A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

FO Friday: Rock Island Shawl

I can’t believe that I actually made this stunning shawl. I have grown so much in confidence as a knitter over the past five years, I never would have imagined being able to make something like this even a couple of years ago. I’m hoping to get some beautiful modelled shots of my shawl in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime I’ll share with you some things I learned from making this piece of wearable art, which I hope will help others attempting their first piece of openwork knitted lace.

For comparison, here is how it looked before blocking.

Unfortunately I foolishly didn’t measure the size of my blocking mats before I started, so I actually need to re-block this shawl to the correct dimensions. I think that stretching the lace out will make it look even more beautiful. I also found out that I should have used blocking wires at the top edge of the shawl for a cleaner edge, so I will also do this on my second attempt. I can’t say I mind too much as it means I can do this post as well as one with some (hopefully) beautiful modelled shots of the re-blocked shawl in a couple of weeks. Silver linings!

I also think I squeezed too much water out of my shawl before I started pinning it out. It was drying out far too quickly, which means that some of the points aren’t as… pointy as intended. Threading the blocking wires takes time and the piece needs to be damp until you feel confident that it’s in the right shape.

Pattern: Rock Island by Jared Flood

Yarn: Violet Lynx Dyeworks Ariel (bought on etsy)

Ravelry project page including detailed notes.

Just a note, if you are knitting a shawl using a gradient yarn as I did, make sure the yardage of the skein is not much more than the recommended yardage of the pattern. I didn’t know this, which means that you really can’t see the gradient effect in my shawl. I don’t mind as I think it’s still beautiful, but I would have been bummed out if I had had my heart set on this being an ombre shawl.

How to: Knit a bear-y cute hat for a newborn

I am so pleased with how my first little baby hat turned out that I thought I would write up the pattern to share with anyone who wants to try their hand at knitting one. This would be an ideal project for someone new to knitting. You could learn all sorts of new skills such as knitting in the round, picking up stitches and grafting, with the added bonus of instant gratification from a quick knit. I mean, look at the little ears. Srsly.

I’m giving directions to knit this hat in the round. I used my interchangeable needles and the magic loop method. I didn’t understand magic loop for years until someone at Wool and the Gang showed me a very easy trick. I’m sure there are some good tutorials available if you haven’t got the hang of it yet.

DPNs would also be fine. Additionally, you could easily knit this hat flat and then seam it before picking up the ears. It’s pretty versatile.

You will need

  • About 25g (70yards) baby friendly double knitting (DK) yarn. I used half a ball of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino
  • 4mm DPNs or a long circular needle
  • 4.5mm DPNs or a long circular

My gauge was 20sts to 10cm. I didn’t measure the row gauge, but it doesn’t matter too much.

The how

1. Using long tail method and smaller needles, cast on 72 stitches and join to work in the round. Place marker to indicate beginning of row.

2. Knit 4 rows

3. Change to larger needles. Continue to knit around until hat measures 4-5”

4. Begin to decrease the crown. *K7 k2tog *Repeat to end of round [64sts remain]

5. Knit

6. *K6 k2tog *Repeat to end of round [56sts remain]

7. Knit

8.  *K5 k2tog *Repeat to end of round [48sts remain]

9. Knit

10. *K4 k2tog *Repeat to end of round [40sts remain]

11. *K3 k2tog *Repeat to end of round [32sts remain]

12. *K2 k2tog *Repeat to end of round [24sts remain]

13. *K1 k2tog *Repeat to end of round [16sts remain]

14. K2tog around. 8sts remain

15. Break yarn and draw tightly through remaining 8 loops with a darning needle. Weave in ends.

For ears

1. Starting at the apex of the crown, count 6 stitches down and then pick up and knit 10 stitches in one of the ladders running down towards the cast on edge.

