Well, Hello World! (Again)

It’s been quite a while since the previous post here. I had some issues with the software that I used, and so was unable to make new posts due to issues formatting the text. Links were all broken etc. Instead of switching the site over to different software immediately I sort of abandoned it for a while, as finding time to sit down and mess with CSS wasn’t easy. I finally got around to switching the software last week, and everything went extremely smoothly. I even managed to import all the old posts, so nothing was lost in the process. Also, thanks very much to Mr. Skirty (CSS guru) for all his help finding the right bits to edit.

The issues with the previous software were one reason I moved my shop to Etsy. Now I can spend less time ensuring everything is secure and up to date, and more time making things to go in the shop. I’m enjoying yarn dyeing right now, so look out for some new pretties in the shop!

Skirtydyed BFL DK Superwash - Red Cabbage

Skirtydyed BFL DK Superwash – Red Cabbage

The above yarn is currently still available in the shop, my Daffodil yarn (below) is now sold out, one skein is reserved for a St. Patrick’s day competition donation. There’s a group on Ravelry that holds a knitting/crochet competition every year, and this year I donated a prize of a skein of yarn for one of the lucky winners. (I might be entering this myself this year also).

Skirtydyed Superwash BFL DK - Daffodil

Skirtydyed Superwash BFL DK – Daffodil

Welcome back to my site!

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Second Birthdays, and Dyeing the Cairngorms

My little boy had his 2nd birthday last weekend. Funny how we say that, 2nd birthday, it’s like we ignore the day he was born, which is actually the most important birthday really. We had a lovely day at Dublin Zoo with him, and two of his cousins (and their Mum and Dad), the weather held out and we didn’t get wet. We saw lots of animals, had a nice lunch, and generally tired everyone out. Another milestone. I really love watching him develop. It’s amazing how one week he can do something one way, and then something just “clicks” one day, and he works out how to do it more effectively, or more completely. Like counting. He used to look at numbers greater than 10 backwards, so 16 he’d say was “six one”, but yesterday in the supermarket he was saying “sixteen” (he looks at the aisle numbers and yells them out for everyone to hear. Very helpful little chap).

During the week I did a little bit of dyeing (yarn) during the day, as the weather was rubbish so we weren’t out anywhere nice. I decided to go for the “heat yarn up in the slow cooker (crockpot) and sprinkle the dye in directly” method as it involved lots of leaving it alone (always advisable when looking after a toddler, things that require specific timing, like cooking can somehow not work out) and there was no worry about it boiling as the slow cooker would keep it at a constant temperature. I’d like to do a lot more dyeing, but I don’t know an easy way of getting a lot of kool aid in this country, so I’m considering trying out icing dyes, as another non toxic (and therefore not requiring special equipment like face masks and well ventilated rooms etc.) method. I used the methodology found in Knitty.

The kool aid flavours I used for the first skein were: mixed berry, grape, black cherry (1/2 packet of this one), lemon lime and lemonade. The skein soaked for a little while and then went into the slow cooker, and I added firstly some mixed berry to the left hand side, and then the black cherry. The tutorial stated that red was a bit aggressive and took over, so I only used half of the packet. I then left it with the lid on for some time until all the dye had been taken up, and I turned the skein over and added the lemon lime to the bottom of the side that had blue, and grape to the bottom of the side that had black cherry, and again left them to “cook”. After a while I went back and sprinkled bits of lemonade onto any white spots I could find, leaving those to cook each time, then turning it and adding more. Once it was finished I carefully sieved out the water and left the yarn to cool without agitating it. Normally I wouldn’t have bothered doing that, and left it in the crockpot to cool, but I wanted to use it for another skein. Luckily it didn’t felt, despite all my messing with it.

The second skein was only three colours: ice blue raspberry lemonade, mixed berry, and lemon lime. I had a lemonade laid out to add, but there wasn’t too much white left, so I decided to leave the little lighter bits as part of the colour scheme. The method for this was similar, I sprinkled the light blue (ice blue raspberry lemonade) on one side, and the dark blue (mixed berry) on the other, and left them to cook, then turned the whole skein over and sprinkled the lemon lime all over the bottom, trying to cover all the undyed spots.

