fair weather friend

anne wrote this mid-afternoon:

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look what i saw the other day!!
(i’m not quite sure what it is; i only know it’s a fresh sprout)

it’s an understatement to say that the anticipation of spring is running very high around here. the weather is just about all anyone talks about lately. i’ve kept a watchful eye on the yard for birds to arrive and crocuses to sprout, but up until a couple of days ago i was met with dead silence.

then suddenly i woke to a chorus of chirping and fluttering activity, all at once. no crocuses yet, but i’m sure they are on their way now. two days ago i ran in a tank top and shorts in 65 degrees under a warm, sunny sky.

and today . . .

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pink and fresh and pretty, yes, but still—ten degrees at 9 am? really???

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but i’ve started washing and putting away my sweaters for the season.

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no wonder we’re not seeing crocuses yet . . . mother nature keeps smothering them.

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everyone is walking around the house and the office with hats still on. david and sarah haven’t taken off their polartorte hats for days; i think they must sleep in them.

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even the heat register wears one, haha. one last slouch potato hat getting a blow dry before tomorrow’s big release.

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we got a last few photos of them with emily and erica the other day—who fell in love. i think they’ve put their official endorsement on the design, in case you needed any encouragement, haha.

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it even looks pretty good on me and i have a notoriously difficult head to fit. in fact, all of this recent hat activity is part of my continuing quest to find the perfect hat for me—if in the process, i happen to knit one for everybody i know (and some people i don’t know), well, that probably isn’t the worst harm i could do in a life of blundering about, trying to “find” myself.

that said, i do think that polartorte is the perfect hat for me, with slouch potato a close second. so i will knit myself one of each; i just haven’t decided which shade of stone soup or kent DK i want to knit them in . . .

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mostly, i just like playing with them all. and knitting them of course—they have joined the family of memorized, go-to, giftable, projects that i turn to when i just want something quick and satisfying to knit over an evening or two (a few others include cabled keyhole scarf, les abeilles, barrel o’ monkey, plain jhaynes)

so tomorrow we’ll release the slouch potato pattern and you can see for yourself; i hear that david and sarah are putting together a kit for it as well, for those who like a nice tidy project package.

with such drastic and crazy change ups in the weather lately, i’ve begun thinking about spring sweaters, mostly the ones i don’t have and wish i did.

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or better said, the ones i should have finished by now. i have literally two on the needles that should have been finished ages ago. but when it was under ten degrees for weeks at a time, i really couldn’t couldn’t see the point.

fair weather friend that i am though, i am realizing the folly of my ways—if i’d been diligent and knit on them just twenty or thirty minutes each day during the winter, they’d probably both be done and ready to wear. sigh

well, the only think i can do now is try my best. this top-down cardigan—artus & anne in briar rose sea pearl—is the closest to being done and i think i could finish it in just a few nights if i was diligent and didn’t get distracted.

hehe.

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i might need one of you to threaten me with some dire consequences.

the other garment is a surprise; i can’t talk about it quite yet. it’s been in the works since last summer and i’ve known there was kind of a deadline to finish it since then but again, kept moving it back on the priority list when more urgent winter projects bullied their way forward in the queue.

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but then on my trip to albany, i got a great jumpstart on it and have been working away very diligently since. it’s growing fast now and taking shape quite nicely. i have every expectation that i’ll get it done by my self imposed deadline.

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that said, i took a break the other day to work on a completely different project for my monday afternoon knitting class; a made a lemon meringue pie for my friend debby’s birthday

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because my cook books are still packed away (i don’t know why!) and i was relying on a recipe from the internet i hadn’t yet tried, i started on sunday evening just to be sure the filling would set up properly (i’ve had some, ahem, issues with that in the past).

but this recipe worked a treat and i highly recommend it; the filling thickened right up with no problems whatsoever and the flavor is excellent. in fact if anything, i would say i could get away with a bit less thickener.

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on monday i made my regular pie crust recipe, this time with gluten free flour, which worked out great. it was a little hard to transfer it into the dish without breaking but i figured out a way.

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again i had to go to the internet to grab information about oven temperature for the pre-baked crust and while i was there i read a good hint: after rolling and forming into a pan, freeze the dough for thirty minutes before baking. this will prevent a tender crust from slipping down into the pan as it bakes (something that happens to me even when i use pie weights).

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bake the crust WITH weights for fifteen minutes, then cool slightly and remove the weights. pierce the crust all over with a fork and put it back in the oven fro 10 minutes to finish baking and browning.

