Archive for August, 2010

good knitting, good looking, good eats

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

i put these nasturtiums in around the bottom of the bee balm pretty late in the season (sometime in july), but they are blooming, yay. i don’t have many sunny places for them to grow, but this spot is perfect; they took right off, once i got them in the dirt.

i cut the bee balm back after it bloomed in june (?), and now it’s blooming again and more plants are coming up around it. i’m glad i put it in a container; it would spread everywhere if not.

oh, it’s been really nice to be home, cooking and taking care of the garden again—and by the time you read this, i’ll be back on the road again, can you believe it? i’m just a rolling stone . . .

i just couldn’t turn down an impromptu invitation to tag along with my friends debby and robin to austin texas, where i’ll be visiting my brother’s family. some of you might remember that i flew along with them two years ago and had so much fun in my first small aircraft flight. plus, i really miss my family—the kids have probably grown a foot since i saw them last.

(i’ll be there from wednesday night through sunday night; if you live in austin, let me know if there’s a knit night or event i shouldn’t miss during that time!)

so let me update you on all the hands-on activity i’ve been up to since i got back.
saturday i spent some time cleaning up in the garden, pulling weeds, pruning those crazy-wild heirloom tomatoes (positively suessian, i tell you), picking lots (more on that later), and planting beet seeds.

yeah, i was so enthusiastic about the green beans that germinated just before i left for london, but as it turned out, those few were the only ones that came up, arggh. so when i got back, i decided i’d put more beets in—i think there’s time for them to grow before the frost; root vegetables usually do well into the fall. i enjoyed eating them enough that i’m ok with growing them just for me.

look—the eggplant are finally blooming, too. it’s been a real mystery about those this year; eggplant usually do quite well for us. and they are healthy alright, but man, the plants just sat there being small for weeks after they went in the ground. then, all of a sudden about two weeks ago, they bolted upward and now they are huge and covered with flowers. i don’t care, as long as i get a few eggplant to make ratatouille. it’s just interesting and different every year, you know?

(i really meant to start off with the knitting today, but once i showed that flower, it was all about the garden; scroll down if you’d rather look at some yarn!)

the okra is coming in faster now and i’ve been picking a few more each day. over the weekend i used the first small batch (a few days’ worth) in a curry with greens, tomatoes, squash, and peppers. now i’ll be able to put them up in bags in the freezer as the take is a little more plentiful.

in the far background, you can see the greens and leeks (which are waist-high now). i put up four more bags of greens on sunday morning and made a quiche with some as well, using up some more baby squash and a bunch of fresh red scallions (seriously, if you can grow these, do it; you’ll never go back to store-bought). i also cooked up the two acorn squash i picked to puree and freeze for later use. i topped off the weekend with a fresh tomato marinara for fish pasta, with generous handfuls of just-picked basil and oregano.

are you hungry yet?
i’m making myself hungry just typing this.

and wow, do we have tomatoes. our plants are looking VERY good for once—usually by this time in august, no matter how well they’ve been doing, they are beset by tomato woes, such as blight or bugs. but (knock wood) this year they are surviving pretty well. i have nipped off a few yellowing branches, but not many; we don’t have bugs at all—a first for us. keeping them pruned has really increased the production of fruit, i think. and beautiful fruit it has been—no black spots or cracks, no misshapen fruit

(well, except for these cherokees, but that’s normal for them).
i’m so impressed with how well they are doing—beautiful, plum-shaped romas, pumpkin-plump costolutos, and BIG, bulging cherokee purples. they are luscious too, with thick flesh and running with juice. (hmm, tomato prøn, who knew??).

i have a big bowlful of cherry tomatoes waiting now to be dried in the oven; i hope i have time for that tonight.

and then there are these yellow stuffers—these are new for me and i’m totally intrigued. they look and feel exactly like yellow peppers—they are very lightweight with firm flesh, which i assume is because they are mostly hollow (i haven’t cut into one yet).

i didn’t really expect much out of this plant, but it’s absolutely covered with fruit that is ripening daily. i’m wondering how many different kinds of stuffed tomatoes i can make for the freezer (and what vegetarian fillings i can stuff them with). i’ll have to do some research on it. always something new . . .

