Author Archives: Nicola

About Nicola

Long-time vegan, whole-food plant-based enthusiast and educator. Crazy about crochet and knitting.

Daylight savings

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I saw a humorous meme on FB earlier. Something about the day after the clocks “springing forward” an hour being National Napping Day.

I must confess to being rather sleepy this afternoon. Saturday evening I went to bed extra early because I had work at 9.30am Sunday. But Sunday evening I stayed up late watching The Coroner on Netflix and then slept in this morning.

After a slow start to the day, I baked a couple of fruit cakes (one for us, and a GF one for a coworker) and while they were cooling I went for a 45 minute walk in the sunshine.

Scoffing a large piece of cake may have contributed to the sleepiness!

I never tire of the views around here.

Rather than buy a birthday card for my great-niece I made this from a piece of scrappy fabric I made a while back when experimenting with scraps and stitches.

I used Heat ‘n Bond to fuse it to a plain backing, pinked the edges, and stitched in a piece of paper for the handwritten message.

Now I just need to mail it off with her gifts.

Well, I said I was sleepy and obviously a little brain-dead because I just published this prematurely. Sorry if you get two versions in your inbox.

There’s no place like gnome

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I am really happy with these spring gnomes. From their pastel fleece hats to their flowery skirts to their variegated faux fur beards, they look pretty much as I visualised them.

I started with this…

…styrofoam cones, cotton fabric, fleece, yarn, a little faux fur trim, some felt and some blusher…oh, and a lot of hot glue sticks…

…in progress shot so you can see the braids and skirts…

…and ended up with a fun finish with some flowers attached to the mini watering can and garden tools.

Now, when I set these up on a table at work, I intend to add more accoutrements, such as a grass green fabric base, maybe some blue yarn inside the watering can, and ideally some seed packets ‘n stuff. I was hoping to find seeds at the dollar store this morning, but only managed to acquire the terracotta plant pots, watering can, tools and flowers. Why the plant pots? Well, they make a perfect sturdy base for the gnomes and they will also look very similar to the gnomes on the quilting fabric at work which will be part of the display.

After my outing to the dollar store early this morning, I hit the sewing room, finished the gnomes and then did a good tidy-up because there were bits everywhere. Then the sewing machine came out, Netflix went on (New Amsterdam) and I made these masks for Mr Fixit. He does like his batiks!

Mid-afternoon I finally had some lunch and tested out my new Vava milk steamer/frother (from Amazon on the recommendation of a friend and happy user) with some matcha powder, coconut sugar and Earth’s Own unsweetened vanilla oat ‘milk’. Yum! Two exciting packages in one week! Our new phones arrived today from Samsung. Mr Fixit and I now have a Samsung A71 each, though we need to get micro SIM cards for them and set up a data plan. What a game-changer this will be for me, who’s been limping along with (a) an ancient iPad Mini, (b) a basic Android with no data and (c) a slow Windows laptop for years. I know I know, first world problems!!

Another bit of sewing this week was an experimental mask for ds2 who usually sports a full beard and was finding the mask I’d made him at the beginning of “the disease that shall not be named” was too restrictive. I looked online and saw one that’s available commercially that I felt I could use as inspiration. I took the Sweet Red Poppy template that I use for my other masks and redrew it. The first version was huge – I had a brain fart and added seam allowances and also made it too long – but the second version is much better. It basically flattens out over the beard area rather than cupping the chin.

Sadly, I cannot return to my sewing room just yet. It’s coming up for dinnertime and we have to eat. And then we have yoga. But we will be done with that by 8pm so I think there’s a strong possibility of some napkin sewing, which is pretty mindless, and then I can move on to planning the quilt project.

Ta ta for now!

Finished Frozen Frame Purse

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This is my third purse using a metal frame and they’re getting easier. This time, I used a tutorial by Debbie Shore. She sews her bag differently from the one I made recently out of the sewing print fabric, and I prefer her method. However I did tweak it, in that I added seam allowances to the paper pattern before cutting it out. I backed the outer fabric pieces with fusible Thermolam, trimming it so that there was less bulk in the seam allowances.

