Sick Leave

4 Nov

It’s just been one of those weeks full of stress punctuated by painful migraines.  It makes me sad to put down the needles and camera, but there comes a time when we all need a little R&R.  Hopefully I’ll be back to normal by the weekend for a wooly update.

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 Fabric.com 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.

October Round-up

31 Oct

With only days left in the month I completed Habitat, my fifth finished object of the month.

The finished project is fantastic, I love the cables and the polished look the decreases give, but my hands really suffered from this one.  I’m not sure if it was simply the tension of all those cables but I felt wrist pain near the end of this.  David’s already requested one for himself, but it’ll have to wait until I’ve done a few mindless knits in softer yarn to recooperate.  I think the colour and pattern will look great on my brother-in-law.

Overall, it’s been a very productive month.  I have finished:

  1. Andrea’s Shawl for my mother-in-law
  2. Drive-Thru for Dougie
  3. Scrap-happy Celebration for David
  4. Lovisa Armwarmers for sister-in-law
  5. Habitat for brother-in-law

I didn’t manage to finish my Socktoberfest socks, but I did learn something valuable: I hate knitting socks.  I love wearing handknit socks, but I get so bored after the first one.  To save myself time and anguish I will never knit socks again (watch me forget in another month).

We also managed to visit some awesome places this month, and I feel we made the best of the Indian summer we had.  It’ll be sad to go back to our “normal” routine.

For November I am going on a yarn diet.  My stash is not huge, but I definitely have more than I can get through at the moment and feel I treated myself more than enough in October.  I hope to knit some more gifts before December, but also something for myself for a change.  If I can manage to go a whole month without buying ANY yarn (even sale and sock yarn) I will consider it a great triumph.

A Bit of Quince

28 Oct

Because I refuse to turn on the heating before November it is officially very cold in our apartment.  Even our normally naked ice-baby has (voluntarily) put some clothes on.  I guess the latest parcel came just in time.

Out of all the American yarns that I wanted to try Quince and Co were number one (Shelter being a very close number two).  I bought two skeins of the aran weight Osprey, just wanting to see if they lived up to the hype.  I instantly fell in love.  They use 100% American wool but manage a softness that I’d associate with luxury cashmere/wool blends.  The colours are as rich and enchanting as people have claimed, and I cannot take my eyes off this.

Even the photo can’t do justice to this deep jeweled purple.  David was noticeably impressed by them, and has requested some mitts in Split Pea so he doesn’t have to suffer while playing piano in our freezer-house.  It’s a toss up between Toasty and Dashing, but I think simplicity will win.  The purple is going to become a Ripley for me as all of my handknit hats have mysteriously disappeared.

If this knits up half as nicely as it feels and looks, then I’ll have to make a whole new wardrobe in it.

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.

Lovisa Armwarmers

25 Oct

I love that after two days of very leisurely movie knitting I end up with something as lovely as these.

These Lovisa armwarmers should be just the thing for my gardening sister-in-law.  While I think they turn out to be drapey and rather elegant knit in a sportweight yarn as intended I really like the snug warmth when knit in Cascade 220.  The brown and cream colouring reminds me of traditional nordic ski sweaters and hot chocolate with marshmallows.  All that’s left is to find the perfect pair of buttons to finish them off.

Mitts are so nice in that they gives you total freedom of movement in the fingers (great for knitting or planting fiddly seeds) but keep your hands warm at the same time.  I am very tempted to knit everyone in the family a pair of these.

And just what is it that I’m knitting?  The next in my line of holiday gifts, something for my brother-in-law.

Jared Flood’s Habitat hat using Blackberry Ridge medium weight silk blend in forest green.  Blackberry Ridge is a fairly local mill that prides itself on sourcing wool from the midwest.  I bought this at the Woodland Studio in Stoughton and couldn’t pass up such a  local yarn, with plenty of yardage.  With any luck I should be able to knit this hat and a cowl from one skein.

The pattern is one that I’ve been coveting since it’s come out.  I am a sucker for cables, despite the extra work involved.  Unlike the mitts this is not a project for mindless movie watching, as I found out after having to start over twice.  Now that I’ve got the cables started properly it’s going very smoothly and am feeling like a gift knitting machine.

Perfect Day for Pie

23 Oct

After nearly a whole month of uninterrupted sunshine we’ve finally had a typically cloudy, chilly, rainy autumn day.  To be honest, I am thrilled.  It is perfect pie weather, and it just has to be pumpkin.