2. If using magic loop, pull needle through. If using DPNs, use another needle. PU&K 10 stitches in the ladder parallel to your picked up stitches, one row over. *

Note: I am using a second needle for illustration purposes only

3. Join to work in the round.

4. K4 rounds. Note: You may wish to place a marker in between the two sets of ten stitches if you think you will get lost.

5. K1, SSK, K4, K2tog, K1 over each set of 10sts

6. K1, SSK, K2, K2tog, K1 over each set of 8sts

7. K1, SSK, K2tog, K1 over each set of 6sts

8.  If desired, lightly stuff ears at this point. I didn’t bother as I think they look cute flat.

9. Graft remaining 8 stitches using kitchener stitch. Use ends of yarn to neaten up the appearance of the ears. 

If knitting on straight needles, knit each half of the ear (i.e. each set of 10sts) separately, then sew together at the end.

Repeat for second ear on other side of hat. Weave in ends. If desired, use duplicate stitch to sew a face onto your bear with black yarn. You can also add some pink inside the ear. I planned to, but then I thought the hat looked so cute without any embellishment that I left it as is.

How to: Rolled sugar cookies for spring

If you’re looking for a quick and simple yet cute recipe for your Easter baking, these rolled and iced sugar cookies could be just the ticket. I think that plain, nutty or chocolate cookies would be delicious, but I went with gingerbread cookies because I had some dough in the freezer and I was short on time.

The quantities given below will make 3 medium (20 2″ cookies), 2 large (40 cookies) or 1 mahoosive batch of cookies.


  • 5 cups plain flour
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda (omit if using the cookies for construction, e.g. gingerbread house)
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1 orange, zest only (optional)
  • 1 cup (250g) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup golden syrup
  • 1/2 cup dark treacle (syrup and treacle can be substituted for 1 cup molasses)
  • Writing icing, melted chocolate or royal icing to decorate (optional)


1. In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add egg, syrup and treacle (or molasses) and mix until evenly blended.

3. Add orange zest. Sift in the dry ingredients in several bathes, mixing until all ingredients are well blended.

4. Divide dough into three portions. If you want to freeze some, do so at this stage, wrapping in a double layer of cling film, or a single layer of wrapping inside a freezer safe container.

5. Roll out one portion of dough between two layers of baking parchment until 1/4in (5mm) thick, using cookie slats if you have them. Leave to chill in the fridge.

6. Preheat oven to 180C (350F)

7. Cut shapes out of chilled dough. Leave about 1cm between each cookie to account for any rising in the oven. Top tip: a gingerbread man upside-down makes an acceptable substitute for a bunny rabbit

8. Bake for 12-16 minutes, until firm and just beginning to darken at the edges. Keep a close eye after 12 minutes as these cookies can burn very quickly.

9. Remove from oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

10. If desired, decorate your cookies. I think that a simple outline looks pretty cute and only takes about a minute per cookie.

WiP Wednesday: Rainbow fingerless gloves

Last week I found myself knitting another unexpected item, a very simple pair of fingerless gloves (mitts if you’re American) from a free pattern on Ravelry. Normally I try not to knit things especially for the HPKCHC but I was inspired by an  empassioned  post making it clear that a Lion victory at Quidditch could help us win the Cup and I found myself whispering “Gryffindor needs me!”  (Yup, that actually happened). Anyway, I decided that if I had to make something a bit boring, I would experiment with colour.


I have vague plans to make a rainbow striped jumper some time in the future. 

How to: Super simple chocolate cake

I’ve had an awful lot of baking to do recently and so I’ve been focusing on recipes that are very quick and simple, such as this rich, light cake smothered with chocolate ganache. The cake is really quick to put together. It was out of the oven and cooling within an hour of my arriving at home after work. Please excuse how it looks, I foolishly rushed my ganache and it split, though it still tastes great. 


