An Icy Day

2 Jan

After a few unusual days of warmth we’ve had quite a thaw in Madison.  Most of the snow is gone from our streets and yards, so it was quite an experience to feel the chill come back in full force and to visit a frozen lake.

It was amazing to see such a big body of water frozen, and to see ATVs and people out in the middle of it!  But I am glad to be safe at home and back in the warm.  Which is always a pleasant experience when you have plenty of wool around.

This is Cascade Eco + in Lichen for the first of my IntSweMoDo2011 challenge, a seamless saddle shoulder sweater (a la Elizabeth Zimmerman) for my Dad.  It is a popular one on Ravelry and I totally understand why, this is probably one of the best work horse yarns around.  With nearly 500 yards per skein it is super economical and knitting with bulky yarn means this will be a speedy project.  Knitting up a sleeve in a day means I don’t feel bad casting on another very small project before starting the body.

Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool is a yarn I stumbled across when looking for something for my sister-in-law.  It is made by a small mill in Michigan and is a wonderfully soft worsted wool.  Perfect for the Thermis cowl I’ve had my eye on for some time.  The colour should go nicely with my Ringwood gloves, finished just in time for the return of the cold.



2011 – Year of Handknit Sweaters

1 Jan

Happy New Year, to you all!  I hope everyone has had a fantastic holiday, with plenty of food, love, and warmth.  This year was a quiet one, punctuated with holiday visits.  Looking back over December I am surprised by how much I managed to get done:

The last two were last minute knits when I ended up short of yarn for the Douglas Mittens.  I am so pleased that accomplished my goal of making my family handknits this year.  It’s made me more ambitious with my knitting goals than ever.

I am not one for making resolutions, but I feel like they really help my productivity, so this year I plan to make 12 sweaters in 12 months, by participating in IntSweMoDo2011.  It sounded like a crazy undertaking until I realised that I had managed to make four sweaters in the last four months (Shalom, Idlewood, Cobblestone, Amelia).

My list as of now is:

  1. Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Seamless Saddle Shoulder (for my Dad) – Cascade Eco +
  2. Manu (for my mother-in-law) – Felted Tweed
  3. Aidez – Rowan Purelife British Breeds Chunky
  4. Golden Wheat Cardigan – Louet Riverstone Chunky
  5. Kerrera – Araucania Nature Wool
  6. Raspy – Rowan Denim
  7. Central Park Hoodie (for sister-in-law) – Cascade Eco +
  8. Wispy – Berrocco Ultra Alpaca Light
  9. Vaila – Berrocco Peruvia
  10. Tweedy Aran Cardigan – Berlini York Tweed
  11. Basic Mens Henley (for David) – Rowan Cashsoft DK

The twelfth hasn’t been decided since it’s the only one that I don’t already have yarn for (yikes!).  I’m confident that I’ll manage to choose one, or two, or a dozen more I want to do before the year is up.  What knitting or crafting resolutions have you made this year?

More Solstice Giving

20 Dec

The highlight of this past weekend was a visit from my parents, and I was very pleased to have finished a very important present just in time.

This is Amelia, knit with Araucania Nature wool.  A two-week knit Solstice gift for my mother.

The last time we visited my parents I showed my mother the yarn, researched the pattern with her, and took measurements.  I considered making it a complete surprise, but I am glad that I involved her early on.  It was fun seeing her get excited by the yarn and telling me what she did and didn’t like about the pattern.  Taking measurements was a lifesaver too, because she has incredibly short arms, and I almost ended up with sleeves three inches too long!

And it fit like a glove!  The only mods were to the sleeve length and making the buttons the full length, but a bit further apart.  I had fun perusing through my new button collection for just the right ones.  It was a very speedy knit despite a slow start with twisted rib.  I hope it’s a cardigan that will last her for years to come.

Just one more last minute gift before Christmas weekend.  A set of Douglas mittens for my Grandma, made with some leftover Harrisville Highland and Louet Riverstone.

I hope she likes the Packers colouring!

An Early Solstice Present

11 Dec

Even though it comes year after year I am always amazed how overwhelming the holidays can feel.  Thanksgiving week included both Dougie’s 2nd birthday and a trip to Chicago to see David’s sister and her family.  Despite us all being sick with cold we had a wonderful time.  The knitted gifts went down a treat, and I even managed to squeeze in a quick Turn a Square for my dearest nephew.

