Friday, June 26, 2020

A little nosh

Taking some time off from downloading videos to indulge in a new food interest -- fermenting.

I've started out with giardiniera, an Italian vegetable pickle.  I think the original may be a vinegar based pickle, but I'm using the lacto-fermentation method that develops food rich in probiotics. I've followed the guidelines from Fermenting for Foodies as far as salt/water ratio, but used an assortment of veggies on hand instead of their exact recipe.

The red color of the brine is due to red onion and purple cauliflower -- eat the rainbow! I make it in small batches, as Mr. Mingling Yarn is the primary pickled food eater. That's a one quart, wide-mouthed canning jar with a fermentation lid. I invested in a fermentation kit from Year of Plenty  This is the third batch, and it has been well received.

Also being made is yogurt, along with cultured buttermilk. We've been trying various strains of cultures for the yogurt (from New England Cheese Making Supply Co. mostly) and so far Bulgarian seems to be the Mr.'s favorite and Creamy is mine. Actually, it's all delicious! Being able to make buttermilk as needed has been a great help. I really like using it in various bread recipes and it isn't always readily available in the full-fat version that we prefer.

I use a simple non-electric yogurt maker, which is basically a mason jar in a vacuum container.  Years ago I tried various electric yogurt makers (with little individual jars) and results were varied. So far results making one large batch (1 quart in our case) has been overwhelmingly successful -- coincidence, or are big batches somehow better?? One of my daughters uses a similar system but with a styrofoam container for the jar to keep things insulated -- mine is a stainless steel insulated container.  

It's not all healthy food though -- 

Easy Sugar Cookies from the Dessert For Two website of Christina Lane.  Plenty of tasty recipes (not just dessert) in small quantities. Yum!

Monday, June 15, 2020


Yarn clubbing, that is.  Every once in a while I get the urge to try something new, and I'll join a yarn club.  I'm generally very particular about what I like to knit, and what yarn I use, but it's fun to mix it up at times. My latest venture into the yarn unknown was the Knit Spot Bare Naked Wools Club 2020. Three installments -- from the website -- "Each one includes a 4 0z. skein of natural, undyed yarn and exclusive patterns by Ann Hanson..."

What I also enjoy about yarn clubs is that the projects are usually interesting, but small enough to provide entertainment without a lifetime commitment.  The first mailing was a skein of Friesian DK -- which is a sheep fiber I have never run across before, and the pattern was for either a hat or scarf.  That one still awaits the needles. The second project was cast on fairly quickly though, and I am proud to say was finished before the final yarn mailing arrived. I don't think I've ever managed that trick before -- OK, it was finished in the morning and the new yarn arrived that afternoon, but still!

The yarn used was Bare Naked Wools Shetlandia, which is a 100% Shetland wool, listed as fingering weight on the yarn label, but as a "light fingering" on its Ravelry listing, and is a 2-ply woolen spun yarn.  The pattern was Highland Spring by Ann Hanson.

I would quibble with listing the yarn as a fingering weight, and the particular skein I knit from ranged from maybe a light fingering (whatever that might be) to laceweight and even a cobweb weight in small runs. Still, it was pleasant to knit with and still had a nice, sheepy fragrance. The pattern was both charted and written out, and was clear and accurate.  The end result? A lovely, small shawl (or large scarf) that I will enjoy wearing in cooler weather.

And a slightly closer shot -- 

The pattern for the final club project hasn't been released yet, but will probably wait for a while to be started, as I have moved on to a crochet experiment. I call it that because it entails both machine knitting and crochet, and will need to successfully hit the dye bath in order to fit into my current color scheme. So far I have worked out ideas for the front, sleeves and back, but am still thinking about trim. Here's a sneak peek to what may turn into a garment, or may just be an attractive swatch!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Homeschooling - Machine Knitting Edition

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Martin Luther King, Jr.

While still resting in place, it seemed a good time to brush up on machine knitting skills (or lack thereof). Knit It Now (which I have a subscription to) was offering a lesson on shawl shaping, so I decided to try it out.  I have some yarn in quantities of small shawl/large scarf amounts so why not use some?

