Wednesday 28 February 2018

Ankers Sweater

My Ankers sweater is finished;what a quick and easy knit with perfect sizing. It is a petite pattern therefore I made the largest size. I held 4ply yarn double on 4.5mm needles for the body to get the gauge. The yoke is super stretchy so it feels so comfortable. I knit the sleeves on 5mm DPN's to make them extra stretchy too.

I started it on the 10th January and it was on my back by Sunday the 20th of February after an overnight wet block which loosened up the whole feel of it. The pattern is top down meaning I could try it on and get the exact sleeve and hem length I wanted creating the perfect fit. 

It is warm, really warm, to wear. I used 500g or 1720 metres of yarn. It is Araucania Luxury merino blend 4ply which my neighbour gave to me because she has been suffering from carpal tunnel in her hand so she has stopped yarn work. She shifted some wool over to me - very nice it was too! I kept two yarn cakes in my basket and pulled them from the middle which was a good way to stop the yarn snarling up.

I made one modification. I have big hips and I don't like sweaters stretching across my widest part so I achieved the length I wanted and then spilt it front and back on straight needles. I continued to add a few more rows in stocking stitch then finished with the rib making little side splits. 

This is a great pattern. It has only recently been translated into English. The raglan shaping is not totally clear but if you click on my project on ravelry I have given details of my version of this part of the sweater. I made it as easy as possible. If I could swatch it again with some aran, I would give it another go in the future.

Thanks for stopping by. As warm as this sweater is, I was freezing today; stay warm out there. We are expecting snow tomorrow and Friday in the Midlands. Jo xxxx 

Sunday 25 February 2018

Kitchen DIY

During the new year winter months, I always think it is a good idea to get a house project underway. We needed a kitchen and utility makeover. Our white units had chips in and the coating had turned a yucky yellow. We tried cleaning it all but that didn't work! Our second thought was to buy new doors but IKEA don't make this sized kitchen anymore which left us with a dilemma with a surprising lack of options other than to buy a whole new kitchen even though there was nothing wrong with the functionality of the old one. 

Then one day at the start of January I saw some spray paint and decided to see if we could spray the doors. I didn't have high hopes if I am honest, I thought it might look a bit of a bodge but it worked brilliantly. It was not an easy task for us because we do not have a garage so we had to keep taking a few doors at a time to my mums garage and spraying them there. The dog had to be in the crate because while we had the doors off he would have eaten the contents of our lower cupboards!

Slowly but surely we replaced each door. Each one sugar soaped before spraying with three coats. It dried in 20 mins so it wasn't too bad. Next up my very own handy Andy fitted new work tops which we bought from IKEA. It lifted the whole kitchen and made everything on the worktops look so much nicer.

Lastly the tiles. As with all of these types of jobs, the more you do, the more something else looks tatty. The blue and grey started to look a bit overwhelming so I bought some tile stickers from Etsy to brighten up the tiles and the gap in between the units. More sugar soaping and an hour later, it was the finish we needed; the illusion of new tiles.

The final piece of decor was a giant wall art sticker reading 'kitchen - tasters required'

So if you are thinking/dreaming you need a new kitchen try out some of these revamps to save your pennies. This is what we used:

Rustoleum Spray paint £7.50 x 5 = £37.50
Etsy Tile Stickers £17.00 per pack of 24 x 3 = £51.00
IKEA Worktops £86.00 x 3 = £258.00
Etsy Wall sticker = £18.00
A new extractor fan = £52.00
Screwfix LED light strips = £20.00

TOTAL = £436.00 You could add a zero on the end of that if we had bought a new kitchen and it was great not to have the upheaval. It feels good to use the hyperbole, 'we did it 10 times cheaper,' and actually achieve it.

A bit before:

and after:

One very well timed winter job. I have read about other bloggers who are feeling the need to freshen up at this time of year. 
What do you think?

Jo xxxx

Thursday 22 February 2018

Mid Season Crochet Top

This month I have a crocheted a tank top to share with you. Minerva sent me a pattern, hook and yarn to have a go. The yarn is King Cole riot which I have used before. The colour runs are nice and long so it makes super stripes which were easy to match up from ball to ball. 

The top is made from bottom to top with front and back alike. You sew in the little sleeves and then add the yoke to the whole garment. It is a slightly cropped shape so I used three balls instead of two to make it longer. All very simple but very effective. You need to be able to stitch count to keep the sizing. It comprises trebles, double crochet and chains.

