Thursday, December 25, 2008

Estes vest

Pattern from Interweave Knits Fall 2008 -- knit in Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky, some trim in Lamb's Pride Worsted. Knitting a heavily cabled garment in bulky yarn reminded me just how much I LOVE working with finer weight yarns!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

1/2 a FO... better than none.

It seems a shame that such a lovely little object isn't a finished project, but there you go -- unless you're Captain Hook it isn't done until there are two. The pattern is Hippocampus from the online magazine The Inside Loop. The yarn is Kauni Effekt, in colors EQ (rainbow) and ES (denim).

And the reverse side --

Also finished is one Noro Silk Garden scarf, which was so fun to watch as the colors developed, that I cast on another (pour moi!).

Obviously, some of us are too easily amused!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Soup's On!

So, I was out in the garden a week or so ago, and noticed the Swiss chard was still looking good despite some frigid temperatures. Seemed a shame not to use it for something, so I cut a bunch and headed back to the kitchen.

I might have sauteed it in some olive oil with a bit of the home-grown garlic, but the chilly weather, plus a persistent cough, called for a nice pot of soup.

If you, like me, could live quite happily eating soup almost every day, perhaps you'll like this recipe too. I've adapted it from "American Whole Foods Cuisine" by Nikki and David Goldbeck. Quantities can be doubled if you need a larger amount -- since I'm cooking for just the two of us I like making this smaller amount -- enough for some leftovers, but you won't be facing it forever!

Lentil Soup

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • vegetable broth and water, to equal 5 cups*
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups fresh chard, spinach or other leafy green, shredded -- You can substitute 1 cup frozen chopped spinach if fresh is not available
  • 1/2 cup small, dried pasta, such as riso, or tubetini -- whole wheat is nice, if available
  • 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
  • salt, to taste (I start with 1 teaspoon)
  • ground pepper, to taste

In a large soup pot, heat oil and saute vegetables and bay leaf until slightly softened.

Add rinsed lentils, liquids, tomato paste, and bring to a gentle boil -- then lower heat and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Add shredded greens, pasta and salt. Cover, and continue to simmer for an additional 15 minutes or so. Lentils should be tender, and pasta cooked. Add additional liquid if soup appears too dry, but be aware that this should be a thick soup.

Stir in vinegar, and adjust salt/pepper seasonings, if needed. Serve, and enjoy.

*You could, of course, use only water, but flavor will be richer and deeper if you use broth for some of the liquid. I generally use 1 can of College Inn Vegetable broth added to the water to equal 5 cups.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Whoa! ...

...What happened to November?

Am I the only one who has fallen into a time accelerating black hole? Of course, several weeks were spent dealing with The-Cough-That-Would-NOT-Go-Away, but even so, how can it be almost the end of November?

So, how about a little jolt of color to bring us back to speed?

The yarn: Noro Silk Garden The pattern: the rage of blogland and Ravelry, Noro Striped Scarf from Brooklyn Tweed. It's absolutely amazing how 39 stitches in K1P1 rib can be so entertaining.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


So, we took a little jaunt down to Asheville, NC -- lovely area, you'd think I would have brought a camera, yes? Well, no, so you'll just have to imagine your own lovely place. One of the things we did (naturally) was tour Biltmore Estate, which bills itself as "America's Largest Home" -- although if no one lives there, is it really a home? But I digress. It's large, it's impressive, and filled with the sort of things you'd expect the ultra-wealthy of 1895 to have in their homes, but all I could think about? The only place in the entire pile that had decent light for stitching was the massive, cold, stone staircase! How did they manage? Even on a bright, sunny day with the home's lights on it was so dark -- thank goodness for today's abundant natural light and full-spectrum lighting!

