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Archive for January, 2007

Alda’s Beautiful Sweater

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Alda of The Iceland Weather Report knit a circular-yoke traditional Icelandic wool sweater for her daughter. It’s beautiful, please go take a look and tell her how nice it is!

Recipe: Teff Spice Muffins

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

tefftomatomuffins.jpgWowie, I did it. If these are not perfect muffins, then I’m unable to attain perfection. They have been tested by folks who can eat all foods and declared delicious. I say when I can bake like this, my food limitations do not matter. As Brian likes to say, “this is gourmet!”

I know you folks like recipes and this one is ready to share. I have made at least a dozen versions of these, more likely three dozen, since early September. The ones I made today are the best of all. They taste a bit like a bran muffin and have a dense texture closer to gingerbread than anything I can think of.

Warning: You surely do not have all these ingredients in your house. My town is not a very fancy food town but I can get the unusual ingredients at my health food store or the grocery near Michigan State University which caters to international students (Goodrich Shoprite). Let’s face it… I can not eat most of what you have in your cupboards, so I am learning about other great foods. You get to learn about the goodies from me. I figure that works out pretty well.

If you live where this sort of grocery is not available, you can get the Teff Flour and Arrowroot Starch from Bob’s Red Mill online. I have ordered from them several times and they are good people. You can not get flours fresher than buying through the mill, you know? The quality is wonderful. They do not always ship next day, but a little waiting is worthwhile. They will indicate right away when they do expect to ship.

(They also have a good recipe database including several Teff recipes. Their Teff muffins are also good but they call for 2 eggs and baking powder, both of which I avoid, so I embarked on the “no egg no gluten” recipe quest… which finally worked after nearly five months of experimentation.)

The muffins are at their best while still warm. They will get stale more quickly than wheat-based baked goods, and will be fairly firm in 24 hours (though a short microwave stint does improve them). Enjoy them while you can (in the first 4 hours is best) and loosely wrap them in a plastic bag as soon as they are fully cool. This is one reason I chopped my recipe in half (to only 6 muffins), so that I would not waste food.

Today I made 6 muffins in the morning, shared with hubby, then made 6 in the afternoon, shared with my helper and later with hubby after dinner. Yum! (They are really filling, heavier than wheat baked goods… and teff is a very high-protein grain so they pack a decent nutritional makeup for something sweet.) They also are so rich I don’t like butter/margarine with them (I normally eat other muffins with margarine).

Note: These muffins happen to be gluten-free. However, some of my friends who eat gluten-free foods also do not eat sugar. You can try to substitute stevia powder, but I have never done it so you are on your own there. I’m guessing they will not have the same outer crust without sugar, but it would be worth a try.

For the record, I include crushed tomato both because it needs acid to make the baking soda fizz, and vegetable matter to keep them moist (teff baked goods tend to stiffen quickly without it). I do not tolerate most fruit well, but if you do not tolerate tomato (or do not have any) you can use applesauce. It is not nearly as tasty that way, though… tomato is a very flavorful ingredient that complements the cloves and cinnamon very well. I have a World War II-era spice cake recipe which calls for tomato juice, and it is also lovely.

Without further ado, here is my recipe (sorry to my non-US readers, it’s in cups only, not metric… I just don’t know how to convert):

LynnH’s Teff Spice Muffins
(makes 6 cupcake-sized muffins, easy to double)
Dry Ingredients:
1/2c PLUS 3Tbsp Teff Flour (not Teff grain)
1/2c Teff Flour PLUS 3Tbsp Brown Rice Flour
1/4c Brown Sugar
1/4c Arrowroot Starch or Tapioca Starch (fine flour, not tapioca for pudding)
Rounded 1/4tsp Baking Soda
1/2tsp Ground Cinnamon
Dash Ground Cloves (Optional)
Dash Ground Nutmeg (Optional)
Dash Ground Allspice (Optional)
Dash Salt

Wet Ingredients:
2Tbsp Oil (I used light “pure” Olive Oil)
3/8c (same as 6Tbsp) Water
1/2c Crushed Tomatoes (or thick tomato Sauce without other spices, I used Eden Brand)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Oil muffin pans with spray (or wipe with oil).
Place dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Blend thoroughly with large wire whisk. It is OK to leave small lumps of brown sugar. If this bothers you, try white sugar but I think you lose flavor if you do that.

