Friday, November 30

Not knitting

Is this the ugliest bridge design in the world? It is being proposed as part of the Sustrans Connect2 bid for the 'People's 50 Million' lottery funding. According to the press release:
"Faber Maunsell in partnership with Holder Mathias Architects has been appointed by Cardiff Council to undertake an Options Appraisal for a proposed footbridge spanning the Ely River between Penarth and the International Sports Village in Cardiff Bay.
The bridge, which will be called Pont y Werin (‘The People’s Bridge’), will improve walking and cycling links between Cardiff and Penarth.
Sustainability has been a key focus in the design of the bridge which uses water pumped from the River Ely to act as a counter balance in order to open the bascule bridge. When Pont y Werin is closed, the stored water is discharged back into the river which drives a turbine that in turn activates the lighting system on the bridge."

I applaud the efforts to make it sustainable, and I am a great supporter of cycling, being a keen pedaller myself. However there's no way I can get my head around the fact that this bridge looks like it was cobbled together using oddments found in the bottom of a skip!

Thursday, November 22

Lower Shaw Farm

Last weekend, myself and two of my Meantime Knitter chums (Zaza aka Crochet Queen and Artisanelle) headed off to Lower Shaw Farm for a weekend of knitting and spinning. You might think that the outskirts of Swindon would not be the most promising location for a weekend away, but I have to assure you, this is a really magical place.

I was fascinated to learn about Emma's own sheep - one of whose lamb fleece she had brought along for us to use in class - and as well as talking about the welfare aspects of keeping sheep, and the different breeds and fleeces, we learned about washing the fleeces (very heavy by all accounts!) learned to card the wool, and to spin it on a drop spindle first of all.

We met the farm's own sheep, a mixed bunch of brown and white ones who were very keen to snack on the apples we brought them. Two of the farm's residents, Melissa and Claire, had several homegrown fleeces that they spent most of the weekend carding with Emma's drum carder - despite being easier than the hand carders to use, it was still tough work!

On Sunday, we spent the morning learning to spin on spinning wheels, and trying out the range of wheels that Emma had brought. At first I found it tough to get all the actions going at the same time, but after a while I got the hang of it, and then I was off! I think it was the same for all those of us who tried it!

This was one of the best parts of the weekend - sitting around for several hours doing crafty things with a laid-back bunch of women! We chatted and crafted leisurely, enjoying the freedom of having no other pressures, plans or requirements to be anywhere else, doing anything else. It was very liberating.

Eventually time ran out, so Emma plied together two of the yarns woven on two different wheels. As we'd all been moving round trying out the different wheels, it was something of a joint effort in the end, and produced a rather pleasing, random but colourful effect.

Only one question remains - what sort of wheel should I buy?!

Culinary diversion

I make no apologies for this brief diversion away from the subjects of learning to spin, knitting, curtains, and interior decor. It is That Time of Year, and if you haven't yet made your Christmas mincemeat, now is the time to do so.

What do you mean, you don't make mincemeat?! Why ever not? Why rely on that brandy-soaked, candied-peel-stuffed, over-sugared and under-fruited yuk that gets put on the supermarket shelves year after year?

In my opinion, alcohol (particularly of the spirit variety) should not be consumed via the medium of trifle, fruit cake, christmas pudding or any sort of dessert. It should be drunk, from a glass, and on occasion from the can/bottle, or if it is of the wine or beer variety, incorporated into savoury dishes.

And I feel much more strongly about the afore-mentioned candied peel. This is the devil's spawn, it should never have been invented and has no place in any kind of food intended for human consumption. Particularly teacakes and scones. I hope that is clear.

Which is why you will find neither brandy nor mixed peel in the following family recipe for mincemeat. This is my mum's recipe, which I assume is handed down from the Naylor side of the family. It's lovely, easy to make, and involves no cooking; make it now and give it time to mature before christmas. It should keep for many months without a problem (although it's not recommended to keep it too long if you use butter as the fat).

The following recipe is the full quantity; unless you have a large family or lots of people to give it away to, I suggest halving the quantities.

450g cooking apple (peeled and cored)
450g sultanas
450g raisins
700g sugar
juice and rind of a lemon
1tsp mixed spice
1/2tsp nutmeg
225g-340g vegetable suet (or butter, or beef suet which is the traditional version!)
one box of trifle sponges

Grate the apple into a large bowl.
Add the fruit, sugar, lemon juice and rind, spice and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly.
Add the suet, mix again. If using butter, soften it first.
Crumble in the trifle sponges, mix thoroughly.
Cover and leave overnight, then put into sterilised jars.

Leave to mature, ready for christmas!

Tuesday, November 20

All in a spin

Guess what I spent the weekend doing? It was fantastic, a really top experience. A full report will follow, just as soon as I've got a few spare minutes...

Wednesday, November 14

Progress report

Apologies on having been a bit remiss with my posting of late. There is quite a lot to report on the knitting front, but no pictures for various reasons. Some items cannot be revealed until the intended recipient has seen them; others cannot be shown as I haven't had a chance to photograph them in daylight yet. I intend to resolve this in the next few days, so please bear with me.

First news is that mum's christmas socks do not fit. Damn! Luckily I've 'only' made one so far, I got her to try it on at the weekend with her eyes closed, and found that although she could get it on, it was a bit tight around the ankle. I'm going to rip it back to the foot and do some gusset increases which I hope will solve the problem. I was relying on my usual short row heel without any gusset increases which normally works, but I think the pattern I've chosen is not very forgiving and the yarn is not hugely stretchy.

Secondly, I started some Dashing gloves for dad for christmas, using some Jamiesons heather yarn which I THOUGHT would make gauge suitably. In fact it was fine in terms of stitch count, but way out on the row count, which I only discovered when I finished the first glove and realised dad would look like he was wearing a pair of particularly rustic evening gloves if I left them like that! So I've hugely adapted the pattern in terms of rows, started on the second glove and when I've finished that, I'll rip back the first one and start that again. It will be interesting to see how much yarn I'll end up using - it might even be possible to squeeze a pair out of a single ball which would be very economical!

Other news is that the second mitten is on hold at the moment (pending completion of christmas knitting) and the Somewhat Cowl is progressing slowly and painfully. I'm hating the ever-increasing length of rows, and annoying both myself and the Curse by measuring the raglan after practically every row and then tutting because it is still not long enough! It'll all be worth it in the end, I keep saying...!

Two other gifts will be on show soon, I hope! One is currently on its way to the USA, the other is awaiting finishing touches before being gifted to a member of Meantime Knitters, so watch this space!

Wednesday, November 7

Tomatoes, green and red

Surely some mistake? It's November and I'm still harvesting ripening tomatoes from my balcony! The 12 plants have produced pounds and pounds of fruit, from cherry tomatoes to beefsteak, and they have been glorious!

And it doesn't end there! At the weekend I picked three pounds of green tomatoes and cooked up some green tomato chutney. This morning I picked the rest of the green tomatoes - another SIX pounds - and am in the process of trying to give them away to other chutney makers!

I'd leave them all there to ripen but I need the space and the pots to plant my bulbs in...!

Incidentally, the jars on the right contain Quince Jamalade, cooked up by myself and the Queen of Crochet a few weeks ago. We dubbed it jamalade as it's a delicious cross; quinces, pink grapefruit, apple and sugar!

Sunday, November 4


Another weekend in the bedroom :-(

Of course the weather has been at its most beautiful autumnal best, glorious sunshine and very mild, perfect for walking! Still, we have broken the back of the painting, soon we will be moving on to the more fun bits such as shopping for new furniture, curtains and carpet!