I made a lot of it at the cabin over December looking at this winter view with my back against the fire. The colour runs were evocative of this landscape palette. Everything felt right in the world...until... came to the flower row to make the yoke. I thought I had gone as mad as a bucket of frogs. I did it six times but it wasn't right. Next I drew it as I read it to try and get the right shape in my head. In the end, I commandeered Andy to read out the pattern as I drew it. This obviously took lots of patience because he asked so many questions to gain some crochet understanding himself. We tried it out on a spare piece eventually I wrote out my own pattern loosely based on the instructions but seriously linked to the picture. (I have posted them on ravelry here if you ever need them)

The top works well with a long sleeved T-shirt; it is a welcome break from full on winter knits in a warm office.

Shame my ceramic pendant is the wrong way round, it goes so well, trust me. Are you crocheting at the moment? This is such a quick pattern to make for Spring.
Jo xx

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Released into the Craft Community


Once a year I am released into the craft community at the CHSI trade craft show at the NEC in Birmingham. It is a business show for craft product retailers to fill their order books with supplies for craft outlets. I am invited as a press blogger which means I get to mingle with other bloggers for lunch and then head out to look at the new craft trends for the year. I also get a day to myself in half term.

I collaborate with some of them already so it is nice to put faces to the people I talk to via email. Others I see year on year and we meet up to share new resources. Part of this set up is that there are a lot of free samples floating around which we are given to try out. I came away with some interesting products which I will have a play with and share with you over the coming months.

This post really is just a bit of eye candy but my waste-not mind has a creative craft outcome. Cutting sample images out of fabric catalogues makes for some beautiful card making opportunities.

Thanks for stopping by. Jo xxx

PS. Can I just say a huge thank you for your comments to my last post. Sometimes I am really surprised with what people engage with but food hits a lot of people's hearts. It felt good to know we had things in common :)

Saturday 17 February 2018

Food for Thought

I have been thinking a lot about food. How do you sort out food? Who cooks? What do you like to eat? I find it really interesting. Whether you have a young family or you cook for one or two, we all need food and I find it a fascinating subject.
Butternut Squash muffins, cheese scones and vegetable soup
I would say I am a good cook. I like baking, making and I love recipes not just a collection of items on a plate. My mum has worked in pubs, restaurants and kitchens all of her life and taught me to cook really well. My paternal grandmother was a sustenance cook - feeding farmers hearty meals of basic food but her niche skill was preserving.
She would have made jam and crumble with this lot
My dad traveled extensively with his job: Germany, India, Pakistan and Switzerland. He brought back food ideas. We hosted his engineer clients at our house, sometimes with their families. 
Dahl, flat breads and pakoras
My girls love to cook. Ever since I could sit them on the counter top and hand them bits of food, they have cooked with me. Now they can bake when friends come over and I hardly have to do a thing! They are good eaters trying a huge variety of foods.
Early knife skills have been used well since

Baking with friends
On Sunday, we plan our food. Sometimes I choose the weeks evening meals and put them on the menu planner on the fridge but if dinners are not going down too well, straight away I open it up to everyone. We all pick a dinner from a cookbook and make a list of what we need ready for a Monday food shop. It creates an atmosphere of tolerance. It might not be your favourite meal but you eat it because you know yours will come up another day. I count myself in that - I tolerate macaroni cheese. 
Paperchase food planner
In terms of health, planning like this gives you an overview of the whole week. We try and have something with fish, something vegetarian or a Sunday dinner that provides meat for the following week. There is always cake of the week for lunchboxes - Lamingtons in this instance. It is a magnetic board and stays on the fridge. This one is from paperchase but has nearly run out of pages. My brother bought me a new one for Christmas.
Stuffed pepper and sausage tray bake
We have next to no waste food because we buy what we need for the meals we have chosen. We also make sure that on busy nights, with Brownies or me at work later, we have the easiest thing to cook. Conversely, on the days I am not at work the prep might be a little more time consuming which is fine because I like cooking. Our family have an allotment so planning is key at seasonal times when we need to use food as it arrives in gluts.
Courgette cake with lemon curd
I try to cook more than one meal at once and freeze one. Curries, casseroles, cakes and crumble mix come under this bracket.It means I have one in the bag for say an accidental afternoon of sewing instead of getting dinner ready!
My girls make batches of crumble mix ready to freeze
Finally, because we have a planned menu anyone can crack on and get started. So sometimes my mum might read it on a Tuesday and peel some potatoes for us or if bloke gets in first he can make pizza dough or flat breads which he is very good at. The world does not wait for me to start dinner. 
Every weekend we make a batch of cake for lunchboxes
It all works well for us. Bloke teases me sometimes about the control aspect of it but essentially everyone gets their dinner at five O'clock and nothing is frozen solid or unavailable at the time of need so I roll with it.
My favourite food is anything that fits in a flat bread!
I have been enjoying reading the cookery challenge blog posts this year and this post is inspired by those musings and celebrates wonderful home cooks all over the world. Eat, drink and be merry.
We are on half term this week so there will be lots of baking, foodie shopping and of course eating with family.
Jo xxxx

