Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Knitspot 2018 Pairing Club and Bake Sale Cookies


I really love this cowl and Simcha does too!  It's the first of four projects in Anne Hanson's (Knitspot) 2018 Pairings Club. This club pairs food with knitting so how could I resist?  And I have always loved Anne's designs so it was an easy decision to join.  This first installment was inspired by Anne's love of sweet corn and her childhood memories of growing up on a working 10-acre farm upstate New York.  The Entrope yarn (spun to resemble handspun) beautifully captures the colors and texture of fresh sweet corn and was the perfect choice for this project.


The recipe that came paired with this project was a delicious corn chowder dish that was contributed by former chef, Katharine, who knows corn well as one should living in Ohio or really any part of rural America.  I'm looking forward to corn being back in season so that I can experience it at it's best.  I really didn't expect a vegetable to be the inspiration for this round but I'm glad that sweet corn was the featured food ingredient.  It brought back sweet memories of the summer that my family drove across country from California to Minnesota and we passed acre after acre of farmland.  The small family farms were the best.  They often had signs out front selling their produce to passers by and you could get out and wander through the fields.  Some of the best sweet corn that I've ever eaten was from those roadside farms.  When I look at this cowl I'll always think of corn and remember that wonderful summer vacation.


Although it's late Spring and starting to warm up I've had a few chances to wear this cowl on our morning hikes (I'm hard hearted and I've not given this cowl to Simcha). It's a bright and fun addition to my wardrobe. Worn with a long sleeve blouse and a vest it provides just enough warmth to my neck and chest to protect me from our chilly winds.  It's a DK weight yarn and the colorwork adds some heft too so it definitely keeps you warm, as you would expect from a rustic woolly accessory.  The gradient yarn has three main colors (light yellow, bright green, and a marled yellow and grey.  While some might not have been pleased that the marled color did not contrast well with the grey design I think that just added to the unique beauty of this piece.  I don't want something that looks "off the rack" that's why I knit.  It really is striking in person and I couldn't be happier with it.  I also have enough of both yarns left to make myself matching mitts which I will get around to at some point.  There was a coordinating hat design included but I thought this cowl with a matchy-matchy hat was not a look that would suit me.  If you look at Simcha and visualize him wearing a matching hat I think you'll see what I mean.


Particulars: Hectare Cowl, Anne Hanson's Pairings Club 2018 (Knitspot); US 5 & 7 needles; DK weight yarn, Feederbrook Farm (100% bluefaced Leicester wool; 260 yrds./100gms) and 1 skein Bare Naked Wools Kent DK colorway Tide Pool (60% merino wool/40% romney wool; 300 yrds/116 gms).  This is a fun and easy pattern to knit and I made no modifications whatsoever, except for the cast on.  For my cast on I used the Twisted German Cast On which is my favorite for stretchy edges.  My finished lightly blocked dimensions: 10" x 28."

Previous Anne Hanson patterns I've knit include Greenshadows Lace Scarf (blogged) and Pine and Ivy Lacy Shawl (Ravelry only).  For additional colorwork projects (include my tips) see Sunset Highway (sweater), Stranded in Toronto (hat), Osebury Rock (scarf) and Hebe (hat).


Bake Sale Cookies


After a long winter of baking breads and seasonal treats to share with friends and family I'm ready for Spring.  Spring is a time when I bake for myself and there's nothing I enjoy as much as a good crisp chocolate chip cookie.  I have a variety of recipes that I like but this is a favorite and I've made it many times over the years (case in point you can probably tell the pictures are from different batches!).  I hope you will enjoy these cookie as much as I do.

These are called Bake Sale Cookies because they make a large quantity and everyone loves them so it's a good and reliable recipe to turn to when you need to bake and share cookies.

Yield ~ 4 dozen good sized cookies ~

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups (12 oz package) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dark or golden raisins
1/2 cup shredded (sweetened) coconut

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. and cover baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent sticking.
2.  In a small bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
3.  In mixing bowl, cream butter, sugars, vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time and mix just until incorporated.
4.  Remove bowl from mixer.  Using a wooden spoon stir in flour mixture.  Add chocolate chips, walnuts, raisins, and coconut and stir until incorporated.
5.  Drop dough onto baking sheet by rounded tablespoonsful.  Baking 9-11 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cookies rest for 2 minutes before removing with spatula to wire racks to cool completely.

Adapted from cookie recipe in Parade magazine May 11, 2003.