My failed pumpkin pie a while back must have just been a sign that it was too early for autumn baking.  This time everything went without a hitch.  I used the recipe from “The Art of Simple Food”, a really easy and genuinely tasty rendition of the classic.  There aren’t any bells and whistles with this recipe, and it really lets the pumpkin sing.  I’ve been particularly lazy this year and ended up using Trader Joe’s organic canned pumpkin, but it wasn’t any worse for wear.

I also couldn’t resist starting another project.  Something about socks feels more monotonous than even knitting a large sweater.  Maybe it’s the tiny needles, but I had to break my own commandment and start a little something to keep me going.

These are Lovisa armwarmers knit up using some leftover Cascade 220.  I had to modify them slightly due to gauge, but they are a beautiful and satisfying knit.  I finished the first in a matter of a couple of hours while watching a film.  They are a gift for my garden loving sister-in-law.  Something cozy to pull on while feeding chickens or pottering around the shed.  Now, I just need to find the perfect buttons to go with them.

Windy City Update

22 Oct

We are all back in Madison after a fantastic few days staying with friends outside of Chicago.  While I enjoyed going to the Windy City again I was thoroughly exhausted after a full day there with a toddler.  It was totally worth it to visit Nina.

Located in Chicago’s Wicker Park, Nina isn’t huge but makes up for it with a contemporary interior and fabulous selection of luxury yarns.

I was in for a shock when I first entered the shop when I was greeted with a gorgeous knitted Shalom on a mannequin.  And look there on the shelf, Elijah, Otto and (not pictured) Sophie!

Such a cool knitting shop for a cool city.  Alas, as other mothers will understand, I had to leave prematurely due to a hungry little boy.  Without any yarn.  I was bummed until we came across a Threadless store and managed to pick up this sweet t-shirt.  Purple + Knitting + Tree cozies = Awesome.  One of the cozies even looks like the Jaywalker pattern, it must have been fate.

Though the city was fun I am not much of a city mouse, so I had even more fun exploring the charming town of Woodstock (the film location for Groundhog Day) near where we were staying. They had local fiber arts show, with some beautiful samples of handspinning, weaving and knitting.

I am happy to be back home in the relative quiet of Madison, but look forward to next month when we get together with family for Thanksgiving.  Which reminds me, I must get gift knitting!

Modeled Drive Thru

19 Oct

I am pleased to say that the temperature has finally dropped enough here in Wisconsin to pull out the sweaters again.  With a choice of either fair trade cardigan or the drive thru my little boy proudly chose “Mama knit jumper!”

It still takes a little sleeve rolling but otherwise it fits like a charm and should last him through the winter into spring.  We’ve already received a few nice comments on it, but what I love most of all is how he runs around shouting “Mama knit!”.  What more could a mother ask for?

If I made this again I’d love to use something a bit softer against the skin, like Rowan Cashsoft Aran since he does complain a bit about the itchy collar.  Not annoying enough to stop him running around, playing in leaves and having toddler fun.  I am so looking forward to many cooler days to come, just so we can put this on.

A Child’s Wonderland

18 Oct

One of the things that I absolutely love about the Madison area is the wide range of spaces for children.  We are surrounded by parks, zoos, libraries and museums that cater to young ones, and one of our favourite spots is nearby in Monona.

Monona library has been awarded Wisconsin’s best library 2010, and it truly deserves it.  A very modern airy building surrounded by floor to ceiling windows, a great book collection, quiet reading space filled with green plants, and an almost overwhelming children’s section.  I love taking Dougie to libraries, they always have a plenty of things to do.  Puzzles, toys, and of course lots and lots of books (our current favourites are “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” and “If You Give a Pig a Pancake”).  Monona also lets you check out play packs which include a book and accompanying toy or game.  An absolutely brilliant idea, we’re saving ours for the two hour long car trip down to Chicago.

As if a fantastic library wasn’t enough, just across the street is this.

A huge fantasy playground, filled with climbing frames, mazes, towers, slides and locally crafted art.  We were worried we would lose him in there.  Most of it is for older children, but the “tot lot” was perfect.  A real child’s wonderland, we will be back very soon, with pack lunches to eat by the lake under the trees.

We’ll be heading down to the Windy city for the next few days visiting family friends, and enjoying a bit of city and country.  And plenty of yarn, I’m sure.