Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Year of Handspun

My first post of the year was a handspun project so it is only fitting that my last post this year is also using handspun.  Curious because prior to this year I had never knit anything using handspun and then for whatever reason it suddenly captured my attention and I've knit four projects this year with it (Handspun Scarf, Pamuya Shawl, Fingerless Mittens and this scarf).  Now I'm hooked on handspun and of all the many things that I've knit over the years, these projects are my favorites.

Before I tell you about this scarf, I'll tell you about the above picture.  It is taken in front of an old ruined cabin where only the rough hewn stone chimney remains.  I "discovered" this ruin with Simcha on one of our morning hikes.  I had shimmied up a mountain slope following what I believed was a trail only to have misgivings about half way up when I began to suspect what I was following was actually a watershed.  Parenthetically, it's moments like this when you look around and realize it's a steep climb up or a slippery slope down that the thought crosses your mind that it might be a while before your body is found if something bad were to happen.  But I managed to work my way to the top (Simcha had no trouble as he climbs like a mountain goat and I appreciated when he worked his way back down to encourage me on - we were in this together) where we then picked up a trail along the ridge that lead to this ruin.   How cool is that?  I love our morning hikes.

I also love my morning hikes for another reason, namely, they provide me with an infinite number of excuses as to why I need more yarn!  I can always rationalize a purchase with "I really need this to make something to wear on my morning hike.  It is cold, you know, early in the day."  See how well that works?

And this yarn was a splurge purchase where I used exactly that excuse.   It is a lushes heavy worsted alpaca in multi-color and it wasn't cheap but it's fabulous.  And, as is the case with most handspun yarns, they really rock in a simple design that focuses on texture.  You don't need to gild the lily here as the beauty is in the yarn.  A simple broken rib pattern with a fun ruffle edging and you have the perfect scarf to walk your dog any ole day of the week ~

Particulars:  1 skein Cherry Hill Alpaca, LLC (multi colored alpaca - dark) spun by Pam Wilkins, 6.5 oz 247 yards.  I used a free pattern (Misti International Ribs & Ruffles Scarf) as modified by using US 8 needles and fewer pattern repeats.  Finished scarf measures 4"x 64"

I threw in this last picture so you could see how the yarn looked still in a skein.  You can generally not tell from looking at a skein of handspun how it will look when knit up, and the bold blocks of color in this scarf just flowed naturally and were unexpected.

Peace on Earth

Mr. Puffy's Knitting Blog wishes everyone the gift of peace on earth this holiday season and all year long.

Decking the halls is exhausting work so follow Simcha's example and take plenty of time to relax and take naps.

I leave tomorrow and will be away through New Year, so until next time, be well and love well and have a happy and safe holiday season!  Steve, Claudia and Simcha xoxoxo

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Trip to Florence ~

A trip to Florence street in Sebastopol, California that is!  This Thanksgiving we were fortunate to visit Steve's family who live in this quirky little town in Northern California and whilst there happened upon this residential street filled with whimsical sculptures.  Come stroll along Florence Street with me in my new Asking For Roses wrap and imagine living on a street where an artist in residence has made the neighborhood his gallery with sculptures scattered throughout.

Northern California and the Sonoma/Napa region in particular is a very progressive area where green living and recycling have long been the norm.  This artist (Renga Arts) makes all his sculptures from products that are reclaimed and reused materials and has the motto Reuse Reclaim and Reimagine as his inspiration.  Which reminds me I need to do better about recycling.

We had a lot of fun playing on this street and Steve (an artist himself) enjoyed talking with the sister of the sculptor who was in the midst of painting a newly commissioned piece.  For those interested there are additional photos of his sculptures on my flickr page here.

Did I mention that I really love my new wrap?  It's actually too small to call a wrap.  Instead it's more a scwrappy wappy wrap which means it's more than a scarf too.  Whatever it is I loved wearing it because it's just right for our climate and worked perfectly with this outfit.

