2014

Have you had a good Christmas? I’m sitting here with the fairy lights twinkling, presents in piles around the sofa, cards on the mantlepiece along with the stub of the seemingly everlasting Advent candle which finally spluttered to an end last night during Harry Potter. I love Crimbo-limbo, that special time between Christmas and New Year when life seems to go in slow motion.

Looking back at my blog photo archive I’ve found so many projects I started and then unravelled for different reasons. It seems to have been the year of procrastination, trial and error. I hadn’t realised until now. But I have gathered some highlights and favourite makes from my crafting year…

Looking back at my end of year galleries from 2012 and 2013 I’m amazed at the number of things I’ve crocheted, knitted and sewn which I’ve forgotten about! Lots has been given to family and friends and so it must be a case of out of sight, out of mind.

Today it’s my blog birthday, 3 years old! It was originally a way to record my progress as I practiced my fledgling crochet skills online diary styley. I always thought that to be mentioned in a crochet magazine one day would be the icing on the cake, although that was obviously never going to happen. Wrong! This blog and my crochet have now been featured in Inside Crochet as part of their Our Favourite Blogger feature, and earlier this year Simply Crochet paid me to design a Springtime brooch for an issue of the magazine. Also, I’m still delighted that photos I posted after a birthday lunch were used in Decanter magazine. Ca-ching!

So where do I go from here? I carry on making, of course. This is what’s happening on and off between slabs of Christmas cake and hot chocolate after hikes in the freezing cold: the what-I-call William Morris motif blanket has regenerated, and I’m busy darning in ends as I make each stack of motifs, but more about that next year…

The Zesty Raspberry Ripple was received with great praise for the colour choices “they’re really me, I love the raspberry and greys together, and lime green is my favourite colour.” It barely left my sister in law’s side after she unwrapped it. Excellent.

Thank you for all your likes, comments, emails and messages on social media this year. It’s been fun. Let’s do it again in 2015.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Merry Christmas

We’ve had a lovely stay in festive Brussels, Belgium. Twinkling lights all over the city, decorated trees and Santa signs, mussels, frites, Belgium beer, a waffle with Nutella, strawberry and banana, lots of tastes of fine chocolate and treats from the Christmas Market, shopping, wandering, goosebumps at the evening time light and music show at the Grand Place.

In a delightfully hushed carriage there on Eurostar, which was only a third full, served an unexpected meal and wine I wondered if perhaps most people were travelling to Paris? Later I was reminded we were in a Premium carriage. It was wonderful. All the hassle and stress from blaring Christmas songs in busy shops just melted away. Two hours from St Pancras, through the tunnel under the English Channel (to my now not-so-little niece on her birthday: “We’re going on a train under the sea later.” “That’s weird. Really weird!”) across France, past little houses with white tiled roofs, arriving at a station in Brussels with comfort and ease, and slightly red cheeks.
/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/1e4/30995756/files/2014/12/img_8307.jpg

The tree in Grand Place was given by Riga, Latvia as a gift. Riga is the current capital of culture. Apparently they started the tradition of decorating Christmas trees 500 years ago.
/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/1e4/30995756/files/2014/12/img_8308.jpg
We got home late last night and someone has already cracked open the twiglets. The Snowman has been watched as it’s a Christmas Eve tradition in this house. I’ve picked up a crochet hook for the first time in a week, while the advent candle burns down to a stub. It’s feeling a lot like Christmas.

I hope you are in a similarly relaxed state wherever you are. A very Merry Christmas to you all, have a lovely time. XX

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/1e4/30995756/files/2014/12/img_8276.jpg
Eurostar Yule log!

Warming Vegetable & Pasta Soup

IMG_8191.JPG

The other day I was looking in the pantry for pasta to go with my leftover puttanesca sauce (Recipe here from Nigella) and came across a bag of these little pasta shapes. They look macaroni sized, but are in fact much smaller, absolutely tiny. I bought them in a hypermarket in France last summer.

This morning it was 5oc which is 2oc up on yesterday, but it’s a bitterly cold wind which blows. Time for soup. I had a good Goggle for minestrone recipes, but nothing really grabbed me so I made my own up as I went along. It turned out to be a corker.

The Mister is away working in Stockholm this week and I do intend to save him a bowlful as a warming welcome home, but I’m not sure it’s going to last! He is texting about having rich and delicious moose meatballs for dinner. A couple of weeks ago he was in Toulouse and it was all cassoulet and sausages.

