“Hydroponics”

Hydroponics-pin

Indoor hydroponic gardening, or hydroponics as it’s commonly known, has had a bad press over the past few years, due to illegal plants being grown away from watchful eyes and extending the growing season indefinitely.

So let’s lay the bad press to rest and find out what all the fuss is really about…..

Hydroponics is the answer to growing plants if you haven’t a garden, are physically challenged, or simply live in a short season growing region. With a fairly small initial outlay – no more than the cost of a few regular garden tools – you can set up an indoor hydroponic gardening area in a cupboard under the stairs, a basement or even the attic if it’s easily accessible.

Hydroponics – the running costs:

Running costs have to be considered as the lights will be drawing electricity for long periods. It’s impossible to put an exact figure on the electricity bill, but when you come to buy your starter kit, the information should be available according to your area and the lights used. Technology is improving all the time and newer energy-saving bulbs are becoming available as time goes on.

Then there are costs of nutrients – these are needed to add to the water to replace nutrients normally extracted from the soil.

New cubes will have to be purchased from time to time… cubes are pots and soil combined and seeds are started and moved on using cubes which are made from materials such as rockwool.

Seeds have to be bought, but with a little careful attention, the germination rate will be good, and seeds can be sown sparingly.

Getting started:

You can start off the seeds in a couple of different ways. If you use a soil-less mix – peat pots or similar, the seeds will germinate with fresh water only. But if you decide to start the seeds in ‘rockwool’ – which is a popular hydroponics medium – you will need to add nutrients to the water from the start.

Seeds and cuttings can be easily started in rockwool filled cubes and you should have full instructions in your kit as to how and when you should plant different species of plant.

NB: Make sure you have as much information as possible when buying hydroponics equipment. Buying a kit is the best introduction to this type of gardening. Don’t spend money on ‘extras’. The gadgets and add-ons may not be beneficial to you. Grow some stuff first, then decide if you need to spend any more money!

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amazon-hydroponicsystem

Urban Bamboo Hydroponic Garden – Planting System, Indoor Greenhouse, 12 Plants, Integrated Circulation Pump, 24W LED, 7L, Breeding in Nutrient Solution, Potting Pots, Bamboo

I love the style of this system, although it is perhaps a little pricey. There are lots of different systems on Amazon . Have a quick browse and see which one suits your needs.

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Hydroponics – caring for your plants:

Light, temperature and humidity are all elements involved in producing your hydroponic veggies. The exact number for each element will depend on your kit and what you’re growing.

Generally the temperature shouldn’t be much more than 80 degrees, or there is a risk of burning the foliage. Minimum temperature around 70 degrees, so for many of us, this requires power to keep the temperature up.

The other main ingredient for a good crop is nutrients – If you’re not using soil, your plants will need nutrients fed to them every day in their water supply. Look around for good prices, but don’t be tempted by the cheapest. You need all the nutrients your plants require, so no skimping on the vitamins!

The Crops:

Hydroponic gardening under lights will produce a crop of virtually anything in less time than an outside crop. When one lot of plants gets going and has moved to the growing on stage, start off some more seeds so you have a constantly producing hydro-garden.

Keep notes of any temperature changes and what happened with the plants. A gardening journal is invaluable in any growing situation but even more so with indoor hydroponic gardening, there are different issues to deal with for example:

*power cuts

*temperature and humidity fluctuations

*changing nutrients

*bugs and viruses

Outdoor gardening has similar issues, but we have no control over the weather, and we accept our destiny, albeit hard, when the cabbage white butterfly has just annihilated a whole crop of winter greens in 2 days.

Indoor gardening gives you much more control over the environment. In fact, you are in control totally, and notes are best kept!!

A few final points about Hydroponics:

1. Read about the product before you buy – does it really suit your needs?

2. Make sure you have all growing mediums and nutrients before you start.

3. Don’t be too ambitious. Start with a simple crop and let your knowledge grow!

4. Remember your electricity bill may be higher than usual. Perhaps grow crops that would be expensive to buy?

5. Keep notes. As I mentioned above, a journal is invaluable to the hydroponic gardener.

Happy Gardening!