In smaller bowl, mix wet ingredients with whisk. Add to dry ingredients quickly and blend together just until all ingredients are moistened. Do not over-mix or your muffins will not rise well.

Divide batter evenly into six muffin cups. They should be cupcake-sized, I use my 1/2c measuring cup to scoop and distribute the batter. If your muffin pan is for twelve cupcakes, place your batter along the edges of the pan.

Bake. In my oven (which sometimes takes longer than recipes specify, even though two oven thermometers say that it is calibrated correctly) these need 21-25 minutes. As soon as a toothpick poked in the center of the largest muffin pulls out clean but a little moist, they are done.

When they come out of the oven, you can instantly turn the pan over onto a cooling rack and the muffins should drop out without prodding (don’t let them go on the floor, you would be sad to lose one).

For the record, the tomato makes a rich and wonderful spice batter which does not taste at all like tomato. However, only about one tablespoon of the vegetable matter needs to be tomato (sauce or juice or crushed tomatoes). The tomato is the acid which reacts with the baking soda to leaven/raise the muffins. You can replace the rest of the 1/2 cup of tomato with canned pumpkin (or leftover baked sweet potato or winter squash). Make sure if you use leftovers that they are fairly wet, you may need to mix in a little water with them.

Kristi’s Comfort Wrap is Up on My Shop!

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

Kristi's Comfort WrapIt’s official. My friend Kristi/Red Dog Knits has given her blessing on the pattern I first knit for her. I’m naming the pattern after her, with her permission of course.

She had a loss so big I felt I had to do something, and she was on bedrest so I could not go and be with her. For my own comfort, I needed to take action. But what?

A knitter understands the love in a knitted item, so I knit the most soft, comfy, and huggable wrap I could. I used a wool/alpaca yarn as the base yarn, and knit along every scrap of alpaca or silk I could find in my house. I bought only one ball of yarn, the rest came from my stash. The one ball I bought was a silk/wool singles by Louisa Harding in a blue-teal, I just had to have that texture in there. Kristi’s shawl is the yellow-green one shown a few posts back.

Kristi has told me that she wears the wrap often and that it does feel like comfort to her. I was honored that she took it to the hospital with her for the birth of her boys.

Off the record, we all have been calling this the “Kristi Wrap” anyway, since the one I knit for her. I just wanted her full enthusiasm to call it that on paper, in respect for her privacy. Today she said that this is one way for us to always remember her little Elijah, and I’m happy for her that I can do that for her. The pattern is now for sale in my online shop, and it is called Kristi’s Comfort Wrap (or Lap Blanket).

kristi9yarns.jpgPerhaps there is someone in your life you would like to comfort. Perhaps you are just like I was yesterday, out in the very cold winter weather and needing warmth. This wrap is warm and can be knit in a wrap size or a lap blanket/throw size. The wrap is approximately 15 inches/37cm wide, the lap blanket about 22 inches/56cm wide. Both knit up about 51″/127cm long measured without the additional fringes. The length may vary more than the width, depending on your gauge.

The photos here are of the sample wrap that is at Rae’s Yarn Boutique. (Well, it will be back there again Tuesday, anyway.) Diana is knitting wraps for Threadbear and Little Red Schoolhouse this week. (What a woman, that Diana is!) Soon we’ll have quite the collection of these in Lansing. When people touch these they will understand why I call it “Comfort.”

cozycomfortshawlcloseuppurplefabricweb2.jpgAn added bonus is that it is a very simple pattern to knit, just knit stitches, no increases or decreases. It’s knit “sideways” or the long way which makes it look more woven than knit. I explain everything in such a way that even a newcomer to knitting will be able to follow the instructions (no abbreviations needed). The only challenge might be choosing yarns, but there is a two-page appendix on yarn structures, colors, fibers, care and combining of yarns.

