Saturday, December 18, 2010

All That Glitters ~ Evening Gloves

We can't always be traipsing about in heavy woolens, now can we? At this time of year when there are Christmas parties and family events to attend it's nice to have a little something extra special to slip on.

Not that I have all that many opportunities for getting dressed up.  The realities of my life would depress you so I try and spare you the many mundane details.  But there are those few occasions that will arise and when they do I like to be prepared!

And these sparkly gloves are just the ticket.  Although I had to make significant modifications (noted below) to the pattern I am very happy with my gloves and am hoping to have an opportunity to wear them soon.  The cream colored yarn at the top has prestrung beads already added but I snipped off a few beads from the leftover yarn and used them to sew a band of beads just above the cuff.  I love that detail as it ties the design together and gives these gloves that little extra finishing touch.

Particulars: La Doche Vita Gloves by Tili Tomas; 1 skein Milan (partly cloudy colorway) and 1 skein flurries (natural colorway); US 5 needles. It's probably more accurate to say these gloves were "inspired" by the pattern as I made significant modifications including adding a picot turned hem for a cuff; adding shaping (increases and decreases); substituted a 1x1 rib and picot BO for the ruffle; and adding a band of beads just above the cuff.  While I loved the original pattern, sometimes you just have to use your common sense when knitting and, in this case, what I was seeing as I knit the pattern made me realize that simply following the pattern would not result in gloves that I enjoyed wearing.  But because I loved the yarn, and the basic idea, I ripped back and rethought the design and made the above changes. For those interested I'll add more specific details on the modifications on my Ravelry notebook page.

P.S.  Theresa of TDoesWool has published a free pattern for a gorgeous pair Crossed Lines Fingerless Mittens that are also fancy enough for a night out or just being cozy at home sipping eggnog and brandy.

P.S.S. The shawlette I'm wearing is a Dove shawl that I began but decided the yarn was too fragile to risk knitting a full shawl only to have it snag.  I used Filatura di Crosa Superior which is heavenly soft.

P.S.S.S. The ornament I'm holding is one that I made with paper mache (thecraftshop) and glitter (Meyer Imports).  We don't have a tree up this year because it would be to much excitement for Simcha, but I still enjoyed setting out a few decorations. 

Is Simcha a Police Dog?

If you have been reading along then you know that Simcha is our German Shepherd puppy who is almost a year old now.  And while he wasn't bred as a working dog, there are signs emerging that he might just have a bit of working dog in him.

Clues indicating Simcha might be a police dog:

1.     He follows me about with the intensity of someone guarding the crown jewels.  This is flattering but am starting to feel like I ought to pretend to be about more serious business than what I'm actually doing.  I hope I don't develop a complex.

2.     He instinctively knows to give a "suspicious package alert."  Any box and/or object found anywhere in the house that is out of place (i.e. not part of the regular furnishings) triggers a "suspicious package alert" which is in the form of deep ominous growls punctuated with thunderous barks until we respond.  I've not seen this level of concern for unattended packages since I was last at LAX, where the security guards aren't nearly as smart or as handsome. 

3.     He really likes to follow orders.  This is great because I really like telling others what to do.

4.      He's a natural at "search and rescue."    I think I would have been more impressed by this if I had actually been drowning when he attempted to "rescue" me from the bathtub by pulling me out by the towel wrapped around my hair.  Note to self: lock the bathroom door during baths.

There you have it.  The clues are mounting up.  What do you think?  Is Simcha a police dog?

Until next time, be well and love well.  We'll be away over the holidays so I'll take this opportunity of wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New year ~ and may the spirit of Christmas always shine in your heart and home.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In Search of Magic ~ A Harry Potter Inspired Knit

This morning I'm out and about early in my new Sssssnake Hat which is a design inspired by the Harry Potter books and I'm in search of a little magic here in Topanga.

I'm sure that if there are any wizards or magicians to be found in Los Angeles, then surely they will be found in my home town of Topanga, a quirky place with eccentric residents. Except for me. I'm perfectly normal. In fact I'm sure that I stand out for my normalcy, but, I bear it as best I can.

