Monday, 27 August 2007

More on Gloves

While I have been popping in and out of forums, I've noticed a few people asking about whether it is easy to make gloves. So, I thought I would show the step-by-step photos of glove making, without infringing on anyone's copyright. If you can make socks, and haven't yet had a go at making gloves, you'll be surprised by how easy it is.

They knit up faster than socks - hands generally being smaller than feet - and all they are is a series of tubes.

So, first of all we cast on the stitches, at the wrist end to start knitting the tube...

...See, there's your tube...

Then we start shaping the thumb gusset, which starts half way around your round, with your stitch markers to show where you 'build' this.

Here's the finished thumb gusset - with some bright orange yarn being used as a flexible stitch holder. It's much more practical than the giant nappy pins.

If it's getting the fingers in the right place that perturbs you... it's all about counting. As long as you keep the tail of the yarn loose from your cast on edge to mark the end of the round, you'll have no problem. You start with the little finger, at the opposite end from the thumb gusset, at the start/end of the round. (While you're making up the fingers, the rest of the stitches are sitting on yarn holders, out of the way).

...And you fill in from there... building up the fingers towards the thumb... you the opportunity for an 'Edward Knitting Hands(!)' shot.

And so on, until the finished product.

In true 'Blue Peter' fashion: "Here's one I made earlier". (Please note, there were no dodgy phone-in competitions used in producing this post).

That's it. Easy isn't it? While they're a bit fiddly, as you rejoin yarn to make new fingers, I honestly think these are easier than socks. They're also a good way of using up left over sock yarn, if you have small feet. I'm a size five (UK sizing) and can get a pair of socks and gloves out of one ball - possible Christmas and birthday presents?

Gloves and Socks

Here are the gloves and socks for my friend Lesya.

The yarn is "Lana Grossa" and the patterns are the "Opal" bog standard and a pattern from "Violet Green", though apparently designed by "Stroud Wools" - which isn't a manufacturer I've heard of (not that I'm an expert) so I'm going to keep an eye out for their yarns.

More on socks in my next post.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Baking and Chav Update

Hmm, this is supposed to be a knitting blog, but for the second post in a row, there doesn't appear to have been much of the string-craft taking place. The SIL, BIL and nephew are visiting at the weekend, and this combined with the fact that the MIL gave me a huge bag of plums from her garden last weekend, has resulted in this...

A plum and blackberry crumble which looks and smells much better than this... (6oz plain flour; 3oz butter 'sifted' into breadcrumbs; then mixed with 3oz brown sugar and mixed spice). I picked the blackberries two weeks ago, put them in a bag with a couple of spoons sugar and stuck 'em in the freezer until I needed them.

And there were still more plums left... so here's a plum cake. I'm really pleased with this. The recipe is available here:

For anyone who was reading my blog in May, I have news on the scabby chav who punched
me in the face. (For anyone who wasn't... I was walking down the street one afternoon, when a delightful young lady - as the police refer to her - decided to smack me in the nose).

Anyway... the police have been very good about keeping me up-to-date with what has been happening with their enquiries. However, the girl is now in the "care of social services" in a small town more than several miles outside Manchester, and has declined to pop into the local police station to answer questions. It's unlikely that it will get as far as a 'line-up', and to be honest, unless the girl wore a bright purple tracksuit again, I'm not sure I'd recognise her.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Knitting, Cakes and Borsch

I've made the gloves for Lesya and I started her socks last night. I'm feeling fairly confident that a pair of small gloves (I don't have big hands and neither does Lesya) and size 5-6 socks can be made from a 100g ball of "Lana Grossa".

It's the BF's birthday today. He requested a lemon cake and after much searching on the internet, I found this recipe which I thought some of you might like.

(I'm not a Domestic Goddess by any stretch of the imagination - I like my baking simple, and above all requiring as little work as possible. Ready rolled pastry is a gift from the gods. I'm a one bowl and electric mixer kind of girl).

Lemon Cake Recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Butter, or spray with a nonstick spray, a 9 inch (23 cm) springform pan and then line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 large lemon
2 cups (280 grams) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice


1 cup (115 grams) confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and pale in color (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and then add to the batter along with the lemon juice. Mix only until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula. Bake about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool, then gently remove the sides of the pan.

For the icing, combine the sifted confectioners' sugar with the 2 tablespoons lemon juice. (You want the icing to be thicker than a glaze but still thin enough that it will just run over the sides of the cake. If not the right consistency add more lemon juice or powdered sugar, accordingly.) Frost the top of the cake, allowing the icing to drip down the sides. Let the icing set before covering.

