little wonder

Posted on 20 CommentsPosted in designing, food and garden, lace/shawls, projects

sorry i’ve been away for so many days—we went to detroit this weekend to meet baby knitspot and while i thought i’d have time to sneak in a blog post over the weekend .  . . well, anyone with kids in the house knows how that goes, haha. no matter how many people are on hand to help, everyone’s attention is caught up doing baby things and nothing else.

as my dad used to say: “it’s like watching a fire, isn’t it?”

much as i would have liked to write a blog post though, it was nice to get away from our desks for a couple of days before my teaching travel dates begin later this week (more on that later!).

anne marie and i finished up the september book chapter for FIFC by early friday afternoon, with the idea that david and i would head out knowing things were in good shape for it’s release on monday—who needs stress when you’re going away for the weekend?

i spent the rest of the afternoon packing and baking a peach pie to bring along. we pulled it out of the oven, made a nest of towels in the back of the car to place it, and headed for the highway—i didn’t even stop for photos, sorry.

haha, and then it taunted us all the way to detroit, filling the car with warm peachy, spicy, brown sugary vapors. what was i thinking??

but it was worth it when we arrived and it was still warm; erica couldn’t have been happier to see it. she texted me a picture of this last lone slice, which i think was her breakfast yesterday.

well, maybe one other thing makes her happier than peach pie. don’t they look healthy and beautiful?

and guess what?

i got to hold the baby!!
and he didn’t scream his head off, haha. actually, babies like me pretty well; i think it’s the eyeglasses.

the rest of the weekend was sort of a blur really; we just spent our time there visiting quietly, having a couple of nice meals at home, and watching movies. i went for a long run on saturday and a long walk on sunday—the neighborhoods around there are some of my favorite to explore.

buddy is slowly adjusting to this complete overhaul of the life he once knew, but we can all tell he’s feeling a little neglected. i had promised to take him for a couple of long walks when i arrived and we did go out both days for as long as he could stand it (he gets bored much more easily than i do; is there something in that to be concerned about?).

before we left for home we got in one last shot with uncle david. we had already taken the opportunity earlier to photograph padraig’s first modeling gig, the results of which will be revealed next week.

i would post it this week, but we have that slot filled—that’s right, the caïssa sweater release is slated for my travel day on thursday, YAY. i know many of you are anxious to get your hands on that pattern and i think you’re going to like what we’ve come up with for the release day.

i hardly got any knitting done over the weekend; not really sure why. i mean, we certainly sat around enough, but it seemed that there was always something happening, too. i started a hazeline shawlette, just for the fun of it in this september’s club yarn (SPOILER alert on that second link). i figure, hazeline makes for excellent travel knitting and maybe by the time i return from my east coast trip, i’ll have a nice finished shawlette to keep or give away.

so i worked on that a bit in the car and while we chatted. i also worked on a lot of stuff you can’t see yet, like swatches in yarns for the 2013 barenaked club (we are finalizing our yarn picks now) and sample knits for the current FIFC club.

in an effort to travel light, i did not bring my bloch ness sweater or my wasp and rose shawl, but as soon as i got home, i got back to work—i really missed them!

i worked on the shawl sunday evening while i chatted with my mom and got a few more rows done—just four or five left to go, woo-hoo. they are very long now, topping 500 sts and i gotta say, the knitting at this point tends to put me to sleep—my fault, not the shawl’s; i don’t get enough rest at night and the knitting is so soothing it lulls me into a twilight zone, haha.

i’m starting to get concerned that i won’t have this off the needles before i leave on thursday.

i am far enough along in the hem that the wasps can now be seen in full—a whole row of them along the edge, with their noses buried in rosebuds.

here’s another shot with them against a dark background

when they are stretched and blocked, they will elongate and look even more waspy, with a narrow and longer bee-hind.

all that’s left of that project is a garter-based scalloping pattern along the edge and i am well into that now. i’m going to try for a finish this evening; i have kniting class at 6:30, so there iwll be a couple of good hours of work time at least tonight.

