Monday, 31 January 2011

FO: Spey Valley Socks

I love having a pair of simple socks going for my daily commute. As soon as I finish a pair, I cast on for the next, usually with no one particular in mind. They are small and portable and I can usually zone out and knit away while packed into a train car or standing around in line at the post office or at Shake Shack. It also ensures that my friends and family will be swathed in handknits come holiday-time.

I found this nifty pair of socks in Nancy Bush's "Knitting on the Road". They were all travel-inspired patterns and some very good ones at that. Right away I cast on for the Spey Valley Socks. I had such good memories of the place and they were such a neat-o pair of socks anyway.


Strathspey has the highest concentration of Scotch distilleries in all of Scotland. It's gorgeous countryside- hilly and green and rugged. Also, there are sheep everywhere. Mostly Scottish Blackface.






The cows are fed the extruded barley from the distilling process, and the cheddar if known for tasting like whisky because of it. Truly a wonderful place.



It was nice to walk around all day in the mountains and come back to a civilized and warm evening of Scotch and good hospitality.

Anyway. Here are the spey-inspired socks:

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I made them for Bry, so they are manly man sized. There are three different ribbing patterns and two rows of decorative braid, and that's it. Simple.

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They are sport-weight, so more like house slippers than socks. It would be hard to shove them into a pair of shoes unless they are your big winter boots. All that ribbing makes them extra cozy as well.

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I'm really pleased with them, and so it he.

The specs:
These took almost an entire skein of Socks that Rock medium weight- close to 380 yards. The color is "Lucy in the Sky", which looked kind of denim-y to me.

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The original pattern called for skinnier fingering weight yarn, but since they were for size 10.5 feet, I didn't have to tweak the pattern to get a good fit. I used size 2.5 mm needles and did these two at a time, cuff-down.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Bottles and Jars in the House of Fermentation

It's been snowing fantastic amounts lately. I absolutely love it. The fresh coating every few days refreshes the landscape and covers any sludge and slush, making the illusion of being in a snowglobe complete.

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It's a throwback winter from childhood. I've been getting out and walking in the deep drifts whenever I can. It's good exercise, and it somehow doesn't feel like a workout because it's so much fun.

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Plus, all my winter woolies are getting good use.

What to do when I'm sick of playing in the snow?

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We bottled our first batch of beer. It's not drinkable quite needs to cask condition. Once the yeast is done eating all the sugar and turning it into alcohol in the fermenter tank, you still need to deal with carbonation. Right before you bottle, you mix in some priming sugar to give the yeast something new to chew on, and that creates the carbonation. So right now we have very flat beer, but it's still drinkable (as in, it will get you drunk) and you just have to be patient for another couple weeks.

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The good news is that it tastes like beer- it's a British-style IPA with a good amount of hops. As soon as the fermenter tank was cleaned out, we started a new batch of wort on the stove and it's happily bubbling away once again.

I braved the bitter cold over the weekend to drink mimosas and to get out to the kimchi party that the Brooklyn Brainery was hosting. They are an independent collective that hosts all sorts of neat-o classes and seminars on an eclectic range of topics. The kimchi party was super crowded, but you brought your own jar and got to fill it with your own custom blend of kimchi.

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This is sitting on my bookshelf, fermenting away into spicy cabbagey awesomeness. Here's a picture I took of the basic recepie we used:

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I'm going to make a huge vat of kimchi stew with some fresh homemade tofu from the Korean deli down the street.

It's a great time of year to be hedonistic.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Spinning: Now with bits of Bactrian Camel!

I once spun and wove up a scarf made out of baby camel fiber.

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The purple/yellow was a merino silk blend, but the camel colored yarn all came from a baby camel. Weaving doesn't bias if your yarn is out of sorts with balance, so you can use singles without worry.


It's fantastic to work with. Camels are double-coated, and this is the finest downy undercoat. It's like cashmere. The outer coat is terribly scratchy and rough, and much more hair-like. The undercoat is just buttery soft and wonderful to spin.