It’s all about using the leftovers in the stash to create interest and color… after all, if you liked them when you bought them, they probably look good together. Right? The cool thing is that the more yarns you combine, the more likely they blend well together. Much fun, much warmth, much comfort. I’m delighted.

My Heart Leaps with Delight!

Monday, January 29th, 2007

I talked to Diana tonight (Monday). Today it went from sort of cold to really, really cold here. They are predicting snow, at least a little bit, every day and night through Friday. We will not be anywhere near freezing even midday. This is two-pairs-of-socks-to-bed weather.

I told Diana how lucky I felt to have Rae’s sample of my new wrap today, when it got so cold so quickly. I had one wrap under my coat around my neck, and the really warm cushy one on the outside of my coat and wrapped close to my face.

She said “Why don’t you let me knit you one?”

Be still, my heart. I have learned that when someone wants to present me a gift, I need to say “yes, thank you” and allow them to love me. Since I’m a knitter (and I have knit one of these myself), I know what she is offering and I’m humbled. And delighted, of course.

I joke often “I wonder who would knit me that sweater/wrap/hat/you name it” but I would never ask that sort of favor. Diana knits for my business because she chooses to work for me. I don’t take that lightly, and I believe I should knit my own frivolous personal items.

I would love a comfort shawl. I have all the yarn required, but not the time. I can not afford to spend time knitting for me. Most of my “pleasure knitting” which ends up my own, is socknitting done in line at the post office, pharmacy or allergist’s office.

I can’t take large projects in my purse, they do not work out well for these little snippets of time which can turn into real wearable socks. So I knit myself socks and almost nothing else. The rest of my knitting is designing new patterns or creating samples for the shops which sell my patterns.

Oh, joy! A comfort wrap just for me? Knit by my sister-in-love, Diana? How lucky can I be?

Trust me, I’ve already assembled the yarns… two balls of hot pink Nashua Creative Focus wool/alpaca, a few smallish balls of handspun from when I was still learning to spin, one ball of green alpaca, and a whole lot of sockyarn in grays/blues/teals/greens. One smallish leftover ball of brushed purple alpaca (yum). I should look to see if I have any bits and pieces of mohair, it really works well with this wrap.

Selfish little, childlike little me. I get a present! I am beside myself with anticipation.

Thank you for loving me with your heart and your hands, Diana.

Finally, a Really Productive Day

Monday, January 29th, 2007

I started Sunday with sleeping in, past noon. After a short night of sleep the night before, that was just the thing I needed! Unfortunately the first thing I tried to do (make buckwheat pancakes) did not work out, and that was the second day in a row on that disaster. I will start over next week on pancakes, as I’ve made them for years and it is just this week that I’ve had trouble with them.

kristicomfort3inch72dpi.jpgBut after that? It really turned around. I got to see Rae and deliver my patterns to Threadbear, as I said before. I had the energy to run two dishwasher loads in the kitchen so that it almost looks like a regular week rather than a week where I felt too crummy to tend to maintenance. And dinner? We have a microwave again so we just ate some very nice foods I’d frozen previously. No cooking, but good solid homemade food.

And then Brian helped me out with a computer problem that had been nagging me for weeks. I love this man! I know it was his day off and he does computer work all week, but he did the research and fixed it. I had done enough research to know what was going wrong but I could not seem to find the answer to the problem. Go, Brian!

And now I think I really do have a new pattern. I sent the final copy to two friends for a final look-over, even though it has been knit at least 3 times already. Every time I change a sentence trying to get it more clear, I take the chance that I have muddied it instead. I hope a few fresh eyes will help me out and I can release it this week.

cozycomfortshawl33forweb.jpgI’m calling this the Cozy Comfort Wrap/Lap Blanket. I started it as a wrap/stole and then realized it was so warm and so cozy and so cuddly, that if it were just a bit larger it would make a great lap blanket or throw. You can not believe how soft and lovely it feels.

