I hope to be back in a few weeks with some lace and maybe the start of a sweater.
I’ll be back at some point but not just now where I could look back on an older post and stumble across a photo of Pebble the Wonder Dog. I’m not ready to deal with that just now, in the same way I’m not ready to look at the last photo I took of him earlier this week. He was in pain and now he isn’t. His name was Pebble and he was a Good Dog, right to the end which came far too soon.
I’m not sure that I managed to turn comments off – I can’t deal with that either.
Well hello dear blog, did you miss me? There has been woe and a considerable amount of bad language between May 19th and now. The short story is that my laptop died, I used something else and went through the long business of signing on everywhere and recovering my passwords, then my laptop was revived, then it died for real, I used something else, there was a factory reset involved (passwords again) then a change of browser (passwords again). I decided to leave the blog until everything else had stabilised (or to put it another way “I was worried that I didn’t know the password and was too frightened to actually look for it”) and so here we are, nearly at the end of August. I have not yet worked out whether the camera is on speaking terms with this laptop, that’s an experiment for another day. I just thought that you’d like to know that I’m still breathing and that I have not on this occasion managed to lock myself out of the blog.
In the eight years since I started this blog I’ve never been away from it for a month. You might have guessed that Something Has Been Going On. I have been dealing with something big and dramatic (it’s ok, no-one died) and there were only so many other things I could keep on top of. I managed to keep up with meals, walkies, laundry and breadmaking but talking about wool was so far down my list of things to make and do that it fell off the bottom.
We’re about back to normal now, or at least back to what passes for normal around these parts. I can’t face a mammoth catch up so I’ll skim through the camera card and declare myself to be up to date.
I buy my pumpkins well ahead of time because I know full well that if you leave it until the last minute you get to choose from the ones that everyone else passed over. I buy the treats ahead of time for the same reason and those two things meant that Halloween still happened despite me having a crisis to manage. We would have done better had we had some carving tools, as it was we just about managed with a paring knife. This is the first time either of use have done anything other than make shaped holes and taking the skin off and leaving the flesh was not that easy. This is the exceptional hat from the game Fallen London, sometime back in July I created a character to see what it was that people were talking about and I’ve played every day since. I already have plans for next year’s pumpkin but I think we’ll need a tool upgrade before then.
I finished knitting a pair of socks, when I reached the second toe I had no more knitting to fall back on. I had about a week with nothing to knit because I couldn’t manage to get my thoughts together to match yarn, pattern and needles. I know that I have a sweater waiting in a bag but I’m out of yarn now and if I can’t get in gear to knit there’s no hope for combing and spinning. When life settled down enough I took the easy option of knitting something that I’ve knitted before. This is the DROPS sideways short row garter jacket that I’ve knitted so often that it ought to have its own category. This uses three balls of leftover sock yarn that I fished out of the downstairs wool basket. It’s past the centre back now so I know that there will be enough yarn to finish it without resorting to random colour changes. I do not care that I’ve knitted it before, it’s nice soothing pattern-free knitting and I’ve sold all the others so I don’t feel bad about knitting another of them.
Somehow the calendar managed to jump straight from the end of October to nearly the end of November. This is the fruit for the Christmas cake, this year we’re trying something new and soaking the fruit before baking. A quick internet search found a big variation in technique, some recipes use a sugar syrup with a few tablespoons of brandy in it, some just tip the brandy bottle over the fruit. We went for the simpler option. I think this means that the cake will have all the fruit at the bottom but I’m pretty sure that it won’t be dry.
My major work in progress is still the study/smallest bedroom and it’s currently at the stage where it looks worse before (hopefully) it starts to looks better. I’m attempting to make it into a woodland retreat (yes, really) but I’ll settle for it being more of a woodland retreat than it was before I started. This is setting the bar very low as it was previously pink. Progress is slow, it’s full of furniture that I can’t clear out so I have to work around it all and I am intimidated by all the cabling and black boxes with flashing lights. The internet lives in there and I’d hate to be the one responsible for breaking that. The room is occasionally occupied by a homeworking husband whose at home days mean that decorating is off (although I was so desperate to see some progress that I spent one day working around him). The overdue declutter/redecoration is dragging on and on and so far the ceiling is the only thing that I can say is finished. Please note that Pebble is being a Good Dog in the photo (although he is pushing his luck) because the squeaky pig under his chin is not technically on the wallpaper. I probably couldn’t get a credit card between the pig and the paper but “next to” is not the same as “on”. I’m pretty sure that the pig would have jumped onto the wallpaper as soon as my back was turned which is exactly why I didn’t take my eye off him while reaching for the camera.
