Monday, December 31, 2007

Built For Comfort

I won't be sashaying down the catwalk in this one. It is decidedly built for comfort. I also take comfort from reviewing the pictures in the Rowan Plaid Collection and noting that it is the nature of the designs to be oversized in all respects, including the sleeves. I'm just not sure that it's the best look on me. That being said, I do love wearing it! It is extremely soft, comfortable, and warm to wear and that is exactly what I was going for! Mr Puffy kindly said that he likes how I look in it. He's so sweet. Tomorrow he gets an extra long walk!

Mr Puffy is not the only one who is sweet. Just when I was wondering how I was going to close the front without any buttons my good friend Bridget from The Ravell'd Sleave serendipitously sent me a beautiful glass shawl closure that is absolutely perfect. Thank you Bridget!!!!!

Design: Raindrop; 7 Skeins Rowan Plaid ~ Sea Thistle ~ (42% Merino Wool; 30% Acrylic; 28% Superfine Alpaca); US 10.5 and US 11 needles.

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Christmas. We spent a wonderful day with my parents and my sister and her family. This is a picture of Mr Puffy enjoying my parent's Christmas tree. He is so spoiled by my parents that he departs with some reluctance. As do we all.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Because You Can Never Have Too Many

In my view, you can never have too many pairs of hand knit socks. They are the comfort food of clothing. The mashed potatoes of knitting. The warm cozy feel good clothing you just can't buy. Unless you hire your own Granny to knit you a pair. You heard me correctly. I learned about these sock knitting Grannies from Jenna's blog and was very amused by the idea. So, if you don't know how to knit socks there is no reason to despair as you too can now have your very own pair!

I fear this pair of socks will upset the knitting purists out there. Because I did the unforgivable. I combined a detailed sock pattern with a multicolored yarn that obscured the stitch detail. I still really like them. I can see the fancy stitch pattern and if you look really, really, really hard you can see it too!

These are the Embossed Leaves Socks from Interweave Magazine, Winter 2005, a pattern included in the recently released book "Favorite Socks." They are design by Mona from Knit Stricken who has designed a number of really niffy sock patterns - some of them free and on her blog - thank you Mona! For this pair, even though I used the suggested yarn (Koigu KPPPM), I went down a needle size to US 1 because I like my socks to fit my foot snugly. I have knit this pattern previously using Nature's Palette and US 2 needles and they turned out nicely too.

I can hardly believe that it is Christmas next week. Steve, Mr Puffy and I would like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and hope that you will all enjoy the blessings of the season!

As an aside, I think those of you familiar with Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! will have to agree there is a resemblance between Mr Puffy and the little dog in that movie. The Grinch (as it was affectionately known in my home growing up) was watched by my family every year right along with Frosty the Snowman. My mother would wish me to say that we also watched, and still do watch, A Christmas Carol and without so doing it would not be Christmas.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Christmas Gift to You...

My Christmas gift to you...... a laugh at my expense?

What you are looking at is quite possibly the most expensive Rowan wool/cotton sweater ever knit. Oh, yes, I'm confident of that. And you are about to find out why.

A little background may be helpful here. I do love a LYS - but there are two types of LYS. One type is the ultimate in pampered knitting. This is the yarn shop where you wander in and immediately have your own sales clerk who will help you select the yarn, pattern, and then cast-on for you. The other type is where you wander in and can stay for an hour without anyone offering to help you and if you ask a question it is more often than not, met with a blank stare. This is a story about the first type of LYS. Parenthetically, there are LYS that are in between these two extremes and luckily for me I have just such a one in Santa Monica and that's Wild Fiber. But I digress from my story.

The sweater I'm wearing was actually "designed" for me by a LYS, which also "calculated" the yarn needed to knit the sweater. So helpful. This is where you laugh. The picture below is the "left over" yarn from this project. Some might suggest that I was over sold on the yarn. Be that as it may be - the clincher for me was once I had knit the sweater there was no way it could be "finished" unless by a professional "finisher." The individual pieces were like trying to fit the proverbial square peg into a round hole. Fortunately for me, this LYS also specialized in "finishing" projects. Now I wouldn't have minded paying for the "finishing" so much if it had truly been an option. However, given the oddly shaped pieces I had knit, only a professional could possibly have sewn it together in anything like a wearable garment. Thus, I paid to have it finished as well. Now, you see, how the cost of this sweater became prodigious.

But it's all good. I've worn it at least twice in the past 4 years and I do like it - I think.

Specs: 4 balls Rowan Wool Cotton (3 balls left over), S. Charles Filati D. Italia, Samba, US 6 Needles. I'm fairly certain a similar sweater could be knit from Last Minute Knitted Gifts (Hourglass Sweater) - a book I seem to refer to a lot but have yet to knit anything from.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Old Fashion Christmas Cookies!

