A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Author Archives: The Crafty Crusader

I have to move house again at the beginning of July and I am finally confronting the fact that I own way too much stuff. I am trying to de-clutter in the most brutal way possible. I am tired of having to move this stuff around with me. I have been trying to follow some broad green principles that I’ve picked up from various Instagrammers during this declutter. I know that the whole ‘sparking joy’ thing has become a bit of a meme, but honestly I think it’s a good baseline for deciding whether something is worthy of space in ones life.

I am dividing the things I no longer need into what can be given away to people I know, sold, given to charity or discarded altogether. This requires me to balance different priorities. I have some things that I have been hanging on to because I don’t want to waste them. For example, I have a bag of old t-shirts that I might one day turn into jersey yarn. I am aware that sending old clothing to charity shops isn’t necessary the green solution we would like it to be; apparently some companies still send a lot of items to landfill, while on a broader level second-hand clothing has damaged the textiles industries in some developing nations. On the other hand, I don’t really want to take a bag of t-shirts (which I have already elected to discard) to my new house.

When selling items, I have to balance whether it will be worth the time and effort required. Selling is better from an environmental perspective because you know that the item is going where it is needed or wanted. However, photographing, listing (and often re-listing) and posting items is very time-consuming. In a lot of cases, I have donated saleable items because I am happy for the charity to take on the burden of selling them.

Some of the declutter has been great fun. I decided to donate (pretty much) all of the books that I have read. I posted some stories on Instagram and asked if anyone would like to take the books off my hands. I had a great response and it feels great to be sharing my books with friends. The rest were donated. I buy the vast majority of my books second-hand so I’m glad to be adding titles that aren’t old Dan Brown novels and copies of Fifty Shades of Grey to the shelves of charity shops in the local area.

One of the more brutal decisions I made (that I’m proud of) was to get rid of my old guide books. I have hung on to many of them for years as souvenirs of my travels, but it’s time to let them go now. I am old-fashioned enough to still like physical guidebooks, but it seems unnecessary to hang on to them as they become increasingly out-of-date.

So far I’ve got rid of a couple of big boxes and several bags of items. I plan to list the items above for sale soon. I also need to decide how and where to sell some larger items, including the stand mixer I won several years ago and my saxophone.

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Decided to make a little post about this toy clanger, that I never finished knitting, in case it helps anyone else considering using this pattern. Overall I think the pattern is good and would produce a lovely finished item. Here is the Ravelry project page if you would like more information about the pattern etc.

I got quite a way into making this toy a good few years ago. I think I originally started it because my boyfriend at the time liked the Clangers. We split up about ten years ago now so I’m not sure that’s right. But I do know that I’ve been carrying this WiP around for a long time.

I think I got stuck on the pattern because I was a relatively inexperienced knitter at the time. I always thought I would finish it one day, hence bringing it with me on several house moves.

I had a moth problem in one of my previous houses and I’m sure that I froze this project to kill the larvae. However, when I picked it up again recently, I realised that both the yarn and the knitting had quite bad damage and evidence of infestation. I initially planned to keep what yarn I could salvage before realising- if I haven’t finished a project in a decade, when am I going to get to it? Even if I did finish it, do I actually have any need or want for the finished item?

I finally threw poor half-finished clanger the bin. I will now need to freeze the basket it was stored in as well as my mermaid Humboldt sweater, both of which were in the vicinity of the infestation.

Discarding the clanger is part of a wider attempt I’m making to de-clutter. My mother and aunt, probably the biggest female influences in my family, are enormous hoarders. While I felt that I have done my best to avoid following in their footsteps, I can’t deny that I own a lot of stuff (edit: I have denied this many times but I have now accepted the fact). Way more stuff, in fact, than it is reasonable for someone who does not own property to have. Moving the stuff between rental properties every couple years (an unfortunate but necessary part of living in London without familial wealth) is an enormous burden, both literally and metaphorically.

I have set myself a target of getting rid of half my stuff. Basically I am the Thanos of my own possessions. I’m not quite sure how I will actually quantify whether it was actually half, but I will know in myself if I have met my target. I will probably write a separate blog post about the de-clutter, but I will say that the project reflects an attempt in my life to get rid of things that no longer serve me. My relaxed hair, my burdensome possessions, and hopefully some psychological habits too. To the left, to the left.


I was just checking over my scheduled posts when I noticed that I have published 499 blog posts. I don’t know why I never get notifications about WordPress about milestones, but 500 posts seemed like kind of a big deal.

I’ve been blogging for nearly seven years now. The landscape around online presentation has changed a lot in that time. I think I started out when blogging was at its zenith, whereas now it has declined in favour of (mostly) Instagram. While I love Instagram an unhealthy amount, this blog gives me something different. I like the way that the long form lets me keep notes on my previous projects, as well as reflect on what the crafts I am focusing on tell me about the priorities in my life.

I have heard that it’s better to keep your blog to a specific area, but I’ve always wanted mine to reflect my life. I like the way that it demonstrates how my passions and pursuits have developed over the years. I used to have a heavy baking and cake decorating emphasis (indeed, I initially called my blog ‘crafty little baker’). I would never have envisaged that, half a decade later, I would have gone vegan and become so interested in sustainability.

