Sunday, 18 February 2018

Gluten-free Baking with Lentils: The Quest for a Recipe that Works

My quest to find wholesome, dairy, egg, gluten and soy-free recipes continues. This morning I once again tried to master the art of baking with soaked red lentils and, once again, I failed. 

Gluten-free baking with lentils - Savoury Lentil Muffins

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Vegan Sweet Potato Brownies - gluten, egg and dairy free recipe

I was celebrating my first week on an elimination diet and ended up concocting my own version of vegan sweet potato brownies. 

In addition to staying dairy and egg-free, I am also trying to cut out / reduce wheat, gluten, unfermented soy and caffeine. Strictly speaking, I should also cut out sugar. But hey (!), we all have our cheat days. 


Vegan Sweet Potato Brownies (gluten, dairy and egg-free)

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Not Knitting ... due to Pickle's Cancer Diagnosis

Those of you who stop by to read this blog regularly will most probably be familiar with Pickle, my 8.5 year-old Tuxedo Cat, who frequently features on the blog in her capacity as knitting cupboard inspector, model and product tester extraordinaire.

In the pictures below, she can be seen 
The Knitted Cat Tunnel

  • modelling the Cat Leg Warmer (or a swatch of cartridge rib in the round)
Cat Leg Warmer or Cartridge Rib Stitch in the Round

Tidying up the Knitting Cupboard with Pickle

At the end of November 2017, I discovered blood in Pickle's stool. This prompted a visit to the vet's. During her initial examination she was found to require dental treatment (including extractions) and we were advised to change her diet to chicken in broth with rice. Despite the nutritional changes, her diarrhoea continued and every third to fourth bowel movement contained blood. At a subsequent consultation with her vet, she was deemed fit to undergo dental surgery despite her digestive issues. In fact, both the vet and us were guessing that her digestive issues might potentially be connected to the state of her teeth; and that by removing this inflammatory culprit, the issues around her digestion would resolve as a result. She was booked in for surgery just before the end of the year. 

In addition to her pre-op blood tests, I decided to take full advantage of her time under anaesthetic to obtain abdominal x-rays and to carry out histological tests on a small polyp, which I discovered on her rectum shortly before her dietary issues emerged. Even though I didn't like the look of the polyp, neither of the vets, who examined her, seemed particularly concerned about this small growth on her behind. Both advised that colorectal polyps were generally more common in uncastrated dogs and that polyps in this location were not commonly encountered amongst feline patients.

Neither her blood test, including complete blood count, nor her abdominal x-rays, which would have shown any obstructions or palpable internal tumours, gave us any cause for concern. Her vet appeared confident that, all being well with the histological tests, Pickle was either passing blood due to the ongoing issues with her teeth and / or she was exhibiting the classic signs of feline Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). 

Following her operation, Pickle returned home in the early evening the same day. Within a matter of days she was back to her usual self. Probably as a result of her dental extractions, she even appeared more active than before. The bland diet, which we kept up, decreased the frequency of her bowel movements drastically. Despite this, she continued to harbour a healthy appetite. Sadly, she also continued to produce bloody stools, albeit at a reduced rate.

In the evening of 4th January, whilst I was in the middle of a chaotic commute home from London, I received the results of the histological tests from her vet over the phone. It was bad news. That was the night Cancer moved into my life and took hold of it. If you and a beloved pet are or have been affected by Cancer, my heart goes out to you.



Pickle (in one of her favourite places - in the midst of freshly laundered bed linen) on 19th January 2018, roughly two weeks after her cancer diagnosis.  

The mass examined was found to be malignant (Adenocarcinoma), most likely a colorectal Adenocarcinoma. Her vet admitted that he would not have expected this result when he relayed her 'very guarded prognosis'. Based on the medical statistics available for this type of cancer, which is relatively rare in cats, he indicated that her life expectancy could range from 8 weeks to 18 months.

