Woollen friends

So here I am – getting very fat, but at last on maternity leave! I have had a bit of a tiring few weeks of work, doing a few more hours than I was used to, and really struggling to keep on top of my life – but am pleased to be at home again now, and although Rose and I are not really doing any blog-worthy activities (our favourite pastimes at the moment are making ‘just add an egg’ cakes and ‘shout singing’ to Frozen!) we are enjoying this new pace of life and the new routine the autumn brings (I am sure she agrees!)

After Rose has gone to sleep though, I have really re-discovered my crochet hook and it is proving to be the perfect activity to relax with. I am mostly making woodland creatures. It’s nice to make some things just for fun. And I like the faces and taking pictures of them for instagram and seeing the other gems posted there. I have been trying to write up the patterns too, but this is a little bit more brain work than I can really manage at the moment, but maybe a project for the future.

Here are some pictures of some foxes – Felix and Sylvia… little friends…

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Happy woolly faces!

Our Autumn Leaf Lantern

Rose really enjoys walking about our little town, and her newest favourite pastime is picking up leaves we find on the way. She is quite discerning, and not just any old leaf goes into her little yellow bucket, so i thought it would be nice to do something with her little collections.

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I read about a festival called St Martin’s day. It falls on 11th November and is less known in the UK being overshadowed by rememberance day, but in europe is known as a sort of harvest festival. It seems to be celebrated in various ways across europe, from feasts to lantern processions. In Germany children carry their own handmade paper lanterns through the streets i found one example of a lady who had made lanterns with her child using the autumn leaves they had collected. I loved her lantern so much i really wanted to give it a go. A perfect project for Rose and I to try.

There is a perfect guide in the link above, but read on if you want to see what we did.

autumn leaves

(i apologise in advance for the lack of photographs in this post – Rose chewed the memory card from my camera this morning and so my lantern photos are a gonna! arrrgh! Luckily there were a few phone photos to save (or at least help redeem) the day!)

What we used:

our collection of autumn leaves
some newspaper and heavy books (for pressing)
greaseproof paper
an empty dairylea box
PVA glue, scissors, a pencil, a tape measure
a little bit of lace to trim (optional)

The first step was to press our leaves by laying them between sheets of newspaper a few sheets deep and placing heavy books on top. I left mine for about 24 hours, and it gave them a nice flat appearance to help give our lantern a smooth finish.

Next I measured around my cheese box and added about 1.5cm and used this number to cut a length of grease proof paper (mine was 36.5cm in total) The other lanterns I had seen used white grease proof paper but i decided to just use the brown stuff I already had. I quite liked the effect of it though.

The next step was to fold the paper in half lengthwise to make a crease down the centre. And then time for some glueing! To start we just wanted to paint one half of our paper with the glue. I think this was Rose’s favourite bit! We then worked together to arrange the leaves over the glued area. Rose struggled a little as she usually likes to layer her stickers over the top of one another, but this didn’t work with the leaves. She was very open to my suggestions though and our finished arrangement looked rather grand.

We then painted the other half of the paper with glue and i folded it over to make a leaf sandwich. While the glue was still wet i wrapped the paper around the cheese box and glued the overlapped edge (i used a little masking tape to hold it in place until it dried). I think that the glue was still wet inside the paper helped the paper take to the curved lantern shape.

I cut out the middle of one of the cheese box halves and glued these to top and bottom inside the lantern to help stabilise it. And just for a final finishing touch i added a little bit of old lace trim.

autumn leaf lantern in the dark autumn leaf lantern

I am not sure that  paper is the best material for a lantern, so i put my candle in a jar first – but maybe these are best for outdoor use – or perhaps with fairy lights would be better. I think it would also be a nice technique for making a little window hanging to let the sun shine through.

Happy St. Martins Day! xx

Magic plait knitted hairband

At the moment I am struggling with the trauma that is growing out my fringe (I think I am – I’m not sure – to fringe or not to fringe – all I know is that it’s getting long!) In my adult hair life I have switched between a short blunt fringe, to a deep fringe, to a side parted sweep a few times (as a child and teen it was fringe all the way!) I had my current fringe cut in when Rose was little to save me having to pluck my eyebrows, but now i have a bit more time for grooming (a little bit!) I think it’s a good time for a change.

But at the moment it is in that terrible, too long to wear as a fringe, but not long enough to clip, phase (my fringe hair seems to be very very straight and doesn’t sweep naturally at all until it is quite a bit longer)

Then it came to me – I need a head band!

Whilst pinteresting my evening away, i came across a really clever little pattern for a fake plaited headband and really wanted to give it a go. I couldn’t find any real instructions, but the picture was really clear and it was really a fun little project. I had some golden yellow wool to use and thought it might look like a lovely harvest festival corn crown.

I used DK weight yarn and 3.75mm needles for mine, but you could definitely experiment with heavier or lighter yarns, for different effects. I wanted my headband to be on the slim side and at first was worried my bars were going to be too short to thread through (you’ll see what I mean in a minute) but it all worked out grandly in the end. I think though if i were using a chunkier wool though, i would need to increase the number of stitches in my bars slightly.

