Friday, 30 September 2011

FO - Ardently in Love

I am so pleased to be able to share this project with you today. Artistic outdoorsy shots will have to wait until Sunday, because I'll take those at the wedding tomorrow! Presenting my Jane Austen Shawl:

I draped as artfully as I could.

Project: Ardently in Love*
Pattern: Jane Austen Shawl by Wendy Lewis
Yarn: Knit Picks Shimmer in Elderberry
Hook: 4mm

I followed the pattern exactly, with no modifications. I haven't weighed my leftover yarn yet, but it took maybe one and a half skeins. Apart from the irritation of the incredibly long starting chain and awkward first row (I hate crocheting into chains), I loved working on this shawl. It was my second project with an alpaca/silk blend and I have to say that it is fast becoming my favourite yarn type to work with!

I did have some issues working out what the pattern was getting at with the edging; doing the first edge was ok, but the second edge was a lot harder! It could do with a better explanation of where to put the stitches, I think.

And of course, blocking it meant I got to play with all my new blocking toys!

Pre-blocking. See my awesome new interlocking foam alphabet tiles!

Wired and pinned out. Can't believe how much it grew in width!

A close up shot of pins and wires in action.

Obligatory cat assistance. He wasn't around when I pinned it out,
but was on hand to help me unpin it and remove the wires.

So I'm all set for the wedding tomorrow. Typical that the temperatures are set to soar to a rather unseasonably hot 28 degrees, so my snuggly warm alpaca shawl is not likely to be needed until much later on in the evening! But I will try and get some lovely artistic shots in the sunshine.

Head on over to Tami's to see more finished objects, and don't forget to check back on Sunday for more shots of the shawl in action!

*You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you - Mr Darcy, Pride and Prejudice

Thursday, 29 September 2011

More crafting goals

I know what you're thinking. With the Year of Projects well underway, and the War on WIPs, do I really need another set of crafting goals? Especially when my original plans for 2011 included lots of miniature painting that I simply haven't done.

However, I have recently rediscovered my love of LARP. If there's one thing LARP is good for, it's getting my sewing machine out to make costumes! I recently shared some of my old costume FOs and have a nice long list of new pieces I want to make.

One thing spurring me on is that I finally fixed my tailors dummy. I bought it cheap on ebay on the understanding that the base was broken and it was missing the funky tool that allows you to measure skirt hems. I was confident Jamie would be clever enough to fix the broken base, and that I wouldn't need to worry about the other missing part as I'd hardly need it.

Well, it's been a number of years since I bought that dummy, and we've only just got around to fixing it! I broke our bedside lamp the other week (all I did was knock it over a bit!) and as I was preparing to throw it away, we suddenly realised the potential of the lamp's rather sturdy base.

Jamie drilled a hole in the base of the dummy's stand, and it slides neatly onto the lamp base!

A better foot than the original, I dare say.
Now I have a working tailors dummy again, I can really get going on making some awesome new costume for myself. I already have a selection of appropriately themed costume patterns from Simplicity, Butterick and McCalls.

These are all the things I'd like to make.

I've already made the shirt and waistcoat on the bottom right pattern. I didn't get around to doing the skirt or harem trousers underneath last year, so these are top of my list this time around.

The waistcoat is a touch too small, but the shirt is spot on.
It's even survived a number of trips through the washing machine!

I have some material in a box or two under the bed, so I'm going to have a hunt through those before spending any money in the fabric shop. I may splash out on some new patterns, too, if I find anything else suitable for my elf.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Cook from a Cookbook - Sicilian Pork burgers

As I'm lagging behind my fellow cookbook challengers who have already posted about their first forays into the kitchen guided by a dusty and unused recipe book, I thought it was high time I caught up!

Our weekend was shifted by a day this week on account of the rugby, so we only did our weekly food shopping today. So tonight's dinner was the meal chosen to venture into our newest cookery book: Burgers: 52 Easy Recipes for Year-round Cooking (Recipe of the Week).

Rather than work our way through this book from front to back, we've decided to pick and choose depending on the mood. I doubt we'll even use all 52 recipes in the book, as some of them are decidedly odd. For tonight's dinner, we settled on the Sicilian Pork burgers (page 76).

We served the burgers simply, with crinkle cut oven chips.