The thread that I used to sew the frame in place is a Coats Heavy thread and I think this will be much more sturdy than the first one. When I get that first version back from the store, I’ll add more stitching to the handle, because I don’t think the all-purpose polyester thread will hold up to much use.

Did you notice that this fabric has a theme? It’s from the Frozen 2 range. I like the colours in it, and that it’s not overtly Disneyish.

The finished purse is 5.5 inches across at its widest point and 4.5 inches top to bottom. Perfect for the little girl I’ll be sending it to.

A spring look to the dining room

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A spring look to the dining room

February 12th I showed you my placemats in progress. They sat in my sewing room for over a week, neglected, as I had work and other things on my plate, but today I dedicated a block of sewing time to them and they are done!

Ta dah!

The fabrics I used are more expensive than I’d usually buy, but I did have a gift certificate to spend. Even though the two main designs were from different groupings at the store, the selvages showed that they were designed by the same person which is why they coordinate so beautifully. I used the geometric pattern on the back to guide my quilting.

It feels good to get these off my To Do list (and onto my Ta Dah list – ho ho!).

What else have I been doing? Well, work of course, about which I have been feeling more relaxed lately, which is good as the acid reflux has subsided, thank goodness. And some play with colourful yarn…

Don’t ask me what these three-round granny squares will become. I haven’t decided yet. I’ve made about 40 of them and will see what ideas come to me when the bag of that yarn is almost gone.

I am excited to say that I am getting a new phone very soon and it will be sufficiently advanced that I should be able to get the WordPress app and post easily and quickly from that. That’ll save me a lot of faffing about. Also I will be able to have Facebook and Instagram on it and a bunch of other stuff, so it will basically replace my current Android AND my old and clunky iPad Mini.

I hope you’re all having a great weekend and staying warm (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere).

Rainbows and chocolate

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Sounds too good to be true, eh!

But seriously, I have been loving looking at all the small balls of colourful scrap yarn in my stash. All the bits are stuffed into one of those Wool Warehouse organza bags so I can see what’s in there. I started down the rabbithole of a pattern search on Ravelry using only the search term “rainbow” and had lots of fun. Before I show you what I made, I have to tell you about these Rainbow Buddies which are so cute. It’s apparently a crochet-along but it doesn’t seem to be accompanied by any sort of group chat anywhere. It’s only free during February, and the first two parts have already been published. The second two parts are coming soon. I have already downloaded and printed out the first two weeks’ worth of instructions. No affiliation – just thought you might be interested.

This is what I made after sorting out the standard rainbow colours from the rest of the scraps.

The pattern is called Rainbow Slipper Socks and it’s on a blog here. The pattern calls for DK doubled, but I used worsted weight. The cream is an old skein of Bernat Berella 4 (in fact, I had to start a second ball right near the end). The bright colours are random brands from the stash.

It’s very simple, all half double crochet (half treble UK). You start at the toes and work up, so it’s easy to adjust the fit and try on as you go. She has you decrease a lot at the beginning of the leg, but I only did two decrease rounds there because they are more slippers than socks and I didn’t want to struggle to get my feet into them. And then it’s up to you how long you make the leg – mine have cuffs. The mystery of stash and scraps means that my organza bag seems no emptier than before!!

It’s Family Day here in BC. The five of us used to spend it snowboarding/skiing but considering I broke my wrist spectacularly back in 2018 (link to the day I had my dressing off after surgery – don’t look if you’re squeamish) on Family Day, I have been too chicken to get on a snowboard since. And times change, and youngest son is working today, and the only reason I’m not working is that I remembered to book the day off in advance. So we have no special plans.

And of course yesterday was Valentine’s Day and there were no special plans for that either. We don’t ‘do’ Hallmark holidays however I did feel that a bit of chocolate wouldn’t go amiss. So even though I’d been at work all day, and the guys had made pizza, I whipped up a chocolate cake for dessert.

I have no idea where I got this recipe originally. It’s been in my handwritten cookbook for years. It’s rich and decadent and vegan, and you don’t need to mess about with egg replacers. It might even work as a gluten-free cake with something like Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 All Purpose GF Flour, but I haven’t tried it.