and you know what? it might be nice to bring this shawl to maryland unblocked—i’m teaching the finishing series twice on this trip and it would be great example of a larger piece for the class to work on together.

that’s right; i’ll be teaching the finishing series at shalimar yarns this friday, september 21st and again on saturday, september 23rd at fibre space in alexandria, where i will also be teaching an advanced lace project class on sunday, featuring the twig and leaf shawl.

the next weekend i will be teaching in southern maryland at crazy 4 ewe, where we kick off the weekend of classes with a trunk show/lecture on friday night, followed by two days of classes in lace knitting, blocking, and yarn voyage.

i’ll stay with my nephew james and niece diana during the time between events; they are buying and moving into their first house, so i’m hoping i can be of some help next week as well as using the time to get some work of my own done.

yesterday in class i worked on the back of the bloch ness sweater. once that shaping begins, it really moves along quickly as the rows get shorter and shorter. i should be able to finish this up tonight and maybe steam block it in the morning. then i will know if those seamlines will flatten out as i hope they will. if not—YIKES; i’ll have to rework the design.

we’re having a nice, all-day soaking rain here—we really need it. the garden is dying back, but there is still plenty good that the rain will do. we are quite behind in our rainfall for the year and we need to catch up.

my potato vines have died back, leaving a swath of naked straw between he carrots (far left) and the sweet potato vines (which are starting to die back a little too). we’ve been digging up a few here and there to eat, but soon, we’ll have to get all of them out.

i wish i was going to be home more in the next few weeks; i’m anxious to cook with these fall treats. ah well, the nice thing about root vegetables is that they hold very well—even after the frosts begin. last year, we left everything in the ground all winter and dug them up as needed; it was a really space saver for us. of course, we never had a hard freeze either.

we’ll see what happens as we go; we don’t have to move on this yet. it can wait til my travels are done.

the rest of the garden is dying back slowly and while the squash is done, i’m still picking eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and—of all thing—green beans. can you believe that? the ones i planted along the back fence just won’t quit. i tried ignoring them, thinking they’d get all overgrown and then die, but when i got home sunday afternoon, they looked so beautiful hanging there i couldn’t resist and i ended up with a tidy basket of long slender string beans for the fridge. just what we needed, haha.

i have got to find a good use for fresh green beans . . . maybe an interesting casserole?? (besides the obvious classic, that is). hmm.

what i’m really hoping is that the chard will make a comeback, now that the weather has cooled and some of the surrounding big plants have died back. i could really get into some nice fresh greens about now. ours sorta got stalled in july and have not recovered yet (though they are not dead or dying; just sitting there, being small).

the potted plants love the rain.

ok, then, i’m done for today—that’s all she wrote. i’ve got to move on to pattern work and photo editing, but as promised, we will be back thursday with a big release, yay!


Posted on 9 CommentsPosted in patterns

and now for the release of a favorite from the 2011 fall in full color club—hazeline. it has been really hard to sit on the release of this pattern for a year—lots of knitters have written us over the last twelve months, wanting to buy a single copy.

i’m not sure exactly what makes this a perennial favorite—maybe the custom club colorway (hazel leaf) or the delicious garter-based hem pattern or the yummy, squishy luxury blend yarn it was knit with? but it has proven quite a favorite, one that many of our members knit multiple times.

this piece offers just the right combination of cozy warmth and light weight to make it endlessly useful. at this time of year, it’s what we grab as we run out into the increasing darker and chillier mornings.

once the temps have risen, it can be folded away in a drawer or tote, then pulled out after dark for the trip home. who needs a jacket when you have one of these?

it can be adjusted  to hold off drafts from any direction, or worn down and loose for just a light covering. add a pin and it stays put; the brooch shown above is from perl grey; below hazeline is fastened with a stick pin leaf from plover designs. hazeline is worn here over the rene pullover and cardigan.

