Sunday, October 15, 2017

I've found my Crojo

After not doing much crocthet for a long time, I am glad to say I've found my crojo again. Every evening for the last 2 weeks I've been hooking away at a lovely unicorn pattern by Marina Chuchkalova.

It's for IQ for Christmas and I've loved every minute of it. The pattern is not difficult but can be a little trick at times but it has worked up quickly and beautifully! I've been using a cotton yarn and its density and feel is perfect for this project.

It's not quite finished but I am so pleased with it so far!

Now I have to make another that looks like Ubercorn from Go Jetters for the boy as he's obsessed with it!

What have you been making? Are you already making Christmas gifts?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Peeling and storing sweet chestnuts

"There's no mistake, I smell that smell. It's that time of year again."

That's right. Autumn is definitely upon us once the sweet chestnuts start falling. It's my favourite thing about this season. I love going out and having a tummage beneath the chestnut tree finding some absolute beauties. Although they don't come close in size to their continental cousins, UK grown chestnuts are just as delicious. Once you've donned your thick rubber gloves and get opening them shells you can easilly gather 2kgs in an hour on your own, or faster with the kids involved. The largest nuts tend to fall out of the tree before the casin does or bounce thrugh the grass once the casing has hit the ground so make sure you look through the grass for them!

Over the years I've perfected my way of storing chestnuts and I've had great success with keeping chestnuts in the fridge from October to the following July with very little spoilage. Here's how:

Get there early! Pick the fresh nuts as soon as the fall from the tree and plan what you're going to do with them as soon as you get home. Don't leave them hanging about too long or they'll start to either dry out or go mouldy through moisture.

Peel chestnuts you plan to freeze. The way I peel these beauties is by taking a sharp knife and slicing down through the skin, but not all the way through, at the "eye" end of the nut. Then peel back the skin from where you've cut. This way also gives you chance to check the nuts before storage. Discard any that feel sticky, soft, are overly darkened, have holes or mould, or have a boozy alcoholic smell to them. Don't worry, you'll easily detect the ones that are a bit off. Now place them in freezer bags, I usually measure about 250g per bag, and throw in the freezer.
These ones are great for popping in a stew or casserole. No need to pre-cook them.

Box em up! Once washed with cold water (don't submerge as this can make them go soft) place the nuts still in their shell in a small plastic box with a lid, lined with kitchen towel and place at the bottom and back of yur fridge. I've had nuts stay this way for around 8/9 months with very little spoilage. Check periodicaly for any mould or softness and replace the kitchen towel if it gets soggy.

Friday, June 27, 2014

I'm back! Day out - Tredegar Park

It's been 6 months since my last (solemn) update and 8 months since my last proper post. Apologies for that. Life has been busy and with a nearly two year old tantrumming toddler life has been a little tough - but I'm hooping to get back into craft and family blogging. Fingers crossed I can get myself motivated!

The weather has been glorious this week and we've tried to make the most of every little bit of sunshine. On Thursday, I took Squish to Tredegar House in Newport. It's a 17th Century mansion house built by the Morgan family of Captain Henry Morgan (rum) fame. It was later used by Lord Tredegar and his family. This is where me and hubby got married nearly 5 years ago but sadly you can't get married in there any more.

It was always a special place for me when I was small and one of the main reasons we got married there. It was somewhere I flew kites, learned to ride a bike and fed the ducks - usually during a Sunday outing with my dad.

The beautiful house and grounds is now owned by the National Trust so the house itself is paid admission but you can make full use of the grounds for free. The lake is wonderful and is surrounded by wide open spaces with ancient trees brimming with wildlife. We saw lots of squirrels and birds in the trees and heard many more. It was the first time I'd taken Squish there and she loved it. It has a lovely pond with ducks, herons, swans and moorhens. There's also lots of baby animals around and we spent ages feeding them. Squish also helped herself to some stale bread.

The playground is lovely with lots of things for kids of all ages. Typically squish wanted to scale the biggest and highest of them all. My dad recalled there being a springy chicken (that you could ride on) in the park many years ago and was sad to hear that it wasn't there any more. See, this place conjures up many memories for all of my family. Squish made lots of friends in the park, like she always does and we spent a good long while there.

