Thursday 8 January 2015

dried orange slice pot pourri ...

Today I'm busy up-cycling my Christmas decorations. No, really ... I'm not joking.

Do you remember how I made dried orange slice and cinnamon stick Christmas tree decorations back in the heady days of December?  Well I've up-cycled them into some pot pourri. Take a look at this:

It smells amazing.

I took the orange slices that had been hanging on the tree over the holidays and are now perfectly dried, de-threaded the hessian strings that I'd use to hang them on the branches, unwrapped their ribbons and did the same with the cinnamon sticks.

Then I found a great big plastic box that Emi had taken to school filled with sweets for his friends on his birthday. It's nothing special; just something that I'd got on my shelves.

I placed the orange slices and cinnamon sticks in my plastic box, and remembered some sweet little pine cones that I'd picked up on my travels during the summer. I'd got those stashed away in a glass jar to save and intensify their lovely pine smell.

Then I tipped in the remains of my jar of star anise, and had a sniff. It was already beginning to smell lovely with the liquorice notes of the star anise blending with the fresh, clean smell of the pine cones. 

I remembered a bunch of flowers that someone had brought for a dinner party back in May. They were lovely: all kinds of exotic thistle-like flowers with sea lavender. I'd thought at the time that they'd dry nicely, so, when their water reservoir had dried up, I placed them on a shelf and just left nature to take its course. 

I harvested a few thistle-like flower heads, some sea lavender and a rather lovely, faded rose to add to the mix.

It was starting to look nice, wasn't it?

But I needed to add something more in the fragrance department, so I got out a neat little bottle of Sweet Orange Essential Oil and added a few drops of that to big up the smell.

Mmmh ... now it was smelling much better.

Next I added a level half teaspoonful of Orris Root powder, my fixative of choice when making pot pourri. It adds a slight violet-fragrance of its own and helps preserve and stabilise the scent of any other essential oils that you use. You can buy it on-line.

I had another little play to check how all the bits looked when they were displayed together.

And then I put it all back in the plastic sweet box and closed the lid so that the scent can infuse and mature for several weeks before I take it out to use it for real.

As you can see it was a super easy thing to make, and it looks - and smells - just as good as anything you'd buy in the shops.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

As shared on Friday Finds and Creative Mondays

Wednesday 7 January 2015

The coniferous ghosts of Christmas past ...

There's nothing that shouts the party's over any more definitively than a heap of abandoned Christmas trees waiting sadly for the bin men to come and collect them.

And they're dotted all around Ealing Common this morning as residents drag out the bedraggled remains of Christmas past to be wood-chipped and fed back into the merry old circle of life. 

Bleuch! I'm not a big fan of January. 

And it's cold and grey and miserable with high winds and rain promised by the weather forecast. Would anybody else out there like to hibernate until it's all over?

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Tuesday 6 January 2015

How to knit the very easiest snuggly socks ...

I've cracked it! I've finally written up the pattern for those snuggly socks that I've been busy knitting all over the Christmas holidays. It took me a while to figure out how to do it, and then everyone I talked to seemed to want a pair, so I got loads of opportunities to test my pattern.

So here they are < ta-dah!> my snuggly socks, modelled by Emi:

There's something very satisfying about knitting socks. They're practical: everyone needs something to keep their tootsies warm at this time of the year. They're a little bit challenging on the technical front, so, when you finish, you have a certain sense of achievement. And finally, unless you're tasked with clothing a huge pair of trotters, they're fairly quick from start to finish, which is always good for morale. 

These have been designed to fit my 9 year old son, but you can vary the pattern to fit whatever size foot you'd like to keep cosy. My son's shoe size is European 34, which I think is British size 2, American size 4.5 and Japanese size 21.5 cm.

I've knit these with a lovely German wool called Regia, which knits up on size 2 to 3 mm sock needles. I used a set of 4, double ended, 2 mm needles. The wool is a self striping 4 colour yarn (colour number 01937). The socks are knit in one piece, in the round, going around and around in the same direction without turning. The heel is the one exception to this. It is knit in plain and purl rows going backwards and forward with the remaining stitches resting on the third needle, and not being worked again until the heel has been turned.

