Wednesday, March 28, 2012

la primavera

With temperatures in the 80s the other week, Chicago seemed to have skipped spring and gone straight to summer.
Luckily the flowering trees and spring bulbs were there to remind us of the season.
My weekend away in Michigan with the knitting girls was amazing. So relaxing, and it felt like summer as we sat on the deck, knitting, chatting, soaking up the sun, and sipping Lady Sibyl cocktails. Blissful... (P.S. Don't you love that someone dreamed up Downtown Abbey-themed cocktails?  I want to try the Lady Mary next).

Hmmm... lots on the knitting front, but not a ton of photos yet. Mostly I've been digging out old projects and finishing them off, though I did give in to temptation and cast on a sock:
Very... vibrant?!? OK, more like garish. The real reason I cast on was to try out my new 9 inch Hiya Hiya circular knitting needles. Yep, 9 inch circulars. It took a while to get used to them, but now that I've adjusted how my left hand holds the needle, the sock is flying along. We'll see if this pace holds up once I hit the heel. Then again, perhaps it's time to try an afterthought heel... I don't think these needles would work well with complex stitch patterns (especially cables), but for plain ol' stockinette or a basic rib pattern, they seem fine so far.
What else have we been up to?
Brewing beer!  Here's Paul tending to our second batch of homebrew, a breakfast stout.
We got started with a kit from the Brooklyn Brew Shop. The grapefruit honey ale turned out quite well!  Not too sweet, with a nice citrusy finish. The kit is fairly easy, although make sure to read all directions very thoroughly before you start brewing. Keep in mind that not every ingredient is included, so make sure to pick up extras like grapefruit, honey, etc. first. Also, the kit leads you to believe that this is quick and easy and doesn't require much equipment. That's partly true. Much of the brewing time isn't terribly active, but you need to set aside a solid block of many hours. You can read a book, knit a few rounds on a sock, then check temperatures and stir. 

Also, you definitely need at least two very large pots and a mini auto-siphon. I highly recommend buying Star San so that you don't have to worry about rinsing all your equipment thoroughly after sanitizing it; also, it's easier to pick up bottles, caps, and a bottle capper from your local homebrew shop than it is to drink enough bottles of Grolsch (which have handy swing-tops).
recipe round-up

- Chocolate Orange Cream Cheese Pound Cake, from Joy the Baker
- an incredibly decadent and addictive snack mix from Southern Living -- credit goes to Julie from my knitting group for discovering this recipe (NB: "honey graham cereal" is code for Golden Grahams)

Friday, March 16, 2012


Clara Parkes recently revisited Imperial Stock Ranch yarns in Knitter's Review (an update to a previous glowing review from 2003), and it reminded me that I have an Imperial Stock Ranch project to share!

There's something amazing about using American yarn where you feel good not only about the yarn, but also about the producers, the history, the sheep, and the business model. In the words of Clara Parkes:
With so many wool yarns on the market, why should you bother going out of your way to find this one? For starters, it's a great knit that produces a spongy and succulent, home-grown fabric. But perhaps more important, when you've cast off that final stitch you'll be wearing a tale of Western expansion and the American dream.
You're wearing the story of how one man, equipped with just a saddle horse, pack horse, and six-gun, became the biggest landowner in the state of Oregon, running tens of thousands of sheep on the very same land as the sheep that produced your yarn today. And your garment will be physical proof that, while increasingly challenging, it's still possible to produce good domestic wool on a large scale while following ethical and sustainable business practices.
I stumbled across Imperial Stock Ranch's bulky 2-strand pencil roving at Loopy Yarns last fall, and I was intrigued. Soft, unspun roving in a gorgeous palette of colors. The yarn itself drew me in -- the pattern was really secondary here (unusual for me).

pattern: Pembroke Wrap, by Andrea Rangel
yarn: Imperial Stock Ranch bulky 2-strand pencil roving
wild iris, 1.5 skeins
needles: Clover US 11 bamboo circs


Pembroke was really fun to knit, and I love how soft and airy the yarn is. That said, it's a bit fragile since it's unspun, and the more natural feel of the wool comes with a few bits of vegetable matter sprinkled in. Loopy Yarns' owner warned me to be careful while knitting it, as it tends to break. You can easily felt it back together, but that's no one's favorite part of knitting.

