Tuesday, 31 January 2012


Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie....

For those of you who did not hear my delighted tweets at the weekend, we have a new love and I'm infatuated. While we healed from losing our  beautiful One True Love we received a call from a Doberman rescue home that a delightful bouncing boy needed a new home. Nervously we agreed to an introduction and when this charming young man licked my face and sat at my feet expectantly, we knew that we had to bring him home. He was already leaning in for more kisses when I said 'Let's give this pup a good life'.

George is 13 months and has had a pretty tough time of late. He was found as a stray, frightened and underweight then placed in a police pound for weeks. In the pound, he was caged in a crate that was far too small for a growing Doberman pup and so he is a skinny and slightly balding wretch (the crate rubbed the fur off his tail).

However, we have him in the nest now and are enjoying learning this docile pup's favourite things. Thus far, these things include any food item, cuddles and soft gentle whispers in his oversized floppy ears. 

Monday, 30 January 2012

Be my Valentine: No.98

Good morning all. I'm so excited to share this feature with you..... it involves one of my favourite people right now! Ever since I was given two jars of jam from No.98's Handmade Couture Preserves to review, I've been like a woman possessed. I've told everyone I know, tweeted and shouted from the roof tops that I am in love with this jam. One thing I haven't done is share but I'm expecting you to be better behaved than me.

My next suggestion for Valentine's involves one of my favourite treats: breakfast in bed. Slather these distinctive spreads over freshly baked croissants, dollop in porridge or simply do as I've done the last week or so and just grab a spoonful. What's more No.98 have waited for YOU, the playful member,s to announce their limited edition spreads: Bergamot and lime marmalade, Lemon and Strega Marmalade and Seville and Ginger. Nothing says I love you more than food. I'm just sayin'

I caught up with the Goddess of Jam that is Rebecca from No.98 to find out all about her, the wonderful world of seasonal goodies and to get some more ideas for jammy Valentine's goodness.

Tell us a little about you and your products.
I’m Rebecca and I’m a little bit obsessed with putting things in jars! A few years ago as I was finishing up my PHD I realised that I couldn’t get an academic job, and was spending a lot of time in the kitchen. The more I played and experimented with flavour, the more obsessed I became, and then one day my boyfriend casually suggested that I do it as a business. I did a couple of test markets and got great feedback, so off I went, registered my kitchen, and launched the business. Now I balance making my preserves and a part-time job in a local deli. Up until this week I was still only working with one preserving pan! I have about 15 flavours at the moment, but am already working on new ones for this year, which I find really exciting.

What makes your jams so special?
The aim of the business is to produce a very high-end couture product. It’s not mass produced, it’s made with real care with British or organic produce, only what’s in season and with a real attention to complex flavour construction. People laugh at me, but I think jam (and chutney) should be like a good wine, it should have a really complex flavour with distinct notes in it. If you buy something that claims to have several components, like my plum and rosemary jam, I think you should get a clear balance of them. Also, many of my products are designed to age like wines and get better. If you buy my Seville and Whiskey Marmalade now it’ll be good, but leave it six to twelve months and it’ll be really amazing!

Also, if you buy something from me, it’s all been done by me, from chopping the fruit to labeling the jars and standing behind the market stall and selling it. I think that has real appeal for customers: they can stand and talk to the person who is so passionate about what their doing at every stage of the way. Of course I want to expand, but I always want to be the person in the kitchen and talking to the customer. I never want to be a detatched CEO sitting in an office.

How do you decide new ranges?
I decide new flavours in a number of ways as I find inspiration from so many sources, and often that sparks an idea and then it’s into the kitchen to start one of numerous test batches. For example, I had a dessert in a restaurant in Italy last year, which has lead to the development of one of my new jams due this summer. Sometimes a customer asks for something I don’t have, and if I like the idea and think I can do it well enough within the ethos of British produce and complex depth of flavour I’ll give it a go. When I first started lots of people asked if I had a strawberry jam. Now, everyone does a strawberry jam, and I’m not a huge fan, but a few weeks later I was having a glass of Pimms with friends and thought, 'now this would be a good idea for a preserve', and so my Strawberry Summer Cocktail jam was born! [side note from Ms Playful: this is made of win]

The underlying aspect though is whether I think it’s good enough to qualify as a truly impressive flavoursome preserve. If I can’t make it to my own high standard then I won’t sell it. And you certainly do get duff batches, which is why my under-stairs cupboard is filled with jars of test products that we have to eat year after year!

Challenge: Name 5 uses for Jam....
Only five! Well, I have to be obvious as say on toast, because frankly for me nothing beats and amazing piece of bread toasted and slathered with jam. A nice chewy sourdough with a strong flavour and crisp crust is hard to beat. But I find so many uses for jam. Rich fruit jams such as plum, blackcurrant and blackberry are great stirred into meat juices to make gravy, they give it a richness and lovely sheen. I sometimes heat my apricot and vanilla jam and pour it over vanilla ice cream, a real treat! My lemon and rosemary marmalade cake has become a bit of a favourite at the deli, and is a great way to use up the dregs of all those marmalades sitting in the fridge. Recently a customer emailed to say she’s been using my pear, ginger and brandy jam to glaze her parsnips as they roast- what a wonderful idea! Oh, and if I can sneak in a sixth? If you make American-style pancakes for brunch I love layering them with a slather of jam between them, or heating the jam and pouring it over the top with some maple syrup. Delish.