To make a headband the same as mine, using DK weight yarn and 3.75mm needles, cast on 20 stitches

Row 1: Knit

Row 2:  Slip 1, K3, P12, K4 (i like to slip the first stitch in projects like this to keep the edges a little bit neater)

Row 3:  Slip 1 Knit to the end of the row

Row 4: as row 2

cast on gold knitting blue needles

**Row 5: Slip 1 K3, cast off 12 stitches in the middle of the row, K4

Row 6 Slip 1 K3, cast on 12 stitches (turning your work and use a cable cast on then turning back to complete the row works wonders), K4

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Row 7:  Slip 1 Knit to end of row

Row 8: Slip 1, K3, P12, K4

Row 9 as row 7

Row 10: as row 8**

Repeat ** to ** until headband reaches the desired length, and cast off on a row 10.

It was quite tricky to determine how many bars i would need as the final step draws the band up making it a bit shorter than you are led to believe during this ladder looking phase. I needed to work 35 bars, which was 6 bars more than i originally thought. These 35 bars created a band which measures about 51cm. Each extra bar adds about 1.5 – 2ish cm in length. I really advise making up the plait and measuring to check it’s long enough before casting off your final row (i speak from experience)

So at this point you may be wondering what on earth i have led you to make, but here comes the clever bit…

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Twist the first bar at the bottom of your knitting to create a loop. Take the next bar up and push it through the loop to create another loop. Take the next bar and thread through this loop and continue in this way all the way to the top

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To finish off i put a couple of stitches in the final loop to secure it, and sewed a button to the bottom so that this could be fastened on and off without having to drag it over my hairstyle.

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Yay! What a wonder. I am really pleased with this finished item (although i admit i do look very serious here) – it has been so nice to wear, like a little crown – especially nice with plaited hair. And I really enjoyed this little project. There might be a few more hair bands in the making in the near future – I especially think I need a black one for work wear and formal functions. What do you think?

Post-halloween pumpkin delight

Last week Rose had so much fun painting our pumpkin, and this weekend it was my turn for some pumpkin makes.

I had a really good hunt about for nice pumpkin recipes – there are so many great looking things to try. I knew that i wanted to go for something sweet and didn’t really fancy a pie so I eventually settled on a couple of recipes from my own cookbooks. Cakes! (you will learn that i like these. a lot.)

I first chopped up my pumpkin and chopped off the skin. When the paint got wet it did start to get a little messy and some of my pumpkin pieces were dyed a bit blue. I tried rinsing them and i hope we won’t suffer too badly. Rose ingests far more paint in a typical painting session and so far seems to be okay?! I’m sure it looked worse than it was (?)

For the first of my pumpkin baking sessions, I decided to make one of my favourite cakes, the River Cottage Pumpkin and raisin tea loaf. I have made this one a few times with courgettes and carrots, but never actually with pumpkin so this seemed a good opportunity to try it. I changed the recipe a little bit to make it more toddler friendly, halving the sugar and, to add sweetness in a gentler way, substituting some of the pumpkin for apple and swapping the lemon for a satsuma. I often try to reduce sugar in my cakes for little one, and it can have varying effects, but i was really pleased that this was absolutely delicious. I will give you the original recipe though so you can make up your own mind (the original is absolutely delicious too!)

I will admit to you this wasn’t a smooth baking session. After the blue pumpkin I managed to whisk the sugar into the wrong part of the eggs, then managed to completely forget the flour until the very last minute. Can I still blame baby brain 2 years later?? Happily everything worked out fine in the end and I learnt a good lesson on reading instructions!

cut up pumpkin and applesmaking a cakemixing a caketea and cake

If you want a go at making this cake yourself, you will need:

Butter for greasing
200g light muscavado sugar (I used 100g)
4 large eggs (separated)
200g finely grated pumpkin flesh (i used about 170g pumpkin and then grated a whole desert apple which took me slightly over 200g in total)
The finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon (satsuma)
100g raisins
100g ground almonds
200g self-raising flour (i used 100g white and 100g wholemeal flour for some extra health!)
a pinch of fine sea salt (i left this out)
1tsp ground cinnamon and a generous grating of nutmeg

To make the loaf:

Pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees and grease and line your loaf tin.

Using an electric whisk, beat together the egg yolks and sugar for a couple of minutes until the yolks become pale and creamy.

Add to the bowl, the pumpkin (and apple if using that), lemon (or satsuma) zest and juice, raisins, almonds. Sift in the flour, salt and spices and mix gently until everything is combined.

Clean your whisk and in a new bowl whisk up the egg whites until they form peaks. Add a spoon of the egg white to the mixture to loosen it up slightly, then gently fold in the remaining egg white.

Spoon gently into your waiting tin and bake for an hour, or until golden brown and firm. Leave to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto  cooling rack.

Put the kettle on and enjoy. mm.

This cake recipe is featured in this article here which also has some other good looking stuff to try if you are looking for some inspiration (although Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is not very complimentary of halloween pumpkins – perhaps next year we’ll have a halloween squash).

I will be back soon to let you know what i did with the rest of my pumpkin. more nice things.

I hope you enjoy some pumpkin baking. Let me know what you  make. Or if you try this cake tell me what you thought.