Saturday 22 September 2012

One Snugly Woven Blanket

There is always a place for a snugly blanket. Old or young, at some time or another we all need a handy snugly blankie for fending off those nippy picnic breezes, covering knees  and hands at the rugby-football-hockey, or cushioning a weary head on a long flight. From the cradle to the grave, the blanket never goes out of style.

Care of Mum, Dad, Trade me and Christmas, I was lucky enough to get my hands on this wonderful Ashford Heddle Loom and stand. This is the second project I have woven on it. The first was a girly pink, pale green and light blue baby blanket that looked just amazing, and was very happily received by one of my new mother friends. This time around I thought I would try something a little more masculine.

Using a variety of different coloured yarns is creatively very liberating, as I just let loose with the colour combinations without over thinking the overall design. All the yarn I use is 100% New Zealand wool 8ply. There are lots of New Zealand grown and manufactured wools available if you know where to look: Ashfords (Ashburton) and The Wool Company (Taihape) both make affordable, good quality yarns in a variety of colours - including some interesting variegated colours. 

There is little point in me attempting to explain the warping up of the loom, when Ashfords have such a great video tutorial on-line:

This blanket used 210 warp threads. The 7.5dpi reed is the best one to use for 8ply yarn.

I used the following pattern for the warp threads: 12 Green, 8 red, 6 gray, 8 red, 6 gray, 22 blue, 12 red, 10 natural, 6 gray, 10 green, 18 blue, 6 green, 6 blue, 6 green, 6 blue, 10 red, 16 natural, 6 gray, 18 red, 6 natural, 12 blue.
For the weft thread I used all navy as pictured.

Time to just get weaving. It is much quicker to complete than knitting, as each row is done in a matter of seconds.
Ashfords have lots of on-line tutorials with all the information required to weave up a storm.
When the weft thread runs out, definitely join at the sides as it is much less obvious than in the centre of the work.
By join I mean overlap the ends of the old and new weft threads, as shown on the right.

All done and time to finish the ends of the blanket.
 As this blanket is intended for a baby or child, I did not want to have the fringed edges. Too tempting for little mouths to chew, and too fluffy and ticklish for little sleepy noses.
With this in mind, I tied the ends off in groups of 6; 3 threads on each side of the knot, and cut off the extra to about 3cm in length. This minimised the lumpiness of the knots and made them easier to tuck into the fabric band.

Cut the fabric strips the same length as the width of the blanket plus 3cm for seams.
I calculated the width of the strips based on a finished width of 4cm using a 1.5cm seam.
1.5+4+4+1.5 = 11cm
Turn the fabric right sides together and sew a 1.5cm seam on each end. Turn into the right side to form a neat end.
Press the 1.5cm seam under all the way along the band.

 Slide the ends of the blanket into the fabric bands and pin in place. Make sure the folded edges are positioned adjacent to each other on both sides of the blanket.
All stitched and ready to go. The zig-zag generally looks neater on both sides than a straight stitch.
One little lads blanket, just waiting for a belt of bad weather and a sleepy head. 

Miss Dwan's Chocolate Brownie

Little Miss 3 woke with the sparrows as usual this morning. An early start seemed like a good opportunity for a spot of baking. Nothing too elaborate for the early hours. She was hell bent on adding lots of sprinkles, but I managed to convince her that raspberries are an excellent alternative.

This recipe is care of one of my esteemed colleagues, Miss Sarah Dwan. She is the undisputed best baker on our Senior Leadership Team, and a frequent willing sharer of recipes. 

This is a great recipe if you need a large quantity to feed a crowd or to use for fundraising efforts. Earlier in the year my entire Vertical Group class each made a batch of this brownie and we sold it at a dollar a piece for our Mission Effort. Good job! 

You will need a large tin to bake this. I used an expanding tin at 25 x 33cm. A well lined roasting dish will  also do the trick.

Miss Dwan's Chocolate Brownie

320g butter - melted
1 1/4 cups cocoa
7 eggs
3 cups caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 1/2 - 2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
frozen or fresh raspberries

  • Preheat the oven to 160 deg. C
  • Line a large dish
  • Melt the butter
  • Using an electric beater or mixer, beat the cocoa into the melted butter (use a large bowl)
  • Add the eggs, sugar and vanilla, and beat until the mixture has whipped up in volume
  • Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, mix in the chocolate chips followed by the sifted flour and baking powder
  • Pour into the lined baking dish and shake to spread out
  • Evenly dot the raspberries over the mixture and press in
  • Bake for about 1 hour, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean
  • Leave to cool in the tin

With such a generous quantity I was able to fill the lunch tin and the visitors, put a slab in the freezer and still have some left over for afternoon tea in the sun.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Green Pea Soup with Crispy Bacon

At the risk of sounding a monotonous drone of familiarity: here we are again, its getting late, tired child, late working partner and me. Not so much parental guilt today, as managed to pick little Miss 3 up from Preschool at a more acceptable 4pm, rather than a meltdown inducing 5. Whats for tea Mummy? That's a good question my little blossom. Something in a hurry.

