Tuesday, April 29, 2008

No Epiphany Needed

I have always been a fan of Chocolate - so imagine my delight when offered this stunning book for review!

Chocolate Epiphany most certainly does not disappoint. The book is heavy, featuring stunning photographs and wonderful recipes all featuring Chocolate. Written by Francis Payard of Payard Patisserie and Bistro, this book is gorgeous and full of wonderful things - I spent days gazing at the photos and reading through the recipes.

Chocolate Epiphany is broken down into several sections, starting out with what Chef Payard looks for in Chocolate as well as some tips on working with the wonderful stuff. The book then progresses into the recipes - broken into sections: Breads and Brunch Dishes, Cookies and Petits Fours, Candies and Chocolates, Custards, Mousses, Meringues and Ice Cream, Tarts, Cakes and Plated Desserts. Finally, it winds down and finishes with basics on handling and tempering chocolate and creating chocolate decorations.

While the subtitle to this book is Exceptional Cookies, Cakes and Confections for Everyone - I feel I should make you aware that quite a number of the items in the book are not your every day simple desserts - they will take time to prepare, and you may need to learn some new techniques - I would expect no less, given the who the author is. Also, if you are baking for someone with a nut allergy - you will want to steer clear of quite a number of recipes in this book - almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts all make an appearance in various recipes in this book. Finally, if you have a corn allergy, or an aversion to corn syrup, you will need to make some modifications - especially to the recipes in the candies section.

While I would have loved to make a slew of these recipes, I simply have not yet had the time or the occasion - though I did take the opportunity to try my hand at one of the candy recipes. Click onward to view the experiment (as usual, I didn't follow the recipe exactly, but used it as a starting point to create something of my own).

Incidentally, with chocolate and caramel on the brain, I finally restocked the shop's stock of Caramel Mocha spinning batts :)

Monday, April 28, 2008


Finally finished after a slightly rough start :)

As always, you can find the details and more photos here.

Twisted stitch cables - there's something wonderful about them that just draw me in. Mizar was covered in them (and were even more challenging with knitting the twisted cables on the purl side on the heel flap) and Bayerische too.

If you've never done twisted cables before, this is a great pattern to get started on. There are just enough to give you a taste...and if you decided they were too much, you could always decide to just do the set on the foot or the leg...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Heart Leaves

Heart Leaf Stole
Happy belated Earth Day!

To celebrate (and also for Project Spectrum), I've cast on a lace stole with heart leaf motifs. It's proving to be a wonderfully fast knit (as are most things that are knit out of DK weight+ yarn :D )

The lace pattern is simple and easy enough to knit that while the project is small, it's my travel knitting. I plan on knitting this for use as a lap blanket/car blanket to swap out with Cozy. I find it amazing how different my experience with lace is now - I'm actually at a point where I consider some lace (usually lace with regular repeats) easy/relaxing knitting - this certainly was not the case with Cozy!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Glowing Spheres

I love bowls. And yarn balls (or cakes, I like em both ;) ) I was surprised at how luminous this particular skein looked happily nesting in its bowl. Unfortunately, that glowing sphere that is also known as our Sun also seems to be gearing up for an early summer - temps are rumored to possibly hit 100 this week. *sigh* so much for wool weather!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Subtle Transitions...

Sorry for the flashy flashy shot, I keep having issues reminding myself to go outside when there is sunlight with knitting in hand. Perhaps I'll be able to amend the blog once I remember...now that the project is actually off the needles, maybe I should tie a wee bit of yarn around my finger to remind myself ;)

In case you're wondering just what you are looking at, that would be my leg...in Spritely Goods Sylph, in a limited edition colorway called Deep Blue Sea. It was knit into a pair of glorious kneesocks - of which there are more photos and details here :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

(almost) Shorn and Stunning

With temperatures well above average and flirting with 100 degrees F, I'm thinking I might be in need of a shearing myself...after all, I'm pretty sure I've got a ponytail long enough for Locks of Love!

Instead, I've been distracting myself with my review copy of Shear Spirit: Ten Fiber Farms, Twenty Patterns, and Miles of Yarn. The book is stunningly composed and photographed - and it profiles ten small fiber farms and their glorious animals. Each chapter highlights one of these farms - including information about the daily goings on, insight to the people and philosophy of each ranch as well as original patterns written by the fiber artists from the farm while using yarn made from its herd.

This book is one I'm going to enjoy reading from cover to cover...and when I'm too tired to read, I'll be happy gazing at it's gorgeous photos. Incidentally, those of you in NYC can meet the pair (who, like the Mason Dixon ladies, collaborated across the miles to create this treasure together)...and if you follow along on the Two Shear Spirits blog you might spy where they will be next. They featured a place here in Arizona...I'm hoping this means they might be back!

As for the patterns, they vary in difficulty and variety - from cardigans and pullovers to socks, hats and bags. One of the bags in the book is simply wet felted out of loose fiber - even faster than knitting ;) or spinning then knitting...and then felting! Many of the patterns are simple and do exactly what I would want them to do - they feature and highlight the beautiful yarn/fiber that they are made of. I'm looking forward to spending more time with this book and learning more about the life I one day hope to live :)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Much Better...