The sweater is
in a heap waiting to be blocked blocking. It’s done bar the front bands and collar, they are on hold until I see if it fits. I’m not happy with it, the reasons for this are as long as my arm but if it does fit I’ll slap a zip in it and call it good. I’m so prepared for it to be wrong that I’ve not cut the yarns after the cast offs, I want to see the body on a body and the sleeves in place before I do that. If by some miracle the sleeves fit you should be able to hear me cheer from there. I went off it about four inches in when the cables failed to grow from the initial ribbing and after that it would have had to have worked very hard to redeem itself.
My only knitting at the moment is this solitary sock. I’ve set off into the great unknown of a 76 stitch sock in an attempt to fit the ever expanding junior foot. I’m pretty sure that now I won’t be able to get a pair out of a single 50g of black yarn and some scraps without the colours showing above a shoe (these are uniform socks and have to be plain black with shoes on). It’s no big deal, or so I’m telling myself anyway. The point about these was that they used up leftovers so it feels all wrong to now start planning to have some black yarn leftover. I know that plain black isn’t all that exciting but we’ve reached the stage of certain people pinching other people’s socks so someone really needs more socks (possibly with his initials knitted into them).
I fell behind with the bag making this week, I only have three half bags to show. They all have the zips in and the lining attached but are lacking in all other seams. I’d like to blame it on the decorating but it could equally be down to boredom setting in. I’m pretty sure that these will be the last box bags for a while, after making eleven of them I’m fancying another shape. I still can’t get the lid on the fabric bin but it’s getting close now. I think another two lengths of fabric made into bags should mean that I can close the box and maybe think about making more fabric to put in it.
I think this is the end for the sheet. I have this piece and one of the original pillowcases left after making the shirt and two U shaped pillowcases for two U shaped pillows. I’m sure that I could find a use for the scraps if I waited long enough but what’s the point of keeping them when I can easily pick up another nearly new sheet from a charity shop should I ever need one. It was too thin to make a shirt to wear but for a shirt making lesson it was good enough being big, easy to find and cheap.
The pretend shirt came out rather well. This is Kwik Sew 3883, the reason that I chose this pattern rather than any other was that a single pattern covers sizes small to XXL and I wasn’t sure which size I wanted. The thing that sold it to me was that I could see that various sewing bloggers had made it up, multiple times in some cases, without complaint. In the olden days I would have lost an afternoon to driving into town, pouring over pattern books and making my choice only to be told that they didn’t have that pattern in stock and then I’d wait a week for it to be ordered for me. I’ve learned that I can save half a gallon of petrol, the cost of the car park and several hours of my life by going straight to ordering it from a virtual shop on the internet so that’s what I did. I know now that there are a few things I would do differently with the next shirt and that’s one of the reasons to make a muslin, the other one being to check the fit. The first thing I’ll be doing is to not use that nasty poly thread because my machine doesn’t like it except in the bobbin. You can see the interesting pin fastening – I couldn’t see the point of making the buttonholes because the combination of thread and fabric will be different next time so what I learned on this pseudoshirt would not be transferable to the next one. I’m now waiting for my six metres of white fabric to arrive, again I skipped the part about driving into town for something that might not be in stock and did my shopping from the settee.
The blog remembers everything so it knows that back in March I tried to bake acceptable breakfast items so that we could stop buying sliced white bread for toasting. I can report that since then not one floppy sliced white loaf has crossed the threshold. I only made croissants once because they need a lot of rolling space that I don’t have but I’ve continued to make an endless stream of breadcakes, brioche and bagels. The breadcakes and bagels have been consistently good, once I found the optimum size and baking times I wrote it down and repeated it every week. Brioche is still a work in progress because although I use the same ingredients every time the results are wildly variable. This week’s variation was practically unworkable, it was so soft that I resorted to cooking it in muffin tins. I know what the issue is, the majority of the liquid comes from the eggs. I know that egg sizes are standardised but I don’t think that they are standardised quite enough for this recipe. I think next time I’ll be looking for a recipe that uses less eggs and more milk because milk comes out the same size every time.
