As well as battling with my ouessant fleece, I’ve been working on some other craft projects.  I just got my craft corner set up properly in the bedroom, so have been making the most of having a decent workstation to do everything in.  First up, my most recent finished project – a quick rainbow merino skein.

DSCN1208I was gifted a lovely sample pack of merino fibre in a whole rainbow of colours.  I think the pack was meant for felters – certainly there wasn’t enough of any one colour to make anything with – but since I haven’t yet taken up felting, I decided to find other uses for it!  The resulting skein is a single, spun from the fold, not predrafted, and worked out somewhere between a lace-weight and a light fingering.

IMG_5821I’m hoping the skein will be enough to make something like a lace cowl with, and am debating gifting it to my SIL, who also knits and who could probably make better use of something this gorgeous than me!  My cats are less impressed with it, but that might just be because I posed it on them while they were trying to sleep so I could take cute pictures.

DSCN1116I’m also around 90% done with another gift for my SIL.  Her daughters have outgrown their adorable old school uniform of purple and white jumpers and purple gingham dresses, and she asked me to make them each a keepsake poppet using the leftovers.  The poppets are done (not pictured, the above poppet’s nose), and I’m just now working on patchwork quilts for the poppets to be put to bed in at night.

DSCN1114The girls each got to choose the pattern they wanted me to use for their poppets, and I’ve endeavoured to fit the school logo onto each poppet somewhere.  These were really fun and satisfying to make – so much so that I’m debating starting up a business making them to order.

DSCN1197Another WIP I’m enjoying a lot is these little Yule decorations I’m working on.  The first lot I’m doing are little hanging Santa/Tomte in felt.  The little dude just above is the prototype, just made up plain so I could make sure the shape and appearance works with what I had planned.  Below you can see the first batch in progress.  I do need to streamline my technique so I can make them a bit faster than this, though.

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Phew!

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At long last, they’re here.  Four bags containing two lovely fleeces shown from a couple of ouessant sheep.  They’ve been stored in bags a few months, and appear to have been pulled apart somewhat before being stuffed in the bags, so they aren’t in as good a condition as they could be – the lanolin has turned sticky with age, which means I can’t spin in the grease, and some parts are matted.  I still expect to get a goodly amount of usable fibre from them, of course.  I just need to give them a gentle washing and combing first.

DSCN1157I’ve been pulling out some of the nicest-looking locks.  Would’ve loved to spin these in the grease, but the lanolin is far too old and sticky for that now, so I need to scour them and then obtain some hand-carders to fluff them up with.  Ouessant sheep are a small breed – they typically reach no higher than your knee – and have a primitive fleece, which means it contains a mixture of all the different fibre types sheep are bred for in varying amounts.  In contrast, merino sheep have fleece that is almost all the short, fluffy undercoat, for example.  The primitive fleece makes for a challenging spin even with a fresh fleece that was rolled and stored properly, so I’ve got quite a challenge for my first raw fleece project!

DSCN1153The bulk of the fleece looks like this – grassy, matted and in need of some TLC.  I can’t wait to see how it turns out with proper care.  I definitely can’t do anything with this until I get some carders.  Those things run at ridiculous prices though, so I might try a cheat – I’ve heard you can card with a pair of large paddle dog brushes.  I’ll get a couple as soon as I can and give it a try.

DSCN1175As I said, not suitable for spinning in the grease, but I had to attempt it with a few locks just to see what the fibre looks like spun.  It’s rather pretty I think, and I plan to overdye some of it to see what colours come out of that beautiful natural black fleece.  Even sticky with lanolin, grass and farm muck, the fibres are really quite nice to work with.  They are rather brittle though, which is a worry.  I’m sure it’ll be fine, but I suspect this will need to be spun to no less than worsted weight.

So I’ve been a little too busy to blog much about my crafting of late! But if you like random short fiction based on writing prompts I am rather more active at my main blog, Prompted Scribblings.

I’m still crafting, just got a lot going on and am trying to get warmed up for NaNo, so blogging here is taking a back seat to EVERYTHING ELSE OMG.

This is Ravelry Mondays, a weekly event where I pick three-five patterns seen on Ravelry that week, and share them on this blog.  Some weeks will be themed, and there are some rules.

