Archive for the ‘designing’ Category

look who decided to show up

Friday, August 28th, 2015

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hey, remember me? do you recognize me? i know i’ve been terribly negligent; we’ve been very short-handed around here lately and i’ve been hard at work on myriad projects all at the same time.

i feel like i talk about the monster that is our garden a LOT, so let’s start with knitting stuff and slowly work over to the back yard situation.

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you may have seen his already, but our good friend romi has designed and knit the most striking shawl in our stone soup DK yarn—just two skeins in two shades will make you one swoop shawl (thank you romi!!). rosemary used river rock and pumice, but there are several possibilities for great pairing. we are a bit low on the popular stone soup yarns at the moment, but we will be restocked near the end of september—just in time for serious sweater knitting.

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swoop is knit mostly in garter stitch with insertions of mesh wedges. i love how the ends of the short row shaping create those radiating dashes. it reminds me of the neon in times square or parts of the chrysler building.

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the mesh wedges along one side are airier and allow light to come through, like a crooked venetian blind, haha. though it’s knit in DK weight yarn, you can see how light and airy it is in these photos; our yarn is cozy and warm but very light for its substance. you can purchase swoop in romi’s ravelry pattern shop either as a single pattern or as part of her 7 small shawls; year 5: asymmetry collection.

by the way, rosemary also has just released a book with interweave press, inspired by her new home in nevada—new lace knitting: designs for wide open spaces. the eBook is available now and the print version will become available in september.

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as you can see from the above photo, i’ve been up to some finishing work; that’s my sleeveless hemp top in my lap as i wove in the final ends last night.

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i actually completed all the knitting about three weeks ago—i can’t believe it’s taken me all that time to get the finishing work done but there you have it.

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a neck finish here, then distracted for a few days; an armhole finish there, then pulled over to something else. and so it goes.

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well finally, it’s done and this morning i gave it a nice sudsy bath in hot water. it’s drying now—in fact it’s time to turn and reshape it before a crease sets in.

ok, i’m back; that didn’t take but a few minutes and it’s a really good way to make the fabric look its best.

i did take a photo before i dunked it in the water. it will hang a little differently on me. this is a longer top with a looser, wider hem; the smallest part of the torso is at the high waist area (you can see the silhouette on the far left there). i think it will look great with shorts or skirts or slacks; i love it.

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i had originally thought the neckline should be more voluminous but i changed my mind when i saw the way this simpler neckline tips out just a little. because it ended up simpler than i thought, i will probably lower the neckline about an inch in the final pattern.

we’ll try to get some photos over the weekend so you can see how it looks in real life, on a real person.

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some time between finishing up the pieces of that top and getting the seams completed, erica and i left home to travel to the michigan fiber festival. it was supposed to be an adventure for david and me, but he got called away in the other direction at the last minute, so erica kindly stepped in.

we had a lot of foot traffic at this show and enjoyed visits from so many of our friends. it felt as if all day long we were chatting and helping people pick out projects (i love when a show is like that). so despite the almost treacherous heat, we had a good show and are looking forward to a few more in the near future.

first up, along with 20 other shops across northeast ohio we are participating in the yarn discovery tour from september 8 through 26. if you’ve been wanting to visit our shop, the 19 days of the tour is a great time because in addition to our regular hours and knit night, we will be open for extended hours: thursday/friday from 11 to 6 and saturday/sunday from 11 to 5. from the number of requests we have already received for passports, this should be a really fun time. every visitor receives a free pattern!

in just three weeks i’m teaching at windy knitty in chicago (sept 18 through 20). on friday evening i’ll present a trunk show and we’ll do a yarn tasting. on saturday we’ll have a lace project class (we’re knitting a sampler version of the bee fields shawl) and on sunday we’re tackling the finishing series—all great stuff; you should join us!

then during the first weekend of october, BNWs will be traveling just a couple of hours away to have a booth at the athens area fiber faire, which looks to be a terrific (and growing) show in a great college town. the organizers describe it like this:

Located in the scenic Hocking Hills region of southeastern Ohio, Athens in October is bustling with autumn activities. From our top-ranked farmers market, through our quaint uptown, to the gorgeous Ohio University campus, Athens offers an astounding variety of shopping, dining, hiking, biking, and sporting events for all ages. Only an hour from Columbus, and within 3 hours of Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh, Athens makes a wonderful day trip or weekend getaway spot. So spread the word and mark your calendars; we’ll look forward to seeing you in October!

after that, we are heading east to NYS for rhineneck weekend. though we did not get accepted to have a booth at the main show (WAAAHH!), we will once again participate in indie untangled on friday october 16 and will also host our annual kingston marriott popup shop on sunday afternoon and evening, october 18.