The spouse came back with a nasty, brutish cold, which he graciously shared with me, so only little projects to spotlight. I did manage to finish the Selbu Modern beret, and what an attractive little hat it is. Worked in Koigu PPM/PPPM it was a nice re-introduction to 2-color knitting for me. The pattern was available free from Rosie's Yarn Cellar -- not sure if it was for a limited time only, or if it's still there, but poke around if you're interested.

I still need some work on properly controlling tension once the work leaves the circular needle and is on dpn's, but it's quite attractive nonetheless. Color me pleased! Hopefully, this is a practice run for the long marinating Starmore vest.

The car trip knitting was (no surprise) some socks -- and won't those colors brighten up a winter's day?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Caution: Crossed Fingers Are No Substitute...

...for washing that gauge swatch! How sad to finish a project for someone else and find that it doesn't comfortably fit the recipient. And doubly sad because part of the problem was a length gauge change after washing the completed garment -- totally avoidable, and I'm smacking myself for not taking the time to pre-treat the swatch.

The pattern is the Basic Chic Hoodie from Chic Knits, and it's a good one -- no problems at all with the pattern. The yarn, however, is a bit of a different story. I used the Peruvian Highland worsted from Elann. I've used it before, with no ill effects, but this batch seemed to me to be loosely plied and more subject to pilling. So shame on me for using my unwashed swatch for gauge -- it's a hard lesson to learn, but maybe someone else out there will benefit from my mistake. For what it's worth, this would probably be a very good yarn for felting. I'm not going to suggest avoiding the yarn, because this screw up is squarely on my head, but please take the time to wash your swatch (and you do swatch, right?) so that you'll know better what type of fabric you're going to get before you invest all your time in making a garment.

So, pick yourself up, dust yourself off...

Sunday, October 5, 2008


I've finished a lot of pairs of socks, but I rarely knit them as pairs. Huh?? What I mean is, like lots of other knitters, I get just a bit bored with the project after that first sock is completed. There's even a fancy name for the condition -- second sock syndrome.

The cure -- for me -- has been to just toss aside that first sock and go on to something new. Others try knitting two socks at the same time, or playing mind games like knitting the second sock first (you may need to think about that one for a bit).

For me though 'knit and run' works fairly well. On the plus side, I don't get impatient to be done, and when a few singletons are completed I end up with several pairs -- like now, just finished 3 single socks and now have 3 pairs -- woo hoo, like magic! I know, I know, I'm simply playing a mind game of a different sort, but whatever works... Of course, if there's a plus side, there's also a minus. One of the big ones is actually remembering any pattern tweaks or changes when that second sock inspires renewed interest. If I were organized, I'd keep a notebook, but since I'm not (and don't) I have to rely on the shreds of a once-proud memory -- and feet that aren't exactly the same size anyway!

And so, a gallery of finished pairs --

Up first, Waving Lace Socks by Evelyn Clark, from "Favorite Socks" by Interweave. This one got delayed not due to lack of interest, but because I misplaced the yarn -- yes, perhaps I do have too many project bags. Yarn is fingering-weight hand-dyed merino from The Yarn Yard. I love the soft greens.

Next is a mock cabled rib knit in Apple Laine's Apple Pie sock yarn -- absolutely lovely stuff, and I think this will be a toasty, warm fiber combo (65%merino/20%kid mohair/10%nylon/5%silk).

And, at last, the partner for Rock Creek Yarn Company's (formerly) Simply Sock Yarn (now Super Soft Sock Yarn) "Koi Pond". You all know I'm a fool for orange, and this colorway is aptly named. I can see those fish flashing through the water and pond vegetation, can't you?

There's been bigger knitting going on too, but that's a project for someone else, and won't be making an appearance here until it's in the hands of its intended recipient. Fingers crossed that it will fit!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A bit of success...

...was achieved this summer making casual tops from patterns created from ready-to-wear items, but now it's time to up the ante -- slacks.

I chose a simple pair of J.Jill slacks whose fit works well for me. Let's hope their simplicity will give me a better chance at success.