In the midst of a packed train, I tried to keep a stiff upper lip, asked all the questions that appeared to be of immediate concern (Is she likely to be in pain? - No. Is there anything we need to do right now? - No.) and arranged another consultation to discuss Pickle's prognosis in more detail. I arrived home that night and couldn't even cry. Instead, I was in shock and at a complete loss, not knowing how to start tackling the problem. Even though I was fearful of the polyp being cancerous, I had never really contemplated this being a possible outcome. I had no Plan B.

The follow-up consultation with her vet was not until around 7 days later and I had to somehow bridge that gap. Whilst it's easy to get carried away emotionally when you are confronting this Goliath-type adversary, I somehow knew that I had to contain my emotions in order to concentrate all my waking energy on thinking clearly, gaining knowledge and making smart decisions on Pickle's behalf. And FAST. 

I soon found out that the presence of Cancer and a work life do not mix well, especially if you attempt to keep on functioning in the latter. I completely stopped eating and, as a result of sleepless nights and countless hours researching the web, I physically caved in halfway through the following week. By the time the vet appointment was upon us, I was on antibiotics for tonsillitis, full of cold and my GP was particularly concerned about my anxiety. I was not able to switch off and my brain was working at full capacity any time, all the time. Feeling physically shit was ok though. As long as I was able to do something constructive and, above all, spend time with Pickle, my anxiety was bearable. With a notebook full of questions, mainly concerning the histological report, cancer staging and treatment options, we returned to the vet's. 

During the consultation, her vet explained Pickle's further treatment options in more detail. Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that has the ability to move fast, affecting other organs as it spreads. In order to establish the stage of her cancer, we would either have to resort to invasive surgery or get her booked in for MRI scanning. Both procedures would require another anaesthetic, a lengthy journey to a clinic with appropriate facilities and, if opting for invasive surgery, an overnight stay at the vet's. 


Pickle on 19th January 2018, sporting a post-op shave on the right side of her neck

Ignoring the financial aspects (I would remortgage the house if I had to) considering the stress and impact on Pickle's emotional and physical health, neither of these options seemed appropriate. From a medical point of view, given the absence of a palpable tumour, the chances of successfully removing cancerous tissue during surgery are slim, especially as we don't know where and whether it has spread. Chemo - and radiotherapy are equally unsuitable. Unlike certain types of Lymphoma, Adenocarcinoma is not particularly responsive to either treatment options and both might do more harm than good, especially if, assuming best case scenario, we have nipped Pickle's cancer in the proverbial 'butt' with the removal of the polyp from her rectum.

This leaves us with the final option: shifting the focus from the cancer found in the tissue sample to concentrating our efforts on improving the symptoms of her IBD, whilst simultaneously boosting her immune system. Conventionally, severe cases of IBD are often treated with the help of corticosteroids, which - when managed carefully in conjunction with dietary intervention - can produce good results. Having lived with a Terrier, who spent the best part of his life on corticosteroids and made it to 13 years, I am not necessarily averse to their use. Yet, corticosteroids negatively affect other organs when used over a prolonged period and, by implication, will shorten the life expectancy of the patient. 

Considering Pickle's overall condition - she is not lethargic, shows no signs of pain, has not lost any weight and continues to display a healthy appetite even for the bland food we have served up over the past month - I had made my decision that 'Pickle on 'Roids'' wasn't an option, at least not until all other routes had been exhausted.

In the various consultations with Pickle's conventional vet, he must have sensed my reservations in respect of conventional treatments. From my comments on immunisation to microchipping and the application of parasite treatments such as Bayer's Advocate, he was probably expecting my next turn already. Thankfully, he appeared to back my approach: the holistic route. 

Having read many accounts of owner's grappling with their cat's cancer in recent weeks, I am aware that in many cases conventionally trained vets are often not supportive of this route. This comes as no surprise, and the recent spat between the  RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) and the BAHVS (the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons) serves as a timely reminder of the frictions between both 'camps'. (More here.)

Every case is, of course, unique and there may be valid reasons why a conventional approach should be favoured over holistic treatments. Yet, in Pickle's case, he backed the idea of getting a holistic vet on board, if only to delay the use of corticosteroids by exploring raw feeding, dietary supplementation and other holistic remedies.