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this year we are making the sunday event more of a salon/reception to treat our friends and customers to refreshments and offer a sneak peek at our next big company project. some of our favorite celebrity knitters will be on hand; so excited!

around here there is lots of knitting, even though it is a little erratic and i’m prone to a bit of project ADD. for one thing, i’ve had some secret knitting to do, which i can’t share for a while. i’ve been organizing some new projects to start—about four of them need to get on the needs ASAP if i’m going to make my next set of deadlines.

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i did start one new project with this deliciously squishy vesta, a new yarn offering from spirit trail fiberworks—check out jen’s awesome new website—a chunky worsted merino that is SOoo squeezable and yummy, i look forward each day to my knitting time with it. it’s as good as chocolate, i swear.

with it i am designing a longer jacket type sweater. i don’t want to tell you too much til i have enough knit to show you—i think it makes a better impact that way. but i can tell you it revolves around some really beautiful cabling. and the cool thing is that the pattern will translate to another chunky, smoothy favorite of mine—our chebris worsted. yum.

more on this project in the near future . . .

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in our monday class, susie, debby, and debbie S. are all closing in on finished blanket statement projects. susie, in the foreground, is whipstitching her better breakfast strips together into the large version of the blanket. they are so gorgeous; even i’m jealous. debby and debbie are knitting the last strip of their blankets, so they will be joining soon.

so, is anyone out there as distracted as i am by the incredible wealth of produce we are having right now?? as if my own garden wasn’t enough, i’ve succumbed to peaches . . .

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i mean. how could i not? i didn’t really need a lot of peaches for freezing, but we’ve been enjoying them for breakfast every day that we can. i’ve baked a couple of pies and plan to pick up more at the farmer’s market this weekend so i can bake one to bring to my mom next week.

and in addition to those there is the most fantastic corn this year.

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which is making its way into our freezer as well.

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home frozen corn is about a hundred times better than even the best store bought and so easy to do. this is another thing i’d like to get just a little more of—maybe one more dozen.

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fruit and corn are the only items that i’ve had to buy elsewhere—we are getting much more than we need from our own back yard (YAY!). squash, greens, and beans still going strong; in fact i’ve been picking about fifteen pounds of beans each week since they started, with no reduction in sight.

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as you can see, the tomatoes also started coming in; i’ve been cooking a pot of puree every couple of days. also lots of eggplant and peppers, which are super sweet this year and tasty. BTW, these two hauls were only a day or so apart (and you wonder why i’ve been scarce?).

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my other favorite way to put up tomatoes is to roast them with garlic in the pan, then process. this makes a puree with a more intense flavor and color—great for pizza or any sauce that requires bolder ingredients.

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when we got back from michigan there was a monster of a squash in the garden; i could hardly believe how big after just a few days away (must’ve been all that sun).

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my acorn squash plant succumbed to some malady or other, but at lest it had a few nice sized squashes on it before it went. these are stored away now in the basement. my butternut squash continues to expand throughout the garden in the bloom of good health; the winter squashes on the vine are enormous.

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besides the pie i plan to bake early next week, i’ve got a box going to bring to my mom—garlic, fresh dug potatoes, a butternut squash, and whatever else i can unload onto her unsuspecting self think of that she might like.

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definitely some peppers and tomatoes and definitely a big bag of green beans (hehehe).

last friday i went outside just to peek and see if anything needed immediate attention and when i realized i still hadn’t pulled the onions, i thought i should do that—the tops had been laying down for at least a week and we were having a nice dry sunny day.

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well, it didn’t take any time at all to pull them and they started drying right away.  but once i was done i thought, hmm, i’ve been meaning to plant some fall greens to make a salad bed where the garlic was and now i have a second empty spot—maybe i should do that before too many weeds set in.

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so i started smoothing the dirt on those two mounds and as soon as my rake went into the soil a bit, i hit potatoes. now, i and been wondering how the potatoes were coming along this year and curiosity got the best of me so before i knew it, i pulled a plant up. attached to the end were two enormous potatoes and several smaller ones. mmm, potatoes.

well as it happened, there were several plants sort of kind of in the way of making a really nice long bed of beets, so i puled those few plants up as well—now i had several nice bakers and a decent basket of little ones to make something with.

