Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Right Stuff!*



I wanted to share with you this beautiful shawl designed by Meg Gadsbey (who I had the privilege of meeting at the Show recently, and she is as beautiful as her designs!):  Midnight in Sydney


My version:  Midnight Ocean Glimmers shawl

I also wanted to share the process I went through to knit it, because I learned such a lot about having another go, and about having the right tools for the task with this project.

I have been reflecting recently that I really love how the knitting podcasters I listen to share their mistakes and the way they need to re-do things.  Because then I know that mistakes and re-doing is perfectly normal, even for really experienced knitters.

I'm far less experienced, so it really helps me take it in my stride and understand it as a learning process.

Recently the Knitmore Girls had an interesting discussion about having the right tools for the project, and how much difference that can make.  I *think* it was episode 426.


I attempted and gave up this pattern last year.

I could not seem to master it.

This year, I had the chance to test knit the pattern because Meg has re-designed the layout.  I wa.s ready to give it another go

I love the new layout.  Meg's patterns are always clear and easy to follow, but this version is even better than the first.  All of the pattern instructions are on one page, including any of the abbreviations.
The chart also has the chart codes on the same page, right next to the chart.

I'm not a confident chart knitter, but I am steadily becoming converted - I love working from visual cues that mean I don't have to wade through lots of words to find where I'm up to!

If you haven't tried knitting from a chart (instead of reading the instructions) this would be a great pattern to start with!

This time, I knit the pattern in a miraculously short time! Just a few weeks (for me, that's miraculous).

I had such a lovely time knitting it, and realised a few things that had made the project so much easier.  I wanted to share them with you in case it helps you in your knitting adventures.

The pattern is really not that tricky, however, it does have a fiddly knit-4-together manoeuvre that takes a bit of patience.

Yarn
Now the first time I tried this, I was using a completely different yarn

It is a beautiful yarn but it has now told me that it never wanted to be a shawl in the first place.  It really wants to be socks.

How do I know that?

It's quite a tough yarn.  I've tried to knit it into a couple of different shawls now, with no success (probably not the yarn's fault really...perhaps more to do with limited concentration...).  Every time I've ripped it out, the yarn has bounced back, sturdy and strong!  Impressive really.

It's a merino / nylon blend.  The Nylon means that the yarn will wear well for socks - no holes!

But not the best for this pattern.  This pattern really needed a yarn that had a bit of give in it.

When I tried again with the Dingo Dyeworks it was a totally different experience.  I used Fair Dinkum in Mandalay, which is 100% Merino.

So when I was trying to get the needle into those 4 stitches at once, there was enough give in it for the stitches to loosen up while I created the stitch





Needles

Last year I used my beloved Symfonie Knit Pro needles.  I just love knitting with these - they are bamboo so they are so nice to work with.  They have a good tip for most projects and they are pretty too!

They simply don't compare to the needles you can get a Spotlight (which I just can't bear to use now...) and they cost a similar amount.

But I think that the needle just wasn't sharp enough to get through the 4 stitches.

This year I was using my Karbonz carbon fibre needles - they have a metal tip, and they are a little sharper than the Symfonie.  It wasn't a deliberate choice, they were just the needles I could find at the time!


I did order some finer tip Chia goo lace needles but they didn't arrive until after I'd finished the project.  They may have helped more, but I suspect that the very fine tip may have resulted in my splitting the yarn more (I was already doing it a bit!).  They came from Yay for Yarn which has cheap shipping on needles!

I get most of my needles from Tijuana Alpacas - they also have a great Ebay store.
Blocking out the lace - it's like Magic!


