Christmas cookies

The advent calendars are being opened, there’s a constant supply of mince pies in the house, and we’ve put up our tree – it’s officially Christmas!
This year we have our first real live tree, which I’m very excited about.
2014-12-07 Christmas tree

A couple of weekends ago I was going to make and ice gingerbread cookies, so Gareth suggested we build a house. Why not?
(That was my second reaction; my first reaction was “Whaaat? What part of ‘I’m trialling this recipe and I’ve never used royal icing so I need to practice’ did you not hear?”)

Anyway, armed with a gingerbread recipe from 500 cookies, and a template from here, we set out upon this DIY mission.
2014-11-23 Gingerbread house

The template shapes all fit onto an A4 sheet, so it wasn’t too big a job. We got all the sides together, and then the tricky bit was getting the roof on and keeping it on! This is the part on Grand Designs where Kevin McLeod stands pensively next to a crane, and wonders if we will get the roof on in time so that we’re watertight by winter and finished by Christmas, before heading off for an ad break.
After lots of holding on and a lot of cement, we finally got the roof to stay up on its own.
2014-11-23 Gingerbread house

Then the fun part of decorating, and we even had some trees to go with it.
2014-11-23 Gingerbread house

2014-11-23 Gingerbread house

The house remained standing, and we held off eating it for a week, until our friends came to visit last weekend and we all did a pretty thorough demolition job.
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So all that was a practice run for this weekend, when we had my knitting group round for our annual Christmas crafting session – this year’s craft was, of course, cookie decorating.
2014-12-06 Sticka Christmas cookie decorating

We had a great time, and iced up 4 batches of cookies in all manner of pretty, creative, and cheeky designs (let’s just say there was an anatomically correct gingerbread man).
Here are my efforts,
2014-12-06 Sticka Christmas cookie decorating

featuring some brilliant work by Gareth – I do love the little footballer.
2014-12-06 Sticka Christmas cookie decorating

And this little guy made it onto the tree.
2014-12-07 Christmas tree

Wishing you all a great Christmas, and hope your holiday prep is going well too!

A crochet day

I attended a Carol Meldrum crochet class last weekend, at Wool for Ewe. It was on alternative granny squares, and learning a different way of joining up pieces into larger items like blankets.

It was a small class of 8, and we were welcomed with a lovely bowl of yarn (and cake!).
2014-10-25 Crochet class

We started off with little squares,
2014-10-25 Crochet class

then joined them up at the corners and added a chevron border. Both of these techniques were new to me, and I found the “3 treble together” decreases for the chevron very satisfying!
2014-10-25 Crochet class

Grey was a popular choice – my friend Olivia combined it with brighter blues.
2014-10-25 Crochet class

We also did a larger square, and were shown how a simple border can be used to join together various sized squares for different pattern effects. Mine is on the left, and reminds me of a watermelon. Olivia’s is on the right.
2014-10-25 Crochet class

Carol also brought along some beautiful samples to inspire us. She’s a brilliant designer, and such a patient teacher. If you get the chance to attend a Carol Meldrum class, do it!
2014-10-25 Crochet class

2014-10-25 Crochet class

I brought Usain Bolt along too, to meet his designer. He’s tried knitting, and now he’s ventured into crochet.
2014-10-25 Crochet class

I really enjoyed the day. I learned some new techniques, spent some quality crochet time with a friend, and met some interesting people – conversations included knitting and crochet topics, as well as travel, psychology experiments, trashy TV, and a bizarre game/sport/activity called Ingress.

I continued my wee sampler at home, but I ran out of the lovely peacock blue yarn. I’ve not used this yarn before, but I really liked it – very soft and nice to work with, and a lovely range of colours – I’ll probably get more for other projects: Artesano Superwash Merino (DK).
2014-10-25 Crochet class

These pieces will go nicely in my ‘swatch blanket’. This is another one of my great plans – I’ve been saving all my tension squares and pattern swatches, and someday I’ll join them all together into a blanket. I think this class has inspired me to give them all crochet borders, which will unify all the different colours and textures, and also make it easier to sew them up.

Meanwhile, I can also reveal some of the knitting I’ve been doing.

I made the Yarn Harlot’s Cutest Booties for my workmate’s new baby. Their in our work’s corporate colours, which I thought she’d find amusing. They’re really itty-bitty and cute, and not too difficult to knit up – like mini socks. And they only took about just under 25g of Regia sock yarn for the pair.
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And I finally finished the shawl I’ve been knitting for my friend Lex’s 30th birthday. Quite belated, but still within the same year!
2014-10-28 Lex's shawl

It was a nice and simple pattern, which turned out really well. I also really enjoyed using this yarn: Twilley’s Freedom Sincere Organic Cotton DK.
2014-10-28 Lex's shawl

I think she likes it :)
2014-10-28 Lex's shawl

Cake thoughts

We have a (well used) tea towel with very sensible instructions.
2014-10-18 Cake

While we haven’t been doing all that much baking lately, Gareth attempted strawberry cheesecake last week, which was a tiny bit runny but certainly very yummy.
2014-10-12 Cake

Today he decided to stick with a good old Asda vanilla cheesecake, but jazzed it up with kiwi, blueberries, and passion fruit.
2014-10-18 Cake

Meanwhile, my baking workmate made an impressive cake the other day, for someone’s birthday.
2014-10-16
2014-10-16

You may recall some of her previous work
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And happily for me, she’s agreed to make my wedding cake!

