Christmas Crafting 2015: Knit – Hats Part 2.

My Grandad is the one in my family who as I grew up was the knitter. Now my mum and me both knit, but growing up it was definitely my Grandad who you would go to if you wanted a jumper knitted. He gave me a ginormous crochet hook at one point which to his bafflement I used to make him a scarf and more recently for his 80th birthday I crocheted him a cushion cover using this pattern. He seemed so genuinely pleased with it – and told me he would use it when he went to watch the football. So after that success and with the idea of the football in my head I decided to make him a knit hat to keep him warm at the football, and after a bit of research on the Everton colours found the perfect pattern.

Grandad Football Hat

Grandad’s Football Hat

This hat was knitted using the free Purl Soho pattern available here. I knitted the adult size but did not use the long tail tubular cast on – I tried but gave up and just used the normal long tail cast on method. The stripes were knitted in rows of 10, and I knitted two rows of each colour for the ribbing. I left off the pompom as I did’t know if my Grandad would appreciate it, and I couldn’t work out which colour to make it!

The yarn I used was from loveknitting.com – a much more successful order than my santa christmas hat. It is Rico Essentials Soft Merino Aran in Navy, Jeans and Cream and was softer and I think produced a nicer knit than the King Cole Merino Blend – although it was 41p more expensive!

Overall I was really pleased with this hat. The pattern was easy to follow and knitted up pretty quickly and the yarn felt nice, soft and cosy. My Grandad was also very happy with it and said that it would be better than the flat cap he normally wears which restricts the vision of the other football goers! So altogether I would say this project was a win!

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Christmas Crafting 2015: Knit – Hats Part 1.

Every year I make a hat for Mr ALT – it has become a bit of a Christmas tradition after the first christmas we had together when I crocheted him a hat with detachable beard! This year I went a bit overboard on the hat making – 3 hats were produced – 2 perfectly on time and the last one I finished today.

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The Santa Hat

This hat had two firsts for me – it is the first time I have knit a hat top down, and my first use of ‘novelty yarn’. The main body of the hat is knit in king cole merino blend aran in scarlet bought locally after a bit of a mess up. The white trim and pom pom are done in Patons Fairy Tale Cloud in white held double, which I ordered here. I followed this pattern from Red Heart which was free and it was relatively straight forward. I knitted the Adult M/L size which I think came up a bit large – as it was for Mr ALT and his head was bigger than the measurements given on the pattern but the brim is still a bit baggy – I don’t know whether this is due to the novelty yarn or the fact I didn’t swatch. Both yarns were other wise great to work with, working from the top down meant that it started off quick, and then became very very slow going but I am quite happy with the end result, if not the timing.

This is the hat that only got finished today. It was knit to replace Mr ALT’s Christmas Hat that he had had for upwards of 10 years and which he threw away last year as it had become a bit ratty looking. The lateness of its arrival was due in part to the mess up with the yarn and partly due to my inability to finish things to a deadline. I ordered some gorgeous looking red Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran from loveknitting.com who I have always previously had an excellent experience with. It was ordered with a few other things on the 4th of December, everything else in that order arrived really promptly but that yarn failed to turn up. I just trusted that it would come soon and stupidly didn’t contact them until the 16th when they said they were sorry they had missed the technical error that had meant it hadn’t arrived and that they would be shipping it asap from their US warehouse, with a 15% discount code as a sorry. By this time I had been out to Sew Creative in Cambridge and bought the king cole merino blend, which is lucky as the Debbie Bliss from love knitting didn’t arrive until the 28th of December.

So after that spanner in the works and a very busy Christmas period I am expecting the majority of its wear will happen for the festive period next year. Still Mr ALT did wear it today and seemed very happy with it so I couldn’t really ask for much more.

I hope that I am not the only one who is a bit tardy with some of their festive makes this year!

Thanks so much for reading xALT

Flora and Fauna

 

 

Flora and Fauna

 

This was a first for me, not just the pattern – I have a lot of those being such a newbie to sewing – but I actually deliberately sewed this dress for a specific occasion – my partner’s sister’s wedding. I’ve never sewn anything for a particular occasion before except for someone else for their birthday or christmas, although I have to admit those homemade presents are usually inevitably late.

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The fabric is another first, it is Liberty Cotton Tana Lawn – I have never spent so much on fabric, but I have also never worked with something I considered so beautiful! I bought it from Shaukat in London, I went there specifically to buy something special to make this dress out of, thinking I would go for something blue. I surprised myself by falling for this as I’ve never really worn green, I think it was the little pink tortoises that decided it for me. The pure volume of choice available in Shaukat I have to admit was a little overwhelming, luckily I had a non-sewing friend with me who expressed no signs of boredom as I struggled to take it all in!