Until next time be well and love well and be sure to sweeten your Spring with a gradient cowl and cookies! 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Sunset Highway Sweater and Baking Sweet Breads


This is my Sunset Highway Sweater.  It's a soft watercolor interpretation of the original design which in contrast has striking details and a palpable Viking Goddess vibe.  Not that I wouldn't have liked to have been a viking goddess or indeed that it wasn't my intention to have a viking goddess sweater.  But sometimes fates conspire and what comes to pass is not what you intend at all.  And yet.  This softer watercolor version of the Sunset Highway Sweater is more reflective of my personality and one that I'll actually wear more frequently.  I also haven't ruled out revisiting this pattern someday and knitting one more true to the design.  Then again I probably won't because there are so many beautiful sweater patterns that I want to knit and I rarely knit the same pattern twice.


I knew from the start this sweater probably would not come out the way I had expected.  As soon as the yarn arrived (it was sold as a kit) I could see that it was beautifully dyed but I had a suspicion that it wouldn't have the distinct color definition needed to make the yoke design pop.  And once I began knitting I knew that I wasn't going to get a distinct pattern definition using these colors.  So I considered frogging what I had knit and substituting in solid colors. And yet.  When Steve looked at what I had knit he was in love with the beautiful colors and how they intermingled.  And so I decided to throw the dice and let the colors unfold as they may.  And I'm really happy that I did because this is a very unique and beautiful sweater.  I suspect that those who are unfamiliar with the Sunset Highway Sweater design will love this sweater and those who are a fan of the design will not even recognize it as a Sunset Highway Sweater!  Who do you think I am most likely to encounter in the real world?


You can probably tell that while I love the sweater I am a bit ambivalent about it; because it didn't come out as I had hoped and planned. Which could be a metaphor for life. Sometimes our plans don't work out but over time we look back and realize it was actually better the way that it did.  I'm not at that stage yet.

This is obviously a stranded colorwork design and there is a lot of tacking down yarn floats.  I have seen some very complicated methods to do this on Youtube videos that left me discouraged.  But there is no need for this to be super complicated so I'm going to share with you a very simple method for tacking down yarn floats.  This method works works even if you carry both strands of yarn in your right hand, as I do.  I always carry the background color over my index finger and the pattern color over my third finger.  When I want to tack down the background color I use my left hand to lift the background yarn up and over the working needle; I then knit the stitch using the pattern color; and then lift the background color off the needle and drop the strand which I then pick up again with my right hand.  That probably sounds terribly confusing but it's not really.  Play around with it and I think you'll find this is a very easy method for tacking down floats.  I'm sorry I don't know what this method is called.  I'll call it ~ the lefty lifting method ~

If you are thinking about knitting a colorwork design there are now many beautiful and unique colorwork sweater patterns out there (particularly if you are willing to knit with a heavier than fingering weight yarn).  I am currently mulling over the following choices (these are all fingering weight) Threipmuir; Arrows Down; Alyeska; and Silver Frost.


Particulars:  Sunset Highway Sweater, designed by Caitlin Hunter (Boyland Knitworks); US 2 (ribbing) and 4 (body) needles; 5 skeins Ritual Dyes, Maiden (fingering 2 ply twist) 80/20 SW Merino/Nylon, 400 yrds/100 grams (colorways: Iron (main body color), Lady Lucky, Pyrite, and malachite;  I adore this dyer's work and the yarn base is a dream to work with and I have since ordered more of her yarn for other projects.  As far as the pattern itself I knit the extra small size and my only modifications were that I knit the yoke a little longer than the pattern called for (about an extra inch and a half) and I skipped the short rows at the bottom.  But I have a small build and I've heard some say the extra small runs tight on them so you probably need to check your gauge and pick your size carefully.

Incidentally my Kobuk hat in the previous post is also by this designer ~ when you're hot you're hot ~

The last couple of years I've knit primarily cardigans but these days I'm more in the mood to knit pullovers.  If you would like to see a other pullover sweaters here are a few that I've previously blogged: Not a Jersey Girl; CalmEmily; Sideways Knitted Top; and Lily.  With my climate I don't have a lot of sweater wearing weather but there are days when they come in handy!

Baking Sweet Breads ~

Work has been demanding lately and I'm fighting a cold.  But I always make it a priority to have homemade baked goods in the house.  It's a quality of life issue and simple pleasure that I try hard not to forego. And I think during stressful periods all the more important.  I like variety so I'm always playing with new recipes.  Recently I discovered the very delicious Babka bread!  This is a versatile sweet bread (similar to a brioche loaf) that you can use with a million different fillings.  For your babka dough I recommend trying the one I use from Bake From Scratch Magazine they share the dough recipe online (albeit with a Pistachio filling).  I use Kerry Gold butter and only 9 gms of salt (1/2 tbs. versus 1 tbs) but other than that I follow this basis dough recipe (sans orange zest).  As I mentioned the choice of fillings are endless.  The loaf pictured below I made with a strawberry and coconut filling (found in Bake From Scratch's March/April issue)but a classic filling would be a chocolate filling.  I hope you have fun finding wonderful fillings for this delicious bread treat!


