Thursday, March 29, 2012

Orange and Poppyseed Cake

Cake #1

Cake #2

Cake #3

"Oranges and poppyseeds", mused Jorth. "Dangerous to any small gaps in the teeth - pesky seeds! - but so very darn tasty!"

Recipe here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The 2012 Crafting Olympics Part 3


It was, thought Bob, a bit like watching a horse race, albeit one involving balls of yarn and Jorth rather than actual horses. But still, the Grand National had nothing on this. They can keep their silly fences, their steeples, their ditches. This race had Jorth facing obstacles such as pressing demands on her time, invitations out and her own tiredness, all of which were contriving to knock her off her steed (otherwise known as her position on the couch where she sat to knit each evening) and prevent her from finishing the race (or, in knitting parlance, get that darn dress finished already, would ya?). This, thought Bob with relish, was a race worth watching!

As Jorth assumed her position on the couch, and began to knit away, Bob and Jean-Luc began to watch her speculatively as they resumed their running commentary.

"Well, she's started off with a nice pace this evening. She's handling those increases with remarkable ease."

"Let's hope she doesn't just do a few increases, and then call it a night. It's a long race, and she won't win it like that!", smirked Jean-Luc.

But Jorth began to surprise them. Despite myriad yawns, and frequent rubbing of eyes, she ploughed on until the clock struck 10. Finishing her row, she shook out her knitting and then leaned over to intently read her pattern instructions, before glancing with a furrowed brow at the garment taking shape.

"Aha!" crowed Jean-Luc. "I knew this would happen! She has left the knitting all alone and neglected for these past few weeks, and then she picks it up and knits away without checking her pattern properly. Lo! I bet she has made a mistake! Silly girl", and with a sly look at Bob he added "I am so glad I have not tipped her to win. That would have been embarrassing indeed!"

Bob clutched at his microphone with white knuckles. He refused to believe that she could stumble so early on in the race. But Jean-Luc's words had stung him a little. She wasn't knitting as hard nor as frequently as he had hoped she would. Surely, surely, she would finish the dress before winter and not let Bob down.

Suddenly Bob let out a whoop of joy. Jean-Luc, who had been admiring himself  and twirling his moustache in the reflection of the microphone stand started in confusion. "What is it?" he demanded to know. "Has she dropped a stitch? Did she miss an increase? Tell me, you fat fool, what the devil is going on?"

"That is what's going on!" replied Bob happily as he pointed to Jorth who was currently brandishing a tape measure. Leaning in close to the mic, he said "This is a wonderful piece of news for all of our listeners at home - Jorth has just measured her knitted piece, and I'm very please to say that she is now up to the armhole decreases. Yes, it's glad tidings, wouldn't you agree, Jean-Luc?"

"Pah!" said Jean-Luc with no little disdain. "She has a very long way to go if she is only up to her first set of armhole decreases."

"But that's the thing, old chap!" said Bob as he bounced about in his seat. "She's up to the armhole decreases on her second piece. This is the front - she's already completed the back!" Leaning in once more to the mic, he boomed "Go Jorthy!", causing Jean-Luc to remove his cans with a wince and mutter to himself "I must do something to stop this. This absurd amount of knitting has gone on long enough! It is time for me to become... crafty."
The 2012 Crafting Olympics Part 1
The 2012 Crafting Olympics Part 2

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It's good to be together again

Crossstitch #1

Crossstitch #3

Crossstitch #2

It has been a long, long time since I first learnt to cross stitch. I'm almost embarrassed to admit how long - 15 years! I learnt when I was 9, at school, and became an immediate fan. That's almost the same age as my daughter is now, but I remember it like it was just the other day.

