Monday, July 31, 2006

Irish Hiking Scarf

This is part of my long term project to make The Ideal Sweater. Since at this point my fantasy involves cables, I figured it would be a good idea to see how cables work. After looking around for free cabled scarf patterns, I picked this Irish Hiking Scarf from Hello Yarn. I don't plan to continue knitting in this fantastically garish pink color, but Mo graciously let me use the yarn to practice. I looked in at the knitalong, and I've decided I want a yarn that will showcase the cables. I'm going to look for a light grey or grey-blue wool, and I'll consider using tweed.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Knitting in Public

Today I felt like a rebellious knitter. Mo and I went to hear Mary Cowhey read from her book Black Ants and Buddhists at the Cup and Top Cafe. Mary Cowhey is a progressive teacher of first and second grade in Northampton. From her background as an activist and organizer she has an amazing ability to draw on the resources offered by people in the community. She described using primary sources to teach about the cruelty inflicted by the conquistadors, and making signs to encourage voting in order to teach handwriting.

So where does the rebelliousness come in to play? We showed up early to get lunch, and knit while we waited for our food. After we ate, we nursed our drinks, and kept knitting. As empty space became scarce, we relocated to the steps of the hardware store, and continued to knit while we loitered (I should mention that the hardware store was actually closed). Then, most daring of all, we went back to hear Mary Cowhey's reading, and knit through the whole thing.

Even though I'd heard something about World Wide Knit In Public Day before it happened this June, I didn't really understand what it was about. It isn't that I'm a secretive knitter; I've knit in the library, and in the math forum, and I've certainly walked around campus with a ball of yarn stuffed in my coat pocket. But it felt somehow different yesterday. It could have been the difference between knitting in a library and knitting as part of a gathering. No matter how interesting you find someone's knitting, you can't have an enthusiastic discussion in a library about when you made your first baby sock or how you learned to knit from your mother. But I think the largest difference was because Mo and I were both knitting. Seeing one person knitting is interesting, and perhaps unusual enough to ask a question. Seeing two people knitting makes it into a group activity and an invitation to join in. I may have missed WWKIP day this year, but join me and mark your calendar: June 10th, 2007.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Accepted at Threadless!

As you can see in the sidebar, my design was accepted at Threadless for voting. I'm very excited. While I was waiting I kept worrying that something had gone wrong, because the small picture of my design with a big "PENDING" written across it disappeared from my profile. I'll put another button here just for fun.
My Submission
Please go leave feedback and vote!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Scrap apron plan

This is my plan for an apron with an inset scrap border. My other idea was to make a Chinese Coin quilt, which is the smaller doodle on the lower right hand side. QuiltBus has a huge selection of quilt block patterns online, including the Chinese Coin pattern here, which might give you a better idea of what it would have looked like. After sewing everything together I realized I wouldn't have had enough to make a quilt anyway. My plan is to make a small size that I can quilt by hand, but I'd want it to be only a little shorter than this length, and with two stripes:
This is the border resting on some grape leaves on the porch. I don't know if I'll work on this more before going home, because I'd like to have a rotary cutter to even out the top and bottom edges. Either way, I'm glad I've done something with the scraps, because seeing them lying around made me feel neglectful.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A finished teddy bear

I would like to introduce Henrietta. She likes to wear dresses and climb trees:
I was playing with Henrietta and I thought something seemed familiar about her:
I've decided that the snapping noises were responsible for the cracks in the crust which appeared later. What made the noises so surprising was that they were so loud but didn't seem to be having a physical effect on the bread. I think with steam it would have had a softer/thinner crust and the cracks wouldn't have happened, but I can't be sure. The interior was okay but I am not a fan of the thick crust. Overall, the potluck can be summed up as a very successful trade of vegetables for carbs.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The loudest loaf

I have never been aware of this before, but when I took this loaf out of the oven it sounded like a bowl of Rice Krispies. I've never read anything about this happening, and I certainly don't remember another loaf sounding like that. The noises have stopped (for now!) but I'm still curious about what was going on. I like how the slashes turned out. I'm curious about how it would have looked if I had steamed the oven.

I made this following the recipe for Pain Ordinaire, except I substituted in a half cup of semolina flour. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen today; I also mixed up a starter a semolina recipe, and "old dough" for a sourdough. The semolina is next on my list of breads, so the faux-old dough is in the freezer. I'm not exactly sure from the recipe, but I think the sourdough needs a starter in addition to the dough pieces, so I should mix that up as we eat through the semolina. This crackling beauty should be gone fairly soon, as Mo and I are bringing it to a potluck.

Sandcastle cake

This weekend a friend of ours had a birthday party. I was visiting my brother up at camp in the Adirondacks, but I helped Mo make a sandcastle cake to take to the party. Don't be fooled by the clean table top in the background, the entire kitchen was absolutely covered in graham cracker crumbs. And yes, that chocolate teddy bear is about to be eaten by a shark.