Particulars:  Asking for Roses by Amy Swenson (Blogs as Indigirl); 2 skeins Hedgehog Fibers Blue Faced Leciester Wool (colorway Rusty Nail); US 8 needles.  No modifications (other than yarn and needle size).  I knit this very loosely and hardly blocked it at all.  Post "blocking" dimensions: 64" x 12" (at widest point).  The wrap is crescent shaped.

Cashew Shortbread

Rustic food is at no time more appealing to me than than around the fall harvest and Thanksgiving.  This simple cashew shortbread cookie is a favorite of mine for its simple but rich buttery flavor.  Recipe from Moosewood Cookbook found here (I often half the recipe for myself).

This Misadventures of Simcha

Simcha loves to work and I've discovered that it really doesn't matter the nature of the job.  Here we are working on the commands "show me some intensity" and "hold that pose."

He's beautiful isn't he?  When I walk him and men call out "hey gorgeous" they aren't talking about me.  Really, it's okay.  I'm completely over it.  Sorta.

Simcha is modeling the Annie Wrap from Queensland Collection by knitwear designer Jane Ellison.  I love this over sized wrap even though it's simple because it has great texture using a basket weave stitch and a mohair trim (2 colors held together). Dimensions: 70" x 20" (excluding fringe).  Knit using Rowan Felted Tweed and US 8 needles.

Until next time, be well and love well and may this holiday season be a special time for family, reflection, and sharing.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Finishing Touches ~

At this time of year our thoughts turn toward the holidays and I find it helpful to have a few quick and easy gift ideas and reliable recipes to make the season a little less stressful.  To dispel a common perception, a knit gift does not have to be fancy, expensive, or take weeks of complicated knitting to be a gift you are proud to give or wear.  It's all in the finishing touches.

Both pairs of gloves in this post are based on a basic pattern that has used a simple but effective design element to elevate it to gift giving or holiday wearing status.  All that is required is a single skein of yarn, a tried and true pattern that has been made successfully time and again, and a few notions in the way of buttons or beads to add a finishing touch or two!

Lately I've been thinking about finishing touches and not just in the context of knitting.  It strikes me that of late I haven't devoted nearly enough time (truthfully no time at all) to reading good literature, listening to fine music, or devoting my efforts to a worthy cause.  In other words, I'm in serious need of some finishing touches!  One's self is the most important work in progress we have.

The second pair of gloves is a personal pattern utilizing design elements from a variety of patterns.  I love to wear something a little fun and frivolous when I'm out and about over the holidays.  The contrasting reverse stockinette border and flower embellishment are just some of endless ways to personalize a basic pattern to your taste, just as your choice of yarn and buttons will personalize any pattern.  Adding a faus black pearl bead to the flower's center is the final finishing touch.

Particulars: Blue Gloves:  Welted Fingerless Gloves by Churchmouse Teas; US 5 and US 6 DPN; Mandos del Uruguay - Silk Blend; no modifications whatsoever.  However, as I have a tiny wrist, if I were to knit these for myself I would reduce the number of stitches cast-on and probably use the smaller needles throughout the project.  These gloves were gifted away to the lovely Dilshani (Rav Profile) as part of a German Shepherd Lovers swap hosted on Ravelry.  The second pair of gloves (Brown Gloves) is knit using a composite of several patterns and is very similar to the evening gloves I knit last Winter for Christmas.  I used a single skein of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino; US 5 needles; and a small amount of contrasting yarn.  I knit the flower using a pattern I found in the book Knit 2 Together.  Using resources you already have or that are free on the internet is a great way to find ideas to embellish patterns.

Dried flowers in the fading Summer sun are a reminder that time is always passing leaving only traces of what once was behind.  Wet felted flower made by following the Tutorial by Ingermaaike

Pistachio and Currant Biscotti

A seasonal recipe that I make this time of year is Mary Kay's Pistachio and Currant Biscotti.  I like to have a few cookies on hand that go well with coffee or tea.  Try serving them on a paper doily ~ it adds a nice finishing touch.

