Archive for the ‘Knitting’ Category

We’ve been using our chickweed ointment as lip balm, so new supplies were in order.  St. Mary’s Cathedral around the corner from us has yielded a wonderful harvest of luscious deep green chickweed, Stellaria media, untouched by dogs, chemicals or pesticides and traffic fumes –  so much so that I have been able to make plenty of ointment, with some infused oil left over for cream, and I have made a tincture from the rest.

To make ointment you need infused oil and beeswax.  For the infused oil take a good handful of chopped chickweed (sort through carefully for foreign bits – mine included loads of Cleavers) and spread out in a small baking tray.  Mine made a layer about a centimetre high.  Cover this completely with olive oil and mix in well.  Place the tray on the hob and heat until sizzling – about 1 minute in my case – then transfer to an oven at 140 C degrees – no fan.  Let this ‘simmer’ until the herb has crisped.  This way you know the aqueous (water) content of the herb has evaporated.  I left this to cool overnight and lengthen the infusion time.

Once the oil has cooled strain it carefully through muslin and squeeze out the last drop of oil from the plant material left over (the marc).  My infused oil turned out a beautiful deep green.  You will need oil to beeswax (organic unbleached) in a ratio of 85g oil to 15g beeswax for a reasonably firm ointment.  I had several containers I wanted to fill so took the trouble to do the maths and use exactly (nearly exactly) enough oil.  I had 5 15g ointment pots and one 60g one, requiring 135g, or slightly less, of finished product.  This worked out at 108g of infused oil and 19g of beeswax, giving me 127g – I didn’t want to overfill the pots.

Oil and beeswax then go in a glass pyrex bowl in a saucepan with boiling water coming not more than half way up the glass bowl.  In other words, a bain marie.  Keep the saucepan on a low heat and wait for the beeswax to melt.  I tend to stir a lot, as I am usually quite excited by this stage.  When the mixture is clear, you can test how firm the ointment is going to be by cooling the mixture on the back of a spoon.  If it’s too runny add a few more grammes beeswax.  If it is setting too hard add a few grammes of infused oil.

Pour it carefully into squeaky clean (sterilized) pots and let cool before putting the lids on.  I labelled as follows:  Stellaria media Lips and Itches ointment, 85:15 oil to beeswax, 05.06.12.  The rest of the oil I bottled and labelled for later use.

For the tincture I followed The Herbarium’s advice again (except I only had 40% vodka and they recommend 30% alcohol) and tried a 1:1 40% tincture with the Stellaria chopped very fine in the Braun blitzer.  This means weighing out your herb and adding the same weight of 40% vodka.  Unless you have 30% something, in which case use that.  Hmmm.  We shall see whether the 40% is the right menstruum for persuading the goodies out of chickweed.  Some herbal constituents are extracted with water and some with alcohol, and sometimes the ratio has to be just right – hopefully with Stellaria it won’t be crucial.  If one is using fresh plant material there is a fair bit of water in any case, and as the alternative is to chop roughly and make a 1:3 mixture, i.e. 1 part herb to 3 parts alcohol, I suspect it will be ok.  Clueless, really, just enthusiastic.

Tempest is finished – photos to follow on ravelry when I can get a moment free.  Am very pleased with it 🙂


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I’ve cast on in Rowan wool – cotton from stash.  Usually I knit this yarn as a thick 4ply, here it is doing good duty as a DK.  I couldn’t bring myself to use a fine 4ply as the pattern suggests, but it is working out very well so far.  Dark marled grey and off black.  Very easy pattern to follow.  I ignored the hem and knitted a few rows of garter stitch for the bottom edge.

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Browsing ravelry again – overtaken with urge to knit another Daybreak.  Such a good design.  I gave the one I knitted to a friend for her birthday – need one for myself.  Also a Boneyard in finer yarn than the pattern was written for.  And an Arroway…

First, Tempest.  It’s been on my list for so long, and I think I have the yarn for it.  We’ll see.

