Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A Year in Photos 2014

Happy holidays to you all! Slight unplanned blog holiday there, that life thing getting in the way once again. Inevitably, I of course resolve to blog more in the new year, but with a thesis to write, we'll see how that goes... Anyhow, here are my favourite photos (from on and off the blog) from 2014, here's to a good 2015!

The year started with some epic weather, but beauty can be found in the wintery Dorset countryside

Crisp bright days in Febuary

Company from a black panther on a domestic March afternoon

New life in spring

An early summer day looking down the spine of Dorset

Posers on the sands

Time to disappear...

Pirates in Portugal?

Trying to make the most of the autumnal bounty

The benefit of shorter days in October - capturing the sunrise at the highest point of my commute

A return to the delights of Kew, nice to hang out in the jungle again and forget about the November chill

An excellent reason to get out of bed - probably the best sunrise I have ever seen

Happy New Year one and all!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Basket Case

The sudden drop in temperatures has really encouraged me to spend my evenings knitting instead of sewing, it must be some sort of craft-related hibernation preparation! I promised myself that I would reduce my over-sized yarn stash before I made any more expensive knitting project purchases, so I decided to knit up a blanket to snuggle up in in the evenings. It is a nice easy basket-weave design, so plenty of mindless TV knitting. I quite like the slightly random outcome of the stripes, using up all my chunky acrylic yarn.

Here is the pattern, free to you my good friends, hopefully it all makes sense! Modified from my brilliant 1981 Reader’s Digest ‘Complete Guide to Needlework’, which has the best stitch guides, and is delightfully retro ;). I decided to use stockinette and garter stitch, as although this means there is a back and a front to the blanket, the basket-weave lies flatter as the weaves are a bit looser.

I knitted with chunky/bulky yarn on 6.5 mm needles, the finished size is approx. 50 in x 42 in (127 cm x 106 cm). The final size could easily be modified by changing yarn, or adding in more sections. I used about 8 balls of acrylic yarn (mostly Hayfield bonus chunky 100g), which is roughly 1,200 yards (1,096 m).

k = knit stitch
p = purl stitch
RS - right side
WS - wrong side

Cast on 160 stitches (to make the blanket larger, increase cast on in multiples of 8)
Knit 15 rows of garter stitch (knit every row), ending on a RS row - Forms first border

To form basket-weave:
Section A (repeat for 16 rows):
WS - k8, *p8, k8, repeat from * to last 8 stitches, k8
RS - k to end
Section B (repeat for 16 rows):
WS - k8, *k8, p8, repeat from * to last 8 stitches, k8
RS - k to end

Alternate sections A and B until there are 16 sections in total (or desired size)
knit 15 rows of garter stitch - forms border. Cast off. All done!

Let me know if you give it a go, or if there are any horrible mistakes in the pattern!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Hedgerow Pesto

Food wise, I don't think autumn can be beaten. I love big salads and super-fresh tomatoes in the summer, but as the nights start to draw in the comfort food can come out. I've also been exploring what nature has to offer, to pair with some of the more unusual ingredients that are arriving in my weekly veg box. This pesto creation is one of my usual slightly off-the-wall concoctions, but it is tasty so I'll share anyway. It isn't really a recipe as such, as I definitely didn't measure anything!

Tasty fresh ingredients are the key, so lots of fresh basil, which I have miraculously kept alive on my window sill. I used a good couple of handfuls, plus lots of good olive oil, a bit of garlic and some parmesan.

I whizzed everything up in a food processor, not forgetting the key ingredient, foraged hazelnuts. There are absolutely loads round here at the moment, and I think if they are picked when a bit green they work really well as a pine nut substitute. Plus they are free!

I got some beautiful fresh borlotti beans in my veg box, and didn't have much of a clue what to do with them, so I boiled them for about 45 mins until soft, in well-seasoned water with mixed herbs. I then mixed the pesto and beans together with some gnocci, sundried tomatoes, raw cucumber and a little greek yoghurt.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I will never be a food blogger ;)

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Thirty-six Psychadelic Grannies

Well hello there. So, earlier this summer I made my lovely Mum a quilt for her birthday present, so here is the big reveal! This is the third quilt I've made; see the first here, and the second here. I decided to challenge myself a bit more with this one, so went with a granny square block design, using 2.5 inch squares. I added white borders between the squares, so the quilt fits a double bed and consists of 36 blocks, which is 900 squares in total, thank goodness for rotary cutters :)

There are many proper tutorials out there so I won't bore you with my ineptitude, but the basic idea is, cut out an awful lot of squares...

