Thursday, July 30, 2009

Big Update Time!

Hi all -
I realize it's been quite some time since I updated, again - and no, I haven't really fallen off the internets. But lots has been happening that's been keeping me from blogging, so I hope you can forgive me.

As usual, I have no knitting to show you because I have more super secret sample knitting than I can really keep up with.

In the first bit of good news, I got a job at the new yarn store in town, fibre space. We worked furiously for weeks to prep to get it open, and now we have lots of great yarn and cool classes lined up for the fall (not to mention parties and spinning fiber!). The website isn't finished, but you can see a bit of the progress on the owner's blog here. I am super happy to be around fiber and yarn and bright colors all the time, and I have wonderful opportunities for teaching and pattern designing and just generally kicking butt.

And now for the second bit of good news. On Tuesday, the anniversary of our very first kiss many, many years ago, Simon said the one thing I've always wanted to hear him say... and asked me to marry him.

Engagement ring

(I may not be able to knit from the distraction!)

Monday, June 29, 2009

M is for...

Monday, and marshmallows!

There's something sad about the ordinary supermarket marshmallow, laying lumpily in its undignified plastic bag on a grocery store shelf, small or large, perhaps cut into odd shapes or colors. Light, sweet, and very nearly tasteless, all the bag can advertise is 'A Fat Free Candy!' as if that was going to be your main motivation to buy it in the first place. S'mores, rice krispy treats, and rocky road ice cream all depend on the marshmallow, but how many of us just eat marshmallows plain? I think most of us, with the experience of adulthood, have moved on to more sophisticated pleasures.

But recent experience at The Dairy Godmother has suggested that there's a bit more to marshmallows than sugar-flavored air. With the aid of last July's Bon Appetit magazine, I whipped up my own batch. (You'll find that searching for more recipes online brings up very similar, or identical, formulae). Some recipes include egg white, but this one works just fine without.

Marshmallow making

Homemade Marshmallows

nonstick cooking spray
1 C cold water, divided
3 1/4-oz envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 C sugar
2/3 C light corn syrup
1/4 t salt
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 C potato starch
1/2 C powdered sugar

Line 13x9 pan with foil. Coat foil evenly with cooking spray.

Pour 1/2 C cold water into bowl of mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.

Marshmallow making
Mmm, squishy.

Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 C water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush.

Marshmallow making
At this point, the syrup is still a little cloudy.

Attach candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to a boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240dF, about 8 minutes.

(This is where precision comes in. My candy thermometer apparently was made for use with bigger batches of syrup, and didn't read accurately in this small amount. Get out a real cookbook and read their description of old-fashioned candy making, where you test the readiness of sugar syrup by dropping a small amount into a glass of ice water. 240dF is the 'soft ball' stage. Don't do what I did the first time and rely only on the thermometer! I burned the syrup, making a horrible mess.)

With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin in a thin stream down the side of the bowl (avoid pouring onto the whisk, as it might splash).

Marshmallow making
The syrup is still boiling - be careful!

Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to blend, about 30 seconds longer.

Marshmallow making
At first the mixture doesn't look like much....

Marshmallow making
But soon it is brilliant white and fills the whole bowl! With the power of a KitchenAid on its highest setting, it probably needed less than 10 minutes, but we wanted to be very sure.

Scrape into foil-lined pan and smooth top. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours.

Marshmallow making
(Obviously this isn't a 13x9 pan. The other half immediately went into rice krispy treats.)

Sift together potato starch and powdered sugar. Sift generous amount onto work surface, making a slightly larger than 13x9 rectangle. Turn marshmallow slab onto powder. Peel off foil. Sift more powder onto the slab. Coat large sharp knife (or cookie cutters) with nonstick cooking spray. Cut marshmallows into squares or other desired shapes. Toss with more starch-sugar mix to coat. Transfer marshmallows to a rack, shaking off excess powder.

Marshmallow making
Supposedly they'll keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. I don't think they'll last that long.

Homemade marshmallows have a lot more flavor and character than the sad lumps in the supermarket. I'm looking forward to some s'mores... maybe coating these in a bit of dark chocolate... maybe even rocky road ice cream (oh wait, we just made 3 flavors of ice cream this weekend, oops). And next time - there will be a next time! How about lemon or orange?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Shhhhh...

I have to whisper.

Or is that I have to Whisper?

I've seen a few too many of these gorgeous little laceweight cardigans going around to resist making my own.

I received some gorgeous Misti International Hand Paint Lace last year and this is going to be a great use of it. 100g of alpaca is going to make the lightest warmest little sweater, I think.
Misti Alpaca Lace

And just like everybody else, I realized #7 needles weren't going to work for the body. I should have just paid attention to my mom and went straight to #5s, but no, I had to knit 4" on #6s before I realized my error. Now I've ripped the whole thing out and re-started. On #5s. Has ANYBODY out there made this silly thing on #7s?
Whisper

Unfortunately now that I've recovered my lost ground, Whisper is going to have to stay at the bottom of the stack while I slog through my sample knitting.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In lieu of knitting

And when you can't post photos of knitting... post photos of flowers!