I'm on the lookout for a little magic or at least a cup of coffee at Pine Tree Circle which has a cluster of small shops where you can find everything from gourmet cheeses to scented candles, and of course, coffee and an occasional wizard.

But alas, we missed the sunrise and all little fairies and magical folks had scurried off before we arrived. Never mind. I'll try again another day!

Particulars:  The Parseltongue Hat designed by Stephanie Dosen who writes the blog Tiny Owl Knits; US 9 needles (body) and US 8 for hat band; 2 skeins of The Fiber Company Organik.   I used the disappearing loop CO method.  Other than substituting yarn and needle size the only major modification was to add beads for the snake eyes.  I used faceted Czech Glass which I sewed on after washing and blocking the hat to give the hat a little extra razzle dazzle. 

PS If you love Harry Potter (or know someone who does) check out Julie's cute Harry Potter scarf  that she knit for her son's Halloween costume!  His dad made him the magic wand ~ doesn't he look the spitting image of Harry Potter!  If you would like to knit a scarf for your Harry Potter fan Crafy Andy has generously published a free Harry Potter scarf pattern on his blog (ravelry link).  Edit update:  Thank you Willow for pointing out there is a book of Harry Potter knitting patterns called Charmed Knits!

Mr. Puffy's Christmas Wrapping tips!

Many years ago we spent Christmas in Chile and we were in the tiny town of Antofagasta in the days preceding the holiday. This is an industrial town and the farthest most town at the North end of Chile and largely comprised of mine and industrial workers with low incomes. I was struck by the festive feel to this town and the way they came together as a community and, like the Whos of Whoville, they didn't need a lot of money to celebrate the spirit of Christmas.

I always think of this town as Christmas approaches and have made one of their traditions my own.  All along the streets in the days prior to Christmas the shop fronts are lined with small folding chairs and rolls of Christmas paper spread everywhere.  When you purchased a gift you came outside and they would wrap your gift for you in a manner that I have ever since copied and would like to share with you. 

This is a very simple and a fun way to wrap a gift if you don't have a box or even if you do. You simply cut a swath of wrapping paper sufficiently large to encase your gift.  You then create a paper sack by folding over the edges of the paper (only overlap it a small amount) and then tape the edges together.  Then you place your your gift inside the sack (along with some tissue paper) and fold over the top opening.  Tape the top opening closed and you are done!  All that remains is to add a festive gift tag that is attached with a Christmas sticker. This year I purchased my gift tags from Mulberry-Muse but you can find a wide selection of handmade gift tags on Etsy in a variety of prices.

I love a package that crinkles and teases with mystery ~ which this one does ~ and I hope you do too!

Until next time, be well and love well.  Enjoy the spirit of the holidays and don't forget to watch my personal favorite holiday classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Prelude to Winter ~ A Warm Cowl

As a knitter I rarely purchase any winter accessories as I prefer to make my own.  But last Winter I saw a super cute hat that I just had to have even though I knew it was made with an acrylic yarn.  And while I like the look of that hat it provided virtually no warmth and wearing it in an icy wind was like wearing no hat at all.

I mention that hat because I think it is a shame that many people will not wear wool thinking that it is too scratchy to wear against their skin and thus are missing out on the superior warmth that wool imparts. It's true that some wools can be scratchy but today that is less often the case as wools are more refined than they used to be and are often blended with softening fibers making them a pleasure to wear.  Such is the case with the cowl that I'm wearing, which is a blend of wool, baby alpaca, and silk.

Another reason that I believe many people shy away from buying wool garments is because they are concerned about ruining it in the wash, which is a valid concern.  But with a few precautionary steps wool is easy to wash and that should not prevent anyone from wearing wool.  Here are a few of my wool washing tips:

Mr. Puffy's Wool Washing Tips

As a preface, you should always follow the washing instructions on the label and defer to those instructions when in doubt or there is a conflict with any of the following tips.

