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Friday, 18 December 2009

Knitters

I have patterns ready for squares to be knitted. The squares are approx 6in x 6in, so not very bit and a variety of basic stitches, lace, intarsia, fairisle, stripes etc.

I know a few people offered their knitting services earlier, but if you're still interested please can you email me, as I'm now ready to send out the yarn and patterns. So - if you've nothing to do over Christmas!!! Perhaps a few relaxing squares will do the trick!

Nicki x

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Craft Drop In

I'm planning a Craft Drop In one night a week between 7pm and 9.30pm. This is for people who live locally and would like to come along to a session to have help with their sewing, knitting or crochet. I'll be floating around to help and guide people. There'll be plenty of books for inspiration and other people dropping in.

The idea is to share knowledge and get some help and have a good time, learning and creating with others. The price of the session will be £6. This will include practice wools, hooks and needles and threads - and teas, coffees.

I will be setting a night for this soon, but it will be on a Monday or Tuesday. At the moment anyone can come, but parking is limited, so it's best if you can let me know before you come. Email me if you're interested.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Wedding

I made this cake for Kym & Mark's wedding party which was last night at 6 St Chad's Place in Kings Cross. Fantastic venue and lots of great food, dancing and great opportunity to spend time with the family. I was pleased with the cake in the end. This was the first time I'd made it with a light blue base. There were 3 different shades of pink roses and rosebuds. My mother made the fruit cake inside. There were 100 roses in all and 50 rosebuds; each petal handmade and took quite a few long evenings to get it ready in time! Congratulations to Kym & Mark and well done for organising such a lovely party. After 19 years of waiting... finally!!


A deer in the garden


Thursday, 26 November 2009

Violin

I've just bought a violin! So excited. Got my first lesson tomorrow morning.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Patchwork Cushion

I've spent the day making this cushion for my sewing class tomorrow. I needed to write out a pattern for a cushion cover with buttons, but then I just got carried away and added a patchwork panel. I thought it would be a great way to introduce patchwork to the course. This was an incredibly cheap project. The fabric is just cheap sheeting and the patchwork is made up from scraps I have laying around.




Monday, 2 November 2009

Looking for a knitter/knitters

I've been commissioned to write a new knitting book. The problem is that I've been knitting up some samples and squares, but am finding that knitting is giving me rsi. I'm having pains up my arms, neck and pins and needles in my fingers. I'm hoping this will be temporary but this is all bad news with so many projects to knit up. So I will be looking for some knitters to help make up some projects and knit up some blocks/squares for me. I will type out the patterns and charts and the blocks are only approx 6in x 6in and also various projects along the way.

I haven't worked out just how much I can pay yet, but if anyone is interested in making anything for me, either squares or projects, I'd be very very grateful.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Crochet Bunting

I've now finished the crochet bunting and written up the pattern. This was an experiment to teach crochet edgings in my crochet classes, which I'll be teaching in my evening classes at Acres and I also have a Crochet Bunting Workshop on Saturday 28th November. The flags are really good fun and easy to make and it should make for a good workshop and an opportunity to brush up on the basic stitches and learn a few edgings.

The bunting is made up of doubles, half trebles, trebles with a variety of different edgings. I've used a variety of double knit or aran yarn and used mainly scraps. It's difficult to say how much yarn it uses because it depends how many flags you make. This one is made up of 12 flags and is bound together with two rows of double crochet edge across the top of each one. The whole bunting weighs just under 400g and the top edging used up nearly a whole ball (50g) of wool.


It's very pretty and looks like little frilly knickers!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Sad day

Even though my landlord agreed to letting me keep hens and growing veg - an essential part of my life/writing and everything I do - he has complained about lots of petty issues. So, for the sake of my hens and a calm life I have very very sadly had to rehome my favourite hens until I can find somewhere more suitable to live. But, they have gone to fantastic homes, and Whoopi can be seen at Middle Farm, reunited with her mother, Bertha.

Whoopi at her new home with Tania at Middle Farm, Firle, East Sussex The 'Bettys' at their new home with Ailsa, being greeted by the rest of the flock
Betty checking out the travelling accommodation

Bunting made

Christmas bunting is made ready to demonstrate to my Beginner's Sewing class at Acres: how to attach edging and bias binding. This picture didn't come out that well because it's raining and is a very dull day and I still haven't really got to grips with how my camera works.

