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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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.