Thursday, 27 October 2011

À bientôt!

I'm taking a break for a couple weeks...






As long as I don't lose my camera, or clumsily fall on it (which is never beyond my capabilities), I will have more pictures and adventure tales when I return. Plus...I will be having a fairly massive sale in my Etsy store as soon as I get settled back home.


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

FO: Fortnight Hat

BT Shelter has fast become one of my favorite yarns.

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It's a blend of Targhee and Columbia wools, very lofty and springy. It's a rustic, imperfect tweedy yarn, and it knits up to almost a velvety texture.

I brought along a hat pattern and a skein on my Rhinebeck weekend trip to have something simple to work on. This is the Fornight pattern from Jared Flood. He's really masterful at writing patterns to suit his yarn.

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So I cheated a little bit and I decided to work the garter stitch section flat, instead of in the round as it is written. I love plain garter stitch and I don't do it often enough. When I hit the cable section, I joined in the round and then seemed up the garter section. I am the laziest motivated person on earth. You can barely see the seam. I can't chew gum and walk, so doing any other kind of knitting when running my gob in a social situation means I have to choose my projects wisely. I end up making a lot of sleeves and other plain things when I'm socializing or else it will look like a spider on LSD made it.

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It only took me a couple days to make. It's a great little hat- completely unisex, cozy and easy to wear.

The cables have slip-stitches, which give them an elegant exaggeration that might have gotten lost in the fuzz of the yarn otherwise.

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I'm currently working on a pair of textured lace mittens out of the same yarn- the color is "Soot"- and I'm hoping to have enough leftover yarn to whip up another Fortnight hat.

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I didn't use up quite 1 skein for the original hat, and it seems like I'll have plenty of yarn leftover from the mittens.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

FO: Glorious Cable Mitts

I'm a bad knitwear role model when it comes to my hands. I dislike the bulk of knit gloves, and only wear mittens if it's so freezing cold out that your fingers need to snuggle up next to your other fingers for warmth, like puppies. I do love the elegance of leather gloves, especially if they are lined with something wonderfully soft and warm, like cashmere or deerskin.

A few of my friendos in my local knit group made these Glorious Cable Mitts. I really liked the delicate but complex cabling and the fine gauge.

I started with a skein of A Verb For Keeping Warm Annapurna Cashmere in the Peacock's Tail colorway. It's dyed with Indigo. Aside from the gorgeous color, it's lovely yarn- a blend of cashmere, merino and nylon. Soft, and after a wash, the cashmere blooms and fills in the fabric nicely.

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There was a little bit of "crocking" that is, my hands turned an alarming shade of frostbite blue. That's totally normal with Indigo, and after I soaked it I got hardly any bleeding at all. You have to think of indigo as not just a dye, but a live organism, so you learn to love its quirks.

I used size 0 needles, but realized pretty quickly that I'd have to fudge the pattern a bit as they were going to be huge if I didn't cut down the stitch count. 72 stitches were a bit too many if I wanted them to fit.


I ripped back, cast on 62 stitches, and then re-worked the cable pattern so that it would be centered on the new stitch count.

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I love them.

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They keep my hands free to fumble through my bag, find my phone, wallet, keys, metrocard, whatever. All that ribbing means they fit nice and snug. I love the cabling detail- it took a bit of time to work the cables but nothing so bad that it couldn't be done. They took me a little less than 2 weeks from start to finish. I didn't have the goal of having them Rhinebeck ready, but it worked out that way.

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The thumb gussets are brilliant- I think I've only ever done an "afterthought" thumb, which just sticks out like a hitchhiker. These lie nice and flat without any thumb bulk to get in the way. They keep me toasty warm as they are snug around my pulse points. I did a stretchy bind-off so I can wiggle my thumb out and roll them back if I'm doing something where I don't want to get them dirty. Still, the ribbing keeps them snug across my hands so they don't get saggy baggy.

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Someone stopped me to admire the gloves and asked me, "Can I just get those at Walmart or something?" to which I replied non-verbally with a careful peeling off of my new fingerless gloves and giving the poor ignorant soul a sound slap across the face with them.

No, actually, you can not get these at Walmart.

Monday, 24 October 2011

An Ode to Apples

Nothing screams "Autumn" like a bucolic day of picking apples in the countryside. This was an activity that I did pretty much every year growing up...our favorite place to go was an orchard owned by an order of somber but well-fed monks. The orchard was on a rolling hillside with mountain views (if only the gray Maine weather would warm up enough for the fog to burn off).

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It had been a few years since I've been able to do this, and it was love at first bite once again. Apples are always my favorite fruits: they are usually consistently good year after year. I love the fleeting sweetness of good plums, peaches, cherries, and berries but I feel like apples will rarely let me down. A decent apple is usually better eating than a rock-hard peach or pucker-inducing plum. Their consistency is comforting to me.

