Red Velvet Brownies

The origin of the Red Velvet cake is much debated, but anyone who loves a baked good has no doubt tried a cupcake, cream cheese frosted cake or whoopie pie of the Red Velvet variety. In my opinion they are far too tasty/pretty to ponder over where the recipe once began. Surely time is better spent eating the treats? ūüėČ

So what makes a Red Velvet bake red? Cocoa contains a natural pigment called anthocyanin, which will react with acids such as buttermilk to provide a red shade. Cool food sciencey stuff, really. Buttermilk is almost always included in a traditional Red Velvet recipe, but red colouring is often added to provide a more vibrant shade.

My brownie recipe does not contain buttermilk, but I recently purchased some fabulous new food colourings and I needed an excuse to try them out in one of my favourite colours. So here goes with my ‘Red Velvet’ brownies!

Red Velvet brownies

Makes 10 small brownies or 6 bigger pieces. Freezes well!

Red Velvet Brownie Ingredients 2

Begin by melting the chocolate and butter over a saucepan of hot water – heat gently until smooth, stirring throughout.

Red Velvet Brownies melt butter and chocolate

Red Velvet Brownies melted butter and chocolate

Then mix in the caster sugar, followed by the plain flour. Stir until combined.

Beat the eggs and add gradually. I found that I added a little too much (1 is probably enough, but it depends on the size of your eggs), and I ended up having to add more flour right at the last stage.

Then add the RED! I use food colouring paste (rather than the liquids you can buy in supermarkets) as they give a more vivid colour. I used heaps as I wanted a deep colour, but you can try it out. Note that my mixture is still a little runny (and bubbly!) here, so you can add more flour if necessary.

Cook in a pre-heated oven for around 30 minutes. I tend to do mine for less as I have a fan oven and I like them squidgy in the middle.

I think this is a recipe I will continue to develop, in terms of consistency and redness. I used fairtrade dark chocolate, which affected how vibrant the red was. Perhaps just using cocoa powder will give a brighter shade.

Regardless, they are pretty tasty and I like the deep red!

Red Velvet Brownies

Claire x

 

Happy International Yarn Bombing Day

I recently discovered that June 9th is International Yarn Bombing Day. The origins of yarn bombing (or knit graffiti) are often debated, but it is said to have begun in Texas, USA in 2005. Colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn are displayed in public places, often by anonymous crafters.

It got me thinking about whether I¬†would ever have the confidence or skills¬†to participate in a yarn bombing. What motivates people? Is it just a fun way to¬†express¬†creativity, or¬†are there statements to be made? Whatever the idea behind a yarn bomb, it sure is a fun way to decorate a street or item, and it’s bound to make people stop and¬†smile.

My yarn bombing research led me to rediscover all the recent knit graffiti I had seen online and in the national and local news.

Some of you may have seen the recent press¬†about guerrilla knitwear artist Olek’s crocheted outfits for Anthony Gormley sculptures on Crosby Beach, Merseyside. Although the sculptures have been on the beach since 2005, Olek wanted to transform the sculptures into something new. She says “By covering them and giving them a new skin, I made them more alive‚ÄĚ. Would this be the same for a tree? Or a railing? I know if I discovered a branch covered in a multicoloured plethora of yarn, it would certainly make me notice the tree when I would have¬†otherwise walked on by.

Source

It’s said to be technically illegal to yarn bomb (considered a form of graffiti), but many local knitting groups are embracing the trend and I even discovered a recent yarn bomb in¬†the nearby city of Norfolk.

The Norfolk Ninja Knitters spruced up lamposts and sculptures¬†outside the City Hall, but sadly the council removed the yarn bombs ūüôĀ

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These yarn bombs I found on Pinterest¬†are really inspiring….

I love this London phone box, with Big Ben as the backdrop!

Source: www.knitthecity.com / Image © Knit the City

This one would really make people think twice about dodging parking fees…..

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I wonder how long this tree yarn bomb took?

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Have you spotted a great yarn bomb in your area? Have you ever yarn bombed?

Claire x

 

 

Knitting with All the Fun of the Fair

Note: All The Fun of the Fair has now closed.

One of my favourite places to buy quirky habberdashery supplies is  All the Fun of the Fair. I frequently use their online shop for yarn, patterns, unusual buttons, lace and accesories.

Located in Kingly Court, off Carnaby Street in Soho (London), All the Fun of the Fair has been open for 5 years.

In addition to the cute shop and online space, they often visit craft, handmade and vintage fairs and markets such as the recent Soho Flea Market on Dean Street and the Wealden Times Midsummer Fair in Kent.

In a bid to improve my knitting pattern skills, I purchased a Chunky Knitted Cushion Cover Pattern for a reasonable £2.50. It is a nice simple knit and purl project with Cygnet Seriously Chunky Yarn and 10mm needles. I ordered the bluebell colour, but when it arrived it was more of a lilac tone, so I decided this would be a gift for my sister rather than another cushion for my spare room.

After a few blips in understanding the pattern repeats and many cups of tea later, I had finished the cover. I do love how a chunky knit grows so quickly! It was a 2 evening project with a bit of telly watching in between. A nice plump cushion insert made it feel really big! My sister was chuffed with her handmade gift.

This week, I made a couple of other purchases from their quirky range including the ‘I Love Sewing’ Spool Holder (perfect for my vintage stash), Fancy Trim Pack of Lace and Sew Crafty Gift Tags.

