Friday, 26 August 2011

You can count on me!

 I think it is a result of knitting so much that I count a lot.  During knitting, stitches are counted, rows are counted, the number of pieces required are counted.  If one knits intricate patterns it is advisable to count regularly to ensure no mistakes have been made.  I have noticed, however, that sometimes the counting carries over into mundane daily tasks.  With this in mind I did a fatal thing….. yes, the “G” word.  I Googled “compulsive counting”.  When I started inputting the phrase in the search engine I was mildly curious if this had affected fellow crafters.  But of course the inevitable can of worms was opened, and it transpired OCD could be involved.  Great, let's add another condition to my collection!!!  So with that I decided not to investigate further and to just accept it is one of my “quirks”.   So now I am going to continue counting but not be worried that I may have some more underlying mental issues.

Twitter recommendations:
For political/current affairs  @PrivateEyeNews
For crafting interest: @CaithnessCraft as Louise keeps followers abreast of events between podcasts.

Crafting Conversions:
 The internet has meant that crafters have access to patterns and designers the world over.  Unfortunately, to date, yarn and needle sizes are not  given the same descriptors on each side of the pond.  So for instance a size 4.00mm needle in the UK is known as size 6 in the USA.  4ply yarn in the UK is called fingering in the USA.
But this doesn’t mean the resources are unusable.  Every knitter/crafter just needs a reliable conversion table and the problem is solved.  Here are two conversion tables that are suitable:(on the first scroll down to see all conversions)

Site of the week for crafters:
It is remotely possible that someone doesn’t know about the Lion Brand site.  It is a US site with 4104 free knitting/crochet/craft patterns.  Yes, it is not a typo, 4104!! Take a look but allow yourself plenty of time because there is a lot to see on there.  If you like it, then subscribe to the newsletter, it is free too.  Just remember that the crochet will be in US terminology, but that is not insurmountable as there are plenty of conversion charts on the net, and there are the sites above to help with this. 
Recipe for this week: 
Tomato Salsa for Pasta

Tomatoes are plentiful, to the point some gardeners have a glut at this time of the year, and salads cannot always provide the answer.  This salsa makes a nice change to pasta with hot tomato sauce, and can be made well in advance if covered and left in cool place till required.  Like all my recipes this is a suggestion rather than “an instruction” and so if garlic, or olives for instance are disliked, then don’t put them in.
Ingredients are tomatoes, shallots, stoned olives if liked, basil leaves, olive oil, clove garlic,(or a squidge of garlic puree) some chillies if liked.  Go easy on the chillies!  I use the prepared ones in the Lazy series
For each person about 8 cherry tomatoes or 2 conventional ones,  1 banana shallot or 2 round shallots should provide a good serving.  It is worth using the very best olive oil you can in this.  It is also best to use fresh basil leaves.
2 oz of dried pasta per person

Peel and slice the shallots and sauté them till soft in plenty of olive oil and the crushed garlic. Allow to cool.
Cut the tomatoes into small wedges and put them in a bowl and add quarter tsp of chillies if used. 
Add the sautéed shallots and any oil still in the pan.
Add good handful of torn basil leaves, stone the olives and add the halves.
Season to taste and then pour over some more olive oil so it is all glistening and marinading contentedly.  Put this aside till ready to serve

For the pasta, it is best to use short pasta like penne/twists/orriechettti, and this should be cooked according to the instructions from the maker just prior to eating.
Then serve the pasta and add the salsa on the top of each serving. 

Friday, 19 August 2011


In this entry there is a craft site and podcast review,  a recipe, a chat on steeking,
and a referral to something amusing.

Its Land!
Today is my 41st Wedding Anniversary, I wondered what the symbolic meaning of 41 years is, just as my 40th was Ruby, and 25th Silver etc.  Turns out it is land!  Don’t know quite how a spouse bestows a parcel of land though.  But in case anyone has a family wedding anniversary coming up and wants to know the meaning there are a number of sites, like

 Crafty stuff!
On the craft front, the site and podcast being reviewed this week is imake.
Martine does the site and podcast and this week was the first anniversary of the podcast (see the theme to this blog today?!!) Yes, anniversaries!  Martine’s podcast is really  pleasant to listen to, and she covers a good variety of craft related topics and also articles related specifically to Guernsey.  The site for imake is a pleasure to visit and there is some stuning photography on there, and just as with the podcast there is a good variety of articles.  Her craft tutorials are excellent, really well explained, good pictures etc, for instance take a look at her tutorial for body scrub I will say no more other than make sure you pop in and visit imake, and tune in to the podcast which is on itunes too.


