A fully stocked play kitchen (or ‘finally! A use or crochet fruit and veg’)

A bowl of delicious yarn

My lovely un-god-daughter was lucky enough to receive a play kitchen from Santa this year, so of course it needed a selection of items to stock it. The available pattern database for fruit and veg on Ravelry is truly mind-boggling. I mean, I think I went overboard to be honest but you could really make almost any food item you can think of. I stopped at the grapes, too much buggering about sewing tiny balls together for my liking.

I particularly like the garlic, it looks mental.

fruit.jpg

I am reliably informed that these went down a treat, but either way I enjoyed making them. They don’t take long as they are small so it’s a rewarding evening that produces a few of these, plus it’s a good stash buster so used up some more of the never-ending rico cotton. All the patterns I used are on my projects page on Ravelry if you’re interested.

More fruit and veg

I also made a linen string grocery bag to hold the veg (Pattern from The Purl Bee), like the ones they used to use on Neighbours, remember those? It didn’t photograph too well so it’s not included here but it made wrapping this lot much easier!

DISCLAIMER: Photos taken before arrival of new camera

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The French Bakery – first attempt!

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For Christmas day we went out for lunch so it seemed like a good time to try making croissants; I had the time, the inclination and the skill (maybe – just go with it for now).

I did some research on this and there are a lot of ‘quick’ recipes out there on the usual sites, but this was not what I was after, I wanted traditional, get-up-at-stupid-o’clock croissants made with love and dedication.

Croissants cooling

I eventually settled on this recipe by Jeffrey Hamelman, it was recommended on various other blogs and the photos were universally good. I started the dough on 23rd December after we got back from The Hobbit (overrated and overlong btw), that bit was fairly straightforward, just mix it altogether with your dough hooks and whack it in the fridge, bosh. I was slightly concerned the dough was not completely smooth but I chose to ignore this concern.

Christmas eve saw me rolling out a big fat layer of delicious organic butter from the deli and then adding to the dough and rolling and folding, rolling and folding, rolling and folding. I found this quite enjoyable to be honest, I really like precision processes, and using a ruler to get the dough to the right size appeals to the geek in me :).

I couldn’t sleep Christmas eve (no, I am not a child waiting for Christmas with like it will never come, I had a cough which kept me up) so I was up in plenty of time to get the croissants ready in the morning.

Egg washed and ready to go!

Once again rolling out with a ruler, marking, cutting, rolling, egg-washing, proving. Oh the never-ending proving… But finally we ate and IMHO it was worth the wait.

They were incredibly buttery and flaky, and we had homemade strawberry jam, and more butter of course, to accompany them. Total yumgasm.

Tray of delights

So, lessons for next time:

  1. I should have proved for longer. It said 1.5-2hrs but I was impatient and I don’t think the house was warm enough so I might put them in the oven to prove next time.
  2. They are quite small, even allowing for extra expansion with the extended proving I think I’d make them bigger.
  3. When rolling the croissants up you need to be quite firm. The first six were messy and undercooked in the middle due to my poor rolling, but I got better and the second six were perfect.
  4. Give them a bit of time to cool, we ate them straight out of the oven and the insides were still a bit doughy but they were fine later.
  5. My oven is a massive liar! Turn it down and/or buy an oven thermometer.

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Here they are displayed on my beautiful festive runner, handmade by the wonderful Lizzy Ruffles of course! (Apologies for the MANY photos, got a new camera for Christmas! :))

Posted in Eat

Fairisle Cardigan Kit

Instant Fairisle Knitted CardiganWow, I finished this almost a full year and a half ago but totally failed to photograph it, I think it’s because I was planning on styling it better than I have… Photos obviously taken by me (as no one else was here, also I should probably have done my hair, *sigh*) but with my Dad’s camera so slightly better quality, same lower-than-average composition.

Here's one I made earlier!

This is a vintage knit, it was found in my mother’s, next-door-neighbour’s, aunt’s loft. That’s how you get ALL the best stuff. It’s an ‘instant’ fairisle kit from pure shetland wool and was clearly bought on holiday in Scotland, probably in the 50s judging by the shape of her boobs, but maybe 60s looking at the hair… Anyway it had been enthusastically started with 3/4 of the back panel knitted (excellent choice as that is clearly the most boring bit) and one side panel. Fortunately it was easy enough to work out the size chosen and it was a 12 so would fit me – all good news so far.

Yoke (or 'the best bit which I did not make')

The bad news:

  1. this is pure wool, spun before the advent of modern processing techniques and so was scratchy as hell to knit with! It is softening up now but it will take time and commitment.
  2. The ‘instant’ bit is because the fairisle section is already knitted (which I would have really liked to do myself, I love fairisle knitting) and you have to insert it, what a total fucking pain in the arse THAT was!
  3. It’s 4ply yarn, this means it take a bloody long time to knit something this big.

