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Friday, 23 June 2017

How to knit perfect stripes

The problem with knitting stripes in the round ...


Have you found when you're knitting in the round that it's almost impossible to get your stripes to match up perfectly? 

I think the technical term for the problem is jogging. The stripes tend to jog on a little on their own, so that they never perfectly encircle the work. At the root of the problem is the fact that knitting in the round is really knitting in a spiral. You don't stop and join the first to the last stitch at the end of a row. No, you carry on, slipping effortlessly up onto the next row. It's a spiral that you're making, not a series of perfect circles.  This is all fine and dandy if you're knitting with one colour, but it is irksome if you're trying to do neat, clean stripes with a beginning and an end that meet tidily. Perfectly joined stripes never happen naturally, and it's impossible to make the issue disappear completely, but there are a couple of things you can do to mask the problem.


knitting stripes in the round
A stripe that "jogs" out of its proper alignment when knit in the round

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

It's too darn hot ...

To quote Cole Porter: It's Too Darn Hot 😤, and  Ella's lovely, deep velvet voice keeps singing those lines in my head these hot, hot days.

I don't know what's happened to our weather here in London, but every day the mercury seems to push its way north of 30º C, and I'm really struggling not to wilt. Mr B has been recovering nicely from his knee operation last Tuesday, so we've not had to take life too strenuously, which is just as well. If I had to do anything difficult right now I've got a feeling I'd fail miserably.

The other afternoon I was trying to calculate how many stitches I needed to cast-off to shape the neckline of a baby cardigan, and it took me four attempts - four! -before I managed to lose the necessary 8 stitches over 20 rows. I can only plead heat fatigue.

At least, looking on the positive side of all this heat, my Loganberry bush has produced a decent bucketful of fruit. I've picked the better part of 2 kg of berries, and it's still going strong. Because they don't all ripen at once I pick them, and freeze them each day as they're ready. When the weather cools down a bit, I'll make jam from the frozen berries. I'm not going anywhere near a hot stove and a steaming preserving pan in this weather!



Friday, 16 June 2017

How to save dropped stitches in stocking stitch ...

Back in May one of my guests asked if I could show her how to rectify the situation when a stitch gets dropped. The technique varies depending on what type of stitch you're working at the time.

Part A below deals with how to fix a dropped stitch on a knit row, and Part B deals with a purl row fix-up.


A: Knit row fix-up in stocking stitch


So here's what we start off with:

Saving Dropped Stocking Stitches
Dropped Knit Stitch working in Stocking Stitch

1. Slip a stitch-holder - or a safety pin - through the dropped stitch so that it won't unravel any further.


2. Slip stitches, without twisting them, from your right needle to your left needle until you get to the dropped stitch.


Saving Dropped Stocking Stitches
1. Save dropped stitch with a stitch-holder or safety pin
2. Slip stitches to get to the dropped stitch

3. Slip a spare needle that's slightly thinner than the needles you've been working on into the dropped stitch from front to back as shown in the photo below. I like to use a thinner needle than I've been working on as this tends to pull the tension of the repaired stitches slightly tighter. I find this to be helpful as repaired stitches are often a little looser in tension than the stitches around them.

Saving Dropped Stocking Stitches

4. Slip the back bar that corresponds with the dropped stitch onto the inserted needle as well. Make sure that you've got the correct back-bar, because if you use the one above or below by mistake the work will pucker.


Saving Dropped Stocking Stitches
4. Slip needle under back bar that corresponds with the dropped stitch

5. Using the left needle, draw the dropped stitch over the back bar on the inserted needle.

Saving Dropped Stocking Stitches
5. Slip dropped stitch over backbar using left needle
6. Slip the saved stitch back onto the left needle or carry on up the ladder of dropped stitches if there is more than one row of them, repeating steps 2 to 5 until all the dropped stitches have been saved up the row.

Saving Dropped Stocking Stitches
Work up the ladder of dropped stitches until you reach the top

B: Purl row fix-up working stocking stitch


Now I'll be totally honest here: if I find a dropped stitch on a purl row, I simply turn the work around and fix it as though it were a knit stitch. Fixing knit stitches is easier than fixing purl stitches, so why make life more difficult than you need to?

