Archive for the ‘food and garden’ Category

whiteout

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

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david picked up some gorgeous orchids on sale during a trip to the home store over the holidays. they are blooming like gangbusters and we are managing to keep them alive—score one for the home team.

the white one is doing a spectacular job of putting out, but the purply pink one kind of stealing the show, despite having less blooms.

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this one is such a diva, though—it catches a chill easily and needs to be moved back and forth from window sill to island every day or two to keep it from wilting in the draft. i gladly accommodate its fussy nature, as this spot of color is a merry island in a sea of january white and gray.

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yeah, we got dumped on this week in a storm completely unrelated to the one hitting the east coast right now. here, i thought we were expecting snow from the outer reaches of that system and BAM—we got hit from behind instead.

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between snowstorms and holidays, i don’t think the kids have had school more than three days in a row since the first of january, haha.

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not all the white is a challenge though—look at what my friend susie brought to knitting class on monday. she knit this vine flower dress from the über-soft organic pakucho cotton worsted we have in our online shop in the baby’s breath shade. how adorable is that? this dress is an easy knit and such a nice gift for a little girl baby. it will grow with a child so that she can wear it as a dress for a couple of year and then use it as a top.

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inside, we stay warm by keeping the home fires burning under pots of stew and soup, interspersed with fiery skillets of stir fry. this italian vegetable stew has several ingredients from our garden, including tomatoes from the freezer, carrots and garlic from the cellar, and fresh dug potatoes which we are storing deep under mounds of dirt in the garden, where they grew. david digs those up in batches whenever we have a bit of a thaw.

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while i cook, i add a few rounds on my natty cap whenever i have to wait for  something to boil or for the mirepoix to sweat bit.

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this new batch of kent DK in the tide pool shade is SO squishy—it’s funny how different shades of the same yarns have their own special character, even in blends. this particular batch is very bouncy and is showing some great stitch definition; perfect for this fabric, with its knit/purl texture.

i also work on the hat while sipping my first cup of coffee in the morning—starting the day with a bit of knitting helps me to get my thoughts in order. when i get to my desk, i know what i need to get done and it’s easier to avoid the black hole of email.

right now, i’m getting several new sweater patterns organized and out to the tech editor, putting together materials for the first installment of our blanket statement club, and working on the script for my next craftsy class—this one’s about sweater construction, in case you have input—which will go into production at the end of february.

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by lunch time i’ve worked up quite a hunger, so i indulge in some local color—leftovers from a spicy stir fry dinner or a small bowl of thick soup. now that is good food for warming things up.

with secret club knitting on hiatus for a short while, i’m trying not to spread myself thin by working on too many projects at once, because i want to make headway on my cam cable pullover sweater and think about my next sweater to go on the needles.

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so far, this strategy is paying off—i’ve got two sleeves finished already. and in a raglan sweater, the sleeves represent a good chunk of knitting.

after binding off the second sleeve last night, i cast on for the front before heading to bed.

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i figured getting that out of the way would allow me to launch right into some good knitting time when i got back to work on it. and as soon as i finish up this post, that’s just what i’m going to do.

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remember laura’s woodcutters toque i showed you the other day? well she showed up at the office today with it all done. isn’t it cute? it still needed a bath but i’ve taken care of that now—we’ll get some nice photos of it later this week. the yarn (our chebris blend in worsted weight) is absolutely dreamy—so unbelievably soft and with an incredible fluffy halo that gives it an other-worldy haze. can’t wait til you all can feel it too.

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well, she’s going to need that that—temperatures are going down to zero and maybe below as we speak; we are pulling i the drawbridge and getting our blankets on tonight. see you next time.

get ready for weather

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

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with this week just hours underway, we are already bracing for heavy snow and blizzard conditions that will bring up to twenty four inches of snow to our eastern seaboard states. sounds like we’ll be needing a good knitting project to cuddle up with. laura cast on this woodcutter’s toque in a sample skein of chebris worsted (coming in february!!) that we are all drooling over.

she swears by this project as the ideal blizzard knitting, as it was immediately addictive and impossible to put down—so be sure to get changed into those jammies before you cast on.