And this is where we are right now. After more research and days spent discussing Pickle's case with various holistic vets across the country, 'Team Pickle' was joined by another member at the onset of last week. Meanwhile, the patient herself appears content. Her last two bowel movements contained no visible blood, she maintains a healthy appetite, has recovered from the upheaval of the vet visits and seems to enjoy life as before, maybe even more, bearing in mind that she is now rid of her painful teeth. By simply looking at her right now, no one would assume that she was diagnosed with Adenocarcinoma. Further updates will follow.


Pickle on 19th January 2018, 2 weeks after her cancer diagnosis

Friday, 15 December 2017

Knitting for Dollcena Takara Tomy Dolls


After knitting a pencil dress with sock yarn for this Takara Dollcena doll, I decided to make another in black (also with sock yarn). Project instructions will follow. Soon. I hope.

Here's the prototype.

Pencil Dress for Takara Tomy Dollcena Doll, hand-knit with Araucania Botany Lace 


And here's a preview of the little black pencil dress: 

Dollcena Takara Tomy doll in hand-knit pencil dress

Dollcena Takara Tomy doll in hand-knit pencil dress

Dollcena Takara Tomy Doll in Handknit Pencil Dress (Sock Yarn) - Beaded I-cord Halter 

Dollcena Takara Tomy Doll in Handknit Pencil Dress (Sock Yarn) - Beaded I-cord Halter


Friday, 24 November 2017

Crochet for Dollcena Dolls - Little Grey Hat

I literally have no idea how this little doll hat came together. It's a crochet hat and I can't crochet. I have some sort of mental block when it comes to crochet. 

I'm not entirely sure what I did and how it's constructed, I just used a crochet hook and it happened to turn out this way. By lucky coincidence, it happens to fit my Dollcena Doll. 

I'm afraid, I won't be able to write up project notes this time. But should I happen to attempt another crochet doll's hat, I promise to pay more attention to the process.

Dollcena Doll with Crochet Hat - Yarn: Stylecraft Kontiki


Dollcena Doll Crochet Hat (Doll by Takara Tomy, Yarn: Stylecraft Kontiki, Craft: Crochet)

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Knitting for Dollcena Dolls

... can be tedious. It's not so much the knitting, rather the finishing, which can be extremely time-consuming. 

But this Dollcena urgently needed a comfy outfit. 


Takara Tomy Doruchena / Dollcena Doll (Lilo) - handknit dressing gown




Takara Tomy, Doruchena / Dollcena Doll (Lilo) - handknitted gown

I am currently working on pattern notes for a hand-knit tiny pencil dress for this Dollcena. Progress pictures are below, more is available here.

Handknit Pencil Dress (sock yarn) for Takara Tomy Dollcena - I-cord halter detail



Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Yarn Dyeing with Lichen - Dyeing Handspun with Cladonia Mitis

Having read numerous 'how-tos' on the process of natural yarn dyeing utilising lichen, I felt the urge to experiment with a local variety of lichen and a small swatch sample of handspun.

Lichen on Apple Tree (West Kent, UK) 

Before investigating natural dyes, I was aware of the existence of lichen and their particular properties as fungi. Yet, I had no idea of the longstanding history of fabric dyeing with these mysterious organisms. And even though lichen are omnipresent in everyday life, I hardly took any notice of them. I subsequently had my first conscious encounter with a particularly impressive variety in an old orchard in West Kent (UK) back in August 2014. More on  this is available here. Shortly thereafter I came across several articles and selected blogs on lichen dyes and was naturally cursing myself for not having taken a small sample on the day to experiment.


Lichen on Apple Tree, West Kent (UK)

During a recent trip across Kent - this time to the Kent / Sussex border - I once again came up close and personal with another variety of lichen. This time I not only collected a very small sample (just enough to dye a swatch of homespun), I was also able to identify the variety: Cladonia Mitis. 

