Make It Your Own

Make it unique. Make it yourself. Make it your own

It’s Freezing 23 October, 2008

Filed under: Vegetable gardening,Weekly useful stuff,Yarn reviews — makeityourown @ 4:08 pm

After at least two complaints from family members and some of my own feelings of guilt, I have decided to get back into blogging.

What was the reason for the long break? There are a few reasons. I have been working on some new paid work projects namely starting work for Bendigo Woollen Mills as a freelance pattern designer/writer and also getting my Yarn Collective store and my Ravelry store up and running. I have also been doing lots of resting and house re-arranging occasioned by the impending birth (in February) of our baby. The work, the resting and the nesting have meant that very little craft has been going on so I haven’t had much to write about! So no blog for a while. I have been doing some knitting, gardening and cooking lately so I’ll chat about those today and see what happens in the future…

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR FREEZER

Since becoming pregnant I’ve been stocking up the freezer with all sort of things to save cooking too much when the baby arrives. Matthew has been on a bit of health kick lately and has been requesting healthy soups and such things for lunch. I’ve been getting to the market a bit less often and so I’ll buy lots of meat in one go and freeze it. We bought a bigger fridge with a bigger freezer recently (again in preparation for a growing family) All these things got me thinking about the freezer and the many things you can freeze for later.

Dinner

All sorts of dinners can be cooked and then frozen. My favourites are: chicken casserole, beef casserole, meat or chicken curries, sausage and bean casserole, bolognese sauce, risotto. All these can be cooked and then put into plastic containers. I usually cook a meal for four or six, have two serves for the two of us for dinner then put the rest in the freezer.

I have found that a certain brand of container fits perfectly stacked side by side in my freezer draws making the most of the space. Another good way to make the most of the space is to not bother freezing cooked pasta or rice. Just freeze the curry or the bolognese since pasta and rice are easy to store and cook. It’s a good idea to wait until the food has cooled before you put it in the freezer so that is freezes more quickly and doesn’t start the thaw the food it’s put next to. Don’t think that you’ll remember what is in a container! Label it! (Don’t ask me how I know)

To thaw your frozen dinner either take it out early in the day and then heat it in a saucepan or zap it in the microwave. Perfect for the times when you want some wholesome food but don’t have the energy to prepare it or the cash to go out. I’ve always got something in the freezer for such occasions even when I’m not stocking up in preparation for a baby.

Lunch

While lots of people make sandwiches in advance and freeze them I haven’t found that to be necessary yet so I’ve never tried it. Since Matthew decided that giant ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch every day wasn’t doing his health any good, we’ve been trying to come up with other ideas for his lunch that involve vegetables of some kind but are still satisfying.The answer has been soup, soup and more soup as well as chicken legs.

These soups all freeze well and are an easy and healthy lunch option for those that leave the house in a hurry each morning: corn chowder, bacon and lentil, pumpkin, cauliflower, minestrone, chicken and vegetable. I make a big pot of soup and then pour it into lunch-sized containers, label them and stack them in the freezer.

Another idea I tried was roasting some chicken legs and freezing them. It was a bit of an experiment but it has worked reasonably well. Buy 8-10 chicken legs (drumsticks), season them well with some kind of chicken seasoning or salt and pepper, spray a tray with oil and bake the legs until they are cooked (about 45 mins) at 200 degrees. When they are cool put two each into small ziploc sandwich bags, squeeze out the air and freeze. The worker can grab one of the bags with a bit of salad or fruit in the morning and zap the legs in microwave at lunch time for a quick healthy protein lunch.

Another idea that I haven’t tried but which I’m sure would work would be to make a cake or slice, cut it up and wrap in individual pieces. All you’d need to do each morning would be put a piece in the lunch box, ready wrapped. This obviously works for muffins too. Homemade cakes are always going to be healthier that anything you can buy since they have no preservatives or additives or processed oils and fats and usually less sugar and salt.

Home grown vegetable gluts

If you have grown your own vegetables you may have found at some stage that you have too much broccoli, cauliflower, beans, peas than you can eat fresh. Over winter I grew some fantastic caulis but found I had three great big ones ready at the same time. One we ate fresh, one I made into cauli soup and one I froze. The technique for freezing vegetables is similar for most kinds and I have had good success with the ones I mentioned above. Cut the vegetable into bite sized pieces. Boil plenty of salted water. Put the vegetables into the boiling water and then let the water come back to boil which should take a minute or two. Drain immediately, rinse with cold water and drain them well. Lay the vegetable pieces in a single layer on a tray and put it in the freezer. When the pieces are frozen put them into a plastic bag and seal. You now have a bag of vegetable pieces, each separate from each other so you take out just as many as you need at a time. As convenient as frozen veg from the supermarket but homegrown by you.

Some vegetable don’t freeze well at all. Tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber and celery are all too watery to be frozen as they are. Cooked into something is a different matter though. Tomato puree freezes very well for instance.

Since I mentioned celery I do actually freeze celery in stalks but I have a particular reason for this. I don’t like celery much but it is an essential ingredient in many soups, stocks and Italian dishes and you miss it if it isn’t there. Thawed frozen celery is just mush with some strings but that doesn’t matter if it’s about to go into osso bucco. Since I only use a stalk or two occasionally and only for cooking I keep a bag of stalks in the freezer so I don’t have to buy a whole or a half one every time I need a little.