Once they were both cool I gave them a rinse and then after stomping on them in a towel I hung them up on the conservatory door to take a picture:

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Note that the colours look quite stripey here. I then moved them to an airer to dry overnight.

The next day I decided that I should really rewind the skeins, as rewound skeins usually give a better idea of how the colours will look when the yarn is knitted/crocheted up. Slight problem was that last time I rewound a skein it took me forever as, although I have a swift, I’d really need another swift, or a niddy noddy to do the job. I’d read some tutorials about making a niddy noddy from plastic waste pipes (the kind that take your waste water from your sink/dishwasher/washing machine into your drains), but the problem was that I didn’t have plastic waste pipes in the house. I did have a tube from the centre of wrapping paper that was really really sturdy. Perfect! I set about cutting this into bits on the kitchen table with a stanley knife (don’t try this at home folks), not really sure why I did it on the table as I have a proper cutting mat, but anyway I didn’t touch the table (phew!). I then tried threading some yarn through it and then pulling it all together in some really convoluted manner, but it was a bit flimsy. Then I realised that I could just tape it together. Here it is:

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I plan to get out the pva glue and do some papier-mâché magic over the joints a bit to make them stronger, but it’s perfectly serviceable this way:

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I had to look up a tutorial on youtube to figure out how to wind it, but I managed to get both of my skeins reskeined, and the second one was much faster than the first – hooray! This is “Sea Breeze” before I twisted it all up into a pretty twisty thing(does that have a name?):

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And here they both are, looking pretty yummy! The purple one I wasn’t so keen on when it was drying, but it grew on me once reskeined and I could see how the colours worked together. I then saw lots of heathery colours and was reminded of the area in Scotland I come from, lots of heather, so it had to be called “Cairngorm”.

Sea Breeze and Cairngorm

I remember telling Mr. Skirty not too long ago that I’d stick to knitting and crochet, and I wouldn’t bother trying to dye yarn, as dyeing would take up lots of space and time, and would be messy. Oops, I think I might have to take that back, as this really is quite interesting. I’ve still to try the “painting” method, rather than the “chucking it on top of yarn in crockpot and hoping it doesn’t just all merge together” method, or the dip-dye method I did before. We don’t have room for a spinning wheel though, so that’s something that’s definitely not happening. (It’s now on the internet, so must be true!). I’ve only got 400g of undyed yarn left now, I’ll have to buy some more soon. Maybe one day I’ll buy a beautiful wooden niddy noddy too, one with adjustable size, but for now I’m quite happy with my new toy, and very pleased with myself. Expect to see pictures of more dyed yarn in the future!

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Potter’s Blanket

This week I have mostly been eating failures of chocolate biscuit cake attempts. Luckily when this sort of thing is a disaster it’s still edible. After three pretty much complete failures I have now given up on that particular item!

On the crafting front I’ve finished my cat’s blanket, the first of my blankets in the square a day leap year blanket group I’m a member of. Some people are making one large blanket with 366 “squares”, I’m making a few smaller ones, which means I can experiment a bit with styles, types of yarn, and colours. Plus it means my blankets will be a reasonable size! This one was made with some aran weight acrylic I had lying around. I had 6 colours, so there are 6 colours in the blanket. They weren’t purchased to go together all in one item, but it actually worked out well (although at first I was a bit nervous about pink and orange next to each other!). The whole thing worked out about 1.3m wide and 85cm deep – partly because I wanted to put his name on the blanket and the squares I made for that were a little larger than I had expected originally. Good thing he isn’t called “Marmaduke” or “Voldemort”, although I would have worked out a method of fitting them in. The granny squares are Attic24’s Summer Garden Granny Squares, the letters are from a baby blanket pattern and the other big orange square is dreamweaver. I filled the spaces with some granny stripes in the same colour sequence that I made the letters.

