Monday, February 24, 2014

Knitted Bow - For Hair or as a Brooch

My obsession with bow ties continues... But this time in my hair... This bow is a great stash buster, and a good way to practise working with multiple needles.

You will need:
3 x 4mm dpn
DK yarn
Pinback or hair clip

Cast on 15 stitches.
Knit front and back of each stitch, placing the created stitches on 2 needles. You will end up with 15 stitches on each needle, in 2 parallel rows.

Knit 29 rotations.
Cast off with Kitchener stitch, holding the 2 needles together. This wil make a seamless bow part.


Cast on 8 stitches.
Stocking stitch 10 rows, slipping the first stitch of every row.
Cast off.

Crimp the bow in the centre.

Attach the tie around the bow, and stitch up at the back.

Sew on the pinback or clip.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

A Few Super Fast Lunches

I've been trying to each healthier this year, as by the end of the academic year, my lunches are crazy carb fuelled wonders....

The plan is food from the garden, in the box, and out the door before I have time to think...

Garden salad, satay sauce in the piggy, apricots and almonds.

Pasta salad using garden vege, picked grapes and strawberries, dip for crackers, and frittata made from free range gifted eggs.

Iskender with tabouli (all garden vege), rice, beetroot, falafel, salad, yogurt, hummus and chilli.

Corn and pasta salad, frittata, cheese, cherry tomatoes, yogurt with fresh picked berries, tabouli from garden vege.

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The Hobbit - Bofur Scarf - Knitting Pattern

I made the authentic prop-replica pattern for Bofur's scarf, and while it is wonderful, it isn't necessarily the most infinitely wearable scarf. Because of its loose gauge, it is tricky to knit, and doesn't hold it's shape too well.

So I've adapted the pattern for everyday wear. This has a slightly tighter gauge from smaller needles, and increased rows to compensate for lost length. Do read the whole pattern here before starting, as the tips at the end are what make it easy and neat in my opinion.

You will need:
Size 8mm knitting needles
One ball each of Grey, Bluey-grey and Copper DK yarn (or buy the mithril yarn from Stansborough in Takahe, Raupo and Kokako)

Cast on 28 stitches in the bluey colour. Carry the tail across the back of the knitting as a kind of darn-as-you-go method.
Knit 24 rows
Change to copper. Knit 44 rows.
Change to grey. Knit 60 rows.
Change to blue. Knit 32 rows.
Change to grey. Knit 24 rows.
Change to copper. Knit 42 rows.
Change to blue. Knit 18 rows. Cast off.

Wash the finished scarf in warm water, wool wash and a little fabric softener for about 10 minutes by hand.

Squeeze out water with a towel.

Hang towel over a door or the washing line and drape scarf over the top. Clip a few pegs or clips to the ends to weigh it down. Leave to dry completely.

Super simple. But totally follow these tips for making it awesome.
1. Carry the yarn tails across the first line of the colour change to avoid darning them in at the end. After washing, just chop of the bit that dangles free, and the rest will be well attached in.

2. Slip the last stitch of every row to get a neater edge. The only exception is on the first row of a colour change where I recommend knitting to the end completely, then slipping the first stitch on the following row. This does keep the rows very neat.

3. Only use 100% wool. It works the best for getting the right look and a slight felting effect in the washing stage.

4. In the colour change rows, knit 1 stitch (which had been slipped at the end of the previous row. Then tie the two ends of the old and new colour together. This will create a knot between the first 2 stitches where it will never be seen.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Butterflies: The Good, The Bad, and why can't the bad ones be Ugly (and a lemon recipe)

I love the garden in summer, when everything comes alive. However, the joy of the first monarch butterflies is soon followed by the devastation of the white butterflies.

I've been out sprinkling Derris Dust and squirting with organic deterrents... Even the beagles make their lame attempts to catch the white ones.... And on the other hand I have pumpkin for the Monarch butterflies who have destroyed the Swan Plants in their hunger.

The bastards are even in my greenhouse!

However, sitting in he shade, reading, knitting and enjoying a refreshing cool beverage, it's a perfect Sunday. Even better with ingredients from the garden.