After playing in the park we took a walk around the wooded areas and stalked a few squirrels, fed some birds, sneaked through trees and down winding footpaths. It was so lovely to have a mummy/daughter day that didn't have any crying or tantrums. My girl is definitely an outdoors kid and really relishes in the fresh air and open spaces, which is why I knew she'd love it there. I was so so proud of her that day because I always feel a sense of achievement when she's happy all day and I don't have to raise my voice or tell her off. She's not a bad kid in any sense but the terrible twos have arrived with stroppy-ness, tantrums, winging and crying. Oh and the outright annoying ignorance and defiance!

Because she was so wonderful, we stopped off at the lovely cafe in the grounds and had a pot of lovely local made Sidoli's ice-cream. She especially loved that there was a little spoon hidden in the lid - oh, and that there was chocolate on top!

If you're ever visiting Newport or even just driving through, Tredegar house is just off the M4 motorway and well worth the visit. We will be going back again and again.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Why I haven't been around...

I feel like I owe an apology to anyone who used to read my blog. I haven't been around for a while and before then my posts were sporadic and short.

Life has been pretty tough for me since the birth of IQ in July 2012.

I was diagnosed with PND around 12 weeks after her birth. This was something I hid from my friends and family and a secret that me and hubby kept close. I regret this terribly. I needed people but I couldn't tell them. I didn't have the strength to reach out and ask for help. As a result, I was sad and terribly lonely most of the time.

I felt, and sometimes still feel, like I am living someone elses' life. Days would go by where I had no pleasure from anything and feel wracked with guilt when I did't enjoy my baby girl.

Each day she grows bigger, smarter, faster and more and more amazing. I do love her so so much but I find her hard. I find being a mum hard. Sometimes I find just being, really hard.

When I was writing my posts in 2012 I was kidding myself and my family that I was OK. Every day I cried. Every day I didn't want to get out of bed. But when speaking to everyone else, I was fine. It was easier that way.


The days are getting easier. I am finding more strength every day and bad days have stopped being every day. They're now once a week, or even once a fortnight if I'm lucky.

I don't really know why I'm writing this but I feel like I need to say that I'm still here. I'm still reading your blogs and I will be back. Just when I feel a little more like me... ya know?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Sunday morning canal walk

I think that miss IQ is having a bit of a sleep regression as this morning and yesterday she point blank refused her nap. It ended up with screaming and sobbing when I attempted it this morning so I got dressed, wrapped her up warm and took her for a walk.

I'm very lucky to have the beautiful Brecon and Monmothshire canal on my doorstep. We had to walk up a moderately hefty hill to get to it but it really is beautiful. The canal is a 35 mile stretch of canal passages through the South Wales valleys, running from the Brecon Beacons right down to Newport. I'm lucky enough to live on the 'Crumlin Arm' of the canal which connected Crumlin and Newport. It was built in 1794 and was used right up until the 1940 to transport goods, mainly coal, through the valleys. Sadly, the canal has been broken up in to small sections over the years as houses and road have been built around it but you can still walk nearly the entire length of it.

While we walked, I thought about the last time I'd walked on that stretch of canal. It must have been well over 10 years ago since I last visited and it is still beautiful. I smiled to myself when I realised I was a child on my last visit but now returned as a woman, a wife and a mother. That made me feel very proud.

Along our walk we crossed paths with lots of dog walkers, couples on their Sunday walk and cyclists on their way up to the Cwmcarn Scenic drive, though I'm sure some of the older riders weren't going to be attempting the downhill track. What warmed my heart the most is that every single person said good morning, to myself and to IQ. Everyone was just so friendly. This is a part of the valleys I really did miss. The act of greeting a stranger with a smile and hello is a lovely feeling, even if you're a bit shy like me and only manage a quiet 'mornin' you still get a smile in return. Lovely.

