Making Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins – a bit wide but still volcanic!

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

 *Slurp*

I’ve been wanting to try making these for ages now and finally, one day I got round to doing it! I wanted to try to emulate a lemon poppy seed muffin that I got from my favourite coffee shop. I don’t have a picture of it as it’s a chain coffee shop but it’s very ‘grande’ in size and has a sticky, soft top and a sweet lemony curd inside. Mmmmm…

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Mmm, shiney.

The basic recipe that I used can be found at here: Two Peas And Their Pod but I changed some parts, like the lemon glaze top and altered the sugar a little.

This is usually the bit where I put in ‘progress shots’ of what I did, but I found that making these muffins demanded a lot of my attention as there were a lot of steps to making these i.e lots of ingredients which all had to be mixed in a specific way, not to mention I had to convert from cups to grams. I don’t make muffins a lot and it’s different to making a standard cake batter where you cream the butter and sugar etc and you bake in a moderate oven so it rises evenly. With these (and many other) muffin recipes, you combine the wet and dry ingredients separately, then add them together at the end and bake in a hotter oven so it rises quickly first and the hotter oven temperature bakes the outside and holds its shape. The combined mix is pretty thick, which is also unlike some other cake batters I’ve made and it worried me a bit when I saw it but it was meant to be like that I think! To get volcanic muffins, you also have to have the temperature of the oven very hot and pre-heated e.g I used gas mark 6 or 7 (I was using a very temperamental old oven) then turned it down towards the end when they were getting brown, which is what I’m used to doing when I bake big loaves of bread (as opposed to smaller rolls). Mine look a little singed but honestly they didn’t taste dry at all. When filling the cups with the batter (I used fairy cake cases which are really small as that’s all I had) I filled 3/4 full to help it grow into that well-known muffin shape (and put the cakes onto a sheet pan just in case of any spillage). I also didn’t have my muffin pan to hand so I used these really old shallow ones that I found – which is why the muffins are really wide and not tall like a proper muffin!

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Don’t worry, the cracks just hold more syrup..

But they still have a nice ‘dome’ top, that I covered in lemon syrup, which I got from another recipe I made for orange polenta cake, and you poke holes in the top with a cocktail stick and pour the syrup over and it pours down into the sponge and makes it delicious. I tried that but it didn’t really seep down too far into the muffin, so I just kinda painted it on the top and it added that sweet lemony flavour that complimented the muffin part. (I adjusted the sugar down a bit in the muffin batter part to allow for the sweet syrupy top part). It’s made out of sugar lemon juice and zest. Can’t remember the ratios off the top of my head but I can go find it later if you want..

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

See, not dry!

The muffins were too small to add the lemon curd bit in the centre (plus I didn’t make any yet). So the next step is to grow my own lemon tree and make some homemade lemon curd to fill a larger version of these beauties.. When I get round to doing it I’m sure I will post as soon as humanly possible. Oh I tried freezing these (already baked) just wrapped in cling film, then foil or put in a plastic container, and when defrosted they taste pretty darn close to what they did when they were fresh! And who knew that lemon and poppy seeds would be just the best marriage in flavour?! Well, they are in my opinion 🙂 Yum. Thank you to Two Peas and Their Pod for their delicious recipe!

Spring-time hand-spun scrap stash-busting!

Handspun owl and easter bunny
Say hello to my little friends.

Soo.. It’s been a while since I posted and to get started again I thought I’d put up some photos of these cute – and kind of practical – itty bitty creatures!

Bunny pattern from The Green Dragonfly on WordPress
Owl pattern from Bunny Mummy on blogspot

I’m always into things that use up ‘the last little bit’ of things. You know, the last drop out of the ketchup bottle, that tiny morsel of jam left in the jar, and those tiny balls of handspun yarn that you get when you sample when spinning.

Handspun scraps for owl and easter bunny
Lots of its bitty handspun balls!