Stock

I raved on about stock in my last post so you read about it there. Suffice to say that stock is best cooked in a large amount and freezes beautifully so you can always have some home made stock in stock.

Baking

When you make a cake or muffins or scones or whatever it’s very little extra work to make a double batch so you might as well put some in the freezer and save yourself some effort later. Cakes, muffins, scones, bread, rolls, fruit loaf, date loaf and so on all freeze well in my experience. Muffins and scones are very convenient because you can thaw just one at a time if you want to.

Meat

I like to buy lots of meat all in one go since I don’t get to my favourite butcher as often as I’d like. I find the best way to freeze meat is in meal sized portions and as flat as possible so it thaws faster. So two lamb chops or two steaks or a few sausages in one freezer bag. Mince is frozen in 500g packs squished nice and flat. Meat that is is open to the freezer gets dry and tough so seal the freezer bags well. My tip for the nicest frozen meat is to thaw it naturally either in the fridge for the day or out on the bench for a few hours (not recommended on a hot day!). The microwave always seems to cook one bit while it’s defrosting giving you a tough bit of meat so I only use the microwave to defrost meat in emergencies.

That’s probably enough about freezers. Didn’t realise I had so much to say about them! Here’s a yarn review to take your mind off freezers…

SELBY’S YARN PICKS

Jo Sharp Soho Summer DK Cotton 50g, 100 metres, 100% cotton

I’ve recently finished a project in this yarn for the December issue of Yarn Magazine. After knitting through 5 balls in stocking stitch I can tell you that this is lovely yarn to work with and gives very smooth even results. Even with very pointy needles, this cotton doesn’t split and is so soft that it never feels stringy like some 100% cotton can. End results are nice and light, though a very large project may drop a little. At around $7.60 a ball, a large project would add up to a large amount. The cost would be worth it though for the lightness and softness and coolness of a finished garment. At a standard 22 sts to 10cm and 100m to 50g Soho Summer cotton could easily be substituted into other 8ply/DK weight patterns ball for ball but be aware that in a large project some dropping may occur. In a smaller project such a child’s garment I think you could substitute into a wool pattern with no problems at all.

IN THE GARDEN

Now is a good time to plant all the summer vegies. We have planted tomatoes, capsicum, basil, zucchini and butternuts. As soon as I’ve pulled out the spinach and coriander which are going to seed I’ll plant some dwarf beans and climbing beans. Adelaide still has some serious water restrictions so watering is going to involve a mixture of the hand held hose (Sunday only), watering cans and grey water.

That’ll do for now. Have a good week everybody. My sincere apologies to anyone who has been checking my blog regularly and finding no new posts! Sarah.

 

Ramblings 6 March, 2008

Filed under: Craft,Hand dyed Yarn,knitting,Sock knitting,Yarn reviews — makeityourown @ 10:52 am

Hmmmm….don’t really know what title to give to my ramblings today. I haven’t been blogging much lately but that doesn’t mean I have been idle. Life just gets complicated sometimes and making stuff gets put on the back burner or the stuff I’ve been working on I can’t show you because it’s for my top secret Yarn work or something like that. Anyway…in this post I have a yarn review for you and some pictures of a few projects I’ve been working on. Happy reading.

MORE HAND DYED YARN FOR SALE

If you love affordable hand dyed yarn you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve dyed a stack more yarn for you to admire and buy. Click on the “Hand dyed yarn for sale” and “Hand dyed sock yarn for sale” tabs at the top of the page. Pleeeeeease tell your knitting friends about my yarns and watch out for my ad in the next YARN mag (due out in March sometime). Coming soon: wool/nylon/lycra bouncy hand dyed sock yarn. You’ll love it.

SELBY’S YARN PICKS

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Live 2 Knit Lauren 100% Superwash Merino 12ply/aran weight. $21.60 for 100g.

Live 2 Knit Lauren

I’m working on a large project for YARN mag in this yarn at the moment and I am loving every minute of it. Lauren is a beautifully smooth, top quality wool yarn with a high twist and plenty of bounce. It runs pleasantly between your fingers as you knit and produces a very even, smooth and soft fabric. While the specs on the Live 2 Knit website say it produces a tension of 17sts to 10cm, I have found that 17sts is a little loose. I prefer to make it 18 or even 19 sts to 10cm for a slightly firmer fabric that still drapes. For a top quality, beautiful knitted garment that is also machine washable and will last a good long time, the cost is probably worth it. To see the full colour range go to the Live 2 Knit website. I recommend this yarn for soft and cosy winter garments and accessories in stocking stitch to show off the beautiful colours.

FELT HATS AND MORE TEA COSIES

In my post of June 18 2007 I gave instructions for making a felt tea cosy using an old jumper that had been felted in the washing machine. By following the basics of those instructions you can also make hats. You might need to use two pieces of fabric to get a piece long enough to go around a head but the basics are the same. (Don’t cut the holes for the handle and spout unless you have very big ears or want to pull your pigtails through!). Add blanket stitch, chain stitch, a fold up cuff, beads or tassles. Here are some hats and tea cosies I made this week to give you some inspiration.

Felt hats

Felt tea cosies

Here are some socks I finished last week. They are the Breeze socks from Issue 3 of YARN.