Here’s a picture of the blanket sitting on the floor:

Potter_Blanket_001

A gratuitious garden shot (the colours are more accurate in this photograph):

Potter_Blanket_002

And finally, the “man” himself (as taken with my smartphone and filtered with pixlr-o-matic):

Potter_Blanket_003

 

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Brass Bands and Biscuit Cake

We went down to the Irish Brass and Concert Band Championships in Cork last weekend. The boy was dropped off with his Grandparents, and by all accounts had a whale of a time. (They seemed fairly glad to hand him back, though!). Since I was hyperemetic when I was pregnant I had to stop playing, and I’ve not started again yet (getting a babysitter for every rehearsal would currently be too difficult), so my role was purely supporting the band (Drogheda Brass Band) that Mr. Skirty plays in (and I used to). They were excellent. I can only say that they’ve improved massively even in the last 2 years since I left (hopefully this is purely coincidence!) the band. I haven’t really managed to hear them since then as the wee guy isn’t too keen on brass bands (yet). He does love music in general, he just likes it on his own terms, without too many people around. As I said, they were excellent, and they won a clean sweep – they won Section 1 brass, best brass band, best overall band (including concert bands) and there was a 4th trophy that I’m not sure about. Needless to say, everyone was pretty happy! There are many photos floating around from the bus home of people posing with trophies and lots and lots of smiles. This sorry excuse for a photograph was taking using my phone when they were getting ready to play.

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I did a spot of “baking” again yesterday. Mr. Skirty isn’t really a cake person, so as he mentioned before that he really likes a thing called “biscuit cake”, when I came across a recipe for same earlier in the week, I added it onto my “to do list”. This recipe, to be precise. I did alter a couple of things, like adding some rice krispies instead of maltesers, and totally missing out the dried fruit and nuts, however the texture is not what I expected, and it’s so sickly that I could only eat one piece last night when it was deemed “set”. I think I’ll turn to a different recipe next time. I can’t see any reason that it turned out this way.

Choc_Biscuit_Cake_Slice

Oh well, I shall have to find some more recipes and give it another go. In the meantime, I expect it will be nicer if it’s cut into little bits and eaten with ice cream. Shame!

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Krispie Cakes

Yesterday I made a “dry run” of some rice krispie cakes. They were quite nice, I used this recipe.

And this is what they looked like:

RiceKrispyCake

There are hardly any left and I wanted to take some to the boy’s Gran, who we’ll be seeing tonight, so we’ll have to make some more (shame!), although this time he’ll be able to help me stir them in and put them into the cases. I think I’m going to use slightly less butter and syrup and slightly more chocolate this time.

We’ve had lots of walking fun this week, and watering plants in the garden fun. I forgot to sow some cucumber, and as it’s a vegetable we go through loads of I’m going to get hold of some small plants from the local garden centre and get them growing in a grow bag or something. I’ve made a List of one-off things that need to be done in the garden, so I plan to try to get some of those things done every week. (This week I can get away with making the List…).

Knitting-wise, over the weekend I knitted and fulled (felted – it’s called “fulling” when the item is knitted first) a bag for the little guy. The strap is still in the works so he isn’t using it yet, hope he likes it!

And let’s not forget the shop – I finished a shawl also over the weekend. It’s quite a bargain considering the number of hours it took me to knit!

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Mmm…Pasta

This week we’ve been eating lots of yummy food. One of my favourites that we ate last weekend is “vodka penne”, it’s very simple, in case anyone would like to try it out, here’s the “recipe” I use – most quantities are approximate as this isn’t a formal recipe:

Skirty’s Vodka Penne (serves 2 adults and a toddler)

Ingredients

1 onion, sliced
3 slices of bacon chopped into small pieces
a large splash of vodka
cooking oil of your choice
a knob of butter
some cream (I use double cream – only a little goes in so 2 to 3 tablespoonsish – this depends on your taste)
enough of your favourite pasta for 2 grownups and a small person
some parmesan (flaked or grated)

Base Sauce

2 tins of tomatoes (chopped or whole, doesn’t really matter)
some fresh basil (I have made this with rosemary before, yummy also!)
cooking oil of your choice (I use locally produced virgin rapeseed oil)
a glug of balsamic vinegar (tablespoonish quantity)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped or sliced roughly
1 onion, chopped roughly

Instructions

First, make the base sauce. This can be done in advance or on the same day. To make it I chop up the onions and garlic roughly, and soften them up gently in a saucepan with some oil over a gentle heat. When they’re soft, I chuck in 2 tins of tomatoes, a glug of balsamic vinegar, a little salt and black pepper, and some of the basil, and simmer for a few hours (the longer the better). Some tomato puree can also be added to increase the tomato flavour. When this is cooked down the sauce changes colour to a rich, dark red. When this is cooked enough, add some more basil and “whizz” using a food processor or hand blender. Put aside until required for the vodka penne. If this is not to be used on the same day it can be refrigerated for a few days, or frozen for a week or so (beware that the longer it’s in the freezer, the less flavour it will have when used).

