Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Have a Cakey 2014

So it occurred to me that I haven't done a review of the past year. I did do my bucket list for next year so I should get some points for that. The truth is I'm not going to review the past year. My blogging prior to the last six months was sporadic. Plus, I really need more time than I have given myself to go through the last year and prepare a post about it. As the saying goes, 'ain't nobody got time for that' (did I get that right)? If you have your heart set on a crafting review of the past year head over to Attic24. Hers is fab with lots of yummy crochet pics. It's better than what I would have done. Go ahead, go look at the pretty

Meanwhile, here are some cakey pics from me. These were all baked in the last few weeks. I should point out that not all of these were by me. Some were also by my mum who is a talented baker.

This month was the first month I got to use my new toy. A toy I was embarrassingly excited about when I picked it up months ago. My family (or rather my sister) are lemon made when it comes to baked goods. I have added lemon to so many things and was getting sick of using the grater. So I bought myself a lemon zester. Sadly, I built this device up too much in my head. It wasn't as fun as I thought it would be. It was almost as annoying as the grater. There should be a magic machine that zests your lemons just by touching a button. That's technology I would pay for.

Anyway, here is why I was using the lemon zester a week before Christmas. It was my sister's birthday. Yep, not only is my mum a Christmas baby but my sister is the week before. My family are not very considerate when it comes to the time of year they have birthdays (I joke). Last year was stressful for my sister as she had to move with just a months notice. This year I wanted to make it fun and one of the things I offered to do was make her cake. She asked for a lemon cake and this is what she got. Please remember that I am not a decorator by nature. However, it tasted good which is the main thing. Sister did not like the candles (no pleasing some people).

These tasty treats are my mum's mincemeat pies. She has been making them for the entire month of December. The pastry just melts in your mouth. They never survived more than a day.

I volunteered to make dessert this Christmas and my mum requested lemon cheesecake. It turned out quite well and even my gran liked it. Was stressful though as I was convinced that it wouldn't turn out. Wasn't convinced until it had been devoured.

This, for non Scottish people, is a clootie dumpling. My mum traditionally makes one every year. She always plans to make it for the New Year but sometimes it's February before she gets round to it. She didn't make her Christmas cake for the first year since I can remember but we would all be up in arms if she didn't make this. You have no idea what you are missing if you have never tried it.

Lastly I have also baked my peanut butter cookies for the New Year. My sister and I have a tradition of staying in, wearing jammies, eating food and watching DVDs for the bells. It's not exciting but it's what we like. My sister always cooks so it's only fair that I contribute.

So that's me, a review of baking in December. I hope that you all have a lovely New Year however you are spending it and a caketastic 2014 (unless you don't like cake - trying not to judge).

Sunday, 29 December 2013

2014 Bucket List!

So this is my crafting bucket list for next year. That's not to say that any of these will get done. It's my last year in uni and it's going to be a tough one. Really this is just what I would like to do in an ideal world. If I manage one or two I will be very happy. I should point out at this point that none of these images are mind. If you click on them though it will take you to the source of the image.

Sock Drawer

Look how beautiful this is! All hand knitted socks. I want my sock drawer to be like this. For that I would have to knit socks almost exclusively for myself for at least a year. I have tried that before and it didn't happen. Plus look at all those colour work socks. I think those are my favourites. Last year I think I made myself one pair of socks.  Not to worry though, I currently have two pairs on the go that are for myself. Not to mention the beautiful sock yarn I mentioned the other day. So this year I will get three pairs. I hope to make myself at least one pair done in colour work. Fingers crossed!

Colour Work Socks

No offence to the person who knitted these but this isn't the best image in the world. However, you get the idea. I want to try my hand at more colour work. The truth is that my friend Isabel has been more adventurous in her sock knitting since I taught her a few months ago. You should see the beautiful patterns she is knitting up. Taking a leaf out her book I am going to do some colour work. These Nordic socks come from the same book that contains the easy lace sock pattern. I don't know if they will be my first attempt at colour work but I think these will be my families Christmas socks. I can't wait to try them in different colour combinations.