I’ll finish with some actual knitting content. The end is in sight with this little jacket. This is the centre back where I’ve grafted the two pieces together and I’m now knitting on the fronts. Having thought about it I’ve decided that this sort of thing is better knitted from the body outwards because then you finish with the short rows on the sleeves. If you’re using scraps then it’s better to start with the long rows when you know you’ve got plenty of yarn. It’s not my favourite thing ever but I think I know how it can be improved but more on that next time. As a total non-sequitur, the blog turned seven this week. Yet again I missed its birthday but it never seems to mind. At least it wasn’t expecting a cake.
You are perhaps thinking ”wherever did she get that amazing sense of colour?” or maybe “what is she celebrating?”. My primary criteria for fabric selection was that it had to be easily accessible in the stash, cheap when first purchased and there had to be plenty of it. What it looked like was secondary. I don’t have anything to celebrate in particular. It is the first week back at school but this year it has seemed to be an easy holiday, partly because the child helped around the house so I didn’t feel like an oppressed serf by week five. I would have liked to have been celebrating the purchase of a replacement coffee machine except that it was broken in transit so we’re back to begging the pump to keep on pumping for a little longer. I am a tea drinker except for those times when it has to be coffee. We could pretend that I’m celebrating the first day where it was cool enough to need to wear another layer in the house, it’s been a long hot summer and I’m glad to see the end of it. This morning was nippy enough for me to wonder where my gloves are.
It’s too early to celebrate the finish of the cardigan although I’m nearly there now. I’ve finished the fronts, joined the shoulders and just have the knitting of the neck and front bands to do. The sleeves are done and there are next to no ends because I was knitting from a cone so I’m hoping that the small amount of finishing won’t be too hateful. Please overlook that it’s taken me all summer to get this far and I’ll be finishing this short sleeved cardigan just as the cold weather is setting in. As I said, it was a long hot summer, too hot for wool.
Back to the bunting. I looked at tutorials for making it and they seemed to involve drawing around templates. It was far quicker to cut strips and slice them up so that’s what we did, I wielded the rotary cutter, Dan sewed the flags together (his school textile lessons came into play there) and my mother pressed them. It seemed to go on forever, I estimated that I’d need four flags to the yard and I was not too far off with that, I only had four or five left over at the end. I got my act together after the first strip, if you fold it right sides inwards before you cut it then your sewing assistant doesn’t have to turn the pieces right sides together before he sews them. This saves time because you don’t have to inspect, unpick and resew them later. The flags were sewn with a straight stitch, the double fold binding that strings them all together with a small zig zag because I had concerns about the stitches popping under tension. Time will tell whether I got that right.
We made a ten yard length of bunting with a plain yard at each end for stringing it up. At twelve yards that has to be the longest seam I’ve ever sewn, it’s longer than applying binding around the edges of a king sized quilt and that always seemed to be an endless task. Then I did it all over again because at some point that boat is going to turn around and then the other side will be visible from the towpath. It just shows that there is a role for everyone in canal restoration, it’s not all digging holes and pouring concrete, even the bunting makers have a role to play.
I was hopelessly optimistic about this week being wool week, I might manage wool-Friday-afternoon if I’m lucky. I started by clearing the heap in the front bedroom, the one standing between me and the carder, and that’s as far as I’ve got. There was floor under there – who knew?
The little jacket now has a pointy hood, I might even put a tassel on the end of it although that seems unlikely given my love of finishing. I’m happy that I’m not going to run out of the purple yarn which is good because earlier in the week when I had more yarn and optimism I knitted the front bands thereby eliminating all possibility of grafting in a contrast stripe if I needed it. It has two sleeves in progress, I feel that I’ve been knitting these sleeves forever but if it were true then they would be finished by now. I think that I’ve spent hours knitting endless rows of garter stitch when the tape measure tells me I’ve added an inch to the length.