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working this hat IS a lot of fun and i can attest that the result is a hit with david at least—two of the originals appear frequently in his rotation of favorite hats and when he wears one, he draws a lot of interested queries about it.

there is really but one choice to make as the first flakes begin to fly and the first DVD of your marathon movie series clicks into place—whether to complete a healthy chunk on a big WIP or to cast on new and useful accessory that you can actually wear, once you emerge into the world again.

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emily is all set, now that her knitting has hit its stride; she has a high peaks hat on the needles in kent worsted (it’s possible that she’s actually knitting a hot waffles cap; i’m doubting my memory now).

hat or mitten projects have several advantages—the patterns are are easily purchased and downloaded without leaving the house, almost every knitter has a suitable yarn on hand to make one, they are interesting but still allow you to watch TV, and they are quickly finished up so that you can wear them to shovel the snow or play in the park afterward.

barb was kind of making fun of me the other night when i brought a pile of swatches to our knit night (wednesdays, 6:30 to 8:30). she remarked that i could have just knit from an existing sweater pattern in the time it took to knit all those swatches and come up with a new project.

tell me about it, sherlock. do you really think i do this to break speed records?

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but now, with a nice number of projects planned and swatched out in advanced (there WAS a method to my madness, heh), i have my pick of what i could nestle in with for winter storm knitting (especially since i have a yarn shop in my back yard—which granted, is unusual).

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in fact i have swatches everywhere right now. but the strongest contender for my attention is a new pullover with a cable pattern that i love knitting. i chose kent DK, a soft springy merino/romney blend which i haven’t knit with nearly enough—and i’ve had my eye on the kelp shade for a sweater for ME since it came in last year.

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last week, i swatched my fabric every which way to prepare—both the cable panel detail and in stockinette, washed, unwashed, AND in the round.  i used information from all these pieces to work out the pattern draft (though i’m not working any part of my prototype in the round, i may see if we can produce a pattern for both versions).

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the cable (from barbara walker’s second treasury) is so cool and so fun to work. it’s actually not a real cable at all, but a large twist stitch pattern that shreds into ribs and comes back together again, over and over. the fabric it makes is not bulky or heavy because there is never a place where all the stitch cross over each other. so it has the appearance of a complex, heavily cabled fabric, but is actually quite light and breathable across its whole surface.

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i cast on my first sleeve last monday evening. our kent shades come in several families, but the kelp stands out a bit as unique in that it is a warm, caramel with gold—almost green—highlights. as each batch of our yarn will vary with whatever the wool crop brings that season, when i see something that stands out to me, i make sure we save out a sweater’s worth for a sample.

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well, this is one project i love in every way—the colors in the wool are entrancing, the cable is addicting, and in DK weight on (what i consider to be) bigger needles, it’s flying along. by thursday morning i already had a good bit knit.

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that piece was off the needles and folded up by friday, when i launched right into the second sleeve.

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i really needed project like this—one that i don’t have to worry about getting done for a deadline or meeting anyone else’s expectations. i mean, i DO plan to publish the pattern, but what drives the design and the choices i’m making is purely personal—which feels great right now; very freeing.

by the way, it’s not unusual for sweater pieces to look like writhing sea creatures as they come off the needles, or for them to be the wrong size and shape entirely. if you are new to sweater knitting or still contemplating whether you want to try, know that these homely pieces will eventually be transformed by blocking and that you will be witness to absolute magic when it happens.

so, i have my sweater to work on. oh and look—the snow is growing heavier as i write this (can you hear me grinning?).

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now don’t forget to cook up a big pot or casserole of something warm, easy to heat up, and filling—that way family members can help themselves and leave you alone to knit. last night after dinner i put on a pot of my grandma’s lentil soup—which is vegan by the way, using just the few ingredients you see here, plus some tomatoes and later, spinach. it took just a little while to prep and then i sat to knit while it bubbled.

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of  course, i always have my little sock to work on should i need a break from the sweater, or something portable to work on in the kitchen while fixing a meal. i really love the way this is turning out—with such warm, tweedy goodness, i’m really hoping for great wearability as well.

