Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas!

Or happy whatever over eating festival you celebrate at this time of year. I hope you all have a nice break. I would like to thank anyone who reads this blog. I love writing it, it's nice to have a place to keep a record of all the crafty things I do. It's really great when someone comments on a post.

So I'll raise a glass, of homebrewed beer of course, to you reader over the festive season and I'll see you here for more brewing and knitting/crochet adventures in 2009.

In our house during December the Fat Bottomed Santa makes a majestic journey around the room dropping presents as he goes.

He crocheted our turtles some festive santa's helper hats...

He made Monkey a dapper new waistcoat

He helped with the brewing

He brought some festive brews

He also expressed a wish to see more handmade gifts in the world

Even the dog isn't forgotten

From The Fat Bottomed Santa's Majestic Christmas Journey

He's off tonight to make the final leg of his journey. He's been quiet the last day and muttering things about space time and presents. I hope he makes it to your house to drop some presents by your tree.

A Necklace for Rebecca and Darkside Cowl

My friend Rebecca is off on her travels next year. It was her 30th birthday at the start of this month and Christmas is coming up too. I decided a pretty special necklace was in order. I set about designing something she would love. I thought nothing too big or bling would be nice on her. She said she'd like darker colours and no pearls. Here it is.

Black teardrop swarovski crystals are spaced with silver bead covers and bicone smoke swarovski crystals leading up into alternate smaller black and smoke bicone swarovskis and finished with glass black seed beads. The clasp is rhodium plated silver with a crystal in the middle, there had to be some bling!

The clasp was finished with a wire guard and a crimp cover bead.

Here is the lady herself wearing the necklace at her birthday party. It went very well with the black prom dress she was wearing. She told she got lots of compliments on the necklace. I think she liked it.

I also finished the Darkside Silk Cowl that I was making for my Mum for Christmas. She doesn't read this blog so I can put up pictures.

I think it turned out really well. The silk is so soft and warm. In the end this was the best pattern for the yarn. I think I may have bound off a little tightly but if it needs to be fixed I can do it after Christmas.

Christmas Beer and Phuca

It's getting very near Christmas and the beer stocks were low. So we made a trip to Redmonds Off License in Ranelagh which can be found on the ultra useful Beermapping website. I wanted some beer to go with my Christmas dinner.

I decided the Anchor Christmas beer would go well with the dinner and the Samichlaus will be savored with some pudding and cream.

Dave found some lambics to try. He's already a fan of Boon Kriek but he hadn't tried the Chapeau ones before. I still can't drink lambic beer. To me it's just too sour and off tasting. I'll keep trying it though.

I got some Brooklyn Lager which I love, it's such a tasty well balanced beer. It's very expensive here so a six pack is a festive treat. I'm hoping their IPA will be just as nice. I'm also interested to see what the Sierra Nevada anniversary ale is like.

I also got some Meantime beers, the Pale ale and the London Pale Ale. I've only ever tasted their IPA which was good so am keen to see what these are like. Is it sad to be impressed by the nice bottles they use?

On friday night before heading out we went to get a bite to eat in the Bull and Castle. We got a table thanks to the great bar manager. I remembered they should have a new seasonal special beer from The Franciscan Well Brewery. I asked for it and was rewarded with a pint of Phuca their spiced Christmas ale. Phuca is the Irish word for ghost and it's a good name conjuring up images of a dark cold night with lots of fog and maybe spirits abroad. What could be better than sitting in with this beer instead. It's lovely, dark and spicy with a big hit of ginger and cloves. The food in the Bull and Castle was excellent, I had roast beef and Dave had a lamb stew, both were very tasty. The beer went well with the hearty winter dinner. It wasn't too expensive either. The Bull and Castle is what Irish pubs should be.

Cold Weather Kolsch, Better Bottles and A Suspect Yeast Choice

More brewing! It's the season for beer after all. Ed, a friend of mine wanted to see an extract brew in action before he does one. He's been very successfully brewing kits for a while now so he knows a lot of it anyway. I ordered some stuff from the Homebrew Company which as always are great to deal with.

