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Saturday, October 8, 2016

October Already

Where on earth does the time go? I can't believe I haven't posted anything since July!

It's been a very busy few months ~ I went away on holiday to Sydney, came home for a week then off to Dunedin for a visit. In between I've been working, knitting a wee bit and gardening (lots to do outside the garden is looking a little jungle-esque right now).

Sadly I haven't managed to get any spinning done for a long time but I did get some good news, I entered an item in the National Alpaca Exhibition and found out today that I won an award! It was the natural circular lace cardigan that I entered into the Creative Fibre National Exhibition last year. I went down to see the exhibition after work today, there was some absolutely stunning work on display.

This was my home grown alpaca from my wee boy Saturn that I washed and hand combed, then spun into a 2 ply lace weight yarn. I then knitted the lace patterned circular cardigan.

Here's a view of the back of the cardigan:

And a close up of the samples I submitted along with my rosette:

I put a lot of work into this garment and it's nice to finally get the recognition for that ~ I'm feeling a little bit pleased with myself today!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Swedish Tea Ring

After all the fibre stuff over the last few weeks  I thought it was about time that I had a change and baked something ~ so here's a very easy Swedish Tea Ring. This is quite a versatile recipe, you can use any filling you want, the possibilities are endless, in this one I used raisins, craisins and chopped glace cherries. Another version I make is lemon curd & sultanas, I've also made it (on request) with nutella and chocolate chips as the filling. The dough recipe is easy and gives a light, soft, sweet dough.

50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
500g strong white flour
1 x 7g sachet of instant yeast
7g salt
40g caster sugar
230ml milk
2 large eggs

For the filling:
2 tablespoons of butter, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
100g dried fruit, raisins, craisins etc

1 Rub the butter into the flour, rubbing it in with your fingertips until integrated.

2 Add the yeast, stir, then add the salt and sugar. Heat the milk very gently until luke-warm, whisk in the eggs, and pour this into the dry mixture. No point messing around with a spatula here just use your hands to mix the dough so that it comes together in the bowl.
3 Tip the dough on to a clean work surface and knead well, for about 10 mins, or put it in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and knead for 5 mins.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes then roll it out quite thinly into a rectangle. Brush over the melted butter, sprinkle over the brown sugar and cinnamon, then the dried fruits and finally roll it up nice and tight, swiss roll style. Curve it into a ring and tuck one of the ends inside the other pinching it together as best you can. Place it on a baking tray lined with non stick paper. Make slashes all around the outside using either a very sharp knife or a pair of sturdy kitchen scissors.

Cover with oiled cling wrap and leave it to rise in a warm place or about an hour. It will looked puffed up and the slits you cut will have opened up considerably.
Heat the oven to 200 deg C. Bake the ring for about 20 - 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Decorate it with a simple water icing if desired.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Tour de Fleece Diary Collage

Here's my last post on the Tour de Fleece, my diary collage:

Tour de Fleece Days 17 ~ Finish Line

I found myself constantly running out of dry combed fibre for the last few days and felt as if I didn't make much progress. I didn't post any pics or updates because it all looked the same, brown, more brown, yes I'm over the brown lol. But, I'm happy with what I have achieved in the last 22 days:

I started with a 2.8 kg NZ Half Bred Brown/grey fleece. All the fleece was washed during the tour. 
All the fleece has now been combed. 

From this fleece I spun 5622 mtrs of singles which made 1029g, 1874 mtrs of ‘N’ ply yarn so far. I still have 372 g of combed fibre to spin. 

I then dyed some white half bred fleece, from this I spun 787 mtrs of singles which were ‘N’ plied to give me a total of 262 mtrs of finished yarn in 3 different colours. I also dyed a further batch of the white in plums/purples and have only combed part of it so far and spun 1 nest.
To sum up my achievements during Tour de Fleece: 
I washed and combed a lot of fluff, spun 6409 mtrs of singles and have 2136 mtrs of finished 3 ply yarn. 
On challenge days I spun some hand combed polwarth into very fine singles (probably about 30g so far which I haven’t calculated into my singles amount), then made a DIY spindle and managed to spin some yarn on it. 