Hello Flora

Once I got home it took me ages to cut into the fabric, even though I had already traced out the By Hand London’s Flora¬†having fallen in love with the flirty skirt and the wrap top of version 1. I am guessing this is not an uncommon fear with any fabric, particularly expensive fabric – but I was terrified of wasting or ruining it. As it turns out I am in love with this dress, not only did I just about manage to get it finished in time for the wedding but I then also wore it to my partner’s graduation – I think it has become my go to occasion dress – smart but pretty!

Flora Fauna

Flora Fauna

I lined the bodice in the same fabric but did not bother to line the skirt as the fabric looks great on both sides – to the extent that I had trouble working out which was the right side during construction! I went for the dipped skirt – a style I have never been that into in RTW but love in this design. The By Hand London gang did themselves proud with the instructions as always – they were a pleasure to follow. I french seamed the skirt, except for the centre back seam which the invisible zip is put into – I have no idea how you french seam that – is it possible? Anyway, I couldn’t work out how so I pinked the seam allowance on the back seam. The hem was done by serging and then folding under twice so that I could follow the serging line but it wouldn’t be visible in the dipped skirt, I have never worked on a circular skirt before but man they take a long time to hem – totally worth it though!

Flora Sway Back Adjustment Flora Little peak of trainers!

Although I absolutely love this dress and can see myself getting a lot of wear out of it, it is not without it’s fit issues. As you can see from the above two pictures the fitting on the bodice is not great. This is fine when I first put it on, however, after any time sitting in the car or sitting anywhere for that matter, the blousyness I seem to have achieved in it starts to turn into creases which don’t look great. I am not sure if this is due to poor cutting out on my part? I was so careful with this pattern but I still did not end up with pattern pieces that exactly matched up – I’m hoping that as I become a more experienced seamstress this will happen less :/ I also think that maybe I need to size down? I was between sizes and sized up for safety, and maybe a sway back adjustment is needed?

How much do I love my flora dress... This much!

How much do I love my flora dress… This much!

Despite all of the qualms about this dress listed above I still love it! I think it is the best garment I have made so far in terms of difficulty, fabric and resulting item. The flora dress is a winner as far as I am concerned and I may fiddle with the fit if I ever become a prolific enough seamstress to make more than one of any pattern!

Enough babbling, I’m off to drink cider and eat pork scratchings.

Thanks so much for reading xxxALT

 

Sesame Courgette Noodle Salad

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I have just got back from a wonderful fortnight holiday in a surprisingly sunny Ireland and am feeling the inevitable holiday comedown and heightened Sunday night-itus that is the knowledge that I am back to my normal 9 to 5 tomorrow. Still the sun is shining and there is still plenty to look forward to with a family wedding next weekend. I find the best way for me to combat down days is to get lost in doing something creative – to that end I have spent all day sewing – which I will blog about soon – and cooked a summer salad this evening to complement the weather!

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We have had our griddle for about 4 months now and I am in love with it. It feels like it will last forever as it is made out cast iron – so much better than our non-stick pans that just give up the ghost after a couple of years – I have the feeling that this will just keep getting better with age. Despite my love affair with the griddle I could have just as easily used a grill to do the courgettes – I love them when the get charred on the outside and gooey on the inside, I’d just need to watch the grill a bit more carefully to make sure they didn’t turn to cinders!

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The sesame in this posts title comes from the tahini in the dressing, although if you wanted a bit extra I am sure some toasted sesame seeds mixed in would be delicious. I have outlined the recipe below for future reference and if anyone else would like a go ūüôā Thanks for reading xxxALT

Sesame Courgette Noodle Salad Recipe

Serves 4.

Dressing Ingredients
Small Clove of Garlic
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
3tbsps olive oil
2tbs of tahini
1 tbs of honey

Salad Ingredients
250g of rice noodle cooked as per packet instructions
1.5 courgettes sliced
125g of cherry tomatoes sliced in half
100g feta cubed
large handful of black olives
100g of rocket or your preferred salad
1 tbs olive oil

Directions
1. Crush the garlic with some salt and mix in with the lemon juice and zest leaving to sit for at least 5mins.
2. Chargrill your courgette slices either under the grill or on a griddle until  nicely coloured.
3. Mix together the rest of your salad dressing ingredients and season to taste.
4. Coat the noodles in 1tbs of olive oil to prevent them from sticking together and then coat with the salad dressing. Chargrill your courgette slices either under the grill or on a griddle until  nicely coloured.
5. Add the rest of your salad ingredients to the noodles except the salad leaves and mix well.
6. Plate up by putting a handful of salad on each plate and then adding the noodle mix on top*.

* By not adding the salad leaves into the rest of the salad you can keep them separately in the fridge over night making it suitable for a pack up the next day – if you are planning on eating it all at once though you can mix the salad leaves or rocket in with the rest of the ingredients.

