Saturday, December 19, 2015

Wisp of Smoke Cowl and Nantucket Cranberry Tart

I always like a little bling at the holidays.  It's the one time of year when it's actually okay to over dress and pull out the black strappy shoes, flashy jewelry, and dark red lipstick topped off with sparkly lip gloss. What's not to like about that!  Each year I knit something special for the holidays and this year it's an opulent silk cowl with pre-strung glass beads that positively oozes sparkly bling. It's a piece that really has to be seen and touched to be appreciated though, otherwise it may appear more low key than my past Christmas projects.  Of course you haven't seen me wearing it with my fishnet stockings either.  That gives it a whole different vibe.

I really love the added dimension that beads add to a project and if you haven't added beads yet you should give it a try.  I've knit projects both with using yarn pre-strung with beads and projects where I've added the beads as I knit along.  Each method gives a very different effect.  I would say the pre-strung beads have a more random effect and depending on the number of beads can almost result in a sequin effect.  Whereas adding beads as you knit has a more structured appearance because the beads are generally placed at regular intervals in the pattern. Unfortunately these days it's harder to find pre-strung beaded yarn but Artyarns (founded and manufactured in the US by Iris Schreier in 2002) is one of the remaining companies that sells pre-strung beaded yarn and even has some yarns with sequins.  Their website has some gorgeous designs and I just might have to knit the Glitter Wave Top.  On the other hand there are tons of bead stores everywhere and they are very easy and inexpensive to add to a project.  In January I'll be joining the Donna Druchunas KAL to knit a small Estonian shawl that has beads added along the edging (Sunshine and Tea Shawlette with kits available on Etsy) and I think this would be a fun introduction to adding beads for those interested.

Particulars: Wisps of Smoke Ring designed by Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer (Heartstrings Fiber Arts); US 7 needles (knit in the round); 2 skeins Tilli Tomas Plie natural plied silk (50g/140yds per skein) and 1 skein Tilli Tomas Rock Star (natural spun silk) with glass beads 100g/150 yrds.  Unfortunately Tilli Tomas is no longer in business.  Finished blocked dimensions: 17 inches in length with a width of 12" across the top and 16" across the bottom.  Projects I've knit with beads (individually added) include: Soul hatTriesete Shawl; and Netsuke Wrap projects using pre-strung beads include: La Dolce Vita gloves; Handspun Scarf; and Romantic Beaded Scarf.

Nantucket Cranberry Tart Recipe ~

My sister Lynne has a very busy social life and is always taking desserts to gatherings at her church, school (she's a teacher) or other get togethers with girlfriends and, as a result, has a number fail safe recipes and this Nantucket Tart is one of those recipes.   If you have ever been asked to bring a dessert you know how nerve racking it can be to come up with a recipe that you think will appeal to people and yet is simple enough to execute without mishap.  But stress no more.  This is the recipe for you and perfect for this time of year when fresh cranberries are available and there are lots of family and social gatherings. You'll also want to freeze some cranberries so you'll have this as an option any time of year.   It's very easy to make, delicious, a little different and almost impossible to ruin (she's actually taken it under-cooked and had the entire tart eaten and complimented).  So without further ado here's my sister's Nantucket Tart Recipe ~


2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup (scant) sugar (you can use just regular white granular sugar or mix in a bit of white sparkling (course) sugar which adds a nice crunch)
1/2 cup (generous) finely chopped pecans (or walnuts which is what my sister uses)
2 eggs
3/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup heaping white granular sugar (you can use up to 1 cup which is what my sister uses)
1 cup all purpose flour


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter a  pie or cake pan that is preferably 10" but even a smaller 9" size will work.  I used a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom for my tart pictured above.

2.  Evenly sprinkle cranberries, 1/2 cup sugar and chopped nuts into the base of your pie or pan.  Set aside.

3.  Prepare dough as follows:  whisk eggs, 3/4 cup (heaping) white granular sugar, and flour in a medium sized bowl. Using a dough whisk or wooden spoon incorporate the melted butter until a smooth and fairly thick batter forms.

4.  Pour batter evenly over the cranberries/sugar/nuts.  If you use a smaller (9") pan you should use less of each the cranberries and batter.  I like the look of the cranberries showing through on top so I only add enough batter to just cover them.  There is no rising agent in the batter so you can easily gauge the depth of the tart and how much you wish to fill your pan.

5.  Bake at 350 degrees 45 minutes if using fresh cranberries and up to 60+ minutes if using frozen.

6.  Serve directly from the pie or cake pan or cut into slices and remove onto a serving tray as I did. You can also (while the tart is still warm) turn out onto a plate for an upside down cranberry cake which is very festive with the cranberries on top.  Optional is to add powdered sugar on top with a scoop of ice cream for a fancy dessert.