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though i did have a moment the other night when i had to kick myself for a stupid mistake i’d made. i had knit the heel flap and put it aside for later. that evening i pack it in my purse to take to a meeting. i merrily knit away around and around while people talked and presented. several rounds into the gusset shaping, i realized something was amiss—my heel looked awfully wide. groan—i’d forgotten to do the short row shaping to turn the darn heel. r-i-i-i-p-p-pp

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better now and easily fixed. this stone soup fingering yarn takes a ripping and reknitting really well; hopefully that says something positive about its durability. BTW, if anyone out there has already been knitting and wearing socks from this yarn, we’d love to hear some feedback.

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now that should be plenty to get me through one (oh heck, even TWO) snow storms. but i will always be that knitter who needs to be overly armed and prepared for any eventuality. i’d rather carry a couple of extra projects that i’ve no hope of getting to, than find myself stuck someplace (even at home!) with nothing to keep my hands busy. that’s just me; i’m sure none of you have any experience at all with such an issue.

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anyway when this new, medium gray (AKA tide pool) shade of kent DK arrived last week, i leapt on it. i got a bee in my bonnet that david would look adorable in a natty cap knit from one of our yarns.

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david’s got a couple of older hats that have really seen better days—like slöfock, one of his favorites. but the colors are fading and the fabric is pilling after several years of constant use; time for something fresh. the natty cap has a similar brim texture and body shape; i think he’ll like it.

i really waffled between this new kent shade and some shade of stone soup DK. but then i realized it would knit up quickly and i could make a second one—maybe for me—in stone soup.

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so last evening while i was cooking that pot of soup, i cast on.

holy cow—is this ever squishy; i love it. the pattern doesn’t include a size to fit his head (i guess i always thought of it as a girly design before), but it was easy to size up from what is included. plus, since this yarn has more body than the original yarn, i was able to used needles one size bigger all around and that helped get me to the size i needed—big.

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the texture of this design is a bit subtle, so it relies on a yarn that offers good stitch definition, which kent delivers. it also relies on fiber that softens nicely so that the hat body slumps in just the right way and kent does that too. with a couple of our natural material buttons added at the closure, it’s going to be quite good looking i think.

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and the soup turned out yummy; we’ll probably have some for dinner tonight.

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of course i cooked enough for an army, but this soup freezes very well and there’s a rumor going around that we might have company from pittsburgh coming to take a class sometime next week or the week after.

and as i said before, i like to be prepared.

good stuff

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

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one last red and white photo, from a few mornings ago when i blocked david’s finished christmas socks. they turned out so cute and look so fluffy and soft after a nice hot bath. if they look a bit different to you, you’re not mistaken—the second sock has a bigger proportion of the upper calf pattern; i like that design better.

well, i hope you all had a festive end/start to the year—we celebrated with food, of course; it’s been such a pleasure to have full use of our kitchen for holiday events this year.

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i haven’t made lasagne in such a long time and i decided a couple weeks ago that this is what i wanted to do for new year’s eve. we prefer the vegetarian version which suits our tastes as well as our friends.

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before i even put the coffee on yesterday morning, i got a pot of tomato sauce going on the stove. a vegetarian version is very simple and quick to get started—just some garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, salt and pepper. this pot was mostly made with the frozen crushed tomatoes i put up on labor day, with one can of my mom’s favorite puree to help thicken the sauce.

next i fired up that big sauté pan to cook the spinach and mushrooms for the filling.

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i’m a little picky about lasagne—i only like it made with homemade pasta. when i lived in NYC i used to purchase it, but we can’t get that here so now i always make it.

i haven’t made pasta since switching to a gluten free diet, but i wanted to try; not only would i be eating it, but a couple other of our guests are also on GF diets. but i was nervous—there are as many gluten free pasta recipes as there are pie dough recipes and similarly, there are VAST differences between them. and the last thing i wanted was an unpleasant pasta experience of my own making; life is too short.

after reading several complicated ones, i landed on a very simple recipe from a food blogger/podcaster with a nice italian (i think) name and figured this one was probably my best bet. funny enough, when i compared it to the recipe in the gluten free cookbook from america’s test kitchen, it was nearly identical to theirs, with the same ingredients in mostly the same amounts. since i’ve had really good luck using the ATK GF recipes for the most part, i found this reassuring.

i was making a regular pasta lasagne too, just in case. david tried to talk me out of making two, insisting he would be just as happy with a gluten free one, but i wanted to test them side by side (and since he does NOT eat foods he doesn’t care for, i didn’t want to have to have to eat all the leftovers by myself).