Describe YOUR perfect Valentine’s date.
I have to say that I think my perfect date is probably what we do each year; I cook, usually putting a bit more effort in that a normal night, and we enjoy an indulgent homemade dessert, maybe Tiramisu (his favourite) open a really posh bottle of wine and curl up with Casablanca. If the 14th happens to fall on a weekend I always do brunch in bed, with a bottle of fizz. There is something very delightful (and playful!) about having a glass of booze before “lunchtime” and having a really smart breakfast in bed. I might even go the extra mile and make jam-filled Danish!

What was the best Valentine’s gift you were ever given?
I received my best gift last year. I was at home, but the boyfriend was working. I got up late and came downstairs to find a sealed envelope containing a love letter left on my desk. It was so beautiful. It still makes me tearful, it was so perfect and touching. I guard that letter very very safely indeed.
Anything else?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past year or so it’s to be serious and yet not take yourself too seriously. I love what I do and am passionate about it, but I used to be such a worrier, I’d stress over the things I had no control over, as well as many of the things I didn’t. The past year has been a whirlwind of hard work, and it taught me that there really isn’t time to sweat it. If you want something, make it happen, because you really can, and you should certainly have a laugh about it along the way. That batch of jam that refused to set? Call it sauce, file under “learning-curve”, chuck it under the stairs and stop dwelling on it! 

To order wonderful jams, marmalades and chutneys, please visit www.no98.co.uk or you can order direct by emailing infoATno98DOTcoDOTuk. Be sure to check out Rebecca's highly popular blog where you can win some new flavours and keep up to date with her on twitter, NO98limited.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Be my Valentine: Jane Richmond

It seems like we're just letting the dust settle on the holiday season and already I'm seeing banners and adverts going up for the lover's holiday: Valentine's Day. Who stole January? 

Here in the playful house, we're not really much for celebrating Valentine's and tend to do our own little nod to it with something sweet, possibly hand made and a dinner.... AFTER the 14th February.
So whether you're coupled up, loved up or planning to show yourself some indulgence, I'm going to feature 4 Valentine's posts over the next 2 weeks with some ideas for crafty gifts that will work especially well for Valentine's but also, for gift giving in the future.

First up, is Jane Richmond, a favourite designer of mine with beautifully fashionable garments and to die for accessories. I'm definitely a fan of accessories when it comes to gift giving as they're fast, lower cost and instant gratifcation. The patterns that really caught my eye were these 3 hats: Bailey, Christopher and Elizabeth

Bailey is a lovely textured hat which I think is perfect for men and women alike. It's knit inside out from 1 skein of Cascade 220 so there's both interest in terms of a different construction method and ease in terms of 1 skein of readily available yarn.

Bailey, Image Credit Jane Richmond
Following on from the theme of interesting construction is Christopher, a top down striped beanie. Again this struck me as unisex and super warm and snuggly and I just loved the fact it was reversible. Two hats in one!

Last but not least is Elizabeth, my personal favourite. A friend on mine once knit me a Jane Richmond hat and I've worn it to death. I see this hat in my very near future! Elizabeth is a bulky weight yarn so super speedy and with cabled textures that just makes my heart sing. 

While I ruminate on which hat I want to knit myself first for Valentine's (the giant doesn't wear hats so more for me I say), I will share some lovely answers Jane gave me to an interview earlier this month. I found her warm and charming and I love, love, love her web pages design style. Yum.

Christopher Image Credit Jane Richmond

Tell us a little about you and your designs
I am very mechanical (in another life I worked in the garage of a car dealership and desperately wanted my trades ticket as an auto mechanic) so my interest in knitting construction isn’t surprising. I love both math and art and never thought I would find a career that marries the two so well. I am both a process and product knitter so enjoying a well written pattern is just as important to me as the end result. I often sacrifice design elements in order to deliver a headache free knit.

You have a very fashionable look, how closely do you monitor trends?
Thank you! I don’t really follow trends too closely. I love fashion and admire people who do it well but I’ve always just done my own thing, regardless of trends. My look doesn’t really change very much from year to year, I think because my style is simple and minimalist it never really feels outdated.

You describe your designs as classic and simple, could you explore this a little further?
I think this is a result of my process & product duality that I mentioned above. I don’t think that knitting needs to be overly complicated to be beautiful and I always try to think of the knitter and their level of enjoyment. I am drawn to classic looks because they cross over current trends and will always be fashionable.
Elizabeth, Image Credit Jane Richmond

Many of your patterns are named after family members and loved ones. As this is a Valentine's post about clothing your loved ones, perhaps you could explain this inspiration.
In the winter of 2008 I challenged myself to hand knit Christmas gifts for everyone on my list. Not only were the gifts handmade they were all designed from scratch. These designs became my first self published knitting patterns and over the years I have continued to name pieces for their intended recipients, most of which have been family members.

Describe YOUR perfect Valentine's date
A homemade meal that was well thought out and from the heart would certainly make me feel loved ...And maybe the ultimate sacrifice of sitting through a sappy romantic chick flick!