Here it is, blended with silk.

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I had some of this tucked away in my stash that was leftover from my scarf project. Lucky me, my December AVFKW club also contained a bundle of camel silk blend, along with some dyed Polworth.

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The color is "Rosemary". I took the opportunity to use up as much stash as possible in one hit and blended my existing 2 oz of Camel/silk with the club fiber.

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I spun it up into an Aran-weight 3-ply. It's lovely- very slinky and drapey. I'm hoping the bit of Polworth gives it at least a little memory when knitted up.

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The color is very subtle. It's overwhelmingly camel-colored, with just a hint of the purples and greens in the dyed bit of fiber.

Oh, and the static really killed me here. Every time I sat down to spin, I would get covered from head to toe with staticky bits of camel down. It clung to everything, and then after it came out of the wash I had bits of camel felt netted into my clothes. I really recommend spinning these downy fibers when the radiator has been turned off and the humidity is higher. It tames it and makes the whole process much more pleasant.

I keep a spray bottle with a mix of water, vodka (the cheapest stuff is just fine) and a few drops of essential oils (I'm a fan of a blend of lavender, eucalyptus and tea tree oil). I spray down the fiber before touching it- not to soak it but it does help with the flyaways. I also use this as my all-purpose "Smell Better" spray- yoga mats, shoes, linens- whatever has a bit of a funky odor, this will take care of it without overly perfuming.

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I ended up with about 120 yards Aran weight from 4 oz of fiber. Not the best yardage, but enough to make an awesome warm hat.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

FO- Handspun Artyarn Snail Hat

I've been admiring this pattern from E-Z for years now. I've had a few friends make them, but I loved my friend Knithound Brooklyn's the best.

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She used her fabulous handspun and I just loved the colors.

I decided to take the artyarn plunge and use my corespun yarn for this pattern.

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I've never knit with corespun, so I wasn't quite sure what I was in for. I ended up being better suited for something that needs a lot of drape. It had no real structure, so it probably wasn't the best choice for a hat that I wanted to have a pointy top.

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Oh, that weird bump? Not a giant tumor. It's my hair- I had it pulled up in a high bun. Shoving my hair into the top of the hat is the only way I could get it from flopping over.

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It's not bad. The yarn is kind of on the thin side for this pattern, and it's a bit too busy to see the swirls really clearly. I really want to make this hat again with a big, downy chunky yarn to do it justice.

It did knit up very fast- I think I started it while I was getting a pedicure and had it halfway done by the time my nails were dry. It might have taken a bit over 2 hours total. I can't wait to make another one. It's very easy on the yardage and it's super cute. This particular one isn't especially warm, but with the right yarn it could be.

The specs: I used size 10 needles and about 90 yards of my aran-ish weight handspun from a Butterfly Girl Batt. More about the corespun yarn I made back in October here. It's part of my A-Z stashdown challenge as well.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Deep Winter is a Cure for Stashbusting of All Sorts

Waking up to less than ideal weather conditions makes me happy to kick around the house in yoga pants and knock things off my to-do list. Every day has been a new craftadventure and I've started so many new projects. It's been fabulous, but I had to rein it in as I was taking over the house in a big way.

I made granola.

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Huge batches of it. Ya know, the granola plant might catch fire tomorrow and there will be no more granola in the world for ages but I'll be happily munching away at my own granola stash because I have jars of it. It's easy to make, fun to modify to your liking, and it's much less sweet than commercial brands.

I made pickles.

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A trip to the Foodshed Market in Boerum Hill led to the acquisition of some winter treasures. It's an indoor farmer's market that happens every Sunday. There are quite a few food vendors (like Luke's Lobster Rolls, be still my heart) and a few good veggie vendors. Most of the produce consisted of things that loved the cold or could be stored- lots of onions and kale and root veggies. We did find some hothouse cukes and I went to work right away on turning them into spicy pickles. I've made pickled cauliflower a couple of times, but here in New York, they worship the almighty cucumber pickle. I think there are a little sweet, but I added a couple jalapeno peppers in there so they have a pretty hefty kick to them as well.