There was so much wildlife out on the canal and that's something you don't really pay attention to as a teenager. I was as excited as IQ when we saw a large group of ducks on their morning commute from one bank to the next. IQ loves shouting kaaak (quack) at the ducks. We also saw a heron which was a first for IQ and she didn't look too sure about it. It was having a fish on the opposite bank and was moving very slowly through the water - I think that's what confused IQ.

We also saw a cheeky little squirrel precariously dangling on the thin branches overhanging the canal. There must have been some pretty good berries/nuts at the end of it! IQ saw the squirrel and shouted CAAAT. I suppose I can see her confusion but she can be forgiven as this was also a first-time viewing of a squirrel.

I also saw a gorgeous kingfisher. I didn't manage to get a photograph though as they're so very fast. But so so beautiful.

Across the canal are some beautiful stone bridges. I have fond memories of my Grandfather pretending to be a troll under the bridge and challenging my brother and I to sneak past and not get caught. I can't wait for IQ to do that!

Thankfully she fell asleep on our way back home and that's where she is now. At least she can have an hour nap and recharge before we meet my parents for lunch. Have a nice Sunday everyone!

On a side note -
I spotted some metal gates and fence posts along the canal that I really want to yarn bomb! So if there are any other Risca/Crosskeys knitters/crocheters out there please get in touch as I'd love to collaborate on it! (too much work for one person I think!)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The finished cardigan!

In my last post I wrote how I'd just started a gorgeous cardigan from Linda Permann's book, Little Crochet. I'm so pleased to say that I have finished it!

It's a great pattern and it has some lovely stitches and finishing that I've just fallen in love with. I used Rico 100% cotton yarn and even though the stitches are moderately loose the cardigan is super snuggly (and surprisingly heavy!). It took me around a fortnight, working an hour or so a night so maybe 20 hours in total? 

I'm so pleased with it. The size came out a little bigger than expected but that means more growing room!

I finished the cardigan off with two purple polka dot buttons and it looks great!

Can you tell I'm pleased?!? 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hooking in the new house

I'm very pleased to say that I'm back hooking again, after a substantial break. I don't know wether I lost my crochet-mojo or that life got in the way with the move and everything else going on in the background!

I've not been crocheting for myself either, which is a big change! A lot of the WIPs on the go at the moment are for IQ. I was bought the Little Crochet book by Linda Permann for my birthday last year but didn't want to make anything from it because I knew IQ would grow out of it, probably before I'd even finished the piece. Ha! All of the items in the book are the sweetest things, from blankets and bears, to ponchos and jumpers and with so much to choose from I felt a bit stumped as to what to start first.

Funky legwarmer
My first project started from the book are the Cozy Crawlers leg warmers. I've been carrying IQ a lot recently (in my new fancy-schmancy Ergo Sport!) and as the weather is about to turn much colder, I thought these would be perfect for keeping her pokey out legs warm on our daily walks. I've decided to make them out of Patons' Smoothie DK cotton yarn. It's an absolute dream to work with and the variegated colour-way means the leg warmers are looking pretty funky! I've finished 1 leg warmer and am having a bit of a break before I start the other one, as 60 odd rounds of extended single crochet makes my hands hurt after a while.

The next pattern I've started from the book is the gorgeous ribbed cardigan. I just adore the pointy elf like sleeves and motif yoke. I've gone a bit 'out there' the the yarn I'm using and have chosen Rico Baby Essentials cotton in a sky blue. I've made a few of the motifs and am halfway through the back. The shaping is so clever, using a mixture of HDC, DC and TDC the bottom has so much body and shape. It's looking so gorgeous, I can't wait to finish it up already. But, it's taking me quite a while as I've only got a limited 2 hours or so each night to work on things. I really hope I can finish the cardigan before the weather turns really cold.
The start of the cardigan

I've also been working on a few other projects for some special little people who are making their first appearances to this world over the next few months. I can't share on here though, as I know one of you (Samboy) will see!

See, told you I've been busy!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Settling In

It's been just over a week since we made our big move and I'm please to say that we are settling in to our new home and hometown very well. It's fantastic to be so close to family and friends again. We've had visitors every day and we've even had a baby sitter to let us go out and have a few drinks. It's been great.

