Knitting: Making Socks

I’ve been knitting for quite a while but have never adventured anywhere near the art of making socks. Recently I really started to get the bug to try and knit some socks. Even one sock, I’d even be happy with just the top of the sock because mastering the art of all those needles just looked like a disaster waiting to happen.

If you look at how socks are put together the construction looks very complicated so you can be forgiven in thinking the task of knitting a sock would be impossible. However, hundreds of knitters say they get hooked on making socks once they have mastered the art but how do you receive those special super-powers that I just don’t seem to possess?

Knitting with two needles is easy once, like anything, you have learned the basics and I guess you can feel quite daunted by those at first but everyone always say if you can knit, purl, increase and decrease you can knit a sock. Well, yes I can do all of those things but if you’ve ever seen pictures of what knitting a sock looks like you can be holding anything up to five needles which is why sock knitters look like they have some special power to command all of these needles, as well as not poke out an eye and end up with a fully functional sock after all that hard work. It just seems to happen for them.

Double pointed needles for sock making but you can use circular needles.
My first attempt at making socks using four double pointed needles but you can also use circular needles and the magic loop method.

I did venture forth unfazed by all that seemed to be before me. I bought some double pointed needles and sock yarn thinking this was the right direction to go into. This method of knitting socks has been tried and tested by many experienced knitters…so what could go wrong.

The first hurdle to master are the amount of needles involved. I was using four but you can use five. Getting going was tricky. You take one needle and cast on the amount of stitches required for your sock pattern. Then the fun begins. You need to distribute your stitches across the three needles. For example, if you have cast on 54 stitches across three double pointed needles, then you need to put 18 stitches on each needle so you begin to work in the round. You also need to join your stitches in the round too.

Here are a few handy videos to help you master casting on for knitting in the round as well as joining in the round.

I soon had a revelation at this point that I didn’t have to be an Octopus. Each needle is actually independent from one another and you only ever knit with two needles at any one time. Eureka!

Hold on – What’s working in the Round?

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Easy Slow Cooker Meal: Chicken and Vegetable Soup

We had a leftover whole cooked BBQ chicken which still had half the breast meat, one leg and one wing left to eat. We could have had it cold with some potato salad or popped it in a sandwich but I decided to make an easy slow cooker meal combining all the leftover chicken and some vegetables.

What Do You Need:-

Easy Slow Cooker Meal
Soup is so easy to make in the slow cooker.

Chicken(any leftover cooked chicken) Remove all the chicken from the bone and discard any skin and bones. Set aside whilst you prepare the veggies.

The Veggies

Wash and chop the following:-

4 large stalks of fresh celery
1 large white onion
5 large white mushrooms
A large handful of baby carrots (leave whole)

Add the onions to a pan and lightly cook in a small amount of olive oil until soft. Add the mushrooms, stir and cover for a few minutes on a medium heat.

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Easy Slow Cooker Meal: Sausage

Today I decided to whip up a quick and easy slow cooker meal using some sausages that were in the fridge and a whole heap of veggies.

What Do You Need:-

One pack of your favorite sausages. I decided to use Johnsonville Brats

You can throw them on the BBQ but I thought it would be fun how they would turn out in the slow cooker.
You can throw them on the BBQ but I thought it would be fun to see how they would turn out in the slow cooker.

Take the Brats and brown them in the pan. If you use the same sausages you don’t need to add any extra oil, they will take care of that for you. Be careful they make smoke and it’s best to reduce the heat once they get going. Set aside and leave to cool so you can chop them up later.

Top Tip: save that oil in the pan after they have browned. You can use it to sauté the onions and mushrooms and get even more sausage flavor into the meal.

While the sausages are cooking you can prepare the vegetables whilst keeping a close on the sausages so that they don’t burn up too much.

Pick your favorite veggies. Wash thoroughly and chop.
Pick your favorite veggies. Wash thoroughly and chop.

