Grey days 

After this morning’s election result from America the thought of crochet, an audio book and lots of cups of tea is rather comforting. What disquieting news…

I took my Unnamed Ripple to the pub on Monday night but had to undo a row after the 4-4-2-2 stitch count was off on the previous row. You’d think trebles in a simple combination would be fine, wouldn’t you? Apparently not when there’s chatting, listening to another’s stories, plus cider involved! I might need to start knitting a garter stitch thingy on a Knit and Natter night. Any suggestions? 

My current audio book is The Unknown Bridesmaid by Margaret Forster. It’s the story of Julia, a child psychologist who treats young girls said to be behaving badly. One day her own troubled past creeps into her present life and she must try to understand her childhood self. I had a phase of reading books by this author, some ten or fifteen years ago. I’m glad to come back to her writing. I remember it as perceptive, intelligent and with interesting themes.

If you’re a new follower I’d like to say a warm and smiley “Hellooo”to you. I’ve had a flurry of notifications here and from BlogLovin’ since the Summer. This is lovely and a bit surprising since it’s felt like my blog has just been slowly ticking along.

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along again.  

Now – an Autumn snapshot 

        
    
    
   
 One of my nearest and dearest gave me a little verbal prod the other day saying: “I’ve had a look at your blog, but there’s been nothing for a while has there?” Noted and now rectified!

I’ve been carrying on crocheting my Spice of Life blanket (not far off the darning and border now) or knitting a few rows of my Hitchhiker scarf most days. I don’t think continually showing the same projects, just a few centimetres further on, would be interesting. Which is why I haven’t been around here much recently. There IS another project I’ve been working on too, but that’s hush hush as it’s a present. You’ll see it one day….

I really love Autumn: the crisp cool days, walking along kicking up piles of crunchy leaves, the beautiful colours of leaves and berries, the sunsets bringing brightness to often grey skies, soups and stews, casseroles and countless pots of tea. Do you love it too?

Homemade compliments

I’ve just read Sarah of Crafts from the Cwtch blog post about how her new knitted Colourblock Shawl has prompted compliments from strangers on the street. This reminded that when I wore my crocheted ribbed scarf to evening class on Tuesday I was complimented on the colours. It’s so gratifying to make something handmade and have it noticed. (For the right reasons!) Shop bought rarely gathers compliments; I guess the colours and designs can be too generic to stand out.
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If you want to crochet a ribbed scarf the pattern’s here. Or, you could dig out your knitting sticks and make Sarah’s cosy shawl.
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Currently I’m rippling away still, full speed ahead. The end is in sight, bar the darning and border. I have about 19 more stripes to crochet and I’m whizzing along to (don’t judge me) Glee: season 4. I gave up on Glee at the beginning of series 3 which was shown years ago here. It was so samey and they looked far, far too old to still be hanging around a High School music room! Series 4 was apparently broadcast two years ago, most of the originals have moved onwards and upwards which makes it fun seeing their next steps. It keeps me singing along as I fiercely hook, hook, hook on the sofa. To be honest I am absolutely dying to make some small fun makes, but I know I have to get the zesty raspberry ripple finished and then go back to the motif blanket. Both WILL be completed in time for Christmas.

What are you up to?

The gloves are on

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What a change from the end of last week. The scarf, hat and glove box is live. Typical autumn weather has returned.

This week one of my new v stitch scarves had its first outing, and I wore my fingerless mitts. Only twice though, then I swapped them for proper gloves. Fingers and all as it’s now dropped 10-12 degrees. I had to laugh, as a lady at the bus stop saw me wearing the fingerless pair and said she’d been wondering about them, and if “they really work.”

It’s a rainy Saturday and the Wales v Australia rugby match is playing out on the TV. I’ve got Bose noise cancelling headphones on, catching up with Liza Tarbuck’s show from last Saturday on the BBC radio iplayer. The music’s so good that I’m sofa bopping as I ripple.

What are you up to?

Why would you put an egg on it?

