Friday, February 25, 2011


Bread baking: the latest frontier. This started about a month ago when my friend Lynn convinced me to try a recipe for Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and I'd tasted some of her rolls, which were pretty yummy.

The first attempt wasn't pretty. Kind of like the first few knitting projects. It's dense, and under cooked. Didn't taste bad, but I knew it could be better. I made note of the mistakes.

Bread 1st round

Back to the drawing board, as they say. I found and tried another recipe, and now I am full on into the tinkering.

By round three, I had a decent crust, and it looked more like what I am aiming for, but I think there's still room for improvement.

Bread 3rd round

Bread 3rd round crumb shot

Like knitting and yarn making, bread is simple in concept and can be hard to do well. It takes practice to understand how a few basic ingredients and some simple actions can add up to something quite spectacular. Sometimes I wonder if I have Amish roots?

Meanwhile there's lots of bread consumption going on - which may affect sizing my upcoming sweater knitting! Ohboy.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Super Wash

One of the diversionary tangents I've been noodling within my knitting realm is Superwash yarn. I want to find a reliable range of Superwash wool yarns for baby knitting. Or any kind of gift to those who may not be finely tuned to Proper.Wool.Care. You know the type: the people you love dearly despite their inattention to the wooly.

It started when I delivered this set back in December. With lots of anxiety thanks to questions about my color choice - I got attitude about the color choice. More than once. Oy.

FBS Lace sweater

baby hat

But color wasn't the issue. Well, maybe part of the issue come to think of it; I recall struggling a bit to find a girl color (that wasn't the obvious PINK). I used Knit Picks Swish DK to make this February Baby Sweater from Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac, and a matching February Baby Hat by Teeweewonders and it is perfectly acceptable yarn, ostensibly well priced for a Superwash Merino and it made a cute set for a newborn baby girl. I like DK weight yarns, that was my original motivation.

But I have to say, this isn't my favorite yarn - something about the texture didn't agree with my hypersensitive nerve endings in the right hand. It felt nice after blocking but the knitting was noticeably not soothing. And let's say you run out of yarn before the project is finished. Guess what, if you order just one skein, and because it's mail order only, you will quickly learn the shipping costs more than the yarn! Oh sure, I could ordered lots more yarn to qualify for free shipping, but that means spending more for less. And the truth is, I'm trying to clear space in the stash closet for yarns I really really really want. For me.

And so it began. The new tangent, a finely tuned radar, on the lookout for better options.

Another baby project, another chance to try some new (to me) Superwash yarns. Here I knit the same pattern the adorable Norwegian Sweet Baby Cap) using two completely different yarns.

Two adorable hats

The apricot hat used Tosh Merino Light from Madeline Tosh. A Merino fingering weight, single yarn that's hand-dyed, with a very generous put up at 440 yards. I bought the yarn and then came home to read comments on Ravelry relating big issues winding the yarn. Thank goodness I had no problems. Other than a tired arm from cranking the ball winder forever - 440 yards is a lot of winding! I had none of the nerve damage issues while knitting up the hat. And this tiny project barely put a dent in the skein, so there's lots more for future baby projects. I liked this one enough to know this is a Superwash keeper.


Next up, the lilac hat, knit from Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted Solid. It's an Aran weight, lightly plied yarn with a put up of 225 yards. It's a tad splitty but nothing I couldn't handle. It's soft, and feels nice going through the hands, but I did notice a tendency for the yarn to look a bit worn after working it a bit. To compensate, I went down a needle size on this hat project thinking a tighter gauge would reduce the chances for the yarn to fuzz and pill. I really liked this yarn. And despite it being a bit pricey at $20.00 per skein, I'll seek it out again for future projects. Especially baby projects such as hats, booties, even small sweaters that won't break the bank.


I don't have any more baby projects in the near future so I won't have a chance to try out a few I have in mind, including Cascade 220 Superwash, Berrocco Weekend and Berrocco Vintage (which comes in both a DK and a worsted line!). All seem to have excellent color ranges, decent put up at a reasonable price. Before you know it someone else will announce they're having a baby and that means I'll be trying these yarns soon.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

An Eternity

It took a bit of an eternity to finish spinning the yarn but once I finally completed it, boy it didn't take long to hit the needles and transform into one of the softest, warmest, coziest neck warmers I've ever worn.

Natchwoolie Fiber Club - May 2010 - Peach Cobbler

The fiber: Natchwoolie Super Fine 19 Micron Merino, naturally dyed. Really nice prep - it wasn't over processed like so much combed top. This one had life and it was a joy to spin. It flowed like butter through my hands and made me seriously reconsider my typical aversion to Merino. Likely caused by the processed to death Merino combed tops I'd spun in the past. Now I know.

