Saturday, January 28, 2012

Finished Project: Taos Herringbone Cowl

Another November 2011 finished project - remember this?  I broke out my favorite lipstick for the occasion. Michigan winter pale skin + Revlon Coral lipstick is a powerful combination. I don't normally have the stamina to wear this lipstick on a daily basis - way too much reapplication has to happen - but for a two hour class it doable.  And for photos it is fun!

Pattern: Herringbone Cowl by PurlSoho
Yarn: I had it marked as Carol Mullen's handdyed singles, but I honestly don't know what it really is. I bought it at the Taos Wool Festival during my bachelorette weekend.  I am guessing this project used up about 400 yards.
Needles: US 15s, and I probably could have gone to US 17
Mods: Eh, I just knit until I ran out of yarn, which was a little earlier than I had actually hoped for, because I had to use another yarn by the same hand dyer (luckily in a brown that matched my variegated) to finish the bind off.

This was a slightly tedious knit, but since I did most of it when laid low with a cold, I didn't mind it. Sometimes repetition is soothing.

I have created a wonderful little nest on my couch for knitting, so I have been finishing things left, right, and center. I think I will spend February catching up the blog on all of those projects!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Finished Project: Turbulence Cowl

It is hard to believe, but this project was finished at the end of November 2011!  I can't believe I am still catching up with my finished projects.

Project: Turbulence Cowl by Laura Chau available for purchase here.
Yarn: Leftover half skeins of Stonehedge Fiber Mill's Shepherd's Wool (worsted) in Lakeshore (blue) and Granite (grey).
Needles: size US 9
Mods: Because I was running out of yarn I couldn't complete the pattern as written.  I deleted a row here and there, did my last wedge, and then knit until I ran out of both colors. This pattern would be fun to do with a single main color and multiple contrast scraps!

Shepherd's Wool worsted is so soft - perfect against the skin.  It doesn't have a lot of structure to it though, so my cowl is more floppy than the original.  Still, I have found it is a great inner cowl when used in conjunction with my State Fair cowl - a rustic handspun romney that is wonderfully wooly, but not terribly soft.  And yes, the temps in Michigan are starting to dip finally so that two cowls are necessary - Zeby and I went for a walk this morning when it was 5 above.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Red Cedar River

Red Cedar River, Last Snowfall

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ten on Tuesday: Things To Do Inside

...When It's Too Cold To Go Outside.  Playing along with Carole again on Tuesday! Let me preface my list with this story.

In November 2004 or 2005 I went camping with P and my friend Shannon in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.  Projected temperatures were low.  But we had good sleeping bags and we brought lots of layers. Sadly, our tent was crap. As in, Target-bought summer-weight, non-insulated, and I think we even lost the rain-cap for it.  That night the temps dipped to about 14 degrees before the wind-chill.  With the 30-mile per hour winds the wind-chill factor brought the temperature down to the negatives. It was freakin' cold.  In the morning our bags and tent were covered in ice crystals from our breath condensing and freezing on every surface.  P braved the winds and scorched us some Pop Tarts for breakfast.  Then we got up and went for a 7-mile round-trip hike to see the Supernova Pictograph.  By then the temps were in the low 20s, but the windchill factor was still in play because of howling winds. But the New Mexico sun was up and when we found places sheltered from the wind we could bask in the sun like lizards.

Cold is relative after all. Some Floridians I have known have been just about crippled when the needle dips to 31 degrees. I have also known some Minnesotans to wear shorts and sandals when it is the same temperature. (Both lived in my freshman dorm.)

For me, it is really slush, sleet, or the ever-popular "Wintery Mix" that keeps me inside.  I hate to be both cold AND wet. Blech.

So, Ten Things to Do Inside When It's Too Cold To Go Outside

1. Create a nest on the living room couch, start a Thin Man marathon and knit.

2. Make soup! (See last Tuesday's post)

3. Re-organize the stash. Seeing all the lovely colors in my stash makes me realize that the seasons will change again. And that I am perhaps half squirrel.

4. Work on my Rigid Heddle Loom - weaving goes so fast, and it is fun to experiment. I am still working on some color studies.

5. Jigsaw puzzles by the fire. My favorite are the 1,000+ pieces. But make sure it is colorful!

6. Plan a vacation.  Ok, so my top two places I want to go right now are Iceland and Norway, not exactly warm-weather getaways, but it is the fantasy of the trip that is more important.

7. Design your own hat to knit.  The extra brain power required is warming.

8. Workout at home.  Sometimes I just can't get warm on super cold and damp days.  Using the treadmill, the Wii, or even doing a good intensity yoga workout warms me up.