shown below, the tall size (left) and the petite size (right) in shalimar breathless, a luxurious  merino/cashmere/silk fingering yarn, that manages to have both wonderful body and a beautiful drapey hand at the same time.

that’s the club colorway on the right, hazel leaf; i don’t know if it will have a place in the shalimar lineup going forward, but if not, kristi has a wide range of beautiful colors to choose from.

i love the petite size shawl myself—small enough to be bunched up around my neck if i want it to be more like a scarf, yet large enough to cove my shoulders when i want that extra layer all over. it’s also easy to add or subtract form the hem pattern to further customize, according to your yarn supply or fitting preference.

the hazeline project page in ravelry shows off lots wonderful examples knit by our club members, making it easy to imagine how your own hazeline will look in another colorway or yarn base.

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

hazeline is also included in the FIFC 2011 eBook, as part of the 2011 club collection—eight terrific accessory patterns with a total of ten pieces. each pattern is multi-sized and suitable for gifting; many will have universal appeal for women, men, and children alike. purchase the eBook collection from the knitspot club website or in our ravelry pattern shop.

kristi and paul at shalimar yarns came up with a real winner for our september 2011 club yarn—the color was a real favorite among members and the yarn base a delight to work with. thank you kristi for such a terrific collaboration!

and many thanks to our favorite mother/daughter team, kris and helena, who always say yes; we appreciate you both so very much, thank you!

and to david, who makes each photo shoot come alive with atmosphere; we’re lucky to experience the work of so many artists together.

just peachy

Posted on 17 CommentsPosted in designing, food and garden, lace/shawls, projects

i think this is just about the last of the fresh peaches we are going to see in our area—boo hoo. when i went to the orchard on saturday to pick some up for baking this week, there were just a few boxes left and while the flavor is good, they are not as consistently nice for eating as they were a couple weeks back.

plenty nice enough to bake with though—and that’s just what i set about doing, first thing monday morning. i had promised my monday class that i’d bake a cobbler.

when i set about searching for recipes, it soon became clear that there are two camps on cobbler construction. one prefers to start with the batter on the bottom and the fruit on top, with the batter rising up around the fruit to make a tender cake. the other starts with the fruit on the bottom and drops a more biscuit-like batter over the top to bake into a crust, with fruit bubbling up from underneath.

(can i just say, i don’t care; i’ll have it either way if you just keep talking to me like that)

i found some tasty sounding recipes from both camps, so i was a bit stymied as to which way i should go. then i realized there was a simple solution—just take a poll. and sure enough, when i asked susie and debby, they both voted for top-crust cobbler.

i used the recipe from an old favorite of mine—farm house cookbook, by susan loomis. the author traveled all over america talking to farmers and their families about the food they grow, while collecting their recipes for this wonderful book. i have made many, many dishes from this collection; not only is this book filled with terrific recipes, it’s chock-full of good cooking advice and fascinating stories as well. very well worth the price. sadly, it’s out of print now, but you can still buy it pretty easily.

while this top-crust is similar to a biscuit, it is also not. it doesn’t have exactly the same crumb or density and is definitely moister. it takes a while to bake and you have to let it get pretty brown to be sure it cooks all the way through, but that will not cause it to dry it out.

the recipe fills a very large pan, so i cut it in half. normally, the filling would be able to bubble through the crust, but my pan was a little smaller than it should have been, so my cobbler came out deeper and the topping more solid. no harm done—it was grand.

for some reason, i did not get a picture of it plated up—and the camera was sitting right there, too. i must have been distracted . . . the general consensus from the class was “stop asking how i like it; i’m busy eating”.

the afternoon was bright but chilly enough for sweaters and anne C. showed up in her completed blumchen. look—it matches mine exactly, haha. she wants you to know she loves it and will probably be making another, very soon. our friend cherie has shared her recently completed the short sleeved version on ravelry and has told me that while she loves all of her sweaters dearly, this one has risen to top of the heap—she’s just thrilled with it.
yay for a sweater we adore.