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i planted my seeds alright—some spinach, some beets (mostly for the tops; they are my favorite greens), and a whole mix of seeds jumbled together in the other bed for hearty salad greens.

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i am thinking that if we continually cut the leaves of these plants when they are no more than 4 inches in length, we will have  avery steady supply of “power greens”, our favorite salad mix.

the seeds sprouted within just  a few days and already there are straight rows of red and green seedlings to watch (i’ll post pictures when they get just a little bigger; they don’t photograph well yet.

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over the last week i’ve been working on a big pattern project for a deadline, but on saturday night i finally said, enough—i need to get out of this chair and into the kitchen. i pulled all of the last few days produce out of the fridge drawer and got to work on a HUGE pot (my 16-quart one) of ciambotta for  freezing. everything that went into it—tomatoes, eggplant, squash, onions, peppers, garlic, celery, basil, oregano, and potatoes—was from the garden, except for the carrots.

omg, it was SO good. luckily we had company last night for dinner and even more lucky, the meal was already cooked.

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recently, someone remarked to me that one of their all-time favorite blog photos was the one i showed several years back of t=my freezer at the end of summer. well, it’s not quite the end of summer and i’m reserving space on the top shelf for more tomatoes, but as you can see, we are filling up steadily. everything is pretty systematic—a little of each item near the front so we can access them all, but by necessity, plenty behind that front layer too. the bottom shelf is mostly for ready made dishes, so that area rotates more frequently as we use up soup, casseroles, curries, and stews, then replenish them. the door (which you can’t see here) has racks of bags containing greens and beans.

still some work to do to get it filled to the brim . . .

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and now, i think i hear a big bag of beans calling my name—time to do some topping i think.

sunday is rest day

Monday, August 10th, 2015

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in some alternate universe, this is how my sunday morning should have looked. i planned well ahead that it would anyway, in the kitchen til well after midnight on saturday getting all the garden produce cooked and stored so that i had nothing to do on sunday morning but knit and go for a run.

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a quick note before you read on—craftsy is extending their weekend sale til tuesday. over 400 classes at $19.99 or less available through my affiliate link (clicking the link activates your savings code and earns a little extra for us, no matter which classes you choose). if you have a wealth of garden produce like mine, you might be looking for new ways to use those extra vegetables. this offer can be used on wonderful classes in cooking, canning, baking, knitting, sewing and so much more—learn something new at a great discount (usually about half the original price).

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saturday’s garden haul was quite substantial—more than i expected, having been out to collect stuff the previous day. i went out early to cut a bunch of greens and whatever beans were ready so we could cook those with salmon for a post bike ride saturday dinner. i figured if i cleaned them in the morning and out them away, it might make short work of what would be a late evening meal.

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and yes there were greens and beans as always, but also so much more that i hadn’t planned on—so many eggplant they were dragging the plants over, squash (what else is new??), peppers, and yes, you are seeing right—those are red ripe tomatoes, finally!

and out of nowhere in fact; one day they were stubbornly green and the next there were a dozen red ones. and today there were more—go figure.

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also another batch of tiny power greens—little leaves from around the bottoms of the collards and chard plants that are tender, tasty, and perfect for our salads. plus, they are free, as opposed to those salad mixes that come in the plastic boxes.

and just for good measure, the butternut squash report:

growing very fast now and the color is starting to change . . .

once back inside i got the fresh bunch of veggies cleaned and put away, but by then it was mid morning and time to get out for a run before the heat became a challenge.

still no knitting done, ACK! (that first photo was just a posed shot; it didn’t really happen, haha)
but i can show you my progress from the last few nights anyway.

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my back piece is nearing completion as i have now passed the armhole bind off and begun the armscye shaping.

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from here it will go very quickly; i cannot wait to get it done, sew up the shoulder seams and start the cowl neck. i am so looking forward to creating that feature! i have something special in mind and i just hope it works. it’s either that or something very traditional but very appealing.

you know, that’s something that always sort of haunts me—i often have two or even three design solutions to a particular part of a garment and it’s very difficult to narrow my choice to a decision. i marinate and marinate, wondering what knitters would like best—something jazzy and different, but maybe a little risky? something super appealing but seemingly not unusual? which to go with?

sometimes i can do both but sometimes it’s just too awkward to offer both. i wonder too if it’s really a good idea to water down the impact of one strong design by offering alternatives.

by the way, i know it seems like i am working through this garment at an unusually slow pace, but i also have another secret project on the needles that i’m motoring through at the moment. i cannot wait to unveil that but it will be some time before i can.

