Sunday, 27 April 2014

And finally - a finished sweater!!

Well, finished but still blocking actually! It's amazing what some monogamous knitting can do, isn't it?! I started the Vodka Lemonade sweater by Baby Cocktails for a KAL in the ThreeBagsFull group on Ravelry exactly three weeks ago and cast off this morning! Who knew it was possible to knit a sweater in such a short time? Not me, that's for sure!! I used some DK Polwarth and silk yarn from Sincere Sheep and it was really gorgeous to knit, as soft as butter. It definitely helped that the sweater was knit all in one piece, top down, so there was no seaming to do! I will let you have a sneak preview now, and hopefully there will be some modelled photos next week.
Vodka Lemonade blocking (1)

For my portable project while I was in Germany, I worked on a pair of plain vanilla socks using a Regia Kaffe Fassett yarn. I do love these self striping yarns, it's motivating to see the stripes develop, and very easy to 'just knit a couple more rounds' to see what colour's coming next!!
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The garden is bursting with new life at the moment, I think that Spring is my favourite season. I never thought I would be the kind of person to get excited about spotting a new flower about to open, but clearly I was wrong!! Almost on a daily basis, something new pops up in the garden and it just delights me! You can see just how much the garden has changed over the past month or so in this set of pictures.
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The first one was taken on March 16th and the last one was taken this morning. The tree is really lovely and a favourite place of Miss Flo. I think she would like Mr JK to fix a little platform up there for her to survey her world from! This was her this evening! (Sorry about the grainy picture, but I was a little way off!)
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Actually, while Flo was gallivanting,  Mr JK and I were enjoying afternoon tea in the garden. It's something we have taken to doing since we moved house last year. We both have tea sets inherited from our parents. Mr JK's is a Royal Albert Country Roses and mine is Royal Doulton Greenbrier. It was actually one of my parents' wedding presents but I never recall seeing it used once! It was kept safely in a cupboard. We decided that they were too nice not to use, so every Sunday, we have proper afternoon tea with cake!! Today we ate Dutch raisin buns bought in Delft last Monday and some German poppy seed cake that I baked over the Easter holidays. Mmmmmmm!
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This afternoon we went over to East Ruston Old Vicarage again. It's been about a month since our last visit, so we were keen to see how the garden had changed. It was looking just beautiful, so many new things since we were there. I took loads of photos, so if you are interested, pop over to my Flickr page. Here's a little taster for you........
East Ruston Old Vicarage 27.04.14

I am super-excited because I have signed up for a yarn club and I just have to tell you about it!! I have been in Anne Hanson's clubs since the very first Fall in Full Colour club way back in 2011. I have been pattern only for all but one, but decided to splurge out for Anne's latest club, PURPLE PASSION!! Purple is my absolute favourite colour, and the thought of not being a part of an exclusive knitspot club was just too much!! As I am a member of BareNakedKnitspot, I have already been able to sign up, but general sign ups open on May 1st. Take a look here if you are interested. I know it's going to be a lot of fun! To celebrate this new club, I went around our garden earlier this morning, taking photos of some of the purple flowers in bloom. Just perfect!
Purple Passion

Before I go, I must just share this photo of Flo, snapped when she was sitting on the bench in the garden. She loves being outside, especially if she has our company too! See you next week, it's a long weekend for May Day! Yay!! xxx
 PS Don't forget that you only have until April 30th to enter my tape measure cosy giveaway!

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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Easter in Germany

We had a fabulous time in Germany. Andrea and Wolfgang are just the most perfect hosts, and our days were spent chatting, visiting neighbouring towns and villages, walking, making music, playing board games, eating cake and just relaxing. I was really sad to say goodbye to them yesterday morning and hope that we will see them again sometime this year. Here's a snapshot of our trip.
Many Germans decorate the trees in their gardens with eggs and this was the sight that greeted us on our arrival. So pretty!
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We tried to walk each day to counteract the 'cake' effect! There is a beautiful walk through the countryside right on the doorstep. It starts off passing through an apple orchard, and then across fields of oilseed rape.
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We visited two local towns  - firstly Schotten. I love how the centre of the market square is decorated for Easter.

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The second town we visited was Laubach. The castle there had the most incredible wisteria that I have ever seen growing on it! Simply stunning!

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We went to a local Osterfeuer (Easter Fire) and ate delicious German sausages (bratwurst.) Mmmm!

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The Easter bunny visited on Easter Sunday............
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......and there were beautifully decorated hardboiled eggs for breakfast too!

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We walked off Easter lunch in the local park. There seem to be so many green spaces in Germany, it's lovely.
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We ate rainbow cake and lemonade cake!! (Not your typical German cakes, it has to be said!!)

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We broke our journey home in Delft, and spent a couple of hours wandering around the canals. It's a really lovely place, a bit like a mini Amsterdam.
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This little lot were busy in the window of the local yarn shop! Aren't they fun?!

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This chap was keeping a beady eye on goings on too!

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There is obviously a strong knitting contingent in Delft, judging by this yarn bombing!!

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I did manage to get some knitting done, but I will save that for another time! Be back soon! xxx

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Germany ahoy!!