You can either time the pasta so that it’s cooked when you’re finished with the sauce, or cook it in advance and cool it down with some cold water.

When you’re ready to cook your bacon take a large saute pan or another saucepan with a large wide base, heat a little cooking oil and add the bacon pieces. I like to add a knob of butter at this point also. Cook the bacon gently until it’s cooked through and going brown, then add the sliced onion and cook until that’s going soft. Now splash the vodka in and let it bubble up and cook down for a minute or so (if it evaporates really quickly, you can add a little water to stop everything burning) before adding the base sauce. Heat this through thoroughly, if the pasta is cold, add it now to heat through also. Add cream to taste, a small amount at a time, and if the pasta wasn’t cold, add it and serve with grated or flaked parmesan sprinkled on top.

It’s delicious, the vodka gives it a peppery flavour and I love this dish. It’s not exactly the same as that from a proper Italian restaurant, but it’s a good enough substitute, and the toddler adores it too.

Om nom nom, as they say!

Last weekend I dyed some yarn using kool aid and food colouring.

The first was created by pouring dye into yarn in the slow cooker (crockpot):

Skirtydyed Orangey Red

The second was re-skeined into a very long skein, and then “dip dyed” with increasing concentration of dye:

Skirtydyed Kool Aid Dipped Blues

The second one has already been teamed up with some undyed yarn to create my son a tank top (vest):

Dipped Blues Vest

I’ve yet to decide what to make with the orangey-red, although I’m leaning towards some sort of accessory type item.

The weather is a little colder this week, although it’s been mostly dry. No snow here, unlike the UK. My Mum’s garden in Scotland was covered in snow earlier in the week. Our seedlings are poking up through the soil and a small boy has been ensuring that they get plenty of water. Maybe these will survive our ever-changing weather and provide us with some yummy food later in the year.

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A Sunny Week

This week has been unseasonably warm and sunny here. Many things have been germinating in the garden (although sadly the first lot of spinach hasn’t appeared at all). Myself and the small one have been out in the sun most days, “det’s do in da dahden” being a common phrase this week. At the weekend we had a picnic and a nice walk round a pond, and another big long walk on Sunday.

During the week we’ve had to water the seeds, and the plants in containers. We have a Christmas Berry Tree that I won in a radio competition last December, it’s in a container outside and is blossoming nicely. It actually has more blossom than this now, the photo was taken earlier in the week, but it’s still pretty.

Christmas Berry Blossom

There’s some rhubarb that I think we shouldn’t pick this year because it was only grown from seed last year and it needs to mature. I was impatient about that and bought some to make rhubarb crumble with a few weeks ago.

Today was less warm and this afternoon we made a Chocolate and Banana Loaf together. It’s quite nice, a bit rich for the wee guy, and a little heavier than I expected (blaming toddler “not so gentle” stirring for that). Still, it’s yum, and I love it.

Here’s a sneak peek at something colourful that I started on Tuesday. The yarn was despatched on Monday and arrived the next day. Got to love great service! (Thank you Constant Knitter).

Sneak Peek

The picture was taken after a few hours of knitting, a few more have been put in since then (some of those have been spent deciphering the pattern/chart, but I “get” it now), but there’s still a long way to go. This item is going to go in the shop, so keep your eyes open for it if you like the colours.

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Gardening, and Another Shawl

This week the weather has been lovely, not too much rain and quite a bit of sun, so myself and the wee fellow have been doing some gardening. So far we’ve sown some spinach (two lots so far, the first lot should be peeping up through the soil just now, but it isn’t…), some carrots, some sunflowers, courgettes and tomatoes. I have spotted him poking at the courgette seeds when he’s playing in the garden so I think I might have to sow some backup courgettes as, if I remember correctly, they die really easily if the seedlings are damaged.

