Monday, 2 January 2012

My Christmas

As always it's been a while since my last post and of course there is too much to say all at once without running in to a huge essay, so I'll try and keep it short and sweet!

I spent most of the run up to Christmas (and over Christmas, much to Mr J's disgust) wearing these nice wellies, pink legwarmers and about 7 layers of clothing to stave off the cold.




We * were sawing



wire cutting

hammering

and painting



*please note the vast majority of the hard work was done by my Dad because he does not share his fancy power tools nicely and hardly lets me have a go. Plus he's a darn sight better at that kind of stuff. The tasteful colour scheme is all my own doing and Dad is thoroughly disgusted by it. Which must mean it's awesome, of course! My Mom also did a sterling job entertaining my poor neglected children.

All so 4 days after Christmas I could drive 40 miles to pick up some scruffy, slightly bald little hens that look like this......

Lady Gaga (not the real one, she doesn't like mealworms)

Meryl       
and 10 more besides. I'm giving over my garden, time and weekend lie-ins to give them a chance at life and freedom outside of a battery cage, something sadly thousands of hens like them will never get to see. To give them a name, a little bit of love, a comfy bed and chance to die peacefully and naturally (a part I fear I won't cope with very well!). It's been a very steep learning curve so far and I hope I can do them proud as their new guardian.

My hens were just a small number of the 2200 re-homed by the Coventry branch of the British Hen Welfare Trust just before the change in the law regarding battery cages. Sadly the change in law meant that all the current hens living in those cages had to go to slaughter unless homes could be found for them, and all around the country people have been stepping up in droves and giving some of these girls a home. I'm proud to have been a little part of it. More information on their work can be found on their website here.

I will show you the rest of my new troupe later on, time is ticking on and I'm still having a bit of trouble with those early starts!

Happy New Year to you all. As you can probably tell I've had to give blog reading and project stalking a bit of a miss lately. I hope to catch up on everyone's posts soon.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

FO Sunday

I kind of missed the boat for FO Friday, for the past couple of weeks running so I thought I'd better get these blogged about before another week crept up on me. Over on Ravelry I was part of a swap on the APlayfulDay podcast group. If you are new to podcasts then you should give this one a try. Part of the swap was a handmade element and I decided to make my swap-ee some handwarmers as she had some in her queue but I couldn't see any in her projects. Stalking, it's all part of the fun of swaps! I get really nervy when I'm making things for other people and it is so hard to make something when you don't know someone. I was trying to decide on a pattern that would fit a range of sizes.



I decided on Midnight With a Twist, a free pattern by Ferol Max. It's written for sport weight but I didn't have any to hand so I used my beloved Wendy Merino Bliss DK in Mulberry. It's a bit darker than the pictures suggest. I have to take all my pics outside at this time of year as my house is very dark so I had no choice but to head out to my scruffy garden.

I added 2 extra rounds before starting the cables and another 2 extra after the thumb. Had I not done this I would have only used one 50g ball but it was slightly over. If I'd been making these for myself I'd have had to add quite a few more rounds as they only just covered my knuckles. I did pass them around for people to try at knit night and it was fine on them, just my extra long hands they didn't fit! I did a provisional cast on and left enough yarn to go back and do a K2togtbl cast off (don't know the proper name for this!)

I did them on bamboo DPN's I bought as a cheap set from Ebay. They were £5.99 including postage for 11 sets of 5 ranging from 2mm to 5mm and they are in a much handier 5" length. For the price I expected I'd be spending some time sanding out rough spots or sharpening the tips but I didn't have to do anything like it at all, they are perfect. I used 3.25mm apart from the cables where I used 3.5 as when I'm concentrating I knit more tightly. I will probably knit this pattern again at some point. My hands are freezing now the weather has turned and I was very sorry to put these in the post.

how do you make gifs

I had planned a post where I had organised my queue and assigned yarn for the next few projects and had vowed to stick to it......until I saw Tiny Owl Knits' Deer with Tiny Antlers pattern and then my good intentions went out of the window. I'm all done apart from one ear and felting the antlers. My first attempt didn't go well at all and I'm dreading trying again! There aren't enough swear words invented for those antlers.

