Friday, 22 March 2019

Finished project - March

Hurray!! I have a finished project to share with you 😁 It's the long awaited (by me at least haha) jumper that I knit in the round from the bottom up using a pattern I converted. As I've mentioned previously, this is the first time I've knit a jumper in this way and while there have been a small handful of issues I've had to overcome, I'm so so pleased with how it's turned out. Added bonus that I even have enough yarn left over to make a matching one for my little girl (at almost 2 mummy still
has some control over what she wears and what could be cuter than matching hand knit jumpers?

So, a summary of what went well and what went so well (i.e. what mistakes I made that I had to very swiftly learn from)...

I started off with the body of the jumper and very quickly made a common mistake : I twisted my cast on row when I joined my knitting to knit in the round. The worst thing was I didn't actually notice until I'd knit 4 or 5 rounds of knit 1 purl 1 so I was pretty cross with myself. Still, mistake corrected (nothing like starting all over again to build  on your skills) I happily completed the body section up to the part where I would add the arms. Once the ribbing is complete it's a straightforward stocking stitch which when knit in the round is just the knit stitch over and over - bonus as I'm quickest at the knit stitch! When I was almost done though, I realised that I had dropped a stitch which had undone quite a way down so out came my trusty crochet hook to fix the problem. It's frustrating when these things happen, but the fix is fairly simple once you know how.

The arms knitted up reasonably quickly and I was pleased with how they came up. The experienced eye can see where I've done the increases, but the hubby who can't knit assures me that the untrained eye can't tell and to be fair, from a distance I can't tell either so I'm happy. For my first time using double pointed needles they really did come up well. Then came the bit I was excited about and dreading in equal measure; the yoke. This is the section where you join the arms and the body 'tubes' together to make one big tube. I was surprised at how easy it came together in the end. I popped live stitches onto safety pins (these are where the body meets the arms at the underarms) and merrily knitted all the way around the 360 plus stitches in the new round.

Look closely and you can
see one of my loom bands 😂
It's all about decreasing from then on to the neckline, forming the raglan to the shoulders as you go. I used loom bands (yes! loom bands) as stitch markers as that's one thing I don't yet have in my stash
of knitting paraphernalia and I'm clearly too impatient to wait until I get chance to pick them up. It's not ideal though and I wouldn't necessarily do that again as they have a tendency to slip under the stitches and that kinda goes against the whole marking your place thing... Anyway, once or twice I realised the loom bands had shifted and had to undo some stitches to correct the raglan which was frustrating but not the end of the world. The biggest issue for me here was two of the balls of yarn I was using ended in massive knots. but I persevered and overcame (I was not going to be beaten or waste yarn!!)

Working the short rows around the neckline blagged my head a bit and I had to refer to trusty old YouTube to remind myself of the best way to do it. Once I'd got my head around it though, I was off on the final stretch before working on the collar. Knitting the rib for the collar was painful. I was so close to the end and there aren't even that many stitches in those rounds, but OMG I just could NOT get them done fast enough.  I cast off last night and quickly tried it on (still with the underarm stitches on safety pins) and it fit great.

This morning, I used the kitchener stitch to graft the live stitches together, slip stitch the collar to the inside to give a rolled collar effect and sewed in the ends and that's it. One completed jumper with absolutely, positively NO sewing up!! Normally, the completed parts of the jumper (sleeves, front and back) would sit around for weeks while I conjured up the impetus to sew them together and finish up but I have none of that this time and will happily be wearing it tomorrow. Yippee!!

Now for the fun part of typing up the pattern instructions from my roughly scrawled notes whilst wearing my new snuggly jumper. I'll certainly be giving another one a go and planning out some tweaks to add some more detail to the jumper.

Until next time,

M x

Friday, 15 March 2019

Homemade crispy pancakes

Urgh, don't you just hate it when household appliances go wrong? I've had a split hose on my vacuum and a leaky washing machine. Luckily both have been an easy (and cheap) fix, but it is frustrating when things like this happen. Especially with a family of 5 as the washing mountain soon became huge while we waited for the new part.

Anyway, in the world of crafting I've been having lots of fun gaining inspiration from Instagram and  a new blog I found: the barefoot crafter. In her most recent blog post she has made the cutest little clutch bag and now I'm planning on something similar but to hold the basics for little miss. As she's almost 2 now (where did that go??) we don't always need a full change of clothes and numerous clean nappies etc. but my handbag is simply not big enough to carry the extra couple of bits I need some days.  I want to make something that suits all purposes but isn't as big as a changing bag, as bulky as a rucksack or as easy to tip out as a tote. My main issue at the moment though seems to be a severe lack of time to craft now that little miss has decided she no longer needs a midday nap.

