Monday, 17 August 2015

Patterns for rounded sock toes

I like a nice rounded toe on my knitted socks and I keep coming across patterns that are different to how I usually do them. I forever suffer from Second Sock Syndrome so quite often knit the second sock years after the first and then have to try to work out all over again how to do the toes so they match!

For my own future reference and for anyone else who would like to knit a nice round toe, here are the instructions for knitting toe up :-) 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Waffles and Vanilla Lattes

Waffle socks
 I cast on for the waffle socks but they didn't really seem to work well with the birch yarn. I liked the way the stripes worked out on the ribbing but when it came to the waffle part, the pattern seemed to just merge the colours together too much. The seemed really big too. Not sure why - I've always used 64 stitches and 3mm needles for my socks as I knit really tightly. Anyway, I decided to frog them!

Vanilla Latte
Can you see how the stripes stand out more in the pic above? I much prefer it :-) The pattern is Vanilla Latte and it's beautifully easy to knit aswell. This time I'm using 2.75mm needles and I like the way the fabric of the sock is a little denser. I just hope they don't end up too small!

I already have two lace pairs of socks on the go so a mindless, quick knit is perfect at the moment. Besides, I want to knit these quickly so I can justify trying out natural dyeing with different materials ;-)

Monday, 2 February 2015

Dipping my toe in the dye pot (so to speak)

Hello :-) I've been wanting to try dyeing for ages now and in particular, using dyes from nature. I decided to bite the bullet and treated myself to "A Heritage of Colour by Jenny Dean. It's a wonderful book and brilliant for anyone thinking of giving dyeing a go. I really like the historical slant to it but there's plenty of info in there for anyone (like me) who hasn't got a clue about how to go about dyeing. You can find it here.

I bought some alum from eBay as that seems to be the most commonly used mordant and, for ease, some cream Regia sock yarn as it happened to leap out at me at a local wool shop. I decided to start off with birch bark for my first experiment. Now, living with an artistic wood carver husband has it's advantages because he just happened to have some rolls of birch bark stashed away :-)

Cream sock yarn in the alum mordant solution
Jenny Dean's book says to use 150% dyestuff for birch bark so I would have needed 150g but mine fell just a little short at 135g so I bunged a handful of onion skins into the dye pot towards the end for good measure.
Inside of the birch bark
 Outside of the birch bark

I wetted out the yarn for about 15 - 20 minutes by soaking it in cold water with just a touch of washing up liquid, then used 10% of the yarn weight of alum and simmered the yarn for an hour. I left it to cool in the liquid overweight.

The next day I cut the bark into small pieces - hard work on the hands! The book said to simmer it for at least an hour but the colour was still deepening after that time so I let it carry on and altogether it simmered away for two and a half hours with a handful of onion skins being thrown in for the last hour. The water was a really lovely warm chestnut colour by that time. 
Birch bark cut into small pieces ready for dyeing
I was hoping for a self-striping sock yarn to decided to dip the yarn skein in thirds - the first third to go in at the start plus 15 minutes of simmering time, then the next third for 15 minutes followed by the last for another 15 minutes. What I found was that the majority of the dye attached to the first third of the yarn so I ended up giving the second third about 20 minutes and the last third got a good 30 minutes or so. Altogether it had about an hour.

First third in the dye pot
I was surprised how little dye came out when I rinsed the finished yarn - hardly anything at all :-) Drying it was a challenge because I was just so impatient to cast on and see how the pattern knitted up, lol. After drying it for a while on the radiator, I bagged it into a pillowcase and tumble dried it (the label says it's tumble dryable). I'm not sure whether it was the tumble drying or if (I suspect) I agitated it too much in the pot but it was pretty knotty! I spent the next 3 or so hours in various stress positions persuading it back into two balls o.O Got there in the end though!