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perfecto—the crust is baked evenly all over and maintains its original shape. i will use that technique again for sure.

next i put the filling back on the stove over low heat to bring it back to bubbling hot. this is essential so that the meringue will properly cook through, which prevents it from collapsing, leaking, or releasing from the top of the pie.

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while the filling warmed up, i started the swiss meringue—it is cooked a bit first to dissolve the sugar, then whipped. i like this meringue because it is more elastic and easier to handle; you can work it slightly longer than a non-cooked meringue and it mounds up into lovely soft pillows.

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i probably could have taken it out just a bit sooner (i like it a little less tan), but i was afraid it wouldn’t be cooked enough. i let it cool on the counter top for about an hour or so, then put it in the fridge to chill.

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mmm—mmmm; heaven on a plate

and dessert before dinner—who doesn’t love that?

be back tomorrow with that new hat pattern—everyone is preparing it now.

roger that

anne wrote this just before lunchtime:

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now that the weather has broken (yes it’s only been a couple of days, but i just won’t acknowledge that it could be temporary), i find i am less concerned with my own immediate need for warm layers and my mind strays to spring events that might require a nice knitted gift.

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baby shower, graduation, and wedding invitations are beginning to pop into my mailbox and some of them are for people very special to me—loved ones that i might want to knit for. mother’s and father’s day are also right around the corner to fill out my list.

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now this type of gift requires some consideration—i don’t want it to be too personal, because it’s likely be shared over the years; it’s a “life” gift if you know what i mean. i DO want it to be something of a generous-seeming size, like a shawl, but not always a shawl because those are often construed as too fancy to use every day.

i want this kind of gift to be loved and used lots and lots.

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and let’s face it, i have a list of practical considerations for this project as well—it has to be quick and entertaining to knit and most likely, it has to be fairly easy for the recipient to take care of.

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because often they are just setting out in life and that’s going to present enough challenges; i don’t need to add to their to-do lists.

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or you know what? maybe it’s ME who needs a little pick me up to get through the end of winter—something to cuddle up with while i watch the grass green up from inside my window.

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with the heat turning on less and less frequently, it’s nice to have a little something to throw over my legs while i knit or watch TV. and i’m sure just about anyone you care about would feel the same.

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for these and any number of occasions, a cozy, attractive blanket is the quintessential giftable knit. it doesn’t even have to be big—this lap size version is quite handy; small and light enough to use frequently and wash easily.

one that looks like this is especially terrific—inspired by my roger sock design, it is totally unisex and timeless, knits up in a flash, and is completely entertaining as long as it lasts. it can be knit for no reason at all, to be on hand when that special occasion arises. there is a size for any member of the family, from wee babes to the big guys.

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richly textured in knit/purl patterning, it would make a classy, classic addition to any home, dorm room, or play pen; everything about it says “i want to wrap you in love“.

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shown here, the lap/crib sized blanket in shalimar enzo aran, a velvety twelve-ply merino yarn; the color is scarab.

this is my design for the month long shalimarch 2014 celebration, a festival of projects, KALs, contests, and prizes, hosted in the shalimar yarns ravelry group.

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to purchase patterns or view complete pattern information, please click here to visit the roger that page in the knitspot pattern shop or visit the roger that page in our ravelry pattern shop.

and there is a special related surprise for those who act before tuesday 11:59 pm ESTclick over to erica’s post in the shalimarch thread (scroll down) to see what’s up!

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barb has been knitting away on a sample of roger that in our own delicious breakfast blend DK yarn in the oatmeal shade—i saw it the other night and just wanted to lick it, mmm. so sarah and david are putting together a kit that we’ll launch in a week or so, when barb is finished with her sample. the kit will be available in our online shop as well as our upcoming pop-up shops, maybe even in your neighborhood.

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and if you’re thinking that this might make a nice baby or graduation gift project, don’t forget that the roger sock makes a nice pairing with it. i also have a new hat pattern that i’ve been hanging onto for a while, which happens to match this piece—the slouch potato! i’ve been knitting these up like, well,  potato chips in bare naked wools during my travels lately and realized that it would make a great set; it’s sized from baby to adult, just like the blanket. so we are making up one more in shalimar enzo sport and when it’s ready, we’ll release the hat pattern, too.