Until next time be well and love well.  Enjoy Spring and don't forget this is a great time to start planning sweaters to knit over the summer so you are ready for next Fall!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Hat Topper Fun and Lucille's Red Cake Recipe ~



I've knit a lot of hats over the years but my new Kobuk hat has to be a favorite.  It might be the gorgeous yarn which has both silk and mohair making it warm and luxurious, or maybe it's the perfect wintery color, or perhaps it's the fun hat topper, or maybe it's a combination of all three!  It also has a really cool brim design that appears to resemble a crown that shows when the brim is turned down and worn slouchy style.  Which unfortunately you don't see too well in my pictures for the simple reason that the hat was easier to photograph with the brim turned up!  That being said the slouchy look with the brim showing is a cool look and I'll probably knock around wearing it that way too. No matter how you style it this is a great hat to have in your wardrobe.


I hope you noticed the cute hat topper!  This is my first time buying a hat topper instead of simply making a pom pom using leftover yarn.  Hat toppers are super on trend right now and I was curious whether I would like it better - and I do!!!  I think the hat topper gives the hat a more modern and finished look and I'm going to pick up another couple of colors and styles to have a selection to switch up depending on the accent color I want.  How will I do that?  I read on a Rav forum that some hat toppers come with a snap closure which makes it easy to change them.  But not all hat topper come with a snap closure and mine didn't.  Instead I read where someone suggested sewing a button to the inside of the hat to which a hat topper can be tied on and off.  And that's what I've done.  To do this I recommend you select a medium sized button that is plastic and light weight so it is large enough to wrap the topper ties around while being washable and not so heavy that it will drag the hat down.  This makes it easy peasy to have a wardrobe of hat toppers to switch around!


Particulars: Kobuk hat designed by Caitlin Hunter (Boyland Knitworks); knit using the Top Hat Set dyed by Lay Family Yarn (kingfisher colorway) yarn set includes 2 coordinating yarns (1 skein DK 55% Blue Face Leicester 45% silk (100g) and 1 skein 72% fine kid mohair and 28% silk).  I used a Faux Fur pom pom in colorway creme brulee sold by The Burlap Kitchen.  This a super easy and fun hat to knit.  I used the Twisted German Cast-On for a stretching brim and I only knit through the upper (bobble) chart one and a half times to create a less slouch as I have a small noggin.  Caitlin Hunter is a terrific designer and I have recently finished one of her sweaters that I can't wait to show you!

Incidentally the shawl/scarf that I'm wearing in these pictures is Enfilade by Lisa Hannes that I blogged as Multi Colored Shawls and Testing Yarn for Color Fastness.


Lucille's Red Cake Recipe ~
Steve's birthday comes early February and every year I bake him a birthday cake of his choice.  He's chosen a variety over the years but he most often he requests his mother's Red Cake Recipe that she would bake for him when he was a boy.  Lucille, his mother, graciously shared her recipe with me so that I could bake him the exact cake she made.  It's not a typical red velvet cake as Steve doesn't like chocolate so there's less cocoa and it also doesn't seem as heavy and rich as some red cakes I've eaten.  But it is light, colorful and perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  In other words it's a quintessential old fashioned birthday cake.  I'll conclude with what she wrote on the bottom of her recipe card "Good Luck!"



Lucille’s Red Cake Recipe

Yield ~ 9" double layer cake

My only adaptation of Lucille's recipe, if you will, is to add violet icing color.  Sans icing color the frosting is antique white.  

Ingredients

For the Cake

1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, softened
1 & 1/2 cups granulated sugar, (I use superfine baking sugar)
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp cocoa powder (use natural cocoa and not dutch process)
1 ounce red food coloring 
2 & 1/2 cups of cake flour (sifted before measuring)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp white vinegar
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Frosting

3 Tbs all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
           7/8 cup of granulated sugar
1 Tbs pure vanilla extract
Icing color (optional - cake is an antique white otherwise) I use Violet Icing Color by Wilton

Instructions

Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans –either line bottom with parchment paper and butter sides or butter and flour entire pan. 

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy - do not rush this process - beat at least 4 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  In a small dish make a paste using the cocoa powder and a small amount of food coloring.  Add to butter mixture and beat well.  Add the balance of food coloring beating well.  Then add flour (mixed with salt) and milk alternately (roughly 4 additions) beginning and ending with flour.  Beat in vanilla.  Lastly combine vinegar and soda in a small dish (it will foam up) and gently stir vinegar mixture into batter, mixing well.

