Lest anyone should think I've not been busy making in the silence, I counted the projects in my knitting bag today and found no less than five ongoing - that's not counting the ones that will almost certainly never be finished that lurk, guilt-inducing at the bottom... Plenty of Christmas projects on the way - even a horrible cold can't stop them and it's nice to have an excuse to cuddle up on the sofa and feel I'm being useful. All secret of course, but nothing wrong with a hint or two... textures in muted shades and miles of stocking stitch for some fun with hot water next week! And I have been starting to knit for our March arrival and have just finished his first cardigan in the palest lime green alpaca bought in Paris. Based on this pattern though I didn't add the fabric insert and of course included three buttons for luck. Very easy to knit, and just unusual enough to be interesting. I have more of this alpaca in the palest of grey and have spent more hours than I should browsing Ravelry looking for the perfect pattern... And is it wrong to crave teeny tiny coat hangers to hang his teeny tiny garments on? C
With England's "big chill" on the way, and a very definite nip in the air here in London, I decided to stay at home today by the hearth (well, gas fired central heating). We may get slightly hysterical about the thought of -3 degrees, but without real summers as compensation, I think we're entitled... To pass the time, I've been clearing out and making room for March's arrival, but predictably enough I was distracted by the Liberty lawn scraps left over from the top I made in the summer. Having some lovely organic lavender from Neals' Yard Remedies, where in their Covent Garden you can buy herbs of all sorts by the ounce from big jars like an old fashioned sweetie shop, albeit an apothecary one. With a silk ribbon hoop attached with shell buttons for hanging on hangars, and firmly stitched so they can be popped in the dryer for a little summer freshness now that winter is here. Sweet smelling lavender sachets to sooth the mind and heart... C
been a lot of thinking about the past recently and i was feeling a bit blue and decided to make some buns - granny's buns i always call them! they are the easiest buns in the world - 4oz flour 3oz sugar 2oz butter 1 egg - as in 4321 granny buns!
you can add whatever you have to hand - a few raisins, some lemon juice, icing on top and cherries or slice off the top and make buterflies with butter cream!
they really are emergency buns for the soul! ...A
Finally found a yarn that knits and felts and shapes like a dream for my little felted bowls - Cascade 220 - fairly mystical to us UK dwellers until recently, though now it's available here. Knitted in garter stitch for a bit more structure, these felted really well at 60 degrees in a front loader, with the week's towels, so I don't even feel any green guilt!...C
Before I put my career on hold to stay at home and concentrate on creating a family (due for arrival March '09!), I was a graphic designer. I worked for almost 18 years in the industry, in later years as a design director, but always as a very hands on designer alongside my team. Since setting that aside, I have found it difficult to imagine returning to the discipline. Spending time working on the re:made project with my sister has been fun, but it was with a certain amount of relief that I turned to the graphics we'd need for our enterprise. For the last few days, I've been working on my mac to create our identity and implement it. Still a great deal more hand work than my usual job, punching and hand tying tags, but it's comforting that the crispness, the order and the control my computer brings me still appeals...C
Just thinking back about Halloween when you two were little. Do you remember that we used to make the lanterns using TURNIP!! No fancy pumpkins in Ireland in those days!! Can you remember the smell of burning turnip and scorching string? Ow! Ow! Too hot on those little fingers! A
Well, the nursery is full of bugs as usual at this time of the year but most of the kids seemed to be well enough to get to the Halloween party today. Halloween just wasn't such a big thing when we were kids but it's hit us hard in all its American glory nowadays and it's great fun. We're suffering from another bug in this house though - ever since I started to make things for our 're:made' project Joe has been suffering from a serious bout of the 'making' bug - it's an extremely virulent strain so watch out if you've not caught it already! He's had it before but not so aggressively. You can't leave anything lying around or he starts cutting it up to make animals and finger puppets and ponds for plastic frogs. It's wonderful really but we were the only ones with a home-made costume at the party today which is great now but I wonder how long he'll want to do that for? V
Well, I've finally finished the top I started in the summer - actually, considering I pulled a whole side out and re-knitted it, it hasn't really taken me all that long! I've not worn it yet but I think it's turned out quite well. It's a Rowan pattern by Martin Storey but I knitted it in Debbie Bliss Cathay yarn from the John Lewis sale. It's incredibly heavy and as it's knitted in moss stitch it's distinctly like chain mail. The family joke is that I need to get started on the armour to wear over it - is this a good thing I ask myself? Mmmmm.... V