I will be away and busy much of the coming months and will be spending less time online, although I will still be knitting and continue to add posts.   So until next time, be well and love well and I hope this season of holidays is a time for you to reconnect with what is important in your life.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Southwest Knit Shawl

I chose to knit the shawl that I'm wearing because it reminds me of the American Southwest and its gorgeous sunsets and the clothing inspired by that region. 

The Southwest is a beautiful part of America and has a distinct culture that is seen in its art, food, and clothing.   Steve and I once traveled by motorcycle all through the Southwest beginning in Albuquerque, New Mexico traveling up to Sante Fe, New Mexico and back through Arizona and ending up in Palm Springs, California.

I loved traveling by motorcycle (I rode on the back) because you experience the landscape on a much more intense level as all the sights, sounds, and smells of the land have no barrier to you.  I'll never forget the beautiful ring of golden fire that outlined the mountain ranges as the sun set and the evening began.  If you are familiar with the art of the Southwest you will often see a ring of gold or bright light which represents the sunset and how the evening sky is etched in molten gold.  

I see that landscape and the ring of fire in this shawl.  It also see, incidentally, Candy Corn but that might just be because it's close to Halloween.  I've included a few pictures from the trip we took (20 plus years ago) below and only wish I had taken some of the landscape.

Particulars:  Grade, a Twice Square Rectangular Shawl, design by Grace Anna Robbins, A Stitch to Wear.  Modifications:  For the main body of the shawl I reduced the needle size to US 7 on account of substituting yarn to silky merino by Malabrigo Yarns (cream, sand, camote, topaz).  For the red border I used a heavier yarn (Noro cash iroha) and used US 7 needles for the first row and then US 8 needles until the i-cord bind off at which point I switched back to US 7 needles.  I liked the slightly heavier gauge yarn for the border because it adds nice texture and some structure for the shawl which is largely knit in a soft yarn. Blocked (lightly) dimensions: 42" x 20."  For more gorgeous modern interpretations of stripes see Veera Valimaki aka: Rain Knitwear Designs (blogs 100% Rain) who has designed several stunning striped shawls, including Stripe Study Shawl and Different Lines.

Motorcyle Trip to Southwest

Steve shipped his motorcyle to a Bed and Breakfast in Albuquerque, New Mexico which is where we began our trip.  My favorite town was Santa Fe, New Mexico where we stayed at the famous La Fonda Hotel and below you can see we are in a square with various artist/vendors with booths.  Even back then I loved handcrafts.

The MisAdventures of Simcha 

All of the pumpkins will belong to me..... Muahahaa!

It was around this time last year that we discovered that Simcha had a possessive streak.  We had our pumpkin outside where he would “check it over” every time he went in and out of the house and one night he became enraged when he realized some animal was outside messing about with his pumpkin.  We did not get much sleep and in the morning we found the pumpkin covered in bite marks so this year I bring his pumpkin inside at night.  I hope he handles it well when I carve it.

Until next time, be well and love well and may you approach life as an adventure with each season a time to celebrate.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mystery Socks ~ and Autumn Apple Turnovers

Some of the ways that Knitters alleviate the boredom of the long Summer months is to join a Swap, a Mystery KAL, or a Yarn Club.  This Summer I did all three.  What can I say?  I'm a joiner.  While it can be risky to commit to anything sight unseen such as a yarn club or mystery KAL, I lucked out and really love the yarn and my mystery socks (and the Swap too, which I'll tell you about another time).

The "clues" in a mystery KAL are released weekly and in this case there were a total of 4 clues.  I confess that the final clue I knit and then ripped back and modified by adding an additional spiral all the way to the toe shaping cuz, like, there wasn't enough already going on with these socks. It's not everyone that will want a highly variegated sock yarn paired with a busy (made busier) pattern.  But that's the beauty of knitting it your own way.