Pour into cake pans and bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in pans 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to completely cool before frosting. 

N.B. As soon as cake is out of oven I like to begin preparing the frosting (which takes a little while because you have to heat the milk and flour and allow time for it to cool, etc.) and you want to frost your cake as soon as it has cooled so it will be as fresh as possible.

Frosting:

In a small saucepan whisk together flour and milk until blended and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Set aside to cool.  You can set pan in a basin of cool water to speed along the cooling process.

In a larger mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Then add 1 Tbs of cooled milk and flour mixture to sugar mixture, beating well.  Gradually add the rest beating all the time.  Beat in Vanilla.   If you choose to use icing color add it at this time, beating well. The texture of the frosting is similar to whipped cream.   As soon as cake has cooled begin frosting.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Good luck!

Until next time be well, love well, and have fun with hat toppers!!!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Toasty Toes and Other Creature Comforts



I hereby proudly announce my membership in the very first ever Handmade Sock Society! I. Can't. Wait.  It's a botanically inspired subscription that will include 6 secret sock patterns released every other month beginning in February.  As a wee bonus for joining early I also received a free Vintage Fairy Lights pattern that I immediately whipped up into these decadently delicious pink socks.  If you are interested there is an early bird price available until the first pattern is released sometime early February.  Sign up and you too can have toasty toes this winter, and all year long!

Of all the things that I've knit over the years my hand knit socks are worn and enjoyed the most.  There is no comparison.  They are fun to knit and indulgent to wear.  Combined with leggings you have the equivalent of an adult onesie.  Don't judge.  I pad around the house with them on, take naps wearing them, and prop my feet up so they can be admired while I'm watching TV.  In other words they bring me a great deal of creature comfort.

Another creature comfort I've been enjoying  this winter is having a wonderfully cozy shawl hanging about the house to wrap myself up in.  It's my Osmosis shawl (pictured below) and I have a wild coincidence to share with you about this shawl.  The Osmosis shawl designer, iKnit2Purl2, also dyed the yarn that I used to knit my Vintage Fairy Socks.  But I didn't realize that connection when I chose to buy her yarn.  It happened this way.  I had recently finished knitting my Osmosis shawl when I went onto Etsy and by random surfing found this beautiful pink sock yarn.  It wasn't until I looked at my receipt that I realized the same person who had designed the Osmosis shawl had dyed the yarn that I had just bought.  Serendipity.  How could I do anything else but put these two projects together in a post!


PARTICULARS:  Pattern: Vintage Fairy Lights design by Helen Stewart (Curious Handmade); US 1 DPNs; 1 skein Corda Bella Yarns (aka: iKnit2Purl2 ) Ultra Sock (400 yrds (100 gms) SW Merino & Nylon) colorway: Azalea.  I did modify this design slightly.  I kept the raised twisted knit stitch throughout the stock instead of switching to a 3K P1 repeat after the top design was finished.  I think the contiguous raised knit stitch makes it look like balloon streamers are running the length of the stock holding up floating fairy lights!  I loved knitting these socks, both the pattern and the yarn were a delight to work with.  Previous Curious Handmade patterns I've knit are the Botan (shawl) and Shallows (scarf).


PARTICULARS:  Osmosis shawl, designed by iknit2purl2, US 4 needles; 3 skeins Tusken Knits, Fir, (400 yrds merino singles).  My only modification, if you will, is that I only used 3 colors to knit this design.  I simply knit a color until I was close to running out and then switched to the next skein until I ran out.  More or less my color transitions began about 14 rows before the lace segments and then continued through and even after the lace segment.  I ended up using virtually every scrap of yarn I had.  This was a very enjoyable and easy shawl to knit and I love the finished product.  It's similar in design to the very popular Find your Fade shawl but it's uses less yardage (1,200 yrd vs. 1,540 yrds) and hence is a more manageable size which is why I chose to knit it. 


PAIN AU LAIT


As this is a post about creature comforts it has to include a bread recipe.  Because there is no greater creature comfort than enjoying freshly bake bread still warm from the oven!   The recipe I am sharing is fun and easy to make and has a bit of french panache to boot!

The recipe comes from The Great British Baking Show.  Of which I am a huge fan.  As I'm sure is anyone who has ever baked.  Because bakers know that it's a risk to bake for others.  Baking is fraught with perils and pitfalls and you will see both successes and failures in this show. Some of the recipes have been shared online (not all recipes though as it's up to each contestant).  Luckily  Richard from season one shared his recipe for Pain au Lait.  I love his recipe.  It's easy to follow and relatively fast (for bread) and it doesn't require any special skills or tools (although you will need a kitchen scale as all ingredients are by weight).  I hope you will enjoy Richard's Pain au Lait rolls as much as I do!