1.  Before you put a drop of water in the sink, measure your garment and write down the measurements!  This is important because you will need to know what dimensions to reshape the wet garment (which can stretch vastly when wet).
2.  Use a mild soap in the water (and only use a small amount).  I have used dish soap which works just fine but I do prefer to use a special wool cleanser such as "Kookaburra Wash" or "Soak."  You can also add a touch of hair conditioner to the rinse which will help soften a wool that is scratchy.
3.  Allow the garment to soak for 10 minutes and then gently squeeze the soapy water through the item to remove any dirt.  You do not want to vigorously agitate wool as agitation can cause wool to felt which will ruin your garment.  But, rest assured, I've washed many items and never unintentionally felted any of them.
4.  Drain the sink and refill with rinse water.  Gently squeeze the garment in the fresh water to rinse out the soap.
5.  Drain the sink and roll your garment into a ball.  Place the wet item onto a towel (still in a ball is okay) and using your full body weight press out as much water as humanly possible.  Repeat as long as you are still pressing out moisture.  The more water you remove at this stage will quicken the drying time.
6.  Lay out a fresh dry towel where the garment can rest until dry (not in direct sunlight) and gently unroll your wet garment onto the towel and shape it back into the measurements that you wrote down before it was washed.  It might take some patience to reform it into it's original shape.  As it dries you can continue to work with the wool to ease it back into it's original shape.

Depending on how heavy the item is it can take a day, or as little as a few hours, to dry.  There!  Now there is no excuse not to buy wool and enjoy it this Winter.

By the way, I'm wearing a newly finished (and washed) cowl.  It was a pleasure to knit and I've already worn it and love it!  I did do some blocking to achieve this shape but that is a topic for another day.

Particulars:  Lush Button-up Cowl by Sweater Babe; 2 skeins Organik (70% organic merino,15% baby alpaca, 15% silk) by The Fiber Company; US 10 needles; no modifications whatsoever but I did cast-on using the cabled cast-on method (as no cast-on method was specified).  The yarn I substituted was slightly more dense than what the pattern calls and gave me a firmer fabric which is what I wanted.  The buttons are 1" spalted maple tree buttons, handcrafted by ARemarkYouMade.

Simcha's Recovery

For those of you concerned for Simcha's well being, you can rest assured that he's back in form and ready to play, and play, and play.  The verbal instructions taking place during this picture went something like "slow down boy, easy easy, that's close enough, okay, sit, sit, DOWN DOWN DOWN."   All of our training is finally starting to pay off as I'm happy to report that he stopped short of wrestling the camera from me.

Until next time, be well and love well and may all of our homes be filled with love, joy, and thanks this Thanksgiving holiday!   

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cranberry Gloves and Cranberry Swirl Coffee Cake!

I love immersing myself in the rhythm of the Seasons. The colors and flavors of Fall particularly resonate with me. There's just something about this season that touches the inner Pilgrim in me. I know that Steve would disagree, but I'm sure that I would have made a good Pilgrim. For example I could have made all my own clothes, like the gloves that I'm wearing!

These gloves are not what you think, though. There is no knitting involved. They are my own design and I made them with my own handmade felt! While handmade felt is very popular in Norway and other European Countries (probably something to do with the climate) it is rarely seen or used for clothing in the United States. For those interested, I'll be explaining more about the process of making handmade felt in upcoming posts and I'll explain how gloves like these are made. But I want to see how well these wear and any changes that I need to make before I do that.

Particulars: Cranberry Felt Gloves (my own design); handpainted merino tops purchased from Ingermaaike on Etsy; this is a seamless design using a resist; the cuffs are embellished with sheep locks. My inspiration for making handmade felt has largely come seeing the beautiful designs by Ingermaaike who writes Daily Felt and Sherry who is known as Pink Knitter on Flickr and Ravelry. For a great beginner resource that I found helpful I recommend Uniquely Felt by Christine White.

P.S. If you love wearing fingerless mittens as much as I do, then I recommend you look at the beautiful selection of free knitting patterns for fingerless mittens just published by Theresa at TDoesWool. I'm having a hard time deciding which one to make first!

Cranberry Swirl Coffee Cake

It is the practice in American college towns for the local residents to open their homes as informal Bed & Breakfasts to handle the influx of visitors that descend on game day and for graduation events. My parents flew to South Bend, Indiana to see me graduate from the University of Notre Dame, School of Law, and stayed at one such B&B where they served this Cranberry Swirl Coffee Cake for breakfast. It's a taste of the American Midwest and I hope you enjoy it!