Things I would do differently next tour: try to be more organised and have my fleece washed and dried before the start, I kept running out of dry/combed fibre and found myself waiting for fleece to dry many times (it’s Winter here). If I had done this I think I would have finished the whole fleece. But, in saying that I’m extremely happy in what I have done, it's far more than I would have achieved had I not participated in le Tour de Fleece. 

I have this basket which is 372 g of combed fibre left to spin, I'm going to work on that over the next few days and hope to get it finished. I'm estimating it will make another 680 mtrs of yarn so I will have more than enough to knit a sweater. Then the hardest part ~ deciding what I'm actually going to knit!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tour de Fleece Day 16

Day 16, I 'N' plied another bobbin for 442 mtrs of finished yarn:

I calculated what I have achieved since the start of Tour de Fleece 16 days ago:

I started with a 2.8 kg fleece.

979g of fibre hand combed
5460 mtrs singles spun
which gave me 1820 mtrs 'N' ply yarn
Yarn finished so far weighs 979g

I have another 192g combed fibre waiting to be spun
I just washed another 400g of fleece which will be combed once dry
I have 500g fleece left to wash/comb/spin

There's still 6 days of Le Tour to go, maybe I will get this fleece finished after all!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Tour de Fleece Day 15 ~

Day 15 was a challenge day. My challenge (as a non-spindle spinner) was to make a D.I.Y. spindle and spin some yarn on it:

Challenge successfully completed..........It's amazing what you can do with an old cd, a bit of dowel, a tiny hook and a rubber grommet!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tour de Fleece Days 12 & 13

Day 12 ~ ran out of combed fibre so had to comb some more.
Here's day 13:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tour de Fleece Day 11

It's more of the same ~ more washing & combing fibre and a little spinning:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Tour de Fleece Day 10

I shouldn't have counted the rest day as day 10,  getting confused with it!
This is what I did on day 10:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tour de Fleece Days 9 & 10

I'm a wee bit behind at posting here.

Day 10 is a rest day, although I did do a bit more fleece washing & combing.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Tour de Fleece Day 8 ~ Challenge Day

Day 8 was a challenge day, for me this meant taking a break from spinning the brown/grey half bred to continue working on spinning some very fine Polwarth singles:

I also washed 4 bags of fleece which is till drying, did a bit of combing and plied some of the brown half bred, which is also still drying. Today I hope to comb some more fibre and spin/ply more of the brown!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Tour de Fleece ~ Day 7

One week of Tour de Fleece is over already and I feel that I have achieved quite a bit.
The raw fleece volume seems to be steadily decreasing, it seems to take forever washing bag after bag yet there seems to be no decrease in the amount remaining. Today was the turning point for that.

I've also done a wee bit of dyeing ~ some silks and a bag of orphan fleece that I found while rummaging in the cupboards, I have no idea what it was but it was a mid brown colour ~ so into the dyepot it went along with some burgundy dye that I mixed up. I shall post pics once it rinsed and dried.

TdF day 7, here's my storm in a teacup:

At last I have 2 bobbins full so I may get to start plying that later today. Each bobbin has 260g of singles. In the meantime I'm washing and combing more of the fleece it as I'm about to run out of combed nests. It's a sunny, cold but blowy day here today, good for getting fleece dried.

Silk/merino lace weight, 100g cakes. The grey one is a gradient of violets to grey.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Tour de Fleece ~ Day 6

Here's yesterday's progress, I finally got some small skeins of finished yarn:

Such a dull, grey day so not very good light for taking photo's.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Tour de Fleece ~ Day 5

I bet you all thought I had fallen off my spinning wheel with me not posting here yesterday!
I had a long day at work and it was dark when I got home, I spun the fleece that I had dyed and combed ~  here's yesterday's progress:

I also washed some more brown/grey fleece as I've almost run out of combed top. Hope to get ahead with that over the next few days.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Le Tour de Fleece ~ Day 4

I'm feeling all spun up and combed out today ~ here's my progress:

I added my colour inspiration for the 3 colours of dyed fleece to my basket, a dried out Hydrangea. I'm working tomorrow so I won't have much to report unless I get up extra extra early and spin before I go!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Tour de Fleece Day 3

My day 3 was spent much the same as the previous 2 days ~ more dyeing locks, combing and spinning.

