a busy domestic blog of knitting, sewing and all kinds of needlecrafts, cooking my garden produce and preserving it

Thursday, 24 December 2009

D I Y decorations

I've been fiddling away at these parcels for a while.

Originally they were intended for my daughter's den but she decided she didn't want them after all, and they've been sitting around unfinished. Now eventually they have some sparkly ribbons and ties, and are ready in the sleigh.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

christmas decorations

my husband has several tin-working project books but they always specify a certain weight tin foil to be obtained from the craft shop or hardware store. I've never seen such foil for sale at all so, working with the idea of re-using and re-cycling, I decided to try turning a foil faggot tray into Christmas decorations and I'm very pleased with the result.
I'd expected a struggle to cut the foil but the flat bottom section is easily cut with a pair of kitchen scissors. the cut edges are quite sharp at first but flattening by rubbing something over them reduces this - I used the scissor handles - it's not something for young children to try though.

the embossed patterns were made merely by marking with a pencil - again I was surprised how malleable the foil was. I did have to buy the silver thread but the beads came from the little packets of spare beads that come with decorated clothes - I've acquired a lot of these, as the spare beads are kept in my mending box even after the clothes they belong to have been passed on. definitely a project which "uses what you've got"

Friday, 27 November 2009

knitting - my favourite fair isle hat

this is one really was a bit-user. some of the yarns are only used for 2 or 3 rows. it's the kind of thing I love to make - something brilliant (even if no one else agrees) made out of bits left lying around.

knitting - children's fair isle hats

hats have to be my favourite way of using up all those leftover bits of wool. you don't need a lot even if the hat is single- coloured (it's less effort to knit a surplus ball and a half into a hat than to take the one un-started ball back to the shop and try for a refund). but once you start knitting stripes or fair isle patterns, almost any short lengths of yarn can be used up.

because a hat is basically a rectangle of material, shaped at the top and joined up the back, there are none of the matching problems that occur with, for example, sweaters -even with a stripy sweater the back and front generally match, so while knitting one half you need to be sure there is enough yarn left to make the second. with a hat, you just start at the bottom and knit whatever you feel like - if it looks dreadfully wrong, it will always unwind.
Give it a try - find a simple hat pattern with straight sides and all the shaping on the crown - and see what you can create.

Monday, 16 November 2009

knitting - mohair cardigan - 1

have recently started a new knitting project. bruegel cardigan/jacket from Rowan book 44 but using some old mohair yarn I've had for years - one day I WILL use up all the yarn I've bought cheaply and hoarded. the tension is comparable to the specified yarn but I'm concerned about the quantity - I only have 10 balls of the mohair and I'm not certain that it will be enough.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Last Christmas - 3 - Cards

These are my Christmas cards from the past couple of years. I don't actually make every one by hand, but start with an embroidery or collage I have made which is scanned and several cards of each design printed.

Last year's card was taken from an embroidery I designed and made several years ago. It was scanned and edited to include the wording before printing.

These four collages were used two years ago. For three of them I used hand made (home made) paper for the background and in all of them the image is made of a variety of materials - paper, cloth, tinsel, sequins, old cards etc

Sunday, 8 November 2009

late Halloween chutney

for Halloween I carved two of the pumpkins grown this summer and, of course, ended up with lots of pieces of pumpkin flesh. the trouble being that scraping out the shell for a lantern leaves small chunks that don't keep well - cut a slice or a wedge from a pumpkin and the remainder will keep quite a while in the fridge even if the exposed edges have to be cut off and thrown away. I didn't weigh them before carving, but 3lb of flesh went in marmalade and we seem to have eaten pumpkin in some shape or form with every meal since then - curries, stir fries, soups, in tomato sauce with pasta - there are lots of ways to eat it but it's getting a bit same-some. Some has been boiled down into puree and frozen for use in soups and curries but there was still far too much left over. I didn't want to end up throwing it on the compost so I've turned it into chutney, with orange peel and spices.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Last Christmas - 2

another pony themed Christmas present for my younger daughter - a bag from home-made felt.

