Archive for March, 2012

today, a different green

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

mmmm, smooooth . . .

sigh, i just love me a knit that’s fresh from the bath—so silky, so soft—feels lovely next to the skin. it’s the small luxury that keeps on giving; that much is clear as i observe it being pulled on by knitter after knitter at my class table.

i couldn’t be happier with the way this turned out. initially, i thought that the laceweight BFL and silk from fearless fibers might be just a tad too thin or wiry to hold its own in plain stockinette fabric.

and indeed, when observed right off the needles, the texture was questionable. love is blind however, and i was smitten by this mellifluous green color—no way was i giving up that easily. i was betting on a strong finish.

sure enough, it bloomed in the bath as fiber is wont to do, the stitches expanded and filled out, and the surface smoothed to a perfect expanse of green, glowing with inner light and broken only by the texture of a subtle stitch pattern along the back.

these gloves feel like a silk slip for my hands—just what i was after.
i immediately cast on for one more sample, to show off the alternate stitch pattern of openwork faggoting.

the pattern went to the proofreader today, so we should be all set to release it once i have that off the needles.

all of my other five or six knitting projects are secret, but i can tell you a funny baking story if you like . . .

last friday, when erica was on her way to ohio, i realized around noon that i had time to make a pie for dinner that night. i made up the crust and put it in the fridge to chill, got the berries out of the freezer, and then decided that if i had all the parts ready, i could bake it after dinner and it would still be warm when we ate it later in the evening. so far so good.

i’ve been baking pies with frozen blueberries all winter and it’s been rather an adventure to get the timing right, but i thought i had it down. i put the pie into a hot oven and let it bake away while we worked after dinner. since i’d put a top crust on it, i couldn’t exactly see the filling, but when it bubbled out the vents at the top and looked brown on the top and bottom, i figured it was done.

uhhh, apparently not.
when we cut it a half hour later, the filling was still liquid and the berries, though hot, were underdone and a bit tart. awwww—phooey.

well, erica ate her piece, but after that, the poor thing just sat in the fridge the rest of the weekend. now, you know i hate throwing anything away, but i especially hate throwing out food. i kept thinking i should try to do something with it, but what?

on monday morning after she took off, i had an idea—what about whipping up a blueberry crisp for the afternoon knitting class? they love everything as long as it’s called dessert . . .

i carefully removed the top crust, which came off in just a couple of pieces. i set those aside as i was considering using them in the crumble topping. (i later thought better of this, but i might try it another time).

i then poured the pie filling into a glass dish, which i’d coated with butter and cooking spray.

the topping is your classic crisp: oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter, piled generously on top. into a hot oven it goes and in about twenty minutes, it was done.

mmmmm

mmmmm

i couldn’t help digging into a corner just to be sure it worked. and do you know that those darn berries set up like a dream, just to taunt me? it looks like a photo from a cook book.

when i asked if anyone would like a warm fruit dessert they all looked at me like i was crazy . . uh, YES?

as i was passing it around i told them the back story; it wouldn’t be an anne dessert without some drama, after all.

when i was finished telling it, anne c. just looked at me and said (through a mouthful of dessert), “you mean to tell me that we’re eating re-purposed pie???”

we all burst out laughing and helped ourselves to another bite.

back to normal

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

while it was positively summer last week, this is really more like it should be in march—bright yellow sunshine sparkling on frost.

yep, we woke up this morning to temperatures in the 20s this morning, brrr. but somehow with all that sun, it’s just doesn’t feel as cold as it would feel at the same temperature in january.

i ran out first thing to see what effect this may have had on the garden. i wasn’t too worried—david had covered the asparagus back up wiht a leafy blanket yesterday afternoon, and the rest of the plants we have out there are pretty frost tolerant.

the collards got nipped along the edges of their leaves, but they’ll be fine

what’s more of a concern is that they are showing signs of bolting and flowering, which i think is bad for the flavor, so i think i’ll cut them later today and cook them up this week. that will be the end of those plants, but soon enough we’ll have more.

