casting-on

When I was a girl, my grandmother taught me to knit. Foolishly, I didn’t practice, and forgot. When I first lived some weeks in England, three sisters, elders in my sweetheart’s family, were my teachers. They cannot remember ever not knowing how to knit, and grew up at a time when, if your hands were empty, your mother handed you some work. I’m quite envious of learning so young, seeing as I waited til adulthood to take up the habit. My children have started early! You may think I knit very peculiarly, if you’ve not seen English knitting. I’m quite fond of it, particularly the speed and economy of movement – but ignore how I knit, and pay attention to how I cast-on.

For a long time I used one particular method for casting-on (creating the stitches to begin to knit a piece), and then I encountered the stretchy method, and never looked back. This, the third part of the “Cabled Handwarmers” set of old school movies in The Knitting Series, shows exactly that. It’s animated, even (it’s 4 minutes, and has a sweet little melody too). Learn it well, for just about any project, especially to knit the cabled handwarmers and mittens in this series.

What do you think? Work along with the other movies in the “Cabled Handwarmers” set, at the old schoolhouse (in the lefthand column). It’s very quick to buy the pattern to make these at the shop, just download and print! Very useful last-minute gift for a friend who wants to knit-in-the-round. Happy casting-on!

short & sweet heather grey handwarmer kit

short & sweet heather grey handwarmer kit

cakestand

We put the homemade cakestand to work at a double-birthday, bearing one of a pair angel cakes to a crowd of finger-puppet-making children. I threw the cakestand on the wheel in England last spring. With pleasure.

handmade cakestand

First I threw a large plate onto a wooden bat, which is stuck to the wheel with clay. The plate is wired off but left on the bat to dry to leather-hard. I cut and played with the edges to scallop them, I love it! Then I centered the plate upside-down on the wheel. I scored a circle, and made a coil of new clay to fit, then threw the pedestal up off the plate with that clay. If you use too much water the plate will turn to mush, so it is a tricky business.

hand-thrown cakestand

I ought to have let the piece dry upside down as well; it fell somewhat, but is still charming.

scalloped cakestand

The children and I made spelt angel cakes, using my grandmother’s trusty sifter to get it as light as possible. I couldn’t find any icing sugar that was certain to be pure, so we decided to use whipped cream, sweetened with stevia to ice it. I coloured some of the cream pink with a bit of juice from raspberries. This is my first rather squishy experiment with a cake-decorating tool. Rosettes, how nice!

homemade cake & cakestand

My grandmother’s old cake stand carried one cake, and mine the other. I’m quite pleased with how the stands act like a plinth to a sculpture, adding a bit of ceremony to match such a treat as a birthday cake. Served with homemade raspberry lemonade in my grandmother’s extraordinarily fancy collection of china, it was a proper tea-party!

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p>(Update:Now you can special order a cakestand from appleturnover’s lakeside studio – just write me a note!)

glass juicer

Glass is one of the materials I trust to touch my food. I try to store my food in glass, I refrigerate it in glass, or in glazed ceramic. Kitchen tools made of glass are a bit more unusual – glass rolling pins? Glass jelly moulds, gorgeous! But the everyday glass utensil I love most is my glass juicer. It’s a modest, simple thing.

lemon squeezer

The pressed glass juicer has its roots in the early 18th century ceramic presses, used in Constantinople to extract citrus juices from imported lemons. In the dark of November, I’m quite happy with imported lemons myself, though naturally I’d prefer to grow them in a glasshouse, a Victorian orangerie. As it is, well-traveled oranges and lemons are still just the thing for short, cold grey days.

(Now, I often mix a bit of our freshly squeezed juice with cod liver oil, or rather, the other way round, to mask the flavour, in hope of surviving the northern darkness with a bit more natural vitamin C & D induced health, joy and contentment than one might experience after a solid three months of rain. Endless rain.)

glass juicer

I’m fond of the juicer not only for its simplicity of materials, and its wonderful, fluted shape, with a trough designed to catch the liquid – some even have shapes to collect the seeds! But what I like is that there’s just very little to go wrong with it. Well designed, and nothing more to worry about. I lived for a while without one, in London I had almost convinced myself that a fork was quite sufficient, until that fork got through a lemon into my palm. A most unfortunate combination. In Canada I was reunited with this, my grandmother’s glass juicer, and I am glad of it.

wooden spoon

The humble wooden spoon has an honoured place amongst my beloved tried & trues. Plain, modest, and common, yes. Impossible to improve upon, remarkably adaptable, ecological, economical, ergonomic, and quite simply, essential, very much so!

wooden-spoons

I like to keep a collection of wooden spoons of varying shapes. (Why yes, that’s my handmade pitcher, all glazed and grand.) Some are reserved for tall pots of savoury things, others are strong and sturdy and kept for the physicality of baking. I try to keep the baking spoons from doing the work of the cooking spoons, so that I don’t end with a garlicky cake. I’ve a spoon of my grandmother’s with a lovely curved hook to balance the spoon on the edge of a pot. I’ve very old dark ones, rubbed with olive oil over the years, stained by berries and tomatoes. I’ve a weakness for variety and will buy unusual shapes as I come across them. They never scratch a surface, not smooth steel or enamel, nor do they bend, melt, or release toxins of any kind. Easily washed, easily stored. These are the sorts of ancient tools one keeps for a lifetime, or two. I’ve heard that even the finest chefs will point to the ordinary wooden spoon as the most essential tool in the kitchen. One day I’d like to make one myself.

Autumn sets me to baking, mm, maybe apple-cream-turnovers! Did you see appleturnover’s quarterly yet? Fratelli’s recipe comes with every subscription.

crocheted throw

Keeping us all cosy through autumn and winter in the four-hundred-year-old cottage can be something of a challenge. On waking the house is awfully chilly and we creep down to start a fire, wrapped in layers. We keep the wood stove roaring with the copper kettle set on top, wool socks on our feet, tea on the warmer and hands tucked into handwarmers, on the coldest days. For evenings of watching movies by the fire, I wanted to make us a warm, heavy throw. My beloved grandmother’s yarn is just the thing, thick and rustic. I like to think of her working with it.

octagon crocheted throw

I’m using a pattern for a Circles in Octagons throw, only I’m making it a monochromatic piece. With such heavy yarn I’ve chosen quite a large hook, seven millimetres. I’d still like it to be a little bit lacy and pliant, not worked stiffly. Working a crocheted throw at this scale means the stack of pieces are growing rapidly, and I have high hopes of assembling them together before the icy winter arrives.