Sunday, November 9, 2008

Yarn Whisperer?

I wanted this yarn to be a Cloud Bolero or maybe a Mobius Wrap (see The Joy of Knitting) but it told me it wanted to be a Brulee Scarf. Does that make me a Yarn Whisperer?

I knit this scarf using the yarn that I won a short time back on Theresa's blog, T Does Wool. Rumor has it that she is finishing up some cute mittens that you might find posted on her blog any day now.

This is the first time that I have ever won anything and Theresa included so much in her lovely gift, going well above and beyond the expected, truly if I never win anything ever again I will not feel deprived!

Since I had to play around with this yarn a bit before I settled on a pattern, I thought this might be an opportune time to share the process I go through to match a yarn with a pattern. If you are an experienced knitter you might want to just skip this part and go straight to the tea and cookies.

Knitting Tip #4 ~ The Importance of Swatching

A) Yarn Acquired Without a Particular Pattern in Mind.

Sometimes we acquire yarn without a particular pattern in mind. It can then be a tricky business selecting a pattern that will work well with the yarn. I begin the pattern selection process by reviewing projects that have already been made with the yarn and then branch out and look at patterns that use a similar yarn weight and composition (wool, cotton, or silk). I try and select at least two projects that appeal to me and make a gauge swatch for each so that I can see what the yarn actually looks like when knit using the recommended needle size and pattern stitch. For example, with this yarn I initially thought I wanted to make a Cloud Bolero or Mobius which were both designed to have a drape to the fabric and were therefore knit on larger needles (US 11 needles). However as soon as I dropped down a needle size to US 10 and swatched for the Brulee Scarf I knew the smaller needles with a simple garter stitch combined to make knitting magic.

B) Yarn Acquired to Make a Specific Pattern.

Typically I buy the yarn that a specific pattern recommends. That means the designer has already gone through step (A) above. However, even if the pattern instructions recommend making a gauge swatch in stockinette stitch - I don't do it that way. Instead I always make my gauge swatch in the stitch that is predominately used to knit the garment i.e. a cable pattern, seed stitch, lace, ribbing, etc. This way I believe my gauge swatch is a truer representation of the actual project. I also always wash and dry my gauge swatch before measuring. I have found that virtually all hand knits will relax when washed. Failing to wash your gauge swatch I believe results in an inaccurate gauge.

And that's how I settled on making a Brulee Scarf with vintage buttons.

Specs: Free pattern ~ Brulee Scarf; Noro Blossom yarn; 3 skeins; US 10 needles; vintage fabric buttons; final blocked dimensions 6.5" x 56.5;" Modification: I changed the placement of the buttons to give a pop of color at the neckline and eliminated the scalloped edging.

The seasonal baking has begun.....

I know it must seem as though I live on a diet of cakes, cookies, and pies. However, I do assure you, I actually eat a fairly healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein prepared in what I would loosely describe as Mediterranean style. Because I'm occasionally asked about my diet I'll try and share more recipes that I fondly label here on the blog as "What's For Dinner" in addition to the "Recipes" for tea goodies I so love.

But, today, I want to talk about cookies as we are at the start of the holiday baking season. Each Fall I like to start my seasonal baking with almond crescent cookies. Not because they are wildly spectacular but because they are a nice seasonal cookie I enjoy with my tea.

The almond crescent cookie is a quintessential European style cookie in that it relies on a single flavor as opposed to most American style cookies that are often full of ingredients (see my favorite American style chocolate chip cookie recipe here). Each style of cookie has its place but at this time of year I find myself making more European style cookies.

Almond Crescent Cookies (recipe from The Baking Book by Linda Collister)(makes approximately 2 dozen)


1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2-3 drops of pure almond extract
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted
1 & 1/3 cup ground almonds (I simply use almond meal)
extra confectioner's sugar for dredging


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees / prepare baking sheets.
2. Beat butter and almond extract until light and creamy. Add the sugar and mix slowly until combined, then beat until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients and mix with wooden spoon. Knead in bowl lightly until a dough forms.
3. Take heaping teaspoon sized portion of dough and roll into a sausage about 3 inches long and curve into a crescent. Note: because there is NO rising agent in the ingredients the cookie will not rise during baking. Therefore I like to make my sausages nice and fat so that the cookie will be rounded and not flat.
4. Bake approximately 15-18 minutes. Cookie should still be pale but firm. I sometimes will leave the cookies on the baking sheet for a minute to allow them to firm up.
5. Dredge in confectioner's sugar. Cool on a rack. Store in airtight tin and eat within a week. Flavor develops if the cookies are kept for at least a day after baking.
6. Enjoy with a nice cup of tea!