More cake making, though this time courtesy of another kind of alchemy - that of two sticks and a length of string. No less fun to create, knitted fairy cakes, from perfectly coloured Rowan four ply cotton that I bought in the John Lewis sale eons ago and have never found a suitable project for. Chocolate and vanilla versions finished with pretty coloured bun cases and icing, and lovely pearlescent pins for decoration. I made up this recipe as I went along but have finessed it over the last few versions - not quite so easy in a batch of baked buns! Sadly, though satisfying to look at, these ones don't taste so good as my last versions, and I fear that even Green & Black's chocolate icing would do little to help, so I'm off to finesse further - with the help of one of the last of chocolate smothered ones and some hot tea.... C
Chatting to my sister on the phone this morning, discussing my nephew's ability to do mental arithmetic (he's four!), I claimed he must take after the same branch of the family as me - the scientific ones. I love maths - weird I know - mixing my arts education with physics and maths and I consider my brain to be as scientific as artistic. Why then my unfailing awe at the alchemy that applying heat to eggs, sugar and flour gives these? A source of constant amazement to me. These ones destined to be smothered in Green & Blacks chocolate icing, with the first, and quite possibly the second, to be enjoyed whilst still almost too hot to eat with a pot of Earl Grey tea to fortify me for the afternoon ahead... C
This little bun Joe made just makes me smile - not a very appetising colour perhaps but it was made for me so I had to eat it! A small pair of knitted shoes for my neighbour's third baby when he arrives. The very last of our small crop of blueberries in my very favourite small hand. V
Again following the recycled theme, these are the button pieces I've been making for our joint venture which we're calling 're:made'. So far, I've been really lucky and have found a good local supply of lovely second-hand buttons but just when I needed to find some large dark-coloured ones for the centres of flowers some-one else went in and bought the lot! -Ah well, I suppose I've already had more than my fair share.
I've been really enjoying making these button pieces and also searching for buttons. I'm finding myself running back from nursery to sit at the table with my collections of buttons and listen to Woman's Hour on Radio Four. Last week, I was stitching buttons onto tea-cosies when an article came on about buttons and specifically about this installation of six million buttons that's been put together in Huddersfield Art Gallery. Each button represents one of the six million lives lost in the Holocaust and the sound of the curators wading through the buttons was chilling. V
And then there's felt for the lazy folk like me! Actually, I'm trying to bring a bit of a recycled edge into a lot of my pieces to satisfy the forager in me. So, alongside my cards, I am boiling jumpers to make tea cosies and flower brooches in nice soft colours. V
Sis and I have been so busy creating that we've been shamefully remiss where our blog is concerned. And the irony given our name is not lost on us. We're working on a joint project (more on that another time), and at the extremities of the UK, so our only way of sharing what we're up to is to mail images backwards and forwards. Shameful not to add some of my share here then... all works in experimentation with patterns rewritten daily and much switching, and swatching, of yarns... Baby bootees in the softest of bamboo yarns, my own pattern but only made possible with the wisdom of countless women, knit in the round to eliminate the seams, and I'm still trying to work out how to use a figure of eight cast on to get rid of the last seam on the sole. Silver plated wire knit with beads into a bracelet - so tough in execution on the hands, and indeed my bamboo needles, but so very delicate in completion. And little knitted felted bowls for storing trinkets, though these haven't felted terribly well, leaving some unwanted stitch definition, so I'm on the hunt for a new yarn to try. And oh how I wish for my grandmother's ancient top loading twin tub washing machine! C
If you're sick of making jam and have no more space to store it you just have to try making blackberry ice-cream! We made ours without an ice-cream maker using Sarah Raven's suggestion of partially freezing it and then whipping it up before replacing it in the freezer which worked fine. It is simply delicious but also worth making just for the pleasure of stirring the cream through the beautiful magenta pink syrup - yum. V
Well, as usual, I've been side-tracked from my drawing project and instead I've been absorbed with thoughts of "how on earth can I make some money?" So, I was thinking back to the days when I spent my summer holidays making Christmas cards for Heal's and was considering doing the Christmas market here with various bits and bobs - cards, knitting and sewing... I have loads of cellophane bags left from my card-making days so there would be very little outlay for that side of things. I fancied doing something a bit fresher looking than all that red and gold of previous times. What do you think of these two samples sis? - they're made from insides of envelopes and are dead easy so can I can churn them out! V
