Monthly Archives

February 2012


The quest for sourdough


Somewhere in my brain there is a synapse that bolts to life and says to my little crafty soul, “you could make that”.  It happens when I see a beautifully knitted jumper, it’s happened a lot with crochet recently (yes, the dark side is approaching rapidly), and I’m completely powerless to resist if it kicks in on baking.

I love making bread, cakes, biscuits, and even crazy things like a 70-something profiterole croquembouche, but bread especially.  I mean, first you get to punch out all your frustrations and the day’s irritations into the dough, leaving you in a perfectly equable frame of mind to enjoy the first slice, steaming hot and inevitably crooked.  Home made bread never lasts long in our house.

I love sourdough but I’d never tried to make it until recently.  I started with Kat’s recipe for a starter from Housewife Confidential, and it got going nicely and I had a couple of loaves out of it before it ran away from me; we just don’t eat bread fast enough, and I was putting far more flour into maintaining the starter than in making a loaf and it grew and grew and grew and grew and well, I may have euthanized it.

But in this month’s Country Living (the one with the beautiful cover kitchen), there are instructions for a sourdough starter that works in teaspoons; much more size-appropriate for our three bear family.  And what else to do with a sourdough starter but try a loaf (recipe again from Country Living):

February 483
It’s a very pretty loaf of bread; after it’s shaped you snip into the crown with kitchen scissors to make a pointy sunshine crown on top (a trick I’m definitely borrowing for round yeast loaves in the future), and it is a gorgeous golden brown, and completely delicious and moreish.  What it isn’t …

February 482
… is tall.  I’ve made possibly the flattest loaf of supposedly risen bread ever known to man.  I made it on a fairly chilly day, without much extra warmth in the kitchen, and perhaps even five hours wasn’t quite long enough for it to prove.  I’ve got another set of starter working up overnight so tomorrow it’s going to spend most of the day either near a radiator or on a sunny windowsill and we’ll see if that makes a difference.
February 480
I think it’s my best yet, but there’s definitely room for improvement; my search for the perfect sourdough recipe continues.
Family Kitty



February 485

Today has been a day of blissful ordinaryness.  Kitty was poorly over the weekend, nothing major, just a tummy bug, but the first we’d encountered in her 17 months, and enough to turn my cheerful, high speed, mini-rocket of a toddler into a sorry, sad little limpet who wanted nothing more than to spend every available moment curled up in her Mama’s arms. So that’s what we did for most of the weekend; holed up together in a nest of quilts, watching children’s movies of varying quality (Madagascar and the Lion King good; Lion King 2, not so sure). Kitty nursed and nursed and nursed while my lovely H brought me glasses of water to quench a thirst strongly reminiscent of madam’s teeny tiny early days, and steadily made her way through both our wardrobes.

Today I’m wearing a ‘Hawaii 1984’ t-shirt that H bought years ago for a tropical themed hockey tour, and a much improved Kitty spent the day in a vest, thick tights, a warm long sleeved t-shirt and a pretty yellow checked sundress.  Thankfully the laundry is nearly all dry.

Together we’ve worked our way through the downstairs cleaning, with Kitty putting in lots of enthusiastic polishing of the dresser doors, the coffee table, and at one stage her father, who made the mistake of sitting down while she was still wielding her cloth and received a thorough dusting. We had a lunch-picnic in the conservatory-studio while the carpet in the lounge dried out after some rather necessary vax-ing, chattered around the supermarket, and she helped me turn leftover spaghetti sauce into a lasagne for supper with superlative cheese sprinkling and licky-scraping the spoon from the cheese sauce pan.

I’ve made it sound almost saccarine I know, but it has in truth been a day of precious domesticity, spun with memories of chattering nonsense together, singing, silly dancing around the kitchen, reading favourite stories (The Gruffalo and The Snail and the Whale), and I want to hold it tight, to store it up to fall back on when things get all topsy turvy and unexpected, as they so often seem to do.

I was browsing Pinterest the other night and came across one of those little thought for the day cards which I foolishly forget to actually repin so of course I can’t find it now, and it said something along the lines of:

“You are exactly who, and when, and where you are supposed to be – why would it be any other way”

Today felt like that.

Embroidery Finished



Thank you for your lovely comments here, on Twitter and on Ravelry about my little pattern.  I’ll admit I was beyond excited when I actually sold two copies yesterday.  To actual genuine people! Who are not my mum! Or H’s mum! Or H under a pseudonym! (I think).  The income will of course be pretty much entirely going to the tax man but that isn’t really the point at this stage, for now it’s enough to know that I have done something off my mental “one day I really should …” list (and clocked off another New Year’s Resolution).  I’m considering it an Achievement, and a slightly addictive one at that – I’m currently working on writing up my Phoenix socks pattern from the Cookie A class I took at Knit Nation 2010 to be a freebie Ravelry download.  I’d say it’ll be finished soon but soon could mean any time in the next two years at the current rate of progress.