Wish me luck

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Fibre Flurry 2011

Hello all. It's been a while hasn't it? One of the perils of blogging is that sometimes blog-life meets real life and it's awkward. It's a bit like singing away merrily to yourself and realising someone is standing there listening and you don't know whether to shut up or carry on singing. I'm going to carry on, but quietly, and spare you the air guitar and dance routines from now on.

And I can't disappear as I have things to post about. October means two things on my calendar, Halloween and Fibre Flurry. This year we decided to go as a knit group day out. I got up nice and early, packed my sandwiches and satnav and set off to pick everyone up. Fibre Flurry is held in Kings Norton, Birmingham and it's in it's 2nd year. There are also workshops available, I did one last year but the day was a bit of a rush so this time we just went to shop at the many lovely stalls and chat with nice people. This year the stalls were set out over a bigger area and it wasn't as cramped. I decided to have a quick look around first and decide where I would be spending my budget. I had a tidy up of my Ravelry queue the day before so I knew which projects I wanted to buy for (more about those in the next post) and which colours I was after. When you are met with so many stalls offering beautiful things it is easy to be tempted into buying anything and everything. And I really did not need any more variegated sock yarn!

I ended up buying all of my yarn from Easyknits. They had brought along a striking display of their Deeply Wicked yarns and I was spoilt for choice. It was very busy so I picked up a skein of all the ones that caught my eye and spent an age trying to find the best combination, which of course ended up being the ones I went for first - Mustard Seed and Battleship.




I bought myself some treats from Brownberry Yarns, a Herdy keyring and badge and Hiya Hiya bamboo sock circular. The tiny tea cup stitch marker was from Undercover Owl who had brought along some gorgeous project bags, and also her baby boy who is adorable and watched all the goings on from his sling.

We settled down to do some knitting but one by one made our way back to the stalls for another look and a spend! While I was walking around earlier I had stalked a lady wearing a beautiful shawl. She wrote down the name of it so I could look it up later. It turns out I had seen the pattern on Rav and favourited it before but it had somehow not registered properly till I had seen this one. She had made it in bright green Wollmeise. So it was back to the Easyknits stall with me and I chose this bright teal colour called Siren.


And even though I had sworn blind I wasn't going to buy any more variegated, this was calling to me loudly! I can't resist a rainbow. It's Easyknits Bambino 80% Merino 20% Bamboo and it's so soft. Of course I don't have plans for it, it can stay be a stash pet for now til I decide. I have enough projects on my plate for now anyhow.


There were plenty of stalls selling wonderful yarns but I sort-of managed to stick to my shopping list otherwise I would have definitely come home with some Knitting Goddess. I'm really wishing I'd picked up some of the Bella's Truck 'When Vamipres Knit Socks' yarn. I'd been eyeing it up while I was chatting to the lovely Coopknit. I did get a fab knitting badge and magnet from there though, and also a Christmas decoration from Injabulo whose stallholder told me all about her rescue battery chickens. She had rescued them in the dead of winter and knitted the poor featherless girls some jumpers to wear till their feathers grew back. I'm really hoping to get my own rescue hens next year and I can't wait!

Fibre Flurry is a lovely, friendly event and we're so lucky to have it here in the Midlands. Even though it isn't that far I still made a few navigation errors causing the satnav to put on her angry voice but we got home in the end!

Oh and I had my first Trick or Treaters for the first time inyears. Every year I put Halloween decorations out and buy sweets but never got any knocks on the door. This year I did but they were dressed as scary clowns and as luck would have it, I'm actually petrified of clowns and had to keep reminding myself they were just children behind the masks.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Stashurday

Hi all! I think my crafty mojo may be making slight return. I don't want to draw too much attention to it in case I scare it away again and end up frogging yet another project. So shhhhh! I have been busy settling my small people back into school this week and haven't had much time to knit in between baking for lunchboxes and making sure homework is done. Girl had her first written homework task this week and was so excited about it we did it straight away.  She did really well given the small hurdles she has had to overcome since starting school. I'm very proud of her as she takes everything in her stride.


