Secret Christmas Crochet and Octopuses

Crochet Octopuses or Octopi?

I have been feeding my crochet mania with Christmas presents and also some more crochet octopuses. I thought the white octopus looked a bit scary so changed the eyes and mouth so now it looks a bit more cute rather than frightening. There seems to be a bit of a baby boom at work and with friends so have been using the premature baby octopus pattern to make a quick gift for them all.  I think I've been a bit obsessed lately although this will come more apparent when I do the big Christmas present reveal in January :)

The homemade flour cook book

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images News / Getty Images

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images News / Getty Images

Blog posts seem to be a bit like buses; you don't see one for weeks and then there are half a dozen. Well, it's not quite that bad, but I've had a bit of a lull in imagination and inclination due I suspect from a rather hectic time on the barn conversion front than from any other palpable reason. Anyway, I have my baking and making mojo back, in part thanks to a new book 'The Homemade Flour Cookbook' by Erin Alderson of 'Naturally Ella' blog fame. I found a recipe for sweet potato and red lentil gnocchi on the internet which led me to this book and this evening we entertained family for tea and they were unwitting guinea pigs to a new culinary experiment of gnocchi in pesto sauce. The gnocchi are made with baked and mashed sweet potato, egg yolks, seasoning and red lentil flour. I used a mixture of red and green lentils due to a failure on the shopping front, and it made no difference except to the colour of gnocchi which should have been a bright orange colour and instead were speckled with green. The gnocchi were really quick to assemble even though I quadrupled the recipe in order to have plenty of spares to freeze for another day. I cheated with the pesto sauce and used a bought jar of pesto, although making pesto is really easy if you a) have the ingredients and b) have a food processor/blender. I really miss my  herb garden (along with a proper kitchen, most of my kitchen gadgets, a decent oven....the list goes on). Anyway, to cut a warbling story shorter, the gnocchi were very tasty and enjoyed by all. For dessert I announced that we were having 'Floating Islands'  which I made up to sound a lot more impressive than it actually was; it comprised some unsweetened lightly cooked (frozen) mixed berries with a coconut macaroon 'floating' on the top in each dish and liberally swirled with cream. The sweetness of the macaroons nicely counteracted the tartness of the berries, topped with the decadent loveliness of the thick cream. The coconut macaroons were an impromptu bake because when friend leave you home grown eggs you really don't want to waste any of it and I used 4 egg yolks for the gnocchi so a meringue type dessert was essential.  

coconut macaroon

The weekly family Sunday tea usually provides an impetus to do some baking. I don't always feel like baking and it would be really easy to buy something for tea, especially since we have a Co-op next door. However, the thought of eating (and feeding the family) on bought baked goods full of processed sugar and flour and lots of additives usually galvanises me into action.  This weekend I'm trying a sourdough fruit loaf recipe from Vanessa Kimbell  at Bakerybits. This really is a long slow fermentation as it begins with a starter levain (a small amount of sourdough, flour and water) at lunchtime on the day before you bake it and then continues with the addition of the rest of the ingredients in the evening to make the dough, and is then not baked until the following morning. I can attest to the deliciousness of the fruit loaf, toasted and buttered......mmmmm.

sourdough fruit bread

Well that's the 'baking' taken care of, now for some 'making'. A couple of weeks ago I was suffering from extreme poncho fatigue. The poncho was getting bigger and the rows were getting longer. Basically I was bored with it, but it needed to be finished so that I could move on to something else so I had a weeks worth of 'push' to get it done. The final flourish was a fringe for the bottom, for which I had some help. It worked so much better as a two man team, one separating the strands into bunches of 5 and the other crocheting them onto the bottom of the poncho. In no time it was done, and since it was a very late birthday present I despatched it the following day so no photo as yet. The fringe was such a success that I've now had a request to put a fringe onto the first poncho. Will they ever go away? (poncho's, not children). Of course I now have something else under way. I decided to revisit a pattern for a crocheted beret which I'd used one year for the family home made Christmas presents - girls only of course. I need a couple of quick gifts and these beret's usually turn out quite nice. The wool is a lovely Drops yarn called 'Big Delight'. It is 100% wool yet feels really soft.

Drops Big Delight

Last minute presents

The last few days before Christmas were a bit of a mad frenzy finishing off some presents. The crochet hearts worked so well that I just kept making them. The little bag was made as a funny extra for my secret santa present. The last couple of years we've done a secret santa for the family as they are all older and everyone strives to make it amusing. This year I picked out a request for money towards a sat nav. Money is always welcome but a bit boring as a present so I decided to make a padded bag for the future sat nav and found some fab fabric with road signs.  A perfect choice. Since my sewing machine is being stored at my parents house I went over there with all my sewing stuff and quickly ran up a little padded drawstring bag. One of my sisters arrived and declared that the little bag was absolutely perfect for her sat nav, hint, hint, so I made another as an impromptu little gift. Great timing on her part!

Bakewell Wool Gathering

Bakewell 'Wool Gathering'  was a woolly temptation too far. This is a festival in it's second year - see here for details. I only heard about it recently and didn't want to miss the chance to go, despite the house  move ramping up. I sneaked off to Bakewell on Sunday morning. The weather was glorious, and the countryside was just unbelievably beautiful with the autumnul colours exploding around every corner and over each hill. I kept seeing photo opportunities as I was driving along, but was so conscious of limiting my time out that I didn't stop to take photo's, so I'm afraid I can't share any of the views. It's a small show but I can forsee it getting bigger as it becomes established in the festival calendar. There were a lot of different exhibitors with every colour and texture imaginable, from fleece to finished garment with everything else inbetween. There were quite a few workshop's but I just didn't have time to book into any.  I really would like to try spinning. The idea of being able to create my own yarn and make something from it is very appealing. It must be the primeval mother earthiness of it all. I know you can buy ANYTHING on the internet, but it's so rewarding to make something beautiful from scratch. Spinning also looks so rythmically relaxing, which might only be because the people demonstrating had spent years honing their spinning skills. I choose to believe that it is something that would come naturally to me. Hah, in my dreams. Next year I'll give it a go...maybe....
Of course I didn't get away without buying something. I really want to crochet a giant doily rug and Texere Yarns of Bradford had the very yarn for me. It's an Axminster rug wool on 250g cones and was exactly what I was looking for. I bought a selection of colours to brighten up our new temporary home and started experimenting the same evening. I started with 4 strands of the denim/purple colour and a 6mm hook. Then I plied it up to 6 strands with a 7.5mm hook. The jade colour only needed 4 strands to match the purple, and the pink was the same. .After several restarts to try out different ply's of yarn and hook size I haven't got much further. It is like the incredible shrinking rug. I did get to 3 rounds of colour last night, which makes it a whopping 12 or more inches, but I wasn't at all happy with the centre loop so I ripped it all back and started again, but this time with a magic loop. I'll let you know how I get on!