They are made with pork (obviously), seasoned with fresh garlic, mint, rosemary, parsley, oregano, sage and chilli flakes. They smelled delicious when they were in the pan and I have to say, tasted fantastic. Pork meat must be denser than beef or turkey, because the burgers we made were far smaller than the beef or turkey burgers we've made before. They were also far more meaty to eat, if you know what I mean.

I'm not sure if we'll have a chance to delve into our cookbooks next week, as our normal food shopping schedule will be interrupted by our trip oop north for the wedding. We'll have to wait and see!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Year of Projects Update - September 25th

I had hoped to show you my Jane Austen Shawl this week, in all its blocking-in-progress glory. My blocking wires and pins arrived in plenty of time. However, I haven't been as luck with the ordering of my interlocking foam tiles, which I bought from eBay a few days ago. They were in the post on Friday, so I was really hoping they would arrive on Saturday morning.

Unfortunately, there was no post on Saturday at all.

Fingers are now crossed that they will arrive tomorrow. I have the day off work as Wales are playing in the rugby at silly o'clock, so will have plenty of time to get it soaked and stretched and pinned. It's got till Friday to dry so I should be alright! I've tested it with the dress I planned to wear today as well, and it goes perfectly. I will hopefully have time on Sunday next week once we've got back from Yorkshire to upload some action shots of me wearing it at the wedding.

So, today's update is once more lacking in reportable progress. I've mostly been working on non-YoP projects this week. But one thing I did manage to achieve was a reorganisation of my Ravelry queue! I had 8 pages of patterns in it. Given there are thirty patterns to a page, that's nearly 240 patterns I'd queued in the last year and a half. There was quite a lot of duplication, I mean one girl doesn't really need twenty triangular lace shawls, does she...

In paring down my queue, I realised that there were patterns on my queue that I wanted to make more than some of the patterns on my YoP list! So it's time for another change around.


The patterns I'm kicking off the queue are the Hexagon Baby Jacket, Sunflower Jumper and Geometry Dress.


I'm adding four patterns to the queue to replace those three. Enter the Pond Friends Stacking Toy, Leafy Fingerless Gloves, Free Rapunzel! and Alasse Miriel Hooded Cowl.

The stacking toy is a straight replacement for the baby jacket, intended as a gift for my impending nephew/niece. I'm hopefully going to get started on it next week, once we're back from the wedding. The Free Rapunzel hat I decided to make when I impulsively bought four balls of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Chunky in a delicious chocolate brown colourway. If I'm going to get it done before winter properly hits, it's got to go on the list!

The other two, the gloves and hood, I want to make for LRP costume. I'd like to get the gloves done before the next event, which is mid-November, but the hood can wait until next year.

It seems like knitting is creeping in and taking over. I am sorry, crochet! I do still love you, I promise!

Friday, 23 September 2011

FO Friday - Jewellery rack tutorial(ish)

Everything I'm working on at the moment is something of a longer-term project. So there won't be a yarny FO for another couple of weeks (so if it's yarny FOs you're after, head over to Tami's to see what the rest of the gang have created!)

But, to fill the gaps, I'm going to try and dig up old finished projects that I can share with you all. Up today is something I made a few years ago as a way of storing my jewellery. I was reminded of it when hunting around on Pinterest for interesting things I spotted this interesting project:

Silverwear trays repurposed as necklace cases
original source here
Mine isn't quite as fancy, but it certainly does the job (and has done for a while now).

Welcome to the corner of my bedroom

I didn't follow a pattern or a tutorial or anything; I pretty much just made it up as I went along, based on the image I had in my head of what I wanted it to do. It was a fairly inexpensive project.

Necklace rack

I took a length of balsa or bass wood (not sure which, it was that long ago) and cut it into lengths. For the earring rack, three lengths of 12 inches. The necklace race is two lengths of 24 inches. The piece of wood I bought is half an inch square in profile.

I measured the distance required between each row by measuring the longest item I wanted to hang (so you can customise it to fit your own jewellery). Having acquired some rather lovely pink thonging from somewhere, I decided to paint the wood to match.

I used Citadel Miniature paints, because that's what I had! In tentacle pink, warlock purple and liche purple. For the earring rack I did one length in each colour; the necklace rack I painted a third in each colour.

