Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Ijeoma Ruana: Major Hitch

I posted a couple of months ago about the Ijeoma Ruana and how I'd found the perfect yarn, Patons Colour Works Aran.


Well, on Monday night I was in the process of purchasing the yarn for the Ijeoma project. Deramores was having a big sale on some of their yarns so I didn't want to miss this opportunity.
When I tried to add my required number of balls to the basket a little message popped up telling me that only four balls were available. Now at first I was going to just buy these four and then get the rest at a later date, but then I got thinking, is this yarn on sale, because it's on sale or is it being discontinued.

I decided to do a search on the yarn and found other sites selling it at full price, then I stumbled upon one that had DISCONTINUED written in big read letters.

This is when I began to panic, the next step was to check the company website, so I went to Coats Crafts, and tried to check their list of current yarns. Patons Colourwarks Aran was not on the list.

I  now panic even more, but I needed absolute confirmation so emailed them. Yesterday morning I got the response...

Unfortunately Patons Colourworks Aran is being discontinued. Sorry for the inconvenience.

I worked so hard searching for this yarn. Now I feel like I'm back to square one and contemplating whether or not I'm going to do another swatch.

If the yarn knits up to the same gauge I won't, but otherwise it looks like I'm going to have to take a few steps back with this pattern.

Ijeoma Swatch
Ijeoma Swatch

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Madison Progress

I've been working on Martin Storey's Madison Poncho for a few months now. After a shaky start I'm now getting into the groove of things, despite my jammed pinky finger. Yesterday I hit a milestone by completing one of the neckline sections. In the picture below, I'm a few rows away from completing it. I worked on a few rows of the other section last night and I'm now 52 rows away from this being complete. If all goes to plan I should finish this by Friday, with DH being on holiday from work I'm hoping to get this done sooner.

Below is a snap of the project as it appears in Simply Knitting magazine, its looks so daunting but is actually easy and quick to make up (as long as you keep track of your rows).

Here is a picture taken from Hannaknits1's Ravelry project page, you can see the finished piece much better. Doesn't it look cosy, if I saw someone wearing this on the street I'd want one for myself.

I can't wait until it's finished and I can strut down the street looking fabulous, with everyone unable to believe that I made it myself.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Chocolate Domes

In my last post I talked about my recent baking ventures. One of the my experiments was a mix of chocolate ganache with the biscuits that I mistakenly made without butter. I cut the ganache/biscuit mix into squares, but they were too soft so I needed to think of a way to have that soft biscuity texture without leaving hands covered in chocolate.

After much pondering I though about covering them in melted chocolate which would solidify making it possible to handle, but just covering it in chocolate wouldn't be enough...oh no...I had to think of a way to jazz them up. So after more pondering I remembered that I had bought cake pop moulds which would be perfect for my new creation.

This is the result. (I only had enough chocolate to make two)

Here's what it looks like on the inside...

I'm going to make these one more time before finalising the recipe. I think these will make a great contribution to the family Christmas meal, though as one of my sisters is vegan (yeah, more meat for me), I'll have to do a vegan version.

So I will en devour to get this done for Christmas so that you can all enjoy them too.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

More Baking Trials

I felt like baking over the weekend and as DH was at work I didn't want to make anything that was too time consuming or messy. I'd bought a madeleine tray a few weeks ago, something that I'd had my eye on for a while, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it out. The moulds were a lot larger than I was expecting, the madeleines I'd seen online and in books were all small and dainty, mine almost looked like scallop shells.

Madeleine Pan
Madeleine Tray

All the recipes for madeleines seemed pretty straightforward so I was confident I could develop my own.

The first batch were baked at a medium to high temp, and by the time they were done, some of them looked a little dark.

Home made Madeleines
First batch of Madeleines

For the second batch I decided to lower the temperature, this helped a lot though when I added the remaining batter and put that in the oven, they were done a couple of minutes earlier and were almost darker than the first batch. I think I'll have to cool the tray down before putting another batch in next time.

Second batch of Madeleines

In terms of taste, they were delicious, my tripolatas snuck a few from the cooling rack when my back was turned. This the first non biscuit treat that they've loved, I'll have to think of other flavours and toppings once the recipe is finalised.
The only thing I wasn't happy about was their appearance, these don't look as defined as other madeleines I've seen. I'll keep on the look out for another tray with smaller, better defined moulds.

Chocolate and Biscuit Bites
Chocolate and Biscuit Bites

In my last post I discussed the baking fail, which I accidentally turned into a possible great new recipe. On Monday night I decided to try mixing the biscuits with chocolate and make some chocolate biscuit bites (I'm still working on a better name).