1/4 C. Butter (unsalted) - softened (1/2 stick)
1 C. Sugar
2 eggs - well beaten
2 C. All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 C. Sour Cream
1 Teaspoon Almond Extract
* *
8 Oz. Whole Cranberry Sauce 
1/2 C. Chopped Walnuts 

Garnish: powdered sugar (optional)


1. Cream butter and Sugar together. Add beaten eggs and mix well.
2. Combine dry ingredients. Then add the dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream stirring with wooden spoon after each addition (begin and end with dry). Stir in Almond extract.
3. Add 1/2 batter to a greased tube/bunt pan. Swirl 1/2 of the cranberry sauce over and into the batter. Sprinkle 1/2 of the walnuts over the sauce. Repeat layers once more. 
4. Bake in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees 55 to 60 minutes. Start checking after about 45-50 minutes as you don't want to over bake this.
5. Cool for 10 minutes in pan and then turn out on a wire rack (you may have to loosen with a knife). 
6.  Garnish with powdered sugar, if you wish.

Serve warm with fruit and coffee.

Until next time, be well and love well ~ and look around and enjoy the bounty and beauty of the harvest ~ Fall is here and will soon be gone.

P.S. Thank you for all your comments and concern about Simcha. His surgery went very well and he is doing great. He had a somewhat unusual condition where neither testicle descended so his neutering required abdominal surgery, but I was very motivated that he be neutered for a variety of reasons. I have my fingers crossed because if this doesn't settle him down I don't know what we'll do!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Milkweed Shawl

We are house bound these days as our dear Simcha is recovering from a difficult neutering surgery that was aborted. The good news is that he's doing well and we are very pleased with his treatment course and the surgeon who will do his next surgery on November 5th.

At his last training session we were delighted to hear that he was 75% trained, until we got home and soberly reassessed the figure at 2%. Nevertheless, we do see strides forward.  And, at the very least, all the cuddling is wearing down his rough edges.  Steve and I have hardly a scar left from his teething phase!

In these photos I'm wearing my newly finished Milkweed Shawl that I knit for weekend wear as an alternative to pulling on a sweater.  Because I spend a great deal of time at home, I like to have things to wear that are fun yet practical and this shawl is perfect for when I take Simcha for a walk or hop on a bike for a quick ride. 

Knitting allows you to express your personal style whether around the house or around about town and is a great way to update your wardrobe by adding just one or two pieces as the seasons change.

 Particulars:  Milkweed Shawl by Laura Chau who blogs as Cosmicpluto Knits; 1 skein Sundara Sock Yarn (350 yards), Dahlia colorway; US4 needles; relaxed post blocking dimensions: 16" x 44" (along curved edge).  The only modification I made was to Chart F.  Beginning with Row 96 I continued the "yo" on both sides of the CDD.  Therefore, on all subsequent pattern rows I had 12 stitches within repeats instead of 11.  I made this modification as I felt a little more ease in the edging was warranted and I'm pleased with the result.  This modification did use more yarn than the original pattern, so take that into consideration.  I also used the yarn tail at the top of the shawl to make a single row of crochet to reinforce the top center (I added about 2 inches of crochet along the top center border).  Finally, for the BO I used the my favorite loose cast off (i.e. k2 (transfer those 2 stitches back onto the left needle and K2T (through the back loop), K1 and repeat).

P.S.  This is my last skein of yarn from Sundara's Petals Collection (each colorway was dedicated to a flower).  The blogs on the other colorways are Bird of Paradise (a "classic" Mr. Puffy post) and Lenten Rose (socks for Steve and, I feel compelled to note, he has yet to wear them).

On a closing note, thank you all for your kind wishes and empathy and I am clearly not alone with work stress.  I will share that there has been an unexpected turn of events and suddenly I have had a large weight lifted allowing my life to returned somewhat to normal.  And, as Fall has arrived early here in SoCal, I am busy knitting accessories and playing around with felting so new projects will be appearing here shortly!  Until next time, be well and love well and have fun making your Fall accessories!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Funky Fall Gloves and Halloween Crafts!