But if, for whatever reason, you want to fix it purl-wise, this is how to do it:

1. Stop your dropped stitch from unravelling any further by securing it with a stitch holder or a safety pin.

2. Slip stitches from the right needle to the left needle until you reach the dropped stitch.



 3. Make sure that the back bar that corresponds with the dropped stitch is sitting in front of the dropped stitch (see photo below). As was the case on our knit row fix-up, if you chose the wrong back bar the work will pucker.

Saving Dropped Stocking Stitches

4. Use a spare needle that is a size or two smaller than you're working on.  Insert the needle into the dropped stitch from the back to the front as shown below.

Saving Dropped Stocking Stitches

Saving Dropped Stocking Stitches

5. Insert the left needle into the dropped stitch from front to back, and draw it over the back bar.

Saving Dropped Stocking Stitches

6. Pull the back bar through the dropped stitch to replace the lost stitch that had previously been there.

7. Place the saved stitch back on the left needle, or work your way up the ladder of dropped stitches if there are rows of dropped stitches until you've saved them all. Between each step of the ladder you will have to slip the saved stitch off the inserted needle in order to move the corresponding back bar to the front it i.e. to the position shown in the photo below step 4 above.  Just slip the saved stitch off, hold it between your forefinger and thumb and lift the back bar over the top of the stitch so that it sits as shown in the photo.

Saving Dropped Stocking Stitches

You may find that the tension along the ladder of saved stitches is a little too loose when you're done. Don't worry too much about this. As you knit on it will automatically go some way towards correcting itself, and if it's still obvious by the time you're done you can wash your knitting and leave it to dry. When it's dry you'll find that the tension has sorted itself out. The process of washing and drying can correct any number of tension anomalies in your work.

All the best for now and happy knitting!

Bonny x

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Stitching for stress-relief ...

Gosh it's been a strange old week. Emi has been away on his school trip to Picardy, leaving me with a lot of time on my hands to get on with other things. Mr B had got quite excited about the idea of a child-free spell when we could wine and dine and carry-on like people with no great amount of responsibility to tie them down. But then his surgeon telephoned to tell him that the clinic could take him in for his knee op yesterday - bang in the middle of our hedonistic plans. He ummed and ahed a bit, and wondered whether they could possibly do it on Friday instead (the child is due back tomorrow evening). But common sense caught up with him and he duly went under the knife yesterday afternoon.

And, happily, it looks like the surgery was a great success.

In the meantime I've spent a lot of time hanging around waiting for the next thing to happen: trying to jolly him along as he anxiously waited for his slot in theatre, sitting quietly with him whilst he slept off the after-affects of the anaesthetic, keeping him company when he had to over-night in the clinic and didn't have anyone else to talk to. And, as is my way, I brought along some cross-stitch to help with the stress of worrying and the boredom of waiting. In situations like this, when I can't concentrate on anything too involved, I find that the simple, colour-guided process of cross-stitch is hugely helpful. *Breathe and stitch. Stitch again. Take another breath*. Repeat from * to * for as long as the agony lasts. I can just about cope with hospitals, and waiting for a loved one in surgery downstairs, if I remember to breathe and stitch ...

So after all that angst, this is where I've got to:


All the best for now,

Bonny x


Friday, 2 June 2017

Just chilling in sunny Sant Feliu ...

This past couple of days I've been chilling, enjoying the (unusual for me) sensation of having nothing much to do. All my deadlines have passed. All my work is done - for now, and it's been a real treat to head out on my bike, to enjoy the wind in my hair and the open road rising up before me.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Costa Brava
Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Costa Brava

Of course I've had the WonderDog strung over my handlebars. There's no leaving him behind. Mr B recently bought me an amazing handbag contraption that allows him to sit on the front of my bike. I was a bit worried about how him freaking out, but he's taken to our new mode of transport with real aplomb. Anything is better than being left behind, and in this hot weather I think he enjoys the sensation of the wind in his fur as we bomb along.