Arrange them into blocks according to taste, I tried not to be completely random in my arrangement, aiming for two dark and two light patterns in each block. I think choosing fabrics is my favourite part of the quilting process, so many choices! This one seems to have gone slightly psychadelic, I like to think that suits my Mum :)

Square up the blocks, then spend 3 hours trying every possible permutation of block arrangement... (or just be more decisive than me!)

Sew the quilt top together, lay out with quilt back and batting/wadding in a sandwich - I always get a cotton sheet for the backing as it is so much cheaper than buying fabric by the metre, and I don't need to piece it either.

Wrestle with so much fabric and try not to make too much of a mess of the quilting. I would love to try one of those machines that lets you make swirly interesting patterns.

Embroider a date patch, because obviously this will become a family heirloom...

Edge with pink elephants, and done!

Love you Mum!

What block design shall I challenge myself with next?

Monday, 25 August 2014

Make Mine a Port Wine

Working in academia does have some perks, namely that there are many conferences, and they are frequently in interesting (and hot!) places. This summer I got to go to a big one in Porto in Portugal, and in amongst the hours of presentations we did get to have some fun, those Portuguese know how to party! I also seem to have got a dangerous taste for expensive Port wine, that stuff is tasty :)

The old town is really beautiful, if a little dilapidated in places, but there is a big push for regeneration at the moment so you frequently find shiny renovated buildings right next to ones where you can see the sky through the roof. Everything is seemly randomly placed and mismatched, which give the place real charm, and is a bit of a contrast to orderly Georgian Bath! We explored on foot and also got to do a river trip, so plenty of tourist pics for you ;)

View from the town hall balcony

Clérigos church tower, was the tallest building in Portugal when completed in 1763

City centre olive grove
Famous Lello and Irmao bookshop, unfortunately no pics allowed inside

Sea mist rolling up the river, expecting a pirate ship any moment!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Accidental Stash

I appear to have accidentally accumulated a fabric stash! I started my sewing journey with good intentions - only purchase fabric for specific projects (I can see all you other sewists laughing now). Ha! That didn't last very long of course! Too many beautiful fabrics, and too little time. Plus half the fun of sewing is planning future makes. Now that I am finally moved in to my new house and have access to my machine again, I am plotting and planning. Here are a few pieces from my stash, and potential plans for them, any suggestions? I know I could use some more neutrals and plains, especially as the boyfriend is on my selfless sewing list!

Some curtain-weight fabrics, the flowery one of which I have previously used for an Elisalex, which I love. About a metre of each, I hope to use one or both to test the Kate and Laney Tap shorts pattern, view B with the big pleats for me!

Some fun lightweight jersey. Not really sure what to do with this one, only bought a metre for some reason, so maybe a Deer and Doe Plantain, or perhaps a Grainline Hemlock if I can squeeze it on. Thank you for all the free patterns you amazing people!

Some stripey linen that I have owned for way to long without doing anything with. Got three metres of this I think. I was originally going to use it to make another Grainline Archer, but I'm now thinking I might use it to make the Lilou dress in Tilly's lovely book, with the awesome pleated skirt! I haven't had much luck getting the Elisalex bodice to fit properly (see this fitting disaster area), so I'm thinking I might start afresh with a different pattern. I know it is just because I don't really know what I'm doing, but perhaps a change will help my patience!

Crazy African wax prints! Bought from Middlesex textiles which is really quite cheap, prices are for six metre lengths, and most prints are less than £20. Not 100% decided on what to do with these, I spilt with my recent sewing convert friend, so have 3m of each. Probably a dress from the horses and a gathered skirt from the crazy green. Maybe some fun PJ bottoms?

And a quick project to get the sewing muscle memory working again (curtains next!). My keychain lanyard broke, so after seeing this post on Made Peachy I thought I might as well make my own. I used ribbon and the hardware from the old, so it was a very cheap and easy job :)

What are your sewing plans? Autumn sewing already or well behind like me?!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Dipping a Toe in the North Sea

Arghhh such a backlog of photos to post! I was planning on just doing one more wild north post, but I have too many nice pictures so I'm afraid I'll have to bore you with a couple more. The east coast was an easy drive from where we were staying, so we spent a couple of days exploring; plenty of interesting rock pools and long golden beaches. Surprisingly empty too, especially compared to my local beaches in Dorset!

Just another reason why I fell in love with Northumberland! As well as big green hills, lots of beautiful beaches too :)