I decided not to go typically Christmas in this design, I just chose fabrics that were red and green and that were pretty. So, I've used a combination of floral, spots and tartan. I bought the fabrics from The Patchwork Dog & Basket in Lewes. They're mainly Fat Quarters. I'm going to try and make a patchwork curtain to jolly up my bedroom, so will be searching for some good fabrics, if anyone has any tips on where I can buy some?

My aim is to get all my unfinished projects done in the next couple of days so I can free up my time to work on my next book which is about knitting. It's a bit of a mammoth book, but should be good and trying to think of some lovely projects for it.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Next project

I'm not really sure what to start on next - I have so many projects I need to do:


  • Write an article on 'Moving with Hens' for Practical Poultry
  • Knit a child's hat for Let's Get Crafting
  • Sew some bunting for the students of my Beginners Sewing evening class, I think I'll theme it Christmas
  • Crochet some bunting for the students of my Beginners Crochet evening class

At last!


At last I have my camera up and running again and am just a little bit more organised and feeling like I have more time to blog again.

Here is a photo of a beautiful little crochet dress that I have designed for a magazine. I will give details later of when it'll be published etc. It's actually easier than it looks. It took me ages to find the right ribbon and colour to go with the pale pink - a much more difficult task than I thought.

Friday, 16 October 2009

My Lovely Hens

I feel so sad for my hens. It's so quiet just having 3 hens. After having about 12 or 15 of them talking, scratching around. The three look a little shell shocked. I don't think they really understand where they are or what's going on and they've gone very quiet and stay very close to their house. I suppose their routine is different. I've been putting them into their run every time I go out because I don't know what the fox situation is here at the new house, and keep worrying that they're going to get attacked during the day because we have so much woodland around here.

Books

I've just had the first copy to proof of Garden Farm.
I am so pleased with it. The photos and design look really lovely. It's a nightmare to proof and going to take all weekend, but I hope it'll be worth it in the end.

Just heard that Super Cute Crochet has reached number 9 in the Book People's Top Ten books this week. How amazing is that!!

Chilli Chutney

Yes, they look wonderful don't they. I'm going to make loads and loads of chilli chutney - my favourite. I didn't used to like chutneys at all and now I can't get enough. I use an adaptation of Jamie Oliver's Cheeky Chilli Chutney. I will make some and post up the recipe.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Chillies


Just managed to pick the chillies in time before leaving the old house. Have hung them all on ristras and just need somewhere dry to hang them at the new house.

Found!

In the woods.

Moving


Isn't moving traumatic? It's not that I care much about the material things in the end. We all think we're so attached to shelves and shelves of books, trinkets, bits of ornaments and general stuff, but when it's all packed up and put into boxes, it's only really the kettle, the tea and milk that I'm bothered about and there's something quite liberating about being without all this stuff and clutter we collect over the years - no matter how pretty it might be.
The things that really get me upset are the well being of my daughters, the support and love of my family and friends and my animals. I've found it very upsetting to have to give away most of my hens, some that I've had for years and been very attached to.
I've moved my cats and have kept them inside for a week now, but one of them, Cocoa has tried to escape at every given moment and the minute a gap appeared in the door he's shot out the door. I've managed to coax him back three times, but last night when I was out teaching, he crept up behind Maddy and before she had the chance he'd escaped again and this time she couldn't get him back. When I got home I tried to find him in the pitch dark, but he's gone. Very upsetting and I just hope he manages to find his way back.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Workshops

Just got back online and have booked two new workshops:

14th November: Super Cute Crochet Workshop - crocheting toys

21st November: Beginners Crochet

When I can find my camera and the charger I will start blogging again!

Friday, 2 October 2009

House Move

All quiet because of the house move. Will get back on to blogging as soon as the mound of boxes have gone and the beds and computer is up at the new place!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Classes

Taught three different classes this week: sewing, hen keeping and crochet. Amazing at the cross over. So many people from each group who are interested in the other subjects. Most common link though was hens!

Really enjoyed teaching the classes, I think they're going to be a lot of fun over the coming month.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Chicks

Made these yesterday to use in my lessons this week

Practical Poultry Magazine

I've written an article this month for Practical Poultry magazine (October issue) about 'Neighbours'.

