I am finding it difficult to write this post in the wake of the crisis in Japan and so many around the world facing difficult times. A sobering reminder that all things can be swept away by the tides of time or tragedy. I recognize how easily it could be me in that situation and with that knowledge I try and live my life with thanksgiving and a generous spirit in the good times and pray that I will have the strength to face adversity in the difficult times. But no one is ever really prepared to face the type of crisis facing the Japanese people and those striving for freedom in the Middle East.
I love the beads and the vintage feel they add to this piece. Although I must confess that I almost lost heart and quit adding the beads after a friend observed that using beads with angora yarn was crazy because the beads wouldn't even be seen. Good point, I thought. But having already begun adding the beads I continued on and, surprisingly, the beads do show up very nicely. I think that may have something to do with this particular angora which does not shed and I just lucked out there.
Netsuke Wrap by Bad Cat Designs, 3 US 4 circular needles (you need 3 of the circular needles due to the oblong center); 2.5 skeins Windsor Farms Rabbitry, Angora Blizzard (85% angora 15% merino - lace 2 ply - 200 yrds/skein); and a mix of size 8/0 and 6/0 Japanese seed beads (Ivory Ceylon). I added the beads using the dental floss method. No modification except yarn substitution. While this is described as a challenging lace project I thought it was a pretty straight forward knit. I think the challenge in this project comes from adding the beads which I found more tedious than difficult. This shawl is knit like a hap shawl, i.e. the center is knit first and then stitches are picked up around the center design and knit outward. Relaxed post blocking dimensions: 17" x 52."
You might recall several posts back I mentioned ordering the Tartine Bread book after Raina talked about it on her blog, Raining Sheep. I was captivated by the romantic notion of baking bread using only the wild yeast found here in Topanga. But after several days of watching a lack luster starter my more practical side won out. I spiked my starter mix with a few grains of French sourdough yeast (Lalvain du Jour) just to make sure I had a few live yeast in there. Other than that, I followed the Tartine bread methodology exactly.
My first loaf was just beautiful as you can see in the photo above. It looked wonderful. It had a thick crunchy crust and a light airy texture and, as I savored that first bite, I was delighted. Until I finished chewing and realized that the flavor was too sour. What now? Did I want to invest possibly years tinkering about with a starter that was never exactly right? Or, for a mere $6.95 should I go go back to using King Arthur's starter which has a combined history dating back 250 years to New England and the Alaska gold mining days. I'll let you guess what I decided.
Caveat and baking tip. I have baked bread for many years. An absolute beginner might find the Tartine Bread book method daunting. In particular I think it might be easy to confuse seeing air bubbles in the batter for live yeast activity. If your "starter" looks like a pancake batter (i.e. diffuse large bubbles on the top) I suspect you are seeing just that (air bubbles) and not yeast activity. Live yeast activity is typically evidenced by small clusters of bubbles. Without live yeast your bread will not rise. It is therefore important to wait to bake your first loaf until your starter has live yeast activity or do as I did which is spike it with a very small amount of commercial yeast just to be sure.
Until next time, be well and love well and may the upcoming holidays be a special time for you and your families.