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Little Dresses for Africa

I love to sew but in the grand scheme of things we really don't need anymore clothes, neither do my girls. I set about looking to sew for charity and I found Little Dresses for Africa. It particularly resonated with me because I have young girls myself.

They were immense fun to make. There are a few pattern rules to help the organisation size the dresses but other than that you can really throw yourself into it. I used up bits of ribbon, ric rac, fat quarters for straps and added shoulder bows. There is a pattern here 


It was important to me that the girls took part so Big Sis made one and Little M did some sewing too. They read the website and felt very accomplished.

If you know someone with some free sewing time (or a bulging airing cupboard) please pass on the links to the website.

Thanks for looking. 
Jo xxxx

Friday 9 February 2018

All Done #17 - Victoria Shawl

This is my 17th All Done post. These posts will hopefully inspire you to use up some kind of craft stash all the way to the very end - no saving a bit for later, hiding it under the bed or stuffing it in a cupboard.  With nearly four balls of Drops Alpaca in this beautiful shade Golden Rod, I have made two scarves. It was given to me by my good friend Christina. 

I seem to be linking Christina in many of my posts in 2018 but I am using her free sock patterns at the moment and she is often kind enough to lighten her own load by sending me spare materials as happy post. 

This is my second go at the the Victoria Shawl by Cherry Heart.I made the first one in a highly patterned sock yarn and you could not really see the little puff details or the spaces that create little butterfly shapes. I always said if I did this again, I would do it in a plain colour. 

I ran out before the border was complete so I used grey sock yarn to complete it. The border isn't quite as the pattern but it is similar and met my yarn requirements. I would have preferred a lighter grey but I didn't have any however, this alternative is actually quite striking.

As with many a crochet project, wet blocking is what makes this shawl special. The holes open up and the border becomes pinpoint perfect. This one is for my friends birthday in March.

Victoria uses up the rest of the yarn after my previous scarf, One and Done by Casapinka which I have kept for myself and worn quite a few times already.

What wonderful yarn but it is all done now and has made me very happy. Thanks for dropping by.

Jo xx

Sunday 4 February 2018

Quilting with Brakes On

Our double quilt is going well. I have half of it cut out and a bit less than half of it sewn. I like it - I mean the process of it - because it has longevity but simplicity. A rhythm I can keep up with.
I hit a slight stumbling block in that I had no more pieces of fabric in my scraps box that were bigger than 20 x 14 cm. Which is a good thing but essentially I had ran out of random fabric. Andy bought me a fat quarter pack for my birthday in January on the left but I made short work of that in one weekend.
It was time to call in some help. My Auntie sews, makes quilts and crafts so I asked if she had any scraps. I was expecting a sandwich bag but got a carrier bag of lovely colourful fabrics with some light and dark colour values perfect for the dresden star block.
Then, while this post was half written on the ready-to-publish-soon pile, a stroke of unbelievable good luck came my way. I won a Giveaway from Helen Phillips for some scrap fabrics and other little delights. I mean, I was blown away to think that some of the fabric she makes her beautiful quilts from will now be in our quilt. It was just enough to get me to the end of my cutting marathon. I felt truly blessed. Thank you Helen.
My creative mind never stops so when I saw this post from Christina I suddenly wanted to start sewing all of the thin strips I had left in my stash together. My next gift quilt is for an 18 year old boy so I made a new skinny pile of fabric and had a little play around. This one is on the horizon and I must steal myself not to start it proper. Incredible fun though!

I put the brakes on and packed it all away in a shoe box for later in the year.

Dresden stars are where it is at. I am loving making our quilt right now. I have absolutely no idea how I am going to sandwich a king size quilt together but hey ho! I will keep calm and sew on.

Jo xxx