Being a crafty wee lass, I took to it like it had been the missing jigsaw puzzle piece I had long been seeking out. I began to save up any spare cash that came my way to buy threads and aida cloth, and would to frequent, whenever I was allowed to go, a craft store in out local regional centre that sold the materials. I remember visiting this store a lot but always being short on cash, so it was quite likely I just stood there, admiring the patterns and cloths and books, probably heavy breathing with craft-induced rapture on the DMC thread display. To the kind ladies who owned that shop, thank you for putting up with me, and for not thinking I was a weirdo and kicking me out. It's kind ladies in shops like you who have made me the crafter I am today.

I'm not sure exactly how long I cross stitched for - I think I did it furtively for a while in my teens, but somewhere along the line I discarded the hobby like I wished I could discard my braces. But no matter how many house moves I did, I always faithfully carted my embroidery gear with me. There was no way I was leaving my thread box, once so neatly arranged with each colour code carefully written down on the card in my 10 year old hand, behind. As I was photographing this, I took a peek at the inside of my embroidery hoop, and was well chuffed to discover that it cost the princely sum of $2.60. Jeepers - can anybody tell me where you could get a hoop for that little today?

Recently, when I fell foul of that nasty sinus infection, I sat restlessly on the couch, tucked up into a blanket and wanted something crafty to do. But knitting or crocheting or sewing just would not fit the bill. Suddenly I realised what I wanted - I wanted to do cross stitching. I spent quite a few hours ogling stitching websites, and then decided that I wanted to make a cross stitch sampler for the Tyger's room. Once I found one I liked - a Lizzie Kate design called Winter Alphabet -  and showed her the pictures, she happily agreed that she wanted me to do one too! So I sent away for it, and have been in embroidery heaven ever since.

Oh, sniffle. Snort. Where are my tissues? No, I'm not having a recurrence of the dreaded sinus sniffles - I just love happy endings!

It's a bit like finding that long lost childhood friend who you thought had moved to the other side of the earth, but one day you stumble across them and realised that they have been living in the suburb next door to yours all this time. And even though you got me back for ditching you all those years ago by making me repeatedly stab my finger as I tried to find the tiny holes in the cloth once we had resumed our acquaintance, I'm so terribly glad that we are together again.

Welcome back, old friend. Welcome back.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tote Bag Recipe

Tote #2

Well hello there! Long time no see! Have you been well? I haven't - I've had the sinus infection from hell, which has totally knocked me for a six. However a week of antibiotics and early nights have fixed me up and I am back and ready for action with the tote bag recipe that a few of you requested.

Seatbelts on? Awesome - let's start revving up those sewing machines. Varoom, varoooooooooooooooooom!

Heavy weight cotton, measuring 114cm x 70cm
Calico or lining fabric, measuring 114cm x 45cm
Matching sewing thread

Total bag dimensions (not including straps): 45cm x 40cm

Note: The lining does not come all the way up the inside of the bag, as the outside bag fabric is folded down for 10cm. I always think bags look a bit nicer that way.

Step 1 - Cut out your fabric pieces. For the outside bag you will need to cut out two pieces of fabric measuring 57cm x 42cm.
For the lining you will need to cut out two pieces of lining fabric measuring 37cm x 42cm
For the bag straps you will need to cut out two pieces of fabric measuring 65cm x 10cm.

Step 2 - With right sides together, sew the long side seams of the outside bag fabric together, then sew the bottom seams together. Set aside.

Step 3 - With right sides together, sew the shorter side seams of the lining fabric together.

Step 4 - With right sides together, sew the lining fabric opening edge to the outside bag fabric opening edge. Press the seam towards the lining fabric, then topstitch close to the lining fabric seam edge.

Step 5 - Sew together the bottom edge of the lining bag fabric, then fold the lining fabric into the bag. The outside bag fabric will form the first 10cm of the lining. Press the top edge, then topsitch.

Step 6 - Fold each piece of strap fabric in half with right sides together, and sew the long edge seam together. Turn the strap right way out, and press, folding the top and bottom edges of the strap inside so that the raw edges cannot be seen.

