the very satisfying process of blocking

Thursday, April 28, 2016
So you remember that time when I stressed myself out about knitting, couldn't sleep and nearly got my knitting confiscated off me by Mr Doh? You know, this time.

Such was my antipathy towards this project, I assumed it was doomed and it would possibly end up languishing in a cupboard until I had the strength to face it or frog it. But then something bizarre happened...I picked up my needles and my pattern, frogged the section I wasn't happy with and I started again.

Determined to finish it, I cast off 400+ stitches in picot bind off over two nights
Here it is artfully draped on a tree.

I thought I would share one of my favourite finishing processes with you, Blocking. It is magic. I apologise for forgetting to take a pre-blocking photo.

Step 1: send your newly finished knitwear off for a swim in cool water

Step two: after about 20 minutes (or when you suddenly remember it) take it out of the water and gently squeeze the water out. DO NOT WRING

Step 3: place the wet knitted item on a towel

Step 4: roll it up and persuade an assistance to kneel on it to get some more water out of it.

If you don't have an assistant you can of course do this step yourself

Step 5: Prepare your blocking mats i.e put them together and then remove small children and pets from them.

LAST BIT: and then pin away. You basically pull the shawl into the shape you want and make it stay in place with a pin. I start at the top edge. I would show you how to make a straight edge but this shawl doesn't have any.

More pinning (the image below shows at least one glaring error in my knitting)

Then leave it to dry. If you lift the mats very gently you can rest it against a wall thus saving everybody from stepping on pins and bleeding all over your beautiful new shawl.

 and in other knitting news, I knit my dog a sweater. He seems unimpressed.

A fist of firsts

Thursday, April 21, 2016
homemade scones

So many new things this week. I made scones, the lemonade recipe variety. They took 3 times as long to cook than they should have, I think my oven wasn't hot enough and my dough was too wet. It was virtually gloopy. Still, we ate them!

homemade lemonade scones

I made sausage rolls for the first time. They were 'cheat' sausage rolls, only requiring puff pastry, sausages with skins removed and an egg to wash the top. This was the only photo I managed to get, and you have to thank my helper for this one. My hands were full of pork.

horses or ponies

This makes me feel more like we live in the country! Horses! Or probably ponies, I don't know the difference. I don't have an urge to ride the handsome things but the eldest does, so this was a first for him, two horse rides and he is hooked. Loved it.

horseback riding in the country

You may have heard about my dumpling obsession. I decided to have a crack at making them after my latest cookbook, Woman's Weekly Superfoods, made it look so damn easy. It is easy, but it is also very time consuming. One for when you aren't in a hurry! It was a simple spinach dumpling (or gai lan, whatever) and I decided to add water chestnuts for a bit of crunch. I was right. Those things were so good. I managed to sneak 6 into the freezer before cooking, and that will be lunch on my next home-alone work day. Heaven.

Those shop bought wrappers are the bomb! 

Lots of lovely dumplings. I decided to cook them in a simple soup with added noodles and veg to make it into a meal.

green dumplings

And here is something new, a first for me at least, omelette in the sandwich maker! Is there anything you can't cook in this? Yeah okay, you can't cook most things in here, but you can cook an omelette. I'm not a good omelette cook, and when I decided to make one for breakfast the other day, I no longer even have the pan that's good for omelettes anymore.

More spinach. Or silver beet and baby spinach. Whatever, it's a truck load of greens for breakfast, in my effort to get more veg into the people that live in this house. Drizzle of olive oil, waited for spinach to wilt.

Added feta and ham. Then 7-8 eggs, beaten with a little milk.

omlette in the sandwich maker

It helps that my sandwich maker does this thing, where you can close the lid but you can lock off the height so it doesn't touch the contents, just heats them. It was enough for 4, except littlest turned up his nose so Mr ate his share.

Chiswell sidetable restored

It's a cabinet! It's not the one we already had. Mr found this on gumtree, and it was in pretty bad shape. The top had stains, mould in the timber grain, weird stuff dripped down the front it was a mess. He has done an incredible job for his first time renovating a piece of furniture, it looks amazing! It's a Chiswell original too.