What follows is a brief description of my lichen dye experiment with 


You will require: 



  • 1 small swatch sample of undyed homespun yarn 12cm x 6cm (as pictured below)
  • 1 small sample of lichen (as pictured below)
  • 1 jam jar (to soak the lichen for one to two nights prior to simmering it together with the handspun swatch sample)
  • 1 saucepan

Homespun Swatch Sample

Cladonia Mitis

Monday, 9 November 2015

The Weekly Swatch: The Smocking Stitch



The Smocking Stitch is a slightly more advanced stitch motif, creating a two-dimensional texture, which resembles the lattice stitch in appearance. This is achieved through a very limited amount of cabling on both the 4th and 8th rows of the stitch sequence. All other rows require simple knitting or purling. 

Smocking Stitch

Multiple of 6 stitches


Row 1 (wrong side): P2, *K2, P4; rep from * to last 4 sts., K2, P2.

Row 2 (right side)K2, *sl. 2 sts. purlwise, K4; rep. from * to last 4 sts., sl 2 sts. knitwise, K2.

Row 3: P2*sl. 2 sts. knitwise, P4; rep. from to last 4 sts., sl 2 sts. knitwise, P2.


Row 4:  *Sl 1st knitwise, place 2sts. onto CN (Cable Needle) and hold at back of work, K1, K2 sts. from CN, sl next st. onto CN and hold at front of work, K2, K1 st from CN; rep. from * to end. 


Row 5: K1, P4, *K2, P4; rep from * to last st., K1.


Row 6: Sl1 st knitwise, K4, *sl 2 sts knitwise, K4; rep from * to last st., sl 1st knitwise.


Row 7: Sl1 st knitwise, P4, *sl 2 sts knitwise, P4; rep from * to last st., sl 1st knitwise.

Row 8:  *Place 1st. onto CN and hold at front of work, K2, K1 st. from CN, sl next 2 sts. onto CN and hold at back of work, K1, K2 sts. from CN; rep. from * to end. 


Repeat Row 1 - Row 8 for pattern.


Smocking Stitch


Sunday, 6 September 2015

Unravelling Old Projects: Musings on Reckless Beginner Knitting and Body Image

In the interest of frugality, I will be unravelling a project from the very early stages of my 'knitting career'. This was a time when knitting a gauge swatch was such a bore, adequate measuring (of myself and the swatch) appeared mysterious and incredibly complicated, blocking didn't exist and, due to a lack of familiarity with materials, I habitually chose the most unsuitable yarns for my projects. 

Hopelessly Oversized Asymmetrical Cardigan (completed circa 2010 / 2011)

I'm sure many other beginner knitters will be familiar with this cavalier attitude: You feel excited by the very fact that you mastered the basics of knitting and you just want to get on with it. Every project therefore turns into a test, attempting new techniques and more challenging pieces, rather than paying attention to the necessary groundwork, i.e. jumping through the hoops of all the preparatory steps before casting-on in earnest.  


I adopted this rather nonchalant attitude in two of my earliest projects: a jumper and an asymmetrical cardigan. And even though every seasoned knitter drew my attention to the importance of gauge, selecting suitable materials or the necessity of blocking, I chose to ignore all of this well-intentioned advice, knowing in the back of my mind that I was en route to Disappointment Central.


Friday, 4 September 2015

Exploring Basic Shapes: The Knitted Star

An end to a thoroughly unproductive day, in which I merely managed to complete the pattern notes for a basic knitted star in preparation for another upcoming project, which - going by the speed it's taken to complete these notes - will take a little while yet. 

Without further ado, here are the instructions for a basic star, which is worked in the round on double-pointed needles. The star's outer edges are shaped with short rows. The size of the star can be modified by increasing or reducing the total number of stitches before working the spikes on the outer perimeter.

