Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb

RhubcakebigeyepicsThis is a short and sweet blog post. Short because I’ve got a tonne of design and magazine work on my desk craving for my attention and sweet because there’s a cake recipe involved.

Like a lot of kids who grew up in 1970’s Britain I’m not a huge fan of rhubarb. My Bajan Mum didn’t cook traditional English puddings so when I experienced my first school pud covered in lashings of creamy custard I was instantly smitten…that is of course until the day we had rhubarb and custard. And my first impressions?….What?… Why?!…. What the heck is this?! I made a mental note to self and learned to pass on pudding the next time it reared it’s sour although deceptively pretty pink head.

Fast forward more years than I care to mention and apart from the rare occasion when I dipped back into my childhood with the odd (sugar encrusted) rhubarb and custard sweet from the local pick ‘n mix I haven’t gone near rhubarb again. That is until a couple of years ago when Sam & I were at the Brighton Foodies Festival and came across a stall selling a rhubarb gin liquer. It may be that my palette has matured or perhaps that now as an adult I’m a regular gin drinker but even I was a convert. So this week when I was visiting a friend who’d been given a handful of homegrown rhubarb but no idea what to do with it the greedy cow in me thought, ‘well I hate the stuff but I’m not seeing that lot go to waste’. I did think of going the rhubarb gin liquer route but to be honest I didn’t have the patience to wait for the results so instead, with the memory of that morning’s hardcore 500-calorie-burning spin class still in my head, of course  I decided cake was the way to go.

I decided on Sarah Cook’s Rhubarb Crumble Cake on the BBC Good Food website. Ths was mainly because I already had every ingredient in my store cupboard but having made it I’d probably tweak it by adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to the main cake mix rather than just to the crumble topping. I also thought, as I was munching my way through my second slice, that given my normal disdain for rhubarb that I’d like to try it with other fruit like raspberries or even pears.

So here my lovelies is the original recipe. As Sam remarked when he tasted it, it’s more of a grown up cake as it’s not overly sweet which counters the sour of the rhubarb perfectly.

That said next time I get offered fresh rhubarb I think I’ll be making the gin liquer…

 

J x

 

Rhubarb crumble cake by Sarah Cook (the link to the original recipe is here)

Prep time : 25 MINS

Cooking time : 1 HR, 15 MINS (Mine took an extra 10 mins so check after an hour and cover if necessary)

Number of portions: Cuts into 8 slices (to be honest this depends on how greedy you are)

Ingredients

  • 250g pack of butter, softened
  • 250g golden caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs
  • 300g plain flour, plus 7 tbsp
  • 2 tsp baking powder 
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 300g rhubarb, washed, trimmed and finely sliced

 

Method

  • Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3 and grease and line the base and sides of a deep 20cm round cake tin with a little of the butter and baking parchment. Put the butter, 250g sugar and vanilla into a big mixing bowl. Beat until light and fluffy with an electric whisk.
  • Beat in the eggs, one by one, then fold in the 300g flour and baking powder. Spoon out 85g of the batter, and stir the extra 7 tbsp flour and cinnamon into this with a cutlery knife so it becomes crumbly.
  • Fold the rhubarb into the rest of the cake batter and scrape into the prepared tin. Scatter over the crumble mix followed by 1 tbsp sugar. Bake for 1 hr 15 mins, until a skewer poked in comes out clean – you’ll need to lay a sheet of foil on top after an hour if the cake is browning too much. Cool for 15 mins in the tin, then finish on a wire rack.

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Still in the spotlight

 

saturdayspotlightjeanettesloanIt’s so hot here! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining this is, after all, why Sam and I moved down from Scotland 6……no I think it must be 7 years ago now. I’m loving this hot weather, its been like this for over a week with no prospect of it changing for the next week so I’m a very happy (if every so-slight-sweaty) bunny. Plus of course the novelty of being so close to the beach still hasn’t worn off.

