All posts by lookingglass12

About lookingglass12

Mum to one little boy, chef, crafter, wife....

Dyeing with Blackberries: A Cautionary Tale

I decided to dye cheesecloth with blackberries this weekend while I had the house to myself. I picked blackberries from the wild canes on our allotment yesterday morning and then used 6 cups of berries with 7 cups of water to cook up the juice.

I brought the water and berries (crushed) to a simmer for 30 minutes, strained out the pulp then put in the prepared cheesecloth. You prep the cheesecloth by soaking it in boiling salted water; the water is a fixative for dyeing in fruit juices. I simmered it for another 30 minutes, then left it in overnight.

I didn’t get photos of it straight out of the pot, but it was the same strong purple as blackberry juice. I started to rinse it, and rinse it and rinse it, changing the water 4-5 times. Eventually I decided to stop as all the red was gone from the cloth and I had a purple-blue shade.

First piece right after rinsing

I hung it up to dry. When I went back to it 20 minutes later it had changed colour again to a grey-purple. I had put in the 2nd piece of cheesecloth in and had simmered that for 30 minutes and it had been about 30 more since I had turned off the stove. I decided to rinse it out now. It was a lovely light purple. I put them side by side and the difference was incredible. I thought I’d take some photos and as I did I realised the 2nd one was already fading in colour.

Just after rinsing the 2nd piece

5 minutes later… I haven’t edited the photos in any way – they were taken outside in cloudy conditions.

5 minutes after hanging the 2nd piece up.

So as you can see, dyeing cheesecloth with blackberries was a dud. I ended up with 2 dull grey pieces of cheesecloth – at least they are right now. As I finish up this post, I looked at the 2nd piece again, and it’s almost completely grey-purple too, just a lighter tint. My advice if you want to try dying using plants, really research which ones make the best dyes!

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The Shawl That Took Forever

I started this shawl over a year ago. I started it 3 times, the 3rd time after knitting about 3/4 through. I’m a perfectionist (I think I’ve said this before) and I wasn’t happy with the edge stitches – they were too tight and I thought it might not block flat well.

All wrapped up on my mannequin

It’s an asymmetric triangular shawl in purple & black. There are lace sections and garter stitch stripes and the shawl gets wider as you knit it. I used black for 1 of the lace panels and then finished it off in black once I had used up the purple yarn. Both yarns are a fingering weight yarn in a merino/nylon blend – the black is pure black and the purple is a hand-dyed variegated skein of blackcurrant, magenta and wine (you may have other names for the purples in this yarn!)

Over the shoulders

It’s also huge! The pattern says finished measurements should be 70″ x 17″ and this shawl is 100″ x 30″. For some shawls, bigger is better!

I should try to get a photo of it or 4 spread out but it’s so long, it’s not easy. I enjoyed knitting this pattern; if not frogging it twice…

Wrapped up the other way…

This is a surprisingly warm shawl even though with the lace panels; they really do add a nice contrast to the garter stitch stripes and I think the black border worked out really well too.

The middle section

You can find the shawl here in my Etsy shop, or here on Amazon too. For items over £150 I offer free shipping – Special Delivery in the UK and Signed and Tracked everywhere else.

I have been tempted to keep it for myself, so if this shawl tempts you…. don’t wait to get it!

Guess what? More Camera Scarf Straps!

I managed to get these made last week; I have 2 of each ready to send. I like the purple feathers scarf strap more than the Boho print; but I can see me wearing both – how about you? Each strap is long and adjustable and upcycled from a light scarf.

The Boho Print Camera Scarf Strap:

Boho print camera scarf strap
Boho print close up
Opened up

The Purple Feathers Scarf Strap:

Purple Feathers Scarf Strap

Feathers Close up
Opened up

There are 11 different camera scarf straps listed for sale in my Etsy, Amazon and Ebay shops. I’m hoping to get a couple more made in the next week along with several more knitting bags – more like those sock project bags and some larger ones with a zippered pocket too.

Mustard & Black Knitting Bag Review – Gemma

I know several other Etsy shop owners who also knit, and asked Gemma from Snug Creations to test the Mustard & Black knitting bag and review it for me. I’m glad she used it for a couple of weeks before writing the review, it definitely got a good workout! You can get your own here in my Etsy shop.