When I first saw these gloves I thought "oh how perfect for Fall!" But then I hesitated. They were knit in pink and day glow white and the effect was just a tad too girlish for a woman of my mature years. But then a kit for the gloves became available in blue and green. Why I could see instantly what a huge difference that made. You can see it for yourself, can't you? These gloves are much more mature and age appropriate...

Okay, so maybe the gloves are teetering on wrong side of the "big mistake" equation. But, it's not like I'm going to wear them to the office. No siree Bob. But they cheer me up and certainly announce the arrival of Fall!

If I wasn't so beleaguered with work these days I would have ripped these back and knit them with bolder stripes and eliminated the orange stripes. Le sigh. Maybe they'll grow on me. I also knit the top I'm wearing. It's knit in Rowan wool cotton on US 4 needles. I knit it years ago, long before I was blogging. I love Rowan wool cotton, it's such a comfortable yarn to wear and holds up really well. The pattern was written out for me by the LYS where I bought the yarn, L'Atelier in Santa Monica. I told them I wanted to knit a top in this yarn and they wrote up a pattern for me. That's one of the nice perks of buying yarn at a LYS.

At the very least, I can wear them to a pumpkin patch to buy a Halloween pumpkin!

Particulars: Dial Up Gloves; 4 skeins Spud & Chloe FINE sock (superwash 80% wool 20% silk) - brown - blue - green - orange; US 2 needles (circular needles and magic loop technique until I reached the fingers and then switched to double pointed needles). I found this pattern frustrating because the color join is very "frugly" despite my best efforts to try and diminish the unsightlyness using various techniques. I'm sure there is a "fix" for smoothing the color join but, frankly, I was just too tired to make the effort, and the yarn did not frog well, so I just pushed forward. These gloves are knit in the round and then turned inside out (i.e. reverse stockinette) and that may have exacerbated the problem. Or maybe it was just me. My only modification was to add some shaping. I began the glove in the large size and then made gradual decreases (1 stitch every 9th row after I was 2 inches from CO edge) until I had the number of stitches for the medium size which took place just before the thumb opening.

Fun and Easy Fall Crafts

As I alluded to above, work has been unbearably miserable lately. I've decided I would not make a good soldier, because when life is reduced to work, sleep, and duty it isn't long before I'm not a happy camper. I do still manage to find time to craft though, as it is necessary to keep me sane. Since I suspect I'm not the only one who is pressed for time I'm going to share some quick and easy craft projects to get you ready for Halloween!

Needle Felt A Magic Pumpkin!

This is a needle felted pumpkin using a "soft" technique and it's perfect for the absolute beginner. I bought this as a kit from Fairie Bling and it came with everything I needed. Instead of making two small pumpkins I opted to make one larger pumpkin. Finished size is roughly 3.5" x 4.5."

Decorate a Vintage Halloween Ornament

The inspiration for this vintage Halloween ornament came from last year's Create & Decorate Magazine (October 2009). It was very simple and fun to make and I'll probably fill this one with candy and give it as a welcoming gift to our new neighbors, once it gets a little closer to Halloween. I haven't actually met these new neighbors yet. I'm hoping they aren't too stuffy. But, if they have moved to the far reaches of Topanga, odds are they are a bit eccentric like the rest of us.

Particulars: paper mache cone (10.5" x 4") sold online at The Craft Shop for $1.99; I painted and decorated it with various and sundry Fall decorations picked up at craft stores. I particularly like the Vampire Blood gift tag (sold as a set of 6). I can also see adding these tags to a wine bottle as a hostess gift or tied onto a wine glass stem like a toe tag/name tag! These ideas just come naturally to me. I think it's my practical nature. Oh, before I forget the tags are made by Crafty Pagan Designs who has an Etsy shop filled with fun paper goods.

Until next time, be well and love well and take the time to decorate for Halloween ~ I know it will make you smile!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shaelyn Shawl

The Shaelyn Shawl is a relatively new pattern and is sure to be popular this season because it is an easy and quick knit with stunning results.  But why have the same shawl as everyone else?  Instead break a few rules and have a shawl that is uniquely your own.  Here's a few ideas on adjusting this or an any lace pattern to better suit your personal style.