I do however, have something that is finished.  Finished, and framed no less.  Those of you that followed the bear to butterfly migration might remember a sighting of the lesser spaced cross stitch, and you were all terribly helpful in suggesting a solution.  But first, a little peek of the finished tree:
February 467
It’s the sampler Christmas tree from Cross Stitcher Christmas 2011 and the slight hitch was that I discovered when I got the top stitching that I’d missed the spacing by a row, leaving a zig zag of backstitch tucked up next to the row above where it should have had a whole extra row to stretch out in.

Well, I couldn’t leave it as it was, and I didn’t rip it all out and start again:

February 454
Could you tell what I fudged? Or where?

Look a little closer.
 February 455
That’s the fateful zig zag running through the centre of the picture.  I picked out the first zig zag that I’d stitched and took a good hard look at the space I had left, and then the beauty of evenweave dawned upon me, and all was good.  When you sew cross stitch on Aida you’re (to a degree) bound by the little fabric squares.  To make a nice neat stitch you use the four holes surrounding your square, and if you want to do anything different you have to start punching holes in the tightly woven squares; it’s possible but not the easiest or neatest stitching in the world (at least not when I do it).  But with evenweave you skip the tightly woven squares and work across two threads, giving you a ‘box’ of nine little holes to work with.

It’s the reason why counting is a bit more difficult, and also the way to solve the problem.  Essentially, I dropped the zig zag line by half a row.  It’s a little bit closer than it should be to the snowflakes above, and to the swirling foliage below, but not so much that it screams “I’m a ginormous mistake – look at me!”, and that’s good enough for me.

February 460
I finished the stitching a while ago but it was looking a bit battered and slightly scruffy around the edges so I wanted to wait until it had had a nice press with my steam iron and a pretty frame.  The frame is an Ikea Ribba frame and mount that claims to be white.  It was the whitest one we could find in the shop and now that it’s all together I rather like the effect of the creamy mount.

February 468
The fact that my amaryllis matches isn’t planned I promise, just serendipitous; or perhaps not, my deep and unwavering affection for this rich, warm, velvety red is what drew me to the picture on the bulb packet, and the embroidery.  It’s a feast of red and white; total joy for me.

The Bare Necessities

Pattern: Deck the Halls from Cross Stitcher Christmas 2011
Materials: White 28 count evenweave and two colours of DMC cotton.
Time to make: A week
Would I make it again: Perhaps – maybe in another colour; it would look amazing in purple, or possibly green.

Designed by me Finished Kitty Knitting

Dreaming Spires


It seems like it might be time for us to have some actual genuine knitting over here.  Between this blog and the last, I don’t think I’ve had anything to show for myself since the parade of Christmas knits in early January.  And I’m claiming that’s my main hobby.  Oops.

Actually, if you count it by time spent recently my main hobby appears to be doing extra work for the office job.  It’s been urgent, and important that I did it (and I do get paid for the extra days) but “I’m a full time Mama on Thursdays” hasn’t exactly been true recently and I fear that Kitty has watched a smidge more CBeebies than I would ordinarily let pass.  Still, all this is (hopefully) behind us now and I have high hopes of making it to knitting group next Thursday and other ‘out of the house and away from the computer’ types of places.

The truth is, I’ve not been knitting very much.  Well not very much for me anyway.  I’ve got a little Kitty-knit underway but not much else.  What I have been doing is tying myself in knots with the computer trying to write up the pattern to a toddler-sized dress that I started designing last October and finally finished (many, many, many, many re-knits later) at the end of January. 

And here it is:

February 182

The Dreaming Spires Dress, published through Ravelry (but available even if you don’t have a Ravelry account) right here.

 February 189

It’s a top down, seamless little tunic dress, knit in the round with raglan sleeves and a cable down the front. The hem, cuffs and neckband are in garter rib, with a little placket and a pretty button at the back to make it easier to get off and on.

February 219 

The inspiration came from a trip to the dentist in Oxford.  Not the most salubrious of beginnings I grant you, but it is a beautiful city, full of familiar towers, steeples, turrets and twizzly bits, and a dental check up gives you plenty of time to lie back and imagine a little girl’s dress with a spire twisting and turning up the middle.
February 190

The yarn is Rowan Felted Tweed, described as DK now they’ve added an aran weight but it’s more of a light dk/sport weight in real life. It isn’t the most obvious choice for a toddler dress, but this isn’t a dress to go next to the skin anyway, and it is superwash and super warm.  Kitty has worn her dress over a long-sleeved vest on some of the coldest snowy days we’ve had this winter and she’s always stayed toasty warm.

Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino (my favourite baby yarn of all time) would probably work as a substitution and give nice cable definition, although you’d miss out on the tweedyness that makes the stocking stitch just a tad more interesting.

February 162

They say that having a child is allowing your heart to go walking around outside your body and they’re more than right.  This, if you’ll allow the parallel, is allowing my creativity to go walking around outside of me.  I hope it meets with friendly souls, I hope they like knitting the pattern, and most of all, after my relentless checking, cross checking and double checking, I really hope that the maths adds up.

The Bare Necessities

Pattern: Dreaming Spires Dress by me (!)
Size: 18 month -2 years.
Yarn: Rowan Felted Tweed DK in Soft Grey
Time to make: 3 months.  It probably doesn’t take that long if you’re not designing it on the fly and reknitting more times than you can count because of a chronic inability to count.
Would I make it again: Yes.