Monday, 23 June 2008

Strawberry Fields

I did a couple of useful things at the weekend. One was to pick strawberries on the way home from visiting my friend Ratbert. It was such a lovely afternoon that we stopped at the local Pick Your Own to see if they had raspberries. Apparently raspberries would not be ready until next week, but they did have strawberries. The reason I wanted to pick the fruit was to make jam, and it happens that I have never made strawberry jam, so I decided to pick strawberries anyway, and go back to get raspberies next week.
We hulled and halved the strawberries, and put them in the freezer on trays of foil to keep until a more convenient jam making opportunity should present itself.

I moved home late last year, and one of the things I left behind at that time was a dresser. It is made from a single ash tree, and was made for me when I bought my first flat. This weekend I arranged to collect it, and with some assistance carried it up two flights of stairs to its new home. On Sunday afternoon I spent a happy few hours organising things in it. I think it looks great, and I'm really happy to have it with me again.

I promised pictures of my felt swatches, and here they are. This one is in Rowan Scottish Tweed DK, and the red and brown background is knitted in stocking stitch;the spiral is embroidered in chain stitch before felting, and the bobbles are made by marbles tied into the knitting while it felted.

The second swatch is in Rowan Scottish Tweed 4-ply, and it has beads in it which were knitted in and then felted; pleats which were tied in before felting, and waste silk which was hooked through the yarn before felting.

I really liked the 4 ply texture and colour after felting, and I had admired a beautiful scarf made in stripes of black 4-ply and Kidsilk Haze, with beads felted into the 4-ply stripes. I thought that a charcoal grey would look lovely knitted into this scarf, so I also bought three balls of 4-ply Scottish Tweed and two of Kidsilk Haze.

At the moment I'm still crocheting away on my floral shrug, and when I've finished that I need to do more squares for my Babette blanket, and I also plan to knit Queen of the Waves, but maybe after that...

Monday, 16 June 2008


On Saturday morning I got up at 4.30 am (yes dear Reader, that's right, before it was even fully light, even in June) and drove from West Sussex to Nottingham to take part in a felting workshop with my friend Sally.

You will no doubt be surprised to learn that I had travelled the furthest to attend this workshop.

It was really great though, and the tutor was Alison Crowther-Smith, the author of the Rowan book Shibori Knitted Felt. She had with her samples of nearly all the lovely things in her book, and boy, are some of them lovely. It really does make a difference to see things in real life as opposed to a photo.

She was an excellent teacher, who was both passionate and knowledgeable about her subject, and under her tuition Sally and I (and the others in the class) made two knitted swatches with embroidery, marble resists, pleats and waste silk inserts. Sally and I rushed home to her house (which is nearer than mine to Nottingham) and felted them immediately in her washing machine. I'll post a picture of mine later, they came out looking lovely and I'm really excited about felting now.

I used to think that it would be a shame to spoil my knitting by felting it and now I think that it can make a lovely soft, strong drapey fabric and I want to do some more RIGHT NOW!

Monday, 9 June 2008

Summer Flowers

For the last week or so I have been crocheting the Tess Dawson Summer Floral Shrug. I bought the pattern last year and just decided to start it when I discovered some Artesano Alpaca in the yarn cupboard as I was clearing out. I've got to confess that *ahem* I quite like crochet at the moment. I am enjoying developing new skills, and it is quite a sense of achievement when I manage to follow a crochet pattern.
This one is in Artesano Alpaca in Damson or is it Plum? Anyway, it's a lovely deep purple colour which is in fact quite difficult to see in lamplight - that caused some distress at the start - but which looks very nice in daylight.
The design is quite simple, really, it is a rectangle of flower trellis fabric which gets rolled up at each end to make the sleeves. I had a bit of trouble working out how to do the flowers at first and had to make a test strip in a paler colour so I could see what I was doing, but I've got the hang of it now, and it's quite soothing watching rows of little flowers appear.
When I have finished this I want to knit the Ilga Leija Queen of the Waves shawl. That pattern is soooo gorgeous!

On the elderflower front, here is the wine all demjohnned up and starting to ferment. We used white wine yeast and it was amazing, about five minutes after putting it in the demijohn it began fizzing and then glooping and now there are about 30 gloops a minute from each one.

We made two batches, one with raisins and lemon and one with only lemon, and this weekend we picked more elderflowers and will make two more batches tomorrow, one with lemon again and one with lemon and ginger. We've noted all the different combinations so we can reproduce the ones we like best.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Elderflower Wine

According to all our recipe books, it is essential to pick elderflowers in full sun so that the flowers are fully open. It was also essential to pick them this weekend, as the next few weekends are booked up, so on Saturday afternoon off we set with a big supermarket shopping bag (re-useable I hasten to add) to find elder trees.

After a few miles of elder desert, the first tree we found was at the side of a busy road. We stopped the car, put on the hazard lights and picked frantically, with one eye on the traffic. One or two people seemed a litle impatient with us for some reason.
After that, things improved and we managed to find quite a few trees, but in safer locations and on foot, although many of them seemed to be the other side of a ditch behind ranks of nettles. "How many elderflowers do you think we need?" I asked. The recipe said 3 pints of elderflowers for one gallon of wine, so we decided that we would fill the bag and then see how many we had got.

After two hours of pleasant wandering down country roads and lanes, the bag was full and we made our way home. Now we had to process them by removing all the stalks.
Here are the hardworking stalk removers.

The bag seemed bottomless, and it took three people an hour to remove all the stalks. Here's the preserving pan full of flowers(6 pints).

I added boiling water to each container and left the flowers to steep for two days. I do love the smell of elderflowers, which is lucky as it permeates the entire house at the moment.

The next stage is to put the liquid into demijohns, add sugar and set it to fermenting. We think we have enough for four gallons (hic), and the wine is only about 12 months away, hooray!

As Kino was here for the weekend, I was able to give her back her skirt which I had fixed. This skirt was bought a few years ago and worn once at a summer garden party. Kino spilled some water (or more probably wine) over where she was sitting and had the happy thought of placing some black sugar paper over it to sit on in order to protect the skirt. Hmmm, well apparently the dye in sugar paper is not fast. Not until it's bonded with fabric, anyway.
After some fruitless attempts to turn the hideous black stain into a feature by painting it with silk paints, she sent the skirt to me to see if I could remove the stain. I tried a number of treatments but was unable to do anything but reduce it a bit. I concluded I would have to remove the section of skirt with the stain and replace it, at which point it went into the Too Difficult pile and has remained there ever since.

Until....I visited the Dylon stand at this year's Ideal Homes Exhibition. For reasons I won't go into I was looking for technology to remove dye, and found the Pre Dye treatment. This apparently removes all dye from almost everything. Light bulb! I could remove all the lovely hot pink dye AND the stain from the skirt and then re-dye it hot pink. I asked Kino for permission to try this radical treatment and she agreed.
Here's the skirt after all the dye had been removed.

A sort of dirty beige remained -and a small green mark where the black stain had been. Then I re-dyed it using a lovely flamingo pink. It came out perfectly, and here it is being worn by Kino, who was very pleased to have it back again after three years. It looks really great!

Oh, and the small green mark? That was the silk paint!