My only complaint would be that it was too brief a visit, though I suppose that is always true with people whom you love and never see enough of.  Coming back home took a lot of adjusting.  Dougie gets quite attatched to people and is affected by separation as much as us adults.  With any luck we hope to be seeing them all again very soon.

November was a surprisingly productive month (though you’d never tell from this blog *cough cough*) and I managed to finish Cobblestone for NaSweKniMo.  It was a spur of the moment decision to make it a goal, but it really kept me going through all those rows of garter stitch in the round!  An early solstice present that was finished just in time for the snow.

I loved knitting this, but then again I don’t mind endless stocking stitch as long as it’s in the round.  I even made sure to do several swatches, which was good because I had to knit this on 3mm needles to get gauge.  The Harrisville Highland is a remarkable yarn, it bloomed and softened up a lot after a good soak.  I’ve read that it’s a yarn that won’t pill and I’m hoping it lasts for many years to come.

I have a lot of hopes and dreams for this jumper.  I hope it will be worn when we get our first chickens.  When he chops down his first tree.  That it will last through rainstorms and winters.  It’s a jumper knit with a different lifestyle in mind, and one I hope will hold a lot of memories.

For now we will keep dreaming of that life and that place, and it will keep him warm while the snow falls.

A Knitter’s Confession

18 Nov

I’ve been avoiding the blog lately, because I have a confession that makes me feel very guilty.  Remember my November Goal, “No more yarn!”?  Well, I have fallen off the wagon.  Not just fallen, but have taken the wagon down with me with the amount of yarn purchased this month.

I have such a weakness for yarn sales, and comes along and has a massive one that breaks my resolve in a flash.  Discontinued yarn?  I may never get my hands on this stuff again!

Felted Tweed in a deep pine green for a Manu.

Berrocco Vintage Chunky for a Meep Meep hoodie for Dougie.

Rowan Purelife Shetland Moorit for Aidez.

And Harrisville Highland in bluegrass for David’s long-time-coming Cobblestone.

Thus in a few quick clicks I have spent a couple of months yarn allowance.  The only way I manage to do this without serious retribution from my husband is the fact that I did get all of this on incredible sale and that they will (eventually) become something wearable.  When buying yarn for an entire sweater I try to pay only as much as I would be willing to pay for a high quality store-bought.  Any of these yarns at full price would have been out of my league.

I have now taken serious steps to curb my addiction.

  • Credit card numbers are no longer available freely.
  • I have left the yarn-enabling groups on Ravelry (sorry Yarn Sales members!)
  • I have joined stash busting groups
  • Knit constantly (because the Devil really does make work for idle hands)

On the positive side, with knitting always in my hands I spend less time online trawling for sales, and there’s also been a huge boost in my productivity.

And if a snowstorm comes in the next few weeks, I will have plenty to keep me warm and busy.

A Taste of Home

15 Nov

Disclaimer: If you are vegetarian or into low fat you probably want to skip this post which is essentially an ode to pork fat.  I apologise in advance to anyone who is offended.  I offer you a carrot of peace.

Almost immediately after moving to the US we realised that our diet would not be the same as in England.  Sadly, we took for granted that we could buy free range eggs, meats, and raw milk and organic vegetables down the road.  British food involves a lot of stews, rich, stodgy desserts, and roast meats: autumn food at it’s best.  Whenever it gets cold my craving for animal fats increases and it’s something I’ve been missing in the world where every piece of meat (even organic/pastured) is trimmed of rind and fat.  So imagine my delight when my husband came home with this.

A tub full of high quality, pastured, porky lard.  Lard has such a bad name and I wish I could go on a crusade to bring it back in fashion.  Not only is it delicious (which it is) but it is the perfect frying medium and what people used before the world of trans-fat hydrogenated shortening.  If you subscribe to the “Nourishing Traditions” dietary advice, then good quality lard from free ranging pork is positively good for you.  Your granny would probably agree.

What does a person do with a load of lard?  Make lardy cake of course.