Breeze socks

PATONYLE LOVERS UNITE

Do you love Patonyle? Do you care that ACS have discontinued it? If you are on Ravelry, join the Patonyle Lovers group or the ACS group and voice your displeasure! If you aren’t on Ravelry contact ACS and tell them what you think. Go to your yarn store and buy up before it’s too late. In my opinion, discontinuing such a fantastic yarn is criminal. I’ve been stockpiling it lately so that I have enough Patonyle to last the rest of my life. Sorry to anyone I have e-sniped recently…

IN OTHER NEWS

The Handknitters Guild of SA are having their biannual exhibition on 12th and 13th of April at the St Peters Hall on Payneham Rd, St Peters. There is no entry fee except for a gold coin donation and the exhibition will be way way better than it has been in the past. There will be lots of knitting and crochet on display and stalls, including Colonial Lake books so you can stock up on knitting books. There will also be lots of knitted and crocheted items for sale and even some of my hand dyed yarn if you want to see it in the flesh. There will be a raffle and refreshments for sale. I’ll be there from 10 till 2 at least on Sunday.

Goodwood Autumn Sidewalk market will be on the 15th March along Goodwood Rd between the primary school and the tramline. A couple of friends and I will be having a stall selling a variety of handmade items, including my yarns, tea cosies and hats. The market runs between 9 and 3pm. Keep a look out for Barb, Sue and me by the physiotherapists, next to the lane and across the road from the Waste Not Want Not shop.

Happy birthday to my dear cousin Mia and my Dad. Also welcome to my new cousin Ben.

Visit me at Ravelry. My user name is SarahGolder. Have a happy day. Sarah.

 

No Pattern Required Tiered Skirt 7 February, 2008

Filed under: Craft,knitting,Weekly useful stuff,Yarn reviews — makeityourown @ 12:43 pm

It feels like a hundred years since I posted here. Sorry to all my loyal fans who have been checking regularly…(actually I don’t know how many loyal fans I have; probably just my Auntie and my Dad).

Today I’m going to give you instructions on how to sew a tiered skirt without a pattern. All you need is fabric and a sewing machine! Since I reached 25000 visitors recently, I’ve got a little competition and to keep all the knitters happy, I’ve got a yarn review. Lets start with the yarn review…

SELBY’S YARN PICKS

Selby’s yarn picks

Biggan Design DK Merino First Cross. 50g/105 metres. Made in Australia. $8.95 each.

Biggan Wool

Biggan Design colour chart

Merino wool is renowned for its softness and Border Leicester wool for its durability. A Merino sheep crossed with a Border Leicester sheep will theoretically give a very soft but durable yarn. The people at Biggan Design have done just that and indeed created a yarn that is incredibly fine and smooth but will last a very long time. This yarn is smooth enough to wear next to your skin and smooth enough for babies’ garments but it also has plenty of bounce and elasticity. I’ve knitted a few swatches with this yarn lately and it feels lovely through my fingers and creates a very smooth fabric because of its high twist. At $8.95 a ball it seems more expensive than other solid colour DK weight (8ply) wool yarns but the quality of the yarn makes the cost worth it. You’ll have a garment that will last a very long time and will feel great. The machine washability (gentle cycle) is also worth paying a little extra for. Aside from the fineness and quality of this yarn, my favourite thing about it is the colour range. It is available in 64 colours that harmonise with each other, making it perfect for picture knitting, stripes and Fair Isle knitting. Biggan Design also claim that the same colour range will still be available well into the future. I hate it when companies change their colour ranges (especially when I’ve just designed something in a particular colour that gets discontinued; I have to then change my colour scheme and usually have to change yarns). If what they say is true, I’ll be a very satisfied customer. The Biggan Design website is easy to navigate and you can buy their yarn and patterns there. I recommend this yarn for all kinds of garments and comfy socks. I’m about to start knitting a design I’ve been working on in the Denim colour and I’m looking forward to the experience. Visit Biggan Design at www.biggandesign.com.au.

NO PATTERN REQUIRED TIERED SKIRT

Tiered skirt

Here’s a “recipe” for a skirt you can sew without a pattern. I made this one for myself from some fabric I bought in Penang, that’s been sitting in my fabric stash for the last 9 years (gulp, is it really 9 years since we went to Penang? Matthew and I got engaged not long after that). All it is is four strips of fabric, each one longer than the last and gathered together to fit the one above. It’s pretty easy but you’ll probably need a little bit of sewing experience.

What you need: fabric, a sewing machine and thread, scissors, pins, calculator, tape measure, 3mm wide elastic for waist, iron.

Here’s what to do…

First measure yourself (or the person who the skirt is for) at your widest point, the part that is euphemistically called the hips. Add 15cm to that measurement and write that number on a piece of paper. Your first piece of fabric at the top of the skirt needs to be that long and about 25cm wide. (My top piece was 120 x 25cm). Sew the ends of the piece together with a 1cm seam allowance. Sew a wide hem at the top of the piece, wide enough to just fit the elastic through, leaving a hole big enough to thread the elastic through. I like to iron down the hem and then sew it.I also like to press all my seams before continuing on the next step.

The next strip of fabric needs to be 1.3 times longer than the first so multiply the number you wrote down by 1.3. Cut you next piece of fabric that long and 17cm wide. Sew the ends together. Run two rows of gathering stitches 8mm apart around the top of the second piece and then pull up the threads so that the second piece is the same size as the first, making sure the gathers are evenly spread over the fabric strip. Pin the second piece to the first and sew together between the gathering threads.

