Monday, 30 September 2013

Yarndale 2013

In the interest of honesty and full disclosure I should start this post with a couple of admissions. I didn't really go to Yarndale for the yarn. No, it was more an excuse for my friend Rachel and I to have a lovely child-free day out in the country - a "lady date" if you will. I'm not really a yarn purist. I confuse my double knits and my arans, my worsteds and my tweeds, and care not one jot how organic, artisan or hand spun the yarn is - I just tend to see a pattern or colour I like the look of and work from there. Usually on the wrong size needle or hook.

And I didn't take many photos. Sorry. It was just too busy and my camera was too heavy and I was juggling my handbag, my purse and my purchases while trying to look at yarn, stroke the yarn and not bump into people (did I mention how busy it was?) and taking photos seemed pretty irrelevant after a while. I just wanted to enjoy the experience.

When we arrived at around half past eleven the hills were shrouded in misty low cloud and the light was flat and grey.

But the walk from the car to the entrance was strung with bunting and it added a cheerful, festival feel to the whole affair.

Inside it was heaving. Lots and lots of people. And so many stalls! The venue is used for cattle auctions and each stallholder had a pen. There was a lot of yarn and yarn related paraphernalia. Many stalls were selling gifts and handmade crafts too, but it was the yarn stalls that seemed the busiest. I said hello to Lucy and bumped into Jacquie and it was lovely to meet both of them in the flesh. 

At this point Rachel and I went into a black hole of time where we wandered up and down the aisles in a trance like state and then suddenly, at two o'clock, realised that we were very hungry indeed and needed some lunch. Dispirited by the long queues for food we decided to drive into Skipton and get something there and I'm glad we did as we had the nicest lunch sitting outside in the sun in a little cafe. I left my camera in Rachel's car and took the rest of these photos on my phone. Skipton looked like a nice place to be on a sunny Saturday afternoon with a bustling market and many independent shops and cafes to explore. We wandered over to Lucy and Tracy's studio for a nosy and what a light, bright and colourful space it is. 

By this time is was after three and we decided to walk back up the hill to Yarndale, hoping that the crowds had thinned out a little.

The sun had burned through the cloud by now and the views of the dales were glorious.

Just outside the front doors was a tree strung with yarn-covered plastic balls. I think this may have been my favourite thing from the whole day.

It was much easier to browse the stalls now and we spent a lovely hour re-visiting all those we couldn't get to before. On our way back down the hill into Skipton to the car, we walked through the park and saw some of the yarn-bombing that was on display. It was all quite wonderful and it was nice to see so many people stop and look at it.

I was pretty restrained in my purchases and bought some very beautiful linen thread for potential doily making...

...and this gorgeously soft alpaca yarn plus a pattern so I can knit myself this cowl.

So all in all a rather lovely day out and I hope the Yarndale organisers are relaxing now and feeling pleased with themselves after staging this huge event. Yay for yarn and yay for Yorkshire!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...50/52

The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.

Joining in with my friend Jen at little birdiehere are a few of my happy-making moments from the last week:

1. In an effort to save some money I patched my favourite jeans. John says there are too many hexagons and it looks like I've got an episode of Blockbusters going on on my knees. I beg to differ.

2. Car boot sale bounty. We spent last Sunday morning at a huge car boot sale at Wetherby Race Course. The sun shone, I bought some treasures (total spent - £5!), the kids spent pocket money on small toys, and John browsed as many boxes of vinyl and books as we'd let him. Brilliant fun.
3. Yes, I know it looks like random scribbles but this is a family portrait drawn by Angus while he was at school. He was so puffed up with pride when he pulled it out of his book bag and it was duly admired by all then very solemnly mounted on the front of the fridge with dinosaur magnets.

4. Yesterday I was a lady who lunched. It was a gorgeous, sunny autumn day and I put on nice clothes, caught the bus into Leeds and six of us met at a very nice Thai restaurant to honour the happy fact that my friend Rachel will start her midwifery degree next week. There were around 1500 applicants for only 20 places on the course, and she got a place. Isn't that amazing? She's going to be a terrific midwife.

And now, I must go, because I'm off to Yarndale

Thursday, 26 September 2013

A Crochet Scarf For A Girl Who Is Six

This whole thing started on holiday in France when my niece, Alicia, was watching me crochet squares for my blanket. She started playing around with them, arranging them into patterns and rows, and then said "Auntie Gilly, could you make me a scarf like this for my birthday?" I couldn't really say no, nor did I want to. Alicia wanted pink, purple and yellow one day, pink and purple the next, purple and red the day after that. 

