Oo! Look! I Won an Award!

The lovely Julie at Bits of Bruce gave me a Liebster Award!

Ain’t it pretty:

Liebster Award

Liebster Award

So what does it mean? Well, apparently…

The Liebster Blog Award is given to bring new blogs into the light. It’s a great way to share blogs that might not otherwise be noticed and should be. As a recipient of this award I am to pick 3 – 5 blogs, pass it on and do the following:

1. Let them know you chose them.

2. Copy and paste the award to your blog

3. Have faith that your followers will rally and show their crafty love back out to those awarded.

4. And have fun!


The Liebster Blog Award is designed to bring well deserved additional recognition to those bloggers with less than 300 followers. If you receive the award, link back to the blogger that nominated you, and nominate three more blogs.

Now I feel like it’s a bit of a cheek me getting this award when I have had a ton a hits already for my little blog but as they are all for the free patterns and not so many for the ‘blog’ part so I am going to try to unfluster myself and accept with grace. It’s an honour and I’m very grateful.

My nominations are as follows:

Mandie at Gateaux et Bisous

Gossycrafts at Gossycrafts

Anna and Meredith of A Knitting Blog

You’re all fabulous!

Keep It Simple Stoopid

Bedroom rug made of old sheets

Bedroom rug made of old sheets

Sometimes I forget that simple is an option. I get really excited about fancy new techniques and pretty complicated lace and I forget that it’s  possible to make really nice things very, very simply with a little bit of thought.

When I first learned to crochet one of the things I made for myself was a bedroom rug. It’s just a rectangle of  single crochets made out of 2cm wide strips of old sheeting and a muslin curtain. In spite of it’s humble origins and structure it is a very pleasing object. The two fabrics create a subtle variation in texture and colour. The feeling under my feet is soft but somehow massaging where the stitches create some bulk. It fits with my bedroom’s cool, calm and fairly minimal style. (If I hadn’t gone for this look I would have a hysterical purple boudoir full of silk and gold and mirrors.)

It’s a good thing I like it because making it was kind of a pain. Not the actual crocheting, although not having any giant hooks I had to do all that with my fingers.

Close up of rug texture

Close up of rug texture

No, the cutting of the strips was the real nuisance. It took a remarkably long time and all that cutting and tearing filled my flat with cotton dust and little fibres. I was coughing for days before I realised why, and it felt like my whole world was coated in white fluff for a week.

Anyway, if I remember rightly the rug took two double sheets and a single large curtain to make. It might only have been one double sheet. It measures 160cm by 80cm when as shown in the photos but can obviously be stretched out and become much wider.

I was reminded of it today when I got chatting on twitter with the awesome @loveandtrash whose fabulous blog is here. I thought you might like it. So here it is.

Going bananas

Banana bread

Baking again, mmm banana bread

Unexpectedly (unexpected by me anyway) I returned home from my first 10K run the other day with a massive bag of overripe bananas… as well as jelly legs and the hunger of the righteous. Honestly if there’s a freebie going you know I’m going to be in like Flynn.

So I wasn’t a huge fan of bananas until I started running when I was introduced to their mystical energising properties. One of the things I always had a problem with was the shopping issue. If I wasn’t running I’d want to eat one banana about every three to four days. That’s exactly the wrong length of time for my greengrocery cycle which tends to be every five days or so, and bananas’ ripening time which is too bloody quickly. I like bananas practically green for preference but they don’t stay that way for long and they certainly don’t stay that way in my very warm flat for four days. And I feel like a fool going to the shops just to buy a solitary green banana every four days.  Humph! (Listen to my first world problems…)

Anyway, the run was a ball. My buddies and I stayed together and as a result were right at the back, but since it was a training run and not a charity run, we were up against some serious runners. One boy in particular seemed to sprint the entire thing, lapped us twice and was way ahead even of the rest of the best! The whole thing took place on a lovely cool but sunny morning in Regents Park. The horse chestnuts were out. A gentle breeze blew. We saw the camels in the zoo.

