Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Behind the Wheel again...

After spending a bunch of time knitting, I find myself somewhat between projects - oh, I'm still knitting, but I'm not as obsessive about the projects currently on the needles. Instead, because a good friend has been spinning up a storm of late, I decided I'd haul out the wheel and give things a go...

Behold! My first ever navajo plied yarn! Lots of squoosh - that would be a bulky weight, lofty 3-ply. I suffered a few breaks during the plying due to low twist in my singles - but otherwise, the yarn turned out quite nicely. I can't say I'm smooth at navajo plying - every time I picked up a loop I had to stop the wheel, and there was plenty of cursing when the yarn broke during plying - but I think I'm getting the hang of it. I'm now spinning up another pair of bobbins, and hope to cast on for a lace shawlette when I'm done with the spinning.

Speaking of yarn with lots of squoosh,say hello to Malabrigo Twist - a new 8-ply baby merino yarn that I've got in the shop in six gorgeous semi-solid colors. I have to admit to being awfully tempted to abscond with the whole lot of it and cast on for a slew of sweaters.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Knits for Him

With all the sweaters coming off my needles, I think my dear husband might be wondering if I might turn my attention to knitting another one for him sometime soon.

It was rather fortuitous that I received a copy of Erika Knight's new book: Men's Knits not too long ago. The book features 20 patterns - including 16 sweaters/cardigans/vests, 2 hats, and 2 scarves. As expected, each garment is photographed beautifully - I especially like how the models in the book seem to be span a wide range in age and body shape. The patterns themselves are classic in style, and should appeal to the male who desires simple-looking, non-fussy knitwear. Unlike many womens' styles, the sweaters in this book are designed with plenty of ease to accomodate layering. The xxl size is designed to fit a chest measurement of 44 inches or so, but the actual garment size is usually in the realm of 46-50+ inches for the chest measurement. I'll be handing this book over to my husband so he can pick something out...though for the sake of my sanity (sleeve island on his last sweater lasted forever), I'm hoping he picks something knit out of bulky yarn!

Friday, November 20, 2009

mmm Cake.

After suffering a week long craving for Tres Leches cake and not having any luck finding any single serving pieces anywhere locally (I admit to not calling mexican restaurants and asking after carryout), I finally gave up and just baked one myself.

After referencing various online recipes, I wound up going with the recipe from the Pioneer Woman. The only difference is that I didn't bother to transfer the cake to a platter before dousing it with the milky mixture....and I reserved the excess milky goodness 1) to use in my coffee and 2) to re-moisten the cake if there were any drier bits found during the course of eating.

It was delicious. The only bits to stay focused on are: 1) don't over-whip your egg whites 2) don't overbake your cake and 3) make sure to be liberal with the stabbing of the cake - it helps the sweet milky mix find its way inside :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A fan on a mission

This past summer, I added Ree Drummond's blog to my google reader list. I think I stumbled into her blog when someone pointed me at a recipe - then I got hooked on her writing - the little glimpses into her life, her photography, and even the peeks into homeschooling. I was pretty darned excited to find out that she's gone and released a cookbook!

The Pioneer Woman Cooks is a lot like Ree's blog - beautiful to look at and a pleasure to read. While it is chock full of recipes (many also on her website), it's also chock full of photographs - of her family, of the ranch and ranch life, and of course, of the food. I'm really enjoying pouring over this book. Of course, when I found out that Ree would be at a local bookstore for a signing, I had to go.

The event itself was a little crazy, and was totally overrun - I went prepared with my knitting (and was caught in the act in one of the captures on PW's blog.) I hear Ree was busy signing into the wee hours - making sure that every copy was signed before she left. It was a pleasure to meet her and personally thank her for such a great read, hopefully she doesn' t think I'm a total nut for having her hold my socks in my photo with her. She was far too gracious to let on if she did think I was crazy. :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

More sweaters...

In most places in the country it's autumn...and has been for a while. In hopes of enticing Autumn back down here properly, I'm casting on for another sweater.

Hello, Audrey, from the fall 2009 Twist Collective. The pattern was recommended by Illanna while I was busy pondering just what to do with some yarn that's been in my stash for's a handspun yarn from Su-dan farm in Oregon - purchased, if I'm remembering right, on a visit up to the Pacific Northwest for work when I managed to squeeze in a trip to a local farmer's market. This was before I learned how to spin, so it's been sitting in my stash trying to decide what it wants to be for a while.

Pattern in hand, I wound all my skeins into one gigantic cake, and swatched away. The sweater will definitely look more rustic than the one in the pattern photo thanks to the handspun nature of the yarn - but i think it's going to turn out wonderfully :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

the Spice of Life

Salt. I don't know about you, but I find the varieties of salt intriguing. I also find its history to be rather interesting too. If you're interested in learning more about how salt has shaped the world, I recommend reading Salt: A World History.