Do the same thing with the 3rd and 4th pieces but make the 4th piece 20cm wide. Each strip should be 1.3 times longer than the previous. You’ll probably need to join pieces together to make the strips long enough. Sew a wide hem on the bottom of the skirt. Remove the visible gathering threads. Run elastic through the casing and pull up so that it fits your waist but is long enough to stretch over your hips. Iron the whole thing and trim any loose threads. My mum always said that your sewing project is not finished until it’s been ironed.

TIME FOR ANOTHER COMPETITION

Just the other day I noticed that I’ve had 25, 000 visitors to my blog since I started in April 2007. Amazing huh? I can thank Knitting Pattern Central for a huge chunk of them, people searching for instructions on how to make felt, make curtains, make tea cosies, people searching for yarn reviews, and friends and family who keep coming back regularly. Thanks to everyone who leaves comments. I appreciate them greatly.

The prize this time is your choice of yarn from my Hand Dyed yarns up to a value of $15. You can see them all by clicking on the Hand Dyed Yarn For Sale tab at the top of the page.

All you need to do is leave a comment telling us about your favourite knitting or craft book or mag and why it’s your favourite. I’ll publish the list of the books and mags you like in a future post so that we can all find out what the best publications are. This competition is open to anyone anywhere in the world (except my extended family, sorry guys). I’ll pick a commenter at random to win. My usual method of choosing a winner is to write down all the names on pieces of paper, put them all in a bowl and let Matthew choose one. Last day for entries is 21st Feb.

Looking forward to hearing from you…

Have a good week, Sarah.

 

Yarn Reviews Overload 20 December, 2007

Filed under: knitting,Yarn reviews — makeityourown @ 8:43 pm

This week: more yarn reviews that you can poke a knitting needle at. Well…five anyway. But that’s a lot more than usual and they are all luxury or hard to find yarns. Is it worth the cost and/or the effort to buy and/or find these yarns? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. I hope you find these helpful…

SELBY’S YARN PICKS

Selby’s yarn picks

Ava by Live 2 Knit. 100% silk. DK weight. Hand dyed. $37.60 for 100g.

Live 2 knit Ava

I’m working on a design in this yarn at the moment so I’ve had a good play around with it in its natural and dyed form, both in knitting and crochet. This is a truly fantastic silk yarn. It is silky but not slithery and a pleasure to knit with. As a DK weight yarn it can be substituted in other DK weight yarn patterns but only in small amounts. At a cost of $37.60 for 100g you wouldn’t make a jumper out of it anyway. I’d recommend it for a stole, a scarf, an open lace pattern shawl or a little clutch bag or any design that will use just one skein. I advise using steel needles with this yarn. Any slight imperfections on wood or bamboo needles will likely catch the fine silk fibres. Plastic or casein will probably not be slippery enough. Also, be sure that your needles are not too sharp as they might pierce and split the yarn. This is an easy to find yarn. All you need to do is go to the Live 2 Knit website and order on line. At the site you can see all 27 hand dyed colours.

Easy to find? Yes

Expensive? Yes

Worth the cost/effort? Absolutely definitely yes

Alpaca Silk by Blue Sky Alpacas. 50% alpaca, 50% silk, sportweight, 50g, 133 metres. $16.50.

Silk alpaca yarn

Mmmmmmmmmm. This is gorgeous stuff. I’ve just done a design in this for the next YARN magazine, so again, I’ve had a good play with this yarn, including soaking and blocking it. The alpaca gives the yarn softness and spring and the silk gives the yarn a beautiful lustre, just what you want in a luxury yarn. The finished garment (sorry I can’t tell you what it is) is not too heavy, not too light. Blocking greatly improved the look of this yarn so if you are swatching it, make sure you block it before you make any decisions. It feels strong and has a high twist, so your garment will probably last a good long time. As with the 100% silk I recommend using steel needles or at least extremely smooth and slippery bamboo needles. I recommend it for scarves of all kinds and evening wear. It comes in 28 colours and you can find it at the Wool Shack in Australia, at Loop in London and at heaps of stores in the US.

Easy to find? Yes

Expensive? Yes

Worth the cost/effort? Absolutely yes

100% Alpaca Sportweight by Blue Sky Alpacas. 50g, 100 metres

100% alpaca

Woolly, cosy and comfy, this alpaca yarn is just what alpaca yarn should be. It’s not scratchy either. The ballband says it’s sportweight but it’s closer to a DK weight yarn and at 100 metres to 50g, I reckon they should call it DK weight. It doesn’t have a high twist but it doesn’t seem to split so you can use pointy needles if that’s what you like. If you knit it at a medium to tight tension you should get a very long lasting garment out of this excellent quality yarn. I recommend it for hats, scarves, gloves, mittens, cardigans and jumpers. 35 colours are available so there is plenty to choose from and plenty of scope for colour work. I bought mine at Loop in London but I’ve been unable to find it here in Australia. The Wool Shack stocks some Blue Sky Alpacas yarns but not this one, strangely enough. To get your hands on some you’ll probably have to get it from a US online store for $8.50US or from Loop for 6.20GBP.

Easy to find? Not so easy in Australia

Expensive? Yes

Worth the cost/effort? Yes

Luna Park by Ornaghi Filati. 100% merino, fingering weight, 50g, 200 metres, made in Italy.