Step 7 - Attach the straps to the bag by sewing a square with a cross in it, for extra strength. Ta da - all one!

And if all that doesn't help, here's the recipe card I'd written out for myself. Oh yeah, it's pretty high tech around at ol' Jorthy's place!
Tote Recipe Card

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I totes needed a new tote

Tote bag"Well, ducks", said Sabrina the dress maker's dummy as she made sure her scarf was snugly around her neck, and her bag securely upon her shoulder, "I'm off! Best of luck, au revoir, and remember that if you can't be good, at least be interesting."
"Nooooooo!", came the cry simultaneously from clothes in the wardrobe, threads from the drawer and sewing machines in the bureau. "What will we do without you and your snappy retorts to keep us all in line?"

One poor needle fell into a blind panic, and scraped her way across the floor to fall at Sabrina's feet. "Don't leave us!" she begged, tears welling up in her eye. "I shall be dull, and then pointless without you. No, truly - if I am dull then I am pointless. Don't let this happen to me. Don't gooooooo!"

"Ach, you daft gits", scolded Sabrina with gruff affection. "I'm not actually going anywhere - I'm just pretending since I'm all got up in this here knitted cowl and tote bag combination. But I tell you, I may just consider taking my mannequin services elsewhere if Jorth doesn't put that knitting aside and start clothing me in new sewn creations again. Knitting is all very well and good, but it doesn't keep this dummy sufficiently warm at night!"
I hate green bags. You know the ones that everybody and his dog carries dutifully to the supermarket these days? Yes, those, the ugly ubiquitous green things. Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not anti-bring-your-own-bag at all. As a non-driver, I am a master at hauling, toting, shouldering, lugging my groceries home in a reusable bag. And I think it's marvellous that for every bag brought from home, that's one less plastic bag used. But why, oh why do the green bags have to be so darn fugly? And stinky, if anything ever gets spilt or leaks in them. Urgh! Have you ever tried to wash one? I have, and they start shredding and going all weirdly lumpy in odd places yet also become threadbare. Quite an achievement!

So the other day I decreed No more! I can't take those hideous bags any longer. Bracing myself, I delved into my stash (cue the Stashbusters! soundtrack - kinda like the Ghostbusters one, but with better, more embarrassing dance moves) and found this heavy weight Japanese cotton. Just the thing, I thought, and promptly wasted no more time in devising a bag pattern and then cutting it out. I lined it with calico, and had the whole thing sewn up in less than an hour. Hooray!

So now, even though I may be lugging home litres of milk, heavy packets of lentils, kilos of flour, and am sweaty and disheveled from the effort, at least I'll be lugging it home in one stylish tote.

Let me know if you want the recipe, and I'll write it out for ya.
Must go - I have a Ghostbusters theme song to hum mindlessly for the rest of the day. Catchya!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pom poms and Schmundays

Pom Pom Spider

As you can see, the pom pom love is still going strong round my place, although this time it's the Tyger wielding the yarn.

But fear not - we didn't spend the entire long weekend making odd pom pom animals. We took a glorious bike ride around Melbourne, visited friends, did a spot of jogging until my knee protested too much, and baked biscuits. I freaking love long weekends. We call the Monday public holidays "Schmundays" - it's like having a magic day appear between that Sunday afternoon darn-the-weekend-is-over feeling and the back-to-work-bleugh Monday blues.

More Schmundays, I say. More Schmundays!

Friday, March 09, 2012

The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 2

Green Knitting #2

Bob the Bobbinator and Jean-Luc, Master of Macramé, had quite a following for their afternoon radio show. But even the most avid listener would surprised to discover that the on-air comraderie of the two hosts hid a much more sinister reality. The studio was a hot bed of backstabbing, power playing and deceit, and Jean-Luc, evil sod, was a master of all that, as well.