the little sprouts seemed to have weathered the dip very nicely; i think last night is the coldest one we expect this week, so if they got through that, they should be safe.

i love the way the sunlight travels right through their colorful stems as if they are made of colored glass.

one of the reasons i put the chard where i did is that its colors will be visible from the street. if i could get squash to grow in a visible spot, i’d be in heaven—i’d love to plant some right at the top of the hill that faces the sidewalk so the vines could cascade down the front hill in summer. maybe i can work on david a bit to get him to come around to the idea—it could mean less mowing on the steepest area of the yard . . .

the early bulb flowers don’t mind this weather at all—i actually think they prefer it to the heat we had last week. these hyacinths are just perfect today; they seem to be flourishing in it.

our first tulips bloomed on friday, too, and the rest of them are sporting buds. looks like we have some of those extravagant double ones, coming in; i can’t wait to see them open up.

the weekend was kind of grueling and centered around non-knitting work, but we did get the fall club in good shape to open signups in may. i got practically no knitting done, except for this nearly-plain stockinette mitt, but at least i got that much done.

for this sample, i added a very subtle detail to the back of the hand that mimics the hand stitching you’d see on fine leather gloves.

it barely shows up here; i’m betting it will be more visible once it’s blocked and the fabric smooths out. if not, it’s back to the drawing board. there’s another one i’m doing that is a type of faggoting; more on that when it’s in the works

and david’s sock continues to grow; it has not been forgotten. i really do add a repeat or so now and then after dinner while we chat; it’s comforting . . .

i have a ton of secret knitting on the needles right now—way too much. but just know that wonderful surprises are coming, becauyse i’m having fun knitting them!

and now it’s time for me to go for a mammogram. i’m taking my knitting; there’s always a wait.

in the green

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

(sshhh—don’t tell erica, but i’m sneaking this post in early on sunday morning before she gets up. it’s a working weekend for us here, but being up before anyone else means that i have a free zone of time to do what i want, right??)

ok, i wasn’t going to blog about the garden or flowering trees or spring today, but i can’t help myself—just look at what i glimpsed from the kitchen window on this chilly, drizzly, march morning

red chard sprouts

and yellow ones—YAY. almost everything i threw at my little greens patch last sunday has germinated and i think the rest will come in the next couple of days.

i know what you’re saying, too—how the heck did she even see those little mites all the way from the kitchen window, blind as she is???

it’s true that my eyesight for task work has gone to ruin, but my distance vision is still sharp enough apparently to detect a haze of bright green on the brown patch i’ve been studying all week for signs of life.

not only that, but david was out there raking around yesterday and when i turned my eyes to the rest of the garden, i saw he’d uncovered this

and purple ones too

not only that, we also have quite a few white ones

they are really all green and purple at heart; these are white because they’ve been buried under such a deep layer of mulch (maybe twelve to fourteen inches?). we could cut them right now and eat them as white for a milder flavor. i’m not sure if they’ll turn green now that they are exposed; i’m reading up on it and i see lots of info about how to produce white spears, but none on whether they’ll change color after sprouting as white. my guess would be that the sun will bring out their color. we’ll know in a few days, right?

ok, now we can talk about other stuff.

as i mentioned in the last post, erica is here to work and we’ve been hitting the books pretty hard. our main goal this weekend is to get our 2012 fall in full club organized—yes, can you believe it? signups are coming up soon in may (we’ll be sure to let you know when the info is posted; keep an eye on our FIFC ravelry group in the meantime).

we’re looking at a dizzying number of yarns, colorways, websites, and emails to pull together all the puzzle parts that make up a beautiful club palette. we still have a lot to do today and tomorrow, but we’re getting there.

and when the yarn fumes get to be too much, we take a little break. yesterday morning, for instance, we shot up to cleveland in the new volt to show erica the west side market. that is, we shot up after spending 30 minutes in the driveway figuring out how to work the navigation system, haha; we crack ourselves up sometimes . . .

on the other hand, we’ve had the car for two weeks and we only used gasoline for the first time on friday—that makes ME happy.