Knitted Star
Materials Required
  • 4 double-pointed needles (dpns)
  • Approximately 10 - 30 grams of yarn (matching the needle size of the dpns) 
  • Scissors 
  • Darning Needle

Set - Up
  • Cast-on 7 stitches in whichever method you are most comfortable with (using a dpn)
  • As if knitting an I - Cord, bring the yarn to the first cast-on stitch
  • K1, KFB, K3, KFB, K1 [ 9 stitches in total]
  • Divide these 9 stitches evenly on three dpns and join in the round
Knitted Star after completion of first increase row 

Body of Star

Row 1: K9 
Row 2: KFB into all stitches [18 stitches]
Row 3: K 18
Row 4: *KFB, K2; repeat from * to end [24 stitches]
Row 5: K24
Row 6 *KFB, K3; repeat from * to end [30 stitches]
Row 7: K30
Row 8*KFB, K4; repeat from * to end [36 stitches]
Row 9: K36
Row 10*KFB, K5; repeat from * to end [42 stitches]
Row 11: K42

Please note: For a larger or smaller star, you can continue to increase the stitch count (adding 6 stitches on every even row) or decide to start the shaping of the spikes before you reach 42 stitches. Instead of utilising KFB increases, it is also possible to increase the stitch count with 'yarn overs'. This will result in a lace star.


Knitted Star - Detail

Before you start shaping the points, you should ensure that each dpn holds an even number of stitches. Half of the stitches on every needle will be shaped into one of the six outer points.


Shaping of the Outer Points


Shaping the Outer Points

Row 1: K7, turn (do not wrap the stitch when turning!)
Row 2: P7
Row 3: Sl1, K1, PSSO, K3, K2Tog, turn
Row 4: P5
Row 6: Sl1, K1, PSSO, K1, K2Tog, turn
Row 7: P3
Row 8: Sl1, K1, K1
Row 9: P2tog
Row 10: Bind-off remaining, break yarn

Proceed to shape the remaining five outer points in the same fashion.

A star is born.


Knitted Star


For pattern support, please feel free to contact me via Ravelry (ClariceAsquith), Twitter (@Slipstitched), leave a comment below or by e-mail: clarice.asquith@googlemail.com.


For a link collection to all original designs on the blog, please visit this link.

This pattern is for personal use only and may not be reproduced for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2015 Clarice Asquith. All rights reserved. http://makedoandmendnovice.blogspot.com


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

OMG it's huge: The Picot Pi is finally blocking

A long overdue update on the Picot Pi


It's finally blocking. And, as expected, it's huge.

Bed vs Picot Pi: 


Picot Pi Blocking



Detailed pattern notes will be up on the blog shortly. More information on the project is available here.


Picot Pi Lace Detail

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Weekly Swatch: The Honeycomb Stitch

Honeycomb Knit Stitch 

The Honeycomb Knit Stitch as featured above is an uncomplicated stitch motif (no purling, just knitting!), resulting in a dense, yet flexible, texture, which is ideal for a wide variety of wintery garments and accessories. These tend to be designed to retain heat, whilst remaining breathable; and the Honeycomb Stitch fulfils these design requirements perfectly. 


Honeycomb Knit Stitch Sample


Sunday, 30 August 2015

Winter Stole Update: Test Knit Completed ✔

Back in January I released my pattern notes for the Winter Stole, a lace stole knitted with a chunky alpaca / wool blend on 6mm needles. More background on the rationale behind the design and my choice of yarn is available here; and the pattern is available here.


The Winter Stole pattern was developed to encourage knitters (and myself) to diversify the choice of materials when knitting lace. Depending, of course, on the complexity of the lace stitch sequence and the overall design, I was aiming to showcase that it is possible to produce knitted lace with chunkier yarns. 

Winter Stole (yarn: Wendy Zena, pattern available here.


Winter Stole (yarn: Wendy Zena, pattern available here.

Thanks to Tara (tara53aus on Ravelry) I am now pleased to announce that the pattern has undergone its first 'independent' test knit and Tara's completed stole is pictured below:


Tara's Completed Winter Stole 

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am always thankful for the feedback I receive from the knitters of my designs, especially from those, who put their trust in a pattern that has so far only been completed by the pattern's very own designer. This was the case with the Winter Stole pattern. 