These socks look terrific both in a solid color and, I think, a variegated color but it was seeing Andi's Clue No. 1 (who blogs as My Sister's Knitter) in a beautiful solid red that sold me on joining the KAL.

Particulars:  Mystery Sock KAL August 2011 by Jen Hansen (blogs as Knitting like Crazy) (pattern subsequently named Ripple Effect available as a free Ravelry download); Sock Yarn by Hedgehog Fibers (Phoenix colorway - July 2011 club colorway); US 1 needles.  Modified the last chart (Clue No. 4) by adding an additional band of patterning which spiraled all the way to the toe.  I added the additional spiral as I felt otherwise the pattern stopped rather abruptly. 

Autumn Apple Turnovers

Whenever I visit my parents in Santa Barbara my Mom and I always take off together for an enjoyable morning walking downtown visiting the shops and having a coffee out.  Several years ago we discovered a small but wonderful rustic bakery where they served incredible warm apple tarts that came with whipped cream and a caramel sauce.   We would love to sit in this bakery with our packages and lovely coffees and chat while we enjoyed their wonderful treats. This little bakery has since closed but I'll always remember how much my mother and I enjoyed those times and, hopefully, on my next visit we'll discover a new special place for our coffee.

Apple turnovers are particularly enjoyable on a chilly Autumn day and, if you aren't going out for coffee, then the next best thing is to make your own.  These turnovers I made using King Arthur Flour's recipe Autumn Apple Turnovers.  I tossed in a few dark raisins to the filling and substituted 1 tablespoon Tapioca for the Pie Filling Enhancer and used Bourbon instead of boiled cider but other than that followed the recipe exactly and enjoyed them very much (even without the whipped cream and caramel sauce which, no doubt, would have made them even better).

Until next time, be well and love well and do take time to savor the flavors of the season ~ whether it's something you treat yourself to while out, or you make it yourself!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Autumn Vines ~ In the Clouds

We are having a spectacular Fall in Southern California with glorious cloud formations billowing high in the sky whilst fog seeps up from the valleys and ocean below.  This morning I am happy to be out with Simcha and Steve enjoying the scenery while wearing my new Autumn Vines Beret.  With the arrival of Simcha into our lives we go for a hike every morning because, if I've failed to mention it, Simcha is a "high energy" dog and we all have a more relaxing day if it begins with a hike.

The amazing thing is that the whole of Topanga is literally pickled with hiking trails that we never knew were there.  We've both driven these roads for years and never spotted them. But now whenever I see a car parked along the road I'll pull over and investigate and I have found numerous hidden trails that way.  I have Simcha to thank as it's only to provide amusement and diversion for him that I've been pushed to explore our neighborhood.  

One of the fun things about hiking is that you come across many natural treasures such as the bird's nest pictured below.  Whether it's a walk in your neighborhood or a hike in the mountains, if you take the time to look there are countless treasures just waiting to be found.

Autumn Vines Beret, pattern by Alana Dakos, who blogs as Never Not Knitting; US 4 needles; Pashmina Yarn by Madelinetosh (Cove colorway).  This was a fun pattern to knit and my only modification was to go down a needle size.  I have this hat thanks to Andrea who blogs as Life on Laffer (a test knitter for Alana Dakos) because its from seeing her many beautiful test knits and, but for that, I'm not sure this designer would have been on my radar.  Rav Link  This designer has also recently published Coastal Knits, A Collaboration between Friends on Opposite Shores, which I've ordered because I do, after all, live on the Coast.

The MisAdventures of Simcha 

I know it's pink.  I paid extra for that.

I think it is important to combat sexual stereotyping whenever possible. 

Until next time, be well and love well and this Fall I hope you will take walks in your neighborhood ~ I know that you will be pleased by what you find!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Handspun Mittens ~

I'm back! I'm back!  What?  No one noticed I was away?  Gee whiz.  I thought you might like to know that I've been through a bout of poison oak (severe), a late summer heatwave, out of town company, and work hassles, only one of which was enjoyable.  In any event, I'm happy to be back in my space waffling on about knitting as usual.  This time about my rock n little handspun mitts.