The tulips are out in the garden. Every year I have good intentions of moving them around, as all the tulips at the front of the house are yellow, and all those at the back are pink/purple. This year it will happen, as having a small person around who is very keen to “help” with digging makes it easier to make time for gardening.

Lots of days this week have been filled with “let’s go in the garden, Mum” and “let’s go for a walk, Mum”. Nearly 2 years old is a fabulous age!

Knitting-wise, I finished my newest shawl, and it’s been blocked and I love it!

Here are a couple of pictures, first one of the whole thing:

Fran_Full_Shawl

And now a close-up of some of the lace:

Fran_Portion_Shawl

I love this and although this one is mine -all mine- if you love it too, you can now request one in a colour of your choice through a custom slot in the store. There will be some “in stock” shawls at some point too, in this, and some other designs. I’m looking forward to knitting them all.

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k, p, yo, k2tog, ssk…

k, p, yo, k2tog, ssk, ssp, p2tog, ktbl, ptbl, tot, k3tog, sssk, s2p

If you’re a knitter you’ll understand at least some, and probably all of the above terms. If you’re not, this is “code” for various stitches used in knitting, and specifically in lace patterns. There are many more stitches in lace, but these are the ones listed in two particular patterns that I’ve been using lately. One is something for me, one was for a gift, but it turned out to be totally unsuitable and so I stopped “rushing” it a few weeks ago and finished it this week instead. You can see a picture of that one, but the something for me is still On The Needles, and thus Unsuitable For General Viewing.

This is the scarf that has now become known as “Scarf That Is Not For Mum’s Friend”.

ScarfNotForMumFriend_2Sm

I started making the scarf as a gift to send to my Mum to take to her friend when she visited for her birthday, but it turns out that she doesn’t wear scarves or hats, and even worse of all, she hates green. Well, my green scarf would probably not have been a Good Present, and I couldn’t think of something else to make her in the short time I had left after finding out these important facts, so I sent nothing. /sadface

The thing for me is the one that’s using most of those stitches above. I made a very lacy shawl as a gift for a family member for Christmas and after I finished all the hard work and blocked it I was delighted with the way it looked, and was hooked on shawls. So I made myself a warm one in January in a heavier yarn and I’m currently making a lacy one in 4ply yarn. I asked the lovely Knittybots to dye me some 4 ply yarn that matches my sort-of-oxblood boots (I sent a photograph for her to get an idea of the colour), and she did. It’s a lovely wine colour, with some darker and lighter variations – enough variation to be interesting, and not too much that it takes away from the pattern. You’ll have to wait and see for this one, as it’s not finished yet and shawls most definitely don’t look right until they’re washed and blocked (see Knitwear Care – link at the top of every page on this site).

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Dungarees, Playdough and Yarn Bombing

It’s been a busy week this week. The little buttons I ordered for The Mystery Item have arrived and there are now some colourful dungarees in the store. I’m delighted with the dungarees, I think they’re gorgeous and I’ll definitely be using that pattern a lot.

After fighting off all our various lurgies from last week we attended a bit of a family get together at the weekend, and celebrated our niece’s third birthday. I made her an “In Threes” cardigan in pink and purple cotton, and her Mum seemed to like it. Always a good sign. Pink isn’t really my colour, however I have made a few of these cardigans in pink so far.

Today’s Toddler Fun was home made playdough (I use this recipe:

playdough

We had Lots of Fun making squishy shapes and squishing the colours together, cutting them out with cookie cutters and generally mashing squishy stuff around. I didn’t manage to take a Happy Toddler picture, unfortunately, so that just has to be imagined. There was one, though, before we had to tidy up and stop squishing and mashing and cutting.

I spotted a link to this on Ravelry yesterday and was captivated by the whole idea. I’ve known about yarn bombing for a while, however this is just so different that it piqued my interest. I can’t believe that someone/some people took the time to create such an intricate work of art for the public. However did nobody notice them stitching that on, though? Must have taken more than a couple of minutes.