I made eleven squares and crocheted them together adding a border of treble stitch clusters, then a row of double crochet in pink. It's the same pattern I'm using for my blanket, a circle within a square motif*, and I just used what I had left in my stash of cashmerino yarn. You may notice that the cream border is a paler colour than the cream in the squares, despite being made from exactly the same brand and colour of yarn. There's a lesson in batch numbers there! But it doesn't really matter and I like the resulting colour combination very much. I think it's girly enough to make a six year old happy but the bold floral shape and splashes of red stop it becoming too sickly sweet. I'd love to make one with yellow and green centres, like a daisy chain. Wouldn't that be pretty? 

Happy birthday Alicia. 

*It's the Double Bed or Sofa Blanket pattern from Susan Pinner's Granny Sqaures.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Tomatoes and Chutneys

The best thing to come out of our garden all year. Our garden is not large and my fingers are not green, so anything resembling a harvest is greeted with much fanfare and excitement around here. I grew these from seed (from seed!) and dutifully moved them from seed tray to flower pot to slightly bigger flower pot, from cold frame to garden. I think we got lucky with the weather this summer - it was glorious and the sun shone plentifully and so the fruit ripened. We picked everything; big and little, overripe and underripe, red and green and everything in between.

Since I am currently time rich and money poor, I have decided that I will be making my gifts this Christmas. That's easy enough for the women and children in our family as I can think of many things to wear, to play with or for the home that will be happily received. But the men in our family are harder to make for and so they will most likely be receiving consumables this year. Little hampers containing chutneys, jams, maybe a fruit cake and some cheese (I'll be buying the cheese). 

I made this tomato and chilli chutney, leaving out the cardamom seeds (I didn't have any) and swapping the red wine vinegar for malt vinegar as that's what was in the cupboard. It seemed to work well with the cherry tomatoes and I liked the way this recipe made no mention of skinning the tomatoes.

And with the green ones (I just LOVE the colour of these!) I made, yes you guessed it, green tomato chutney. This is the recipe I have been using for the last few years and it works really well every time. It makes enough chutney to fill four jars.

500 g green tomatoes
400 g red onions
400 g apple, peeled and cored
250 g raisins
250 g brown sugar
1 tsp cayenne pepper
500 ml malt vinegar

  • Chop all the fruit. (I diced the onions and apple and halved the larger cherry tomatoes and left the really small ones whole.)
  • Put all the ingredients into a large pan and mix.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for one hour.
  • Spoon into sterilised jars.
The combination of brown sugar, vinegar, spices and cooking time mean that the tomatoes lose most of their vivid green colour, but I like the way you can just see a few little pale green circles pressed up against the sides of the glass jar.

As always, fun was had with matching jar toppers and labels. I'll freely admit that this is the part I enjoy most, and I do think that if you're going to be so bold as to give someone something you made and expect then to eat it and enjoy it, then presentation helps smooth this path a great deal. Also, aren't these jar labels nice? Very mid century, just the sort of colours and patterns I like. Shame about my scrawly handwriting.

Someone kindly pointed out to me that making gifts isn't always the cheapest way to go when trying to save money, and it's a very good point. Much money can be spent on lovely materials and fancy ingredients (not to mention pretty ribbon for wrapping gifts!) which do add up, and I'm conscious of this all the time. So out of interest I costed these jars of chutney to see if it really is cheaper. The red tomato and chilli chutney cost around 48p a jar to make. Most of the cost there is in the onions and sugar. The green tomato chutney was about 59p a jar and the costs there lie in the apple, raisins and sugar. The jam jars are recycled and therefore free. The fabric for the toppers I've had for years and but I can tell you it's pretty cheap stuff, probably bought on sale. The labels work out at 10p each. So yes it is cheaper but - more importantly - I enjoyed the process and that's really why I do it.

Monday, 23 September 2013


It felt like the last warm weekend, and it was extra special for it. It was almost hot in the sun under the deep blue sky, but with enough of an edge to the breeze to remind us that it's truly autumn now. What a treat to spend Saturday and Sunday with the kitchen door wide open, the kids in shorts and t-shirts, to-ing and fro-ing between garden and house. 