Stitch Markers & Knit Tink
Did I mention my limited concentration abilities?  Knitting is my down time, and usually happens when I'm sitting on the couch, watching TV.  I may or may not also be sipping wine.  I'm not telling.  Either way, I'm usually shattered, and not so great at keeping track of things.
So, I made sure I put stitch markers in between each lace repeat - that's the set of stitches that is going to make once section of lace.  Every lace pattern is different.
It meant that each time I came to a stitch marker I knew it was time to start the lace stitches again.
Because I'm still learning how to 'read' my more complex knitting, it meant I didn't have to keep trying to figure out where I was up to.
It also meant that I could 'fudge' an error - by finding a way to get back to the correct number of stitches (yes, I'm all for cheating!  I know I did this a few times, but even I can't find where I did it).  That way a mistake in one section didn't throw out the whole row of lace.


In all my projects I use a row counter to keep track of where I'm up to in a pattern.  The one I use at the moment is an app called "Knit Tink" - I'm using the free version.  I can set up 3 different patterns, enter the number of rows in a section and how many times the section repeats.  Then I just tap the app each time I finish a row.  There's lots of apps available.  I quite like this one.





* there may or may not be a dreadful 80s song that had this name... I'm not saying I ever listened to it though

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Baking Adventures Continue: Persian Love Cake

Easter Sunday lunch required a special meal, which of course means a special dessert (first things first!).

It was time to resurrect the baking adventures (no Easter puns intended)...

I thought it would be good if we avoided Chocolate.

there being an abundance of it in stock for the season...

Please note, I don't generally recommend avoiding chocolate.  That would be rash.

So what that in mind, I perused my favourite baking book, and discovered Annabel's Persian Love Cake, which I then proceeded to Thermify just a little (only in the interests of saving labour on my part).

If you haven't got it already, you should get it, it's that good!

Special Delivery: Favourite recipes to make and take*


Look away now if you have a nut allergy

I brewed my obligatory baking-cup-of-tea


collected ingredients

milled some almonds according to Thermomix directions.

then proceeded with the recipe

To blend the crumb (of almond meal, sugar and butter):
Turbo 2 seconds 3 times.
What could possibly be wrong with almond, sugar and butter?

Crumb base worked beautifully

To combine the rest of the ingredients:
4 seconds, speed 5, then a 2 sec Turbo.
I find the Turbo good for really moving ingredients around, especially when some seem to be sitting on top.

Fresh nutmeg - a surprising amount!




Everything else was done according to instructions.

The cake turned out beautifully.

The only issues were entirely mine - the texture was a little soggy.  But that was because I used the end of a tub of yoghurt - it contained a lot of whey  Don't do as I did!

I'm not usually good at decorating, but I managed to pull off a heart in the centre.
Can you see it?

The nutmeg gave the most delightful fragrant tang and depth of flavour.

Annabel recommends that the addition of lemon zest is optional, but I would heartily recommend its inclusion.

It provides a contrast to the sweetness of the cake.  I didn't show you the mountain of sugars in it!

Serving with greek yoghurt and segments of orange balanced the flavours beautifully.

Divine.

I'll be cooking this one again - it's a Keeper!




* the link to purchasing the book is an Amazon Associate link.  If you purchase via the link, I'll get a small commission

Friday, 28 April 2017

gratitude & tears


A year ago, I booked high tea.

At my favourite place.

With favourite people.

To celebrate my birthday.

It was late for my birthday, but fell on my mum's birthday a week or so later.

Another reason to celebrate.

It also fell on a weekend of deluge and flash flooding.

My friends mostly, wisely, pulled out.  They made the right choice.  The conditions were too risky.

Except for one dear friend, ready for adventure, determined in her love.

I felt compelled to go though.

You see, my mum.

It was her birthday.

She probably didn't know

She was in the final awful stages of Dementia.

That stole her away from us, little by little, far too fast.

I was convinced

that I had to see her.

I was convinced

that Death must come knocking, when birthdays draw near.

that the cells in her body knew that the day had come

I was convinced

that her fragile grip on life would loosen.

That, having made the next milestone, she would finally let go.

I had to see her.

To give her my love.

So that I didn't miss 'goodbye'

I'm so glad I did.

**********

we were unwise

in the deluge

in the floods

we were lucky

we made it through

never again

**********

She lingered for another month.

