Works in progress…and a challenge for February

So the dark, grey and damp weather continues apace and I am CRAVING colour and light. I’ve been working on a few colourful knits and thought I’d share their progress in case you were in need of a colour boost as well!

First up is the Failynn Fox Cowl that I’m making up for a lovely friend’s daughter and which I’ll then be offering in the shop. It’s a lovely warm foxy colour and I’m working it up in a lovely soft yarn. I’ve nearly finished the main body of the cowl and then need to make the ears and finish off the edges. What I didn’t spot in the pattern at the beginning is that the edgings need to be crocheted, so I need to get on with some more crochet practice before I can finish it! (More on this in a later post!)

Failynn Fox cowl in progress...also comes in adult sizes!

Failynn Fox cowl in progress…also comes in adult sizes!

 

Next up is something I’ve been working on for a while for the shop which I’m hoping you will all love. I won’t tell you what it is just yet but will give you a sneaky peek. Any guesses what it is?

A very hungry work in progress...

A very hungry work in progress…

And finally something that happened completely by accident…something for me! I was looking for some chunky red yarn in my stash for the rest of the previous knit and I came across two balls of yarn that I had bought before Christmas intending to turn it into a cowl for the shop. I ran out of time last year to do anything with it but something about the gorgeous bright colours of this yarn made my heart sing and before I knew it, I was casting on a cowl for me. I honestly can’t remember the last time I made something for myself. What with making gifts and knits for the shop, and the small matter of the PhD to finish, there hasn’t been time to cast on anything for me. (Not that that has stopped me thinking about it, I have a list of knitted wants as long as my arm!). And what’s worrying is that when I was looking at this yarn that clearly had my name all over it with all its gorgeous bright shades,  I started to feel guilty about even thinking of setting aside some time to make myself something. And that my friends, is just wrong!

So I looked at this lovely yarn, which reminds me of beautiful Bollywood colours…

Pretty!

Pretty!

…I cast on…

Exciting!

Exciting!

…and I’ve been grabbing ten minutes here and there where I can and knitting a couple of rounds of this…

For me...ME! :)

For me…ME! 🙂

The photos don’t really don’t do it justice, because it’s so dark you can’t really see how the colours blend really subtly into one another and as well as bright pink, orange and teal, there’s also some lovely soft green, purple and grey shades. I’m so pleased with it already and can’t wait for it to be finished so I can snuggle up in it. It definitely gave me pause for thought as well, I think there’s so many of us who are great at doing all the things we should and things for other people but something stops us doing nice things for ourselves.  I’ve been reading so much about self-care recently and as a society we are reeeeeaallly bad at it and yet it’s so important for our health, happiness and general well-being.

So dear readers, in this month where there’s lots of talk of love, I challenge you to do something nice just for you! 🙂 It doesn’t have to cost money, you don’t even have to make something for yourself if that’s not your forte but it could be something as simple as a lovely hot bath, a walk to clear your head or just carving out ten minutes for yourself every day…just for you. I’d love to hear if this resonates with you and what you’re planning to do for yourself this month….feel the love, people! xxx

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Plans for the weekend

Aaah, the joy of a weekend with nothing planned. No pressing work or chores beyond making sure that the pooch gets her walks and that there is food to eat. In the spirit of making sure I have treats to get myself through the last year of the PhD without going mad but having a tiny budget and also as part of Operation Hygge (see here if you don’t know what I’m talking about), this weekend is going to be all about comfy, cozy things.

I bought myself two Christmas presents last month, knowing that January would be tough and I needed things to look forward to. Firstly, as I have been meaning to learn to crochet for ages and ages, I treated myself to a learn to crochet kit from a lovely lady called Sewfie (you can find her site here). She and I share a love of crafty, eco-friendly things and she has a real passion for sharing her love of crochet with other people so I thought this would be the perfect place to start. This weekend I’m going to finally sit down with it and start having a go!

Sewfie's lovely Learn to Crochet kit

Sewfie’s lovely Learn to Crochet kit

 

The second gift to myself was my first book from Persephone Books (website here). If you haven’t come across Persephone books before, you’re in for a treat! They specialise in books from 20th century writers, mostly women, whose works have been neglected or fallen out of print so they have a whole host of interesting titles but the other main selling point is that they are BEAUTIFUL! They have gorgeous soft grey covers and the end papers are sourced from textiles or interior designs that are relevant to the timing of the book, so you get a hit of beautiful vintage design as well as a matching bookmark. The catalogue is quite large and still growing so I wasn’t sure which to pick as my first treat but in the end I plumped for one of their best-selling titles Miss Pettigrew lives for a day.

My first Persephone book!

My first Persephone book!