i think now i’ve got all of the garden news out of my system—on to the knitting. i’ve really missed writing about my knitting; i didn’t realize how much i depend on that til these last three weeks went by without sharing.

i spent a lot of my knitting time in london on my secret project. it’s a big project, but the knitting is fairly easy and i wanted to bang it out. between my plane trip and a few knitting sessions this week, i’ve got it all done now except for the finishing work. yay. now i can move on.

you already know i got my orange luciole done—i knit all of the beginning part while chatting with friends or between classes and then hunkered down on the hem section when i was alone in my room at night. this turned out to be a good strategy; by the time i arrived back home, i had a finished shawlette.

once i was past the easier sections of that one, i toted my briar rose les abeilles around to work on while socializing.

this is my third one, so it’s fairly mindless. i got about halfway through the hem section and there it has stayed, but i’ll definitely pack it along on this trip, where mindless knitting will be the best thing (did i mention that my brother and SIL have seven children?? so yeah, mindless knitting . . .)

and then there is my pea vines shawlette in woolen rabbit pandora. i cast on just before leaving home and worked the first few rows. it felt like i worked on it a lot in london, at night when i was alone—but once i was home, i saw there wasn’t much accomplished. it must be the long rows at the start, or that the beginning part of the pattern requires some attention because it was new to me. or maybe those nupps were slowing me down . . .

because once i was home, where it was quiet and i could focus, things moved along a lot faster. all at once, i was moving through those long rows like they were nothing (don’t tell . . . but i took a break from my secret project for two nights because i got so absorbed in this. you are sworn to secrecy)

soon enough, it looked like this

and you can get a much better feel for where this one is going now—a tangle of pea vines all around the hem, growing up toward the neck. then it turns to stockinette with a vertical pattern that looks a bit like that twig fencing used to train the vines. hopefully, it will all look more delicate and lyrical once it’s blocked.
isn’t this spring garden colorway de-LISH??

my nupps are shaping up; i’ve tried them every which way and you know what?? no one way is any better than any other way! how about that? each one has something about it that i like and don’t like.

we pretty much held the nupp-making world summit over dinner on our last night in london—everyone weighed in with their favorite, guaranteed-to-succeed method of nupping and i tried each one that we discussed, right here in this piece. some are smaller, some are larger, some face left and some face right, some even pop to the back, sorta. they’re all different and none of them is perfect. i think i’m ok with that.

i did actually put my mitt kit to work, but only barely (and now i have to face my niece in person, with no mitts to show for myself—yet). the problem was that i chose to knit mitts that need a bit more attention than i could afford them, most days.

i did start this very pretty little blue-lavender mitt as well as one other that i’ll show you another time. can you guess which pattern i’m using? i figured i should take the mitt kit along with me to texas; i might actually get something done there.

i still have to pack my bag and pick out which projects to take. the pea vines is almost done; i should be able to finish that up during the plane ride down there. les abeilles would also be a good choice. definitely the mitt kit. and i think i’ll also bring the sunna sweater project. i never did touch that one in london, but i’m totally ready to start it now. i may even cast on a sleeve or a front tonight, to make sure it’s on the needles before i go.

this time, i’m taking my computer for sure—not only do i want to be sure i can get online, but i have patterns to work on as well and i’ll need my full kit. so i should be able to blog without any problem, as long as the kids allow it (maybe i can rope them in to writing their own posts).

so long ohio, hellooo austin!

luciole

Monday, August 9th, 2010

summer is the wonderful season for fireflies and fun, when thoughts of fall and winter are far, far from my mind. yet soon enough, autumn will be here with chilly air to chase the lightening bugs toward next year. time then, for knitting a cozy little shawlette to bridge one season’s passing into another—a wash of silk-softened wool splashed across with star and firefly motifs, extending summer just a bit while closeting thoughts of a jacket for one more month. it’s just the thing for september . . .

shown above, the petite size in spirit trail fiberworks penelope, a 50/50 bombyx silk/merino fingering yarn, in colorway falcon’s eye.

shown below, the mini size in zen yarn gardens serenity silk lace, a 80/10/10 merino/silk/cashmere lace/fingering yarn, in colorway creamsicle.