One thing I remembered after clicking post last week was that I'd been a little more adventurous this year for Shrove Tuesday. Instead of sticking with my old staples of syrup and lemon and sugar as toppings, where I keep pancakes just for pudding, I decided to give my very own crispy pancakes a whirl. I remember eating these as a kid and while they are still available, I haven't been able to source my all time favourite cheese filled ones in my local supermarkets.

Image result for crispy pancakes
Picture credit - Google images
I've made crispy pancakes once before so I knew what I was up to, and yet I still found it took me ages (that may have been because I had some *help* or it may just have been my very old and temperamental oven). I think with a little more preparation beforehand though such as making a large batch of bolognese/cottage pie/cheese sauce or whatever your chosen filling is would cut down the length of time it takes. According to the husband it would also be easier with ready made pancakes but for me that's cheating (no shame though if that's how you roll).

So, in case you fancy it, here's the how to...

100g plain flour
2 eggs
300 ml milk
egg wash (I used 2 eggs)
your chosen fillings

1) Put your flour in a bowl and make a small well in the centre. Add your eggs and about half the milk and whisk until smooth. Then add in the rest of your milk and whisk again until you have a smooth consistency reminiscent of double cream.

2) Make your pancakes by frying in a little oil, turning once the pancake batter starts to bubble or the mixture appears to have 'set'. You should be able to lift the edge with a fish slice and can check how golden brown the pancake is. You can toss your pancake to turn it or play it safe with a fish slice. Cook as many pancakes as you need and reserve any extra mix for pudding pancakes if you wish.

Image result for crispy pancakes
Picture credit - BBC Good Food
3) To fill your pancakes, spoon your chosen filling (you can literally choose anything and I'm sat here now thinking about making some ratatouille ones) onto one half of the pancake, fold the pancake and then using a little of the egg wash, seal the edge. You can then dip in the egg wash making sure top and bottom are coated and then do the same in the breadcrumbs. Place onto a baking tray.

4) Once all your pancakes are filled and coated,  bake them in a preheated oven (190C/ Gas5) for 15 mins and voila, scrummy crispy pancakes just like Findus used to make. We had ours with chips and beans, but salad and potatoes would work too, or potato waffles and peas, whatever you fancy 😁 These can be frozen too so you could make ahead of time, just be sure to follow food safety guidelines, particularly with your fillings.

I shook things up this time and used crushed nachos instead of breadcrumbs - OK this was born of necessity as I'm rubbish at making breadcrumbs and  Aldi didn't have any, but it worked really well  and added a nice crunch to the meal.

So there you have it, this weeks blog post. I have everything crossed that next week I will have a completed project to show you. But before I go, here is a pic of the card I made which I mentioned last week. It was for my lovely big brother who has been a VW camper van enthusiast for many years (although he hasn't as yet got round to owning one). I have another birthday card to share with you next week, but the recipient won't have opened it yet.

Until next time,

M x

Friday, 8 March 2019

Weekly catch up

Doors are on, just need to plumb in the
dishwasher when it arrives, add some more
worktop to the left of the cooker and move the a
cupboard and then add the new cooker. Then it's
decorating time!!
So I've been a little MIA the last couple of weeks. Basically with the kitchen refit and a stinking cold, half term for us was a bit of a right off and that cold/virus thing has lingered and I've still been suffering with it over the last week. It's left me pretty exhausted but I've still been crafting away of an evening as for me it's the best type of self-care. I'm sure I'm not alone in that.

The kitchen project is coming along nicely although we've stalled a little now as we're waiting on tradesmen to do a couple of jobs that we can't. One's on holiday and one is super busy and the day he was supposed to come his little one was poorly so I need to get it rearranged. We will get there though, and we at least have a functioning kitchen again It may be small, but for the first time since we moved in to this house I finally feel like it's the best use of the space. Washing up in the bathroom sink for 2/3 days was NOT fun though and did force us to think about what we were having to eat (so we cheated and ate out haha).

As you can see we had some help (and some hindrance) with the kitchen refit. Little miss really enjoyed getting involved and particularly enjoyed climbing into the cupboards. She was not impressed when we added shelves and put plates etc. back in!

Jumper wise I've finished one of the sleeves and have made a good start on the second sleeve. I'm reasonably tall and have long arms so I tend to add a good 2-3 inches extra to any pattern to gain the desired length. It's been fun knitting in the round though and has meant I've had more of an idea about the length as I can 'try it on'. I'm hoping to get it finished this month - just in time for the warmer days, I didn't think that one through did I? - and when it's fully completed I'll do a more thorough review and publish the pattern.