Anyway hot weather aside, a couple of weeks ago I was very happy to be featured in Gaye Glasspie’s Saturday Spotlight over on her blog which you’ll find on her website www.ggmadeit.com. If you haven’t heard of Gaye before she is a woman consumed by her passion for knitting and yarn, yarn & more yarn. In fact she describes herself as ‘a yarnho’ which still makes me laugh, us Brits just don’t say stuff like that do we? Gaye is also obsessed with the colour orange which is another reason I like her so much, I really wish I had her energy. Every week she shines her spotlight on a different crafter, dyer, fibre producer, yarn shop or designer and having met online through Lorna Hamilton Brown who I blogged about yesterday she got in touch to ask if she could feature me. Gaye has a warmth and enthusiasm which is really infectious you can follow here over on Instagram where she’s @ggmadeit.

Anyway this post is a couple of weeks late but you can still read the interview here

 

Lorna Hamilton Brown knits the blues

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Very seldom have I met someone with as much energy as Lorna Hamilton Brown.

We were put in touch by the lovely Freddie Robins (who I used to work with back in my technician days) when Lorna was researching for her Royal College of Art MA dissertation ‘Myth: Black People Don’t Knit’. I was very happy to play just a tiny part in this brilliant piece of writing since me, Lorna, Gaye Glasspie, Natalie Warner, poorpockets (on Ravelry), Dana (@callmedwj on Instagram) and countless other black crafters not only knit but also crochet with both skill and style. (Honestly, don’t get me started). Anyway since meeting up and finding that we get on like a house on fire Lorna and I have stayed in touch and I’m really proud and privileged to call her one of my friends.

She is a rare soul who puts so much passion and energy into her work and shows that through knitting, teaching and performing her work can touch and improve the lives of  others, be they victims of domestic abuse or sufferers of mental illness. In fact I’d go so far as to describe her as a Design Hero #designheroes.

As her final MA project her film ‘Knitting The Blues’ is a fun, funny music video behind which there is a serious, pertinent message. Knitting offers a huge therapeutic benefit to mental wellbeing and as someone who has had to cope with a lot of physical illness over the years I can definitely say that it has helped me to both relax and recover.

You’ll find the video over on Lorna’s website here on follow this YouTube link. There are a number of cameo appearances in the video including Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably, oh yes and you may just spot someone else you recognise. (Coughs)

Congratulations Lorna on being awarded a ‘Highly Commended’ for your dissertation!  I really hope you enjoy your graduation today. You’ve worked hard and deserve it.

Sending much love to you.

J x

 

New tutorial: Three colour cast on

IMG_4948It’s been a long time since I posted anything on Youtube. So long in fact that I couldn’t remember my login password and had to frequently search back through my archive for clues to access it again. I post pretty frequently on other social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (which I still can’t get my poor head around) but only started my Youtube channel because there were a couple of techniques used in my designs that I felt could be best illustrated by video tutorial. The trouble is that since posting my first two videos for twisted chainstitch and the Edie infinity scarf 5 YEARS AGO all has gone quiet on the Youtube front. Oh the shame. I’m not going to try and come up with any lame excuses like ‘I’m not very organised’ or ‘I was a bit ill’ because you already know them both to be true but I will promise that I’ve got a number of techniques that I know would make good, and more importantly helpful video tutorials and it’s something that I’m interested in developing. So with that in mind let’s start afresh with the latest video for the three colour cast on.

This is a lovely, colourful braided cast on technique that is used to kick off my Hove Actually sweater design. It’s based on the long tail cast on method so if you’re more used to casting on using a two needle method you may find this a bit of a challenge at the start   but it’s definitely worth persevering. As I said I’d like to do more of these videos so it would be great to get some feedback. If you think there are things that could be improved upon just leave a comment under the 3 colour cast video on Youtube or even on here, it would be lovely to hear from you.

I hope you enjoy it and most importantly find it useful

 

J x

After the dust

This time last year we were up to our eyes in dust and stour as the kitchen from hell was being transformed into the kitchen from heaven. Well over the last 12 months we have really come to love this space and to be honest despite having a lounge at the front of the house we spend most of our time in this beautiful, light, open space.

So having spent so much time in so much filth you’d think that I’d have stayed away from major renovation projects? Woah no, not at all. And here’s the reason why.