Mustard & Black Knitting Bag

Here’s Gemma’s review:

As a bona-fide knitting addict, who designs knitwear for babies and children at Snug Creations Children’s Boutique, as well as knitting for myself in my spare time, I know the value of good, well-made project bags, I’ve got through several! With all the time and effort that goes into projects, not to mention the cost of good yarn, you need a bag that is sturdy enough to hold up to to being filled and emptied over and over, that will protect your knitting, will be strong enough that your needle tips won’t poke through and, if you are anything like me, will stand up to being taken out and about – where I go, my knitting goes!

When I received this bag to review, I was excited about putting it through its paces. Read on to find out what I think of it…

Features
Double grosgrain ribbon drawstring
Sturdy, lightweight design
Durable, washable cotton fabric
Fully lined
Contrasting trim detail which complements the drawstring
Wide base
Good capacity for small to medium sized projects

Appearance
The first thing that I noticed was the simple, but elegant packaging. No unnecessary packaging materials and nothing wasteful. I love that ribbon was used to finish the package – I like to keep them and reuse for gift-giving.

Packaging

I must say that when I first saw the project bag I was very impressed with its appearance. Denise chose a lovely mustard fabric with a contrasting bold black and white print trim and colour-coordinated black and white grosgrain ribbon drawstrings. The bag is fully lined with ecru fabric, reinforcing its strength and stability. The beautiful colour jumped out at me immediately after opening the package. I love mustard and the contrasting fabric looks great with it. MUCH more stylish than many of my existing knitting bags.

Next, I noticed the IMMACULATE stitching, it made me want to dust off my machine and get up to scratch with my sewing skills – very neat and professionally finished! The overall workmanship really impressed me: with the quality of the fabrics, even seams and stitching gives the bag sturdy construction – not a loose thread in sight.

Stitch detail

The bag closes securely and efficiently with a double drawstring. Grosgrain ribbon is a great choice because it’s not a silky, slippery ribbon, so when you pull the drawstrings to close the bag, it stays closed better. The drawstring is long enough, when drawn, to hold as you would a handbag, or looped over your arm.

Storage
At the moment, I only have a few projects on the go (unusual for me): a dress; a shawl and a pair of fairisle gloves, all varying in size. I also have a little kit packed full of my knitting essentials such as my snips, stitch markers, mini notebook, row counter and tape measure, so any project bag I use needs to have room for my kit too.

Sturdiness
I’ve had the bag for a few weeks now and have been putting it through its paces. It has traveled with me most places I have gone with a project packed away in it and I have to say, I am impressed with how it has performed. When I go out, I always take my dog with me and a little bag that holds all of the things I need for him (he’s in training – so I need lots of treats on me at all times!). I found carrying both bags easy and comfortable, even with the dog pulling me this way and that. It has stood up well to the beach, a day in the New Forest and a long weekend in Devon totally unscathed.

Bag in use in the garden

Multi-purpose Design
Not only is this a great little project bag, it works great as a knitting bowl too. I even braved knitting from it on the beach – I just rolled the top down and voila – portable knitting bowl!

In use as a knitting bowl
In use as a knitting bowl close up

What I loved
There’s a lot to love about this design. My favourite elements are:
The clever design of the wide base, which increases the capacity of the bag and makes the design stable so that it stand upright on a surface. None of my other bags are designed this way, so I really liked this.
The modern colour (one of my favourites at the moment).
The ability to use it both as a project bag AND portable yarn bowl.

Bottom detail
Drawstring detail

Cons
Truthfully, there is nothing about the bag that I do not like. If I had to get really picky, I would prefer an internal pocket to put my little kit in, just incase things spill out, and if I was getting REALLY picky, I’d like that pocket to be zipped.

Overall thoughts
Overall, I think that this is a great looking, versatile project bag that has been made with great skill and craftsmanship. For a small bag it has a great capacity (all of my projects apart from the dress fitted inside perfectly) and I love the choice of non-slip grosgrain paired with the double drawstring design.

This project bag is a fantastic choice for any knitter, crocheter or sewist. It’s perfect for taking along to your local knit-night or out and about on your travels with plenty of room for most small to medium sized projects.

Project bag with medium sized project in

If you are looking for gifts for crafty friends, you can’t go wrong with one of Denise’s project bag creations!

Thank you very much for the glowing, review, Gemma! If my face wasn’t already sunburned, it would be blushing.

You can also find Gemma and her amazing products on
Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/snugcreations
Instagram: @snug.creations
Twitter: @snugcreations
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/snugcreations
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/snugcreations/

Drawstring Project Bags

I made a few more drawstring project bags – next up will be some zippered ones; there’s a few more drawstring styles I plan on trying. I do have to sort out zippers, which means deciding what I want to make with which fabric and then not changing my mind. You don’t look up “indecisive” in the dictionary and see a photo of me, no, not at all….