I'm one lucky girl, because a good friend of mine correctly figured that I'd find this small collection of finishing salts fascinating. A couple of them are more common or standard - including:
Fleur de sel de guerande - a fine sea salt that hails from the south of France
Sel Gris de l'ile de noirmoutier - a coarse sea salt, also from France - the color comes from the grey clay saltpan that the seawater evaporates in for harvest.
Maldon - white sea salt with large thin crystalline flakes - this salt is evaporated in England's Blackwater estuary in stainless steel saltpans that are mounted over an intricate set of brickwork that is used to control the evaporation rate, encouraging the formation of the large flaky crystals.

More exotic are the following beauties:

Alaea Volcanic - this coarse salt gets its beautiful color from the red hawaiian clay that is introduced during the harvesting of this seasalt.

Turkish Black pyramid - this salt is combined with activated charcoal to obtain its color - this salt is incredibly crunchy - and I can't get over the wonderful crystal structure that it displays.

Kauai Guava Smoked - this hawaiian salt is hand harvested on molokai and kauai. After evaporation by sun and wind, the salt is ground and hand smoked using wild guava wood. The smokiness in this salt is simply incredible.

If you'd like to try some finishing salts, this set came from the Meadow in Portland - they also have chocolate...and wine...and flowers. The next time I'm up in that area of the country, I'm definitely going to have to check it out in person.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Speaking of Wool...

I'm loving my new addition to my knitting/spinning library: The Knitter's Book of Wool by Clara Parkes. I definitely have a preference for natural fibers when I knit - and while I am partial to Merino, there are lots of other fiber sheep breeds out there. This fantastic book demystifies all things wooly - well, maybe not all, but it goes a long way into explaining the different things that make the various varieties of wool unique unto themselves.

If you're not a spinner, or are still learning, the book provides a brief look into how wool fresh off a sheep becomes yarn. My favorite chapter is the one about the various sheep breeds. Clara discusses the properties of 37 different breeds of sheep, providing information about fineness, staple length, crimp, luster and what uses the wool is good for. Each brief writeup is accompanied by an illustration of the sheep in question.

After the sheep discussion, Clara goes into another facet of yarn making: fiber blending - where she explains the benefits of blending wool with other fibers - and what this blending might contribute to your final project.

After you're well armed with all this newly acquired information, you can tackle the projects in the book - of which there are plenty (19) - there are hats (2), mitts (2), socks (3), sweaters (5), shawls and scarves (5), a bag (1) and a pillow (1). The patterns appear well written, and are accompanied by a large clear photo of the finished product (and often times smaller detail images as well). Where appropriate, there are charts and schematics. Skill level required range from beginner to experienced. The sweater patterns include patterns for children, men and women - with a wide range in size. (Largest chest size for men is 56" and for women, the largest bust size is 52")

If you're looking to learn more about wool, I highly recommend this book - I'm personally planning on working my way though the various wool varieties by way of spinning and knitting :)

Monday, November 09, 2009

My kind...

...of pink and green. I had a fantastic mail day a while back - this was in one of the packages waiting for me when i got home that evening. It's finn wool - a type that I've never spun with (though I fully admit that my wool repertoire is rather limited). After poking around some (I love google), I've discovered that finn is a medium wool (meaning medium by micron count) - though it lands on the fine side of medium. It also has a longer staple length than I'm accustomed to, ranging from 3 to 6 inches. In addition to having a soft hand, finn wool also has a lovely luster to it. Regardless, I'm rather adoring this small bag of roving - and pondering what project to spin it up for...I probably better get a move on, especially since I renewed my subscription.

How could I resist when Adrian puts up such an enticing photo?

Thursday, November 05, 2009


mmm. Glorious reds and orange. I don't know what it is with that color family, but it has me seriously entranced right now.

In addition to wandering the town, having adventures by subway, watching musicals and baseball games, I had to get in my fix for the farmers market. In all fairness, there are markets where I live, they just aren't anywhere near as sizeable as those in other areas of the country. The Union Square Market apparently runs Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It's a mix of food, flora and crafts - I, of course, focused on the food. All the stuff I had the fortune to try was delicious.

But not only were they good for eating, they were wonderful on the eye also :) Since we're moving on towards the winter, the root vegetables were out in force. I can tell you the various fingerling potato varieties were delicious (but they don't seem to photograph real well).

In addition to your regular standard-issue orange carrot, there were these beautiful yellow and red/purple varieties. I was tempted to bring some home on the plane, but my luggage was already quite full...and I wasn't sure how I'd be received trying to clear security with a couple bunches of carrots as my "personal item".

They also had these gorgeous cauliflowers though why the purples wound up so much more monstrous in size than the orange, I'm not so sure. There were also some white cauliflower, of course.

And finally, some more fall blooms. It sure was nice to visit the City!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

cutting it usual

It seems several of my projects of late have been of the last minute variety - sadly, I didn't manage to finish a single pair of socks during Socktober...mostly because I was distracted knitting something else. The above curl of yarn is all that was left after I bound off. The project in question was finished and blocked the night before I packed it up and took it to a fantastic wedding...this seems to be developing into a theme...Have a look here to see how the frantic knitting turned out :)

Oh and yes, those would be a string of bacon and egg lights - they are in my BIL's kitchen, and I have no idea where he got them, but I really like em a lot :)