I thought Ed was brewing his own beer with me supervising but it turned out I was brewing for me. Since it's been so cold I thought I could make a lager. But I had no lager yeast, if I'd known I'd have got some. So in the absence of lager yeast I decided to use ale yeast and ferment cold to make a kolsch or blonde ale style beer. I raided the freezer and came up with some german hops.


10 Liter batch

Muntons Light Dried Extract 1kg

60 minutes - 17g Hallertauer (2.1%AA)
20 minutes - 20g Tettnang (4.5%AA) and 18g Halltertauer
5 minutes - 9g Hallertauer and 6g Tettnang

Yeast: Danstar Nottingham

OG: 1.040
The alcohol should turn out at about 4% ABV

During the boil the lads disappeared upstairs to watch the rugby leaving me to the brewing. I did manage to get them into the kitchen for the last bits where the wort was chilled and transferred. The yeast was pitched and Ed took a well earned break with a nice Clotworthy Dobbin.

I'm fermenting this brew in a Better Bottle. I got three of these for fermenting beer and mead in. I'm very pleased with them so far. They are light which when you're a weakling like me is a big advantage over heavy glass carboys. I am prone to dropping things that are heavy. Dropping a heavy plastic bottle of beer is annoying but dropping a glass carboy would probably mean a trip to accident and emergency.

This evening I transferred Westley's Winter Warmer to secondary. The better bottle made this very easy. I just attached a hose and opened the tap, also the clever valve means you can get the last of the beer out and not lose so much. I checked the gravity, it's down to 1.014 which gives it an alcohol of 5.7% ABV. This should rise a little in secondary. It should be ready to bottle just before christmas. The better bottle was very easy to clean too.

Of course we had a taste of the beer. It's shaping up nicely, spicy with oranges and stronger than I normally brew. There's a hint of spiciness but I would have liked more fruity yeast character with it. I think I should have used a belgian yeast like Safbrew S33 which I had in the fridge. It would have been more complex and fruity like Westmalle or something. Instead I used Nottingham as in theory it wouldn't interfere with the spices. Maybe I should have went mad and used the S33. Though when it's bottled and carbonated it might be a different story. I might be saying I'm glad I used the Nottingham.

Westley's Winter Warmer

It's pretty cold here for the start of december. Our new dog is settling in well and we brought him for a few walks in the frost over the weekend. He's so wooly that he didn't seem to mind the cold as much as we did. We decided to call him Westley. For the nerds among you yes that is Westley from The Princess Bride. For those who don't know it, it's the best film and book ever. He's a good dog apart from a tendency to dig up and eat everything in the garden. There goes my growing hops idea.

I haven't brewed since I made my all grain stout. I bottled some of the stout and the rest is in a barrel where it's supposed to be waiting until it's nearer christmas before it gets drank. This hasn't happened, myself and Dave are supping away on the stout. It's lovely, it's roasty and it has a lovely chocolate taste to it as well. It's not quite fizzy enough so I may have to carbonate it a little with some CO2 if I ever get round to buying the attachment for the barrel. It might be gone before then.

I wanted to make a warming spicy winter beer. I pulled out my recently purchased Complete Joy of Homebrewing and found a likely recipe. Then I set to work modifying it. I don't think I've ever made a beer exactly as it was in the book. This isn't because I haven't wanted to but because the ingredients are hard to get so I usually modify the recipe to suit what I actually have.

Westley's Winter Warmer

15 Litre Batch.

180g Crystal Malt (Steeped in 6L of water at 67 Degress Celsius for 30 minutes)
1.052g Light DME
1 kg Medium DME
About 450g Honey

12g Centennial Hops @ 60 minutes from end of boil
10g Cascade Hops @ 5 minutes from end of boil

10 minutes from end of boil
Rind of two oranges
10g grated ginger root
cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1/4 of a nutmeg grated
1 tsp liqurice root powder
4 whole cloves

Sachet of Danstar Nottingham Yeast

OG: 1.060

I wanted a high alcohol beer to give a bit of warmth to all those spices. As well the hops should add more citrus to the beer. I have no idea if it will be nice but that's the fun of homebrewing, making beer you'd never be able to buy. Hopefully it'll come out as a spicy warm beer.