One thing I haven't learned is that alcohol and Ebay don't mix. I saw some old retro superwash Sirdar and decided to place a bid, there were 12 balls and I presumed they were 50g and then after read they were 25g and ended up placing a bid that was just a little too high. Luckily there was only one further bid and I didn't end up paying to my maximum. Though when the yarn arrived, it didn't smell good at all so I set about putting it into skeins to wash. My small boy enjoyed this and wanted to help but ended up using my swift as a 'horsey jump' and a 'pew-mer' (an object making a pew-pew lasergun type noise) I love this age, he really makes me laugh. It's been through the machine now and smells much better.



It's not usually a colour I would entertain but it's nice to work outside your boundaries once in a while. It's a very vivid flamingo pink, not hugely soft but I think would work well for a thick warm child's cardigan. One that I will knit once my mojo returns!

I also picked up some cheap Rowan Pure Wool DK from Hobbycraft. I don't know if it's just my local branch but they seemed to be phasing it out as all the colours were reduced. I got some of this bluey-greeny colour. Mr J found me high on yarn fumes with an implausible amount of yarn in my basket and I needed talking down!



Also got some of my favourite Wendy Merino.


I've been obsessing over the lovely colours used by this Etsy seller and want to make something similar. Her garments are lovely and her little models are just so cute.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Blackberries

Hello all. I have moved my blog address and I'm now at happyelastic.co.uk. Because of this I have lost all your lovely comments for a little while, but I've set the ball rolling to migrate them back here again which should be completed soon. It gave me a bit of a fright to notice they had all gone!

Over the past few weeks I have been slowly filling my freezer with an absolute mountain of blackberries, I'm up to about 4kg now. I'm lucky enough to live a short walk from a massive supply of them and it's become a bit of an obsession to head on up there with my wellies on and wade waist deep into the brambles. I quickly discovered that the best ones grew off the beaten track and if I was going to get to them then I had to put up with being prickled a little bit! I found that a plastic 4-pint milk bottle was the best thing to collect them in as there is less chance of dropping the lot when a sudden thorn in the hand makes you jump. I tried using a plastic carrier bag but they get caught and rip. I've lived here for 7 years and it's the first time I had thought of going to pick any! What a waste. It doesn't appear that I have had much competition for them either, apart from the birds. So what have I done with my haul?


This is the first thing I made. I discovered this Cider Crumble Slice recipe on the Caked Crusader blog a few weeks ago. I was intrigued by a cake with so little butter and made with cider and made it straight away. The mixture looks strange but oh my word, it is one of the best desserts I have ever eaten (added smugness points for making it myself!) It is still nice cold, but it's best when it's still warm and served with cream or custard. Mmmmmmm! As a variation on the original I made it with blackberries instead of the raisins and used an Apple and Blackcurrant cider made by Rekorderlig. I thought the cake might turn out a bit purple but it didn't.

Secondly I made some jam! I've only made jam once before and it was a disaster. I found a proper jam pan from the car boot sale for £4 but it was finding some jars that caused me the most headache. I ended up going to Ikea twice to get some of these. Never believe the online stock checker! For giving away jam as gifts the Ikea jars are a little bit big so I need to find some smaller ones before my next batch. The recipe was one I got from The Cottage Smallholder. It was full of handy tips about sterilising the jars and setting the jam and the blog owner has helpfully replied to her blog comments so it is well worth reading if you are new to jam making like I am. It gave me just a little more confidence.


I put 1kg of blackberries with about 400g of bramley apples (also bought from the car boot for 40p for a big bag)


I cooked them till the apple was soft. This smells absolutely gorgeous!


I don't like any seeds in my jam so I passed the mixture through a sieve, once through the one above and then through a finer one. I wish I had a food mill! It took ages.


 Then you are left with this. I weighed the juice and pulp and it came to 1.480kg so I added the same amount in sugar along with the juice of one lemon.