accented here with a gorgeous beetle brooch, a gift from adrienne at perl grey.com

just the thing to set off the motifs in the scarf tails. thank you adrienne!

to purchase pattern or view complete pattern information, please click here to visit the product page in the knitspot pattern shop.

mister knitspot’s filmmaking continues with a little piece he shot while i worked at blocking this shawl; you can see it by clicking here to get to the knitspot youTube channel)

the absolutely lovely and generous jennifer, of spirit trail fiberworks, handed me this fascinating skein of penelope at the maryland sheep and wool, on a day so hot, it was all we could do not to mop our brows with the yarn. and yet, i was smitten (yarn ho that i am). when i thought up the firefly shawlette, i knew i had a marriage made in heaven; this yarn is pure luxury. you can see this and many other gorgeous fiber blends in jennifer’s online store.

inspired by the way it knit up in the dark colorway, i went searching for a color that would give me a completely different take on the same pattern. enter zen yarn garden’s serenity silk lace, the house blend laceweight devised by the ever-enabling roxanne. in a summery, juicy orange, it was just the thing.

one shawl, two ways; both beautiful. thanks so much jennifer and roxanne!

many thanks to our test knitters phoebe and kim, too—besides working through the pattern carefully to suss out any issues, these two were the very best of cheerleaders along the way, emailing frequently to say how much fun they were having. how lucky am i??
BTW, kim knit hers in her new lark fingering yarn; runor has, you can see it later today on her blog

ok, time for more pictures, i think! i’m going to end with my favorite series from the whole shoot . . .

and i’ll leave it to you to imagine what happened next, hehe.

proud member of the knit nation

Friday, August 6th, 2010

on thursday morning we gathered for the start of actual the knit nation event. for most of us, that meant classes in all areas of knitting, from traditional methods, to specific skill areas, to garment constructions.

i took several photos of my classes but found later that in jostling my camera around in my purse, it was on some setting which resulted in those photos being totally black. WAHHH.

however, i discovered the mistake in time to get some photos after the market opened in the early evening (and seriously, are you interested in anything else?).

i had the cutest ever picture of sandy’s baby dylan, helping his mom shop for yarn, but unfortunately, that was one of the bad ones. you can see him if you click on her name; it’s worth the diversion.

the market was completely thronged with shoppers from the moment it opened to the moment it closed—getting into the booths was almost impossible for most of the weekend (and i was only free during the busiest times, soo . . .

the wollmeise booth was the talk of the show, naturally, with its metric ton of vivid yarn crammed into every cubby.

there were other wonderful UK producers to explore as well, but once again, my photos fail me. fortunately, i wasn’t the only person with a camera and a pen—clara gives a great account of many of them in this week’s knitters review.

there were beautiful british wools in sight no matter which direction i turned—so many that it hurt my overworked brain after each full day of classes. and some vendors that i meant to get back to for purchases, but never did—john arbon, artisan yarns, knitwitches, and the natural dye studio are but a few. it was glorious and i’m a loser for not partaking more fully . . . a complete case of burnout on my part. there’s always next time, right?

so, i didn’t buy yarn; i dunno what happened there . . . i think i was (rightly) a little worried about having room in my luggage to get everything home.
i did find some stitch markers that i got very excited about at atomic knitting

i’m always on the lookout for multi-colored ones that help me code my place in my work and when i found them, i sorta went nuts and bought every color, heh.

i also received some really lovely gifts during the weekend from students and sponsors that i want to share. first, each teacher got one of the event t-shirts shown at the top of the post, along with a tote bag. in addition, i managed to score the coveted “crew” t-shirt as well

by drooling so much over it that they HAD to give it to me (just kidding).
isn’t it cute, though?

susan from athens brought me a tiny box of these beautiful honey-and-pistachio candies. and you know who loves this kind of candy? mister knitspot—they are on his desk right now; he seems to have made a nice dent in them. thank you susan!

the absolutely lovely alison, from yarnscape arrived at my lace class with this incredible skein of bunnylace in the blue pine colorway. mmmmm, i think this might be destined for a fall or winter shawlette . . .