The conventional thinking is that lace shawls should be knit in a solid colored yarn. But knitting in a solid color is boring so go ahead and use a variegated color.

What if the pattern recommends a sport weight yarn? Why limit yourself.  If you find a yarn you like in a different weight go ahead and try it.  I'm using a worsted weight yarn; I always say in for a penny in for a pound.

Most people will tell you that lace shawls should be heavily blocked to emphasis the pattern. But, meh, why?  I lightly blocked this pattern and saved the heavy block for the top to extend the top width.  Personally I think heavily blocked shawls tend to look a tad old fashioned.

Finally, while it's not conventional to substitute a different textured yarn for the bind off but I substituted a yarn that is both different in color and texture for the bind off and I think it gives this shawl that little something extra.

The result is a shawl uniquely my own with a slightly Goth feel and I am not displeased.  Now all I need is a dark moody novel to curl up with.  Suggestions anyone? 

Particulars: Shaelyn Shawl by Leila Raabe; 3 skeins Jade Sapphire 6 ply cashmere (20 grams left over) and a small amount of Noro Retro for the bind off; US 9 circular needles.  Modifications: none other than yarn weight substitution.  I followed the pattern alternate version to purl 2 together instead of knit 2 together in all lace section. For the loose BO I used my favorite BO which is k 2 transfer those 2 stitches back to left needle and k2TB then k1 repeating until last stitch.

Wet Felting Flowers

I wet felted a flower specifically to match this shawl and I like it worn this way too.  For the flower I used the tutorial for flower making by Ingermaaike sold in her Etsy shop.

Until next time, be well and love well and enjoy the change in season.  Wrap yourself in a cozy shawl and go out and experience all the wonderful colors, flavors and decorations that make this such a fun and special time of year!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Green Tea and China

I have some Fall knitting to show you, but first here's a quick post on green tea, the second in my series on the teas of China. You can read about Chinese Chrysanthemum tea here.

If you don't like green tea I suspect it's because you haven't tried the right kind. At least that was the case for me. It wasn't until our trip to China while waiting about in the Shanghai airport that I discovered how delicious a really good green tea could be. I had ordered a spicy bowl of noodles and at the last minute decided to try a green tea with my meal. The tea was brought over to our table in a french press (just like the one pictured above) with the leaves still swirling about and after one savory sip I was hooked.

I had tried green tea before, but had found it bitter and not at all similar to the rich savory brew I was drinking. I have since learned that the reason for this is that green tea is rather like wine. There are multiple varieties and the price can range from cheap to $$$. If a green tea doesn't specify what type of green tea it is, then it's a sure bet it's not one of the better varieties. One of the best varieties of green tea is "dragon well" but be warned the quality varies considerably. After my lunch I went immediately into an airport gift shop and bought a pricey tin of what I believe is a dragon well tea from the Ganchun tea Company. I can't be certain because I don't speak Chinese and they didn't speak English but I did pay a fortune so it must be the good stuff, right? I have enjoyed every sip and felt the money was well spent.

Turns out, though, you need to pay close attention when making a green tea to enjoy it as its best. A french press is perfect for green tea because it should be brewed in glass or porcelain so as not to taint the flavor. You can also immerse the leaves up to three times by simply adding more hot water, but the water should never be boiling. If you are interested in how to properly brew dragon well tea, I found this video on Walker Tea Reviews very interesting and helpful.

Whether you are enjoying a green or black tea, you can never go wrong with a slice of my Almond Delight Cake (pictured above). It's simple to make, moist, and has a rich almond flavor and is perfect for when you have last minute company! You can find the recipe in the post Is it Time for Tea?

Chinese Door Gods

Along with food and knitting I like to share some of the culture of places we have visited. You have probably seen the above images whether in a movie or magazine as they are ubiquitous in China. They are known as "Door Gods" and I learned their story over lunch when I asked our host to explain their significance.

Apparently the first Emperor of the Tang Dynasty had a nightmare that he was going to be killed while he slept. The next day he had two warriors placed outside his bed chamber to stand guard overnight. No harm came to him and it became the custom in China to paint these warriors on door fronts as a warning and to protect the occupants from harm.