It’s also nice to be reminded of how far I have come as a maker over the years. My knowledge and skill in knitting has increased steadily over the years and my sewing is coming along really nicely. If you’re wondering whether I’m exaggerating how much things have changed, feel free to check out the first knit and first sewn garment I posted about.

My output has declined a little over the years, which I’m happy about. In part, this is due to my increased focus on taking the time to make a few high-quality items rather than bashing things out that I may or may not be satisfied with. In fact I made a cheeky graph to show how my knitting output has changed over the years.

Projects graph 2

As I’ve said in my previous posts reflecting on the blog, it’s great to have a record of the things I have made over the years, especially since I make quite a few gifts, or upcycle previous makes into new ones. Who knows whether this blog will make it to ten years or 1,000 posts, but I will continue it until it is no longer a net positive in my life.


The most exciting thing I made from my latest OddBox was a rhubarb galette. I’ve just realised that I never got around to writing a blog post about that box, so here is a picture of the contents.

I don’t think I’ve actually cooked with rhubarb before, so I’m pleased with how my first attempt went. I adapted the pastry from the roasted vegetable galette I made and it worked really well. I’m a fan of the galette as a pastry format. So much less fussy than a pie.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup (150g) plain flour
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup ice cold water
  • Salt, a pinch
  • 3 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/4″ slices (about 4 stalks/250g)
  • 3/4 cup (125g) sugar
  • 2tbsp crystallised ginger, minced (I used this recipe to make my own)
  • Zest of one orange
  • 2tbsp plain flour
  • 4tbsp ground almonds
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

Method

Combine the flour, oil, salt and 1/4 cup water in a bowl. Stir to combine. Add up to 2tbcp water if the dough it too dry to come together.

Form into a ball, using a little flour of needed. Refrigerate for around 40 minutes. You can cover the bowl with a tea towel but it’s not necessary.

Preheat oven to 180C/375F.

Meanwhile, combine the chopped rhubarb, sugar, ginger, orange zest, vanilla and flour in a bowl and leave to macerate for around 15 minutes. No additional liquid is required.

Roll the pastry out on a floured surface, fairly thin and in a roughly circular shape. Gently transfer to your baking tray (roll it onto the rolling pin if that helps).

Leaving a 2″/5cm border, sprinkle around 4tbsp ground almonds over the centre of the pastry. This will help to soak up the rhubarb juice and prevent a soggy bottom.

Add the macerated rhubarb on top of the almonds. If the rhubarb has released excess liquid, use a slotted spoon to remove it from the bowl.

Fold over the edges of the pastry to form your galette. The pastry is quite robust and can tolerate being handled.

Add a sprinkle of Demerara sugar on top for an extra crunch if that’s your bag.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30-30 minutes. The crust should be golden and the filling bubbly.

Leave to cool on a rack for at least half an hour before serving.

The galette was delicious both hot (served with ice cream) and on its own cold over the next couple of days.


This sweater has been in my WiP basket for several months now. Shortly after my last blog post (and taking this photo), I ran out of turquoise yarn.

I was also a bit uncertain about how to do the ombre on the sleeves. All in all, I was not feeling so inspired by this project, but fortunately that gave me the impetus to finish my She Loves Wool sweater that had been similarly languishing.

Looking at this photo with fresh eyes, I felt that it probably was time to start changing colours soon. I think it will make sense visually to have the colour change over my elbow.

Another complicating factor was the yarn. I had hoped that I had salvaged enough from my Bay sweater for this whole project but, alas, that was not the case. Even worse, I wasn’t sure which colourways of Kidsilk Haze I was working with.

I’m sure Stitch’n’Bitch, my bible in my early years as a knitter, recommends that you never throw ball bands away and thus avoid these problems. I know I followed that advice for quite some time, but old ball bands are a super annoying thing to have lying around the house. I’ve discarded them all in various house moves.

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What would make sense in the modern world would be to record this information on Ravelry. Now-me generally does that (I would like to be more fastidious about including all info, including dye lots), but unfortunately the Monique of 2013 did not. I have the colour recorded as ‘blue-green.’ I was fairly sure that the colour was ‘peacock’ but when I checked the Rowan website, there are two other shades that fit the bill. I had hoped to buy the extra yarn on eBay, but in the end I made the pilgrimage to John Lewis, praying that they had the right colours in stock. I took my swatch with me to compare.

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Not an exact match, but perhaps it is unreasonable to expect the colours to be a super close match when you buy extra yarn over six years later.

I wasn’t sure whether I would have enough of the lighter colour either, but I decided not to buy more at this stage. What I will do to try and circumvent that problem is make the section with the sequins longer than originally planned. I also wanted to use up the Kidsilk Haze Glamour.

I spent quite a bit of time knitting over the May bank holiday weekend. I was coming off an incredibly stressful week, and I needed the time to myself.