I made a couple of large red, cream, and brown drawstring bags – they are lined in cream fabric but 2 different ones. They are the same size as the mustard ones, but are in a heavier fabric.

Red, Cream & Brown – it has red ribbon to close.
This bag will hold 3 skeins of yarn, needles and notions!

Then there are 2 purple reversible project bags made from a light cotton fabric – one is dark purple with large light purple starbursts and the other is light purple with dark purple starbursts. Each side has drawstrings – use the dark side for light yarns and the light one for dark yarns.

Both Purple Project Bags
Dark Purple with top folded down
Light Purple w/ top folded down.

I tried a new design – boy, do I need to pay attention more! It’s not a hard pattern to follow – no curves, nothing to miter or anything but I took forever to make them because I kept making silly mistakes and having to unpick and resew. To be fair, I usually don’t follow a pattern so I’m not used to it and whizz along until, ooops, time to get the seam ripper out. I also added in a lining, which adds all of 2 steps to the pattern.

This one’s a lime green cotton with a Liberty MacIntosh Roses lawn fabric. I haven’t sewn with a Liberty fabric before and it’s a little more slippery than I thought it would be. The zip is cream and the pocket is large enough to hold some notions, a small pair of scissors and a folded up pattern. The lining is cream cotton.

Sock knitting bag – Liberty MacIntosh Roses

These 2 use the same main fabric – a kelly green cotton, and then the accent fabric are Summersville Fabrics: black houses, libraries and cars/buses and the other is a green with small houses and trees. They have either black or green topstitching and dark green ribbon to close. I think I like the black one better – which do you prefer?

Green Summersville Fabric
Black Summersville Fabric

Some of these are already listed in my etsy shop here. If you prefer Ebay, they are also listed here.

and here’s the first one – Mustard & Black.

Mustard & Black Knitting Bag
The others will get listed over the next couple of days.

Which is your favourite?

Craft Fairs – and why I don’t sell at them…

Still relevant even after a couple of years!

Through The Looking Glass

I do get asked why I don’t do craft fairs right now. One reason is that my current best-sellers are mostly custom-made so can’t be made ahead of time. I also don’t have transportation right now either, which makes it difficult to get to craft fairs.

This blog post by Mahala at “The Barefoot Blog” is also why: The Curse of the Craft Fair”.

(Just a few of my camera scarf straps – all are available in my Etsy shop except for the butterfly strap which already sold out).

Leopard Print Scarf Strap

Blue Hearts Scarf Strap

Yellow Scarf Strap

Butterfly Scarf Strap

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Chunky Blanket Photo Props

Alpaca Chunky Blankets

I bought this yarn a while ago, but hadn’t gotten around to making mini-blankets with it until last month (yes, I know…) It’s an alpaca/merino blend yarn in a chunky weight that was lovely to knit up. Shame it’s discontinued – so this is all I’m going to get. I have 3 colours: peach, blue & green.

Pick one!

I usually do neutral colours and I thought I needed some that weren’t. The peach was labelled as pink, but there was too much orange in it to my eye so I’m calling it peach. If it looks more pink to you, well, that’s brains and colours for ya!

I have enough yarn to make 3 more of each colour; if you’d like to get them, they are available in my etsy shop – Peach, Blue, Green.

Peach
Blue
Green

Oh, and here’s a tweedy mini-blanket too.

Tweed Chunky Mini-blanket
Garter Stitch!

Use this exclusive code to get 10% off if you’d like to get 2 or more – 2CHUNKY10. It’s only available until the end of May!

(Only for 1 use per person, for 2 or more chunky blankets only. If used for 1 blanket, I reserve the right to cancel the order and ask you to reorder without the code, or to add another blanket to your order).

Tofu Taco Recipe

Tofu Tacos
Check out the tofu… nice & spicy

We are trying to eat more vegetarian dinners and while we all like tofu, we rarely eat it. I decided to get some today and found a recipe for Smoky Tofu Tacos and decided to try it. I tweaked it, as always (partly as I didn’t get smoked tofu). I’ll link to the original recipe at the end if you’d rather try the original.

