Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Cycling the Bristol to Bath railway path

Saturday was one of those perfect spring days, better than summer because it was warm enough to sit and enjoy a mug of tea outdoors but not so hot that I suffer with sunburn and heatstroke. Too hot for me, when I'm active, is over 20 degrees! I had to persuade the husband that really he wanted to go for a bike ride and not play golf. I promised a pub stop, and he played golf on Sunday.
From home we can cycle into Bristol centre on bike routes that are shared with pedestrians and not big bad lorries and buses and taxis and the like. We now also know that we can go all the way to Bristol Temple Meads station to catch a big train and Cabots Circus and then out to Bath without breathing fumes and risking our lives too. Somerset and Bristol are a dream for cyclists in the UK. Thank goodness for Sustrans and lottery funding. 
The 13 mile Bristol to Bath cycle path (mixed use) is tarmaced and so scenic. It's almost Disney themed with the artworks and sculpture along the way. Refreshments are available at regular intervals.Warmley station café is open weekend Easter to September and is great value for home made lunches and cakes and teas/coffees and ice creams. I loved the people on the platform, including a station master, waiting for a mythical train!
There was another tumble down halt with lovely modern artwork in the station arches. Transport past..
..and present. We didn't really stop on the outward track and continued after the end of the railway path to follow the river, past the university buildings and into Bath. 20 miles from home. It was too nice for city centre today so here is proof we did the extra couple of miles before heading back to Saltford for a Ploughmans and a pint at the Bird in Hand. So far 25 miles from home. Good for me, not anybody else, and there was a headwind all the way to Bath and it's definitely downhill on the way back!
Ploughmans and a pint at Saltford
On the shared use path we saw cyclists on bikes, stabiliser bikes, tandems, trike, a recumbent, with kiddie trailers and child seats. Then there were skateboarders, roller skaters, folk enjoying the sunshine in their electric wheelchairs and pushchairs and even promenaders! So lovely to see so many folk out.

Here is a statue of what we do well in Somerset....shame it was a water fountain not a cider fountain!
It's downhill all the way back into Bristol and a few hundred metres from home I managed to swipe one of those bike calmer posts, slowed right down, aimed for the gap and wobbled so I clipped my handlebar and ended flat on my back on the tarmac right in front of playing children. Whoops!!  It is true, Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving!  40.5 miles clocked at an average riding speed of 13.5 mph. In my defence there is a lot of weaving, and waiting for zebra crossing lights, and time taken to pick yourself up after falling off your bike!
Bike Snacks

We took these bike snacks to nibble on the ride, fabulously healthy tasty none crumbly trail bar recipe.

I added some honey to the mix, but they do work, and although not a sweet treat cake they really were fabulous on a bike ride, and transport easily! No butter/fat and just eggs and tea to bind and sugar from the dried fruits (unless you add a bit of honey too as I did!) Thank you Carl for the recipe, he has just published The Permaculture Kitchen and is a great fountain of knowledge on bread-making too.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Stripy Shellseeker cycling hoodie - DONE!

She sells sea shells?
It's finished, and I love my hoody, although my Shellseeker is not perfect, I learnt a lot. including my first attempts at off piste knitting, aka designing the hood. Other knitting techniques new to me were; 3 needle bind off, magic loop for the sleeves and applied i-cord! Next time I'd make a far better mark II hood now that I have worked out the construction! The top down construction of the whole sweater is ingenious, look mum no seams!
I blogged the start of my Shellseeker here. I used Drops Merino Extra Fine, and I can't recomend this yarn enough, I can only wear superwash, it's a far better price than other 100% merino brands and the colour spectrum is beautiful. I did order turquoise too, but a good knitty friend said that was not needed as too bright, funny how I have a turquoise T shirt on today! Perhaps I can use a colour like that for my next one? *

I was pleased with the red applied i-cord edging, I used 3 stitches so it's not too fat. I cannot get it to lay flat, I tried sort of blocking and sort of holding it flat whilst applying steam from the iron, but not touching.
I had not known about three needle bind off before either. what a quick and simple way to cast off and "sew" knitting together at the same time. Look how neat the seam is on the inside, you can also see how neatly the red applied i-cord attaches too.
This is the seam from the right side, every stitch perfectly matched up. 
Heidi's shellseeker just had a rolled unfinished edge but I picked up and added some 2x2 rib, I decreased a fair few stitches at the armhole seams on the first couple of rounds by starting k4 p4 on the sleeves and then reducing to k2p2. I then cast off the central front stitches and continued for the hood. I haven't blogged the mods as it's not great! 