Until next time be well, love well and I hope this winter you give sock knitting a try so you too can enjoy toasty toes and other creature comforts!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Resolutions and All Things Brioche

Resolutions, resolutions, resolutions.  I generally don't make them.  After all I live a fairly disciplined lifestyle already.  So when I think about resolutions, if I do, it's in terms of crafting goals. And last year I resolved to learn the brioche stitch.  Come hell or high water.  


It wasn't just because there were a number of shawls that I wanted to make that use this stitch.  It was also that I didn't feel I would be a complete knitter until I had mastered this stitch.  And it's not like I woke up last New Year's and decided I wanted to learn the brioche stitch either.  I had attempted it several times over the years and not succeeded.  For whatever reason this stitch befuddled me and simply watching free youtube videos and tutorials wasn't making it any clearer.


So in 2017 I bit the bullet and signed up for a paid Craftsy class!  You have to understand this was a huge mental shift for me.  If there's a free option online then I'm not interested in paying.  For example I would never pay to blog as I get the blogger platform for free.  I'm also not interested in making money from being online either so I guess there's some symmetry there. But as I mentioned I had already gone the free route with this stitch and that had gotten me nowhere.   I turned to the mega online craft class retailer Craftsy and settled on Explorations in Brioche Knitting with Nancy Marchantwho is a renown brioche guru.  And if you are going to learn anything it's best to learn from the best. Especially if you are going to be paying.  And I am delighted to report that this class did the trick for me.  I began with lesson one and worked through the modulus and wallah the brioche stitch wasn't nearly so complicated as it had previously seemed.  I guess sometimes it does pay to pay.


After all that I am particularly delighted to start 2018 by sharing my very first two color brioche shawl!  This pattern is a combination of both brioche and lace stitches and if you look at the picture below you can see the brioche portion is the purple segment which gives the fabric depth and a beautiful tonal effect.  I am not going to lie though the shape of this shawl is awkward and highly asymmetrical.  I would not consider it an everyday shawl but if you want a statement piece then this is the ticket.  All in all I'm thrilled to be wearing it and as a bonus I can call myself a master novice brioche knitter at last!


Particulars:  Parlour Shawl designed by Leslie Anne Robinson (Knit Graffiti Designs), la Bien Aimee skinny singles 1,100 yrds (yarn purchased as a kit); US 4 needles.  I only made a couple very small modifications to this pattern. Because I felt leaving the eyelet of the pattern repeats looked unfinished I closed that eyelet and to make up for the extra decrease I threw in another edging increase. The other modification was to the BO.  Three quarters of the way into the BO I realized that the edge was rolling and hiding the contrasting color so I ripped back and knit another row to create a garter stitch edge.  Then, instead of turning my work I simply slid the stitches to the other end of my circular needles (so the right side was still facing me) and BO in contracting color yarn.  This eliminated the rolling and emphasized the contrasting color.

To see a project that incorporates just a single color in the brioche stitch see my post with a photo of Stephen West's Marled Magic Shawl (the brioche is the grey portion) which also gives wonderful depth and texture to your fabric.

Incidentally I found baking brioche to be easier and oddly satisfying in light of having failed at the stitch.  I use Le Pain Quotident's Brioche recipe from their Cookbook.  They do have a free version of their brioche recipe online but it uses very different measurements from the book and I can not vouch for it (nor are the ratings for that version very high) but if you are interested here's the link brioche recipe.



SUNSETS IN SAN CLEMENTE ~


After the wildfires and a very stressful start to the holidays we were fortunate that things quickly turned around and returned to normal.  The Thursday before Christmas evacuation orders were lifted in Santa Barbara and my parents were allowed to return home and I joined them to help get the holidays back on track.  A few days of dashing about and decorating the tree, shopping, and hanging the lights and we were able to enjoy one of the nicest Christmases ever.  Afterward Steve and I headed to San Clemente to spend a few days relaxing at the beach as we always do the week between Christmas and New Year.  Watching the sun glide below the watery surface is so beautiful and relaxing and one of my favorite parts of staying at the beach.  Except when I'm not paying attention and a rogue wave wipes me out as it did while I was taking this picture.  Yet looking back at the picture I can say without hesitation worth it.  Even if I still have Sand in my Shoes.

Until next time be well, love well and may 2018 bring health and happiness and successful brioche knitting to all!