Christmas competition!

Well hello there, how are you all? So Christmas is on it’s way and I have a little competition for you! If you’d like to win a personalised hand-knitted snowflake Christmas stocking such as the ones I have listed here, then here’s what you have to do:

1) Head over to The Purly Queen facebook page here and like the page

2) Then wander over to my shop here, have a browse through the listings and favourite at least one item (other than the Christmas stockings)

3) Leave a comment here on the blog or on the facebook page, telling me which item you liked most and who you think it would make a perfect Christmas present for.

Once that’s all done, I will enter your name in the prize draw and the winner will be picked on Saturday 6th December (that’s Small Business Saturday in the UK) so the stocking will be made in time for Santa to fill it with lots of goodies!

Looking forward to seeing which knits you like best!

Cheryl x

P.S. If by any chance you haven’t shopped on Etsy before, here’s a code for £5 off your first purchase http://etsy.me/1yuRXe3 , valid in mine or any of the Etsy shops. Happy shopping!

The PhD blanket or Making it easier on yourself

As part of Operation Hygge, I decided that I wanted to make a blanket to cheer up our bedroom. Sticking to the make do and mend philosophy, I looked at the patterns I already have and went for a little dive in the yarn stash to see what I could make from the yarn I already had. And so I settled on this:

Debbie Abrahams Mosaic Blanket - source: Ravelry

Debbie Abrahams Mosaic Blanket – source: Ravelry

A gorgeous geometric bed-sized blanket and once I’d jigged around the colours a bit, I already had pretty much all the yarn I needed to complete it. So I duly started at the beginning of the year, trying to knit a square a day and have started to amass a little pile of squares.

Lots of knitted squares

Lots of knitted squares

As I was making them, the enormity of the task started to dawn on me. There are 117 squares in the blanket, not including all the stitching together, blocking, knitting the edging and the weaving in of thousands of tiny ends. Plus, as I’m using yarn that I already have rather than the lovely Rowan yarn that the pattern suggests, some of it is misbehaving and making things even harder. That bright petrol blue yarn you can just see the ends of in the pic above is a gorgeous colour but is cheap, nasty yarn that keeps splitting and getting tangled. There’s two different brands of bamboo yarn in there, both of which are lovely and soft but one is loads stretchier than the other so the squares are coming out different sizes. And I started to realise that this blanket project was in fact a metaphor for this final stage of my PhD: loads of things that need to be done and joined together to make one big thesis and many of those things are really bloody hard and make me want to cry and I am not working with perfect materials and it is going to take bloody ages.

And then I thought that the blanket was also like the PhD in that although it will be a real endurance task, it is all about doing one square/task at a time and at the end I will have a PhD/a cool blanket for my bed. And that was going to be the end of my post, feeling quite pleased with myself and my metaphor blanket.

Then the other day after a particularly stressful day, filled with lots of life conundrums I was chatting to a lovely friend who gave me the very wise advice of making things easy for myself and a little lightbulb went off in my head. Why am I knitting lots of little squares when I could just be knitting them in long strips? It’s still lots of work but it cuts out a lot of the annoying work and makes the knitting process much more pleasurable and so the weird knitted snake of squares came to life:

Finding the ease...

Finding the ease…

I’ve been hearing lots of people talking to me about moving with ease recently. Tara Stiles and Michael Taylor at Strala for one. I am pretty stubborn so I think it takes me hearing something several times and someone being blunt with me for it to sink in but when it does…yes, this year is going to be about finding the ease in everything, getting things done and looking forward to the way ahead. Now I just need to work out what the equivalent of knitting in one long strip is in PhD terms…wish me luck!

Catching up

Goodness, was March really the last time I posted here? Poor neglected little blog and shop! Over the last few months, its been a particularly intense and stressful period of my PhD meaning that I’ve had little time to do anything other than slog away at it. It’s meant that there hasn’t been an awful lot of knitting time and it has also meant that the poor old pooch has considered herself very neglected indeed and I have been on the receiving end of a lot of looks like this:

Poor Pepper dog!

Poor Pepper dog!