Here you see me modeling it on the front porch Sunday when the temperature was 18 degrees out. I had a cotton turtleneck and a very thin wool sweater (almost T-shirt thickness) underneath that wrap, and I was pretty comfy out there in the snow. And I get cold at the drop of a hat! It really is a wonderful fabric.

The base yarn for this one is Nashua Creative Focus Wool/Alpaca worsted weight yarn. It is one strand (a “singles” yarn would be the official description, but I think that sounds like a declaration of marriageability). Each row is knit with a second yarn held along with it.

There are two pages of information in the pattern on how to combine yarns, colors and textures, and how to care for special fibers if you choose to knit with them (the softer the yarn, the more special it can be). The first version I knit of this, most of the knit-along yarns were alpaca or silk blends. Super soft and warm!

Diana is preparing to make two more of these Comfort Wraps very soon. The one you see me modeling here is the sample for Rae’s shop (she carries the Nashua Creative Focus yarn I used for the first/green one and also this purple one). Diana is also doing one for Threadbear using Malabrigo merino worsted as the base yarn, and one for Little Red Schoolhouse using Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride worsted as the base. All beautiful in their own way, of course, though I am very fond of alpaca anything.

cozycomfortshawlcloseuppurplefabricweb.jpgI’ve been very pleased with how many patterns I am selling on my somewhat-new shopping cart. I am preparing to put up a few more polymer clay buttons this week on the cart, as well as this new pattern (and I have two more in the works, very very close to production). I hope this is a busy week for me on the shopping cart front. I know it all depends on me at this point.

Tomorrow is another day. Well… actually, I’m typing this an hour or two into the tomorrow which is Monday, but I have not retired for the night yet. I am sipping some very-low-caffeine Japanese tea and really relaxing. I may even let myself knit a little for my own pleasure here for 15 minutes or so, and then I need to tuck it in for another day.

But what a great day it has been. I have not had a good day like this since the first week of the year. Whew!


Sunday, January 28th, 2007

It is ugly winter here (Lansing, Michigan, USA), alternating between very cold one day, sunny and almost warm another, then cold again the third. There is nearly no color unless you choose it in clothing or home surroundings. I’m doing my best to wear my brighter clothes these last few days.

Today when the sun went down I felt a wave of sadness. Our sun stays out longer than Alda’s Iceland (read her Iceland Weather Report blog, it is wonderful… and it reminds me of the sunlight hours we get that she does not).

When I get a bit o’the blues, I try to get back to gratitude. I remember that as I got home today I was so grateful for the community in Lansing, the fibery wonderful folks and shops and students and guilds, who all make it possible for me to actually make a modest but honest living as an artist.

I teach, I write/sell patterns, I occasionally dye yarn and sell it, I more occasionally make buttons (or teach polymer clay). I sometimes sing professionally, and when I’m really lucky I get to dance for pay. Mostly I’m a knitting-related fiberartist and teacher. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, the most rewarding job ever.

Yesterday I was in all three shops where I usually teach. Today I was in two. I’ve made such good friends at all of them! Yesterday I was in line buying something at Threadbear, and behind me was a student I met at Little Red Schoolhouse. Today I was at Rae’s and I saw a student I also see at Altu’s restaurant where I sing.

Today I got to see my friend Rae after she was gone from her shop for a week on vacation/working retreat… getting away is a rare thing for we self-employed folks. My friend Linda who runs Little Red Schoolhouse also got away for a while and will be back soon. I will enjoy talking to her about her trip, as well.

And today I delivered several dozen patterns to Threadbear. Can I tell you how much I appreciate the folks over there? They like my patterns so much they recommend them to folks who are looking for projects to knit. They know that my instructions/photos are clear enough to help someone who may live out of town and not be able to come back and pop in with a question. And they keep on ordering/selling patterns. In what are wonderful quantities for a little business like mine. I am so grateful!

