Thursday, 30 September 2010

Back to School....

Changes afoot this week in the Northern Hi-lights household - I started a new part-time job, my first since I had my children 8 years ago.  I am now working 3 days a week (9am -  3:15pm) in our local secondary school as a technician.  Although not a career to set the world on fire, I am excited about joining the working world again and finding something that fits in with school hours and holidays that is also local.  So, I've been learning the ropes in the Art, Science, IT, and Technical departments and have been absolutely exhausted by the end of the day - housework, baking, grocery shopping and crochet have gone out the window this week, so nothing to show you at all!  I am hoping to become better organised in the future, and am desperate to get going with some crochet projects again.  My new Amigurumi book arrived in the post this morning (thanks for the recommendation Victoria!)

I haven't had a chance to look at it properly yet, but it looks full of fun things to this space!!

Sunday, 26 September 2010


The house is now reeking of vinegar thanks to my productive Sunday spent preserving my allotment glut!    I have pickled the last of the beetroot ( recipe here )and made chutney from some apples and tomatoes (recipe here ) - deeply satisfying, even if I am the only member of this household who will eat any of it!

I have also had a bit of a revelation of the chocolate variety (thanks Sue for the link!) with these fantastic 'cheat' brownies - no chocolate required!!  They tasted amazing, you couldn't even tell they were cheaty ones, lovely gooey consistancy and mega rich - I had to put the lid on the tin very quickly or they would have all been demolished in a oner!

If you only make one thing in the next week, make it these!! I added some walnuts, and was thinking a handful or two of chocolate chips would have made them even more convincing! I love the blog these came from too - Stone Soup, bursting with ideas and inspiration, unfortunatly they were just a bit too easy to make, and I am now fearing  I have used up my sugar/fat allowance for the month in just one day!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Amigurumi Itch..

I'm currently spending far too much of my free time in the evenings trawling through Ravelry on the hunt for some crochet patterns to excite me.. I'm looking for an Amigurumi challenge i think.....
Last year I had great fun making this monkey a couple of times:-

and also found this Japanese cat pattern was a joy to make..

If you've never tried an amigurumi pattern before, don't be put off by thinking they look complicated - one of my first completed project as a complete crochet novice was a small teddy.  All you need to know is how to single crochet on the round (some counting involved unfortunately!) - the hardest bit is usually sewing all the 'bits' together.  Also, surprisingly they use up very little yarn, so a great way of using up odd balls you have lying around. 

Flickr is a great source of inspiration, there are a couple of Amigurumi groups showing the most amazing work - I'm always on the look out for more boy orientated toys too - this dragon is amazing, and this book contains some interesting cretins, like the lobster in my header picture.  I want to make a few little amigurumi creatures for the charity craft fair I've a stall at in November, but need some small ideas that will make up quickly. I'd love to hear if you have the Amigurumi bug too, and what you  are making xx

Monday, 20 September 2010

Extreme Caravaning.....

For the past 4 years a group of our friends plus all the children combined head to the shores of Loch Morlich for the annual Cairngorm Adventure Triathlon (C.A.T).  I should make it entirely clear that so far it has only been the men within the group who have competed, whilst us women support, cheer, look after gear and clean clothing and generally cater and look after all the kids for the weekend.  This year there were 5 families in our party, with a grand total of 16 children between us - usually we stay at the local Youth Hostel, but after last year....well that's another story...we decided to stay in our caravan at the nearby campsite.

It rained non-stop from the moment we arrived to the time we left on Sunday - by Saturday night we needed a bridge just to get into our flooded caravan!
The children all got on great, oblivious to the adverse conditions, and despite the rain we did all enjoy ourselves, probably down to the company and camaraderie that such events encourage.  Now, back home Monday morning, I am drying out 6 pairs of trainers, I pair of cycling shoes, 3 pairs of hiking books and 2 pairs of wellies. My washing machine seems to have accepted the grit and sand of my 4th load today and is still churning round as we speak.  The caravan was our saviour - providing a warm cosy haven from the elements, I am still in awe of the hardy families who chose to camp in a tent - Ahh... good old Scottish weather...never to be relied upon!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Hats, Hats and more Hats!