Luna park yarn

For a 100% merino yarn, designed for socks and baby garments this isn’t a very soft yarn. It feels a little hard in the ball and feels scratchy when knitted up. Luna Park comes in six colourways, all of which are self striping and form fairly wide stripes if knitted into socks. Of the six colourways, 4 are pretty and the other two are less inspiring, but you may like them. You can go to the Ornaghi Filati website to look at the colours. I trawled the internet this morning trying to find a store in Australia that sells this yarn to no avail. At a US online yarn store you can find it for $7.50US.

Easy to find? No

Expensive? Reasonable

Worth the cost/effort? No

N-52 by Habu Textiles. 68% kid mohair, 32% nylon, 14 grams, 278 metres.

Habu

No, I didn’t make a typing error…it really is sold in 14 gram balls and there really is 278 metres in a ball. That’s how fine this yarn is. The best word to describe this yarn is EXQUISITE!! You’ll need your strongest reading glasses and loads of patience as you work with it but do persevere; your end result will last a lifetime. Owing to the nylon, this is a surprisingly strong yarn. It might be cobweb-fine but it’s hard to break. I would recommend a very simple lace pattern, perhaps just some basic eyelet patterns in garter stitch so that it doesn’t drive you crazy and so that the fuzziness of the mohair doesn’t detract from the pattern. With 278 metres in this tiny ball, I doubt you’d need more than one ball for a scarf and no more than two for a shawl. Can you imagine a shawl weighing only 28 grams? It would be like wearing a cloud. This is the finest, softest, most beautiful mohair you’ll find. AND the most knitting you’ll ever get out of 14 grams. As far as I know, you can’t get it in Australia so you’ll have to go online. I suggest Loop, based in London or a US based online store. It might cost $18US a ball but why not spend that on a truly exquisite yarn that will surely become an heirloom.

Easy to find? Not really

Expensive? Yes

Worth the cost/effort? Most definitely yes!

MERRY CHRISTMAS

I hope all my readers have a very happy Christmas. The weather in Adelaide will likely be 28 degrees so not too hot for a roast but perfect for Christmas lunch outside.  Hope you all get what you wished for and have lovely day doing whatever it is you’re planning to do.

Happy  Christmas everyone. (If you don’t celebrate Christmas, I wish you a fun and happy whatever you celebrate!)

Sarah.

 

Spring has sprung 7 November, 2007

Hello everybody,

It’s feeling very much like spring now. The weather has warmed up and we have had plenty of rain over the last week. Consequently, the garden is going mad. There is new growth on lots of the plants and our fruit trees are putting out the first tiny fruits-to-be. The roses are flowering beautifully, including my favourite rose, Bonica, of which I have two. I’ve repotted lots of pot plants and moved most of them into the shadehouse or under the porch. The vegetables are also growing like mad. The salvias are just starting to flower and in a month or so they will be amazing. I’m a big fan of salvias for a dry garden. They stay looking great even at 35 degrees and come in a wide variety of sizes and colours. The chickens are giving us way too many eggs. I’ll have to make a few sponge cakes to use them up! Thought you might like some photos…

Freckles lettuce

Growing apricots

Apple blossoms and apples

Dry garden

HARVESTING CORIANDER SEEDS

If you’ve ever grown coriander in your vegie garden for the fresh leaves, you’ll know that it goes to seed fairly quickly, especially if it gets stressed from a lack of water or a slight increase in temperature. All is not lost however. Allow the flowering and seeding to take its course and you’ll be able to harvest the seeds and use them as a spice.

When your coriander plants start flowering, keep watering them and taking care of them. The seeds will start swelling and soon you’ll have some bright green berries.

Unripe coriander seeds

After the berries have developed the plant will begin to brown and die and you can stop watering it. When the plant is nice and dry pull it up and then pick off the seeds. Let the seeds dry a little more and then store them in an airtight container. Use them whole in curries and rice or grind them in a mortar and pestle to use anywhere you’d normally use ground coriander. I use it in lots of things including fried rice, stir fried vegetables, vegetable soups and curries. It is a very popular spice in Indian, Moroccan and Mexican cuisines.

Dry coriander seeds

SELBY’S YARN PICKS

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Selby has been busy this week trying out Knit Picks double pointed needles and Suzie Horne yarn.

Suzie Horne Hand dyed 8ply Finnish Landrace Cross Wool

Suzie Horne wool

Not the easiest stuff to get your hands on if you live outside of South Australia but definitely worth finding. Suzie grows Finnish Landrace Cross sheep at her farm in Meadows in the Adelaide Hills. The wool from her sheep is commercially spun and the then she hand dyes it. Being an artist, she has an excellent eye for colour and so her colourways are deep, clear and never flat; warm pinks, vibrant reds and cool blues with a few fresh greens and yellows too. I’d happily buy them all and at around $10 for 100g they are very affordable. The yarn itself is smooth but still woolly and has a high twist. It knits and crochets well, showing stitch definition but still springy. I’ve seen and felt plenty of garments made with this yarn and they all feel and look great. Suzie and her yarns can be found at small fibre fairs such as the Mt Pleasant Fibre Fair or the Hills Spinners and Weavers open days. You can also find it at All Seasons Wool shop in Hahndorf. If you see some, buy it; you might not see that exact colourway again!

