Teapot Herbs

A couple of months ago I was in the middle of selling a lovely Sadler “Brown Betty” teapot to a customer. I had already made the sale, had cash in hand, and was just wrapping it up in paper for safe transit. We were chatting while I packaged, and she said, “Oh, I have a teapot just like this at home, but I dropped the lid and smashed it. I just had to get a replacement.” To which I replied, “Oh yes, it’s always the lids that go first.”

And then I dropped the lid.

Of course, it fell straight down onto the concrete floor and smashed into tiny little pieces. The customer and I stared at each other mutely for a moment, and then I asked her, “So… Do you want the brown and green one instead?”

So I returned home that day with a pretty little teapot with lots of life left in it, but that is unsalable because of a lack of lid. “What am I going to do with this?” I thought. But then it occurred to me that Mother’s Day was coming up, and that my mother loves tea, so maybe I could make her something? I ended up using the teapot as a little herb planter. I planted basil inside, two different varieties.

Mom liked the gift so much that I’ve started hunting down lidless teapots to use as planters for different herbs. So far I’ve found her a metal one that obviously used to be used on an open fire, and one of those vibrantly-painted ones that’s a tea-for-one set with a pot on the top and a matching cup on the bottom. I think that after a while we’ll have a full-fledged herb garden, possibly even branching out to flowers or seasonal arrangements after a while. It really pleases me that we now have a use for these otherwise-unusable items — and now the hunt is on for more teapots to rescue. This should be fun!

Birthday Gifts

I haven’t been blogging for the last week because my illness finally caught up with me. It took me over two weeks to get over the con plague cold — which nobody else caught, which tells me that I really let my immune system get depressed through a combination of working too hard, eating crappy food, and not getting enough sleep. After a week of feeling like crap, I just had no reserves left.

Time marches forward, though, so while I was sick I celebrated a quiet birthday. Two of my friends had already bought me a rotary cutter as an early gift, but I got the gifts from my family over the weekend. My husband contributed to the “I need a new bike” fund (I got my old one more than fifteen years ago, and it has seen some heavy use). Thing 1 got me a hanging basket of flowers, pictured above.

Thing 2 got me a couple pots of annuals for my garden.

The two of them together got me Turtles Minis chocolates and some fun brightly-coloured yarn.

My parents contributed to the new bike fund, as well as buying me a new belt sander (I’d worn my old one out), a fish clamp small enough to fit in my tackle box, a guide to the essential foods of Italy, a gas mask (since I always seem to need more of them for costuming purposes), and the above-pictured camera-print pillows, which now reside in my living room. All in all, a fun birthday haul.

I plan to get back into the swing of blogging, now that I’m feeling somewhat better. Over the next week or so I hope to fill in the blanks where I wasn’t able to write, adding some backdated posts as time permits. Hopefully my energy levels will soon return to normal and I’ll be able to continue to write on my regular schedule.

Mystery Plants

Victoria Day long weekend (more commonly known as May Two-Four) is this coming weekend, which is usually the time when most people in this neck of the woods start plating their garden for summer. Mine isn’t quite ready to be planted yet. The one along the fence line needs cleaning out, added soil, and sheep manure fertilizer; the one near the house may be partially dug up so as to do some work on the foundation. Even if that wasn’t the case, I’ll be at Russell Flea all day Saturday and I’m hoping to hit the Rockland Community Garage Sale on Monday. (Yes, Monday — apparently they hold it on the holiday Monday every year.) So I wouldn’t have much time to garden this weekend in any case. I’ll try to get as much possible done next week instead.

Since I wasn’t sure how much of my garden I was going to be able to plant this year, I didn’t bother starting plants indoors for a change. Once I know how many I’ll need, I’ll just buy seedlings from a local nursery. However, I do have a few items sunning themselves on my window shelves. One of the gifts that I got from Thing 2 for Mother’s Day this year was a cute little bee plant pot made from a recycled aluminum can. When I received it, it was filled with soil and, I was assured, a few seeds.

And the seeds have sprouted! I am probably way too excited about this, but plant gifts from children often aren’t in the best shape by the time they arrive home, so their survival was not assured. I have no idea what kind of plant this will end up being, so I don’t know how much to water it or if it’s a sun or shade plant, so… Fingers crossed?

(And yes, I know that my photo is kind of hazy, like a femme fatale in an old film noir movie. I’m not sure if the lens/mirrors need cleaning or if there is something wrong with my camera/lens since I kind of dropped it on Saturday at the con. I have to give it a good once-over; I’m really hoping it’s just dirty!)

