Archives For April 2013

Welcome to the Curious Collective Shawl Project! “What is this project?”, you ask!

Do you remember those “choose your own adventure” books as a kid, where you chose what the main character in the book would do next and the ending was up to you?

Well that is how we are going to design this shawl.

Each week I will give you a choice about different aspects of the design and I will design the shawl according to what you vote for! It is a knit along unlike any other!

The Curious Collective Shawl project is going to start on Monday 13 May when I will reveal more details.

In the meantime, if you would like to be notified by email about details of the Project, please sign up to my newsletter Curious Yarns.

Radiance Knit Along

Helen —  April 21, 2013 — Leave a comment

We’re having another knit along (KAL) over on the Curious Handmade board on Ravelry – this time for my Radiance Shawl Pattern. Many of the participants are also doing the Stash and Burn UILI (Use it or Lose It!) challenge – but you don’t have to be participating in that to join in the KAL.

The KAL is going to run for 10 weeks, ending on Friday 28 June and I will draw prizes on the Monday after that for everyone who has posted a finished Radiance in the prize thread. That will give people a week to knit 10% which is do-able. And the pattern has a nice checklist version that shows what percentage you are up to. Now, if joining in on the fun and destashing a huge amount of yardage wasn’t incentive enough I have some super-cute prizes. Considering that a lot of participants are trying to destash I thought I would be kind and have some non-yarn prizes this time!

First prize is this gorgeous little Hello Kitty Liberty case. Its about 18cm wide and perfect for storing collections of little goodies.

Hello Kitty Liberty case

Hello Kitty Liberty case inside

Second prize is a lovely painted tin, about 16cm wide – also great for storing little bits and bobs.

Painted tin

Third prize is this stunning, unapologetically purple Posh Yarn Silvia (50% merino, 50% silk) in colourway Tour de Force. Well, I have to do some UILI too!

Posh Yarn Silvia

So come on over and join in the fun creating your own Radiance Shawl.

Radiance Shawl

Simple Pleasures Sunday

Helen —  April 16, 2013 — 6 Comments

We had a relaxed Sunday last weekend, hanging out at home, letting the first sunny day of spring warm us up.

While we ate a simple lunch of bread, ham and cheese I watched with fascination as the magnolia blooms started opening up.

Magnolia in bloom

Magnolia blooms

When we bought the house neither Steve or I had a clue what this tree in our garden was and it has turned out to be the biggest gift we could have received.

There was a gentle breeze when I was taking these pics which gives it a bit of a weird effect!


Lunch was made even more delicious with Lotta’s chutney and jam. I love jam! Rhubarb and vanilla – yum! Thank you Lotta.

chutney and jam

Speaking of eating, the babe enjoyed her home made spag bol. That girl really likes her pasta. Like, a lot!

I love how this pic captures her innocence and love for life. I wish I could put my whole face into my food sometimes!


Then I discovered my two peony plants weren’t completely lost (like many, many of my other gardening disasters). I learnt from Katie that’s just what they do – and I should look for little red shoots. I’m encouraged from that video that a cold winter means more blooms. There may still be an upside of that ridiculous winter we had! I think they look beautiful already!

peony shoots

And my orchid that I bought from the supermarket a few years ago is rewarding me for totally ignoring and neglecting it with yet more beautiful blooms. Without a doubt the best £6.99 I ever spent on a plant. I learnt a tip from a green fingered colleague that the trick is to chop off the stalks from the blooms when they have finished. It seems to work!



After all that gardening taking pictures of flowers I hung out in the hammock with the girls, thinking about how lucky I am. Until they got too rowdy.





Look at those delicious toes!! i could just gobble them up.

We started the Twinkle Twinkle Blanket knitalong (KAL) over at the Curious Handmade Ravelry group in February, on Valentines Day. This must have set the KAL off to a loved-up start because we had such a great time. I learnt a lot about the pattern myself with some fantastic ideas for different cast-ons and cast-offs. I even made my first YouTube video to demonstrate the star stitch – so funny!

I want to give a shout out to all the participants and give a special mention to the prize winners – have a look at their beautiful blankets.

I love this colour. RachelNZ – obviously she lives in New Zealand – made this one in an amazing green.

Twinkle Twinkle Blanket RachelNZ2

What is even more amazing was that she had a little bub during the KAL ….and still finished her (knitting) project! (Actually at least one other participant had a baby during the KAL too – so cool!). Ahhhh.

Twinkle Twinkle Blanket RachelNZ

JCEllison make this lovely blanket and then gave it away as part of a baby shower basket of goodies for a charity raffle. Whoever won that was very lucky!

Twinkle Twinkle Blanket JCEllison

This one by lizandrsn made me smile – look at all those pins! That is dedication to blocking! And Liz made two blankets during the KAL so she was a deserved winner.

Twinkle Twinkle Blanket Liz

I finally finished mine just today (although its still not blocked) ….and look how much yarn I had left over!! Phew!

The yarn is Fyberspates Faery Wings in the Stormy Sky colour way. I really enjoyed knitting with this yarn.

Twinkle Twinkle Blanket

As many of you know, I have been a huge fan of the Stash and Burn podcast for a few years now. I can’t remember when I started listening to Nicole and Jenny, but they were the first podcast I listened to and are still my favourite.

