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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.



New November

1 Nov

It’s always refreshing starting a new month, and already it is a far cry from the lingering summer warmth we had in October.  Most of the leaves are gone and it is decidedly chilly but no less beautiful.

These early evenings give us a chance as a family to take walks as the light fades.  So perfect for taking atmospheric photos.

It’s also perfect for knitting cozy giant-cowl pullovers.

Idlewood is one of the patterns I fell in love with the moment I laid eyes on it, and managed to buy yarn for it during the crazy cheap sale.  Unfortunately I miscalculated yardage.  Instead of 850 yards, I bought only 760 yards.  I could do without this sort of anxiety while knitting something I so desperately want to wear.

I also have a few goals in mind for the new month.

  • Ringwood Gloves for my own mother in gorgeous Madelinetosh DK
  • Hat and mittens for Dougie
  • Ripley for me in Quince and Co Osprey
  • Fingerless mitts for David
  • Spend more time knitting than Ravelry
  • No more yarn! (for November)

Back in the days before Ravelry things were so much simpler.  You had to buy a pattern book or magazine and wait for the next issue.  The downside to the instant gratification and endless supply of patterns online is that I am constantly in search of the my next project and the queue starts to heave and stash accumulates.  Eventually things get so old I don’t even want to knit them anymore.  By keeping myself knitting and not surfing I’m hoping to get more done, buy less yarn, and simply enjoy making things.  We shall see.

Cold Comfort Soup

27 Oct

Over the last few days a bit of a strange weather event has blown in autumn overnight.  Secretly I love this sort of weather, it’s the kind that takes your breath away when the wind picks up and rain stings your face.  It reminds me of the wild Scottish hills and my fantasies of the crofting life.  The best part is when you come inside after a long walk, cheeks red and windswept, and there’s something bubbling in the pot.

Cauliflower is such an underrated vegetable in my opinion, I always get excited when I start seeing it in autumn.  It isn’t just about its flavour or appearance, but the way that it instantly evokes feelings of comfort.  Roasted cauliflower, cauliflower curries, cauliflower cheese and my absolute favourite: cauliflower soup.

The best cauliflower soup should be velvety and warm, it makes me as happy as snuggling under a duvet.  My version is very simple: Sweated onions and carrots are simmered with cauliflower and a bit of potato in salted water until tender.  Blitz till it’s creamy (though I never mind the occasional nugget of vegetable) and add a cup of cream or milk, good spoonful of grain mustard, and handful of shredded cheddar.  Season well with salt and white pepper.  Delicious with or without a swirl of cream. Cold comfort soup for windy autumn.

Autumn Heat Wave

10 Oct

There must be some sort of inverse square law where the hotter it gets the less knitting I do.  While this probably means I’ll finish an entire sweater when it gets to 30 below, it’s bad news now that the weather has inexplicably reached the 80s here in Wisconsin.  Am I in Wisconsin still?  This is October right?  Some days it feels more like the twilight zone.

And I thought our beach days were over for the year.  We found ourselves back in the sand when I refused to resort to turning the air conditioning on again.  Some of us didn’t mind so much.

I have started on this little guy’s Drive Thru, which would be a nice easy and quick knit normally, but my hands are protesting at the feeling of hot sticky wool in the warmth.  I have managed to finish the body and am well on my way on one of the sleeves.

Strange to think that he might just need this in another week or so.  I hope the mercury drops because I am keen to finish this up and get going on my Socktoberfest project.

This is Knit One Crochet Too’s Ty-Dy sock yarn, a little gem I found at the Knitting Tree.  It has a wonderfully soft hand, much softer than most sock yarns I’ve come across and I was enchanted by the bold green colours.  My plan is to knit a pair of gift socks using the Jaywalker pattern.  I’m a bit unsure as to how the colours are going to stripe, but the pattern should help bring out its best side.  If I can finish a complete pair (that’s TWO socks) this month I will consider Socktoberfest a success.

For now, I am going to have to sit here, sweat, and enjoy a cold beer.  Happy Indian Summer to all.

The Knitting Tree

4 Oct

After an almost wintery-cold weekend we’ve had to strip off our woolies today.  It was even warm enough to justify a trip to my favourite frozen custard place for an addictive pumpkin shake.

After satisfying my sweet (and pumpkin) tooth I conveniently go across the road for a bit of stash enhancement.

This is the Knitting Tree on Monroe St in Madison, owned by the same woman as Lakeside Fibers.  You can tell this lady knows her yarn, both shops are charming but incredibly different.  The Knitting Tree is a convient location near downtown but is a much smaller space than Lakeside, but every inch is packed with loveliness.