I decided on the "quick 'n easy" variation (there are three others) and quickly got to work. The yarn I used was from deep stash - a now discontinued Elann Limited Edition blend of 60% wool/25% cashmere/15% acrylic called Kashair. No idea on how long I've had it, but it was from the days before Elann sold out to Amazon -- so, old. Despite being predominately wool/cashmere it was not a pleasant feeling yarn to hand knit, which is why it was so long in stash, despite its pleasant color. Some comments on Ravelry mentioned it was nicer after washing, so it was a good candidate for machine knitting. 

I used my mid-gauge LK 150 to knit it. This is a plastic bed, very basic machine that requires hand manipulation for anything other than stockinette stitch. Nonetheless, it is very easy to use and fun to work with and my shawl body would be entirely stockinette, so the choice of machine was easy.

I cast on 144 needles (as you might guess, the machine has a total of 150) which was as many needles as I felt comfortable working. The simple pattern was, in fact, "quick 'n easy" and after about a half an hour I had a plain stockinette triangle. In order to finish it off, I worked a crochet edging around the two side edges. The (warning - math word ahead)  hypotenuse of the triangle, which would drape around the neck and shoulders, was left plain. It has a very slight roll - as you would expect from plain stockinette fabric - but because it was a bias edge (I suspect) it was just enough to look pleasant when worn.

I chose a simple pattern for the edging - from Around the Corner Crochet Borders by Edie Eckman (pattern 69). There are 150 different designs in the book, charted and written instructions, and best of all -- the corner shaping is worked out for you.  Excellent resource for anyone who likes to do crocheted edgings.

All in all, I was happy with how it turned out, and look forward to trying a different variation. Because this one is done - in effect - sideways, I was scratching my head as to how to add some patterning if I made another with this technique. 

My next attempted lesson - learning to use a garter bar - did not proceed as smoothly, but that is a story for another day.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Bits and Pieces

After cool and dreary weather we've suddenly had bright, sunny and warm -- but not to worry, in a few days we'll be back to not so nice. Gather ye rosebuds...

The small knit project Every Bit Cowl is finished and blocked. 

After many months of searching a button has been found. I can't say the project it is meant for has been finished, as I have still not sewn it on (sewing on buttons = least favorite chore), but at least I know where it is now. I picked it up years ago at a Stitches East convention - it's a depiction of a Chinese zodiac rat - which is not only my personal sign, but also very appropriate in this Year of the Rat.

It will (eventually) be sewn on a Hanne Falkenberg Tokyo cardigan (seen in background).

And speaking of buttons - the last sewing guild meeting I went to was about buttons, and we brought in some of our own to trade/give away. A single ziggurat-shaped button caught my eye, and I took it home to perhaps use in some way. It wasn't really big enough to use as a single focal button on a garment, so I thought I might use it as part of a pin for a hat.

I decided to bead a background for it and sew it to a backing fabric. The beads are Miyuki Delica size 8, the pattern and shape are adapted from Pattern 108 from Etsy seller All You Can Bead.

The hat it is meant for has yet to be sewn (of course) but I'm hoping it will add an interesting little note to it when done.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Back to Sewing

Still not feeling like tackling large projects, but taking baby steps to get back into a sewing mood.

I like coverups when cooking, but dislike feeling constricted by ties, so I had intended to get an apron pattern that I could just slip into (there most likely is a specific name for that style, but it's escaping me). Never got around to it, and then -- well, you know what happened next.

Fortunately the folks at Tessuti Fabrics are offering a free downloadable pattern for just what I wanted. Having difficulty linking to the pattern itself, so just click on the 'patterns' tab and take a look at what they offer -- including the freebies.

The fabric used appears to be a linen blend. It was a piece in a free bundle from Fabric Mart many moons ago, so it's just a guess as to what it is, but it was here and available, so there you go.  The pattern didn't take too much paper (about 25 sheets) and was reasonably easy to glue together (a chore which I absolutely hate!). I didn't pay too much attention to the directions until I got to the bib facing -- pay attention there if you want the nice, clean finish shown.

