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Tuesday, October 19, 2010


After getting up at silly o clock with a migraine I took some pills and went back to bed to sleep it off. 3 hours later I was much better but was at a bit of a loose end - I didn't have any plans for today and was still feeling a little flat. A quick decision was made to bake some easy oatmeal and raisin cookies - my favorite flavour.  I got the recipe from David Lebovitz -
These cookies are just what I was after, chewy and soft with golden crisp edges and a hint of spicy cinnamon and nutmeg. Another plus is that they are man sized. They are the kind of cookie that you hope to find in your lunch box.

I have tried lots of different recipes for Oatmeal and Raisin cookies but have never found the recipe I have been looking for......... until now. I used quick oats although the recipe says not to - simply because I find the oats available here in New Zealand are very coarse and hard compared to the ones I would buy if I were in England or Europe. We never buy biscuits here because we find they are all very hard so homemade ones are a nice treat.

A new yarn in my shop today - Iris - inspired by my garden. I'm loving these Spring blooms!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Spinning Progress..

I have done a couple of hours for the last 2 evenings and managed to fill one bobbin. I've just started on the second one. The coin in the photograph is a 20 cent NZ coin.

Another new colour of sock yarn added to my shop, this one was inspired by our highest mountain, Mt Cook - it's called Cloud Piercer.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More On Spinning....

I haven't knit a stitch for a couple of days which is quite unusual for me, but I do get times like this very occasionally. It's nice to be able to put things to one side and work on something different, a change is as good as a rest so they say.

I wanted to talk a little more about my spinning, I don't do any often enough. I don't even know if I do it 'right' because I'm self taught but the way I do it works for me.

I started out with a drop spindle - I just couldn't get the hang of it (then afterwards I wondered if it was because I was using combed top that I didn't like working with, it was like rope). I bought my first wheel, an Ashford Traditional and tried with that, I still couldn't do it properly. It was put it in a cupboard where it sat for over a year and one day whilst having a clear out my Hubby said that if I had no intention of using it then maybe I should think about getting rid of it. I decided then that I would try again. I bought a kilo of merino combed top and practiced until my knees hurt. I bought a couple of other fiber blends - merino/silk etc and tried those. I came to the conclusion that the combed top I had first started out with (I think it was Romney) was not my cup of tea and wasn't the easiest of fibers to work with (although I had been told that beginners should start with this). I had great success with the merino - it was like spinning butter after using the Romney.

I love preparing the combed tops ready for spinning, nice to do while watching tv. Last night I remembered I had a decent amount of Blue Faced Leicester so I sat and made these little clouds. This started off as a braid and weighed approx 125g.
I draft the fiber into very fine strips then draft the strips by gently pulling and letting the fibers glide over one another - working my way down the strips - then I loosely coil them up into little clouds. Doing it this way means that I don't have to mess around trying to draft it too much whilst I'm spinning. These are fairly big baskets in the photo so you can imagine how much volume there is. This is a lovely blend of pinks, purples and grey. I plan on spinning the singles as fine as I can get and then I will decide on how I will ply it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Another Sample......

Here's the sample of BFL top. I loved spinning this and managed to get finer singles with it. Again I Navajo plied it to get this:
This is sport weight but a bit finer than the first sample.

A Surprise in the Mail Box

I had a lovely surprise in my mail box this afternoon, my Amazing Lace Swap package from Tanya in Nevada arrived.

I received some really gorgeous yarns - Skacel Merino Lace weight, a skein of my beloved Malabrigo Lace and a skein of Misti Alpaca Lace which I have never seen in real life before and can now say it's really lovely stuff. I was also lucky enough to get some hand knitted spa cloths which are gorgeous.

Here's a new yarn that I have listed in the shop, my garden was full of daffodils and Lilac blooms and is what inspired me to dye this, it's called Daffodil on Lilac, and is on my Merino Twist base.

Spinning Samples

I spun up one of my fibre samples yesterday, in fact I did 2 but the other one is still drying.

This sample was the braid in my previous post. It was lovely to work with. The blend is Merino & Silk and I added a little Firestar for a bit of sparkle. I spun it into a very fine single then Navajo plied it to make a 3 ply yarn. I'm guessing it's about a Sport Weight:

The second one I spun is the Blue Faced Leicester sample and I also added a little Firestar to that one. I liked the BFL sample - the fibre was so easy to draft and spun like a dream. I'm going to get started on the Shetland one today.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thoughts of Spring... Spinning Fiber and a Cake....

I was getting so used to the milder weather we have recently been getting, nice sunny warm Spring days with longer evenings as we are now into daylight saving. Then yesterday it all changed and I feel as if Winter as come back to bite us yet again. Most of the tulips and daffodils in the garden have been blown over by the strong winds. Since the quake the house seems very draughty ( maybe because we have a lot of brickwork on the outside missing?), the interior doors and roof rafters rattle every time there's a strong gust of wind and my dog Ruby takes cover under the coffee table or jumps onto my lap in fear. My other dog Molly sleeps through anything and everything.

