Saturday, 22 February 2014

Springtime Snowdrops Giveaway!

Mr JK and I went out and about yesterday, making the most of the glorious weather. It was so good to see blue skies and sunshine after what has felt like weeks of drabness. We started off visiting the village of Walsingham, famous as a centre of pilgrimage. The grounds of Walsingham Abbey are home to the ruins of a medieval priory, and at this time of year, the 18 acres of woodland are carpeted with snowdrops. Simply stunning. I will let the photos speak for themselves!
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Seeing these beautiful, delicate little flowers started me thinking how perfect it would be as a motif for a knitted scarf or shawl. So I asked my 'go to' knitting designer Anne Hanson over at Knitspot if she had a pattern. Of course she did!! A beautiful scarf and cowl pattern, Miss Doolittle,  which features the snowdrop lace pattern. I should have known because I have in fact knit this pattern! There's even a mitts pattern to co-ordinate. Here's my version, knit in a rather spring-like yarn.
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To celebrate coming of spring, I am offering one lucky person the chance to win a copy of the Miss Doolittle pattern. It is perfect to keep your neck cosy on chilly spring mornings! To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is leave a comment telling me what your favourite thing about spring is, and make sure that you are a follower of my blog. I'll leave the giveaway open until March 1st, the first day of spring! Thanks for taking part and good luck! xxx

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Spinning and more bread!

The pattern for this month's BareNakedKnitspot treat was released on Monday. As I am pattern only, I have decided to try and spin yarn for each project. The pattern is a hat, mitts and cowl set in a worsted weight yarn. The yarn is gorgeous, specially spun for Knitspot - a mix of merino and Romney, making a lovely bouncy yarn with plenty of loft for insulation. I would love to knit the cowl, which has a stunning cabled design, so I rummaged deep in the stash to find two braids of purple merino fibre.
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I didn't waste any time and began spinning the same day. I made a conscious effort to try to spin thicker than usual, since my normal spinning tends to produce a fingering (ish) weight yarn once plied. I love the depth of colour in this fibre and it is really bouncy.
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A little bit of spinning each day has seen me finish the first braid of fibre. I let it ply back on itself to get some idea of weight. It's definitely heavier than fingering, and will probably fluff up a bit after it's had a soak too.
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As well as spending time spinning, I have also found time to do some more baking. This time, I made some cheesy garlic bread. It is delicious. You can find the recipe here. You mix up the ciabatta bread mix and roll it out into a rectangle.

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Spread with garlic butter and cover with grated cheese. I used a mixture of mozzarella and mature Cheddar. Sprinkle on some dried oregano.

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Roll it up into a long sausage shape and cut into slices. The recipe suggests cutting into 8, but these would be enormous. I managed to get 18 slices out of mine!
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I arranged my slices on two baking trays making 'flower' shapes around a central slice. Dot over any leftover garlic butter.

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Cover with clingfilm and leave somewhere warm. I put mine in the airing cupboard for an hour or so to rise. They should roughly double in size!

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Bake for 25-30 minutes and breathe in that delicious garlicky bready aroma. Once cooked, leave to cool briefly on a wire rack before tearing apart and sharing!!

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Can you imagine how big the pieces would be if you only made 8 of them?! We tear off portions, wrap them in foil and freeze them. Perfect for popping straight into the oven to eat with some soup or pasta. Mmmmmmmmm! Enjoy! xxx

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Monday, 17 February 2014

Coffee, cream and ........ bread!

I have been resolutely sticking with my WIPs during the Ravellenics to try and reduce the number of projects I have on the go at any one time. Although it is nice to have some choice, I have found it gets rather overwhelming for me if I have too many things underway. So over the weekend, I worked on a little baby gift set that Mr JK asked me to knit for someone he knows through work. The baby is due at the beginning of March and as the parents -to-be don't know if it's a boy or a girl, I decided to use some coffee and cream coloured baby cashmerino from my stash to knit another Puerperium cardigan and matching hat. I found some wooden teddy bear buttons on a recent trip to John Lewis, and I think the whole ensemble is really cute!

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No sooner had I laid the handknits out to take some photos, than dear Flo arrived on the scene to 'help'! She complained that it was rather small for a cat blankie, but told me she would do her best!!
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Over the weekend we had a go at baking some 'no-knead' Artisan bread, after having read about it over on Lucy's blog at Attic24. All you do is bung all the ingredients into a bowl, mix them up, cover with clingfilm and leave somewhere warm for 12-20 hours. I put ours in the airing cupboard overnight.
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About half an hour before you are ready to bake the bread, you need to shape it. It really is VERY STICKY indeed and you need a lot of flour to combat this! I eventually put the dough into a floured bowl and left it for 30 minutes while the oven heated up with a casserole dish inside.
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Then you tip the dough into the hot casserole dish (I followed Lucy's tip of putting a strip of baking parchment in the base so that the loaf could be lifted out easily after baking), put the lid on and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake for a further 15 minutes to bake the crust a lovely golden colour. Remove and allow to cool for as long as you can resist that freshly baked bread teasing and tempting you. Then slice and butter liberally before enjoying. Mmmmmm! xxx
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Sunday, 16 February 2014

Getting back into the spin of things!