Alternatively... cut the cake into two halves and make lemon butter icing. Instead of icing the top of the cake, melt white chocolate over it. It doesn't need to cover the entire cake... unless you really love white chocolate. Just coating the top of the cake in white chocolate gives a really nice contrasting taste to the lemon.

This cake will keep for several days in an airtight container.

Makes one - 9 inch (23 cm) cake.

Well, ours didn't last several days. (Rubs tummy with much satisfaction).

And a further recipe... I was digging this one out for Seahorse but thought I'd share with everyone. Seahorse has a good haul of beetroot and what better use to put this to than borcsh. Quiet, you heathens, who don't appeciate this lovely stuff.

I first had borsch when I went to Russia (appropriately enough) on a student exchange when I was 16. It was the only foodstuff that wasn't flavoured with some fennel-like herb, which I loathe and detest in a passion you could only dream of. Anyway, the borsch was lovely and after several years of sporadic looking, this is a recipe that is very similar to the soup I had in Russia.

Borsch Recipe

10 cups of beef stock
4 beetroot, peeled and sliced
2 potatoes finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
Clove of garlic(recipe says 'one', but I'd say 'three')
1 tbsp lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
Sour cream
Chopped chives

Bring stock to the boil, add prepared vegetables and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the beetroot is tender. Add lemon juice and pepper. Serve soup, topped with sour cream and chives.

Serves 6-8.

And there endeth cookery corner.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Vintage Stitches

Two of the ladies who come to the Mad Knitters' Tea Party (knitting group) arrived with two bin bags full of yarn last night. A friend of the family has been emptying her attic and decided that we could have a free for all in the stash... I was very good. I only took a ball of orange DK for making jellybabies.

However, I also found a stack of fantastically cheesy patterns... (warning: this is picture heavy, and some of these are just not for the faint hearted).

First up: Jumpers for all the family... they look like they're about to go riding and Dad looks like the Action Man doll.

Then, we have the office disco! "Don't blame it on the sunshine, don't blame it on the moonlight!"

But, this is the mother-lode of the haul... the "Patons Aran Book", for when the family want to go UFO watching.

...Triffid dodging...

Then there's the look for the smart woman out and about in the quiet little town of Stepford,
though I quite like this one.

Here we have another Stepford Wife.

And finally, hoodies for all the family - though no hugging, I see. (In different colours, I think this would make quite a funky top for myself...

...though Mum's expression is straight off "The Wicker Man".

Perhaps I've been reading too much Stephen King lately.

Monday, 13 August 2007


I've spent the last couple of weeks, satisfying my current sock fetish, and here are a few piccies. Here are my "Opal Rainforest - Peacocks" (with a proper modelled pose and everyfin').

These are my gorgeous new "Opal - Hundertwassers". They were originally intended for a really good friend... but then I thought: "Nah! They'd be wasted on her." I promise I will get around to making her some socks, actually probably gloves, in the next week or so. They will be part of my stash busting plan.

So, to some more stash busting activities. This is the start of a pair of gloves for another friend. The yarn is "Lana Grossa - Meilenweit Inca". (Sadly, my German is very dodgy - didn't really get beyond 'Mein Onkel est ein Kugelschreiber' at school. 'My uncle is a pen'). I'm planning to make gloves and socks from this ball.

They're for my friend Lesya in Kiev.

I went to Ukraine last September to deliver some training on public health campaigns. Lesya was my contact and the person who showed me around Kiev which is a beautiful city - a really amazing mix of 19th Century of what I call 'Baroque' and 21st Century post-independence glass and steel. We have kept in touch since and Lesy often asks me what I am currently knitting, as she saw last year's 'stealth knitting' jumper for the BF.

I'm off to Kiev again in September, I hope - a colleague and I are planning to do some more teaching - and I think Lesya will be really pleased with some handmade gloves and socks.

Speaking of stealth knitting... here is my new "Boye" set, bought for a very reasonable price from a lady who chats on the 'Angel Yarns Knitting Forum. It has extendable circular needles, which I need to knit the BF's "Saranac" in the round.

The BF is very impressed with these. He like all the "gadgets and gizmos that you can get for knitting". I mentioned that I was thinking of getting a swift for unwinding all those skeins.

"Oh. I'm out of a job then, am I?" he asked sadly. "That's it just cast me aside when I'm no longer of any use to you. After all I did to get you where you are today."

He's such a drama queen... and then he mentioned that I might get one for Christmas. Happy Days!

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Books - the Second in an Occasional Series

This week, I have been mostly reading: 'Arry Potter.

