Friday, 30 December 2011

Crocheted Blankets - History and plans

[insert paragraph exclaiming over how long it's been since I last posted and blaming various factors including coursework, Christmas and boy trouble]

I've gone and promised two crocheted blankets for Christmas, one for my sister and one for a friend. Now they both know they'll take a while to materialise but I'd like to have something started to work away at. While they're in their infancy and fairly small they can easily be taken in my handbag and done during coffee (or even lectures, it's not as distracting as you might think) so progress should be good to begin with.
I went along to Hatchers of Taunton, my local independent department store, yesterday and got the necessary wool. I've gone for 6 x 100g balls of Robin DK for each which should give a good-sized blanket. My sister picked out a strong red, navy and cream for hers.
The navy is darker than this, silly camera.
The other was a little more difficult. The other two friends I've made blankets for both had pinks, purples and blues in theirs and although purple is the obvious choice based on her bedroom I wanted this one to not be too similar. My sister helped with this and I've ended up with a warm brown, beige and deep pink which is hopefully a good combination and one which my friend will like.
The brown is richer than it looks here!
Now I just need to choose a pattern for each. I've had a look at my previous blankets and the main three options are:

Three or six large blocks of colour, here in treble crochet.
This shows the general principle.
Stripes! (half-treble crochet)
This is the blanket of horrendous ugliness complete and being sent to live with poor Becca.

Sarah's Crochet
Two colours at once, double crochet with a huge hook.
I don't have any better photos of this one as it went to Caroline.
I had a play about in Paint to mock up some possible patterns, the last one is somewhat difficult to represent though. There's also the question of how I arrange the colours. My musings resulted in this:
I think it looks rather nice in and of itself!
The designs in the columns where there are only two are slightly more clever, I used this effect on one I made for my Grandma (it's gone to live with her so no photos of that) and it looks alright but there's something not quite right about it. All three colours I used in that were strong and dark and I think it might work better where I have a neutral one like the cream in my sister's colours.
When I make blankets I try not to cut the wool at all until I've finished, just in case it all goes wrong. The blocks approach lends itself to this very well and doesn't rely on me being able to split my wool evenly or keep constant tension (something I'm awful at).
The blanket of ugliness is two rows of each colour per stripe with the other colour being carried along the edge. I went back along the edge in double crochet afterwards to tie these loops in, which you can just about see in the photo. With a bit more thought this could look quite neat.
I think I'll go for stripes for my friend's blanket, and maybe edge it in pink if I have enough left over. I'd quite like to learn how to do fancy edging with lacy effects, there must be tutorials on the internet somewhere.
One of the things I still need to get the hang of (apart from tension) is how to make things the size I want. My first row always ends up being too tight or loose and I get a strange curved effect, think of a scarf that lies in a curve :/ I wonder if this is tension-related? I know I hold the hook in a strange way, when I'm forming a stitch I let go of it completely and hold the knot instead.
Hum. Anayway I don't have any crochet hooks with me at home so I'm not in a particular hurry to decide what to do. Thoughts or other pattern suggestions are welcome.

Friday, 18 November 2011


Everything's been very strange this week. Things I was resigned to have been shown to be wrong, old things have been stirred up, and truths have come out that should have done a long time ago. All this is making me feel quite up in the air, but I'm hopeful too. Hopeful that this marks a turning point and that I will have learnt from what's happened and that I'm thinking and doing the right things.
I want to keep my resolve and let things sort themselves out while I concentrate on looking after myself and doing the best I can with work and responsibilities.
This is all very abstract but it's meant more as a record of my state of mind than an account of anything.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


Oh dear, it looks like it's been just over a month since I last posted anything on here. It's been a good monthish though, I've been doing loads of things and seeing lots of lovely people and generally having fun, and even got a decent amount of work done in between!