Despite my constant striving towards vegetarianism, I'm debating signing up for a pork CSA this spring from the Piggery. We do a fruit and vegetable CSA every summer into the fall and we only have to run out to the grocery store for eggs, flour and sugar all summer long. I don't even really cook meat at home, but this is really appealing to me.

Oh, speaking of pigs...I got my AVFKW January club. It's a lovely BFL/silk blend in the most delicate pale pink. And the color is called...Wilbur. I take this as a sign.

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What started as a way to repair my own broken bits of jewlery has bloomed into a full-blown beading craze. I've pulled out my bead stash and strung some necklaces, just for fun.

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Bry had brought me back these gorgeous stone beads from Tibet years ago. I finally got around to stringing them up and found a labradorite pendant to match. I love when that lightbulb goes off and you realize that something can be stash no more. I'm waiting for an order to come in for toggle clasps so I can make a few more. They are simple once you get the technique down, and I'm fortunate to work close by to several large bead emporiums in the fashion district.

I love glass beads.

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There's so many creative possibilities here. I've got a few strands of freshwater pearls that have broken over the years that I've dug up. They are in need of a Chanel-style makeover. I've promised the beau that I wouldn't start getting into metal smithing -yet- but this is a great apartment craft as it requires minimal space and storage.

As for spinning, I've got a huge project going. Remember Cadfael the BFL ram? He's finally getting some attention.

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And holy hell, what a pain in my ass he is. It's not a very big fleece, but I've spent more time on this than any other fleece that I've prepped. Not that I'm surprised- I knew this would be like this. Every single little curly lock needs to be pulled apart by hand. It's really time consuming, as there are thousands of tightly-coiled locks in this fleece. If I didn't do this, I would damage the fleece and my carder irreparably. The teeth on my carder would end up looking like Austin Power's in all his toothy glory.

Once I have each lock separated and fluffed, I feed it lock by lock into the carder. Then I card the resulting batt four times to get it smooth as possible.

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And it's being spun into a fingering-weight single.

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I'm aiming for a worsted-weight 2-ply. I'm clueless on a yardage estimate so far, so I'm not really spinning with a particular project in mind yet.

I've also been knitting. I started a small sock-yarn shawl-
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It's the beginnings of the "In the Land of Oz" shawl by Adrienne Fong. It's BMFA Socks that Rock Mediumweight in "Luna Sea". It's very pretty, and not so busy that it will make the lace look like clown barf.

I'm more than halfway done the Spey Valley Socks:

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I've also cast on for a sweater, but I don't have pictures yet. Also, I'm upset at myself at my lack of awesome pictures (maybe if I had some daylight and you could actually see things) so I'm taking a photography class just to get accustomed to the bad-ass beast with a lens.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

FO- Devon Pullover

I love cabley things. I also love huge swaths of stockinette.

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I make Bry a new sweater every winter. Here's the deal- he gets to choose the pattern (it's usually based on a commercially made sweater, and I either re-create the pattern or find something similar in my library) and the color. That way, he'll actually wear it. He's starting to amass quiet the wardrobe of handknits.

I whipped up this beast of a sweater in no time at all. It took me about 3 weeks of half-assed knitting to get it done. Bulky yarn and size 10 needles make for a quick knit, no matter what the size.

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The yarn is Cascade Eco. It's a bulky woolen-spun 2-ply. It's not super-soft, but good for an outer layer. The yardage of each skein is huge- 478 yards- so this was a project that didn't leave the house. The wound ball of yarn took up my entire hand bag, so I stuck to my sock knitting when I left the house. It's warm, but because it's woolen-spun, it's fairly lightweight.

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The color is "lichen". It's a perfect guy color.

