Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 in Hats

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Blogging--What I hope to do Next Year (and a bonus)

Miss B, the beloved grandchild, got “an American Doll Girl” (as she says) for Christmas.

It's not clear how much she really wants this doll (and how much is simple peer pressure, since several friends have American Girl Dolls.)

No matter, dolls of this sort are dress up dolls. I had a Shirley Temple doll when I as the same age, and knitting doll clothes was some of the first knitting I did. (My mother bought a set of patterns to make doll clothes too.. not to many got made.. but those that did get made, matched my own clothes!)
My DIL, who I love and adore, knits and does all sorts of clever things—but I've noticed.. We work to different scales.. Her art work is HUGE. I tend to the minitures. I suspect she'll make some doll clothes, but such tiny work is not her normal mode.

So, a small amount of sock yarn (superwash, of course) and a few hours, (and a complete and total frogging of the first effort!) and here is Miss Samantha's first sweater. (Ok, it still needs buttons—but they are coming.) The T pins are marking the button hole positions.

Notice the details.. tubular cast on, and grafted cast off...

short row shaping for back and front neck edge. And now, its being

blocked into a nice shape (the button bands tended, as button bands do on stocking knit, to curl) --Oh my what a sweater!

Next up a hat and muff set.. Not exactly matching (how trite!) but the green hat will be worked with stripes of yellow and orange—so coordinating. there might even be a dress made to go along with the sweater set.

Blogging –Next year.

In addition to writing, I read blogs. Some are knitting blogs, some are nominally knitting blogs that only touch on knitting infrequently, and some have nothing to do with knitting.

Each one, has features I admire.

Some have great photography.

My photo's are better each year, but photography is not my medium—I love good photographs, but I have never developed a good eye for taking them. I could, I suppose, work at it, and become a good photographer, but that is not one of my goals. But I take better pictures today than I did as little as a year –go back 5 years, and there is a marked improvement. Partly, it's the camera. It is so much easier, with the immediate feedback a digital camera provides to just keep taking photos till, like one of million monkeys, at a million typewriters, in the course of million years...I eventually get a decent image. (or one that can be cropped into a decent image.)

Some have regular features.
Wordless Wednesday, or 9th of month, or Tuesday is for spinning..
I am going to try to have some regular features—one is 'the First of Month Freebe' –with a free pattern, and link to another free pattern.

And at least once a month, a recipe (one of my own, or a link to a special one).
*Since I now have some roving, I'm going to make an effort to document my spinning progress

And I definitely want to make some more tutorials.. and some You Tubes tutorials—on my favorites techniques.

Some are so simple, (vs my always too wordy posts!)
I am making a serious effort to recognize, Less can sometimes be more.*

Some are so well organized
And working on organization, making it easier to find information, links, free patterns, recipes, all sorts of stuff is a chore I've avoided. Its time to set up an organization to the blog, to make it more user friendly.

Some have so many comments!
I am, to some degree envious of this.. but.. I don't think this generating more comments is one of my goals.. (readership, yes, but comments no.) Readership is a comment!

*More about my wonderful swap partners, and my roving, later in the week.

*Nota Bene: this post is half the length of previous one!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Sunflower Tam --with Petals!

I had for a while, been thinking about a 'woodland elf' type hat.

Something like an acorn cap --a stem, a network of overlapping 'leaves', like found on an acorn cap--knit in a shape that was slightly domed, (but only slightly!) and ended in a curved under edge. Then the 'body' of the hat, like the body of an acorn, would be smooth (and almost straight).
I envisioned the top something similar to my Thistledown Hat –a lace pattern of overlapping “leaflets”. (This hat is a half dome shape, not a flat acorn cap shape)

Trouble was—it never worked out.. the pattern failed, or the shape failed, or ...**

(here is the last attempt, not yet frogged)

When I got Knitting Nature, (Norah Gaughan) I loved the Sunflower Tam, and started again with a cable/twist stitch design, (again starting from center out) and again, failure!

So, finally decided to make the sunflower tam, and learn how it 'moved' before trying again with my center out design.

But--I didn't much like the under brim of the hat.. The top was beautiful, but the under brim? Boring!

And that the part most people see (OK, basketball player are going to enjoy looking down on the top of the hat) but when looked at (face forward) the sunflower tam is well, ho hum.