Max the WonderDog

My bike is an ancient bone-shaker, and I'm usually the one bringing up the rear of the cycle party, but that's just fine with the WonderDog who doesn't like going too fast over the bumpy bits. I'm not going to win the yellow jersey if the Tour de France veers south, but I can say, hand on heart, that I really couldn't care less about winning the speed trials. I'm just there for the fun of it.

Bonny Bonafilla, Costa Brava Knitting
Bonny & Max

Young Emi is busy with sailing, windsurfing and tennis, so I've got loads of time to wander around and take random photos of things that catch my eye.  And, as is always the case in this beautiful part of God's good earth, there are lots of things catching my eye - like this amazing cactus flower:

Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Costa Brava
The perfect orange of a cactus flower, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Costa Brava

I'm not mad about cactuses ... until they flower. And then their flowers never fail to delight.

Or how about this weirdly monochromatic butterfly? He's probably a moth.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Costa Brava
Hanging out with the wildlife, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Costa Brava

Although this chap below is the real deal. There were dozens of these little guys enjoying the wild sedum flowers growing on the sea cliffs as we chuffed past.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Costa Brava
Hanging out with the wildlife, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Costa Brava

And the contorted shapes of the Costa Brava pine trees are always guaranteed to catch my eye. 

Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Costa Brava
Cami de Ronda, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Costa Brava

And then there's our sensational village beach, where windsurfers and sailors swish past, and old men meet on the benches to gossip and play petanca in the shade of the plane trees.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Costa Brava
The village beach, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Costa Brava

The herring gulls are everywhere, and they never seem to stop chattering to one another. There's a constant barrage of noise from them. We've got a mother and chick team nesting in our garden, who take great exception to anyone trying to use their swimming pool. They dive bomb us every time we venture out, and we are all in terror of their vicious beaks.

Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Costa Brava
Herring gull, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Costa Brava

Anyway that's it for me for now. Wishing you all a fabulous weekend.

Bonny x


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A big "thank you" to all my lovely May guests ...




... it was an absolute pleasure hosting you in Girona and in my home village, Sant Feliu de Guíxols.

!Hasta la vista!

Bonny x




Friday, 19 May 2017

Doodles in tapestry wool ...

It's exam season ... <groan!> 😩 And, if there's one thing worse than having to go off and sit a whole bunch of exams yourself, it's going through the ritual of exam season second-time-round with your kids. We've had a busy old time of it recently catching up on spellings and grammar, arithmetic and mathematical reasoning for Emi's SATS exams, and now he's headed for his end of year exams in all the other subjects.

To keep hold of my sanity when my interest in spotting adverbial clauses was waning, I dug out the little bit of tapestry wool left over from my last project. And sitting there in the quiet as Emi studied, I thought about a beautiful clematis, deep purple blossoms and waxy green leaves, coiling its way up a bamboo support.

My inspiration came from a recent gardening triumph of my mother's. Now I have to explain that my mum is the most green-fingered person I know. She has a really special gift for getting things to grow from cuttings and seed that she handbags on her travels. And, yes, that really is a verb! Over the course of my lifetime she's carried home most of her large, colourful garden in her handbag.

 She recently blew my socks off by growing the most exquisite clematis from a cutting that she took from my uncle's garden. Last time she showed it to me it was gorgeous: all healthy green leaves and swollen buds breaking out into showers of impossibly-exotic purple blossoms. I was deeply envious.

And so, sitting there in the kitchen with my son and a stack of SATS papers, I found myself day-dreaming about glamorous purple clematis vines. My left-over threads didn't run to the exact colour scheme that nature had created; I didn't have nearly enough deep purple, but I improvised and this is what came out:






Sunday, 7 May 2017

Growing Mint ...

Fresh mint is one of my go-to herbs. I love mint tea of an afternoon, I'm partial to a nice Mojito, I'm a fan of chopped mint with new potatoes and I love a good Tabbouleh. So, all things told, I'm a major consumer. Through the winter months I purchase lots of little pots of fresh mint to keep on my kitchen window. When I'm done with them I plant them outside, and through the early spring and summer I'm pretty much self-sufficient.



Monday, 1 May 2017

How to tailor your tassel ...