Adventurous Crochet

How beautiful is this blanket? Sadly I very rarely move away from the granny square. I have admired many a blanket on instagram and this has been one of them. The link on the photo will take you to the ravelry page and the pattern if you are interested. Like with the socks, I don't know if I will be trying this very pattern but I do want to try something other than the granny type pattern (as much as I love it).

Mandala Rug - t-shirt yarn

Next year I am also hoping to have my own place. Since I won't get my registration until I finish in September I know this might be a pipe dream and the reality is that it might be 2015. That doesn't stop me preparing. I already have colour schemes worked out and various projects I want to do in preparation. One of which is this Mandala Rug. It would also be a step away from the granny since this is also done in crochet. It also involves using Zpaggetti which is a brand of yarn made from t-shirts. The colours will be pale blue with round or two of red. Mainly pale blue though. This is at the top of my list and will definitely get done.

Granny Blanket

Mug Rugs

I love quilts and admire my talented friends who can make them. I have always wanted to do this myself. Sadly quilting eats up both money and time. Two things I don't have a lot of. So it will have to stay on my 'one day' list. Mug Rugs have come to my attention thanks to pinterest. Mug rugs are mini quilts which are just big enough for a coffee mug and a wee tea plate. These actually inspired me to create this bucket list in the first place. I don't think I could do anything as complex as this fox one on my first attempt. However, a friend has volunteered to show me how to make one. I even have an idea of a design of my own should my first attempt prove successful.


I also have some Christmas items on my bucket list. Not going to add photo's as I think I am probably being adventurous here. I do want to make a gingerbread house. I have always wanted to make one of those and I found a recipe by Mary Berry that will come in handy next year. The fun bit will be decorating it as I am not the best when it comes to cake decorating.

More Christmas baking, I actually want to make my own Christmas chocolates and maybe give them out as gifts. I have a few recipes for those too. I was supposed to play about with flavours to make Christmas Macarons. That didn't happen due to course work. However, I would like to do that next year. I would also like to have a go at making my own mulled wine and festive cider. I may be optimistic on how much time I expect to have in my first year as an RN.

My Christmas tags went down a treat this year. Even my dad asked my mum to make sure his was saved. If you knew my dad you would know how unlike him that is. Other than the socks I make for him he sees crafts as a waste of time. So next year I want to make more. As I tidied for Christmas I found one of last years Cross Stitcher with some tag designs. I still love the little blue houses though so I see them making a return. Perhaps I will make them in different colours. Christmas cards for family is also on there. I learned this year that the trick is to go small and simple. We will see if it happens next year.


I also have a huge pile of unfinished crafts to finish that I would like done. For example, I have two charity projects. I started a scarf and a baby blanket for my friends charity which has remained untouched since the initial cast on. I have a large snuggly blanket to finish that has been sitting in my wardrobe for about 3 or 4 years now. It's a quick knit too so really there is no excuse for it. Not to mention a birthday present that is already months late.

I have my sister's Easter project already started (for those of you who might not know we make each other presents every Easter). This year I am making something from a project my sister and I are doing together. I can't say too much about it as my sister occasionally reads my blog (not that I object to that, just don't want to spoil the surprise). Of course she will also get socks too. She would be disappointed/irate if she didn't get those.

I think I could add to this list all day. I have a few craft books that I have picked up over the last year or so. I don't buy as many as I used to so I take care when I do buy them. I would quite like to do something from each of them. This list is huge enough though. And, like I said earlier, I will be lucky if I do half of these things.

Do any of you have a bucket list? Would be interested to hear what projects you are looking forward to next year.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Story From Gran!

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. Mine was nice and relaxing. Ate too much, was spoilt rotten and drank lots of wine. Can't really ask for more than that. Everyone loved their craft gifts. It actually led to my gran telling a funny story about her first knitting project. Although her mum was a knitter and knitted socks she learned to knit socks in primary school. When she was roughly 11. She was given this horrible yellow yarn to knit with. This seems to be the norm when schools had knitting on their curriculum. Many of the knitting group ladies talk of the horrible yellow yarn they had to knit with at school.