my own knitting is making progress, though it seems to look nearly the same as it did the last time i showed you. here is the bloch ness back; i’ve knit to the underarms several times since i last showed it, haha, because i changed my mind twice about the body length. i’ve settled on it now and am finally working on the raglan shaping. the color of this polwarth/silk blend from indigodragonfly is photographing particularly well these days (the site says the color is sold out, but kim will gladly dye you up a batch if you email her).

on and off, i have doubts and concerns about those selvedge edges.

they are might curly; i sure do hope they flatten out with blocking and seaming. based on my swatches and experience, i’m making an educated guess that the garter/seed stitch pattern will relax and elongate once it’s been soaked and coaxed into its final shape.

even now, they straighten out completely with just a little tug on the fabric, so i’m hoping i’m right. once i have this piece off the needles, i’ll block to out to see what happens. but i won’t stop knitting yet, no sirree.

but i will be really pissed if i have to rip this whole thing out and start the body over with cabled seams instead of ribbed seams (and still, she doesn’t stop!).

as with a sock heel flap, one side is worse than the other; from this angle it’s not all that much of an issue. so i’m thinking that like a sock heel, when it’s all tidied up into a seam, steamed, blocked, and then washed, everything will pull together nicely.

i am in the final—but extremely slow moving—stretch of wasp and rose. that’s the last chart and as of yesterday, when this photo was taken, i had sixteen rows to go. now i’m down to ten. if i could just take the afternoon away from the computer to knit, i’d finish it up for sure.

but i have a club chapter to finish up before i can do that. believe me, as soon as that chapter is done, W&T is getting finished, too. it’s not that i’m ready to release the pattern—no, that is still with the proofreader (it’s a hum-dinger and she needs lots of time). then it will need to be test knit, too. so, no, i don’t need to rush for those reasons.

i just want to be done, haha. i want so badly to see the blocked shawl, i can taste it.

and of course, it will be nice to move on to other things. i want to get started on some new accessories for fall and for the holidays (i know—it seems early, but for me, it’s not). i would also like to start on a design for the boys—a raglan pullover version of sticks and stones for the shorties. i’ve got three little guys who would look great in that.

last night, i unloaded the produce bin of the fridge  to make a big pot of ratatouille—some to eat for dinner and some to store away for winter. we had tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, garlic, and basil—all from the garden. not one ingredient came from the store.

i use the recipe from another old favorite cookbook—the cuisine of the sun, by mireille johnson. i’ve cooked this recipe so many times that i know it by heart and as far as i remembered, i have made very few, if any, changes to the original. but i got out the cookbook yesterday anyway, just to verify my method before passing on the recommendation.

it’s such a simple, simple dish to put together; the only challenge to making it is keeping everything from cooking too much—you want to retain the fresh, bright summer taste and texture of all the vegetables. it relies heavily on getting the eggplant sauté right, so that you don’t end up needing to stew it too long later on.

using the freshest young vegetables possible will go a long way to making sure they cook quickly. big or old vegetables get tough and interfere with the process. cut everything into nice big chunks—they will better retain their color and tolerate some variation in cooking time, should you get behind or interrupted.

since i’m cutting up lots of vegetables all at once, it’s a good opportunity to put a pot of  vegetable stock on the back burner, using the discarded tops and bottoms, seeds and peels, along with a few stalks of celery, some parsley, and an old potato or two.

meanwhile, on the front two burners, i am sautéing the vegetables one by one and adding them to the pot of crushed tomatoes. once everything is in there, it gets seasoned and cooked, just long enough for the eggplant to be tender.

then it can sit; you can eat it right away or cook it in the morning and let it sit. and many people prefer to eat it day-old. i usually plan to let it sit several hours on the day i want to eat it, but last night we had it right away and it was great. no matter which way you do it, wait til just before serving to add great handfuls of fresh basil (preferably picked in the morning, when it is at its sweetest)

this way, the leaves are barely wilted when you plate it up and the scent from the dish is extraordinary. for the cartons i put in the freezer, i piled fresh basil leaves on top before putting on the lid, to add before serving on some future winter day.

