Saturday, December 31, 2011

Holiday Baking in Retrospect (fiber free post)

Well,  once the rush of holiday knitting ended, the holiday baking began.  I try never to bake as I eat too much, but with two sons in the house, one must cave at least at the holidays.  My family has several somewhat traditional cookie recipes, but I decided to go another way this year.  

I have always wanted to try to bake Danish pastry.  I located a recipe in my favorite baking book, which by the way is Prairie Home Breads by Judith Fertig.

As a warmup, however, I made stollen for Christmas morning.  I use my Grandmother's recipe, which she got from a friend in Vermont long ago.  I made three, one for me and the boys, one for my folks, one for my sister and her family.  I like using a baking pan so that the slices are not too long and narrow.

Next, some Lucia Buns for Christmas dinner.  Not the traditional date for these buns, however my sons asked for them.  Sometimes they show up at Thanksgiving dinner as well; they are  pictured here from last year.  I cheat; I don't do individual shapes, I just roll them into a rough ball and put in the baker a la monkey bread.  This recipe is also from Prairie Home Breads.

OK, then on to the Danish.  I learned from Ms. Fertig's book that Danish pastries can be made in to all different shapes.  This would be my cookie dough.  I can be a bit sloppy at times,  so I tried hard to follow the recipe to the letter.  Prepared dough (used the Kitchenaid) 

and chilled and rolled out butter.  Layered dough and butter, refridgerating a few minutes in between folding and rolling out.  Really, not terribly difficult.  I did not get perfect layers, but the end result did not seem to suffer.

Then, once all folds done, refridgerate overnight.  Now, here was my learning aha moment...I thought that yeast did not actively work when dough was cold.  WRONG!  Here we are out of the fridge the next morning (compare above and below): 

 Next, the fun begins.  Divide the dough and refridgerate parts not being worked with.  I made a filling, an almond paste from the book.  Roll dough out flat, spread filling, rolly jelly roll style

Slice, allow a little rising time and bake:

For the next batch, I went with something easier but a little Scandinavian, some Swedish Lingonberry jam

These pictured below are before baking.  The jam was slippery and I used my new trick to refridgerate the roll before slicing. 

Their final appearance was not perfect, but quite delicious.

Next year, I will bother to hand-form the Lucia Bun S shape, but I will use the refriderator trick to work the dough more easily!

So, New Year's celebration is easier:  make olive tapenade hors d'oeuvres with pre made pizza dough, take to sister's and eat steamed oysters. 

Happy New Year!


Monday, December 19, 2011

More Holiday Knitting

Not much time to be clever, if I ever am...another FO for a little one for christmas

the pattern is from here; free from Red Heart

Happy Merry!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holiday Knitting 2011 part IV

In desperate finish mode for holiday gifts so this will be short;  here are some gift FO's

a bear and a sweater

 (apparently American Girl Doll clothes fit 18" bears)

Wish they could talk back...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Vintage Knitting: Socks for Soldiers: Articles and an FO

The New York Times offers PDF's of some interesting old articles on sock knitting for soldiers.

Here are two links from the Times in 1914:  the link will open in to a downloadable PDF of the original articles!

Mrs. DeLancey Nicoll's instructions on "How to Knit Socks for Soldiers"  Apparently, Mrs. Nicoll interviewed a woman from the Red Cross who stated: "The trouble with American women is that so few of them know how to knit socks. Practically only the foreign-born women know how."

And finally, from 1917, a general article including socks:

The Times has some other fascinating articles both old and new on knitting. Go to and search, although you'll want to specify a little in your search  e.g., "knitting socks."

In the meantime, my authentic Civil War socks are completed

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holiday Knitting III

You may, my dear readers, think that I have more UFO's than FO's.  I actually have more UFO's than FO's in the last two years.  But yeah, I indulge in startitis.

Upon visiting my LYS in Hilton Head, I discovered some colorchanging Crack Kidsilk Haze and decided that the college roommate/long time friend needed something knit from it, for Christmas.  I decided on Wisp.   

The colors don't come across very well, but are done  by Kaffe Fassett.   The intended recipient and I went to hear him speak years ago so there's a little synergy there.

There is a reason that we joke about Crack Silk Haze, to wit:

Sami with crack silk haze, better than catnip, although perhaps a bit more soporific.

Here's Fiona, reclining on a knit pillow (one reason I love her is that she matches all my furniture...)

I adopted a new cat today;  it's owner passed away.  He is sequestered in the spare bedroom.  I locked him in so that the girls wouldn't pester him.  Pictures to follow, once he stops hissing at me and comes out from under the bed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Holiday Knitting II

OK, so, I am working on a birthing for a Santa. Specifically, Gail Budd's Knit Father Christmas. Here we are so far. He is a breech baby; feet first!