I've been doing some work on my patio, putting in some more flowers and herbs and veggies for the summer.

I already have one tiny tomato!
Tiny tomato!

While I'm not a big fan of petunias (the smell, the stickyness, the ubiquity) I fed these little guys lots of Osmocote and they are really taking off. I'm starting to love them, and they're going to be ginormous.
Petunias
(My camera can't figure out magenta for any reason! Terrible.)

I wish I knew the name of my one daylily. It amazes me that it overwinters in my container, and I'm so happy to see these huge 6" blossoms.
Daylily

Last but not least, I found a castor bean. Someone was selling seedlings at the Farmer's Market, and I just couldn't resist. So I potted him up and he is growing like a weed! This is the sort of thing that wants a time-lapse video taken, but I'm a bit too lazy for that. Any bets on how big he'll get this summer and whether I'll need to repot him? (When I started seeds myself, the packet said 4-15' height...)
Castor bean

It's going to be my very own little jungle out back. Excellent.

Monday, June 22, 2009

When in doubt...

...post photos of yarn.

I got the yarn for my next set of commissions, and while I can't say more about what all these different yarns will become, I can still show them off.

Two heathered shades of Cascade Lana d'Oro:
Cascade Lana d'Oro
This is another well-made yarn from Cascade, which is 50% superfine alpaca and 50% wool. Nice and soft and WARM!

Three full bags of Cascade 220:
Cascade 220
Yes, the workhorse, but in gorgeous saturated colors.

and last but not least a whole collection of Koigu KPPPM and KPM:
Koigu KPPPM
I've never had this much Koigu to pretend to call my own at any one time! Please forgive me, I'm going to go give it a squeeze again.

I guess it's back to work - I'm on deadline now!

Friday, June 19, 2009

What I did on my summer vacation

Unwittingly followed Elizabeth Zimmermann's directive and knit a lace shawl, of course!

After unsuccessfully trying to knit socks out of some lovely Jojoland Melody superwash (a little too thin, not quite bouncy enough), I decided it would be better suited for lace. Enter the popular Aeolian Shawl.

Aeolian Shawl

Begun on the plane, June 8; finished before I had to get back on the plane, June 16. This of course is the small version - the big one is even more spectacular but I have no idea where I'd wear a big shawl these days. A little one makes a great scarf.

I was overconfident that I had enough yarn and began to knit looser and looser through the edging section. Of course I ran out of yarn on the bindoff but was able to make a last minute substitution. It's not perfect, but it'll do.

I decided against adding beads to this design; I don't think I'm much of a fan of beads in knitting generally. The nupps were pretty straightforward after I figured out exactly how to work them, but I did miss a loop on one and had to sew it back down (not so much fun).

The 'on-the-lamp' shot:
Aeolian Shawl

And some close-ups:
Aeolian Shawl

The edging is what really makes this design shine - the strong geometric zig-zag and the exuberance of the floral ruffle design together have a big, big impact.

Aeolian Shawl

I may need more little triangles in my life - the Swallowtail Shawl (from IK) has been on my list for a while too. But I think Whisper is next. I've seen too many nice ones not to follow suit, and I have just the thing for it.

Friday, June 05, 2009

My new favorite sweater

February Lady Sweater

The February Lady Sweater sat for weeks in my knitting basket, pathetic and sleeveless, as I struggled to finish sample knitting work (you know, the kind with deadlines that come all too soon). And then one day I decided I'd had enough. No more waiting. How long could a couple of sleeves - shortish ones in worsted weight and lace, at that - really take? And just like that, it was done.

February Lady Sweater

(Talk about struggling. Next time I'm recruiting some help for the photos.)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Potential

Sometimes, when the sweater you're knitting is ugly, or doesn't fit, or is somehow full of mistakes... sometimes you just have to rip the whole damn thing out, toss the yarn in a box, and wait for a while to start over. What was once a failed endeavor becomes an opportunity. Disappointment gets turned back into potential.

Suffice to say I've been gone for a while, doing a lot of metaphorical ripping and re-potentializing (is that a word? Probably not. Who cares.) I've been enjoying the hospitality and company of family and old friends. I've been knitting and gardening up a storm. And now I'm back to a point where I want to blog again.

So here I am! Enough with the serious business and let's talk about knitting.

New Project

See what I mean about ripping and re-doing? That used to be the bedjacket. Now it will become something new, of my own invention.