 I've been getting my cross stitch on as well and have started to enjoy it again even though it's a 'confetti' section where there is a lot of changing colours. As I've mentioned before, the size of the Lake Baikal means that it is by no means a quick project and this one probably won't be completed until Christmas time. That was the point of that project though, something I could get my teeth into  and that would last a while. Over on Instagram I joined in with the #saturdaynightcraftalong and it was great to see some other crafty peoples work. There are some absolutely gorgeous creations that really get you inspired.

I'm very conscious that I haven't had any completed projects for a little while - it feels more like I've become a serial starter rather than finisher which I find frustrating as I love the buzz I get from a completed craft project. I'm going to try and focus on completing one project a month as a minimum and then blog the highs, lows and what I've learnt along the way for those projects. That's the plan anyway! I have got one finish to show you, but you'll have to wait until next week for that one as the recipient hasn't seen it yet 😁

I'm going to leave it there for today and go have some fun with little miss.

Until next time,

M x

Friday, 22 February 2019

Knitting, cross stitch and kitchen refit news

Eurgh, so little miss thought she'd be a caring little sister/daughter and has loving shared her virus with us all. We're all feeling pretty horrific and I for one am so unutterably glad that it's half term tomorrow (although we seem to be lagging behind on the rest of the UK who all appear to be off this week).

The current state of affairs in my kitchen
Aside from the fact that we won't have to get up for the school/work run, February half term means that we are fitting the kitchen.  As I've mentioned previously, I've been planning and waiting for my kitchen since we moved in almost 13 years ago so the excitement levels have definitely got pretty darn huge, especially as this morning I took delivery of the units, doors and worktops. I'm itching to get building them and putting them in position but I'm being well behaved and waiting until Sunday when hubby is home.  Just about... I may have pulled out the cooker and stripped wallpaper/cleaned all behind earlier on today.  Sorry to bore on but I'm so flipping excited about it.  This time next week I'll have cupboards and worktop again for a start but the end (barring decorating) will be in sight.

Last Friday's progress versus today's progress
- almost a quarter done now.
Crafting wise, despite being unwell I've made some reasonable progress. No finished projects alas, although I'm conscious I could probably do with a couple and I'm contemplating doing a some tutorial type blog posts, but I did go and pick up some double pointed needles to do the arms of the jumper and have been having a good go at the Lake Baikal cross stitch. It's coming along, albeit slowly, but then that is to be expected with the size of the project. It's definitely a labour of love and I'm sure it will be worth is in the end.

Working on double pointed needles hasn't been as scary as I thought it would be. In the same way as when working with a circular needle you need to make sure that you don't twist the first row when joining it in the round (I learnt that mistake the hard way). The only other thing I've felt I need to bear in mind is to keep the yarn fairly taught when moving from one needle to the next to maintain tension.  It's knitting up well though. I'm writing the pattern up as I go along, checking things are correct with what I had originally planned out and tweaking where needed.

Master L has been getting in on the act with craft this week too.  We spent a few hours last weekend happily stitching side by side as he worked on his little cross stitch and it was really nice to have someone to stitch with. He also got crafty for his homework, making a stone age inspired necklace from salt dough. He was ever so proud of the results, as he should be, having made the salt dough himself and then fashioning the shapes all on his own. Even though he is the grand old age of 8 I forget sometimes how capable he is and really should let him take the lead with his craft projects. Especially as I have removed all glitter from the house so won't have that trauma to contend with 😉.

I'm off to do some more knitting before I have to put it to one side for the big kitchen build.

Until next time,

M x

Friday, 15 February 2019

Round neck jumper progress

I'd like to say that things have been easier this week, but... the lurgy has hit the small one so she's currently sat next to me kicking off every time I have the audacity to dare to move off the sofa. Poor little monkey obviously doesn't feel well and just wants mummy.

Crafting wise I'd been making some good progress on my jumper and have completed the body up to the armholes and then I hit a stumbling block. I was/am knitting on circular needles but as the sleeves only call for 48 stitches at cast on, I'm going to have to invest in some double pointed needles.  Not ideal on two fronts; I've never used them before and it's not quite near enough to pay day so I'm going to have to wait a week or so before picking them up (even if I did slide in to Dunelm Mill yesterday to see if they stocked them - they don't). So I've had to pop the jumper to one side until I've picked some up.  I'm not too worried about using them as I understand the concept and I'm sure once I get going on them it'll be fine. Anyway, there's always YouTube if I get really stuck.