I loved my stripe sequence but I did not like the evening spent sewing in three lots of all these ends, body and two sleeves, and then there were all the hood ones too! 

Self striping yarn would be my choice next time for many coloured stripes. The increases and decreases were harder as I didn't do the 2x2 stripe sequence recommended, if I had there would have been no need for a row counter and no ends. Heidi is so clever making the knitter's life easy.
The out takes! The back "flap" is a stripe longer than the front, I tried freestyling it to be much longer when on my bike but forgot the unseamed edge would just roll in, so it had to come out and I had to follow the pattern. These pattern designers do things for a reason!
The kangaroo pocket is a really useful value added feature of this pattern. I had flu really badly as I got to the pocket, and after 10 days I came back to working out the pocket construction from the pattern and was stumped. I couldn't picture it from the pattern. I thought I was wrong so I undid it. Stupid me, it was right! I searched Ravelry and found it wasn't just me, and the advice was to trust the pattern, do as your told and it will work out. The advice was spot on.
This is a sweater I'll take everywhere, abuse and love! If found abandoned on a garden bench please return to owner!

She Sells Sea Shells finished 20th February 2014 (took about 5 weeks but time out in the middle being ill)

Drops Extra Fine Merino DK 100% merino wool.
Light Grey Mix (05)
Denim Blue (13)
Light Grey Blue (19)
Green (18)
North Sea (28)
Red (11)
Mustard (30)
Pistachio (26)
Marine Blue 27
Purchased from Wool Warehouse

NEEDLES: KnitPro Symfonie circular 4mm

PATTERN: Heidi Kirmaier's Shellseeker


PS *I love it so much I have cast on the next one in cotton bamboo, the morning after finishing She sells sea shells.....She's still seeking shells. See the turquoise was singing to me!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Betsy Bunny - my Little Cotton Rabbit!

Meet Betsy. She is just about to be packaged up and sent off to Durham to be cared for by my nearly 4 year old niece as it's her birthday next weekend.
knit soft toy
Betsy is my first attempt at knitting any kind of toy, Nellie the elephant was crocheted! Most of the pieces are knitted flat so there is quite a bit of sewing up but I decided to half do the body, the legs and her dress in the round on dpns. Now I know how to do  magic loop I think I would use that to knit another bunny, easier and neater. The body is knitted in Rowan Felted Tweed in camel and Kidsilk Haze in pearl worked together and the dress, tights and shoes in Drops Baby Merino 4 ply, the colour range is just beautiful.
Julie's pattern is very precise and gives a great result, even for a beginner bunny maker. Lots of tips on sewing up and the all important stuffing and facial features. I made the dress a bit longer to cover up dodgy workmanship on Betsy's legs.
I even managed to be organised and knit Betsy in plenty of time for the birthday girl. I went to find her to package up and post and spent the whole weekend getting more and more desperate as she had run off. Eventually I found her on Monday night really buried in my yarn box under the bed. Phew, I didn't have time to knit another. Yes I had already looked in there several times! Betsy is having a breath of fresh air in the sunshine before a few days under wraps until being released into the wild in her new home next Sunday.

Next I will have to knit Betsy a brother, I think his name will be Bert!
Betsy Bunny finished 2nd February 2014 (knitted in a couple of weeks)

Body: Rowan Felted Tweed DK (157) in Camel 50% merino wool, 25% alpaca, 25% viscose and Rowan Kidsilk Haze in Pearl (590) 70% super kid mohair, 30% silk  Purchased from the ever wonderful Get Knitted in Bristol. 

Dress, tights and shoes: Drops Baby Merino 4 ply fingering 100% merino wool. Dress in Blue (30) and Light Sky Blue (24) Tights in Light Sky Blue (24) and White (01)  Shoes in Red (16) Purchased from Wool Warehouse

NEEDLES: KnitPro Symfonie 2.5mm 2.75mm and 3mm dpns

PATTERN: Little Cotton Rabbits' Bunny Girl in a Dotty Dress

HAPPY KNITTY INDEX: 8/10 (next one will be 9.5/10 as I know what I am doing now)

Monday, 10 March 2014

Shellseeker cycling hoodie or hoody - in progress!