Batter – 1 2/3 cups sugar (I use coconut), 2 1/2 cups flour (wholewheat), 1/2 cup oat flour (I use my Vitamix’s dry jug to grind some rolled oats), 2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp or less salt, 2/3 cup cocoa powder, 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I use Costco’s Kirkland chips which happen to be dairy free), 1 cup hot coffee (I use instant – one mug of coffee will be enough for this plus the frosting), 1 cup coconut milk (the canned kind, one can will be enough for the batter and the frosting), 2 tblsp apple cider vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, 3/4 cup vegan butter (eg, Earth Balance or Melt).

Frosting – 1 1/2 cups choc chips, 1/4 cup coffee, 1/8 cup hot water, 1/4 cup coconut milk, 2oz silken tofu (about 2 tblsp)

Mix sugar, flour, oat flour, baking soda and salt in one bowl. In second bowl, mix cocoa powder, choc chips and hot coffee. In a third bowl, mix coconut milk, vinegar, vanilla. Melt ‘butter’ and add to coconut milk mixture. Combine all into one bowl, pour into two 8″ sandwich tins lined with circles of parchment paper and oiled. Bake at 350 – 375F for 25 – 30 mins (my oven runs cool, I usually go for a higher temp) until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to partly cool before turning out. While cakes are cooling, make frosting. Melt choc chips (I do this in a bowl over a pan of hot water). Add coffee, water and coconut milk. Pour into blender with tofu, blend until smooth, chill in fridge 1 1/2 hours. Whisk with electric beaters and use. I defrosted some frozen berry mix and added them in the middle plus a few on top.

It really is rich and you probably won’t be able to eat more than one slice at a sitting. It’s good for a special occasion.

It didn’t cut very photogenically – it crumbled – but it tasted good!

PJ day!

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PJ day!

Or perhaps, more accurately, “Hello Kitty fleece onesie” day!

Woke up to -20C and snow this morning. Didn’t have to go anywhere, so I pronounced it a onesie day. Washed and dressed in thermals topped with a onesie and after my usual computer stuff I headed down to the sewing room.

I had already started on my new table-runner and placemats. Last weekend, I cut them, spray basted them, and quilted them. I then realised, after doing a bit of math, that I was probably going to be short of binding fabric. I put the project on hold until I could pick up another 20cm of the quilt cotton at work. Today, I was ready to continue.

These are such pretty fabrics. I cut and pressed all the binding and got it all sewn on to the right side of the mats. Only one placemat was actually finished on both sides, by which time I had been at the sewing machine for long enough. It’ll take at least one more sewing session to finish the job, maybe two, as I need to pin the binding over the edge just right and sew it carefully.

After baking chocolate chip cookies, I sat down to check Ravelry etc and found someone in one of the groups who was having a hard time with an instruction on a pattern. So I decided to crochet up this little hedgehog to see if I could help her out. The pattern is called Diddy Hedgehog and you can find it here (non-Ravelry link). In the end, she figured it out herself.

I didn’t know I was going to make the whole thing or I’d have used better colours. I just needed something light to photograph the steps easily. Those bobbles are tiresome, and I’d hate to have a large project with lots of them.

Last time, I showed you a granny stitch beanie. Tonight I finished a cowl to co-ordinate (though the ends aren’t woven in yet). The colours don’t exactly match as I had to use scraps that were big enough to work a whole round (11 grams). The hook is a 6mm this time, and once the tails are tucked away I can wash both items. The cowl is folded in the photo below – it’s actually long enough to double up around my neck.

The cowl and beanie side by side – as you can see they are fraternal, not identical!

I’ve been enjoying the Our Planet series on Netflix narrated by David Attenborough. Makes a change from fiction and I’m learning new things. And now it’s time to hit Publish and get ready for bed, as I am working tomorrow. Take care, keep warm!

Selvedges, scraps and stash

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Selvedges, scraps and stash

I had a bit of fun today, making a mask from some of my saved selvedges.

I used a lightweight fusible interfacing to build the new fabric from the strips, layering them and then ironing them down.

There was a bit of white zone on one strip so I added a teeny flowery circle from the same fabric as the lining.