The (crochet) patterns are both well-written with pictures on both websites. My favourite thing about these little guys, aside from the fact they are just the cutest, is you can be as creative as you like with your colours and it only takes up a tiny bit of yarn for each character. I always laugh when I’m putting the features on toys as they really do come to life when you do their face.

The Making of Handspun crochet owl
Assembling all the parts..

The Making of Handspun crochet owl
And then.. boo! Just look at those eyes! Makes me chuckle every time.

And now bunny’s turn..

The Making of handspun easter bunny
Hurry up and give me some eyes!

The Making of handspun easter bunny
Hooray I can see!

I did my bunny and owl with slightly different backs (compared to their fronts). Oh and bunny has a tail worth mentioning. It’s so oversize and fluffy, I love it.

Handspun owl and easter bunny
They look like they could be watching cartoons or something. You know, whatever bunny and owls like to do together.

There are many different fibers that were dyed and spun in the making of these little guys, (most/half of the dyeing by me, all of the spinning by me) including alpaca, merino, shetland, llama, soy silk, milk silk, Wensleydale, Lincoln locks, Leicester Longwool (for that big fluffy bunny tail), sari silk, silk noil, mawata silk, angora, BFL, probably a few others which I forget, like random farm wool. Luxury fibers on a small scrappy scale which also makes them unique, well I think so 🙂

Handspun owl and easter bunny

Cuute

I hope to get back on the blog posting train again. I have to catch up with myself a bit. I’ll be looking for blogs to nominate for the Sunshine Blog Award, as I was very kindly nominated a while back, which I haven’t forgotten about, but more on that later.
For now I will leave you with a springtime treat with a view of much more to come!

Chocolate corn flake cakes
Delicious. Not just for kids.

For more pictures of these little guys and other yarny stuff, visit my flickr
and for more details on these and other stuff I’m making, visit my Ravelry.

Don’t forget to click on the photos for a bigger picture.

Links in the sidebar too.

Tigers in Soup – (or Dutch Crunch Rolls in Vegetable Broth, whichever title you prefer)

Dutch Crunch Rolls
Mmmm crunchy.. Er, just like a tiger?

Brrrr… It’s cold outside so I thought I’d (virtually) share my rolls and soup with you all!

I’ve always wanted to know how they made that bread that looks like a tiger (or a giraffe?!) and so one day I came across the recipe for Dutch Crunch Rolls on this delectable site ‘Confessions Of a Bright Eyed Baker’.

The pictures looked so pretty I had to give it a try! As usual for me, I had to convert everything from cups to grams, and I had fun with getting the ‘hydration’ right (I think next time I will add a lot less flour than stated in the recipe, due to different humidity in different countries) but all in all I think they came out like they were supposed to, although they weren’t the same ‘Tiger Bread’ that you get round here. This had a real ‘crunch’ to the topping (as the name suggests) and weren’t quite what I was expecting for Tiger Bread, but they were good, crunchy rolls in their own right!

For me, making yeast bread takes ages to rise, it took about 2 and a half hours to rise enough to punch down! (You know it’s ready to punch down when you gently push a thumb into it and it doesn’t bounce back cos it’s nice and aerated).

Dutch Crunch Rolls dough prooved for 2 and a half hours
The rise..

Dutch Crunch Rolls dough punched down and divided
.. and consequent fall of bread dough

That conspicuous pile of white powder on the right is the flour I drag the knife through to stop it from sticking when I cut the dough into pieces, to ensure I get equal sized dough balls! So after shaping into rounds it’s more waiting, till they go from this..

Dutch Crunch Rolls - second rising
Second rising

to this..

Dutch Crunch Rolls risen and ready for topping
Ready for topping!

Whilst they’re on their second rising, which I think took well over an hour, I got on with making the crunch topping which uses rice flour and yeast (and some other stuff). As the recipe suggests, leave it till it goes thick (about 15 mins) and paint on in a thick layer and don’t miss any spots and everything should be ok! (You paint the topping on when the rolls are fully risen and are about 15 mins away from going in the oven).