Meet my latest crochet creations - 'Mummy' and 'Baby' deerstalker hats.  Simply made on the round with extra ear flaps and brims added at the end. I made the bigger hat using chunky yarn (I managed to crochet this in one night!) and the baby using a finer (maybe 4ply) wool, which took me 4 nights to make.  I have to admit I prefer the finish of the smaller finer stitched hat, probably nicer for a little delicate head, but I was pretty sick of crocheting it come the finish.

I was kindly asked by Gill in a comment from my last post to recommend an easy hat pattern. I have 2 old faithfuls I pretty much stick to - a side to side chunky hat, and one made on the round, as shown above. I have written out a couple vague patterns I thought I would share with you as there aren't really any hard and fast rules regarding strict sizes of hats, I usually adjust as I go.

lets start with the 'Side to Side' Ribbed Hat.

Made using entirely the half double crochet stitch, this beanie has been crocheted as a flat rectangle, sewn together into a tube with a quick running stitch around the top with matching yarn and pulled tight to close the top.
I have made this pattern for a new born size, but it is completely adaptable, add more stitches to increase the depth of the hat, add more rows to increase the circumference.

This pattern is for the 0-3 month size only. 5.5mm hook & chunky yarn.

CH 22.

Row 1: HDC in 3rd ch from hook and each st across, ch 2, turn. (20 HDC)

Row 2: HDC in each st across, ch 2, turn (20 hdc)

Row 3 - 25: Repeat row 2. (or until hat is required width)

Join work end-to-end and Slip Stitch or sew up the side. Fasten off and weave in the ends. Turn right side out.

Once you have created the 'tube', make a running stitch with matching yarn around the top and then pull tight to close.
Weave any loose end into the inside of the hat, and fold up brim.

‘On the Round’ Basic Hat Pattern

If you know the basic principles of crocheting on the round, making a hat is very easy. So I have jotted down some steps for you to follow to make up your own hat pattern:-

begin by crocheting a flat circle,* until it is the diameter of the crown of your head (approx 15 -20cm)

Once you have reached your required diameter, continue to crochet around and around and around...until desired length

If you want your hat shape to look a bit more like this, decrease stitches as you crochet down. Make sure you decrease evenly for a uniform shape, but not too much or it will be too tight!

If you'd prefer a more A-line hat, Increase your stitches gradually as you work down

Keep trying on your hat as you go, that way you'll know if you need to decrease/increase stitches, and you should get a perfect fit.

Crochet a bit longer than needed if you want to allow for a brim to be turned up.

**Note** How to crochet a flat circle

R1: Ch2, 6sc in 2nd ch from hook (6)

R2: Sc 2 in each Sc around (12)

R3: *Sc 1, 2sc in next sc* x6 (18)

R4: *Sc 2, 2sc in next sc* x6 (24)

R5: *Sc 3, 2sc in next sc* x6 (30)

R6: *Sc 4, 2sc in next sc* x6 (36)

.....and so on, you will see a pattern forming, each round is increased by 6 stitches. I find I do have to count the stitches as I am crocheting at this point.

I hope these patterns help to inspire you, but lastly one question - do I look like 'mad crochet woman' in this hat? Will they laugh at me at the school gates??

Monday, 13 September 2010

Flapjack and Hats

I discovered a fab new cookery book at our local Library at the weekend.  Well designed and illustrated, it is crammed full of just the sort of recipes I like to make at home for my family - healthy, wholesome and tasty. 

I usually try and bake something on a Sunday for packed lunches for the week ahead and found this tasty oat bar recipe.