I was very organised today - up with the larks, tonight's dinner is all prepared and I have the afternoon free - I'm going to get my spinning wheel out. I have some gorgeous fiber samples from my August Phat Fiber sample box that I would like to spin up:

From the back left we have:
Superfine Alpaca, Merino & Bamboo blend

On the right of this is 23 micron merino

At front left is Hand Pulled Clouds of Corriedale Cross wool, Kid Mohair & Angelina

Centre is Blue Faced Leicester Top

Next to that - the black and white one is Black Alpaca, Mulberry Silk & Angora Blend

Front centre is a Shetland & Merino blend

The small braid front right is Merino, Silk & Firestar
The wispy white at the very front right is crab fiber which I find interesting. I don't know which I would choose as my favorite of all, they are all nice in different ways but I think the first one I will spin will be the braid of Merino, Silk & Firestar because it's calling to me.

My newest wheel - I bought this second hand recently and could not believe my luck in finding it. It was well worth the long drive to collect it. It had been used only twice and the owner decided spinning was not for her and sold it on. It's an Ashford Traditional:

That's my Ruby sneaking into the photograph. She can probably smell the Alpaca fiber I was previously spinning - she is drawn to alpaca.I was knitting a cardigan from some last year and every time I got it out she would lay down by the ball of yarn and constantly sniff it over and over. We are seriously considering getting a few alpaca's, there's a place just over the road from us who breeds them and later in the year they sometimes have some up for sale.

Then there's a cake - I baked it early this morning and the house smelled wonderful. It's a Double Ginger Cake (I love love love ginger) - the first time I have made this recipe yet if I was to bake it again I would add more ginger to it. The cake also sank a little in the middle which didn't surprise me considering the amount of syrup in it. In the description Jamie calls it a teatime cake with attitude.
It is lovely - stickily moist, not too heavy and tastes heavenly. I think if I were to wrap it and store it until tomorrow the top would soften right up and go sticky, but I doubt it will last that long with 3 men in the house and a dog who goes absolutely crazy over cake. The recipe is from Jamie Oliver and is made in a food processor:

Double Ginger Cake

8 pieces of stem ginger in syrup drained, plus 4 tablespoons of the syrup reserved
150g soft unsalted butter
200g golden syrup
100g dark muscovado sugar
250g self raising flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
200ml milk
100g light muscovado sugar (for sprinkling on the top, I omitted this because it's sweet enough)

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C/gas 4.
Grease and line a 20x10cm loaf tin.

In a food processor with the blade attachment chop the ginger pieces finely. Tip this into a large mixing bowl.

Put the butter, golden syrup, ginger syrup and muscovado sugar in the processor and pulse until pale and creamy then add the flour, spices, eggs and half the milk. Process again until thoroughly mixed. Add the remaining milk and blitz again.

Pour the cake mixture into the bowl containing the chopped ginger and stir well. Pour into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Sprinkle over the light muscovado sugar if using.

Bake for 50 minutes until a skewer poked in the centre comes out clean.

My cake took 65 minutes to bake  and my oven is usually a bit on the hot side. The skewer will not come out looking clean because this is a very sticky textured cake. I tested mine by gently pressing in the middle, if it springs back it will be cooked.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A long colour change yarn...

A ravelry friend gifted me a pattern a few days ago - the Sweet Jazz pattern which I really like the look of. I wanted a colourway and yarn base that would really do it justice. So I decided to put my thinking cap on and here's what I came up with:

It's my Seaglass in a long colour change on my bambaroo base which is perfect for the warmer weather.

I skeined up 500 yards of the yarn and dyed in a gradual colour change from palest to deepest Seaglass. The colour is not as grey toned as it appears on the photograph, it's slightly more vibrant. I cast on for the shawl last night and I can't wait until, I get to the colour change to see how it looks!

Saturday, October 2, 2010


So, what have I been doing for the past few days? I've been working long hours at the day job this week so that has left me little time for doing what I like to do best.

Firstly, I dyed a brand spanking new colourway on my new yarn base and the first few skeins have flown out of my shop already.

I'm really in love with this colour, I dyed it using the monochromatic method - the shades go from barely there to deepest Seaglass. It's a nice restful shade, very easy on the eye. It's slightly more green toned than I can capture with the camera.
I see myself knitting a nice 1 skein shawlette with this, I think it's much too pretty a colour to hide it away on feet!

Secondly, I decided I would like to try my hand at dyeing with natural dyes, namely Sticta Coronata. This is a lichen that's unique to New Zealand. Strange stuff. First I had to separate the lichen pieces into parts containing spores and non-spored bits, easier said than done! The two produce different colours so I think I must have got it right. The spored lichen made a deepish red looking liquid which came out as mauve and purple on the roving I was dyeing, the non spored came out a nice silver grey. Then I added ammonia to the red liquid and the dye turned pink. I really enjoyed doing it but I don't think I'm going to be retiring my acid dyes any day soon, the lichen method was quite time consuming and I only extracted enough dye solution sufficient for about 100g of fibre. Here's the Sticta Coronata after I had soaked it, all plumped up:
Doesn't look very nice does it? According to the information I have, once the purple colour is exhausted from the lichen you can tear it into pieces and re process it to get yellow toned dyes. I would need a ton of the stuff to extract enough dye to get a deep shade. I was fun dong it and next week I may try to get the yellow tones from it.

Here's the roving I dyed with it, I'm calling this one Ethereal. It's a nice blend of Silver grey, pale pinkish mauve and has touches of quite deep mauve, I may list it in my shop:
Something that's really irking me today - GST went up in New Zealand yesterday from 12.5% to 15% so we expect a price increase on most items of 2.5%, correct? Seems not. I have been out today and bought a few items that have risen in price since 2 days ago of between 8 and 11%. The prices here are high enough without shops trying to rip us off even more.