Until next time be well, love well, and have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Steve, Simcha and Claudia.

Our tired little Santa.  Too much eggnog and dancing to Baby It's Cold Outside.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fair Isle Scarf and the Dark Side of Ravelry Forums

I am wearing my Osebury Rock Scarf which is the fifth installment of Ysolda's 2015 shawl club and as you can see it's all about celebrating gorgeous autumnal color.  While I generally think of fall leaves when I think of autumn color, it was mounds of hot roasted root vegetables that gave Ysolda the inspiration for the colors in this scarf.  Knowing this you can see the colors of sweet potatoes, yams, beets, and parsnips that inspired this scarf (apparently Ysolda has a fondness for roasted root vegetables).  It makes for a very yummy scarf, no?

This is of course a fair isle project and maybe I've been sleeping during the resurgence of  fair isle (colorwork) knitting but it's only this past year that I've noticed that it seems to have taken designers by storm.  But these patterns have a decidedly more modern flare than the designs I grew up knitting. It's colorwork for a new generation of knitters and is adding bright splashes of color to everything from hats to scarfs and everything in between.  My last fair isle project was a very traditional design by Alice Starmore and that hebe hat post has more technical information and resources about this style of knitting if you are interested.

Instead of getting technical I want to talk about the importance of not sweating the details in knitting and how best to adjust when something does not go according to plan.  Because with knitting there are always variables and things that can go wrong. And it's okay to make adjustments, live with mistakes, or deliberately make changes, but you must always be aware of how those changes affect the overall finished design.

Speaking of which in this case I did not check my gauge (which I often fail to do with scarfs and shawls) and before too long it became clear that I would run out of the neutral colored yarn long before I finished the scarf.  So I compensated for this by substituting a similar shade of neutral colored yarn from stash into the middle of the scarf and holding back enough of the original neutral colored yarn so that my bind off border/edging would match the yarn used for the beginning cast on border/edging. This way the symmetry of the design was preserved and the substituted yarn looks like it is part of the overall design.    

The best way to keep track of whether you are using too much yarn in sufficient time to take corrective action is by weighing your yarn and estimating the yardage you have used and/or remaining. If you don't already have a digital kitchen scale I highly recommend you get one.  Not only is it an essential knitting tool there are many recipes online that use weight versus volume. Getting into the habit of weighing your yarn is the best way to detect a yardage problem in time to make an adjustment so that your finished project will reflect your personal taste and decisions rather than looking like you simply knit until you ran out of yarn.

Particulars:  Osebury Rock (Ysolda's 2015 Shawl Club); US 7 needles; 1 gradient set of EasyKnits yarn in Squidge colorway Osebury Rock.  Post blocking measurements: 11" x 54" (exclusive of fringe). Additional projects from Ysolda's 2015 Shawl Club are: Malton Oolite ScarfStac ShoaighCaer Idris; and Cockern Tor.  I should mention that for those that ran out of yarn Ysolda provided additional yarn at no additional cost.  A class act all around.

It's a Jungle Out There ~

Life is not always a walk in the park, and sometimes you don't even recognize the danger until it's far far too late.  I had that graphically illustrated to me this past week on something as seemingly harmless as the Ravelry knitting forums where you might (as least I did) have the expectation of civility and camaraderie.  Which is anything but the case.  So learn from my experience and have a care if you venture onto the forums because not all is as it should be there.

Not everyone will heed my warning and so, if you are like me, and don't have a social media crisis control consultant on retainer here are my two rules to follow when you unwittingly find yourself wading in shark infested forum waters.

Rule No 1:  Any idea to enlighten others or diffuse a situation that suddenly occurs to you whilst in the midst of a social media crisis is, by definition, a bad idea.

Rule No 2:  Before posting anything whist in the midst of a social media crisis, consult Rule No 1.

Kidding aside, I had become careless and forgotten that just like any forum Ravelry has its share of cyber bullies and those maliciously intended.  And yet, truthfully I'm glad I had this experience (not that I enjoyed it) because it forced me to evaluate how I spend my time online.  Like all of us I have limited time and should use that precious time wisely and that means using social media forums sparingly.  Time should be spent really living by being present with those that you love, enjoying nature, reading, learning, being creative and celebrating that which you enjoy and anchors you in this world. These are the things that create lasting memories, happiness, and a full and rich life well lived. Thank you for the reminder.

Until next time, be well, love well and enjoy this holiday season sharing, spending time with, and celebrating with those you love.