Improving a Little Each Day

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

Tomorrow it will be three weeks since I got sick originally. I am still not my whole self, but I’m much, much better. I feel close to normal when I am sitting still. My mind is now pretty much as quick as it usually is (the slow brain thing was maybe the hardest part of this bug).

I still need a tissue occasionally, but not a box of tissues. And I seem to mostly only cough when I breathe cold air or dusty/dry air. The only really rough part now is that if I try to stand up a long time, or if I need to walk any distance, my legs get wobbly. It is truly frustrating but I’m learning to slow down.

Of course, while I was sick our microwave died in a big way. As a matter of fact, you could turn it off and it was fine sitting still, but if you opened the door, the power would go on and it would be microwaving your hand if you put something inside, but once you closed the door it would shut off again. Whew!

We called one place we know will work on older appliances but they do not service microwaves. Brian did open it up and he found the switches that were connected to the door latch, but we could not figure out what part would control the safety mechanism which had switched gears. We gave up and decided to buy a new one.

But Yours Truly, Ms. Wobbly Legs, had to go with Brian Friday to three stores, two of them absolutely huge home stores, and walk all the way to the back (or at least halfway). We found a Panasonic at Target. I was *so* ready to find something I could stand in my house and go home to sit down!

The new appliance is not white (which I strongly prefer) but it’s shiny metal with just black as the glass on the door. I like LIGHT in my house, I do not want black anything soaking up the few sun’s rays we get. I don’t care how european or sophisticated it looks, I am already set in my ways at age 48.

At least in this house we have a “shiny metal” thing going on, with chrome furniture both in the kitchen and living room. The shiny microwave will look like it mostly fits, although it looks modern and the rest of the metal is older than me.

The good news is that I could figure out how to use the thing the first day. It’s much nicer than any I’ve before, it has a lot of settings but I can actually figure out how to use some of the basic ones without reading the (very fine) manual.

During my years as a travelling computer trainer, I would go to new locations to teach every day. I would bring lunch and be in a brand new break room more often than not. And here I was, perhaps teaching Advanced Microsoft Access 97 Programming, and I could not always figure out how to heat up my lunch. It’s so frustrating to not have an industry standard, though perhaps a standard would bring down the quality of the better models. I’m glad this new gizmo is truly user-friendly.

Now I’m back home and mostly sitting down. And I don’t have to cook stovetop or in the oven this week. That is, unless I prefer to do it that way. Whee!

In knitting news, I taught a class Saturday to one person which was quite wonderful (a relatively new knitter, we had fun). I got yarn at two shops for samples (Diana, bless her heart, has volunteered to knit them for me again). And I did not knit much at all for myself, but I decreased my gussets on one Aran-weight toe up sock for me. Not too fancy, not much knitting, but enough to relax a bit while I was at Altu’s restaurant waiting for my dinner to arrive.

Now send good vibes… last night I was awake in bed until 4:55am or so, I could not sleep for at least an hour after I went to bed (later than usual because I was finishing up a new pattern) and then I woke up at 9am without an alarm. Thank goodness I got an almost-two-hour nap at 5:30pm. I feel fine right now, and tired enough that I think I will actually sleep tonight. But that was a major drag.

Finally it is again time to sleep. And sleep, and sleep. I have no appointment times tomorrow, though I will deliver patterns to Threadbear and pop by Rae’s shop just to say hello (she was gone a whole week and I missed her). Sleeping in is the first order of the day, at any rate.

Persephone Books in the UK

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

I was reading “yarnstorm” and found a link in the January 16 post  to Persephone Books in the United Kingdom. It looks good, I bet some of you would like to take a peek.

Scarf Yarn Clarification

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

Rob/Black Dog of Threadbear Fiberarts writes with the scoop on that wonderful chocolate-brown yarn I’m using for Mr. Johnson’s scarf (see January 25 for post). He says:

The yarn is from Needful Yarns (distributor) and the company is Filtes King. It is labeled “Australian Merinos” but is colloquially called (by them and in patterns) “Stampato”. Stampato is more accurately the way the yarn is colored/spun with the tweeded effect.

mrjohnsonscarfdetail.jpgThanks for the information, Rob. I’ve already had one person write with dreams of knitting the same yarn! I would encourage it, in any colorway.