Soon I'll be hoping to show off more of what I've been doing the past few months. Although much of it has been super-secret sample knitting, some of those things (from a year or more ago!) have finally become public and I'm excited to share them with you.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Free Pattern: King Street Beret

I knit up this cute floppy hat in the fall and it's been my winter go-to ever since. It's fast, easy, and keeps your ears warm. What's not to like?

hat

While the world maybe doesn't need more patterns for hats like this, I made my own. And now I'm sharing it with you.

hat

King Street Beret

Finished Size: to fit a woman; adjustable
Yarn: Bulky-weight wool or blend, 140 yards. I used Pingouin Guernesey, which I doubt is still available. Any bulky-weight yarn that knits to the appropriate gauge will work - pick something wooly and marled if you want to duplicate the look.
Needles: US #9 16" circular and set of US #9 DPs, or whatever size you need to get gauge. I only used dps, but there are a lot of stitches and they may fall off and drive you crazy!
Gauge: 18st/4" over double moss stitch pattern.
Notions: tapestry needle, 3 yds thread-covered elastic in color to match your yarn.

Double moss stitch (worked in the round):
Round 1: *K2, P2; rep from *
Round 2: as Round 1
Round 3: *P2, K2; rep from *
Round 4: as Round 3
These 4 rounds make up the pattern.

Directions:
Cast on 76 stitches. Join to work in the round, being careful not to twist. Mark beginning of the round if you need to.
Work in K1, P1 ribbing for 1".
Next round: Switch to double moss stitch, and AT THE SAME TIME increase 36 stitches in pattern evenly around: 112 stitches total.
Continue to work in pattern until piece measures 5" from cast on edge.

Decreases:
Round 1: *work 12, k2tog, rep from * (replace k2tog with p2tog if that fits better with the double moss stitch; use your judgement)
Round 2: work even in pattern as best you can (the marl will help hide pattern irregularities due to decreasing).
Round 3: *work 11, k2tog, rep from *
Round 4: as Round 2.
Continue to decrease every other round until 30 sts remain, keeping double moss stitch pattern and switching to DPs as necessary.
When 30 sts remain, decrease every round until 4 sts remain.
On these 4 sts, work 3" of i-cord.
Bind off.

Finishing:
Weave in all ends.
Tie i-cord in an overhand knot.
Block.
With needle, thread elastic through ribbing on the WS, catching elastic under knit sts. Adjust length of elastic as desired and knot ends.
Enjoy!
(And if you make one, let me know!)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Broadripple

I was going to write you a blog post earlier... but I went to Ikea instead. Assembling all that flat-packed furniture eats up crazy amounts of time, even though I love it, love it, love it.

But in the meantime, between wielding my screwdriver and knitting up samples, I've been cooking up another pair of socks.

Broadripple
[Broadripple, by Rob Matyska, from knitty a long time ago]

I'm trying to work through my seemingly never-ending stash of sock yarns, trying to get through some of the oldest ones first. I'm fairly certain this is Opal, in "Flamingo" - with all the socks I've knit I've never used Opal before! I'm enjoying it, it seems like it will wear well, even though the color is, um, a little intense.

Broadripple
[Now with second sock!]

I've modified these a little to work with a thinner yarn - just added a few stitches into each repeat and went down to #2 needles. They're not quite as interesting as the Spring Forward socks, so they aren't getting as much attention. But I want to finish them soon - so I can start something else!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Now with buttons

In between all the socks (is it crazy that I'm thinking of casting on two more pair, with two already on the needles?) I've still found time to work on my February Lady Sweater. I'm well into the lace part of the body, so the whole thing is growing fairly quickly.

Over the holidays I had the good fortune to find some cute buttons for this sweater. What is it with buttons? How are there so many ugly buttons out there, and so few interesting and good-quality ones? In any case I'm happy with these. They're wood and have some nice detail for interest.

FLS with Buttons
[Hooray, a close-up!]

FLS with Buttons
[And from further away - see, I've got some lace done.]

I found these at a cute little shop in Greenville, SC called The Needle Tree.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Luck of the Draw, part 2

I recently received my latest raffle prize for participating in Sockdown! on Ravelry.

This time, it was a lovely skein of hand-dyed sock yarn and stitch markers from Sheila Rovelstad Designs.

New Sock Yarn
[I am really loving tonal or nearly-solid hand-dyes! Yum.]

I don't frequently find a need for stitch markers, but these are gorgeous. They're one of those things I'd never spend the money on for myself, but they sure do dress up the knitting!
Stitch Markers
[And the stones are my favorite color green, too.]

You should check out her shop, not just for the great tonal colors, but for the colorway names. I was singing to myself the whole time I was trying to choose a color!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Third time's the charm

Sometimes there's a yarn that seems to hold so much potential, so much positive energy... and yet continually disappoints.

CTH
[Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Potluck, in the "Watercolor" colorway - the "Potluck" part means every skein is different, and you just end up with a random selection.]

I've held on to this yarn for years now after receiving it as a gift.