I have a larger sewing project on the go: a table runner and placemats for my dining room table. I got as far as cutting, layering and quilting the pieces together, but when I reached the point of double-checking how many strips to cut for the binding I realised I may not have bought quite enough of that fabric. Doh! I’ll show you that project when it’s finished.

I did make a small dent in the yarn stash this week. I crocheted a slouchy granny beanie. I started out using a round blanket pattern and after the first seven rounds I stopped increasing and just made a hat rather than a blanket. After a few different attempts at a well-fitting brim, I went with a “ribbed” brim using front post and back post double crochet. (My Ravelry project page is here.)

The grey heather yarn is Red Heart Super Saver. Turns out I have lots left in the stash from the time I knitted a super bulky sweater. The bright colours are from various manufacturers.

I rather like the way the pink round looks like little hearts. Totally unplanned.

The weather forecast for this week is telling us to expect a cold snap. We’re looking at a minimum on Wednesday and Thursday nights of minus 23 Celsius and a daytime high of minus 13!!

It’s temporary, though, as more normal seasonal temperatures will be back the following week. I’ve been mulling over the idea of a temperature project. In 2013 I knitted a garter stitch scarf, using the daytime high to dictate which colour to knit into the scarf every day. I actually completed it (I think I amazed myself)!

With the huge drop in temperature expected this week, I wish I could come up with the right project to make. I don’t want to commit to a year-long blanket or scarf, but maybe a February hat or cowl is doable. I certainly have enough yarn to choose from. Hmmmm……..

Crocheted frame purse

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Have you ever made one of those purses that have a metal frame with holes for sewing it to the fabric? I showed you my first ever frame bag on January 26th – I used cotton fabric, lined and padded and found it very tricky to sew together. However I decided not to let it put me off, and bought another frame with the intention of crocheting a bag this time.

I started it this morning and finished it this evening, on a work day, so it’s a quick project. I don’t think it took even half a ball of Knit Picks Dishie (colour: Begonia). I’ll show you the step-by-step method I used. I didn’t follow a pattern but I did watch a minute or two of a YouTube video where the lightbulb went on when I saw the shape that was made to fit the frame.

essential supplies – yarn and hook

I used this cotton worsted (medium) weight yarn and a 4.5mm hook. It’s a good idea to go down a hook size from that recommended on the ball band.

essential supplies – purse frame

The frame I used was about 10cm by 4cm when closed. It does come with some basic instructions but they aren’t that helpful, in my opinion.

A square frame is probably the easiest shape to use. When you open it out it’s easy to make a crocheted bag base to fit.

Foundation single crochet enough stitches to go across the width of the frame

With my hook and yarn, I needed 14 scs to make a piece wide enough. Then I worked 15 rows of single crochet.

crochet a piece for your base that’s the same size as your frame

Once you have the base made, you don’t turn your work to go back across for another row. You start working down the side edge, across the foundation stitches, and up the other side. You can just keep on doing scs or change to a fancy stitch pattern for the sides. If you’re doing single crochets, it’s simple to work 1sc into each row end and each stitch around the base. I chose to do a stitch pattern where I increased into every other stitch. In other words (2sc into next stitch, skip 1) around. On the next round I’d work the 2sc into the first sc of each pair from the previous round. But any dense stitch pattern would do. (Don’t increase at the corners because you want the sides of the bag to start forming straight upwards, not outwards.) I did joined rounds, but it did create a diagonal “seam” effect which I could have avoided by just working in a spiral.

When my bag was about 3.5″ tall, I fastened off then squished it to find the outer central points to match them up with the hinges on the frame. I used a couple of stitch markers to mark the spots.

I then used a doubled strand of sewing thread and a sewing needle to attach the edge of the crochet to the frame, pushing it up inside the hollow part as I stitched. This went a LOT better than the fabric one I made before. No swearing, no unpicking and redoing. Positively a breeze.

the three Among Us characters fit inside perfectly!

A lining would make it look even prettier but that would add bulk so I’m not sure I want to try that. I hope this helps if you decide to make one of your own. Since I took my fabric one to work, people have been a lot more interested in buying them.