Makes one 8″ square cake

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 6oz/ 2/3cup Greek yoghurt or sour cream- full fat
  • 1/4cup light olive, coconut or nut oil
  • 1 1/2tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1/2cup filter coffee, cooled, or water
  • 1/2cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup plain flour 
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp baking powder

For the ganache

  • 9oz/250g plain chocolate
  • 3/4cup/170ml double cream
  • 1tsp vanilla extract or other flavouring of your choice


  1. Preheat oven to 350° F/180C
  2. Put your coffee on to brew if it’s not already made 
  3. Grease and/or line an 8×8 or 9×9 inch square baking pan
  4. In a large bowl combine egg, sugar, yogurt, oil, vanilla, and mix until smooth and combined. 
  5. Add coffee, cocoa powder and stir vigorously until batter is smooth and free from lumps.
  6. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and mix vigorously until batter has just combined, about 1 minute. The coffee can be any temperature other than very hot so you don’t scramble the egg. I put a couple of ice cubes into the measuring cup and the poured the hot coffee over. 
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 20-25mins, until the top is set and the cake passes the toothpick test. 
  8. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack. The cake must be completely cool before topping with ganache. 
  9. For the ganache, finely chop the chocolate and put into a heatproof bowl 
  10. Put the cream into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour over the chopped chocolate. Leave for 30s, then stir until smooth. 
  11. Pour the ganache over the cold cake and leave to set before cutting. 

WiP Wednesday: Baby bear hat

I fancied a quick knitting project last week as a break from the intense concentration of my Rock Island Shawl. I had half a ball of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino left over from the baby blanket I made, so I decided to put it to good use. I was pretty anxious that I wouldn’t have enough yarn, but I think it’ll be okay.

I’ve been freestlyling/winging this little hat, which I think the recipient would approve of. I might even write up the pattern. I think the star decrease on the crown looks pretty good.

I think I’m going to add some little ears to the top. What do you think, panda or polar bear?

How to: Lemon, pistachio and polenta cake

I was trawling the web for a simple but crowd-pleasing cake recipe when I spotted this lemon lovely. I was doubly pleased when I realised it had the added bonus of allowing me to use up the polenta and ground almonds kicking around in my cupboard. It turned out really nicely- a colleague thought I had bought it somewhere pricey like Ottolenghi. This colleague clearly has a discerning palette as the original recipe is indeed adapted from Ottolenghi. The cake is pleasingly sharp, dense and buttery. The polenta adds some extra bite.


Makes one 20cm loaf cake

  • 150g butter
  • 105g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly
  • 1 lemon (zest and 6tsp juice)
  • 90g instant polenta*
  •  180g ground pistachios**
  • 40g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt (1/2 if you use unsalted butter)

*If you don’t have enough polenta in your cupboard, you can make up the weight with more plain flour

**These are not widely available, so you can either substitute ground almonds or grind pistachios yourself (I used a spice grinder as my hand mixer is broken)

For the glaze

  • 3tbsp sugar
  • Juice of one lemon

For the lemon icing

  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 50-80g pistachios, roughly chopped


1. Pre-heat oven to 170C. Grease a 20cm loaf tin.

2. Cream the butter and sugar until combined, around 1-2 mins

3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing to incorporate

4. Add the lemon zest and juice, polenta and pistachios

5. Sift remaining dry ingredients into the batter and stir until just combined

6. Transfer batter to prepared loaf tin and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a knife comes out clean.

7. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

8. Prepare the glaze/drizzle. In a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice and sugar and heat until the sugar has dissolved.

9. Pour the hot glaze over the still-warm cake, then leave to cool (still in the tin so the glaze doesn’t leak everywhere) completely.

10. Prepare the icing. Mix together the icing sugar and lemon juice. The icing should be pretty thick, but feel free to add a few drops of water if you feel it is too stiff.

11. Turn the cake out of the tin. The bottom side is likely to be the most presentable so leave it inverted.

12. Pour the icing over the top of the cake. Help it down the sides, particularly over any areas you want covered. Sprinkle the pistachios on top.



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