Speaking of YouTube, I've been having a bit of a look through some crafting videos this week. I discovered the fabulous Bella Coco, crochet queen extraordinaire and have plans to have a go at one of her corner to corner blankets at some point. If you're new to crochet, her videos are fantastically clear and well explained. She really slows things down for you which when you're just starting out can be really helpful. (Does anyone else get really annoyed that
they can't hit the pause button fast enough on some videos or is it just me? Some crafters just go too fast for me to follow along with them.) I  was primarily looking for a video on how to finish the jumper off, specifically around the neck shaping when knitting in the round and from the bottom up.  They were scarily sparse and while I think I've got my head around what I need to do, I'm contemplating doing a how-to video as I knit that section of my jumper.  It may be that I'm just not putting in the right search terms - it has been known - but I guess there can never be too many videos on this kind of thing. I'll certainly be taking a leaf out of Bella Coco's book in so far as the speed of the 'tutorial'.

Right, what else have I been up to? On a shopping trip at the weekend due to my pesky children insisting on continuing to grow and needing new clothes as a result, we slunk into Hobbycraft for a mooch around. I hadn't gone in with the intention of getting anything (hahahaha) but I picked up a larger hoop for my cross stitching as the 8" hoop I have just isn't really big enough for the Lake Baikal. With not being able to do any more knitting at the moment I've picked up the hoop and needle again and, while I'm not loving it at the moment as there is a lot of 'half a dozen stitches, change colour' going on at the moment, I am making progress with it again. Thenmay have fallen into my trolley. It wasn't until I paid that I remembered I was supposed to be keeping the shopping under budget. Oh well! They were too cute and I would certainly have regretted not picking them up. That's my excuse anyway! The plan is to turn them into a quilt for my gorgeous cousin's new baby (If you're reading this lovely lady, let me know if you would prefer a zoo animals theme as I may have those in my stash too).
when I went food shopping yesterday I spotted the most adorable set of Bambi themed cotton fat quarters and they

Right, I'm off to play nursemaid to the small one again. Have a great week.

Until next time,

M x

Friday, 8 February 2019

Just keep knitting...

It's been a tough few days so I've been glad of being at a straightforward stage on my jumper where I can just keep knitting, round and round in circles, not having to think too hard about it and allowing the simplicity to calm my mind. I haven't felt in the head space to do any cross stitching so I haven't even picked it up which makes me feel pretty guilty to be honest, but I'm sure I'll get there eventually. With the jumper I'm probably about two thirds of the way up the main body 'trunk' so need to knit a little further and then make a start on the sleeves. They should knit up a little quicker as there are less stitches per round although a lot more shaping.

I don't know if it's the weather, the heating being on or the hardness of the water round here but the skin on my hands is incredibly dry at the moment and I noticed that it has a tendency to snag on the yarn as I knit at the moment which causes a bit of 'bobbling' I suppose. It's frustrating but with a concerted effort on my part in applying hand cream it does seem to be improving, just a shame that I then have to wait for it to soak in fully before dong any knitting otherwise the yarn gets greasy.  I'm pretty rubbish at self care in general and I know that realistically I need to take better care of myself, it's just hard to fit in (as I'm sure the majority of parents will attest to). To an extent I suppose it could be argued that doing a bit of crafting is my self care as it's something that I enjoy so maybe I just need to find some more time to do it - anyone know where I can find an extra couple of hours each day? 

Right. Stop moaning Makepeace and focus on the positives!
These are the pull out storage we're getting for two
cupboards - they looked fab in the shop

We're making good progress in the kitchen.  All the wallpaper is now off the walls, the myriad of small holes from screws, poorly plaster and where the worktop was fitted have been filled and we've made a start on sanding down some of the woodwork in preparation for painting (such a SLOW job).  The most exciting thing for me this week though has been that we have ordered the kitchen units, the doors, the worktop and two pull out storage 'things'. With it being a small kitchen I wanted to maximise the space as much as possible. I'm quite excited about these though as it will mean that I no longer have to dive into the deep, dark depths of a cupboard (with the spiders, eeek!!). Everything will be arriving 2 weeks today and I CANNOT wait. Just need to make sure that we have done as much as humanly possible to prepare the room for the new units.

Finally, something that made me smile this week was how much little miss enjoyed her Messy Play session. I thought I'd share it with you all too as she made such a mess, but thoroughly enjoyed herself as always.
Exploring a new texture and turning herself into an Oompa Loompa 😂

Until next week,

M x