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and there are other very worthy things that take me away from my knitting time—opportunities that i wouldn’t pass up for anything. like yesterday’s neighborhood block party—i love this event, held once each year in august at the park around the corner. this year i worked at the food table which is a great place to see and speak with nearly everyone who comes to the event.

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the food table was positioned right across from the balloon sculpture station, easily the most popular draw of the day. i got to see and talk to so many excited kids—and feed them sugar to fuel their happiness. hey—they weren’t coming home with me!

after the block party i went for a long bike ride with david; on the way back the sky was a symphony of the most beautiful blues—all sorts of soft aquas, ceruleans, and marine blues. what a sight—no photo since we were traveling at about 20 mph at the time, but wow; wish i could have captured that.

we didn’t finish supper til almost 11 pm but i really wanted to get the vegetables cooked if i could. i felt energetic so i got up form the table and started in while david cleaned up.

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then he offered to help me and i took him up on it—wow, that really made the task go faster and before i knew it, we had a HUGE pot of ciambotta going. ciambotta is a lot like ratatouille, but also has celery, carrots, and potatoes in it and no wine. but the real truth is that these dishes are always made with whatever is on hand or fresh that day or how grandma made hers, so the recipe varies.

while i was at it i also put on a pot of vegetable stock from the last few days of gleanings (back burner, above). ends, stalks, peels and such all go into that; later i use it for soup, to cook rice and grains, or as cooking liquid in curries and sauces.

finally around 1 am, i shut off the gas and left everything to cool overnight while i got in a few rows and a TV show or two before bed.

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when i got up this morning, i ladled all of it into cartons for the freezer and then headed out to garden to pick some basil before the sun got hot.

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each carton got a topping of fresh picked basil leaves and a lid, then into the freezer so we can enjoy them after the garden is gone for the year.

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i’ve got one more chore to take care of but not today—sooner or later though, i have to face the what lies under those newspapers.

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some tomatoes, yes, but even more importantly, a schlew of perfectly ripe peaches that won’t last forever.

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we’ve been enjoying them one or two at a time since barb brought them over last weekend; she was kind enough to pick me up a box on her way home from north carolina.

while i don’t really need to store any more frozen ones for winter (i have plenty), i could do that if i don’t find another use for them. however, the memory of last weekend’s peach pie is still strong on my mind and neither of us would object to a cobbler either. i find the luxury of having fresh peach baked good almost too appealing—why settle for frozen ones later if i can enjoy fresh ones now?

so i will have to find time for that in the coming days because they won’t hold forever . . .

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those ripe red tomatoes were burning a hole in my culinary imagination all day—i’ve waited a year to fast those first ones and i didn’t want to put it off any longer. so after this evenings bike ride, i fired up the oven and roasted them with a head of our fresh garlic and some minced hot pepper.

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while the oven worked its magic on them, i chopped some squash, peppers, eggplant and onions, heated a skillet, and started browning everything with some anchovies.

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it was puttanesca time, baby.
the vegetables are not really a necessity in this dish but we like them and since the whole design of the recipe is to use whatever is in the cupboard, i’m going for it.

well, it was really REALLY good, but i was so hungry and excited by the time i plated it that i forgot to take a photo—maybe with the leftovers later this week, haha.

and now it is very late indeed on sunday night; time to quit this and go put my feet up to knit and watch TV. maybe an apple for a snack.

i will be back later this week with more; hopefully more as in more knitting.

 

oooh, pretty shiny

Friday, August 7th, 2015

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nothing makes me happier than seeing guests settle in and really relax in our home. we all work hard, you know? it’s so good to spend time  just enjoying each other’s company once in a while.

when we were planning katharine’s visit in the previous weeks, i offered up a number of “activities” we could do during her stay, to which she’d reply that she’d be up for anything, followed by the caveat that she’d be just as happy to simply hang out and knit. she said it so many times that i finally got the message—i should let her knit, haha!

she arrived with two shawl projects on the needles, one of them an artichaut shawl that was very close to completion. and you know what that means, right? BLOCK PARTAY!!

so throughout the the weekend whenever we were not on the move, she took up her place on the other end of our dining room sofa (one side is my campout spot) and worked away on the last six rows of her shawl, which she opted to knit in our chebris mohair/merino lace yarn in the silvery dragée shade (back in stock very soon).

