Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Any Excuse to Bake

I feel for the poor soul recovering from a major operation with twenty-two banana and chocolate cupcakes sitting in his kitchen.  One thing is for sure, he'll have a lot more working out to do when he's better.  Maybe I should swing by again tomorrow and see if he needs any help polishing them off...

Banana cupcakes with chocolate frosting, recipe courtesy of The Hummingbird Bakery.

Monday, 30 May 2011

this evening...

...I have sock fever

...while I listen to this classic Country playlist

A Quilt for V

Instead of setting myself a resolution at the beginning of this year that would focus on some negative aspect of my personality that I wanted to rectify, I decided to set myself positive goals.  Challenges to focus my creativity, new skills to better equip my life.  Top of the list: Quilting.  During a very boring week of being ill at home in January I got restless and decided to get stuck right in to my first quilt without having done any research or reading, so needless to say, it didn't quite turn out as I'd hoped.  (But I still love it in spite of it's imperfections)

So for my next, and first proper quilt, I prepared the process a little better.  Made for my 2-and-a-half-year-old son, I wanted the design to be very simple, colourful and happy.  Made with fabrics we picked together, 100% cotton batting and big enough to fit on a single bed (110 x 165cm).  I had started out contour quilting by hand, sewing little running stitches 15mm away from every seam... Not only did this get tedious but also really hurt my fingers!  So I resorted to quilting by machine.  (Next time I definitely want to quilt by hand, but I will space the lines further apart!)  Although I did get a little emotional as I sewed the binding, not quite believing it was really finished, I couldn't be more thrilled with the result.  Perfectly embodying that childlike enthusiasm I get as I embark on a new project, and beautifully flawed in its sometimes uneven construction as I learn a new skill, to me this quilt represents all the love, mistakes and learning curves, and the unpretentious wholeheartedness of childhood.  What better gift for my little boy? 

embroidered quote from my romantic boy
the finished quilt top
feeling very tense as I watched it go round in the machine for the first time...
...and feeling very moved as I watched my son sleep in his new quilt 

Friday, 27 May 2011

Mini Upside-Down Peach Cake

When you love baking, but don't have an army of kids and dogs to feed, things can get a little dangerous... Of course, my one son would be more than happy to inhale an entire cake in an afternoon, but I do feel I have a duty as a parent to restrain his appetite for sugar.  So I end up doing what any loving, responsible mother would do: I cut him a slice, then eat the rest myself.  Like I said, this can get very dangerous.

So this morning at breakfast while I was flicking through my favourite cake book, Cakes To Celebrate Love and Life, which never fails to inspire me, I had an idea.  I'd make a mini-cake.  Substantial enough in its sliceable cake-ness, but small enough not to feel too guilty when you gobble it all up in the name of maternal self-sacrifice.

Mini Upside-Down Peach Cake (dairy free)

3 ripe peaches or nectarines, peeled and sliced
125g plain four
200g golden granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 egg
75ml vegetable oil
75ml rice milk

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Line a 20cm cake tin with greaseproof paper and arrange peach slices in the bottom.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarb, salt, zest).
In a separate bowl, or the measuring jug used for the oil and milk, combine all wet ingredients (lemon juice, egg, oil, milk) and mix well.
Add wet mixture slowly to dry mixture and mix on a medium speed until fully incorporated.
Pour this batter over the peach slices and bake for 45 mins, or until an inserted skewer comes out cleanish (bear in mind this is quite a moist cake).
Leave to cool in the tin for 5 mins, then turn out onto a plate (peaches slices now facing up) and leave to cool further on a cooling rack.
Be careful when removing the greaseproof paper.

PS. This recipe was self-invented and does not come from the book I mentioned.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Self-Satisfying Stitching

Other than watching my son grow/develop/learn/flourish etc, there is very, very little I find more satisfying than making stuff.  Similar to the feeling when you get the craving to buy a new dress or pair of shoes, and you take a whole day to go shopping, to treat yourself, and you ram the changing rooms with outfits to try, slowly whittling down your selection, which gets a further whittling when you get to the till, and then you practically float home with your new purchase(s) thinking about how you're going to style it/them up differently for all the various occasions... Then you get home... and I always found that the heady satisfaction I got after I had been shopping would evaporate just as fast as the shopping experience had come and gone.  But when you make something yourself from scratch that whole craving-searching-acquiring-enjoying process has to be so much more prolonged that, naturally, it is so much more pleasurable.  I could compare it to the difference between a one night stand and Tantric sex.

Shopping, like a one night stand, is over incredibly fast, and you rarely get what you really wanted.  Making a dress, on the other hand, like Tantra, focuses ones attention on the finer details, taking time over every layer: finding the perfect pattern, choosing the fabric, the little buttons, a lace trim possiblement... Delightfully drawing out the whole experience, and then slowly, carefully, it all comes together for one final climax, that only continues to go on and on after the piece is made... Every time you wear it.