I have made some more progress with my sweater, I am knitting Shellseeker by the talented Heidi Kirrmaier. I am using Drops Extra Fine Merino. I love this yarn, I used it for my French stripey throw and promised myself a sweater for me in it. Grey plus 8 colours, a ninth one has been rejected as being too bright. It's a superwash double knit yarn, so no hint of lanolin or itchy wool-itis, and it comes in lots of gorgeous natural shades and it is relatively affordable!
Shellseeker is a clever top down in the round construction with neat shaping...
..as you can see below, which cleverly incorporates the kangaroo pocket. Decreasing in the centre and increasing at the sides so the sticth number doesn't actually change but shaping happens! Now that pocket was a bit of a challenge, I had had flu badly and been in bed for ten whole days with no hope of knitting, and however hard I tried I could not fathom out the pocket logic. I googled and found others had the same problem. The solution...
...is to stop trying to imagine it and just follow the instructions exactly, and then it works. Even post flu befuddled brains can do it. I was so annoyed with myself as I undid it once when I had done it correctly...duh! Follow the instructions exactly as written and it works.

I am so proud of myself as, about a zillion years after everybody else, I also taught myself Magic Loop. I thought it was some extremely complicated clever technique for super advanced knitters requiring multiple classes to learn. It is extremely clever but super easy, knit anything in the round on one size circular needles. Google and watch a You Tube video for 2 minutes and anyone is an expert! I have just picked up the sleeve stitches from the holder in the pic above to knit magic loop. Now just to work out how you knit two socks at once.

The only problem with all these luscious stripes are the ends......I have sewn them all in except for the second sleeve I am just finishing off. 2 ends per colour stripe for the body and each sleeve Far wiser to use just two yarns as the pattern advises so the yarn can be carried up neatly! 156 ends, never mind a few grey ones too.....I have endititis.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Great British Sewing Bee inspiration

Well to say the last 2+ weeks have been interesting is an overstatement, they have been horrendous. I had flu again, the second time this winter...the "can't get out of bed or attempt to open eyes or sleep or do anything" flu. I was off work for two weeks but I went back on Thursday knowing I then had three days off before my next shift tomorrow.  I only started knitting again on Wednesday, which was also the first day I managed to be up for more than an hour or two. What a relief I can do something again.

The only other thing I have done in those two weeks was manage to get up to watch the first two episodes of The Great British Sewing Bee on BBC2 aka GBSB. I love it. Like everyone else I want to see if I can still make clothes, I haven't made clothing in 20+ years as it was impossible finding fabric and expensive. Just like other hobbies, the internet has revolutionised the supplies available, the inspiration and the resources (many of which are free) available. I used to love my O level dressmaking classes at school and sewing at home too.

One very inspiring lady is "Tilly and the Buttons" who was on last year's GBSB....she now designs patterns and writes books and her inspirational blog. I love her Coco pattern which is a classic breton tunic with variations in cotton interlock fabric. I have never sewn with stretch fabrics and I want to have a go. I have scoured online, but the only fabric I can find suitable that I like is nearly £20 a metre!! That makes Boden look cheap. Yesterday I called in at Fabricland in Bristol, what an almighty load of tat, unless you want to make costumes for dance schools or theatre productions. I have resorted to sending off for samples from London shops enclosing stamped addressed envelopes that appear to have the stock, but don't have functioning websites. Antiquated and cute or just backward and annoying? So frustrating, I may be giving up before I get back into dressmaking at this rate. I know keeping a website up to date is hard work, but I did it with 1000s products for 8 years so I know it can be done.

I managed to make Get Knitted's knitting group on Friday morning, a huge tonic after being ill. I had cabin fever, but at least I was capable of having cabin fever! After knitting therapy with friends, I was driven to John Lewis by a lovely knitting friend and I bought some fabric, and I'm going to make a dress from the GBSB book that has lots of patterns in it. the material is a light cotton denim linen look.
Do I make this dress?
Shift Dress - pic from book
or this dress?
Skater Dress - pic from book
I am thinking the bottom one would be better in a stretch fabric, like Tilly's Coco, to wear with leggings. I canvassed my girls and they have given me a decision, it's interesting the bodices are identical and I could put the sleeves on the shift dress.