He will be for a little neice and nephew for Christmas. This is a fun pattern.  Stuff as you go.

I am using Paton's classic wool from Michael's.  I really like it for this project, although it'll be hand wash.  There is no good skin tone, so I am hoping for the best with a length of the aran color (used for the "fur" trim, above) and a warm potfull of teabags:

I have had the yarn for this fellow since last Christmas, after the pattern attracted my attention. Here's the link; it's a freebie.

I am also interested in knitting this Theodora, a pattern by Helene.  

Theodora has her own travel blog! Another holiday concept:   do Theodora's traditional Icelandic costume in white, and turn her in to a St. Lucia doll.  Do check out the Theodoras on Ravelry and the lovely variations...

All this thought about dolls has put me in mind of teddy bears. Once upon a time I had a yard sale. I was  trying to seriously downsize and sold some 16" Boyds Bears, with little sweaters that I had knit for them, I had purchased patterns by Judith Shangold, some of which are available here. I really wish I still had the bears and their outfits. 

Do I need to own replacement teddy bears NOW? NO. Do I need to own a stuffed sheep with a hand knit sweater? Gosh, that's harder. How about a Boyds rabbit to grace the Easter dinner table? Heck, harder still...

So the new rule is: I can buy them but must give away to neice and nephew. MUST. GIVE. AWAY. With of course hand knit garments...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Civil War Sock Knitters

I recently listened to an interesting podcast from public radio.  Walter Edgar is a professor of history at the University of South Carolina and  he has a public radio program on all topics South Carolina.  

We all recall Mary Chesnut from Ken Burns' Civil War series on PBS from 1990, right?  And Mary's diaries were often quoted;  Julie Harris read the quotes.  Mary was a South Carolina blue blood. She was the wife of General James Chesnut, an  aide to Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Several different annotated versions of her diaries are available at AmazonHere is a nice synopsis of Mary's life and writings from Elisabeth Showalter Muhlenfeld, her biographer.  Dr. Muhlenfeld also edited and published two of Mary's unfinished novels.

On the particular podcast I listened to, Dr. Edgar (we treat him with great reverence down here) was interviewing Julia A. Stern, author of Mary Chesnut's Civil War Epic.  She is a scholar from Northwestern University who has published a book, which considers Mary's so-called diary to be more of a nonfictional epic.  This she helped to realize by examining earlier less simplified versions of Mary's complex work, and delving in to its details.

To add to my interest, in a more recent podcast, Dr. Edgar interviewed a descendent of Mary Chesnut, Martha Daniels.  Apparently Mary had a vast collection of photographs.  At some point, the photographs were separated from her diaries. Amazingly, the photographs were located (on ebay!!) and purchased by Martha's family.  The description in the podcast of Martha's Grandmother recognizing unlabelled individuals in the photos brought tears to my eyes.  The photographic collection is donated to the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina, and a new edition of the diaries combined with the photographic images will soon be published.

Here is the SCETV link to Walter Edgar's Journal Podcast;  scroll down and you can listen to these two podcasts, or locate them on itunes!

Well and yes, of course, Mary was a sock knitter.   The more I read about knitting, the more I realize that small garments:  hats, mittens, and socks are the items often knitted through history, as larger garments are perhaps more easily made of woven fabric. Marys quote: " I do not know when I have seen a woman without knitting in her hand. 'Socks for the soldiers' is the cry."

Here is a link for an authentic pair of Civil War socks, suitable nowadays for reinactors!  More discussion is here.  I am trying this pattern using some Guernsey wool that I have had in stash for waaaaay too long;  see the photo, above, of the one I am working on.  I will avoid second sock syndrome as it is a holiday gift!  My gauge is a little larger than that called for.

Yahoo's Civil War Needleworker's Group has a collection of sock patterns as well, but you must be a group member to join (that's easy, however).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Vintage Knitting FO: Grandma Helen's Knitted Scarf,

 I enjoy a rousing bonnet drama and am so glad to have streaming Netflix.  Recently I learned about Elizabeth Gaskell when I watched Wives and Daughters and North and South.  For me, North and South was quite interesting in viewing the scenes in the Victorian England's cotton mills.  Imagine the lung disease with the little cotton fibers flying...apparently, the middle class who grew rich owning the mills was frowned upon by the elite.

I am listening to an audiobook of another of Gaskell's novels, CranfordGaskell's writing is gentle and readable. It's quite delightful,  full of points on material culture, scrimping on paper and candle use, on the part of the firmly middle class who have lost their fortunes.  Lots of mentions of knitting, crocheting, new knitting stitches, and obtaining wool yarn from that wild and uncivilized place in Scotland, Shetland.