In order for a pattern to qualify it must:

  • Be on Ravelry
  • Be available for download either on Ravelry or from another website – no patterns only available in print or magazines, but it doesn’t have to be free
  • Have at least one photo clearly showing the item as a whole
  • Have at least one photo where the item is not being manipulated, so we can see accurately how it hangs and fits
  • Must have the necessary minimum information on the ravelry page – sizing info where applicable, yardage, yarn weight, etc
  • Clothing items will only qualify if they are available in plus sizes*
  • Only one pattern per designer per week

*And the plus sizes given must have MEASUREMENTS.  Calling the sizes XS-XXXL means nothing if you never tell us what XXXL is.  I’ve seen a 40″ bust called that, before!

Oh I am not good in the heat.  It’s all of 27 C today and I’m not coping!  I’m fine in the shade of course, but I just spent about 30 minutes doing some actually very mild work in the garden and came in lobster red, slightly shaky and with a thumping head from the heat.  I’m definitely meant to live somewhere snowy and cool, I think!  Of course, it’s typical that during a week where it’s too hot for me to do any knitting there are so many gorgeous patterns released that I completely failed to reduce my selection to a mere five.

We’ve got a big post today, simply because I couldn’t bear to exclude any of these patterns this week.  Feast your eyes!

 

Arrowhead

Arrowhead is a lovely, worsted-weight cardigan with a drapey, oversized fit and a simply gorgeous colourwork pattern.  The front hangs lower than the back, making it a great option for those of us with more in the chest, and the oversized design is such that it could also be worn smaller on the body, pulled together with a pin or a belt, meaning it could be worn more fitted by larger ladies.  With a size range up to a 63″ bust, that’s pretty cool!  The pattern is a bit pricier than most of the ones I share on here at a little over £6, and is available for download at Ravelry.

 

Bertine

Bertine is a very attractive sock pattern in fingering weight yarn, with a pair of spiral cables running up the sock either side of a lace panel, and the pattern includes variations in length, and a quick perusal of the test knits in the finished projects page handily displays finished examples at different lengths.  This pattern costs just a little less than £3.50 and is available for download at Ravelry.

 

Ipomoea

Now here is a very pretty, laceweight crescent-shaped shawl pattern.  I love the soft drape this one has, and the lace pattern is perfect for beading.  In fact, one close-up photo indicates that some very subtle beading was used in the construction of the sample.  The other test knits are all still WIP, but I can’t wait to see how they turn out!  Ipomeoa costs a little over $4 and is available for download at Ravelry.

 

Relax

Now here’s an interesting one!  Relax is a very cute lace tunic with an unusual and fun side-button detail, and is available up to a generous 62″, making it one of the few patterns I’ve found with a bust above 60″ (or hey, above 54″!).  It’s also a fun, young and modern in style, which can be hard to find!  I really love this pattern, and it’s an aran weight as well, making it a relatively quick knit.  This pattern is a steal at a mere £3.50, and is by a British designer!  And can, of course, be downloaded at Ravelry.

Taliesin

This is another pretty and unusual shawl pattern.  The design is solid, without lacework, making it a nice cover up for cooler weather, but the fingering weight yarn prevents it from being too bulky.  The cables and jagged edging really are something else, though, and Taliesin is a pattern unlike anything I’ve seen before!  It’s not for beginners by any stretch of the imagination, but is something I can see setting myself as a personal challenge.  It’s gorgeous, and I love it, and it’s only £3.50 from another great British designer, available for download at Ravelry.

Lilac

How could I resist a beaded edge like that?  The large beaded points on this triangular laceweight shawl really grabbed my attention.  I love the way the extra weight makes it hang, and I love the wide lace border!  At a mere £2.60-ish,  Lilac is also a steal and well worth picking up and adding to your to-do list! Lilac is, as always, available for download at Ravelry.

Thistle

Buttons, beads AND eyelet lace?  Are you trying to make me drool all over my keyboard?  I love this pattern.  The beading brings out the shape, the buttons add an extra touch of fun (and could, I suspect, be swapped for larger beads or other notions as desired), and the broad crescent shape makes this DK weight shawl an unusual, fun design that be a great way to introduce beading and lace to someone fairly new to knitting.  Thistle costs under £4 and is available for download at Ravelry.