However, my gran was knitting socks with the yellow yarn. I don't think the colour bothered her so much but she found knitting sock boring. After the first one and starting the second she decided she couldn't be bothered and put it aside. Years later when she was married and had children she visited her mum. Her mum said that someone had come by and left a parcel for her. My gran opened it up and it was those unfinished yellow socks from all those years ago. Her old primary school was being demolished and the emptied it before they did this. Someone found her knitting which must have had her name and address on it. Lucky my great gran was living in the same house. She still didn't finish those socks.

As I had no gifts to knit I decided to knit something else for my sister over Christmas. She had admired the socks I had knitted for my gran and had mentioned that it would be a great pattern for fingerless gloves. She also mentioned that the last pair I made for her were now getting old. I took the hint and decided to adapt the easy lace pattern. It didn't take much adapting. All I did was follow the rounds of the pattern, added in some thumb holes, a few more repeats of the pattern and then cast off. They actually look really cosy and my sister is delighted with them.

I also got some crafty goodness for my Christmas thanks to my mum. The rainbow yarn I had bought from the lovely Lisa for my mum's birthday (she is a Christmas baby). My mum's eyes lit up as soon as she saw it. Then I opened the blue yarn from my mum. Poor Lisa had to be sneaky in handing one over to me and another over to my mum on the same night. I think in a past life she was some sort of ninja. Blues are my favourite colours and I can't wait to knit with it. Plus this will be socks for ME. There was also a cath kidston pin cushion and scissors in there but I didn't take a photo of those. Like I said I was spoilt rotten.

Hope Santa was good to you all too!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Right at this minute I am sitting in the kitchen. Normally this is where I study but the books are away. I have decided no more work until the 27th. Meanwhile the kitchen is filled with scent of lemony goodness. Not the cleaning kind but the baking kind. I offered to make dessert this year and lemon cheesecake was requested. After that I just have a little bit of tidying to do. It feels odd to be this organised. I always have my shopping done by this point but usually I am rushing with the hand makes and the tidying doesn't get finished until late Christmas Eve.

I even managed to get some Christmas cards stitched up. This occurs once every blue moon. I plan it every year and I succeed in making them maybe once every three or four years. It helped that I picked small designs this time and only my parents, gran and sister were the recipients. You will not be surprised when I say that this was a free kit from cross stitcher. It's from the previous months issue. They were supposed to be attached to red card with little white stars. Mine were a little bashed though because of the bells pressing against them. That just meant I could use these little wooden motifs that I had bought for last years cards. So it worked out in the end.

Each card suits the person it's for (which was lucky). The rabbit is for my gran who loves small animals like that. The reindeer is for my sister who gets called Lorrainedeer (long story). The robin is for my mum. My mum's favourite place is her garden and her favourite thing to do is watch for the birds. It's a small garden and yet she has three bird feeder sitting out. There is a robin that visits us every year and she always looks out for him. Therefore the robin seemed fitting. It's also my favourite card of the bunch but I think that's just because of the Christmas tree.

So, I managed gifts, cards and gift tags this year and I have plans already for next year. We'll see if that works out though. I don't expect to be organised like this two years in a row. That would be just crazy talk!

I even managed to stitch myself a little ornament. Couldn't resist this little owly face.

Anyway, this will be my last post before Christmas. So I hope that you all have a great day and that Santa is good to you. I'll be back at the end of the week with my bucket list for next year.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Cushion for Gran

Last of my Christmas presents finished! Told you I wouldn't be still working on them on Christmas Eve this year. My gran has had a sore back of late so thought a nice bright cushion would be ideal for her Christmas. If it looks a little familiar you would be right. I have already made one of these for myself a few years back. It was part of a challenge set by my knitting group where we could only use odds and ends. I called it my Sock Pillow. The reason for that is that each of the squares was made up from leftover sock yarn.

I have kept going with the squares and now have a bag full of them. One day I want to make a blanket with them. However, I decided to use some for my gran. I spent ages picking them out and laying them out on the carpet. My mum gave me a hand with trying to decide which squares to use and in what order. In the end I actually like my Gran's cushion better. I think it's brighter (if that's possible) and I love all the squares used.