Have a nice week everyone ~ and take time to enjoy a cup of tea!


Renee said...

Almond crescent cookies are my husbands favourite! I make Martha Stewarts recipe, but this year I'm going to try yours too.
I've learned my lesson and wash and dry my swatches now too that are knit in the pattern. No more big surprises...
Your scarf and buttons is lovely, it really makes the most of the yarn. The colours look great on you!

Sue said...

Oh to be able to eat cakes and cookies and pies would be nice if it didnt add so much to the hips. Your almond crescents look so nice. I adore your scarf, it looks beautiful.

Bridget said...

Claudia, that scarf looks gorgeous on you! Good use of the yarn and pattern, congratulations.


t does wool said...

yes,I believe that yarns whisper to us...and rightly so,because this is so beautiful....and it suits you perfectly,Claudia.I am certain that the yarn whispered to me that it should live with you!
(note to self-make those cookies)

Knitterary said...

Mmm, almond cookies. I love them. Must try your recipe, as it's slightly different from mine and looks delicious.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the obvious simple pattern answer can be staring us in the face, can't it? The garter sttich really shows of this yarn. Lovely knit! are so 'English' sometimes with your tea and bakes! :D

Tracy said...

I'm having tea right now, Claudia! So nice to be sharing a cup while reading along with you. :o) My mom and I used to make these cookies a lot...I've not made them in ages, thanks for the inspiration! And I just LOVE this scarf!! The color way is so exciting, and the buttons are an excellent touch. You looks so good in this! And I do think this makes you a Yarn Whisperer--LOL! Sometimes yarn just "speaks" to us doesn't it?! Off to drink more tea and talk to my yarn stash! ;o) Happy Day ((HUGS))

Monika said...

Ah, we call your cookies "Vanillekipferl", if done right, they melt on your tongue. I LOVE them, but am not good at baking them. Mine turn out always too hard, because I'm always afraid they will break, while being coated with sugar. But they are one of the few cookies for Christmas baking, which are a MUST HAVE's in our family. :o)
Oh, the scarf looks very nice. :o)

SissySees said...

It's all so lovely - the scarf, the cookies - but that tea cup just really speaks to me. It's singing autumn things to me, making me wish I had a pot of tea and some pumpkin scones for breakfast...

Anonymous said...

It turned out very lovely! Yummy cookies!

amanda said...

The scarf is great. If you really are the Yarn Whisperer, can I sign up for a consult? I have a list of yarn that need matching projects!

Anonymous said...

Those are my favorite holiday cookies. They are so good! I'm not always so dedicated to shape them into crescents though. I tend to get lazy halfway through.

The scarf looks great on you. Those were excellent tips on how to find the perfect pattern for stash yarn.

Hilary said... are *so* a yarn whisperer! :) Love the scarf...those buttons are fabulous!

knittingdragonflies said...

You are a yarn whisperer. Thanks for the tips, I am forever buying yarn with no project in mind.
Also thanks for the yummy Almond cookies, I LOVE cookies.
The Brulee Scarf is delightful. The colors will go well with many things.

knittingdragonflies said...

You are a yarn whisperer. Thanks for the tips, I am forever buying yarn with no project in mind.
Also thanks for the yummy Almond cookies, I LOVE cookies.
The Brulee Scarf is delightful. The colors will go well with many things.

raining sheep said...

Oh my, so many great things in your post today. I loved the synopsis of choosing yarn/pattern. I am primarily excited by the almond cookie recipe. I am not dessert fan, but I love almond cookies. My mom always made them at Christmas and I feel a wonderful nostalgic feeling when I see them paired with the beautiful china cup. I think I will do some Christmas baking this year.

Windyridge said...

Thanks for the tips, very interesting. And now you've gone and made me hungry!

Ally Jay said...

I have given the recipe to my hubby with a request to have them for tea time tomorrow. He's very willing to do the required magic. Love the scarf and very interesting reading about your process of matching. Mine is way more random.

Willow said...

I love almond anything! Thanks for sharing the recipe. Where would I find almond meal?

Oh, and the scarf is really lovely!