As always I got some knitting done while waiting for the pot to boil. This is the Darkside Cowl I'm making for my Mum for christmas. I love the pattern and it's knitting up fairly quickly. The silk is so beautiful, photos don't do it justice.

I know this photo is blurred but the dog wouldn't stay still. They never do. This is Westley with his batch of beer, he tried eating the hops when I emptied the pot but he didn't seem so impressed with them. Maybe he'd prefer malt? That's one of my better bottles which I hope will make fermentation a bit easier. They have a tap on the bottom which you can adjust so it's just above the sediment so that should make racking to secondary and bottling the beer so much easier. The airlock is a dry trap which is pretty clever.

Jewelery Making Workshops - Weeks 5,6 and 7

I haven't posted any pictures of the last three jewelery making workshops so thought I better catch up. I've been busy making my own jewelery at home in addition to the classes. I like it a lot as it's very fast to design and make a piece of jewelery.

Week 5 - Charm Style Jewelery

In this class we made lots of charms which we then attached to a chain using jump rings. Making the charms is a lot of fun. Choosing the beads and the order to put them in takes a while though. I turn magpie as I try to choose my beads. It's usually best if I pick a colour scheme or theme or else I'd be there all evening trying to pick them out. When we had the beads picked out we set to work putting them on head pins and bending the wire into eye loops. The eye loops were then attached to the chain using jump rings. I hadn't used jump rings before and found them pretty fiddly to open and close properly.

I went for a black theme for the bracelet and ear rings and millefiori beads for the necklace. They are lovely to wear and jangle when you move.

The Bracelet and Ear Rings


Week 6 - Spiral Cuff

In this class we made a cuff using memory wire and a spiral wire tool. The spiral tool was used to wind wire into curled sections. The beads and pearls were then threaded on three pieces of memory wire using spacers. This was pretty difficult since the memory wire doesn't want to do what you want it to do. The cuff looked great at the end though.

Week Seven - Get Jiggy Jewelery

The jiggy jewelery class was a lot of fun. Mostly because I got to bash wire with a hammer. The jiggy board is used to wind wire into patterns. Then the fun part, bashing the wire to set the pattern. We then connected all the pieces into a bracelet. We also made ear rings. In the class the website Wig Jig was recommended and they seem to have loads of free project ideas.

Next week is the last class. I'll be sad when the course is over, it's been great and I've learned so much. The stuff I make myself looks so much better now that I have the knowledge and tools.

Cowl Up, Cowl up

At the knitting and stitching show I bought a lovely skein of hand- spun, hand-dyed silk from Di Gilpin. I want it to turn into a lovely cowl for my Mum.

I love cowls. They are one of the very best things to knit. I always advise beginners to knit cowls. A few of my friends have taken up knitting and they usually try a scarf first. If you are a beginner I'm sure you get massively bored and just give up knitting altogether as you struggle to finish a scarf. Cowls are knit in the round, knit up quickly and give you a chance to try different skills like lace and cables. Then when you finish you have a very useful and stylish end result. I wear my moebius cowl all the time.

So back to the silk, I thought that it would be lovely made into a lacy cowl. So first I tried the Ridged Lace Cowl which looks lovely. But when I knit up a repeat of the pattern I decided I didn't like it so much. The silk is variegated in colour and the yarn is quite thick and thin. So it didn't work with this pattern which is a pity.

So then I went searching for something more suitable. Something even more airy and lacy might do but then that wouldn't make a great cowl. I then happened on the Darkside Cowl which I thought fitted the bill. It looked as if it would show off the colours in the yarn. So I tried it and so far I'm really happy with it. When it's finished I'll put up the photos.