Dutch Crunch Rolls - topped and ready for the oven
Reminds me a little of my sculpture making days.. Now I think I understand the meaning of ‘plastering it on’!

After baking for 15 mins or so in a hot oven they should be done, I think mine are on the more ‘golden’ side of burnt, what do you think?

Dutch Crunch Rolls
I think I should’ve taken you out a tad earlier..

As I said before, the hydration was a bit off (too much flour for my part of the world!) so they were a bit dryer than I would have liked, so I made a nice brothy vegetable soup to dunk the rolls in!

Homemade soup with Dutch Crunch Rolls
Hot tub for a tiger (roll) to bathe in

My recipe for homemade vegetable soup? Get a big pot, fry an onion (I always do garlic and ginger aswell) and bung in a load of chopped root vegetables – I had on hand; a sweet potato, some carrots, some parsnips. Add some dried herbs – I find thyme works and I usually have that on hand – and salt, pepper and a bit of sugar. Now add some boiled water from the kettle and some stock, enough to cover the vegetables and a bit more so you can comfortably move a wooden spoon around in there. Cover (take the spoon out!!) and gently simmer till done (about 45 mins – an hour, depending on how much stuff you have in there! The longer you simmer it the more the flavour comes out of the vegetable and into the broth but don’t go nuts or they’ll start to fall apart..) and voila! Something to go with the delicious bread you made 🙂 Of course you can do whatever vegetables you choose – this is just what I did cos that’s what I happened to have around 🙂

They said the rolls were a tad on the large side, and they weren’t wrong – I could slice mine like a loaf of bread!

Dutch Crunch Roll - big enough to slice like a loaf of bread!
Mini tiger ‘loaf’

I’ve got some rolls left over in the freezer to whip out on another day. Let’s hope tiger’s can survive the cold (ok I’ll stop it with the tiger puns now).. And hope you’re having a great and maybe snowy day!

Posted by ilikecolours@wordpress.com on 8th Dec 2013 @ 20:06

Handspun stash busting #1 – Humbug mini poufs

Humbug mini poufs
Fancy a humbug?

So I’ve realised that I seem to spin a lot more than I knit these days. I like to experience spinning as many different fibers as I can, and they seem to come in very small amounts e.g 25g – 50g amounts. So I’m looking for projects that will give these mini skeins and odd yarns new life. I must admit, I usually like big projects that develop over time, not just with fiber – with anything, my art stuff (I won’t go into that here!), or even bread making for example. I enjoy the different stages of the processes that go into making something handmade and unique that seems to organically happen over a long period of time. Whatever it may be. So I’m trying to intersperse these things with smaller projects on the fiber front, as these little skeins will just turn into ‘luxury scrap’ if I’m not careful! I say ‘luxury scrap’ because some of the yarns include silk (noil), kid mohair locks, angora bunny fluff, i.e ‘luxury fibers’, but the skeins are so small they might be considered ‘scrap’ to some people [not me though :)]

So the two humbug cushions featured were all made from old spindle spun that I had in a box somewhere, and filled with the washed ‘waste’ fleece that I had – the bits that were too short for spinning.

Mini pouf No.3
No fleece shall go to waste!

Here is the free pattern I used and converted to work on a smaller scale i.e cushion size;  Drops Design Foot Stool. They are knit flat then seamed with Kitchener stitch (in garter stitch), stuffed then closed up at either end (which is technically the ‘sides’ whilst knitting). They’re shaped using short rows so I basically changed colour after each ‘wedge’ to get that humbug effect!

The purple and white mini pouf was made using 3 x 35g (approx.) balls of handspun. Skein 1. 100% white Southdown fiber. Skein 2. 100% Jacob fiber. Skein 3) White Southdown with purple kid mohair.

Mini pouf No. 2
The white Jacob and white Southdown are pretty much indistinguishable from one another, which was what I was hoping for.