Then it was time for the cooking! I didn't get chance to take any more pictures after that as it was a bit manic getting cold saucers out of the fridge and wondering if it had reached setting point or not. I think I overset it just a little bit but not so much that you need a knife and fork to cut it. Then there was the juggling of hot jars and hot jam. The kitchen has never been in such a mess! We had some of the jam for breakfast and it was lovely. I'm so pleased with it. Yay, I made jam!

I'm hoping to make some blackberry vodka as well but am having a bit of trouble sourcing some empty bottles. Beer and jam making supplies seem so expensive. It's not too bad if you are keeping it for yourself but if you are wanting to give some away you lose the jar or bottle and it's worth more than the contents. I think I have been too efficient with my recycling and should have saved some empties.

My yarny mojo is still missing. Beginning to wonder if it will ever come back.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The best £2 I ever spent

Hi there! Things have been busy busy busy around here. I've been making a lot of cakes, I did some cupcakes for a charity day at my hairdressers. I was halfway through the 52 cupcakes and it was about 11pm and my hand mixer decided it couldn't possibly go on and went up in a puff of smoke. Typical! I carried on doing the icing by hand and didn't finish till gone 2:30am. Next day I also had to make a second cake for Miss D to take to her aunties so she could celebrate her birthday with her friends that she knows over there. I found that Delia's Children's Cake recipe topped with the milk chocolate covering from Nigella's Custard Birthday Cake is great for when you have no mixer as they both are made using melted things. A lot easier on the hands.

Once I had delivered my cupcakes to their destination I came home to a delivery of fence posts and panels that means my garden will finally be enclosed. Once they are put up that is. As Mr J isn't supposed to be lifting things and the delivery lorry was too big to get near to the house, I spent a good hour helping my dad carry everything down the lane. Mr J is currently on a 24 hour heart monitor to see if anything untoward is happening. He has a little diary to note down any abnormal occurrences so they can see on the read-out if anything changes with his heart rate at that time. Of course being me I see it as a fab opportunity to sneak up on him and shove cold vegetables from the fridge down his trousers. He wrote in his diary, 16:23 - Wife thinks she is funny.

Anyhow on to the interesting part of this blog post. A few months ago I picked up a Greist vintage buttonholer from an antique market for £2. At that point I wasn't sure how on earth to use it or whether or not it would fit on any of my machines. I thought for the price that it was worth getting just in case (why I didn't apply that logic at this weekend's car boot I don't know. I left something I later really wanted behind!) I knew that the Singer buttonhole attachments were good as my friend Lisa at Lisa Sews has one set up on permanently on a Singer machine to use for all her button holes. Lisa was the first person I ever met from the internet and I am forever grateful to her for not being an axe wielding murderer.


In the box you get a blanking plate and a set of dies that go inside the buttonholer from underneath. I'm pretty lucky as it comes with the full set of 10 so a lot of sizes to choose from.

Everything from eyelets to keyholes for coat buttons.


The lever on the side goes from wide to narrow stitch widths.
Unlike the Singer which uses the machine's zigzag stitch, the Greist overrides the stitch selected and works a satin-like stitch independently.



To use it you remove the screw that holds the foot onto the needle arm and take the foot off. There is a small hole where you can replace the screw to hold the buttonholer in place. There is a small fork that needs to be on the bar at the side of the needle screw. (hope I'm making sense!)

It wasn't as easy as just getting it out of the box and being good-to-go. Firstly I had to find out how it works and found this fantastic YouTube video. He's a guy in a vest who knows all about buttonholers. My hero! Thank you Brian.

To be able to use the buttonholer you have to be able to either blank off the feed dogs (moving things under the needle that push the fabric along) with a plate, which adds bulk, or isolate them on the machine. I have two machines, a Janome my parents bought me as a teenager and the Toyota I replaced it with once the Janome developed a few annoying traits that I think could probably be sorted out with a service. My Toyota is very basic and the feed dogs can't be dropped as far as I could see. Another problem some people have is the buttonholer being caught on the lever that lifts the needle arm up. On the Janome it isn't on the back but on the side so avoids it completely.

