Teeny squares cushion

I seem to be on a bit of a roll at the moment… a project finishing roll that is. Well, actually it’s just an illusion caused by the fact that I started a large and small project in quick succession and have, due to running both in parallel for a while managed to finished both projects in quick succession. Well, whatever, the point is, I’ve finished my tiny squares cushion!

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It’s been a little while in the making…actually a long while if I think about it. I’d seen pictures of Emma Lamb’s gorgeous crochet cushion around on Pinterest for a while. I remember a couple of years ago, but only the finished object was available, not a pattern. I remember having a go at making my own version, without pattern, just trying to go by the look of the pictures. I didn’t have great success as I just couldn’t get my tiny squares to be square enough for my liking. It’s difficult to make something really square when you are crocheting on the small a scale – only two rounds per square. You really need a couple more rounds to get the corners to stand square.

However, having now made this roughly according to the pattern, I think most of the squaring out of these little suckers actually happens when they are joined, which of course pulls them more into a square shape.

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So, I thought I would share some practical details, as I don’t think I have mentioned the yarn and shades used before. So, from left to right above, and starting at the top, here we go:

  • Aqua (044)
  • Grey (004)
  • Oyster (078)
  • Duck egg (019)
  • Unknown (very pale grey-white)
  • Vintage pink (066)
  • Charcoal (033)

As you can see I have one unknown shade, because being the scatty person I am, I chucked all the ball bands before I had noted down that particular shade. I have a feeling that shade may now have been discontinued as I haven’t been able to find the same colour since.

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Anyway, I am pretty happy with the result. The cushion cover looks nice and neat on the pad, though I could perhaps do with a larger pad to stretch the cover out slightly more and fill it better. I made 100 squares for each side of the cover, joining them in rows of 10. This fits a 45 cm cushion and looks fine, but I think would probably also fit a 50cm square cushion if you wanted a more tight fitting, plumper looking cushion (I might try that).

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The colour palette looks slightly more muted in the finished article than I had perhaps intended, but as you can see it does go fairly well with the sofa and is making friends with my existing pale pink cushion. It is interesting how using the same colours but in different ways gives a different finished effect. The colour scheme is very similar, with the addition of the duck egg and aqua colours, to that of my moss stitch cushion from a couple of months ago, but being squares instead of blocks of colour in stripes I find the finished effect to be very different. Just for comparison:

 

Well, I’m now off to carry on working on my latest WIP – another throw (already!). Maybe more on that next time.

A little bit of retro

I thought I’d blog about something a bit different today (well it’s different for me anyway). I love retro things for the home, and have a few cheap and cheerful things I’ve bought on the high street recently which I thought I’d share, for those of you who also like a bit of retro in your life!

Not having had my own home for very long, my collection of kitchenalia and general household items is still pretty small. So, I’m always on the look out for nice secondhand or new pieces that fill a utility gap and will also look pretty in my kitchen or dining room for a while to come.

Recently while browsing in John Lewis, I spotted these from Emma Bridgewater, and kinda fell in love with them. You have to admit they are beautiful. However at the time, I was feeling thrifty and couldn’t push the buyer’s guilt down far enough inside to allow me to purchase them. Then, a few weeks later, I spotted these from George home – a whole set for just a fraction of the cost! Given my love of duck egg, combined with the price, I just snapped them up. The tea spoons are certainly making tea breaks a lot more fun already.

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My other recent vintage style purchase was this pink cake stand, also spotted at George Home. It’s too pretty to hide away in the cupboard just because I don’t happen to have a freshly baked cake to hand, so I’ve had it out on the dresser displaying biscuits.

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I love vintage style glass ware, and have an actual vintage cake stand make from clear pressed glass. While the George home version has much thinner glass than the vintage kind, which I think tend to be made from pressed glass (I guess it’s true that they don’t make ’em like they used to), this version is so pretty with it’s pink colouring (not something I’ve seen when surfing eBay for vintage glass cake stands) and again such good value for money that it was too good to pass up.

Do you share my love of vintage and retro style homewares? Where do you go to pick up your finds?

That’s all from me for today, hope you have a lovely Thursday!

 

Summery ripple throw

Finally I have managed to finish something! It feels like an extra achievement as it is a large something too. Yup, yesterday I stitched the final stitches and weaved in the final trailing ends on my ripple throw. It doesn’t really have a name, but the colours seem very summary to me so…summery ripple throw it is.

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I blogged about making this throw a little while ago, with details of the yarns I used, so I won’t repeat myself again here. I also mentioned before that I haven’t historically been a fan of Stylecraft Life, but I have to say that the experience of making this blanket and using the yarn again has really changed my mind.