Speaking of vintage knitting, I finished Grandma Helen's Scarf

The pattern is available for free;  check on the "Free Patterns" link at the right.  It would make a quick holiday gift knit. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hat, accomplished

I finished a hat last week for son R. It's from Malabrigo, the yarn is called Rios. This is my first project in Malabrigo and I can report that it is soft and springy and a delight to knit; the ladies at Yarn Paradise in Asheville (purchased this summer) reported that it is machine washable (?).

 The pattern is highly adapted from Robin Russo's Earflap hat in Interweave Knit and Spin, 2011.

Do you know this recording about Malabrigo? I first heard it on Brenda's Cast-On and I'm passing it on from there..."taste the rainbow now..."  synesthesia, yeah

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Weekend in Tallahassee

I was lucky to go to Tallahassee last weekend.  Lots of time for knitting, reading, and some computer work.

I took myself on a little yarn crawl, to Really Knit Stuff, which is in a little community of artsy places.  For a minute as I drove in I thought I was in old Christiania in Copenhagen!  

They had a nice selection;  I got some sock blanks for dying.  Very clever to have 2 strands to dye so that both socks turn out the same! Not quite sure how I am going to use this...well, or really, how to dye it...

Then on to Wooly Bully.

Ate some excellent Thai and Indian food this weekend.

On our way out, drove out thru Miccosukee Road in to the country

We don't have "canopy road" signs like this in SC but we need them; we have lots of roads with lovely live oaks

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Heirloom Lace (the paint)

Oops, sorry if I've lured you here under false pretexts...someone I know is painting walls and discovered that the best for a dark hallway is called...yes..."heirloom lace."  Must be a woman working for Olympic Paints, could a guy have come up with this name??

It's on a sample board for color testing in situ...

Can't tell from the photo but it's a warm white with a yellow cast to it;  a little like a natural sheep's wool spun in to lace for this

or this

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Old Shale Lace Shawl

 As I see it, there are four or so possibilities:

1) A traditional shawl pattern in a traditional yarn  ( a single breed yarn that is traditionally used with that pattern)
2) A traditional shawl pattern in a nontraditional yarn
3) A nontraditional shawl pattern in a nontraditional yarn 
4) A nontraditional shawl in a  classic single breed yarn (as might have been used in 1).

I suspect that my latest FO is an example of 2).  It's Evelyn A. Clark's Old Shale Lace Shawl, also at her website here.  We know that this is a "half hap" and that the traditional version is a (normal) hap shawl, a square with the old shale lace around the border.  While the wool (Shetland) is traditional, the dying is not, which is why I'm thinkin' this is a nontraditional yarn.  You can help me out here, I'm getting confused...

It is my handspun, about 16 wpi, made from a Shetland wool bumps from The Wool Shed in Orkney, Scotland, purchased in 2009. It's pretty scratchy but very lovely, Pam Murray was the dyer.  You know, just because the wool bump is soft doesn't mean the yarn will be.  But heck, I LOVE Pam's colors and its just the right size for over a jacket, either frontwards or backwards.

At the border I pulled out the points a bit to emphasize the pattern.  As I was blocking it, I kept thinking how enticing the old shale is, (the changing color does it justice) kind of the way the ocean is enticing...

Once again, thanks Evelyn and Sharon Miller

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Baby Gift

Someone in my family had a baby boy last week.  I was smart and started a blankie last summer.  I confess, it's another opportunity for a not-natural fiber.  Young parents don't have time to hand wash and line dry, sorry EZ.  No, it won't be terribly warm...but it's cute and will be warm-ish.   I just finished it last night.  It's all Bernat from Walmart.  

Basic directions:  cast on 3 stitches, work in garter, increase one stitch at beginning of each row, work till yarn is half used up, decrease one stitch at beginning of each row. Bind off last 3 stitches.  This is another loose hap shawl square variant.

There is crocheting involved:  With a crochet hook, with single crochet, pickup  2 stitches in each in between row (ie between the garter bumps).  Please don't ask me how to express that better in crochet lingo, I just don't know.  Go round the whole edge.  On the next row, to make picot edge, sc in 2 stitches, then double crochet x3 in every 3rd stitch/loop.  Contact me if you really wanna do this!  It makes a nice little slightly frilly edge.

OK, gotta get this in the mail soon, to Ohio, for a little baby boy.  It's very exciting to see one's neices and nephews have babies.  Uh oh, guess this means I'm a great aunt or something similar??

In other news, isn't the muted late afternoon autumn light lovely?  

I don't think kitties care, they just want to act like they really have an opportunity to hunt at the feeder visitors...

An azalea I planted is blooming, sometimes they bloom twice a year...

And, in the garden, lettuce, cukes, and broccoli are starting to sprout on the right side of this photo...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Holiday Knitting Begun

I think that part of the discipline of being a lace knitter is being able to put it down to work on something else that perhaps you don't want to work on quite as much.  I find that difficult.  To wit:  holiday gifts. 