As mentioned previously, I decided to try taping off the pattern pieces instead of tracing them. No pockets, no lining, not even a separate waistband, so it's just 2 pattern pieces -- a front and a back. The flat areas (lower legs) are simple. The tape is placed around the entire outline of each piece, and then filled in with overlapping layers. The real challenge comes from the non-flat, darted hip/waist area. This needs to be done with the shape filled in -- preferably while being worn inside out. Darts (there are two on each piece) are taped over, with each apex marked. After removing the taped shape from the garment, the darted area is cut from the center down to the marked apex. When the taped piece is affixed to a flat paper the slits will open up (hopefully!) to proper dart width. It was a real pain to get the taped shape from the garment to the paper -- remember wrestling with adhesive paper when lining shelves? -- but here's what I ended up with:

That's the front piece, and I think you can see how the darts opened up in a closer shot:

Because it seems to me that this method might result in slight shrinkage as far as size goes, you'll note I've given myself wide 1" (2.5 cm)seam allowances. I'll baste fit and make adjustments as needed.

The original slacks are made from a sueded poly/Lycra blend. I am testing in a denim/Lycra blend -- hopefully I'll be able to get a clear idea of the fit by using another stretch woven, although the original fabric has more drape. I'm thinking a stable knit might have worked as a test fabric, but you go with what you have.

Sew, will this work out? Or will it be yet another "wadder"? Stay tuned...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

You spin me right round...

So, a couple of years back I decided it might be fun to learn to spin. Took a couple of lessons, and bought a nice little wheel (Majacraft Suzie). Then, as sometimes happens, life intervened and the spinning took a back seat to other things. Lately, the urge has returned, and I've been taking baby steps back into the wonderful world of hand spun. I wasn't that proficient when I stopped, and I'm certainly no better with such a long layoff, but by turning to the spinning newbie's best friend -- that would be Blue-Faced Leicester roving -- I managed to produce some passable yarn. But what to do with it?

Now, in the past, yarn produced generally went right into the stash, with no thought given to any particular project. Since my initial goal was to sample many different types (sheep breeds) of wool, that wasn't surprising -- not too much you can do with many little 50 g. skeins of wildly different yarns. But now I'd really like to concentrate on actually making something from the spun yarn, so I set about swatching.

My first thought was a lacy scarf, and so I turned to "Zen and the Art of Stash Diving" from Crochet Me on-line magazine. I really liked how that pattern was developing, but quickly realized that I wouldn't have nearly enough yarn to make a scarf of the length I wanted. Rip-it!

Sometimes inspiration comes at you in a blinding flash, but usually I experience it as a slap upside the head -- why not make the pattern that most folks are coming to the blog to get -- "Could It Be Any Easier?" neck cozy. And so I did.

The roving is hand-dyed from the folks at Sakina Needles, and purchased through The Loopy Ewe. Colorway is "Mango", and fiber is Blue-Faced Leicester (BFL). Spun to (roughly) a worsted weight yarn, it's soft and absolutely delightful. Won't that be a nice pop of color for those grey winter days?

And since I still would really like a "Zen, etc." scarf, I started one of those in some hand-dyed yarn I picked up at Maryland Sheep & Wool this year. It's 55% mohair, 45% merino dyed with natural ingredients (osage, madder and cutch) by Juanita Breidenbaugh (who doesn't appear to have a website). Pretty, yes?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Last Gasp of Summer Tee

It's late, summer's almost done, and I should be thinking of autumn wearables, but I just couldn't resist one more summer tee. The fabric is a rayon/Lycra blend from Emma One Sock. I'm late to the party as far as working with rayon knits, but once I discovered them I haven't looked back. They are lighter than cotton, and to my mind seem just a bit dressier -- not that they're fussy -- just a bit more refined for those times you want to look a little more polished.

