Winter is coming

Brr, getting chilly isn’t it? And brownie points if you got the Game of Thrones reference, I have just started reading the books several years after everyone else and enjoying them greatly!

So a few bits of news in the Purly Queen world, I have a new shop! I’ve finally got my Etsy shop up and running with lovely new branding designed by a lovely lady called Mia from Seattle and full of cosy knits I have been knitting all year to make sure that the shop is full in time for Christmas. The shop is hereย so do stop by and have a look if you haven’t already done so. I have a welcome discount code running at the moment which gives you 5% off all purchases which is valid till the 1st December so use it while you can!ย 

Saturday 7th December is Small Business Saturday, a really nice initiative to encourage people to support small businesses like mine. By then, I’ll have the few things left on the needles all knitted up and ready to go in the shop so there should nearly a hundred knitted things for you to buy so hopefully there will be something for everyone! Leading up to that Saturday I’ll be running a series of blog posts highlighting gifts for every type of person so I hope that will help you with some gift inspiration. I’ll also be offering free shipping on that day ๐Ÿ™‚

Finally, I’ve been in touch with a lovely knitwear designer from the US called Heidi May who designs really gorgeous patterns under the name The Velvet Acorn, which you can see here. All of her patterns are inspired by nature and lucky for me, she has agreed that I can sell some of these knits from her patterns. I’m starting the process of making up some samples so that you can then order them in the size and colours you want, but in the meantime if you fall in love with any of the patterns and would like some made in time for Christmas, give me a shout asap! Here’s one that I love, isn’t it cute?

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In non-knitting news, the funding for my PhD is coming to end at the end of this year and so have to find ways of funding my fourth year myself. As I type, water is also pouring down my walls and a plumber is about to knock a hole in the ceiling to find out what’s causing it. Cross your fingers we don’t need a whole new boiler system/new bathroom…that would need me to sell an almighty lot of knitting!

Stay warm everyone x

P.S. If you haven’t already, do visit my Facebook pageย https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Purly-Queen/224148720981170

P.P.S Forgot to mention, I’ll be giving 5% of all my profits between now and the end of the year to the DEC fund to help the people in the Philippines affected by the typhoon, as they are still desperately in need of help.

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The Purly Queen reaches new heights!

You might remember last year my friend Debbie commissioned me to make her a super-warm reindeer bobble hat to take on her travels, I posted about it here. Well, she’s back from her amazing adventure and sent me an amazing picture of her hubby Jack and her at Everest base camp, wearing the reindeer hat!

Debbie and Jack in Everest

 

I’m so glad they had such an amazing time and how cool to see one of my knits in such a far-flung place…I’m going up in the world! (Sorry, terrible pun…I can’t help myself).

Behind the scenes: making baby bunting

I thought some of you, especially the non-knitters might like to see the process of designing and making the baby bunting so here’s a little behind the scenes look at the work that goes into it.

First of all, there was lots of sketching and making bunting flag samples to try and work out the pattern. You might think it would be simple to knit a triangle but it’s takes some time to make sure that it’s the right size and shape (early workings included one so big you could have wrapped a baby in it and one so skinny it looked like a carrot!) Then once I’d worked out the flag pattern I wanted, I had to chart out all of the letters of the alphabet and again, knit a couple of samples to check that the letters were in the right proportion to the flag, were visible and looked nice.

After deciding on two different colour palettes, one bright and a softer, more natural colourway, I then had to play around with a few different yarns to see which would be the best for good stitch definition, colour and hardiness as I wanted the bunting to be something that could stay in children’s rooms as they grow up and not just for babies. Once I’d picked the yarn, I knitted up a few sample names and then it’s on to the finishing.

First you have to give the knitting a gentle little bath:
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Then you have to block the knitted pieces. What this means is painstakingly pinning out the knitting to the required shape so that when it dries, the stitches will lie nice and evenly and generally the knit will look much nicer. It takes a little while with solid pieces like triangles but takes HOURS when it’s something like the lace shawl I made earlier in the year. (Which reminds me, I never did write a follow-up piece on that, will add to my to-do list!). Here’s what blocking looks like:

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Some people have a fancy blocking board but I use a doubled up beach towel as I find the lines helpful in getting things straight. A bed is also very handy for blocking but that doesn’t go down so well with Mr Purly Queen so I stick to the kitchen table now ๐Ÿ™‚

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Then once everything is dry, it’s a case of weaving in all of the ends, sewing the flags together (in the right order!) and adding some ends so that the bunting can be hung up on a cot or wall. And then you have the finished item, personalized bunting…ta da!