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A wander by the river admiring the beginnings of autumn colour then lunch al fresco. The pub fires were lit but it was really too warm to be inside, such a lovely day. I had a starter of wild garlicky mushrooms on sourdough toast with a surprise poached egg on top which I ate, although they’d obviously done that poaching trick as it tasted faintly of vinegar. Then my friend and I decided a starter and a sinful pudding would be perfect, because we were only having a light lunch. Women’s logic is infallible. Mine wasn’t around long enough to snap but I can tell you it was swimming in sauce and had a good dollop of clotted cream on top!

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By noon today and yesterday it’s been 18 degrees and people are strolling about in t-shirts again. It’s incredible weather for October, we haven’t even had a frost yet.

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The flowers in the photo were in troughs alongside the tables and there were stunning hanging baskets behind us, all bursting full of begonias, freesias and other pretties. This is weird weather – but I like the temporary respite from autumn and I’m trying to make the most of the mini Indian Summer.

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I popped into my favourite yarn shop after lunch and grabbed an extra graphite, raspberry and lime for my ripple. £1.60 for 100g, super value isn’t it?

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I’ve just remembered that I was told off for pausing and squealing at the celeb version of Gogglebox the other night – Miranda and co were on a sofa with a granny square blanket hanging off the back, but also…..THIS:

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Even ripples are mainstream now. Is it the death knell for crochet? My e-pal and I were saying typing at the weekend that the handmade revolution can’t last forever and she reckons the cool kids will stop as everybody else gets on board. White walls and minimalism will be back with a vengeance, and the yarn shops will close again. But not for a while I hope!

There is an interesting feature in the new issue of Inside Crochet with Sara of Black Sheep Wools, all about how the business began, subsequently stalled and what happened when knitting and crochet came back.

I’ve just caught up on the first of the specials of the Great British Sewing Bee for Children In Need, it’s not great without Claud and doesn’t feel half as good as the usual series, but I like Edith, she’s very cool, and Dave makes me giggle. I won’t say who won in case you’re catching up too. I’ve got the other two to see as well.

You?

I don’t take any responsibility for the lame title, I asked for suggestions and it was better than my ‘Not cool’ or ‘Washing on the line again.’ Not cool was obviously because of the temps but …..well….it describes this blog too! Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Be yourself. Ya de yah. *Grin*

Woolly jumpers on!

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It was such a lovely day on Sunday; 17 deg and no need for a warm jacket. We sat on a bench and I was just saying how perfect it was to put your head back and feel the warm rays on your face, when I clonked my head on the back of the bench. I’d like to say this is a rare kind of clonk, but sadly it’s not. At a friend’s housewarming I apparently threw myself down onto her sofa, after unpacking lots of boxes, and hit my head on the bookcase which had been placed behind. I don’t really remember that one. Maybe I concussed myself!

Anyway. the walk, weather and sight of the trees, berries and wild fungi were beautiful. I really LOVE autumn. Always have.

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This is the first one I’d seen this season, on Sunday, but then I stumbled into full-on Christmas yesterday in a ‘room’ in Homebase. I like it in October, that’s when I begin to get little tingles about Christmas, the colourful lights and decorations to come. By December the relentlessness of it has worn me down somewhat, then on the actual few days it’s all fun again. Until the next year…

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The weather’s gone back to typically autumn temps with wind and rain featuring quite a bit this week. But the advantage of autumn and winter blanket making is being able to cosy under them while you crochet! The ripple is over half-way now and I’ve come up with a really cunning plan about the design. More on that another day.

Shotgun Lovesongs - Picador I’m really enjoying my Shotgun Lovesongs audio book. It’s perfect for rippling along to. The four main characters: Henry, Beth, Lee and Ronnie are dramatised by different narrators/actors. I’m loving the the way a couple of them pronounce words like ‘orange’ and ‘mirror’! I’m not sure if that’s due to them aiming to sound like authentic Wisconsinsites, but I likey.

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Tonight I’m making fish chowder for dinner. It’s a Lesley Waters recipe and you can find it here.

 

What are you cooking, eating, making, reading?

Cosy crocheting

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Because I’m fed up of having a really fluffy patch of carpet near my sofa I’ve come up with a cunning plan and fetched something from the kitchen for my ball of yarn. It’s a very stylish yarn bowl, don’t you agree? It’s working well and actually the ball unravels with ease, without constant tugging.