What was the best Valentine's gift you were ever given? Or perhaps one that sticks in mind (mine is a dead frog. I was 5 and it was the boy next door. I screamed blue murder)
I always loved exchanging those cheesy Valentine’s Day cards at school (and keeping tabs on just how many you received!). I also loved candy grams and secret Valentine’s... who doesn’t love to know that someone somewhere is secretly crushing on them!

You can keep up to date with Jane on her blog, Ravelry or on Facebook.

Friday, 27 January 2012

12 women in 12: Jen Arnall-Culliford

In my bloggerly and professional world I have found a theme growing this week: attention to detail. I have come to realise that the designers I respect the most are those that are as exacting in their patterns as they are creative in their designing. This level of professionalism is one I have huge admiration for and want to celebrate the kind of attention to detail that means audiences pay for patterns that are hugely fun to knit but also easy to follow and understand. 

Enter technical editing, my focus for the first woman in my '12 women in 12' series. I invited Jen Arnall-Culliford to share her experiences and bring a profession that many people might not even be aware of, to the forefront where it can be celebrated for all that it brings to the knitting world.

Jen in a Wooly Wormhead wonder
Jen works as a freelance technical editor which means that she works for a range of different people and companies who publish knitting patterns. Jen's job is to check, and correct the instructions to ensure that they will produce the same thing as the photographed sample. This involves checking that the tension (gauge), and number of stitches and rows will make the right sized pieces, and that those pieces will fit together to make a garment or accessory of the correct dimensions. This is not a job for the faint hearted or mathmatically challenged. 

Jen will also rewrite instructions to make them clearer and/or to fit them to a house style of pattern instructions. When knitters work regularly from a company's patterns, they should become familiar with the style of pattern wording. This makes it easier as the style is comfortable and known. As I described above, this is what really makes me fall for a designer and most importantly, stick with a designer as I know what to expect.

The work of a technical editor may also include re-drawing knitting charts and blocking diagrams, and grading patterns. Grading is the process of taking the first pattern (written in the sample size) and adding instructions to make the design available in a range of sizes. 
In something I can only describe as detective work, Jen will also occasionally pattern-write from scratch. In this situation, the designer only provides a schematic or fabric toile to give the shape of the desired garment, as well as a knitted swatch of fabric. Jen is then required to write a full set of knitting instructions, so that a sample knitter can create the sample garment, ready for photography.

Talking to Jen I was really struck by both her professionalism and her commitment to getting it right. One of the questions I asked, 'If I could do it all again, I would be.....' resulted in a fervent answer that she loved what she is doing. Jen describes her work colleagues as being her personal heroes and this dedication really does show through.

One of Jen's proudest moments (and there could be many, she struggled to be pinned to just one) was the Fyberspates first pattern collection, 'The Scrumptious Collection: Volume 1'.  Jen says, 'I think that Fyberspates wins by a whisker, because I was responsible for so much of the project' and goes on to describe the moment when she first saw the copies come back from the printer:

The Scrumptious Collection, (c) Fyberspates
"I could have burst with pride"

The Scrumptious Collection was the first big project that Jen worked on as a freelancer and helped Jeni from Fyberspates with almost every aspect of the book, from commissioning through to the styling for the photoshoot which she admits was out of her comfort zone. As well as the editing, the book also involved a few of Jen's own designs which she also does from time to time. 
It is Jen's final word's on the project that makes me really appreciate the importance of her role. Jen finishes talking about the project by reflecting that 'Seeing how well the book has gone down with knitters at shows just makes all of the hard work so worthwhile'. It is commiting to both the knitters and the designers that makes the job of technical editors so important.

Congratulations to Jen for being such an inspiration for knitters and knit professionals alike. If you're wondering where you might see Jen, you might spot her in future projects with Susan Crawford, Kate Davies, Kyoko Nakayoshi, The Knitter, Simply Knitting, Fyberspates and Jamieson & Smith. Alas, she cannot reveal details as the importance of confidentiality on creative projects is high. Instead, follow her antics on twitter, JenACKnitwear or her own blog.

Cover of Knit Real Shetland, Jamieson & Smith (c)
Stay tuned for more 12 women in 12 and please do join in to show your appreciation for technical editing by tweeting along on twitter (#12womenin12) or sharing your feelings about well written patterns on your own blog. Be sure to let me know/ link us in, we'd love to know what you think!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Review: From Season to Season

A little while ago I was browsing through my local library, as always looking for recipe books to ponder. I found 'From Season to Season: A year in Recipes' by Sophie Dahl (Published 2011 by HarperCollins) of the Delicious Miss Dahl fame and brought it home for closer inspection.

The series that spawned the first of her 2 cookbooks was met with mixed reviews. Some found it sweet, whimsical and pretty to look at (the series possibly therefore captured Miss Dahl?) but most found it just too twee and were left unimpressed as to Sophie Dahl's ability to be anything more than a stupendously beautiful clothes horse. Persumably then, this is the follow up book to really make her stamp in the cooking world.

So what did I find?

The book is set out by seasons and then each of these are divided again into Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. This works well and makes the book easy to navigate. Unlike many cookbooks I can source ingredients as they are currently in season as long as I'm looking at the correct section.
Image Credit The Telegraph
However, delving further in I'm dismayed at the array going on here- aloo gobi for breakfast nestles in amongst poached pears with healthy vanilla custard. Sophie is well travelled and seems to want to showcase it all inside one book. I'm all for new exciting cuisines and being adventurous but I began to suspect that Sophie spread herself too thin. Finding a fish finger sandwich confirmed this.