doesn’t erica look fabulous? the baby is the size of a sweet potato now.

when i casually mentioned that my friend jeff grows sweet potatoes that are the size of footballs, she blanched just a little; sure enough, we saw some big ones at the market.

time will tell . . .

we spent about an hour shopping the aisles, starting with the outer perimeter of produce vendors. we bought a few things for dinner and then headed inside.

the place was packed. i didn’t really need a lot; we were there mostly for the people watching and to immerse ourselves in happy, foody surroundings—something completely different from my study.

the fresh pasta booth was a real draw for the photo op; the owners create such a pretty display—as beautiful as the pastry shops do

speaking of which, we did indulge ourselves at royale

though the cheesecake looked divine, we went for chocolate desserts (erica is posting the spoils somewhere). we ate those for a midnight snack while we watched a movie.

i loaded up on breads from mediterra bakehouse, my favorite regional bread bakery; i brought home bagels, ciabatta, paesano, and my favorite—semolina bread coated with sesame seeds.

my favorite salt vendor was on vacation, so we perused the urban herbs stall instead.

there are several wonderful cheese mongers, but they were so busy that i didn’t stop; i really just wanted a little chunk of manchego and i can wait on that.

lastly we went to watch the show at the creperie stall

where the vendor was putting together a peanutbutter/banana concoction for someone.

being such a chilly, gray morning, the line was around the corner and down the aisle, and the crepe maker didn’t look very happy at all to be serving, so we left that idea for another time . . . maybe.

we were done with all our errands in under an hour, which, combined with the ride, was enough of a break, so we headed back to canton to resume our work.

the by the by, i washed and blocked that laceweight mitt the other day and WOW, the difference in the fabric is just remarkable. even when i know that blocking is going to transform a finished piece, i’m still amazed by it.

i’m hoping that you can see clearly the change in the fabric—it might be subtle in the photos (though in person, it’s not all so).

see how much smoother, silkier, and more even the texture is in the first photo? and that is multiplied in the way it feels as it slides on over my skin—it feels simply divine.

if you think that small items like mitts don’t need blocking, you should try this test—wash just one of them and lay flat to dry, turning and reshaping frequently to encourage the fiber to bloom and the stitches to snuggle into their right positions. you’ll be amazed; i mean it.

now, remember i said i was going to offer a couple of optional detail variations in the pattern? this will be similar to the way the handsies pattern is presented—one mitt construction with a couple of patterns added for the back of the hand.

so i’ve started a new sample in a delicious grass green to illustrate the idea for the pattern cover and photo shoot. mmm, green—my favorite.

this is fearless fibers laceweight BFL and silk in colorway melifluous green.

i love the way this yarn is knitting up. it’s different thatn the bamboo/bison blend i used for the first one—a little stiffer, maybe but stunningly lustrous; an example of how the total effect seems more than the sum of its parts.

it appears to be a very fine laceweight, but in fact, it has nice heft as it passes through my hands. and it’s very smooth to knit with. the yardage is quite generous, too—there will be plenty left over to make a wide, sheer scarf and maybe even another pair of mitts as well.

since these are composed largely of stockinette stitch, i’m working on them as much as possible as we get through the material we are covering here. and beckie is dropping by any minute for brunch, so i’ll have some knitting time this morning, too.

in fact, i’d better go make a second pot of coffee and warm up the rolls—i’ll be back tuesday, i think, with an update.

pressing matters to discuss

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

the spring display in our neighborhood continues to be astounding through the week—now the trees are all busting out in bloom, bang, bang, bang.

i look forward each spring to the blooming of this specimen cherry tree, which sits on a corner a few blocks up in our city’s historic ridgewood neighborhood.

on monday, its buds were barely evident, but with a week full of weather in the mid-80s, it was in full bloom by wednesday when i went out for my run. and yes, the sky really has been that color all week; hard to believe it’s going to rain all weekend as precicted—it’s just brilliant right now.

most years, there is a little more space between the blooming of different types and we can soak in their individual beauty one at a time. but this year, they are blooming in such quick succession that it’s a bit dizzying. each time i go out, i’m a bit overcome between the visual wealth or the glut of tree pollen in the air—i can’t tell which.

