I’m so excited to have finished knitting this jumper! Overall I’m very pleased with how it turned out and I’m looking forward to many happy years of wear.
Picking up and knitting the Henley collar was such a knitmare. Although I was really careful about measuring my gauge and trying to pick up the right number of stitches, I ended up with a few too many so the collar stuck out in a weird way. Fortunately wet-blocking made it look much better.
See? I put safety pins every 2 inches to ensure I picked up an even number of stitches.
Anyway, it worked out! My fancy buttons haven’t arrived yet but I like these yellow ones so much they may stay.
Final close-up of the lace back.
I’ve had a bag of polenta in the cupboard since getting overexcited watching Gordon Ramsay, deciding that polenta was going to be my new favourite thing, and realising that I’m not that fond of polenta. While trolling for food porn one night, I happened across a couple of sexy little recipes for polenta cake. Polenta gives the cake a very different texture, quite grainy. While I liked the orangeyness of this recipe, next time I would probably substitute the polenta for ground almonds.
- 250g butter, softened
- 250g (golden) caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 140g polenta
- 200g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- zest and juice of 2 oranges (any citrus fruit will work)
- 100g (golden) caster sugar (for the glaze)
Makes a 22cm loaf or 23cm round cake.
1. Preheat oven to 160C (140 fan). Grease and line your cake tin.
2. Zest and juice your oranges. It’s a good idea to juice into a measuring jug to make it easier to reserve 100ml of juice for the glaze.
3. Cream butter and sugar until light.
4. Add eggs one at a time and mix until well incorporated.
5. Add all the dry ingredients and mix, then add the zest and juice, reserving 100ml of juice.
6. Transfer mixture to your prepared tin. Smooth the top and bake for 45mins to an hour, until cake passes the knife test.
7. While the cake is baking, combine the icing sugar with the juice you saved in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat.
8. Once your cake is done, remove from the tin to cool slightly, for perhaps 10mins. Take off any baking parchment you used.
9. Put the cake back into the tin and pour over the delicious orange glaze. It will absorb better when the cake is warm. Leave for a few minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely.
This cake freezes well, glaze and all. Wrap slices in clingfilm, then freeze in a plastic container.
Rolling Rock now has sleeves! The pattern recommends blocking before picking up the collar so here she is.
I changed towels and flipped the jumper because the pink one was too wet and the table underneath was damp, which would have added several hours of drying time before I could start that collar.
I also spent about 2 hours on eBay picking out buttons. I hope the ones I eventually chose are going to look good…
I know it’s not technically the right time of the year for skulls and morbidity but indulge me. Surely it’s not as bad as the endless hearts, cynical corporate cash-ins and worship at the altar of materialism. As Romeo and Juliet teaches us, love and death often go together.
That’s enough from me. Partly my annoyance comes from being born on V-day, which means all the shops are so full of schmaltz that you can scarcely find a birthday card among all the heart-brandishing bears. You could make one of these skull brooches for the love-bashing skeptic in your life.
- A small piece of shrink plastic. I used translucent but white or black would also work.
- A scrap of sandpaper. I use 400 grit wet and dry to prepare my plastic
- A selection of pens and pencils. I used ordinary coloured pencils, and silver and gold marker.
- Sharp scissors
- Strong glue
- Findings. I used a brooch back.
- Diamantes or rhinestones (optional). I bought a little pack of these from Amazon ages ago and they’re handy for all sorts of crafts. They’re intended for nail art.
- Acrylic sealer and/or clear nail polish. I bought some Plasti-kote matte acrylic spray. I’m not in love with it but I don’t know if any other brand would be better.
Draw a skull template
I used online reference images. Feel free to cheat and borrow mine if you like.
I did mine carefully and cut out the outline, folding in half to ensure it was symmetrical. It’s 9x6cm.
Sketch out your design
If you want to hang your skull, eg as a necklace or earrings, leave space to make a hole with a hole-punch.