I'm a huge fan of handspun yarn, and although I don't have the time to spin I find it a treat to knit.  Especially so when it's spun by a special person whom you probably know as Smoking Hot Needles.  I love this project because it is a great example of how the internet connects knitters and fiber enthusiast all together.  The yarn was dyed by an indy dyer; it was spun by an indy spinner; the pattern is by an indy designer; and I'm the indy knitter/blogger who, as improbable as it seems, is wearing woolen mittens in sunny Southern California.  All thanks to the internet.

I knit these mitts to be shorter and more slouchy than I typically knit mittens because I wanted them to be causal and comfortable to pull on in the morning when I take Simcha out for his walk. And yet.  I still wanted them to have a classy look so I could wear them out for coffee or wherever.   That's where the genius of picking the right buttons comes in and upon whom my dear friend, Murielle of Murielle Knitwear I rely.  My first thought was to choose either wood or leather buttons but she immediately suggested something black and shiny, and that was the right call.

Particulars: Based on Albina Armwarmers pattern by Vera Brosgo (Verabee); handspun by Monika (blogs as Smoking Hot Needles); indy dyer Spinning Aewsome Good Fiber BFL colorway Awesome Boyfriend colorway; US 3 needles.  This is a great pattern and has a very helpful formula for using all weights of yarn as it's designed for handspun yarn and not any specific weight.  The designer also has written a similar free pattern called Easy Handspun Mittens.  I followed the cuff and placket as per the pattern but modified the thumb gusset to better suit my fit preferences and, in broad strokes, I made the increases every other row (instead of 2 rows plain between increases). Rav Linky.

Spinning A Family Tradition ~

I read once that if you are the child of a knitter you are more likely to be a knitter yourself.  That happens to be true for me.  I also have a great grandmother (picture above) who was a spinner and my grandmother (picture below with my mother) was also a spinner.  My grandmother, Ruth, taught me to crochet as a child and I proceeded to hook an afghan at a speed that startled people.  But it didn't take and I've never crocheted since.  My mother many years later put needles in my hands and taught me how to knit.  But she did not teach me how to follow patterns as that was never a strength of hers, as I allude to in my post It's a Vintage Thing.  I guess it really is in the blood and maybe someday I'll spin too.

Until next time, be well and love well.  The heat has finally broken here and I hope everywhere so that we all can all enjoy an early Fall!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Raisin Bran Muffin Recipe ~

I had intended this post to feature a Fall knit.  However a severe case of poison oak makes me cringe at the very thought of touching wool.  Instead, at the request of my sister, I'm going to share my tasty and nutritious raisin bran muffin recipe.  She recently visited and sampled these muffins and pronounced them delicious and insisted I share the recipe!

Mr. Puffy's Raisin Bran Muffin Recipe

I've been making these muffins since my college undergrad days when a friend shared her recipe.  But I've recently modified the recipe to substitute raisin bran flakes for the plain bran in the original and now they remind me of memorable muffins that I once enjoyed at a bed & breakfast in Hawaii.  If you search on-line you can find a raisin bran muffin recipe that is typical of those served at bed & breakfast inns, but it makes an enormous quantity and lacks the rich flavor that comes from the molasses and honey in my recipe and, I believe, those ingredients were also probably in the muffins I had in Hawaii.


1 1/4 cups raisin bran cereal (the thick flakes are best with lots of raisins) 
2/3 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 dashes salt

1 beaten egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
2 Tbs. honey
1/4 cup molasses

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line 8 small muffin tins (cupcake size).
2.  Measure out the raisin bran flakes and set aside (these are folded in last).
3.  Toss together the remaining dry ingredients (flour, sugar, soda, salt).
4.  In separate bowl mix the wet ingredients.
5.  Quickly mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and lastly fold in the raisin bran cereal.
6.  Spoon into small muffin tins (2/3rds full) and bake for 20 minutes.