bekky brought two hand-chosen skeins of posh fingering yarn, one is martha in the portland bill colorway and one is daisy 4 ply in the chatsworth colorway. these are simply gorgeous; perfect for the shawlette tear i’ve been on . . .

and then jo arrived on saturday bearing a long-promised skein of her celtic memory yarn, fulfilling a promise to eradicate from my mind any thought of ever naming a yarn tree scum colored again (she doesn’t want to believe it, but that forgetting will never happen; i love the tree scum name). it’s a sprightly green mix in a merino/tencel blend, straight from the heart of ireland.

the days of the event really flew by, what with classes all day and trying to get enough sleep at night. i taught a beginning lace class, a sweater fitness workshop, a finishing workshop, and three sections of advanced lace knitting, all full, all a LOT of fun. students were excited, attentive, and ready to work (and laugh) a lot; i truly enjoyed every minute.

and then there were the shawls—i saw them everywhere, even in the summer heat. the first one i saw during lunch on the first day was a lovely les abeilles, knit by janet of which i did not get a photo (drat!). it was soft and beautiful

martina is so excited about her autumn arbor stole in wollmeise, colorway oyster, she cannot stop talking about it (i love that!!). and rightly so—it’s fantastic, isn’t it?

and how about christina’s gorgeous deep red star of evening triangle?? it’s simply ravishing, especially on her.

by the way, it was so nice of this group of friends to allow me to interrupt their lunchtime knitting for a bit of impromptu photography; there was a group photo planned for later in the weekend, but i just couldn’t wait and they kindly indulged me.

this is mascha in her star of evening shawl, knit up in handpaintedyarns lace, in a beautiful smoky-plum color. i saw a few more of these over the weekend, which was really nice as this is a simple, older pattern with a quiet, soft look. it makes a nice scarf or triangle of any size.

jody stopped me in the lobby to show of her stunning apricot pine and ivy, beautifully stitched in her own handspun laceweight (franquemont fibers abby batt). jealous??

at the ravelry party (best party bag design ever!), a few more of us took a break to get a group photo; most of these were knit in wollmeise yarn, so claudia made herself the art director and decided we should shoot it as greek statues.

and then i wanted a shot of each one individually

another older pattern that i always loved and am seeing knit up more and more now—casino, modeled here by kat in wollmeise. she looks adorable in this petite version.

sandy is positively glowing in her vivid gale stole of deep blues shot with red highlights. i think she’s going to wear this a lot where she lives—sandy came to london from sweden and worked tirelessly all weekend in the knit nation booth (she even offered to help out with my wifi issues but really, i couldn’t impose . . . she worked too hard all day).

tricia finished in the nick of time, i think, according to her postings on ravelry. but finished is finished, no matter when it happens and this palimpsest looks fantastic on her, doesn’t it?

what an honor to see so many lovely examples of my patterns knit up and worn throughout the event—so much hard work to get them done for the knit nation celebration. i hope i didn’t get anyone’s name wrong—as usual, i did not ask for them in the flurry of taking photos and had to try to scout each person out on ravelry, guessing sometimes which person belonged to what i think is the right project, oy.

the ravelry party ended the weekend’s events and we all retired to our rooms to think about how to spend our day off before flying home. cookie announced that she was sleeping in and we agreed she deserved it. janel and i decided that a walk and a bit of shopping might be in order—we needed to score a few gifts to take home with us.

it took a bit of doing for all of us to scrape ourselves out of bed in time to meet for breakfast, but before too long janel, cookie, and myself, along with ysolda, sara, jess, and casey were ambling along to everyone’s favorite french cafe. trust me, the promise of large bowls of coffee was no small factor in getting us there.

after some real eggs and good bread, cookie went back to rest some more and the ravelry contingent headed off for scotland. janel and i did a couple of quick errands while deciding where to go shopping. much as we wanted to see liberty, we decided to stick close to the campus and headed off to harrod’s to see what we could find.

the truth is, you can find anything at harrod’s—you can find things you wouldn’t even think to look for until you saw them there.