Na na na na na na na na Bat Pie!

Tonight I’m off to another friend’s birthday celebration, and I think it’s safe for me to write about his gift since so far as I can tell he doesn’t read my blog. At least, he seemed genuinely surprised when I asked him if he’d like a pie for his birthday and, if so, what kind is his favourite. He did say that fruit pies, especially strawberry-raspberry-blueberry or strawberry-rhubarb were his top-ranked. However, rhubarb is almost impossible to get this time of year (although knowing this now, I’ll freeze some in advance next year when it comes in season). And red fruits just didn’t seem dark enough for what I had in mind.

You see, my friend is a huge Batman fan, and I wanted to make him something appropriate to his fandom. After all, as LEGO Batman says, Batman “only works in black, and sometimes very, very dark grey” — although I’d go so far as to say that Adam West’s cowl was a deep purple or blue, depending on the lighting. Since I didn’t want to add food colouring to the filling, so I went with blackberry-blueberry. As usual, I used the Purity Pastry recipe from page 73 of The All-New Purity Cook Book (Elizabeth Driver, 2001). As my father and his mother before him taught me, I made the crust using lard instead of vegetable shortening, which I’ve always been told makes the crust flakier. The filling was 3 1/2 cups of blackberries, 2 1/2 cups of blueberries, 1 cup of sugar, 3 Tbsp corn starch, and 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice.

At first I thought I might make the top crust with a large cutout so that it looked like the Bat Signal, but a friend had linked to a recipe for Rustic Cast Iron Skillet Peach Pie on social media, and I really liked how they’d made their top crust. I thought that cookie-cutter cutouts would look a bit like a cloud of bats against a night sky, which is an image used repeatedly in Batman media. Of course, the fruit filling isn’t totally flat and the bats warped a bit during baking, so they look their most bat-like from directly above. It’s a really simple technique and can be achieved using any shape of cookie cutter, although I have a feeling that the simpler the shape, the more recognizable it will be when cooked. I do have a feeling that I’ll be using this technique in the future to customize my pies. If you don’t like making crust from scratch, I see no reason why it wouldn’t work equally well with store-bought dough.

Smelly Socks Pattern

Way back when Thing 1 was only three years old and not reading by herself yet, her favourite book for quite some time was Smelly Socks by Robert Munsch (2004). I must have read that book to her a thousand times. I was raised on Munsch classics like The Paper Bag Princess Love You Forever, so I didn’t really mind.

Smelly Socks tells the tale of a girl named Tina who begs her grandfather to take her across the river to a big sock store to buy some fancy socks. She finds herself the perfect pair of red, yellow and green socks, and she cries, “Socks! Socks! Wonderful socks! I am NEVER going to take them off!” Of course, the longer Tina wears the socks, the smellier they get, until her friends get fed up and drag
her down to the river to give those socks a good washing.

Thing 1 wanted Smelly Socks of her very own, so I just had to knit her some. (You can see the titular socks on the cover of the the book.) Over the years, those socks were worn by both of the girls, and they still never wore out! Since they’re much too small for either kiddo any more, they’re currently stored in a box of keepsakes. I thought I would share my old pattern for the socks so that other people can make keepsakes of their own.

Smelly Socks
Preschooler size; approximately children’s size 8 CDN/US

Materials:
– one ball Mandarin Petit in Yellow 2004 OR Goldenrod 2315
– one ball Mandarin Petit in Cardinal 4418
– one ball Mandarin Petit in Green 8017
– one set of 3.25mm (US 3, UK 10) circular knitting needles in a length comfortable for the magic loop method (I prefer 120cm/47″ or longer)

Each ball of Mandarin Petit is by Sandnes Garn of Norway is 100 % Egyptian 4ply cotton, weighs 50g (1.764oz), measures 180m (196.85’), and is machine-washable (air dry flat). A different yarn of the same gauge may be substituted to yield the same results.

Gauge:
– 16 stitches and 20 rows in stockinette stitch = 5cm x 5cm (2″ x 2″) square on 3.25mm (US 3, UK 10) needles

Instructions:

Cast On:

– Using the YELLOW yarn and the magic cast-on for toe-up socks technique, cast on 24 stitches divided onto two needles (12 stitches per needle).
– Knit one round. Warning: Using the magic cast-on, the cast-on loops on your second needle will be twisted. To untwist, knit the stitches on this needle through the back of the loops on the first round only.

Shape toe:
– Round 1: On each needle, K1, M1, K to within last stitch on the needle, M1, K1.
– Round 2: Knit
– Repeat these two rounds until there are 40 stitches on your needles (divided 20-20).