The grey and white mini pouf was made using 3 x 35g (approx.) balls of handspun. Skein 1. 100% Grey Massam. Skein 2. Grey Massam, turquoise silk noil, purple kid mohair. Skein 3. White Jacob and turquoise silk noil.

Mini pouf No.3
Little handspuns on their way to fulfilling their yarny destiny.

I find my spindle-spun is spun pretty tight so this ended up working quite well for these cushions as they’ll be pretty hardwearing hopefully!

So upon looking for ways to use up small amounts of handspun and other yarns, I came across these two patterns that seem to fit my needs! BeeKeeper’s Quilt by Tiny Owl Knits and the felted Pebble Rug by RockPool Candy. I’ve not tried felting before so felting lots of small items seems a good way to get started. I’m sure many of you have heard of these patterns or are doing them already as they seem to be quite popular! I like knitting garments but I love to see knitted things in the home – or outside the home – I do love to see a bit of guerilla yarn stuffs 🙂 So from time to time I’ll be posting little projects that use up those little bits of yarn that just wouldn’t go into that jumper/scarf etc! There’s more pictures of the poufs being made on my Flickr and Ravelry pages if you’re interested, and the Ravelry page has the needle sizes used and stitch count I used but please bear in mind, handspun can be tricky with needle sizes so if you want to make one, don’t assume my needles and stitch count will be exactly right for you – do a little experimentation 🙂 Anyway, here’s one more picture of them keeping each other company.

Humbug mini poufs

Squishy squishy!

Posted at https://ilikecolours.wordpress.com/ on 1 Dec 13 @18.46

In the spirit of Wovember – a woolly post!

Wool, wool and alpaca blend, alpaca lace

Featuring;
Free farm wool fleece- a yarn ‘spun from the lock’ (bottom)
Alpaca fleece – a laceweight yarn spun from a hand carded worsted preparation from alpaca fleece (top)
A combination of both wool and alpaca fleeces to make a hand carded worsted prep to spin a Navajo-plied/3-ply sock yarn (middle)

There’s been so much interesting information on the Wovember blog, I wanted to join in as I just love all things sheepy and woolly! So here are some of my efforts to promote/show off wool – where it comes from, and a bit about how it is ‘worked with’ and prepared, and what it has to go through to become yarn for knitting (I spun and finished these yarns for knitting, not weaving as I haven’t learned any real weaving as of yet! I haven’t knitted with any of these yarns yet either – looking for the ‘right’ patterns!)

After dyeing lots of commercial top, I wanted to work with some natural coloured wool in fleece form, and show off how nice wool can be in its un-dyed state. I’ll talk a little bit about the process from fleece to yarn (the processes that I use anyway – everyone’s different!) that I used to make the above skeins of yarn, and the traditional hand-spinning and plying techniques and preparation and blending on hand carders that were used. Here goes..

Hand-washing/scouring fleece.

(I’ll be doing a whole separate post on just washing the fleece in a future post – stay tuned!)

Photobomb!! Show sheep at Fibre East 2013

This is where sheep’s wool comes from! Haha. Sheep love to photobomb..

I had a bag of raw alpaca fleece I got from Fibre East festival and some raw wool I was kindly given on a camping trip a while ago (so I’m not sure what sheep breed this is, anyone want to guess?), which before I even began to think about spinning yarn(s), I had to skirt it, (preliminary) pick it (pick all the vegetable matter ‘vm‘ out of it), wash and dry it, and pick it again.

Raw random farm wool fleece

Some raw farm wool full of lovely lanolin.

Washing random farm wool fleece

The white farm wool being washed (This is on it’s rinse stage!)

Dry random farm wool fleece

Some dried crimpy locks just before carding the final bits of dirt and vm out.

Alpaca lace chocolate block - drying

Hand-washed 100% natural black alpaca

Alpaca fleece air drying. Lovely natural ‘black’.

Alpaca lace chocolate block - lock drying

A softer-than-soft black alpaca lock, air drying.

Preparing the washed and dried fleece for spinning.