Poor old Bob was in the studio one day after the show had finished, finalising some interview transcripts for the next show when Jean-Luc walked in with a smug and satisfied look on his face. Leaning against the filing cabinet, he began to twirl his bowtie in his fingers, and enquired of Bob "Is it true, what I hear, that Ms Jorth had a schedule for each day, and the last entry instructs her to do at least an hour of knitting before retiring to the bed chambre?"

Bob looked up from his papers. "Yes, I believe so."

Jean-Luc smirked. "It is so so important for an crafting athlete to keep to a schedule, n'est pas?"

Bob looked at him sharply. "Of course it is. You know that as well as I. Now if you'll excuse me..."

But Jean-Luc interrupted him with a theatrical sigh. "Quelle dommage! It is so bad, then, that Jorth is straying from her training. I have it on good authority that last night, instead of embarking upon her nightly knitting, she went out for dinner, drank two glasses of champagne, and then sat down and watched Red Dog. Ha!"

Bob glared at him. "Well, so what if she had a night off? Her dad was up from the country, so of course she would take a night off to spend some quality time with him."

Jean-Luc sneered. "Real craft athletes do not take time off! They train and they train so they can be the very best. Your silly petit Jorth has no commitment, and silly fool you has backed her, publicly on air! Just you watch as your precious knitter fails to win gold, fails to win bronze, fails to even finish her robe before the winter deadline is out! You will be the laughing stock of the commentating crafting community, and I, Jean-Luc, shall stand tall and proud with my macramé beads in one hand and the microphone in the other, and denounce you as a blithering idiot! The show will soon be mine, mine alone, and you can go back to the hokey pokey hole in the garment district from which you came from!"

Bob gasped. "How did you know I came from the garment district? Who told you that?"

Jean-Luc laughed. "It does not matter how I found out. What matters is whether I tell the studio bosses that information. They would boot you out quick smart if they knew you were a district rat, instead of the crafting artisan you claim to be. But still, no matter. I shall let you fall on your sword with Jorth instead. Bon soir!" And with that Jean-Luc left the studio with a sinister chuckle.

Left alone, Bob snatched up his binoculars, and striding over to the windows began to scan the town for Jorth. After a minute or two of searching he found her. To his great relief, she was sitting down and knitting her green dress, and presently began to rummage in her knitting bag for a new ball of green wool, having just come to the end of the previous ball. Bob's heart swelled with renewed confidence in her. "Don't let me down, Jorthy my girl!" he whispered. "Don't you go be letting this old codger down."
I'm 4 balls down, 16 to go!
The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 1

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Black Honey Cowl

Cowl #1

Cowl #2

Truly, I held off for as long as I could, but in the end I just couldn't resist. I had to make one of those famous Honey Cowls. And I'm glad I did - it was such a peaceful, gentle knit, and I learnt how to join in yarn when using circular needles. Hooray for me!

I've made this one for a friend who walks to work early in the morning, and I hope it keeps her snug under her coat and around her neck as the weather gets cooler. Sigh - I just love knitting when it's cold!

Project Details
Pattern: Honey Cowl by Madelinetosh
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino in black (from stash - yes!)
Needles: 4.5m circular needles

Raveled here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The 2012 Crafting Olympics

Green Knitting

Bob adjusted his chair in the commentators booth, and then looked over at his companion. "Are you ready?" he asked, before taking one last swig of coffee.
"Ready!" answered Jean-Luc as he straightened his bow tie.

Bob carefully tilted his microphone before hitting the 'ON' switch and began announcing.

"Hello folks, and welcome today to the Crafting Olympics. We're your hosts Bob the Bobbinator and Jean-Luc, Master of Macramé. We've got a lot of textile based action in front of us, so make yourself comfortable as we bring you all the latest news and results from the 2012 Winter Crafting Olympics!

"The crafter we are looking at today is Jorth, who is competing for the first time in the Knitted Dress Marathon. I must say, she's gotten off to a tremendous start - she's three quarters through the front already. Excellent form, excellent form."