Recipe:  Easy peasy tea loaf!  As with any cake, cooking time can vary according to the oven, and where the cake is placed in the oven.  So just check on it and it is done when top is firm to the touch, and a needle/skewer or knife comes out clean. For those who don’t eat egg, the substitute for the egg is: heaped teaspoon of baking powder or bicarbonate of soda and 1 tbs vinegar in a small cup of milk.   But watch out as it froths up like Vesuvius!!

Tea Loaf.
Half pint tea
12 oz mixed dried fruit
4 oz sugar
12 oz SR flour
1 egg beaten
Method: Soak fruit and sugar in the tea for minimum 2 hours.  Overnight is fine.
Fold in the flour and egg or egg substitute
Put in lined loaf tin
Bake No 3 for about 2 hours.  No 3 is moderate oven.
This tea loaf is low on preparation effort and versatile.  It is fine just sliced and eaten, it is even better sliced and spread with butter and even butter and jam.  It is nice for picnics as it doesn’t produce many crumbs.  When everyone is fed up of it, then it is time to serve it as pudding with custard poured over.!!

What do I need? 
1) some knitting, 2) pair of scissors, 3) nerve, 4) glass of wine
Last time I said more would follow on Steeks.  I have come to the conclusion you can have it the hard way, or the easy way.  In fact I had been steeking for years before I knew there was a hard way!  The hard way involves sewing or crocheting.  So long as the garment is knitted in pure wool, there is no need other than the knitter’s own satisfaction in seeking a perfect finish in sewing steeks.  They can be a little bulky but not intolerably so.  I always do a minimum of 11 sts in a steek, this gives plenty of leeway if I should go off course!,  Having an odd number means there is an obvious centre stitch to cut. It is  really useful if the steek is done in two colours, which is always going to be easy if the garment is done in fair isle.  I always keep say even numbered stitches dark and odd numbers light, so that there are easy lines to follow for the cutting. 
When it comes to the cutting, I always place a wad of thick paper or a book under thepart I am cutting.  This ensures no other part of the garment gets accidentally nicked.
To sum up golden steeking rules are:
1)      Minimum of 11 sts knitted in alternate colours
2)      Protection to place under the part being cut
3)      Glass of wine afterwards to celebrate success

Finally to raise a smile:  Maxine is a cartoon character from the US with acid wit.  There are many collections of her cartoons on the net, so go to Google and input "Maxine Cartoons" and hopefully the first listing is "images for maxine cartoons" and when you click on up comes a page full and you click on each individual one and it enlarges.Images for maxine cartoons 

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Cosy and miscellany

Yes I know the country has been in turmoil this week, but there are people more competent than myself who can comment on this, my blog, therefore, will be along its usual lines with articles on 1) knitting, 2) a recipe, 3) a podcast review and 4) a suggested site to visit (for welcome relief from the news of the week)
5)Twitter follow suggestion

This week I bought a copy of Let’s Knit as it had a nice shawl pattern, and on the front was a kit to make a tea cosy.  I made that cosy and thought to myself “wonder if I can design one?”  My forays into designing are new and very limited, but I realised that a tea cosy is a hat with 2 holes, one for spout and one for handle.  So I made a hat and put in steeks for cutting the two holes.  I decided to knit in the round so that I could avoid sewing seems and because I wanted to use the Sanquhar Dukes Pattern as the main pattern, and that is so much easier in the round.  Here is the pic of the finished cosy and some pattern notes underneath.
I will explain steeks in the very near future.
 This was made with Jamieson and Smith 2ply jumper weight, less than one ball of each colour was used, any 4 ply would be fine so long as pure wool because of the steeking.  If steeking not required then it wold be knitted flat and seamed top and bottom leaving holes for spout and handle.
Size 3.5 needles, and the Duke's Pattern requires 44 stitches, and I steeked with 10 sts, so a total of 108 sts casted on, with markers at 44, 54, 98,.  After about 34 rows knitted in any fair isle type stitch chosen, the steeks can be casted off and the top still knitted in the round, with regular decreasing every other row, starting with say k7 k2tog, then next decrease row will be k6, k2tog, then next dec row k5 k2 tog etc.  Odd multiples can just be accommodated.  If anyone would like more actual details just let me know.   When te steeks are cut they are just tacked down on wrong side for neatness if desired.  Then the cosy is joined at each side at the bottom for a few centimeters. 

