Monday, October 30, 2006

A week of cakes and surprises

Our week away in the Cotswolds was lovely. Here is the cake I made for my Mum (a yummy concoction using a lot of Green and Black's organic cocoa) . I used a new recipe this time and it was a big success - moist and light (I tore it out of the Guardian newspaper a couple of weekends ago - the recipe is for Rachel's chocolate cake):

While we were in the Cotswolds we had a good time exploring the area and, as is always the case when you are on holiday in England, there was plenty to do. We went to Snowshill Manor, a beautiful house with an extensive collection of fantastically eccentric objects, including Japanese suits of armour, musical instruments and a huge variety of apple trees. The gardens are Arts and Crafts style and very rustically charming:

Continuing the Arts and Crafts theme we climbed Broadway Tower which was used by William Morris as a country retreat and has fabulous views across to Wales (although it was sadly too cloudy to appreciate the full vantage point the tower occupies):

We also had a lovely autumnal walk around Batsford Arboretum, which was absolutely beautiful and we could not have visited at a better time of year. This tree was amazing, with every shade of yellow and red imaginable - the trees on either side looked almost blue next to it:

Henry VIII's last wife Katherine Parr also lived in the area and we visited Sudeley Castle, her former home, which again has beautiful grounds (the house is privately owned by Henry and Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst and is not open to visitors), including some fabulous topiary:

I even managed a visit to the knitting and needlecraft shop in Shipston-on-Stour (linked to the shop in Burford) and purchased three books and some much-reduced Rowan yarn (earmarked for something for my sister - it is just her colour!):

I did do some knitting over the course of the few days we were away and have now finished the back of the Debbie Bliss cabled cardigan I am making for myself. I have also started the sleeves, and am making slow progress up them as I am doing them both at the same time, as is usual for me. I am very keen to wear this and am really hoping it will fit OK - it is hard to tell because of the ribbing!

I came back to London to find that my ISE3 scarf has arrived safely and that Julie likes it! Check out Julie's blog for a full report! I am so pleased that she likes it - I really enjoyed making it for her and loved getting together everything for the parcel I sent her. Check out her blog for some great recipes too!

I also got a parcel today! I thought it might be my ISE3 scarf but to my surprise it was a package from my Secret Pal. Look at what she sent me:

Some gorgeous Claudia Hand Painted Yarn in a beautiful purple autumnal mix of colours, called Purple Earth, some Crystal Palace dpns, which I have been wanting to try soooo badly, and a cake mix which smells heavenly and will probably be turned into a cake by the weekend! Thank you so much Secret Pal - what a fantastic surprise and what perfect choices! I am such a lucky girl!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Wet, wet, wet

It seems to have been raining all month and this weekend was more of the same. On Saturday, after I took the children swimming, we just pottered about at home which meant that I at last was able to finish the scarf for ISE3:

I am really pleased with how this has turned out. I love the gradations of colour and the evenness of the patches of chocolate and turquoise. I decided that it needed a fringe to finish it off and so added a simple beaded fringe, with copper-coloured beads:

At first I thought this might be overkill but I think it finishes off the piece and ties everything together. I really hope my pal likes it!

I persuaded the children to come to the post office in the rain to get the scarf in the mail in the hope of meeting the 1 November deadline, and I was just saying to them what perfect rainbow weather it was when we saw this:

It has been a good month for rainbows round here!

Now that my two big projects - my mum’s cardigan and this scarf - are finished I am going back to my birthday project, the Debbie Bliss cardigan in cashmerino DK. I really want to get this finished now as the nights are drawing in and I am knitting more. I also want to wear it now that the weather is getting cooler!

We are off to the Cotswolds for a few days to celebrate my mum’s birthday and my sister’s too, which is on Wednesday. I am taking my knitting and hope to get lots done but first I plan to get out the Green and Black chocolate and make a cake to take with us…

Thursday, October 19, 2006

List of favourites

My Secret Pal hostess has asked us to respond to these questions, so here goes:

Actor: James Stewart, for old-fashioned courtesy and general loveliness; Harrison Ford (because of that scar on his chin!)

Actress: Katharine Hepburn; Julia Roberts

Animal: Tiger (I am totally smitten with the tiger - it is, quite simply, the most beautiful animal in the world, in my view!)

Band: The Beatles

Book: anything by Alice Hoffman; currently reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Bubble Bath: Space NK Laughter

Candy: Chocolate (especially Green and Black's milk chocolate and almond chocolate)

Colour: Purple

Drink: Coffee

Flower: Rose

Food: Fruit (especially grapes and raspberries); curry; cheese (though not all together!)