Gosh that title sounds a bit dodgy ... but I'll bet it grabbed your attention 👀

The purpose of this strangely-named post is to explain how to make luscious tassels. Let's be honest, there's nothing quite so under-whelming as a half-hearted tassel. You might as well just not bother if you're going to put some limp, skinny, under-weight effort on the fringe of whatever it is you're trying to embellish. Save the wool, and do something else! Sew on feathers, or add some sequins. Do something else, because tassels should be opulent and extravagant. They have to be full-bodied and curvaceous to be tassel-tastic!



On my recent Queen of Hearts Stole I chose to go a bit overboard with some really lux tassels. I used over 80 g of wool making 30 tassels to sew on either end. It was very extravagant as I'd only used 540 g to knit the entire stole, but the investment really upped the wow factor of the finished item.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Queen of Hearts Summer Stole

I'm an optimist at heart. I believe that summer will finally come, although looking out at the hail showers today you'd be forgiven for not keeping the faith. Still, even when it does show up, it's got this habit of not always staying constant to its billing here in the UK. Without too much notice it can turn on a sixpence and go all chilly and grey-skied.

So a wrap of some sort or other is a pretty useful addition to any girl's summer wardrobe, and ta-dah! - I give you mine:



 It's knit in our own-label Costa Brava merino double knitting yarn in Buttered Caramel. For a scarf (including tassels) with a finished length of 194 cm/ 76" and a width of 40 cm/ 16" I used 620 g/ 1240 metres of yarn. This gave me a tension, working in pattern over the length and width of the stole, of 30 stitches x 28 rows for a 10 cm x 10 cm square.

 Just read on for the pattern:

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Aphid Invasion ...

💕 I really, really 💖 my roses. 💕



As a result I get seriously annoyed by pesky little sap-sucking aphids, who blow into town with an overblown sense of entitlement to munch whatever they land on. A dark cloud descends, my blood boils and I go into a full-blown psychotic rage. It's not pleasant. It's not pretty. It's all-out war! No way, Jose, are those gormless little green bugs going to munch their way through my patch... .

Whilst I may be hopping mad, and ready to decimate the entire West London aphid population, I still don't like to stray too far from my normal, natural, organic approach to gardening. Can't think why that sentence made me think of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde! 🤔  I've got children and pets to worry about. They play in my garden, chase footballs and roll around on the grass. I've also got an abundance of wildlife that I positively want to nurture and encourage, so I don't want to nuke the rose bushes. Honestly, I'm a reasonable person ... all the way up the moment when you start eating my roses ... ☠️.

So here's my solution: I cook up a bug-blasting concoction using readily-available household ingredients that won't turn the back garden into a toxic wasteland or trigger a nuclear winter. Just read on for my recipe ...

Saturday, 22 April 2017

🌎 Happy Earth Day 2017! 🌍


Happy Earth Day, fellow Earthlings!

Every year since 1970, on the 22nd day of April, a group of like-minded folk, who love this wonderful planet that we all call home, have been celebrating its biodiversity and trying to draw attention to environmental issues.  It all kicked off back in the USofA, but the movement has grown so much that Earth Day is now the largest non-religious festival in the World with over a billion of us getting involved.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Oh Bluebell ... what's in a name ...

Now I have to 'fess up to feeling a tad proprietary about the bluebell. You see I was born at the end of April, when, as my mother still likes to tell me, the bluebells were in flower. And every year I have enjoyed my birthday with a side order of beautiful, fragrant bluebells. For me birthdays and bluebells have gone together like fish and chips or Fred and Ginger. As I've watched the bluebells sprout out of their winter hibernation, unfurl their long slender leaves and swell into bud I've felt the cycle of the year come around another turn, adding another year to my own personal tally in the process. In the old days I used to get quite excited. Do you remember how we used to lie to make ourselves older? Crazy times! Nowadays I'd really rather not dwell too much on all that cycle of the year mathematics, thanks all the same.


Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Bias Binding ... it would be wrong not to ...

It's so easy to make ... it would be wrong not to give it a go.

Everyone who sews has bits left over when they cut out their patterns, and everyone who sews can put some pretty bias binding to really good use. Think of all the things you could trim with a little injection of colour in a fabric that you love ... . If, like me you, enjoy clashing colours and patterns, then this bias binding gig is totally for you.