Making Christmas cookies is time consuming so I only make a few each year. I always make iced cut-out cookies (Steve's favorites) and these fat little gingerbread men because they are fun and tasty. The recipe comes from a December 1993 Yankee's Home Companion, a magazine that I think has morphed into simply Yankee Magazine. I'm not sure how I came to have my subscription it was so long ago. In any event, I have a couple of recipes from that magazine that I've enjoyed over the years and this is one of them:

Gingerbread Gentlemen
Yield approximately 1 dozen very large gingerbread men or slightly more if you make them smaller

1 C. shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice or ground cloves
1 C. sugar
1 C. molasses, dark
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp. instant coffee moistened in a little hot water (I use espresso powder)
5 C. All purpose flour
garnish: dried black currants (I use large fat ones from Trader Joe's that I prefer to the tiny variety sold at most grocery stores)


Pre-heat oven from 325 to 340 degrees

~Mix dough using wooden spoon ~
1. Cream first 6 ingredients;
2. Cream in sugar and molasses;
3. Add in beaten eggs and coffee (or espresso);
4. Add flour 1 cup at a time. After adding 3 cups stir in the last 2 cups by hand.
5. Refrigerate for approximately 2 hours or until dough is easy to handle.
6. Form gingerbread men by using your hands beginning with the middle and then adding the head, arms and legs. The more individual they are the better.  They should be quite large and quite fat.  Do not roll these into thin gingerbread men as it will cause them to cook too quickly and be thin, dry and unappealing to eat.  Use black currents to bring them to life and give them character! Jazz them up even more by using the same icing used for my Gingerbread House.

Bake approx.18 to 20 minutes. If you use the higher heat cook them for a shorter period of time. With my oven I set it to 340 degrees and cook them for 18 to 19 minutes.  You don't want these to over cook as they are meant to be a moist cookie.  I like to touch the surface and see if there is a slight spring back which indicates they are cook through. Cool on a wire rack.

After all the fires in California, seeing snow on the mountains is a welcome sight and says to me that Winter has finally arrived! It's not easy to see the snow (unless you "click" on the picture which enlarges it) but it's there and it's beautiful!

Tomorrow Mr Puffy and I go up to Santa Barbara to visit my parents for a few days. We will sit on the couch in front of the fire and drink cups of tea and munch on goodies - delightful! There is also a LYS within walking distance of their home - how cool is that?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I'm not a Knitter?

Steve has advised me that he is no longer going to call me a Knitter - instead he's going to call me a "Fiber Artist." He makes me laugh - and on top of everything else he's very artistic to boot! I have to confess this "still life" picture was Steve's idea from start to finish (I think maybe Steve's the Fiber Artist). For me, I'm happy being a Knitter - but enjoy his compliment in the spirit intended!

This scarf is soft, warm, and pretty and was made for my dear friend, Jane, who is a great walker and needs a scarf to keep her warm on those walks! When I'm in San Clemente we go for long walks on the beach - sometimes for as far as 5 miles (or does it just feel like 5 miles - I can't remember now). I'm thinking that I need a warm hat for those walks now that it's cold out! I've had my eye on Ysolda's Gretel hat - it looks very warm. She's a very talented designer and her Arisaig (free pattern on Knitty) is on my list of 101 "1,001 Things I Must Someday Knit."

The drape and feel of this scarf is just divine. It is very light weight despite the density of the fabric. (If you "click" on the picture it will enlarge it and shows the details much better). I washed and gave it a gentle block (no pins) and then took a page from Last Minute Knitted Gifts ("LMKG") and used "Twisted Cords" to tie the package. LMKG also has a similar scarf pattern ("The Purl Scarf") to this scarf in that it uses related color but different yarn textures to create depth and beauty.

Specs: Lace Scarf With Ruffles from Capistrano Fiber Arts Studio. I used 2 skeins of Capistrano Fiber Arts Studio, Petite Babeurre (70% Alpaca/30% Silk) stranded with GGH Soft-Kid (I used 2 skeins). The pattern recommended Rowan Kidsilk Haze but I wasn't able to find as good a color match as I did with the GGH Soft-Kid. US 6 needles. Finished Dimensions: Length 44" / Width 7"

Now, if I only knew where Mr Puffy was ........ he was here just a minute ago. Where, oh where, is he????

Oh there he is! Mr Puffy does love a good joke! Notice his necklace - just another handy use for the "twisted cord" technique used to wrap Jane's present!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Knitting Tip #2

The other day Mr Puffy reminded me that it had been entirely too long since I imparted a knitting tip and, I had to agree. See Knitting Tip #1 "Good Uses for UFOs" posted May 18, 2007). So, without further ado, here's knitting tip number two:

Knitting Tip #2: Don't merely measure your WIP - always count your rows.

Now, I don't know for sure, but I don't think it's just me, but every time I measure a piece of knitting - I get a different measurement. This happens despite my attempt to recreate the exact and I mean exact circumstances of the first measuring. Thus, to avoid this frustration - and ensure my knitting will fit together together like it should - I have taken to counting the rows that I have knit. I then record these in my "Knitting Journal" along with the measurement. I also use my Knitting Journal to track and record the rows where I make my increases/decreases so that they will also be evenly matched on the front and back. Some might call these "Project Notes" (see Raverly) but as I'm on the computer during the day (when I'm supposed to be working *blink* *blink*) and not in the evening when I tend to knit, a non-virtual knitting journal works best for me.

This is my Knitting Journal - purchased right here in Topanga. I bet you didn't know that Topanga, California is the last enclave of the 1960s hippie subculture. Yes, some things just say "Topanga." Granola anyone?

I'm currently working on "Flo" a Kim Hargreaves design (kit only) and - after what I paid for this kit - you can be sure I'm diligently keeping track of everything I do as this sweater had better fit me. I also have her new book Heartfelt "The Dark House Collection" and I have to say the designs are beautiful and I might just have to knit them all!

Flo is knit with RYC Cashsoft 4 ply with Rowan Kidsilk Haze for contrast detail and since you use US 3 needles it's not what I would describe as a fast knit.

It's beginning to look at lot like Christmas, everywhere you go......

This is the Scarborough Fair Socks kit from Yarn4Socks with a pattern designed by Melanie Gibbons (Pink Lemon Twist). I love this balsam green as it puts me in a Christmas-y mood hum hum hum everywhere you go...