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the pattern includes instructions for both lace and sport weight yarns—and coincidentally we do also carry chebris in sport weight—but our lace is a little heavier than the original lace yarn used in the design. katharine compensated by using a size 5US (3.75 mm) needle to keep the fabric as light and airy as the original.

yes we occasionally got out for the odd walk or neighborhood bike ride, and i definitely had to attend to multiple other duties in the adjacent kitchen, but katharine was diligent about staying her course while i steadily moved from one task to another. the place was a veritable beehive of project activity.

even though she stopped often to coo over the yarn and how pretty it worked up into the pattern, she made excellent headway and by monday morning it was time to bind off and see what she had made.

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just a little quirk of mine . . . i always like to get a good look at the “before fabric”, taking a mental snapshot (or in this case an actual one) of the texture and density. i do the same with the drape—i pick up the piece and lay it against a few different surfaces to assess the hand, so i can compare that with the “after” fabric.

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i ran a soapy hot bath while she was in the shower and plunged the shawl in for a good soak.

and while the soak was doing its magic, we had more company—heidi (author of embraceable ewe designs) and her friend donna had driven over from ligonier, PA that day to visit our shop.

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we spent the next hour or more chatting with them about yarn, knitting, and designs—heidi brought along the completed fair isle cardigan which she knit in our breakfast blend fingering yarn last year.

i feel badly because i really wanted to take a photo of her wearing this sweater but we were talking so much that i just managed to grab a quick shot of it folded up. darn! but isn’t it beautiful? she says she wore it a LOT last winter because while lightweight, it was incredibly warm. and she should know; she lives on a farm in the mountains and spends a good deal of time outdoors.

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heidi picked out yarn for a few new designs—confection sport in white chocolate for an aran sweater she will knit for a friend, chebris sport in dragée to knit herself another cardigan, and she cleaned out our supply of ginny sport in texas to knit a shetland style square for her new grand baby, due in a few months. once you get the yarn in your hands, it’s hard to stop—ask me how i know . . .

even katharine, who had a pile of yarn waiting in my office that she reserved by email before arriving, could not resist when we started passing the yarn around. she fell in love with the ginny cotton sport as well and decided that as soon as our new colors arrive this month, she will purchase some for a project (i can’t remember if it’s  sweater or a baby blanket). in the meantime, she consoled herself with a couple skeins of the ginny DK to knit a soft slouch potato hat for a friend who is receiving chemo treatments.

as with every guest that comes to see us, it was such a pleasure to spend time with heidi and donna that day. we are always happy to open the shop during off-hours with a little advance notice, so don’t hesitate to give us a ring if you are coming to canton and want to stop by. and if you come during wednesday knit night, you’ll get to meet barb as well—now that’s worth the trip, haha.

after our visit i had to scoot to a meeting—we are planning an exciting new way to show off our yarns beginning in january—so katharine went back to the house to pin out her shawl. when she was done it was time for monday afternoon class and she got to meet all of my local knitting friends.

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i had some cherry crumble bars saved aside in the freezer for the occasion, which i think everyone enjoyed.

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i worked on the back piece of my second top design in the millet shade of hempshaugh lace—though work has been a little slow on it, i am homing in on the finish of this piece.

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i am ready now to bind off the armholes and shape the yoke, which i plan to do tonight; i can’t wait to finish and see what it feels like.

katharine sat next to me oohing and ahhhing over her choice of ginny DK—it really is a softness bomb—which got me dreaming about what i would knit with it when this hemp top was off the needles.

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i’m thinking that a scrumptiously loose, long-sleeved thermal stitch henley shirt will be just the thing to take me through the fall and again to wear in spring. in fact, i might need one of those in every shade. doesn’t that sound yummy?

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that girl—we always laugh at the tangles she manages to create. here, she has somehow gotten her knitting yarn all tied up around the chair leg—how does this happen?

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after class, we were famished so we took ourselves off to try a new restaurant that opened in town last week. then it was home to put our feet up and enjoy a knitting evening while watching episodes of a chef’s life (i’m a huge fan and katharine says we can go there when i visit her some day).

while we knit we appreciated the shawl, which was pinned out near our feet. excuse the rather poor photos; i had to take all of them after dark under electric light.

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see what i mean about the fabric? it is drastically different after a good soak. first of all, the lace opens up to reveal its true beauty. but the washed fiber also just shimmers with light.

i also love the little shaded variations within the yarn; they add to the highlighting effect (however, the “ring” of darker fabric that you see around the hem is merely an extra spray of water that is applied to the almost-dry fabric after pinning out, to help the blocking hold its shape).