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We are off to Germany for the Easter weekend to stay with our friends Andrea and Wolfgang. We are taking the night ferry across to the Netherlands and will hopefully be at our destination, near Frankfurt, in time for lunch tomorrow! I have plenty of knitting packed for our autobahn travels and shall report back on my progress on my return to Blighty! Have a good Easter, hope the Easter bunny pays you a visit! xxx
Easter hot cross buns

Monday, 14 April 2014

Happiness is.......

...... finding the right size dpns for the sleeves of my cardigan.

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...... watching the stripes of colour growing in the latest piece of my 64 Crayons blanket.

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...... searching through fabrics to find perfect pairings for a sewing project.

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...... bluebells blooming in the garden.

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...... enjoying a mug of tea and a hot buttered crumpet for lunch.

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...... successfully casting on 473 stitches for a lace shawl!!

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...... choosing some fibre to spin up for the next BareNakedKnitspot project.

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...... baking mohnkuchen (German poppy seed cake.)

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...... watching Florence enjoy the sunshine in the garden.

Flo in April garden

What has made you happy today? xxx

Sunday, 13 April 2014

What do you do when your cat wakes you up very early?

Simple - you bake! Flo thought it would be amusing to meow loudly outside our bedroom door just before 4am yesterday. We tried ignoring her, but she was very persistent, so Mr JK let her in. She came up on the bed, purred very loudly, and when she was quite certain that we were wide awake, she pushed off back downstairs again!! Once we had decided that going back to sleep wasn't on the cards, Mr JK went for an early morning run and I got busy in the kitchen. I have started baking batches of muffins recently and decided to play around a little with the ingredients. An over ripe banana was waving at me from the fruit bowl, so I decided to bake some banana and walnut muffins. I used wholemeal self raising flour and soft dark brown sugar to get that lovely toffee taste. Mr JK was most impressed when he came back in from his run and we shared one straight after breakfast!! Mmmmmm, a little bit naughty, but they did have some porridge oats sprinkled on the top, so could be classed as a breakfast item at a push!!
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Here's how to make them, if you fancy giving them a try. This quantity makes 6 muffins.

Before you start, preheat your oven to 180 C.

1. Mix together 125g of wholemeal self raising flour, 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder and 50g soft dark brown sugar in a bowl. I used my fingertips to break up the big lumps of sugar so it was well mixed up with the flour. Add in about 40g of walnut pieces.

2. In a separate bowl, mash up a ripe banana (the riper the better) and add 70ml of milk (I use semi-skimmed), 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil, 1 large egg and 3/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Whisk it all together.
3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well. The batter should be fairly sloppy! Spoon the mixture equally into 6 paper cases in a muffin tray. Mine is silicone and I sit it on a metal baking tray in the oven. Sprinkle a few porridge oats and some walnut pieces on top of each muffin. I also added a sprinkle of maple sugar that a friend sent me over from the USA. You could use Demerara sugar instead for a little sweet crunchy topping. Put on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for about 25 minutes.
4. Once baked, remove from the tray and leave to cool on a wire rack. Try to avoid the temptation to eat one straight out of the oven (it is hard, I must admit, to ignore that delicious fresh baked aroma that's teasing your nostrils!!)
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To stop us from scoffing all the muffins straight away, once cooled, they get popped in the freezer. Perfect for a little treat any time. Enjoy! xxx

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Saturday, 12 April 2014

Getting cosy with a tape measure!

Recently, I have gifted some fun little notions to friends that have been very well received - customised tape measures. You might remember them from here.