Why not add petals? Petals on the brim would bring the Sunflower motif to the under brim! And so I went to work modifying the pattern.

To start, I cast on 128, provisionally, and knit the top of the hat exactly as directed in Knitting Nature. (A wonderful pattern, so intuitive, I hardly had to look at the directions!)

Then I undid the cast on, picked up the stitches and worked down, making 16 raised leaf “petals”, with 5 stitches worked in garter between each petal. (3 stitch for leaf, 5 for garter stitch spacer=8 stitches per motif, 8X 16=128!)

No increases or decreases, until the final row of the petal (where the original 3 stitches of each leaf become a single stitch via a double decrease--(16X 2=32 stitch decrease) leaving me with 96 stitches. This is a few stitches short of the original patterns 100 stitch cast on—but still not too tight.

A few rows of 1 X 1 ribbing, and a grafted cast off (since I feel strongly about the edge of hat!)

A different sunflower tam.

**One difficulty, is increases and decreases ratios...
Try it:

Start with 8 stitches, and increase 8 times EOR.
Unless a YO is used for the increase, the knitting (in stocking knit) won't quite be flat.

Start with a multiple of 8, (64 stitches, for example) and decrease 8 stitches EOR, in stocking knit—it still won't be flat. In fact, it will create the classic dome of a beanie hat!

The Sunflower Tam uses twisted stitches and decreases, (8 decreases EOR) and the twists, change the gauge just enough to make the knitting flat!

Monday, December 24, 2007

About Blogging

The is the top of Norah Gaughan "Sunflower Hat" (Knitting Nature). (a great pattern to knit!)

I am keeping the top of the pattern as written, but I started with a provisional cast on, and worked the crown. (as shown) Next I undid the cast on, picked up the stitches, and now I am going to work the brim--with some changes.

The hat will be finished by the next blog entry, I am sure.

Why Do I Blog?

I blog for a number of reasons, --I love knitting, and I love sharing information about knitting -be it about what I am knitting or what others have done to inspire me--or annoy me!

To be honest, I some times knit spitefully—when someone says “these are all the ways to do this”(and shows 5 or 6 ways) I am likely to take it as a challenge, and do it some other way! Sometimes I repress that spiteful urge.. but not always.

On the other end of the spectrum, I also am somewhat of a braggart, and blogging is made for bragging!

I also blog because I am vain.
I think I have interesting things to say. (And readership validates my thinking!)

I blog because I have always thought of myself as a writer.
Don't look for an evidence that I am a writer beyond this blog.. there is some, but it's sparse (you could, with a good deal of time, and some personal info (that you likely don't have!), and google, find the 3 or 4 letters I written to the NYTimes. (about half the letters I written to the NYT have been published, not a bad ratio, but 4 letters of 30 years, is hardly an earth shattering record!)

I did, once (going on 25 years ago now!) have an article I wrote for a magazine, republished (with my permission.) The article was in a syndicated by KINGS features column--so (potentially!) hundreds of thousands might have read something I have written.(It was about shopping; in a former life, I was a coupon queen.) The column is no longer published.

Going further into the past, (30+years) I had one or two articles in The Long Island Press—defunct many years now (the DAILY Long Island Press, not the free weekly with the same name) –but all of this is a very small body of work!

I blog and write as a way of shaping my life.
I think this is a nice side effect of writing..The choices I make about subject matter, the view I present, the focus, (the lessons I've learned)--all of this is for me to chose.

I could chose to have a “half glass full” view (something I did for many years!) or to be a Polyanna, and see only the good. (a view nearly as bad as the opposite, I now think)--I know I have it in me to be mean and spiteful—but I try to keep this in check, and to aim for the “positive re-frame”.

Are you familiar with the idea of positive re-frame? Its a way of taking the facts (are the facts the truth? Sometimes) and seeing all of the facts.

Movies (some movies) do this superbly.. One is Mel Brooks version of 'Robin Hood'.

There is a scene (a memorable one to me) where Mel Brook's character (a councilor of sorts to the prince) stand at a castle window.. he looks out and sees:

a bustling market in court below the window,
boys fishing, successfully, in the moat (a bit of fantasy, but hey, it is a movie)

moving outwards, in the near, and then the far distance there are:
green fields, with grain, and cattle, and farms and men working in the fields, and all sorts of animals.
Further in the distance, forests, with all sorts of game...
Near by streams that grow to rivers, and far of ports with many white sailed ships...