These are not chain stores, each has their own unique selection of yarns, making them both equally worth going to if you’re in the city.  Knitting tree stocks a lot of Berrocco, Noro, and Rowan yarns, and plenty more to satisfy your needles.  Both shops make great use of light, too often in the UK yarn shops are tiny hole-in-the-walls with no natural lighting, making it impossible to choose colours accurately.  Also I just love how they both arrange yarns by colours as well as brand, so if you have a palette already in mind it’s  a great help.  If you’re like me and a bit colour challenged prepare to be overwhelmed by choice.

I have to give a big thanks to the shopkeepers at both stores who put up with my indecisive wanderings and a toddler who just has to touch everything (they gave him a much appreciated box of toys at Knitting Tree).  Everyone in the shop is extremely helpful and there are books and patterns everywhere to oogle.  I had a flip through “Brave New Knits” and “Knits Men Want” and my queue has suddenly doubled.

Of course, I brought home just a little something, but mostly I brought home a great appreciation for a city that has not one, not two, but three yarn shops within city limits.  I don’t think I’ll ever get so lucky again.

Sunshine and Knitting

30 Sep

We are trying our best to soak up every bit of warm autumn sun around here.

What that means for me is long afternoons spent at the park.  Not that I mind, I have something to bring with me these days.

Like so many things, I believe knitting is even better when done outdoors.  Maybe it’s because I know that there isn’t much time left before I have to don gloves and plein air knitting won’t be such a good idea.  Andrea’s shawl is a perfect pick up and go knit.  I’ve reached the pleasantly monotonous stripey section, but even the lace pattern was easy to memorise once you got your head around it.  It’s just enough lace to keep me interested, but not so much to have to constantly check the chart.

I love how the colours are working out, and the yarn is so soft and slippery to knit, but I don’t think I’d choose this again for a lace project.  The angora halo, while charming and a bit angelic, doesn’t make the lace stand out.  Something silky would bring out those YOs, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

And my thought is to keep knitting outside until there’s chance of frostbite.

The All New Lakeside Fibers

24 Sep

I felt cursed today.  My good intentions to make pumpkin pie from scratch failed miserably.  Both pastry and filling turned out wrong (though the filling still tastes nice, I tell myself).  What better way to make a girl feel better than a trip to the local yarn shop.

This is the newly reopened Lakeside Fibers, located on the south side of Monona Bay.  When we first moved here in July it was closed but has opened up under new management last week.  I don’t have any frame of reference of what it was like before, but, wow, this is a nice shop.  The space is huge, light and airy, with seats near the back.  Everywhere you look there are gorgeous yarns, nestled in bins, shelves, and boats.

Yes, it is a boat, filled with Dream in Color Smooshy!  Pretty much every yarn, besides Rowan, was new to me: Madelinetosh, Shibuiknits, Spud & Chloe, Blue Sky Alpacas, and many more I can’t even remember.  The shop assistants were sweet and helpful and there were modern knitting books and patterns conveniently placed on tables and counters.  I am just blown away by the quality of the stores in this country, you really feel that it’s a place that takes knitting seriously.

As if all the yarn loveliness isn’t enough there is a cafe connected through the back that does nice coffee and has views over the bay.  And if you have little ones, you can have Daddy take them over to the playground just behind the shop near the beach (thanks D!)

I didn’t come home empty handed, but I’ll just give you a taste of the dilemma I had when choosing yarn for a future colourwork project.

I fear for my wallet because this place is only a short walk away.

Indian Summer

22 Sep

After a couple of weeks of comfortably cool weather it has suddenly become summer again.  Yesterday we had 80 degree highs with 80% humidity.  Today is in the 70s and perfect for a walk around our favourite toddler-friendly parts of Madison.  Despite the warmth you can see autumn is truly on its way.

I’ve also been making satisfying progress on Shalom.  I’ve finished the yoke and started the body with ishi’s mods.  I tried it on briefly and everything seems to be fitting the way it should, which is a miracle since I jumped haphazardly into this without swatching.  My alternative blog names were “The Impatient Knitter” or “The Foolhardy Knitter”.

A lot of my favourite versions of the cardigan omit the waist shaping but I know from experience that I benefit from whatever shaping can be made to a garment.  Boxy just doesn’t look good on me.  I am enjoying doing something where progress is so visible.  Even just doing a few rows here and there throughout the day adds up.  The Wool of the Andes is a joy to knit with, easy on the hands, with just enough grip on the needles to flow nicely.  I am going to have to resist buying a stockload of it since there are just so many yarns I need to try before the year is out.