My slacking can be put down to three things – the boredom of plain sleeves, the discovery of a site with daily nonograms and my reluctant adoption of new technology. Yes, after much protesting this luddite bought an ebook reader but only because they were on sale. I used to have a serious book buying habit but I have no intention of blowing my yarn money on ebooks, I can get library ebooks from the comfort of my own settee and I don’t have to remember to take them back.
I’ve had my nose in a pageless book all week so there has been no weaving and no progress on either of the two pairs of socks I have lurking about. I’ve sat down for five minutes only to find that an hour has passed, exactly the opposite of sleeve knitting. I’ve cleaned the windows and the shower, painted a ceiling, turned out meals on time and kept up with the laundry so it’s not as if the rediscovery of the printed word has scuttled any chance I had of passing as a functioning member of society. There is no doubt that reading has eaten my crafting time but in a couple of weeks there will be a new balance and presumably a new slip cover for an ereader. I was hoping that it would hold all my knitting patterns too but it balked at the second one that I fed it which is the one that is up next after I’ve finished the sleeves for the gorilla-baby.
(I didn’t link to the nonograms – really, don’t go looking unless you have a spare hour to fill)
There you are, an honest to goodness completed finished knitted object. Well it would be finished if it had buttons. I’m sure I’ll get to the buttons in time, I might even manage a proper wet block rather than a waft with a steam iron but it won’t be today. I’ve knitted this before, it’s DROPS b14-27 in left over sock yarn. It is about 23″ across the chest and I had hoped to squeeze it out of a single 50g ball of the light yarn but that was not to be, I came up short with four rows left of the front edge and three rows to pick up and knit around the neck. It was boring enough to make it an ideal tv project which is why it was finished so quickly. I did the same thing as last time and cut two lengths of each yarn that I used, knitting with one and winding the other into a ball. When I got halfway around I started using the ball that I’d set aside and all the yarns presented themselves in the reverse order so my stripes match.
I used the leftover light yarn to start another baby sweater from the sock scrap bag but it’s in time out at the moment for being too light coloured. I’d imagined it being the colours of pebbles on the seashore but now I’ve actually got that I’m not sure that I like it. I may carry on knitting, I may rip it back and throw the yarns in a navy dye bath, I may make the second side to match to here and then dye the remainder of the yarn. That’s something else that can wait, I fished around in the bottom of the washing up bowl yesterday feeling for the pot brush and found the carving knife instead. It’s only a shallow cut but it’s right on the end of my finger and I keep opening it up. Knitting is a bit hit and miss now because it depends on whether I have a scab or a gap that catches.
The woollen cloth from last time was transformed from a stiff piece of board into lovely soft cloth. It had two baths because after it was dry from its first wash it wasn’t quite right, I wanted it thicker and fuzzier. I like it now so it is washed enough. When I warped it I thought this was going to make two bags but now I’m not sure about that so I’m setting it aside until I’ve thought it through. Once I’ve cut into it there’s no going back so I want to be certain that I’m doing the right thing.
I’m still trying to bake my way through all the flour I can find. It turns out that the substitute for floppy white toast at breakfast time is going to be bagels and not croissants or brioche as I’d thought. That’s fine by me, as a parent I’d rather breakfast not be made of treats. I made a second batch of bagels to replace the first dozen that were eaten straight away and this time managed to get most of them in the freezer. I made a second batch of naan breads too, this involved far less pan scrubbing afterwards because I bought the right tool for the job. I started looking for a flat griddle pan but it turns out that a tava (tawa) pan is close enough and much cheaper. It’s slightly dished but not much, a liquid batter needs a flat griddle but breads aren’t going to run and pool in the middle.