This was another of my 'traced from ready-to-wear' instead of sewn from a commercial pattern. It's a nice technique for duplicating simple styles -- not sure I'd try it with anything too intricate, but it's ideal for tanks and tees. Basically I just fold each garment segment in half, line it up along a line on my 1" graphed paper and carefully trace around each piece, smoothing things out where needed. After I finish my half tracing of each piece I make any adjustments I think I need -- for example, the RTW top had a too wide neckline which I corrected on my pattern pieces -- then I add seam allowances and hem allowances where needed. Voila, a pattern piece. I generally use self binding on necklines, and often on sleeve edges, so for those pieces I just cut strips in the width I need across the total width of my fabric with a handy-dandy rotary cutter. So simple.

Of course, the value of this method depends on you actually having a RTW item that you like and that fits with only minor adjustment, but if you do, I highly recommend trying it.

I'm hoping to duplicate a favorite pair of slacks from J.Jill next. This time though, I'm going to attempt a pattern steal by using painter's tape to shape each pattern piece. I'll be following tips in an article from the Fall 2008 issue of SewStylish magazine, which itself is an extract of an article from Issue 120 of Threads magazine. They are a no-pocket, side zip, faced waist (i.e., no waistband) style, so they should be a good candidate for this -- we'll see!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood..."

Sunny skies, balmy breezes, puffy clouds? No, RAIN -- glorious, blessed rain! We've had no moisture in August until now, and the parched red clay soil was beginning to crack. You can almost hear it sighing with relief -- here's hoping there is more in store.

On the knitting front, one toe-up, gusseted sock is done, and here's what I've learned: 1)Although a 200 yard skein of fingering weight yarn is slightly less than I usually work with, it is entirely sufficient for socks with the leg length I prefer, and the foot length I need. Ergo, no need to knit toe up again for myself (well, except for the mate to this one!) unless I want to -- which I probably don't. Longer or wider socks, even less yardage -- OK, I'll do it then, but I have discovered that I really prefer knitting top down. The whole time I was knitting this I felt like I was twirling backwards!
2)It is possible to have a bound off edge that is stretchy enough to pull over my high-arched foot and feel comfortable around the leg.
I used this one: Work first two stitches in pattern. *Return these two stitches to the left needle, then knit them together through the back loop. Work the next stitch in pattern, and then repeat from the *. The last stitch leaves a bit higher gap, so take care in attaching it to the beginning when you're done, but there you have it. You'll notice in the photo (click for bigger, if needed) that the top of the sock is ruffled looking when off the foot. This disappears when worn, but may not be due to the bind off alone. I also worked the final few rows (4?) of the leg in garter stitch. And with bigger needles. Yes I know -- excessive, but then I'm a "belt and suspenders" kind of a girl. ("Belt and braces" to UK speakers, although maybe that's not a familiar colloquial expression for you anyway.) At any rate, it worked for me, although if I do another pair I'll try it without the garter stitch, but still using larger needles.

So, I'm calling exercise in toe-up a success.* Now, what's the next challenge?
*Fear not, that second sock will get knit at some point. We will leave no sock behind -- sometimes it just takes a while!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Create-Your-Own Clever Post Title

This has actually been finished for a while, but I tend to procrastinate about sewing on buttons. The spouse never understands how I can spend hours in the sewing room and yet never get around to replacing his shirt buttons, but what can I say? -- I don't like sewing on buttons.

I think I've mentioned the basics before, but here's the specs: Pattern from a Japanese knit/crochet book (Let's Knit Spring/Summer 2008), up-sized (in width) by using a slighter heavier yarn (Elann Camila). Fewer pattern repeats needed for the length. Set-in sleeves, tunic length with vent opening at bottom sides. I made a wider neckband than called for and left off the final row of crab stitch (reverse sc) from the edging. Other than that, I hewed to the pattern charts. I absolutely love the attention to detail in Japanese patterns -- such as the slanted shoulder shaping (done with stitches of varying heights). All in all, I'm pleased with this -- wonder if I'll be able to wear it this season, or will it have to wait for the spring?