The Veggies

Wash and chop the following:-

4 stalks of fresh celery
4 small red potatoes
6 medium white mushrooms
1 medium white onion
Large handful of baby carrots
Large handful of green beans
½ a large apple

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Knitting Needles

Finding the perfect knitting needles is almost as hard as trying to find your favorite yarn. Yarn is available in many colors and weights and you can encounter the same problem when deciding which needle to use. You would think finding two sticks would be simple…but let me tell you it’s not.

Double pointed needles for sock making but you can use circular needles.
Double pointed needles for sock making but you can use circular needles.

I have been knitting on and off for over 30 years or so. I haven’t made anything substantial like a sweater but I have made a few soft toys, a shrug, some fingerless gloves as well as the obligatory scarf or cowl and a lot of washcloths.

Knitting Needles come in a variety of styles and are made out of many different materials such as Wood, Bamboo, Metal and Plastic and you also have to decide whether you are looking for straight, circular, interchangeable and all the other varieties in-between.

I always used to like using metal knitting needles. The yarn would slip off the needle really easily making it fast to knit but if you’re trying metal needles for the first time you may find that they are too slippery and you are dropping and losing stitches from them falling off too easily. Using metal needles gives you the classic clickety-clack noise that is often associated with knitting.

Clover Takumi Complete Knitting Needle Set
Clover Takumi Complete Knitting Needle Set

I also had an odd collection of needles that I would pick up free from magazines that had fancy designs, were see through or came in garish colors as well as my old ones from learning to knit that were too short for anything substantial.

I then made a decision that I wanted a complete set of knitting needles so I could have any size I needed at any time. I also wanted some way to store the needles – they are not the easiest things to put away and you don’t want them warping or getting ruined. After much research I decided I really would like to move away from cold metal knitting needles and have some bamboo needles instead.

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Pancake Day 2015: What Will You Give Up For Lent?

Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras – whichever way you say it – signifies the last day of feasting before Lent. This year it falls on Tuesday February 17th 2015. Some people see this as the perfect opportunity to give something up for Lent such as no sweet things, but it is also a chance to challenge yourself to stop a habit for 40 days and potentially beyond.


Can you stop eating chocolate for Lent?
Can you stop eating chocolate for Lent?

Chocolate sits high on the list as one of the major food items to be cast aside for lent as well as cakes, cookies, biscuits, potato chips, crisps, crisps or french fries. In the past I have tried to abstain from eating chocolate and it is easy to accomplish as long as there are not too many temptations put in front of you on a daily basis.

I used to work in an office that would constantly have cakes and chocolates, sweets and savory delights brought in “just because” or they were trying to remove the temptation from home and share them with colleagues. Extremely nice, but if your will-power is zero this can be a tricky obstacle to overcome and not forget once the waistline starts expanding. If you are trying to abstain from something like this, share what you are doing with your colleagues or maybe suggest an office challenge so you can try to stick to it together.

How can you ease your way into a successful Lent?

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World Water Day 2015

The earth is a closed system, similar to a terrarium, meaning that it rarely loses or gains extra matter. The same water that existed on the earth millions of years ago is still present today.
The earth is a closed system, similar to a terrarium, meaning that it rarely loses or gains extra matter. The same water that existed on the earth millions of years ago is still present today.

World Water Day is an annual celebration whereby each year it highlights a specific aspect of freshwater. This year’s event falls on March 22nd 2015 so mark it in your diary.

How I personally drink water has changed over the years. Growing up in the 70s/80s I don’t think I ever saw the classic plastic bottle of water you can readily pick up at every store today. We used to just fill our glass from the tap and we were ready to go. I remember taking drinks to school in my beaker, with probably a dash of Robinsons Barley Water added for interest but that was it. I don’t remember thinking that the water tasted of chlorine or smelt strange but as I’ve grown older I began falling into the trap of grabbing bottled water when out and about and even adding the larger bottles into the fridge.