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thank you to everyone who participated in this super fun and quick design project. we actually had planned something completely different for shalimarch and then a couple weeks ago, i said to erica, “let’s scrap all that and do a blanket instead!”

vanessa jumped on board to knit one (she did it in less than three days, i think), and kristi busted a move to get the yarn dyed and out the door ASAP. meanwhile, i wrote up the pattern. within a week we were done, wow. sometimes, it goes like that and sometimes, not.

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thank you as well to the lovely erica who modeled it for us and to david for photography—once again we were racing with the sunset, hoping to have just enough light to get some wonderful shots. and alas, we got lucky.

have a great weekend everyone—happy shalimarch.

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on the move

anne wrote this mid-morning:

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whew, another whirlwind week gone by and suddenly it’s the start of a new month already—jeesh, where did february go?? swirled away with all that snow we’ve had, it feels like.

last wednesday sarah and i had an exciting day up in cleveland where i went to film a couple of segments for knitting daily tv. one revolved around the use of undyed, natural yarn colors and the other about fitting sweaters. this required quite a lot of preparation before we left the house, with me knitting swatches and samples and sarah making lists and packing. in the studio, sarah clicked away and erica posted all sorts of pictures on our twitter and instagram feeds while i did not take one photo the whole time (eek, sorry; i must remind her to cc me when she texts photos, haha).

anyway, when we returned that evening, the only souvenir i had of the day was this beautiful collection of slouch potato caps—one in each of our DK weight yarns. from left to right: stone soup DK in slate, ghillie sport in cream, kent DK in beach glass, and kent DK in driftwood.

that last sample is still unblocked in the photo, since i finished it up during filming. notice how much the fabric in the other samples was improved by blocking—read on to see more.

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also last week, i finally had a chance to spend time with debby and susie celebrating my birthday—because first snowstorms, then illness caused a nearly month-long delay in allowing us to get together. we went out for a lovely dinner and talked and talked. they gave me a gift certificate to the running store that i shop at and susie knit me these plain jhayne mitts, knit in stone soup fingering yarn!!

holy cow, was i surprised and pleased; i have been wanting to knit myself these exact mitts for months, but just haven’t gotten around to it. and let me tell you, they are warm. i’ve been wearing them at my desk, which is in front of the west-facing windows in our house (brrrr) and they are toasty. they’d be great for driving too, since they are nice and long in the fingers. i love them, thank you susie!

david and i had plans to travel to see my mom for her birthday as well—all dependent on the weather, of course. we really didn’t know until the night before if we’d actually get to go, but finally decided it was safe to travel.

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usually when we decide to come visit my mom, we set out on thursday and return on sunday. but i had a ticket to see my friend helena perform in peter pan on friday night so this time, we traveled on saturday instead.

whoa—what a difference it makes to drive while everyone else is relaxing or doing local errands. few trucks, no one commuting to work; it’s a different world out there. i took my turn for the first few hours to give david some time to wake up (as you might by now have gathered, he is not a morning person). this trip, we are listening to the girl you left behind, by mojo moyes.

when david took over, i got out my polartorte project and got to work; i wasn’t going to knit another, but then decided i wanted to gift one to a friend. i was just past the brim when we set out and with about three good knitting hours in the car, i was up to the start of the decreases. after a quick nap, i got back to work and by the time we pulled up to my mom’s house, i was nearly done.

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i would have settled into a chair and just kept going, but we had a date with my sister’s family for dinner. it’s always nice to be able to grab some family time when we get to albany; between their busy school and work schedules, it’s hard for them to travel to see us. we had a great celebration dinner

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complete with presents, cake, and conversation—it was a lovely evening. and when we got home i finished up my hat while we watched movies.

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now i know it looks rather ragtag in this photo; the fiber is dull and the stitches quite misshapen. but you will see later how it changes completely before your very eyes with a bit of TLC.

yesterday we got up early and while my mom read the papers and david slept in, i went for a long run on the back roads near her house. after being cooped up all week at our house, where it was bitter cold and snowed every day, it was nice to run in the fresh air and sunshine.

we visited with my cousin in the afternoon and i got back to work on a secret project i’d started and laid aside a while back.

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i can’t say too much about it at the moment, but soon all will be revealed. i’m knitting with stone soup fingering yarn and yes, it starts off with some one by one rib. it’s another thing i’ve been coveting for some time and i think it’s going to be quite handsome when it’s done.