Full frontal and backside views

However it’s so long ago now that I have really forgotten how painful it was. To be fair it is the first adult garment I had ever knitted and for that I learnt a lot about seaming, the value of blocking, and  perfect, beautifully even gauge… (or the lack of it)

Obligatory close-up

It is a bit high-necked and unflattering in the bust and waist but I love it, it’s warm and cute, the colours are gorgeous and the fairisle is beautiful. Everyone else thinks it’s gross but I don’t care, I totally fit with the trendies in in Dalston, as long as I don’t tell them I made it…

Cake and a Boring Conference

It’s better than it sounds, I promise!

Boring pack

Ok so this photo isn’t helping but last weekend I attended the Boring Conference, it’s a day dedicated to the mundane, the ordinary and the dull. ‘Fascinating!’, I hear you cry, ‘now where’s the cake?’

But really it is, because these people who came to talk about their weird obsessions with the overlooked actually gave produced some real beauty, hilarity and of course good old fashioned British self-deprecation, they really made me want more boring in my life, but glad I wasn’t quite at their level!

The best bit was my friend James beating the Swivelympics world record, check it out! (Watch too as my disbelief in him turns to vicariously getting off on his win, idiot)

There were 19 speakers in total so I won’t go into too much detail but my highlights included:

Mr Wowser on his study into the standardisation of toasters, I particularly enjoyed the toast colour bar chart and the new rating system design based on settings you find on irons.

Kathy Clugston from BBC Radio 4 explaining the shipping forecast, I now understand this and must attend numerous pub quizzes in the hope of showing off.

And lastly Andrew Male who talked about how yellow lines shaped planning in London, he had really done his research and that was interesting because that research was shaped by a photo of his mother visiting the Festival of Britain he had found when she had died earlier in the year, it was actually a really touching and compelling narrative.

The other talks were all great, some funny, some incredibly niche and some just plain wierd, (I’m excluding the shitty performance art piece, it was like being back at Goldsmiths FFS), unfortunately I was a bit too knowledgeable on a number of the tv related talks to find them sufficiently geeky, and a few were pretty underwhelming. But anyway if you, like me, like boring stuff, you can find a far better write up here and it thoughtfully includes links to the speaker’s twitter accounts and websites too.

Ok, cake, you earned it:

Maple and pecan loaf

So you know me, I love a loaf cake, they are quick, easy and delicious and you don’t even have to ice the fucker, just serve a slab with a strong cup of tea and you’re done.

This was a recipe found via Pinterest, there is loads of tasty stuff on that board, check it out. It’s pretty dense as it’s bound with oil and yoghurt plus it’s not cheap, what with the maple syrup, and I added the pecans, but it was delicious and took 15 mins to make before bunging it in the oven.

Vintage Bunny

Bunny

More poor photography I’m afraid, this time brought to you in the form of a vintage bunny. This is from an original (I think 40s) Patons pattern so the construction is quite fiddly but I like the seaming detail, I think it looks cute (pattern available here). I even made this from vintage yarn bought for the bargain price of £1 a ball at Unravel earlier in the year.

Bob-tail

The carrot doesn’t actually belong to him, it’s part of another project (coming soon) but it made his arms look less limp and game so I might make him a smaller one to keep.

I have no idea who this bunny is for, but I just like having him around the house, he is currently guarding the window from preying kitties (this is a lie, they wrestled him to the ground and left him for dead).

Perfect Lemon Bars

Poorly lit and photographed but delicious nonetheless

My parents came to visit this weekend, they were trying out my newly-decorated spare room with new bed (coming soon to Airbnb) and going to the tennis. In that order. So my mother casually mentioned that they would arrive for tea and ‘some delicious treats you’ve made’ on Friday afternoon. These were the hurriedly cobbled together result of that thinly veiled demand.

The lemon bars were a Pinterest find, visit Baking Bites for some beautiful images (and the recipe of course). Due to my sad lack of a decent camera my food styling leaves a lot to be desired, but forget what they look like, they taste amazing!

Lemon Lovlies

They are incredibly lemony, sharp and sweet, with a crispy base and lovely yellow gelatinous topping. Plus they are so easy to make; basic shortbread base, whisk up eggs with lemon and sugar, slap it on top and you’re done. Genius!

Unfortunately with only my parents to eat them I am left with about 12 squares to gorge myself on, how terrible for me.

Posted in Eat

A quilt for the modern baby

Hi, welcome to the all-new, all-singing, all-dancing-but-no-promises-to-blog-regularly Lickety Split! Huzzah! Bear with me whilst I sort out all the image files etc., I hope you like it.

First up, a new post, oh the excitement 🙂

Quilt for Ted

I made this quilt for my wonderful friend Nell, well, for her baby, Ted. I didn’t know if Ted would be a boy or a girl when making this so I was hoping it was androgynous enough for either. Let’s say it is.

