A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

How to: Purple flames Halloween nail art

If, like me, you don’t have a lot of nail art tools (or confidence) then you can still have fun spooky nails for Halloween. These are mine, the only special equipment I used was a black striping brush, but any small paintbrush would work.

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As my base I used magnetic purple nail varnish as you get the cool stripes with very little effort.

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I then used the striping brush to colour the tips black and draw the polish down to resemble flames.

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How to: Chocolate chip cookies

Apparently I’m on a basic recipes kick at the moment- I can’t believe I haven’t made chocolate chip cookies in about two years. This recipe yields a delicious buttery cookie that’s crispy around the edges but soft in the middle. Yum.

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  • 125g butter
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 75g sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Selection of chocolate chips. I used about 150g M&Ms and I wished I had added about 100g of really dark chocolate and some nuts too.

Makes 12 large cookies. Double up for twice the fun.

Method, man
Using a wooden spoon or a mixer, cream together the butter and sugars.

Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.

Sift in the dry ingredients in two batches and mix until you have a smooth, thick batter.

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Stir through your selection of chocolates, making sure they’re distributed fairly evenly.

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Drop heaped tablespoons of dough onto a baking tray lined with parchment. You can shape into thick discs using your hands, or an ice cream scoop if you have one.

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Pop in the fridge while you preheat the oven to 180C.
After about 15-20mins, bake for 12-18 mins, until cookies are golden at the edges.

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WiP Wednesday: Opposite Pole

When I’ve had time in the evening recently, I’ve found myself drawn to knitting this project. Here’s what I hope the final garment will look like.

 
This cardigan has a really interesting construction. First you knit a central rectangle.

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The fronts and collar are made by knitting a massive circle around the central rectangle. The circle is made up of repeated rectangular sections…

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…alternated with triangular wedges.

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Each row of the circular section is joined to the central rectangle. I will knit all the way around until I get back to the row of red in the middle, which is my crocheted provisional cast-on. When I undo the red stitches, I will be able to seamlessly join the circle together.

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The light blue ovals indicate the sides where I will not join the circle to the central square, leaving space to join the sleeves.
I’m really excited to see how this cardigan turns out.

WiP Wednesday: Waterlily

Here’s my progress on the beautiful Waterlily top. I got held up with working on this for a few weeks, partly because I was a bit worried about attempting the Latvian braid, and partly because I was coming to the end of my first skein of Islington and I hate winding skeins into balls.
For anyone knitting with Islington, I would suggest not using centre-pull balls. The wool is so soft and slippery that the ball can’t really hold its shape as you work from the middle.
Anyway, I managed the Latvian braid and I’m now a few rows into the lace section.

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The blue and purple strands are life-lines. My magical new interchangeable double-pointed needles are designed to allow you to add a lifeline with no additional effort, which I think is pretty amazing. But then, I am a massive geek. Lifelines are particularly useful when knitting lace. If you make a mistake in lace, undoing rows and picking up the stitches and yarnovers is a complete knit-mare. With a lifeline, you know that you can drop down to your scrap yarn and all your precious stitches are securely held. Here’s a later progress picture. I’ve finished a full repeat of the lace pattern, so you get a better idea of what the final design will look like.

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How to: Simple white loaf

I realised last week that in my occasional bread baking pursuits this year, I have neglected to make simple white bread. Being given some rather wonderful pear and speculoos jam by Anna provided the perfect impetus to give it a go. Humorous aside: autocorrect suggestion for speculoos is ‘speculums’, which I’m not sure is even the correct plural for speculum. And certainly not as nice in a jam. Turns out I don’t know the difference between a 1lb loaf tin and a 2lb loaf tin, hence the rather thin bread. What would Mary Berry say? IMG_1442.JPG   Ingredients

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 10g (about two scant teaspoons) salt
  • 1 15g sachet instant yeast
  • 50g butter, soft
  • 290ml water

Makes 1 2lb loaf, apparently. Makes one loaf that fits in a 21x11x6cm loaf tin. Or two very thin loaves.

Method Put the flour, yeast, salt and butter into a mixing bowl. Slowly add the water, mixing with your hands as you go, until all the flour is absorbed into the dough. Transfer to a floured work surface and knead for about 5 mins, until the dough is soft and pliable. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with cling film or a damp tea towel and leave to prove for an hour.

IMG_1434.JPG At this point I froze half of my dough, which I think is when my problems began. So don’t do that. Instead, oil your loaf tin, shape the dough so it fits the tin and leave to prove, covered, for a further hour.

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IMG_1437.JPG Yes, I should have realised sooner that something odd was going on. Preheat oven to 225C. If desired, slash top of loaf and sprinkle with flour just before baking. I didn’t see the point of doing these things, so didn’t. Maybe with my next really small loaf. Anyway, bake loaf in preheated oven for 35-40mins (20 if it’s minuscule). I tap the bottom of the loaf and see if it sounds hollow to check it’s baked. Turn out to cool on a wire rack.

WiP Wednesday: Picking up and preparation

To distract myself from the misery of the last term of my course, I spent a fair bit of time buying yarn and researching knitting patterns. In a way, knowing I had the projects to come back to helped make the idea of coming back a bit easier. I think I’m overly attached to my knitting. Anyway, here’s a little overview of what I’ll be working on for the next few weeks.
Waterlily
The heading is a link to the pattern on Ravelry so you can see what the final garment should
look like. This is where I’m up to

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This is a bottom-up pattern so what you can see is the bottom hem up to the waist, or about half of the stocking stitch section.
Opposite Pole
This pattern is so beautiful. I’ve always shied away from heavy jumpers in the past, but I had to make an exception for this baby. I’m still in the planning stage. These are the gauge swatches I’ve made to try and ensure I get a good fit on the finished garment.

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Ribbed camera case
I feel that I need a pun for the name of this little case I’m designing! It was one of the projects I was working on while travelling. In fact, I cast on during an unexpected flight to Madrid. The body is nearly complete, I’m just planning how I want to knit the flap. I love these colours so much. The pink makes the camera on my phone go a bit mad.

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Secret project
I am also in the planning stages of a very exciting secret project and I can’t wait to share little hints about it in the coming weeks.

FO Friday: Mystik Spiral Socks

I’ve been a bit cagey about my activities for the past few weeks as I’m a bit reluctant to announce when I’m going away. Well, I’m back now so I can say that I was travelling for five wonderful weeks in South and Central America. It was a blowout trip to celebrate finishing my doctorate, and included lots of flying (sorry, environment!). And, for me, flying means knitting while watching films. Except for the one flight (8 hours) where my TV and light were both broken and I sat plunged in darkness, naught but the farts of the other travellers to distract me from my thoughts. Thanks, United.
In one of my regular frenzies of chronological optimism, my backpack contained two and a half balls of yarn and three sock patterns. In total I clocked up 9 flights, about 42 hours, and I finished one pair of socks.

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This pattern is called Mystik Spiral, which is apparently the name of a band in Daria. I wasn’t a cool enough teen to appreciate Daria. The diagonal stripes are created using short-row shaping so this was a really engaging knit, yet not requiring too much attention most of the time. Here I am modelling.

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Damn right I roll up my jeans to show off my hand knitted socks.
I’ll see how these socks wear- I tend to avoid stocking stitch socks as they stretch out a lot, but I made an exception for these.
Okay, one more shot of my snazzy ankles.

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