After much research and lots of taste tests I ended up with a favorite bottled water and if you are caught short on your travels and want to stay hydrated, then I can recommend my tried and tested water tipple of choice was Highland Spring. It just tasted fresh and clean and would quench my thirst. It was an easy to drink water.

How Do You Drink Your Water?
Where does the water you drink come from? If it’s from a bottle, there is a better way!

What do I mean by “easy to drink”? Well, have you ever had water that actually feels heavy and thick in your mouth and you could almost chew the water? I know that sounds daft and if you haven’t experienced that sensation I hope you never do, but most tap waters will make you feel like you’re swallowing something super gloopy. Take notice the next time you take a drink from the tap, you may be surprised by the heaviness?

Now maybe I have ultra sensitive tastebuds but the other thing I’ve noticed is a really strong smell and taste of chlorine in water these days.  Now maybe I just pick up on smells really easily but I don’t think so. The added chlorine also adds to the mouth drying effect that water can have which is the complete polar opposite of why you were drinking it in the first place! With heavy chlorinated water I feel I have to drink more but never really get to the thirst quenching experience.

Water quality is also very dependent on where you live so you may experience the things I’ve mentioned here as well as other elements that affect water quality. When I lived in London the chlorine taste was very apparent but now I live in Florida I can also taste the chlorine so it pretty much seems standard wherever you live. There is an alternative to get back to great tasting water, save money in the process and remove those unwanted chemicals and pollutants that have crept into the humble glass of H2O without ever having to resort to buying expensive bottled water again.

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The Best Stylus

The Best Stylus to buy has always been a tricky venture. Ever since iOS and Android devices have been designed with their finger friendly screens there’s always been a limitation when drawing or writing on occasions. It’s a bit of a minefield and as Apple seem to refuse to make a stylus for their own products it’s left to other manufacturers to come up with a solution.

Each one has their own special quirk and has often some alliance to one particular app, so unless you have the app the pen will work with to get the most out of the pressure sensitivity and other features you’re not going to be getting the full user experience even though you’ve paid full price!

The JaJa Pressure Sensitive Stylus. Worked great at the beginning but the first one had to be replaced and my second one just does not want to connect.
The JaJa Pressure Sensitive Stylus. Worked great at the beginning but the first one had to be replaced and my second one just does not want to connect and makes strange electrical noises

I’ve used a number of styluses from the cheap $0.99 version that feels so thin and cheap in your hands and ends up having to be dragged forcibly across your screen to the polar opposite end of the fancier pressure sensitive pens that can set quite a dent in your pocket. Which all means trying to find THE pen is extremely difficult. I don’t want you to fall for the uber cheap version but I understand you may feel wary parting with large amounts of money. Luckily I have boldly ventured forth on your behalf and can at least share my experience so far.

I’m using two different stylus or should that be styli. The main one I have been using is the JaJa Pressure Sensitive stylus from HEX3 but I’ve had some issues with connectivity and pressure sensitivity so I’m not going to recommend it here, even though I really do enjoy using it.

If I love it why am I not recommending it to you?

Well, I’m on my second pen. The first one failed to connect to the apps as promised and the button just did not work. Not to be deterred I got a replacement but this one also failed to work. The connection was better but the pressure sensitivity would not work because 90% of the time it would not come on and would make an awful electrical buzzing noise. I still have both but they are used purely as non working “insensitive” pens! Sorry HEX3 but that’s the bottom line. I really wanted to love this pen but you have ignored my emails to try and get the problem sorted but you’ve gone dark so I guess I’m on my own with broken styli!

However, not holding a grudge I’ve kept an eye on their new developments and they appear to have been working hard on some new and hopefully better models which look interesting and work across multiple devices. Maybe they’ve just been too busy developing to answer any concerns from past customers. Anyway, the proof will be in the pudding and if I venture down this route I will report my findings. I’ve been extremely disappointed by this company so I’m not too confident ordering from them again but I will showcase their new range within this article so you can make your own decision.

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