It was written in the 1930s I believe and I know lots of people have a huge amount of affection for it so I am looking forward to snuggling under a blanket and getting stuck in to it. It’s going to be a real treat as given the lack of pennies this year, my book buying habit is going to have to be severely curtailed so I’m going to enjoy every minute of it and dream about when I might be able to get another one!

What do you have planned for the weekend? Hope it is full of hygge!

 

 

 

Operation Hygge

A very happy new year to you all! I’m starting the year in a bit of a reflective mood, with both the dog and I having been poorly and sadly losing a much beloved family pet. Lots of questions are racing round my mind from the general post-Christmas “What can I eat next?” to the much bigger “What do I want to do with my life?”. The weather is appalling, although I realise we are getting off very lightly compared to other parts of the UK and friends in the US midwest!

So to avoid falling completely into a January slump, my thoughts have been turning to the idea of “Hygge”. I was lucky enough to go to Copenhagen for a weekend in December with some lovely friends (although I failed to take a single picture!) and first learnt about the idea then.

Source: Cloudberry living via Pinterest

Source: Cloudberry living via Pinterest

Copenhagen was awesome by the way, lots of cool design and friendly people but entirely set up for coziness despite being cold and dark; lovely lights and candles, pretty stars in the windows and snuggly blankets in all the cafes and restaurants. And then I found this article and a post about it on a lovely blog I’ve just discovered called Cozy Things and it all started to fall into place.

Source: Trine Jansen via Pinterest

Source: Trine Jansen via Pinterest

It’s all about being warm, cozy, content, soothed and happy…all of which I am feeling greatly in need of right now and I’m sure many of you are too! So in lieu of any new year’s resolutions I am launching Operation Hygge: to fill my home and life with things that make me happy and cozy and all on a miniscule budget. Well, realistically when I say miniscule, I mean non-existent! Like many of us, this year is going to be extremely tight financially so anything I do has to be about making use of things I already have or that I can beg, borrow or steal 🙂 My make do and mend mentality has been brewing for a while but the excess of Christmas has tipped me over the edge…just too much STUFF. I’m sure there will be a ranty post on this in the not too distant future! All the more reason to hunker down under cozy blankets and knit and read and drink tea and snuggle up with dear ones.

The first part of the plan is the dreaded de-cluttering, starting with the room where I keep all my wool and general crafty stuff. I’m going in, I may be some time…!

March

March is finally here, meaning that Spring is on its way! It’s also St David’s Day so in honour of all the Welshies (my family live in Wales) I decided to make a batch of gluten-free Welsh cakes. For those of you that have never had Welsh cakes, they are rather like drop scones and usually served warm and with a generous slather of butter.

I found a recipe for a gluten-free version in a great cookbook on my shelf: Gluten-Free Baking by Phil Vickery. I do have another of his books Gluten-Free Cooking which is also pretty good with more ideas for meals etc.

Gluten-free Baking...yummy!

Gluten-free Baking…yummy!

Here’s my slight adaptation of his recipe:

Phil Vickery’s Gluten-Free Welsh Cakes

Makes about 10-15 (I got 15 cakes out of this recipe but it depends on the size of your cutter)

Prep time: About 10 mins

Cooking time: 15-20 mins

225g Gluten-Free flour (Phil uses a blend made up of rice, potato and tapioca flour that you can make up yourself, I have done this in the past but now find Dove’s Farm brand much quicker and easier)

1 teaspoon mixed spice

100g butter (Phil suggests cooking margarine but I’m not a fan, feel free to use any fat that works for you)

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon of glycerine

80g fairtrade unrefined caster sugar (Obviously sugar is not great for you but at least if its unrefined, there is some goodness in it and buying fairtrade is something we should all aim for if we can!)

80g sultanas (I had to use raisins as that’s what I had in but I think sultanas or even currants are actually more traditional)

1 medium egg, beaten

1.Put the flour, spice, butter, xanthan gum and bicarb in a bowl and rub through gently until you get the consistency of fine breadcumbs.

2. Add the glycerine, sugar, sultanas and egg and mix through till you get a soft douch

3. Dust a work surface with some flour or corn flour and roll the dough out to a thickness of about 5mm. Using a cutter, cut out as many little cakes as you can get out of the dough.

4. Heat a griddle pan or normal frying pan over a medium heat. Add 4 cakes to the pan at a time and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are lightly coloured and puffed.

5. Once cooked, remove from the pan and serve warm. (Phil suggests sprinkling with caster sugar but to my taste they are quite sweet already).

Storage: Can be kept for 2 days stored in an airtight container. Warm them through for 10 seconds in the microwave before serving. They can also be frozen in an airtight container. Defrost for an hour and pop in the microwave for 10 seconds before serving.