When we finished the nice mumsy ladies  at the water stand (like a much fitter version of the WI) were giving away bananas. Of course we each had one but they had over ordered by a couple of boxes and were desperately pressing them on everyone who walked by.

“Make banana bread!” They implored.

“Y’okay.”  Thought I. I returned home with about twice as many as I needed.

Then I had a busy week and nothing got done. I made pre-run smoothies with a few of the nanas. (One banana, a handful of grapes, a nectarine and a slosh of apple juice. Mmmmm….) But eventually I had to just go for it and make the bread.

There’ s a recipe on the BBC which I’ve used before but looking at it I decided it was a bit too sweet. I wanted something slightly plainer and I wanted some spice in it.

So this is my version…

  • 285g self-raising flour
  • 110g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas, 3 mashed, one sliced lengthsways
  • 85ml/3fl oz buttermilk (or normal milk mixed with 1½ tsp lemon juice or vinegar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • a good pinch each cinnamon and nutmeg

    Yay banana bread!

    Yay banana bread!

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
  2. Grease a 20cm x 12.5cm loaf tin.
  3. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk, vanilla extract and spices to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well. Fold into the flour.
  6. Pour the cake mixture into the tin and lay the slices of banana on the top. Sprinkle with sugar.
  7. Transfer to the oven and bake for about an hour, or until well-risen and golden-brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Now I may not have baked mine quiiiiiiiite long enough even though it looks a little burned in the photo at the top that’s just the photography! It has cooled and been a little over sticky. But otherwise it is just great. The nanas on the top look great I think you’ll agree. For those who want a more cake-like sweetness the original recipe calls for 250g of sugar so anywhere in that range will be tasty.


New pretty things…

So I’ve finished the patterns I was designing on the tube when I had my conversation with the charming book-binder the other day. They are a little bit out of season, especially given what a gorgeous spring we’re having, but they’re done and they are, if I say so myself, as cute as pie. Look!

Hat and gloves for Martina's kits

Hat and gloves for Martina's kits

The stitch is a new one I made up which I think I’m going to name the raised shell stitch. It’s actually quite simple to do and gives this neat effect of making the shells stand out from the fabric each one making a kind of little pocket.

In fact I think two nice ways to personalise this pattern would be:

1. To edge the hat/gloves and the edges of the shells with a contrasting colour yarnto make them stand out more.

2.  To sew a small button or bead into the opening of the pocket of each shell making it look sort of like a flowerbud.

Now as much as I’d love to give all you lovely people this pattern for free I’m afraid I’ve made a promise with this one. It’s going to my dear friend Martina at Yarn To Knit. She’s going to be making these up into kits with each one getting the pattern for the hat or the gloves, a hook and enough of her beautiful hand dyed DK yarn to make them up.

I’m going to visit Martina tomorrow, to take pretty photos as my camera is just the diddly one in my phone. (You might have noticed the less than stellar quality of my pictures.) It’s been hard work making patterns to spec but also one that has spurred me on and I have learnt a great deal.

The hat and gloves are going to Martina for samples and we’ll both be at the Spitalfields City Farm Sheep and Wool Fayre so you can come and see them in real life, meet us and say ‘hi’ and get your hands on some of her scumptious yarn. I’d love to see you there.

Modelling Hebe Hat

Modelling Hebe Hat

The best woman in the world…

Tube train passengers

Not the bit of the tube that I was on.

This is a crocheting in public story that takes place on a half empty tube from Covent Garden to Finsbury Park in the late afternoon. I have a scrap of a new project on the go with the yarn in the pocket of my laptop bag and the 3mm hook dipping and diving. It’s not a complex project but it’s been worked up and frogged a few times because, guess what, it’s my design and I’ve not been happy with it. Still I think it’s in final draft stage. (No no piccies yet. I’ll let you know when it’s done.)