Actually, that's a complete lie. I finished it in two days of buying when it was released, and very glad I am that I did. We're now in the time frame where all of us buggers who bought it immediately and read it immediately, are now (unintentionally) spoiling the plot for those patient souls who are waiting for partners, kids, siblings, workmates, neighbours or the bloke in the pub to finish their copy.

There will be no more mention of Harry and Co. in this post, other than to say... "I really enjoyed the book".

So, what else have I been reading?

1. "Slant" - Greg Bear

Sci-Fi: Sequel to "Queen of Angels". The entire planet's population has largely been therapied - i.e. no-one has mental illness anymore, but then someone releases a virus... plus there are a gang of rich nutters planning for cryogenic sleep, hoping to wake up in a world without the riff-raff.

2. "Saving Fish from Drowning" - Amy Tan

A band of obnoxious (based on the narrator's description) Americans get lost in Burma. Their guide, murdered ten days before their trip, narrates their mishaps. There's lots of humour and Amy Tan is one of my (many) favourite authors.

3. "Labyrinth" - Kate Mosse

'Dan Brown for girls': It's the only way I can sum this up. That and "romantic Da Vinci Code, set in France". Despite what I've just said, I enjoyed this - lots of switching between 12th and 21st Century France, dealing with the destruction of the Cathars.

4. "The Lovely Bones" - Alice Sebold

Great book. I read this while I had 'prawn lurgie' and could not put it down. The first couple of pages are nasty, as our heroine is murdered, and, no, that isn't a spoiler. She tells the story of coming to terms with her death and how she watches her family and friends deal with her murder.

5. "The Traveller" - John Twelve-Hawks

Who thinks he made his name up? More sci-fi, and absolutely brilliant. It's an anti-surveillance society warning, as the heroes try to escape a sinister, all-powerful organisation. This is the first of a coming series of books which I'm eagerly awaiting. All I can say here is that JTH had better not go all George RR Martin on me.

6. "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" - Bill Bryson

Brilliant. Laugh out loud funny. I don't read many autobiographies - can probably count the number I have read on one hand. BB chats about growing up in the 1950s - what was happening in the US and how he didn't notice it... well, he was a child.

7. "The Hungry Tide" - Amitav Ghosh

This one gave me itchy feet, as it is set in the Ganges Delta and I just wanted to go and see everything. I also learned a lot about river dolphins. Apparently, it's about 'one man's desire' but it's really about the stories of several people and how their stories impact on the others. It's a beautiful novel.

8. "As used on the famous Nelson Mandela: Adventures in the underground arms and torture trade" - Mark Thomas

"Stand up" discredits what Mark Thomas does. Go and see his show, then read the book. It will make you angry... while laughing hysterically at the antics of undercover nun and the after-school arms club, which prove just how easy it is to import and export arms and torture equipment around the world.

9. "Ringworld" - Larry Niven

More Sci-Fi, classic sci-fi. Four people - two humans, one Kzin and a Puppeteer (now why might they be called Puppeteers?) head off to the centre of the universe, where a galaxy-ending explosion is happening, to visit a ring world. Brilliant. If you like Iain M Banks, you'll enjoy seeing where he got some of his ideas from.

10. "Lisey's Story" - Stephen King

I believe this is SK's latest novel, and I have just finished it. I couldn't put it down. The widow of a dead writer is threatened by an avid fan. The action takes place over only a couple of days but the action depends on her memories of her life with her husband and the stories of his childhood. It's like a combination of "Rose Madder" and "It". I loved it and am now disappointed that I have finished reading it.

There's knitting in it too! A big yellow afghan.

And there we have it. I have one more comment, in closing:

"George RRRRRRRRRR Martin. When are you going to publish the next book in the 'Ice and Fire' series? This stupid three formats of publication (hardback, large paperback and small paperback) is really trying my patience. Do we have to go through all three before we get the next novel.

"It has been 18 months since 'Feast for Crows' was published, when do we get the other half? Which has apparently already been written. This is reaching a point where I'm not sure if I can be arsed to read the next one."

(I'm watching Brookmyre's publication habits too).

Thursday, 9 August 2007


I've just signed up to join Ravelry.

I immediately went to the "where am I section?" and there are over 24,000 people signed up to join and I am the last one on the list. Apparently, 34% of the list have received their invitation. I suspect this could take a while.

I'm such a technophobe. I successfully ignored 'My Space' but I've been rumbled by 'Facebook'. In the end, it was a case of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" as I was receiving messages most days from pals who have Facebook accounts. It felt almost churlish to request their friendship emails, being as I am so cack at keeping in touch with people to start with.