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Despite this being a great party / dining space we haven’t been able to have lots of friends round for big meals because we just couldn’t seat everyone at the dinner table. Our lovely core group of around 14 friends just didn’t fit around the table that we have so we were in need of a flexible, not too expensive solution. Before Mum & Dad moved last year I managed to snaffle the dining table that, for as long as I can remember, the whole family sat around to eat. Now although it’s no great antique it’s a brilliantly useful piece of furniture that’s managed to endure all that a family of six could throw at it. Plus of course over the years with all those Christmas dinners and family events it holds a lot of great memories for me. The original is a draw leaf table made in1950 ( I know this because it’s been date stamped on the underneath but sadly there’s no place of manufacture given) with leaves that pull out at each end making it long enough to seat a couple of extra people. If you put ‘1950s draw leaf table’ into Google it’ll throw up lots of variations but our particular design featured a large, plain bulb at the centre of each leg and two runners rather than one at the base of the legs. Being the obstinate woman that I am I’d decided (much to Sam’s annoyance) that the ideal solution would be to find and buy the exact same table which could sit side by side or end to end with the current one to make a large dining table that could seat up to 14 people. Easy… right? Wrong!

After weeks and weeks of trawling the ‘net, and numerous messages over Ebay ensuring some greedy woman in London that applying a layer of chalk paint didn’t make the table worth £300 I found an exact match. Here in Brighton. For just £10.

Now I expected a bit of damage, the odd dent, scratch and watermark but as you can see below what I got was a truly knackered, pitiful piece of furniture with large areas of veneer missing and extensive rippling across the surface. Yep you’ve gotta love how students in rented acccomodation treat their furniture.

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As a child I’d watched my Dad make furniture from scratch and French polish both chairs and tables to within an inch of their lives. And so with what knowledge I got from him last Monday I set about renovating this pathetic table in order to give it some much needed love. Initially Sam and I talked about buying veneer to try and create an invisible repair but given my limited skills and the fact that I didn’t want to be working on this for the rest of my natural life only to end up with a poor result that would haunt me every dinner time we decided to go a la tomofholland and go with a ‘visible’ mend. 

So on Monday after filling in the worst of the holes with wood filler I set about sanding

……….and sanding

……….and sanding

……….and sanding

(stops to change grade of paper) 

………and sanding

…….and sanding

(stops to aplogise to neighbours for the noise)

………..and sanding

………..and sanding

…………. until eventually on Friday after two coats of paint and four coats of varnish (each interspersed with rubbing down with ultrafine grade wire wool of course) it was done. 

And so was I.

It had taken far longer than I’d expected and yes I moaned about it a lot whilst at the same time refusing Sam’s frequent offers of help. Being bloody minded of course I’d fixed in my brain how this was going to go and whilst Sam was tasked with painting the dining chairs the dining table was my project.

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Yes I’ll admit it’s not perfect but I really did give it my all. My hips still hurt, my neck is sore and my back is killing me but I am so, so happy with the results.  Our twin tables really make this room and whether there are seven of us sitting around it for our Stitch & Bitch sessions or fourteen of us eating and drinking at it into the early hours it makes the kitchen from heaven just that little bit more heavenly plus,  now the dust has settled I can finally get back to my knitting.

Have a great weekend all

J x

From little squares…

TunCroAlthough it may not look like much this square represents a few hours spent in the company of a group of amazing women that I’m privileged to call my friends. Wendy, Lucy H, Lucy W, Katie, Clare, myself and Louby (when she can make it) get together once a month for our ‘Stitch & Bitch’ sessions.

Now despite not being a great fan of the phrase stitch & bitch which to me conjures up negative images one alternative, Knit & Natter, is definitely far too tame for who we are and what we do. These women are my ‘bee-at-ches’ who were there for me when Sam & I we were at our lowest point just before my brain op in 2016. Together we form an incredible support network within which we talk about pretty much anything and everything accompanied by fantastic food oh yes…. and a bit of crafting. Some of us are accomplished knitters, some prefer to sew and sometimes if there’s been too much alcohol consumed we forget about being creative and just talk, talk, talk.