I made a really disappointing sock with it.
Rib and Cable
[Rib and Cable socks, which didn't fit and pooled badly.]

I tried another pattern, hoping that would help.
Crusoe
[Crusoe might have been a good choice, but was still awfully ugly. This was as far as I ever got.]

I even tried to overdye the yarn with tea, but I think it only made the colors uglier.
Dye experiment
[The right swatch is black tea; the left is green tea, both set with vinegar. What a terrible orange!]

But I've taken inspiration from the original project photos of the Spring Forward socks from Knitty, and I'm hoping that the third time is the charm with this yarn and a new pattern.
Spring Forward
[On my new KnitPicks needles!]

If not... I may just have to give up entirely! But I am really enjoying knitting this pattern, the knitting is going pretty quickly, and the yarn hasn't pooled in too bad of a fashion. I think I'll tough it out.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Mail Call!

Sample knitting continues... this time with a 5-lb. box showing up on my doorstep!

What does five pounds of Cascade 220 look like, you might ask?
cascade 220
[Pretty excellent if you ask me!]

Happy Christmas, part II

While 'tis better to give than to receive... I did get some excellent knitting-related gifts for Christmas this year that I have to show off.

First, some new dp's for the never-ending parade of socks:
new needles
[I'm interested to see how the Knitpicks needles hold up.]

Then, a complete surprise from a friend, this lovely hand-made project bag:
Bag
[It's got pockets and everything, and is big enough to hold a whole sweater in progress!]

But the pièce de résistance was this gorgeous and carefully-engineered birch swift, made by my dad (and happily coupled with a ball-winder from my sister!) It also breaks down into all its component parts for easy storage - my mom made it a nifty carrying case.
swift
[That's a skein of Cascade 220 on there, with lots of room for more!]

I've already been giving it a workout.
swift in action
[Incidentally I've discovered this REALLY pushes the cat's buttons. Hysterical.]

At my age I feel a bit silly asking for things for gifts, but the amount of knitting I'm doing keeps going up and up. With a greater proportion of it being time-sensitive sample knitting, it's great to be able to wind balls efficiently! Some of you may remember that I've gone on the record before complaining about "cakes" ... I am happily relaxing my position!

I feel fortunate to be surrounded by so many carefully hand-made things.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Happy Christmas

Now that all the gifts have been given and I'm no longer in danger of giving away any surprises, I can show them to you!

What looked like quite a bit of yarn in that photo worked up very quickly, most of it into three hats.

First, a simple and warm Seaman's Cap for my dad:
Seaman's Cap
[Patons Classic Wool, #7 needles, and an afternoon]

Then, two wonderful Jared Flood designs, Koolhaas and Turn a Square, for someone very special:
Koolhaas Hat
[Patons Classic Wool again, although the color is a bit much and I may adopt it!]

Hat
[Cascade 220 and Noro Silk Garden, yum! Looks like I need to get a photo on the recipient, though....]

Finally, a lovely Lace Ribbon scarf in my sister's signature purple:
Lace Ribbon Scarf
[And yes, that's me at the edge of the frame with a silly toy!]

This was from a lovely ball of BMFA Socks That Rock in a club-only colorway. No, I'm not in the club, but it was another fortuitous raffle win! Look at those gorgeous colors.
STR

Yum! Thankfully the holiday knitting was pretty low-key and simple this year, just the way I like it. And I think everyone was pretty happy with what they'd received, which is of course the point. I also got some truly nifty things for Christmas this year, but I think they warrant their own post.

What was your favorite thing you gave this year?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Another month, another pair of socks

I feel like the only thing I really ended up finishing in 2008 (for myself, anyway) was socks. Lots and lots of socks. I now have over 20 pair in my little display box [scroll down], and now that I live someplace cold enough for them, they're actually getting some wear. It doesn't hurt that the socks also serve as a raffle ticket and I have yarn for another 15 pair or so before I have to buy more!

Here are the latest:

Brown Seaweed Socks

I call these my Brown Seaweed Socks... and here's the stats:
Pattern: Seaweed Socks [PDF] by Wendy Johnson of WendyKnits
Yarn: KPPPM, color 613 (I like to think of it as 'butter pecan')
Needles: #1 dps
Notes: This is one of the only toe-up sock patterns I've liked. I'm fortunate that Wendy and I have feet exactly the same size, so what works for her seems to work for me. I had to learn a new cast-on, and a new heel construction, which was kind of a treat. Unfortunately the pattern works better on 2 circular needles, which I'm not hip to, so I struggled along on dps anyway.
Ravelry page here.

Here they are again, blending into the floor.

Brown Seaweed Socks

The other plus about these is that they look cabled, but they aren't, and don't have the bulk of cables. And they fit perfectly!

Do I have another pair of socks going? You bet. Hopefully soon I can break out of the sock rut and into some sweaters.