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it got pretty cold here after dinner, so instead of going out anywhere, we all settled in to knit and watch the oscars. the living room fairly hummed with activity. my mom is knitting a baby blanket to contribute to the christ child society at her church—a group that, among other activities, makes layettes for young single moms. her parish has a knitting group that meets weekly to work on them throughout the year; in 2013 they have gifted 480 sets. in the fall, they host a community baby shower for expectant moms, where invited guests are each presented with a sweater set and blanket.

david is getting ready to start on a hat project of his own; i think he wants to knit it a squish me hat. he’s been sitting in on wednesday night classes at home and has shown interest in doing a couple of new projects. i am beyond excited, but i daren’t make too big a deal of it; i’ll let barb and susan do that, hahaha.

while they worked on their projects and i worked on mine, my polartorte was soaking in a bathroom sink filled with very hot, soapy water. i find that this is the best way to treat the fabric for its first wash.

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this is the unwashed, unblocked fabric as it  appears just off the needles. you can see that the stitches look pretty uneven, while the fabric as a whole is saggy, rumpled, and dull looking. now check this out

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this is what it looks like after a nice, hot soapy bath, blocked and dried. if you thought that something like a hat doesn’t “need” blocking after it’s completed, i’m hoping this might persuade you that it will indeed, send your knitted fabric to that next level, bringing out its natural inner glow and giving it beautiful drape.

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now that’s a nice fabric. another thing—if you think that your knitting tension isn’t nice or that your fabric isn’t even because you are doing something “wrong”, a good blocking could very well prove that it isn’t you at all. think of it as a free upgrade from this

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to THIS.

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i know which one i’d want to give as my gift.

ok, enough talk about knitting; my mom is making one of my very favorite sweets—the annual st joseph’s day treat called cavazone. i definitely want to watch.

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polartorte

anne wrote this in the late evening:

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look at how cute our three models look in their polartorte caps! they are all set for the big winter storm that is heading our way this weekend (groan).

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this is very rare for me to say, but i have to this one time: polartorte is my new favorite hat and i think it is destined to be yours, too. i’ve knit three of them so far and have a fourth on the needles now—they are addictive (and quick!)

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and the result is SOoo delicious—a cozy swirl of soft, soft wool, lush with texture and drape so that it slouches in that just-so way. it attracts so many compliments it’s almost embarrassing.

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best of all, you can knit any one of the five pattern sizes from a single skein of our stone soup DK or kent DK (check out our new driftwood shade). it’s the perfect snow day project . . .

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in fact, after the photo shoot, our little friend niya was so taken with the knits and our knitting projects, that she asked us to teach her and by evening, she was knitting away on her own little piece of work.

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it wouldn’t surprise me if she had a hat of her own on the needles when i see her next, haha.

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and i don’t know what our friend mark went home and told his partner bil, but next thing i know there are several messages on my phone telling me that friends don’t let (bald) friends get frostbite.

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well, far be it from me to deprive my friends . . . and over david went with a few hats.

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i’m sure niya wouldn’t have fallen for such a line, but there you have it, i’m a softie.

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shown above, the small cap in stone soup DK, color marble

shown below, the medium (left) and large (right) size caps, also in stone soup DK, colors slate and granite.

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to purchase patterns or view complete pattern information, please click here to visit the polartorte page in the knitspot pattern shop or visit the polartorte page in our ravelry pattern shop.

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sarah and david have also put together a polartorte kit in the stone soup DK that includes the pattern in all sizes and your choice of yarn color. you can even knit a couple of the smaller sizes from one skein—what a deal.

click here to purchase the kit in the knitspot pattern shop.

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this hat has the same appealing combination of textures as my waffle creams sock design with a lush a thermal stitch to trap warmth and keep your noggin cozy. a handsome cable along each side adds a touch of classic definition to keep it looking sharp. the name for the cap comes from a popular frozen dessert available (as i understand it) in kazakhstan. the things you find out on the internets . . . who knew?

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now, there is a graft at the top of that hat, but it’s just a few stitches and i will walk you through it myself in my FREE craftsy class on grafting; you’ll be a pro when you’re done.

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many thanks to our friends mark, malia, and niya for taking some time this week to help us out with photos. we so appreciate their involvement and enthusiasm.

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and lots of knit love to sarah’s mom, anne C. who knit our largest sample; that’s a lotta hat, thank you anne!

and now, time to go enjoy some knitting ourselves; gotta get our yarn in order before the snow starts flying again! happy weekend everyone; we are traveling to visit my mom for a few days, so we will see you when we get to albany.