Make instep:

– Knit every stitch in the round until sock measures 11cm from cast-on edge to end
to the last knit stitch.

Arrange heel stitches:

– Knit across 1st needle. The heel will be turned on the 20 stitches of the 2nd needle.

Set up short row heel:

– 1st row: (RS) K19. Move working yarn as if to purl. Slip 1. Turn.
– 2nd row: (WS) Slip 1. This will wrap the yarn around the first, slipped stitch. P18. Move working yarn as if to knit (“wrap”). Slip 1. Turn.
– 3rd row: (RS) Slip 1. K17. Wrap. Turn.
– 4th row: (WS) Slip 1. P16. Wrap. Turn.
– 5th row: (RS) Slip 1. K15. Wrap. Turn.
– 6th row: (WS) Slip 1. P14. Wrap. Turn.
– 7th row: (RS) Slip 1. K13. Wrap. Turn.
– 8th row: (WS) Slip 1. P12. Wrap. Turn.
– 9th row: (RS) Slip 1. K11. Wrap. Turn.
– 10th row: (WS) Slip 1. P10. Wrap. Turn.
– 11th row: (RS) Slip 1. K9. Wrap. Turn.
– 12th row: (WS) Slip 1. P8. Wrap. Turn.

This should yield 6 wrapped stitches, 8 “live” (unwrapped) stitches, and 6 more wrapped stitches, for a total of 20 stitches on the 2nd needle.

Turn short row heel:

– 1st row: (RS) K8. Pick up (PU) the wrap and next stitch and knit them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 2nd row: (WS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. P9. PU wrap and next stitch and purl them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 3rd row: (RS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. K10. Pick up (PU) the wrap and next stitch and knit them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 4th row: (WS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. P11. PU wrap and next stitch and purl them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 5th row: (RS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. K12. Pick up (PU) the wrap and next stitch and knit them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 6th row: (WS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. P13. PU wrap and next stitch and purl them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 7th row: (RS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. K14. Pick up (PU) the wrap and next stitch and knit them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 8th row: (WS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. P15. PU wrap and next stitch and purl them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 9th row: (RS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. K16. Pick up (PU) the wrap and next stitch and knit them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 10th row: (WS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. P17. PU wrap and next stitch and purl them together. Wrap the next stitch so that it now has two wraps. Turn.
– 11th row: (RS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. K18. Turn.
– 12th row: (WS) SL1 (double-wrapped) stitch. P19. Turn.
– 13th row: (RS) K20. Pick up one stitch from the gap between Needle 1 and Needle 2.

Set up body of leg:

– Return to knittng in the round.
– 1st round:
– 1st needle: Pick up 1 stitch from the gap between Needle 2 and Needle 1. K20. Pick up a stitch from the gap between Needle 1 and Needle 2. (22 stitches on Needle 1.)
– 2nd needle: Pick up 1 stitch from the gap between Needle 1 and Needle 2. K10. Switch to GREEN yarn. K9. K2 tog. (21 stitches on Needle 2.)
– 2nd round (you are now using GREEN yarn):
– 1st needle: K2 tog. K18. K2 tog. (20 stitches on Needle 1.)
– 2nd needle: K2 tog. K19. (20 stitches on Needle 2.)

Knit body of leg:
– K2, P2 on each needle until green stripe measures 3.5cm (1.4″) high. Switch to RED yarn.
– K2, P2 on each needle until red stripe measures 3.5cm (1.4″) high. Switch to YELLOW yarn.
– K2, P2 on each needle until yellow stripe measures 3.5cm (1.4″) high. Switch to GREEN yarn.
– K2, P2 on each needle until green stripe measures 3.5cm (1.4″) high. Switch to RED yarn.
– K2, P2 on each needle until green stripe measures 3.5cm (1.4″) high. Cast of loosely, or using a stretchy bind-off.

Repeat pattern in full to yield a second sock. Voila!

As usual, should you note any errata in this pattern, please let me know so that I can fix it. I don’t exactly have a bevvy of test knitters to help me catch mistakes.

Crumpets and Tea

Back in my old blog I posted all kinds of patterns I had designed, and I’ve been trying to slowly re-post them on this blog so that they can go back into circulation. So here’s en embroidery pattern that I designed back in 2014:

I would have taken new and better pictures, but I gave them away as gifts ages ago!