Also, you can't make a bong out of a peach. It just doesn't work.

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A trip to Rose Hill Farm in Duchess county fit the apple-picking bill nicely.

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While it was late in the season for apples, and many of the trees were picked bare, what was left were these enormous apples high on the tree. It took some work to get to them, but you could make a pie with two of them. I munched on one for 20 minutes before my jaw started aching and I had to give up without making much of a dent in it.

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Once I get over eating as many fresh apples as I can, I move on to the kitchen. Nothing smells better than apples bubbling away in the oven, or stewed on the stovetop.

Want a recipe? I made these apple muffins over the weekend and they were just fabulous. It's my own; I based it on my Grandmother's blueberry muffin recipe and took it from there.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flower (because, um, it's healthier than white and a small amount usually doesn't effect the texture too much. You can replace it with 100% white, or use cornflour or whatever)
3/4 cup sugar (I got creative and used a bit of brown and white...honey would also be good)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups peeled, cored and diced apples (2 giant ones, or 3 or 4 smaller apples)

Crumble topping:
1/4 c oatmeal
1/4 c cold butter
1/4 c flour
1/4 c brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Line 12 large muffin cups with paper liners and spray the top part of the pan lightly with vegetable oil spray. (I had a bit more batter and made a little apple cake as well.)

Combine or sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
Whisk together the melted butter, eggs, milk, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a separate bowl until well combined.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until the dry ingredients are moist and blended. Do not over mix. Fold in the diced apple.

Make the crumble: Cut the butter into chunks and crumble with the oats, flour, and brown sugar until crumbs form.

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan with a large ice cream scoop (1/3-cup scoop). The batter will come to the top of the paper liner or pan. Top with a bit of the crumble.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Turn the muffins out of the pan and serve immediately.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

MORE Sheep and Wool...and Frisbee Dogs, too

My favorite part about Rhinebeck is wandering around and checking out the sheep and goats and then eating said sheep and goats. Kidding! They do serve plenty of good lamb dishes though. They put some distance between the sheep being petted and the sheep being eaten...the places serving lamb are far away from the sheep barns. It does seem kind of cannibalistic. Apple cider donuts and kettle corn for me then.

This Cheviot was a bit too pretty to eat anyway.

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One of the highlights of the day for many are the frisbee catching canines. They used to have sheep dog trials, but I'm not sure what they just have sheep dog frisbee. They are fascinating to watch.

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The dogs are just filled with vibrant energy and concentration.

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So about the shopping...people spend oodles of money here every year. I've spent a kagillion bucks here in previous years. It's great to support the industry and small farmers and indie businesses. However, I was just uninspired to shop and found myself in much more of a contemplative mood. I think I've been doing this festival for so long now that I've already bought everything that I feel the need to buy. Weird, right? Also, it's been much more of a social event for me...getting out of the city and hanging out with good people I don't see often enough becomes a priority. Plus, I have a few big trips coming up and that money that wasn't spent on fiber will soon used to buy the perfect croissant.

As I was walking to the car park at the end of the day, I swung by the Foxhill Farm booth and bought a bag of Cormo roving. I couldn't buy absolutely nothing. It just felt all sorts of wrong. Alice Field breeds and raises the loveliest sheep- she keeps them blanketed, so they are nice and clean. You can just tell when you are spinning it that the sheep it came from was loved and well cared for. The roving isn't over-proceeded at all and I had so much fun spinning what I bought from her last year.

Cormo handspun, 2 ply

Totally worthwhile purchase. It will keep me busy for countless hours, along with the rather huge stash of fleece from previous Rhinebecks that are still patiently stored in bags under my bed.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

More Rhinebeck, Including a Highly Coveted Spinning Session

This man is a rock star.

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Well, in the spinning world anyway. It's Norm Hall, and he makes the most amazingly gorgeous spinning wheels by hand. They aren't cheap.

He doesn't have a website. He stopped taking orders in 2005. You can get on a wait list, but it's not unheard of to wait many many years before you get a glimmer of hope that your dream wheel will get made. There is an active market in selling your spot on the wait list.

I only ever see him at Rhinebeck. He sits around his booth, chats with his fan club and occasionally, a lucky wait-lister will show up to pick up their wheel.

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It was love at first spin for Mknits.

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He also has a nice banjo player in his booth plucking away and making the corner a small sanctuary in all the grabby shoving of the festival.

Happily, his booth is very close to where lamb chili could be had, and I spied the most amazing sweater:

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Handspun, handdyed, handknit. This woman was so proud of it, and as you can see from the stranger's hand reaching out to touch it, everyone was in awe of it.

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She was super-proud of it. The fleece even came from a previous Rhinebeck.

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I was having a lot of fun walking around with my camera and trying to capture the essence of the moment.

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I have even more sheepy pictures tomorrow...and some gorgeous sheep dogs as well.