I shall have to get back on to my very good bloggy friend Trish of Made By Patch and see if her father is going to make me a super wooden yarn bowl like he made her. You’d think a lottery winner could buy anything she wanted wouldn’t you?
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So, I finished Brian the v stitch scarf / cowl the other day (I had just 7″ left to do in the top pic) and decided to continue something which would keep me as toasty as possible while I hooked. As I sit writing this in the gloom, at 430pm, I realise that it’s never really become light today, it’s Britain’s infamous iron sky.
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Still, there was porridge for breakfast, homemade butternut and sweet potato soup with crispy bacon pieces sprinkled on top. I may push the boat out and have a low cal chocolate coconut drink next. Comfort food and drinks along with cosy crochet are the benefits of autumn.

Are you warm or chilly? What is keeping you cosy?

I won £25 on the lottery Saturday night. Woo hoo!

Soup days

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Although the weather has been mild and warm lately I’ve already thrown myself into soup making. I really love trying different recipes, and old favourites, every autumn and winter. The week before last I made Curried Sweet Potato from the River Cottage Veg book, last week it was my old fave Chilli lentil and tomato soup. The recipe is here, blogged a few years ago, if you fancy making it. Times flies etc when you’re blogging…

This morning it’s so much cooler that I made a batch of soup for our lunch. It’s Moroccan tomato and chickpea soup with couscous from the Good Food website. Spicy and hearty this is a goodie. I used 400g of homegrown tomatoes, rather than a can, as we’re still ripening bowlfuls around the house. (My ipad is on 2% so this post is a race against time!)

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Moroccan tomato and chickpea soup with couscous

By Barney Desmazery

Serves 4

  • 75g couscous
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 750ml hot vegetable stock
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped into small cubes
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • half a finger of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp ras-el-hanout
  • 1 tbsp harissa paste, plus extra to serve
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 400g tin chickpeas
  • juice ½ lemon
  • roughly chopped coriander, to serve

Method

  1. Tip the couscous into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir through 1 tbsp of the oil. Pour over enough hot stock just to cover and cover the bowl with cling film and set aside.
  2. Heat the rest of the oil in a saucepan and cook the onion and carrot gently for 8 mins until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 mins more then stir in the ras el hanout and harissa and cook for another minute. Pour in the tomatoes and stock and give everything a good stir. Season, add the chickpeas and simmer everything gently for 20 mins until thickened slightly then squeeze over the lemon.
  3. Uncover the couscous and fluff up with a fork. Spoon the soup into bowls, top each with a mound of couscous, scatter with coriander and serve with extra harissa for those who want it.

    Recipe from bbcgoodfood.com

    :: I used only 1 tbsp of olive oil for the veg and none in the couscous
    :: I omitted the chickpeas, it was filling enough without
    :: Blended half the soup in my liquidiser as it was a bit ‘skinny’ for me with all the cherry tomatoes, it was a lovely consistency
    :: Used 1 3/4 tbsp of ras-el-honout as it was all I had left, but that was perfect for a good spicy kick with the harissa

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    What are you up to?

Brian – V Stitch Scarf / Cowl

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A couple of people have asked me what I’m crocheting at the moment. I should be concentrating on my motif blanket, and ripple, but I’m really enjoying simple crochet. I woke yesterday feeling really unwell and today don’t feel much better, and this is perfect. I watched my first Disney film, Tangled, in years yesterday afternoon. Maybe the first since the Little Mermaid? I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it, that’s a definite sign of my custard brain. The animation seems more like 3D than before, perhaps Disney have had to adapt their technology to keep up with Pixar type films? The characters, especially Rapunzel, looked just like Blythe dolls, all huge eyes and small faces.

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I had some good news – Lang have NOT stopped making Tosca Light it’s just that for some reason I couldn’t find it on their website. I’m so pleased. If you look under Autumn / Winter on their website you’ll see the range of colours. (I know…they should make me a Tosca Light ambassador.) Lang is a Swiss company in case you’re wondering, TL is made in Italy.

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I’ve been looking out for other types of v stitches in my Harmony Guide to Crochet Stitches. I was lucky enough to find it in a charity shop for a song a few years ago. They call this one Three-and-Two Stitch, it’s descriptive but a bit dull…

I’ve run out of yarn as I had only one 100g ball left and my scarves tend to need 150-200g as I like them lonnnng. Time to find some more. If I won the lottery I’d just fill a room with it. Oh, why not a house actually?