Knit Picks Double Pointed Needles (steel)

Knit picks needles

In short, these are the best fine double pointed needles I have ever used. I love them and I think I might buy some in every size I regularly use. They are smooth, very pointy, light, not too long and come in sets of five.  The steel is very smooth and slippery for fast knitting. The points are long and sharp, making them excellent for tiny stitches and doing tricky stitches like a k3tog or a p2togtbl. Their short length (15cm) and lightness are good for socks and glove fingers and won’t weigh your hands down. Lots of sock patterns require a set of five needles rather than four. Instead of substituting a needle that’s not quite the same (doing this still works but it feels a bit odd) or buying 2 sets of four needles, having a set of five the same is better. The whole range of Knit Picks products are not available in Australia but the double pointeds and circulars are now being imported. You can find them at many of the online yarn stores in Australia, at Tapestry Craft in Sydney and, if you are in Adelaide, you can get them at the Button Bar in the Adelaide Arcade where they cost $10.60 (say hi to my friend Helena while you are there). These needles make me happy! I highly recommend them for socks and gloves.

IN OTHER NEWS

My sock knitting class went well. I had five students and we had a good time yesterday morning. I’ll be heading to the Craft and Quilt Fair on Thursday afternoon. The fair goes from Thursday to Sunday. I’d avoid it on Saturday morning, unless you like driving through the Christmas Pageant traffic. (I’ll never understand why the Adelaide Christmas Pageant is held in early November. I don’t start to feel Christmassy until December.)

I’m off to England on Tuesday to visit my sister for a couple of weeks. I probably won’t be posting in that time but when I return I’ll have rundown on what’s happening in the English knitting world and show off some yarn purchases.

If you want to see some of my hand dyed yarn and some of my tea cosies in the flesh, there is a market at the Goodwood Primary School on the 24th (yes that’s election day). My friend Sue is having a stall with hand made items from various people, including me. Thanks Sue!

If any of you are beta testers at Ravelry, you can find me there as Sarah Golder. You can see my stash, my library, my projects and my original designs. For the uninitiated, Ravelry is a social networking site for people into knitting, crocheting and spinning. It’s still in the testing stage and should be open to the public sometime soon. I’m waiting, not very patiently, for my “I swatched Ravelry” t-shirt to arrive in the mail.

That’s all for today. Have a lovely week. Please leave me your comments so that I know who my readers are. Tell us all what you like to make or grow or cook.

Sarah.

 

Start thinking about gifts 1 November, 2007

Filed under: Craft,knitting,Weekly useful stuff,Yarn reviews — makeityourown @ 5:48 pm

Hi there everybody,

Now that it’s November, it’s time to start thinking about the making of Christmas gifts. Many gifts take a fair bit of preparation time, especially if you are going to try and knit everyone in the family a pair of socks. Gifts that involve drying herbs and flowers and cooking also need plenty of preparation time. Since there’s less than 2 months until gift-giving season, now is a good time to make a list of the things you’d like to make. To that end, this week I’ll give some instructions for making pot pourri and pomanders, two things that need about six weeks to complete. Real knitters know that knitting doesn’t stop when the weather warms up so there’ll be a yarn review as well. (Actually, I do more knitting in the hottest part of summer that other times of the year. It’s way too hot to go outside so I sit inside by the air conditioner, watch the Australian Open tennis and knit.)

MAKE YOUR OWN POT POURRI

Pot pourri is a fragrant mix of dried flowers and spices that is put around the house and in wardrobes to be both decorative and air perfuming. I like to make it myself with a mixture of flowers and herbs from my garden, some purchased whole spices, dried citrus rind and a little essential oil or perfumed oil.

Pot pourri

Drying the flowers and herbs

Pick a mixture of flowers and herbs from your garden. I used lavender, rosemary, santolina and rose petals. You could also use lemon balm, thyme, lemon verbena and calendula flowers. Tie the herbs up with string and hang somewhere to dry. The rose petals can be dried in a paper or string bag. I find the bags that onions come in to be best. I don’t usually have enough rose petals at one time so I let some dry and then pick some more and so on until I have enough.

To make dried citrus rind, peel strips from citrus fruit with a vegetable peeler. Using a needle, thread the strips onto a string and hang to dry.

Drying the ingredients for pot pourri will take a week to 10 days.

Herbs and flowers for pot pourri
Drying herbs and flowers

Once the herbs and flowers are nice a dry it’s time to mix everything together. Strip the leaves from the rosemary and santolina and cut the flower heads from the lavender. Put them all in a large bowl with the rose petals and citrus peel.

Other ingredients

Other ingredients you might like to add to your pot pourri are star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves and ground spices. The whole spices add interesting texture and the ground spices add significantly to the fragrance. The other vital ingredient is some essential oil or perfumed oil. The oil will be absorbed into the dried ingredients and keep the whole thing smelling good for a long time. You only need a few drops of your favourite. To my mixture I added 3-4 drops each of orange, lavender and rosewood essential oil.

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Put the mixture into an airtight container and store it in a dark place for 4-6 weeks to allow the fragrances to develop and mingle. It is then ready to be packed up as a gift or displayed in bowls around the house.

MAKE YOUR OWN POMANDER

A pomander is usually hung in a wardrobe or cupboard and serves a very similar purpose to pot pourri in that it is both decorative and sweet smelling. The other benefit of a pomander is that the smell will keep moths away from your clothes. They are quite amazing things to make and you’d think it couldn’t work but it does.

What you need

An orange, a handful or two of whole cloves, a knitting needle or skewer, 1 tablespoon of mixed ground spices, a couple of metres of satin or velvet ribbon, a pin (dressmakers pin) .