I’ll leave you with Jaqueline from All the Fun of the Fair’s best craft tip:

Try something new. When you’re an expert in a specific craft, be it knitting, crochet or felting, it’s always good to try your hand at a new one. The skills you learn from one can always be transferred to another and help keep your mind creative and filled with new ideas! And if it doesn’t work out, then you just go onto the next one!

Claire x

 

 

Crochet at The Sheep Shop

As part of my handmade mission for 2012, one of the goals I set myself was to learn how to crochet. I’ve always dabbled with a bit of knitting, but never really understood the concept of making items with just one hook? Where do the stitches go? How do all these loops make a hat or a scarf? It was time for a class.

The Sheep Shop is my favourite place to buy yarn in Cambridge. When I discovered they also ran classes, my craft buddy (formerly study buddy) Jess and I signed up for beginners crochet.

The Sheep Shop is run by Sarah, who happily answered some questions about her journey with yarn….

When did The Sheep Shop open?

November 23rd 2011 (I hadn’t realised – it’s 6 months!)

Can you tell me a bit about the beginnings of the shop & why you started this venture?

I felt Cambridge didn’t have much choice for nice yarns, and no comfy environment to revel in choosing them. ¬†The idea kept popping into my head that I could open a yarn shop myself. ¬†¬†I used to work for the county council waste team so it was a big step, but eventually I listened to that idea, and am very glad I did as it’s a joy every day to meet the most lovely people (all knitters are lovely!) and be surrounded by all this incredible colour and texture.

What kind of response have you had to the shop & the classes?

It’s been rapturous. It makes life worth living when people go round stroking everything like they’re cats in a field of catnip – and some have purred. ¬†They’ve been very generous with their comments. ¬†A lot of praise belongs to my wonderful mother – she’s the one who designed the shop and all the decorative and display touches. ¬†The classes are still settling in. ¬†We’ve found some awesome teachers, but trying to match what people want to learn with when they want to learn it is a bit of a learning curve, some have ended up very oversubscribed with others empty.

What is the best item you would recommend in the shop? Favourite yarn etc?

Argh, I love everything! ¬†Circular needles are the bees knees – they are more comfortable to use, easier to carry around, and knitting in the round means you can cut down on seaming, purling and if you’re doing Fair Isle you always have the pattern side facing you. ¬†And interchangeable ones mean you don’t have to have millions of sets of needles of every size and every length. ¬†So the Knit Pro needles are A Good Thing. ¬†I’m a sucker for soft and silky yarns which feel heavenly between the fingers. ¬†My favourite yarns are Mirasol Miski (baby llama), Malabrigo Merino Worsted (supersoft wool), Louisa Harding Grace (silk/wool blend – was up until 2am knitting it because I didn’t want to put it down!) and the Hjertegarn bamboo/cotton mixes – these are cheap as chips but feel silky and gorgeous.

Which do you prefer, Crochet or Knitting?

Well, I’m a bit of a one-trick pony. ¬†I’ve only done a tiny bit of crochet, but keep coming across marvellous patterns on Ravelry and then have a “damn, it’s crochet” moment. ¬†So I guess I’d better learn!

 

Such pretty yarns! For the class we chose some bright colours to crochet with and got to work on understanding the basic stitches and differences between UK/US terms (which I found highly confusing!).

Our teacher Michelle, was self taught and she was kind enough to share with us her many projects which provided inspiration. How lovely is this lace scarf?

At the end of the class we attempted a Granny Square, but I know I am going to need more practice. That’s why I’ve signed up for another course! (I also used really dark purple yarn which made it super hard to see the stitches.)

Many thanks to Michelle for a great class and to Sarah for the lovely hospitality and advice on yarn and books. I’m really looking forward to my next class and feel lucky to have this tranquil corner of yarn in my neighbourhood.

The Sheep Shop has a great Ravelry group and also Facebook and Twitter pages.

Have you been learning to knit or crochet? I’d love to hear your experiences and see your projects – please leave a comment!

Claire x

Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair

You can never be bored at the weekend in Cambridge. There is always something happening and despite the tourist season being in full swing (I swear it¬†gets earlier every year!) I decided to wander into town to check out Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair¬†at the Guildhall.

The Affordable Vintage Fair started in 2005 in Leeds and now tours to more than 30 cities and 6 festivals around the UK. Cambridge’s fair this weekend displayed a vast array of dresses, jewellery, bags,¬†crockery and cake. It’s not a proper vintage fair without tea and cake, right?

The atmosphere was relaxed with many sellers willing to share tales. One stall holder was still jet lagged from a recent trip to the US to source 50s swing dresses. Needless to stay I stopped at this stall to admire the polka dots and lace adorned frocks for a while. Although vintage clothes were not on my shopping list for the day, I took time to lust after all the 40s shirt dresses and hand sewn lace tea dresses.

Local vintage boutique Jemporium Vintage were in attendance with a great selection of demin cut offs and sunglasses.

I had to stop myself from buying vintage clutch bags as there really isn’t space in my wardrobe for any more!

How fabulous is this stall of vintage Vogues?!

I had already contacted my favourite vintage market stall Retrovert to reserve some items, so I headed there in excitement to collect my goods from Sophie and Jane.

As well as beautiful crockery, the stall had numerous baskets of vintage lace, doilies and retro nick nacks. I couldn’t resist taking a snap of this vintage icing set!

These retro tumblers were £12 for the set and Sophie had kindly reserved them for me. I am so impatient and realised I should have also reserved the tea cup I had my eye on too. Luckily it was still available and I parted with £5 for this china Mayfair beauty.

After leaving the fair I spotted many people around the city in vintage get up and some fab victory rolls too! Only made me wish I had worn my vintage frock which I adjusted last week.

Claire x