HINT:  When making a hat or cosy and perfect fit required, then dampen the project and place it on the teapot it is to fit, or a bowl the right size if it is a hat, and let it dry naturally.
Recipe of this blog is:
Creamy pasta sauce. This tastes better than it sounds.   Every Summer we get a glut of cucumbers or courgettes and this recipe takes advantage of nature’s bounty.  Either cucumber, or courgettes (zucchini) or a combination of both can be used. 
Ingredients: about 4 large cucumbers, 1 large onion, knob of butter or margarine. carton of single cream or soya cream,
Method: peel and take seeds out of cucumbers/courgesttes, and chop the onions.  Place them in a pan and sauté in the margarine or butter, put lid on pan and leave them on very low light for at least 30 mins.  When they are really soft, (drain if  a lot of liquid has generated)  mash them down with potato masher and stir in cream, when reheated without boiling, pour the sauce over pasta of choice


Podcast Review:
NPR is National Public Radio in the US, and they produce some good podcasts, my favourite being “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, it is a satirical current affairs quiz and  is available on itunes, or via their site  Makes a change to listen to this rather than music in the car.
Suggested site to visit: Anyone who has had a cat in their life will recognise that cat in the short animations on this site: 

Twitter Suggestions:
For crafters:  @
 Daily twitters from Red Heart Yarns with loads of links to their massive free pattern data base for knitters and crocheters.
For non crafters:  @  
Always topical, witty and often funny.

Saturday, 6 August 2011


 Riveting this isnt I know, but I was cleaning the bathroom this morning and opened a packet of disposable toilet cleaners, as in the pic.  The packet instructions state what to do if one is swallowed!  How?  By the family cobra? 

Friday, 5 August 2011

No worries there then

I am new to Facebook, and floundering around it, on my page I noticed my son Alex has written an entry .... "
Wood really is slippery when wet. I just washed out, landed head first and broke a bridge with my face... My body hurts." 
So no worries there then!   But subsequent texts and a chat with Kat have allayed my concerns. 
Facebook is a mix of addictive voyeurism into the lives of others we know and have known, and harbinger of both bad and good news.  The jury is out for me as to whether I shall be a very active participant or more of a "lurker" in the background.   
Twitter is a relevation too and I tweet now and then, but do visit regularly to see what those whom I follow have tweeted.  I follow some well known personalities and some not so known, but on a craft front it is nice to have snippets from favourite podcasters to see.  Away from the podcasters Sally Bercow is Queen of Twitter!
Enough of idle chit chat, this week I am posting a couple of recipes, and an update on my own craft activities.
Next posting will be a craft related site review
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Craft Corner this week, is a very short description of how I achieve yarn from raw fleece.  
The fleece in these pics is Jacob Fleece which is a mix of brown and white, and it arrives to the spinner in an unwashed state.
  So its best to find the rear end and remove any residue there as soon as possible! It also will have various bits of vegetation stuck to it. The next stage is to get it ready to spin "in the grease".  I spin unwashed fleece that still has its natural lanolin in, but it needs untangling.  
Each lock of fleece is combed with a metal toothed dog comb and when the lock is combed it is stored for spinning
I spin with a short draw on a traditional wheel
but  am trying to master spindle spinning. , when I have filled a spool on the wheel it is transferred to the Lazy Kate
  and when there are two full spools on the Lazy Kate the final yarn is plied on the wheel.  The spools are initially spun with the wheel turning clockwise, but when they are plied together the wheel is spun anti clockwise.  It doesnt matter how thick or thin the final yarn is going to be, it is always made up of two strands so that when finally knitted it lays correctly and doesnt have a bias.
Once plied it is wound into hanks.
It now needs to be cleaned or "scoured" and each hank is washed in warm water to which biological washing powder has been added, this removes the excess oils from the yarn.  (If showerproof yarn is required, then it would not be washed too thoroughly at this stage so it retained more lanolin).  Then it is rinsed in cold water and this helps to fluff up the yarn.
Finally it is wound into balls of wool ready for knitting, some crafters use a special wool winder and create attractive cakes of wool, but I am still in the "old days"!
Then finally it can be made into something!  In the final picture the white tam and the tam opposite to it have both been knitted from yarn I spun.
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Wot No Lentils?
Occasionally I will share recipes that I have tried and tested.  But quantities may not be to the gram/ounce, as most of my recipes are suggestions rather than cast in stone instructions, and therefore often many of the ingredients will be "optional" too.  
So with the warm weather in mind, conventional salads can become boring, and this makes a slight change to the norm:- 
Ingredients: Watercress, bananas sliced lengthways, orange/satusma segments, pieces of walnut, sliced cucumber, stoned dates. A sprinkle of rosewater if available.
Method:  Lay out all the watercress on a round plate evenly. Place sliced cucumber all round the edge of the plate, and lay lengths of banana from outer edge to centre of plate so it resembles the rays of the sun.  Place in spaces between the banana slices the walnuts pieces, stoned dates and orange segments.  If rosewater is available then sprinkle on prior to serving.  The rosewater is a nice touch but not an essential.
Instead of burgers try:
ingredients: 1 packet of Sosmix made up as packet directs, or any other vegan/vegetarian sausage substitute, tomatoes, breadcrumbs
Having made up the Sosmix, wrap each tomato in the Sosmix, and roll the Scotch Tomato in breadcrumbs.  Bake in hot oven at say No5 for 20mins or until golden brown.