Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Easter Sunday Wrap

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.

And so sometimes we carry on even when our heart is breaking and filled with concern for others.  Those of you who celebrate know that both Passover and Easter are approaching.  These holidays are an important part of our lives as Steve is Jewish and I am Christian.  

In this post I am wearing a wrap that I knit to wear for these holidays called the Netsuke Wrap.  It is knit using an angora yarn embellished with seed beads as I wanted something special to wear. 

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.

Particulars:  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."

Breaking Bread

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.


Renee said...

such a beautiful wrap, so lovely for the upcoming holidays.
I love the way you've styled it with your outfit.
your bread is making me hungry, I can just imagine the yeasty smell and delicious taste.
the devastation in Japan is heartbreaking.

Bridget said...

Beautiful wrap, and perfect for the springtime holidays. (Did you get your hair cut?)

The bread looks yummy. Tim is the bread baker in our house, and I have to say, nothing is better than home baked bread!

jillian said...

It's gorgeous (as always)! And you cut your hair - it looks great on you shorter.

Now I want to bake some bread :)

Anonymous said...

Stunning shawl, beautifully worn.


Allie said...

Yes Claudia, I was finding it very difficult to post too after seeing the devastation in Japan - but life goes on whether you're mourning or not. It absolutely could happen anytime to any of us, and you are right that we need to cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving.

I would love to attend a Passover feast. How wonderful that you get to celebrate them both!

Your wrap is just gorgeous, the seed beads are the perfect touch - so sweetly vintage. I remember my wealthy aunt wearing an angora sweater with seed beads - how I loved it. She always smelled of expensive perfume and wore strands and strands of pearls.

I've never made bread. Hubby is starting to get interested in it - my mum used to bake bread with my grandmother to sell during the Depression. I'm hoping she can give him some tips. He tried to make cheese one time....ugh the horror. And SMELL.

Enjoy your holidays Claudia, you're certainly going to be stylish!

Suzi Musse said...

Lindo xale.
a cor deixou ele ainda mais bonito.


Channon said...

What a lovely post. I adore seeing Mr Puffy in your header!

The wrap is stunning, and I miss baking bread, but it's hard enough to go easy on the carbs without fresh bread in the kitchen. Maybe for Easter, I'll bake bread...

Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

Thank you all for the nice comments! And yes, I did recently have my hair cut ~ thanks for noticing ;)

I would like to translate Suzi Musse's comment who left her comment in Portuguese:

Beautiful shawl. Color is even more beautiful. Hugs.

I appreciate it whenever someone takes the time to leave a comment and was touched that someone took the trouble to overcome the language difference.

Willow said...

I am captivated with your shawl! How much yardage is required? I have some handspun llama/silk blend and am wondering if I would have enough... Most likely I don't have time to finish the shawl before Easter, but there's always next year.

Secondly, I'm also captivated by sourdough bread and am considereing starting some from old Alaskan dried starter I have had in my cupboard for awhile. You're an inspiration!

Tracy said...

Ah, Claudia, I wish I could reach through the screen and hug you! Such poignant times are these... After the devastation in Japan is was hard to go about as "normal." Now I am trying to send positive vibes out into the world. We need all the positivity we can get now. :o) The shawl is so delicately lovely! No-shed mohair & beads--brilliant combo. I love that you chose this creamy-white shade--it goes with everything. I've always wanted to join a Passover feast as well! I find the rituals in the Jewish faith beautiful. And so is your bread--WOW... talk about artisan loaf! Bread baking seems such a mystery to me. My attempts have often ended up not to spectacular...LOL! But you inspire me to try more. ;o) Happy Days, my friend ((HUGS))

raining sheep said...

I so love you shawl Claudia, and like you I am grateful for all the good days, and hope that I would have strength to deal with the bad. Your bread turned out amazing. I got my starter going but it took more than a few days and it actually took three tries. But now the starter is alive and well. I have used it to make my bread and yummy! I have heard that the King Arthur starter is good, a lot of people on bread blogs use that one. BTW, you got a hair cut! It's gorgeous.

Hilary said...

I agree that it has felt funny to talk about things like crafting with all that's going on in the world. But it's part of appreciating the little things in our lives, part of being thankful for the good times. We can talk about crafting and still have compassion and concern in our hearts (and do things about it off-blog). Anyway, your shawl is stunning and I love that you made it specifically for the upcoming holidays. I always make things around Christmas, but why not Easter?? I also love your new haircut. Very cute. :)

Knitting Out Loud said...

Lovely, lovely post. And that Netsuke wrap!!! And that bread!!!

Yes, it is so important to be grateful. Have a wonderful Passover and Easter.

Jules said...

What a beautiful shawl! And I love that angora, I'm going to have to look that up. Any angora that doesn't shed is truly high quality, and hard to find. The bread looks yummy! (and I don't even eat bread).

Anonymous said...

That is a beautiful wrap, I love the different lace patterns they put together, I'm going to have to add it to my wish list.

And angora that doesn't shed, I didn't know such a thing existed!

Prairie Rose said...

Beautiful Wrap.
What a special thing to wear during this special time of year.
Very lovely bread as well!

Prairie Rose said...

I agree with the others, your haircut is darling!

knittingdragonflies said...

This is so beautiful! I'm just off a yarn diet, LOL, and ready to cast on something. I'm looking for a nice wrap, this is so elegant, I agree with you. The beads give it the extra glamor!!
As always your beautiful in it.
Happy Easter and Passover.
The bread looks yummy, and yes, I agree, Japan makes me extra grateful for everything I have.
Take care

Rachel said...

I agree that sometimes we just have to keep going on even if others in the world are suffering. Your wrap is beautiful...perfect for the holidays coming up (and love your shorter hair!). And oh, that bread looks perfect. Sorry to hear it was too sour. Bread-making is definitely an art and I think one has to balance time with perfection. Thanks for all your tips...I'd put the Tartine book on my 'wish list' and still may consider it at a later date when I have more time to practice.

KnittySue said...

Awesome beautiful wrap and perfect on you. Thanks for the bread advice I love baking bread so I will definately try it. I'm finally back to blogging so stop by sometime.

At Home Mommy Knits said...

The bread looks delicious! I love your wrap. So beautiful and elegant...perfect for spring holidays.

t does wool said...

warm and loving..thoughtful and beautiful...you..your words your wrap..your sharing Claudia.

Blackberry said...

Thank you for what you wrote. The wrap is really beautiful.

Larissa said...

Your shawl is simply stunning! Love the color and how wonderfully it compliments your complexion. Your work is beautiful and so inspiring.

You've also inspired me to cut my hair again - not quite sure if i'm growing it out or just too lazy to get a haircut but i will be making an appt today. Happy holidays to you.

betty said...

Your having a lovely new wrap to wear for the upcoming holidays reminds me of back in the day when kids used to all wear nice new and dressy clothing on Easter Sunday. Well, maybe they still do -- we can only hope!

I don't celebrate Easter or Passover, but oddly enough, for some reason, I decided this year to give up chocolate for Lent -- it's sort of an exercise in discipline.

curls and q said...

Beautiful wrap!