Everything is idealized, everything is beautiful, everything is good.

The prince, is sitting on a chair a few feet away from the window

Once again, the scene starts at the window.. and we see:

a broken pane of glass,
rust on the window frame,
bird poop on the exterior sill

Moving inward, the curtain on the window is thread bare,
There are cobwebs in the corner of the window,
The room, is filled with faded, worn, and tarnished fixtures,
Candle wax drips are on the floor, (from the candle on the tilted wall sconce with a loose screw)

There are holes worn in the carpet.

Every detail is dull, dirty or broken.

Each character see something different.. in each case, there is a level of truth—but neither is seeing the whole.

(The whole of the movie Groundhog Day is about the same subject. When we see things differently, we are different, and our lives are different. The main character spends the entire movie learning that.)

The truth of my life is there have been hard times. (Where these of my own making? Alas, yes, all too often!--but there were others who influenced my life, in less than positive ways)

And the truth of my life is I have been blessed, with good friends, loving family, and more
things (material good) than I could dream of as child.

I can (and try to!) focus on the good, the positive—but I don't deny the bad. It's there. It has shaped me.

There are facts, and somewhere there is the truth. I am still looking for it! And blogging, I find helps!

Friday, December 21, 2007


On Sunday, these socks were less than a dozen row/rounds from being complete.
But I didn't finish them till late yesterday afternoon --and the real finishing, (weaving in all the ends) didn't get completed till early evening.
They are not every day socks.. they are thick and cushiony, --and a bit hard to put on and take off.
Worked at 9 stitches to the inch, and stranded, they are snug socks (the foot was worked over 68 stitches, the leg over 78).

They are the perfect socks for horrid days.. you know the ones.. when there is rain or snow or sleet predicted (or, as happens, all three!) and circumstances dictate being out and about all day.

NYC has one of two of these each year, and sometime, I have plans that I can't, or don't want to change. I can think of 2 that occurred in the past few years.

One was New Year's day 2001—Memorable for the cold, cold weather, and the MOUNTAIN of snow (about 2 feet!). A friend, and her family were visiting, (from the UK). and we had planned a full day of sight seeing. Including a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. We ended the day (of sightseeing) atop the WTC.he real end was back uptown, at their hotel, for dinner and alcohol.. (lots of alcohol!) which was fine, because I had taken public transportation to Manhattan (and did the same going home) and tipsy doesn't matter on trains!

The other day, not so cold, but wetter, two years later, (again taking an friend, visiting from Japan, sight seeing.) --We started down town, visiting the site of the former WTC, and ending the day uptown at Metropolitan Museum of Art (and watched the last few minutes of the St Patric's day parade.)

It's days like these that demand soft, plush, warm socks! And there are one or two every year.
And sometimes, instead of being able to avoid the weather, you need to be out and about in
“and visions of sugar plums danced in their heads”
Do you know what a sugar plum is?

Actually the nearest modern equivalent would be “a sweet treat”--the term was used for a variety of treats, from small hard sugar candies, to 'sweetmeats'-- treats made from fruit or nuts.

One of my favorite 'sugar plums' are stuffed dates.

The Kid version:

Take ready made marzipan, cut into small chunks, and roll into small 'logs'.
Each log should be about the size of the last joint (tip) of your pinky finger)
Stuff these, as is, into pitted sweet dates.

OR add to the marzipan, (or roll the logs in):

chopped almonds,

chopped dried cherries,

toasted coconut,

cinnamon sugar,

chopped (finely!) crystallized ginger,

toasted sesame seeds—

or something similar before stuffing into the dates.

These are slightly more nutritious than candy or cookies—after all they are fruits and nuts and they are yummy!

For adults: (this recipe was stolen from Sulu)

Cut the dates in half, and stuff each half with a whole almond (plain or glazed)
Wrap each half date in ½ strip of bacon.(use toothpick to secure the bacon to date)
Roll the bacon wrapped dates in brown sugar.
Broil 8 to 10 minutes, (turning once) till bacon is crisp.

They shouldn't be eaten right out the oven, (they are too hot) but adults will ignore all suggestions to wait till they cool down!

Warning: no matter how many you make, it won't be enough--of either!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

More socks

Since I've finished the shawl, I've been working on some UFO's (there are always UFO's!)

