WOW

A couple of months ago, I read about an exhibition taking place at the Rheged Discovery Centre in Penrith, Cumbria. It was called WOW: Wonder of Wool and the Art of Knit and Stitch, and was to showcase the work of twenty contemporary British artists and designers who use wool in their work. Imagine my delight, then, when I realised that we could combine viewing the exhibition with a visit we were planning to make to some of Jim’s family in Aspatria, just north of Cumbria.

I’d never been to the Rheged Centre before, and was very pleasantly suprised! Very modern, with three wholesome cafes, two lovely gift shops and a huge exhibition space, the centre has been designed with great care. This makes it a truly enjoyable place to stop off, with none of the usual depressing aura of the motorway service station in sight.

And the WOW exhibition wasn’t disappointing, either. The variety of work on display was fascinating! I wasn’t sure quite what to expect but the different ways the artists used wool was eye-opening, and took the viewer way beyond simple garment knitting. There were pom-pom sheep made by local schoolchildren, an aural display featuring noises from a working farm, and even knitted houses of horror – miniature knitted buildings where murders had taken place. Wowzer! I especially liked 3000 Hours, by Susan Crawford, which demonstrated the painstaking work involved in designing knitting patterns. I loved that she included a nearly-finished cup of tea in the display!

Here are some of my favourite pieces…


For more photos head on over to my Flickr set. Unfortunately the exhibition has finished now, but you can see more information on the Rheged Centre website here.

Lately

Marvelling: at a recent Welsh wool charity shop purchase. Oh my!

Playing: with pretty feathers for a special commission for a friend

Baking: for World Baking Day on 20th May

Enjoying: the company of good friends at (outdoors!) knitting club

Indulging: with cake for breakfast and the latest issue (to me) of Frankie magazine

The strange case of the honey bread

So, following this post, last week I began my journey through the recipes in the wonderful Leon: Baking and Puddings book. I didn’t start at the beginning of the book, though; more like page 104, because the honey bread recipe there caught my eye straight away. It is described as “a sweet, soft, wonderfully moreish tea bread”, and it was yummy indeed, but this bread is an unusual character.

It contains no egg or butter, in fact, no fat of any kind (which caused an extremely skeptical look to cross Jim’s face). But neither did it contain any yeast, as you might expect in a bread. It’s caught halfway between cake and bread, and perhaps because of this it has a distinctly unusual texture which Jim aptly described as “boingy”. Seriously, guys. It was like cutting a duvet.

But once we were in we were smitten by the warm honey flavour. The Leon recipe recommends serving slices with butter, but I don’t think it needs it. With a cup of tea, this moist, dense cake is perfect as it comes. The only thing I would do differently next time would be to use less lemon zest, or even leave it out altogether – it tended to overpower the other flavours in my bread. Because you know, honey and lemon can be great together, but sometimes honey just needs to rock out on its own.

Petra’s Honey Bread

Ingredients:
225g (8oz) plain flour
115g (4oz) caster sugar
115g (4oz) honey
250ml (9fl oz) hot water
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
zest of 1 lemon

– Heat the oven to 160°C/Fan 140°C/Gas mark 3. Butter a 450g/1lb loaf tin and line it with baking paper.

– Mix together the flour and sugar in a large bowl.

– In a small pan melt together the honey and hot water.

– Sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda over the water mixture and stir. Pour this over the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.

– Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes.

– Remove from the tin and while still warm brush the top of the bread with honey for a nice sticky finish.

EDIT: Apparently the recipe is incorrect in the Leon cookbook; it should be 150ml of water instead of 250ml! This may make the cake less duvet-like…

The dreamboat waistcoat

Another recently-finished project for you today, in the form of an obsession: waistcoats. My wardrobe is littered with them; a chaotic pink-grey-yellow-blue fair isle one from a vintage shop, a lady-like navy one that belonged to my aunty, a cute little woollen red number, a long 1970s cream crocheted one, and more recently, a pink and purple Welsh wool beauty bought from a charity shop for a mere £6! Oh my.

But clearly that wasn’t quite enough. I had the idea of knitting one myself, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted it to look like. The idea swam around in my head, a bit too vague to properly grasp, but I knew it was there. Until the day I did a little internet search and came across Janet of the Yellow Pink and Sparkly blog. Let me tell you, this woman is a whizz at designing patterns.