Cool Lemon Water

Super simple.... Just have ice and chilled water ready to go.
Fill a glass 3/4 full with chilled water.
Add a few ice cubes.
Pop in a sprig of mint and a slice of lemon.
Squeeze the rest of the juice from the lemon into the glass.

One lemon makes 2 massive glasses.

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Worlds Fastest Knitted Throw Blanket - Knitting Pattern

I love chunky yarn.... And I am working up to using that super super chunky stuff in winter as a challenge. But this was my need to come up with a super quick, easy afghan rug.

You may need to do a bit of a test square to make this square yourself. I tend to have a "relaxed" gauge, so you may need more rows to make each 'square' square.

I used:
5 balls grey super chunky yarn (colour 1)
5 balls green super chunky yarn (colour 2)
Since 10mm needles
Crochet hook
Grey DK (8ply) yarn

Cast on 20 stitches.
Stocking stitch 22 rows in colour 1. This made a square in my gauge. You may want to take the bottom corner of the knitting and fold it up to the needle line. When the cast on length matches the distance knitted, you have a square... Take a note of how many rows you did. You will need to do this many. (For me it was 22)
Change to colour 2. Stst the same number of rows.
Change to colour 1. Stst the same number of rows.
Change to colour 2. Stst the same number of rows.
Change to colour 1. Stst the same number of rows.
Cast off.

You need to make 3 "scarf" stripes like this. The other 2 alternate the colours.

2 alternate colour lengths:
Cast on 20 in colour 2. Stst 22 rows (or whatever number you are using)
Change to colour 1. Stst the same number of rows.
Change to colour 2. Stst the same number of rows.
Change to colour 1. Stst the same number of rows.
Change to colour 2. Stst the same number of rows.
Cast off.

Lay out the strips making sure the colours alternate in pattern.

Stitch the strips together using a bodkin and the DK yarn. It sits flatter than stitching with chunky yarn.

When stitched together you may want to block the project square. This is an optional step, but it will make things neater if you do.

Crochet a basic blanket stitch around the piece in the DK yarn.

The new owner of the throw.... However, he is an optional step for checking the size to block........

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My Obsession with Washi Tape

Last year when I found out I was heading to China, I knew I had to keep a journal, and I knew I had to make sure I remembered as much about the experience as possible. So I bought a Smash Book for journalling. I also bought washi tape, because, well, I needed tape to hold stuff in the journal. Now, I have been journalling since I was a teenager.... And I always keep a travel journal, but this was well, a new approach to the previous ones.

Not only did I fall for Smash Books completely... Love love love... But washi tape changed my life. From a couple of rolls just to hold stuff in, I then went crazy.... I bought so many.

Now I pretty much use the stuff for everything.

Need to decorate a card.... Washi tape.
Need to journal.... Washi tape.
Book too similar to everyone else's... Washi tape.
Hold a gift closed.... Washi tape.
Set a theme.... Washi tape.

The tape is smooth, and totally easy to use, it can be moved, repositioned, and still stick down.

I imagine I'll be using if forever... And probably buying far too many rolls.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Greenhouse Gardening: Pots verses Planting in the Soil

Greenhouse Gardening is awesome, I will say that much. Everyone with a greenhouse says so, they rave over their crops, and all use them differently, which actually makes is super hard to get good advice.

In a previous post I talked about choosing a greenhouse. This post is all about deciding how to use your greenhouse.

Basically there are three main ways of using a greenhouse:
1- For seed raising and germinating young plants.
2- With pots for extending growing seasons
3- in-ground planting

Each has it's own advantages and disadvantages.

Using a greenhouse for seed raising is brilliant... The seeds germinate quickly and grow in a warm, protected environment. Plants can then be transferred into an outside garden when their true leaves have sprouted. However, this does mean having a lot of shelving, and being super careful not to under or over water the seeds. Also, you have to be really good at labelling plant trays and making sure you don't germinate too many seedlings at once.

Growing in pots is a low maintenance solution. Plants grow quickly and weeding is not an issue. The greenhouse can even have a wooden or concrete floor to reduce workload even more. However, you have to be careful to monitor soil quality in the pots, and watering as there are no natural methods for the plants to gain moisture.