Once the fleeces were dry, I would prepare the fiber for spinning by picking the locks and carding on hand cards. I only have one wheel so I had to spin and ply each skein individually, one after the other. The first skein I made was the 100% natural black alpaca, with which I grabbed a handful of locks and lay them on the carder, and carded til the fibers were aligned and spinnable, then rolled the ‘web’ of fibers from right to left to make a sort of worsted preparation (where all the fibers are facing the same way, as opposed to a woollen preparation where the fibers criss-cross each other in rolag form, which you make by rolling it from bottom to top). The thing that took the most time was getting the little grass seeds out of some of the locks. I had to pick them out manually because my carders are only 72 tpi (teeth per inch) and I need a finer gauge of carding cloth for alpaca I think, but I do with what I’ve got until I can acquire better stuff! For the grey skein I aimed for a 70/30 alpaca/wool blend (which I gauged by eye as opposed to weight) and carded the same way as the 100% black alpaca.

Hand carded 100% natural black alpaca

Carded 100% natural black alpaca locks ready for spinning. Plus a little sample of the finished yarn. I always make a sample!

Alpaca and wool hand blended and spun

Black alpaca and white wool on the carder ready to be blended.

Alpaca and wool hand blended and spun

Alpaca and wool ‘web’ being rolled into a sort of worsted preparation.

Alpaca and wool hand blended and spun

The alpaca and wool blend is now ready for spinning!

For the bouncy white wool skein, I took locks individually from the fleece and flicked both ends with a carder and just made a pile of them and spun them without any hard-core carding.

Spinning from the lock - wool

Left: Flicked lock. Right: Lock before flicking. Any dirty tips are usually clean by the time you’ve finished flicking the ends.

Techniques used for spinning and plying the skeins of yarn from their preparations.

Once all the prep work has been done you can finally spin the fiber! With each of the three skeins I’d spin a semi-worsted single (I used a medium backward draw or a ‘double draw’ and gently smoothed back the fibers before drafting again) then chose to either 2-ply or Navajo ply (which gave me a 3-ply yarn – maybe a post on navajo plying later). For the 100% black alpaca I spun a very fine single (I had to modify my wheel to spin for lace, involving a rubber band and a piece of string..) with a medium/high twist over two bobbins;

Alpaca lace chocolate block singles

Singles on their bobbins waiting to be plied.

Spinning 100% natural black alpaca

Single with a halo.

Alpaca lace chocolate block 2-ply

2-ply laceweight yarn. Plying didn’t really bulk out this yarn and it’s very light and so soft.

Then I plied them together – which actually took me 3 hours. I do not have a very speedy wheel 🙂

Alpaca lace chocolate block

Cascading alpaca softness.

For the bouncy white wool skein I took the longest and crimpiest locks and ‘spun from the lock’ over two bobbins. I aimed to achieve a quite chubby single, purely because after spinning that alpaca so fine, I needed a break, but I think it suited this wool quite nicely. Then I plied them together for a nice squishy 2-ply. It took a bit of time to get the hang of spinning from the lock, it involves quite a lot of stop and start but I found it quite enjoyable working straight from the crimpy locks. To spin from the lock you need them long enough to be able to grip onto it – not tightly but you need enough length of fiber in your hand, and if they’re too short you won’t be able to grip on to anything! With all the shorter bits and waste fluff I carded it all up and used for stuffing for some mini poufs/cushions which I’ll show in another post.

Spinning from the lock - wool

A bouncy bobbin full of 2-ply.

Spinning from the lock - wool

A very energised skein, straight off the bobbin.

And finally, for the grey alpaca and wool blend skein, I spun one bobbin full of fine singles with a slightly higher amount of twist, to be able to endure the Navajo plying, to make a yarn for some chain ply socks.

Alpaca and wool hand blended and spun - singles

Spun single on the bobbin waiting to be plied.

Alpaca and wool hand blended and spun - navajo plied

A fuzzy 3-ply yarn. The wool adds strength to the alpaca in the yarn, and so does the Navajo plying.

