CAL 43-45 Getting back on track!

I know I am way behind lots of other people but since I often do my CAL posts on Thursdays and I have finished three more squares I thought that I would share them with you.

Square No. 43

Square no. 43

I quite like the colours I chose for this one but wasn’t that enamoured at having to make four fiddly little granny squares and then join them in the manner instructed.

We were told to use yarn B but it looked to me that it was more likely that C had been used and anyway I didn’t want the joining stitches to show so I used colour ‘C’ – the green.

It seems to have come out on the small size and I don’t think I did the joining very well, so I may crochet round a row of dcs if I use it for the blanket.

Square No. 44

Square no. 44

I liked this one better and although I could not copy the colour style exactly, I did start off with colours than shaded into each other.

Square No. 45

Square no. 45

I hadn’t expected to like doing this one but in the event it was quite straightforward and I managed to hide the yarn where I stretched it across the back when the steps increased by working the stitches over it, so that pleased me.

So only four ends to finish off which was pleasant after the other two.

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December Montage – Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you all!

Since I haven’t been posting for a full year yet I won’t try to look back on the year as a whole but here is a look back on what I have done this last month.

It will be included in the Monthly Montage menu above.

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In December I made three more CAL squares. Yes only three! but I also took a photograph of all that I have made to date.

I shared with you the pattern I had worked out for the balloon mobile in the picture I had been given.

And I also shared Christmas decorations past, present and maybe even future, plus my Christmas cooking, especially the Stollen recipe I use.

And finally a bit about how I spent Christmas.

December montage

What did I do over Christmas?

Well not as much as I might have hoped as I have been suffering from a cold. “The cold that thinks it’s flu” as I have dubbed it.

It started with a cough! Now what cold STARTS with a cough?

Moved onto fever and then when the fever broke and you felt much better and felt maybe you were going to get better quicker than normal, and with all of Christmas ahead, the cold really starts – streaming nose, productive cough, the lot.

Nine days after it started, you are feeling wobbly walking round the sitting room and wondering if you will ever get better!

Well my son helped by putting up the Christmas tree but I had to add the decorations I had shared with you.

My son comes to stay over Christmas as the buses are so bad and normally we play games but this year all we did was watch TV and do the Radio Times cryptic crossword, which, much to my delight, we managed to finish between us.

Of course my son also caught the cold and was feeling pretty bad by the time he left on Saturday.

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And I put the cards on the bookcase but didn’t try to cover up what lay behind! The one of the candle was made by a creative friend and it is the third year she has made her cards using a special paper folding system.

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My granddaughter and family came on the Monday for a present swop and a meal of which I ate only a tiny, tiny portion but they did insist on doing the washing up which helped, and I made sure the crib was up. Again in a bookcase.

My son insisted that two of the kings should be having a chat.

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Snowflakes on coffee tableNo streamers, no tinsel, and I spread my snowflakes on the coffee table since I wasn’t up to turning them into a garland. These were moved to the mantle piece on Christmas day as my grandsons, daughter and son-in-law came to lunch. They had all had the cold before me and Alfred, the younger, was suffering from Chicken Pox that he had caught from his brother, so we were a sick household and no one ate as much as they might have done.

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Kitchen snowflakesBut the gel snowflakes on the kitchen windows

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Snowflake wreath on doorand the wreath on the inside of the front door kept my spirits up.

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I didn’t feel up to starting on the outstanding CAL squares but did manage some more of my granny ripple blanket.0094-blanket

Making a Dresdner Stollen

The last couple of years I have moved a little away from the centrality of a standard Christmas cake and given priority to making a Stollen.

The recipe I use is an amalgamation of one in a book and one I found on the internet.

The one in the book had no marzipan which is why I looked on the internet and it also included pepper as one of the spices. I am prepared to believe that pepper in sweet things is great but I wasn’t going to take the risk.

The one on the internet had marzipan but no rum and apart from the pepper I inclined more to the spice mix of the first.

So my hybrid recipe was born.

(I am sorry but with being so busy preparing for Christmas, I have just given the quantities in British imperial measurements.)

You start by taking:

  • 14oz raisins
  • 7oz currants
  • 9oz chopped mixed peel
  • 4oz chopped almonds

Add the zest (but not the juice) of 2 lemons

and

  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 6 tblsps dark rum

You mix all the above in a big bowl and leave for two hours for the flavours to mingle.

Using real vanilla essence, not flavouring, and starting with whole spices gives a better flavour.