Linda x

Healthy Weight Loss

HealthyWeightLoss-pin

If you’ve ever strolled round a lovingly kept garden, whether it’s full of fruit, vegetables, herbs or flowers, you may have experienced a sense of wonder, a sense of being at one with nature and an incredible feeling of being in touch with reality.

Rushing round a supermarket grabbing packaged fruits and vegetables and all manner of processed ‘foods’ just doesn’t create that warm fuzzy feeling!

A high percentage of medical conditions are a direct result of our diet; we are what we eat, as the saying goes. Personally I’d rather be seen as an exotic fruit than a burger but hey, each to their own 🙂

But it’s really important to acknowledge that what we eat has an effect on our bodies. Every action causes a reaction after all. The problem is, although we know all this stuff about diet and healthy eating, we don’t always put what we learn into practice for all sorts of reasons.

So I became my own guinea pig and experimented on myself with a healthy weight loss plan.

I have a sweet tooth and could possibly be classified as a chocoholic so I decided to give myself 30 days to re-tune my body and perhaps lose those extra pounds and it worked! I watched everything I consumed over a month and only ate fresh foods – nothing processed. I limited my carbs after breakfast and lost 14lbs. I have to admit to being a bit irritable for the first couple of days but after that I was fine and felt better with each passing day.

I’m not promoting unhealthy or fast weight loss here. I needed to lose those pounds and although I’ve slipped a bit recently, I know that a quick month – and they do go by quickly after all – of being nice to me will sort it all out again.

One tip that I find works well is refusing to go down the unhealthy aisles in the supermarkets. Try that if you can. It makes you feel so good. I tell everyone who will listen that I avoid the ‘bad-for-you-stuff’ (Smug face)

Also, with the state of the planet and our need to cut out plastic packaging, you can kill two birds with one stone – so to speak. Hm not a very nice expression but you get the gist.

Look after your body – it’s the only one you have after all!

Linda x

fbk-regular-bonus2P.S. I just found a fabulous package of great information for healthy weight loss – check it out.

Over $70 worth of healthy eating tips, great information and solid ideas for only $10. Not sure how long the offer is on for so it’s probably worth grabbing it now so you don’t miss out.

Chervil

Chervil-pin

CHERVIL (Anthriscus cerefolium)
(annual)

Chervil is in the same family as carrots and is similar to parsley. There are two main varieties, one with flat and one with curly leaves. It has a taste a little like anise and brings out the flavour of other herbs when cooked together.

It was once known as myrris because of its resemblance to myrrh. It has been used in religious ceremonies and also has many medicinal qualities.

In roman times chervil was used as a spring tonic but is not widely used as a medicinal herb these days. It is mostly used in the kitchen and is one of the main herbs in French cuisine as part of the fines herbes mixture. The other herbs – chives, tarragon and parsley complement each other and chervil brings out the taste of all of them.

Chervil can be added to many dishes and shouldn’t be ignored when the recipe says; chervil (optional). Add some to your recipes and get lots of brownie points for a wonderful tasting meal.

Chervil is native to Middle Eastern countries but can be grown easily in many moderate climates.

Medicinal uses for Chervil:

Chervil has been used extensively in folk medicine throughout the ages. It was once said that eating a whole plant cured hiccups. The herb is warm and soothing and is often used as a digestive aid.

A cold infusion of chervil tea is a soothing eyewash. Young tender leaves added to salads not only improve the flavour of your meal but are also believed to act as a mild tonic.

Here’s to Herbs!

Linda x

P.S. I took this info from ’20 Occasional Herbs’ which helps you grow your own delicious herbs, listed on Herbs and Healing

 

Homemade Gifts

Homemadegifts-pin

Making gifts for family and friends is so rewarding and there are many crafts that can be turned into pleasing and organic homemade gifts.

And you don’t have to be a crafting expert to create beautiful gifts. A while ago, I wrote an article called ‘Giving Green which includes a few project ideas to inspire new ways of giving gifts.

We all tend to live busy lives and often realize a week before a special birthday or a celebration such as Christmas that we haven’t sorted out gifts and/or decorations. So, off we trot to the shops and buy something we hope will be gratefully received.

And if you’re living on a tight budget as many of us are, that purchase can be based on cost and will possibly create a hole in the budget that week or month.

A couple of years ago, I found myself with a huge amount of knitting yarn in October and very little money so I bought a knitting pattern from Etsy (only a few pounds) for a pair of cozy slippers and spent most evenings knitting for my family.