same yarn, different colour, but showing the knitted tension

it was made using some very old Rowan lightweight double knit wool; the yarn was knitted up doubled on quite thick needles and at a fairly normal tension
then, washed on a cotton cycle at 50 degrees in the washing machine
and it shrank a lot!

once it has shrunk, the knitting stitches can barely be seen

then I appliqued a pony cut out from shop-bought felt with mane and tail in embroidery thread and a small bead for his eye, some lazy daisy flowers and sequins and made a rope strap from the contrasting dark pink yarn.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

halloween marmalade

Halloween yesterday, so the pumpkins grown over summer were carved with faces ready for the treat-or-treaters. Lots and lots of pumpkin flesh removed in the process and only so much soup that anyone can consume. So, out with the preserving pan again - this time for a pumpkin marmalade flavoured with lemon and ginger.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

personalised bedding

My daughter had a set a cotton summer weight sheets with fairies but we couldn't find a similar set in flannel or brushed cotton for winter so I ended up buying plain sheets and embroidering them myself.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Last Christmas - 1

it's that time of year when one begins to think of Christmas and all the present buying that comes with it. instead of just dashing out to the shops on a spending frenzy, we decided to make some things ourselves - mainly for our younger daughter. I'm not going to post any of this year's ideas; instead I'll put up those from last year.

this daughter is into anything "horsey" and all her magazines are full of horse- related things to buy as presents but we were looking for something a little special and hit on this idea of a pony mobile. the ponies are mainly made out of MDF offcuts from other projects as they are only about 2"(5cm) nose to tail; they're all cut to the same template, a fairly basic pony silhouette and painted in pastel pinks and lilacs (from tester sized pots) to co-ordinate with our daughter's room; they're suspended from pink crossbars with fairly heavy pink knitting cotton (again oddments of leftovers) and the purple felt saddles hide the point at which the cotton is glued to the pony. ALL of the materials for this project were leftovers from something else, which must make it one of the most environmentally friendly presents my daughter received last year.

more of last year's Christmas presents to follow

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Lace making

several years ago I was given a lace-making kit complete with bobbins and polystyrene cushion. since then I've acquired lots more bobbins and another cushion, this one made of horsehair. unfortunately, it seems that no matter how many bobbins I have, the patterns require more!
a small bookmark made by my daughter, then aged 9

edging for a mat

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

finished at last.

I have AT LAST finished my current piece of knitting. I had the impression that this would have been an easy knit but the number of different colours in the stripes and a troublesome 54 row pattern repeat slowed everything down a lot - always stopping to find the next yarn, joining bits in, cutting yarns off - not difficult stitches but just slow and tedious. the pattern is from Rowan magazine No 41 and was intended to be knitted in Summer Tweed but I was looking for a pattern to use up a lot of oddments of Shilasdair yarn left over from Di Gilpin knitting kits - although mainly aran weight pure wool they give a similar tension so it was possible to change the yarn. I think it's turned out well, now for something a little quicker.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

using what you've got -green tomatoes and pasta

have been clearing out tomato plants at my parents and came home with nearly 4lb of green tomatoes. MOST of these have been turned into chutney but i was checking out other things to do with under-ripe tomatoes and thought I would try cooking them in some way for lunch. the problem with the recipes I found was that they seemed to finish with the addition of lots of double cream - this isn't something I wanted to do as I was looking for something low-fat. So this is what I came up with; put a slug of olive oil in a saucepan, add 8oz chopped green tomatoes and let them start to sweat. add a small chopped up onion and a crushed clove of garlic. while these are cooking put sufficient pasta in a separate pan and cook (ours was intended as lunch so only 4oz dry pasta for 2; adjust the amount to suit). cook the tomatoes for about 5 mins, they'll lose their bright green colour and turn khaki, then add a couple of slices of ham, either chopped up or cut into ribbons, and continue cooking till the pasta is nearly ready. drain the pasta and return to its pan. add the tomato mix to it and stir in 3 to 4 tablespoons of low-fat cheese spread. stir everything together and allow the cheese to melt slightly and coat the pasta.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