Finshed yarn being rinsed (under a harsh yellow light)
Finished yarn in daylight - love the colours!
In daylight, the colours are beautifully warm and gentle and remind me of butter and syrup. It's making me crave waffles (!). I want a textured sock that doesn't have a pattern hidden by the colour changes so I'm thinking of a waffle pattern for them - well, I'm on a diet so I can't have real waffles! Might aswell have waffle socks ;-) I cast on this afternoon and I'll finish the ribbing before deciding for sure. I love the stripes which are emerging so far though. Definitely addicted to this dyeing lark :-) 

Notes to self
Yarn: Cream Regia sock yarn 2 x 50g balls
Mordant: 10% (so, 10g) alum. Yarn simmered for 1 hour, cooled overnight in liquid.
Dye extraction: 135g birch bark + handful brown onion skins. Bark simmered for 2.5 hours with onion skins thrown in for last hour.
Yarn dyeing: Yarn simmered in strained dye for around an hour, each third having roughly 15, 20 then 30 minutes. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Fish Chowder recipe

Fish chowder recipe

Generously serves 3 (EE 2.5 syns) to 4 (EE 2 syns)

Leek, finely sliced
2 lg potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 litre fish stock
Zest of a lemon (optional)
300ml semi-skimmed milk (7.5 syns)
Lg tin sweetcorn, drained
Pack of fish pie mix (mine was 390g)
Chives or garlic tops, finely snipped

Sweat the leek and potato with frylight in a pan for a few minutes and then add the fish stock and lemon zest. Simmer for around 15 minutes until the potatoes are soft and then remove half of the leeks and potatoes and set aside.

Blend the remaining soup mixture in the pan and then add the drained sweetcorn, the fish and the reserved potatoes and leeks. Gently simmer for around 10 minutes of so until the fish is cooked through. Add the milk and gently heat through but don't boil. Stir through half the herbs and serve with the other half sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Warming Lentil Soup (Slimming World friendly)

Slimming World friendly - Free on Extra Easy and Green plans :-) Not that you need to be trying to lose weight to enjoy it!

1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, very finely chopped
2 red finger chillies (optional), very finely chopped
6 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp nigella seeds (also called black onion seeds, optional)
1/2 cup split red lentils
2 stock cubes
400g tin chopped tomatoes
800ml water (and more as needed)
Freshly ground black pepper

Gently saute the onion, carrots and chillies until slightly softened. Add the chopped fresh tomatoes, the spices and the lentils. Stir through until the spices have warmed slightly but take care not to burn them. Add the stock cubes, the tin of tomatoes and 800ml water.

Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. At this point, the soup may look very watery but much of the liquid will be absorbed by the lentils or will evaporate over the cooking time.

Simmer until the carrots and lentils are softened. I cooked mine for a few hours over the course of the morning but it could be made faster if needed.

When cooked, add freshly ground black pepper to taste and salt, if needed. Add water to thin if required (I added another 400ml+) and it can be partially or fully blended to create a thicker, smoother soup.

Yum :-)

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Toffee Popcorn recipe

For a big family portion of toffee popcorn:

150g uncooked popcorn
80g butter
80g brown sugar
4 tblsp golden syrup

Pop the popcorn in a little oil whilst heating the rest of the ingredients together for a couple of minutes over a high heat. Stir through and combine well.

So fast and so simple that there's no need to buy the ones with all the horrible additives ... Enjoy!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Apple harvest

Well, it's been a long time since my last post on here! Honestly, life has a way of interrupting all the fun of simple living sometimes! It's been a busy and intense couple of years with a few changes - the biggest being giving up our allotments. It was a difficult decision but the right one I think.

Anyway, onto this post ... it's the apple harvesting time of year again! When we gave up the allotment, we (ahem, okay, A) moved all the (many!) fruit bushes and fruit trees into our garden, except our beloved goldengage tree. They've all taken well and the apple harvest this year has been wonderful! We still couldn't resist scrumping a few too though ;-)

There are currently a couple of demijohns of Cripple Tipple bubbling ferociously in the kitchen with more planned. We used the usual recipe but did one demijohn with regular cider yeast and the other with turbo wine yeast. It will be interesting to see the difference between them .. taste, strength ... any excuse for scientific cider drinking! ;-)