The buttons I had to make do with. I do like them but they weren't what I originally planned. I had these lovely wooden buttons with painted flowers on them. Turns out they were too large though. So I have given them to my mum who got a lovely tin of fancy buttons from a secret Santa.

Hopefully my gran will like it though. I have just realised that she is getting quite a few home made items this year. Hope she doesn't mind it.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Easy Lace Socks

A good few months ago I was on a sock knitting role and had just my gran's socks to finish for Christmas. Half way through that first sock I got extremely bored with the pattern and put it down and worked on a number of other projects. I can't even remember what pattern it was but it was one I hadn't done before. It was a fairly simple pattern, I remember that much. The problem though is that it was too similar to a number of other patterns I have done before. I don't intentionally go for the same type of pattern all the time but it happens and I end up with one sock syndrome. Or in this case half sock syndrome.

Two weeks ago I decided it was time to pick it up again otherwise my gran wasn't getting socks this year. I couldn't do that though. You ever have one of those gifts you expect every year from someone to the extent you rely on it and would be disappointed if you didn't get it? With my sister and her best friend it's those fluffy winter socks. With me and my family it's my hand knit socks and my gran wears them year round. I couldn't not knit her them. So the solution was to knit a different pattern.

I needed something that could be knit up quickly between studies. I found a basic lace pattern in the Big Book of Socks by Kathleen Taylor. It was so easy that I just had to do the pattern repeat once and could put the book away. The heel was the short row heel again and I had just finished a sock for my friend with that type.

It wasn't a boring pattern despite it's simplicity. It partly because it was a heel I don't normally do but also because the pattern was quite effective. It makes the sock quite thick and so will be extra cosy but I also quite like the way it looks. The second photo shows the pattern better once it stretches out. It's like little eyelets. It also shows the colours of the yarn better. It's the same yarn I used to knit my sister's Christmas socks. I picked it up at my knitting group. It's actually meant for machine knitting and so sits on a cone. Not sure what the brand is but it is very much like Regia's hand-dye effect sock yarn. So much so that it breaks away in the same manner. Very annoying as it always happens when at the toe I forgot about that from the first pair otherwise I would have not used the Kitchener stitch.

Anyway, expect to see more of this yarn. I have now knitted two pairs of socks from it and it hasn't made a dent into it. How long before I am bored of purple?

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Mood Blanket All Finished!

It's finished! Finally says you. No more updates. I actually should have finished it on Tuesday but I was a few days behind. I say a few, I hadn't added to it since my last update until yesterday. I had been so good up until that point too. I had kept a not of my moods though. As much as I like the colours individually I still don't like them all together. I guess I am a minimalist as well as an OCD girl. My mum though is delighted with it. It's also the perfect length for a lapghan. So she can sit it over her knee while watching a dvd or knitting.

I also feel kind of sad that it is finished. I think I could quite happily do another project that involved doing a little bit each day. Perhaps not a mood blanket but maybe something similar.

I highly recommend the cotton I used. If you remember back it is called Rico Essentials and is a DK cotton. The colours are lovely and bright and I love the feel of it once it is crocheted up. As always with cotton there is the problem of splitting. This particularly kind isn't as bad as some but it still happens. There are many sins hidden in the blanket as a result of splitting.

Day 45 - White - fairly good mood. Mostly spent in front of the computer.

Day 46 - Grey - not so much my mood although was tired from very little sleep. More to match the stormy weather in Scotland. My classes were cancelled as a result.

Day 47 - mid green - finished an actual book. These days it's a rarity so it always puts me in a good mood.

Day 48 - pale pink - Sister day. spent it planning her birthday weekend and drinking lots of tea (there may have been a glass of wine or two in there too).

Day 49 - mid blue - great mood. Came home to see the decorations going up. There seem to be a lot more of them this year. Also got some Christmas presents finished. Pleased with how they turned out.

Day 50 - dark blue - mood was only okay. Finished the first draft of another essay only to find out later that day that I am going to have to re-do it. At least I know what I am doing, right?

