Archive for September, 2013

I’m very late to my blog today, but better late than never!  Another two pages from our pup diary:

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I think that, as he gets older, I might start working in colour as his colouring will change as he goes from puppy to a proper adult and it would be lovely to record that.

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2013-09-27 10.53.04

I’m not much of a baker, but I do occasionally get the urge.  I’ve been off sick this week with a cold (don’t be fooled by that mild description, it’s so bad that I’m on steroid tablets for my chest!) and haven’t felt up to doing much, but this morning I just had to do something, so I thought I’d try out an idea I’d had floating about for a while.

I started off by making a spiced chai concentrate, using this recipe.  Many thanks to my friend Dawn for recommending the recipe.

Then I used this recipe to make the sponge.  Please note that I used icing sugar as lots of Googling led me to the conclusion that there is no real difference between powdered sugar and icing sugar other than the name.  I baked mine for 35 mins, but in future would probably check it after 30 mins as the very edges had started to go a bit tough.  I was a tad concerned when it came out of the oven because it looked so flat, but the texture is gorgeous! 

I’ve never made frosting before (only buttercream), so I used this recipe from the BBC site.  I halved the recipe, and added the spiced chai concentrate to taste, but there was still oodles of frosting left over so I would suggest making only a quarter of the recipe as that will still be more than ample to cover the cake! 

Verdict: absolutely delicious, and one quarter of the cake is a nice sized serving which doesn’t leave you feeling too full.  I will enjoy eating the rest of this cake, and will definitely make it again in the future 🙂

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So, what have I been working on over the past week?  Puppy supplies!




That’s the top of what will be a bed/cushion for our pup.  Once I’d finished crocheting it I whacked it in the washing machine to felt it slightly.


There wasn’t much shrinkage, but the texture is a bit tighter, and the wool has softened somewhat which pleases me greatly.  I’m going to turn this into a bed/cushion by sewing a base of fleece onto it, then stuffing it with polyfibre filling.

There was some wool left over, which I used to make a ball, and I also made a bone from some wool of the same sort which didn’t make it into the bed.


I’m sure Loki will destroy these toys very quickly, but they were fun to make and didn’t take very long so I won’t mind!  The ball and bed were made up as I went along, but the bone was from this pattern by Candy Pop Creations.  I’ve just started another crochet project for our pup, but will save that for another time.

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I’m still running around like a lunatic at the moment and, judging by the desperate urge to redecorate this weekend (to which I gave in…), my nesting instinct seems to have been triggered by the birth of our puppy.

You will, therefore, be unsurprised to hear that I haven’t done much drawing this week…however, work continues on the puppy diary (albeit very very slowly)

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Wednesday WIP

It’s all about knitting and crochet here at The Gift Shed this week.  I always seem to be more fired up with enthusiasm for all things woolly when there’s a nip in the air, and as summer has finally come to an end I’m up to my armpits in yarn.

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First up are the little hats for The Big Knit.  The deadline is 1st October, and last Monday I only had 13 hats… today I have 47.  Not bad!  I intend to keep making more until the day I go and hand them in (mercifully I live just down the road from Innocent HQ, so don’t have to worry about posting them), and hope to equal (if not exceed) last year’s total of 60.

The hexipuffs are therefore still on hold for the rest of the month, but I have started a fresh crochet project…

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…which you’ll have to wait to hear about, as I’m keeping schtum until it’s finished!

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Ok, I know, it’s a dreadful pun but I’m too tired to think of anything better!

Last year, at Fibre East, I bought some silk fibre and merino roving which I planned to spin using the rakestraw spinner I bought at the same time.

I never got around to spinning it, but visiting Fibre East this year gave me some fresh ideas… why not try dyeing it?  My friend Dawn bought some sachets of Kool Aid to dye her roving with (she’s a big fan of bright colours), but I wanted to try something more natural (muted colours are my thing).


There’s an elder tree growing in the garden behind mine, and the for the past few week I couldn’t fail to notice the berries overhanging the roof of my studio (well, more specifically, the really fat pigeons hanging upside down eating them were grabbing my attention!), so I thought this would be a good time to experiment with home dyeing.  I picked a kilo of elderberries, and here’s how it went…


I put the berries in a large saucepan, with just a dash of water, and heated them up while mashing them to help break them down.  I kept mashing until I was sure that I’d squashed most of  the berries and then sieved contents of the pan.


The juice went back into a pan, and the seeds/skin/flesh all went into a square of muslin which was tied up tightly.