New shoes, warm tights, crunchy leaves and bright autumn sunshine.
An epic girly baking session - fairy cakes, gingerbread and brownies, plus an incredible amount of decorations.
Apple pressing back in Somerset, a thoroughly rustic day with my family.
Visiting Westonbirt Arboretum with Photosoc
Jumping about like specials :D
More autumniness everywhere

5th November at a lovely party with sparklers
Two jar finds! Nos 292 and 306 -
This one looks so pretty and sparkly in the sunlight.
Glitter! Found after a super-early breakfast rendezvous with Laura.
Pumpkin carving - a little late but appropriate for the time of year perhaps? It throws star shapes on the walls :)

Amongst all this there have been pub quizzes and pub-goings, committee meetings and socials, LAN parties and beer festivals, Flickrmeets and family visits, and a lot of coffees and breakfasts with friends. Life is full of nice right now, I just need to make sure I get some work done in between!
My blanket for a friend is almost finished and will be sent off soon but my Sorbetto hasn't advanced beyond pattern cutting, possibly because it requires more commitment and brain power! I've joined Postcrossing,  I love postcards so this is pretty awesome, I just need a better way of displaying them all now :)

Sunday, 9 October 2011


 On Saturday I boldly got up early and caught a coach up to Birmingham for a day out with some rather lovely (and accomplished) ladies who sew and blog. After finding each other at New Street Station we descended on the Rag Market with glee, fondling every fabric in sight. There were bobbles and sparkles and lace trims, fabrics at £1 a metre and too many beautiful sari-type ribbons to choose from.
Lists were ticked off and extras added, but I think we were relatively restrained. There was some stash busting in the form of a lunchtime fabric & notions swap, I came home with a really pretty brooch made by Scruffy Badger herself.
Time flew by and before we knew it it was time to compare our purchases over a reviving coffee before trekking back to our various corners of the world. I think it'd be fair to say that a good time was had by all, we certainly bought enough materials to keep us all busy for a while!
Ms Badger has written a far superior account of the day over here so I'll just show you a few pictures I took along the way : )

I'm not sure what was going on over there...
A beady-eyed badger and magpie have spotted a stash of stripey jersey
Rik-rak and lace and sequins, oh my!
£1 a metre!  (and a Colette Rooibos too!)
Magpies love purple as well as shiny things don'tcha know?
The whole haul!
I myself was relatively restrained, I often find myself lusting after pretty things with no real idea of what to do with them, or starting off with good intentions but not finding the time do them justice. I have an enormous amount of ribbon yet I still seem to buy more!
Well, I allowed myself a few purchases:

Hibiscus tea - How could I not for 80p and such a lovely colour?
Strawberry polycotton - 1m at £2 a metre, I'm thinking of a strawberry Sorbetto
More polycotton from the same stall, another metre at £2. Destiny unknown.
Beautiful metallic ribbon/trim - £1/metre
Some for my Mum too :)
All my treasures together
  Thankyou everyone for such a nice day, and to Debbie and Winnie for organising everything. It was lovely to meet you all and see how serious seamstresses shop! Hopefully I'll be able to report some Sorbetto progress in the not-too-distant future, even if it is just that I've printed the pattern!

Friday, 23 September 2011


Possibly the smallest afghans I've ever made.

I've just realised that despite posting several photos of them on Flickr over the years (1, 2), I've never actually posted the recipe for Afghans. Yes, it's a strange name for a biscuit, but they're completely ubiquitous in New Zealand. Afghans are a kind of chocolate biscuit with cornflakes in, they contain no eggs and aren't overly sweet. It's a very particular taste, a surprisingly good combination of dry-ish biscuit, chewy cornflake, sweet icing and walnut.
We discovered them on a family holiday in 2003 and searched for a recipe for ages, trying the few versions we could find on the internet with limited success. One day I realised that they featured in Mum's favourite old battered Penguin Cookery Book from the seventies, which was written by Bee Nilson, a kiwi. We've been making that recipe ever since and they're pretty much spot-on.
My copy of the Penguin Cookery Book was found in one of the many St Peter's Hospice shops here in Bristol and is even older, the last date printed is 1965 and it has mould spots!
So, without further ado, here's the recipe:

Cooking time 20 minutes. Temperature 350F, Mark 4, ~180C.
Allegedly makes 2 dozen, although we tend to make about 8 larger ones.
7oz melted butter or margerine (1 c)
6oz plain flour (1 1/4 c)
3oz sugar (6 tbs)
2oz cornflakes (2 c) - non-Kelloggs work better here, Kelloggs are too thin and melty
1oz cocoa (3 tbs)
1/4 tsp salt
Vanilla essence
1 doz shelled walnuts  - a.k.a. 24 halves, I wonder if they came ready-shelled in those days?
Chocolate icing - refers to another recipe in the book, but I'm sure you can figure this one out

Mix all ingredients together and put in small spoonfuls on an ungreased tray. Bake until firm. When cold drop a blob of icing on top of each and press on half a walnut.

There you go! Nothing fancy at all. Perfect with a nice mug of coffee, or possibly a kiwi-esque flat white (or flit whaite if you must do the accent.)

Sunday, 11 September 2011

From In Between

Nice old cars around Clifton.

A lovely evening sky

 Good dinners:
1. Orzo pasta, bacon, roast sweet potato, walnuts & blue cheese. Rich.
2. Bacon & courgette risotto, best one I've managed yet.
3. Quiche Lorraine (30p), potato salad (30p/kilo, herbs from the windowsill) & general salad (rocket 10p, Vittoria tomatoes 1/3 off). Bargainous and tasty, and possibly claimable as healthy?

Clifton Village - Ice Cold Moet only £28 at the newsagent near the suspension bridge, a rather cute sausage dog for my flatmate K.

Terrifying knitting pattern from a book in Oxfam Books, foreword by Una Stubbs.

Teaching myself new crochet stitches. Half-treble, double, treble?

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Revision Stations

One exam down, one to go!
My life recently has been mostly spent in the coffee shops of North Bristol, trying to absorb as much information about rings, ideals and field extensions as I possibly can without giving myself a caffeine overdose. As I'm not a big fan of normal tea (I am British really!) I've been sampling all the fruit teas I can get my hands on. Coffee #1 get ten points for this tasty red berry one, and another ten for their hot apple and cinnamon  - they take proper fancy apple juice and put steam through it like you would to make a latte. Yum.
Last Saturday I had the company of the lovely Ceilidh (like the Scottish dance) who was swotting up on accountancy jargon for her new job, that's her enormous textbook in the photo above.

Of course when you're spending hours on end in coffee shops it helps to drink something cheap, which leads me to Starbucks £1 filter coffee with a free refill. The size of Starbucks makes me feel less guilty hogging chairs too. The branch upstairs in Cabot Circus might be my favourite, despite being in a *very* busy shopping area it's not at all crowded. It's tucked away right at the top and has big squishy armchairs and a good view across Bristol.

Café Kino is a favourite too, both for it's friendliness and prices - a very decent pot of tea is just £1.20. The window seats give you a good vantage point for watching Stokes Croft go about its daily business too. This is their apple tea, a rare example among such teas in that tastes almost as good as it smells.

I may have visited a couple of charity shops on my travels too...

Pretty floral blousey top, originally from Florence & Fred at Tesco, £3.30 from British Heart Foundation.
Blue plastic necklace £1 from The Salvation Army, their shop reminds me of charity shops 10+ years ago, before thrift/vintage became fashionable. It's very much cheaper than anywhere else!

And on the subject of pretty things, Julia of House of Marmalade (and brave maker of corsets!) is holding a giveaway with Dragonfly Fabrics - the combination of Colette Patterns and spotty ribbon is very appealing to me. I've entered plenty of blog giveaways but never won one :'( (but hopefully this cheeky link gives me an extra entry!)