Little Miss 3 just loves peas. This might sound a little abnormal for a three year old but she will happily eat them at any stage of the day. This fact led to a late afternoon brainwave - Green Pea Soup with Crispy Bacon.

To make this cheerful Pea Soup:

Finely chop an onion and gently fry it in a little oil.
Don't let it brown.

Add the peas. I used frozen, but fresh would work just as well.

Its way too late in the day to measure anything. I threw in about half of a 1kg bag. About 3 cups at a guess.

The exact quantity really doesn't matter.

Yes, that is a three year old helper's hand.

Cook the peas with the onions until they start to heat through.

While that is heating, begin to fry a few rashers of bacon.

Once the peas are starting to cook, add enough boiling water or stock to generously cover them.

Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes.

Take off the heat and attack with the stick blender, but not too much as its much nicer as a hearty rustic soup.

You could use a kitchen whizz (if you like washing up all those components after) or a potato masher and a lot of elbow grease.

Check the seasoning.
Be careful if your using stock that contains salt as it may mean no extra needs to be added.

If you can be bothered running out to the garden, a sprig of mint would be a welcome addition. At our house it was cold, and I was in a hurry. Enough said.

Soup and bacon all ready to go.

Little Miss 3 had already made off with some of the crispy bacon.

A few bits of toast and butter and we have a hearty dinner made with little time and effort.


Perfect timing as the man of the house arrived home just in time for tea.

 Clearly a successful tea time offering.

Monday 17 September 2012

Beautiful Little Girl in her Sustainable Nappies

The proof is in the wearing! This darling little dot is less than 3 months old and she is already an environmentally responsible citizen!

This is my friend's darling little girl wearing one of the nappies I made. Her proud mummy tells me they are working really well. No leaks and no sweaty synthetic-fabric-induced bottom. I have started prototyping the next size up, so will have to wait and see how long it takes this little blossom to grow out of them. 

Who's got their fancy pants on!

My August blog has all the instructions required to make a set of 100% cotton washable nappies.

Thanks for sending the photos - She is just adorable!

Friday 14 September 2012

Calico Rat

Who said rats are creepy, sly, unappealing little creatures who hover in dark corners just waiting to surprise the unsuspecting among us? Inspire by Queenie the Preschool pet, and a fascination with trying to create and transform the most unexpected creatures into natty and lovable toys, I have created calico-rat. I intended him to be a simple, uncompleted prototype, but after constructing the body and stuffing him it seemed like a crime to deprive him of a little cute face.

The drafted out pattern
  I made a pattern by drawing out a simple body shape and adding a dart to enable the ears to be easily attached.

 From there I used the measurement of the length of the body to draw an under body panel.

Add a tail, feet and some ears, as well as a 1cm seam all around and my little rat is ready to take shape.

Cut out the paper pattern. Then pin onto calico. Cut 2 body panels, 1 under body, 1 tail, 4 ears and 8 feet.  

First sew the 2 pairs of ears together and turn them into the right side so the seams are enclosed. Iron, then fold a little pleat into each ear.

Sandwich them into the dart on the top of the head and sew together.
Do the same for both ears.

Now sew the 2 body pieces together.

Fold the tail piece in half and sew up one side. Its quite tricky, but it needs to be turned in the right way to enclose the seam.
Pin the tail to the body.

Sew the 4 pairs of feet together and turn in the right way. Iron and top stitch around the edge. This holds the seams firm and stitches closed the gap used to turn the feet in the other way.

I decided to zig-zag the feet onto the under body.
This picture shows the feet on the completed rat.

Once the feet are attached, pin the under body to the bottom edge of the main rat body.

Pin the main body to the under body and sew together.

Leave a gap to turn the rat in the right way.

Be sure to place the right sides of the main and under body together, or else you may find yourself looking for a quick unpick.

If the under body is too large, just trim a little fabric from it. Be sure to adjust your paper pattern so it will be correct for next time.

With such a tight curve it is useful to cut little notches into the main body in order to make it fit neatly and avoid annoying little fabric tucks.

The tail will be caught in the seam.

Turn in the right side and you have...

One little rat, ready to stuff!

Push the stuffing into the rat body until it is fairly firm. The stuffing will compact over time.

Hand sew the opening closed using matching thread.

Then sew on a little face, and behold a lovable little rat. Here he is, after school, with Miss 3, visiting one of our favourite local cafes for a flat white and an apple juice.
I can't wait to try out the pattern again on some cute cotton floral fabric. I'm thinking a mixture of different fabric colours and patterns.  