I'm dyeing some of my white half bred fleece in various colours to tone with the brown/grey of my other fleece, it's hopefully destined to be a colour work sweater. So far I've dyed copper and mango shades and today I did a rose gold colour - which looks much better in real life than I could capture with the camera:

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Tour de Fleece Days 1&2

Day 1 yesterday and most of the day was spent washing and combing fleece.
Day 2 today, I spent the morning and afternoon spinning, combing and dyeing a little more fleece. It's been a very unseasonably warm day ~ great for getting my fleece dried. Here's my progress of days 1 & 2 in pictures:

I started with a raw half bred brown/grey fleece, washing it in batches, hand combing then spinning. Alongside that I'm dyeing a white half bred fleece in different colours to comb and spin. Enjoying myself immensely, what a fibre-y few days it has been!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Tour de Fleece 2016

It's that time of year again, and this year I actually managed to remember to sign up for the Tour de Fleece spin along over on Ravelry which starts tomorrow. It runs July 2nd - 24th. I missed it for the past couple of years. Hopefully it will help me be more focussed and time-organised with my fibre prep and spinning. This year I joined the Lantern Rouge and the Raw Wool Lovers Team.

So, I've been busy prepping and here are my TdF goals for 2016:

1. To continue washing and combing this gorgeous brown/grey half bred fleece that has been lurking in my cupboard for almost a year, and to hopefully make a start on spinning it:

I've scoured and combed for 93g of nests so far.

2. To spin more of this lovely combed polwarth fleece:

3.To dye my remaining white half bred fleece, comb it and spin at least a sample skein.

I will post any progress I make over the next few weeks. I'm excited to be taking part again.

I was trying to cover all bases for myself in having white, coloured and dyed fleece, if I get bored with one I can move to another and so on. I doubt I will even get all of the brown/grey fleece washed and dried as it weighs 2.8kg, that's a lot of fibre to wash in batches. I got a bit of a production line going with it today, but looking at it  now still laid on the table ~ I don't seem to have made much of a dent in it!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Finished Grettir Sweater and some Hand Dyed Sock Yarns.

I've been stuck at home for a while feeling sorry for myself, first an infection then the flu. But, I have kept myself busy, here's what I made:

Yes, it's the Grettir Sweater that I mentioned in my last post. I really enjoyed knitting this and the Naturelle yarn was lovely to work with. I hand dyed one of my skeins a deep orange as I decided to go for a retro look in the end rather than choosing the grey tones that I originally planned.
The only thing modification I made to the pattern was that the neck ~ if knit as stated in the pattern, sat very wide and low. So I decreased extra stitches in the shaping of the neck area and knit a few extra rows for the neckband to make it sit higher. I love how the short row shaping makes the back of the neck sit higher.

I must be on the mend because yesterday I got the urge to get the dye pot out, a few more sock yarns to add to my stash:

My personal favorite is the maple toned one at the bottom of the pic, just loving the Autumn colours at the moment, but of course there had to be a purple skein in there somewhere!

Here's my finished Plain & Fancy Socks:

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Plain Socks with Fancy Yarn..

I haven't had the time to blog about anything for the past couple of weeks as I have a very poorly dog. Bella had no specific symptoms other than she was off her food a bit and seemed a bit unhappy and didn't want to go for walkies. Off to the vets for x-rays, scans and blood tests to discover she had 3 extremely large tumours on her spleen. She had a splenectomy the day after and has been recovering at home, she got her stitches taken out yesterday. Her diagnosis is large cell lymphoma, not good. Now we are just waiting for further tests to come back so we can decide on any further treatment or not.

On a lighter note, and as I've had plenty of knitting time while dog nursing,  I got some beautiful sock yarn a few weeks ago. It's one of those self striping/patterning yarns and has a silver thread running through it. The yarn is Opal Happy Mit Silbereffekt, the colourway is called Surprise. I've used Opal yarn many times for socks, it's so hard wearing and is machine washable with no adverse effects. So plain and simple socks for this as I want to show off the yarn to it's best advantage.

There are ways of making a very plain sock a little bit fancy with tiny details that will finish it off.

For example when picking up the slip stitches along the sides of the heel flap I always knit into the back of those stitches because they are quite large ~ in doing this you twist the stitch and tighten it up, so no more holes. I also tend to pick up an extra stitch at the very end of this row, at the junction with the start of the top of foot stitches, this avoids a hole and it's no bother to work an extra decrease round while shaping the gusset to get rid of the extra stitch:

The last row of green stitches that you can see in the pic are the picked up and twisted stitches, see how it closes the gap nicely whilst forming neat little x's all along the row?