Then you measure out

  • 2lb 4oz strong white flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 tsps quick yeast
  • 7oz caster suger

and mix together.

You need to use this much yeast because otherwise it will take forever to double in size.

You also take

  • 14oz butter
  • 18floz milk

Melt the butter, then add the milk and heat till it is tepid.

Then you mix the butter and milk into the flour mixture and knead for 10 to 15 minutes until the dough is springy.

It is a soft dough with a slightly greasy feel that is easy to knead, though I do start it off in the bowl until all is combined.

Spread out the dough and add the fruit mixture

and knead to incorporate all the fruit into the dough. The recipe in the book doesn’t add the fruit until after the dough has had it’s first rise but I prefer to do it this way, like the other recipe.

Cover with a tea towel or cling film and put in a warm place till it doubles in size. For me this takes at least a couple of hours.

The recipe in the book is for about half the above quantities and the other recipe says that it will make two or three stollens. Since the tradition is apparently to make two and give one away, this seemed a good quantity and not too much to knead. However the two or three stollens are actually very large so this year I am going to make the mixture into four stollens and keep one and give three away to family and friend.

When the dough has doubled in size you knock it back, divide into the number of stollens you want to make (this recipe will make at least two), knead lightly and roll out to a circle about 1 inch thick.

You then incorporate a roll of marzipan.

Since marzipan is easy to make I made my own.

The recipe says

  • 16oz marzipan

You place the marzipan in the centre of a circle of dough

fold over one side and then the other, making the typical stollen crease.

Here are two of the four stollens ready for their second rise.

I am sure that you would be much better than me at the shaping but people seem to think they taste good.

Since the dried fruit on the outside tends to burn, this year I picked off the loose bits and ate them. 🙂

You then put them back in your warm place and leave for another hour or two, till they have again doubled in size.

The most difficult part is knowing how long to cook them and the best temperature, as I have a fan oven.

My latest method is to pre-heat the oven to 170-180 deg C, cover with a piece of foil to help prevent the fruit burning and then look at them after 40 – 45 minutes depending on size. If you make four it appears 30 mins would be better to start checking. One of the recipies says to insert a skewer and they are done if it comes out cleanly.

While they are still hot from the oven brush them with melted butter and dust generously with icing sugar.

And here are two of them after cooking. (They had 40 minutes and even with the foil got very brown. I also haven’t worked out how to stop them splitting in the middle.

Baked stollen

They are best made a week before Christmas, to let the flavour develop, and keep for another week or so.

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This week I have also made 3lb of mincemeat using Delia’s recipe but less sugar and some cranberry sauce using an amalgamation of my own.

I like to make my own mincemeat as I find it less acidic than the shop variety and the homemade cranberry sauce has more flavour. Both are so easy to make; I wish I had started making them years ago instead of only the last couple.

No fancy jars, just for the store cupboard.

Mincemeat and cranberry sauce

Snowflake wreath

As I promised on Thursday here is the item for which I made the snowflakes and the angel:-

And this is how I made it.

I was going to buy one of those polystyrene rings that you can buy in craft shops but then a few days ago I found an odd piece of pipe insulation lying on the edge of my property and decided that it would make an excellent basis for the wreath. The circumference of the pipe insulation was 10 cm so I bought 20cm of royal blue felt and cut a long piece of elastic.

I threaded the elastic through the piece of pipe insulation and tied it firmly, then added a short piece of dowel,  to keep the ends aligned and wound round a piece of sticky tape to hold the ends together while I covered it with the felt.

I cut an 11cm strip off the felt and tacked the ends together so I could check that it fitted snuggly round the ring. (I actually placed the join towards the bottom of the final wreath at about a ‘four o’clock’ position so there would be no strain on it, with the seam at the top to be covered up when it was suspended.)

Then I stitched and trimmed the seam and fitted and pinned the felt round the ring

before sewing it together at the back with some invisible thread that I had bought for the purpose.

You can see from my stitches why I don’t do this sort of thing very often.

I then made some more silver snowflakes and three with some #20 white crochet cotton that I had.

I felt that the wreath needed something to wind round it and toyed with a few ideas but ended up crocheting a long chain using both the silver thread and #20 crochet cotton.

I wound it round the ring and tied the ends together at the bottom in a bow.

Finally, I sewed on the snowflakes, again using the invisible thread, and suspended the angel in the centre.

Have you been making any new decorations this year?