Welsh cakes and daffodils for St. David's Day!

Welsh cakes and daffodils for St. David’s Day!

Ta da! They’re quite yummy! I am going to have to get some in the freezer straight away as otherwise I can see me scoffing them all at once. Have you got any baking plans for this weekend?x

The language of flowers

Brrr, cold isn’t it? I’ve been staying inside a lot recently partly because of the annoying cold that WILL NOT GO and partly because it’s been bitterly chilly and I feel the cold like a granny. I’ve been trying to put some time aside to read more for fun as it is easily my favourite thing in the world to do (well, apart from knitting obviously!). Even when I was very small I was quite obsessed with books and reading anything that I came across. My Dad loves to tell the story of when I was about 6 and must have been visiting my stepmum’s parents for the first time and they found me at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. They thought I couldn’t actually read it so were humouring me until I launched into a conversation about what I was reading (aah, so that’s where my ranting about current affairs and setting the world to rights started!!). I suspect this must have either been very cute or quite tedious, let’s hope it fell on the cute side!

My lovely friend Lizzy bought me an awesome bag for Christmas with this Louisa May Alcott quote on:

Too true!

Too true!

When I was looking for a picture of it, I came across a lovely shop on Etsy called Bookity, (whose brooch that is a pic of) and she sells gorgeous things like brooches, earrings and decorations recycled from unwanted books. Definitely worth a look!

Because I have to read so much heavy stuff for my PhD, there’s often not a lot of time or brain left over for pleasure reading. But I feel very wrong without at least one book on the go and so have been making the most of my local library’s ordering service to stock up on some books I wanted to get my mitts on but that the pennies wouldn’t stretch to. One of the first books I ordered was called The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

Purple Irises are one of my favourite flowers too :)

Purple Irises are one of my favourite flowers too 🙂

I had seen lots of posters for it a while ago but had assumed it wouldn’t be my sort of thing but it’s actually quite a touching and hard-hitting story of a girl who has grown up in and out of the care system and who tries to make a life for herself using her knowledge of the Victorian language of flowers, whereby people used to believe that particular flowers had certain meanings and so bunches of flowers would be picked very carefully for the messages they were trying to convey. I really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a book to read.

Speaking of flowers, I hope all of you that were hoping for flowers for Valentine’s Day the other week got them and just a little early reminder that if you’re in the UK, Mothers Day is on Sunday 10th March so not long away at all! I’m in the middle of giving the shop a bit of a spring clean but there are some nice handwarmers and hats in there at the moment which would make a perfect Mother’s Day gift and I’ll be adding some more as well as some flower brooches over the next few days.

Work in progress!

Work in progress

 

Keep your eyes peeled for shop updates! x

 

Autumn days, as the grass is jeweled…

Does anyone else remember this song? I have very happy childhood memories of belting it out at primary school. Autumn is definitely here and whilst the grass here oop north is best described as completely sodden rather than jeweled, I do still rather like this time of year with that ‘new pencil case’ kind of feeling.

There’s a distinct chill in the air and I’ve been working on some woolly hats and hand warmers which I’ll hopefully get in the shop over the weekend. Things have been very busy PhD-wise over the last few weeks and so every thing else apart from bits of knitting time snatched here and there have been rather on hold. One thing I have been making time for though is the Great British Bake Off, have you been watching it too? Mr Purly Queen has taken to calling one of the contestants my new boyfriend as I’m always raving about his amazing real Shetland fair-isle jumpers! (And he’s not too shabby in the baking department either).

GBBO James: Look at that fair isle!

Speaking of baking, last week my lovely friend Liz came to visit at PQ Towers and I wanted to try out a recipe for some biscuits that my sister had sent me. My sister works in My Favourite Shop In The World TM and one of the perks is that they get lots of foodie magazines into the shop for inspiration. She spotted some gluten-free recipes and kindly sent them on to me. There was one recipe that caught my eye immediately: Sea Salt and Peanut Butter Cookies! I luuuuurve Peanut Butter and thought they would be a perfect autumn recipe to scoff down over a cup of tea and a natter. The recipe originally comes from Jamie magazine and I made some tweaks to it to use up what I had in the cupboards. (By the way Jamie, if you’re reading, and I’m sure you are, spelt flour isn’t gluten free. It has very low levels of gluten and great for people who struggle with wheat but if you can’t tolerate any gluten at all like me, it’s a no-no).

