Tuesday, November 27, 2007

mmm pie

I would like to posit that pie is the finest culinary creation ever known to man. Sweet pies are an American classic; apple is my favorite. But it is savory pies that have the power to make something you're thoroughly sick of into dinner delight. Pot pies are, therefore, a natural after Thanksgiving, but I've also done them with leftover beef stew to revive that last sad quart languishing at the bottom of the pot.

And homemade crust is what makes it most splendid. My usual crust recipe involves 3 cups of AP flour, 1 cup of butter (if you're brave, do like my Grandma and go half lard) and about 1/2 tsp kosher salt. I like my crust salty. For the love of mike, don't bother with shortening. It doesn't taste good, will kill you even quicker, and is harder to work with. And ooooh, nothing browns like butter. If you're cheap, just buy butter when it goes on sale and freeze it, then turn it into pies.

Also, don't kill yourself trying to make the most perfect, incredibly short (dry) crust for the most lovely flakes and crumbs. I've been experimenting with using the food processor to blend my dough, but I still add up to 1/2 cup water. Once I have it blended the way I like, i dump it into a zip bag, seal, and mangle it together to make it more consistent. Then, i press it together and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour. Roll between floured parchment paper, cut-open bread bags, or something else clever of your own devising. You'll thank me.

A final word on pies: the pecan pie beret is underway with pleasing results. I might make it a bit shallower than designed, but haven't decided yet. The pattern notes look intimidating, but brioche stitch is not very difficult at all. Don't get worked up over what looks like a very complicated way to decrease; there are only two decrease rounds, so it's over fast. I'm using Kureyon #147 and Valley Yarns Berkshire in navy on US 4 needles.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Today, progress on my mom's socks continues, and nervousness about my kittens' operations and Thanksgiving guests looms, but it's snowing! Real snow, and it's almost covering the grass. I'll save the tidying for this afternoon, when it's less beautiful.

Monday, November 19, 2007

contrast in colorwork

When it comes to color schemes, I have a weakness. I'm really partial to monochromatic and analogous color schemes, that is shades of one color or colors adjacent on the color wheel. This can look really great in stripes, but presents problems with smaller patterns like fair-isle motifs. I was planning to use these two yarns for my sister's Center Square hat.

However, when I started making the hat, it was almost impossible to tell the MC and CC apart. My brother's girlfriend described the look as "noise" rather than a discernible pattern. This is not really the point of colorwork, now is it?

The solution: contrast. I hit on it this summer when I paired a blue and white variegated yarn with another blue yarn for my first attempt at the Mad for Fair Isle Batik Style socks. It looked good from a viewing distance of a few centimeters, but you couldn't even see the pattern any further back. Then, I switched my main color from blue and white to a pink and orange variegated.

Ta da! The contrast makes the pattern visible. Or would, if my picture was bigger. (Trust me, they look great) A quick perusal of my Ravelry page shows me that all of my surviving color patterns (except one) have really bold internal contrast. Of course, don't follow any rule off a cliff. (It would happen that I can't find the example I was looking for. poot) Anyway, I hope that articulating this rule will help me follow it better in the future. Less frogging that way.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

yarr! pirates!

The pirate hat is done and I'm ready to make some progress on other holiday knitting. My mom's socks are still stagnant, and my husband's scarf has yet to begin, but I'm feeling eager to start on a hat for my sister. I'm glad to have a jump on the presents this year, but one anxiety remains: when the new Knitty comes out in December, what if I love the new patterns?! Something that seems perfect now may pale in comparison. I guess I'll probably be the only one to know, but that would do little to console me.

Pirate hat details. Pattern: We Call Them Pirates by Adrian Bizilla. Yarn: more Knit Picks' Merino Style for body, Frog Tree Alpaca Sport for lining Needles: US 3 for body, US 2 for lining. Right now it's blocking happily to a smoother finish than shown in the picture.

I really like the Frog Tree Alpaca Sport yarn. Now, I've always liked alpaca yarns, but this one has some really good qualities. It boasts a handsome, simple two-ply construction; it makes me think of spindle spinning. The yarn has a little loft, but doesn't shed too much. (I'm not finding scarlet alpaca fibers all over the house) It's silky and soft, unlike some alpaca yarns which seem soft in your hand but scratchy on your neck. Bear in mind that it has the limitations of alpaca, i.e. it is nowhere near as springy as wool, it will be very warm (mostly an advantage, in my opinion). The label was a little perplexing, though, suggesting that it be knit on US size 6 needles. This would make a very open fabric, judging from the results I got with US 2s.

Up next: my sister's hat, using this lovely Valley Yarns' hand-dyed Berkshire. I'll be using the same yarn in solid fuchsia as the main color.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

jon's xmas mittens

I'm pleased to be finished with my brother's christmas mittens. This picture was taken before blocking, and they expanded a little bit after the wash. Details are as follows:
pattern: Pirate Mittens by Adrian Bizilla
yarn: Knit Picks' Merino Style in coal and vanilla
needles: US 2 for cuff, US 5 for the rest
mods: larger yarn and needle size, to fit my brother's massive "crushers;" knitted his name on the right one instead of the year.