I am putting another photo of the same scarf (detail) here, just so you can see more detail on the stitches and how the blips of color show. This version is far too gray, I used flash and lost all the warm color (go to original post for a sense of color but lack of detail, I just can not seem to get this one right without summer sunshine). The real color is dark chocolate with flecks of camel and gray.

For the record, I just ran over to the Threadbear site and found out that Filtes King is also the brand for the Kelly yarn I used for my ribbed tank top which I finished in May 2005. I LOVE this yarn, it washes and dries in the machine beautifully and the tank is wonderful.

The yarn called Kim is the same as Kelly but it is a solid color, where Kelly is a self-striping (very irregularly, I couldn’t match it up if I had wanted to) yarn that stripes something like Noro yarns (although it is a cotton/acrylic yarn that has a knitted-tube structure like an I-cord). I don’t normally like cotton yarns, but this one gets my vote.

Of course all of the above yarns can be found in many colors at Threadbear. If only I had time to knit every colorway!

Food Photos

Friday, January 26th, 2007

sweetpotatofries.jpgLast week I made oven-roasted sweet potato fries and took photos but didn’t have the energy to process the photo for you. I am feeling much better, at least when I’m sitting down, and I have a non-work day today so I finally got around to the picture.

Today for breakfast I made muffins from Teff flour. I’ve been working on this recipe since September. I first made the recipe from Bob’s Red Mill, and it was very good but it called for three different flours and two eggs. I wanted to get it down to Teff and arrowroot starch/flour, and eliminate the eggs.

Since Teff has no gluten, it does not stick together well without egg. It also tends to dry out very quickly after baking, so it is much better eaten fresh out of the oven. I reduced the size of the batch so that it makes 6 muffins rather than a dozen. I played with using flaxseed meal to bind the muffins together but that made the muffins too oily the times I tried.

I have recently been using either pumpkin, sweet potato or squash to bind it and that really helps. It not only helps glue things together but it allows more moisture in the muffins without them refusing to cook through.

teffmuffins.jpg I also do not tolerate baking powder particularly well (there is constarch in most brands, potato starch in others, and cream of tartar in the make-your-own-powder recipes, all of which do not agree with me in varying ways).

I can have baking soda, but it needs acid to help it rise. I can’t have fruit juice or vinegar and the vitamin C powder I could find was derived from corn (I could buy non-corn online but shipping costs as much as the powder). Cream of Tartar is derived from grapes… I have been using it but that is also not very good both on the mold-allergy and fruit-sensitivity fronts.

I finally figured out that I could use tomato paste. Ta-dah! I only needed half a teaspoon of tomato paste for six muffins… you can not taste it but the muffins rose better than any I ever made using cream of tartar. Cool biz!

These were the prettiest muffins yet, they had domed tops rather than flat ones, and they crackled just right. The color was pretty. I used sweet potato baby food (yes really) and olive oil to keep them moist. They were still a little dry but I think that I just needed to add some water to couteract the dryness of the tomato paste. I’m so close to the perfect Teff Muffin, I’m almost ready to make another batch tonight for dessert!

Teff is SO good, I really love it. The taste is similar to a bran muffin with a similar texture. It also is very high in protein and other nutrients, one of the highest of all the grains.

Teff is almost chocolate brown in color, but if you add brown sugar, sweet potato, cinnamon and cloves as I did, the taste and looks of the muffins go together perfectly. Woohoo! When I get a batch I think is really right I’ll post it. maybe tonight.

I do love eating. And since I’m fairly successful with baking, I’m learning not to mind that much (other than the cleanup). I’m loving roasted vegetables, especially rutabaga and parsnips, though we’ve also roasted butternut squash, sweet potatoes, fennel bulbs and beets. The only one I would not do again is the fennel, I like that much better crunchy and fresh in a salad.