There's also a habit of stories throughout the book that I can't decide whether I like or not. I love food writing and have a real weakness for the food section of most newspapers at the weekend but it all comes over a little saccharine to say the least. Once again, I felt cynical and wondered how much material there really was for this book. I don't like feeling this way. I want to enjoy and delight in this book. There's pretty pictures in it to help me delight.....

Ah yes, the pictures.

The food pictures are wonderful but most of the book largely consists of Miss Dahl who by now I suspect is not eating some of the fuller fat disher. Plenty of pretty pictures of Miss Dahl,dressed in pretty, quaint little outfits, possible forgaging for food (she lives in a farm cottage).

What I tried: Baked Pumpkin with lemon, sauteed greens and toasted cumin dressing, and a Lentil Salad with a mustard dressing.

Verdict: A few nice recipes here and those I tried worked well with a good balance of flavour. I have to admit the seasonal ingredients are tenuous, as in the case of the lentils it was Mint providing the seasonal flare but I found it in the Autumnal segment. I would recommend this to someone like my sister who is a newly developing cook who wants a visually appealing recipe book with simple to recreate recipes. I would not recommend this for the die hard cooks out there. You will shudder at the fish finger sandwich rather than rejoice in the 'studentness' of it and devour one immediately, while still not following the recipe instructions as you have NO need to.

I have no idea why I mentioned that last gluttonous part......

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Episode 21: Start as you mean to go on

Aplayfulday is kindly sponsored by Superknits, who are changing and to mark this evolution are hosting a massive sale of all branded yarn to make room for their own super yarns- go on, spoil yourself!!!

Aplayfulday is also kindly sponsored by NorthboundKnitting, uniquely hand dyed yarn, spinning fibre and modern knitting designs. Please show your support for our playful friend by clicking on the link above.

Show notes:

A playful welcome goes out to new show sponsor Candy Skein and is sharing the love with 10% off all purchases until 29th February 2012. Simply enter the code 'APLAYFULDAY' at checkout to claim your discount. 

I will be attending Unravel at the end of February 2012. Stay tuned for details of a meetup.

Save the date- Wonderwool is in April.

A huge thank you to all of the many people who entered the Superknits giveaway. The winner of a skein of Bessie, a 4ply/sock weight yarn which is 75% Superwash Blue Faced Leicester and 25% Nylon, in the colourway 'Gothica' is: Yarngirl99

As always, please get in touch to claim your prize via aplayfulday AT gmail DOT com or pm me on Ravelry- I'm Greentrianglegirl.

Mooncalf Makes, purveyor of handmade tea accessories is offering 10% for all playful friends. Simply enter the code 'playful' at checkout to claim your discount. Offer ends 14th February 2012.

Off the needles
Tuesday Night Cowl by Susan Lawrence in Malabrigo Rios in the colourway Purpuras

On the Needles
After thought heel socks by Laura Linneman in a mystery self striping of awesome- stay tuned!
Cedar Leaf Shawlette by Alana Dakos in Silky Malabrigo DK weight in the colourway Sand.

Playful Pursuits
I wax lyrical about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and pledge to go cold sheep in 2012.

I also draw your attention to knitting podcast blog by the lady in the know, 1to1.

Fly, Fly, Fly by Adrina Thorpe, available on Music Alley
Dog Days by Amy Speace, available on Music Alley 
Contact me at: aplayfulday@gmail.com
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Friday, 20 January 2012

Proudly brought to you by.....

Another announcement I've been dying to make for some time- a new addition to the playful family! Please say hi and make Candy Skein, our new sponsor feel very welcome. I've loved Tami's blogalongs for some time now and it was only a matter of time before I fell hopelessly in love with her bright colours and sock yarns to die for. 

To celebrate the latest addition to our playful tribe, Candy Skein is offering you 10% off all purchases from her shop until 29th February 2012. Simply enter the code 'APLAYFULDAY' at checkout to claim your discount. 

So here she is, in detail for all of you to enjoy.  

Tag! You're it, take centre stage and tell us who you are.
Let’s see, first things first, my name is Tami and I live in sunny San Diego, CA. I started crocheting in November of 2009 and instantly fell in love with fiber arts and it blossomed into a love affair. I slowly realized that my goal was to learn to knit, which I did about a year ago, in December ‘11. The fiber arts are my life, especially when I started my indie yarn company, Candy Skein in May ‘11. Color has always been a huge passion of mine, as I have a background in fine art and yarn dyeing seemed to fall into place. It was a match made in heaven in my opinion. I get to play with yarn morning, noon and night and love every moment of it!

Candy Skein? That's a rather yummy name, what was your inspiration?
I’ll never forget where and how my husband and I came up with the name. I wanted a name that stood out and that had a theme apart from the hundreds of indie dyers out there. I’m a huge candy freak, so it seemed natural. I know a LOT about candy (seriously, I’m a candy addict) and the fun colors I wanted to carry in shop seemed to go hand and hand. As far as the actual name, we were playing around with a few other names while my husband and I were driving up the California coast on vacation. I wanted a name that wouldn’t be linked with anything else and I also knew I wanted to have a yarn reference, like skein, in the title as well. Finally, we were sitting down to lunch at the Trader Vic’s restaurant in San Francisco and it just came to us. Why not link my love of candy with my love of yarn! Candy Skein was born. I knew right away that it was perfect. I got really excited and started coming up with colorway names right there; all of my colorways are based on some kind of candy, sweets or drink. The candy theme has been great inspiration when thinking of a new colorway to add, though at times when I come up with a color first, it’s hard to match a name in the theme to it! I guess you can’t have it easy all the time.