I have made a few of these over the last couple of years - only for people who deserve all those stitches of course! Knit in gorgeous Kidsilk Haze on large bamboo needles, these make great TV knitting, though they aren't the most challenging of projects. Once blocked they take on an ethereal quality, and drift beautifully, but with surprising warmth. The first is for a very good friend, and to suit her, is knit in single rib in a gold Kidsilk Haze Night shot with a glitteriness. The second is in a beautiful blue grey garter stitch and just perfect for another favourite person. Though I truly admire all the lovely elaborate lace wraps and shawls out there knit in this yarn, the simplicity of these is much more me, creating a scarf I love while leaving me to simultaneously enjoy Gray's Anatomy! ...C
There's an amazing shop near our parents' house in France, which sells everything you need for the home and, being France, a great deal more besides. In fact, quite alot I wouldn't allow in the same postcode as my home... Anyway, one rainy day in January, we went on a trip there to spend some happy time browsing the aisles of the weird and the wonderful (some aisles distinctly more weird than wonderful, but that's another story). The one thing that stuck in everyone's mind were the paella pans, ranging in size from a deux to catering. So this summer, having done a fair amount of experimentation with cooking on wood fires outside, dad found a large, old tin bath and proposed we cook a paella over a wood fire outside. Mum and I didn't take much (OK, any) persuading to pay another visit to the weird and wonderful shop, where we bought a big paella pan, more than half a metre across. Of course dad and the Working Man duly told us it wasn't big enough when we got home... A date was set, an excuse was seized to make a new long wooden table (dad of course) and on a beautiful Sunday when everyone was sure it would rain, men made fire and paella was cooked outside in the glorious sunshine. Man's work obviously, with dad as head chef, and the many, many cooks and stirrers did nothing to spoil this particular dish. It was served up in the shelter of the trees to lots of happy friends who were happily holidaying nearby, and after alot of cake to finish off, worked off with some very competitive, and slightly drunken badminton. Pretty much perfect, destined to become an annual family tradition, and there was even paella left over for lunch the next day... See? We told you that pan was big enough... C
The Working Man and I have been in the south of France for the last two weeks, hot on the heels of sis and family, soaking up some sunshine, spending time with mum and dad and having some fun. Lots to share, but guilt still has me battling the tide of laundry, so in the meantime, a little sunshine to brighten this very dull day... C
Well, here I am again, the other two are still in France so they'll have to catch up when they get back.
I thought I'd just put a couple of images of my most recent pieces onto the blog to give myself something to think about. I definitely want to get back into a new studio-based project over the winter months and am thinking of starting some sort of material-based drawing project. It needs to be something fairly simple so that I can do it whenever I can snatch some time - I enjoyed the 'Index Card Summer' project that 'domesticali' has on her blog and think something based around a diary might be a good idea, even just until I can define the area that I really want to explore. I still like the last pieces I made for the 'Found Word' exhibition made from long wrapped slices of text from discarded solicitors' papers and like the idea of continuing to work on long slivers of material. When I was in India, I went to a temple where I was given a private showing of their collection of chronicles written on long thin cut palm leaves tied together in bundles and the images have always stayed with me so maybe a collection of daily thoughts would be a start. Anyway, watch this space... V
Well, here in Scotland, we're all getting back into the routine of school and nursery and looking outside, you'd think it was the depths of winter already! I know that nowhere in the UK has escaped the awful wet weather this summer but there is something about the rain that falls on the West Coast of Scotland that feels endless and seems to penetrate every nook and cranny so that you continually feel damp - it makes me long for the cold, dry and crisp sunshine of the East Coast that we left behind nearly two years ago now. Ah well, no better time for settling down with a good film and some knitting!
Although the weather hasn't been great, we've all had a lovely holiday and it's been quite a wrench to take Joe, my four year old, back to his morning nursery place. I'm not sure what I find more upsetting, leaving him there or the fact that he has only one more year of this before he starts school and what then? Whatever the reason, I'm afraid I shed a few tears again each time I left him last week and miss him dreadfully for the few short hours that he's away.