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Having reached the end of this blanket and feeling very pleased with the result and value for money, I think I am a convert to the Stylecraft way, especially Stylecraft Life. I did use a combination of Stylecraft Life and Stylecraft Special – Life being a wool mix DK and Special being 100% acrylic. Somewhat to my surprise as I am a big fan of using natural fibres as much as I can, I really preferred the Stylecraft Special. Strangely I found the Life DK to feel a bit thinner than the Special, and overall I preferred the Special texture – it seemed to be more felty, and slightly thicker which I like for the purposes of making a blanket. Also I think Special comes in a larger range of colours than Life, which is good as I find I am becoming very picky in my colour choices and combinations!

That brings me on to the other big plus point of Stylecraft Special which is the huge colour palette. I only used a handful of the selection available in this project, but I have totally fallen in love with some of the colours. I particularly loved the new ‘Duck Egg’ and ‘Storm Blue’ shades, but also the neutrals in Parchment, Cream and Silver. I suspect these colours will feature in many future projects.

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I’ve been really happy with the colour choices I made for this project – I think the overall effect is soothing with a few shots of bright colour in the pinks and Sage green that just perk the whole thing up. Looking at it makes me think of summer seas with the blue-green colours and a lovely sunset above with the pinks and greys. I think another reason for my not falling totally in love with Stylecraft Special when using it before was that I had only really used the brighter shades. There aren’t any yarn shops near me that stock Stylecraft so I always had to choose shades and buy online, which is not great if you want to be picky about colour like me. For whatever reason in the past I somehow didn’t manage to pick my colours very well, resulting in my overall impression of the available shades on Stylecraft Special being that they were all a bit harsh and bright for my taste.

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However, this time I think I can safely say I got it right for my taste! I also now have a better idea of which other shades in the brand I am likely to like, so I’m already planning another blanket project.

Altogether I am dead chuffed with the result on this one, please forgive me if I sound a little braggy! Oh yeah, and apologies for the slightly blue-ish light in the photos – the light here is pants at the moment, the sun is not to be seen (whatever happening to Flaming June?!).

Now where is that tiny squares cushion I started….

 

p.s. This is not a sponsored post, I just wanted to share my new found Stylecraft love!

A spot of colour, London style

Once again technology has been against me and the result has been an enforced break from blogging. This time it was my laptop that decided to die last Sunday. So I’ve had a week away from all things online at home, which is probably no bad thing.

While I’ve been away, we’ve had some birthday celebrations, which has meant a couple of fun days out around London, visiting some of our favouriate haunts. One of these is the Picture House Central cinema on Shaftesbury Avenue. It’s hands down the best cinema I have ever been to, and I really love the way they have set everything out inside. There decor is sort of industrial-chic, with a lot of large neon signage. Does anyone else get a little hypnotised by colour-changing signs? I always have to stand there and watch them go through all their different colours.

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It also meant a chance to pop into Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road. You can’t beat a book shop, and I’m glad there are still some bricks and mortar book shops around, despite the rise of the ereader. I’m a die hard fan of the printed page. I loved the colourful book displays in Foyles, so thought I would share those too:

 

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I really need to start taking my camera around with me. The photos above were all taken with my camera phone, and I can really see the drop in quality compared to even my compact camera. Phone cameras just don’t perform well in low light.

So apart from gadding around town, I’ve just been up to the usual. My ripple throw is nearly finished after a final push, so hopefully I can share some snaps of that next time.

Have a good Monday!

 

Baking notes: Peanut butter brownies

More baking has taken place. I’m gearing up for a party you see. We have a BBQ coming up towards the end of July for S’s birthday. We did this last year and it was great fun. Without thinking much of it, last year I made brownies and a Victoria sponge cake as deserts. They rather unexpectedly went down a storm. Being the people-pleaser that I am, this has actually made me feel pressured to top or at least equal my baking effort this year.

So, I’ve been trying to work out a good way of doing peanut butter brownies. I’ve seen various recipes on the web, but to be honest they all sound like a bit of a faff to me, and I hate faff. I don’t think I’ve seen any that don’t involve doing things like taking brownies out of the oven part way through cooking to smear peanut butter on top and then putting them back – how does that work?!

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After a fair bit of mulling it over, I decided to just have a bash at adapting the recipe for plain brownies that I normally used. All I did was whack about 200g of crunchy peanut butter into the pan along with the usual chocolate and butter, allowing it all to melt before mixing with eggs and flour.