Not yet seen, but half done, is a second Ruffles scarf (see Scarf Style, Pam Allan/designed by Amanda Brown).
The first version I made was done in wool. This one is being worked in Mode Dea's Bamboo Wool in 2 shades of green (pale celery green, and soft sage green) –I am past (about 6 inches past) the half way point (i.e., I am now working with second balls of wool in each color)

The first 2 balls yielded about 40 inches of scarf, I expect the next 2 balls will bring the finished scarf to about 80 inches.. a nice length.
The scarf is endless.. (all those short rows!) but its does look very pretty in the two tones of green).
Secondly, I have been working on my 'free socks'. The bulk of the yarn for these socks is left over from other pairs, Plus one odd ball (in a totally different dye lot)- that I space dyed with easter egg colors.

Remember theses? (from Oct 27th?) They are more like socks now!

The colors are pretty, but there isn't enough contrast for the fair isle type patterns to really jump out –so, it was almost inevitable, that errors would creep in.. and boredom, too.

So, the errors were left, and to resolve boredom, the patterns were changed. The ocean waves gave way to a rippled shore design, and then to flights of fancy.

I am almost out of yarn, and the socks are almost finished.

They are pretty enough.. not perfect, but then, they are just everyday socks.. albeit extra warm ones!

The fabric is a nice dense 9.5 stitches to the inch, (I increased after the heel so that the leg of the socks would fit on to my fat (full sized!) ankles and would be easier to put on). The close colors make the designs elements subtle--besides they are just socks, and usually only seen from 5 (or more!) feet away.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Finished Objects and Some Yarn Pron

I really hate knitting scarves and shawls.

No matter how enjoyable they are at the beginning, at the end, they are all tedious.

Especially when the style is one that has increases, row after row, and the further along you are, the more stitches there are in a single row—add short rows to the pattern, and row after row of knitting results in what seems to be very little progress!

That said, (I am still plodding along on a second version of Amanda Brown's Ripple scarf—long and short rows both!) I am please to announce that the Noro Swirl shawl is done. Here is one image, (later this week I'll spread it out into the spiral.. (no where near 540°, but more than 360°) so you can see the shape.

It could have been bigger.. but as the end of the skein (and yes, the shawl was knit with 1 skein!) became evident, it was evident to me, I was at my end, too!

My ocean socks are anklets (waiting for me to finish them) but I have an incentive..see here:
Silk sock (and some stripes)

Fermenting, is what to do with this Classic Elite yarn (a discontinued one)

*Sonya had the one skein of peach, I had 2 of steel grey (and some mini balls of some other colors, rose and a blue, I think) the mini balls weren't enough on there own, but with the peach, I now have enough yardage to make....(a hat and small scarf?(What am I crazy? Another scarf!) or perhaps a shrug....
I haven't seen the shrug pattern I like yet.. so if a shrug, it will have to be designed!

* I told Sonya I want this yarn, --but I also offered her the 2 skeins of grey. 1 skein is so limiting, 3 opens up so many possibilities!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Food—Philosophically.... Part 1

<--This is Miss B.. on a box!
(photo has nothing to do with the rest of the post!)

This post is not about madelaines, but spareribs..

The Mole that was featured as an idea for turkey left overs on Sonya blog,was actually served as part of Thanksgiving Day dinner.. (not the next day!)

It was part of a wonderful feast of food that included home made tortilla's, fresh roasted pepitas (ie, pumpkin/squash seeds)--as a garnish for the homemade pumpkin soup, heirloom tomato salad, and black beans, and salsa. All reflective of DIL and son's philosophy about the use of fresh, local foods. It was an impressive amount of cooking (and I ate a bit of everything!) and all of it was good--and much of it was spicy, hot and flavorful.

I love spicy/flavorful foods--they are a real change from most of the foods I at as a child.

As a child, was a picky eater--made worse because I seem to like all the foods my mother disliked, and to dislike all of her favorites. The vegetables I liked rarely made it to the table, and the vegetables that did make it to the table, were ones I disliked (and for the most, part still do!)

I love onions, she hated them!
I love nuts (and seeds) and she hated them.
She loves french cut green beans. They make me gag.
The list goes on.. and only rarely is there a food that we both liked.

It was not a match made in heaven.

My mother was a picky eater, too, (she is a bit less so now, but I suspect she still is reluctant to try new foods) I am less reluctant than I was as child to try new foods, but I am hardly an adventurous eater--and of the many of the new foods I do try, there are still ones don't like--(well I don't like enough to make for myself.).