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the dough went together easily and without and funny stuff happening. it held together very well; while  not as elastic as the wheat dough, neither was it crumbly or sticky or at all difficult, in fact.

after the first pass through the pasta rollers especially, it pulled together and became silkier with each pass; only the edges remained  a little ruffled (which is fine)

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to prevent it from drying out, i laid the strips between a couple of slightly damp towels while i rolled the wheat dough and blended the cheese filling. the sheets did not stick together at all while resting, something i always have to deal with in a wheat dough.

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the difference in handling the wheat dough immediately after was startling, actually—it is noticeably more elastic and silky. they were both nice to work with, though markedly different.

by the time i got the pasta rolled, the fillings mixed, and the lasagne out together, beckie was on hand helping out and it was nearly time for people to arrive. wow, the day was flying by. after filling the pans, i had a couple strips of each dough left over so i cut those into noodles that we can fix another night with a simple sauce for a real taste comparison.

i put the two pans of lasagne in the oven and made the antipasto—here’s where bad blogger took over and i forgot to take pictures for a while.

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the next time i remembered, we were all seated at the table grazing the antipasto, shrimp cocktail, and tapenade. for this celebration the antipasto was made up of cheeses, roasted peppers, tomatoes, olives, and artichoke hearts. growing up in my non-vegetarian family, it would have also included salami and prosciutto.

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when the lasagnes was done i got it out of the oven and let it rest for a bit while we lingered over preliminaries—that’s the secret to keeping it from falling apart. just as a roast or a turkey slices better and prettier when it sits for a bit, so it is with lasagne.

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here they are side by side, with the GF version in front and the regular one behind. they were both a big hit—everyone who tried the GF version declared it the best and honestly, i could not detect any way i would say it was different or less tasty than my last regular lasagne experience.

haha, if it looks like more was eaten from the regular pan, that’s only because we GF people had not made our way to second helpings yet, while the guys had all cleaned their plates twice in no time.

silly me, i did not get a photo of the gorgeous dessert the helena brought—one of her decadent GF chocolate cakes.

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lucky for us she left the last two pieces behind for david and me—we’ll probably indulge later tonight.

i am knitting up a storm, but having finished up all the gift knitting, i am working only on secret projects for a couple of days—so nothing  i can share just yet.

however, i have a few new projects i want to start, at least one a sweater. i even have the yarn here waiting to be wound up. i’ll be back in a couple of days with some new knitting; in the meantime, stay warm and enjoy yourself.

today, i got up early to run my first race of the year and immediately afterward, emily, erica and i headed southwest on a cross-state drive to visit the mill which produces our better breakfast yarn and now, all of our mohair blends—chebris and cabécou lace and sport, plus the new chèvre—all those luscious gray samples i showed you the other day. we are super excited and will bring back a full report with photos next week.

speaking of emily, she has a quick update to end the post:

We have a few new things on the store site, so i thought I would send the links for the ones we haven’t talked about yet

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New Kent DK White Caps

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Better Breakfast Fingering Daybreak

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now this is gray i can handle. have a great weekend everyone; see you when we get back.

a million and one things

Monday, December 29th, 2014

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i’ve been posting plenty but haven’t said much about what’s going on around the house over the last week, what with all the holiday preparations.

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just a week ago in fact, i spent a good deal of time in the kitchen making a big pot of soup from the little army of butternut squashes that stood on my kitchen countertop throughout the fall.

i thought this would be a good main dish to serve at our monday afternoon knitting class christmas party, held in our home this year. the squash went into the oven and were well cooked within an hour or so.

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then i scooped out the flesh and puréed it well, although there were some bits of skin that stuck to the soft parts; scooping didn’t go as smoothly as one would hope.

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so i dug out my faithful foley mill and sieved the purée through that to get those last remnants separated.

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just as i was finishing up the purée, our neighbor connie came up the walk with a couple more pudgy butternut squashes to share, haha. her dad had quite an excess of them in his garden, which is how i came by the ones i used for the soup i had underway.