So I am really happy to be sponsoring one of their events this month. It’s called “Use it or Lose It” and the link (to the Ravelry group) explains more about it. Basically the goal is to look at your stash and think about the things that have been there for awhile and either use it in a project or lose it in some way, by selling, giving or donating it. You could always throw it out in extreme circumstances I guess – but who in their right mind could throw out yarn?! Unsurprisingly most people are opting to “use it”. The project is going for the whole year so you can jump in any time.

Last month, one of the knitters suggested my Radiance Shawl pattern as a possible project (which I was super flattered by) so I’ve set up a knit-a-long on my Curious Handmade Group for anyone who wants to join in (its not just for people doing UILI of course). I haven’t quite worked out the details yet but stay posted.

If you are visiting from Stash and Burn, “Helloooooooo”!!

Radiance Shawl


The pattern is available on Ravelry here Radiance Shawl

and now on Craftsy here Radiance Shawl


Note: I want to disclose that I am partnering with Craftsy. This means that if you click on the link to Craftsy from my site and buy something from them I will benefit from that financially. So if you do, then thank you! I appreciate it as it helps me keep my designs and site going.

How to Host a Crafternoon Tea

Helen —  April 8, 2013 — 5 Comments

There is nothing nicer than getting together with crafty friends for an afternoon of chatting, making things, drinking tea and catching up on each other’s lives.

Here are my tips for a lovely crafternoon tea!

1. Set the table with your best linen and crockery

Use the good stuff!

Vintage embroidered tablecloth

2. Invite your crafty crew

However many you can fit around the table. The more the merrier.

Note: Do not attempt this in the months of January (no one is eating cake), August (everyone is away), or December (everyone is mentally busy, either crafting top secret gifts and therefore can’t craft in public or has other committments).

If you’re having trouble getting people together, is a nifty scheduling tool I’ve discovered recently.


3. Brew a nice pot of tea (or three)

You can even serve bubbles or wine if you don’t have to deal with kids dinner/bedtime afterwards (ah the good old days).

Please admire the gorgeous tea cosy by the lovely and talented Ting.

Tea Cosy

4. Bake lots of delicious cakes and invite your friends to bring delicious goodies too

It doesn’t matter if it turns out a little wonky! Or even if you don’t have time to ice your cupcakes. It will all look lovely on pretty plates (see point number 1).


5. Spend lots of time admiring each others projects

Expanding the list of things to make and stash to acquire is really the whole point of a crafternoon tea. And to eat cake of course. If you’re lucky you might fit in a few rows of knitting.


We really think Ting should write up the pattern to this adorable hat-and-cowl in one. Don’t you agree?

Pretty flowers

At the end, we reluctantly pack up our projects and eagerly plan for our next gathering. Before December!

Emma at Crafternoon Tea

Glamping at The Bivouac

Helen —  April 3, 2013 — 1 Comment

easter egg hunt

After our annual Easter Egg hunt with the gang (ten kids!) on Friday we jumped in the car to drive to “The North”. The destination was The Bivouac in the Yorkshire Dales.

It was dark when we arrived and we crunched our way across a snowy field and through the trees to the woodland shack at the end of the trail. There we discovered the gorgeously named Teasel Burrow where the woodburning stove was just starting to heat up the cosy shack. Steve’s sister and boyfriend had already arrived and settled in. Even with four adults and two kids there was enough space.

cabin in the trees

bivouac woodland shack teasel burrow

There was a thick layer of snow over the field in front of the shack. It felt like the depths of winter and not the beginning of spring.

snowy view from the cabin

 Inside the shack was comfortable and welcoming. Everything was designed with perfect attention to detail – from a welcoming Easter decoration to the curving organic wooden structure of the shack itself. We enjoyed sitting around the table in the warm candlelight from the many lanterns.

easter egg decoration

the bivouac clamping woodland shack

There was a bathroom with a loo and shower. The water is heated by the woodburning stove and takes a couple of hours to heat up so we ended up using the communal shower block, mainly there for the people staying in the yurts. It was without a doubt the most luxurious camp ground shower block I’ve ever seen. Bespoke organic toiletries from the Bivouac Apothecary and hairdryers. Definitely on the glam side of “glamping”!

the bivouac

the bivouac apothecary

The three tiered sleeping area provided bedding for seven and an adventure playground for the kids.

the bivouac woodland shack

We had an outing to the ruins of Middleham Castle, about a twenty minute drive away.  Even in its deserted state the castle is still a spectacular building.

Middleham Castle

Middleham Castle

Middleham Castle

Afterwards, we headed back to the Bivouac Cafe for lunch with some old friends who had driven down from Cumbria to meet us.

the bivouac cafe

Like everything at Bivouac, the cafe is full of creative details that give an inspiring and homey experience. Its also very family friendly which we appreciated with a kids playroom downstairs, great (healthy) kids menu and really nice change facilities – wipes and nappy bags provided! (sorry if that is TMI but when you need them, you really need them!)

the bivouac cafe

the bivouac cafe

 the bivouac cafe

the bivouac cafe

The food was delicious, nourishing and fresh, cooked by a chef onsite. Not your typical camping meal of half -burnt smokey sausages with soggy bread (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

the bivouac cafe food

 the bivouac cafe lighting

The owners, Beth and Sam Hardwick are welcoming and warm and their amazing vision for this special place really shines through. Beth talks about their experience setting it up in this article at The Ethical Traveller and I am so impressed by what they have achieved. 

We drove back to London feeling relaxed and restored, already planning our next trip to “the Biv”. Maybe in summer this time to enjoy more of the walking the area has to offer.