Last night I wore the dress I made on Monday to the 5th birthday celebration of Estethica, London Fashion Week's answer to sustainable fashion (which I, and my label Nina Dolcetti, have been a part of since 2008).  My dress turned out beautifully, it felt so crisp and Spring-y in a mis-match of pastel shirting cottons, but lacked the perfect accessory... So while my son napped yesterday afternoon, I used up the last of the Laura Ashley curtains left over from these cushions and made a clutch bag with a celluloid tortoiseshell frame I found on eBay.  And I have to admit, as I was getting ready for the party, I felt very pleased with myself.

Monday, 23 May 2011

this evening...

...I am admiring the dress I made today

...and listening to

Sleep or Sew?

After two 5am starts in a row, I felt almost delirious this morning as I - still in pyjamas - dropped my son off at nursery.  Practically salivating at the thought of going back to sleep for the whole day, I got halfway up the stairs to my bedroom and stopped.  No, I thought, I will not spend a full day of precious me-time asleep.  And then the next thought was:  I have a party tomorrow night and I have nothing to wear...

So instead of crawling back into bed I put on a pot of coffee, turned the ipod up loud and started looking through patterns and fabrics.  Much more fun than sleeping!

I've been desperate to make this dress ever since it arrived last week (latest batch of vintage patterns from Lanetz) and, totally wired from too much caffeine and not enough sleep, I'm having such a great time making this dress!  After considering my options fabric-wise, I decided to go with the pink floral/check cotton combo to begin with.  Nice and easy to work with, and not too disastrous if it all goes wrong.  If it goes well, however, I will definitely be repeating this dress in a number of variations...

So now I've come to the boring bit - skirt gathering... And yes, I am procrastinating.  

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Jane Brocket Book Launch

I recently started reading Jane Brocket's blog Yarnstorm after accidentally finding one of her books, The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making, in London's Liberty.  I was supposed to be buying yarn for all the various headbands, hottie covers and snoods I was making as Christmas presents, but I was so captivated by the colours, the prints and satisfactory big-ness of these quilts that I soon found myself, book open in hand, wandering over to the delicious and delightful Tana Lawn fabrics...  Needless to say, I bought the book, enough fabric and batting to bequilt a small army and I am proud to say that I have almost finished my first proper quilt (although I have to admit that I am on the verge of abandoning the tediously infinite running stitch in favour of my machine... but more about that later).  

So when I read that the same woman who inspired me to take the plunge into patchwork was going to be writing a book about knitting, and launching that book in one of my favourite yarn shops, Loop, I had to swing by.

Jane was every bit as lovely and gentle as her book titles suggest, and her first knitting book does not disappoint.  No page wasting with beginners instructions and diagrams (which if I'm honest were of no use to me when I was learning the basics - thank you YouTube!) just 40 great projects; approachable and adaptable, accompanied by warm scene-setting introductions.  I will be starting with the 'string of pearls' cushion covers... just as soon as I've ticked some things off my list (currently standing at: finish quilt for V, Cavalier Capelet, redecorate doll's house, finish oilcloth placemats... and it goes on).

'string of pearls' cushion covers

The Gentle Art of Knitting is available from Amazon.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Babygirl Dress - knitting pattern

So in love with the pink babygirl dress I made last week, I had to make another (just to re-test the pattern of course!).  Using just one 100g skein of chunky yarn and size 7.5mm needles, it knits up super fast.  You can see why it was hard to stop at just one...  


  • 1oog Misti Alpaca, chunky (100% baby alpaca... so delicious)
  • 7.5mm circular needles
  • 4 stitch markers
  • 2 buttons
  • yarn needle to sew in tails

k - knit
p - purl
st st - stockinette stitch
k2tog - knit 2 stitches together
ssk - slip following 2 stitches knitwise, insert left hand needle through the front of both slipped stitches and knit.  Or see tutorial here.
YO - yarn over
rnd - round
dec - decrease
sl st - slip stitch
SM - stitch marker

Babygirl Dress 
Size newborn - width: 6.3" length (not inc straps): 7.5" approx.
Gauge: 3 sts by 5 rows = 1 inch sqaure

Cast on 61 sts.  Join to work in the round, being careful not to twist your stitches.
rnds 1 - 4: work in Moss Stitch - k1, p1 continuously.
rnds 5 - 8: knit.  
On 8th rnd, place SMs like this: k13, SM, k5, SM, k25, SM, k5, SM, k13.
rnd 9 (dec rnd): k until 2 sts remain before SM, ssk, transfer SM from left to right needle, k5, transfer SM, k2tog, k until 2 sts remain before SM, ssk, transfer SM, k5, transfer SM, k2tog, k to end of rnd.
rnd 10: knit.
rnd 11: knit.

-repeat rnds 9 - 11 4 more times, until you have 41 sts remaining-

rnds 24 - 27: knit.
rnds 27 - 38: moss st (12 rnds).
rnd 39: cast off 4 sts, k4, cast off 25, k4, cast off 4.  The 2 sets of 4 sts left on your needles are the beginnings of the straps.  Now you can either use a crochet needle to sl st over to your first strap, or if you prefer, break off the yarn and rejoin at strap.
Straps: Continue in moss st for 30 rows (at this point you can adjust the length of the straps by removing or adding rows to suit your dress).
row 31 (button hole shaping): k2tog, YO, k2.
row 32: *k1, p1* twice.
row 33: *p1, k1* twice.
Cast off.