What would you say is your ultimate goal with Candy Skein Yarn?
To be honest, my goal is to steadily grow the company each month/year. At this point, I take one sale at a time, thankful for the success that I’ve had in such a short time. I’m focusing on exciting ideas I have for 2012, and also doing at least 3 fiber festivals this year. I get so excited each time I sell even a single skein, but my favorite part of the whole thing is seeing everyone’s projects made from Candy Skein yarn. It makes me see the potential in my company and right now the sky is the limit. Candy Skein is a full time job for me, and I hope it continues for many years to come.

You've also got some lovely blogalongs too, tell us about them
Without my blog, Tami’s Amis and Other Creations, I would have never started Candy Skein. I started my blog in August ‘10 as a way to keep track of my crochet projects and share pictures of them with my friends. I never dreamed that anyone I didn’t know would visit the site. My friend and I got the idea of Work in Progress Wednesday because we wanted some way to push ourselves to continue crocheting. It was a great motivator! I decided to post about it in the Ravelry group ‘I Blog’ thinking it would be fun to have a few people participate. I included a way for others to link their blog posts into mine. After while, there were about 15 of us who participated each week. I noticed that when people finished projects, they’d post them in Work in Progress Wednesday and I got the idea to start FO (Finished Object) Friday. That way, not only did you have motivation to work on a project, you had a reason to finish them! It’s been a huge success, as we are now on week 76 of WIPW and week 70 for FO Friday (without missing a week I might add!) and have around 90 participating from all over the world. It has built a great community of people and has grown friendships. The group encouraged me when I started dyeing yarn, and because of them, Candy Skein was born. They made me believe that what I was dyeing was worth something.

What helps keep you playful?
I think you always have to keep life playful, in whatever you do. I know I’m very lucky to have the job that I do. Some days are tough, when I have HUGE piles of yarn in front of me that needs to be reskeined/tagged/mailed and it gets lonely at times as I currently work by myself. On the flip side, how fun is working with yarn all day!? My favorite part of the job is inventing new colorways, which is the reason I started the Candy Skein Sock Club. I get to come up with a new colorway each month, that will only be for sale for the month before being retired. It keeps me on my toes, that’s for sure. 
Finally, I always go back to Peter Pan, you should never grow up (to a certain extent) and life should always be fun.

Name your knitting hero
Oh, this is a hard one! As far as someone in the public eye and in the knitting community, I’d have to say Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, I love what she has done for knitting. She has made many knitters (like myself) feel normal when all we think about is yarn and knitting! I love her obsession with sock knitting and sock yarn (who doesn’t love sock yarn!?). I’ve read all of her books and they make me laugh. As a writer myself (I originally quit my corporate job to write full time before Candy Skein was born), I respect her writing career and understand just how hard it is to write a book. She makes it seem so easy to make people laugh and cry, even when she’s writing about knitting. Trust me folks, it’s not!

Now, my true knitting heroes outside of the public eye has to be my knitting group. I went searching for a group about 10 months ago and luckily stumbled upon them. They were nice enough to take me into their fold. I have learned SOO much from them, and continue to do so. Monday is my favorite day of the week, because no matter how stressed I am, I know that I will enjoy the 3+ hours I’m with them that night. They have really encouraged me with the company, and as I said, I would never have started Candy Skein without the WIPW/FOFriday crowd, it would not be what it is today without my knitting group.

If you could share one of your products with the world, what would you choose and why?
I’d have to say my Delicious fingering line of yarn, which is 70% alpaca/20% silk/10% cashmere. I love love love love this yarn. If I could make every project out of it, I would. It’s so soft and warm, yet light weight. It takes the dye beautifully, as the alpaca and cashmere give it a small halo and the silk gives it an amazing shine. It has to be some of the softest yarn I’ve ever felt/worked with.

What does 2012 look like for you? 
2012 is an insane year for Candy Skein. Not only will I be rolling out new colors to the permanent colorway collection, a new colorway each month for the Sock Club, new products and mini skein collections, but will be participating in at least three fiber festivals. The first one of the year will be the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival in Hood River, OR, April 20-22. I am SO excited for this show, I can’t even explain to you. This will be my first time in Oregon and I hear it’s gorgeous. The fiber community is huge up there and I can’t wait to bring Candy Skein to those in the Pacific Northwest who might not have heard of my company yet. For anyone who lives up there, please stop by and say hi! I will be doing two other shows in the Southern California area later in the year. I also hope to make the Candy Skein Ravelry group, Candy Skein Addicts, more active with new KAL/CALs (designers, if you’re out there and would like to team up with Candy Skein yarn and your patterns, please let me know!), people sharing their projects and exclusives to the members!