House Move

Well, the moving process is going ok. Just trying to get removals companies to come with a decent quote. The amount of work involved with moving is overwhelming at the moment. There are hold ups with the exchange of contract, but I've put down a deposit on a rental place anyway, otherwise we could be left with 2 days to go before we have to move out with absolutely nowhere to live.

I'm packing up boxes, but struggling with taking down the heavy things that need a screwdriver (unfortunately not something I own). At the moment I'm relying on friends who will hopefully bale me out at the last minute, otherwise I will have to drag a man off the street!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Garage Sale

Lots of my bits and bobs sold now, but still quite a few bits left, especially books, so if anyone still wants them you need to come quick before they go to the charity shop.

Also have left a flymo lawnmower, glass cake stands, still some wool to go, knitting needles, books, books and more books.

Friday, 4 September 2009

My hens

It's with much regret that I have to rehome my hens. I have 2 Buff Orpingtons, 2 Brahmas, 1 Wellsummer, 1 Black Orpington and 2 ex-battery hens. I also have some young Buff Orpingtons. At the moment I think two of them may be cockerals and one hen. They're about 12 weeks old. The other Buff Orpingtons are quite old (about 5 yrs old), but beautiful nonetheless and I'm really looking for a home where they can free range as they're used to wandering around the garden. If anyone would like to add them to their flock please let me know. I'm letting them go in two's - so the two Buff Orpingtons together etc etc

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Recipes

I have got recipes for all these jams and chutneys although I'm not allowed to post them. The Spiced Apple and Walnut is from an old Rick Stein recipe and I have adapted it slightly to add it little more spice to it. The Plum Jam recipe will go in the book also, but this is a very basic recipe which is pretty much the same as any plum jam recipe you'll get. It uses equal quantities of fruit per sugar. Don't bother to de-pip them as the pips all float to the surface and it's much easier to remove them that way. You just cut the fruit in half and throw it in.

One of my favourite recipes at the moment is for Blackberry Cordial which I made this week. It's thick and syrupy and is delicious with fizzy water (or Vodka - haven't tried that yet, but planning to soon).

Chutney and Jam craze

I can't seem to stop myself from making chutneys and jams. I've become obsessed.
I think it's a bit of diversion from the tasks that I really should be doing - my escapism from work, looking for somewhere to live, packing up my house, getting the family sorted and so on.
Luckily some of these recipes will be going in my new book.

I truly lost it the other night when, for no apparent reason I found myself crochet circles to go over the jars! 'Jar hats' as the girls called them, as they giggled and looked at me like I was a mad old woman. Needless to say we were all watching Jam & Jerusalem on the tv. I blame the WI.

Please someone save me or I'll be knitting loo roll holders next !!!


Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Crochet Scarf

I'm trying to get a few rows of my scarf done every now and then. I'm designing this for the magazine Yarn Forward. It will be in a different colour, and this is my sample to see if it comes out ok. It's an adjusted pattern from something I designed a while ago, but it's such a lovely pattern to crochet and in lovely yarn: Fyberspates Scrumptious. The colours are gorgeous and I'm really enjoying making this. I'd love to have more time to do it and I'm only managing such a little in the evenings. This isn't the greatest photo, but the best I have time for this morning. Got to finish the pigs and goats section .....

Apples

I have such a tight deadline at the moment - I've been writing about vegetables, herbs, fruits, how to store produce, bee keeping, goats and pigs and so much more. Still to go are all the intros and then on to the recipes and soap.

I had to wrap loads of apples for the storage photography, so now I have so many apples, I don't know what to do with them. Of course you're only supposed to wrap up perfect apples, but for the purposes of the photos we just just wrapped up what we could (with the help of neighbour's children, Indy and Jamie). So now I truley have a glut of apples. I spent last night making Spiced Apple and Walnut Chutney, which is absolutely delicious but it doesn't seem to have made any dip in the apples, they're taking over the house!

On top of that I also have a glut of plums. I've made some Plum Sauce, but there are still branches full of them. Working, working, working all day, so the only time to do it is in the evenings (late evenings!).