Take your orange and start sticking the whole cloves into it. If the skin of the orange is a bit tough, poke holes for the cloves with the knitting needle or skewer first. Put the cloves fairly close to each other, not quite touching. (Have a look at the picture). When the whole orange is well covered with cloves, roll it in the ground spices. Put the orange in a paper bag and leave it in a dry dark place for 4-6 weeks. The whole thing will shrink and shrivel and dry, the clove oil preserving the orange inside. When it is good and dry, attach some ribbon as pictured. Secure the ribbon with the pin in the bottom of the pomander. You can now give it as a traditional gift or hang it in your wardrobe.

In the photo below the pomander on the left has been in my wardrobe for a few years. The one on the right is in progress.

Pomander making

SELBY’S YARN PICKS

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Live 2 Knit Claudette. 100% Mongolian Cashmere, fingering weight, 55g/375metres, $30.90.

This is the kind of yarn that you buy just so you can hold it next to your cheek and pat it. Pure luxury. I have had the pleasure to knit with and feel a scarf made from it. It is very soft and has a lovely halo when knitted. It is sold as a 4ply yarn but I think it’s closer to a 3ply when knitted up. It has a slight tendency to split so don’t use your pointiest needles. There is a very wide range of hand dyed colours available so everyone should find a colour they like. It isn’t cheap but you certainly get what you pay for with this yarn. This is special occasion luxury yarn, but don’t hide it away just for special occasions! At just over $30 it’s still cheaper then buying a readymade luxury cashmere scarf or going to Mongolia to find one! I think this yarn is best suited for lace shawls and scarves or small luxury beaded hand warmers that don’t need to stand up to hard wearing. You can find it and other beautiful yarns at Live 2 Knit.

That’ll do for this week. My trip to England looms closer (I leave on the 13th) and I’ve got Christmas knitting to do and a sock knitting class to organise. For those living in or near Adelaide, don’t forget the Craft and Quilt Fair is on 8-11 November at the Showground.

Have an excellent crafty week. Sarah.

 

Make Your Own Curtains 18 October, 2007

Filed under: Craft,Home cooking,knitting,Weekly useful stuff,Yarn reviews — makeityourown @ 9:19 am

Hi everybody, I’m back.

The last two weeks have been pretty busy. My Dad came over from NSW to stay for a few days, Matthew had a whole week of Karate training and a tournament, we almost finished having the house rewired and we went camping at Burra Creek Gorge for a few days. I got very little knitting done and I’ve been missing my blog. Coming up in the next few weeks there’ll be more yarn and book reviews, I’ll give some ideas for Christmas gift making, talk about Ravelry and report on the garden. This week we have soup, curtains and Heirloom Cotton.

Let’s get started with the curtains

MAKE YOUR OWN CURTAINS

Curtains can either be very expensive to get exactly what you want or cheap for readymade ones that don’t quite fit and are produced in few colours and patterns. Sewing your own gives you the best of both; they are inexpensive and you can make them just the right size and colour to suit you. I’ve just finished some for our spare room/office and over the past few years I’ve made curtains for every room of our house in various styles. You don’t need any special equipment either. Don’t be afraid of making curtains; they are much easier to sew than clothes!

Styles of curtains A good curtain book will tell you about all the many ways of doing curtains but here are the three I’ve used in my house.

Rod and clips: these are just 2 hemmed rectangles of fabric attached to the rod with clip-on curtain rings. These rings clip onto the fabric and then slide onto the rod, which is a thin powder coated metal rod. You can buy the rods and clips at Spotlight and they are a very cheap and easy way to do curtains. I have these curtains in my kitchen. Another advantage is that they are easy to unclip for washing. Hem the sides and then the top. Hem the bottom last. Clip the rings on at regular intervals and then slide onto the rod.
Rod and pocket: again using a powder coated metal rod in my laundry but you can use any kind of rod such as wooden dowel, a strong string, whatever. A rectangle of fabric is hemmed at the sides and then sewn over at the top to form a tube. The rod slides into the tube. Hem the bottom last. For a little frill at the top, stitch along the top of the tube, about 2cm in from the top fold. The rod slides under that stitching.

Gathered: rod and clip and rod and pocket designs are gathered as they squeeze up on the rod. They are best for less formal decorating. Gathered curtains are gathered up with gathering tape to fit the rod neatly. They look stylish and neat and a good for more formal decorating. These are a little trickier than rod and pocket or rod and clip designs and use a little more equipment. I have these kind of curtains in the lounge room, the office and the bedroom.

Making gathered curtains

What you need: fabric, sewing machine, pins, scissors, gathering tape, curtain hooks, rod and rings, tape measure, sewing thread, iron and ironing board.

Work out how wide each curtain needs to be. Curtains should extend about 20cm past the side of the window. Measure how wide your window is, add 20cm for each side and then divide that by 2 if you want 2 curtains. Now you need to decide how gathered you want the curtains to be. If lightly gathered, you’ll need the fabric to be about twice as wide as the finished curtain, if heavily gathered about 3 times as wide. Add about 10cm to allow for the hems.

Now work out how long each curtain needs to be. The top of the curtain should be about 20cm above the top of the window and the length is up to you. Measure your window, starting 20cm above the top of the window and down to where you want the bottom to be. Add about 30cm for hems and gathering area.