So, projects, projects...my mind is working overtime on where I go from here. Since we moved here, I've been really lucky to meet some great women, some of whom have become really good friends and we're all in the same boat - wanting to be around for our kids when they go to school yet wanting to fit in something stimulating for ourselves but what? At least I'm lucky in that I have come from an art and design background and therefore I can happily work from home but I need to decide how I want to target my work for now. It's been over two years since my last exhibition and slightly more since my commission for the Arches Healthcare Building which is the longest gap I've had and therefore a bit daunting but it also gives me the opportunity to think again about the direction my work should or could go in or indeed, whether I should change direction altogether and pursue my love of gardening and growing. Over the summer, however, we've had lots of fun doing some major projects, building cruise liners and chocolate factories as well as growing some lovely veg.And I've been painting pots for my little cacti from Ikea. I still love that spring green, I know it's dead common but it gives me such a positive feeling when I see little snatches of it around the house.
I've also finally knitted up the yarn I bought from Loop when I was visiting big sis in London this time last year and you can't really get more autumnal than this. It needs a bigger button to make more of statement but I'll need to find one - hopefully I have a little time before I need to wrap up quite that warm!
Other than that, I'm still finishing a nice long black belted tabard-like top in a soft Debbie Bliss yarn and I am knitting a Kidsilk scarf for my sister in law and one for her daughter. I also went to John Lewis at the weekend to stock up on baby cashmerino as there's a couple of babies on the way, including one rather special one!
Anyway, it's time to pick up Joe and have some lunch so no major decisions have been made this morning, ah well! V
It's been quite a while since my sewing machine saw the light of day, but some fabric spied in the Liberty sale and a dire lack of summer tops were inspiration enough to dust it off. Very loosely based on this pattern I adjusted the length of the bodice section to make a hip skimming top, and changed the neckline completely, adding random pleats. I'm pretty happy with the result and will certainly be making another, with improvements of course... just as soon as I can get to Liberty again... C
Well - I have been out and listened to my broad beans, runner beans and the beautiful purple melissa beans and I can't hear any of them ticking! AND I have been in my larder and listened to my very best basmati rice - silence.....! SO hoorah for magic beans and rice that are ticking!
These are the new beds I built in the garden in Spring full to the top with delicious things to eat. We have had to freeze excess Romanesca and Kale this year in order to make the most of our sugarsnap peas and salad leaves - mizuna, red and green salad bowl, rocket, mustards and other tasty things. It's a pretty small plot but seems to be nice and fertile - plenty of courgettes for us and our friends and neighbours which is always nice! Like last year, I'm really enjoying finding new ways to prepare and cook the things that I've grown and loving Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook once again - it always inspires me to go out foraging for elderflowers, blackberries and wild garlic - yum
Here I am, daughter number two, joining in at last! I'm sitting here with my four year old son squeezed onto my lap and repeating everything I say so I hope that these sentences will be at least partly comprehensible! Anyway, as a new blogger, it may take me some time to warm up to this, although I have been busily taking photos with this in mind so I'll try to do a bit more next time - preferably without the parrot on my knee!
This time, I just want to thank my sister for the beautiful warm socks. I can't believe that I feel the need for such a wintery bit of comfort in July but the weather here certainly doesn't resemble any summer I remember! Anyway, thanks sis - much needed as you'll see from the very much loved and worn last pair!
It's the time of the summer where our garden starts to change colour. The legacy pinks of our roses and hebe fade and the stage is set for the whites, and they just shine against the dark green and purple foliage of the garden. The clematis is making an encore to join the late show and even the french beans are wearing white this year! ... C
having been an avid blog reader for ages now and watching all these women being part of a great big community - i am now so excited that having started this thing we are actually getting comments from people around the world - albeit only 2 so far but heck!!! mind you it does make me feel i had better do my sewing, knitting and cooking better!!
no pics this time - but - here we are in belfast and been to the market this morning! bought some fab fish - asked about buying dover sole - most people would think it would be so expensive but we are so lucky - buying fish from the fishermen in the middle of the city!! so ended up with 3 dover sole for the price of 2 as they say - in the end we could only eat 2 and have to eat the third one cold. total cost £3!! we did what we have done before - tried to make the pescardo we had in northern spain - unsuccessfully mostly! but sometimes delish! combined with salad leaves from the garden - altogether a good meal - of course, with a bottle and a bit of wine from our other home in bordeaux! BUT we also have a HUGE ling - strange eel like fish - filleted and in the freezer for fish and chips. as always when you go to st. george's market in belfast there is a story... the nice man i buy from = one of three who now turn out to be brothers!!! oh - he said - ling is my favourite fish - pause....! i think it is because of my grandmother - she used to salt it - hmm dont know how she did that - and we ate it with potatoes and it was just the best thing - just lovely! then also there is my brother!! you know the guy you usually buy from - you know down the other end of the market - the one with the glasses! (yes i know). you will never find ling on his stall (correct i never have) he takes the ling - fillets it - cuts the fillets into 4 and then he has a smoke house and he smokes it and sells it smoked.....no idea how much for but...hmm.. thats added value!!!! oh i thought - i wonder where you can get that! then i bought local strawberries and i am going to make the strawberry sorbet i just came across on the hugh fearnley whittenstall - dont know if that the right spelling - in case chums come to eat with us before we head off to france again! THEN - there is the story of the mockcrocs.......! but thats for the telling!