Day 51 - yellow - last day of my knitting group for Christmas. As sad as that is I was looking forward to it. I also finally settled on a pattern for my Gran's Christmas socks.

The End!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Mug Cosies!

Two of my uni friends wanted to do Christmas presents this year. Nothing big because we are all on budgets but just a little thing. It's our last Christmas as students together so we wanted to do something for it. I wanted to make something for them. They never really see the crafting side of me and I think I know them well enough to know they would actually quite like that (not everyone appreciates a handmade gift). I was stumped for ideas though when my lovely friend Lisa suggested mug hugs. I thought this was a fab idea. I had never done one before but always wanted to. So this gave me the perfect excuse. Plus I figured I could fill the mugs with chocolate and relaxing tea since we have three huge essays to do over the Christmas break.

I didn't follow a pattern as I like to make things difficult for myself. Plus I thought it would be difficult to get the pattern to fit the mug. Really I didn't want to be the crazy lady measuring mugs in the shop because I would end up doing that. Once I just did a prototype and decided from there how wide it should be before making the actual mug cosies. The colours I picked out were to give it a winter theme. I didn't want Christmas as I wanted them to be able to use them all year round. So I thought going for wintery colours instead would be a nice compromise. Plus I kind of like those colours.

I am aware I said two uni friends. That third mug is for my gran. I filled it up with some chocolates and left out the hot chocolate as I'm not sure she likes it.

I also said I wanted to give put relaxing teas in there but I had a hard time finding individually wrapped tea bags in the flavours I wanted. As I hovered round the tea section I had one of those eureka moments when I realised that they might prefer hot chocolate anyway. I myself don't like hot chocolate which is why it took me so long to have that epiphany.

I then wrapped them and added these little tags I stitched up. These were part of a free kit from Cross Stitcher. They seem to give you a free tag set every year and I don't normally bother with them. I loved the wee houses though. The next thing I knew I had stitched up the gingerbread men too. I think they are just the right size for the mugs.

I still have a few Christmas gifts to finish but I am right on track. This might be the first year I won't be finishing anything on Christmas Eve. Fingers crossed.

The mug cosy pattern is my own. It's pretty simple and I am sure there are a few almost exactly the same kicking about. If anyone would like me to write it up though just let me know and I'll do that.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Versatile Blogger Award OR 7 Interesting Facts!

A very talented friend of mine, the lovely Annee Apple, tagged me in this. She lets my knitting group use a room at her place of work. She is also mightily crafty and has the cutest wee girl in the world. Go check out her blog!

The rules of this are - 

Display the award certificate on your blog.
Thank the blogger who nominated you.
Post 7 interesting facts about yourself and/or your blog.
Nominate 15 bloggers of your own choice to pass the award on to, and tag them to let them know!

I'm not sure I have any interesting facts about myself but here they are anyway- 

1. I intended to be a teacher. I took a year out after my degree with every intention of going back to teach history and politics. Instead I worked my way up in Borders Books until they sadly went into administration.

2. I was made redundant right before I was getting ready to apply for store manager positions. The truth is, after a few years of doing that I planned to move on to do something else. Nursing was one of the things I was considering. So really I am just doing this a few years earlier than planned.

3. Before I started up a knitting group I was mainly a cross stitcher. Until then I had only ever knitted scarves.

4. I am (and I am proud of this) a bit of a sci fi geek. I blame the parents. They passed on their sickness to me. Not that I consider it a sickness.

5. My nickname in my first career was OCD girl. I pretend this irritates me but really I am proud of it.

6. It really bothers me when I don't have a book on the go. If I finish one I have to start another before I do anything else. Failure to do so will result in book buying.

7. I can knit socks. I will knit any type of sock. I love a challenge of new patterns or methods I have never tried before. I cannot knit a jumper or a cardigan. I have tried on numerous occasions and failed. I have tried the simplest of patterns. They always end up suitable only for quasimodo.