After leaving it in the fridge to set I cut them into squares, the chocolate seemed quite soft so I had put the bites in a container and keep them back in the fridge to firm them up. I should have expected this as it is a ganache, but I've come up with an idea on how to overcome this. I'll also add more biscuit for some extra bite.

They tasted delicious by the way.

These trials will have to go on hold for this week, due to other commitments. So if I'm very organised this coming weekend I'll make another batch of madeleines on Monday and maybe do another of the chocolate bites later that evening.

If all goes well, you'll have two more of my fabulous recipes to add to your collection.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Baking Fail to Accidental Genius

Yesterday I felt like doing some baking so decided to make my Oat and Nut Biscuits. I had measured out the dry ingredients a few weeks ago and had them stored in food bags in an old biscuit tin.
On the food bags I'd written the non dry ingredients that would be needed, so proud at how efficient I had been. 

Mixing the sugar and egg together I felt that something was wrong, but put this down to the fact that I was whisking by hand instead of using the food processesor, like I usually do. 

I then added the flour, and everything seemed ok. Then came nuts and oats and everything went downhill from there. The whole mixture was extremely dry, it looked like I was making bird feed.

The measurements for all the ingredients were the same as always, I couldn't understand why this was happening. I had to pull out my little folder with baking recipes and found the one for the biscuits. Right there at the top page, the first ingredient, butter...I'd forgotten the butter. I was supposed to mix the butter with the sugar and then add the eggs.  No wonder it looked funny

How dumb do you have to be to mess up your own recipe (well an online recipe I've adapted), butter is practically a baking staple. Forgetting a pinch of salt or tsp of vanilla extract is one thing, but butter. 

On the bright side they didn't turn out too bad. I baked them in different ways to see if they could be salvaged and have stumbled upon something that might work, sort of a Oat and Nut Snap or possibly something fashioned with chocolate. 

I'm going to work on it a little more and hope that this mistakes turns out to be a great discovery. 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Shortbread and Chocolate Sandwich Bites

As promised here is the improved recipe for the shortbread sandwiches that I have been working on.
I absolutely love this buttery biscuit. Their small size means they're a great treat for all the family or can be nicely packaged as a yummy gift. I made these yesterday and my boys couldn't keep their hands off them, so I hope you love them too.

For The Shortbread
175g Plain flour, plus an extra 2 tbsp in a bowl
50g Castor sugar
pinch of salt
115g Unsalted butter, softened

For The Ganache
75g Plain chocolate
75ml Double cream

Method (makes 16 sandwich bites)
  • Add the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl and mix together. Cut the butter into cubes and add to the bowl.
  • Mix the ingredients together by hand until they form a dough, take care not to work the dough too much. If the dough is quite soft it can be wrapped in cling film and placed in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  • Roll 10g portions of the dough into balls and place onto a lined baking sheet.
  • Dip a fork into the bowl of flour then press down on the balls of dough until flattened.
  • Place in a preheated oven at 150C/300F for 12-14, turning the baking sheet at the last two minutes to ensure an even bake.

Biscuit dough on silicone baking sheet
Oven ready

  • When they begin to colour at the bottom they are ready to come out. Place them on a wire rack to cool.
  • Whilst they are cooling, make the ganache by breaking the chocolate into a sauce pan and adding the cream.Gently warm the chocolate and cream whilst stirring until the chocolate has melted.
  • Using an electric hand whisk, whisk the chocolate until it is thick and glossy, this should take about 10 minutes.

Shortbread biscuits on cooling rack
Fresh from the oven

  • Place the chocolate in a piping bag and pipe the onto the bottom of a biscuit then sandwich with another. Alternatively you can spread the chocolate onto the biscuit.
  • If the ganache is a too soft for your liking, the biscuits can be placed in the fridge to for the ganache to stiffen.

Shortbread Chocolate Sandwich Bites on a plate
Take a bite

  • Eat and enjoy
These will keep in an air tight container for a few days.

As an alternative you can flatten the balls using the floured bottom of a glass, for a smoothed look, or try them without the filling. Why not try other fillings such as jam and cream.

I would love to know what you think of these and what variations you have tried.

Happy Baking...

Before you go, a little update on my finger.

On Friday I was cleaning the windows and somehow stepped on my little finger, the one I had broken a couple of months ago. The pain was really bad for the first minute but then it went and I was able to finish the windows. Throughout the rest of the morning my finger throbbed on and off so I decided to go to A&E to make sure I hadn't broken it...again.