I’m relieved that this particular PhD hurdle has been jumped – not that it’s going to get any easier from now on, in fact as I’m entering the last bit of it, it’s likely to be just as intense but I’m telling myself it will all be fine. (If I think about it properly there’s quite a high chance I will lock myself in my wool room and never come out again!) Some good news though, I got through my end of year review and have also had a paper accepted to the American Political Science Association which this year is being held in Chicago…whooop! Chicago is one of my favourite places in the whole world and I have some lovely friends living there who I haven’t seen for many years so I am mega excited to have the opportunity to go back. Now I just need to actually get the paper written as well as all the other PhD stuff….*la la la, creeps towards wool room*

Actual knitting has been a bit thin on the ground but I have lots of new ideas for the shop and I’m looking into the idea of having my own webshop. More on that when I’ve had a chance to do a bit more research and thinking on it! I did make time to make a little flopsy bunny hat for my friends Caroline and Gary who had a lovely baby girl called Heidi a couple of weeks ago. This picture is rubbish but hopefully I will be able to get you a better pic of Heidi modelling it at some point.

Flopsy bunny hat: perfect for spring babies!

Flopsy bunny hat: perfect for spring babies!

I’ve also started work on some secret knitting 🙂 I can’t say too much more as there’s a small chance that the person who’s birthday present it is reads this blog so all I will say is that it’s quite a challenging knit and it’s made using this beautiful skein of Scrumptious lace weight from Fyberspates. The yarn is a gorgeous silk and merino blend, which gives it that lovely sheen and it is great to work with, although being laceweight it is very thin and delicate so the prezzie is taking quite a long time! I’m really hoping it will be lovely when it’s finished, I’ll try to remember to take some pics before I hand it over.

It’s a bank holiday here in the UK so I am looking forward to three glorious days off. Let’s hope the weather is kind to us! Hope you all have a lovely weekend wherever you are, Cx

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

 

Grey and white

It is freeeeezing here. I am sat with multiple layers of woolies on, a hot water bottle on my lap and a furry spaniel by my side and I’m still chilly. Bah, I think I’ve got yet another cold on the way. Everything outside is a bit gloomy, all grey and white skies. I realise it’s slightly ridiculous to be moaning about the weather when people in the US have snow higher than their front doors but there you go, I am feeling VERY sorry for myself).

But here’s something that’s grey and white and a lot more cheerful. Towards the end of last year, my lovely friend Debbie commissioned me to make a reindeer patterned hat for her to wear on her super-exciting sabbatical this year. Her and her hubby are taking a trip to lots of different places in South-East Asia and while she won’t need anything woolly while they’re in lovely hot places like Thailand and Laos, later on in their trip they’re going to Everest Base Camp where I imagine it will be almost as cold as it is here 😉

We found the perfect pattern (from my ever-growing vintage collection), picked the colours and wool (Debbie Bliss Rialto which is a gorgeous extra-fine merino wool) and after a few weeks of lots of twisty fair-isle knitting, a beautiful bobble hat was born!

Debbie's reindeer hat!

Debbie’s reindeer hat!

Ah, seeing her lovely face has cheered me up a bit! I think some lemon and ginger tea and an early night is in order and hopefully normal cheery service will resume soon.

Remember, if you would like a reindeer hat of your very own or have an idea for something else you’d like made, drop me a line. Stay warm, people x

Knit relief 2012

Some exciting news this week, I finished my contribution to Knit Relief! If you haven’t heard of Knit Relief, pop over to the Teenage Granny’s fab blog here to read all about it. Basically for those of us who want to support Sport relief but are a little bit, ahem, let’s say challenged in the sporting department, this is our chance to raise some money through crafting not running!

There’s going to be a big Ebay auction starting on the 15th March with lots of lovely goodies to bid on, including my very own “Britannia baby” cardigan hand-knitted from a vintage 1960’s pattern…

 

… and specially finished with little Union Jack buttons to celebrate Britain in 2012. Perfect for any summer babies coming along!

As soon as the listings go live on Thursday, I’ll post them here. Please do bid, you’ll be supporting a fantastic cause and might win yourself some Purly Queen loveliness as well!

 

 

 

 

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!