The move itself went so perfectly, we couldn't have wished for more. The company we used were very diligent and professional, the emptied our old house in 4 hours and re-filled our new house in just under 3. They even hung our clothes up in our wardrobes! My mum had IQ for the few days over the move, as well as the cats, so we could get everything done without worrying about stepping on the cat/baby! It took IQ a few days to settle in, she was getting awful upset when we left her to sleep but thankfully that only lasted a few days.

We did have one minor problem when we moved in to our new house... when going to cook our first meal I found that the oven didn't work! Only the grill part was warming up... bums! So we had to go out and buy a new oven. And when that one arrived, the engineer said he couldn't fit it because the cupboard space wasn't right for an integrated oven. But there was one in there already?! We had no idea... so hubby went to B&Q, bought a few bits of wood and some legs and made the cupboard good, so I'm glad to say the new oven works perfectly!

We've unpacked the majority of our stuff but as there's more space in this house, we're needing to buy a few more storage units and shelves to put things away. IQ loves having her own playroom, as do I, as it means I can close the door on the toys and forget about the mess!

The house already feels like our forever home and we've only been here 10 days!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I've been quiet because we're on the move!

I'm so sorry that I've neglected my blog for so long. I can't believe it's been nearly two months since I've posted anything!
Our actual SOLD sign!
We've been oh so busy as we're on the move! We've managed to sell our house (after waiting 6 months for it to shift!) and we've had a completion date set to move into our new house on August 23rd. It's been pretty manic in the Stitch household as you can imagine.

Hubby has still been off work but has done a few odd bits of arty stuff and it's all been amazing. I'll try and get a few blog posts about them written up and scheduled for the coming weeks. Having him at home has been fabulous and I know I'm going to miss him dearly when he goes back to work. Bedtimes have been shared between us and it's been great to have an extra pair of hands about the house too.

We've been busy packing up non-essential house things and are down to the bare minimum of our stuff, so the serious packing and taking furniture down will be done over the next two weeks. My mum has very kindly offered to come and stay a few days before the move to watch IQ while we do the last minute bits.

So yeah, a lot has happened over the last two months! Here's a quick list of things I'll write more about when we're settled (and I have free time - hah!):
  • We sold our house!
  • IQ turned 1 in July
  • IQ's first words have been cat, beep beep and book
  • I've been busy with my dreadlock beads website and have had a record number of orders over the last month!
  • Hubby has done some AMAZING artwork
  • IQ can nearly walk!
  • Remember the issue with my Pfaff embroidery machine? I found the disc while packing away the craft room - yippee!
That list is just all the things I can think of right now as my head is literally exploding with all the things I want to write about... oh, and our central heating boiler has just started to leak water!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Quick and easy chunky flower brooch - FREE PATTERN!

Completed Flower Brooch
Brooches are pretty "in" this summer and there are literally hundreds of patterns on Ravelry for all manner of flower brooches. Most of them are made with thinner yarn as I wanted to use up the last bits of my Wendy Fusion chunky.

I whipped up this flower pretty quickly (5 mins!) and I thought I'd share this quick and easy flower brooch tutorial with you. 

Central & Middle pieces
Outer Flower Piece
Yarn: Wendy Fusion or other chunky yarn
Hook: 6mm
Gauge: not important!
You'll also need: Brooch blank / brooch pin


Central circle:
Using a lighter colour, use a magic ring and make 10 single crochet in ring. Pull tight and fasten off.

Middle Flower:
Ch 4. Join with SS to first SC to form a ring.
Ch 1, 12 DC in ring. Join with SS to 1CH.
*SC, HDC, DC all in next SC. DC, HDC, SC all in next stitch** repeat from * to ** all around for 6 petals. Join with SS to 1CH.
Fasten off.

Outer Flower:
CH4, join with SS to first SC to make ring.
*CH 14, SC in ring** repeat * to ** for another 9 times (10 petals in total).

Finishing up:
Place the 3 flowers on top of each other and sew together. Sew or glue a brooch blank to the rear and you're done!

You can always add a button to the centre or even beads to it!

I'm actually going to make another and attach it to a hair elastic to spruce up my dreads a bit!