Jazz up the neckline of a plain white T-shirt, or the edging of a pillow. Use it in your dress-making to add interest to your creations. The possibilities are endless, and it's always an especial delight when you get to use something that might otherwise be thrown away.

The thing about bias binding is that it has to be cut at  45º to the selvedge of the fabric. Woven fabric has threads that run lengthwise, parallel to the selvedge, the warp threads, and threads that run across the fabric at right angles to the selvage, the weft threads. If you pull it lengthwise or widthwise it's pretty sturdy; the warp and the weft are woven to work against one another, holding each other in place, and it doesn't stretch very much. If, however, you pull it at a 45º angle to the selvedge, the warp and the weft scissor up and down, and it stretches beautifully, which makes it perfect for edging curves or corners, around which it can be mitred.


Monday, 10 April 2017

It's all about the Agapanthus ...

I have to confess to having a soft spot for a good Agapanthus.  I bought my first one over 20 years ago (yes, I am that old). At the time I was enjoying a hipster lifestyle in trendy Notting Hill. I had a little apartment on the top floor of an old town house, which had a huge roof terrace. And that roof terrace used to make my heart sing. I'd given it a country house feel by covering it with gravel and planting up some sturdy perennials in a mismatched assortment of enormous planters that I'd bought at auction. I had a bust of Mozart on a plinth, and a little wrought iron table and chairs out there. It faced away from the traffic, and I used to go out every morning with my first cup of coffee to enjoy the relative calm of my tiny oasis.


Sunday, 2 April 2017

Makey Makey March ...

Happy April! I hope you got through April Fool's Day yesterday without falling for any pranks.

I've been looking back over everything that we've got up to in March. It's been a very makey makey month, packed full of baking, sewing, knitting and gardening. There's been the odd afternoon when I've managed to escape for some dog-walking, but it's been pretty full on with projects galore.



Some old pins and a broken necklace got recycled into a swanky set of stitch markers. Barcelona Bears were given smart tweed waistcoats for spring, my never ending spring stole complete with chains of hearts has got longer and longer - it seems to grow like Rapunzel's hair, and I've been sewing up a whole new wardrobe of spring dresses in the prettiest lawn cottons.

Do you ever wonder what to do with all those bits of fabric that get left over when you've finished making whatever it was you set out to make? They always call out to me, and, terrible hoarder that I am, I can never manage to throw them in the bin. This week I was working on a little gingham number. Someone told me gingham is very in this spring, which is lucky as I just happened to have some in my stash! I've got big gingham paired with smaller gingham in a nice, clashing sort of summer dress combo. I decided to not bother with the elaborate flappy facings that the pattern thought I should make. I'm not a big fan of facings; I much prefer to use some bias binding for finishing off.  I'd bought some bias binding for the job earlier, but when I looked at it ... well it just looked a bit work-a-day dull ... plain red binding ... snore ... zzzz.

So I got to thinking about how much nicer my (fairly plain) dress would look if I made some contrasting bias binding out of a lovely floral print that I'd got left over. To be honest it's the second round of left-overs for this particular print. I'd bought the material to make a dress, and then managed to s-q-u-e-e-z-e a sleeveless top out of what was left over from the first time around. So now, second time around, I've cut it on the bias at a 45º angle to the selvage and made the loveliest binding to finish off my neckline and armholes. It's not difficult to make. I cut mine at 2"/ 5 cm wide, so it was easy to turn in the sides with the iron to get it into the proper bias binding configuration without one of those binder-making gadgets.

It's been a real light-bulb moment for me, as I can now think of a hundred other things that would look so much better with some of my home-made binding. And the lovely cherry on the top of my cake is that it's costing me nothing - nada - not a centimo! Happy days!

Anyway, whatever you're up to, have a ball!

All the best for now,

Bonny x


Friday, 31 March 2017

The Snuff Mills of Morden Hall Park

Once upon a very long time ago snuff was all the rage. It started with the indigenous tribes of Brazil, and was carried back to the Old World by the Spanish, who established the first European snuff mill in Seville in the early 16th century.