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I love spicy things.  I love the heat of too-many-peppers in a good curry, the kind that’s just bearable so long as you keep eating, but overwhelms you the moment your plate is finished.  I love the satisfying warmth that fills your mouth and throat at the end of the meal, and the total relaxation that comes after a satisfying meal.  My other half is the same, to the point that he’s developed a pavlovian response to me even suggesting cooking a curry for dinner, or picking up a jar of his and my favourite “jam” – the Nitro Naga Chilli Jam.

Oh, that stuff was glorious.  Hot, with a subtle sweet, fruity flavour and a deep, glossy red, thick enough and just right to use as a lethal dipping sauce.  And oh, how we squandered it.  A jar of Nitro would rarely last us a week, obliterated in a couple of meals as we turned to frying battered strips of chicken, pork and lamb and dipping straight into the jar.  And now it seems Nitro is no more.

I have no idea why.  The company I used to buy it from, Scorchio, stated that they won’t be getting any more for the “foreseeable future” but don’t say why, and the listing page for the jam no longer says “out of stock” – it doesn’t exist at all!  Searching for the delicious jam brings up a lot of useless results – a lot of sites mentioning the jam and linking to the now-defunct Scorchio page, a few reviews, a few pretenders to the throne claiming the name “Nitro Naga” for their own producst while offering an obviously inferior product – mostly transparent pink chilli jams with a jelly consistency.  It’s tragic.

I have noticed a very similar-looking product has suddenly turned up on the Scorchio website called “Chilli Jam Man Bhut Jolokia”, and I’m currently waiting for a reply from the company to find out if it’s anything like the Nitro in flavour, but in the meantime we’re bereft!

But then, a few days ago, my local Asian Grocery put up a tray of exciting little spicy treats.  Next to the usual birds eye chillis, scotch bonnets and banana chillis, were a few packets of “ghost chillis” – the colloquial name for Naga Jolokia.

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At first, I tried just cooking with them.  Careful experimentation has revealed that even just 1/8th of a ghost pepper in a whole pot of curry is simply too much, but I wasn’t sure what else to do with them.  I could try making my own chilli jam, but surely I’d need a lot more for that.  A little googling revealed that, actually, most ghost pepper jam recipes use only 3-4 peppers, filling out the bulk of the jam itself with carrots, apples and other vegetables.  I might conceivably have enough for two batches!

Out of excitement, I decided to try my hand at making my own.

DSCN0449I decided to make my first experimental batches based loosely on a combination of a few different recipes.  Partly because I wanted to make my own version based on what I like, and partly because I didn’t have money to spare to go shopping so just used what I had to hand at home.

Shown here, we have four carrots, cut into chunks, three whole ghost peppers, a generous third of a sweet red pepper, one onion, a chunk of fresh ginger and, hidden under the carrots, five garlic cloves.  I’ve stuck them into the blender all at once just for the photo – this blender is close to 30 years old and needs a little help, so I actually blended the peppers, ginger, garlic and onion together first, then added the sweet pepper, then the carrots a chunk at a time until it was pretty well broken down.

The smell of the peppers was pretty strong – I kept the lid on my blender the whole time I was operating it, and still had to open the back door to help with the fumes!  I didn’t go so far as some people do – with their face masks and gloves for handling the peppers – but it certainly had a kick to it just the raw ingredients!

DSCN0456Finally, the mixture was cooked down in a pot with distilled vinegar and, after about ten minutes, combined with a good bit of sugar, cooked a few more minutes and then stuck in jars.  I made two batches, one using whole peppers and one with the seeds removed so I can try growing my own next year.  The jam looks nothing like Nitro Naga, but it’s a first experiment made using what I had to hand at the time.  I’ve managed to track down an ingredients list for the real stuff, so I’ll be experimenting a bit more closely come next payday!

Jars are currently cooling in the window.  I’ll do an initial taste test later today and a proper taste test in a few weeks, when the jam has had time to mature.

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Actual Nitro Naga ingredients, for personal reference and in case anyone else wants to attempt to recreate it:

Ingredients: Dried naga chillies, tomatoes, ginger, thai fish sauce, garlic, red wine vinegar, caster sugar, muscavado sugar, coriander, salt.