Saturday, 27 August 2011

See No Evil

Last week the whole of Nelson Street in central Bristol (UK) was shut off for a rather exciting project. Nelson Street is normally dull, grey and a bit manky - it's home to several nightclubs, a derelict magistrates court and the back of the police station - but someone had a good idea.
Bristol is well-known for its street art scene and Inkie, a local, brought the city council and street artists from all over the world together to brighten the area up. The whole thing was called See No Evil.
I missed the street party that accompanied the finishing of the project on Saturday, as well as the temporary boards which had been painted on, but what's still there is pretty awesome. I went down on Sunday and took a load of photos, so here they are in a neat slideshow.

More photos will eventually end up on Flickr but I don't see that happening for a while yet.
You don't want to see those anyway, there are loads of great ones over on Flickr.
There's a dedicated group, the Bristol group and Swishrelic's set, then there's the ever-awesome F***YeahBristol tumblrlog, and the project's own website.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Last Weekend

 No, not the apocalypse or some hellish nightmare, that's my bad photo of Thursday's nightglow at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta (not sure what makes it international!). It should be a lovely photo of lots of balloons standing up, glowing in time to music but we managed to lose track of the time and left the pre-balloon pub later than planned. We got a good three minutes or so of glow and Jai Ho though - it was a film music theme... Hmm.
It's a pretty long walk down there, and even the bus doesn't get you all the way. Once you get into the Ashton Court Estate there's a hill to climb and a fairground to walk through. I sensibly wore my walking boots and so was comfier than others, I still got a stitch hurrying down there though!
On our way back (up the side of the hill to Clifton, gah) we spotted a cat on a wall and my housemate decided to climb up on the wall and talk to it. It was an amusing sight, but sadly not one that photo-ed particularly well.

Last year there were barely any balloon launches because it was too windy and rainy, but they managed a few this time. We watched Saturday afternoon's balloons drift across and I managed to catch some of them neatly arranged around the chimneys and aerials from my window. We went to the pub on Saturday evening and some people went on to the nightglow but I couldn't be bothered with all the walking again and so came home to sleep!
That turned out to have been a good decision as I was woken at 7.30 on Sunday morning by a roaring noise which turned out to be this rather low-flying balloon! Only in Bristol*.
I believe this is the same balloon whose pilot got fined £3000 or so for flying too close to the suspension bridge.

Since I was awake I took a few more photos, this one above looking Eastwards (ish). It was rather amazing seeing so many balloons serenely floating across the sky.
Once I'd had my fill of balloons I got up and caught the little train across to Montpelier, then walked up to Coffee #1 and settled myself in to do some Maths. Anticipating a highly caffeinated day I went for a decaf latte to start with, it's so annoying needing the loo when you're on your own in a coffee shop and loathe to leave your seat and belongings. I sat in the window and watched the world go by learnt proofs, feeling clever when I knew what was going on.

I passed much of the day like that, with a brief interlude at lunchtime in which I bought a reduced cucumber, a brand-new-with-tags dress from the British Heart Foundation shop (pics later maybe), and a "feta and spinach" wrappy-type thing from Bristanbul Turkish bakery. 10/10 for the name 2/10 for the amount of feta in the wrap, it was mostly tomato and onion! Oh well.
Later on I was summoned to the observatory, up by the CSB in Clifton to watch the Red Arrows and the balloon launch. I acquired some strawberries from a grocer on Gloucester Road (hurrah for local businesses and actual grocers!) and my flatmate brought the muffins she'd baked and we had a little picnic.
I wouldn't normally say I'm one for watching this sort of spectacle but it was impressive, and quite a surprise when they appeared for the first time from behind our crowd! (I think they must've started out from Filton, Bristol airport was obviously quite busy judging by the steady stream of Easyjet planes on the horizon). They were clearly performing to be viewed from Ashton Court but our point of view wasn't bad at all (apart from the hoards of people, most of whom unhelpfully stood up when they appeared!)


After the display we used the power of science phones to determine that the mass ascent that evening had been cancelled due to high winds, so we went and bought some cider and sat outside with it. A lovely afternoon.

Sad news from the Bournemouth Air Show a week later.

*I have since been informed on Twitter that this also happens in Melbourne. Oh well.