Plum Sauce recipe will be in the new book, but not the Spiced Apple Chutney.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Drying Onions

My onions have been drying out for a week and I strung them up yesterday. They look brilliant and I've found a very easy way of doing it. I've written it up for a step by step instruction for my new book, so not able to publish it here, but David is coming over to photograph them tomorrow and I will post a picture up.

I planted a whole bed of onions this year because I use so many of them in my cooking. It's one of the most satisfying parts of gardening to string the onions up ready for use for the rest of the year.

I also cooked the most delicious meal last night using all the cherry tomatoes picked fresh from the greenhouse. They are completely bursting with flavour and I added all of my home-grown produce: basil, garlic, onions - fried up a little olive oil, served with pasta and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. It was bursting with flavour and the best meal I've had for ages.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Hot, sunny days under the Rhubarb

This photo was taken by David Merewether who is the photographer on the book I'm currently working on. Here we are at Vivien's house photographing her fantastic vegetable garden. We just couldn't resist this photograph, the leaves are enormous. If anyone needs a good photographer - David is an absolute pleasure to work with. We frequently have to make little road trips to photograph some or the other and he is excellent at just taking a quick shot and making it look great. Have a look at my recommended website links for the link to his webpage.

Police

I had a run in with the police the other day.

I was making blackcurrant jam, thick dark red liquid splashed over my arms, on my hands and dripping down my apron. I must've looked like I'd just butchered something large and messy. Then, a police car pulled up. Of course my heart fell to the floor because Camilla was out and I thought something terrible had happened. And I thought I might get arrested for looking like I'd committed a bloody murder.

As soon as the policeman got out of the car, I realised it wasn't to do with Camilla. He sort of had that 'you naughty girl, what have you done' sort of look on his face. He did the slow walk, past my car and then asked if it was my car. I said yes, and he asked me my name. Gave him my name. He then told me I had filled my car up with petrol yesterday and had driven off without paying.

All I could do was laugh in disbelief. After several exclamations, I apologised and asked him if he was going to press charges. He said that normally this would go down on the police records, so I promptly rushed into the kitchen and gave him a jar of strawberry jam.

Luckily, he said he loved jam on his toast in the morning and thank you very much.

Done. Policeman bribed with a jar of strawberry jam...... now there's a headline.

Wedding Blanket

At last! The wedding blanket is finished. Just a bit of embroidery on the edges to go.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Nought so queer as folk

Had a great time at the Cambridge Folk Festival. The weather was good most of the time, a few rainy spots, but what would a festival be without mud.

Saw some amazing acts. It's incredible to think that people still think folk music is finger-in-the-ear music, it's traditional but also strikingly contemporary and there was a good mix of young and old people there. My special moments were arriving at the 'Club Tent' at 9am on the first morning and coming across a fantastic man: Brian McNeill, teaching a fiddle workshop. We all became Brian fans from there on and followed him around his various performances throughout the festival. Needless to say I'm now determined to go out and learn how to folk fiddle (not fiddle with folk).

Other highlights were the at the singing workshop with Rachel Unthank on Saturday morning. We had just gone to see what was happening at the tent and as we approached heard the beautiful sound of the whole tent singing. The Scottish Showcase on Stage 2 was fab. Loved Bellohead and Jon Boden was mesmerising. But you can't beat having your own personal entertainment and Bobby (Maddy's boyfriend below) played us the most wonderful songs inside and outside our tent, which made early morning and late night camping more than bearable. He got a slot in the Club Tent too and was fantastic.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Cambridge Folk

Me and the girls will be here for the next few days:

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Festival in the rain

This is going to be me if it rains at the Cambridge Folk Festival. I'm not a huge fan of camping in the rain - come to think of it, I'm not a huge fan of camping. It better be good!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Good Book

I need a good book to take to the Cambridge Folk Festival with me - any suggestions welcome

Teaching Girls to Knit

This morning Camilla and I taught a children's knitting class. Emily, Lucinda and Philly:

Who likes the summer anyway


I hate hot weather, golden beaches, blue sky touched with a whisp of fluffy clouds. I hate cocktails by the beach bar, especially hate large Mojitos with fresh smelling mint and cool, crushed ice. Hate not having to work, hate dancing too, especially to Gold Digger. Hate having the time to read a great book and hate visiting new countries and meeting new people. Hate not having to get up a 5.45am each morning just to get everything done in a day and hate the smell of bougainvilleas and jasmine flowers - much prefer the aroma of wet, soggy Golden Retrievers.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Fox

I was woken very early this morning by a strange noise. At first I thought it was a dog barking in the distance - unusual because other than my dogs, there are only the farm dogs and it didn't sound like them. Then I heard a chicken noise. So I got up to see what was happening.