This time round and following the feedback I received from Tara, I am particularly pleased to announce that my original Winter Stole pattern is free of mistakes, slips and no modifications are necessary.


Tara's Stole Blocking

I was also delighted to see that Tara not only used a natural, undyed alpaca yarn to complete her stole, she also chose a very special handspun yarn from an independent producer in Western Australia. 


Sadly, I was not able to retrieve more information on the producer over the web, but the ball band details can be seen in the picture below. So, if you are located in Western Australia, I suggest you get your hands on a delightful skein (or two) of Greg's and Wendy's handspun.




A remark on the pattern from my side: I have decided to update the pattern notes of the Winter Stole slightly with optional variations, to take those knitters into consideration, who are opting to use handspun yarn (Alpaca or otherwise) and may thus only have a finite amount of yarn to complete the project. The stole was designed to be rather wide and fewer cast-on stitches (resulting in fewer lace motif repeats in the body of the piece) will ensure that the piece will turn out long enough to be classed a 'stole'. These notes on modifications of the original pattern will be published shortly. In the meantime, the original Winter Stole pattern is available here.

Finally and once again, a very big 'THANK YOU!' to Tara for her feedback, for being the first to test the pattern and for choosing a delicious, independently produced, handspun yarn to complete her project. 

For any interested knitters, wishing to complete a Winter Stole and requiring pattern support, please feel free to contact me via Ravelry (ClariceAsquith), Twitter (@Slipstitched), leave a comment below or by e-mail: clarice.asquith@googlemail.com.


For a link collection to all original designs on the blog, please visit this link.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Knitting with Non-Traditional Materials: The Nameless Choker meets the Nameless Cuff

Roughly one year ago I released project notes for a simple knitted lace choker, the Nameless Choker. The pattern notes for the 'Nameless Choker' are available here. 

Specifically designed to use up the last remnants of sock yarn after the completion of a larger project, Nameless is an ideal project for a very small quantity of yarn (approximately 10 - 20 grams).


Nameless Choker, Knitting Pattern available here


One year on, I decided to explore the choice of material for this project in more detail. Whilst certain types of sock and cotton yarn (especially the sturdier varieties) work very well with the design, the pattern provides an ideal starting point for venturing into new territory, i.e. the cross-over point where knitting and jewellery-making techniques meet and blend into one another. 

For my revision of the pattern, I am planning to adapt the original design with the help of a number of non-traditional materials such as waxed cotton thong cord (1mm), leather cord (1mm) and, potentially, jewellery wires.

Having completed an initial experiment with waxed cotton cord (shown below), it is clear that certain design elements  of the original pattern (stitch count, lace repeats, needle size and quantities etc.) will obviously have to be revised and modified to take the properties of cotton thread into consideration, but I am quite happy with the initial outcome.

The first insight derived from yesterday's cotton cord knitting session is that 10 metres of waxed cotton thong are not sufficient to produce a fully fledged knitted choker on the basis of the original Nameless pattern, but they will be enough to make a knitted wrist cuff.   

Nameless Cuff (knitted with 1mm waxed cotton cord)


Nameless Cuff (knitted with 1mm waxed cotton cord)


Nameless Cuff (knitted with 1mm waxed cotton cord)

Nameless Cuff Prototype

Nameless Cuff - Prototype

Further updates and finalised project notes on the Nameless Cuff and the modified Nameless Choker will be up on the blog shortly. 

In the meantime, stay tuned... 





Sunday, 23 August 2015

Cartridge Rib Stitch in the Round + Cat = Cat Leg Warmer



Cartridge Rib Stitch in the Round + Cat = Cat Leg Warmer

The blog seems to have received a number of search queries for instructions to the cartridge rib stitch motif knitted in the round. This is potentially the result of an earlier entry, in which I posted the stitch sequence for the basic cartridge rib stitch. This is available here.


Catridge Rib Stitch Sample in the Round

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