The French ambassador, Jean Nicot, is credited with bringing snuff to the attention of his Queen, Catherine de Medici. Poor old Catherine had been plagued with headaches, which she was persuaded to treat with snuff. Miraculously it  seemed to work! And the grateful queen promptly declared that snuff should henceforth be known as Herba Regina, the Queen's Herb. Having won the royal seal of approval it quickly became popular with the French aristocracy.

From there the fashion for snuff soon jumped the Channel to take hold amongst the great and the good here in England. Soon snuffing was all the rage, with many extolling its excellent curative properties. It was sniffed into the nose, delivering an instant nicotine hit, and leaving a lingering smell. And back in the day, when the world tended not to smell too sweet, that scent in the nose would have been a welcome relief from the everyday malodors that otherwise assaulted the senses. Often snuff was blended to secret recipes with other spices, herbs and floral essences. Famous blends such as Scotch and Welsh, English Rose (supplied free of charge to MPs in the House of Commons after smoking was forbidden in the Chamber in 1693) and Lundy Foot gained popularity. Before long there was a huge selection of blends delivering different scent sensations to appeal to just about every olfactory caprice; some were dry having been roasted and then ground very fine whilst others were more moist.

  The Snuff Mill, Morden Hall Park, London
The Snuff Mill, Morden Hall Park, London
George III's Queen Consort, Charlotte, was known as Snuffy Charolotte, thanks to her devotion to the stuff. She had a whole room at Windsor Castle devoted to her stash of snuff and her collection of snuff paraphernalia. George IV had his own exclusive blends.  Lord Nelson, the Iron Duke (of Wellington), Alexander Pope, Benjamin Disraeli and Samuel Johnson were all keen snuffers. With the growth of 18th century coffee house culture, the nation's enthusiasm for snuff grew in tandem with its addiction to caffeine fad to become a firm fixture in the daily lives of the chattering classes.


Sunday, 26 March 2017

Teddy Bears with waistcoats ... 🐻


Here in the UK our clocks have moved on to British Summer Time. Personally I wish they stayed on BST all through the winter months. It would be great to have that extra daylight into the winter months. The sun is shining down here in London, the mercury has risen and the spring bulbs are bringing bursts of colour everywhere.

In the meantime I've been busy getting a project ready for the lovely ladies who are going to be my guests in Barcelona over Easter. I'm so very excited to be hosting them in one of the greatest cities in the world.

We're going to be working on some Barcelona Bears as our holiday project. This pattern had its first incarnation to celebrate the wonderful one-day wool fair that is Festiwool back in the autumn, but it's making a come-back with a splendid new spring waistcoat to keep the bear warm in this chilly weather.

I've shared the knitting pattern here: Festibear, and if you'd like to learn how to make his waistcoat just read on for my paper pattern and instructions.


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

March ... and using flower apps 🌺

March had been shaping up nicely, but it's all gone a bit downhill recently. I  had got used to blue skies and sunshine, but it's turned all cold and rainy and blustery here in London, and I'm not enjoying the change. 😫


I'm s-o-o-o-o predictable at this time of the year. As soon as the sap starts rising I'm out to dig up all the mistakes that I made last year. Shrubs that I've miscalculated on are a recurring theme. Do you ever plant something, that looks really good in the garden centre, forgetting to read the disclaimer about how tall/ wide it will grow? I'm a sucker for that one. My back garden is modestly proportioned, and there isn't a lot of room for bamboo glades and shrubberies, but, thanks to my gormless lack of forward planning, that was exactly where we were headed.

Right now I've got a bamboo forest, hacked out, dug up and sworn over lying prone on my front forecourt waiting to be carried off to the local council's composting facility. Several too-big for the plot shrubs went the same way last week. And now I'm all set for a perennial border in the very finest of English country traditions.


Friday, 17 March 2017

☘️ Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes☘️

☘️Happy Saint Patrick's Day!☘️

Back in God's Own Country they watch out to see whether the good Saint has turned the sunny side of the stone up. If he has, and the sun shines on our National Day, it means that spring has arrived. If he hasn't, then we'll sadly have to wait. I've got everything crossed for a sunny side up day.