New Dog, Brew Dog

I can't really connect this to brewing or knitting or crochet but anyway here's the news. We got a new member of our house today. We adopted a dog from Meath Dog Pound. We saw him on the website and I went to see him today. He didn't bark like the other dogs but he came over to me and gave me the paw. What a great dog. I brought him home and after a quick garden inspection he seemed happy with his new home.

Have a search for breweries with dog in the name, there are loads of them. The Drunken Duck Inn calls all their beers after their dogs. So now it feels like we have a proper home brewery with a dog around. I hope the hamster doesn't mind too much!

Belfast Beer and Cider Festival, King's Hall, Belfast, November 2008

The Belfast Beer and Cider festival organised by Camra Northern Ireland was held in the King's Hall in Belfast. We drove up and after some getting lost we got to the hall. There was a massive selection of beers on offer. I didn't get to taste that many though. I also had a cold sore so couldn't take any sneaky tastes of anyone else's beer which wasn't so good.

The Irish Craft Brewer table had a good showing of people including The Beer Nut and Adeptus and many others. If you want some proper reviews of what the beers were like you should check out their blogs. There was much fun beer nerding, discussing and reviewing the beers throughout the afternoon. It's not often you get to talk beer without people thinking you are a bit mad.

I seemed to be having a bad beer juju day. I just didn't love any of the beers I tried. I started off with a Dark Star Hophead which I thought didn't have the carbonation to carry off the hops it had. I had the Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby which was nice but I found it hard to get through the half pint due to a clove/cough medicine type flavour. I went for a lighter beer after that, Valhalla White Wife, this was a perfectly passable real ale.

Then it was the Mayfields Auntie Myrtle. I was a little concerned about what happens when Myrtle* and Anti Myrtle collide. Would a massive annihilation take place that would wipe out the hall and all the real fans?

(*On Irish Craft Brewer my username is Bog Myrtle)

I took the plunge. And was rewarded with a fruity strong ale that tasted a bit like toffee. It had that same cough medicine taste that I had just discovered that I didn't like towards the end of the glass though.

After this I had some Hook Norton Hooky Dark. I liked this dark balanced drink. I met someone who worked in Hook Norton once and the production of this beer sounds very old school and interesting. They ferment in traditional open wood tanks and use a steam engine to power the brewery.

This was a lot of halves for me so I finished up with a Hanby Golden Honey. This would have been lovely but I think it suffered from being cask conditioned. It wasn't fizzy enough to lift up the lovely honey flavour and make it stand out. It tasted a bit too much like mead for my liking. I love still mead but in a beer a flat honey taste isn't so good.

It was then off to see Ireland get beaten in the rugby. And after that a random trip around Belfast in a micra that involved chips and then a pretty crazy birthday party of a friend from Armagh whose accent I can't understand.

The Session

This month The Session asks What's your favourite beer and why? This is a really hard question. I like lots of different beers, my faourite can change with the seasons and my mood. When talking about a favourite beer it's tempting to go for something really unusual and say it's your favourite to impress people. I'd be inclined to pick a beer I love but sometimes these can be strong beers that I can only have one of. I should go for something I drink on a regular basis. So by that definition my favourite beer would be Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Pale ales are one of my favourite styles of beer. To me they should be well balanced, tasty and easy to drink. This doesn't has to mean dull though. Sierra Nevada pale ale is all the above but it also adds a lovely fruity flavour which I assume is from the yeast. Not all beer has to be crazy and out there. Sometimes you want something solid and tasty to drink. And this beer is it.

Knitting and Stitching Show, RDS, Dublin, October 2008

On friday last I headed to my first knitting and stitching show. It's organized and run by Twisted Thread. I heard from people that last years show wasn't great, there wasn't enough knitting and there were many irrelevant stands. I don't know about that but this year there was loads to see and I spent the entire day in a wooly whirlwind.

First off I went for some coffee to give me a caffeine boost. Then I did a quick tour around all the stands. There were loads of them and I think even after the day there were some I didn't see. The thing I really wanted to see was the Crochet Coral Reef so up I went to the balcony. I have seen photos of the reef but they don't do it justice. I got talking to the lovely girls who were looking after the reef. I met Stitch Lily in the flesh. We had a good chat while I finished crocheting my bit of coral for the reef. She's a lady with loads of great ideas.