I really like this pattern! I've already started on version 2.0 of the hat, to make a matching set. I'm also still working on socks for my mom... well, not working very diligently. This is not going to be a joyful project, no matter what I do. I've also decided to make a zeebee for my stepdad much like the one for my dad, in a different stashed colorway of the same yarn. My sister will probably get a center square hat in Valley Yarns' Berkshire. I love that yarn, such a great value! I was happy to find some Laines du Nord Baby Star in a subdued navy to make a Henry scarf for my husband. This will definitely be the ambitious project of the season.

Finally, I would like to brag a little bit with a picture of my newest cousin in his BSJ. How cute!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

mom's christmas socks (finally)

I'm only about 6 inches into the first sock, but even that gives me a sense of relief. I spent days trying to work out which pattern to use, casting on and frogging in wretched defeat. I started with the simple yet cute Charade socks. I wasn't enjoying the twisted ribbing, which doomed the sock. Then, I began the lovely, cabled Naïve socks. These were going well until I started to bring the small cables together into the larger ones that make up most of the sock, but my yarn was not really showing off the small cables to best advantage. Onward, I thought, to the Sprung Socks. Pretty, yet restrained, I thought. I quickly got sick of working the plain foot in the toe-up construction.

Sunk deep in sock-induced ennui, a magical email arrived. My library request for Interweave Knits' Favorite Socks was unexpectedly filled, giving me a chance to try Jennifer Appleby's Uptown Boot Socks, which I first saw on Grumperina's blog. Yes, these are cabled, but it's an allover cable pattern that twists only in one direction. Very easy. Also, the classic construction won't present too much of a challenge while holiday deadlines are looming. I'm actively working on some other gift projects right now too. I'll get to those later.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

pattern: rather fetching mitts

So here's what I did to make my "rather fetching mitts." You should know that this is a remix of Fetching by Cheryl Niamath. I make no claims to that pattern or its ideas; I just wanted to keep my hands warm.

1. Instead of working 3 repeats of the cable pattern at the wrist I worked four.
2. After working the EZ "thumb trick," I continued in 4x1 rib until, when tried on, the length of the mitten just covered my little finger. (warning: my little finger is much shorter than my ring finger, you might want to adjust a bit)
3. I decreased the top as follows:
*k1, k2tog, k1, p1, k4, p1, repeat from * 3 times. k1, k2tog, k1, p1.
work one round in pattern as established.
*k3, p1, k1, k2tog, k1, p1, repeat from * 3 times. k3, p1.
work one round in pattern as established
*k1, k2tog, p1, k3, p1, repeat from * 3 times. k1, k2tog, p1.
*k2, p1, k1, k2tog, p1, repeat from * 3 times. k2, p1.
work one round in pattern as established.
*k2tog, p1, k2, p1, repeat from * 3 times. k2tog, p1.
*k1, p1, k2tog, p1, repeat from * 3 times. k1, p1.
work one round in pattern as established.
k2 tog around.
cut yarn, leaving 6 inch tail, using yarn needle, pass through all stitches, fasten off using your preferred method.
4. Thumb: unravel the scrap yarn and pick up seven stitches on the top and bottom of the resultant opening. I also picked up an extra stitch on one side to make 15 sts total, then distributed them on 3 needles and worked to about the end of my thumb. I then decreased by k2tog, k1 around, then one plain round, then k2tog around. fasten off as above.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

rather fetching mitts

Last year I got an awesome light-weight wool coat from overstock.com. I made a coordinating hat for it from Valley Yarns' Berkshire using the Flowers on a Grave pattern from ¡TheAnticraft! I was pretty happy until I (inevitably) lost one of my black leather gloves, but with lots of gift knitting occupying my roster, I toughed out my cold hands until spring. Yesterday, the remnants of hurricane blew through the eastern part of the state, bringing us in the west some drizzle and a surprisingly cold wind. This inspired the need for mittens! Luckily, I was able to raid my stash for some Nashua Yarns' Wooly Stripes in Fuchsia Bouquet. Inspired by StoneAmazon on Ravelry, I decided to turn Knitty's Fetching handwarmers into full mittens, though I'm not making them a flip-top.

I'm using Grumperina's brilliant method for cabling without a cable needle (click on "Cabling w/o a cable needle) It's a little scary, initially, but its a real time-saver. I've been able to use it for all kinds of cables, including purl-background cables, as long as the stitches come off the needle in the opposite order they went on. I couldn't figure out how to do the cables in Widdershins, which are a little funny, but that doesn't mean it can't be done by someone smarter than me. I'll post my mods once I finish both mittens, that way they'll be consistent.