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The only modification I made was I knit the body in the round. I'm going to go back and make faux seams to give the sweater a bit more structure. That should help with the weird wavy thing it's doing at the bottom edge.

Once I seemed everything together and blocked, the sleeves grew and grew and grew. It was amazing, and my washed swatch didn't reflect that. I ripped back about 8 inches and re-ribbed the cuffs. Now they are perfect.

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The pattern is from "Norah Gaughan Men" booklet. There are a few winners in that booklet.

I ended up buying way too much yarn for this sweater. I thought I would need about 1200 yards for this sweater, so I bought 3 skeins- over 1400 yards. I ended up using only 1 full skein, and about 400 yards off a second. I wasn't counting on that and I need to think of a new project idea for the remaining 600 yards.

This is part of my A-Z stashdown challenge. Slowly, my stash is getting smaller. Except for that gift certificate that my awesome coworkers got me, which made the stash much bigger. Damn them for foiling my plans.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Some Works in Progress

I've been a busy worker bee lately. I need to take advantage since I usually get sluggish in winter. I'm totally on a roll and checking things off my to-do list at a furious pace.

We made beer.

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I don't even like the taste of beer. I keep trying it, thinking one day I will get over it and be the average beer-drinking american. I drink beer and I feel bloated and full of burps and unwell. Because I drink it so slowly, I never get a buzz going and spend the rest of my time desperately searching for a glass of wine to wash the taste out of my mouth.

I do like to make things though. I seem to like to make things that people will ask/tell me, "You could get that at WalMart/Target/Safeway, etc for cheaper/easier". Also, isn't science fun? Starches and sugars being converted into alcohol for our pleasure? It's entertaining on so many levels. Get to work, you yeasty bastards!

Please observe my wort.
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I'm in love with the way everything smelled in the brewing process. It's currently sitting in the fermeneter, getting big and strong and alcoholic. If anything, I figure the one with the beer is the one with the friends, so this will get drunk by someone eventually.

My brew-happy co-worker also informs me that no one has ever died from drinking home-brewed beer. Always a huge concern of mine.

So I cheated and even though I took a dumpling-making class, I went out and made someone else make them for me.

Mandoo in Koreatown makes their own dumpling, right then and there. They are beautiful little gems that are the perfect cold-weather cheap-but-delicious eats. There's pretty much no limit to how many dumplings I can eat.

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If this woman goes missing it's because I've kidnapped her. She'll be safe in Brooklyn, I assure you, making a mountain of dumplings in the comfort of my own kitchen.

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Now I'm inspired...I will make dumplings very soon. I've been also making pickles lately. Cukes and cauliflower and garlic and hot peppers and pretty much anything else I can put in jars. Then I make bloody marys with the leftover pickle juice. It's fantastic.

I've been knitting and spinning as well, but I'm slow with the picture taking.

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This is the Devon sweater by Norah Gaughn. It's from her lovely little book of men's knits that was published by Berocco a couple of years ago. This picture is a bit old as it is now done the sweater with the exception of the ribbing around the neck and blocking. It took no time at all- I really love making sweaters that are huge swarths of stockinette stitch, with some interesting details thrown in to keep things interesting. I used Cascade Eco in the lichen colorway (the yarn color doesn't show up true in the above photo at all, and that's my fault).

I finished another handspun hat, but I need daylight to do it justice in photographs.

I cast on for a pair of ribby socks in BMFA yarn. Socks are my daily commuting activity and I feel kind of lost if I don't have a pair in the works.

I spun up some fiber:

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I made a big fat 3-ply from it. It's very soft, and I would imagine that it really blooms up nicely with all that downy baby camel in it. I'll post pictures soon.

Oh, and my mom got me some Angora fiber. She bought it at the Fryeburg Fair, which is an enormous agricultural fair that happens every fall in picturesque western Maine.

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It's lovely and soft, but I think the downy fibers need some humidity in the air in order to be manageable- the static really creates a monster.