Monday, August 22, 2016

A Yankee Doodle Shawl and Simcha Stories

Being a proud American I couldn't resist naming this my Yankee Doodle shawl!  For non-Americans that is a reference to a popular folk song during the American Revolution.  It's the Doodler of course designed by Stephen West.

I'm not sure if anyone else has noticed, but it seems shawls keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Where will it all end, I ask?  When I first began knitting shawls 10 years ago I would buy a single skein of sock yarn, knit a very lacy pattern, block the bejeebers out of it and have a shawl.   But that's old school.  

There has been a seismic change afoot in the designing world that makes it an incredibly exciting and interesting time to be a knitter.  Today's designers use little lace work and it's rare to find a new pattern release that doesn't use at least two skeins of sock yarn and can run anywhere from 800 to 1,000+ yards. This shift to more use of color and materials with less lace work makes for more modern looking shawls. A change that is being noticed even by non-knitters although they don't understand the reason why today's knitting looks different.  Suffice it to say they're nonplussed when they see a project like this.  I recently had a gentleman comment "that's not my grandmother's knitting."  I'm sure he meant it as a compliment although I had a grandmother who knit wonderful cozy slippers and I loved her knitting.  But I understood what he was saying to me.  The shawl looked nothing like what his grandmother would have knit in shape or color.

Leading this charge and redefining what modern knitting looks like is knitwear designer and Instagram phenom Stephen West who designed the Doodler shawl I am wearing and has amassed incredible portfolio of amazing modern designs.  He's not afraid of color and uses the term "shawl" loosely.  I absolutely love his work and although it's only August something to keep in mind is that he has an annual mystery KAL usually in November that you can keep tabs on in his Ravelry group West Knits Fan Club.  

You have to be careful with these multi-colored projects though.  You do after all want to have a shawl that you can wear when all is said and done.  You can pretty much count on a Doodler with a neon green wing span, a black accent color, and a sparkling rainbow trim being a hard shawl to find an outfit for.  So I don't throw in completely with Stephen West on that score who is a big fan of bright color and extreme contrasts. He can pull off that sort of color combination beautifully.  But then he has a unique sense of style. Speaking of his style you need to see his music video Baby You're a Knitter as it will give you a taste of his crazy fun personality.

Particulars: The Doodler Shawl by Stephen West; 3 skeins Hedgehog Fibers Skinny Singles (colorways Urchin, dark truffle and Monarch); US 4 needles.  My project page on Ravelry has some "tips" for conserving the main color yarn as the first color runs very tight and many people ran out during the KAL last year.  I finished with literally a yarn or less of yarn in the main color.  I made no modifications whatsoever although I did not block the shawl aggressively. You can see that I did add the embellishment on the edging and I'm very happy with that decision.  It's a small aspect of the design that adds a nice finishing touch.  Finished blocked dimensions: 47" x 18" (as opposed to the 60" x 24" of the pattern dimensions).  I chose to block to a smaller dimension as I thought I would find a smaller shawl in this pattern easier to wear.

N.B.  There are several things to be aware of when knitting a shawl like this that uses multi-colored yarn/skeins.

1.  You need to check for color fastness before beginning your shawl.  My post on knitting multi-colored shawls gives a few tips on what you should do before casting on; and

2.  You might want to consider how aggressively you block your shawl. Sometimes less is more and in this case I only lightly blocked my doodler (see my finished dimensions above).  My post on the Lunna Voe Shawl discusses creative blocking such as I used here.

Simcha Stories ~

It's been a long time since I've shared a Simcha story.  We still go for our daily hikes but he's no longer the terror he was his first few years so there's not as much fodder to talk about.  He's still an imp though and likely to be to the end of his days.  Part of his personality is a contrariness that runs deep in his spirit.  If you want something from him he will be loath to part with it.  So it happened that we found a ball on our hike and I wanted to throw it for him.  But he didn't want to give it up, even though he loves to chase a ball.  Being the firm disciplinarian that I am I decided to ignore him. I lay back on the grass with my arms outstretch above my head, closed my eyes and enjoyed the warm sun soaking into me.  After a few minutes of pure blissful relaxation I felt a gooey slimy ball being placed very gently into my outstretched hand.  It was time to play ball.

Until next time be well, love well, and have fun picking out your fall and winter projects!  PS I'm very excited about the project up next.  Hint it's the perfect Fall and Winter piece. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Homemade Waffle Cones and Paper Cone Holder Template

It's late summer and hot outside.  Sounds like the perfect time to up your ice cream game!  Have you ever wondered why it is that going out for an ice cream is so much more tasty and fun? It's all about the delicious cones that they serve the ice cream in.   And now it's easy to make these waffle cones at home too.  So forget about the heat and indulge in this tried and true summer treat.