Alpaca and wool hand blended and spun - navajo plied

Alpaca/wool blend straight off the bobbin.

Finishing techniques.

Before I use hand-spun for knitting, I wash and ‘finish’ the yarn using a technique called ‘fulling’. There is information out there on the different techniques for finishing yarn, but I like this one for wool, especially 100% wool singles yarns as it helps keep the yarn from drifting apart whilst knitting with it, and I have managed to ‘de-energise’ some yarns that otherwise would have been pretty squirly to work with to say the least! It seems to allow the yarn to bloom if it’s going to, and well, I think it makes for a fluffy squishable yarn – which is what I usually go for in a yarn. A very short description of the technique is; you dunk the skeins into cold and hand-hot water a couple of times alternately to ‘full’ or slightly ‘felt’ the yarn (without totally felting it), press out excess water in a towel and ‘thwack’ it against the bath or other sturdy surface, equally around the skein to distribute and set the twist. If you want to use this technique I suggest doing a bit more research than just going off my instructions – I wouldn’t want you to accidentally felt your precious hand-spun beyond repair! If you don’t want your yarn to felt you can just wash in lukewarm water and ‘snap’ or ‘thwack’ the skein to set the twist. Again there is information and videos out there! I haven’t got round to finishing these yarns yet, but this is probably the technique I will use.

So there you have it. A little snippet of some 100% woolly things I’ve been making (I actually made these before Wovember, but I wrote this post just now so I hope that counts!) There’s something really grounding for me working with sheep’s wool. I love the natural colours of fiber as much as the dyed ones. I can’t really explain it but I really like washing fleece and spinning from the lock and making lock-spun and tail-spun yarns are my favourite – probably because it’s the closest form of fiber to the sheep itself. I know I’m not the only one 🙂 Coupled with the right pattern I think wool can be turned into something wonderful!

For more pictures of these yarns and other things, click on one of the photos on the right under the header ‘Flickr photos’. And the link to my Ravelry is on the right where you can see what things I’m doing with handspun.

Posted by ilikecolours at https://ilikecolours.wordpress.com/ on November 19th 2013 @ 22:42

Soy Silk and Milk Silk – a brief look into spinning and dyeing two ‘alternative’ silks

Ah silk. Smooth, drapey, lustrous, and not always from a worm!

Milk silk - finished using fulling method

Milky silky singles yarn

Soy silk skeins and Leicester Longwool sample

Soy silk (Don’t mind the shiney white sample on the end – the Leicester Longwool wanted to get in on the action!)

It was the first time I’d had the joy of dyeing these fibers, and overall I enjoyed working with them – dyeing and spinning them both.

Starting with the soy silk, I’d say that spinning this fiber as 100% soy silk top i.e not blended with any other fibers, had to be one of the hardest for me to get to grips with – literally. It’s slippery and very fly away – I was finding little blue fluffies on my clothes for weeks afterwards! But gosh it’s soo shiny and soft and squishy and nice, I’d spin it again just because I love the finished product more than anything else. Mmmm.. Anyway I digress.. Dyeing it is relatively simple, it did take on colour quite nicely, but you have to be careful not to drag it around when it’s wet as it makes quite a mess! See foam sponge covered in cling film!

Soy Silk - dyeing

In this skein I wanted some of the natural colour of the fiber to come through so I left ‘patches’ of the golden soy silk colour un-dyed and I think it does compliment the shades of blue quite nicely when spun up. When the water is pressed out of it and it’s damp/wet it sort of goes hard, but when it has dried it goes floppy and soft again.