Planting in-ground has the advantage of using the soil, and gaining nutrients and worm activity. It does however mean weeding and having to monitor the condition of the soil. You also have to build a pathway in your greenhouse or some sections can't be easily reached, and no one wants a well trodden veggie patch the ground is also susceptible to cooling over winter and reducing growing periods.

So it's a lot to weigh up. Firstly, decide how you are going to user he greenhouse. We decided we wanted to grow a wider range of crops, and for a longer period (eg, all year). To this end, we opted for planting in-ground. We did how ever decide to build a raised garden inside the greenhouse to try and limit the cooling of the soil over winter. Time will tell if we are right.

We do need to water daily, and keep an eye on the temperature inside the greenhouse. Often the doors and windows are all left open, and he temperature is still over 30 degrees Celsius inside. We bought a thermometer... And in winter we may invest in a heat pad to keep the temperature up, as we have planted subtropical tamarillo and a taro inside.

We are also planning on installing a seed raising shelf soon. This will attach to he interior wall, rather than stand on the ground. We have chosen low lying crops for below the shelf and the taller crops on the opposite side.

Hopefully this post will give you some ideas about how to use your greenhouse.

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Easter Egg - Knitting Pattern

I was asked recently for a pattern for an Easter Egg... Knitted. If nothing else, I do like a three dimensional challenge... And I wanted to try something with double pointed needles that was seamless.

So here it is. I will warn you now, the first bit involves a lot of stabbing yourself with the dpn's.... Or at least, that's how I knit...

You will need:
5x 3.5mm needles
3 colours dk (8ply) yarn

Easter Eggs

Cast on 4, one stitch on each dpn
Knit front and back of each stitch for one rotation. There should now be 2 stitches on each needle.

Knit front and back of each stitch for one rotation. There should now be 4 stitches on each needle.

Knit one rotation
Knit front and back of 1 stitch, knit 2, knit front and back of 1 stitch. Repeat 3 times to complete the rotation. There should now be 6 stitches on each needle.

Knit 2 rotations
Knit front and back of 1 stitch, knit 4, knit front and back of 1 stitch. Repeat 3 times to complete the rotation. There should now be 8 stitches on each needle.

Change colour (colour 2) Knit 2 rotations.
Change colour back (colour 1). Knit 1 rotation.
Prepare to use 3rd colour. Knit 1 old colour (colour 1), (Knit 1 new colour, knit 3 old colour)... Repeat bracketed section over the rotation.
Knit 3 new colour (colour 3), knit 1 old colour (colour 1). Repeat over whole rotation.
Knit 2 rotations in colour 3
Knit 1 colour 2, knit 1 colour 3. Repeat over 1 rotation.
Knit 1 rotation in colour 3
Change to colour 1. Knit 4 rotations.
K2 tog over whole row.

Cut yarn, slip remaining stitches onto yarn. Stuff and pull tight. Stitch to fasten end.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mini Heart Knitting Pattern - perfect for a brooch

I've been making so many of these! They knit up quick, and the tails stuff the heart. I love making them as a brooch. It's a quick knit, and great scrap buster.

These are about half the size of the heart puff pattern I have posted.

You will need:
4mm dpn
Dk yarn
Safety pin or brooch back

Mini hearts

Cast on 4 stitches on 4mm dpn (2 on each needle)

K1 front and back, K1 front and back, (turn to second needle) K1 front and back, K1 front and back,

Knit 1 rotation

K1 front and back, k2, K1 front and back, (second needle) K1 front and back, k2, K1 front and back.

Knit 1 rotation

K1 front and back, k4, K1 front and back, (second needle) K1 front and back, k4, K1 front and back.

Knit 1 rotation

K1 front and back, k6, K1 front and back, (second needle) K1 front and back, k6, K1 front and back.

Knit 2 rotations

Rounded top:
Knit 2 tog, knit 1, knit 2 tog.
Turn knitting
Slip stitch, k2 tog, psso

Repeat rounded top on the remaining 5 stitches on the needle.

Turn to second needle.

Repeat rounded top on first 5 stitches.

Repeat rounded top on last 5 stitches.