On Christmas morning, they were all delighted with their gifts. I also made some finger-less gloves and, to avoid buying plastic coated wrapping paper, I tied each ‘package’ with a wide red ribbon.

Altogether, I had to buy some stop slip glue – which, yes, is plastic based, but unfortunately I couldn’t find an alternative at the time. It seemed quite expensive – around £5 for a small bottle, but the bottle covered all 12 pairs of slippers.

And I bought a few metres of wide red ribbon (Instead of wrapping paper) which also only cost a few pounds. Oh, and the original pattern, because I couldn’t find one I liked in any of my knitting books.

All, in all, I spent around £12 and created 12 gifts. Now, I did have the yarn to begin with, but a lot of that yarn was bought in charity shops and some was recycled by un-ravelling previously hand knitted items.

knitting

Getting into recycling and handmade mode is incredibly good for the soul. Even if you have to go to work every day, there are still evenings or a couple of hours every day when you could be enjoying a creative hobby, and turning that hobby, not necessarily into a side hustle business, but a way of giving handmade and unique gifts as well as saving money.

And a special bonus, is that you have complete control over the materials you use, which means you can be plastic-free as far as possible.

Have a quick look at the ideas in ‘Giving Green‘ and come up with some of your own that suit you and your abilities. Crafting for a couple of hours or even 30 minutes a day frees your mind from problems and as an added bonus, helps eliminate snacking in front of the TV – no more diets necessary!!

Happy Crafting!

Linda x

P.S. I’ve just updated my knitting pattern designs which are available on Etsy, Amazon and Payhip. Check them out and get knitting now 🙂 Knits U Love

Chives

chopped chivesAbout Chives

Chives are a member of the onion group and grow wild in many parts of Europe and North America, although they originate from China. They’ve been collected from the wild for centuries but weren’t cultivated until the Middle Ages. There are a number of different hybrids available including a ‘garlic’ variety.

Chives are easy to grow and produce purple or white edible flowers that can be used to garnish a meal, or dried and used in a flower arrangement. The bright green leaves are used in the kitchen and their delicate onion flavour enhances any meal.

Chives are primarily a culinary herb, but being part of the onion family, they do aid digestion, and they have also been used in helping fight cold and flu symptoms, although onions are more effective.

USES

Chopped chives can be added to any recipe that needs a mild onion flavour. They are especially good when added to potato salads, but can also be stirred into many recipes. The edible flowers will add a pretty garnish to any meal.

Tip: To avoid chopping your fingernails into the recipe, use a pair of kitchen scissors instead of a knife!

GROWING CHIVES

Grow some chives at home and have these tasty and handy herbs at your fingertips evey day. When you buy them in plastic bags in the supermarket, they are often quite expensive and perhaps non-organic – but the one issue, that is really something we can avoid at the moment, is that they are often sold in plastic bags… aaargh, more plastic.

Oh, and of course, they don’t stay fresh for very long. As soon as you open the bag, they will start deteriorating and need using straight away.

When you have a pot of chives on the windowsill or in the garden, you can cut exactly how much you want and they are always fresh and organic!

Tip: Cut chives from the outside of the plant so that the centre leaves get a chance to grow taller.

Chives are ideal for edging paths and borders and also make an excellent companion plant, deterring pests such as carrot root fly.

Chives are one of the few plants in the onion family that will grow readily from seed, and there are different varieties. Have a look in your local garden centre where you may be able to grab a ready grown plant or two as well – saving you the time to start off your own seeds.

Although, having said that, there is something very rewarding about growing your plants from seed. You could order them online as well of course. Thompson & Morgan are a good supplier but they only deliver to the UK so if you are buying online from outside the UK, there’s always Amazon of course!

chivestandm

Thompson & Morgan UK

(This link will take you directly to a ready grown plant, but while you’re there, type ‘chives’ into their search bar and you’ll find seeds as well.)

Chives are a perfect pot plant to keep on the windowsill. You don’t need any garden space at all, so no excuses here 🙂

 

Happy herb growing!
Linda x

P.S. There are some useful tips and hints for growing chives in 20 Everyday Herbs (listed on our Herbs and Healing page)

Lovage

Lovage-pin

Now I have a garden again, I’m trying to get some herbs going. This lovage plant was donated by a lovely gardening friend.