So as I hook away happily I’m aware of the occasional glance from bored commuters but no extraordinary attention. As an aside, I find children and drunks to be the most likely to stare. Drunk men in particular become entirely fascinated with a woman’s hands as she crafts.

That is until an African gentleman of a certain age and no uncertain dress sense steps on and sits in the next seat but one. He gives me a big smile and leans in towards me.

“You are the best woman in the world.”

“I beg your pardon!”

“Because of this,” he indicates my crochet, “You are the best woman in the world! You don’t spend money, you entertain yourself, you can make things exactly to your own taste. Exactly! No going to the shops and getting something you don’t like you can make it just how you want.”

Now I had to have a chuckle to myself at the saving money part. My fibre addiction is not cheap. But he has a point on entertaining myself and making things exactly to my own taste. Well, if I wasn’t doing that then I wouldn’t just have frogged five times would I?

He seemed to realise that this was the part that struck the loudest chord with me and so he sat back and extended himself on this theme a little while. I could make things exactly how I want. Exactly. I mostly nodded and smiled and crocheted. When he paused for breath I asked whether he did any kind of craft.

“Ah yes…” He looked embarrassed. “I do… I do something like that.”

Well now that was intriguing. Also amusing that he should go from being so expansive to so retiring in an instant.

“Oh yes,” I asked innocently, “What do you do?”

Well, now, I was hoping he would be a secret knitter or spinner but sadly no. It was something at once more and less predictable.

In need of re-binding?

In need of re-binding?

“I bind books, you know?” I raised an eyebrow. Yes, I could see him slicing and sewing and gluing. He had that  calm, steady-handed look. “Especially I bind Bibles.”

I tried not to wince at the expected onslaught of evangelism. Oh damn, that’s why he  was chatting to a stranger on the tube, and I had given him the inroad he had been looking for like a hick!

“You know they bind them with loose pages and so I take them and I have  found a way to bind them myself that I like. So when Jesus comes they will still be as good as new.”

“Ah..” I said thoughtfully. The book binding was interesting but if he was the preachy type I needed to stall him now.

But no, craft triumphs over faith. He looked again at my crochet.

“That is why this is good. You can do things just as you want. It is good to make things with your hands. Your husband…” he paused “Are you married?”

None of yours! My grumpy Londoner hackles rose. You’ve just been watching my hands. Did you notice a ring? These thoughts flashed through my mind and I dismissed them. I weighed him up a second. He was well-meaning and friendly and hadn’t stuck his faith down my throat.

“Nearly,” I lied. (What? I’m 32, I don’t need a lecture on marriage from a Christian stranger.)

“You tell your young man that because of this,” gestures at project again “You are the best woman in the world and will make a good wife. You can make things for yourself and for the children and you can teach the children and it will become a family business!”

I had to laugh at this. The idea of my telling any man that I am the best woman in the world and will make a good wife is… well… suffice to say I try to be a little more subtle in my approaches. Gasp! Maybe that’s why I’m 32 and unmarried! [WARNING: One or more statements in the last paragraph may contain irony.]

In addition I think any fella with any nous would look at yarn costs vs time taken to make any garments and come to the same conclusion I’ve come to about the business potential of crochet… That it’s a fine hobby. Still I laughed and said that my fella was sick of hearing about my craft. (That’s one reason why I have a blog, people!)

Is spinning my future?

Is this my future?

He smiled and explained that if I was ever stuck somewhere in the wilds I could spin fibre and still be useful with my work. I wryly murmured that I just needed to learn how to spin.

“Yes!” He agreed entirely, “In the developing world these skills, spinning and making clothes, are very important. That is why you are the best woman in the world”

Whatever my intellect was saying I couldn’t help smiling at this extraordinary assertion so casually repeated.  Our conversation tailed off after this. He started to read and I carried on hooking until I got to my stop.

When I got off I wished him well. It was a friendly sort of conversation and for all it’s culture clashes I think revealed something of the goodwill that crafts generate. I truly hope his Bibles last him until Kingdom Come.