She had seen a waistcoat she liked and thought, I can recreate that. And she totally did! It’s a vintage-style fair isle number, and although her version is more beige-y, I realised I could achieve my dream colour combination of tea-rose pink, lemon yellow, deep red and a lovely leafy green. And so, after a quick trip to Abakhan, I set about knitting…


Janet’s directions are great, her fair isle charts extremely clear and once I had the hang of the pattern I was away. Doing a little here at knitting club, a bit more there on car journeys, a tiny bit in the evenings while watching Quantum Leap. Just chipping away…cos, you know, fair isle knitting is time consuming!


This project definitely honed my fair isle skills and by the time I was onto the front panels I was on a roll…


Before I knew it, it was time to block…


And finally, it was finished in time for the first bright burst of sunshine we had all year…and I was able to do some modelling with a couple of friends in the garden.


I splashed out on rather expensive buttons for my new dreamy waistcoat, but I think something so handsome deserves fancy accessories!


For full instructions see Janet’s blog here. This waistcoat would look amazing in a variety of colourways; the possibilities are endless! It definitely satisfied my waistcoat craving…for now…

Lately

Relaxing: with tea and an afternoon read

Admiring: my new Pixie’s frill blouse from the wonderful Nadinoo

Planning: what to make from this lovely new purchase. The list is long…

Tackling: circular needles

Planting: while the sun peeks out from behind the clouds – tomatoes, squash, broccoli, courgettes, sweetpeas, sunflowers and beans

Talented friends #1: Laura’s Attic

I am lucky enough to have lots of talented friends who do wonderful things with their time. As this is a blog about crafty things, I thought it only fair to share their work with you. Basically, I would like to brag about my awesome mates and how darn great they are. These people inspire me every day, and provide a lovely supportive network of creativeness which I am extremely grateful for. Most importantly, though, they have DRIVE. Sometimes I lack this, so I am always mega-impressed when I see it.

A case in point is my friend Laura Capper, who works her butt off every day in her business, Laura’s Attic. Based in Mold, North Wales, Laura re-upholsters forlorn and forgotten furniture, refreshing it to a beautiful new shining piece of loveliness ready for your home. I was in the same art class in school with Laura, and back then she was always fastidious about her work. Seeing her furniture in person, it’s clear she still has this attention to detail – it shines through in every perfect colour combination, woven seat and polka-dot piped edge.

Laura undertook an AMUSF course last summer, so is super-qualified in traditional and new methods of upholstery. She also knits cushions, makes bunting and has a real eye for vintage finds. She has given talks at Glyndŵr University and the WI about her work, been on Wrexham’s Calon FM, participates in the Helfa Gelf Open Artists Studios project and regularly travels around the country selling her lovely wares at craft fairs. Phew! I told she was hard-working! Here are some of my favourite Laura’s Attic pieces:

I am a big fan of film photography and have enjoyed many an afternoon taking pictures of Laura’s work. Her furniture lends itself very well to the muted, hazy feel of film, and the colours seem to pop! Go here for a sneak peek of Laura’s studio, and you can see the results of a shoot we did last Spring in Ness Gardens here.

For more information on Laura why not have a peek at her website. You can also find her on Etsy, Twitter and Facebook.

What a gal! I recently acquired a rocking chair, the cushions of which need a bit of TLC, so am hoping to have my very own Laura’s Attic piece in my home sometime soon. Exciting! x

Oaty

Yesterday, in between visiting Stockport’s Vintage Village with the lovely Steph of The Raspberry Branch and going on a six-mile walk (yep!) around Wrexham, I baked biscuits. But not just any biscuits; these are true favourites which I revisit time and time again whenever a certain someone is looking at me with big sad eyes because the biscuit tin is empty.

These oaty rounds are from the wonderful Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, and I know they must be good because the book falls open to that page every time. They are deliciously buttery, crumbly and sweet yet can’t fail to be good for you because they have a load of oats in them, right!? Better yet, they contain only four ingredients so can be whipped up in very little time, making them the perfect Sunday afternoon treat.

Want to make yourself and everyone around you happy? See below for the recipe. I usually double the quantities because if you’re going to make some delicious biscuits, you might aswell make a LOT of them. Enjoy! x

Oat Rounds

Ingredients:
50g (2oz) caster sugar
100g (4oz) softened butter
100g (4oz) porridge oats
50g (2oz) plain flour

– Preheat the oven to 160°C/Fan 140°C/Gas mark 3. Lightly grease two baking trays.

– Measure the sugar and butter into a bowl and beat together to a creamy consistency. Add the oats and flour and work them into the mixture. Lightly knead the mixture until smooth and then roll out to a thickness of 5mm (¼ in) on a lightly floured work surface.

– Cut into rounds using a 6cm (2½ in) plain cutter and place on the prepared baking trays. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes or until beginning to turn golden. Lift onto a wire rack to cool.