Then the weather happened and I really thought I’d killed the poor plant, but here we are… looks like the birds may have had a bite or two but hopefully its hardiness will see it through…

I’ve vowed to be nicer to my plants from now on and watch out for crazy weather forecasts 🙂

About Lovage

Lovage is a hardy perennial plant and will last for many years given the right growing conditions. It will also grow anything from 3ft to 7ft (1-2m) tall, so needs to be placed at the back of a bed so as not to overshadow lower growing plants.

Lovage has a strong taste, similar to celery, and is often used as a substitute for celery salt. The seeds are ground to make salt, and the leaves are generally used for flavouring stews and soups.

The leaves can also be added to the salad bowl. Some cultures strip the bark off the plant and eat the stem raw as a vegetable, although generally the plant is used for its foliage and seed. Lovage has a high level of vitamin C.

Originally from Mediterranean areas lovage has adapted well to cooler climates. It grows well in the UK and other parts of Europe. It is associated with, and often used in place of, celery and parsley.

Medicinal uses for Lovage

Lovage has been used for many centuries in culinary and medicinal preparations and has been the main ingredient in many medicines. It was considered to be something of a wonder drug.

Lovage is known to stimulate the appetite, and aiding digestion. It was also added to baths at one time to deodorize and cleanse the skin.

Culpepper claimed that the powdered roots mulled in wine would “warm a cold stomach, helps digestion, and consumes all raw and superfluous moisture therein” (Culpeper, 1814).

In fact, lovage has been used for many ailments from sore feet to digestive complaints – google the medicinal qualities of lovage – you’ll be surprised why this ancient herb has fallen out of fashion in recent years.

Then, get some growing 🙂 A healthy plant, or maybe two, is probably all you’ll need unless you’re going into production. Start off a whole packet of seeds, re-pot when ready and spread the love!

As this is one of my favourite herbs I had to include it in one of my herb books, of course. Along with 19 others, 20 Everyday herbs is a must-have before you start your herb garden, even if you’re just growing a few herbs in pots. (Book listed here)

If you have a UK address Thompson & Morgan have beautiful grown lovage plants so you don’t have to mess about with seeds! And the great thing about this herb is that it’s perennial. Buy it once and you’ll have it growing for years. (I hope mine looks like this one day)

lovage

Lovage Levisticum officinale

Perennial herb – Aromatic lovage seed can also be harvested for adding to savoury baked dishes. This tall hardy herb makes a useful addition to  kitchen gardens. Height: 2m (79″). Spread: 1m (39″). Lovage at Thompson & Morgan UK

 
Happy Gardening!

Linda x

Bees & Flowers

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We all know that there are many many creatures on earth who are in danger of extinction. We can, of course, all do our bit, however small, to help protect our incredible diversity of nature.

Avoiding plastic as much as possible is a great start and it’s encouraging to see supermarkets getting on board and reducing their packaging materials.

By taking responsibility for the food we eat and the packaging we buy into, we are slowly but surely getting back to a more natural diet and lifestyle – with plenty of variations – and we are helping to save our beautiful world.

Even if it seems like you’re not making a difference, you are!

It’s easy to think, with millions of people in the world still pumping out carbon monoxide, processing plastics and eating non-food diets, that we can’t possibly make a difference, but we lead by example.

If you know your neighbour gets their milk delivered and you could afford to as well, you could switch to milk in glass bottles and reduce the plastic you buy, dramatically. Btw, milk definitely tastes better out of glass!

Anyway, I was going to talk about bees and flowers.

Bees are at risk at the moment and we really need to encourage these wonderful creatures to our gardens and parks. One of the problems with bees is that some of us get  freaked out by them because they have a sting. But unless you are particularly allergic to bee stings, this needn’t be an issue. Bees don’t leave their hives in the morning with the intention of finding a human to sting. I promise 🙂

My daughter bought me a gift of ‘bee bombs’ earlier in the year. In case you haven’t seen them, they are available on Amazon …

beebombsBeebombs – Native Wildflower Seedballs
Beebombs are a mix of 18 British wildflower seeds, fine, sifted soil and locally sourced clay. These seeds are native species and designated as “Perfect for Pollinators”. Beebombs just need to be scattered onto cleared ground to create a wildflower meadow.