It's a hard life being a rat...

Wednesday 12 September 2012

'What's in the Fridge' Salad

We all know the feeling: it's 5pm, partners working late, Miss 3 wants carrots for tea, and says she has a sore ear: 'come sit with me Mummy', and tea is not going to cook itself. There's a little bit of this and a little bit of that in the fridge, but it's looking like adding up to a whole lot of nothing much. Arise the fridge Salad: a clever little combination of a few simple found-in-the-fridge ingredients, combined in a flash, and on the table in no time.

I combined half a finely chopped onion, a peeled and julienned carrot (you can grate - just be sure to squeeze out the excess juice), 4 boiled shelled and chopped eggs, a few sliced cherry tomatoes, and about 1 cup of cooked pasta of any shape or description.

Lets be honest here: we all love mayo! 
Combine 1 generous tablespoon of mayonnaise with a glugg of olive oil and some roughly chopped parsley.
I would have added a crushed clove of garlic, but mother hubbard the cupboard was bare on that front.

Gently stir the whole lot together and serve it with whatever protein you have available. In our house tonight it was chicken. It could just as well be as simple as some crispy fried bacon added into the salad.
 I sprinkled some chicken breast pieces with smoked garlic salt and pepper, seared the outside in the grill pan on the stove top first and then threw them into the oven at 200deg. C.

It should be all but cooked by the time the salad is ready.
A meat thermometer is a great piece of equipment to have: the chicken should reach 75deg.C measured in the thickest part. Overcook it and it will be like eating a white facecloth.

All done and dinner's on the table. Just enough time for bathtime, Miss 3 is off to bed, and there is time left over for me!

Sunday 9 September 2012

Pretty Little Cardy

Nothing looks prettier than a little girl in a hand knitted cardigan. All smiles and blooming optimism. Hand knits always speak of care and attention, time spent in crafting something special for a treasured child.

This one uses colour and a relatively simple pattern to excellent affect. It was quick to knit with no shaping in the armhole or sleeve. I have used a New Zealand Merino and Cashmere blend made in NZ by Zealana.

Despite this being a New Zealand made yarn, it seems to have few stockist in NZ. I found it at Knit World Studio in Cuba Street, Wellington when we went on holiday recently. Not stocked in Christchurch unfortunately, but the website lists lots of US and UK  stockist.

The pattern is by Touch Yarns: 'Child's Patchwork Cardigan', design number TY0601. Touch is another excellent New Zealand yarn company that manufactures in NZ from New Zealand wool.

The pattern calls for five colours. In typical spare of the moment stash gathering fashion, I only bought four colours: Pale Jade, Kowhai, Rose Petal and Milford Fiord. At $14 a ball, this is no cheap cardy; so instead of buying another colour I decided to be a little creative with their distribution. Thus proving you don't have to stick to the pattern colour guides to achieve a great result. 

The colour join as seen on the wrong side
 of the work

To join the colours on the back be sure to wrap the second colour around the first at the join. Otherwise you will end up with two separate pieces of knitting.

I knitted the sleeves at the same time, as I find it saves time on measuring later. Because of all the stripe colour changes and working from both ends of the balls to avoid having to ravel off and break the yarn, this turned into a spaghetti nightmare. It was worth it in the end, however it made this part of the project hard to work on over coffee and cake in my favourite cafes.

As you can see I ran out of pink before the sleeves were finished! Oh well ....  unique customisation.

Sewing the shoulder seams together usig mattress stitch.

The neck all ready to have the band cast on.

Knitting the neck band.

Sewing the sleeve on. Pinning it with safety pins makes it easier to sew with no sharp pins to work around.

I decided to depart from the pattern and make a couple of crocheted flowers to decorate the front.

Large Flower
Work 6 chain st. then join into a loop.
1st row: work 1 chain, then 12 stitches double crochet through the centre; join to the beginning stitch.
2nd row: work 1 chain, then 2 double crochet into each stitch. Join to beginning stitch.
3rd row: work 8 chain and join into the circle at 3rd stitch. Repeat 8 times.

Small Flower
Work 4 chain st. then join into a loop.
1st row: work 1 chain, then 8 stitches double crochet through the centre, join to the beginning stitch.
2nd row: work 1 chain, then 2 double crochet into each stitch. Join to beginning stitch.
3rd row: work 6 chain and join into the circle at 2nd stitch. Repeat 8 times.


 I also made this butterfly by crocheting a chain, then filling it in with double crochet.
Sewing it onto the cardy keeps its shape.

Little Miss 3 said she wanted butterfly buttons. Luckily I managed to find the right size and colour, so she was thrilled with her new cardy! Happy little girl!