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katharine did an absolutely beautiful job of both knitting and blocking it, didn’t she? she cast on over memorial day weekend and cast off just at the start of august, so the shawl took about two months of work (and i’m pretty sure she knit on a couple of other things in that time). but totally worth the effort—she will wear this for years and years.

and she was so cute—that night while we watched TV, she kept checking the fabric to see if it was dry enough to unpin. it felt dry but we wanted to be sure so she let it sit another hour and finally we agreed she should take it up and see the results of her work.

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oh my—the fabric was like liquid silver as it draped over my lap—it fairly GLOWED (and this is in bad light; can you imagine what the sun would do for it?). wow, now i want one! but in all honesty, i should design something new; this yarn deserves its own shawl.

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the stitch definition is really something—while the fabric has definitely lost a lot of that depth it had in the “before” photo, it has gained immeasurably in other ways by blocking. the depth it has now is more ethereal and illusory—much preferred for a light and airy shawl than actual thickness. the pattern takes advantage of the sheen in this yarn by directing the highlights this way and that to create mesmerizing shadow play.

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it was still dark in the morning when i got up but i draped the shawl on the form to capture a few images anyway; maybe some day i can get some in sunlight.

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i can’t remember if katharine knit the petite or the tall size—maybe she will comment and let us know. but certainly on the bigger needles with the slightly heavier yarn, she ended up with a generously sized shawl.

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you can see what i mean about the depth and texture here—it is not at all lost by being rigorously stretched and blocked. there is plenty of depth and definition in the pattern while offering the sense of a most delicate fabric.

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and the beautiful scalloped edges stay put almost permanently because lace patterning on both sides of the fabric locks in the curvy shape.

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that’s why a very loose bind off is a great skill to develop—you might need it to finish a shawl like this, which shouldn’t be shortchanged at the very last by binding off too tightly.

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when katharine came down just before leaving for her next stop, i asked her for a modeling shot or two, just for fun.

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(i personally think the bright pink shorts are brilliant, haha)
she’s so happy with it and she should be—it’s a work of art and she created it!

soon after, off she went into the sunrise—on to her next adventure. it was wonderful weekend and i hope she comes back. i love it when friends visit (and relatives too, MOM!).

speaking of driving off into the sunrise, david and i will be packing a van full of yarn goodness and delicious extras to take with us to the michigan fiber festival next weekend.

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if you live anywhere nearby, this is your chance to see our yarns in person and feel for yourself the luxurious artisan craftwork spun into each skein. we’ll have all of our favorites as well as the new offerings (well, as long as we aren’t sold out!).

this is a great opportunity to forego shipping charges by having us bring your order to the show—you can email david or erica, using the email form in the right-hand column; they will fix you up with whatever you need

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last year we were outside near the parking lot, but this year we think we’ve secured a spot in the barn (it’s been inconclusive, but we think it’s settled now). if not our old place is still secured.

and lastly, in mid-september i will will be traveling to chicago to teach at windy knitty; it will be a weekend of trunk show, yarn tasting, lace knitting and finishing classes—i hope to see some of you there!

david is making faces at me that it’s time to get out on our bikes if we want to beat the sunset, so i’m going to boogie—please excuse any typos; i will proofread after our ride. have a splendid weekend; the weather is supposed to be fine.

visitors

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

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even though i joke among peers for being “hopeless hostess”—forever forgetting to offer drinks or get dinner on the table before midnight—we love having friends come to stay in our home. and as long as they can get comfortable with the pace that things move around here most days, i think they like it here, too.

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so when my friend katharine mentioned a few months back that she was going to be in our area for a week or so, i eagerly invited her to make room in her plans for visiting with us at our place.

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we decided to meet up at cleveland’s west side market shortly after her plane arrived on saturday. of course it was an absolute zoo—i don’t know what i was thinking when i suggested that, haha. but we each managed to find parking and walked around a bit, which is always a treat.

between the specialty foods, produce, and people watching, you can’t really go wrong in making a morning out of it.

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i stocked up on some exotic salts for cooking and bought a small bag of nuts for nibbling, but mostly we were there to stroll and see.

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after a while the crowds and noise drove us out in the street to look for a quiet place to eat lunch (which turned out to be vietnamese).

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next stop was the cleveland museum of art, which i had never been to visit, so i was excited. they have recently reopened after an extensive renovation and expansion. the photo above is angled toward the old beaux arts structure, now partially enveloped by the modern annex, shown below.