They are actually quite filling, and the 2 of us left half the filling so I’d say this is a recipe for 4…

Topped with sour cream & avocado

Tofu Tacos

1 package fresh tofu
2 peppers, I used 1 yellow & 1 green
2 onions
2 tbsp veg oil
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 can of kidney beans, drained
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp water
salt & pepper
1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
(plus extra spices to sprinkle on the tofu)
2 tsp demerara sugar
6″ tortillas, wheat or corn
yogurt or sour cream
1 small bunch of coriander, chopped
1 avocado,sliced

Take the tofu out of the package and place in a bowl or a plate wide enough to keep the tofu flat and hold water too. Wrap the tofu & plate in cling film, then place a container on top weighted with tins, rice, dried beans etc to flatten the tofu and squash the tofu and drain the excess water out. This will also firm up the tofu and help it hold together better.

Slice the onion into thick slices, then on low heat, saute the onions in 1 tbsp oil until they start to brown. Add salt & pepper once they start to brown, not at the beginning. Take them out of the pan, then repeat with the peppers, also sliced thickly. Once they are browned, take them out of the pan and set aside.

Put the chopped tomatoes in a small pan and heat up with the grated garlic and let cook until it’s reduced a little, stirring occasionally.

Clean out the pan if needed, then put in 2 tbsp veg oil place on med. low heat. Slice the tofu into 1 cm slices, then dry off. Once the oil is hot, place the tofu gently in the pan so you don’t get splashed, then turn up the heat a little and let the tofu brown. Sprinkle the tofu with salt, pepper, ground cumin & coriander. Once it’s brown, turn over and sprinkle with the spices again. Take out and place on paper towel.

Put the reduced tomatoes & garlic peppers & onions, kidney beans, tomato paste and water (if needed) into the pan on med-low heat and stir well. Add in the spices, sugar and stir again, then put in the tofu. Turn down the heat and stir gently so the tofu doesn’t break up and let gently simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped coriander.

Pop the tortillas on a plate and microwave for 1 minute to heat up. Serve each person 2 tortillas topped with the tofu mix, then top with yogurt/sour cream and slices or chunks of avocado.

Tofu Tacos again

Here’s the original recipe.

A Knitting Bag! (Or Crochet Bag, I’m not picky…)

I plan on making more fabric items this year and I started with this lovely knitting/crochet projectbag. It’s made from high quality quilting cotton and lined in cream cotton. There’s black grosgrain ribbon pulled through an abstract black & white quilting cotton to close it, and it will hold 3-4 skeins of fingering yarn + needles/hooks and notions. I have enough fabric to make 3 but after that, no more. So kind of “Limited Edition”…. 🙂

Mustard & Black Knitting Bag
Drawstring Bag
Bag with 3 skeins of yarn inside
Peeking into the top of the bag
Side of the Bag

Standing up and open

It’s listed in my Etsy shop here and I plan on having more join it soon. What do you look for in a knitting bag – pockets for notions? Do you prefer a zippered bag, or a drawstring with a toggle on it? How about fabric — funky, elegant, cheerful? Give me some ideas!

Roasted Curry Cauliflower & Chick Peas

I don’t often manage to get savoury recipes blogged. I do them far more often than sweet ones but they don’t usually get photographed and written down.

Bowl of Curried Cauliflower

This one I made for lunch last week; I felt like something veggie and had a half a cauliflower to use up. This is definitely one I will make again!

Cauliflower & Chick Peas

Roasted Curry Cauliflower & Chick Peas

1/2 med. cauliflower
1 small onion
1 can of chick peas, drained & rinsed
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 slices ginger, sliced into sticks
3 tbsp veg oil
1 tbsp mild curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp nigella seeds
salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsp water
small bunch of fresh coriander
plain yogurt

Take the cauliflower and slice into 1″ thick slices, then cut the core out to break them up slightly. Chop the onion into 1cm chunks, then mix together in a large bowl with the cauliflower, veg oil and spices. Tip into a roasting pan, making sure they are well mixed together. Roast for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onion and cauliflower are cooked through and slightly browned. I put the 2 tbsp water in the pan about half-way through to help steam the cauliflower slightly. Serve with freshly chopped coriander and a spoonful of yogurt. Makes 2 servings for a main course, or 4 for a side. Of course, if you end up having more cauliflower than will fit into a 9″ x 13″ pan, you’ll need to adjust the spice amounts up. You probably won’t want more chick peas until you use a whole cauliflower.

You can use this as a side dish with roasted chicken or as a meal on its own. You won’t need potatoes – this is very filling!

Curried Cauliflower & Chick Peas