jam again and chutney

turned the last of the rhubarb into jam with ginger and some candied orange peel.
having a glut of cucumber at the moment so have boiled some up with tomatoes to make chutney - think I may have over-done the chillies a bit though, it is very hot.
have made apple,lemon and ginger marmalade with windfall apples before they rot.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

jam making again

seem to have been busy lately with the jam pan . have been given lots of fruit by various people - plums, damsons and windfall apples, so I now have 6 jars each of plum, damson and a mixed one using apples and redcurrants and raspberries from the freezer, plus 2 bottles of damson sauce.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009


among the craft books I picked up recently I found one on basketmaking. this is one of those crafts that always looks so simple but I felt it was necessary to buy willow or an equivalent to have a go. well,one of the suggestions in this book is to trying basket weaving using dried leaves from plants such as irises or montbretia. now the irises in my garden are new gifts this year so I don't want to start chopping them down but we have a lot of montbretia and, if it's not cut back before the first frosts, it soon turns into a slimy mess. so, as I've chopped it back, I've gathered it into bunches and hung it in the garage to dry. more news later if it works.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

books for free

picked up several boxes of craft and sewing books today through Freecycle. lots of really interesting things to sort through and perhaps gain some inspiration from

Monday, 14 September 2009

make-over ; trousers into cushions

I have a pair of daughter's old trousers in purple velvety material with beading, sequins and embroidery. they are now far too small, but the material is largely unworn. I'm hoping to turn them into cushions for her den.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

plum jam

collected about 5 pounds of Victoria plums at weekend. some were windfalls and aren't keeping too well, so I decided to turn some of them into jam.

3lbs plums, 3lbs sugar,10fl.oz water, 14 cracked kernels = 4 pots of jam

Sunday, 9 August 2009

gooseberry chutney

3lb gooseberries - washed, chopped in half
1 1/2 pints vinegar
1tblspn each of black and white mustard seed
8oz onions, finely chopped
1 chilli,finely chopped
1 chunk stem ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspn salt
1lb demerara sugar
8oz granulated sugar

place 2lb gooseberries in a large preserving pan along with 1pint vinegar, mustard seed, onions,chilli,ginger and salt. Boil till the gooseberries have disintegrated - maybe an hour.
add remaining gooseberries, vinegar and the demerara sugar. boil till the fruit is soft - 20-30 mins.
add the granulated sugar and boil till the chutney thickens - 20 mins.
pot into clean,warmed jars.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

using what you've got - cooking

pulled the first of this year's beetroot from the garden yesterday. baked the roots as usual, probably to use cold in salad or sandwiches, but was wondering what to do with the rest.I often add young,clean leaves to salad but we have so much lettuce at the moment that it seems pointless. I've seen recipes for cooking the stems and leaves but never tried them, so, last night, we decided to give them a try. the recipe said boil for 5-6 mins so I added them to the saucepan at the end of cooking broad beans and cauliflower(also from the garden). I was a bit worried about the other veg turning pink -though this might have improved the cauli which was a bit slug damaged- but there wasn't that much colour leakage. the water was an interesting purpley shade but the other veg were ok. how it all tasted is what matters though - slightly odd as,it being a leaf, I was expecting a cabbagey taste and was surprised that it tasted of -you've guessed- beetroot. having got over this strangeness, I enjoyed it. the taste is not as strong as boiled beetroot and some people may prefer it.
my parents never eat beetroot other than cooked and pickled in vinegar - is it an age-related idea? I've tried it various ways including soup (though I find some bortsch recipes too strong in beetroot flavour) and a Nigella Lawson cake recipe and believe it's much more versatile than a lot of people think.