For the heel flap, a slip stitch heel is always my first choice.

Right side rows:   Sl1, K1, repeat across the row
Wrong side rows: Sl1, purl to the end of the row

When grafting the toe, I make my kitchener stitches nice and loose ~ then go along the row to tighten them up carefully with a darning needle to match the tension of my knitting.

There you have it ~ a finished plain sock in fancy yarn. I'm hoping to motor through the second sock as there's something I'm really itching to knit:

The pattern is Grettir by Brooklyn Tweed.

This is what happens when I visit the wool shop when there's a sale on:

I'm going to use the Naturally Naturelle Aran weight in Bark for the body and Charcoal and cream for the yoke. I think I will have to dye one of the cream balls a light silver grey as a 3rd contrast colour. I fell in love with this yarn after knitting the bed socks with the DK version of it. It's very sheepy stuff, smells of lanolin and I love these natural colours.

I also bought more Earthwear possum sock yarn and some orange and grey 4 ply pure wool for a colour work hat and mitts set. Along with some Naturally Naturelle 4 ply in grey for a cardigan for myself.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Finished Simple Skyp Socks...

I finally finished these yesterday and they will be winging their way to Dunedin tomorrow as they are a birthday gift:

The pattern is another pair of Simple Skyp Socks
and the yarn is JohnQ Earthwear, which is a blend of recycled possum and nylon. The yarn is listed in the Ravelry database as a sport weight yarn but I felt this was more like a regular fingering weight/4 ply yarn.

I started spinning some of Radar's Chocolate fibre that I cleaned and combed last year. I'm going for a lace weight yarn so I haven't got very far with it:

It's beautifully soft and fluffy, no set plan on what I'm going to knit with it yet but I'm really enjoying spinning it.

Still knitting bed socks, onto my 5th pair now :-)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Trio of Tea-Time Bakes....

Yes, I've been baking again, I didn't bake all these cakes today, these are what I've made over the last week. Morning teas, afternoon teas, weekend visiting, there's always an excuse to bake in my house.

These are some of my favorite things ~ there's a Yorkshire Tea Loaf, which I have posted about before on here, but this recipe is slightly different and gives a nicer loaf in my opinion.

Secondly there's the ever so naughty Jam Donut Muffins that really do taste like a jam donut but must be far healthier than a deep fried version, these won't last two minutes, believe me.

Last but not least is the English Walnut Cake, because it's walnut season. I sat and shelled 5 kg of them over the last few evenings. I love walnut & coffee cake, or walnut & maple syrup cake, but sometimes it's nice to bake a plain cake and let the flavour of just one ingredient shine through, in this case the humble walnut. It doesn't need icing or frosting or buttercream, it's lovely as it is without all that.

Yorkshire Tea Loaf:
275g mixed dried fruit soaked overnight in 400ml fresh hot tea (any kind of tea will do)
75g Glace cherries Halved
70g soft brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon mixed spice
270g self raising flour

Oven pre-heated to 150 deg C

you will need a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin

Soak the fruit overnight, the next day stir in the sugar and spice. Then beat in the eggs and mix well, next add the cherries. Sift in the flour and mix quite vigorously until it looks well combined. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 90-100 minutes. It will be well risen, golden brown on top and should feel firm when you press it in the middle. Cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool. This is lovely cut into thick slices and spread with salted butter. It will keep well for a few days in an airtight container or you can wrap it in foil and freeze it.

Jam Donut Muffins:
300g Self Raising Flour
150g caster sugar + 100g extra for coating
80 ml vegetable oil
1 large egg
175 ml buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Jam, about 9 teaspoons (strawberry or raspberry is best)
100g melted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degC, 375 deg F, Gas Mark 4. Grease a muffin tin, the recipe usually makes 8-9 cakes.

Mix the flour and sugar with a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl. In a large jug mix the oil, buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract. Pour the wet into the dry and mix very gently, you only want to combine the two, don't beat the life out of it or your cakes will be tough. If it's still a little lumpy that's fine, it will all work out int he end.