9. Give yourself a full manicure/pedicure.  Don't skimp on this - break out your luxury moisturizer, your most fantastic smelling skin scrub and your favorite nail polish.  I have been known to put a rhinestone on my toe every once in a while, just for the added (and secret) pleasure.

10. Make an apple crisp.  There is nothing better than a home that smells of baking apples!

And heck, here is my mom's recipe:

Apple Crisp

5 cups peeled & sliced granny smith apples or other baking apples

1/2 cup flour (I now use 1/4 whole wheat, 1/4 all purpose)
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
4 Tbs butter at room temperature

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Places apples in a greased 8 x 8" glass baking dish.

Combine flour, oatmeal, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut in the butter with two knives, or use your fingers.  Topping should get lumpy - about the size of peas. Sprinkle mixture over the top of the apples before baking.

Bake for 30 minutes (I usually need to do 45 minutes) or until tender and topping is golden brown.

I have started experimenting with this recipe - adding other dried fruit, cutting down on the sugar a bit, etc. I think next time I am going to add some ground Chipotle.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Finished Scarf: Bearfoot Scarf

Last year I pledged to use twelve skeins of sock yarn, an entirely necessary strategy when dealing with a sock yarn stash of magnitude. In the end I knitted up thirteen and a half skeins of sock yarn.  The project that pushed me over my goal? A woven scarf!

Project: Bearfoot Scarf
Yarn: Warp: Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Marigold & Berry, two warp threads in Treadsoft. Weft: Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Yellowstone & Marigold.
Loom: Schacht Flip, Rigid Heddle Loom 25"
E.P.I.: 13 on a 12-dent reed

I think I had picked out these colors to go together over the summer but didn't get around to warping my loom until December. (Basically I realized I was going to be half a skein short of my goal, and weaving was the only way I could make my deadline before I left for our Christmas travels.)  I love the Marigold colorway, in fact, I have two more skeins of it in my stash!  It makes me think of New York curtains, Buddhist monks, Indian garlands, and the Day of the Dead.

I started with about 8 inches of plain weave with the Yellowstone colorway, then switched to four shots of Yellowstone and one shot of Marigold. I simply looped the Marigold up the side of the project creating little decorative loops along the edge.

I put on my big-girl pants and hemstitched the ends, so that I have finished edges!  Of course, I haven't done anything with the fringe on the edge yet, but I imagine I will twist them together to make a more finished look.

Marigolds at Hidden Lake Gardens, Tipton Michigan.
I have another project on my loom now and it seems so incredibly bland in comparison. It is all yellows, greys, tans, and blues - and is in fact a color study.  My eye is so used to planning projects for knitting I am sometimes unpleasantly surprised by what happens to color when weaving.  I am now attending a once-a-month workshop led by a friend of mine at Woven Art for flip and cricket looms.  I am hoping this structure will help me broaden my horizons, be more creative, and experiment more with my loom.

My practical nature wants each project to be useful in some manner, whereas I think I would greatly benefit from pure experimentation. I need to let go.  But it fights against my very nature.  Weaving will be very good for me, I can tell.  I just need to unwind enough to let it happen.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Finished Hat: Caller Herrin'

This beautiful hat was my Christmas travel project. Small enough to fit in my lap, interesting enough to keep me knitting through Ohio.  And each of the four colors came from stash. Sometimes it really is an advantage to having a big yarn collection!

Pattern: Caller Herrin' by Kate Davies
Yarn: Brown - Elemental Affects in Moorit. Blue - Jamieson & Smith 2-ply. Natural - Rowan Scottish Tweed 2-ply (discontinued). Purple - Rowan Yorkshire Tweed 2-ply (discontinued).
Needles: US 2.5 and US 3, but I think I could have gone down to a US 2 and a US 2.5 to get better gauge.
Mods: I reduced the colors from six to four because I had four good colors that would work together in my stash - trying to get six just wasn't going to happen. I left off the i-cord edging because my hat is a little big, but come to think of it, I could probably bind-in the brim a bit if I skipped a stitch here and there along that edging....hmmm. Ah well. I love colorwork, I love Kate Davies' patterns, and I was happy to have this project with me throughout my Christmas travels. Another reason to love it - I can wear it with a ponytail.


It has been snowing for the last two days, and I am so happy.  The winter so far has been strangely warm and dry, with too much mud on the trails to use them regularly.  I decided that the photoshoot for my new hat would be fun to do on our trail walk in the snow.  Watching Zeby enjoying the snow was certainly a highlight - he races around, sticks his whole face into drifts, and chases after scents perfectly preserved in the cold.