Here’s what I used, because you might fancy making some really warming soup too:

Vegetable and pasta soup

2 tsp olive oil

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 onion, finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely diced

1/2 red & 1/2 yellow pepper, chopped

3 rashers smoked bacon, finely chopped

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp mixed herbs

1-2 bayleaves

400g tinned tomatoes (best quality the better)

500-750ml vegetable stock (depending on how thick you want the soup)

2 handfuls of small pasta shapes (I have small hands!)

Seasoning to taste

——————-

Serves 4. Or 3 if you’re into really hearty bowlfuls!

::Heat oil in a large pan, cook onion till translucent, add rest of vegetables and cook slowly, covered, until softened.

::Add bacon and cook for a few minutes. Add smoked paprika and cook for a minute.

::Put rest of the ingredients into the pan and cook till vegetables tender. Stir now and then so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Serve. Try not to go back for ‘just a little more’.

** The peppers could easily be missed out, especially as you’re using the holy trinity of onion, carrot and celery as a base for the soup. I just included them because I had a few to use up, and I love pepper. Instead of, or as well as, the pasta you could throw in some lentils, chick peas, cannellini beans or butter beans.**
IMG_8211.JPG

Who needs Swedish meatballs or cassoulet?

IMG_8208-0.JPG

Zesty Raspberry Ripple Blanket – FINISHED!

I did finish the rest of the darning in and the border on Monday night, just a day over my self-imposed schedule. Ya-hoo! I’m really pleased with this ripple. The colour scheme is different to any I’ve done before and that’s good – variety is definitely my spice of life! It’s soft and very warm.

It’s a present for my sister in law and although she didn’t pick the colours I ran my idea of a raspberry pink, greys, some purple and navy by her. I wanted to make something which reflected the colours she wears and which I know she particularly likes. She told me that lime is her absolute favourite, so it became the zesty raspberry ripple. (Everything needs a name.)

IMG_8154.JPG

Initially I was just going to border it with trebles and simple rows of double crochet, I don’t think ripples need fancy edging or trim, but I started to want to do something a bit more decorative. Then I remembered Lucy, of Attic 24 blog, had made some pretty edging on her Interlocking Ripple. This is basically a row of dc 1, ch 1, miss a st, dc 1, ch 1, miss a st and so on. Then you make a spike stitch when going along the next row. This is a dc which you think will be going into the missed stitch space, but actually pops into stitch in the row below the missed stitch. Easy! It sounds complicated but it’s not at all once you get going. With spike stitches you have to make sure your tension is relaxed, not too tight, not too loose – otherwise  the whole edge with curl up, or the stitch will be a floppy loop.

As I was on the home straight, and keen to finish, I double crocheted the last two rows bit by bit –  the lime chasing the pink around the edge! For the corners I worked 2dc, ch 2, 2 dc in the pink but I found 1 dc , ch 1, 1 dc better for the lime row.

Before wrapping the ripple I will give the border a steam block, just to make sure it’s all flat and relaxed. It’s a good finisher.

IMG_8153.JPG

Getting good photos has been VERY tricky with the dull weather, today it’s bright outside but very cold and damp. I didn’t want to risk the blanket getting dirty if I tried hanging it from the washing line.

IMG_8152.JPG

I came up with a good plan in the making – for the first half I grabbed yarn colours randomly, with a little thought but nothing that made my head hurt. I’ve found while making blankets that by the halfway mark the whole thing is not as exciting. I just want to go on and finish. So, I crocheted another row and then just worked back through the colours, copying what had gone before. If you fold it in half on the middle row (of graphite) the whole blanket is symmetrical.

IMG_8155.JPG

Zesty Raspberry Ripple Details:

4 mm hook

Stylecraft Special DK – 7 shades:

Silver
Grey
Graphite (the darkest grey in the ripple)
Raspberry
Lime
Emperor (“penguin” – I hear this everytime.)
Midnight

Weighs: 1,295kg
Width: 117cm, 46″ (2″ short of 4′)
Length: 183cm, 72″ (6′)

Starting chain: 213 (Attic 24 Neat Ripple Pattern)

IMG_8154-0.JPG

IMG_8126.JPG

I’m darning all the ends before I do any more of the William Morris motif blanket. During the making of this ripple I have reminded myself that it’s painful to leave them all till the end!