After tearing back the firestarters a while ago because we just didn't seem to be getting along, I re-started on US0s and things are moving along much more nicely - though my hands might disagree (the twisted cables on small needles, I'm afraid, are likely contributing to my tendinitis - alas, I suspect Bayerische will never be for me). Ah well, I'm knitting happily on the leg of the firestarters now - it won't be long before they are finished :D

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Sheep. and Wool. and Spritely Goods!

That's right! Spritely Goods (sadly, yarn only - I won't be able to attend in person :( ) will be at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival!

Visit the Cloverhill Yarn Shop booth to see my yarns in person. I plan on sending a bunch of colors in Sylph, Sidhe and Fey! Cloverhill has a blog that is counting down to the fun - cruise over there and have a look - they plan on doing features about the different artists that will be represented at their booth, and they also are having contests along the way!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Not just for Spinners!

Beautiful and inspirational - A Fine Fleece: Knitting with Handspun Yarns is definitely not just for spinners.

Gorgeously photographed, each project is showcased in both a handspun yarn and a millspun yarn - I can only imagine the work involved in getting the projects prepared for this book! A Fine Fleece opens with a tiny peek into the world of handspinning including some basic information about the wools used in the projects included in the book as well as some insight to the author's design and fiber prepararations. I found the information valuable and useful, especially as a self taught spinner with little training other than what I have gleaned from online forums or the few books that I have on the subject.

The patterns in the book vary in skill from intermediate beginner to experienced - many of the patterns are classic designs with basic shapes, and in many cases the projects feature interesting texturework that I seem especially drawn to. Because the author has an affinity for aran and gansey knitting, many of the patterns are gorgeously cabled or otherwise textured...and in a fair number of cases, the patterns can be adapted to suit a man or a woman. Incidentally there are also some very lovely lace patterns suitable for beginners included in the book...so I can get both my lace and texturework fixes out of the same source!

Projects featured in the book range from scarves and socks to vests, pullovers and cardigans. The Sweater patterns are typically written in 4-7 sizes with finished chest measurements ranging from 35-52. I've flagged a ridiculous number of patterns in this book for knitting (rare indeed for a knitting book!)...if only I didn't live in a desert where sweater season is so short!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Fresh Yarn and Fiber

The Shop has been updated with new goodies :) Yarn & Fiber and More :)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Stash Enhancement!

In Colors befitting Project Spectrum, no less! Rare indeed is the occasion these days when I actually enhance the stash - I've a hard enough time putting up limited editions for sale!

Once in a while though, I feel the urge to acquire...behold: the ever elusive Wollmeise yarn, featuring super saturated dark fiery colors (that would be brombeer in Twin and Laceweight yarns) - they were fantastic for the Fire element....unfortunately, all I have done with them so far is eye them and evaluate their potential in various projects.

On the top is a skein of Franz, mostly blue and green, and suitable (I think) for the new Project Spectrum colors.

Sadly, for the Fire Element, I completed only 1 finished object though I suppose I might be able to count the hat experiments too. I still have 3 very red projects on the needles, and in line with my need to have multitudes of projects on the needles, I also happen to have 2 projects cast on in green...dare I hope that at least one of them comes off the needles during the Earth Element months?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Technically not a Big Girl...

But that doesn't mean there isn't anything for me to learn from the newly released More Big Girl Knits!

More Big Girl Knits is what you might expect from its title - a book that features patterns for the curvy among us - knit for the average sized American woman. The patterns in this book are written for sizes L through 5X (though not all patterns go all the way up to the 5X size). Finished chest measurements range anywhere from 40 to 60+ inches.

Recently, Knitting Daily has been having articles that focus on shaping and tailoring your knitting to fit your body. It is my interest in technique that made me curious about this book - while I technically do not fall into the targeted sizing for this book, I am always interested in learning new things about shaping, styling and customizing my knitwear - that is, after all, one of the reasons that I do knit - ideally it means I get pleasure in the making, customizing and wearing of a beautifully fitted garment that suits and flatters my body.

More Big Girl Knits opens with a short chapter discussing sizing and fitting (and has a handy yarn yardage guide chart for typical projects in various sizes and gauges). It follows up quickly with a short chapter on style tips (handy for anyone of any size or shape to know). Before heading into the main patterns, the book dispenses one more handy tip about adapting a pattern via the use of side panels or gussets (again, handy for anyone to learn).

As for the patterns, I found most of them to be quite lovely and stylish - several of which I'd like to modify to suit my own wardrobe. There's a steeked yoke cardigan (bountiful bohus), a richly cabled short coat (celtic cables that I think are the same as I have on Kepler), a fantastically textured jacket (the hot cocoa jacket), a very clever pullover that masquerades as a wrap, and of course - a couple pairs of socks :)

Each pattern is accompanied by at least one big glossy photo and one smaller detail shot - patterns that feature cables, lace or colorwork are also accompanied by appropriate charts - making for swifter knitting (for me anyhow). While I'm not a Big Girl by definition, I did find inspiration and useful information in this book.