The earring rack had holes drilled into the ends to allow the pink thonging through, and I used that to attach the three pieces of wood together. I tied a knot above and below each piece of wood to hold it in place.

Earring rack

For the necklace rack, an inexpensive pack of short tacks provided the hooks to hang the necklaces from.

Oh dear, I think my silver needs a polish

For the earrings, I knew this wouldn't be good enough, so I picked up some packs of screw eyes.

Oops! Maybe I should have cleaned first. Ignore the dust! Focus on the
pretty parrot earrings and feathers instead!
I alternated large and small across the three lengths of wood. The weight of the earrings forces the wood to hang at an angle, but I don't really mind that.

I used some left-over large screw eyes to hang the racks from nails hammered into the wall.

Quick, easy and very handy! Now all I need to do is get back into the habit of actually putting my jewellery away on them when I take it off. Both racks were full to bursting when I first made them, so who knows where all my necklaces are hiding!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Cook from your Cookbooks!

Recipe books are funny old things. We buy them fully intending to use them, to cook from them, to replicate these wonderful recipes we've seen on the TV. We want to invite people round, and wow them with our culinary skills.

What usually happens, though, is we get the book home, flick through it a bit while ooohing and aaaahing over the pretty pictures, earmark one or two recipes to try, before putting the book on a shelf and then never picking it up again. All the while, we are cooking the same repertoire of ten or so different meals, which somehow we never seem to get bored of.

Luckily, the lovely Natalie over at Misadventures in Craft has come up with a brilliant idea. Why don't we actually use our cookbooks! They're full of interesting, tasty food which we could be eating!

She, like me, has got a bit stuck in a routine of having the same quick, easy meals every week. She's suggested that perhaps it isn't totally inconceivable to branch out and try a new recipe from one of the many cookbooks in her house each week. And that we might like to join in as well!

I mentioned it to Jamie, and he was keen to give it a go. We do like to cook; we have a fair old collection of recipe books, and while one is quite heavily used, the rest are pretty much in pristine condition.

They don't quite fit on the shelf neatly, so I took them down to take the pic
You can tell from the state of the dust cover that James Martin's Collection is the most used of them all. It's an excellent recipe book, filled with classic British meals all cooked in a very sensible Yorkshire fashion (albeit with lots of fattening butter and cream). I swear by his Yorkshire pudding recipe, both for my Yorkshire puddings (as a half-Yorkshirewoman, it would be embarrassing for me to fail at making them) and my very popular (with Jamie) toad-in-the-hole. The cauliflower cheese is pretty good too.

Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home is responsible for my favourite recipe to date, the Steak, Ale and Cheese Pie. 30 Minute Meals has caused something of a controversy since publication, since most of them take longer than 30 minutes when you include all the kitchen and ingredient prep. But, it does say so at the start of the book, and quite frankly, even if it takes 45 minutes instead of 30, it's worth it because the food is amazing.

The rest of them, well, I don't really have enough of a basis on which to form an opinion, as I've only made one or two other recipes out of the lot of them combined. I don't think I've even looked inside the Rick Stein Mediterranean Escapes book and I've had it for years!

So, Jamie and I will start to use these recipe books. I also have two more on the way: Recipe of the Week: Burgers and The Takeaway Secret. We've recently become quite fond of making our own burgers, so we're looking forward to branching out from our usual cheese-filled beef recipe (no link, as Jamie pretty much experimented until we got it right).

At least to begin with, I suspect our day of experimenting will be Sundays, as we'll have just been food shopping for the week and will have the time to spend in the kitchen. We may not manage every week, some weeks we might do more than one. I doubt I will end up posting about it on the same day each time, or on the same day as everyone else who is getting involved. Hopefully we will all inspire each other to try out new recipes and broaden our culinary horizons!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Time for another WIP Wednesday/Yarn Along...

Morning all! How is it Wednesday already? This week feels like it's flying by. Wednesday can only mean one thing (well, two things actually!) - time for a WIP Wednesday/Yarn Along post!

Thinking of Me, Forest Lace and my new Pratchett

This week has been all about the knitting. I haven't touched any of the crochet WIPs. Forest Lace came with me to Alton Towers; I knit in the car on the way up to Northampton and on the way to the theme park, but was too tired to knit coming back that evening. As I did the driving to come home the next day, I obviously got no further knitting done on that journey either!