Beebombs at Amazon

I planted them quite late in a fairly big tub-like pot and they came up in a couple of weeks. Since then, we’ve had the pleasure of cornflowers and daisies and best of all, of course, bees! The little creature above was quite happy to put up with my photo shoot.

If you don’t want to do the ‘bee bomb’ thing, although I really do recommend it, you could sow your own wildflower garden or have pots of bee attracting flowers on balconies, patios or just outside your front or back door. Bees are most active between March and September (UK) and growing a variety of flowers that bloom at different times during this period will keep you and the bees happy.

Have a stroll around the garden centre and perhaps ask some knowledgeable shop assistants to steer you in the bee direction! I found a fun pack of bee attracting flower seeds at Thompson & Morgan but they only deliver in the UK.

honeybeeseedsHoney Bee Collection
A blend of 19 species of nectar and pollen rich annual and perennial flowers, which are proven favourites of honey bees in our gardens.This colourful flower mix is perfect for those gardeners wishing to encourage bees into their gardens. Height: 60cm (24″). Spread: 30cm (12″). Honey Bee Collection

It’s probably a little late in the year to sow seeds (especially as Autumn seems to have arrived early) but you may be able to grab a few flowering plants from the garden centre to enjoy for the rest of the , er, ‘summer’!

So, let’s get some flowers growing! Even if you can’t get it together this year, start planning your flower garden now and you could be attracting bees as early as March next year.

Flowers are incredible creations of nature. Some of the more exotic orchids are almost impossible to believe, this fly orchid looks like a fairy leaping from her armchair!

orchid

All flowers have their own beauty, even the humble daisy is a symbol of purity and attractive to bees. And the dandelion with its hundreds of bright yellow petals definitely shouldn’t be treated like a weed – although some gardeners may disagree with me  🙂

Heres to your Bee-autiful garden!

Linda x

Fresh Tomato Soup with Cheese Croutes

tomatosoup-pinTomato Season! Although it feels a bit like Autumn in Cornwall at the moment, there are tomatoes to be eaten 🙂 When you have a great crop of tomatoes in the garden, they can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve frozen many a tub of tomato puree for a summer lift in mid-winter.

But for the here and now, a bowl of fresh tomato soup will lift your spirits and nourish your body.

I used a very simple recipe years ago – it’s actually included in the tomato growing guide (scroll down for tomatoes)

And this one is a definite must -try. Found it in my favourite book for busy people ’30 Minute Cookbook’ (I’ve put a link below if you aspire to be a 30 minute gourmet chef!)

I’m copying it. more or less word for word, because I haven’t tried this one yet and I don’t want to miss anything 🙂

So, here we go…

Fresh Tomato Soup with Cheese Croutes

(On a hot day this fresh tomato soup can be served chilled)

Ingredients
(serves 6)

1.5kg/3-3.5lbs of ripe tomatoes
400mls/14fl.oz. chicken or vegetable stock (good quality if you can)
45mls/3 tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste
30-45mls/2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
10-15mls/2-3 teaspoons caster sugar
small handful of fresh basil leaves, plus a few extra to garnish
salt and ground black pepper
toasted cheese croutes and creme fraiche to serve.

Method

1. Mark the tomatoes with a small cross at the base, plunge them into boiling water for 30 seconds, then refresh in cold water. Peel away the skins and quarter the tomatoes.

2. Put them in a large saucepan and pour over the chicken or vegetable stock. Bring just to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until all the tomatoes are pulpy.

soup3

3. Stir in the tomato paste, vinegar, sugar and basil. Season with salt and pepper, then cook gently, stirring for 2 minutes.

4. Process the soup in a blender or food processor, then return to the pan and reheat gently.

5. Serve in heated bowls. Top each portion with one or two toasted cheese croutes and a spoonful of creme fraiche. Garnish with basil leaves.

 
My notes:

“If you don’t have a blender or food processor, finely chop the basil leaves before adding to the pan, then after step 3, stir really well and maybe use a potato masher to get a smooth soup”

“Although it doesn’t say how to make cheese croutes, I would guess thinly slicing a baguette and sprinkling on some grated cheese before lightly toasting under a grill would probably work”

Bon Appetit!