That was enough relaxing the shopping had to begin in earnest! First off I found the This Is Knit stand which looked as good as the shop. In the bargain bin I found a lovely skein of
Araucania cotton ulmo. This will be turned into something for my Mum who is allergic to wool. She says even cashmere or alpaca irritates her. I also wanted something really special to make her a cowl for christmas. I found Di Gilpin's stand and while looking at her beautiful designs I discovered she also had yarn for sale. I fell in love with the hand spun, hand dyed silk. It's so shimmery and the colours are iridescent. The photo doesn't really do it justice. I think this will do nicely made into a lacy cowl for my Mum, she deserves it.

For myself I got some alpaca in a lovely grey which I think may become more handwarmers or gloves. You can never have enough gloves. I also got some lovely kilcarra tweed to make into a hat for the husband. I love kilcarra, the colours are lovely and all go together really well. I got the brown in This Is Knit and the orange from the lovely Stephanie of The Yarn Room. I got talking to her at her lovely stand. This was her shops first year at the Knitting and Stitching show. I wish her the best of luck and hope she'll be there for many future shows.

She had some lovely roving so when I decide I want to spin a bit more I know where I'll be heading.

At the show there were many artists and exhibitions of work. Most artists didn't want photos taken so I can't show you any of their work. Also since my camera serves as my memory aid I can't even remember the names of many of them which is a pity. I'm not sure not allowing photos is a good thing as maybe some online promotion would help artists. I suppose my photos wouldn't capture the essence of the work but a link to their site might help.

There was lots of very inspiring and different work. I was very taken with Anita Bruce and her wire knitted plankton. I have a big thing for emergence and why things take one form and not another. So I was very interested to see this. The wire creatures are very delicate and beautiful.

Another fun exhibition was Searching for Pearls. The artist (whose name I can't remember) had what looked like a button shop set up with countless jars of buttons. You could rearrange the buttons in the jars and then lock the jar so it couldn't be rearranged again with a star sticker. I met someone from my Stitch and Bitch group while rearranging jars of buttons so I went for lunch with her.

After all those buttons I felt the need to buy some. I found a lovely stall where one could fill a bag with buttons for four euro. I crammed two bags with as many buttons as would squish in. Don't all the colours look nice?

I stocked up on beading supplies at the show as well. I'm enjoying the Beads and Bling course and I have lots of things I'd like to make at home so I needed some tools. I got a good deal from the Totally Beads stand. I was especially pleased with the pliers set. I got some tubes of beads and wire. I may make some wirework pieces with them or else use wire crochet to make the pieces. I'll see which looks nicer.

Upstairs in the RDS were the stands of the guilds. I loved the Feltmakers Ireland stand with the red themed pieces. The Irish Guild of Spinners and Weavers were there too. I loved the spinning class I took so who knows maybe next year I'll do another more serious course. There was also the Braiding Society from whom I bought a braiding kit.

Now I better stop rabbiting on before this becomes the longest post ever. The rest of my photos of the day can be seen here. Needless to say it was a great day out. Plenty to see and buy. Recommended.

Jewelery Making Workshops - Week Four - Swarovski Crystal Ball

In week Four of the jewelery making course we made a Swarovski Crystal Ball using lovely shiny crystals. The ball is stitched with invisible cord. It's hard to figure out at first. I got very confused until it finally clicked with me what I was supposed to be doing. I think the result is worth it. With practice these wouldn't be so hard to make and they look amazing. I like this green and blue colour combination. I think it would look well in smoke and black crystals as well.

Ceangaltas Mittens

I mentioned before that I was hoping to make a few projects from Knitting New Mittens and Gloves. Here's the finished Ceangaltas mittens.

They were made using Lamb's Pride worsted in wild violet for the main body and amethyst for the trim. I made the trim using a french knitter instead of making an i-cord as in the pattern. They are very warm and snug. I like that they look like gauntlets.