He usually ends up with a bit of a snowy beard though, and sometimes snowballs form in his armpits and in the fur between his pads.

Now to make some tea, curl up with some lovely wool, and watch the birds come to the feeder outside our window.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ten on Tuesday: The Soup Edition

It is Tuesday again, and that means it is time to play along with Carole and her latest Ten on Tuesday.  As soon as the temps start to dip in the fall I am all about the soups.  I usually have a few cans of some reduced -sodium, store-bought glop in the cupboard for emergency lunches, but I would much rather make my own.  Here are my ten soups, but I am going to make them a Top Ten, so counting down:

10. Mushroom Barley Soup
 Incredibly filling, and fun to cook because of the sheer quantity of things to chop: 4 WHOLE ONIONS, 1.5 POUNDS OF MUSHROOMS.  All the onion-chopping does make me cry despite any trick (bread in mouth, burning candle, etc.) so I just put on the exhaust fan and make sure I am not wearing any mascara when I start.  This is a Weight Watchers recipe from many moons ago, so it has next to no protein in it.  While it is filling and hot I am usually hungry within an hour and a half.

9. Zucchini Buttermilk Soup
 This is a childhood classic from my mother. She got it from her 1986 Cuisinart Cookbook of all things.  This cold soup is perfect for hot summer days, especially if you have a garden full of zucchinis the size of baseball bats. (The recipe calls for 3 POUNDS of zuchinni!)  Every August I start to crave this soup, but I can't quite get the proportions right so that it tastes like it did when Mom made it.

8. Portuguese Kale Soup
Another from my mother, but of unknown origin.  I love using really spicy chorizo and dicing it really fine.  I also cut the chicken broth in half (even with low-sodium broth) and substituting water since I find kale has a lot of natural salt in it.

7. Black Bean soup
 I don't know what it is about black beans, but I think they are the best tasting bean out there.

6. Miso
 I haven't made Miso Soup in a long time, but anytime I am at my local sushi place I am sure to order it.  I have recently discovered how important Umami is in my meals.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Umami is the savoriness that can be found in parmesan cheese, miso, and several vegetables and fermented foods. I like salty over sweet, but love Umami above everything else.  If I am having a food craving it is usually for Umami foods.

5. French Onion
I only order this at restaurants - all the melty cheese and the big crusts of bread are a real luxury!

4. Corn Chowder
My recipe is another Weight Watchers one.  With just a tiny bit of Half and Half, this is a great chowder that really hits the spot after shoveling snow all morning.  And the best part? Turkey bacon on top!

3. Tortilla Soup
I am still experimenting with different recipes to find something as good as Frontier Restaurant's, but I am beginning to suspect that they may have used MSG - upping that Umami flavor that I love so much, and therefore making it impossible to replicate without the preservative.  My favorite soup was so thick you could stand a spoon up in it - I think I usually managed to get the bottom of their pot.  So, still searching!  I think I will try a recipe from The Santa Fe School of Cooking Cookbook to see if theirs makes the grade.

2. Sweet Potato Bisque with Shiitake Mushrooms
From October 2002 Vegetarian Times, this is a delicious soup that I always make for Thanksgiving.  SO GOOD.  It is relatively healthy since you are only using 1/2 cup of Half and Half for the Bisque component.  Topped with scallions and shiitake mushrooms this soup hits all my buttons!

1. Green Chile Stew
Ok, technically a stew, but I lump it in with soups.  My recipe is from Jenny - my bestest in Austin, a knitter and former knit blogger (the blog is still standing here).  I have made some adaptations to the recipe - so I call it a White Green Chile Stew.  I use ground turkey instead of beef, and Great Northern beans instead of spincy pinto, but I put in a full pint of frozen green chile to make it really spicy.  It is fantastic with a pan-warmed tortilla.

Here is my adapted recipe:

White Green Chile Stew

1 lb of Ground lean turkey
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
1 pint frozen Green Chile (I use Bueno, but can only get it when I go to the Southwest.)
2 cups chicken broth
1 t oregano
cumin, salt, pepper to taste.

Using a little bit of olive oil, cook the onion on medium heat for a few minutes until translucent. Add garlic, cook 1 minute. Then add turkey and cook until browned. Add broth, 2 cups water, green chile, and remaining ingredients.  Make sure the stew comes to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.  Add more broth and water if it becomes too concentrated. Add your cumin (I usually omit the salt) and pepper to taste.

Serve with tortillas fresh from the pan and BLISS OUT!