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Just flew in from the Windy City…

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that this blog has been exceptionally quiet for a few months even by my standards and that the shop has been on holiday for a bit. This has all been because I’ve been working furiously on the PhD and getting a paper ready to present at the American Political Science Association annual meeting in Chicago. Paper has been presented, managed not to fall over or do anything else embarrassing (pretty much my main aim for the presentation…I set my expectations low!), had a little holiday afterwards and now I’m back at home and just trying to get my head in gear for planning the rest of the year!

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The weather was gloriously hot and sunny in Chicago and so coming back to rainy, Autumnal Manchester has been a bit of a shock to the system. Still it’s always nice to come back home and I always like September with its associations with new stationery and making lists! And the dog was very pleased to see us so have been enjoying lots of furry snuggling ๐Ÿ™‚

I have been working on some new products over the summer and the first of them is now ready to go. I really love bunting and wanted to try and translate it into knitting and voila… personalized knitted baby bunting!

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I’m really pleased on how this has turned out and hope that you will all like it too! It’s available in the shop now in two colour palettes either brights or neutrals and costs ยฃ25 + p&p for up to 6 letters (Longer names can be made too obviously!). Each item is made from scratch so if there are any colours you do/don’t want, you can specify this when you order. Also, if you want to give this gift in advance before the baby has a name, I can arrange for this to be sent in the form of a voucher to the parents so they can order the bunting themselves.

You can find the bunting here:ย http://folksy.com/items/4453178-Personalized-hand-knitted-baby-buntingย I’d love to hear what you think!

Knitting and yoga

Did anyone see this article in the Guardian today?

It talks about the way both knitting and yoga can benefit people by releasing tension, helping to calm the brain and generally having a meditative effect. I was really excited to see Tara Stiles in the article as I was lucky enough to take a class with her at Strala yoga when I was in New York last year and I loved it! From what I have read, some people in the yoga world have found her a bit controversial as she doesn’t use the traditional sanskrit names for poses etc but I think she’s actually doing a great job of making yoga accessible to everyone and highlighting that it should be fun and non-competitive, not about who’s the most bendy or has the most perfect body. I treated myself to her DVDs as a reward for passing my PhD review recently and hopefully when I have some spare pennies, I’ll be treating myself to one of these tanks:

Says it all!

Says it all!

I love both knitting and yoga and find that both definitely help with the stresses of PhD life. Having said that there are definitely times when knitting has the opposite effect and the secret knitting is proving to be one of those times. It’s a lace pattern which for non-knitters means doing lots of complicated stitches on very fine wool meaning that you can’t do anything else but concentrate completely on your needles, it takes aaaaages and mistakes are very easy to make! Still, hopefully it will all be worth it and turn out nicely in the end.

A sneaky peek...

A sneaky peek…

It looks just like a mess at the moment but I’m hoping that once it’s all knitted the magic of blocking will turn it into something beautiful. Blocking is basically wetting the lace and then pinning it out so that the lace pattern can stretch out a bit and you can see whether or not it’s what you thought you were knitting! It’s all a bit nerve wracking as the date it needs to be finished by is coming up very soon and I am nowhere near finished, argh! Now where did I put that yoga DVD? ๐Ÿ™‚

Warning: Contains serious cuteness!

Hope you all had a great weekend! I thought we all might need a little lift as we head back to work after the bank holiday and so here are some pics of some seriously cutie babies modelling their PQ knits to bring a smile to your faces. One of my favourite things is seeing knits on the people they were made for, so getting pics this week of not one but two happy bubbas has been amazing!

First up is cutie baby Clara, who is actually a cousin of Mr Purly Queen:

Pretty in pink!

Pretty in pink!

And another one, which I thought I’d posted before but hadn’t. That blanket was a real labour of love but I think it came out pretty well and so glad that Clara seems to be enjoying it!

Snug as a bug!

Snug as a bug!

Next up we have baby Sophie, gorgeous daughter of my friends Clare and Nick. Clare and I went on holiday to Chicago a few years ago (Actually 9 years ago, 9!! Where did that go?!) and had an amazing time, including a visit to the legendary Burritos as Big as your Head ๐Ÿ™‚ It really is called that! Fingers crossed I can pay a return visit this year when I go to the APSA conference.

Anyway, here is Sophie modelling her Purly Queen cardie…

Smiley Sophie!

Smiley Sophie!

And one of her eating it: Purly Queen knits are clearly very tasty!

Nom nom!

Nom nom!

Anyone else got pics of PQ knits they’d like to share?x

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.ย 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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