Last night my inspirational friend Jenny joined us for the first time and being an accomplished crochet designer (her work is regularly featured in Inside Crochet magazine) she introduced me to the basics of Tunisian crochet. It’s one of those techniques that’s been on ‘The List’ for a number of years now (along with top down knitting, a fair isle design etc etc) but with one thing and another I just hadn’t got round to it. So having ferreted through my loft I found a Tunisian crochet hook that I kept after closing my Edinburgh yarn shop all those years ago and a ball of DK yarn from my all too large stash. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the basic stitch really isn’t that taxing to learn even for my constantly furred up brain and I love both the feel and look of the fabric. It’s an intriguing mix of knit and crochet and it has a lovely firm feel that would be ideal for bags so no doubt I’ll experiment along those lines if ever I get the chance. What each chain, loop and stitch in this tiny square really does represent though is a precious few hours of catching up, problems shared and raucous laughter washed down with a few glasses of wine or in my case lychee juice and decaf tea. (Not in the same glass obviously).

So thanks to my bee-at-ches for another amazing night, Jenny – welcome to the group and  above all Katie thanks for the outstanding bowls of superfood salad that given our ages no doubt made us all flatulent for the rest of the evening. (Even so Wendy & I polished itoff when everyone else had the good grace to stop eating). Looking forward as ever to next month.

You can find out more about Jenny Reid’s work by following her on instagram where she’s millieroseuk or you can find her designs on Ravelry here

J x

Riley Stripe Wrap, The Knitter issue 122

IMG_4271There’s been a significant lack of knitting & designing going on in my life recently and rather than bang on about the reasons why I thought instead that I’d focus on something more positive. My latest design for issue 122 of The Knitter magazine which has just hit the shops.

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‘Riley Stripe’ is a design that’s partly inspired by the work of British painter Brigit Riley. Her signature Op Art paintings play with simple geometric shapes like squares, circles and rectangles to stunning optical effect. She began her first Op Art paintings in 1960 whilst on a part time teaching post at Hornsey College of Art initially choosing to work just in black and white and only cautiously introducing colour from around 1967. At this stage she began to explore the precise placement of colour, line and shape in addition to the grouping of colour in order to convey a feeling of movement in the paintings which led onto works like Cataract 3 below.

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Cataract 3 Bridget Riley

Anyway back to this design….

More generously proportioned than a simple scarf I’d call this more of a wrap as the size makes it perfect for draping around the shoulders to keep out the slightest chill and it’s lightweight enough for wearing whatever the season. Riley Stripe features two different stitch patterns, each made up of a combination of slip stitch blocks, single columns and garter stitch stripes. RileyStripe5JSloan

The first section of the wrap begins with a two colour cast on and a textured pattern with large blocks of slip stitch alternated with garter stitch stripes.  These square blocks create a series of attractive curves up the side edge of the piece that eventually become the bottom edge of the wrap once you’ve picked up from the other side edge to knit the longer section in the smaller scale pattern.

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This is really a design that explores contrasts; there’s both large and small scale pattern plus the ‘pick up and knit’ off the side edge of section one which places them at 90 degrees to each other. Then there’s the contrasting yarns which both come from the Isager yarn range. It might seem slightly odd to bring together Highland Wool (a 100% wool light fingering weight) with Viscolin (a 50% viscose 50% linen 4ply weight) but I really love the mix and actually it was playing with yarn combinations that inspired this particular match. As well as being beautifully lightweight the finished knitted fabric has a softness and warmth but there’s also a lovely bouncy quality due to the garter stitch. Once the finished wrap has been cast off (a two colour cast off to match the cast on of course) and given a gentle block and steam it also drapes like a dream.

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If you haven’t tried a two colour cast on before I’m planning to do a couple of video tutorials to demonstrate this and the two colour cast off so keep an eye out for a blog post when they’re done. There really aren’t any other tricky techniques to master other than that and once you’re set for alternating the yarns it’s a really enjoyable knit, especially if you’ve had enough of heavy winter projects.

Brigit Riley may well have used black & white to knit her version of Riley Stripe but as you know I’m very much from ‘the brighter the better’ school of thought so I chose to use Highland Wool in Rhubarb (shade 3) and Viscolin in shade 40. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of creating and knitting this design and really hope you like it too.

Happy knitting

J x