Tuck in tails. Stitch the top section closed. Sew on a safety pin or brooch back on one side.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

What's Growing: February 2014

It's all go in the garden at the moment. There's hardly room to move for vege that needs harvesting or a weedy that needs pulling.

The cucumbers are in fine swing, and the corn has been doing magnificently. There is nothing better than attacking the garden for salad or dinner or lunch ingredients. It makes all the hard work worthwhile. The tomatoes are just coming along, with the first being used in some 'everything from the garden' tabouli.

Last weekend I sorted out the strawberries. With much chagrin I did in fact remove the runners, planting them in the greenhouse to strike. It was hard, normally I just let them go, but I do want more berries this year. Then they got all weeded and spread with pea straw after a jolly good watering.

The greenhouse is sooooooo hot at the moment. We have to keep opening it, and watering things so often in there. We planted a taro plant and watermelon seeds, which have germinated just over the last 2 weeks. I hope they do well,a a I would love watermelon for the effort. The strawberries are there too, and the lettuce and mescaline doing great - and they were only planted there because I needed to put them somewhere.

In my new garden bed the tops of carrots, beet root and rocket can be seen, and radishes sprung up almost overnight.

We harvested about 2 kilos of chilies the other day, so well ahead of schedule.

Soon there will be passion fruit and apples ready, and I do need to do something with the bok choi as it's doing really well.

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Help! There's a Vegetarian at my BBQ!

As a vegetarian, who is the only vegetarian in my close circle of friends, I have been to soooooo many dinners and barbecues where the only food to eat was the salad. And telling you now, seriously, vegetarians like hot food too! Like the amazing skewered vegetable recipe at the end of this post.

The thing is, often someone will bring a +1 to a dinner party or BBQ, and even the partner won't know they are vegetarian. (My husband of 12 years still forgets....) so being prepared for the event that a vegetarian could show up unannounced, and having hot food ready to go.... Guaranteed BBQ success.

The tricks to feeding a vegetarian at a BBQ:

- always have 2 types of salad. I always have a boring lettuce or spinach salad made f garden vege, dressed with salt, pepper, and a little lemon juice. This caters for those allergy types as well, as clearly every ingredient can be seen, saving a lot of, 'are there any nuts in this?'. And then I pair it with either a potato, rice or pasta based salad with a boiled egg in it. This won't help with your vegans, but they have the green salad, and the egg helps to cater to the protein of your vegetarians.

- Corn on the Cob. In summer we always have this growing wildly. I usually just go and pick one cob per guest as the BBQ is cranking up. Throw the cob, husk and all, on the barbie and forget. Peel the husk back creating a handle, and a glorious corn experience awaits.

- Falafel. I keep a ready supply, but if you don't, don't stress. But an instant falafel patty thrown on the hot plate (I use a non-stick aluminium foil underneath) makes an easy burger patty.

- Asparagus. Throw it on the grill, rotating as it gets those grill lines, and serve hot.

- Large, flat mushrooms. Giant flat mushrooms drizzled with oil, pepper and a little chili powder make a meaty meal.

- Potato Slices. Sounds strange, but I learned this one in China at a Korean BBQ... Take a sheet of non-stick baking paper and put it on the hot plate. Using a mandolin, thinly slice a potato. Wash well. Place on the BBQ... When the edges are slightly browned, turn the slices over. These will take the longest to cook, but they are delicious with a dipping sauce.

- Vegetable Skewers. See below

- Dipping Sauce. Everyone loves a choice. I like to have tomato sauce (duh), a Thai Chilli Sauce (sweet with ginger), and a spicy Satay sauce. This gives your guests flavour options which will blow their mind.

Also, those carnivores need to eat vegetables too.... When dished out to the boys, these skewers never disappoint.

Vegetable Skewers

1. Soak long wooden skewers in water for about an hour.

2. Wash button mushrooms in water, slice a yellow courgette, slice a purple onion, slice thickly a green pepper, and rinse cherry tomatoes.

3. Thread into a colourful arrangement on a skewer

4. Optional: marinate in a mix of olive oil, dark soy sauce, pepper and chilli powder.

5. Throw on the BBQ- can be cooked on the grill or hot plate.

6. Serve on the stick, optionally with a drizzle of sauce.

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