So I had to go across to my mother-in-law's to retrieve my Janome from her garage where it had been serving penance for being a pesky machine. As pesky as it is it has an easy switch lever inside to drop the feed dogs. The machine was filthy and still had the same blunt needle in as about 10 years ago or more but as I'm impatient I couldn't wait to have a go. It started up straight away.

And here it is, my first buttonhole


Isn't it pretty awesome? I'm so happy with it!

Getting it to work was one of the hurdles I needed to get over before I can start work on my skirt I talked about a couple of posts ago. The other was to find some fabric. I have found a few good shops on my travels, my favourite so far being Ditto Fabrics. There are some good choices also on Croft Mill and Fabric Land though I find the site really awkward and you can't order online you have to call them.

So, not quite there but progress.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Birthdays

It's my birthday today, but 6 years ago I had a very special present - a daughter. Now every year I have someone to share my day with. Well for as long as she is willing to, she might have gone off the idea by the time she is a moody teenager. That said I don't think Miss D has been moody for longer than 3 minutes at a time in her entire life.

Today we went to Blackbrook Zoological Park. Mr J had booked the day off ages ago but unfortunately as he has been off sick over the past few weeks and has only recently gone back to work they cancelled it. I still wanted to have a nice day for Miss D's sake so chose somewhere that wouldn't be too busy or hard to get to and also wouldn't have me pulling my hair out by the end of the day. My friend from knitting group kindly came with us too in case I had any moments with the kids that required more than one set of hands. Like when one of them (not mentioning any names, but he's small and blonde) decides to run away and gets mistaken for a girl by old folk who look very confused at me calling him a boy.


We went for a little look round before lunch.. The lunch which was a teeny bit of a disaster given that we're vegetarians and they had no cheese, at all. I'd even called them yesterday to ask about what they had available and you'd think that that would make them pop a note on the shopping list, but nope! It wasn't too bad though and we managed ok with salad sandwiches and soup.


First off we saw this horrifyingly scary terrible nightmare bird, the Cassowary. Not cute, not cute at all! It was glaring at us and rubbing that bony fin thing on the top of it's head along the fence menacingly. Scary biscuits!


Then we saw the pelicans that were having a grooming session. They were all clicking their beaks in unison, very strange to hear. They can also turn their throats almost inside out, something that Miss D was fascinated with and tried to describe to anyone within earshot.


We saw flamingoes, but I think these faded in the wash and need a new dye job.

A very pretty duck


It's equally pretty swan-like counterpart


A hugely fluffy chicken

A zebra, there were 2 but the other one was hiding out of shot


And this. What the heck?! It looks like someone welded a dog to a rabbit.

We finally found the penguins after being duped into thinking it was a duck enclosure by the fake-penguin ducks. You can see one just behind.

Miss D meets an owl

There was plenty of time to get around to all of the feeding times. First up the pelicans. Eldest was right next to the bucket of fish and got a teeny bit sprayed with fish bits.


Then the penguins
And the meerkats. They are very cute but the do eat some horrible things. Dead baby chicks - eaww! I wish I could un-see that and just think about how cute they are instead.

A bouquet of meerkats

They do spend a lot of time staring randomly into space. I can do that too.

The kids had a lovely day, there was a park to play in and ice creams to eat before we went home. Littlest one managed to get three splinters in his finger that he has yet to let me remove but otherwise all was ok. Every year I have been getting someone to take a picture of myself and Miss D together on our birthday but it is so so hard to get one where one of us isn't pulling a weird face! This year was no exception. I think we must have taken at least 50 but I've yet to see them as the camera battery died. Hopefully one of them will be good enough for the album.

It's also my 1 year blogversary today. I haven't been organised enough to do a giveaway but I will try and get one sorted as soon as possible. I'll take this opportunity to say a big thank you to everyone who reads and comments otherwise I'd just be talking to myself!

See you soon



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