IMG_4414.JPG

At the weekend

It’s been a lovely weekend, the kind where you pack lots and lots in and enjoy it all. The washing machine is whirling around as I type, the carpet needs hovering and dust is floating but it can all wait.
IMG_4357.JPG
On Saturday I went to ExCel, at the London Docklands, with a good friend for the Simply Christmas craft show. I haven’t been before and imagined sparkles, tinsel and decorations galore. It all began with a bit of a bang as we entered the space; a woman with a lot of bags was trying the dodge the staff on the way out. A member of staff was shouting that she couldn’t leave until security had been called. Apparently the woman had been caught stealing a few items and had more bags that hadn’t been searched. When my friend bought fat quarters from a few different stalls none gave receipts, so how to prove you’ve paid for items? We decided you’d need to make memorable comments, or talk with a really weird accent, during purchases just to make sure of being remembered.

The sleigh and everything you see above is made from sugar. The Grotto was full of sugary Christmas scenes and smelt absolutely delicious!

IMG_4370.JPG

The main focus seemed to be paper crafts and fabric. Black Sheep Wools had a stand and there were a few other small yarny tables, but not many. It’s probably for the best. Most of the show was just plain stalls selling what they might sell at any other time of year. The majority hadn’t decorated at all and there was a distinct lack of any sign of Christmas. We weaved from the beginning, along the stalls in row A, and so on, and by the middle we found a decorated tree and a couple of singers performing seasonal songs. Things seemed to be morphing into Christmas.Then we saw the sugary grotto and the display of Christmas makes above.

I particularly enjoyed watching some art workshops. Two or three fairly large groups of people sat imitating the artists who stood at the front with a fixed camera showing their techniques as they worked. This was shown on a large screen so the participants could listened to explanations and paint or draw along, using watercolours or pastels. They all ended with their own representations of the same picture, it was rather impressive. I wish I could draw!

IMG_4365.JPG

Mmmmm chocolate. But I’m not buying any until we go to Brussels on a jaunt to the Christmas market. I’ve never been on the Eurostar train which travels under the English Channel, it’s going to be fun.

IMG_4366.JPG

After ExCel we headed to do the really cool thing we’d run out of time for last time; The Fan Museum in Greenwich. Maybe it’s not the most exciting visit, but there is impressive painting and workmanship. If you’re really clever and concentrate you can name all the parts of a fan and explain how they’re made. As you walk inside the rather lovely town house you can imagine the Upstairs, Downstairs lives played out there in the past.

We’re both a little addicted to Groupon, Living Social and Amazon Local deals so anything gets seriously considered; especially if it’s under £5 or £10. This year we’ve done all sorts of outings and activities, as we take it in turns to book the next thing. My friend bought the Fan Museum deal as it was £2 (it’s £2 if you’re a National Trust member anyway, by the way.) The next deal I’ve booked for us is a Charles Dickens London walking tour. We’ve been on the It’s a Ripper and Ghost walking tours this year, and I figure we’ll need the post-Christmas exercise in January.

We then went for a wander in Greenwich park as the light began to fade and wondered where we fancied going next.
IMG_4363.JPG
Generally, if in doubt, a pub is always a good choice. I haven’t drank in The Gypsy Moth for ages. It was still light when we arrived and only 11 degrees, so we sat in the garden looking at the twinkling lights as the light fell. There was more, but I’ve run out of photos and it really involved more tube travel, the O2 and dinner. And that, was another good day.

IMG_4362.JPG
On Sunday the Mr and I went to Blenheim Palace to see the Christmas decorations and rather speed walked through the rooms as we’d already seen the Ai Weiwei exhibition. I bet the attendants thought the pair of us were philistines, only there to visit the shop.

The stilt walker was hilarious, Someone wondered how he ties his shoes…

IMG_4371.JPG
I wouldn’t mind eating Christmas Dinner at the Marlborough’s table.

IMG_4377.JPG

And home for a mug of tea and some crochet. I promised myself that when all the ends were all darned I could download and read the new Inside Crochet. Apparently I always say “Next time I’ll darn as I go.”
IMG_4379.JPG

And she’s off….!

IMG_4378.JPG

I’d planned to finish the zesty raspberry ripple by the end of the month. I was soooo close. Last night I did darn in the rest of the ends, and trebled along both sides. Tonight I’m going to complete the rest of the border, if it’s only a day off that’s not so bad, is it?

IMG_4381.JPG

This was taken last night under a lamp, so the colours are rather muted. It’s so soft and warm, I know it’s going to used lots and appreciated. I’ll do a ‘FINISHED’ post with all the yarn details soon.

How was your weekend?