If you'd like to knit some for yourself let me explain in outline what's involved, and then you'll be better placed to vary the pattern to suit your own shoe-size. I've written up the specific pattern that I used later on in the post.

My sock pattern has the following component parts:

1. The Cuff: this is the ribbed part at the top that helps hold the sock up. I've knit it in a knit 2, purl 2 stitch all the way round. If you'd like to modify my pattern you should remember that the overall number of stitches for the cuff has to be an even number, and that you should have an even number of stitches on each of the three needles that you use to make it work out evenly all the way round. If you wanted to have a cuff that wasn't quite so tight you could, instead, use a knit 1, purl 1 rib all the way around, which would work out slightly looser or you could knit the cuff on larger sized needles.

2. The Leg: this is the easy-peasy part of the sock that is knit in stocking stitch (plain knit stitch) all the way round. Each row is knit in the round working always in the same direction without turning. You can modify my pattern by knitting this part as long as you'd like the socks to be. You could knit it long enough for ankle socks, knee socks, wellington socks or anything in between that worked for you. I suggest you measure the length of a favourite pair of socks and knit to reproduce their dimensions.

3. The Heel: this is where sock-knitting gets a little bit more technical. My method involves arranging the stitches on the needles so that half of the stitches are on one needle, and the other half are split between the remaining two needles, which should come in the knitting round on either side of the needle carrying half of the stitches.  That is to say you should have one quarter of the stitches on needle 1, which will be one half of the heel, half of the stitches on needle 2, which will form the instep, and the remaining quarter of the stitches on needle 3, which will form the other half of the heel. Only needles 1 and 3 are active in knitting the heel.

4. The Instep: the instep is the part of the sock directly opposite to the heel. While you knit and turn the heel the instep stitches rest on needle 2. You will carry on with them later once the heel has been turned, knitting them in the round again with the heel stitches.

5. The Foot: this is another easy-peasy part to knit. You just bomb through this in stocking stitch, which is to say plain knit stitch all the way round. As with the leg, you can knit this part as long or as short as required to fit your foot. You may like to measure your favourite socks and knit to reproduce the dimensions of the foot from them. The toe will take approximately 5 cm in length to shape, so you should knit this part of the sock so that it is 5 cm short of the overall length of your foot.

6. The Toe: this presents the second technical challenge, although it's easier than the heel. The toe has to be shaped by decreasing stitches, and then finally the remaining stitches are finished off by drawing the wool through them with a darning needle to close off the rounded point of the toe. As I've said above, the toe is shaped over a series of rows measuring 5 cm in length from beginning to cast-off.

Well that's the theory, now to put it into practice.

Pattern for Emi's socks

1. Using just one of your four needles cast on 60 stitches.

2. Once you've got 60 stitches you need to divide them evenly between three of the needles i.e. you should have 20 stitches on each needle. Just slip them from either end of the needle you used to cast on, so that you get the 20:20:20 stitch distribution that you need.

3. Now close the circle by knitting into the last of the stitches on the first needle with the active end of the wool from the third needle, using the fourth or spare needle to knit onto. Sorry that sounds a bit like techno-speak, but it's not complicated. Take a look at the photo below to see what I'm on about.

Or here we are, going in for the close-up:

4. Now get going with that knit 2, purl 2 rib to make the cuff, being careful to keep your tension pretty tight on the first stitch of each round which joins the divide between needles. Keep going, round and round in the same direction, until the cuff measures 5 cm - or whatever length of cuff you'd like to have to hold your sock up.

5. Having knit the cuff you're on to the super easy bit, which is knitting the leg. Just keep going with stocking stitch (plain knit stitch) all the way round and round, and never changing direction, until your leg is as long as you'd like it to be. Emi's socks were intended to be short ankle length so I knit a leg of 10 cm in addition to the 5 cm cuff i.e. his sock measured a total length of 15 cm before I got going on the heel.

6. When your sock is the desired length you need to re-organise your stitches as follows:

Needle 1, which will be the first half of the heel will have 15 stitches;
Needle 2, which will be the instep will have 30 stitches; and
Needle 3, which will be the second half of the heel will have 15 stitches.

And remember:

Needle 1 = first part of the heel;
Needle 2 = the instep; and
Needle 3 = second part of the heel.

Just slip the stitches at the ends from one needle to the other until you achieve the above count.