It's 17" long now, and the yarn cake is showing no signs of getting any smaller! I guess that is the wonder of laceweight yarn. I am starting to think that perhaps I won't need my second skein; I haven't weighed my yarn cake again to see if my earlier prediction was on track, but last time I checked I reckoned I could get 50" out of the one skein. I am hoping this will be the case, as then I can use the second skein to knit something else! No idea what though.

Over the last couple of evenings, the Thinking of Me scarf has been my focus. Each row is so much shorter than the Forest Lace (29 stitches as opposed to 73!) and because it's DK not laceweight, it knits up quicker. So Thinking of Me is also now 17" long. I meant to weigh the yarn last night to check how far through my first ball I was, but forgot. I am not quite halfway through the wavy eyelet rib section, so hopefully that wont eat too much into my second (and final) ball. I don't want to run out of yarn halfway through the interlocking heart charts! I am still loving the Debbie Bliss Cashmerino, though. Can't wait to use it again on my next Year of Projects crochet project!

Now, the book. I finally finished Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett (I managed to leave my books in work last week, before going on holiday, so wasn't able to read at all over the trip or the weekend). I have to say, barring Monstrous Regiment, I think it was the worst Discworld book I've read so far. I was really afraid that Terry was losing his touch. Perhaps the Alzheimers was getting to him?

I am so pleased to say I have been proved wrong by I Shall Wear Midnight. I love Tiffany Aching as a character, I love the witches in general. And I love the Nac Mac Feegle. I'm only a third or so through the book, but even after the opening chapter I knew this book was so much better than Unseen Academicals. I think perhaps the problem is that the wizards aren't funny enough to be the focus of a book any more.

I see from the front page of the book that there is a further Discworld book on the list, Snuff. It's out next month, and it's a Sam Vimes book. Fingers crossed it's a good one, because I love the Watch books.

For more WIP Wednesday/Yarn Along posts, follow the links at the top of the post.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Christmas comes early....

When we got back home on Friday after our trip up north I had a small pile of mail waiting for me. Most of it was fairly dull, junk mail and bills and the like, but tucked in amongst them was a while you were out card from the Royal Mail. As I'd placed several orders online before going away, I wasn't surprised. But I was a bit confused; whoever had written the card had terrible handwriting, so I couldn't tell how many parcels were being kept for me. Both the "needs signature" and "parcel too big" boxes were ticked, but that could still only mean one parcel.

I had no chance to get to the sorting office on Friday or Saturday morning, so had to send Jamie in my place, armed with my driving licence as proof of ID. Of course, as soon as he came back he emailed me in work to say that there were three parcels waiting for me at home! Three! Everything I'd ordered had arrived on the same day!

Are you excited? I was. Even though I knew what was in them all.
I had to wait an unbearable three hours before I was home from work and able to tear all the packaging open.

A set of blocking wires and proper blocking pins.
The long thin tube couldn't be anything other than my brand new shiny blocking wire and pin set! Twenty four 36" wires plus four 24" flexible wires, a yard-stick and 40 rustproof t-pins. The entire set was under £30 from Hulu Crafts. Just the thing for blocking my Jane Austen shawl!

I noticed while I was on the site that shipping was free if you spent over £30. So it was easy for me to slip in some extra packs of t-pins to bump the order over the limit.

Two packs of t-pins. I'm not sure how all that Sugar'n Cream got there.
I think this might really be my first yarn purchase with absolutely no idea of what I will make. I just saw they had it, and it was a low price and well, shipping was free, so I thought I'd get some and try it out to see what all the fuss is about! I suspect it will become mug hugs, dishcloths and scrubbies. Possibly some baby booties. Who knows?

As if that wasn't exciting enough, there was still one parcel to go! This is possibly the most exciting one of all.

I wish I had empty rooms with clean, white walls to take my blog photos in!
It's an umbrella swift!! It works and everything! I haven't tested it out with a skein of yarn yet, but have measured it and it is about 60" in diameter at full extension. It spins beautifully.

It will be tested properly when the time comes to wind the Wollmeise for my Hypernova. It's certainly giving me motivation to finish my current knitting projects so I am in a position to cast on!

Monday, 19 September 2011

What I did on my holidays: Part 2

On Sunday I told you all about our trip to Alton Towers. Today I will tell you about our trip to Windsor!