Well I hadn't broken it again, however, I was told by the doctor that the GP I had originally seen should have placed my finger in a splint or taped it to the ring finger in-order to keep it as straight as possible. Now that it's started to heal in a bent position, he said that there is a chance that it may stay that way. I have an appointment booked with the fracture clinic today and I couldn't believe how quick it was for them to set up considering the fact that I'm still waiting for the appointment that my GP arranged at the same fracture clinic. If I had gone to A&E from the start all of this could have been avoided

Monday, 11 November 2013

Mrs U Bakes...Well She's Trying

As I stated in a previous post, I've been doing a lot of baking as my pinky finger is not as it should be. I've been working on some new recipes. Here's what I've come up with so far.

A plate of shortbread biscuits with chocolate in the centre
Shortbread and Chocolate Bites

These are shortbread and chocolate sandwich bites (or something like that). The biscuit part of this is perfect, in terms of size, look, and of course taste. The only thing I need to change is the filling, here I used an icing based filling, which I found to be too sweet. After a bit of research I've stumbled upon an alternative which I'm going to try and do during the week.

A plate of rolled wafers
Rolled Wafers

This is my attempt at rolled wafers. The actual mix is easy to do, the difficulty comes when putting the batter on the baking sheet, too little and it burns easily, too much and the texture feels stale. I've worked out the size that I want and with a little inspiration from Master Chef Australia I know how to execute it.
The next pressure point is actually rolling the wafers, they are soooo hot. I have to ignore the pain just to get them to roll exactly the way I want, so I'm on the look out for some gloves I can use to do this.
Once these are perfect I'll work on toppings and maybe fillings.

Silicone mould with doughnut batter

These are my most recent creation. I love cinnamon dough balls and wanted to make something similar. I've adapted this doughnut batter recipe and used cake pop moulds to bake it in. I initially wanted them to be round but they weren't consistent in shape and colour. So instead I'm just using one half of the moulds. 

Baked doughnut balls

This batch was still a little doughy inside, even though I had used less batter in each mold. Next time I'll lower the temperature of the oven, hopefully the inside will have more time to cook before the outside does.

A plate of doughnut balls
Doughnut Balls

Recipes will be available once I get them all perfected.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

New Pattern: Elise

Crocheted gilet

Finally it's done, Elise has been published. I just couldn't wait anymore so I've spent the last few days sorting out pictures and proofing. I'm scared to read through it again in case I find another mistake.

The pattern is only available in a UK size 10/12 (bust 36"/38"), I've done some maths for larger sizes but I'm not 100% certain that they'll work, I'll have to test it out before adding more sizes to the pattern. I'm not sure when I'll get the time to do this with the children, house work, WIPs and this pinky finger issue (yes its still bent), not to mention starting the Ruana and jumper and putting together some jewellery for Christmas. I will have to do what I can, when I can.

Elise is available from Etsy, MISI, Ravelry and Craftsy, I really do hope you like it, it's my first proper step into garment making so I'm anxious about getting it right. Who knows this time next year I might have a few jumpers under my belt.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Pattern Writing, More Than A Piece of Cake

I finally got round to taking some descent pictures of the Elise Gilet. They're not exactly as I would have wanted (modelled by a person) but I like them. Upon looking over the pattern I noticed a few errors, I ended up having to sit with the gilet at the laptop, counting stitches, recapping what I did.

This has shown me how important it is to write down every little detail clearly as the piece is being worked. Though I did write down what I was doing it was more or less in the form of notes. I know now that I will have to write things down as if I was writing the pattern.

Before I started writing patterns, I didn't realise how time consuming it would be. I thought that once the item is finished I'd spend a couple of hours writing it out and 'There you have it' the pattern is done. Oh how wrong I was, writing up the pattern takes just as much effort as making the item itself.

Making Elise has been a great learning opportunity, and I now feel even more confident moving onto the Ruana.

Crocheted gilet

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Tail Free Knitting/Crochet: Part 2 - Felted Join

In Part 1 of the Tail Free post, I talked about the Russian Join, were a tapestry needle is used to join two strands of yarn together. In this post I'll be taking you through the Felted Join method, also known as the Spit Join, yes SPIT.

This is a great way to achieve an invisible join on two strands of yarn, however, it only works on animal fibers such as wool, alpaca, mohair etc. The yarn pictured is Rowan's Creative Focus Worsted, which I'm using to make the Madison Poncho by Martin Storey.

