Giant Knitting Cat Baskets are here!

…and they’ve been well and truly road-tested by all three crew members.  I think we have the seal of approval.

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It was useful to make two baskets.  One came out a bit tighter than the other, and that turned out to be the best one.  This is because, over a few days’ constant use, they stretch.  So the looser basket has ended up a bit on the floppy side, and the tighter basket is just about right.  Also, as I knitted the base more tightly, the sides appear taller.

The crew spent hours lounging around in their new beds, which enabled us to take lots of scrumptious photos of them.  My partner is a professional photographer (thesheffieldlens.com) – I am sure you can tell which are his pictures and which one is off my iphone!

I am excited to make the next batch.  I might try a different colour, or at least, a different sheep….

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Giant Knitting Cat Baskets here soon!

The new yarn is on the needles, and the cat basket is in progress…

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Wow this yarn is even better than I expected.  It’s bigger and thicker than the yarn I used for the original baskets.  And it knits up fine using the needles I already have.  So I don’t have to order a load more knitting needles to be custom-made in bigger sizes.

I have amended my pattern slightly to accommodate the thicker yarn.  I was a bit worried that I hadn’t maintained an even thickness and twist on all of it.  After all, the wet felting was a bit of an experiment.  But working the yarn, it doesn’t seem to matter.  There is enough twist and felting to give it a bit of structure.  In fact, I think it performs even better than the old yarn.

 

It’s easier to get a flatter base.

It’s softer, less like rope.  More like a big, squishy soft strand.

It’s got that characteristic, fleecy scent.

The stitches are massive, with loads more visual impact.

And….the cats love it.

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It’s not finished yet, Monty.

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Uncle Herbert is pretty in pink

How about a shocking pink knitted cat basket?  I think so!

Herbie pink basket

The basket is normal-cat-sized.  It’s just that Herbie is BIG.  Still, he’s happy to model for me.

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The pink basket is going to be part of my new range of cat beds in all the colours of the rainbow.  I’m using upcycled t-shirt yarn, and it has many little quirks.  One of them is that each cone of yarn is a slightly different thickness. Which means that every time I start a new basket, I have to assess the thickness of the yarn and decide whether to use a double strand or not.

On the plus side, the range of colours is glorious and never-ending, so inspiration is never far away!

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Oh, and Monty likes the pink basket too. But he kind of flattens it.

Monty pink basket

More yarn, bigger baskets!

Till next time,

L x

Shortbread Is My Favourite

Sure is. I love it. Such a simple treat. Only 3 main ingredients: sugar, butter, flour. But it tastes wonderful. I have sussed out the best commercial varieties (Walkers Scottish brand is the best). I have also discovered that ‘all-butter shortbread’ may not actually contain that much butter.

As with a lot of things in life, if you can work out how to do it yourself, you are more likely to get the result you want. There is also the added bonus that you can take all the credit for it. Home-made shortbread is the best of all. Through trial and error I have honed my recipe to perfection.  Here it is:

250g salted butter, softened

125g caster sugar

300g plain flour

50g cornflour

Flavourings: a teaspoon of vanilla extract, or a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Combine the butter and sugar. Mix the flours and add gradually to the butter/sugar until you have a smooth dough. Add vanilla or cinnamon along the way.  Roll dough into a long cylinder shape, wrap in cling film and leave to rest in a cool place for a while.

When you are ready to bake, prepare 2 baking trays and pre-heat the oven to a medium heat. My oven is like a furnace so I only put it on 120 degrees. Take the dough and using a sharp knife, cut it into slices of about 5mm thick. Lay them out on the trays (they won’t spread much). Finish with a sprinkle of caster sugar and bake for 10-15 minutes. You don’t want them to colour too much. Let them cool on the trays for ten minutes before removing them to a cooling tray. They will be soft at first but will harden as they cool down.

These biscuits are melt-in-the-mouth delicious and they are great with ice-cream for dessert, or just on their own with a cup of tea. Here’s a batch I made the other day. I sprinkled brown sugar on top as I didn’t have any caster sugar to hand. I rolled the edges in brown sugar too.

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Herbie was watching my every move, no doubt hoping to get a lick of the bowl. I got my storage box out to put them in, and before I knew it, Herbie was in it.

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So much for my dairy-free diet eh? The shortbread biscuit could be the very last bastion of dairy for me – in fact it could be a bridge too far. Once the biscuit is baked, you can’t see the butter, so it isn’t really there, right?

Till next time,

L x

A Handmade Gift

It is lovely to receive a gift.  Big or small, it’s the thought and the good intention behind it which warms the soul.   I like to give people gifts that I have made.  I like making things, and at least with a handmade gift I can know for sure that they won’t already have one like it.  Still, I don’t always manage to give people gifts that I’ve made: time is short and I’m not that well-organised.

There is a perception, however, that by giving a handmade gift you are some kind of cheapskate because you probably haven’t spent a lot of money on it.  This implies that the most appreciated gifts are the most expensive.  But I don’t necessarily agree.  By giving an expensive gift you are showing that you have a lot of money and are willing to spend it on the recipient. That’s all very well, and such extravagance is exciting, both for the giver and receiver, especially when the gift is something that they really, really want.  Don’t get me wrong, if someone gave me an iPad or a diamond necklace I’d be over the moon.  But I’d also be a little embarrassed about returning such generosity.

On the other hand, a handmade gift can actually be quite expensive when you consider the cost of the higher end yarns. But whatever the cost of your materials, a handmade gift should be especially appreciated: the time and skill involved really shows you care.

Sparkly slippers handmade by Vicky

Sparkly slippers handmade by Vicky

For Christmas I received these marvellous sparkly knitted slippers from a friend. The design and construction intrigued me. I loved the mad, multicoloured sparkly yarn they were trimmed with; I loved that they stayed securely on my feet; and that they were a perfect fit.  I know my friend is on a tight budget, and I know these slippers would not have cost a lot to make, but that isn’t the point. The fact that they were made by her own fair hands is very special to me. She knows me, and she knew I would love them, wear them and find them interesting. For a gift you can’t ask for more than that.

Last week we caught up with some friends who we hadn’t seen over the holidays because they had been ill. With embarrassment they presented us with this beautiful cake, being modelled here by Herbie.  Seconds later he was trying to lick it.

Happy New Year cake

Happy New Year cake

Our friends felt they had to excuse the absence of bought gifts. They felt they had to explain. They are both working, but with pay freezes, childcare costs and house maintenance they are feeling the pinch, and they hoped we would ‘make do’ with this offering. They further explained that it was a quarter of a large Christmas cake which they had baked but not managed to decorate because of illness. Of course we were delighted with our gift, and the fact it was handmade was all the more special. There was no need to explain. I love how the cake is boldly decorated and placed on a handmade silver foil cake board with extra sugar flowers. It’s just delightful. OH has not allowed me to cut it yet because it’s so special and beautiful and he wants to take a picture of it. We will eat it and enjoy it.

What special handmade item did you give (or receive) this year?

Til next time,

L x