I won’t ask her to bake me the world, as exciting as that would be :)

Image from Cakecrumbs

Kaffe Fassett: 50 Years in Colour

Kaffe Fassett (amusingly, Wikipedia says it rhymes with ‘safe asset’) is a designer and artist well known for his work with textiles, and exuberant use of colour. I’ve come across his designs mostly for Rowan Yarns, but I didn’t realise what a diverse and prolific artist he is. This weekend I managed to catch the exhibition of his work at Aberdeen Art Gallery.

The opening exhibits included some of his earliest pieces.
2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition
Very First Cardigan, late 1960s, knit.

There’s just so much detail in his tapestries and needlepoint, and I love this idea of the same design in different formats.
2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition
Pink Ginger Jar, tapestry.
Ginger Jar, painting.

A classic Kaffe Fassett design.
2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition
Tumbling Blocks Bedcover, 1993, knit.

And the typical Kaffe Fassett jumper shape. I love the vibrant stripes on the right – they almost glow!
2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition
Bright Diagonal Box Stripe Sweater, 1989, knit.
Ombre Stripe Sweater, knit.

The pieces were all organised by design theme, such as plants, flowers, animals, and various shapes.
2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition

The Squares section talks about how a basic shape becomes far more exciting when used in a complex way.
2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition
Overlapping Squares Cushion (Brown), 2005, needlepoint.
Overlapping Squares Cushion (Pastel), needlepoint.

My favourite section was Fruit & Foliage.
2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition

What a chair!
2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition
Duck Egg Needlepoint Armchair, 1998, needlepoint.

And I just love these cushions – perfect for a garden bench!
2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition
Cushion selection: Lettuce, Pak Choi, Beetroot, Artichoke, Aubergine, Leek, all needlepoint.

Over in the Faces & Animals section I was highly amused by this pre-Lolcats cushion.
2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition
Cat in a Ruff Cushion, 1995, needlepoint.

In the middle there were some samples that could be handled. I always find it interesting to see the back of knitting and embroidery.
2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition

Most of the exhibition was full of colour and warmth, so the Blue & White room was noticeably cooler and calmer. I really liked this display with painted and real ceramic together.
2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition
Pot Painted Screen, 1999, paint on canvas.
Cabbages Stoneware Vase, ceramic.
Bowl Cushion, 1987, needlepoint.

And this was one of my favourite quilts.
2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition
Shirt Stripe Boxes Quilt, 2001, patchwork.

Here are a few more of my favourites:

2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition
Circle of Stars Patchwork Quilt, 2010, patchwork.

I imagine this coat to be Gandalf’s casual wear.
2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition
Long Leaf Coat (Autumn), 1992, knit.
Swiss Chard Cushion, needlepoint.
Night Tree Cushion, 1987, needlepoint.

2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition
Ricebowls Quilt, patchwork.

2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition
Rosita Zigzag Quilt, 2013, patchwork.

A simple but effective exhibition – I really enjoyed it.
2014-09-27 Kaffe Fassett exhibition

The Aberdeen exhibition is over now, but there is a similar, bigger one in Bath, at the American Museum in Britain, which runs until 2nd November. Do visit if you get the chance!

Jersey Lavender farm

In July we were on holiday in Jersey, and visited the Jersey Lavender farm.
2014-07-16 Jersey lavender farm

It’s a lovely wee farm, where they grow their own lavender and several other plants, and produce their own lavender products – oils, soaps, biscuits and fudge, and other such delights.
2014-07-16 Jersey lavender farm

As it was summer the lavender flowers were in bloom – some even almost on their way out, as it had been an early summer. Harvest was in full swing.
2014-07-16 Jersey lavender farm

In the summer they also organise talks about the farm, the growing, harvesting, and distilling process, and how they make their products. It was very interesting – I never knew there were so many species and varieties of lavender, plus the hybrid Lavandins. The Jersey Lavender blog has a good post on the difference between lavandula and lavendin.
2014-07-16 Jersey lavender farm

Here are some of the varieties grown and used in products.

Lavandula x intermedia “Grosso”
2014-07-16 Jersey lavender farm

Lavandula angustifolia “Elizabeth” which was bred in this farm.
2014-07-16 Jersey lavender farm

And some of the other varieties in their ‘exhibition’ collection.

Lavandula angustifolia “Miss Katherine”
2014-07-16 Jersey lavender farm

Lavandula angustifolia “Fring Favourite”
2014-07-16 Jersey lavender farm

Lavandula x intermedia “Edelweiss”
2014-07-16 Jersey lavender farm

Lavandula viridis
2014-07-16 Jersey lavender farm

Lavandula canariensis (from the Canary Islands)
2014-07-16 Jersey lavender farm

It never occurred to me, until I saw this big hedge of rosemary at the farm, that lavender and rosemary are related, but it seems so obvious now. They’re both part of the big Lamiaceae herb family, which also includes mint, basil, sage, thyme, oregano, bugle plant (which does well in my garden), and also teak!
2014-07-16 Jersey lavender farm

Meanwhile, back in Aberdeen, we’d attempted to grow Munstead lavender and Hidcote lavender, and it was the Hidcote that managed to do fairly well. I do like it’s little rounded buds and deep purple colour.
2014-09-13 Hidcote lavender

Lovely, lovely lavender
2014-07-16 Jersey lavender farm