And then her body failed

Suffering enough

we told her she could leave us

we would care for her son

she was loved

*****************


those memories washed over me as I drove today

confronting me on the road to high tea

and God was kind

different seats, different views, new memories

with another precious friend

ready for adventure, determined in her love


flowers for love

lavender tones to comfort


****************



a posy

gentle, old fashioned roses, in dusky hues

a token of love

for one whom I love

so dearly missed

longings for better things



*********************





blessings today, as well as the tears

cosy hand-knit socks.  joy





friends who hear.   healing

wheaten bloom glowing on green hills

chill & autumn leaves afire

shawl for cosy hug of warmth



an embrace filled with understanding

rose-hued dusk

sliver of silver crescent moon

my small boy finds me to say 'i love you'

****************************


Monday, 17 April 2017

Blocking Knitting: Before & After

I've just recently completed two shawls, both of which have made me Very Happy.

One is for a friend...

The blue Spindrift Shawl from Curious Handmade made from a heavenly Merino/Silk blend (soft just doesn't describe it).

If you sign up for the Curious Handmade email, you can even get this pattern for free.  She has lots of helpful tips about knitting shawls and lace, in the form of a series of emails to guide you through the process of knitting this shawl.

It's an excellent place to start if you've not knitted shawls or lace before.

This was such a lovely knit:  simple, quick, gratifying.

I love the way the lace looks like the foaming of waves on a sandy shore.
seafoam...
The only issue I have is that the neckline is a little tight.  I think this is because silk isn't as giving as wool.  Or perhaps it was my tension.  It was curling over due to the tension.

I was pretty aggressive in pulling it out in the blocking, but really, there wasn't much I could do, as there was no give along the edge of the shawl.   Still it improved a lot by the finished product!

before blocking:  looks a little crumpled and uneven

Doesn't that just look stunning now.
The lace after blocking 

Defined.  Open.  Lace



I also made my daughter the Snowflake Party Shawl by Martina Behm.  This is another simple, fast and gratifying knit.  Another good beginning shawl.  This was also an opportunity for me to experiment with colours and stripes.


I had some leftover CircusTonicHandmade Star Finch yarn, which Princess loves.  It wasn't enough for an entire item, so I matched it with Bendigo Yarns Luxury 4 ply in Coral.  They are a fantastic match.

Before blocking

As the shawl progressed, I gradually introduced stripes of the Star Finch, and gradually decreased the Coral.  You can see the changes in the stripes below.  If you want to see the exact formula for how I did it, the details are on my Ravelry Project Page here.

I added some extra rows to the end of the shawl to give a border to the lace pattern, and an opportunity to create more fabric in the Star Finch yarn.


During knitting, the snowflakes weren't all that defined.

I blocked this fairly aggressively (that means I stretched it quite a bit) - the shawl seemed to grow a lot in the blocking process!


The result?

Lovely, clear snowflakes, dancing over the shawl.






Happy.

PS.  If anyone has any tips on how to get children to model for you, send them my way!



PPS.  And here's your reward for reading right to the end...

Why be normal when you can be, well, weird?  Dancing? and Photobombing? Why not!






Sunday, 12 February 2017

Chai Frappe Recipe


We are all melting with the heat here in Sydney.

I think everyone is wondering when summer will end - fiercely hot days are sapping the life out of everyone...

It makes it quite challenging to enjoy my tea in the usual way.

I thought a Chai Frappe might just do the trick.

But I was surprised that when I did a quick search, I couldn't find any recipes for what I wanted online.

There are plenty using Chai Syrups and Powders, but those generally have loads of sugar and other stuff in them.

I've become a bit of a purist with my Chai, and the typical Chai Latte mixes are all too sweet for me.

So here's a low sugar, refreshing Chai Frappe recipe for you.  It does require a little advance prep, but it's well worth it.

Brew up your favourite Chai - tea leaves, tea bags, or even the powders if that's what you love.
In this case, I used a lovely Rooibos Chai I was given at Christmas - so it has the added bonus of being caffeine free.


Freeze in an ice cube tray.