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and as a treat for the birds, i roasted all the d=seeds from inside the squashes to put in our new feeder. when they were roasted and cooked, i mixed them into our bag of bird seed. the little critters really go for them.

i set the finished purée aside while i sweated a mirepoix of celeriac, carrots, parsley, celery seed, fresh ginger, garlic, and onion in oil with a  bit of butter; to this i added some vegetable broth and potatoes cut up, seasoned with salt and pepper, and cooked all of that together until the vegetables were very soft. then i pureed that mixture too and blended in the squash.

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the potato mixture made the soup creamy without adding a lot of fat or dairy. at this point, i seasoned it further with a bit of nutmeg, cardamom, coriander, cumin, ginger, more salt, and pepper. it tasted yummy. at this point you can store it away in the fridge for later or even freeze it.

when it’s time to serve, you can add unflavored soy creamer, a dollop of real cream, or sour cream if you like, or just eat it as is (it’s plenty creamy without any of those).

our party was just lovely; we so enjoy this annual celebration. i was so relaxed and in the moment that i forgot to take even one single photo!

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while i was cooking, david passed through the kitchen sporting his newly completed squish me cap, knit in breakfast blend DK in the morning smoke shade. it fits him perfectly and looks great—isn’t he a good knitter?

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speaking of david, the other night he let us all know that he plans to participate in our blanket statement club by knitting a large sampler blanket in kent DK

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while he worked on the original sampler blanket, knit last winter for our friend kim, he commented several times that this would be an excellent way to learn more about different stitch patterns and to get some good knitting experience. i say, go for it david.

you won’t catch me saying no to another blanket . . . although who knows, maybe he’ll decide to gift it to his mom.

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after monday’s party, i spent most of tuesday evening and wednesday preparing for christmas eve; beckie and i invited several friends to share the evening over a traditional feast of fishes. i cooked a large pot of calamari in red sauce along with pan-fried smelts.

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we also had everyone’s favorites salad of sliced oranges with anchovy, garlic, and olive oil dressing, black olives, and pepper. it’s an unusual combination that doesn’t sound good until you taste it and then WOW, it’s amazing.

that evening is quite a production actually, with four courses and guests to share them. it’s no wonder that once again, i did not take photos. too bad too; the table looked so pretty with candles and large pine cones at the center.

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somewhere between last saturday and christmas day, i managed to get davids’ gift hat finished and blocked, but i can’t remember exactly when. i just love the way it turned out. the color on top is just what i had in mind, though any one of the shades in the brim would be equally successful, i think.

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i dried it inside out and right side out, turning it frequently to prevent creasing.

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once dry, the fabric was just lovely—so even and soft to the touch, with beautiful stitch definition.

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the lining fabric bloomed really well in the wash and all those loose, uneven stitches were now fluffy and  straight, supported by escaped fibers.

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and herein is the success of the hat—a cozy padding of pure cashmere against the skin; what could be more decadent?

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it seems to be the hat of choice for the time being . . .

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he wears it almost every day.

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you probably are wondering whatever happened to the christmas socks i was knitting david as well.

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well, ever since i finished the hat, i’ve been dragging those around everywhere i go to finish them up and i did manage to get one done in time.

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i want to get the other one done for new year’s day and so far, i’m on track to accomplish that

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as of the is morning i had turned the heel, picked up my gusset stitches and started the decreases for the foot. i also redesigned it a bit

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i wasn’t happy with the proportion of the basketweave top to the windowpane patterned leg on sock one (back), so i changed it on sock two (front).

these will also look WAY better once they’ve had a trip through a soapy, hot water bath. for now, though, they are scrumptious even as is, with a dense cushy hand, perfect for the coldest weather.

somewhere in there, i did manage to block and graft my snow tire scarf knit in ghillie sport/DK.

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for this one, i put a half twist on the scarf before stitching the graft to make a mobius

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it hangs so beautifully and drapes so well when doubled up.

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in between all of that, i started and finished another work-related project—remember when i said that i should knit a pair of fat tire mittens to match my cream colored snow tire scarf? (or maybe i said that only in the rav threads, i can’t remember now).

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anyway, i did it. mittens go so fast and take a surprisingly small amount of yarn—if you bought a snow tire kit in the ghillie option, you would have plenty for both mittens and a scarf (plus, we would put some of that money in the scholarship fund—that’s a win, win, WIN).

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(isn’t it cool how much the fabric changes after it’s washed—i love this).

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we even got the photo shoot done yesterday—which means that we should be ready to release the mitten pattern by monday night or tuesday.