Even though we have weeks of hot weather ahead thoughts are turning to autumn knits. I'm thinking of Véronik Avery's cardigan in Vogue Knitting (blanking on the name -- Forestry maybe?) -- love the collar shaping. Or maybe it's time to crank up the Falkenberg Express? Time will tell!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Topsy-turvy toes

So, a knitter walks into a Panera...

Nope, not the start of a joke, but rather what I did a couple of weeks ago -- I finally got around to attending a Knit Night at a local restaurant. I have really missed the camaraderie of a knitting group since moving and leaving my former knitting guild behind, but somehow never made it to the local S&B. It was a nice change to attend a purely social group, although the restaurant setting seemed a bit odd at first. I hope to be able to go again, but it's fairly far away, and with gas prices as they are...

In any event, the fun part of a knitting get together is seeing what everyone is working on. I noticed one knitter working on socks in a yarn I hadn't heard of before -- Rock Creek Yarn. The colors were fabulous, so naturally when I got home I did a little Internet search, which lead me to their Simply Sock yarn in the Koi Pond colorway.

When the yarn arrived, I noticed it has a bit less yardage than the sock yarns I've been using lately. Seemed like a sign that I needed to finally try a toe-up sock, to maximize yardage. I've shied away from that method in the past, figuring that my usual top down socks worked well, so why tamper with success? But a little change can be a good thing, so I started a pair of Fingering weight Toe-Up Gusset Heel Socks -- a free pattern available from Wendy Knits. Just click on the link at the top of her home page for a very nice selection of patterns.

So far they seem to be working out just fine. The true test of a good fit will come when I actually wear them, but I'm optimistic. And here's the heel:

I'm not always a big fan of color flashing and striping, but somehow it seems to work with this combination. Can't you just picture a koi swimming through the pond plants?

Monday, August 4, 2008

County Fair

Once again it's county fair time, and this year I decided to enter four items -- an original design crochet cardigan, a crocheted hat (also my own pattern), a knitted shawl (Leaf Lace by Evelyn Clark) and a knitted beret (Beret Gaufre, by Véronik Avery). I was fortunate enough to come home with four ribbons -- three firsts, and a second for the Leaf Lace shawl. This is just the second year I've done this, and it's a bit of fun -- I highly recommend it for those of you who have the opportunity.

For those who may be looking for a quick, attractive, little knitted project, the pattern for Beret Gaufre is available on Véronik's site -- click on "shop" to find it.

And abruptly changing subjects, I was coming in from the back deck this morning and caught a glimpse of pink and yellow. I thought someone had stuck a bit of candy on the wall, but it turned out to be this:(click for bigger!)

I've never seen a moth that color; hopefully I'll be able to research it and attach a name to it, but I thought it was pretty enough to share.

Editted to add: apparently it's a Rosy Maple Moth (dryocampa rubicunda) -- thank you, Google!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Christmas in July

Not quite, but it always seems like Christmas when I get a box from The Loopy Ewe! I've said it before, but it's worth saying again -- it's so nice to deal with a business where your custom is valued. We're always quick to complain about bad service, especially on the 'net, so it's pleasant to point out those vendors who go 'above and beyond'. Almost as much fun as playing with new sock yarn is seeing what little lagniappe Sheri has included with your order. This time it's a sample of the wool wash Soak -- something I've wanted to try for a while.

And now for something completely different -- a gratuitous photo of Monty titled "Cavalier Woken From His Nap, and not entirely happy about it".

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Peach Cobbler...