One generous cup of tea fills my ice cube tray nicely.


Once frozen, place in Thermomix, food processor or use a stick blender.



Add milk.

Add honey and / or Cinnamon syrup (if you have it) to sweeten.  The Thermomix Star Anise syrup (from the Basic Cook Book) would work quite well here.  Heilala even make a delicious Vanilla Syrup.


I used approximately 1 tablespoon - depending on your taste, you might like more, there is no sweetener in the tea.  I find this Frappe refreshing because it isn't too sweet, so taste test and adjust accordingly!



Add a dash of vanilla, and a shake of cinnamon.


Blitz for 20-30 seconds, on speed 9. until the ice cubes have magically turned into a lovely tea slushy.


Sprinkle with Cinnamon Sugar for a decorative touch.


Relax somewhere cool and enjoy!


What's your favourite cooling brew?


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Kindergarten: A New Journey

I found myself close to tears, over the ironing.

While ironing and household chores are wont to reduce us to tears, it wasn't really the ironing's fault in this case.

It was what I was ironing.

My precious baby's new school uniform, for him to wear the following day.

His first day of Kindergarten.

In that tiny pair of shorts, I could see the journey ahead.

The years of uniforms that he will wear (and I will iron) as he progresses through to Graduation.

I could see all of that in that one item, in that one task.
Shoes... He's never worn them for a whole day in his life!

There was joy and grieving.

Grieving...
for the end of his babyhood
for the end of my era as a mother-of-babies, a hen and her chicks
for the end of the exclusive universe I've built around my babies - now they explore a bigger world

Joy...
watching my baby become a boy
knowing he is ready for this next chapter
watching his excitement (and nerves)

It's not even only about him, my younger one, but also about my precious girl, who also seems to grow apace...  She starts Year 4.  Year 4.  So very grown up.  Taller than me soon (hooray!  and also... not difficult)
They'll never look this good again!
I began my teaching career with Year 4.  I had no idea that they were each someone's babies, still. They seemed so mature, so independent.

And the parents seemed to wear the mantle of parenthood easily, to come as a family package with their children, know what they were about...

I didn't realise they were still learning too, still figuring out this parenting gig.

And when I taught Kindergarten (who I loved, by the way, and they loved me), I really didn't grasp how each of those little people that walked through my door, were still just tiny babies.

I passed a mum sobbing yesterday, as I walked my baby boy to his classroom, and his beautiful teacher.
And I understood.
And, truth be told, I cried too.  For her, and for me.
Trains.  His very favourite thing in the whole world. 
Because I had to take my baby, deliver him to his (beautiful, gentle, wonderful) teacher.

And leave him there.

Walk away without him.

I was glad to have my girl with me for that day, but I think Monday when I must leave them both, I will shed more tears.

No longer are my precious kids orbiting in the universe I have created for them.

No longer are they relying just on me, Mama (and Papa too of course).

They are both now venturing out on their Grand Adventure, which is peopled and influenced by so many others.

Which means they will have an existence, an experience, which I will largely not know about.  I won't know the details of every conversation that they have, with their teachers, and their friends.  I won't hear all the things that make them giggle, cry, and be able to guide their interactions with others.  I can't cuddle them when they are hurt at school.

So I'm hoping that the foundations we have laid will endure and keep them safe, keep them knowing they are loved, whatever they encounter.

**********************

I collected him yesterday, all smiles as he walked out in lines, holding hands with his friend.
He still looked tiny.
They all did.
With their enormous backpacks, and hats, and uniforms 2 sizes too big.

He had a great day.  Thankful, so thankful.
And he wants to go back.  Doubly thankful.

But there's still a tear or two to shed.


Because I think he grew a year in that one day.

He needs me just a little less.

Grief and Joy.

Because that is what we long for them.

To raise them so they are healthy without us one day.

It's a funny gig, this parenting job.  To render yourself redundant.

Off on a Very Grand Adventure
And I will always be here waiting for them to come home

The joy in this? They will always need our love.