But I love spicy food.
For most of my childhood, the basic (and often only seasoning) used were salt and pepper.

One very strong memory, though, is of spicy hot bar-b-q spare ribs.

I don't know who convinced my mother to first try bar-b-q ribs. I only know she did.

She rarely tried new foods and was very skeptical about spicy ones.. but somehow, some one
convinced her, and low and behold, She loved them.

And so started the great bar-b-q bake off—since not only did she like them, but so did my dad, and so did we kids, she realize she had found a winner.. a food we all liked (which guaranteed one night with out the dreaded whine “Do I have to eat it? I don't like it!” from some child (there were 5 of us!)

Well it was off look for a recipe... I am pretty sure, the original recipe came from Redbook magazine. My mother subscribed to Redbook, and no other womans magazine. She didn't always buy Woman's Day or Family Circle—these and others womans magazine I learn to read at relatives—and she owned, as best I can recall, only 1 cook book.

The recipe, perhaps from an article labeled “bar-b-q-ing with out a grill” featured what is now called “Carolinian” style bar-b-q .. The meat is slowly braised (boiled/steamed) in a spiced, lightly sweetened vinegar, then it is removed, let cool, while the sauce is reduced, and de-fatted.

Then the meat is reheated under a broiler--it only needs to be reheatd, because it has been completely cooked in the vinegar and spice mix. While reheating, it is glazed with the 'reduced sauce'.

Because it is fully cooked, it only needs to be lightly broiled, the meat doesn't dry out and glaze doesn't burn either, but just lightly caramelizes. The braised meat is seasoned through out. The glaze just adds another layer of flavor.

The recipe she found has a huge list of, what where to her, and us, exotic spices—Most were fairly common every day items in most kitchens, but not in ours.. Items like: garlic powder, cayenne, chili powder, as well as other exotic things like molasses, and corn syrup. Even apple cider vinegar was a new and different change from the standard white vinegar that was our household staple.

Each was purchased specifically for the ribs. Each was measured out.. the recipe was followed to the T—an other exceptional activity, since cooking with these spices was a totally new experience for my mother.

The meat—racks and racks of meaty spareribs (my dad was a butcher, and we never lacked for meat in my childhood) - were cooked covered, in a slow oven (about 250° F) for hours, then the sauce was poured off, chilled, de-fatted, and reheated, and reduced. As dinner time approached, the house began to smell wonderful! Under the stove broiler, the glazed meat got dark and crisp, it looked and smelled better than anything my mother had cooked before. Everyone was looking forward to the dinner.

The Ribs?
They were hotter than hellfire—especially to our palates-- so unaccustomed to spice food--but--and this is the best part--We devoured them.

With every bite, we took a swig of milk or soda or water, to help clear our palate... and then we ate some more! We complained “These are too hot to eat” and in the next breath, asked, “Can I have some more?”

The recipe was an absolute failure-- and a resounding success.
Even my mother ate them.

There were, in spite of our complaints about them being 'too hot', none left over. The bones of every rack were picked bare, the plates were wiped clean.

We sat back in our chairs at the end of them meal complaining about our seared tongues.. after having all but licked any remaining sauce of our plates!

We were bloated with food and fluid, and finally my mother spoke up.

NEXT TIME, she said, the next time, I am just going to use ¼ of the amount of spices called for!

And there was a next time, and with all the spice reduced, the ribs were flavorful, still a bit hot, but much milder.

Bar-b-q-ed ribs became one of my mothers signature dishes.. Everyone raved about them. Any time she made them, for parties or family get together's, they disappeared in seconds.

They were always flavorful, tender and moist--the meat falling of the bones. They were nicely spicy with out being searingly hot (after a while she realize it was the cayenne pepper, more than the paprika, or the chili powder that added the heat, and she used it sparingly.)

Everyone raved about my mothers recipe for ribs!

Those ribs were my first taste of hot spicy food.. and they created for me, a favorable associations.. for ever after, I felt confident saying.. “I like spicy food” and I went on from there to enjoy chili, and Indian foods, and Mexican foods, and all sort of other spice cuisines.

My palette is still tuned to milder (less heat) chilies and spices than hot ones--but good spicy food is flavorful, not just hot. And it is still a favorite!