Once the brownies were cooked I did attempt a kind of peanut topping by putting some peanut butter on top and then putting the brownies back in the over for another 10 minutes.

I didn’t exactly get it right I don’t think. The result isn’t bad. It doesn’t taste bad – in fact it tastes of peanut butter and chocolate (no surprises there then). But I think next time I need to remember the following:

  • It will probably work better not to melt the peanut butter completely. I might try stirring it into the mixture after the chocolate has been melted and added to the flour and eggs, rather than putting it in the pan with the chocolate.
  • Allow extra cooking time because of the additional amount of mixture made by adding the peanut butter. Or possibly substitute some of the chocolate for the peanut butter
  • Topping…well actually I’m still not sure what the best way is for that…any ideas?

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Baking notes: Lemon drizzle cake

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When I get the chance (which is not very often sadly) I like to do a little bit of baking. I usually keep it pretty simple. I have a small repertoire of tried and tested favourites that I come back to over an over – chocolate brownies, Victoria Sponge, sultana scones, cupcakes – that sort of thing.

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I have a bit of a battle with my oven when baking large cakes.¬†Quite often I’ll find that the top of the cake cooks before the middle does, and it seems to take a loooong time for things to cook all the way through, meaning that I have to put foil over the cake to stop the top burning before the middle is cooked!

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This weekend, as we had S’s parents visiting us on Sunday I thought I’d break out the hand whisk and have a go at a lemon drizzle cake. Happily, it came out pretty near perfect! No idea what I did right this time really – I used the same recipe as last time, but the cake seemed to cook much more quickly and evenly. Possibly I had the oven shelf higher up, though you’d think that would make it cook more quickly on the outside only. It might also have been that I used a slightly bigger tin – but then I only have 2 rectangular cake tins, and I think they’re pretty much the same size. The only thing I know for sure that I did differently this time is to use self raising flour instead of plain flour and baking powder.

Well, whatever it was it worked. So my small notes to myself for next time I bake this are:

  • Use self-raising flour
  • Place cake on top shelf of oven
  • Bake for 45 minutes then use kitchen foil to cover the top of the cake
  • Bake for a further 15 minutes until done

I don’t know if this will be any use to anyone else, but I hope it might be – if nothing else hopefully next time I try this cake I’ll remember to look back at this post. Putting foil over the top of the cake to stop it burning has to be my biggest baking tip – do you have any baking tips or tricks that always work for you?

p.s. the recipe I used is from this book – British Baking by Oliver Peyton

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Staying afloat

It feels like that’s what I’ve been trying to do in May. In my last post I did a little stock take of all my UFOs, and felt a bit pants for not having achieve much in May. I think I’ve just been trying to keep on top of other things more in the last few weeks (mainly housework and cleaning), and as a result something had to give.

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With both of us working and me also doing a Ph.D. in my spare time (hah, spare time!) to be honest S and I struggle to stay on top of the things that need doing around the house and garden. We’re both naturally fairly tidy, clean people so there isn’t a huge amount of mess around, but nevertheless, once a week someone has to find time to clean the bathroom, vacuum, wash etc. – and of course that someone is me.

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Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a tirade against S, or a complaint about the fact that in many homes most of the chores still fall to women. I actually¬†like doing cleaning and making the house nice. Possibly this is simply because I never have much time to do it – I suspect if I had all day, five days a week to clean, the bloom would soon be off the rose so to speak. I do like cleaning, I like things to be tidy, but at the end of a day/week at work and studying, I just don’t have the time or energy. S, bless him would do more if I asked him I know, but his job is pretty demanding too, so I don’t like to ask.

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My sudden surge in attempting to get on top of chores was brought on by our having a discussion about whether we should get a cleaner. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against people having cleaners and fully understand why those who can do. But in the end, we decided it wasn’t something we felt comfortable spending the money on when we could just make a little more effort ourselves. This of course resulting in the guilt button in my brain being pushed, catapulting me into housework mode for a week or so. So craftiness has suffered a little as a result. And now I still feel guilty because it’s a new week, and there are a new set of chores to do and once again, I don’t have the energy. Ah well, sometimes you can’t win!

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What I have been doing to cheer myself up is knitting! Yes, this is really going to contribute to the completion of household tasks (yeah, right!). But at least I’ll have something to show for myself at the end of it.

I’ve started knitting Cornwallis from the Rowan Summerlite DK book, and it’s so addictive. I love the colour blocking and stripes combo. It’s knitting up really fast too. If I like the finished garment enough I might tackle this again with another colourway or two!