I was really pleased to hear that Kate’s (Greedy for Colour) Mum; Mrs A in Australia (Rambling with me) is crocheting a V Stitch Scarf, using my last pattern which you can find HERE. The power of the internet eh – sharing what we’re making with others all over the world. I really love it. I should put pattern links on Ravelry. One day.

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I asked what I could call this scarf and had “Brian” as the answer. Well, why not? I did ask!

Brian v stitch scarf / cowl

5mm hook – if you’d like a lazy, looser type of fabric, but try a swatch and see what you feel. I tried with a 4mm hook and it was nice too, although quite a firm fabric with far less drape.

150-200g DK yarn depending on the length of scarf or cowl you prefer
Lang Tosca Light is 100g/400m a ball 55% new wool, 45% acrylic.

Width: 22cm / 8 5/8ths ”
I’m aiming for – Length: 80″ / 203cm
Will probably be – Weight: 150g -200g

V stitch = 1 tr, 1ch, 1tr (UK)V stitch: 1 treble, 1 chain, 1 treble into same space (UK terms)
ch = chain
tr = treble
v st = v stitch
ss = slip stitch
st = stitch
tch = turning chain
sp = space

Foundation Row: Ch 50
Or a multiple of 6 st + 2 to get the width you want
R1: (Right side) Work a v st into 5th ch from hook. *Miss 2ch, 3tr into next ch, miss 2ch, work a v st into next ch; rep from * to last 5ch, miss 2ch, 3tr into next ch, miss 1ch, 1tr into last ch, turn
R2: 3 ch, *miss 2sts, work 3tr into centre tr of next 3tr, work a v st into ch sp at centre of next v st; rep from * ending 1tr into top of tch, turn
R3: 3ch, *v st into sp of next v st, 3tr into centre tr of next 3tr; rep from * ending 1tr into top of tch, turn

Rep R2 and R3 until desired length. I’m aiming for about 80″/203cm.

If making a cowl join short ends together using ss; bearing in mind before you join the ends that there is a right and wrong side to the fabric. Finish off and darn ends.

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I’ve been meaning to say this for a few years(!) when I get to the turning chain of the previous row I always find it easier to use a 3mm hook to go into and make the last stitch, aiming for the same tension as the rest which I’ve made with a 4-5mm hook. That might be a useful tip if you’re new to crochet and have trouble seeing or feel like you’re forcing the hook through the top of the chain, it depends on your tension and eyesight probably!

Also, when crocheting in rows after I turn I’ve always taken the hook out of the stitch, rather than twisted the stitch. Do you? I’ve always wondered if that’s correct, me being pernickety or just silly?

Happy v stitching your Brian scarf / cowl!

Autumn at Blenheim Palace

A brisk walk in the crisp Autumn air, muffled up with scarf, hat (apparently it makes me look like a pixie, hmmm) and fuzzy red gloves. But tell me why is it that dogs always swerve in a circle to the one who is not so keen, completely ignoring the other who would no doubt stop, have a stroke and a chat?

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What is absolutely perfect after a red cheek making walk is this…20131114-171219.jpg

Are you enjoying Autumn? Where are your favourite Autumn places?

Crocheted pumpkin

It’s been the first Saturday in weeks and weeks that we haven’t had anything planned. We both got mundane jobs – house cleaning, haircut, butchers, market for veg for family lunch tomorrow (the butchers, the bakers, the candlestick makers……!) Sainsbury’s for other things – done first thing and have basically lazed out this afternoon. Bliss!

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Gah!!! As Bridget would say – I got to the end of the crochet on version two and realised again that I’d forgotten to crochet into the back loops. It would really add some texture. Again I was listening to Bridget. Oh well, I was just trying to be seasonal.

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After a comment about having invented a raspberry yesterday I thought I’d get a better colour than the Stylecraft shrimp shade of DK which obviously wasn’t cutting it. I popped to one of my favourite local yarn shops and bought some proper Halloween orange (cheapo Hayfield Bonus DK, bit squeaky but fine.) Afterwards I tested the colour against real pumpkins and plastic items in Waitrose, just to make sure it was bright enough, this attracted some looks which I ignored.