I am really inspired to make practical and different clothing that means I can still be active.....and I can wear whilst cycling as really I hate being seen wearing lycra, I'd like to be able to cycle into Bristol and be decent when I get there, not embarrassed!

Definitely a case of watch this space! Has anyone else been inspired to give making clothes a go again, or for the first time? I just hope the fabric sourcing problem doesn't continue to frustrate me and I give up again before getting started.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Knitted Puff Daddy pouffe footstool

I know, it might not be pc to call a pouffe a pouffe but in the same manner that fairy cakes have always been fairy cakes then squashy footstools were always called pouffes. I can't remember if it was the chicken or the egg that came first with this. Anyway a Puff  Daddy is a Very Fast Make! I think I had admired the Puff Daddy made up on Clicky Needles' blog or did I see the Sirdar Indie yarn in the exact colours of our curtains and cushions as bargain of the day on Get Knitted's website and then went looking for a knitted footstool pattern?
It was the colour combos in the yarn that did it. There were 13 balls left at sale price, and although the pattern called for 20 balls equivalent, I calculated I'd be OK with 13.
I cast on at Knit and Natter at Get Knitted on Friday 31st Jan 2014 and finished the knitting on Sat 1st Feb and sewed it up and stuffed the blooming thing on Sunday 2nd Feb. A record make, I wasn't knitting that much either!!
The Puff Daddy pattern is not overly taxing, but stuffing it is. For British knitters of a certain age (in your 40s at least) then you can liken the process to wrestling with Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks on a Saturday afternoon! The pattern is to cast on 35 stitches, knit tripled in garter stitch until the yarn runs out. As I had two thirds of the yarn I decided to knit with two strands, on 15mm needles, it worked out fine. Sew up the short seam and run running stitch around the bottom and draw up, shove in an old duvet rolled up and a pillow down the middle to fill it out a bit and I felt like I had gone 10 rounds with Frank Bruno! With a great deal of huffing and puffing and pummelling I finally managed to get a sort of cylindrical ball shape.

Now I can knit with my feet up, total cost £25 as opposed to £80-£150 on trendy websites.

PS I have been delaying posting this to take some better pictures but as it hasn't stopped raining for 2 months I have given up, so here is Puff Daddy

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Brioche for breakfast

Brioche for breakfast
Fresh home made brioche for breakfast is so easy with a bread machine. I have had one for 15+ years and very rarely buy bread as it takes 2 minutes to weigh out the ingredients, as I go to bed, so we wake to a fresh loaf in the morning. I always feel like I am cheating, and not an ethical hands-on baker, but we eat fresh preservative free bread that is a lot healthier/tastier and cheaper than bought. Panasonic are the best bread makers, my first/ current one is 12+ years old (Panasonic SD-252), and I really really want one with a raisin dumper but the basic model just keeps on going! Previous to that I had 3 different cheap ones that all lasted 1-2 years, two were replaced twice under guarantee.

I have known Karen for years on twitter, we have never met, but she owns a beautiful award winning Hopton House B&B on the Shropshire/Welsh borders that I'd love to stay at one day. Her tweets, about the funny side of her life as a BnB landlady, keep me amused. However, it is her pics and descriptions of the breakfasts she serves her guests that always make me drool. Karen is kind enough to share many recipes and I stashed away her brioche recipe and make it in muffin tins as she advises. So here is her recipe, with the brands I use for failsafe bread:

Hopton House Karen's Orange Brioche recipe

1tsp Dove's Farm Quick Yeast (the packets are orange and 125g of yeast lasts a couple of months, keep in fridge in an air tight container, sold in Waitrose)
400g White bread flour (Waitrose Essential Strong White Bread Flour gives brilliant results and is reasonable price for great quality)
1 tsp salt
4 tblspn sugar
Finely grated zest of an ornage
100g butter roughly diced
4 eggs lightly beaten
80ml milk
Extra milk or egg yolk for wash

At least 3 hours before bedtime layer the ingredients in the bread machine pan in the order they are given and put into the machine and set the machine going on the regular dough setting , which takes 2 hours 20 mins on my setting. Go off and knit for a couple of hours!

Once the machine has played its part remove the dough and knock back and divide into 10-12 portions. this is easier said than done as it is VERY sticky! Do not be tempted to add too much flour. Shape and fill a greased 12 hole muffin tin. I weigh them out so they are even.