the final result was fantastic, if i may say so myself—the eggplant was especially divine. oh, how i will miss these fresh eggplant when they go by the by in a month or so . . .
we gobbled it up, served over orzo pasta, but not before taking a picture to show you.

and for dessert, we’ll have the cobbler, please.

with that, i’m done for today. i have a million things to do before class this evening—did i mention a book chapter?? yes, it’s time to edit photos—people are waiting . . .


heavenly rewards

Posted on 12 CommentsPosted in designing, food and garden, lace/shawls, projects

we are having the nicest rains for the last few days—after such a parched summer, they are a truly welcome and delicious pleasure. and they make for such nice knitting weather, too—in fact, i’m heading out as soon as i finish this post for a knitting date with debby and susie.

i’ll be bringing my bloch ness sweater project along; even though i had less time to knit these last couple of days, the back piece is growing through late night TV and knitting sessions (if i get to knit earlier in the evening, that time is devoted to wasp and rose or a secret project). i try to get at least one block knit before i conk out.

the texture is scrumptious, isn’t it? it looks like a very heavy fabric, but because i’m knitting it on larger needles, it’s actually pretty light and airy. it will be warm for sure, but not in a bulky sweater way.

the indigodragonfly polwarth silk DK is simply delightful to knit with—i love this stuff! it has the crisp stitch definition of a BFL yarn, but that silk content really gives it a nice drape and sheen as well. this would be a great yarn for a sweater with more stockinette; it would have such an elegant hand.

i’m hoping to get to the underarm bindoff this morning, yay.

rainy weather is also a good time to catch up on kitchen duties that i tend to let slide when it’s very hot. for instance, i had a patio table top covered with ripe tomatoes for the better part of a week which i wanted to cook up. also i really wanted to dry the bowl of cherry tomatoes i had and to make paste with the roams i’d been collecting, but was loathe to heat the house up.

yesterday when i woke up, it was time—the temperature was quite cool and i had kept them waiting long enough. i cut everything i wanted to roast or dry in half and arranged them on baking sheets while i listened to my current audiobook. then into the oven they went.

you can read about how i dry and roast tomatoes in this older post.

mmm, the results are better than candy—i swear. but if you don’t eat them all, they will reward you ten times over in winter when added by the handful to stews, soups, sauces, and salads. they are sunshine encapsulated.

all of the big round tomatoes that were rip got cut into chunks and cooked a bit on the stove top, then pureed and put in freezer containers. i added four more to our freezer stash. the small containers are paste that i pureed from the roasted romas.

and so it goes—thee’s another batch already ripening as we speak. since i have lots of eggplant and squash and basil on hand, i think i’ll make a big pot of ratatouille tomorrow—some to eat this week and some to freeze. september is definitely shaping up to be tomato month after all, yay.

a good morning and all done by about 9:30, yay. still plenty of time to work on a pattern.

wasp and rose is finally with the proofreader—whose job i don’t really envy at all. it’s a long pattern—easy to knit, but many pages. all good on the receiving end, but kicking our butts on the creation end, haha.

that’s ok—problem children usually end up being the most brilliant, don’t they??
(please tell me yes)

ok, time for an impatiens update

they are doing great! it was a really good idea to bring my mo’s start home to give my plants some incentive (that’s hers on the left and mine on the right, minus a couple more cutting i took this week).

wow. hers has doubled in size i think since last week, when we brought it home.

mine isn’t as big, but it’s less leggy now

i cut back the lost parts for cuttings, which i’ve got started on the inside porch. this mother plant is now more symmetrical and i bet that in a week, it will look very nice, more like its neighbor there.

meanwhile, they just keep coming. soon i’ll have enough to start passing them around to whoever wants one and hopefully, we’ll keep them going through the winter.

i’m thinking we can get another 50 years out of these plants if we play our cards right.
ok, time for me to take off to knit; i may also get some of the last of the season peaches for baking on monday. have a great weekend.