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It’s cute though I have to admit. I might try making version III sometime with added texture, probably not while listening to an audio book!

If you want to have a go at crocheting a pumpkin you can find the pattern here on the Planet June craft blog.

Count how many different shades it looks with the shifting autumn light levels….!

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This and that in London

Last weekend in London I found myself taking rather random photos but thought I’d share them with you anyway. I don’t have any of the poncho as it’s still a work in progress. One rectangle is finished, the other is probably halfway through. I don’t knit for long periods with 8mm needles as it’s too much for my little hands!
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I saw these beauties in Liberty of London, one of my favourite shops in the city, and had to add it to a mental wishlist of things to own one day. Imagine opening such a pretty case which is full to the brim with bright ribbons, threads, wool and cotton? I really can. If I visualize it maybe I can make it happen!
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I had a good play with this nifty sewing box, I really like the clever design. I’m always drawn to storage and boxes in particular. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told to “Step away from the tupperware, wicker, tins, jars, cubes – we’ve got enough already!”

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20131010-110530.jpgTa-dah!!!

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This book is so cute, but after my exploits with the cat who’s still in pieces, waiting to be sewn up then sold for charity by a nice friend, I’m not realistic about the dolls ending up 3D…

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And well, the John Lewis Food Hall is full of Halloween at the moment. I couldn’t stop grinning at these (terrified?) skeleton Gingerbread Men, what a funny idea.
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All the orange and black is very eye-catching.

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Screme eggs! Ha ha! Tempted though I was by the thought of the delicious green goo in the middle, I resisted since the long weekend was to be full of birthday meals…

20131010-110726.jpgRegents Street on Saturday, it was lovely and warm but not a blue sky. Sunday was a different matter – you might have thought we’d been transported back to July. So many were wearing t-shirts and sandals, it was gorgeous. We ate lunch outside and basked in the rays, making the most of it since we’re probably due another 8 month Winter. If we could always have a wonderful Summer like we’ve had I would happily put up with a long Winter.

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We ended the weekend with a look around Selfridges. Here’s the man himself made out of jelly beans. I was amused to see some are missing – proving that if it’s edible people will eat it!
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MMmmmm aren’t these lovely. (We resisted.)

I haven’t included all the photos I took of full on ____________________ displays in JL and Selfridges. Let’s get Halloween out of the way first please…!

This week has included cooking chilli, homemade soup, jars of apple & sage jelly to go with Winter roasts, (would anyone like some cooking apples? It’s been a bumper harvest and the apples are HuGe) snuggling down in bed reading Naked by David Sedaris and lots of washing hanging about the house. Welcome to the new season.

As I’m mostly in a knitty frame of mind in the evenings, and occasionally picking up my crochet hook to do more of the hot pink scarf, I haven’t begun with joining my 200 Blocks CAL squares together, or even thinking about them too hard if I’m honest. I don’t mind the thought of doing it at all since I’ll be using crochet to join, but my mind is full of other things. I’ve been in touch with the CAL keeners and they’re all fine with their own joining matters, or pausing like me. One day you’ll see all the blocks laid out and be reading of my planning and dithering for a cottage garden something but just not yet. :-D

What are you up to at the moment? I love hearing from you, as always.

Chilli & Lentil soupyness

It’s grey and rainy today. In the middle of our wonderful summer! Yes. This is irony.
I wondered about salad for lunch and then decided what I really craved was lentil and chilli soup. I just felt the need for something warming. It’s a BBC Good Food recipe that I’ve used time and time again, usually in the winter months!
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Do you fancy making this too?

Lentil & tomato soup

Heat a pan and dry-fry 2 tsp cumin seeds and a good pinch of chilli flakes until they smell nice and pungent.
Add a tablespoon of oil and chopped red onion, cook for five minutes.
Stir in 140 g of split red lentils with 850ml of vegetable stock and 400 g can tomatoes. Simmer for 15 minutes until lentils have softened.
Whizz in a liquidiser or use a stick blender until its chunky. Put back into the pan and add a few tablespoons of chick-peas. Makes 4 portions. Serve garnished with chopped coriander and a swirl of yoghurt/creme fraiche/double cream.

Yum!

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