A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

WiP Wednesday: Rainbow shawl

After Rock Island, I craved some very straightforward knitting that I can work on while watching Netflix. And then, serendipitously, the gorgeous yarn that I ordered from the Lemonade Shop on etsy arrived. Just look at it.

It’s called Bad Day sock. They also do a version in white that I originally intended to get, but this was what they had in stock and I’m in love. Plus, the dark yarn is much more practical for someone as clumsy as me.

I didn’t want to waste this gorgeous yarn on socks, but instead make something that I can wear and show off a lot. I settled on a triangular shawl that can be worn as a scarf. I’ve taken elements of a couple of different patterns to make up the design. I want my scarf to be made just in stocking stitch to show off the beauty of this hand dyed yarn. You can check out my Ravelry project page if you want more details.

Here’s how the project is progressing so far.

How to: Maple and pecan sunny side upcakes 

I’ve had my eye on the recipe for these delicious pecan and cinnamon cupcakes for a while. Unfortunately I didn’t read the recipe through before embarking as it is more time-consuming than most cupcake recipes, but the result is a very light and fluffy cupcake that is delicately spiced with an occasional pleasing crunch of pecan. Right up my alley. I made them with buttercream frosting but I think they would be even nicer with cream cheese frosting- a little tang rather than just additional sweetness. I thought I would spend a little bit of time on the decoration for once.

With the quantities given below, I got 24 mini cupcakes and six full sized ones. So I reckon 18 full sized cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 50g (1/2 cup) pecans
  • 190g (3/4 cup) butter, at room temperature
  • 215g (1 1/4 cups) caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs- these will be separated
  • 175g (1 1/4 cups) plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4tsp salt (1/2 tsp if you use unsalted butter)
  • 1/2tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4tsp ground cinnamon
  • 120ml (1/2 cup) whole milk
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 60g (1/4 cup) butter, at room temperature
  • 400g (2 1/2 cups) icing sugar
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • 120ml (1/2 cup) double cream
  • 4tbsp maple syrup
  • Yellow food colouring

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line an 18 hole muffin pan with paper cases

2. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 6mins, until they are just beginning to brown at the edges. Allow to cool, then crush in a pestle and mortar.

3. In a large bowl or electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (7-10mins).

4. Add the yolks one at a time, mixing until incorporated.

5. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a mixing bowl, or the bowl of your scale. In a separate jug, combine milk and vanilla.

6. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed sugar and butter in three parts, alternating with the milk mixture. With each addition, scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure an even batter. Remember to begin and end with the dry ingredients.

7. Stir in the crushed pecans.

8. In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff.

9. Gently fold the egg white into the batter, in three parts.

10. Divide the batter between the paper cases, filling them three quarters.

11. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15mins, until just browning and passing the toothpick test.

12. Allow to cool in the pan for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting.

1. In a medium bowl, beat the butter until soft.

2. Add sugar, vanilla, cream and maple syrup. Beat until smooth and creamy.

3. Put about a quarter of the frosting into a small separate bowl. Add food colouring until you get a really vivid yolk colour.

4. Once the cupcakes are totally cold, spread evenly with the white frosting using a palette knife or offset spatula. Drop about a teaspoon of the yellow frosting on top, a little to one side, for the yolk.

  

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.

Ingredients

  • 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)

Method

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. 



Ingredients

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

Method

  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. 


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