Sea Salt and Peanut Butter Cookies

(Makes between 12 and 24 biccies depending on how big you make them)

300g Gluten-Free flour (I use Dove’s Farm)

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

3/4 tsp of fine sea salt

250g chunky peanut butter

150 ml honey

100ml molasses (The recipe suggests 250ml Maple Syrup instead of the honey and molasses. Molasses has the benefit of being really good for you but is an absolute bugger to get out of the jar)

100ml extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Sea salt flakes to finish

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/ Gas Mark 4 (or if you’ve got a temperamental oven like mine, just put the dial somewhere in the middle and hope for the best). Line your baking sheets with some baking parchment.

2. Combine the flour, bicarb and fine salt in a mixing bowl.

3. In a separate bowl (which should be a bit bigger than the first one), stir the peanut butter, honey, molasses, olive oil and vanilla extract. Pour the flour mixture over the peanut butter mixture and stir until barely combined. It should look a bit dusty looking. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes and then stir again.

4. Place heaped tablespoons of the mixture on your baking sheets and press down with a the back of a fork.

5. Bake the biscuits for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the sea salt flakes. Cool on a wire rack and then enjoy!

The Mad Spaniel is outraged that the scrummy biscuits aren’t for her!

Yum! Does the Autumn weather make you want to bake more? What have you been baking recently?

Blue Monday

Today was indeed Blue Monday but not in the ‘most miserable day of the year’ way that the papers churn out every January. Instead, a freezing cold but gorgeously sunny day meant it was like this:

 

And like this…

Blue!

Living in the the North West, the default setting for the sky over the last few weeks seems to have been a stormy charcoal grey or a frosty white, so a lovely bright blue colour today has been a welcome surprise.

It reminded me of a project I saw over at Lupin Handmade’s blog http://bugsandfishes.blogspot.com/2011/12/project-for-2012.html where she’ll be making a sky blanket by knitting a little square in the colour of the sky each day and at the end of the year will have a nice snuggly record of the year. Laura makes amazing brooches and hair accessories in felt in a variety of animals, flowers and birds – definitely worth having a look at if you fancy treating yourself to a little something!

Even though it is a lovely day, its still freezing cold so I have been snuggling up under my chunky blue cable knit blanket that I made last year whilst I’ve been working today. How I love working from home! On the needles is a little white and blue matinee jacket for a friend who’s about to have her first baby…

 

There’s a pile of little knitted hats and bootees waiting for me to sew them up and put buttons on them so I can add them to the shop…

 

And watching over it all is my little blue bird that hangs on the door of my little work space:

This little wooden bird was one of the many lovely little surprises I received when I took part in the Curiosity Project recently http://thecuriositybox.blogspot.com/ If you haven’t come across it before, this is a really fun and surprisingly touching project where you get given a little bit of info about someone else in the project and you send them a box full of little treats that you hope they’ll like and someone else does the same for you. Choosing what you’re going to pick for my Curious Friend’s was really good fun although a bit nerve-wrecking as well as you really hope that they’re going to like what you’ve picked them and of course, you also get the delight of a box full of goodies to unwrap as well! There should be another project of some kind coming soon so keep yours eyes peeled.

I hope your Blue Monday has been as bright and cheery as mine!x

Hello!

Welcome the the woolly world of the Purly Queen! Pull up a pew and settle down with a cuppa while I introduce you to my ramblings on my knitting business and life as a PhD student among other things.

I have been knitting for about 6 or 7 years and was lucky enough to be taught by Claire Montgomerie, a very special friend of mine who also happens to have a Masters in textile design from the Royal Academy of Arts! She’s the author of several knitting and crochet books and her blog is here http://www.montyknits.blogspot.com/

Knitting became my companion on my many work trips around the country and across the world and as I find that knitting always helps me to work through my thoughts, it was particularly important in helping me make the decision in 2009 that it was time to look for a new challenge in life. I moved from London to Manchester to do a MSc in Social Change and launched myself as a freelance researcher, while trying to get my southern softie self to adjust to the cold and rain oop north! I started my PhD in January and whilst I love the process of reading, writing and researching, the more I do it, the more I need creative outlets to balance out all the theories and statistics!

The Purly Queen was born out of a need to channel those creative urges (and you know, paying the bills!) and I’ll be blogging more in the future about why I think making things by hand and supporting the craft industry is so important. Another reason was that when looking for gifts for babies and kids, I was so tired of the same old things in pastel colours and I’m hoping to offer something a little bit different.

If nothing else, setting up a business gives me a great excuse for searching for vintage patterns and playing with different yarns and buttons – all in the name of work!

The aim of this blog is to chat about how the business is progressing, posting sneak previews of newly knitted pieces and all things knitting. Most likely there will also be rambles about the PhD, cooking, craft,healthy living and yoga so prepare yourself for an eclectic mix!

Thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing this journey with you all. Remember to keep checking http://www.folksy.com/shops/thepurlyqueen for knitted goodies!