An easy recipe to make, I had all the ingredients to hand in my cupboard (didn't bother with the cherries, but I guess you could use raisins) and I found the bars were nice and dense and chewy. They cut nicely into bars without any crumble, so defiantly a keeper to add to my repertoire.

On the crochet front, I  have turned my attention to hats. I'd like to whip up a whole range of fun baby hats for the charity sale I'm having a stall at in November.  last year I made this lot:-

These particular hats are made 'side to side' and then sewn up the side and gathered at the top. They give a more 'knitted' effect and are quick to make. Right now I am working on a hat on 'the round', using finer yarn than I would usually use on a smaller hook - it's looking nice and the stitches neat, however the fine yarn means it is taking forever to make up - maybe chunky wool is the way to go to allow you to 'churn' them out a bit quicker?

I want to make this into a mini 'Deerstalker' style hat, with ribbon to tie up the flaps at the side and maybe a button for the front flap. Hopefully get it blogged with a pattern at some point this week!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

New Autumn Boots

I've had my eye on these El Naturalista boots for a while now, but priced at over £120, I felt they were a bit out of my budget. Miraculously, whilst checking Amazon a few weeks ago, this particular colour was in the sale for £44!!!   A couple of clicks later they were mine, and I'm loving them - the fit is great (always a worry with Internet shopping) and I am pleased with the colour (remind me of my first pair of cherry red DM's as a teenager!).  Ahhhhh, new boots for Autumn....!!!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Jump on the 'Granny' Wagon...!

It's 'Granny Square' fever on the crochet front right now - in preparation for my crochet class this week I am perfecting the art of the Granny square.  There is something very appealing about these little (or big) squares, and in all honesty, once you get your head around the pattern and all the yarn changing, there is really nothing to them - a project you can sit and work on with very little thought and virtually no counting at all - my kind of crocheting!

I thought I would share my 'perfected' pattern with you, just in time to get snuggled into a nice bit of cosy, Autumn crocheting!

Granny Square Tutorial (written using U.S crochet terms)


ss   - slip stitch
ch  - chain
dc  - double crochet

Chain 4 and join to make ring using a slip stitch

Round 1
Ch 3 - then crochet 2 dc into the ring. *ch2 and make 3 dc into ring*. Repeat from * to * 2 more times, and then ch2. Join round by ss into top of turning chain.

Using same yarn, s.s across next 3dc until you reach the first corner space(the ch2 space)

Join 2nd coloured yarn to your work and break off first colour.

Round 2
Using new colour, ch 3 and then 2 dc into that first corner space. Ch2 and then make 3dc into the same corner space. (don’t worry about any loose ends – you can weave them in at the end)

Ch1 and then in the next corner space do the following *3dc, 2ch, 3dc, 1ch*. Repeat * - * for the next 2 corners. S.S into top of ch3 (made at beginning of the round) to join work..

Round 3
With the same yarn used for round 2, s.s across the next 3 dc until you reach the first corner space. Join 3rd colour of yarn and break off your second colour.
Ch3, 2dc, 2ch, 3dc into the first corner. Ch1 and make the following stitches into first ch1 space *3dc, ch1*.
Next, into 2nd corner 3dc, ch2, 3dc, ch1, and then repeat * - * for next ch1 space.

Continue working around your square – you should see a pattern emerging now:-

3dc, ch2,3dc, ch1 for each corner
3dc, ch1 for each ch1 space along edge of square.

Remember on the very first corner of each round to do the following ch3 , 2dc, ch2, 3dc.
Once you have gone around entire square, remember to join with a s.s into the turning ch3.

Continue the above steps until your ‘granny’ is desired size. You can keep changing colours with each round, or simply stick with the same – just keep going round and round and round.....!

Friday, 3 September 2010


Woohooo!!! its Friday evening and I've come over all patriotic sitting with my boys watching Scotland v Lithuania on the TV tonight.  Have a fab weekend - wall to wall sunshine predicted here!