China is a very mystical land with a long and rich history that is undergoing a period of tremendous change. The juxtaposition between the old and new culture is fascinating to see. Even the most sophisticated Chinese business people still believe that amulets bring power and luck to the wearer and I was given a jade bracelet to bring me prosperity and good luck. Come to think of it, where did I put that bracelet anyway? I could use a little good luck these days!

Until next time, be well and love well, and try a cup of green tea ~ it is good for your health ~ and that's not a myth.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Knitting Memories

I find that certain projects have memories knit into the fabric. For example, the scarf I'm wearing will always remind me of Simcha and how he came into our lives. It's a scarf I've knit before so it was easy to get lost in my thoughts as I knit and purled my way through the pattern as events unfolded around me.

I haven't told you how Simcha came into our lives. He almost wasn't the one. Life is filled with so many "almosts". The step that you didn't take that would have taken you in a different direction.

I knit on this scarf during two flights that eventually resulted in Simcha coming home with us. As a preface, the criteria for our new puppy was primarily focused on good health as our first German Shepherd (adopted 20 years ago) had a lifetime of surgeries and health problems. Steve found a breeder in North Carolina who had healthy dogs and a new litter of "working" German Shepherd puppies. We were almost positive that one of these puppies would come home with us. We paid a non-refundable deposit, we were that sure. But we hadn't understood that difference between a working German Shepherd and a show German Shepherd until we saw the dogs in person. Working dogs are bred primarily for protection and police work and are not well suited to be a family dog. That became clear once we met the dogs in person and spoke more with the breeder. We almost made a misstep there.

So we took another flight, this time to Dallas, Texas and I knit more on my scarf. On this trip we found the puppy we wanted. A healthy, highly intelligent, and beautiful show dog. He was almost what we had in mind not understanding at the time that a pure blooded West German Shepherd would be so different than a domestically bred German Shepherd. It's almost a different breed. Almost like a wolf, some say. Do we have regrets? We did in the beginning, when he first came home and was biting like a wild animal and rampaging about the house. But not now, even though he will still go on a rampage unless supervised at all times. But life has settled into a routine and is back to normal, almost. I have time to knit once again and, finally, I finished my scarf.

PS Steve took the above pictures on the San Clemente pier after we had dinner at the Fisherman's Restaurant in San Clemente, California.

Particulars: A Very Nice Scarf, Designed by Linda Romens, purchased as a kit from La Lana Wools, 2 skeins La Lana's Phat Silk Fines. US 5 needles ~I used special short needles (9 inches long) specifically for scarfs (seen in the picture above). They are particularly light weight and enjoyable to knit a scarf on. Finished Dimensions: 5" x 56." I love this yarn but it is handcrafted and highly variable with "flaws" within the skein. I like the rustic appearance of the yarn and am not bothered by the slubs of silk and thick and thins spots. My first version of this scarf is blogged here and a shawl I knit also designed by Linda Romens is blogged here (both projects use the same yarn). I find this an interesting pattern to knit and I particularly love the serpentine cable which is unlike any other cable I've seen in patterns for handknits.

Simcha at 7 Months

I would have liked to have had Simcha model my new scarf which reminds me so much of him. Except he's still a wild thing and knitting and yarn are not safe anywhere near him. You'll just have to use your imagination and pretend he's wearing it.

She Plays With Fiber

I don't believe in hiding myself under a barrel. At my age, it's more about expressing my personal style than anything else. I love the drama element this flower adds to my plain black top. Plus I made it myself and therefore I wanted to wear it and (trust me) it looked better pinned to my top than any other conceivable way of wearing it.

I made this flower by following a tutorial I bought on Etsy from Ingermaaike a very talented fiber artist who writes the blog Daily Fiber. Her instructions are wonderfully clear but I've so much to learn about felting that it even resembles a flower I think is a huge achievement! I'm new to the experience of playing with wool tops and roving that the spinners swoon over. Now I get it. The love of playing with fiber. Maybe someday I'll even learn to spin.

Until next time, be well and love well. I know it's hot out there, but it's almost Fall and time to assess what you will be knitting to wear come the cooler days of October!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Maddox the Mischievous Monster and Pancakes!