These muffins freeze very well.  The recipe makes 8 small, old school style, muffins.  For a light breakfast they are wonderful warm from the oven with sweet butter, a bowl of fresh fruit, and a cup of coffee or drizzled in honey like in the first below. I usually have two.

The MisAdventures of Simcha

Lastly, I'm not going to name names or place blame on any individual for the discomfort I'm presently experiencing due to my severe case of poison oak (did I mention that already?) the severe part I mean.  But I can say that the party responsible for transmitting the poison oak oil can be touched by using a very short stick. 

 Until next time, be well and love well and not to alarm anyone but it's time you were planning your Fall knitting!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Promised Toy

Here he is!  A sweet bear, naked as a the day is long. The toy that I promised Steve long ago.

A little background about Steve and why this toy was important to him.  Steve was something of a child protege and because of that he missed out on a typical childhood.  He came from a no nonsense family and at an early age he was hard at work around the house mowing the lawn or in his bedroom constructing a ham radio or doing a physics project.  By age 12 he was a budding entrepreneur and began the first of his many business ventures, which was selling customized Christmas cards.

After only 2 years of college he began medical school.  At the time he graduated from medical school he was one of the youngest doctors licensed in the United States.  He went on to become a highly respected and skilled eye surgeon and had patients that traveled from as far as the United Kingdom for treatment.  All the while he was furthering his education by obtaining a law degree from the University of Notre Dame, publishing a textbook, and pursing his entrepreneurial interest and adding a string of other awards, degrees, and professional licenses.

But with all that drive and focus on education and developing his profession, he never experienced what should have been the fun and carefree days of childhood.  Which is enigmatic to me, because I had a very different childhood.  Mine was filled with fun and endless Summer days of camping, tennis, sunbathing, picnics and getting lost in story books without a worry or thought given to the future.  I guess opposites really do attract. 

Fortunately it's never too late to have fun, or a stuffed toy of your own.  At least that's what I think.

Particulars:  Sweet Bear by Twins; this is a well written pattern and easy to follow but I did modify it for a heavier gauge yarn and larger needles to make a bigger toy (pattern instructions are for a 9" bear and Steve's is 15").  I also modified the pattern by making my own sweater and scarf set. I wanted this toy to be exactly right so I had Steve choose everyting from the pattern to the yarn and finishing buttons.  Yarn:  Lush (50% angora / 50% wool) by Classic Elite Yarns - 2 skeins sky blue and 1 skein root beer; the white yarn is angora left over from my Netsuke Wrap; US 6 needles.  The pattern calls for all pieces to be knit flat and seamed together, which is not my preference, but wasn't too bad.  The scarf I based on the free pattern by Jared Flood (Noro striped scarf) and the cardigan I made up as I went along.  The hat is only slightly modified to be a bit slouchier (Ravelry Link).

The MisAdventures of Simcha

The other man in my life, Simcha, is also filled with strong drives.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, we have possibly found him a vocation.  Ta da..... sheep herding.  Bet you didn't know there was a need for sheep herding in Southern California.  Think again, we have something here for everybody.  So off we went to Drummond Ranch (Malibu location) for Simcha to be evaluated for his herding instinct. 

Simcha was eager to begin.  But Steve was concerned that we would be eating Shishkabobs for dinner after paying for the sheep.  What an absurd worry.

His concern was obviously misplaced as all Simcha did was gather the sheep together in the middle of the ring, as he was supposed to do (albeit with a few nips here and there).

We were as proud as punch.  I'd like to quote from his evaluation "Simcha had a lot of enthusiasm and drive.  He went right to work exploring his instincts.  He brought his sheep into a group and would regroup them.  He read his livestock well - all instinctually.  Nice dog.  He was showing his ability to think well with the sheep."

All that chasing sheep is hot work and afterward he jumped into a tub of cold water.  He had a blast and so I think we'll sign him up for a few lessons.

Until next time, be well and love well and it's Summertime so remember to go outside and have fun.