CAL 43-45 Lost in action!

The action I mean is making things for Christmas.

I have not made any more squares this week because I have been wanting to get on with other things.

I have been making these that I showed you on Monday – HERE

Samples

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PRESENTS

No picture for these 🙂

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Some of my real snowflakes in silver but I need more

Silver snowflakes

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And this crochet angel

Crochet angel

I found the pattern for this HERE but I found what seemed on my reading to be a couple of mistakes.

When making the body you do need to make five picots to be the fingers. The pattern seemed to be written only for four. (And yeh! I have worked out how to make acceptable picots).

When making the wings there should be two dcs (US teminology) (UK = trebles) into the same stitch at each end of the rows even where on one row it only mentions one.

The angel in the pattern is made on #10 crochet cotton but I only had #20 cotton and anyway I wanted it fairly small so that is what I used.

Next Monday I hope to be able to show you what I needed the snowflakes and the angel for.

Decorations children can make, favourites and some ideas.

When my children were at school someone came home with this as an idea for making Christmas decorations for the tree. They were really easy to make so I thought I would share them with you.

Now if you are older and a bit more dexterous and love snowflakes and hexagons and all six-fold things as my elder daughter does, since she shares many of my enthusiasms, then you decide to make them like this.

These are all left from the ones we made years ago.

You can maybe see how to make them but I will include some instructions anyway.

All you need are cocktails sticks and some spare yarn. It’s a good way to use up those tiny oddments that are too small to do anything with.

You cross the two (or three) cocktail sticks together, tie the yarn to one of them near the crossing point then wind round and round going over and under each of the arms in turn and keeping the yarn taut but not so much that it distorts the shape. When you want to change colour, just tie on a new piece and pull the knot to the back so it gets hidden.

I hope this shows how to wind the yarn round.

And how it looks on the reverse. I have wound round the initial tail and then cut off what shows.

Tie the yarn through itself round one of the arms to finish. Tying it twice probably makes it more secure.

If you have some gold yarn left from making stars for Christmas cards 🙂 you can include that.

And this is the reverse before the ends have been trimmed.

I made this fairly quickly. With a little more time it can be even neater. It is easier if you cut off the ends as you go.

And here are a few more samples. I think the rainbow one is a bit irregular because I undid some bits I had crocheted to use the thread.

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I thought I would also share with you some of my favourite tree decorations.

There are these that my eldest daughter bought me at different times.

As you can see the one on the left is larger than the normal tree ornament. It is an imitation snowball covered with down and is getting a little past its best but I love it.

The other is a tiny glass angel. and I decided to give you a closer look as it doesn’t show up very well in the other photograph.

Here are some wooden decorations. The one on the left was a present from a friend but the others were carefully chosen by me. The middle two come from a Christmas Market in Aachen, Germany and the one on the right from Bethlehem.

I am also very fond of these.

The ball I have had a long time and I think it came from John Lewis in London, and I love it for the rainbow colours that shimmer inside but don’t show very well in the photograph. The other I bought in Southampton a year or two ago from a stall in the precinct. They had lots and lots of similar ones and I bought this one because blue is my favourite colour.

Now we move on to some that I think have creative possibilities.

0090-craftpossibilities

These are both made from wire but offer possibilities for being copied. The one on the right could maybe be made with a wire star shape and yarn wound round it with added beads or buttons. I might try something next year.

And these I bought on Saturday in Paperchase for £6.

I thought I could use them to work out some suitable crochet patterns and make some for next year.

CAL 40-42 Are mistakes creeping in?

Not my mistakes, though there enough of those.  However I hope I correct most of them before I finish the squares.

I mean mistakes in the Jan Eaton Book.

Take square 41 for instance: when I looked at the pattern my guess was that the first bobble would be on the far right. In the photo, however, it appeared to be on the left so I was full of self-doubt.

When I made the square I was relieved to find I was right. But this means that the photo has the last row at the bottom and not at the top as it does in all the other pictures.

Not a big mistake and maybe someone liked the look of it better that way round.

But with square 42 there really was a mistake in the pattern in my opinion.

I was surprised that the middle of the sides for rows 6 & 7 consisted of dc, 3ch rather than tr, 3ch, especially the way the picture looked. But being the sort of person I am, I followed the pattern religiously and came out with this:-

Even stretching it didn’t seem to help, so I went with my opinion and remade it with trebles instead of the double crochets in the last two rows, as you will see further down.