So, nothing earth-shattering, but a needed accessory and a small push towards getting back in the sewing groove.  I'll take it!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

It's the Little Things

Life is still unsettled, and concentration needed for larger, more complex projects still eludes me. Instead of feeling guilty for not getting more done I've decided to just go with the flow -- can't pull it together for larger things? -- then smaller projects it is. 

I've been crocheting for a few years now, and working with beads almost as long, but one thing I haven't done is combine the two. So, why not now? I've long admired the work of Ann Benson (Leopardskin Pillbox hat anyone?) so when I found myself on her Etsy site I decided to give bead crochet a try. This bracelet, in fact: 

I didn't have any steel crochet hooks small enough for the project, so had to wait a bit for my order to come in.  I'm a bit worried about my ability to manipulate such small hooks (the pattern recommends 1.15mm or 1mm sizes) but the real test will probably be whether or not I can thread the beads on the working thread in the correct order. Stay tuned.  Here's a peek at the tiny (to my eyes) hooks: 

At least the handles are padded!

The Hitchhiker scarf mentioned previously is now off the needles, and I am still loving the rich red color.  Taking it's place on the needles is a cowl - Every Bit Cowl, which seems to be a nice combination of cowl/shawlette. I'm using some deep stash Fleece Artist SeaWool (now discontinued) in an unknown colorway.  The pinks and greens are giving me a springtime vibe, and that's just what's needed at the moment.  This pic shows progress almost to the point where the work is joined and worked in the round:

It's been a fun knit so far, with just enough pattern changing to keep it interesting, but still simple enough for TV knitting -- perfect!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Knitting for the Long Haul

It's a topsy-turvy world we're living in right now, and I am finding that it helps to have a long-term project to work on each day as a temporary replacement for the usual schedule of my retirement era life.  Something other than sewing face masks, or constantly updating grocery lists in search of that elusive delivery slot, or other activities that are necessary, but are also an ever present reminder of the mess we're in.

For me that project is a knitted cardigan -- Simple Yoke Cardigan, by Purl Soho. It's a fairly plain, easy knit, but it becomes a long-term project due to yarn weight and needle size. I'm using Dream in Color Smooshy with cashmere in color Brilliant and size 1 US needles (2.5mm).

Not much to look at so far, as it's pretty scrunched up on the needle, but I am happy to be cruising along with only 300+ stitches instead of the 500+ I had before putting the sleeve stitches on holders to work later. I'm only a little over an inch beyond the sleeve divide -- at this rate it may turn out to be a lifetime project instead of a pandemic one. 

To mix things up a bit I also have a backup -- also thin yarn, but much smaller.
The Hitchhiker Scarf by Martina Behm. This one is being worked in Rohrspatz & Wollmeise "Fluffy" in color Rosenrot (which I think translates to Rose Red). The color is so rich and vibrant that it makes me smile every time I pick it up. 

I don't have too much more to knit on this one, although the rows do get longer with each set of repeats.  I'll miss it when it's completed and put away for cooler weather.

Other than face masks, sewing has been on hold for a while. I suspect that warmer weather will find me wishing I had done a little garment sewing, but I'm finding it hard to concentrate on that these days.  I've made various mask styles -- most with ties or cords as my thin elastic has all been used -- and family seem to prefer the shaped masks to the pleated versions that most hospitals are asking for.  I never expected that my first Marfy would be a face mask, but there you go.  I've also tried the pattern from Craft Passion as pictured below.

 It uses a long tie (or in this case a shoe string) that loops around the back of the head, through the sides and then is tied in the back.  I found it slightly trickier to get a tight fit on my first try, but was able to adjust it to suit eventually.  It will be interesting to see how various family members rate the wearability of the different styles.  So far only the Marfy version has been road tested.

Stay healthy, keep busy, and stay indoors everyone!