcony door now has a heavy drape (and a matching draft-excluder is in the works); and Mr P's study / my sewing room has what I think of as 'the gentlemen's club' curtain.

Monday, 16 January 2012

2011: A Year in Knitting

So, 2011 was the year of Knitting the Almanac for me. I've already talked about the first half of the year, but here's a bit of a recap, in case you missed it, and in order to provide completeness. (If you click to see the whole picture, it does include almost everything I talk about, starting from centre top and working clockwise through the year).

January: an Aran... my first self-designed project, using Elizabeth Zimmermann's recipe, and a cable stitch dictionary to knit my own saddle-shouldered aran cardigan. The first time I steeked, too!

February: a baby thing (February Baby Sweater) - easy and successful, about to be posted off to friends who've just had their first child.

March: a difficult sweater - FAIL. I like the idea of the technique, but the design I worked out to make it work for me as a jumper had too many stitches between colourwork sections - meaning really bad gauge issues, and a session at the frog pond. It has since become October's child's jumper, and stash for a Coraline cardigan and textured vest top.

April: a mysterious blanket - success! Not all that mysterious, in that making a multicoloured blanket rather displays the way it was knit, rather than hiding it as per EZ's plan, but I'm very pleased with it.

May: Squirrel mittens - great success, but recurring gauge issues... I love these, and am going to try them again, but I've found that my tension in colourwork is very, very tight, and they do not fit my (quite big) hands. (Here's a gratuitous shot of the person with whom they have found a home)

June: a hat. Easy, and actually quite nice. I removed some of the point, and it has not yet been cold enough to warrant hats here, but it will be pressed into service as temperatures drop.

July: a Pi shawl. I love this. I've blogged about it in detail before, but that was before I wore it much, and I was concerned that a circular shawl might be better used as a tablecloth than as a shawl. Not true - it's a great wraparound item, and I've been wearing it whenever my coats permit (ie, when I'm not wearing my winter waterproof, which has velcro)!

August: Christmas fiddle faddle - quick and easy. This felt a bit like a cheat, but I was rather busy with other things (getting married, specifically), and so I was very relieved to find that I could knit an EZ Christmas star in 45minutes. They even found a home amongst my Christmas card display for the festive season.

September: Nether garments... the unfinished project of the year. It hasn't been frogged, but thanks to my long legs, the fine yarn, and the simplicity of the knitting involved, this project is (so far) stalled at the just-above-the-knee point of the first leg. I'll go back to it, but not yet.

October: Open-necked pullover - really good knit. This was complicated by the fact that I had a child in mind, but not to hand for fitting, but it does, after all, fit, and I love the final effect. It was delivered just before Christmas, so missed the mass photo shoot, but here it is before it got buttons!

November: Mocassin Sock - qualified success. I knit one sock for the project in this month, because I was in the midst of writing and test knitting basic sock patterns (mini, child and adult) for my workshops, and so felt I had paid my sock-knitting dues. The mocassin construction is interesting, even if it looks very very strange off the foot, and involves 5 inches of 2x2 rib worked flat. I will make the second sock soon, I promise!

And finally, December: Hurry up Sweater! I think he likes it - it's Jared Flood's lovely Cobblestone pullover, started on December 1st, and finished December 31st. This is the only pattern of the year where I really stepped away from EZ's instructions, and followed someone else's pattern. Partly because I don't like Chunky knits, partly because Mr P is quite particular about styles, and partly because I didn't like the wishbone neckline.