Square No. 40

From previous experience I decided to make the ‘flower’ in a stronger colour so that it would show up and was pleased with the result.

I think I have given up naming all the flowers, since most flowers tend to have five or six petals rather than eight. Though of course five would be hard to work easily into a square design.

I like this square and I am used to working ‘granny’ type patterns, though I still get the wrong number of trebles in a group sometimes. “Please don’t tell me you can see a mistake! 🙂 ”

Square No. 41

I actually worked this last as I expected it to be fairly straighforward which it was. Not much to say really, except what I refer to above about the fact that, with the first row at the bottom, the bobble triangle points to the left. This is how I have photographed it.

089-41

Square No. 42

0089-42

As you can see this square looks much better like this.

I kept to similar colours to the picture because I liked the look of the original.

Square No. 36 redone

I have also managed to find time to redo square no. 36 – the one with the htr rows.

0089-36

It’s amazing what a difference feeling confident and knowing what you are doing can make. I even got the colours the right way round this time.

It would look even better if stretched to look properly square.

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And I will leave you with a photograph of all the squares that I have completed up to now.

This does enlarge
This does enlarge

I did take a little time to make a harmonious arrangement and the seven squares on the bottom row are the ones most likely to be omitted from the final blanket and used for a cushion or something.

Mobile pattern challenge

This post is not about a moving pattern or a pattern related to a mobile phone but a pattern for one of those decorative objects that people hang over baby’s cots and in other places.

0088-pictureofmobile
This will enlarge so you can have a closer look

It all started when a crafting group friend showed me the piece of paper you can see to your left and said something along the lines of  “You’re good at crochet! I’d like you to make me a pattern.”

(She had inherited the page shown from her mother and it had obviously been saved for the instructions on the reverse showing how to make various crochet stitches.)

Well, I must admit that my first reaction was to be a bit taken aback, but I always like a challenge so I said that I would see what I could do.

I went home, got out my magnifying glass and some scrap variegated yarn that was maybe four-ply and tried out a few ideas.

As you can see if you look closely there are instructions for the yarn to use, the hook size, the tension and the first two rows for the balloon. (All in US terms.)

I ignored the bit about the tension and just got going on the balloon.

I realised after a bit that the main body of the balloon was hdc (UK – htr) and after that it was fairly plain sailing. 😉

This was my first attempt at the balloon and basket.

First attempt at balloon

I decided that the bottom of the balloon was too narrow and re-wrote the pattern.

I couldn’t decide what size the balloons were in the picture and of course with a thing like this, size is a relative matter.  Interestingly, though, when I came to consider the tension given in the original sheet I realised that it was actually about the same as that I obtain when making the squares for the CAL with DK yarn and a 4mm hook (US – Worsted weight, 6 hook (or betwen F & G according to my conversion chart)).

So I made another balloon and basket with DK yarn and a 4mm hook and got this:-

New balloon and basket

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Up to now I had kept strictly to what I could see in the picture without any personal considerations.

However when it came to the clouds, not only could I not see clearly enough to copy them but I didn’t actually like them and thought I could do better.

I showed my friend my first attempt without any stuffing and she thought that it was a little on the large side so I made a smaller version by replacing the htr (US hdc) with dcs (US scs) and stuffed it.

Here is the smaller version with the balloon. I think it is smaller than the clouds in the picture but that it looks quite cute.

Cloud and balloon

I rather enjoyed making the cloud and was pleased with how it turned out. I think that I am developing an intuitive feel for how to shape an item, which will be useful if I ever get round to making some amigurumi type figures.

Here is a comparison between the cloud made with dcs (US scs) and htrs (US hdcs).

Two clouds and balloon

I think that the hardest part to work out was the blue circle at the top. I am not sure if what I have put in the pattern is the correct way to do it.

I am going to include the pattern in the ‘MY PATTERNS’ section of the menu at the top just in case anyone fancies giving it a try.

November Montage

In November I finally finished my flower cloth by completing the edging which enabled me to share with you the genesis of the granny ripple and to start my granny ripple blanket. I haven’t got much further than that, as Christmas is coming fast and I have had to transfer my attention to other things.

Of course about a third of my crochet time is taken up with the CAL and I finished another fifteen squares in November.

I mananged to also fit in a peek at the chocolate cakes I made, some new yarn and the Liebster award.

I do enjoy being able to see what I have achieved in a month and find it a uselful reference if I can’t remember when I was working on any particular project.