As usual, I am woefully behind on all the things I intended to write about here. I'm taking a week off work soon so will endeavour to catch up (in between finally getting round to sowing some seeds of course).
In the meantime, here's a cardigan I knitted for a friend's baby. Far too late for either birth or Christmas, needless to say, but there we are. I do love a bit of self-patterning yarn.
And yes, I did finish it off on a train. I can't even remember where I was going, it was that long ago.
Way back in August I picked up my long-neglected crochet hook and started this blanket. I had a choice of recipients - two friends had babies this summer and I fully intended to make two blankets.
Time went on, and the blanket (still singular) spent a lot of time sitting in this cheerful purple trug, ignored in favour of the garden while the weather was sunny.
As the nights drew in my thoughts turned to cosiness, and I admitted that this would probably be a Christmas present, rather than a 'new baby' present. I did a little more, and ran out of wool. I'd bought the three colours on sale as they were discontinued, and hadn't realised they wouldn't be enough for a full blanket.
I managed to get hold of some more yellow, and a dark burgundy colour. I'd been intending just to do stripes, but with my colours now not quite matching, something else was called for. I used the very last bits of pink and blue to make the middles of some granny squares to go round the edge.
This was last week. Can you spot the not-so-deliberate mistake? Yes, that's right. My blanket isn't quite square, and while I'd managed to get ten granny squares down one side, the other side would only hold nine. How vexing!
Still, I wasn't about to unravel the entire blanket, so a bit of imagination (and swearing) was required, and eventually I managed to get ten squares attached to each side, without unravelling any of the rest of the blanket. Hooray! I've attached the granny squares using flat braid join, which I've not used before, but which is flexible enough to hide a multitude of crochet sins. My type of stitch.
It felt like it needed a border though, to hold it all together and make it seem like the burgundy had been a deliberate choice rather than a last minute add on. I decided on the Attic 24 spot on edging pattern, and fortunately there was just enough wool left.
The blanket's spent a few days pinned to the carpet under the Christmas tree, and is now roughly rectangular, as long as you don't try to fold it too neatly. Of course, I now have the problem of who to give it to, as I never did get round to making a second one...
There's a definite air of spring around here right now. I'm so glad these crocuses survived the move, planted around the base of the apple tree. They make me smile every year, they're just so very stripey. They actually flowered a couple of weeks ago, and have gone now - I've never seen anything like them before and can't even remember where they came from.
We're settling in more here now, and I've gone from the initial sense of discombobulation, through a bit of mild panic, to feeling a bit more like normal life can carry on again. I've not dug out all my craft stuff yet, so no knitting or sewing for the time being, but I was running low on shampoo and thought I might have a go at making some shampoo bars.
I've made soap several times now using this simple recipe - I'm probably not as attentive to temperatures as I should be, and I don't have a stick blender, so it doesn't always look perfect, but it's always been usable. This time I thought I'd have a go at making hot process (rather than cold process) - partly for a change, and partly because I'm near the end of my shampoo bottle, and hot process soap can be used immediately, unlike cold process, which has to cure for several weeks.
I used this recipe, and the first thing I will say is DON'T DO WHAT I DID. I substituted coconut milk for the water, as I'd read somewhere else it was good for using on your hair. However, I really do recommend following the actual recipe, to the letter, especially if you've not done it before...
I used coconut oil, so first of all it needed melting as it's solid at room temperature. I just did this in the slow cooker itself to save messing up another pan. In the meantime, I mixed the lye with the coconut milk - and again, I should have used water, as I think it started to saponify (turn into soap) at this point because of the amount of fat in the coconut milk. You can see how it's slightly grainy - it shouldn't be, and it never really lost that texture.
You're meant to mix the two concoctions together with a stick blender to bring them to trace, the magical point where the chemical reaction takes place and your oil and lye start to turn into soap. I don't have a stick blender, so did this with a whisk, which takes forever and a day. Again, NOT recommended. And also my coconut milk and lye mixture was still a bit lumpy, so it didn't all combine quite as it should.
I carried on for probably over an hour, whisking, leaving for 10 minutes, whisking again, until I got bored of the whole thing and just left it heating up in the slow cooker, figuring I'd probably have to melt and rebatch the next day anyway. Eventually it did what it was meant to, and bubbled up the sides and folded in on itself. Hooray!
It never did go smooth, but I decided to take a chance and pour it into the mould anyway. This is what it looked like the next morning. Not exactly promising.
In fact, it was rather like a pork pie, with a layer of jelly around the outside - probably because the extra fat in the coconut milk meant that not all of the oil was saponified by the lye.
I cut a slice off the end and used it to wash my hands - hot process soap does benefit from leaving for a week or two but you can use it straight away if you want to. It lathered beautifully! I've cut the rest into pieces and left them to dry out on a windowsill, and they're gradually losing their slightly greasy residue.
They're not pretty - I need to sort out a better mould - but I've washed my hair a couple of times with the first one and it seems to work perfectly well. It's good as normal hand washing soap too.
So that's one less plastic bottle to buy next time, and I hope will be slightly kinder on the septic tank too. We'll see.
Over the years I've amassed a collection of knitted dishcloths, mostly that I've made myself. I like knitting, and these are small, easy projects that can be made over a few days, and I do like making useful things.
None of them are quite right though, and I tend not to use any of them for washing dishes at all. Most of them are quite misshapen now, as I don't tend to flatten them properly when I dry them.
I first started knitting dishcloths when I read about them on the Down To Earth blog. The one on the left was my first, a kind of waffle pattern, and it's the one that's the best size for generally wiping around the kitchen. The next one along came swiftly afterwards, and then the one in the bottom right, which is just straightforward garter stitch, and the one that dries the quickest and is the most flexible to use, but is also far too small.
The big one in the top right is made of thicker cotton - garter stitch again, but the cotton is too heavy, or the knitting needles too small, and it doesn't dry very quickly.
The multi-coloured one at the bottom was made for me by someone I don't know, a partner in an online swap. At first I wasn't sure as it's not cotton, but actually it's really hardwearing and feels far more robust than any of mine. She described is as a 'scrubbie' and that's really what it does.
I'd like to make a few more - enough that I can have a big pile in the cupboard and just put a clean one out each day, without drawing on an unsatisfactory succession of shop bought ones. The cotton I have at the minute is the larger stuff, so I'm going to experiment with bigger needles for a looser weave.
I do wash the shop bought ones, rather than throwing them away, but they still don't last as long as my own knitted ones. I need to figure out a better place to store them too, so I'm not rummaging around with the tea towels every time I need a new dishcloth.
I am looking forward to knitting again though, it's been a while.
Sit down and make yourself comfortable. I'm Jenni, and I write here about our new forray into country living, which includes growing food, knitting, baking, wandering around the fields, and seeing which local cafe serves the best cake.