Soy Silk - Wet

Soy silk in it’s hard stage whilst drying out

What a strange fiber it is. It’s made from the soy bean which would make you think it’s a cellulose (plant) fiber, which I suppose yes, it comes from a plant, but it can also take on acid dyes like an animal (protein) fiber – which is what I used to dye this skein (i’ve heard you can use cold water dyes on soy silk too though). The saturation was quite deep on this skein (but the parts that are a bit muddy – that was my fault as I was using some watered-down black dye stock solution by mistake. I need to label things a bit more clearly I reckon..) It feels cool and silky to the touch – hence I guess why they call it soy ‘silk’, and has a lovely drape. It doesn’t have the ‘prickle factor’ like some wools, and it can be used as an alternative to silk from silkworms – i.e for vegetarians (not sure about the dyes though). With regards to spinning it, I found that using a short, forward draw was the only way I could get it to spin evenly. I usually like to spin most things with a medium backward draw, but this fiber just did not want to play my way so I had compromise to work the way it wanted me to. It is not at all like spinning the milk silk. But even though I spun the soy silk with a forward draw and the milk silk with a medium backward draw, I smoothed both of the yarns back with my right hand after every draft, so as to get it lovely and smooth and shiney – to show of it’s silky properties! Saying that though, they both developed a subtle halo after spinning, but that’s probably because of the way I spin!

The milk protein fiber is really kind of ‘poofy’ and wants to be spun a bit more chunky than the soy silk. As the name suggests, it does actually come from processing milk into the silky shiny fibers you see here.

Milk silk and one fresh off the bobbin

Milk protein hand dyed in roving form and ‘energised skein of yarn’ form

I used acid dyes on the milk protein, and like the soy silk, I found it to have a nice deep saturation of colour. The milk protein fiber behaves in a similar way to the soy when being dyed – you have to be careful so as not to drag the fibers around too much, and it feels hard when it’s drying out but when dry, all you have to do is give it a gentle tug and the fibers will return to their magical poofiness once more!

Milk silk

The bottom length of fiber has been given a slight tug and it already looks more fluffy!

It feels squishy like a marshmallow when you’re spinning it, and I don’t know if it’s because of the colours I dyed it but the roving reminded me of a unicorn tail – or what a unicorn tail might look like if you saw one in real life..

Milk silk - unicorn tail

Unicorns do exist!

I managed to spin this one the way I wanted – with my usual medium backward draw but it was difficult not to drag the roving around, as it became quite fragile after it had been pre-drafted a little. It likes to stick to EVERYTHING. Including my eyeballs. I was spinning it as a gentle thick and thin singles yarn, which was not a problem, it seemed to naturally want to do it, but the thin bits can become almost like a thin wire if it’s too thin with too much twist, so I had to take a little twist out each time as I encountered these really thin parts, but I like the thin parts to be really quite thin, so I kept them in! I tugged on the yarn to make sure it wasn’t going to drift apart and it turned out fine. The milk silk seemed to be quite squirly and energised when it came off the bobbin (as it’s a singles yarn) but after it’s ‘finishing’ (I used the ‘fulling method’, which I will make a post about in the future, even though it’s not wool I thought it might sort out the squirly parts) it went poker straight – which in this case was what I wanted, and it retained it’s lovely silky sheen. In this particular skein I was using quite diluted dye solution, so I’m assuming if I dyed it using full strength you could get brighter or richer colours. The soy silk in this case is a traditional 2-ply, and even straight off the bobbin it was balanced and drapey, and not energised at all. I found the soy silk more difficult to spin than the milk silk but they were both worth the effort! (I might make a future post about ideas for choosing which way to spin and/or whether to ply your hand-painted roving.. we’ll see!)

I liked using turquoise on the soy silk, as usually when I dye any wool with turquoise I have to be really careful not to felt it, but also get the temperature high enough to set the turquoise without half of it bleeding back out again. And with soy silk I didn’t have to worry about it felting it so I just steamed away until all the colour was soaked up and I could rinse away without any worries (of felting) too. So I guess the milk silk would be able to endure the same process (if I were to use turquoise on it) which is good to know for future dyeing escapades. I steamed on low for about 45 minutes and it didn’t seem to affect the lustre of either of the silks, which is good to know, as high temperatures and large amounts of time submersed in water can affect the properties of silk i.e its lustre. (Please note that everyone’s water and altitude etc  is different so what might be ok for me where I do it, might not be ok for you! So please experiment carefully!)