Any last comments or thoughts that you are dying to share?
I just wanted to thank everyone for their support on my blog and with Candy Skein. I have met amazing people online through both who have made me not only a better fiber artist, but also a better person. I also wanted to thank APlayfulDay for letting me sponsor the podcast and for reviewing my yarn. It’s much appreciated!
You can find Candy Skein yarns at www.candyskein.com, and her blog here. You can also keep up to date with the latest news by following Tami on twitter as 'Tamiklockau' or checking out the Ravelry group

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

12 women in 12

I've been excited about this for some time and I can finally share a feature that I will be hosting here on the blog throughout 2012. 

What is it?

A project for women, about women

Each month I will feature a woman or team of women within the crafting industry who are making a difference to the way we view crafts. This list will include designers and yarn producers but also those women behind the scenes, tech editors, writers, publicists and other industry insiders you might not have been aware of until now.


There are lots of reasons to celebrate female talent in any industry but after internet debates such as a certain Huffington Post editorial and the Yarn Harlot’s piece about treating this as a profession not a hobby, I feel it is right for us to celebrate women making a difference within the industry.

It will not come as a shock to any person who has read the blog or listened to the podcast that I loathe the term 'women's work' and I have little time for thinking small when it comes to growing a business. Unless of course this is highly intentional, after all small can be beautiful. I have long accepted that the F word is bandied around in reference to myself and quite frankly, I don't mind at all. In fact, I welcome it.

I've often been intrigued by the different niches being carved out in the knitting and crafting industry. I have watched companies spring up with interest and excitement and cheered strong women making waves as they develop their careers. In my role as blogger and podcaster I have crossed paths, interviewed and cackled with some of the finest business women out there. 

I thought it high time that I brought you some. 

So stay tuned for our first featured golden girl coming next week and kicking us off with style. I'll be encouraging some chat on twitter under the hashtag #12womenin12 and invite you to join in with comments and blog posts of your own.

Monday, 16 January 2012

I am such a geek

Some of you will already know the above statement is true. For those of you who don't I will now prove it. 

Firstly, while I pootled around on the internet this morning, I became excited by an article about the rise and fall of Lard thanks to clever marketing by Crisco. This wasn't entirely out of the blue- I did a segment involving Trex for the podcast. My friend told me over dinner last night about this and I HAD to find out. Why? 

See the title of this post.

Then I found Brooklyn Tweed has updated us on the locations of his photoshoot for Wool People 2 that I waxed poetic about in the review/ homage I wrote last week. I want to write more about texture and colour palettes here but it's best I step away before I start talking about little known facts about jam.....
Image credit BrooklynTweed.net
(psst. Here's the links to Brooklyn and Crisco posts if that flicks your switches too)

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Blue Cheese and Cauliflower Chowder

Another title of this post was almost, 'The Best Picture I have possibly ever taken of CHEESE'. You will see why. 

This recipe is one of my long time favourites- I've made it time and time again. Sadly, the giant is not a blue cheese fan so it doesn't get put in to the rotation as often as I would like. I sometimes substitute a nice sharp cheddar but I find you need more cheese than if you used blue and it becomes a little less soupy and more heavy.

However, I had a friend coming to lunch and it seemed like it was just the right time to bake some soda bread and make some favourite soup. Incidentally, I've taken to replacing milk with Buttermilk in the soda recipe- the live cultures react wonderfully with the Bicarbonate of Soda and make for an amazing loaf.

I'm not a slave to quantities when it comes to soup, these are a rough guide

You will need:
1 large cauliflower, chopped into large florets
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 pint veg stock
1/2 pint milk
150g blue cheese (I like Dolce latte)

1. Put all the ingredients except the cheese into a large pan and simmer gently for about 20 mins or until everything is soft and a bit mushy. 
2. Drain off the liquid BUT KEEP IT IN RESERVE. 
3. Liquidise the solid vegetables, being careful to remove the bay leaves beforehand. Blend to your preferred consistency. 
4. Add this back to the saucepan and return to a low heat. Now add the reserved liquid back to the chowder, a bit at a time, stirring as you go. 
5. Just before serving, add the crumbed blue cheese and stir a little.

And now for the picture.



Thursday, 12 January 2012

Featuring The Vintage Cookbook Trials

Well you asked for it and here it is, more wit from the delightful Vintage Cookbook Trials. I featured this duo on the podcast and couldn't resist asking them back to delight us on the blog in more detail. 

You can find them on twitter as @TheVCBT and don't forget next month is 'Pie Month'!

Tag you're it. Take centre stage and tell us who you are!
E: Hullo, we’re Elly and Alix. We’ve been friends for a long time.

A: The blog started in the pub, when we both realised we were amassing
loads of old cookbooks and doing nothing with them apart from looking
at the pictures, it struck us both that it might be interesting to see
whether recipes stand the test of time. For me, as I've cooked more
and acquired more books than I'll ever be able to do justice to, I've
developed an interest in a few tangents from the recipes themselves,
like the intrinsic role food and cooking has played in the history of
humans and also the evolution of cookery book design. Sadly, being
fairly lazy, little of this comes across on the blog, which, on my
part mostly consists of seeing just how awful a dinner I can knock up.