My yarn only broke two or three times -- overall I had a great experience with it, no doubt because I am naturally a loose knitter. I suspect that a tight knitter might not enjoy the yarn as much. I was very careful when washing the finished shawl, as I feared felting; pinning it out to block it was no problem.
And now it's time to finish packing for my knitting group's annual getaway weekend. Michigan, here I come! We're slated to have glorious weather (80 degrees in the Upper Midwest in March?  madness!).

Monday, March 12, 2012

brought to you by the letters BSJ and X

Shockingly, this is my first time knitting a Baby Surprise Jacket! Love its unique construction and general cleverness, despite EZ's trademark "pithy" directions.

Clearly I ran out of hand-dyed yarn. Let's just call the solid pink border a "design element." Now to find the perfect buttons...
The cross-stitch frenzy is continuing...

I finished the "plant kindness" sampler from Little House Needleworks the other day, and now need to frame it. For years my (precise and handy) father cheerfully took over this task for me, but it's probably time for me to man up, so to speak, and do it myself. There are a couple of handy guides to framing needlework here and here.

Another project is already underway, this time a kit from Blackbird Designs' Loose Feathers series:
Still primitive Americana, but a little more complicated. All the floss is overdyed, which means you need to do each x as you go (rather than my preferred Ford-factory-assembly-line method), plus evenweave linen instead of my usual Aida (so much more counting). There are a few crazy stitches like the eyelet stitch and Smyrna cross, plus a boatload of lazy daisies. Fun nonetheless, and a great break for the wrists. Lots of time on the computer at work lately has meant that the knitting pace had to slow down a bit.

- Joss Whedon's new film, The Cabin in the Woods, debuted at SXSW, and it sounds intriguing! 
- Orla Kiely's new line of bedding hits the shelves at Bed, Bath & Beyond in May.
- Posie Gets Cozy's online shop features a new whimsical and charming cross-stitch kit.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


I happily knit the last repeat and cast off my State Street Cowl last weekend. I was a little skeptical about how exactly this oversized, bulky-knit cowl would look on me, but the lace pattern was pretty, and the bird's egg Quince and Co. yarn was such a nice color. 
Yeah, apparently I look like Bluebeard in it. Not exactly what I was going for...

Pattern: State Street Cowl, by Pam Allen
Yarn: Quince and Co. Puffin, bird's egg, 2.2 skeins
Needles: Clover US 13 and 15 bamboo circs

note to self:
Do not knit another humongous cowl.

I'm left with a conundrum -- what to knit with this yarn? So far it has been an Oatmeal Pullover (too bulky), a garter stitch blanket (not enough drape), and this cowl. Sigh...

While flipping through the latest WEBS catalog I was pleasantly surprised by the really lovely and creative patterns written for their exclusive (i.e., affordable and competitive with Knit Picks) line of Valley Yarns. I'm still finishing my Aidez cardigan, but that doesn't mean a girl can't dream...
-- Valley Yarns 361 Teal Top-Down Cardigan
Cute pattern, with a decidedly un-cute name. This one looks great for layering or pairing with a denim skirt?
-- Boothbay lace pullover (knit sideways!)
I think my mom would love this -- comfy but still rather elegant.
Another soulless name for a very attractive pattern. Looks like a versatile cotton knit for spring and fall, and the so-called "nalgar" ("raglan backwards") sleeves are intriguing (though slightly linebacker-y).
I'm usually not so big on spring knits, but WEBS actually has me inspired! Bravo.
An Orla Kiely pear tablecloth found its way to my doorstep, and it's just begging to be turned into curtains for my re-vamped study!