Finally finished the Circular Shrug (Ravelry link - sorry, but if you aren't on there yet, why the heck not?). Knitted in black Debbie Bliss Pure Silk - 8 skeins scored at the John Lewis sale last year and another added at the last minute (not a matching dyelot but I think I got away with it). The Pure Silk is lovely to knit with, though not terribly even and with lots of joins per skein, and the resulting fabric has a lovely drape and lustre. But it does pill like mad which is already making it look slightly scruffy. Might need to get my fuzzaway on it... The pattern is really clever although I changed it slightly to get over seaming the ribbing across the front which I doubted I could do neatly. Instead I worked on the main, central section first, using a provisional cast on and once I had my length and was onto the ribbing, I picked up the provisional cast on and knit in the round on a circular needle. And I used a twisted double rib, knitting into the back of each knit stitch, but that's primarily because my ribbing tends to look sloppy and looked wrong against the much neater mock rib. If I was to knit it again, I would include the section of mock rib that joins to make the armhole in the circular knitting to eliminate the small seam either side, and I think I would make is slightly narrower across the shoulders - I seem to have ended up with an excess of fabric at the underarm - especially at the back. But it's actually pretty adaptable, looking very different unpinned and pinned at the front, and even very different according to where you pin it. Overall I am as yet undecided about it - though the yarn alone makes me want to wear it. I think it might benefit from a bath and further pressing. It should make a nice winter garment over a polo neck or half sleeve T shirt, and you never know... perhaps I'll grow into it! ...C
The first pair of socks I've made in ages. Very fluffy soft hugs in a lovely sage green for the feet of my sis. Very simple toe up socks with short row heel loosely based on many patterns, with a lightly frilled top to ensure extra comfy wear and no ribbed legs in the morning if you wear them to bed. I hadn't appreciated until now just how hard it is to photograph socks - tried them every which way but finally gave up and settled for this one when I spilt a cup of black coffee on the white linen tablecloth... Not so lucky as it turns out. But it's my habit to knit luck into socks by knitting them throughout in multiples of three - for the stitches and the rows. These were knitted with double stranded Rowan Kidsilk Haze - on 3mm needles of course... It made me think that for a so-called agnostic, I have a tendency to try to gather luck around me when I can, however I can.
Little cat charms from my brother in law which watch over us from the top of a picture. A figure brought back from Botswana by my sis (I think he guards our luck - though I could very well have just made that up). A black cat, though he rarely awakes for long enough from his daytime stupor to walk across my path. A little fairy - for what are fairies if not lucky? And lots of lucky stones... which mum calls footles. Or maybe that's futles. Footells? Who knows... In any case we have lots. Partly because the beach at Whitstable consists of almost nothing else, so if ever I feel in particular need of some luck, that's where I head!
Last but not least, my lucky four leaved clovers - one found here in England by the Working Man and one in France by mum - spookily just days apart. Actually mum found two in quick succession, so dad decided that it was a particular variety or at the very least caused by growing conditions and spent hours watching the ground at his feet as he walked - to no avail. We have a fourth lucky four leaved clover in the family - my granny's - which both my sister and I borrowed for our wedding days, so I like to think of mine being passed down too. Conversely, or perhaps that should be perversely, my granny swore that the luckiest day was Friday the 13th, and I'd have to agree, as I met the Working Man on one of those very days almost exactly seven years ago. No sign yet of the seven year itch, and of course, the passage of time and cell renewal being as it is, we're not even the people we met... but that's another story... C
The first tomatoes - tiny, matt green jewels - have suddenly appeared on the plants, though since their appearance, I don't think the sun has shone once, so green they will remain for now. And the first, teeny, tiny courgette in the side garden. And then there was last week's other first, but everyone who needs to know knows, so I'll keep that under my hat for now. A week of firsts. Hoping for a slightly more sedate week this week...C