Two strands of yarn, spliced

Step 1: Unwind the plies on the ends of each strand of yarn.

Two spliced strands of on on top of each other

Step 2: Place one strand on top of the other.

Strands of wet yarn joined together

Step 3: Wet strands of yarn with water or spit (which shouldn't be a problem
if you're making it for yourself).

Joined strand of yarn held on palm

Step 4: Hold the yarn in the palm of your hands

Strands of yarn held between palms of hand

Step 5: Rub the yarn between both hands. The heat that is produced will cause
the yarn to felted, fusing all the strands together.

Strand of yarn

You now have a continuous strand of yarn and can continue with your work without having to sew in those pesky tails.

What other methods other than this and the Russian Join do you know of, I would love to know if there are any other methods out there.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Ephraim Blanket: Free PDF

Crocheted blanket
Ephraim Blanket

Ephraim is one of my favourite blankets that I have made, and I'm happy to say that it is now available as a free PDF download. Just click on the Free PDF Patterns tab at the top of the page to get your copy.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Ruana Progress

So I've finished the swatch for the main motif of the Ruana. It's worked in Patons Colour Works Aran (shade: Terracotta), which is fabulous.

I started working from the cabled motif I was using with the Sirdar Click, but frogged it and went with my original idea of a knit/purl motif.

I'll still work cables along the outer edge, they may be diamond shaped or twisted cables, I haven't decided yet.

A skein of yarn in teraccotta

A knitted swatch motif
Ruana swatch from the back 

Above is a picture of the swatch from the back, below is the front.

Knitted swatch
Ruana swatch from the front

All this knitting has left my finger very, very stiff so I'm taking a break from knitting until Monday. In it's place I have been baking, I made Nutty Oat biscuits yesterday and may make my Nutty Biscotti and Shortbread biscuits throughout the week.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Tail Free Knitting/Crochet: Part 1 - Russian Join

The part of knitting I dread most is having to sew in ends. It can be very time consuming especially if you've worked through many balls of yarn or had many colour changes. There are ways to avoid this and in this post I'll show you one of them, it is known as The Russian Join.

If only I'd known about this technique when doing the Ephraim blanket, boy were there a lot of ends to sew in there.

Picture of a needle threaded with yarn

Step 1: Thread the yarn through the needle

Needle threaded in the middle of yarn

Step 2: Work the needle through the wound plies for 1-2".

Yarn being pulled through center of yarn

Step 3: Pull the needle through, leaving a small loop.

Yarn pulled through loop of another yarn

Step 4: Thread another yarn through the needle and thread it through the loop of the first yarn.

Two different coloured yarns thread into themselves

Step 5: Thread this needle through wound plies of the second yarn as with the first one and pull to tighten.

Two different coloured yarns joined together

Step 6: Tighten the first yarn.

Both have now been joined with no ends to sew in.

Stay tuned for the other technique you can use.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Spicy Meatballs

A plate of meatballs
Spicy Meatballs

Makes25 (-/+) balls
  • 450g/1lb minced meat (lamb or beef)
  • 5ml/1 tsp paprika
  • 2 slices of bread, finely crumbled
  • 2.5 tbsp coriander
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 15ml/1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 15ml/1 tbsp curry powder
  • 15ml/1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 15ml/1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 2-3 chillies
  • pinch cinnamon, turmeric and ground cardamom
  • salt and ground pepper
Prep: 25 mins | Cook: 35 mins

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/390F/ Gas mark 6. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well.
2. Shape the mixture into small balls, using wet hands, and place them on an oven tray
3. Place them in the oven for about 30 - 35 minutes. Cut one meatball in half to check that they have cooked through.

Other Ideas
Brown off the meatballs in a frying pan a then cook in pasta sauce to make spaghetti and meatballs

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Divine Inspiration

Blue filet crochet shawl

I find that a lot of my inspiration comes when I'm in church. I'm listening to my Pastor, teaching a great message, then suddenly something pops in my head. As I'm in church I can't start sketching or writing out plans and I always have to stop myself from getting carried away by thoughts of the yarn I'll use and the shades I'll try out.

Just this Sunday gone my Pastor was continuing his message on 'Deeply in Love' and I started thinking about Romani (pictured above) and how it would look great as a bag. I then thought of making it in different shades and having a contrasting lining and then thought of how I would construct it, flat? in the round? in one piece or two?

Don't be mistaken, I don't drift off into these thoughts because I'm bored, my Pastor is a great teacher. An aspect of his message will either remind me of something that I had planned to do or draw on something that I had seen and then I begin to plan a new project.