here’s another example, a smaller cherry tree that had tiny buds one day and the next it looked like this

so many blooms that it actually looks bigger in size, haha.

on the knitting front, i’ve been working on a bunch of secret projects as usual, but as i mentioned in the last post, i also finished david’s sweater over the weekend. i’ve been putting off posting about it because i wanted to get some pictures of himself wearing it, but we’ve been running around so much this week that we haven’t had the opportunity to do that. each day nightfall comes before we know it and we haven’t managed the photos.

and now erica is about to arrive for a marathon work weekend, so i want to get this post up before she gets here. the modeling shots will have to wait, but i promise, we’ll do it in the next couple of days—we’ll get her to help us.

last time you saw the sweater, i had joined the shoulder seams and completed the neck finish—it was ready for complete seaming. this is a closeup of my shoulder seam, which i join with a three-needle bindoff, after shaping the shoulder using the short-row method. this is an optional technique you can use for shaped shoulders, for which there is a ton of online support and information.

i like this method because it produces a very smooth shoulder join with perfectly matched stitches. if i’m working with a textured fabric—and i nearly always am—this is the only way i’ve found to match it with exactness at the shoulders. the seam is also firm enough to support the sweater’s weight while maintaining a bit of elasticity. i don’t require knowledge of this finish in my patterns because it can be a bit tricky to work and i prefer to keep its use optional. but if you’re ready for something new, go for it.

once i have the neck finish completed, i like to attached the curved sleeve cap to the sweater body at the armscye. now, this is the trickiest of all seams i think, requiring a lot of patience and often some ripping and redoing. i’m always glad when this step is behind me—once it’s done, the rest of the seams are clear sailing.

the reason the armscye seams are so tricky is that we are joining opposing curves to create a 3-dimensional shell to fit the curves of the shoulder girdle. not only are we joining opposite curves, but from one end of the seam to the other, the curve opposes first in one direction, then in the other.

and if they are not fitted together and sewn beautifully, it will positively ruin the finished look of your sweater.

i hate to be that blunt, but there you have it—ay, ay, ay.

furthermore, if you don’t do a nice job pressing those seams once they’re joined, you can’t show off all your hard work to its best advantage.

so while i was pressing my own armscye seams the other day and sighing with relief that they were turning out well, i decided it might be nice to do a post all about getting a great final finish. you want to show off your good work, right?

i do like to stop and press the armscye seams before putting the remainder of the garment together. it’s tempting to rush ahead, sew up all the seams, and then press everything afterward, but these tricky curves will be MUCH easier to deal with while the garment is still open under the arms.

for this task, it really pays to have the right tools; pressing curved seams is challenging on a flat surface, particularly when dealing with handknits. once a crease is inadvertently steam-pressed into wool, it is very difficult to remove. it helps to have something rounded to work on . . . such as a tailor’s ham.

this is one of my favorite workroom tools—roll it around in your hands a bit and you’ll realize that no two corners, sides, or surface curves are exactly alike. it’s not-quite-elliptical, football-sized body offers every conceivable shape you’ll need to press any curved seam, dart, or collar.

even in profile it is constantly varying from end to end.

santa brought my brown plaid tailor’s ham for christmas when i was about 12 years old—i was preparing to sew my first fully-tailored coat and i would need one. it was a real surprise, but i loved getting cool sewing and knitting tools at that age.
(why yes, i was a complete needlework geek as kid, why do you ask? oh right—i still am, haha.)

can you tell it was the 70s? traditionally, one side of the ham is always wool plaid; i know not why, but you cna sorta date them by the color and type of plaid that was used.

it’s funny, as i write this, i’m wondering just why i did need my own ham at that age; i know my mom had one and no normal household needs two of them. the operative word being ‘normal’, i guess. either that, or more likely, she found a bargain on it somewhere that she couldn’t resist and knew i’d need my own some day.