Lip Balm: Nivea

Lotion: Space NK Laughter

Movie: Rear window; Some Like it Hot

Place: The Dorset Jurassic coast; London

Song: At the moment, it is Starlight by Muse

TV Show: ER

Yarn: Koigu; pretty much anything with silk in it; Blue Sky alpaca

Vacation spot: the English seaside; Skye

Monday, October 16, 2006

A very knitty weekend - part 2

I was lucky enough to go to the Knitting and Stitching Show with Michelle on Sunday. I haven't been for several years but this year I craftily did a trade with my husband - he went to a drumming show a few weeks ago and so I got to go to this! As we entered Ally Pally, we were greeted by this, the knitted Ferrari by Lauren Porter (so cool!):

We had a great day looking at the stalls and yes, I did buy some yarn - a few hanks of Cherry Tree Hill supersock (which I always find irresistible) and some Touch yarns and also a lovely skein of handspun silk. I haven't photographed my purchases because I plan to give a couple of things to my Secret Pal. Michelle and I also went to a talk by Lucy Neatby and I learned a new technique for casting off and also a bit more about different methods for casting on and how this can influence the structure of the knitted fabric. It was quite interesting (as Stephen Fry would say) but some of the talk was a bit basic. I had a great day looking at all the stalls and it was fun to go with a fellow knitter - a real treat for someone who hasn't been to the show for a while!

Once I got back from the show I had a bit of a knitting frenzy and finished the sleeves to my mum's cardigan really late last night. To my amazement, after a day spent finishing the garment, carefully sewing up the seams (which always takes longer than you think!) and blocking it, I finally completed this:

Yes, my mum will get her birthday present on time! I am so pleased! I got these gorgeous beaded buttons at the show for the cardigan

and they look just perfect on the finished garment:

So, happy birthday mum and on now to finish my international scarf exchange knitting!

A very knitty weekend - part 1

This weekend was the Knitting and Stitching Show here in London. Fellow blogger Hila was over here for the show and on Saturday night I met up with her at I Knit in Vauxhall. I haven't been to this store before (it has been open six weeks) but I was keen to see what it was like, particularly as the opening hours extend well into the evening (very good for us mums!). The shop was small but had some interesting yarns, including some handspun by Woolly Wormhead.

The range of needles is good, and includes Lantern Moon, and those huge needles from Wool 'n' Boats (which I used to teach knitting at my children's school):

Gerard, one of the owners, was there, and Hila and I got talking with him and decided to knit a couple of squares for his Water Aid Knit a River project while we were there (there is a huge basket of blue wool for just this purpose in the shop). Here is my rather wonky pre-blocked square:

Once we had done our squares and chatted with Gerard for a while Hila and I headed off to Tas at Waterloo for a delicious meal of meze:

It was so great to meet a fellow blogger - we had only known each other through commenting on each other's blogs before now, and it made me realise what an amazing world opens up to you as a blogger. It was great to meet you, Hila - hope you had a good journey back!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Panic is setting in

I am still knitting both the scarf for ISE3 and the cardigan for my mum. I am beginning to panic slightly that I might not get my mum's cardigan finished. I need to post it Special Delivery on Tuesday to arrive on Wednesday and the sleeves are taking ages. I have had so many other commitments this week (and next too) that I have been feeling a bit frazzled. I have had a lot to do work-wise and school-wise and seem to be running around crazily most of the time.

Not all of these commitments have been work-related or stressful, however. Yesterday, I met a couple of friends for lunch at Carluccio's in Putney. It was a beautiful day and the restaurant is well situated by the river, with views towards Putney Bridge:

The tide was low, but the view is still pretty and we saw herons and cormorants while eating our delicious lunch.

Tonight I am hoping to meet up with a fellow blogger, Hila, who is over from New York for the Knitting and Stitching Show. I will take my knitting, so should make some sleeve progress today! I am going to the show tomorrow with Michelle, which I am very excited about, as I haven't been for a few years. This year I traded with my husband - he went to a drumming show in September and now it is my turn to go to a show! I can't wait!

Monday, October 09, 2006


Once a month here where I live in south-west London there is a market and just look what I found this month. Aren't they great! Needless to say the children were thrilled when they not only had ice cream for pudding but had it in these bowls!

Yesterday, we went to see Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby, a puppet show on the Puppet Theatre barge, which is currently moored in Richmond. We were introduced to this magical form of entertainment by our former au pair, who left us to become one of the puppeteers on the barge, which winters in Little Venice and then spends the summer touring up and down the Thames. We went last year with the children and they were thrilled to go again. The story is timeless - the fox constantly outwitted by the oh-so-smart rabbit - and the children really enjoyed the show. It somehow is even more magical to see it on the water too!