E: We blog about the process of cooking, as much as eating. We make
whatever we feel like, we're completely honest about what we do and
how it turns out. I love browsing Tastespotting for inspiration, but
our blog is the polar opposite of that. We both work full-time, so
most savoury dishes are mid-week evening meals, photographed quickly
in the kitchen. A friend called us 'enthusiasts, but not experts',
which is completely true - the only thing we take seriously is

What counts as 'vintage'?
When we started it meant older than us (pre-1980), but then we
realised we were depriving our readers of the opportunity to laugh at
a lot of 1980s cookbooks, so now we define it as first published more
than 25 years ago. Our oldest cookbook is an abbreviated reprint of
Gervase Markham's The English Huswife (1615). It begins with an intro
saying (I paraphrase) 'You know how people used to shop, cook and eat
well and economically, but now those skills are being lost? This book
will show you how to do all that and be happier and more successful
because of it'. Sound familiar? It has also some good pie recipes.
Isn't vintage super trendy right now?
It is, but we've buying second-hand books and making a mess in the
kitchen and then eating it, all our lives.

What are your favourite dishes to cook?
E: My favourite things to eat - stews and puddings

A: Usually the ones that I enjoy cooking are the least edible! I like
taking a punt on an unpromising, maverick-sounding recipe, then being
disappointed by the resultant disaster. Even after three years I don't
seem to have caught on to the obvious flaw in this technique. The ones
I enjoy eating are the no-nonsense standards, for instance Maria Luisa
Taglienti's Italian Cookbook has yielded many a delicious pasta dish.

Do you still have a technique or dish that you're too nervous to cook?
E: I'm going to attempt puff pastry this year. I've never done it -
I'm determined to have a go. I should be too nervous to cook
meringues, instead I keep trying to make them and mucking them up.

A: I'll try anyway, but I am limited by equipment, money and time, and
I refuse to have anything to do with beating egg whites as I only have
a handwhisk, plus I cannot grill anything without setting the oven on
fire. Actually, my many failures in the yeast realm have put me off
baking. I just can't get it right.
Describe the perfect dinner party (imaginary characters may attend).
Nancy Blackett (from Swallows and Amazons)
Elizabeth I
Marcus Gavius Apicius (author of the first cookbook)
Violet Jessop (ship-wreck survivor)
Jeeves (would be good to see what he's like off-duty)
That woman from Come Dine With Me who made a strawberry 'coulis' using
jam and water
Fishfinger Pyramid for starters, Croustade of Larks for main,
followed by one of Alison Burt's remarkably bad cakes.

Is it tricky blogging as a duo?

E: I sometimes finish a post, get over-excited and hit 'publish'
immediately so it goes out on the same day as one of Alix's. This
makes her very angry.

A: Yes, stop doing this!

If you could cook for anyone in the world or history, who would it be?
E: My grandmothers, both great cooks, who I never had the opportunity
to cook for. Or possibly Eliza Acton, but only if she promised to lean
against the kitchen doorframe with a glass of wine, criticising my

A: I think I'd just like to have a massive dinner party for everyone
who's ever made me dinner before.

What recipe would you make for the zombie vintage cook book trials?
Braaaaaaaaaains, of course! We’d brown them gently in sage butter and
because we like a varied diet, graaaaaaaaaains as well.

Any parting thoughts or comments?
If you enjoy cooking, we would encourage you to have a look at the old
cookbooks in your family and have a go at some of the recipes – we're
sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And if you enjoy laughing at
pictures of bafflingly horrible food, we encourage you to do the same.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

This will come as no surprise

This post was inevitable. You knew it. I knew it. We all knew it. 

He's a genius. 

image credit to brooklyntweed.net
The new year started with the release of Wool People 2, the follow up to the oh-so-wonderful Wool People from Brooklyn Tweed. The first one rendered me speechless but this time I'm going to try to explain what it is that I love so wholeheartedly about these publications.

Firstly it's the concept: individual designers having a pattern that earns them money for its lifetime. That's so important. So many designers give over their creative control when entering designs into publication. It's why we can't get this as a book- the downloads have to remain individual. I for one would LOVE to buy a Brooklyn Tweed published book for reasons I will discuss in a moment but the fact that this is really focussed on supporting great talent is brilliant. 

The thing that strikes me with both series is the look and 'feel' of both volumes. As a photographer I'm struck by the colour palette throughout, complimenting and highlighting the colours selected for the yarn range and design. Structures add texture and the whole thing feels like it is working together. For example, there's a shot under a metal structure with thick grasses and contrasting texture. It made me think of all the textures that went into the designs. Yes, it's fashionable but it's not fashion that smacks you straight between the eyes like so much knitwear photography. It has context, depth, tone. I love it.

Then there's the patterns and the designers behind them. 14 projects, each as classic as the other. It reads like the who's who of hot designing right now: Veronik Avery, Gudrun Johnston, Cecily Glowik Macdonald, Ann Budd, Nancy Bush, Amy Christoffers, Carrie Bostick Hoge, Melissa LaBarre.... the list goes on. Many of these are names that have been synonymous with good knitwear for sometime. Others are newer but no less talented. It honestly is the kind of thing that excites me and makes my heart sing.

And my MOST favourite part? Oh the designs. Always the designs. 

Graham by Cecily Glowik Macdonald
Fuse by Veronik Avery

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Episode 20: Bringing Trexy back

Aplayfulday is kindly sponsored by Superknits, the home of super yarns for super knits. Please show your support for our playful friend by clicking on the link above- go on, spoil yourself!!!