I finished the second sleeve and realised it made more sense to use up all of the turquoise yarn in the sleeves. Hopefully this will mean I have enough of the pale blue to finish the yoke without having to purchase any additional yarn.

I tried my best to make the sleeves match by weighing the yarn as I went along. Unfortunately I only have digital food scales that measure to the closest gram. Not especially helpful with mohair, which is incredibly light. Hopefully a local drug dealer will donate a more precise scale to one of the charity shops I frequent.

I have now ripped the first sleeve back to the turquoise area to insert the remaining yarn. The sleeves are lovely and quick to work so should be on to the yoke soon.

Before unravelling the first sleeve

I really really hope I am going to come out with a sweater that I am happy with. I have put a lot of work into recycling two old garments into this piece so I will be quite heartbroken if I don’t like the way it turns out. That being said, I am having a cropped sweater moment so it should slide seamlessly into my wardrobe as long as all goes to plan.

Previous posts in this series

Planning

Ripping out a cardigan

Frogging a sweater

WiP Weds 1

Ravelry project page


I was going to include some about the change to my make-up habits in my previous post about cosmetics, but it was starting to get a bit long.

The biggest change there has been is that I am simply using less. It makes me a bit sad to think that when my skin was near-perfect in my late teens, I covered it up with loads of products. This is probably part of the reason I feel so sad and outraged when I see young women plastered in foundation. As I’ve grown older, I have become more able to accept the fact that my skin has some flaws. Most days, I don’t wear anything on my face except moisturiser. If I’m feeling fancy, I still have a bottle of Mac Face and Body that will probably last me for years to come.

I also accidentally stopped wearing blush. For a long time, I used Posie Tint. I wasn’t able to restock it the last time I ran out (I generally buy make-up at the airport) and I have now reached the point where I’ve not been wearing it for so long that I don’t think I need it.

I am quite reliant on eye make-up. I’ve been wearing liquid eyeliner on a daily basis for at least a decade. Someone (normally my friend Paula, who I don’t think realises what a faux pas this is) comments that I look tired every time I appear in public without it. And I agree. I don’t like to have my picture taken if my eyes are bare. Maybe this is something that will change over time, but the eyeliner certainly creates a dramatic change in appearance compared to the subtle blurring of a tinted moisturiser.

One thing I’ve never understood was makeup brands constantly changing their formulae. I used a No.7 product for ages until they changed it. I switched to Illamasqua and the same thing happened. Since then, I have been on a carousel of trying new brands, never finding a product that I really loved.

The last time I was at the airport, unable to find a suitable product, one of the employees suggested that I try one from Boots. Pfft, I scoffed internally. I have become way too fancy to use a drugstore brand. I bought a long-wear brand from Mac that looks great but needs professional make-up remover to get off. It is like glue. I am not willing to invest in a special make-up remover to keep fuelling my habit.

A few weeks on, and a few eyelashes down, I re-thought. Since when did I become a slave to the idea that more expensive brands are inherently better? Why am I determined to buy from a premium brand when I have been disappointed time after time for several years? I popped into a Boots store to see if any of the brands (I had long since forgotten the recommendation of the nice lady at the airport) appealed. While I was looking for a tester that didn’t look replete with conjunctivitis, I spotted a gel eyeliner kit.

It was a lightbulb moment. Gel eyeliner comes in a small glass tub. You use a proper make-up brush rather than the disposable one inside the plastic tube of a liquid liner. I’d tried a gel a few years ago in my search for a consistent brand. I rejected it at the time because I was still in love with the look of liquid. Now, the idea of a less defined wing doesn’t bother me so much. The next time I passed the Mac store (I know I realised earlier that I didn’t need to be a sucker and stick to a more expensive brand, but throw a girl a bone), I made the switch.

I realise that this has been a ridiculously long-winded way of saying that I changed eyeliners, but I guess my point is that change happens incrementally at times. In an ideal world, I would just be happy with the way I look bare-faced and stop wearing make-up altogether. I still feel the need to balance my personal comfort with my desire to have less of an impact on the planet.


I didn’t post about my twelfth OddBox because I didn’t make anything that interesting. Here is what I received in my most recent instalment.

My flatmate brought me some curry mix back from Singapore. I used some onions, the squash and potatoes in a vegan curry. It was really tasty!

I added a block of Tofoo brand extra-firm tofu to increase the protein content. The curry paste is pretty spicy so it’s nice to have something bland in there too.

I used the beetroot, an apple and the remaining onions in this vegan galette.

I found the recipe on Pinterest. I have to say the galette is amazing. The vegetables all have the right texture (this was on me, I roasted them for different amounts of time until I was happy) and their natural taste is enhanced by the dressing. The pastry is lovely and crisp. I used chunky sea salt that adds an extra crunch too. I was worried that it would be horribly dry. Like the vegan patties I made, the galette is on the dry side but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment.

You can easily adjust the recipe according to what you have. I used quite a bit more veg than stated in the recipe (due to what I had on hand). I just rolled the pastry extra-thin and piled the veg high. It worked well.

I made soup with the cabbage.