Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Sweet Tweedy Mitts and Tracy's Princess Cupcakes

There's nothing terribly interesting about these mitts, save for one thing.  I'm oddly compelled to knit them.  Again and again.  I have knit these mitts four (4) times which is surprising because typically I knit a pattern once and then pretty much move on and lose interest in knitting it again.  And yet.  There is something about this pattern paired with these two yarns that renders it a deeply satisfying, soothing and thoroughly enjoyable knitting experience for me.  And the mitts ain't too bad either.

I've always maintained the key critical factor to a successful knit is to match the right yarn to the pattern and these mitts are a perfect example of that axiom.  When you do that you can take a relatively simple pattern and elevate it to something special.  Which is the case with these mitts.  I can't think of a simpler pattern.  Basically it's a tube with no shaping except a thumb hole.  And yet.  There is a brilliance to the design in its very simplicity, functionality and how well these yarns work together. And the brilliance should be no surprise as it's designed by Anne Hanson (Knitspot) who paired it with one of her rustic in-house yarns and a hand painted variegated yarn. And it all works together beautifully.   These aren't fancy "date night" mitts, but they will be well worn and loved, especially on cold morning hikes!    

To be honest I didn't care for the original contrasting color that came with this project (a manly orangy/gold).  And yet.  I loved knitting them and Steve happily swooped them up hot off the needles.  But I knew I had to have my own pair after having tried them on.  So the next pair I knit thinking they would be for me so I chose a pretty contrasting yarn from stash  And yet.  There was something about that pair that I couldn't put my finger on that I didn't like as well.  So I gave them away.  And I might have stopped there but for the fact that the recipient of those mitts loved them so much they requested another pair.  For this pair I bought the same variegated yarn chosen by the designer but in a colorway that appealed to me.  And when I finished that pair I knew that the only yarn to use with this pattern were those that it was designed for.  For my 4th (and definitely not final) pair I switched to a light main color (of the original yarn) paired with a blue variegated color (of the original yarn) and I love love love this pair.  And I'm keeping them.

As I suspect the foregoing might be probably was confusing to read the bottom line is that the designer's choice of yarn is what makes this pattern work so well.  The rustic solid yarn has both strength and memory to provide excellent structure while the variegated yarn knits up in a beautifully tweedy way.  Call me impressed.

Particulars:  Sweet Tweed Mitts, designed by Anne Hanson (Knitspot), US 1 DBN, 1 skein Bare Naked Wools, Stone Soup Fingering (blend of 80% rambouillet, columbia, lincoln, churro; 15% alpaca and llama, 5% combination of tencel, bamboo, silk and bison) ~ colors shown in both River Rock (dark) and Marble (light) paired with 1 skein Lorna's Laces, Shepherd Sock, multi, (colorway Crater Lake ).  I made the medium size with no modifications whatsoever.  I don't recommend substituting yarn in this pattern (as discussed above) but if you do I would only substitute the contracting color.  The main color - stone soup fingering - has great memory, spring, and stitch definition which these mitts need.  It is a rustic yarn that does soften when washed.

To see additional Anne Hanson (Knitspot) projects see Hectare (a cowl) and my gorgeous Longshadows scarf.   

Tracy's Princess Cupcakes ~

This cupcake recipe is shared with permission from Tracy who used to write the blog Pink Purl.  It's no longer available online as Tracy's blog has sadly disappeared into the black hole of the blogoverse.  But fortunately I had an old copy!  It wasn't easy but I tracked Tracy down on Instagram where she now shares her inspiration, recipes and creativity.  She was amused and astonished that I still had a copy of her cupcake recipe and gladly gave me permission to share it!   She is still knitting but is vegan now and shares lots of delicious vegetarian recipes.  I encourage you to follow her (Simple Gifts Pictured) as she'll uplift you and keep you health too.  It always makes me a little sad when think back at all the wonderful blogs that have disappeared.  Once upon a time there was a knitting renaissance fueled by the ascendance of knitting blogs and the bloggers who created a community unto themselves.  A few remain but that community has shattered, fragmented and forever been changed by new platforms, changing times, and changing needs.  But I still remember when

I wanted to share this recipe because it's very easy to make and a quick fix for a cupcake craving.  A simple pleasure in trying times.  I  hope you enjoy them as much as I do.  Without further ado, here's Tracy's recipe:

Princess Cupcakes with Dreamy Cream Frosting

Yield ~ 12  cupcakes

1 112 cups all purpose flour
 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk (see Note 1)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Note 1.  I generally buy buttermilk but recently I read that buttermilk you create with lemon juice and whole milk actually performs better in baking.  Your choice.

Preheat oven to 200 C/400 F.  Line a 12-cup muffin baking pan with paper liners, and set aside.  In large mixing bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Gradually beat in the butter into the flour mixture using an electric mixer.  Beat until you have a mixture that resembles coarse bits of sand.  Gradually beat in the sugar.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Add the vanilla and buttermilk.  Beat until just blended, do not over beat.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffins pan, filling each cupcakes paper 2/3 full.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cupcake tops are slightly golden, and a toothpick test in center of cakes comes out clean.  Cool cakes completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Dreamy Cream Frosting ~ makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes (with plenty left over) or a one 2-layer cake, about 2 cups frosting.

1/3 cups (76g) unsalted butter, softened 
3 1/2 cups confectioner's/icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt
3-4 tablespoons milk
food coloring and decorations, as desired

With an electric mixer, mix together the butter, vanilla and salt until creamy and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the sugar, beating well after each addition.  Mix in enough milk to make the frosting a desirable, spreadable, smooth consistency.  Color frosting and decorate cakes as you wish.

For the cupcakes pictured in this post I skipped the vanilla extract and instead added 2 tablespoons strawberry jam and only used 2 tablespoons milk to achieve the consistency I wished.  I did not add any food coloring but decorated with sprinkles.

This is a knitting blog and I try and stay on topic but I do not exist in a vacuum and I want to address the protests taking place here in the United States.  There are two sides to every issue and certainly there are wonderful police officers just as they are bad actors within every profession, ethnicity, and walk of life.  But to watch the murder of George Floyd cries out for more than past promises of reform.  While abolishing the police is a bridge too far for me there are things that can and have to be done such as creating independent community oversight boards to hear and judge excessive force complaints; appoint private attorney generals to file criminal charges when appropriate; make wearing body cameras mandatory; eliminate choking or choke holds of any type; and fund programs that build bridges between the police and the community they serve.  What I am not in favor of is race being used to divide or define us as a nation.  We are one nation of people under G-d and our strength is from our melting pot culture.  But we have to do a better job at providing education and opportunities for the underprivileged and low income who are primarily of color.  It is unjust and inequitable for generations of families to live in poverty with no path out and a good education is the best way out of poverty.  I have always focused my charitable giving on organizations overseas that provide education and healthcare for children.  But now I see that there is a need here in the United States as well.  I encourage everyone to research and find a charity in the U.S. that speaks to them and this issue.  Let's make George Floyd's murder a permanent reminder that we all have a moral responsibility to speak up against and eliminate inequality wherever we find it. 

Until next time be well, love well and treat others as you would have them treat you. And maybe add a little sweetness to the world while you're at it by sharing some cupcakes or surprising someone with mitts.