Now on to our own little celebration here at Talk-a-Lot Towers. As is apparent from the recipes that I share I'm a big fan of the black stuff. I love Guinness for cooking. I'm also rather partial to the odd glass of it to wet my whistle with as well, but, then again, I'm not Irish for nothing ... 😜

To celebrate St. Patrick's Day this year I've made some Chocolate Guinness cupcakes, which are devilishly tasty, even if I say so myself!



Just read on for my recipe:

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Beaumaris Castle ... 8 centuries and still not finished ...

Work on Beaumaris Castle, the castle on the fair marsh, started on 18th April 1295 … and they still haven’t got the place finished.

It was to be the last of Edward I’s mighty castles guarding the north Wales seaboard. As I've mentioned before, I'm very grateful to dear old Ted the First for building all these wonderful castles within easy striking distance of the Dublin ferry. They make perfect places to stop-off and kick back for a few hours when you show up too early for your crossing.  See for example my thank you note for the wonder that is Conway Castle.


Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey, Wales
Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey, Wales


Friday, 3 March 2017

Knitting jewellery ...

I'm just messing around, enjoying the early spring sunshine (NOT - more like waiting for Noah and his ark to sail into sight 🤣), and cutting the points off my favourite pins - as one does ...

No, I haven't entirely lost the plot.

I've been making stitch markers. My Aran pattern of the moment is a bit involved, and I like to mark the beginning and end of each panel that corresponds to a specific chart to help me recognise where I am. It's less of an issue as I learn to recognise how the pattern hangs together, but at the beginning those stitch markers are a life-saver.


Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Ode to February ... how was it for you?



I grew up in Northern Ireland, where we have proper winters with frosts and sometimes snow and cold, cold nights. And I like it that way. I like having seasons. Life would be boring without them ...

And this February we've had a flavour of full-on, proper, old-style winter weather. In London we've had some wintery cold courtesy of weather systems blown in from continental Europe, and then we upped the chill quotient with some skiing in Andorra. The ski season in Europe this year has been really good. They told me in Andorra that it arrived a bit late, but, when it came, it really delivered.

It's been fun muffling up for lots of outdoors activity. I skied with Emi, up and down, those lovely mountains every day. In the late afternoons on the way back to our hotel we'd stop off by some snow-logged fields and play. We built snowmen, we made snow angels and we waged snowball wars. None of it was wildly new or out-of-the-mould, but it was totally brilliant. And it carried a sense of doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing in this season of the year.

Indoors I've been curling up with my needles, enjoying some really good drama on television.  Did you watch Taboo? Whaow! We've enjoyed comfort food, and celebrated the simple pleasures of the everyday with bowls of steaming soup, spicy chai tea (Twinnings - delicious) and cupcakes aplenty.

So here's to March, and the simple pleasures of the everyday!

All the best,

Bonny x

Friday, 24 February 2017

The quiet after Storm Doris ...

Yesterday we really had to batten down the hatches and lie low while Storm Doris passed through town. She was a bit of a hell-raiser, old Doris. Normally I find windy days rather exhilarating, but Doris was on another level.

After the school run I normally take the WonderDog for a run in the park. Yesterday the sky was that steel grey colour that always comes before rain, and I decided to give it a miss. The WonderDog came into the kitchen with a hurt expression on his little doggy face, but within 2 minutes the heavens opened. I offered him an open door to the back garden, which he shrugged his shoulders at and immediately thought the better of his sulk.

Then this morning, in a moment of perfect blue-sky calm, we went for our usual jaunt around Walpole Park, and this is what we saw :

I'm so glad that I wasn't under that tree when Doris split it in half.


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Heart Yarn Bag

Why not use some of your left-over yarn to make yourself a Valentine's Day gift with this heart motif yarn bag? You could use it as an extra small handbag, or make it for a little girl. I'm sure she'd love it in pink!

I designed this bag to hold my ball of yarn when I'm working on my feet. Often when I'm at yarn fairs, or teaching, I find myself walking around trailing yards of yarn in my wake as I try in knit on the go. I noticed that many of my clever neighbours at the yarn fairs get around this problem by using little yarn bags, suspended from their wrists that neatly hold their yarn as they pace around. And this is my take on the yarn bag.