Sew buttons on the bodice (using the picture for guidance) and sew in tails.

To embellish, use a crochet needle to pick up stitches around the button holes and crochet little flowers, or whatever motif you like.  I found inspiration for mine in 201 Crochet Motifs and 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

3 for a girl, 4 for a boy

Two friends of mine will be having babies before this year is out.  So I have been knitting some mini clothes which is making me very broody... 

...and it seems my son might be getting broody too... he told his teacher at nursery that we were going to the shop to get a baby sister.  I wish.

(Free pattern for the babygirl dress coming soon...)

Monday, 16 May 2011

this evening...

...I am working on my Monster Granny Blanket, inspired by the Great Granny Blanket from Pickles.  

...and listening to


Oh yay oh yay OH YAY!

I very nearly hugged the postman this morning as he handed me what I knew was a parcel filled with a fresh batch of vintage patterns from Lanetz Living - in a cheerier financial climate I used to visit this site a lot more... These days I just trawl through it filling up my cart as I go, knowing that some day I will treat myself to hitting that Checkout button... And a couple of weeks ago I did just that.  It did take me a good few hours though to edit the then $500 list down to a respectable twelve patterns.

So where to begin?  I think I'll be putting my Granny Square Blanket on hold while I cast on for the Cavalier Capelet (above right), from a 1956 edition of Coats & Clark's Bulky Knits.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

While You Were Sleeping

Unhappy with the monotonous state of my sofa, I decided to put my son's afternoon nap to good use and made some new cushion covers. 

Let me begin by saying a few words about cushions.  I love cushions.  And I develop deep and fond attachments for the special cushions in my life.  As a girl, I had the cushion equivalent of a security blanket.  It was just an ordinary square, foam-filled sofa cushion, with a ditsy floral cover.  His name was simply, Cushion.  Looking back I now find it a little strange that this flowery cushion seemed to be so obviously a "he" to me...  Anyway, ever since Cushion, I have loved cushions.  I take my bedtime pillow with me on holiday, I steal those nasty synthetic plane cushions if I've had a good nap on them, and naturally, I will never tire of making cushion covers.  They're the ideal little project: quick, stash-busting and make such a difference to a room.

For a while now I've had some beautiful vintage Laura Ashley curtains that used to be in my Grandmother's house, they didn't fit any of the windows in my house so I've been saving them for something else.  

And after three big cushions I still have some fabric left for a clutch purse to fit the 1950s celluloid frame I found on eBay...coming soon!

two little cushions made in homage to the original Cushion of my childhood

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Infinity Snood - knitting pattern

First post... and to tell the truth I'm feeling a little frazzled from all the font and layout configuration stuff so we begin with a little something I prepared earlier...

  • I used some chunky wool yarn I’d been given from Nepal, so I can’t specify a brand… but any chunky-superchunky weight yarn is ideal.  2 x 100g skein.
  • Size 8mm needles
  • A cable needle
  • Yarn needle for sewing in tails
  • Scissors

Cr4L: sl 3 sts onto cable needle at front, p1, k3 from cable needle.
Cr4R: sl 1 st onto cable needle at back, k3, p1 from cable needle.
Cr5L: sl 3 sts onto cable needle at front, p2, k3 from cable needle.
Cr5R: sl 2 sts onto cable needle at back, k3, p2 from cable needle.
C6F: sl 3 sts onto cable needle at front, k3, k3 from cable needle.

Cast on 34 stitches.
Row 1: p1, *k1 p1* 5 times, p1, Cr5R, Cr5L, p2, *k1 p1* 5 times.
Row 2: *p1 k1* 6 times, p3, k4, p3, *k1 p1* 6 times.
Row 3: p1, *k1 p1* 5 times, Cr4R, p4, Cr4L, p1, *k1 p1* 5 times.
Row 4: *p1 k1* 5 times, k1, p3, k6, p3, k1, *k1 p1* 5 times.
Row 5: p1, *k1 p1* 5 times, k3, p6, k3, p1, *k1 p1* 5 times.
Row 6: as Row 4.
Row 7: p1, *k1 p1* 5 times, Cr4L, p4, Cr4R, p1, *k1 p1* 5 times.
Row 8: as Row 2.
Row 9: *p1 k1* 6 times, Cr5L, Cr5R, *k1 p1* 6 times.
Row 10: *p1 k1* 7 times, p6, *k1 p1* 7 times.
Row 11: p1, *k1 p1* 6 times, p1, C6F, p2, *k1 p1* 6 times.
Row 12: as Row 10.
Repeat these 12 rows until the snood can fit loosely around your neck.  I did 9 repeats for this one, I would recommend no less, but a couple more would have made for a nice and slouchy version.  You could also make it long enough to fit doubled around your neck, for that I’d say at least 20 repeats.  It is very important that you finish at the end of a 12-row repeat and not in the middle of a cable so as to achieve a cable that appears infinite.
Cast off with a 3 needle bind-off.  Sew in tails and trim excess.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...