I grew cuttings! First time! I'm not great with plants, so this was pretty exciting. Took cuttings from my mother in laws plant, put them in water, they grew a mess of roots, then I stuck them in a pot with soil! And they are still going. Snipped some of the vietnamese mint for tonights dinner.

macrame plant hanger

And last but not least, diy macrame plant hanger. It was a very simple design, cobbled together from two sets of instructions, with a final twist all of my own. I used blind cord from Bunnings, which is very plasticy and shiny - not good for the tassle, not ideal but $7.50 for the cord for one very large plant hanger. The macrame cord from Spotlight was about $50 for 4 times the length, so it wasn't too bad a deal. Useful to be able to buy the small amount to be able to test whether or not I was going to be able to do it! I made a nice grey one as well, but I didn't get photos of it and it has already gone to the brother & sister inlaws. As you can see, I don't have a spot for it yet, and it was a bit tricky getting a photo of it as I forgot during the day and it had started getting dark!

There it is, a big week of simple lovely little things, all done for the first time.

Kitchen attire for my assistant

Wednesday, April 13, 2016
The other day I was putting away a piece of fabric when Miss K suddenly piped up "you could make me an apron out of that". I was a little bit surprised because, one she was right and two, I always forget to put in apron on when I cook so I was amazed that she knew the importance of not splattering your clothes with ingredients.

The piece of fabric was found whilst rummaging in the remnant bin at Ikea (I've already used the other half for another project but I'll tell you about that another time).

I've never made an apron before so I found these instructions and then instantly modified them. The instructions are for a reversible apron which I don't really want. They also said to draw the pattern on to a piece of paper, cut out the piece of paper and then draw around the template.....why wouldn't you just draw straight on to the fabric?

Here you can see my assistant attempting to steal my iPad.

Of course the thread had to be hot pink.
and then I had to stop work because my assistant got pins and needles in her feet.
Eventually it got all sewn up and had to be tested.

Here is what I think is the finished product. My assistant has plans for iron on patches.

Teaching kids to knit

Sunday, April 10, 2016
I was a bit nervous when my 8yo asked, yet again, for me to teach him how to knit. As we all know, I'm not a very good knitter myself. I wasn't sure if I should set him up with a full blown project - the reasoning being that producing something worthwhile and useful might be more inspiring somehow. Or if I should just break it down, start simple with the knit stitch, see where we go from there. So I googled. I found a cute pattern with super chunky yarn that made a great kids scarf, I could so see my eldest being pretty chuffed wearing that and telling people he'd made it himself.

When I looked into how I was going to teach my son to knit, I came across this video, and thought maybe chunky isn't the way to go straight away. Maybe it's me who wants to knit with that beautiful chunky WATG yarn?!


This article sealed the deal. It really helped me get the right frame of mind to teach my son. I would break it down and keep it simple, using what we had to hand. I had some 8ply bamboo in a pale yellow, and a pair of short bamboo knitting needles, I think they are 3.5mm.

I also cast on for him - using this technique (in case he wanted to do it himself) - so he could jump straight to the slightly easier task of just knitting. My 8yo likes to be good at things pretty much straight away. I'm not saying that this should be pandered to, resilience is a good thing, but we are talking a hobby here and I wanted us to enjoy the process as much as we could. I've noticed that he has trouble with the tail, often grabbing that instead of the main line of yarn.  I had to admit I was surprised at how well he took to it, and how keen he still was after a couple of rows. After insisting on knitting in the car something weird happened and he had to start again, but his enthusiasm wasn't dampened, which is great because if there's one thing I've learnt it's you need perseverance in knitting!

No good. Very bad week.

Friday, April 1, 2016
I really do hate to (mis)quote the title of that book, purely because some kind soul bought it for my children not realising quite how depressing it is, but I really have had a shocker.

Firstly, the motherboard on the computer died (I'm typing this on my phone!). Then both kids have been sick. Miss K seems to be on the mend but Mr F is at the doctors right now, with Mr Doh, with suspected tonsillitis. 

Anyhoo, while I wait for them to get back I thought I'd flash my latest knitting projects. 

I finished a beaded scarf, it looks weird whilst blocking 

But when worn the jagged bits help to keep the shape 

Sorry about the appalling selfie. I only see one tassel. I will try to get a better picture later but this may never happen!

Behold the Star Wars hat. It was entered in the Easter show but sadly not a ribbon winner (next year!) 

The text reads "The force is strong in this one"

And I have picked up the lace shawl again. 

I'm still not happy with it but I am learning new techniques (nupps: bobbles made by purling 7 stitches together) so I will probably finish it, block it and then decide what to do with it. 

I have also been working on one of my none knitting projects, planning two new knitting projects and thinking about how to make biscuits (cookies) that look like pieces of steak! 
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