Linda x

P.S. As promised the 30 Minute Cookbook details:

30minutecookbook

 

 

Amazon direct link to The 30 Minute Cookbook

 

 

 

 

Taste of Thyme

tasteofthyme-pin

Thyme is a beautiful herb to grow. Not only is it a culinary delight, but it looks amazing in the herb garden, or draped over walls. A healthy thyme plant really is a must-have in the herb garden. It can also be grown in containers and will put up with drought conditions quite well.

Thyme has been grown in the kitchen garden for centuries and there are records of its use back in Roman times. It was considered to be an effective herb to preserve meat, and although we still use it to flavour meat, other methods of preserving have over taken the simple thyme method.

There is no shortage of myths and legends attached to the herb, including an idea that if a woman wore a sprig of thyme in her hair she would attract her true love. There are many others, a lot of them based around romance and love. Thyme has obviously been a well-loved herb throughout history!

It has been consistently grown throughout the ages as a medicinal and culinary herb and is known to soothe colds and flu symptoms. It has anti-bacterial properties and is a source of vitamins A and C as well as a few other elements the human body needs.

Thyme is one of the herbs to add early in cooking, as it releases its flavours slowly.

*Add to slow cooked stews and casseroles.
*Mix chopped thyme into stuffing mixes
*Sprinkle a few leaves in a baking tin before roasting any meat or vegetable dish.

Grow a plant or two at home and you’ll always have this wonderful herb at your fingertips – organic and super fresh 🙂

Happy Herbing!

Linda x

growingherbsathome

Some of this text was taken from my most popular digital herb book “Growing Herbs at Home”. I’ve just updated and polished the book a little and to celebrate, the price has been reduced!

Grab a copy now and start planning next year’s herb garden. Choose your favourite book store:

Amazon US Amazon UKiTunesKoboPayhipBarnes & Noble , Etsy ,

Put Your Feet Up

christmasrush

This quote always make me kind of chuckle at the craziness some of us – millions of us in fact – go through every Christmas.

And oh, it doesn’t have to be that way!

I’ve been guilty of remembering it’s Christmas on or around the 15th December -ish. In my defense I have an awful lot of birthdays in the family during the last three months of the year and I tend to prioritize those if I can.

But then comes the awful realization that gifts have to be got, wrapped and hidden. That’s a big enough job in itself without all the other Christmas paraphernalia, various pantomimes, school nativity plays, office parties… oh, I’m getting tired thinking about it all.

The year before last, I knew – as early as September – that a lot of the family were gathering together at Christmas – they are often scattered 🙂 . That gave me a definite advantage in the Christmas gift giving department. Yep, I got my needles out and started knitting. I even bought a pattern!

So, I had a lot of yarn, bits and pieces mostly but enough to make 12 pairs of cosy slippers 12 pairs of fingerless gloves and 12 neck scarves.

I bought a few metres of wide red ribbon and tied a pair of slippers, a pair of gloves and a scarf together – reasonably well matched – and got lots of oohs and aaahs throughout Christmas and the new year. 24 cosy feet make 12 happy people when its cold outside!

So, that’s my take on the Christmas rush/panic whatever you want to call it. Do a little planning now..

**make a list of people you usually buy for
**make a list of things you could possibly make, and match them up!

Knitting is just one idea. Have you other needlecraft skills? Or think outside the armchair a little and maybe take some cuttings of your plants and re-pot them as gifts.

Making gifts is a win-win all round.

**People love receiving something you’ve made yourself.
**Your creativity gets a chance to shine – that always feels good
**And by dabbling in home made stuff, you can avoid, or at least minimize, plastic packaging and cheap plastic toys.

There are hundreds of different things you could make as gifts to give others (and yourself!).

Start now, you don’t have to feel Christmassy – just think about winter/ all season gifts. Plenty of time to get Christmassy around the 15th of December 🙂

Check out the Knits U Love page for some knitting downloads for beginners. There’s a free spider pattern too, so that’s Halloween sorted!

Happy Crafting

Linda x

greatvalueyarn-ig

This looks like a handy pack to get going with if you’re making lots of little colourful things! Found it on Amazon. 12 colours, free patterns, good customer service and only just over a tenner – yay! Amazon Yarn