I'm not sure if left to my own devices I would ever have thought to make ice cream cones at home. But Steve my beloved partner in life has a special aptitude for dreaming up ways to take desserts to a new level of decadence.  If I'm eating a brownie he'll suggest it needs a scoop of ice cream or perhaps the cookies I've just baked should be drizzled in chocolate and sprinkled with nuts.  You get the idea. And it was his suggestion that we purchase a waffle cone maker and make ice cream cones at home. My first response was "what?  Are we twelve year olds?"  But I'm game for anything so we bought a waffle cone maker.  Now that I've made a cone or two all I can say is what. a. brilliant. idea!  Because you don't have to be a twelve year old to appreciate the joy of a fabulous ice cream cone.

It is super easy to make the cones and they are every bit as delicious (more so) than the cones that you get at the ice cream shops.  We've also stocked up on sprinkles (Cake Mate are the best), toppings, and a variety of ice cream flavors and, as Steve's cousin drolly remarked, all we lack are customers. Which reminds me that setting up a Sunday bar makes a fun company dessert, especially in the hot summer months.  Trust me everyone will love it.  So without further ado, here's a tasty recipe for Vanilla Waffles Cones: 

Vanilla Waffle Cone Recipe ~

We use WaffleCone Express by Chef's Choice (Model 838/838SE) and couldn't be happier with this product.  The link I provided is to Amazon because that's where I purchased mine not because it's the best price.  I believe this product is carried at numerous places.

Yield 7


2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large organic eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter melted and cooled (approximately 40 seconds in the microwave)
1/4 cup whole milk


1.  Preheat waffle maker according to manufacturer's instructions.  I like to set the color control dial to 3.  Place a thick dishcloth on the counter next to the waffle maker along with the "cone form" (this is tool that you use to shape the cones).

2.  Melt the butter and set aside to cool.  Also sift together the flour and salt and set that aside too.

3.  In a medium size bowl whisk together the eggs, vanilla and sugar until the sugar dissolves.  I use an extra fine baking sugar that dissolves quickly but you should plan on vigorously whisking at least 1 minute.

4.  Add the sifted flour to the egg mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just incorporated.  Then add the milk and melted butter and stir with a wooden spoon again just until incorporated.

5.  When the waffle iron light is green ("ready") spoon 1/4 cup batter onto the middle of the griddle and quickly close the lid.  I cook mine for 1.15 minutes (i.e. 75 seconds).  Lift the lid and using a rubber spatula transfer the cone to the dishcloth and quickly form the cone around the "cone form" provided with your waffle iron and firmly press to seal the cone seam.  The cone is very hot right off the iron and I like to use an extra dishcloth to handle the cone during this process.  Allow the cone to cool in the form while you make the next one.  Makes a total of 7 cones.

Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Waffle Cone Recipe.

We haven't begun making our own ice cream.  Yet.  The ice cream shown in the pictures is mint chocolate chip from Baskin Robbins a flavor that I've loved since I first tasted it as a kid.  If you are feeling adventuresome and want to try making your own ice cream I recommend that you visit Patty Mac Knits for her Butterbeer Ice Cream Recipe and while you are there take a peak at her fun and quick Harry Potter pattern collection.  After all fall is the perfect time to wear school colors whether you are cheering a favorite football team or Hogwart's House!

Paper Cone Holder Template

I decided to include a cone holder tutorial because after eating one or two cones we discovered that the bottoms of the cones can leak and that infringes on the enjoyment of the experience.  I was going to buy some online until I looked at the prices and saw what you got for what you paid and I thought there has to be an easier and more economical solution.  And there is.  All you need are a few simple supplies.

Supply List:

An assortment of colorful scrapbooking paper (I buy mine at Michael's Craft Stores).
Razor knife or pair of scissors
Tape - clear gloss looks best
Paper Cone Holder Template (free download)


Trace the Paper Cone Holder Template onto your scrapbooking paper using either a a razor knife or ink pen and cut along the edges.  Shape into a cone and tape the side seam.  I like to add extra tape around the bottom to ensure a no drip cone holder.

It is that simple!  These are fun to make and work beautifully at holding your cone.

Until next time be well, love well, and don't fight the heat this summer, instead embrace it as the perfect ice cream weather ~