Natchwoolie Superfine Merino Marled Peach

The yarn: 400 yards of two ply, started in November but abandoned for over two months when I suddenly lost the spinning mojo. Thankfully, it came back the end of January. I probably could have plied this a bit better, but I think I was so impatient to get the spinning done, once I returned to the wheel.

Etermity with handspun

The project: Eternity Scarf, by Michele Wang. Fast, and easy and very effective - it's always the simple stuff that works the best. These double wrap scarf/cowl thingies are turning up all over NYC so for once I am somewhat current with 'fashion'.

And life goes on...plugging away on a few things big and small. Fingers crossed we've turned the corner on this eternal winter!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mirabilis - Amazing, Wondrous, Remarkable

So much going on around the world!! Sometimes it feels like I'm living/watching a hurricane. Or, as they are known on the other side of the world, a cyclone. Which got me thinking about the most recent project to come off the needles. Because it's a true spiral and it reminds me of some of the weather photos cropping up.

Mirabilis 12

But really, I am getting ahead of myself. This is really a story about how to use up a yarn that was sitting in my stash, and how it was quickly diverted from its original purpose to fulfill another. And how the power of swatching will often dictate a project's outcome.

Here, the swatch, made while commuting to the recent Vogue Knitting Live a couple of weeks ago. A subject for another post! Soon! Maybe.

Mirabilis swatch

Zegna Baruffa, Settembre Tweed, a super wash yarn from Italy, purchased when Joan Vass shut down her business in summer 2008. I couldn't find any finished projects using this yarn, meaning a swatch was absolutely necessary. And it revealed lots to me. Like no way would this end up as a garment; I hate color pooling and a bit too busy for my taste. Too bad, because I've had it in mind for an Ingenue for so long I was a bit disappointed.

But once the yarn came out of the bin, I was hell bent to find a use for it. Kind of a self imposed rule I have. One way to set up some boundaries and then see how it turns out. Not that I am militant about self imposed boundaries, but it is interesting to see how creating a rule set defines a project's evolution. In this case, I had a couple of notions contributing to the outcome:

1. It's super wash yarn. Which translates to baby worthy in my book.
2. It's a busy yarn, so maybe something non-garment would work?
3. I have 10 skeins at 132 yards per skein. 1,320 yards! What is the best way to USE.IT.UP? (especially since it wasn't exactly showing its best side to me in swatch form).
4. Lately I've had blankets on my mind and in my lap. Let's face it - this is one brutal winter we're having. So blankets seem especially relevant right now.

Mirabilis 05

Which is how I ended up finding Mirabilis by Daniel Yuhas, a pattern that really intrigued me. Confession - I have a queue of projects so large I have them organized by category! Yes, obsessive, I know. So what. Anyway, the blanket category only has 9 or 10 projects and one of them is actually a round blanket using a pinwheel shape. But for some reason, this spiral one eluded the queue. How could that be? I mean, Daniel is my friend! I remember when he designed this thing a few summers ago. Anyway, no matter. I decided to jump the queue and get this project on the needles.

Mirabilis 04

What fun! What a clever, innovative pattern! From the unusual cast on, to the genius of moving around and around, by shifting stitch markers, to the very clever way the border is knit on, the whole thing was a pleasure to watch as it grew and then unfolded. Literally. I wish I'd taken the time to photograph this thing while it was still on the needles because it looked like a gigantic Rastafarian hat until I was about halfway through the border at which point it started to open up, like a flower opening for all the world to see. It was pretty amazing, actually, and I really got a kick out the whole thing start to finish.

Mirabilis 13

I thought I was making a baby blanket. But I also knew it would be on the large side. As you can see, it is kinda big, almost the width of my dining room table. That might be too big for a baby, what do you think? I have no idea, not having any babies nearby. Maybe it's more like a lap blanket for an adult? Anyway it is nice and warm. A good thing for a blanket to be, baby or adult sized. You see, I doubled the yarn which served two purposes - using it up (all but approx. 65 yards!) while creating a squishy, bouncy, cozy blanket.

Mirabilis 17

And if it doesn't get gifted as a baby blanket, I have another 10 balls of the same yarn, in a nice yellow that would work equally well and I have a bit of a blanket fever happening. It's entirely conceivable there will be another blanket to share in about a week. If you want to learn more about this blanket in the meantime, here's my Ravelry link.

Hey, Daniel - nice work! The genius of this pattern - the construction and the design reminded me of Norah's designs. Remember that poncho?