taming the beast

Posted on Posted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, food and garden, lace/shawls


i love a nice black, white, and green combination, don’t you?


we’ve been so fortunate this year to have a garden that just keeps giving; no need to shop at the store when we can take a look out the back door and decide what’s for dinner.


lots of greens and squash and peppers? let’s do stir fry!


five pounds of cavalo nero (black italian kale) just from trimming the plants a bit?


sounds like big pot of ribollita is in order.

i like the rogers gray recipe which appears in the river cafe cookbook, and the one i linked to is very similar, but uses canned beans (i am an epic fail at cooking my own beans). i recommend reading the first comment under the “most helpful” tab and going with the advice of that reader. black kale is the essential ingredient in this soup; it has a velvety texture and sweet flavor (unlike other kales) that tolerates long cooking without getting sulphur-y or metallic.

i also agree that a dish like this is best cooked ahead and allowed to “mature” for a day before serving. my grandma liked to get her cooking done first thing in the morning and let it sit to develop a rich, full flavor by supper time. she also liked that having dinner cooked early meant that she could knit the rest of the day if she wanted . . .

oops, i digress. yes it’s been quite a foodie summer.


a little before i left for alaska, david pulled all the garlic and again we had a really nice harvest—i think we’ve finally got the garlic thing down. last year we had nearly the same number of bulbs but each head had only four or five large cloves—which meant that we used it up very quickly.


between the ginormous bulbs we unearthed and the large number of cloves in each one, it feels like we harvested twice as much this year. now dried and trimmed, they are tucked away in loosely woven sacks in the basement. we use those zippered burlap bags that basmati rice comes in—they allow for hanging up off the floor.


i’ve already used some of our garlic when i roasted the first of our tomatoes for a pasta dinner last week—yum, yum. with sautéed fresh squash and peppers, it was quick, light, and delicious way to welcome myself home; lavish as the food on the cruise could be, i’d missed our way of eating.


i honestly think that the end of the cruise was purposely timed to align with the advancing tsunami of tomatoes that was about to hit us. when i returned home, we were picking at most, a few each day. but i could see the writing on the wall—the plants were loaded with green fruit that was turning yellowish. like giant bunches of grapes they hung, waiting to ripen. and i’m not talking about just this dish of innocent looking cherry tomatoes—those we can handle.


i’m talking about this—a couple dozen 1.5 pounders each day . . . and more. good thing i have a large arsenal of italian recipes to draw on!


and you can’t help but love them when they offer you this .  .


this tomato reminds me of my brothers when they were kids, haha. they would never pass up the opportunity to exploit it for all it’s worth. me, i texted pictures to kat and kim (who are forever young, haha), then passed the fruit on to a friend who i knew would appreciate it.

we had a minor setback last weekend when i had planned to buy a crate of peaches and a few dozen corn to freeze—on a trip to the basement friday evening, david discovered that the freezer was not working.

fortunately he was able to locate one in stock at lowe’s of the size we need AND he was able to negotiate a match for a sale price at another store that didn’t even have it in stock (THANK you lowe’s!). he did have to bring it home himself and get it into the basement, but he managed and we had a working freezer within 24 hours. crisis averted, phew!


so, on my first day free of meetings or classes, i got out early and came home with the peaches and corn. boy are they good this year. i put up 23 bags of fruit with a few left over for eating and i’m already wanting more for pies and snacking.

and now we also have plenty of corn put away for winter use.

you may have noticed that something is conspicuously missing in this picture . . .


weirdly, our green beans are just not themselves this year. the plants (which it took two sowings to germinate) are gorgeous and healthy, but very slow in flowering and maturing. which probably suits my schedule better anyway. it’s possible that we won’t even have any for freezing, but i still have tons down there from last year that we didn’t even eat). also possible that they just need some rain or fertilizer (on david’s list for this week). i wasn’t able to get seeds for the variety i usually grow; i’m hoping it was a fluke this year and they will be available again in the future.


still enjoying beautiful greens as often as we wish, too—the other day i sautéed this chard with many mushrooms, oil, and garlic and served with pasta. oh my.

now, i’m making it sound as if i’m too busy cooking to get any knitting done, but actually i’ve been working a lot and have plenty to show for it, too.


um, not actual knitting but UN knitting—after i returned home and finished up the back piece of the twill pullover, i remembered that i needed to fix the sleeves so that the cuff ribbing matched what i had on the body pieces.


during our saturday morning class last weekend, i snipped one strand of yarn and picked out a row of stitches to detach the old cuff, then picked up the loops from underneath the pattern sts and reknit the cuff downward in the preferred rib.


that job was actually really quick and i had both sleeves fixed by that evening, but the pieces sat around til yesterday when i finally had time to block them.