Crocheted tape measure cosy gifts

So I thought I would share with you how to make one of your very own!! It's very easy, honest! All you need is some 4ply yarn, a retractable tape measure, a couple of crochet hooks, buttons, a darning needle and a sewing needle.
Start off by having a rummage through your oddments of 4ply yarn to find something that catches your eye. As I have knit loads of pairs of socks, as well as cowls and scarves, my leftovers box is bulging at the seams! I cannot bear to thrown away even the shortest length of yarn - it'll come in useful one day, even if it's just for tying up a skein of hand spun yarn! Besides which, I attach so many memories to yarn, just holding those little balls of leftovers conjures up lots of happy thoughts. The pale purple yarn at the top was bought when Mr JK ran a 10K race in London. The wine red yarn next to it was some of my handspun, knit from fibre sent over from Cathy in Canada, which I used to make a beaded Wandering Thyme shawl! It's like rediscovering old friends!
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Try not to let yourself become distracted as you delve deep into your box of treasures and make your selection! I put mine into my new yarn bowl - they look like scoops of delicious ice cream!! The bright orange yarn was my first time knitting with Wollmeise yarn - I won this skein in a giveway on Kate's blog and knit a pair of socks for my dear friend Snoopydog's daughter. The aqua yarn was a gift from another lovely friend Kat, in the USA and the peach coloured yarn was given to me when I met up with Katharine earlier this year. The little multi-coloured ball peeping over the edge was from some sock yarn I bought on a trip to Canada 6 years ago! So many wonderful memories of happy times spent with people I love.
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Anyway, back to business! You need a retractable tape measure like this. The colour isn't important as the plastic casing is going to be hidden by your crocheted cover.
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Gather together everything else you will need - a 2.00mm crochet hook and a 2.5mm crochet hook, buttons, darning needle, sewing needle with a biggish eye and scissors - and you are ready to start! (I am using UK crochet terms here.)
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Step 1
Using the 2.00mm crochet hook, make a slip stitch and chain 5. Join the chain into a ring by making a slip stitch into the first chain.
Step 2
Chain 3, then treble 14 times into the round, slip stitch into the top of the 3 chain. It might look like an impossible task to get all those trebles in there, but keep going! They will fit, I promise!
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Step 3
Chain 3, treble into the same stitch and then treble twice into each stitch all the way round. Slip stitch into the top of the 3 chain to complete the round. You should end up with 30 stitches at the end of this.
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Step 4
Chain 3, treble into the same stitch, (treble into next stitch, 2 treble into next stitch), repeat around until you get to the last treble, treble into last stitch and slip stitch to the top of the 3 chain to join the round. This completes the base of the cosy - you're almost halfway there!!
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Step 1
Change to 2.5mm hook. The reason for this is that you are going to be creating a gap where the tape measure will slide through, and I found that using a 2.00mm hook made it a little tight and the tape measure didn't always retract smoothly. Chain 2, half treble into each treble stitch, only going through the back loop of each stitch. This will create a nice edge. When you get to the end, do NOT join!
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You can see in the photo above how the edging wants to fold up, almost like a little crocheted dish!
Step 2
Chain 2 and turn your work so the wrong side is facing you.
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Half treble into each stitch back the way you just came, this time going through both loops of the stitch until you get back to the start of the round. Slip stitch into the top of the 3 chain to join the round.
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You should be able to see the little gap that the tape measure will fit through.

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That's the sides completed now! Just the top to go!

Step 1
Change back to a 2.00mm hook, chain 3 and then turn so the right side of your work is facing you. For this round you need to crochet through the back loop of each stitch only as this will make the top edging. (Treble into the next stitch, treble decrease into the next 2 stitches) and repeat around. Slip stitch into the top of the 3 chain to join the round.
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You can see the gap you've created quite clearly now.

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Now's the time  to weave in the tail end from the start  - I just went around in a circle and secured it - you don't want it to come loose or peep out anywhere!
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Get your tape measure and fit it inside the cosy. I found it easier to poke the tape out through the gap - you need to line up this gap with the point on the measure where the tape comes out. Make sure the button you press to retract the tape measure is facing upwards!

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Step 2
Chain 3, (treble into the next stitch, treble decrease into the next 2 stitches) and repeat around.  This time, you will be crocheting through both loops of the stitch each time so the top is nice and flat. Slip stitch into the top of the 3 chain to join the round.
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You're almost there, only one round to go!

Step 3
Chain 3, (treble into the next stitch, treble decrease into the next 2 stitches) and repeat around. Again, make sure you crochet through both loops of the stitch. Slip stitch into the top of the 3 chain to join the round. Cut the yarn, leaving a tail of about 20cm and fasten off. You will use this tail to secure your buttons.
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Next comes my favourite part - the buttons!! Oh I love buttons - just take a look at all this buttony goodness here! I love to collect buttons and always keep an eye open for them on my travels!
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It's time to start playing!! I tried out lots of button combinations before I was happy! You can put one button on top of another, whatever you like! Just make sure that you can press down firmly on your choice, as it's going to sit on top of the spot you need to press on to make your tape measure retract.
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When you've chosen your buttons, thread the tail end of the yarn on the darning needle and go across the top of the gap at the top of the cosy to close it.
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Change the darning needle for a sewing needle and make sure that it's not too thick to go through the holes in the buttons. Pick one with a big enough eye to thread the yarn through easily. Try to keep your cat away from the buttons - mine thinks they are all lovely kitty toys for her!! She also stole a little ball of yarn to squirrel away in her igloo. Luckily I spotted her!! Otherwise she tends to try and bring me these 'trophies' in the middle of the night! Bless!
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Sew on your button and secure it underneath the button where it won't show. Leave the tail long so that you can 'lose' the end inside the cosy. I thread my darning needle and take the tail underneath the crochet cosy and back round to the base before snipping the end.

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Then it's time to admire your creation and give yourself a huge pat on the back!! Ta dah!!

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It is so hard to pick a favourite, I love them all! But I must say that I do love, love, love the button combination of the pink and green one on the top row. (The pink spotty button came from a bowl of ceramic buttons that I had a rummage through at a National Trust property down in Cornwall!) Just looking at all of these little lovelies makes me smile!

Tape measure cosy ta dah! 

They are perfect little gifts for craft loving friends. I am going to be adding these to swap packages as well as extras for birthdays. Why don't you have a go at making one yourself? Please let me know if you have any problems understanding the pattern and I will do my best to help you out!

I thought it would be fun to have a little cosy giveaway too! Leave a comment and tell me what your favourite colour is. I will pick a winner at random on May 1st and make you a tape measure cosy all of your own!! Have fun everyone! xxx This blog entry is my submission to the Deramores Blog Awards 2014. Deramores is the UK’s number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies.