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.

Frugal crochet gadgets

Coffee jar + pencil = handy oojit

Coffee jar + pencil = handy oojit

I want to write about two home made gadgets created from what is essentially rubbish that have made my crocheting life much easier in the last few days.

The first is this cheap and cheerful oojit for keeping my thread from rolling around on the floor getting fluffy. It also helps me keep the tension of my thread steadier which we all know is a struggle.

Yarn spins freely

Yarn spins freely

I’m using this lovely wool thread from The Handweavers Studio* to make a lace shawl at the moment and I have 75g more of the same thread in a gorgeous femme fatale red which I intend to turn into another shawl afterwards. Having it pull smoothly off the reel is vital to my not losing count and effing up my lace.

The second gadget barely even deserves the name since all it is is a toilet roll tube with a couple of short slits cut in the top.

Toilet roll tube of wonder

Toilet roll tube of wonder

I learned how to do this on Ravelry and it has made yarn buying a much more pleasurable activity as I know that winding my beautiful purchases into neat centre pull balls is now possible and will not be utterly tedious.

Pretty yarn is pretty

Pretty yarn is pretty

First take your lovely new skein of yarn, untie the strings and put it around something that will keep it from getting tangled. The back of a chair or a family member’s hands are I believe traditional. I usually use my feet.

Now thread one end through the slit in the tube like so…

Securing the yarn

Securing the yarn

And wind it a few times round the middle of the roll like so…

After a few turns start winding on the diagonal always in the same direction, turning the roll so that each turn is further round than the next one.

Wind a few times

Wind a few times

Wind loosely so you don’t distress the yarn. It’s not the most fun thing use of your time but keep going. Perhaps put a film on or something.

Winding on the diagonal

Winding on the diagonal

Eventually you will have a nice ball wrapped around your tube.

Pull the tube out and you will have a nice centre pull ball ready to crochet from.

Nearly done winding

Nearly done winding

Finished ball

Ta daaaa!

If you have any great suggestions for frugal ways to make crocheting easier please tell us all in the comments!

*It’s one of their  wool worsteds.

Bitter chocolate and orange pudding

We have had a request! The fabulous owner of Yarn To Knit has asked for my chocolate and orange pudding recipe, and well she might as this is one of the successes of my year to date. This is an adaptation of  Nigel Slater’s sponge pudding in its own sauce and is a bit of a faff to make but totally worth it.

I have this lovely lady to thank for introducing me to the original. I don’t tend to return to recipes over and over unless they are a base recipe from which I can  improvise but this one is just so gorgeous that I have made it several times over and have only just thought to add the chocolate.

Be warned before you begin, you will need lots of bowls and hence a good washer up. I suggest bringing this to the table and refusing to serve it until you have extracted promises of dishwashing from your family.

The quantities given make a very large pudding so I usually halve them.

This should be enough for six:

softened but not melted butter 100g

caster sugar 175g

oranges 3 small fruit

at least 70% cocoa solids chocolate 6 squares

eggs 4

proper cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate with sugar and milk added) 40g

milk 400ml

Cream the butter and sugar together until very pale and aerated. Nigel suggests a mixer for this. I’ve never felt the need to buy one so do it by hand.

Grated orange zest and chocolate

ZOMG you have no idea how good this smells

Put the oven on to gas mark 4/180C (my oven is fan assisted and tends to run high so I put it on 160C).

Grate the zest of the oranges, avoiding the pith. Then cut them in half and stick them in the microwave for 30secs, this helps you with the next step, squeezing the juice out. Grate the chocolate.

Clean inside of grater with fingers.

Lick fingers.

Wash fingers.

Butter, sugar and egg yolks, creamed but not curdled

Separate the eggs and add the yolks to the butter and sugar. Nigel reckons it should curdle right now but mine never does. It waits until a couple of stages later, then it curdles. He also says not to worry about it so I never have.

Chocolate orange batter

Usually this is a lumpy mess. I blame you guys!

Slowly and gently add the milk and cocoa powder alternating bit by bit. I bet it’s curdled now hasn’t it?

Except if you’re taking photos of it for a blog post, then it’ll be almost televisually smooth! Mix in the grated orange and chocolate then the juice. The batter should really soft, almost sloppy and not look particularly appetising. Never fear Nigel knows his puddings.

Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Now I regret not getting that electric mixer. It would be handy. Still, feel my right bicep! Grrrrr! I’m like Popeye on one side and Olive Oyl on the other.

Chocolate orange batter with beaten egg white

Yay! Mud pies!

Gently, gently fold the egg whites into the batter. You don’t want to knock the air out of them.

Pour the whole lot into a tallish oven proof dish so that it comes about halfway up the sides.

Put that into a pan filled with hot water high enough to come halfway up your dish.

Carefully transfer the whole lot into the oven.

You now have an hour on your hands. I suggest you crochet. Or y’know, start on the washing up if you’re one of those horrible organised people.

Baked chocolate orange pudding

Fresh out the oven

After an hour test the top of the pudding which should feel ‘spongy’. When removing it from the oven be super careful with the boiling water in the roasting pan. I once nearly poured it all down my stomach. That would have made my dinner party memorable…

Leave it to cool for as long as you can stand. I can never wait nearly long enough and I burn my mouth every time.

Chocolate orange pudding served

Mmmmm chocolate orange goodness....