Thank you all so much for your many suggestions on what toy to knit for Ellen's little boy.  I let Steve make the final selection and he chose Maddox the Mischievous Monster! A big thank you to Hilary (TheYarniad) and Kelly (Celtic Cast On) (both awesome knitters) who came up with this suggestion.

Maddox the Mischievous Monster is well known for small acts of mischief such as hiding socks and jumping out from under the bed and someone is responsible for my chewed up glasses.  Just look at those teeth.  And yet.  There is someone else in this household with big teeth.  Someone with more of a criminal mind.  I don't think we can lay blame for my glasses on Maddox.  Do you?

I was pleased that this was the toy Steve liked best because I wanted to make something fairly substantial in size that could be hugged and lugged about (the little boy is only just turning four next month).  It was also important to me that the toy be tactile in appeal similar to a fuzzy teddy bear.  To achieve that feel I selected a very soft base yarn and stranded it with a mohair yarn and it did come out very soft and fuzzy. 

Oh, before I forget, aren't his eyes great!  They are Suncatcher Craft Eyes in metallic purple (24 mm size) sold at an incredibly reasonable price on-line by ChezMichelle.

Particulars:  Maddox the Mischievous Monster by Danger Crafts; 1 skein (plus a small amount of a second skein) of Rehue Multy by Araucania, colorway No. 10 (baby alpaca 75%, silk 18%, 7% polyamide) stranded with kidsilk aura by Rowan; US 9 needles using both straight and circular.  No modifications except I used a kitchener stitch to BO instead of a 3 needle BO as I think that creates a softer seam.  Dimensions: 10" (height) and 17" (around his middle).

Toys Toys and More Toys

There were so many cute toy ideas either left as a comment or sent to me in a private email that I wanted to make a list for quick reference as a thank you to all of you for being there for me! 

Bunny by Berroco ~ free pattern
Garden Slug by Cheezombie  
Airplane by Patons ~ free pattern
Daphne and Delilah by Danger Crafts
Itty-Bitty Toys by Susan B. Anderson
Knitted Toys by Zoe Mellor
Toys by Fuzzy Mitten
Penelope the Empathetic Monster by Danger Crafts
Nautie by Knitty ~ free pattern
Toys by Twins Knit
Otto by Ysolda
Teddy Bear by Debbie Bliss
Loch Ness Monster by Hansi Singh
Horse by Lion Brand ~ free pattern
Rosemary or Robert Bunny Rabbits by Adrienne Deaville
Bunnies by Mary Jane's Tea Room

The Long Journey Home

Miss Elly (blogged here) and Maddox the Mischievous Monster are getting ready to start their journey to their new home.  I'm sure they will be BFFs ("best friends forever") just like the children who will receive them.  That is actually a prayer I have for these children.  That they will be BFFs forever and ever and ever and never grow apart.

PS the flower attached to Miss Elly is a broach I made with hand painted wool roving.   There will be more about wet felting with wool roving coming up in later posts!

Pancakes Anyone?

Maddox the Monster just loves pancakes for breakfast and, coincidentally, so do I.  So I thought I would send along a recipe for pancakes so he can be fed properly in his new home and I'm going to share the recipe with you too.  This recipe makes thick fluffy pancakes just the way I like them. The recipe came from an old copy of Joy of Cooking (at least I think it did) which is slightly different in the current edition.  Because I like them made this way, I'll share what I believe is an original version of the recipe:

Old Fashioned Pancake Recipe

Sift before measuring 1 1/2 C. All Purpose Flour
Resift the flour with the following:
Scant teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

In a separate bowl combine:
1 slightly beaten eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/4 C. Milk (or slightly more to make batter consistently you like)

Mix liquid ingredients quickly into dry ingredients.  Immediately cook pancakes on hot oiled griddle pan.

Tip:  I like to flip my pancakes prior to all the bubbles bursting as I think it helps fluff up the pancakes to have some of the air bubbles still trapped.  Serve with butter, maple syrup and fresh fruit.

Until next time, be well, love well and why not add a Mischievous Monster to your life?  It's a great excuse to make pancakes!