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i want to add sales from this pattern for the last couple days of the year to our scholarship fund. i’m hoping we can sell enough to get us to our goal; sales have been flagging this week while everyone celebrates christmas and we are still quite a bit short of where i’d hoped to be.

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wouldn’t this be an adorable valentine’s gift? what would make mid-february more fun than a sweetheart set of mix and match mittens and scarves?

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in fact, yesterday we did several back to back photo shoots to take advantage of the warm weather and good light. afterward, we all gathered for a little dinner and knit night.

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the enthusiasm actually began that morning when we held the first beginning knitting class in our shop, attended by several local students and taught by laura lazarites.

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emily’s friend robert is a carpenter who has been wanting to learn to knit, so she signed him up. he had a great day and as you can see, cannot seem to put his knitting down.

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such an intent group all around—david had to prod everyone to put down their work in order to eat the yummy indian food that emily and erica brought.

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in addition to being an artist and modeling for us, sheyanne is a talented baker and brought along some gluten free cupcakes.

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i had something to share as well, which i’d been keeping for a special treat.

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a pyramid of chocolate that i picked up at a food festival in portland OR last fall (chocolate will keep very well if you take care of it).

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ever since i brought this home i had been waiting for an opportunity to have a chocolate tasting, so when dinner was done i set up 10 little plates along the island, each with chocolate from a different country of origin.

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david made a nice pot of espresso coffee to go with it.

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laura assured me that i should not worry about my drug habit—wine, alcohol, and coffee are all easy enough to explain away . . .

i don’t feel defensive about it at all, in fact—do you see how little i had done on sock #2 at this point and how much i got  done by the morning? (see above).

speaking of sharing and imbibing . . .

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sample skeins of the new the mussel shell shade of kent DK arrived this past week—a beautiful true gray, how pretty is that? we didn’t really have a good idea of what this shade would be like, but we’re happy that it’s a blue gray; a new tone for the kent lines.

and, as i mentioned the other day in the ravelry threads, we also have several other new yarns in the works. all of our mohair yarns are now going to be spun at our ohio mill; this will be a great change, because they have more flexibility and a great interest in spinning one yarns for us.

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with this wonderful opportunity, we are going to make our cabécou in lace weight at 1000 yards per four ounces. for future production, we changed the wool content from romney to coopworth, to take advantage of a source for soft, bright white coopworth fiber in our region.

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we are also trying this blend with tussah (wild) silk, which has a golden sheen rather than white, giving it a burnished quality that i rathe like. sample skeins arrived the other day and we couldn’t be happier. the yarn is fine but with a nice firm twist to give it body and great stitch definition. and still with that knockout sheen, maybe even more so.

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most of the samples were unwashed (right), but one skein was washed (left). the washed skein made the mill owner nervous because in the course of fluffing up, the escaping fibers make it appear a bit uneven; it’s hard to tell if this is a spinning issue or not. the unwashed yarn looks silkier and more even because it’s oiled; personally, i prefer it that way because it behaves better during the knitting process. so we are testing the washed against the unwashed to make sure they’ll each have identical qualities after drying. if pre washing doesn’t change the final result, we can sell the unwashed yarn with good conscience.

if we do see some undesirable result—such as biasing or crimping in the fabric, we’ll have to go back to the drawing board and fix something in the spinning. my preliminary guess would be that we’d have to relax the twist a little. but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

the good news is that we should be able to resolve this quickly and have the yarn available by late winter or early spring, just in time for lace knitting season.

now, you might want to get a drool rag under your chin for the next item.

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this is our chebris blend in a two-ply worsted weight, using gray mohair and gray merino top. omg, it’s as light as air and SOOOooo squishy soft. we are falling allover ourselves to touch it as often as possible.

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doncha just want to reach into the computer and pinch its chubby lil cheeks?? and yes, that is the lace weight i was just talking about to its right; a change of background makes it look completely different in color, doesn’t it?

it’s the most uncanny thing, how color is so relative—look at the chebris worsted on the other background.

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in this photo all the gold is highlighted and on the wood table, all the blue-gray is featured. same exact ball of yarn, i swear!

alright now, another day is done and it’s time for me to go knit. take care and see you back here with  mittens on tomorrow!

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