(This is an excellent soup to help blow out winter colds. I don't think they can survive the cleansing action of really hot green chile!)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Indigo: In Search of the Color that Seduced the World

A 2011 Christmas present that got me through the second worst flight of my life.

Indigo: in Search of the Color that Seduced the World by Catherine E. McKinley, 2011.

Funded by a Fulbright grant, author Catherine McKinley heads to Africa in search of cloth dyed with Indigo.  This wonderful book is not a history of the color, although small snippets of historical nature are included, but a memoir of Ms. McKinley's search of the Gold Coast of Africa.  Or, perhaps more accurately a memoir of her obsession with Indigo and the good, traditional cloth it dyes.    Despite academic strikes,  attempted coups, and a passion for cloth that might be considered unhealthy by readers who have never been obsessed with, oh say, yarn, the author tracks down different sources for the hypnotic cloth. Nomadic traders, commercial dyers, small village craftswomen are all equally fascinating, especially because traditional cloth dyeing is rapidly disappearing due to the preference for European and American styles and fabrics.

Often caught up in the very real lives of her friends and guides, Ms McKinley's quest for dyed cloth is juxtaposed with the brutal realities of life in Africa.  And it is through these events that the reader begins to understand the importance of cloth, and cloth that once would have been dyed with Indigo, to the culture of the Gold Coast. We also begin to understand the language of cloth - that cloth has a voice in West African society, and that voice may be fading as traditions die.

Most knitters will sympathize and identify with Ms. McKinley's obsession for blue.  It is the same obsession that drives us to fiber festivals, in search of fleece from rare sheep breeds, and late night trolling of the internet for the mythic skeins of indie-dyed yarn.  She is a kindred spirit, a woman not quite in control of her enthusiasms.  And that is what makes this book so enjoyable.

There may be books that detail the history of Indigo in more precise terms, but this book illustrates that the love of Indigo is still alive and well in the twenty-first century.  And as we know, it is love that preserves traditional practices.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

10 Things I Want to Do in 2012: Creative Edition

The whirlwind of holiday travel is now behind me and I am slowly catching up on the day-to-day household chores that have fallen by the wayside.  I still seem to have at least two loads of laundry to do despite my best efforts.  On New Year's eve P and I started working on our old master bedroom and bathroom.  With a little help from a friend we got the whole thing repainted. It is now mostly finished - the bedroom could use a new ceiling fixture, the bathroom needs to have new track-lighting installed (I ripped out the old track lighting over the summer), but it is no longer an eye-searing shade of periwinkle (with a lilac ceiling). It looks like sane adults live in the house, despite the Snozzberry wallpaper in the front hall. (You can just see it through the doorway in our front room - still an alarming shade of Boysenberry yogurt. What was with the previous owners of this house and their deep abiding love of purple-ish paint?)

With such a productive and auspicious beginning to 2012 I am excited to see what else this year will bring!    I know I have big plans in my head, and I am constantly getting more from my boss (the greatest creative enabler there is) so it is time to make a record.  Handily, this also happens to be Carole's Ten on Tuesday subject for the week.  I am going to go for a sub-category and list my creative goals for 2012.

  1. Use 12 skeins of sock yarn in 2012. Yes, this is a repeat from last year, but with my sock yarn stash, it is medically necessary. In 2011 this goal acted as a great creative focus for me.
  2. Weave 6 projects exploring new techniques on my Rigid Heddle Loom.  Possibilities: clasped weft, Theo Moorman, color patterning, and I am sure I can come up with another three, otherwise, hang out with Nancy.
  3. Dye one blank with a natural dye locally sourced - onion skins, beets, woad, pokeberries, walnuts etc. I don't care if the dye is fugitive.
  4. Knit something with my own handspun. LORD! If I don't start using my own handspun I am going to be wrapped up like a mummy and buried with it.
  5. Knit three sweaters for myself - all out of stash. I certainly have the yarn for this goal.
  6. Design three patterns - any garment/accessory, one with beads.
  7. Use 13,000 yards out of stash for 2012. 
  8. Teach three new classes that I have never taught before. This requires a lot of work and preparation, but it is GOOD for me! Or so I keep telling myself.
  9. Start Christmas knitting in January. This should prevent that horrible sinking feeling in October and keep my knitting mojo on a more even keel.
  10. Try to make coiled yarn. This just looks like fun. It may require a larger orifice for my wheel.

There is never a lack of things to do or try, it is always a matter of finding the time to do it. So an unofficial 11th goal is to give myself studio time - an appointment I keep with myself to realize my goals.

I hope 2012 is a year of thriving creativity for everyone!