Aplayfulday is also kindly sponsored by NorthboundKnitting. Please show your support for our playful friend by clicking on the link above. Also, don't forget you can enjoy 15% of all purchases by entering 'APLAYFULDAY' at check out- just in time for the holidays! Offer ends 10th January 2012.

Show notes:

I will be attending Unravel at the end of February 2012. Stay tuned for details of a meetup.

A huge thank you to all of the many people who entered the contest. Here's the winners!

A copy of the Be Mine Collection by Rose Beck = Secretsquire
A copy of The Uncommon Clouds collection from Lisa Mutch, along with a skein of fingering weight BFL/ Silk in the colourway 'nocturne' = Shanalines
A skein of British Merino and Silk 4 ply Sock yarn in the colourway Ruby Ruby from travelknitter
= tangledknits
A handmade Riverstone Bracelet from imake = cperrine
A handmade yarn and notions pouch from The Lollipop Stop = mikki522
A3 print from Tillyflop designs = Distel
3 patterns from Robin Ulrich (the Bosc scarf, Katriel Shawl and Fontane) = tilly4u
A cute handmade tea wallet from Mooncalf Makes = Schjerning
Stitchmarkers from  Stephcuddles =  Amberghini
The Uncommon Thread skein of Super Sock in the colourway 'Into Dust' = Chels580

As always, please get in touch to claim your prize via aplayfulday AT gmail DOT com or pm me on Ravelry- I'm Greentrianglegirl.

Mooncalf Makes, purveyor of handmade tea accessories is offering 10% for all playful friends. Simply enter the code 'playful' at checkout to claim your discount. Offer ends 14th February 2012.

Our lovely show sponsor is offering a giveaway prize of yumminess: a skein of Bessie, a 4ply/sock weight yarn which is 75% Superwash Blue Faced Leicester and 25% Nylon, in the colourway 'Gothica'. To win this prize, simply visit the Superknits website and tell me in the comments of this blog post, your favourite Superknits colourway. Entries must be in before 21st January 2012 to be in with a chance of winning. Please leave your ravelry name if possible. Good luck!

I review Juju's Loops by Juju Vail and Susan Cropper of Loop, London. 

Off the needles
Stockholm Scarf by Knitted Bliss in Merino Cashmere DK, Artist's Palette Yarns
Man (or anyone) Cowl by Michael Wynnein in Sokkusu Original in colourway Deep Undercover
A modified Weavers and Buttons Cowl in Abstract Fiber's Soprano in the colourway Spinach
Molly by Erin Ruth in Candy Skein Yummy Worsted in the colouway Blackberry. To see the full yarn review, click here.

On the Needles
After thought heel socks by Laura Linneman in a mystery self striping of awesome- stay tuned!
Kai Mei by Cookie A in Superknits Mary, Queen of Socks, colourway 'With my tv and CD collection of Bob Marley'

Munch Burp Schlurp
I'm visited by the girls from The Vintage Cookbook Trials, who test out some apple fritters on me, their almost willing guinea pig. Stay tuned for further news of them in an upcoming blog feature!

(The Vogue Cocktails trial)

(Trex for those who need to know)

Fly, Fly, Fly by Adrina Thorpe, available on Music Alley
Or not by Amy Daly, available on Music Alley 
Contact me at: aplayfulday@gmail.com
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Friday, 6 January 2012

Candy Skein Yarns

I've been enjoying knitting lately. I've dived into stash with delight and glee and loved everything on the needles. One of the things making me very happy was this:

This lovely bit of business is Candy Skein's Yummy Worsted, a delightful 220 yards of Superwash Merino. The colourway is Blackberry and according to Tami, the lady behind the Candy enterprise, it's one of her most popular colourways. I can see why. Some of you might recognise Tami from her blogalongs- WIP Wednesdays and FO Fridays. I got chatting to Tami and was lucky enough to receive some review yarn.

The yarn is soft to the touch and has a really nice bounce that I wasn't expecting from superwash. It was more variegated than I'd imagined from the picture so I pondered the pattern choice for some time. Eventually I settled on Molly, a slouchy hat design by Erin Ruth. A third of the way into knitting I had a crisis- is this TOO variegated for cables? However, I was knitting with some friends over new year's and was met with oooo's and ahhh's and decided to keep going. 

Half way through the decreases, I realised I was going to run out of yarn. I was horrified and ripped back to start them 3 rows earlier. The yarn held up well. There was a little fuzzing but no more than I've come to expect from other yarns and with a little knitting, everything looked good to go again. 

I like the end result, especially the textured stitches in the body of the hat. I think if I was to do this again, I'd leave out the cable and have just the texture to really showcase the colourway. OR add 2 extra purls either side of the cable to really make it stand out. 

Either way I'm pretty pleased. And warm :)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Guest blogging

Some of the more beady eyed amongst you might have noticed a new button on the side bar- the 'Rock and Purl Guest Blogger' badge of honour.

For those of you who don't follow the very talented Ruth over at Rock and Purl, she is a designer, blogger and all around knitting genius. I've enjoyed her blog this year and when she put the call out for new guest bloggers I shyly raised my hand and joined super stars such as Shannon Oakey and Mercedes T Clark. It's all very exciting and slightly daunting. 

Here's the link for those of you who want to keep up this year. I'm already looking forward to next Sunday's post.
Perhaps that new year's resolution should be about being brave...??