My younger brother is a huge fan of the 1995 movie Tank Girl. I mean, I loved that movie, but his fandom by far surpasses mine. I am all in favour of sarcastic embroidery, especially when it can be combined with practical objects. (This idea of pretty and practical is not new to me.) It’s not very often that I get a chance to embroider something for my brother –- he’s not generally a huge fan of embroidered items in general, and is often difficult to find gifts for. So for his birthday in 2014 I made him Tank Girl kitchen towels. The quotes are all from the interrogation scene.

These are commercially-made, 100% cotton tea towels (labeled as “premium flour sack tea towels” by Cantina), which I bought at $12.99 for a four-pack at Home Outfitters. They are 61cm X 91cm. I don’t think those specific ones in specific are available any more, but it’s possible to find something similar with a quick Internet search. Each towel that embroidered is actually two: one for the front, and another sewn onto the back to cover the wrong side of the embroidery. I chose the stitching colours of brown and brick red based on my brother’s preferences, trying to be fairly neutral so as to match his kitchen decor.

I also cross-stitched a coordinating fingertip towel for his bathroom, starting with a towel with an Aida fabric panel built in. They are available at most crafting supply stores (or online), and generally cost around $5.00.

So here are the patterns:


Click through for extremely large versions of these images which you can print to scale.

For the tea towels, I ran them through the washer and dryer a couple of times to shrink the fabric. I learned the hard way years ago to do this as it keeps the design from shrinking at a different speed than the stitching — which really sucks when you spent this much time working on something! It’s not as big of a deal with a mounted piece, but something like a towel is going to be washed over and over again. To transfer the pattern onto fabric, I printed them out to the proper scale to fit on my towels, then set the design underneath the fabric and used an embroidery transfer pen with the kind of ink that disappears when you wet it to trace the pattern onto the fabric. Then when I was done stitching, I just washed out the pen marks.

The cross-stitch pattern was transferred via the standard counting method instead of inking in the pattern first. I won’t go into the details of how to do counted cross-stitch here, but there are loads of resources online to teach you how, including a bunch of YouTube videos if you’re a visual learner like me.

You’re welcome to use these patterns I designed for personal, educational, or small business use! And if you do, please send me a picture. I’d love to see your work.

Christmas Gifts

I received some absolutely lovely Christmas gifts this year from friends, family, and Santa Claus. Some of the gifts would likely be of interest to other crafty- and foodie-types. My brother gave me one of those fantastic crocheted knight helmet hats and the previously-mentioned Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients Quick & Easy Food cookbook (Jamie Oliver, 2017). My husband gave me a copy of How to Cook Indian by Sanjeev Kapoor (2011). Santa brought me some lovely worsted-weight variegated yarn, which I am currently turning into a hat. My parents bought me a funny (and very accurate) Procrasti-knitter T-shirt from White Owl Crochet.

But I do have a weakness for handmade items that combine practicality with beauty, and this year my parents picked out some absolutely lovely pieces for me. The first is a pair of wine tumbler/tea bowls from Greig Pottery. The one on the right is patterned with lupins, which is a flower that I first fell in love with on a trip to Newfoundland with my mom about eight years back. In shape and size, these vessels remind me of Japanese teacups, although they are intended for both hot and cold beverages (so far as I know, you’d never have a cold beverage in this kind of cup in Japan). They fit comfortably in my hand and the little indents — one on either side — are perfectly placed for my thumb and forefinger. As a bonus, they’re both microwave and dishwasher safe. I can’t wait to use them, possibly for some rum and eggnog before the season is over.

Mom and Dad also gave me this gorgeous two-tone rosewood & mango wood yarn bowl from Knitpicks. They actually gave me two hand-potted yarn bowls (in different sizes, for different-sized balls of yarn) last year for Christmas, but my kids managed to smash both of them on the same day. Needless to say, I was not amused, as the bowls sat on the table in the living room where the kids aren’t supposed to be playing in the first place. I was very vocal (possibly too vocal) about how much I missed the old bowls, so Mom actually hopped onto the Internet and ordered me a new one — one that, it should be noted, should be much more difficult to smash. Touch wood. I love the glassy-smooth finish of the wood; when I got the bowl, I couldn’t stop running my hands over it. I was especially proud of my mother for ordering it for me, since she had never before shopped online on her own, usually getting my brother or I to order things for her. I don’t see an Amazon Prime account in her future, but I like that Mom is now able to put aside her worries about online shopping, at least for items that she can’t get in town.

I want to take this opportunity to say a sincere thank-you for all of my gifts this holiday season. Although, as Garfield points out in the Christmas special that we watch every year, it’s not the giving, it’s not the getting, it’s the loving.