The unseasonably warm weather has ended, as we all knew it must. We have snow and sub-zero temperatures. This is how the garden looks.
Four fingers down
The gloves I’m knitting are going slower than expected. I’d forgotten what a darn’ fiddle fingers are, particularly when you’re patterning them in 4-ply (fingering). I whizzed through a pair of gloves before Christmas, but they were in DK yarn and I only worked three rounds of plain stocking stitch for each finger.
40-odd rows per finger in a Jacquard pattern on 2.5mm needles is a whole different kettle of fish. Not to mention spiralling a contrast-coloured two stitch cable up the index finger. But I just have the thumb to knit now of glove no.1.
The colours will be reversed in the second glove, which should make it slightly less boring to knit. That’s the problem with gloves and socks, you’re feeling all pleased with yourself for having completed the first one, then you remember you have to do exactly the same all over again. Sock knitters have a name for it: Second Sock Syndrome, the tendency to knit one sock and then start another project from a desire for a change, resulting in a lonely sock that doesn’t get a partner for months. Because once you’ve completed something else, Spring is round the corner and you tell yourself you’re not going to be wearing these socks for months so you might as well get on with another project in your knitting queue. The only way to counter SSS is to be firm and force yourself to knit the second sock (or glove) immediately after the first one.
Biscuit cutters from a tin
My domestic accomplishments do not extend to baking. Somehow, the whole Great British Bake-off thing has passed me by. So when I was invited to a “cookie exchange” (= biscuit swap) by an American neighbour, I had to start by making biscuit cutters before I could even think about baking biscuits.
I found a tin of condensed milk in the cupboard that looked like it had possibilities. Goodness knows how long it had been there. I used it to make some fudge as a fallback in case the biscuits turned out to be inedible. (Which they were, so that was worth doing.) I may not be able to bake – OK, I can’t bake – but any idiot can make fudge if they have a sugar thermometer. I have one that I bought during a soap-making phase. I know you’re not meant to use pans and utensils for both craft-making and food, but one thing about soap is it does wash off very readily.
Having emptied the tin and carefully removed the lid, I washed it out and drew a line around the middle. I’d planned to drill a small hole on the line and then cut round the tin using tinsnips, but their blades are surprisingly wide and drilling into the curved wall of the tin with a fairly large bit, without the bit wandering, turned out to be beyond me. I got out the Dremel instead.
It’s actually a Dremel lookalike which cost all of £10 from B&Q many years ago. I love it, it makes tricky little jobs very easy. I used a cutting disc to whizz round the line I’d drawn half way up the tin. Sparks flew and there was a satisfying burnt metal smell, but I soon had a tin in two parts. I decided to leave the lower half as it was, to make circular biscuits, with the bottom of the tin still in place to provide some rigidity. I used a grinding tip in the Dremel to remove the burrs and swarf from the cut edges and dull them slightly to prevent cut fingers.
The upper half was now a ring. I marked a line a short way away from the join and another one immediately opposite it, then used pliers to fold the ring outwards along the first of the lines and inwards along the other. A bit of manipulation with the fingers to curve the top and I had a half-decent heart shape.
These cutters are really only suitable for use once or twice, because there’s nothing to stop the steel can rusting now that its tin coating has been removed where I cut it. Unfortunately, the biscuits I made with them were a disaster. They looked more or less OK – the right shape, anyway – but were somewhat cake-like and soft in texture. The only flour I had was the strong wholemeal flour we use for bread (made in a bread machine – foolproof). I didn’t have time to go to the supermarket, and when I popped out to the convenience store a 15 minute walk away, all it had in was self-raising flour. In my culinary ignorance I used a mixture of strong wholemeal and white self-raising, an unsuccessful combination. We’re still eating the ghastly things, having wolfed down all the far tastier biscuits I brought back from the swap in exchange for my fudge.
I’m really excited to have won third prize in one Instructables contest this week, and a runner-up prize in another one. They should both be winging their way to me from Stateside, I need to be patient for a couple of weeks at least. My mess-free dyeing with Kool-Aid tutorial got me the third prize which is a tie-dye kit, and the runner-up prize, a book on pattern drafting, came from a running belt design I developed last summer when I took up running. I got fed up with not having anywhere to put keys, tissues, phone, etc and came up with a solution. The running has stopped – I hated it – but I continued to use the belt for summer bike rides when I didn’t want to be weighed down with panniers or the sort of clothes that contain pockets.
I used the Kool-Aid microwave dyeing technique to dye five colours for this Leftie shawlette. I had a cone of undyed silk 4-ply left over from another shawl and wanted something a bit more colourful. It worked beautifully and I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I didn’t even end up with coloured fingers, which is a first for me. (Memo to self, always wear rubber gloves when dyeing. The trouble is, I can never find a pair of hole-free rubber gloves when I need them.)
Both these tutorials are on this blog as well as the Instructables website. Pattern drafting is something I’ve always wanted to learn, so I can’t wait for the book to arrive. Like most experienced amateur dressmakers, I can tweak patterns and adjust them to fit well, but I’ve never tried starting a garment from scratch without a pattern.