Friday, July 21, 2006

French toast

A fitting end for a fine loaf. The bizarre looking black things are local black rasberries. I guess from the picture they look like blackberries, but up close they look like discolored rasberries. We tried them plain and they didn't have much flavor, but I liked the subtle hint of berry they added with the french toast and syrup. I could taste the berry a lot more than the cinnamon and vanilla in the french toast, although Mo assures me that the taste was there.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sandwich Bread, round 2

Two weeks ago Mo and I made a command performance for Gaby's son E. and his friends from summer daycare. They walked and got pulled in a buggy over to one of the gardens where the interns work, and after E. gave rowdy introductions we took a quick tour around the formal garden before settling down for lunch. A few of the kids were very young, but for the most part they were about three years old. One of the older kids, N., has apparently been tricking his friends into believing that he doesn't like to eat his sandwiches. (I say friends instead of teachers because everyone is refered to as a friend. It is adorable and makes them sound like Quakers.) N. admitted that sometimes he likes to pretend, and this time he managed to eat everything but the crust of his sandwich. So was there a difference between this sandwich and every sandwich he'd gotten before? Earlier that morning his mother had specifically reminded him that he'd been given a special mushy sandwich.

I made another loaf of sandwich bread last night, and N. would be pleased. It's the perfect loaf for a mushy sandwich like peanut butter and jelly, with a thin crust and a moist interior, but it holds up well to toasting. After having a slice with cream cheese and jam, I toasted a piece and melted some Gruyère on top. Delicious, and accompanied perfectly by cherry tomatoes.

It doesn't look as pretty as the last loaf, but I think it's closer to what the recipe intended.

This time it actually only baked for the requisite 35 minutes (Mo was an absolute sweetheart and took care of the baking end of things), but I handled it more than I would have liked while getting it into the bread pan, and it had to wait longer than specified during its second rise. By the time it got in the oven it had poofed over the top, which is why it has a collapsed section near the middle. Unlike the last loaf, it wasn't that I forgot about the bread as much as I was unwilling to stand in front of a hot oven while cooking dinner. No sandwiches for lunch today, as we have last night's dinner to finish off, but when we get home I will definitely make another piece of toast with cheese.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bread update

Dry. Very dry. And only 26 hours after being taken out of the oven, so clearly that extra half hour of baking had some effect. We stored it cut side down, and it can't get much more humid, so it was definitely the baking time. Fortunately some cream cheese and rasberry jam took care of the dryness, and now there's only one piece left. Such a cute sized loaf! I haven't baked bread in a pan for a long time. It might have been a Victorian Milk Bread from Ultimate Bread by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno, although I'm not altogether sure.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Nervous nervous! I just submitted this design to Threadless, and I'll hear back in 4-8 days about whether they will put it up for voting. Then the voting public can tear apart my baby. If Threadless does they like it I'll still keep some rights, which is nice. I'd still be able to put it in my header, for example, although I'm not sure yet how to do such a thing.

Sandwich bread and unfinished bear

As you can see, I forgot to take a picture before we started eating. The recipe was from the back of our 10 lb bag of King Arthur flour, and it came out pretty well. I'm surprised they don't have the recipe in the huge Baker's Companion cookbook. When we're done with the flour I think I'll clip the recipe and add it in. It seemed like an unusual recipe to me, as they have you knead on a lightly greased surface instead of a lightly floured surface, but in the Baker's Companion they come across as very much against adding extra flour. It was far to sticky for my liking, so added a small handful anyway.

Mo and I were watching a movie, and I accidently let it cook for nearly an hour instead of the 35 minutes they recommend, but it still wasn't burned. The crust is probably a bit thicker than intended, but it's still delicious and perfect for sandwiches. What I like most about this recipe is that the bread only has to rise for an hour before being shaped, and then it sits for an hour, and then it only bakes for a half hour. As long as you are paying attention, that is. The difference between a one hour and two hour initial rise is huge, at least in my eyes. I know that bread develops a better flavor if you leave it to rise for longer, but having a backup recipe is nice. The potato bread we made several times earlier in the summer became a full afternoon's project, whereas this recipe was possible to start with dinner in order to have a loaf ready in the morning for lunch. Our sandwiches, by the way, have chicken with melted mozzarella and homemade pesto, heavy on the garlic. I can't wait.

This is what the teddy bear looks like right now. Pretty tiny, no? The arm isn't attached yet, since I haven't actually finished it, but I'm stuck at the end of the first arm. The instructions say to graft together the remaining five stitches, which I've never done before. Mo found me an article that explains how to do it, but the article is insistant that there are an even number of stitches. I decided that fudging on the instructions for something I've never done before should wait until I could give it my full attention. I also don't know if I have a tapestry needle, so this teddy bear might end up with pointed arms instead of an invisible seam. I'm excited that even with this small project I've already learned an increase method, and I could potentially learn a joining method that at present looks entirely baffling.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Soup = cooking for lazy people

Seriously. Stef visited from Vermont and we made a lentil soup for dinner, which helped reduce the huge stock of vegetables that are taking over our fridge. The soup was a little too salty, but we're going to water down the leftovers and it should be fine.