The malt loaf I made was suitably sticky by the day after it came out of the oven. It was delicious, you should all go and make one providing that you can get hold of malt extract. The recipe says to make two small loaves but seeing as I only have one small loaf tin I had to use a single bigger tin and cook it for longer. That meant that the fruit had more time to fall through the soft mix before it set – the centre of the loaf had all the fruit at the bottom but the ends had a much better distribution. I know about coating the fruit with flour before mixing it all together but I think if the fruit has spent the night soaking in tea it’s going to need more than a bit of flour to hold it up. I’ve subsequently tried to buy another small loaf tin to match the one I had but I’ve had to settle for some teeny ones instead. The centre slices looked very average but it tasted fantastic so I will be making it again. The next time I make this I’m hoping that the smaller tins will make for a nice speckling of raisins all the way through rather than a solid lump at the bottom of the slice. It might not work out that way, having looked at the photo that accompanies the recipe I can clearly see that the unbuttered slice has a big fruitless gap at the top.
The oatcakes were a one off, I lived over the border so they are not a familiar thing from my childhood. I looked at my plate and my eyes were telling me “pancakes” and with every mouthful I was disappointed that it wasn’t pancakes after all. They even stuck to the pan that nothing sticks to and that didn’t endear them to me either. I may come back to these in another ten years and wonder why it was that I didn’t like them the first time but there again I may not. For the moment I’ll stick with adding bagels, naan bread and malt loaf to my regular baking and pass on the oatcakes.
I’ll put the knitting at the beginning for those of you that don’t want to look at the photos of this week’s bread products. These are my son’s feet in the newest pair of school socks, the red is the yarn left over from the Christmas stocking in the last post. This is part of my cunning plan to reduce the expansion of the bag of sock yarn bits by putting less into it. I knitted the black from both ends of the ball and have under two yards left from a 50g ball so I felt no remorse about throwing the scraps in the bin. It might look as if I messed up the pattern on the sock at the back but even I struggle to fail at counting to two. It has his name knitted across the foot (you’re looking at the A and the N) but it didn’t come out particularly well because of the variegation in the yarn and my refusal to carry one yarn across half a sock just to frame the letters. Now that both males have the same size feet there’s the potential for wash day being more challenging and I thought it might be useful to start marking the socks so I know whose is whose. There are much simpler ways to achieve this so I don’t think I’ll be doing this again.
That’s the end of the wool, now onto the yeast. I nearly blew it with the brioche, I’ve eaten it but never made it and the end result doesn’t really tell you much about the process. I’m going to put my wobbly first effort down to an attempt to combine two recipes, one with an overnight rise and one with chocolate chips. The first challenge was that the recipe I was using must have used ostrich eggs because 25ml of milk, two eggs and 250g of flour does not a dough make, it makes crumbs. I didn’t think that adding great lumps of butter would soften the dough that much so I put more milk in and it looked respectable when I’d finished with it so maybe I got it right. Sadly it looked exactly the same the next morning, the slow overnight rise was more of a no overnight rise. There are a number of things I’ll be doing differently next time, including taking them out of the oven sooner.
The croissants were more work than the brioche but the results were better even though I’d never made those before either. The first one I made was a Shrek croissant which clearly answered my question of “Have I rolled this out thin enough?”. The rest were fine and I made pain au chocolat out of the trimmings. My son is thirteen, has no interest in lamination and crumb structure and declared the chocolate ones to be awesome (and were there any more?). He is the only reason that I buy plastic bread, he has it for toast in the morning and sandwiches at night. I’d like to stop buying it but that means coming up with acceptable substitutes. Making bread rolls has eliminated the need for sandwich bread but that still leaves a gap on the breakfast plate. Having made both I can say now that if I’m making them on a regular basis then I’d rather be making brioche than croissants but I need another recipe, some more practise and milk chocolate chips rather than plain.
I have made naan bread once before, it was pretty poor and put me off making it again. I tried again this week and this time it was spot on. The dough last time had a lot of yoghurt in it and I think that’s what I didn’t like about it. I’d make them again (and again and again) but next time I’ll cook them on the griddle because getting the burnt flour off the base of my biggest Le Creuset pan has been a struggle. It seemed like a good idea at the time because the pan was big and round and the griddle is long and narrow but I didn’t really think it through. Burnt flour on the griddle is less of an issue seeing as the griddle is black to start with.
I’m not done with yeast yet, next on the list are bagels, oatcakes and pretzels. It’s been decades since I made bagels because the first time I made them I decided they weren’t worth the effort and I’ve never made oatcakes or pretzels. Flour is cheap and it’s never a dull day when you learn something new.