Transfer design onto plastic
The advantage of using translucent shrink plastic is that you can simply trace straight over the design. I stuck the plastic to the sketch using masking tape.
I used black coloured pencil for all the outlines. Be careful to blow away dust from the pencils frequently to avoid smudges. Remember that colours will become much more saturated when you cook the plastic.
Cut out carefully and bake according to instructions
My few experiments with shrink plastic thus far have gone well and baked nicely. So I was horrified this time to open the oven and find the plastic totally curled in on itself. Fortunately I didn’t panic. I remembered reading that the plastic is malleable when hot so I gave it a few 15 second bursts in the oven, straightening it out in between and it worked!
Remove from oven and put a smooth book on top to help it stay flat
That’s a lot of shrinkage!
Carefully glue on additional embellishments
I used the dampened end of a match to pick up my rhinestones, and a pin to position small dots of glue.
Spray with several thin layers of sealer
I also used clear nail varnish on top for a shiny finish and to help prevent the rhinestones from falling off.
You could use nail polish instead of sealer if you don’t have it but MAKE SURE you test using it over any pens you put on your skull. The polish can cause some inks to spread.
Add your findings
Glue on a brooch back, or pop jump rings though any holes you punched and you’re ready to celebrate dia de los muertos, or indeed any dia, in sweet skully style.
I’ve been itching to knit a sweater for a few weeks now. I didn’t have a pattern or yarn on mind, but it had to be a jumper and it had to be altered so it would fit me beautifully. I spent a couple of weeks researching. First I found Rolling Rock, a beautiful jumper pattern from a company called Baby Cocktails. I think it’s named after a brand of beer because the beautiful pattern on the back is called bottle lace. I also like to think of the rolling rock that gathers no moss.
The search then began for a yarn that wouldn’t bobble after a few weeks of wear, and in the end I decided to try this gorgeous silk and alpaca mix hand-dyed in Scotland by Old Maiden Aunt Yarns.
Warning for non-knitters: Below the photos will be some semi-technical knitting exposition. Also WIP = Work in Progress.
I added a few mods to account for my non-traditional figure. I cast on in the size that was closest to my upper bust measurement, because I’ve read that this gives the best fit in the shoulders. I then knit different sizes in the front and back to accommodate my bust. I added four vertical darts just under the bust so the jumper would fit closely, then finished knitting in the size closest to my under-bust measurement. Yay knitting maths! One of the best things about top down patterns is that I could try on my jumper throughout the process and make adjustments.
Something else I learned about for this jumper is ease. Seasoned knitters will already know all about this, but ease basically means how closely the clothing will fit. Negative ease gives a tight garment while positive ease will give a loose-fitting or baggy product. I’ve had problems in the past because I didn’t understand this concept. I aimed for about 2 inches of positive ease with this jumper, which is a bit less than recommended in the pattern, but I know my figure and baggy clothing emphasises the fact that I am a bit top-heavy. I’m very pleased with how the waist shaping turned out too. I just started the bottom ribbing today. The sleeves will likely be a bit tiresome but I have to pick up and knit the Henley collar, which will be a bit scary but just the right level of challenge.
I can’t wait to finish this baby!
Ah, February. Month of shit weather, broken promises and a third thing, because a list should always contain three things. Why don’t you distract yourself from the ongoing misery of existence with these cupcakes?
The amaretto cupcakes smell amazing throughout the cooking process too.
- 75g amaretto biscuits
- 100g salted butter
- 75g muscovado sugar
- 2 eggs
- 75g self-raising flour
- 1/2tsp baking powder
Makes 10-12 cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan). Line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases.
- Crush your biscuits. I used the end of a rolling pin.
- Cream the crushed biscuits together with the butter and sugar.
- Add the eggs one at a time and mix until incorporated.
- Mix in the flour and baking powder.
Divide among your paper cases and bake for 15-20 mins, until cake passes the toothpick test.
Remove to cool completely on a wire rack.
Mix together the cream cheese and icing sugar.
Spread about a tablespoon on top of each cake and the decorate artfully with raspberries.