These yarns have little to no memory, so I guess I’ll be using these yarns for something drapey, a little scarflette perhaps? Or maybe some lacy openwork? Whatever it is it’ll have to be a one/two skein wonder! Next time I get my hands on some I’d like to blend it with wool or alpaca, and see how it turns out. Or maybe some camel down? Some natural wool? Delicious!

For more photos of both soy and milk silk visit my flickr firestarcocoon

And to see the soy silk next to some bread, go here A Bread and a Skein

Posted by https://ilikecolours.wordpress.com/ on 6th November 2013 8.15pm

Winging it with bread dough – adventures in converting cups to grams. Check out my buns..

 

Buns!

Hey hey, get your mind out of the gutter, these are the bread-y kind! I’ve made bread before but never with eggs and milk, and I wanted to try and make that fluffy, airy kind of bread that is soft and squooshy and tears real nice and stuff. So I scoured the net and came across this recipe on a site called ‘the kitchn’ (yes, the ‘e’ is omitted purposefully) for soft dinner rolls, by Emma Christensen;

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-soft-amp-tender-dinner-rolls-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-187478

It gives clear instructions on what you’ll need, how to deal with the dough and shape the rolls. All I did was convert to metric and I was away! I have very minimal kitchen equipment – basically no electric whiskers or mixers or the like. If it’s not possible to do by hand I can’t do it, basically. So this was a recipe I could do quite easily. As with all bread it just needs time, care and attention. So like most things in life, right? If you’re wondering why there are no ‘before’ pictures – only ‘after’ pictures, it’s because I made a mess and I seemed to constantly have flour or really sticky dough on my hands – pretty much at all times so to avoid buggering up the camera I decided it was safer to take snaps when the area was safe and free from gloopy and/or airborne floury type substances.

First off, I used the wrong flour. (And this is also why I haven’t put my conversions on here as they could be wrong. If I make it again I’ll put them up). I used mostly strong bread flour, then topped up the last 100g or so with plain (all-purpose) flour. Strong bread flour must weigh more than plain flour because when I got to the bit where you incorporate the wet and dry ingredients together, I found the mixture was way too sticky and I had to incorporate at least a couple of handfuls more flour (at least) to get it workable. I have worked with high hydration doughs before – I made some focaccia which I made without the use of a dough scraper and it was er, fun to say the least (I’ll post when I get round to it, with mention of the ‘stretch, slap and fold’ technique. Intriguing, yes?) but this was ridiculous. I must have measured something wrong. But I managed to fix it – yay and carried on with the risings and the shapings, and the baking until I got this. How cute is (what I have named) the runt of the litter?

Buns!

When cut open you can see the bit where I have folded it towards the centre when I was shaping it, but it’s fine by me. When I used to make ceramic sculptures I’d purposely leave thumb prints and stuff on the surface so as to remind me that I’d made this huge thing by hand, and that a machine hadn’t taken credit for this thing that had occupied months of my life! I love the little imperfections sometimes, as long as they’re aesthetic and don’t compromise the integrity of the thing if its purpose is to function as something. Then I can’t handle it and I have to fix it haha.

Buns!

So all in all, this recipe was easy to follow, and the bread, was soft, fluffy, with the right amount of sweetness, and even I couldn’t fluff it up. Excuse the ‘fluffy’ pun.

Buns!

For people wondering ‘where are the posts about fiber and yarn and stuff?’ – I’m on it! I’ve been uploading a truck load of photos to my flickr which is taking forever and a day but I’m working on posts about washing fleece, dyeing roving, and one on the properties of milk silk and soy silk. Mmm yummy. But it might take a while so I will intersperse with bread pictures and stuff until these posts are written coherently..

Posted at https://ilikecolours.wordpress.com/ on 24th October 2013