Put a heaped teaspoon full of cake mixture into the bottom of the muffin cups, you need to completely cover the bottoms of the tin with it, then add a teaspoon of jam into the centre and top with a further heaped teaspoon of cake mixture. The tins should be about 2/3 full. The trick is to make sure the jam is fully enclosed within the cake mixture so that it doesn't boil out.

Bake for 20 minutes, they will be well risen and golden brown. Let them cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then pop them out onto a wire cooling rack.

Mix the remaining sugar together with the cinnamon. Brush the cakes with melted butter and roll them in the sugar/cinnamon mix. These are best eaten within 24 hours of baking, but I bet they won't last that long!

Walnut Cake:

Use either a regular size loaf tin, 2 mini loaf tins or a 6" round cake tin, greased and lined.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C, 375deg F, Gas mark 4.

110g self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
125 g soft unsalted butter
80g caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
60g walnuts, ground finely in a food processor or finely chopped by hand
Extra walnut halves for the topping

Cream the butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes with an electric mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between.

Sift the flour and salt together. Stir in the walnuts then add this to the butter and egg mixture, folding it in whilst adding the milk. Mix well to combine. Put the mixture into the tin and level the surface, decorate with walnut halves.

Bake times depend on which tin you use ~ my 6" round cakes take 40 minutes to cook, the mini loaf tins 30 minutes and the regular loaf tin 45-50 minutes, but which ever tin you are using start checking after 30 minutes. The cake will be golden brown, risen and feel firm in the centre when cooked. It needs no other adornment:

Friday, May 13, 2016

Cupcake Success

Gingerbread cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting, for a birthday morning tea:

After the Bundt cake disaster the other day, well these little cupcakes came out just perfect. I piped the roses on top with a 2D flower nozzle and added a cube of crystallised ginger at the centre. The recipe is here.

I've been knitting bed socks to help out a friend who needs 40 pairs to gift to International Exchange Students. They are fairly quick to knit as they are made in DK weight wool and are all garter stitch, but the legs seem mighty long to me for bed socks, these will possibly be almost knee length. These are knit in Naturally 8 ply wool, I'm onto the second pair which are being knitted in grey Gotland wool. Nice T.V. knitting.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

When it all goes wrong.....

Here's todays effort ~ almond & cherry bundt cake. It all went wrong, but I wanted to show it so you know that my baking is sometimes a failure. I did a pretty good rescue job on it. A shame because this is a really lovely cake and I have used that tin more times than I can remember and have never had an issue with it. This is a very traditional English kind of cake and is quite moist and not too sweet. When you have mixed it up it will seem to be quite a thick consistency, that's how it's supposed to be.

The cake, fresh from the oven ~ I greased the tin with melted butter using a pastry brush, popped it in the fridge for a few minutes and greased it again, then floured it generously. Baked then cooled in the tin for 10 minutes.

The top if the cake was left behind in the tin! Never mind, I can patch this up.

A bit of almond flavoured glace icing drizzled over and the top scattered generously with toasted flaked almonds.

There we go ~ I don't think anyone will really notice. Crisis over.

Cherry & Almond Bundt Cake

You will need a 23cm bundt tin, well greased and floured (see pics above).

For the cake:
150g glace cherries, quartered
225g self raising flour
175g soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the tin
175g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
3 large free range eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract

For the decoration:
175g icing sugar
15g flaked almonds, toasted
few drops almond extract

Pre heat the oven to 180deg C, 350 degF, gas mark 4.

Cream the butter for a minute or so, then add all the other cake ingredients to the bowl except for the cherries. Beat for a minute until smooth.

Spoon half the mixture into the tin and smooth it out as best you can, sprinkled the quartered cherries over the top of then put the rest of the cake mixture over the cherries, gently spread it evenly with the back of a spoon.

Pop it into the oven and bake for 35 - 40 minutes, it will be golden brown, well risen and feel pretty firm when you press it with a finger.

Leave it to cool in the tin for 10  minutes, then run a flat bladed knife around the sides of the tin. Lay a wire rack over the top of the tin and quickly invert the cake. I find a sharp tap on the bottom of the tin will (usually) release the cake. Let it cool completely, then mix the ingredients for the icing together, using just enough cold water to give a nice smooth and thick consistency. Drizzle it over the cake and sprinkle with the flaked almonds.