Jean-Luc took his turn at the mike. "Any injuries we need to be aware of, Bob?"

"None so far. We do know that she has previously suffered from sore wrists, but she has appeared to have changed her knitting training schedule, and is now using circular needles to cope with the weight of the growing garment. Sound strategy, and in a race like this it's all about your strategy."

"It certainly is", answered Jean-Luc, "and she does seem to have started out strong. Still, it's early days yet, and as much as I hate to disparage any crafting athlete, we must remember that she has a habit of starting out well, but then falling over at the halfway mark. Anybody remember the great yoga wrap saga of 2011? She took two years to complete that marathon!"

"Whoooeeee!" replied Bob. "I bet that's one knitting season she'd like to forget. Still, unlike your conventional athletes, crafters only get better with age, and she seems much more focused and in her game this year. Besides, it's always the unpredictable ones that are the best to watch. Say what you like about her staying power, Jean-Luc, but for me Jorth and her knitted dress are the ones I'm going to watch."

Anybody else out there giving themselves an Olympian-style crafting challenge this year? I'm not only competing in the Knitting Marathon, but shall also be trying out for the Queen Sized Quilt Stitchathalon and the Finish That Darn Coat I Cut Out Last Year Sewing Race. Leave a comment if you have a project you'd love to compete in do, and we can cheer each other on!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Pom Pom Garland!

Pom Poms #1

Jorth and Galumph were inspecting a new house. On the surface, it appeared to have everything - private swimming pool, entertainment room with cinema seating, sensor switches that played Chopin every time you entered a room etc etc - but Jorth still felt like something was missing.

As she and Galumph stood in the ballroom, admiring the Steinway grand piano that came with the house, Jorth suddenly exclaimed "I've got it! I know what it's missing!"

"Tell me!" begged Galumph, who for the the life of him couldn't figure out what could be missing in a house where even the door hinges were covered in gold leaf.

"Pom pom garlands!" answered Jorth. "Luckily, I came prepared!" Dashing off to grab her bag of pom poms from her bike, she reentered the house, and then busily set about strewing poms pom garlands about the room. "There!" she said happily as the last pom pom was hung just so. "I might consider buying the place now!"

Pom Poms #2

Ha! No, we're not really in the market for a fancy schmancy house with all the trimmings - I'm quite content with out little tiny place, thank you very much. But I am going a wee bit crazy for pom pom-based decoration since writing an article for Mum's Business on how to make your own pom pom garland. At last count I've made 77 pom poms. Yikes - that's a whole lotta garlands! Too much for my itsy bitsy house. School fete, here I come!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Green Knitted Dress

Green Dress Pattern

I have 20 (gulp!) balls of yarn in the perfect green.

I have a pattern.

Hopefully soon I shall have a dress!

That's right, I'm knitting myself a dress. Am I crazy or what?

Speaking of all things crazy (since it's been driving me barmy), I've had a few emails saying that people have had trouble leaving a comment. Ach - stupid Blogger! Hopefully we've fixed the issue, and we've opened up the comments now so that anybody can leave one but do let me know via my email on the side bar if you are still having a problem with it.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Striped Sweater Done

Striped Sweater

The stork was not a happy chappy. He'd flown all the way across oceans and continents, down to the bottom of mainland Australian, navigating trade winds, power lines and dodgy street signs, and had finally found the correct house, and guess what? They didn't even have a bloody chimney!

With a very disgruntled sigh he began tapping on the window with his beak. Jorth, awakened rudely from an excellent dream involving both unlimited credit at her favourite yarn shop and scones with jam and cream, opened up the window in a sleepy daze, and was almost knocked over by the stork as he clambered inside.

Before Jorth could utter a word, the stork unfurled his impressive wings and waved one accusingly at her, saying in a grumpy voice "Oi! There's been a wee little boy relative born in Switzerland, you know!"

