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. 


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.


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!