Then there is cooking meat, or fish for that matter… oh, no… there is no way I will ever like meat, either the idea of it, the taste/texture, anything. But I’m eating it (well, birds and fish but not mammals, my choice) because that is what I need to do to be healthy. I do not miss cheese. I only miss eggs when friends meet for breakfast at a diner.

However, I really miss beans. I want to eat beans every night for dinner as I once did. I love edamame (fresh soybeans) at the sushi house, black beans at the Mexican restaurant or home, blackeyed peas (not only for New Years Day), lentils and chickpeas at the Indian restaurant, Altu’s incredible Lima Beans and lentils, fava beans and hummous (chickpeas) at middle-eastern restaurants, refried pinto beans as a quick meal at home. I even miss tofu… and it took me decades to learn to like the stuff.

I can have a few beans, occasionally, these days. Thank goodness split peas are working out so I can at least eat that one meal at Altu’s Restaurant. For now many beans are not working for me and I am learning slowly what else I can eat. Brian steamed some salmon last night with green beans (we usually eat some sort of greens with fish which really is a good combination), and I had smoked salmon sashimi and steamed rice with Altu yesterday for lunch. I’m learning.

Meanwhile, I can at least share the photos of my successes with you. Roasted root veggies and teff muffins!!! They really are wonderful.

The World is Small

Friday, January 26th, 2007

In the last week I’ve sold buttons to the United Kingdom (England) and patterns to Slovenia. Isn’t that the coolest thing ever? What did we do without the Internet? We missed out on so many friends!

Finally, Some Knitting Photos

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

mrjohnsonbrowndetail.jpg I’ve been knitting away, the whole almost-three weeks I’ve been less than chipper, on a scarf which will be a gift to the man who taught me to knit. He has not seen me in at least 25 years so he is not expecting this in the least, and there is no deadline other than I really feel a thank you is in order.

The yarn has the oddest name! It is called “Australian Merinos.” It sounds like a herd of sheep rather than a ball of yarn. However, it is a most wonderful, smooth and soft yarn, and is the result of a many-month search for the perfect yarn for this gift.

I would have loved to make him an alpaca scarf but unless you know the laundry habits of the household, washable is the kindest choice. The yarn I picked is shrink resistant and that seems right. (I got this yarn from Threadbear Fiberarts, for those who will ask… the price tag says Stampato and the yarn says King. Beats me.)

australianmerinos.jpgThe color is perfect (on my monitor the scarf detail is closer to the real color than the ball of yarn image. nearly dark chocolate). He’s a good Norwegian, and I remember sort of reddish-blonde hair with fair skin (mind you, he was my teacher in 1969 although I’ve seen him a few times since that).

The yarn has maybe five strands of two-ply yarn, then plied together into one very smooth almost tube-like yarn. I think two are a dark chocolate brown, one is a charcoal, and two are variegated between darker brown, camel and medium silver-gray. The changing colors make it sort of reflect light in a wonderful way. I really wanted something with at least a speck of camel, I just have a sense that is a good color on him.

I am using the Steam reversible rib scarf pattern (if you click the link, mine is the third scarf), option B which has a three-stitch garter edge on both sides. The only change I made is that I am slipping the first stitch on each row to make a sort of chain stitch on the edge rather than that little bump that happens in garter stitch if you knit every stitch. It’s mostly a K2P2 rib, but every 12th row I have to cross 8 stitches in either one or two places on the row. Then I get to relax and do K2P2 ribbing for another 11 rows. My kind of pattern!

Rae is making a Steam scarf right now in a very fluffy lightweight (probably a laceweight) mohair (hers is the second scarf on the same patterns page) with no edge stitch. It’s very lacy and feminine and the edges have curves like we women do, soft and lovely. The edge I am using makes it more straight and controlled on the edge, which works with the denser fabric I’m producing, and I think it is a great option for at least this particular man.