My parents came over from Wales on Friday afternoon. I showed them around Reading (as they'd never been before), but didn't take my camera with me as it's not that exciting. However, on Saturday, we drove over to Windsor to see the Castle. Far more exciting, so of course I took my camera this time.

We arrived in perfect time to see the Changing of the Guard.

The guards march up from the Victoria Barracks to the castle at just before 11am every other day. Then there's a 30 minute Changing of the Guard ceremony inside the castle, before the old guards march back to the barracks.

First view of the castle
King Henry VIII gate. Where the guards march in, but where the tour ends.
First views of the main part of the castle. The yellow sandstone bit
is an extension built by Queen Mary I, using stone robbed from the
Reading Abbey site after it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539.
The round tower which sits on the original Norman earthworks.
The flag flying is the Union flag, the Queen was not at home.
We timed it very well, and got in through the admission hall and security with five minutes to spare before the next guided tour set off. So we sat in the sun and waited, and in the end it was just the four of us plus an American couple who had the guided tour. Our guide was Helen, and she was lovely. Really knew her stuff, too.

There is so much history at Windsor Castle, it would be impossible to lay it all out for you here. So go check it out on Wikipedia, because it's mostly there.

Carving of St George slaying the Dragon on St George's Gate.
Norman Gate, complete with murder holes and still-functioning
portcullis. The scrape marks you can see on the curves of the gate
were caused by a fire engine, which got stuck here in the 80s.

Helen took us through the main points of interest in the three wards inside the castle, before leaving us on the North Terrace to queue for the inside tour.

The queue on the North Terrace
Queen Elizabeth I built this extension so she had somewhere to take
her daily exercise when the weather was inclement. It now houses
the Royal Windsor Library, which contains an amazing selection of works.
The guards have spent so long marching up and
down outside the castle that they've worn tracks into
the floor in front of their guard huts.

Sadly, photography was not allowed inside the castle, so I can't show you amazing pictures of Queen Mary's Doll House or the fabulous State Apartments. I'm not sure I can accurately describe the sheer scale of grandeur inside those apartments. It's insane! I particularly liked the military decoration on many of the walls - delicate arrangements of pistols, knives, swords, muskets and other medieval weaponry.

Image from
I had a few main highlights from the tour of the State Apartments. In St Georges Hall (beautifully restored after the fire in 1992), while the overall effect is pretty astonishing, the real treasure is hidden at the back, in the private chapel.

King Henry VIII's armour!
How awesome is that! The actual tilting armour worn by Henry VIII. It's surprising, actually, to see it in the flesh, because he really wasn't as tall as you'd think.

I was also impressed to see the originals of some famous paintings of the Tudor royals, including:

Elizabeth I, unknown artist
Edward VI, unknown artist
and this awesome painting of Charles I:

painted by Anthony van Dyke
my Dad has a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle of this, it's very difficult!

When we were done marvelling at the sheer opulence of the state rooms (a solid silver side table! with a pineapple on it!) we headed down to the Lower Ward to visit St George's Chapel.

St Georges Chapel, Windsor
The flying buttresses of St George's Chapel
Once again, photography was not allowed inside the chapel. If anything, this was even more of a shame than not being able to snap the State Apartments. The interior of the chapel is stunning.

image from the chapel's website
Not to mention the tombs and artefacts stored within. So many of our past monarchs are buried here. That black slab you can see in the middle of the aisle in the above photo? Marks the tomb of Henry VIII, Jane Seymour and Charles I. There are tombs elsewhere for George V and Queen Mary, George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, a huge memorial to Edward IV plus a few others.

The main highlight of the inside of the chapel though, is Edward III's broadsword. It hangs on the wall next to his portrait, on the opposite side of the altar to his memorial. It's enormous. This is the sword he wielded in battle. Battles like Crecy, at the start of the Hundred Years War.

image from the chapel website

You don't get a sense of scale from this photo, but the sword was taller than Jamie, and he's over six foot tall. It is also slightly bent at the tip, so clearly has been used a lot!

We finished up our tour of the Castle by checking out the Long Walk, the three mile long avenue that leads away from the South wing of the castle (where the Queen has her apartments).

image from here; we didn't walk down it far enough to get this view

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...