Place the muffin tin in a carrier bag and "puff up" and tuck the handles underneath so the dough doesn't stick and has room to rise without drying out. Place the tin in the fridge or cold place (garage, cellar, larder) to rise, or prove, overnight. This slow proving makes for holier holes and a very light texture.
The first peep at your brioche dough in the fridge the following morning
Brioche ready for the oven
The next morning pre heat fan oven to 180 degrees C. Carefully wash the brioche tops with milk or egg and bake for 12-15 mins. Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack and serve with even more butter and home made jam.
Brioche fresh out of the oven
A lovely variation is to enclose a square of chocolate in the dough balls before baking, and you have your own home made pain au chocolate! Sainsburys Basics plain chocolate is fabulous for baking.
Close up of open brioche crumb
After breakfast the weather didn't seem as bad as forecast, in fact it was clear blue skies if windy, so we jumped on our bikes and pedalled down to Bristol Harbourside to wander through the Harbourside Market to browse the stalls and have a coffee (him) and Earl Grey Tea (me). It was a very quick 4-5 miles downhill with a following wind so we worked a little harder coming home. We even stopped off and got some groceries in the village Co Op on the way back, how green were we?! My new panniers hold a lot! After packing the panniers the rain returned, luckily it's only a few hundred metres home from the "coop." Leek and potato soup was quickly made with the stock I made from last weekend's roast chicken, and a cosy afternoon of blog writing, knitting and 6 nations rugby has ensued listening to the wind howling and the rain lashing, again.

Here is a sneeky peek at a very quick knitted project I started yesterday at Knit and Natter and I should finish today or tomorrow. The yarn is Sirdar Indie and super bulky, and I am knitting in garter stitch, doubled up, on 15mm needles!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Sunday sewing...

I have had the sewing machine out for a couple of weeks so I thought I ought to get my table runner finished. I know its hardly started but I have good intentions on a rainy day. Patchwork always looks a mess before pressing.
patchwork table runnet
The colours are subtle, jollying up of the dining room is nearly done. Only 2 months late!

In the background, by my tropical bag, are some limbs from my first Little Cotton Rabbits girl bunny, a pair of stripy legs ending in red Dolly shoes. There is a head knocking about in the bag, all very disconcerting!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Fingerless Mittens

Yes I know mittens are fingerless! However, these are fingerless gloves that convert to mittens. I can never see the point of fingerless gloves as it's the extremities of my fingers that get cold. However,doing anything with gloves or mittens on is impossible. If you have fingerless gloves that convert to mittens then you can do things (like text or fish coins out of purse) and then swiftly pull the thumb and mitten flaps over to keep warm in sub-zero temperatures. Brilliant!
These fingerless mitts are destined for the frozen north aka a student house in Newcastle where you wear gloves with your onesie indoors as well as out but being fingerless is not an option!
 Fast texters need to use their thumb too.
 The flaps don't get in the way when in nimble finger mode.
 ..and now they are mitts for the walk back home at 3 in the morning.
 I didn't match the yarn.
Up close and personal.
 I can see the stitches picked up for the mitten flap quite clearly!
 not the neatest pair of knitted gloves ever, but they were my first attempt.
Knitting them all in the round was a juggle! At times I was totally yarn befuzzled with cocktail sticks everywhere!
...but I did it. now I think another 2-3 pairs are required. One pair in pink for girly youngest who actually admired the concept but not the earthy colours and a pair for me for when I'm on my bike at 6am, so I can still deal with my lights and lock at the other end. Even the husband admired them and suggested some mods so they fit him better! Now that is a first.
One finger one thumb keep moving..
One finger one thumb keep moving.....
One finger one thumb keep moving...........
We'll all be merry and bright!

Fingerless Mittens Podster Gloves finished 18th January 2014 (took a month with Christmas interupting, so a few nights really!)

SIZE: Large

YARN: Schoeller and Stahl Fortissima Mexiko shade 244- 100g ball 4-ply/fingering sock yarn 75% superwash wool/25% nylon As ever. there is enough left for 1 glove or sock so I am glad I bought 2 balls! Purchased from the ever wonderful Get Knitted in Bristol
Pic courtesy Get Knitted, Bristol.
NEEDLES: KnitPro Symfonie 2.5mm dpns

PATTERN: Convertible Mittens Fingerless Gloves Podster Gloves

HAPPY KNITTY INDEX: 8/10 (workmanship needs refining!)
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