since i did work as a tailor for many years, i have my own small collection now. if you knit a lot of sweaters or if you also sew, you’d probably get lots of use out of a tailor’s ham if you don’t already own one. it’s a worthy investment; once you purchase one, you’ll never need another. they just don’t wear out.

something i learned while shopping for one to give to helena a couple of christmases back—i don’t think you can get the nice big, heavy ones new any more; at least, i wasn’t able to locate one. discovering this situation has put me on the lookout in vintage shops for a few tailor’s tools i never bought.

but vintage hams in nice shape are still pretty easy to locate on ebay and etsy—at reasonable prices, too (i kept the original wrapping for my largest one, which i found at a garage sale one summer, years ago). i even saw one etsy shop this morning that will make a custom ham or seam roll to your liking.

ok, i digress .  . . you have to slap me when i stray like that!
we were talking about pressing armscye seams.

i lay my cured seam over the ham and move it around til i find the position in which it lies flat.

then i lay a wet towel over the fabric to cover it

and with my hot iron, i press very lightly along the seam. never put any weight into it—you could easily end up with a shiny seam surface or crushed texture. you can always go back and press again, if needed.

once i do that i peek under the cloth to see how it’s going; if it doesns’t look pressed enough, i go over it once more. “enough” will vary from fabric to fabric; you sorta have to develop a nose for it, but basically, you are looking for a seam that is flattish and straight and yarn that still looks to have its original spring and liveliness.

when i pull the towel off, i usually press my hand firmly onto the seam to hold some of the steam in just a little longer—sort of molding the fabric a bit at the same time. this is an old habit form my tailoring work, when i spent a lot of time shaping lapels and collars; wool is very moldable and many parts of a finely-made suit are more sculpted than sewn. you can also use a wooden clapper for this step if you have one; my hand is usually, well, handier.

when we do steam blocking in finishing class, this is the point where i pass the results around and everyone gasps over the difference before and after—i kid you not.

it’s harder to show on the blog but here goes—on the right is our steam-pressed seam; the cable is still nicely defined, but the shape is smoothed into a gentle curve and the surrounding fabric has been molded nicely around it. on the left is our unpressed seam, which is still lumpy form its stitching and stand sup from the fabric in a funny pinched way. trust me, it won’t look better on someone’s shoulder, especially when they move.

once the sleeves were in and pressed, it seemed a very quick matter to sew up the side and underarm seams while i visited with debby and susie last saturday. i went home, pressed those as well, and the whole thing was done. i love the way the side seams look with the double cables.

and now that i’ve dawdled over this post, getting sidetracked with stories and such, enough time has passed for david to be up and about and he graciously allowed himself to be subject to a few photos—anything for the blog, right?

i even told him what you always say about his reluctance to smile and begged him to crack one for us

i’m serious. that’s it.

the back view is quite handsome, though i forgot to ask for a shot with his arm raised so we could see the side cables (next time, i promise).

and doesn’t the yarn just make it? my pal kim really knows what she’s doing at the dyepot; she created a color that neither of us can resist loving, so it was a pleasure to knit and i know it is destined to be a go-to sweater for david. if you like it too, take a look at her sporty kashmir in the enchanted forest colorway, or request a color of your choice.

the back armhole seam is looking nice. i find that most sweaters don’t settle into their final shape and fit til they are washed and he wears them a time or two. for us, this usually means that they grow a bit, so i tend to err on the side of a little tightness in the finished piece. when the fabric relaxes, it looks just right.

david will often say that a sweater feels tight when it’s just been finished, but later will agree that it feel fine after all. and i’m happy when it’s not sloppy-loose.

what do you think??
one thing’s for sure—my husband is a great sport; thank you david!

the pattern is now in the hands of the test knitters, some of whom have already cast on. i think between all of us, we’ll have at least one of each version—vest, cardigan, pullover, v-neck, and crew neck. oh, and it’s sized for both sexes. i don’t know if we’ll get photos of all of them for the pattern release, but we will try.

now, what are we all doing in front of the computer on such a beautiful day??
GO—have some fun this weekend and we’ll see you on the other side.