Now you can go and buy your fabric. While you’re buying the fabric, you’ll also need to buy gathering tape and hooks. The gathering tape needs to be as long as the curtains are wide plus some extra. Tape comes in different widths and I like to use one that is about 7cm wide. The packets of hooks have information on the back saying how far apart the hooks need to be and then how many hooks you’ll need for your size curtain.

Now get to work: Cut the fabric to the correct size. Iron and then sew a hem down each side of the curtain. Your hen should be folded over twice so no raw edges are showing and be about 2cm wide. Iron over the top of the curtain. The first fold can be about 2cm and then the next fold needs to be as wide as the gathering tape plus 2cm. Pin the gathering tape onto the fold, with the bottom of the tape close to the where the hem will be sewn down. Note that there is a right side and a wrong side of the tape. The side you want showing has extra bits of tape where the hooks hook in. Sew the gathering tape and the hem at the same time, through all thicknesses. Sew the top of the gathering tape in place. Gather up the curtains by pulling the threads in the tape until the curtains are the right size for the window. Tie a knot or a bow in the threads so that they don’t come loose. Don’t cut these treads. When you need to wash the curtains, they will wash better if you can ungather them. Even out the gathers along the threads. Put the hooks into the tape at regular intervals. Once the rod and rings has been installed by a handy person, put each hook through the little ring at the bottom of each curtain ring. Do not hem the bottom yet! Allow your curtains to hang in position for a few days to allow the fabric to drop. Then you will know exactly where to put the bottom hem. Sew a deep hem, about 5cm along the bottom of the curtains and then hang them back up. Done!

This is what the top of gathered curtains look like.

Curtain top and rod

Here’s what the top hem, gathering tape and hooks look like.

Curtain tape, hem and hook

Here’s the bottom hem

Curtain hem

Tips

Any leftover fabric can be used for tie backs or matching cushions. If you want to add a blackout fabric to your curtains, pin the blackout fabric to the main fabric before you begin and treat the two fabrics as one. It is especially important to let them hang for a few days before hemming as the fabrics may drop differently. If using patterned fabric, buy extra so that you can match each curtain. The people in the shop where you buy your materials usually know lots about curtains so don’t be shy about asking questions.

UNDERGROUND SOUP

No it’s not soup that you eat on a London train or illegal, black-market soup, it’s soup made from vegetables that grow underground. I make it when the vegies are in season. It’s healthy and tasty and I call it Underground Soup.

What you need: 2 tbs olive oil, 1 onion, 4 cloves garlic, 2 carrots, 2 parsnips, 2 potatoes, 1 sweet potato, 1 litre water, 2 tsp stock powder, salt and pepper.

Roughly chop all the vegetables. Heat the oil gently in a large pan and then add the onion and garlic. Cook the onion and garlic gently for a few minutes. Add all the other ingredients. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the vegetables are very tender. Allow to cool slightly and then blend using a stab mixer or a blender until the soup is nice and smooth. Taste and add as much salt and pepper as you like. Reheat the soup gently and serve with a dollop of cream or yoghurt. Mmmmm.

SELBY’S YARN PICKS

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Heirloom 4ply cotton (50g, 165 metres), made in Australia

Heirloom 4 ply cotton

This is an excellent plain 4ply cotton, very smooth and much softer than other 4ply cottons available. There is nothing fancy about it, making it perfect for a wide variety of projects. I like to use it doubled for dishcloths and it makes excellent childrens’ cotton clothes. For adults it makes lovely cool summer clothes, either knitted or crocheted. Its softness and very slight loft mean that it never looks stringy. It comes in 16 colours but most of them are pale pastels and not very inspiring. However, the creamy off-white and the natural beigey-brown are lovely. You can expect to pay around $5 a ball, which is more expensive than other 4ply cottons but worth it for the extra softness. I found some discontinued colours at my LYS recently for $3.75, so some dishcloth knitting is in order or perhaps some facewashers.

BURRA CREEK GORGE

We hadn’t been camping for so long that when Matthew had an unexpected week off work, we decided to head off for a few days. We were planning on heading down to Newland Head, down near Victor Harbor but when we saw the weather report we changed our minds and went north instead. Strong winds, cold and rain are not at all pleasant anywhere near the Southern Ocean. Going the other direction seemed a better option. It was still windy and cold at Burra Creek Gorge but at least we could expect our tent to stay pegged in the ground. Burra Creek is about 25kms south of the town of Burra and about 2 and a half hours’ drive north of Adelaide. It is an old copper mining area and very beautiful in a bare Australian kind of way. The creek winds its way through a gorge full of ancient river red gums, tiny wild flowers and reeds. The soil is red and the water in the creek is very clear. There are all kinds of birds and sleepy lizards lazing around. Sleepy lizards are not just lizards that happen to be sleeping, they are actually called sleepy lizards. They are fat, slow sort of creatures with interesting markings and stumpy tails. They are also called stumpy-tail lizards. These two were lying on the road and crawled away so slowly that I had time to find the camera, jump out of the car, and take their picture before they found a rock to hide behind. Our few days away were exceedingly relaxing and reviving. I was glad to get home and have a shower though!

That’s it for this week. I’ll leave you with some photos of Burra Creek Gorge and some sleepy lizards.

Sleepy Lizards

Burra Creek Gorge

Burra Creek Gorge

This is what Burra looks like when you’re not in the gorge.

Near Burra