somehow—i dunno HOW—we totally missed the dodi and diana memorial. but we did walk through the great hall of food. this was after reeling out of the “soft accessories” department, where janel announced she was totally buying this gorgeous scarf, only to find out it cost 1295 pounds. no mistake about it, we were in over our heads.

we figured the food hall was safe enough. boy were we ever wrong. stunning displays of towering foods were everywhere—literally, people were grocery shopping in harrod’s. alice says they have an awesome meat department. i have no doubt she’s right.

everything was beautifully done and very costly. we couldn’t afford anything in the whole place really. oh, i’m sure there was something, but it takes not a minute to get overwhelmed by the effect of it all.

see what i mean?
one thing we did was to try on eyeglasses and we actually found a few possible frames that we each liked. i would have bought at least one of them but i need a special, small size and they were likely not in stock. but i’m so going to follow up on that.

we finally found one thing we could buy—a little time off our feet and a nice cuppa coffee. we even threw in a brownie for good measure. it was lovely.

on the way back to the campus, we shopped along the street for the gifts we needed, then went on to pry cookie out of bed for dinner (poor thing, she was all in).

we opted for the london taxi to whisk the five of us off to a nice italian place for dinner. it was delicious, but even more than that, it was decorous—at least for alice

whose pasta arrived at the table disguised as a swan made of tin foil.
you can’t get that at home . . .

one last dinner together before heading off on our separate ways (janel, how was the capsule hotel?? inquiring minds want to know!)

and i managed to get what i believe is the quintessential janel/cookie photograph

followed by an even better one

next time, we’ll look at the knitting—there was lots of it and i’m anxious to share . . .

a jolly good gig

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

can i start by saying how much i missed blogging while i was away?
after all our careful planning, with david spending an inordinate amount of time figuring out how i could put together posts with photos on my iPad, i was crushed to find out that i couldn’t even log onto wifi with the darn thing. it worked fine on my phone, but not on the iPad (apparently, this is a known issue that no one knew how to work around, argh).

so i could talk to david via skype and answer a few emails, but blogging on the little device was really awkward. sorry!

before i get into showing you a week’s worth of photos, let’s get a little unfinished business out of the way—i’m sure you’re all anxious to know who one the beautiful debbie bliss book. and that would be . . . kathleenC! congratulations kathleen; enjoy your future baby knitting.

i spent a bunch of time this morning updating the classes and events page; now all of my definite and tentative teaching dates for the next few months are listed. if you’ve been waiting for one to be scheduled near you, please click here to find out if i’ve been invited to a venue in or near your town.

ok, that’s enough business; let’s look at some london travel photos.
when i arrived bright and early last tuesday morning on the imperial college campus, cookie and alice were there to greet me with big hugs. the rest of the teachers arrived throughout the day and we gathered in the early evening for dinner

this was a wonderful trip for getting to know the other teachers better; during the event, i got to sit with almost all of them to share a meal and talk for a bit. the first evening, we went off for a thai meal

poor clara; she had to wait for hers (this soon became the theme of the evening). however, she was well acquitted at dessert time, being the first in line at the gelateria . . .

the next day, all the teachers met for a selected tour of the textile collection at the victoria and albert museum (if you’ve never been, you can see it online). we began with some items in the costume collection and i thought this piece would be of interest to the beaders among us

the entire dress is beaded in such a way as to produce the optical effect that it is pleated. however, the dress has just one actual pleat (down the left bodice, above)—the rest are an illusion of the beading pattern

humbling, isn’t it?
the earliest piece of actual elastic fabric we saw was part of this coptic religious costume and in real time, it came at the end of the tour, but i’ll show it now for the sake of the timeline i’m drawing

isn’t that red fantastic? just wait til you see what goes with it—i know you’re gonna want to knit a pair . . . all the cool kids are wearing them

these coptic socks are created by nailbinding, not knitted, but i knew you’d like them (and hey, you can replicate them in knit fabric).

the V&A does not own many examples of knitting, but i thought our guide, anne (or ann; i’m not sure), did a great job of choosing interesting pieces of fiberwork and needlework for us to view that represented all of our interests in a progression from the middle ages through the present day, beginning with woven textiles from the middle east and india

i was arrested over and over again by the ones with green and black combinations

we looked at wovens, such as rugs and religious robes, then embroideries

this exquisite floor covering, so well-preserved, is thought to have been a rug that a prince might sit on so as not to have contact with the floor or the ground. it is entirely embroidered in chain-stitched silk flowers to give the impression that he might be seated in a garden.