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but not entirely; the two coexist and converse with each other very well. the atrium space between the two buildings is nothing short of vast—its sparely furnished space  provides an ocean of stillness in which to transition from the old museum to the new and from traditional art to modern. the sheer volume of air in which to merely sit and be is a luxury i rarely experience.

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one of the museum’s missions is to offer “the finest of cultural assets, including an art museum that is accessible to the public free of charge”. and so it does—we just walked through the doors and were immediately allowed to engage in the art, the space, with no stops at a desk and no coat or bag check.

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we entered through the south garden of the old building, where no less than a dozen bridal parties were congregated for photography—that was quite something! we didn’t spend much time in the old galleries because we were anxious to take in the new architecture.

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the new spaces are stunning; this hallways of glass shows the outer side of the old building on one side while revealing gallery contents of the new building on the other. inside, the galleries are scaled for modern and contemporary art, with ceilings high enough to allow for exhibition of really large canvases and installation pieces.

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even though the exterior of the two museums is very different, the floorpan inside actually reminds me very much of the whitney museum of american art which i visited with nancy back in june. not surprising since both museums are striving to create better traffic flow and an environment in which to fully view and appreciate the works.

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at the end of the afternoon they had to kick us out—we stayed until the very last minute and then walked around the outside of the buildings for a bit, taking in the very different architecture and surface design of the adjoining structures.

back at home we got katharine settled in and then met up back in the kitchen where she pulled gifts out of her bag, one of them a basket of peaches from north carolina. uh, YUM! it was perfect, but a little less worse for wear from its travels that morning. so instead of resting and knitting as we’d planned, we got right to work peeling and slicing them for a pie.

in between getting supper ready and putting the remaining chopped peaches into freezer bags for the winter, i made a gluten free pie dough so we could bake off dessert right after dinner.

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katharine knitted and chatted with me while i worked—one of my favorite things about the new kitchen is that i can happily socialize with david or with guests while i work.

we ate an absolutely delicious meal of ratatouille i’d cooked a few days earlier, topped with codfish, mmm. afterward, i rolled out the crust which did not give me a struggle this time, thank goodness.

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for the filling, i just used raw sliced peaches, some sugar (maybe half a cup? three-quarters?), a few tablespoons of tapioca flour, a pinch of salt, and spices (nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, allspice—but not too much of any one). since i was using a crumb topping (the same one from the GF cherry crumble bars i made last week), i didn’t add butter to the filling.

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and though it was nearly midnight when we finally had a taste, the pie turned out just beautifully; i will definitely be using this method again as it works equally well with cherries and i suspect, blueberries.

this pie also makes an excellent pre bike ride breakfast—just sayin’.
with vanilla ice cream of course for calcium, magnesium, and protein . . . .

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sunday morning i was up first, so i put on a pot of coffee, knit a few rows while it perked, and headed out to the garden to catch any overgrown things that needed attending. just outside the back door i found this butterfly in my peppers, so lazy that it couldn’t even be bothered to fly away when i got within a foot or so.

when i explored deeper into the vegetable patch, i found that though i had picked the previous day, everything needed a going over.

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i didn’t actually pick these winter squash but boy are they growing like mad—i’ll show you more tomorrow.

the weekend heat had thrown the beans and squash into production overdrive (it has since cooled bit, thank goodness).

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so that’s where katharine found me when she ventured outside, burrowing under umbrella-sized squash leaves in search of those that might be hiding (no matter how i try, i ALWAYS miss one and we end up with a squash torpedo for the compost pile).

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naturally i did not get a rest from the green beans either—there was a full basket when i was done. also peas and greens—once all that was assembled, i knew just what i wanted to cook for dinner that evening.

but first, a little recreation. since barb was coming over that afternoon to knit, we decided to squeeze in a little bike ride around town. unfortunately my back tire was mysteriously flat so we ditched the bikes and set out on foot instead.

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seeing our town through someone else’s eyes is always fun. we live in a fairly quirky small city, a lot like the one i grew up near. lots of character, so to speak.

the sun grew hot very quickly so we soon headed back—we’ve had absolutely stunning weather this last week or two—not too hot at all, but the sun is bright and clear so it’s smart not to stay out in it too long.

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we all chatted and those two knitted, barb on her blanket statement strips and katharine finishing up her gorgeous artichaut shawl (more on that in the next post). i had my work cut out for me, clearing the fridge of green beans before the week began—i had about six pounds left after giving away some in the office on friday and more on sunday to barb (note the large blue bag sitting next to her).