We tackled the garden. Bella, Angus and I emptied the paddling pool of it's muddy rainwater and packed it away. John and I cut back, pruned and tidied plants in the low afternoon sun. Our apple tree has produced about ten apples, most of which are out of reach in high-up branches, but I cherish it all the same and picked some anyway, just because. The kids dug for worms. I picked the last few alliums which stopped flowering long ago and brought them indoors to dry out. In the kitchen I washed and weighed, peeled and chopped. I pickled and chutneyed (and I'll post about that soon) and labelled. I had fun choosing a woodland-themed fabric for my jars of hedgerow jelly, just to add that extra Brambly Hedge feel to the whole thing. We went to a car boot sale and I came home with many gorgeous things and only spent a fiver. That little pottery candle holder above cost me one whole pound.

In the evenings I lit candles and pottered in a crafty way. I started a little embroidery for Bella's bedroom, full of autumn colour and detail. I love the effect of the leaves on the tree, made by loosely tying french knots. It's been ages since I've done any embroidery and I'm enjoying it. I made do and mended and patched my jeans, and Bella's too. I did a couple more squares for what will eventually become a blanket for our bed. I started this project on holiday and it's a slow burner, something to dip in and out of for the next year at least. There's no rush.

I spent a good while today staring at all the Scarves, Shawls and Cowls page on The Purl Bee. I really fancy making a quick-ish scarf or cowl for myself. I feel like this has to be a knitted project too, I don't know why. I'd really like to buy the yarn at Yarndale this Saturday - I want to use something quite muted and flecked and organic feeling, if that makes sense. 

Ah, autumn. You're here. 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...49/52

The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.

Joining in with my friend Jen at little birdiehere are some of the little moments which have made me happy this week.

1. Finding this jelly strainer in the sale for only £3. I christened it with blackberries, rosehips and windfall apples, which became my first batch of hedgerow jelly.

2. I spent a lovely morning in Ikea this week with my friend Debora and her youngest son. After a coffee we browsed the store and I bought some bits and bobs, mainly toy storage for Angus's bedroom. As we were leaving I spied a new pick and mix sweets display and nearly did a happy dance. I love pick and mix and these were Swedish sweets which I'd not seen before and made it more exciting. I bought far too many. Lots of liquorice and really, really sour ones, the best sort.

3. Picking these tomatoes from the garden, almost two kilos altogether. I've just made a batch of cherry tomato and chilli chutney with all the red ones, and tomorrow I'll make green tomato chutney with the rest. I love chutney. It does make the house smell of vinegar though.

4. Everyone should have a bright yellow napkin holder shaped like a cloud on their table. Especially when it's only £1.50

I wish you all a very happy weekend. 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Colour Collaborative: September - Earth

There are lots of different ways interpret earth colours, once you start to think about it. They can be the colours of the landscape - browns, greys, yellows, oranges and greens. The colours of nature, subtle and muted. Or you have your pigments - ochre, sienna and umber, raw or burnt - those tones are fiery, saturated and heavy with colour. But the earth colours that I'm really savouring right now are the ones that were dug up out of the earth and turned into lunch. September is the month of abundance and harvest, of enjoying the last of summer while taking stock and gathering in for the autumn and winter ahead.

I think this is summed up rather well by the humble squash, in particular this fabulous Harlequin squash.

It has provided colour and variety in our lunches this week. Roasted and tossed in a salad with goats cheese and pumpkin seeds one day, then blended with chillis and eaten in a soup with rye bread the next.

To make a salad for two, peel and dice one small squash. Tumble onto a baking tray and drizzle with oil and season. Roast for around 30 mins at 180°C/350°F. 

Put some salad leaves on a plate and add the squash, some crumbled goats cheese and a handful of pumpkin seeds. I made a quick dressing from a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Eat while it's hot.

For the soup, peel and chop one onion and one squash. Saute for a minute or two then add one clove of garlic and one chilli, chopped. Cook a little longer then cover with vegetable stock and simmer for around 20 minutes. Puree in a blender until it's smooth then taste and season. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche.

It doesn't have to be a Harlequin squash, any sort would do. Simple, versatile, thrifty, tasty and colourful, it's the best kind of seasonal food.

Don't forget to check out the other great 'Colour Collaborative' blogs for more of today's posts, just click on the logos below ... 
What is The Colour Collaborative? All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.