It was a beautiful day so we went for a walk to Richmond Lock and then caught the train home again. I spent the evening knitting and did some more today, trying not to think about how much else I had to do as I worked on my mum's gift. And I made good progress: both fronts and the back are now joined, and the neck and button bands (which are integral) complete. So, just the sleeves to go ( a lot of work, but I am hoping to do it!):

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Secret Pal 9 questionnaire

1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
I love wool, silk, cashmere and alpaca and also like cotton, especially mercerised cotton. I do not like any synthetic yarn or anything that feels scratchy or itchy when you wear it (mohair, for example).
2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
I have a couple of lovely old knitting needle boxes and also store needles upright in tins.
3. How long have you been knitting & how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?
I have been knitting for about 30 years, but only obsessively since I was at university. My mum taught me to knit but I couldn't get the hang of tension when I was younger and just found it very frustrating. I retaught myself at university. I am probably an intermediate to advanced knitter.
4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
I have an Amazon wishlist.
5. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products, etc.)
6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
I love chocolate and fruity sweets. I hate coffee-flavoured sweets (although I love a good cup of coffee!).
7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
I do some patchwork and have done embroidery and tapestry. I used to have a spinning wheel, but no longer have it (maybe when I have more free time I'll take it up again!). I like making small fabric gifts for people, such as lavender bags.
8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
I like some classical (particularly Bach and Mozart) and some pop, although I listen mostly to the radio (BBC Radio 2 and 4). I also like some jazz, particularly Miles Davis.
9. What's your favorite color(s)? Any colors you just can't stand?
I loves purples and reds and some dark greens. I don't really like blues or yellows - yellow makes me look ill! I prefer vivid, rich colours to pastels.
10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
I am married, with three children - Ellen, aged 7 and twins Edward and Lily, aged 5. I have one cat, a ginger tom called Max Jaffa, and a goldfish.
11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?
I wear scarves, hats and mittens and I have one poncho I knitted myself - but I think one is enough!
12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
I love knitting presents for people and knit a lot of ponchos for the girls' friends as birthday gifts. I also knit a lot for friends' babies. I also like knitting scarves and am getting into shawl knitting. I knit socks occasionally and usually have at least one cardigan or jumper on the go for someone!
13. What are you knitting right now?
My two main projects on the needles are a cardigan for my mum (birthday coming up very soon!) and a scarf for the International Scarf Exchange. Once these are finished I am going back to a couple of garments I am knitting for myself - a bolero and a cardigan.
14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?
I love it!
15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
I get a more even tension on straight needles, although I like Addi turbo circulars when they are needed and I love bamboo needles. I also collect vintage coloured metal needles - they are so lovely to knit with and so pretty on display and they are probably my favourites.
16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?
I own a swift but not a yarn winder.
17. How old is your oldest UFO?
Er, about 15 years.
18. What is your favorite holiday?
Seaside, every time!
19. Is there anything that you collect?
Other than vintage coloured needles and yarn, I have a thing for vintage buttons too - I like using them on my knitting, as they make it really special.
20. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
I would love some Knit Picks yarn or some Zephyr or some Blue Heron mercerised cotton. I would love to try Crystal Palace bamboo dpns. I have a subscription to Knitting magazine and to Interweave Knits. Interweave is probably my favourite magazine. I usually buy Vogue knitting too, but can get this in the local newsagent.
21. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?
I would like to learn twined knitting and improve my lace knitting.
22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
I do knit socks, but have very strange feet - high insteps and quite wide. I am an adult size 7. Let me know if you need more details!
23. When is your birthday? (mm/dd)
26 July.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Still knitting frantically

I can hardly believe a week has gone by since I have posted. Time seems to be flying at the moment - maybe it is because I am so busy, but the weeks are rushing by, and I hardly seem to have time to catch my breath!

The scarf I am knitting for my ISE3 recipient is coming along and I am really pleased with the evenness of Nic's dyeing. Just look at how beautifully it is knitting up. I love the patches of brown and turquoise and think it is going to be gorgeous! I am really enjoying knitting with this yarn and also like knowing that it is going to be a surprise for someone!

The scarf would be moving along faster were it not for the fact that I have decided to knit my mum a cardigan. It is her 70th birthday this month and so I wanted to make her something special. Last Christmas, I gave her a cardigan in navy, knitted using this pattern from Rowan No 34:

I made it slightly longer and the shape was really flattering. She loves it and asked whether there was any chance of having it in red too. So, I have been frantically knitting and have done the back

and one front and am now on the second front. I am knitting it in Rowanspun Aran in Gables, which is a lovely tweedy, flecky red. I hope I can get it done in time!

Although I have done a fair bit of work this week, I had Wednesday morning free to go and knit at Stash, for the first time in ages. It was great to see everyone and I really enjoyed catching up after not being able to go for a few weeks owing to work commitments. I took my scarf and got quite a bit done, and could not resist the new arrival of a huge box of Lorna's Laces. Here is the sock yarn I bought:

Yummy! This is shepherd sock yarn in Motherlode - I plan to make a scarf with it. It is just my colours, but I have found it hard to tell from images on the internet exactly what this looked like so it was great to finally see it in the flesh before I bought it.