I'm not really in the mood this year for holiday knitting, usually it's full steam ahead...but I was good last week and started two items

a pair of socks (two views)

 and a hat (more gray than purple in real life)

I do like starting things, even if they're not lace.

I still have globe basil in the garden and happily stumbled on this recipe for bread machine focaccia with basil.  Why it's in the Southern food section at I haven't a clue.  It was very well received by all.  I used fresh basil in the bread, and before baking it gently spread some marinara sauce and grated parmesan on top. It didn't last long!

Monday, September 12, 2011

This was difficult?

I can be a lazy person.  A good example of something I'm lazy at is replacing my spinning wheel drive band.  OK, I'll make a confession, when it broke 6 months ago, I just retied it tighter and adjusted the wheel to accomodate.  How dopey is that?  So, when it started fraying again, and the little screw thingy under the mother-of-all started pushing in to the wood on the base, I decided it was time to wake up.  Actually, what really helped me to wake up was this article in KnittySpin which was I stumbled on at the right time.

Turns out, the operation was pretty simple.  Thank you, Lee.

I purchased some kitchen cotton at Michael's, appropriate for my single drive Ashford Traditional, put the mother-of-all at the neutral point, slid the yarn through my favorite whorl (reminding me of my favorite road bike gear), snugged it up, cut, and tied.  OK to leave the knot showing, per Lee.

I found something cool in my searching today, an antique rocker made out of spinning wheel parts, check this out:

sorry, it's sold.

On the wheel:  more Shetland for a chunky version of the Shetland Tea Shawl,
yeah, I'm as spin as I knit kinda person...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Vermont Roots

My family has roots in Vermont.  The devastation from Hurricane Irene hit close to a house which was in my family since the 1880's, in Northfield Falls. (I no longer have family living there).  I tried to find some photos of the front of our former home on Route 12, but can't quickly, time is of the essence, as you'll read below!

There are three covered bridges over Cox Brook in Northfield Falls.  

 Wikipedia conveniently has an entry about one of the bridges, photo above.

 Here is a youtube video of one of the bridges as I recall walking through many times as a child, an adult, and a parent with my boys

I swam in the cold, clear Cox Brook as a child.  Boy, was it ever cold!

And here, a youtube video of the raging Cox Brook during Irene

Here is a press release on the damage to one of the  bridges, I think the third and last bridge on this dirt road to Moretown, Vermont.

As a younger woman living in the Northeast, I would often drive up to visit my Grandma Helen (the one who taught me how to knit) in "the Falls".  I would often stop at Green Mountain Spinnery, conveniently located at exit 4 off I-89, in Putney.

The Spinnery is donating profits on sales from now until September 11th to Vermonters who have suffered from being in Irene's path.  Paula of Knitting Pipeline mentioned that she had gotten some Simply Fine from the Spinnery, and she had nice things to say about it.  So, I decided to get some, in the natural dark.  I love my colors, but am beginning to be drawn to naturals.  And I do love a mohair blend for some lace!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Flashback: my 70's blue jeans

Between my junior and senior years in college, I went to southern France in the summer to live with a family and, ostensibly, study.  I took a pair of jeans.  I don't recall spending too much time studying.  The foreign language "immersion" concept didn't work at all well on me. 

While there, I remember reading Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain. And Village in the Vaucluse (that was much more interesting, and it's also still in print). I recall sitting in a park and inhaling the lavender.  I recall watching the best fireworks I've ever seen on Bastille Day  at the Pont d'Avignon. (Made me feel a little better about missing the Fourth of July). I recall wearing shorts one day and a woman gasped when she saw me. I then spent most of my time in either skirts or my jeans.

I must've been wearing a skirt as I was embroidering the jeans.  I lived with a family in Avignon, in walking distance of the downtown.  (I recall the Mom of the family did hand sewing for clothing made of that lovely traditional Provencal print fabric; I watched her hand sew a skirt zipper in with incredible tiny, perfect, fast stitches.) I went downtown and found embroidery floss, not like the mercerized Coats and Clark, no shine.

I wore the h---  out of them both there and when I got home.    Last week, in an effort to clean out some stuff,  found them.

Note the lavender on the right rear pocket.

"Coquelicots" is French for "poppies."

On the subject of plants, that really nice guy who I know cleaned out and dug up my garden yesterday.  We left the eggplant, basil, zinneas and bee balm. (The eggplant are the white teardrop shaped things). Today we consulted Clemson for the South Carolina fall planting guide.  I planted broccoli, lettuce, cucumber seeds, and some onions.  It's getting cooler here...ah, end of summer in South Carolina...planting season.