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i topped and sorted what i had into sizes—really big fat ones to cut into soup-sized niblets, medium large ones to grill and glaze chinese style, and very slim, tender ones to flash cook thai basil style. the last two going into the freezer for winter as ready-made side dishes (IMO this method preserves the original bean flavor and texture even better than freezing plain—plus it’s so handy on the user end).

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as you can see i have not been exaggerating one bit about the volume of beans—i really am drowning in them. thank goodness for the vegetable lovers we have close to us!

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once they were all prepped i got busy stir frying them in batches (blanching for the cut ones that i was freezing plain).

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it’s very simple—into hot sesame oil toss some minced hot pepper, garlic, salt, black pepper, and ginger, throw in the green beans whole and allow to sit until blackened a bit on the one side, then toss and repeat til they begin to wilt. just before shutting off the heat i add some chile sauce, a little oyster or hoisin sauce, and a spoon of black pepper sauce, then give it a toss to glaze the beans. since i am going to reheat them when they thaw, i am careful at this stage not to overcook.

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i laid each batch out on a big platter to cool and tossed them together, then divided into freezer bags and stored away for future winter meals. these make a great side dish with salmon, veggie burgers, or butternut squash soup.

next it was time to start supper—david was out for a ride and would be hungry when he got back and i had a surprise i’d been saving for him. i had cut up some yukon gold potatoes and put them on to soak; now i drained them, tossed with olive oil, fresh rosemary, salt, pepper, and garlic, then slid them into the oven to roast.

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while i finished the beans up and washed greens for dinner, katharine shelled our little crop of peas which i’d been collecting for a few days to use as a feature ingredient in a special supper—one of david’s favorite dishes.

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aren’t the purple ones pretty?

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and katharine says they are easier to shell than the green ones . . .

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since i had the large skillet out and warmed up, i sautéed some sliced summer squash for a bare minute or so in olive oil and garlic from this year’s crop that david was drying on the porch. O.M.G.—there aren’t words to describe the aroma; it’s a drug.

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to the pan i added the trimmed swiss chard (any soft greens will do) and turned off the heat so the leaves would just wilt.

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i set that aside and in a big pot, started a sauté of more garlic and two cans of chick peas, which i  allowed to cook til the outsides bubbled a bit. then i added chopped chard stems, sliced shiitake mushrooms, pepper, salt, fresh chopped parsley, and sliced scallions that got left in the ground from last year’s garden and are now so big they are exploding out of the dirt, the size of jaw breakers. but gorgeous alongside the bright green chard stems!

i meant to add some shredded carrot to the mix—the bright orange would have been fab—and forgot. once they have begun to soften just a little, i added a couple of quarts of vegetable stock while the vegetables were still crunchy—we don’t want anything overcooked in this dish. i get every ingredient pre-prepped before cooking so i can preserve the bright colors and fresh, almost raw texture of the vegetables; the cooking time is very short and the timing is critical.

somewhere in there i put a pan of water on the fire to boil some small soup pasta—orzo or tiny rings are perfect.

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into each bowl  put a portion of raw peas (if yours are very large you could cook them in some of the soup broth for one minute), a portion of the small pasta, and a portion of the greens and squash, then topped with a portion of the soup. it’s kind of like a salad in a soup, haha.

it is delicious with grated curls of parmigiano-reggiano or slices of aged provolone with, if you are lucky to be able to eat it, great hunks of chewy italian bread. instead of that i served the roasted potatoes, which is also rounds out this meal well. we all three relished each bite of our late sunday supper, happy to be filling our stomachs with such wonderfulness. it was so satisfying, we didn’t even eat pie afterward (but we did eat it for breakfast the next morning).

i don’t know if this soup has a name because i made up this version years ago based on our taste for the ingredients. i cook it every spring and summer when i can get all the ingredients fresh. in our experience, it is really only good in season, using fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market or garden. i have poor luck cooking beans at home from dried, but if you are talented at it, then skip the canned ones and use your own.

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not twenty four hours after clearing the garden and my fridge of produce, it is full again—and without spending a penny. true we did that back in the spring, but it still feels like riches falling into our laps from nowhere. how lucky are we?

we stayed up for a while longer, knitting and watching episodes of chef & the farmer—about a locavore restaurant enterprise that is located only about an hour from katharine’s home, in kinston, NC. she had never seen it and i wanted to share; it’s one of my favorite series. what a foodie day!

next time, i’ll tell you more about my visit with katharine and her beautiful shawl project—tomorrow!