7. Now we need to knit the heel. It is knit using only needles 1 and 3. Needle 2 hangs around with nothing to do until after we've turned the heel.

Starting on needle 3, turn your work around and purl all the way to the end of the needle (15 stitches), and turn.

Row 1 on needle 3: Slip one stitch knit-wise, and knit to the end of the row, and carry on knitting all the way across needle 3 i.e. across needles 1 and 3: slip 1 stitch knit-wise, knit 29 stitches.


Row 2. Slip the first stitch on needle 3 purl-wise and purl all the way across needles 3 and 1.


Repeat Rows 1 and 2 five times i.e. you will have knitted and purled 10 rows in total to shape the lower part of the heel.

8. Having knit the heel we now need to turn it. The following rows are knit only on needles 1 and 3.

Row 1: slip 1 knit-wise, knit 17 stitches, SKPO [slip one knit-wise, knit one, pass the slipped stitch over the knit stitch] knit 1, Turn. i.e. you will have 20 stitches on needle 1 and 9 stitches on needle 3 at the end of this row.

Row 2: slip 1 purl-wise, purl 7, purl 2 together, purl 1. Turn

Row 3: slip 1 knit-wise, knit 8, SKPO, knit 1. Turn.

Row 4: slip 1 purl-wise, purl 9, purl 2 together, purl 1. Turn.

Row 5: slip 1 knit-wise, knit 10, SKPO, knit 1. Turn.

Row 6: slip 1 purl-wise, purl 11, purl 2 together, purl 1. Turn.

Row 7: slip one knit-wise, knit 12, SKPO, knit 1. Turn.

Row 8: slip one purl-wise, purl 13, purl 2 together, purl 1. Turn.

Row 9: slip 1 knit-wise, knit 14, SKPO, knit 1. Turn.

Row 10: slip 1 purl-wise, purl 15, purl 2 together, purl 1. Turn.

Row 11: slip 1 knit-wise, knit 16, SKPO. Turn.

Row 12: slip 1 purl wise, purl 17. Turn.

You should have a total of 18 stitches, and a sweet little heel that looks like this:

Row 13: slip 1 knit wise and knit to the end of the row. (18 stitches in total)  Then carry on along the space between the end of the row and the instep, lifting 8 stitches along the connecting slip stitch ridge - the ridge that I'm pointing to in the photo below. Simply knit a stitch into the slip stitches at the end of these rows, carrying on all the way across to the instep stitches on needle 2.

It produces a slightly awkward looking row of stitches, but we'll fiddle around and redistribute them between needles 1 and 3 when we're done with this row so that they feel a bit more comfortable.

Knit all the way across the instep needle (needle 2). Using the free needle, pick up a further 8 stitches across the slip stitch ridge on the other side of the instep needle.

You should now have a total of 64 stitches on all three needles. You should leave the original 30 stitches in place on needle 2 (the instep) and divide the remaining stitches evenly between needles 1 and 3 - do this by simply slipping them off one needle and onto the other (i.e. you should have 17 stitches on each of these two needles).

9. Now we need to reduce the number of stitches back to 60, shaping the gusset of the foot.

Row 1:
Needle 1: knit to last 3 stitches, Knit 2 together, knit 1.
Needle 2: knit all the way across.
Needle 3: knit 1, SKPO, knit all remaining stitches.

At the end of row 1 you should have a total of 62 stitches on your needles.

Row 2: knit all the stitches across all three needles.

Row 3: repeat row 1.

At the end of Row 3 you should have 60 stitches once again.

10. Carry on knitting in stocking stitch i.e. plain knit all the way round without turning until the foot of your sock is about 5 cm short of the desired overall length.

11. Shape the toe of the sock:

Row 1: decrease row - you will lose a total of 4 stitches on this row.

Needle 1: knit across to the last 3 stitches, knit 2 together, knit 1.
Needle 2: knit 1, slip 2 stitches knit-wise from the first to the second needle ...

... and then insert the first needle into the front of the stitches slipped to the second needle and knit the two of them together (SSK) (see photos above and below), knit across to the last 3 stitches, knit 2 together, knit 1.

Needle 3: Knit 1, SSK, knit to the end.

Row 2: knit.