I think the project looks a lot like bark on a tree. It is really beautiful and very springy/soft. I’m working on size 4 ebony needles that were a gift to me from my Mother-in-Law (who inherited them from a friend if I have the story right). They are luscious to work with. I almost never work on straight single-pointed needles so it is great this time I can use them. Luxury.

Slower, Slower….

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

Slow is the Way to Go

I feel pretty good when I’m sitting down these days. I don’t cough much except when I go out in the cold air, that seems to trigger trouble, but most times I’m basically just feeling like I have a minor cold. However, Wednesday trying to clean house (going up and down stairs, both 2nd floor and basement) so that a few friends could come over without feeling uncomfortable, was enough exercise for three days. I can not believe how tired I get these days.

I am not instinctively tidy, I have to work hard at keeping order in the house. Since I have been either sick or less-than-100% since Sunday the 7th, the house was suffering and even those of us who live here were not particularly comfy here. It took a lot more effort than I really wanted to expend, but I do feel relief now that it is a bit more under control.

Music Luxury, Tech Heaven

The good part was that the guests were music friends and they and Brian created live music in the living room… the ultimate luxury! Right now I’m totally enjoying the new laptop battery I bought in December, lounging on the couch with a zillion pillows and typing away.

I can’t help but think of my dad. Here I sit on my couch sending a print job to a full-color laser printer, through the air! It’s like Dick Tracy cartoons from the 60’s, in my mind. Dad died in June 1973. He was a statistician and did all his calculations with a slide rule. He said when calculators got small enough to fit in a pocket and the price went under $500 he would buy one. He never had that opportunity. Now I sit here printing through the AIR! How cool is that?

What would I do without this easy access to the Internet? I would not have met a lot of the wonderful people in my life. Even in Lansing there are people I met first through this blog. This week I shipped polymer clay buttons to England. I have sold yarn to Wales and Australia, Canada and all over the USA. It’s the coolest thing, and it allows me to make a stab at making a living from Lansing, Michigan, as an artist. Too cool.

Nothing like Friendship

I had lunch with Sharon P of Knitknacks today, she’s so wonderful. She was wearing an entrelac sweater she knit out of purples/pinks/greens, Silk Garden by Noro. She looked gorgeous, it was so flattering to her! She does wear purple a lot but more often with turquoise I think. I gushed but I think she didn’t mind…

Rae’s gone on a writing retreat for a week and I miss her already. I’m sure she’s enjoying both the company and the surroundings.

Personally, I’m just a tad overwhelmed with my schedule here, myself, though everything I’m doing is good. There are three challenging deadlines this week on top of my “appearances” and sometimes I just have to give in and sleep even though work is not done. This, too, shall pass.

Kick Start

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

OK, a kick start is a motorcycle thing (I used to be able to kick start a 650 Yamaha and could ride it fine… although I couldn’t stop properly without dropping the bike so I gave that up in short order). But today I’m envisioning a kick in the tush!

Yesterday’s two classes were divine. I even got a phone call today from one of my new students, to thank me for how much she learned in two hours. That really keeps me going, you know?

Now today I start an after-school kids knitting program at Dwight Rich Middle School, not very far from my house. If I had a child that age, they might attend this school, it’s in the neighborhood past mine.

This will be great fun because I will get a lot of time with the same kids, it’s several months of work with them. That will be very satisfying, because middle schoolers are a good age to control needles well and to be creative… but in my walk-in program at Foster Center I tend to lose them at that age, just when their potential is really obvious.

My helper for my yarn business is coming tonight, too… I have not worked with her since before Christmas and I’m looking forward to her help and her company.

I am trying to be gentle with myself as I recover from this bug I had. Last night was the first night I slept all the night through with no coughing jags, so it truly is getting better. I just wish I felt a little more energetic. This is just how it is, and I’m working on going slowly. So far so good!

By the way, I really want to thank everyone who leaves comments. I like to reply to everyone individually but lately I just haven’t had the emotional or physical energy to write personal notes. If you did not hear from me yet, it’s not because I didn’t see or appreciate your note… Thank you so much.