Hmm, tagging 15 people is difficult. Therefore, I tag anyone who would like to take part.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Mood Blanket Update 6

Woo hoo! I just managed to get another day out of the yarn that is left. This means that my next mood blanket update will be the last. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It also means that the blanket will be just a nice length. My mum is only wee so it will suit her perfectly.

It also now fits the table. You can see all the colours together. Does it look like I have mostly been in good moods or bad moods? Someone said to me yesterday (I think it was Helen) that they don't really want reminding of their black days. I have been lucky that my black days have been very few. Plus, if I have had a bad day I can always pick a brighter colour to cheer me up. I think I have done that once or twice.

Day 38 - mid green - just a normal day. Spent it working away on essays. I know it sounds like that's what I always do. Feels like that sometimes.

Day 39 - grey - exhausted. 2 hours sleep and I still managed to make it in to the uni library for 8am. Was proud of that.

Day 40 - purple - happy. I picked up the majority of my Christmas shopping. Also got all the supplies together for the knitting group Christmas party. I was actually going to manage along this year (the last few years I have been on placement). So I get to organise it.

Day 41 - mid blue - relatively good mood. Would rather have been spending time with my sister but decided to take the weekend out to get through some work.

Day 42 - light green - festive. 1st of December, how can that not make you feel festive!

Day 43 - burgundy - busy day at uni. Got one of my essays finished. Baking for the knitting group party although I had one baking fail. The morrow of that one is to go on your instinct.

Day 44 - teal - happy and festive. After a day of studying had a fab time at the Christmas party. My Secret Santa gift was a voucher for 'For the Love of Yarn'. You know my friends business who custom makes hooks and hand-dyes yarn? Couldn't be more excited. Safe to say it was a very good day.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Not a Fashionista

Most people who know me will not know me for my fashion sense. I am never going to be a fashionista and I'm okay with that. I do like pretty things but mainly I go for practical. Especially in the footwear department and especially in the winter. I am genetically clumsy and so me and ice just don't go. So my winter foot wear is chosen by their likelihood of preventing me from landing on my backside. For a year I had Ugg boots. I hate Ugg boots. No offence to those who love them but I think they are just so ugly (told you I was never going to be a fashionista. The Ugg boots I picked out were leather and were short ones so could be worn under my trousers. I was told they would last me years and would be perfect for our horrible wintery weather (we don't get pretty snow, we get slush and ice). They leaked, my trainers were better on the ice and they lasted a year. This time I have went for Hunter boots. I actually quite like them so that's a plus already. I am hoping they won't leak. Sadly though, I have read that they are next to useless at ice walking. I remain hopeful though.

They don't keep you warm though which means I get to wear some of my handknit socks underneath. That's never a bad thing. They do rub on the backs of my legs though and so I decided to make something that would solve that.

So I made these boot cuffs or boot liners. Whatever you want to call them. I realise you can buy them but where is the fun in that? Confession, I have seen people knitting up boot cuffs on instagram and I honestly thought they were just for the pretty. As a person who has always worn her boots underneath her trousers I didn't see the point. Now it appeals to my practical side.

I got the pattern from ravelry. They are called 'Nautical But Nice' Boot Warmer by Raquel Gaskell and it's a free pattern. I don't take advantage of the free patterns on ravelry often enough. You can usually find little gems like this one. I call it a gem because I am sure people would gladly pay for this pattern. I was immediately taken by the cables. I love a cable. I love knitting them and I love the look. This is probably one of the more complex cable patterns I have used. The knitting on the round part is easy enough but one cable is worked over 8 row repeats and the other over 24. This just meant that I had to track the two so that I remembered where I was at. I love how it turned out.

The yarn used in the initial pattern is done in white (and fits in with the nautical theme). I decided to use a yarn that has been sitting for the last 6 months just waiting to be used. It's by Wendy and is called Roam Fushion. For anyone interested the colourway is called Fosse. I had picked it up in John Lewis when I really only went in for a crochet hook. It feels thicker than your normal sock yarn which is why I chose it for this. It also knits up lovely. I thought the variegated pattern of the yarn would drown out the cables (as often happens with variegated yarn) but I am pleased to say that I think they actually work well together.

On the other side of this I can now finally wear my new boots!