Lardy cake is one of those English delights that you can only find in obscure village bakeries, and is probably only bought by old boys who still say “by jove!”  It is a cross between a bread and a croissant, yeasted dough laminated with lard (no butter allowed), spices and currants.  After baking you turn the cake over so that none of the precious fat escapes.  The result is a crispy crust and flakey, moist insides, rich with sugar, spices and fruit.  It is remarkably similar to a cinnamon bun, but much more filling, with a slight savoury character.  Perfect for food for those long winter walks or a day out in the fields.

For me, this is the taste of the English countryside.  A combination of slightly sweet, fat enriched cake and a strong cup of tea.  The comforting taste of home.

Super Quick Mittens

12 Nov

Have a couple of hours of spare?  Some spare worsted weight yarn?  A pair of small hands that need warming?  Then you have to knit these.

While snow still seems a long way away (it’ll prove me wrong) the days are getting chilly enough to warrant gloves and mittens.  Desperate to use some of my Cascade 220 stash these extra-toasty mittens use yarn doubled, and are so quick that I finished them over the course of one movie.  Talk about instant gratification.

These are his first mittens and his first truly snowy winter.  He seems to approve of them too, proudly wearing them (and nothing else) and demanding a trip to the park.  They will be perfect for those sledding, snowballing, and hot chocolate days to come.  I enjoyed autumn immensely but am equally excited for winter to come this year.

(Um, take 2?)

A Loose Knitter Laments

11 Nov

I knit very loosely, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  My hands stay very relaxed and I can knit for hours without any fatigue.  But getting gauge can be a terrible pain.

I bought this Madelinetosh Worsted (which is really a much lighter DK weight) from a fellow blogger and Raveler to make Ringwood gloves for my mother.  The colourway, “Kale”, is a beautiful blend of purple-grey tones dyed in a salt and pepper effect.  It is great to knit with, but I am having no end of problems with my gauge.

The pattern suggests 24 st/4 inches in the ringwood pattern and the designer used 4mm needles.  I am reliably loose so I always go down one needle size.  I started off with 3.75mm, then 3mm, and am now down to a 2.75mm which makes the name “Madelinetosh worsted” sound like a cruel joke.  Luckily my mother’s hands are larger than mine (which are like a small child’s) so I’m hoping I will have success this time around.

If I was a tight knitter I’d have more options, you can always size up more easily than size down, in my opinion.  Which is why sock knitting is more a chore than it really should be.  When I go down to size 00 or smaller my hands give up.

Which is why I will make sure the next project I knit will be made on reasonable sized needles.

Simple Pleasures

9 Nov

The first week of November has been a rocky one for all of us.  Despite the nearly T-shirt weather and clear skies there has been a dark cloud of stress plaguing the family.  Perhaps hardest hit has been our sensitive little boy who has some very stubborn teeth.  I am trying my hardest to get us all to breath and enjoy the simplest pleasures.

Breakfast with egg and soldiers (buttered toast fingers)

Early sunsets in the warm autumn evenings

New favourite stories from the library (Berenstain Bears Classics)

And an early birthday present from Mama and Daddy: Charlie

Charlie is a fairtrade Camden doll made by a hearing-impaired womens cooperative in Peru.  He is a little smaller than a traditional Waldorf doll, but well made and sure to be well loved.  They already share naptimes, cuddles, Mama milk, and a love of nudity.  I can’t wait to see what mischief they get up to.

And can’t wait for the day all those teeth come in.


Little Red Idlewood

6 Nov

Thank you so much for the get well wishes, after a bit of rest I feel back to my normal self and projects have been flying off the needles.

With barely a yard to spare I managed to finish Idlewood with only 760 yards of Rowan Cashsoft Aran.  Thank goodness for blocking because it was very nearly a crop top.  It’s still a little on the short side and I am sad that it doesn’t have the pocket, but all the more reason to knit another one.

It was such a surprisingly quick knit, about a week from start to finish.  The Cashsoft yarn is warm and soft as a kitten,  I’ve even survived our first freezing wintery days wearing it with my autumn jacket.  While knitting I found it funny that the cowl is almost bigger than the rest of the garment, but I love snuggling up under it.  Plus, it looks cool.

I declare it the ultimate autumn layering garment, and will still be wearing it long after the snow falls.