As I got to the chicken pen, the mother hen was out in her run, which was thankfully closed. She was in a real panic and running round the pen. Then I just caught the colour and tail of the fox disappearing behind the bushes. I couldn't see it very clearly and it just disappeared in a whisper. I checked and all three chicks were in their house - I had forgotten to put the hatch down last night, but luckily had secured them into their pen.

I'm so lucky so far not to have had any chickens taken by a fox, but after seeing that, I'm now worried. The hens are out all day and I put them to bed each night, but you can't guarantee the fox won't come during the day.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Congratulations to Kym & Mark

We had such a fantastic day yesterday. Kym & Mark, at last, got married after being together for 19 years.

Mariachis in Islington High Street: Kym, Mum, Me:

Confetti in Hyde Park:


Wedding guests (left to right): David, Me, Chrisopher, Jean-Christophe, Kym, MarkTea & Cakes at the Lansdowne Hotel:

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Toastie things

'Scrumptious' by Fyberspates. I bought this wool at the Wool Fest to make a crochet scarf. It's hand-dyed and a silk-mix. I can't wait to finish crocheting my blanket so I can start using this gorgeous wool.

My toast rack:

Redcurrant Jelly

I have never been able to make a good redcurrant jelly. It's always been cloudy and never went through the muslin process very well. But today I've made the best batch I've ever done by using a different method.

Boil up the fruit in water until the fruit is pulpy.
Sieve it through a metal sieve, squashing the juice from the pulp.
Drain the remaining liquid through a jelly bag overnight, discarding the pulp.
Return juice to the pan with 1lb of sugar per 1lb of liquid.
Dissolve sugar in juice very gently and when all sugar is completely dissolved,
boil until it sets (using the wrinkle method/sugar thermometer)
Pour into warm, sterilised jars, seal, cover, decorate and label.

Perfect, beautiful clear nectar, a glorious colour and I made about 6 jars from about 3.5 kilos of fruit. I've always only got one or two jars in the past. I'm so proud of it!

I give my homemade jam and jellies as Christmas gifts. Each time I go to the hassle of making jam or jelly I just think of it as Christmas shopping. Rather than go through all the horrible crowds in the cold and wet at Christmas for presents, I just think of summer days picking fruit and making jam.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Sucummbed

I couldn't resist it - I went fruit picking again. Redcurrant Jelly is making its way through the muslin. I'm not sure I've got the recipe right though. I've tried a different method this time. I've followed Delia's recipe before where you add the sugar before you strain the currants. This time I'm straining them first without the sugar and will bring them back to the pan and add the sugar later. We'll see if this method works. I picked the cherries for me to eat. I couldn't bear to cook them.

Temptation

Today I should be writing more for my new book, but I'm being tempted away. I'd really like to go fruit picking and make some redcurrent jam and eat fresh cherries off the trees or crochet more squares for Kym & Mark's blanket. I'd also like to plant more seeds in the garden, this is probably the last chance. But I need to mow the lawn and write and sit at the computer. Thank you Lynn for this photo - I came across it this morning and it's luring me away....

Friday, 17 July 2009

Soil

I have been forced to look at soil the last few days. The deadlines and strains of working on a book sometimes force you to look at things you wouldn't usually think about. I've realised that I take for granted the soil in which I grow my vegetables. I certainly don't treat it with the healthy respect it deserves and have a rather sloppy attitude to growing: throw in the seeds and hope for the best. I've taken three days to write just a couple of pages on soil - much of the time being broken up with distractions on selling my house and teenage angst about getting (or not getting) a job throughout the summer before the onset of university.

I am now determined to look after my soil, which in turn will look after my vegetables which in turn then looks after me and my family.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Chicken in a basket

Marilyn taking a ride in the bike:

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Cornelia's Wake

To my great Great Aunt Cornelia, with love xxx


Monday, 13 July 2009

Another Cow

Another cow at Brick House Farm has been born. Photos to follow

Sunday, 12 July 2009