Meanwhile, before all this, I simmered my roving in a pan of water with approximately 3 heaped teaspoons each of salt and cream of tartar.  I simmered the roving (25g of silk, and 25g of merino) for around 20 minutes, then drained it and squeezed out any excess water.


The roving was then added to a large pan with the mush-in-muslin, and the strained dye was poured over.  I then simmered the whole lot for about 90 minutes.




I then removed the pan from the heat and left everything sitting there overnight.  The following morning I removed the roving, squeezed the excess dye back into the pan, and then rinsed the roving under the cold tap until the water ran clear.

There was an awful lot of dye left in the pan, so I decided to use the last of the silk roving (25g) to try a slightly different technique.  I simmered it in the same salt/cream of tartar mixture as before, for the same amount of time, but then changed my approach.  I brought the dye bath back up to the boil, then turned off the heat before adding the silk.  I didn’t heat it up again, just left the silk in the dye bath overnight, then rinsed it out in the morning.

Would you like to see the results?  Of course you would!


That’s the silk from the first dye batch (the one which was simmered for 90 minutes)… a rather lovely purple colour, and I’m really pleased with it.


That’s the merino which was dyed at the same time as that silk… yeah, it’s not gone so well, the fibre has felted and is absolutely no use now!  I guess I agitated it a bit too much while it was simmering, so that’s an important lesson learned and I won’t make the same mistake again!  The colour is gorgeous though, and so different from the silk!


This is the second batch of silk, which wasn’t simmered.  The colour is much richer, and has more red in it.  Another pleasant surprise, and again I’m amazed at the difference in colour from the previous batch.

It’s been good fun experimenting with dyeing.  I haven’t got any books on the subject, but I did do some extensive research online*, from which I extrapolated the key facts**.  Would I have had more success, particularly with the merino, if I’d gone about things in a different way?  Perhaps, but it wouldn’t have been half so much fun!

I will definitely be trying my hand at dyeing again, although probably not until next year… I probably ought to spin this silk and then make something with it before I add any more roving to my stash 🙂



*skim read a lot of articles and forums

**basically got bored and made it up as I went along

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As you might have seen from my WIP post this week, I’ve been a bit busy… a bit too busy to sit down and relax with my sketchbook, but this evening I finally made a start on a new sketch project…

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…after a very very long time waiting, I am finally going to have a puppy!  I may blog about that separately as it’s a major life event for me, but in the meantime here’s the start of the little sketch diary I’m going to try and keep for the first few months of his life.

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Gosh it’s been a busy week here at The Gift Shed.  I’ve been juggling projects of all sorts, but haven’t had time to blog about any of them in detail, so for now here’s a quick peek at the various things I’ve been doing…

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…I’ve been finishing off a couple of books I’d started over a month ago…

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…made my first foray into dyeing wool (well, technically it’s fibre as it’s not been spun yet!)…

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…making some improvements to the garden, despite the inclement weather…

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…and frantically knitting tiny hats for The Big Knit (frantic because I suddenly realised the deadline is 1st October).

We’re only halfway through this week and I’m already shattered, but there’s so much to do!  I’d best get cracking, and hopefully I’ll find enough time to blog about the dyeing very soon 🙂

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I’ve done absolutely no sketching at all this week, too busy catching up with work and other things.  However, a couple of weeks ago I visited the Pompeii exhibition at the British Museum, and here are some quick sketches I did whilst I was there.

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Wednesday WIP


Well, I had all sorts of grand plans for the month of August. As I was house sitting, and the house in question has a huge dining table…


I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to catch up with some sewing. I’ve got a patchwork quilt that needs to be sewn together, and also bought some beautiful broderie anglais which is also destined to be sewn into bedding… But I didn’t sew anything as I didn’t have time! Bit of a wasted opportunity, and no doubt I will be kicking myself when I eventually attempt the sewing in my tiny studio, but hey ho!


I’d also planned to get my beekeeper’s quilt finished…but didn’t knit so much as a single stitch. Major fail on that score (although since moving back home on Sunday I have made five hexipuffs, so I’m back on track).


I did get a lot of gardening done, and played with the dog a lot, and caught up with some reading too, so I wasn’t completely idle. Oh, and of course there was the dog blog (see Sunday Sketchblog #80).

This week I’m catching up with my post, e-mails, admin, and other chores (like sorting out my own garden, which turned into a little jungle while I was gone). I can’t wait to get back into my studio properly, but suspect it’ll be the weekend before I really have time to be creative again.

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