we’ve been doing a nice class on saturday mornings where participants knit their first sweater, using the whitfield shorty kid’s jacket pattern so they could work through it quickly. this segued naturally into a finishing class which we are progressing through now, so i’ve been finishing along with them. above, paula steam blocks her jacket pieces in preparation for seaming (i’m using her work as an example because she’s keeping up so well).

hilary still has some knitting to do before finishing can get started, but she’s working on it.


last week paula stitched her first seams—the shoulders—and got started on joining the sleeve caps to the body.


a difficult seam for sure, but she’s handling it well and has learned how important that stockinette seam stitch really is (she forgot to do  it in a few places and is finding it much harder to seam without).


i worked right along on the twill pullover that i’ve been knitting in kent DK (in the rich, dark gray mussel shell shade), which hilary and paula have been drooling over when they come in for saturday classes. having worked short row shoulders, i joined them with a three-needle bind off this morning and then picked up for the neck finish. paula continued with her sleeve caps seams and also did the pickup for the collar of her jacket today.


after class i stayed on to watch the shop because erica has an out-of-town babysitting gig/vacation for the next week. in between customers i finished up the neckband of the sweater and started on my own sleeve cap seams.


the first half seam is always the slowest as i figure out exactly what proportion of fabric goes where along the curvilinear seam; some parts of the cap need to be eased slightly into the armscye and some parts of the armscye need to be eased into the sleeve cap, depending on where i am on the road to the underarm. i love this particular job—it’s so satisfying once i get it right, when i end up with a that seam lays smooth and fits the shoulder perfectly. now it just needs some steaming to look its best. one down and three to go . . .and then the side and underarm seams and i’m done. hopefully tonight.

which reminds me, i still need to decide on a name for this pullover . . .


meanwhile, i’m making pretty good progress on the dock and cabin cardigan, which, in stone soup fingering yarn goes a little more slowly than the DK sweater fabric. when i got home from my trip i was nearly done with the first front piece and finished that up quickly one night this past week.


this design has something different in its construction—the cable panel which runs up the center front alongside the button band extends over the shoulder and around to the center back, where it is grafted to the one from the opposite side to form a little yoke. it must be shaped with short rows that are concealed in the cable, but it’s a fun component to work and creates a really nice detail for the back shoulder area. once it is seamed in, a twisted rib is worked along the top edge, around to the front neck and down the center to form the button band. as with all interesting details, finding the right words to write the instructions will be the challenge in putting together this pattern, haha.


we had steam-blocked the first sleeve during our blocking class on the cruise and you can see what a difference a little steam can make in the fabric—just wait til it’s washed and really has a chance to bloom. i just love the incredible stitch definition that i get in SSF, a soft yarn with a firm twist—the best of both worlds. the sleeve cap in this sweater is very shallow because it fits into a dropped shoulder. many dropped shoulder sweaters have no sleeve cap, but i didn’t like the way this one hung without some shaping, so i added just a couple of inches of slope at the top.


i started the second front during this last week, in between a pile of swatching duties. while there isn’t a lot of fussy shaping in this design—it has a casual, oversized fit—it is longer and wider and has cabling, so there is a lot of knitting involved. but SO worth it; my original sweater is nearly twenty five years old and just starting to give out.


oh, i have so much more knitting from this week to share, but dinner and produce are calling me to the kitchen—gotta stay on top of it or i may get lost in the tide. i’ll be back in a day or two to show you the newest swatches and projects.

7 thoughts on “taming the beast

  1. Love all the pictures of the vegetables harvested from your garden. That tomato is…hum…interesting. Those new sweaters you are working on are looking really good. Love the cabling that runs up to the back.

  2. I’m so jealous of your harvest! Though I’m only a few miles away from you, my garden hasn’t had the best year – I’ve been plagued by squirrels, which ate all my cucumbers and are now feasting on my tomatoes, which haven’t been particularly prolific this year. I have high hopes for my potatoes, though, which are a new-to-me crop this year!

  3. The garden produce is amazing…but the new sweaters are really catching my eye, of course. Definitely looking forward to seeing how they evolve!

  4. Don’t fertilize the beans! They bind their own nitrogen–adding additional will make them put all their energy into leaves. Don’t know why they’re not thriving–did you plant them in a place where you’ve never grown legumes before? They may need innoculant.

  5. You have more gardening comments than knitting comments, but they did make me want to go to the farmers market (no garden this year–long boring story). The pullover is stunning–hope you find the perfect name for it.

  6. All this talk of gardening while looking at your nameless sweater made me think about bricks and paths, so “Along the Garden Path”?

    I’m gonna plug for dried sweet corn. Last year, I dried 3 ears a week from my CSA for a month and then enjoyed putting the dried kernels in soups and stews all winter. It’s a bit of a process, first you par boil the ears for 2-3 minutes, then you cut the kernels off the cob and spread out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and dry in a low oven until they are shriveled, dry, and hard. Let cool and then store in a air tight container. This year my family has suddenly gotten waaaay more enthusiastic about corn, so I haven’t been able to do it.

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