Friday, 10 July 2009

using what you've got - cooking

this week we've had a glut of lettuce. all of them - the red salad bowl, the clarion(a green butterhead type) and the little gem are running to seed so either they have to be eaten up somehow or thrown away. there's only so much lettuce you can eat in salad, only so much you can persuade the neighbours to take and I can't imagine it would freeze very well so it was out with the recipe books. first we tried lettuce with peas and pasta,in a cheese sauce - this was a proper recipe so it turned out to be a success though neither of the daughters would try it. then we had a stir-fry with some of the red lettuce - this wasn't as good, the lettuce was stronger and tougher, perhaps should have been cooked for longer.so back to the pasta idea, this time pork with a tomato based sauce and it turned out very well. maybe it's a good idea to try to think "outside the box" with surplus food, certainly it's better than wasting it

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

using what you've got - cooking

seem to have spent the last couple of weeks in a constant state of making jams and chutneys. I've made 2 batches of my "own recipe" gooseberry chutney, 3 jars of gooseberry marmalade, 4 jars of gooseberry,raspberry and redcurrant jam and, today, 6 jars of "mixed berries from the freezer" jam (all unearthed during de-frosting). have also stewed and sieved the thinnings from the apple tree with some blackcurrants to make a lovely cloudy pink purée to flavour yoghurt.

can't bear to part with it? - sewing

some years ago my youngest daughter had a pair of funky jeans, with frayed edges and embroidered flowers. when they grew too small, or she grew too big, they sat in the spare room waiting for a new lease of life. my first thought was to re-cut them into a skirt, but this project took so long in the making that my daughter grew between measuring for the skirt and it getting finished. for a while, she'd been saying " that would look good as a bag", so,for her birthday, I cut the skirt back up and turned it into a shoulder bag, and hopefully she thinks it's turned out well.

Saturday, 4 July 2009


I've only discovered freecycling in the last year but I think it's one of the most useful things ever. as our youngest daughter was abandoning her baby toys we found we had lots of things,a little worn and tatty but with life left in them. we no longer knew anyone with children small enough to appreciate these things or even a toddler group that might have liked them and so a lot of things ended up in the dustbin.
freecycling provides a way of finding homes for such items. in the last few months we've re-housed the high chair, a toddler trike, hot wheels cars, children's cooking items, a child's ironing board and books. we've also discovered that we have other things that people may like -for example, when lifting and splitting plants in the garden, I now always offer them on freecycle; we have found people who wanted our elder daughter's hair curlers and curling tongs, a bumper and various car spares.
of course you can also pick things up from freecycle - in the past few months we've collected things like - plant pots, roof insulation that someone was removing, welsh linguaphone course,a video recorder, various types of craft materials, old needlework and heritage magazines and lots of books including a new copy of Nigella Express.
today I am heading out to pick up some knitting wool.

Friday, 3 July 2009

using what you've got

my parents have 2 gooseberry bushes full of unwanted fruit so naturally, when offered some, I've picked-my-own(and some for them). I picked the first batch a fortnight ago and decided to turn it into chutney- we get through a LOT of chutney and pickles- but couldn't find a recipe that matched my store cupboard. So, on the "use what you've got" principle, I took my free fruit, some home-grown and dried chillies, some ginger in syrup(normally for stir-fries), a mix of demerara and common granulated sugar and malt vinegar and, after a while boiling away, have some excellent chutney.
a second helping of gooseberries have gone to make a rather strange-looking but good-tasting marmalade with the help of home-frozen organic orange peel, which gives most of the flavour. some of the gooseberries have had to go to the freezer- I would have preferred to jam/chutney it straight away - storing in a jar isn't a constant drain on the electricity, but the weather this last week has been far too hot to stand over a hot stove.
if you want a recipe for either of these then please leave a comment below. we would love to hear from you.