I’ve been stalled by Cat Bordhi’s Sweet Tomato Heels, not fitting quite right, intriguing, like them, don’t like them.  I’ll try casting on for Tempest tonight at City Knitty.

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Frogging and reknitting

I’ve started a version of Shaelyn – gold stocking stitch with various lemon yellows for the lace parts.  Then I added a longer lace insert, knitted several more pattern repeats and cast off.  Two weeks later, I realised that the reason I hadn’t blocked the shawl was because I didn’t like the longer lace repeat.  Off to the frog pond!

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Blogging again

Blogging?  Haven’t done that for months.  However, I want to marvel again at what wondrous things shawls are.  To think that a mere 5 or 6 years ago I was anxious about starting a shawl lest I should appear (to myself rather than anyone else) of the grandmotherly nature and no good for anything except rocking in a chair.

Moving to Edinburgh has changed all that although I did start the shawl journey before I emigrated from Sussex.  Up here shawls are a wonderful way of ensuring that whatever the weather does, there is protection.  So many shawls have been born:  Victorian Lace, Forest Canopy, Shetland Triangle, Simple (with rather complex adjustments), Ishbel / Fishbel, Ulmus, Lace Shawl, Hamamelis, Day Break, Meandering Vines… and a variation on Day Break which is not on Ravelry yet.

I’m itching to start another one, not sure yet which, but I have in mind Shaelyn or Morlynn Shawl – or maybe Photosynthesis.  So many decisions, and so much yarn in the stash to knit up!

Talking about stash, I did clear out the stash cupboard and re-order my yarns into colour boxes, clear blues, duck egg blues, teals, pinks, oranges, reds, deep purples, dusty lilacs, whites blacks and greys, rich greens, sea greens, yellows and golds, browns, and finally sock yarns.  Yarns I have acquired in the last couple of years, from K1 in Edinburgh and earlier on this year in Stirling Knitcamp are in baskets rather than hidden away in the yarn cupboard.  Rather a lot of lace weight and 4ply appeared.  I’ll be knitting until I’m 303 to get through it all, but that’s fine by me.

Cats update:  they are both doing fine and enjoying being inside when it’s cold and outside when it’s sunny.  Lots of space to play and chase each other, and lots and lots of devoted admirers at our knitting group evenings 🙂

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Well, I’ve been knitting and buying a flat with Joolz, getting my divorce through, knitting some more, commuting to London from Edinburgh, working, teaching, training, sleeping, not sleeping, getter fatter, getting thinner, learning to spin, not spending enough time in Edinburgh, wanting to own my own home again, worrying, not worrying, all the usual type of stuff.

Knitting:  see me on ravelry for knitting recently.  A couple of scarves and quite a large Susan Pandorf shawl.  Oh yes, and an Ulmus shawl.  It’s been a good knitting season.

Buying a flat:  yes, we finally bought one, the best of the bunch we’ve really wanted to live in, so it was meant to be.  Quite large, on a quiet crescent in the centre of Edinburgh, West End into New Town, just away from the drag with a small garden and very large private gardens owned by the two crescents in the middle.  Moving in on December 4th.

Learning to spin:  with the lovely Sue MacNiven.  She is amazing and taught us over one of the most stressful weekends (last weekend) I’ve experienced in recent times (divorce, buying property, selling property, family members dying, oh, we’ve had it all!).  Sue is a total joy and enormous fun.  She is chicksinrubber on ravelry because she is a fly fishing instructor 🙂


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The slippery slope has been beckoning for so long, and it is actually Emma and Kate and Anne’s obsession magnificent achievements that have finally persuaded me.  It was actually Joolz who said “would you like to learn to spin?  I would like to learn to spin.  We could learn together and then we could spin yarn for you to knit”.  Little, so little does she know what this means.  Anyway, we are looking at doing a spinning course with Sue Macniven just south of Edinburgh over two days in November, which just happens to coincide with my birthday 🙂

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