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Ricotta Pecan Butternut Lasagne

I have seriously been feeling uninspired about cooking recently, but today on finding a not very well sealed bag of pecans in my bag at work and thinking they probably needed using up quickly I started employing the joys of the internet to help me find something tasty for dinner. I stumbled across this recipe on the BBC and thought ooh , but there was no way I was going to attempt gluten free pastry on a work night so I came up with the idea to try and turn it into a lasagne, and though I do say so myself, it worked pretty well!

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It is amazing what a difference enjoying cooking makes to an evening. Rather than be knackered out from the chore of making up something edible I feel full, happy and energetic! What a difference a bit of inspirations makes.

waiting to be roasted

waiting to be roasted

This is probably quite an autumnal recipe with the squash and the nuts, but hey, whatever inspires you right? I expect you could use any type of squash in this recipe, a pumpkin might result in a more watery consistency once mixed altogether with the ricotta but that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

building lasagne

building lasagne

For this recipe I used gluten free lasagne sheets – my only problem was that they didn’t have cooking instructions on them. I wasn’t sure if they were the sort I could stick straight in or if they needed par-boiling first. I compromised by soaking them in boiling water for about 5 mins. This worked fine for the ones on the top that were covered by tomato sauce but the ones on the bottom got very stuck even though I greased the pan.

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My butternut ricotta mixture was not very moist which didn’t help, so I would recommend soaking the bottom ones for longer if you are not using ready bake lasagne sheets or adding some more water to the filling.

now its getting good!

now its getting good!

The tomato sauce used on top was adapted from HFW’s roasted tomato sauce¬†recipe left over from last nights dinner, which I can see becoming a firm favourite. You could use any cheese you had in the fridge to sprinkle over the top, cheddar would work well but stilton seemed like the perfect partner for today along with some parmesan. I left the edges sauceless because I love it when they go crispy.

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I’ve written up a brief recipe below that you could experiment with if you fancy. Thanks for reading xxxALT.

Ricotta Pecan Butternut Lasagne Recipe

Ingredients
2 small butternut squashes, peeled, deseeded and cut into small pieces
one onion thinly sliced
3tbsps olive oil
10 sage leaves shredded
250g ricotta
150g pecan nuts
12 sheets of gluten free lasagne
350ml of tomato sauce
cheese to sprinkle/grate on top

Directions
1.¬†Mix together the squash, onion, sage and olive oil, season and roast at 200¬įC. While this is cooking you can par boil your lasagne sheets if you need to.
2. Once your squash is cooked through let mixture cool slightly and then add the pecans and ricotta, mix together carefully so that the squash doesn’t just become a puree.
3. Layer up your lasagne sheets and squash mixture in a greased dish and spread the tomato sauce on top then sprinkle with cheese.
4. Bake at 200¬įC until cooked through and browning on top, approx 25 to 35 mins.

 

My first Moneta

I fell in love with the moneta dress by colette patterns as soon as I saw it! I love wearing jersey it is just so comfortable – so a cute little jersey dress – who wouldn’t? Especially with all those collar variations!

I made version 1 in the small size to start off with, in a cheap striped jersey fabric that I have had in my stash for over a year but I think was originally bought from fabric land in Bristol. The bodice is fully lined in the same fabric and the sleeveholes are finished using the clever technique shown in this video on colette’s site. The collar is just made using the reverse side of the fabric so it has a slight stripe on it that you can vaguely see in the photo below. I did play around with not doing it in a contrast at all but when I tried it it just looked a bit odd as if the stripes were cut up.

ImageThe instructions for the pattern are quick and easy to follow, and I have to say I love this pattern so much! I put it together on my overlocker, although the instructions also provide advice for using a regular sewing machine. I did try gathering the waist using clear elastic by basting it on my sewing machine but found that the mixture of the pull of the elastic forward and the pull of the feeddogs going back meant that the fabric didn’t move and I was just going nowhere! Once I moved back to my overlocker though it all went fine, maybe a walking foot would have helped if I was sticking to my regular sewing machine, or maybe I should have persevered and I would have got there.

It was quite a quick sew even for me and I am certainly not a speedy seamstress. I especially love the detailing on the back collar. As you can see from the photo below – I didn’t quite manage to get it symmetrical – but ah well – I think it is still wearable!

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I did have a few problems with fit as when I first tried on my lined bodice it had some serious armhole bag. I emailed the people at Colette who were so nice and speedy in their reply and they suggested lining it, which unfortunately it already was, and that it was probably my fabric not having enough structure. My fabric is cheap and not very good quality so hopefully my next one won’t have this problem if I invest some better quality fabric, in the meantime I fixed the problem with some bust darts.

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Inside of bodice

Outside of bodice

Outside of bodice

Unfortunately as you can see from the pictures below my fabric has not held up very well. I have only worn this dress 2 times and already it is showing serious signs of wear and tear.

holes starting to appear

holes starting to appear

colour blue rubbing

colour blue rubbing

So the verdict? Loved the style of this dress and I will definitely be making it again – but in a much better quality fabric!