All of this reassures me that I am going in the right direction in terms of what I want to do in life, and as long as I continue to be inspired by the One who gave me these talents, I know that I'll never have to look back.

Monday, 21 October 2013

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The Fiber Factor: Challenge 5 Review

Challenge 5 was all about wearable art. The contestants had to use Art Felt and unconventional material to make a catwalk worthy piece. They then put on a fashion show for the judges were their creations were critiqued and a winner chosen.

To watch the results and see the fashion show, click here

My thoughts on each piece are below.
* Sorry if it looks a bit higgledy piggledy, but blogger seems to have a life of it's own when I'm adding lots of pictures.*
All the pictures are from the Fiber Factor website.

Tracy Purtscher - Eve to the 3rd Power

In terms of 'Wearable Art', I think this does meet the brief. However, there doesn't to seem to be much art felt, most of the focus of this garment seems to be on the unconventional material (the sound is low and my surroundings are noisy so I don't know what the material is). This is the type of thing I'd image someone wearing at an awards ceremony. The splash of colour and shaping at the back add another level to this and stop it from looking dull.

Terri Rosenthal - Lara

A very goth piece, I like the colours used in the top and the blend that she created in the skirt. Terri has also made shorts to wear underneath, which is a great extra. The outfit comes with a shoulder/caplet piece, which on the right occasion can look great but overall I think it would have been nicer if it was more like a choker and didn't cover the full shoulder

Talitha Kuomi - Omega

We've gone from goth to biker chick. I'm loving the red on the jacket, its a great shade and nicely shows off the gift wrapping cord that has been worked into the Art Felt. The whole effect is very structured, without being stiff.

Steve May - Life on Mars?

This is what I would call 'Wearable Art'. I do like the sort of animal print look and I think it goes well with the Art Felt fabric. Steve has incorporated a yoga mat into the piece but I don't really see what purpose this serves.

Rachel Henry - Gates of Dawn

From her progress video I can see where she was going. However, I personally don't like the cape. It looks like something made by a student for their final year project. I do like the top, which has a wrought iron embroidered design at the back, the colours are also great and I like the star effect along the bust. I feel this piece could be worn as a party/club outfit (without the cape).

Natalie Larson - Koyo

Overall, I like it more from the back than the front and can see this on a high fashion catwalk. The only thing that bugs me about this piece are the sleeves. If they had been cuffed they would have looked finished, when I look at this it feels like the model is in the middle of a fitting.

Meghan Navoy - Electric

This doesn't have much of a wow factor for me. I can see this being worn on the high street. The luminous colour is the only thing that I think is a little out there, but even this isn't very surprising considering what people are wearing these days. The finished look was a little misshapen at the back. If this was accentuated maybe it would have met the brief in terms of 'Wearable Art'.

Lauren Riker - Sea Gleam

Another girly creation by Lauren, I would say that this is 'Wearable Art', though not as much as some of the others. This outfit has a detachable train/tail, which turns it into a very wearable dress. The colours are my favourite out of all the designs, Lauren used CDs to add shimmer to the skirt and also added broken pieces to the train/tail to add to the mermaid look.

Katie Rempe - The Jordan Baker Special

I like the dress, but don't think that it's very 'Wearable Art'. The shrug/jacket is not to my taste and I think it would have looked nicer if the material had a bit of gloss or shimmer. Compared to some of the others, it's a bit of a letdown as the final piece to be critiqued.

John - Nike

This has to be my favourite, the first time I saw it I thought of the Snow Queen. This is 'Wearable Art', but with a touch of class. John has used tags on the back to give a scale effect. The shades are amazing, particularly on the bottom half of the dress. I can see this at the Oscars.

Jody Gordon Lucas - Nacht

As with Lauren's dress, I wouldn't say this has as much of a 'Wearable Art' factor in comparison to some of the others. Having said that, I do think it has a wow factor, particularly when the hood is up. The yellow is a great contrast to the rest of the piece and makes it stand out. The only downside is the finish, when the hood is up it doesn't sit well.

Jennette Cross - Giselle as Willis

I like the colours, however, as with Meghan's piece I don't see a wow factor. My favourite part of this is the knitted top. She has incorporated washers into the design, a nice touch, though it looks better at the front compared to the back, which has three rows of washers instead of one. I see this selling more in a high street store as opposed to something you'd expect in an artsy fashion show.

The Top Three

John, Terri and Talitha

The Winner

John Ravet