However, I'm glad I succumbed. Various friends from University, who I thought I'd lost contact with forever, emailed me. Life is nice.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Putting the Yarns in Order

I've decided that I need another attempt at a stashalong, if only to make sure I get some of my projects knitted up. I would be very happy if my stash did indeed look like this!

So, the list...

WIPs (or should that be WsIPs?)

"Rowan Summer Tweed" - Wave/Deep from Rowan 39...since last August.
"Rowan Damask" - Bonita from Rowan 41
"Opal Rainforest - Peacock" socks
"Bamboozle - Lime and Strawberries" socks for my workmate
"Rowan All Seasons Cotton" - Saranac from Knitty for the BF
Crocheted baby blanket

Planned Projects

"Opal Hundertwasser" socks for a friend
"Lana Grossa" socks for another friend
"Trekking" socks for step-dad
"Opal Rainforest - Dr Fish" socks/gloves for Mam
"Bamboozle - Fruit Salad" socks for MIL
"Opal Hundertwasser" socks for me, along with: "Regia"; "Jitterbug - Lapis" - all in the Opal Old Faithful
"Lorna's Laces - Flame" socks ("Fawkes" pattern)
"Lorna's Laces - Mixed Berries" socks ("Nagini" pattern)
1x skein of cotton laceweight - "Branching Out" from Knitty for MIL, probably
2x "Wendy Aran" - "Samus" from Knitty for Mam
1x "Trendsetter Segue" - scarf, maybe
10x "Twilleys Freedom Spirit - Fire" - a wrapover for me
2x "Stylecraft Wondersoft" - pixie coat for Bump
2x "Twilleys Freedom Spirit - Air" - scarf for Mam
1x "Trendsetter Stripe - Fire"... intended for a hat for nephew, but SIL says he won't wear hats.
1x "Trendsetter Stripe - Autumn Leaves"... intended for a hat for nephew, but SIL says he won't wear hats.
7x "Rowan Damask" - another "Tulip" for me.
12x "DB Cathay" - cardigan for me.
16x "RYC Cashsoft Aran" - "Bonnie" bag and scarf from "Rowan Classic Weekend" for me.
6x "DB Rialto" - cardigan for niece.
6x "Dalegarn Ull" - jumper for nephew.

Hmm, I think I have quite a bit there. Not as much as many I know, but some of these yarns have been sitting in a cupboard since last year. :-)

Monday, 6 August 2007


So, for those who were wondering how "Bamboozle" yarn knits up... here we have a shot. It knits up very snuggly - there seems to be more elastic content that in sock yarns like "Opal", "Regia" or "Trekking" et al.

The sock is incredibly soft and my friend will be really pleased with it. I don't think they'll make hot weather socks as it feels heavy and quite stiff, at present - though I suspect blocking and further washings will make them softer with wear. My current thoughts are that they will make good Winter house socks.

However, I am really not happy at all.

As you can see from the picture, this is a small sock. It fits someone with a size 5 foot, i.e. me, and my pal has smaller feet than me which is a Good Thing. (I'm dreading making socks for the BF's size 9s). You can also see that I haven't followed the bog-standard "Opal" pattern, I knocked off rows and, here's a nice point, before I get to the Bad News... "Bamboozle" knits up fairly chunky so you don't need to do the usual 30 row flap, if you were following the "Opal" Old Faithful.

So, the Bad News... it took more than one ball of wool to make that one tiny sock!!!!

At £5.25 a ball, with the manufacturer's advice being 'two balls make a pair', this came as quite a shock. £15 for one pair of socks is a bit out my preferred price range. I rang the Woolly Workshop this morning to order an extra ball of the two colours for my pal's and MIL's socks, and Gill was really surprised. She has promised to speak to her supplier today and let me know what they say.

I don't knit too tightly and I am really disappointed with this yarn so far. If you're allergic to wool and want to make socks for yourself, this is going to come in really rather pricey.

Now to some nice knitting news... my order of "Lorna's Laces" in "Flame" and "Mixed Berries" arrived this morning. For Harry Potter fans I urge you, nay I insist, you dash off to the "Socktopia" website where you can download the gorgeous patterns of "Fawkes" and "Nagini"...

...I'm finally going to attempt a sock pattern that isn't "Opal".

Don't faint.

PS It was the nephew's first birthday yesterday and we had a family picnic in Trent Park (North London). The weather was gorgeous and we set up camp under a tree. While SIL and BIL were over the moon with the yellow tank-top I knitted for their son (from "Soft Treasures for Little Ones"), the boy himself was delighted with the wrapping paper and shiny ribbon.