I decided to combine the knit panels with some tweed that complimented the colour and texture of the stitch-work, and then I made an acetate lining to go inside to keep everything ship-shape. If you're not keen on sewing you could simply knit the side and bottom panels and forego the lining. It would still totally work. Just read on for my pattern:

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Steamy, Moonlit Andorra la Vella ...

Now, at the risk of leading people to believe that I've morphed into a vampire, who only ventures out a night, I have to 'fess up to being out and about in the moonlight here amidst the snowy mountains of Andorra. To be fair I've been up since the crack of dawn piste-bashing with Emi. But after a hot bath and a good dinner it's quite magical taking to the merrily lit streets of Andorra la Vella for a spot of nocturnal sight-seeing.

Many of the hotels still haven't latched onto the idea that Christmas has long since been and gone. There are Chrimbo trees and fairy lights aplenty. What is it with ski resorts and their year-round Christmas obsession? I love Christmas as much as the next girl, but by the middle February I'm more than ready to move on.

In Andorra La Vella, the capital city of this tiny principality,  you never get very far away from the sound of rushing water. Rivers tumble down from the snowy peaks, and race through town with a thundering velocity. And every now and then you come across a hot spring sending up great plumes of water vapour into the chilly night air. As you stand and admire the scene you begin to notice just a hint of sulphur hanging in the breeze and adding to the atmosphere.


It's an amazing thing to see a steaming river, especially as this one is just a skip, a hop and a jump away from Meritxell Avenue, the main shopping street where luxury label boutiques vie for position, and the cool crowd parade around in their designer finery.

There's a hot spring further down the street that feeds a huge stone trough where the water temperature is a constant 70ºC. You can stop and dip your hands/ feet/ whatever you want cooked in it, but it's uncomfortably hot - and that's coming from someone who likes her baths lava hot!


I understand the science behind hot springs, but I still find myself standing back and marvelling at the incongruity of steam in a snowscape. It's easy to imagine how delighted our early ancestors must have been with places like this. In a cold, wintery climate, where everyone spent their lives balanced on the edge of hypothermia, it must have felt like a gift from the gods to come across a steaming hot spring rising out of the frozen ground.

All the best for now,

Bonny x



Saturday, 11 February 2017

Boulogne-sur-Mer in the moonlight ...

Do you ever go out for a moonlit stroll? Do you like to wander solitary beneath the stars?

It's one of those activities that you could be forgiven for opting out of. But for me, travelling as I do with the WonderDog, it's a bit of a necessity. When a dog's got to go, a dog's got to go ... if you get my drift.

Sometimes I negotiate r-e-a-l-l-y hard to see if someone else will step up to the plate and do the honours. On Thursday we pitched up in Boulogne-sur-Mer shortly before midnight. It was a cold, joyless night with a cruel wind whistling around the empty streets. After a late room service dinner the others pleaded various (lame) excuses for not venturing forth, and I had to take the WonderDog for his post-prandial ablutions. But here's the thing: the moment I stepped out into the moonlit streets I realised what a HUGE favour they'd done me. This little city by the sea is so atmospheric after dark.

La Porte Neuve, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France
La Porte Neuve, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Today, a dull, bitterly cold, grey day in February, I'm all about brightening up the outlook with some yummy cupcakes topped with cream cheese frosting and the very brightest sprinkles I could find.




Carrot cake is a really easy cake to make. It's pretty much guaranteed to turn out deliciously moist due to the water content of the carrots. You could make this recipe as a sandwich cake with the cream cheese frosting serving as a sandwich layer in between, and on top. Alternatively you could make it in squares. 

Emi's school is having a cake sale this afternoon, so I'm going down the cupcake route to max-up the number of units for the punters.  

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Selfridges rocks the Granny Square ...

I'm not sure what's going on down at Selfridges on London's Oxford Street, but it looks like they're doing a homage to the Granny Square!

This gloriously colourful window caught my eye this morning as I was scampering past (late) for a meeting.


Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Ode to January ...



We've made it! We've survived January ... and in the end it really wasn't too bad. Cold and chilly, but with lots of blue skies and sunshine; it was a lot better than the murky, grey month I'd been expecting.

So - onwards and upwards - let's move bravely on to February.

All the best for now,

Bonny x