After Stef left, Mo and I knit while watching a movie. Mo got more than halfway and then had to pull everything out, which must have been frustrating. I worked on the sock I started yesterday, and finished it up this morning. I added a few rows to the foot section, because I'm not sure that the socks I made before will stretch enough length-wise. While I was knitting this morning I decided my next project will be a teddy bear. I found a number of patterns online, but not all of them had pictures, so I think I may stick with the one I found at Knitty. It's for a very small bear, but that seems like a good way to start.

I decided at Webs yesterday that I don't want to start making socks on circular needles, especially since I just bought my first set of double pointeds. I feel like I should be thoroughly acquainted with them before rushing out and buying another pair. Unfortunately, the teddy bear pattern calls for size 3 instead of size 2, but I think I'll just use what I have. It also calls for worsted weight yarn, so I'm going to try out the remaining sock yarn and see what happens. Teddy bears for tiny people!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mushroom hunting

Mo and I had a delicious dinner tonight. Chicken with garlic, onion, and wild black trumpet mushrooms. Black trumpets which we picked ourselves earlier today. Don't worry, we didn't just decide to raid the backyard.

This whole expedition began to take shape a few weeks ago. One of the Botanic Garden interns (coincidentally also named Stef) works closely with Elaine, whose job is to manage the botanic collection. They went out to a bog nearby in order to collect seeds, and in a deli afterwards they ran into two men who were also drenched to the waist, from fly fishing. Michael asked if they had been stealing orchids, and eventually during all the talk about plants it came out that Elaine is originally from Michigan and that the only thing she misses is being able to find morels.

Michael, on the other hand, grew up in Massachusetts and has been picking mushrooms since he was four years old. He started going on trips with his mother, and now he sells mushrooms to many upscale local restaurants. He has been on several forays with the national mushroom association, and one year won the grand prize for his discoveries. Elaine was in luck, because Michael offered to take Elaine on a tour of local edible mushrooms. He even obtained permission from a fellow mushroom hunter for Elaine to visit a prolific black trumpet population. He and his mushroom enthusiast friend had discovered the black trumpet spot together, and guarded it carefully ever since.

Neither of them were interested in sharing that spot with half a dozen new mushroom eaters, so Michael took the interns (and me) to a nearby spot where he had never been, but suspected there would be black trumpets. The first few hours we didn't find any. During our break for lunch Michael shared with us some black trumpets he had cooked the night before and brought from home. Fortunately we found a few small patches of black trumpets when we started to look in the afternoon. The best part is that the black trumpets are distinctive, and nothing else would be mistaken for one, so we can look for them on our own.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Complete Pair

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Finished baby socks! After a bit of stretching, they're even nearly the same size. And now for a laugh, the baby sock next to The Sock that Ate Manhattan: Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
And now with my hand for scale:Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Starting the first one was tricky; I had to do it three times before it felt right. I made a few mistakes on the first one, mostly due to counting problems. But the shaping managed to come out right, so I'm satisfied. The second sock was smooth sailing, besides one minor mishap with a knit/purl confusion. I caught that early on, though, and I even managed to pull out the right number of stitches and fix the mistake without reworking the entire sock. I'm generally a tight knitter but managed to loosen up the second time around. Somehow it still came out smaller than the first one-those extra rows must be to blame.

Future socks

I'm going to work with the blue, and the green is for Mo. We even have a date to make socks tonight. Our plan is to make a pair of socks for each of the twins, and then learn how to switch colors so that Zanthe can have a super fancy pair of hand knit socks. As if a two year old is going to appreciate hand knit socks.

Monday, July 10, 2006

My first sock!

The most gigantic baby sock you've ever seen. It's worsted weight wool, and knit on size 7 double pointed needles. It was good to have a practice run, though. I followed a tutorial and pattern at, and was very grateful for the video at that shows working the heel. I have a hard time following instructions if I don't understand the big picture, so the concept of turning around before I finished a row seemed ridiculous.

I love how I came across the yarn. Someone had put a blanket into the Freebox at Gillett, which was great fun to unravel. I was worried about getting all of the kinks out, but sitting around in a tightly wound ball seems to have done the trick.

On Saturday after I finished the sock Mo agreed to ride into town to go to Webs and look for sock wool, so now I can make properly sized socks in adorable blue yarn. I'm not sure how much of the size 2 needles I can handle, so for now they will be properly sized baby socks. Mo has a green ball of the sock yarn, so we can work on socks together the next time there's a crafting opportunity. I've taken a picture of the yarn, but I'm having a bit of trouble doing everything in the proper order, so I'll post it in a bit.

Getting the needles was quite a stroke of luck. Webs only had a plastic set of double pointed size 2 needles, so we walked over to Northampton Wools, but got there after closing time. After locking up our bikes around the corner and starting back towards Webs I noticed that not only were people still inside the shop, but the door was still open, and the register had not yet been turned off. Hooray!

I'm hoping that my friend Stef will be able to visit while I'm in town. I taught her how to knit at the beginning of the summer, and I'd love to work on some projects with her.