of course, there were other objects in between which connected the textile story as we moved form room to room, such as these gorgeous screens, carved in arabesques of geometrics and curving patterns derived from the natural environment

these mesmerizing abstract patterns reflect the journey to, and experience of, a more ethereal plane of existence and can be seen everywhere in islamic and middle eastern art, in place of representative images.

as we moved on to printed fabrics, still mostly from the middle east and india

you can see how the same patterns are translated from one art form to another.
notice also, the fine weaving that goes into the fabric; these were produced well before the time of machine looms and some of the garments we saw are absolutely gossamer, using yards upon yards of sheer, handwoven cotton fabric.

(another green and black favorite; i just love cypress trees)

next we moved on to great britain to examine textiles of the tudor and renaissance periods. this fascinating robe is woven in velvet cloth of gold

(it was hard to capture in the darkened gallery, but quite literally, the velvet is aglow with threads of gold woven into the fabric)

in contrast with the lush abstractions of the arabesques, the motifs used here are comprised of more literal, earthbound symbols of the christian faith

as well as what passed for “everyday” scenes from life for the upper classes of the time.

we began to see a few examples of knitting at this point—these three caps are a few of the early handknit pieces they have

this corner gallery is kept quite dark to protect the fabrics, but you can see it better and read more about the knit caps here.

these fabric socks get their stretch from bias-cut fabric, but had to be more tailored to achieve the proper fit. these were worn underneath knit stockings to camouflage leg hair and create a smooth look (but i’m curious about all that stitching that must have been visible through thin stockings . . .)

we moved through the next couple of centuries very quickly, focusing on the examples of handknits in the collection, as well as the influences on modern print design. freedom from religious oppression brought forth a huge evolution in expression and learning of all kinds. the advent of mechanized printing and wider availability of dyes and methods, meant that patterned fabrics were more plentiful to more people. clothing took on a fresh and colorful aspect—an artform of its own for many more people . . . fashion was born.
(i’m simplifying a LOT, but you get the idea)

soon we were seeing more modern examples of handknit pieces, such as these victorian stockings

as well as some novelty machine knits

i love those slate blue and red socks.
our tour ended with this incredible handknit christening gown

after which, we were walked to the textile study room, where we were allowed to browse the racks of textile examples at our leisure. the study room holds quite a large number of such examples for examination by anyone who might want to research something specific. it is, however, closing in a year or so to be moved to another location, so if you live in the area and want to take advantage of this resource, do it soon.

by this time, most of us were well-sated with information about textiles, so we made our way through the halls of ironwork to the courtyard, where jess and ysolda corralled us for a group photo

some of us were more attentive to their urgings than others (cough, cough)

once we had the requisite portrait put together, we made our way through the streets of kensington

passing by the royal albert hall and monument and through kensington gardens as we went, a little tired and hungry

to the royal garden hotel for tea, hosted by alice and cookie

for the next several hours, we were treated to a leisurely tea, accompanied by quiet chatting (well, as quiet as 15 knitters can be . . .), pretty sandwiches

and a little knitting here and there (you thought i forgot about knitting, didn’t you?)

there is my newest les abeilles; i cast on right at the table and knit on it intermittently throughout my trip.

of course, no proper tea is finished til there is cake

and i think most of us will agree that we may have overdone it there, haha. it was just so irresistible . . .

we finished up with a glass of champagne to ring in the start of knit nation classes the next day and wandered home, leftovers in tow to be shared with the helpers at the show the next day

.

quite a bit different than the lunch i’m about to eat today, haha

but you know, this lunch is dear to me too—i’m home now and enjoying the luxurious fruits of our own garden.

i have many, many more photos to share, so i’ll be back next time with the highlights of the event itself and the day after that, you’ll see the knitting.
if we’re lucky and the stars align right, i may have the luciole shawlette pattern all set to release tomorrow. and if not, then monday . . .