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until you have only 32 stitches remaining in total across all three needles: i.e. you should have 8 stitches on needle 1, 16 stitches on needle 2 and 8 stitches on needle 3.

Carry on knitting only row 1, decreasing by 4 stitches each and every row, until only 12 stitches remain: i.e. 3 stitches on needle 1, 6 stitches on needle 2 and 3 stitches on needle 3.

Cast off by cutting the wool, threading it through a darning needle and drawing through all 12 stitches. Pull gently until you close over the point of the sock. 

Knot to secure, and darn in the loose end and the end from where you cast on. 

Ta-dah! You've knit a sock. Now all you have to do is follow the same pattern to knit the second one. 

And here's another pair that I made for my mum: 

Good luck and happy knitting!

Bonny x

Sunday 4 January 2015

Prelude to Epiphany ...

Over here in Spain they really know how to make Christmas last. It's still going on! Can you believe it? And tomorrow is the main event when they celebrate the visit of the Wise Kings to the Baby Jesus by giving their presents to one another. There'll be a big parade as the Wise Kings ride their cavalcade through town.

Tonight we had a warm-up to tomorrow's main event. The pages of the Wise Kings came to collect the children's Christmas letters. Volleys of fireworks heralded their arrival.

I don't know what it is about this country, but they seem to celebrate everything with fireworks. Mr B absolutely loves them. Every excuse he's off sending sparks and flaming cartwheels of flaring light into the night sky.

Our village is an old Catalan fishing village so it was only fitting that the pages and their retinues should arrive by sea. After the fireworks their flotilla of boats entered the harbour, lit by the lights of their torches. Sadly I was at the back of the crowd and struggled to capture the moment on my camera. 

But soon their retinue of veiled girls and turbaned boys filed past.

Excited children in the crowd ooh-ed and ah-ed. Perhaps some of them recognised an older sibling in oriental dress.

 More fireworks exploded into the night sky ...

... followed by a chorus of drums.

The people on the quay around us got more and more excited. They pushed and shoved, and we found ourselves being moved around by the press and movement of our neighbours.

The pages led their procession through the crowd to their specially customised tractor, which I'd photographed earlier.

Taking their places they drove off through the crowd into the village. Every now and then their cavalcade stopped to take letters from the village children outlining their gift wishes for tomorrow night.

The other people drifted after them, but we stayed behind unwilling to get caught in the crush of the crowd again.

And the harbour, slowly returned to normal: nice and quiet with the twinkling lights of the village dancing in the water of the bay and the dark shoulder of the mountain silhouetted in the night sky by the light of a full moon.

Happy Epiphany!

And all the best for now,

Bonny x

As shared on Texture Tuesday and image-in-ing

Friday 2 January 2015

Happy New Year!

A brand new year has arrived, and with it a burst of balmy, sunny weather that feels positively spring-like here on the Costa Brava.

We celebrated New Year's Day with a post prandial stroll along the cliff tops. It was a glorious start to shiny, new 2015.

There were very few people around. In fact it felt like we were the only folk left in town. All around was quiet save for the ebb and swell of the sea, and the mournful cries of the gulls.

We spotted this cheeky little chap sitting on a rock with the seagulls. Emi got very excited and suggested that he was a penguin. I squinted, struggling to focus on the penguin-shaped-and-sized bird in the distance, and began to express my doubts about whether there could possibly be penguins in the Mediterranean (duh!). Ornithology is not my forte. Mr B jumped in masterfully, and put us out of our misery, identifying the cormorant on the rocks. He - the bird- is rather magnificent, isn't he?

We carried on to S'Agaró, the next village, where they had some decent waves breaking on the beach.

We pottered along the front and had coffee and dessert at a little chiringuito that had heroically stayed open and been rewarded with a smattering of diners who were enjoying a New Year's Day lunch al fresco in the sea air.

It was lovely sitting there in the warm(ish) sunshine, listening to the chit-chat and the breath of the sea, rising and falling in the background. I really couldn't think of a better way to start this lovely, shiny new year. 

And so, my friends, I wish you a very happy, prosperous and creative 2015 and leave you with the sound of the Mediterranean breaking on the rocks as we walked back home. 

Be still, my beating heart. I think I've just started vlogging!

All the best for now,

Bonny x

As shared on Friday Finds