The fabric is ‘Little Apples’ by Aneela Hoey for Moda, I bought a layer cake at a craft fair last year and gave the offcuts to my sister who got another whole quilt out of it so it was really good value.
I opted for a simple stacked coins quilt as the fabric had such beautiful prints I didn’t want to lose them in a more intricate design.

Little Apples

This is a fairly large quilt as I wanted it to be useful beyond the cot and act as a playmat later on. I know white isn’t that practical but it’s washable and it looks nice. I guess (with excellent hindsight) I could have gone for grey as the background colour instead which might have been a better choice for a small child.

Ted is an incredibly cute, happy and content baby, I imagine this is mostly due to having such a lovely quilt.

Baby Boy Sweater

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I made this for a friend’s child, he was named Babhinay and had a Twitter account at 3 months (in utero) and tweets regularly about the day-to-day minutiae of being a baby, you can follow him here.

I’m really pleased with how this turned out in the end, despite appearances it wasn’t a simple knit, you can read the full rant on ravelry if you’re interested in knitting-pattern-based rage.

I really like the yarn, which is the Rico Essentials Merino DK, it knits up slightly smaller than a standard DK but is really smooth and soft and is superwash, what more could you want. Oh it’s only £3.50 a ball, bargain! I also got the coconut shell buttons for 10p each, I think they’re perfect.

Basketweave Baby Cardigan

I must say I’m getting pretty good at the sewing up these days, the shoulders on this don’t look too bulky and the side seams would be perfect if the basketweave pattern matched up .

I’m considering rewriting the pattern so I can knit it in the round as I do really like the finished article. However,  a better plan might be to transfer the basketweave pattern onto an existing cardigan pattern that I like (thanks Lizzy :D).

The end of the never-ending quilt

It looks bigger folded upAmazingly I started this quilt exactly three years ago today, can you believe it? Three years to make a bloody quilt (and not even a very big quilt)!

I have to say I lost interest in it, as you can tell from the fact I haven’t posted about it since 2009. I optimistically wrote back then ‘I think I’ll need at least 15 squares to make a decent size quilt’. I’ve scaled back my ambitions since then and settled for a 9 square lap quilt.

The perfect size...

To be honest, I started this without really thinking about the end design. I SHOULD have chosen two or three fabrics and broken them up with a plain colour, but in my impatience to get started I ploughed ahead regardless. I got to a point where I really hated it, the colours, the patterns, how busy it was, it disgusted me. At this point it went into a drawer and didn’t see the light of day for a good nine months.

I finally decided it had to be finished, even if I didn’t like it I could give it away. To reduce the pain I figured I should just complete it with the nine squares I had already, and be done with it.

For some bizarre reason I then took it upon myself to hand-quilt it as well, ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ eh? But actually that was a really good call, I love how handmade it looks and the bigger stitches somehow make the design less busy, so up to that point every single stitch on the quilt was done by hand. Impressed? You should be!

I finished the edging on the machine last night and I must say that main emotion I feel is relief. Suffice to say I won’t be making a hand pieced quilt again. I do actually quite like it now, but, lets face it, it’s just going to end up as a glorified kitty bed, I hope they appreciate the effort.

Mini Tea Cosy (or is it a Brownie hat?)

Tea cosy

As I now mostly work from home I decided I needed a mini teapot, my mum found me this delightfully lurid lime green number which redeems itself only on it’s excellent pouring mechanism.

In order to minimise it’s impact on my lovely new kitchen (and to keep my tea warmer or course!) I decided it needed a cosy. I couldn’t find a pattern for a mini tea cosy anywhere so I made this one up, download the pattern here.

I used some brown cheap british yarn which is too scratchy for clothing but very warm, so ideal for a cosy. However, it doesn’t really show the cable as well as I would like so I might have to make it again in grey which will look better and match the kitchen too.

Anyway, this does the job for now, I had forgotten how boring making pompoms is, this one reminds me of my Brownie hat. The uniform when I was Brownie age consisted of a shapeless brown dress, a brown leather belt with a pouch on it, a yellow crossover tie and a brown bobble hat. It looked like this:

Brownie Annual 1982

(This is back in the days when ugly people were still allowed to be in publications)

My mother decided the uniform bobble hat was ‘a rip off’ and that she would knit me one instead. I was the laughing stock of my pack, it was huge, really thick so my head looked too small and it had an enormous pompom the size of my fist which moulted brown wool everywhere we went. If I were a weaker child I would have been bullied for this, but I led the mockery of it so it was fine. For some reason my sister was not subjected to the homemade version and got a bloody normal one. She really IS the favourite child.

Actually this teacosy looks a LOT like it, I’m clearly still scarred by the experience.