One of my aims during this Ravellenics is to get back into spinning more regularly. Despite joining a local spinning and weaving guild, I have yet to make it to a meeting. Hopefully once the evenings start drawing out, I will feel more inclined to go out again, rather than batten down the hatches and stay home! I do have a goal to aim for too - I have entered the spinning competition at this year's Fibre East in two classes. One for yarn spun from prepared tops and the other for yarn spun to show the advantage of Navajo plying! So I definitely have some work to do to produce some lovely handspun yarn fit for competition!
I started spinning this fibre way back in October, and there it has sat - untouched - since then. It's from Fluff-n-Stuff and is a blend of Blue Faced Leicester and Ramie which comes from stinging nettles.
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I decided to spin a 3ply yarn so divided the braid into three. I finished spinning up the first bobbin, and then tackled the second. I just split the fibre lengthways into finger width strips and spun them. It drafts very easily. Here you can see two of the bobbins with the remaining fibre. I think they co-ordinate beautifully with my latest bag. This is from Michele's great Etsy shop, ThreeBagsFull. I was lucky enough to make the 6000th purchase and so I received my bag for free! As soon as it arrived this week, I put it straight into use.
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Yesterday, with the wind gusting outside, it was the perfect excuse to stay indoors and finish the spinning. Before long, the third bobbin was done too. The sunshine in the photo belies the weather from yesterday - windy and rainy with odd sunny spells. This was one of them! Mind you, I didn't dare let go of the bobbins for longer than it took me to take the photo, as I was worried that they'd be blown away!
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Next, the magic of plying - I do love this part, seeing the plies come together to create a yarn. I am really happy with how it turned out, a kind of soft, tweedy effect with the mixed shades of teal.
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After that, I wound it round the niddy noddy, being careful not to lose count of the wraps - this gives the yardage. I have ended up with just over 200 metres of yarn. Enough for a hat, or some mitts perhaps?
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Here it is skeined up, although this photo was taken before I gave the yarn a nice soak. It's currently drying, so I will share a final photo with you another time.

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I am waiting until tomorrow to decide what's next on the spinning wheel. I am pattern only in the latest round of BareNakedKnitspot and tomorrow is the day of the first pattern release. This year, the club is releasing a pattern and chapter every other month, so I am hoping to spin my yarn and still have time to knit the pattern! Fancy joining me? There are still places available, either pattern only, or with a single dip or double dip of yarn. Anne Hanson is such a knowledgeable knitter, each chapter is a real treat. You learn so much about how different fibres behave, I love it! Pop back again soon to see how my knitting Ravellenic challenges are faring. xxx

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Ready, set, go!!

So are you taking part in the Ravellenics on Ravelry during this year's Winter Olympics from Sochi? I finished up my mink and cashmere sweater during the training sessions in January. I was aiming to knit another jumper over the Games, but common sense has prevailed and I have decided to focus on my WIPs instead. Once they have been whittled down a bit, then I will cast on for something new. I am knitting very informally for three teams - Knitspot, ThreeBagsFull and Fluff-n-Stuff. Nothing too competitive here. I am glad of the chance to focus a little on those unfinished projects. It is so easy to become distracted by bright, shiny, new things!!
I have finished a cowl, knit as a birthday gift for a friend, using Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran yarn. It's a knitspot pattern and I decided to make a chunkier version rather than the fingering weight recommended in the pattern. I love the combination of colours and may well knit one for myself at a later date as I have enough of the same colours of yarn in my stash.

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I am also working on a pair of socks and a baby cardigan and will hopefully have some completed knits to share with you next time. I blew the dust off my spinning wheel as well - it has been far too long since I last did some spinning. I am finishing off the braid of Stinger (50% BFL and 50% Ramie) that I started way back last October!
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We had visitors over from Germany last weekend. Luckily the weather was kind to us and we were able to get out and about. We visited Pensthorpe, a nature and wildlife garden. It was beautiful in the sunshine.

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They have a breeding programme for red squirrels there, it was great to be able to see them so close.
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Of course, I had to try out the tea room!! Mr JK and I thoroughly enjoyed our broccoli and Stilton soup, and I just managed to make room for a piece of ginger and orange cake. Very nice it was too!
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Afterwards, we headed up to the north Norfolk coast and walked along the beach at Wells-next-the-Sea.

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After a house full last weekend, we have been enjoying the peace and quiet this week. I have been delighted to notice the days getting longer and I have actually arrived home from work not needing full headlights on! Woo hoo! Spring is definitely in the air. These pretty snowdrops were barely out a week ago. Now look at them! Before long, the daffodils will be in flower too. Flo is impatient for the warmer weather as she loves to sit on the bench in the garden between Mr JK and me as we have a cup of tea! It's half term in a week, so perhaps we will manage it then. See you soon. xxx
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