Under the stork's beady gaze, Jorth felt she should probably answer, so began to say "Yes, I know, his name's..."

"Don't bore me with trifling details" snapped the stork. "I didn't fly all the way down here to discuss niceties. The lad needs a hand knit - have you got one for him?"

"Oh!" said Jorth. "I thought storks delivered babies, not hand knits."

"I'm a Special Delivery Operative", replied the stork. Preening his feathers he said with a touch of pride, "Any old bird can deliver a baby where there is one wanted - why, you can practically see the longing colour the air above the house! But only a special bird, such as myself, can spot a house where somebody will have a hand knit prepared to welcome a new child into the world. Speaking of, hand it over, would you? I've got a polar easterly to catch.

Jorth handed over the small striped sweater she had finished only the day before, and the stork gently took it in his beak, murmured a quick "Ta!" before leaning out the window, spreading his great wings and flying away.

Project Details
Pattern: Striped Sweater from The Ultimate Book of Baby Knits by Debbie Bliss, size 6 - 9 months
Yarn: 2 balls Baby Cashmerino in shade #204 (pale blue) and 1 ball Baby Cashmerino in shade #009 (light brown)
Needles: 3.25mm and 3.75mm
Notions: 6 buttons (which I haven't put on yet, as I haven't found the perfect ones. Just as well it's really being sent by post, not stork!)

This would have to be the quickest knit I have ever done! It took three days all up to knit, with another couple of hours to complete the neckband and seaming.

I really enjoyed knitting this - I always love knitting stripes, and feel I knit them up much quicker than a plain knit, as I just keep saying to myself "Oh, do one more stripe. Ok, maybe just one more!" and lo! Before you know it I have the whole thing done. I have a feeling that this will be my go to knit for babies. I especially love the buttoned neckline, which makes it nice and easy to get the garment over the bub's head.

Just a quick hint, in case you are thinking of making one yourself: I just managed to sneak the knit out of the one ball of brown yarn in the Baby Cashmerino. I got a bit nervous, thinking I would run out and have to start a new ball, but I got there with about 20cm of yarn to spare. Phew!

Oh, and since we're on the subject of storks, you may want to check out my favourite ever stork clip! (what? doesn't everybody have one of those?) Ahh, you can never go wrong with Pixar.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Hello, Autumn! Hello, Baked Apples!

Baked Apples

Jorth sat in front of the fortune teller, who was waving her hands ethereally around her crystal ball. "Tell me!", said Jorth eagerly. "What do you see? Unimaginable riches? Unprecedented bouts of good fortune? Little ol' me as a harbinger for world peace?"

"Er, no." said the fortune teller in a puzzled voice as she gazed deep into her ball. "What I am seeing is lots of knitting, and being tucked up into bed early on chilly nights reading Jane Austen, and madcap running around parks catching autumn leaves. And food - so much food! Baked apples, and pumpkin soup, and roasted vegetable lasagnes, and barley risottos smothered in lashings of Parmesan cheese."

Jorth plunked down her money with a satisfied grin. "Well, that's certainly good enough for me!" she said as she exited the incense filled tent.

Baked Apples

6 cooking apples (I used Royal Galas, but Granny Smiths would be good, too)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
12 dates, chopped roughly
40g cold butter, diced
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 - Preheat your oven to 180 C, and core your apples. You could make life easy for yourself by using an apple corer, but if you are like me and don't possess one, then carefully cut out the core using a small, sharp knife. But be careful you don't cut yourself - it can get a bit tricky when your hands become slippery with apple juice! Cut a ring into the outside of each apple, which helps stop them from exploding in the oven.

2 - Mix together the sugar, walnuts, dates, butter and cinnamon, then squish an equal amount into each apple. Place the apples into a baking dish lined with baking paper.

3 - Cook for 40 - 50 minutes, or until the apples are beautifully wrinkly and baked all the way through. Serve with the juices, vanilla ice cream, or as much cream as your heart can handle!