...or any juicy summer fruit cobbler. And want to know a naughty little secret? When fresh fruit isn't in season, use a good quality frozen fruit* for an 'almost as nice' result.
*(unsweetened, and don't thaw before placing cobbler in the oven)

Begin by heating the oven to 450F° (230 C). Next prepare your fruit of choice. We like tart cherries, or peaches, or a mixture of berries, or peaches with blackberries, or... How much fruit? I would suggest at least 4 cups, but I tend to just prepare enough to generously fill the pie dish I use. I measured one cup of sliced peaches as being equal to 160 g., so metric-ly speaking that would be about 640 g. of peaches. Peel, or not -- your choice. Sweeten with sugar -- the riper and sweeter the fruit, the less sugar you will need to use. In general you would use from 1/2 cup (100 g) to 1 cup (200 g). I like to also add about 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) of cornstarch to the fruit. Really fresh, just picked fruit tends to be very juicy, and this helps thicken the juice just a bit. If you like (and I do) add a small amount of cinnamon -- about 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) -- just enough to add a depth of flavor without overpowering the fruit. Mix it all together, put it in your favorite baking dish and top with a few small dabs of butter (yes, the real stuff!).

For the biscuit dough topping:
  • 2 cups (280 g) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) baking powder
  • 5 Tablespoons (70 g) butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup (170 ml) milk

Combine the first four (dry) ingredients and mix thoroughly. Next, cut in the butter, using a pastry blending tool or two knives. Mix together the milk and egg, then add to the flour/butter mixture. Don't over mix, but when it nicely combined, mound it over your previously prepared fruit.

Spread the batter in a nice, even layer over the fruit, but not to the very edge -- leave about a 1/2 inch (1 -2 cm) margin or so all around. To prevent juice spillover while baking it's helpful to place your baking dish on a cookie sheet, or have a large piece of foil beneath the dish.

Bake at 450° (230C) for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350° (180C) and bake for another 25 - 30 minutes. If you think the top is becoming too brown, try placing a sheet of foil loosely over the top to shield it, but you need to give the biscuit topping time to cook through.

Serve warm, and enjoy! If you like to gild the lily, you could serve with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream, or some such, but it's quite tasty on its own.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Peachy Keen

As I see it, home vegetable/fruit gardeners go through four distinct phases, and I'm not talking spring, summer, autumn and winter.

Phase 1: We have no peaches, but we're eagerly looking forward to that first juicy bite.

Phase 2: We have a few peaches, and wow -- they are sure tasty!

Phase 3: We have more peaches than any human could possibly eat, freeze, can, or cook -- help!

Phase 4: We have no peaches -- thank you (insert deity of choice here)!

We are now at phase 3 with peaches, potatoes and garlic. The string beans, squash and tomatoes are on the horizon and I'm trying to stay strong.

It's not all fruit and veg though. Got a new Japanese knitting/crochet book recently and I've started another project.

This issue of the "Let's Knit" series has a nice mix of knitting and crochet styles for spring and summer. Here's the one I'm making --

And here's what it looks like in the yarn (Elann Camila) that I'm using --

That's the beginning of a sleeve; I also have one of the fronts finished too, but that doesn't photograph so well. I'll be shortening the sleeves to three-quarter length, and I've lowered the neckline just a bit in addition to shortening the body length just a tad. So far I think it's looking pretty good. More details later!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Life Is Just So-Sew

No knitting, no crocheting, but the needles have been flying. I'm taking a little break from mingling yarn, and doing a little fabric wrangling instead.

A light summer 'jacket' sewn from an interesting eyelet fabric from an OOP Vogue (Adri) pattern. Here's a closeup of the fabric --

Nicely ventilated for summer, no?

Also completed, a bunch of knit fabric tank tops, and a Jalie tee-shirt. Miracle of miracles, they all fit -- what a high!

In honor of such amazing success, I'd like to pay tribute to my sewing muse, Jill.

Jill and I go way back, and she is the reason I first starting putting needle to fabric, since keeping her in fashionable frocks was putting a big dent in my spending money. So out came Granny's scrap box and I set to work on producing clothes that would be right at home on any of today's hip runways -- right down to the raw edges, whacked out seams and 'interesting' choice of fabrics! Still, it was fun, and kept me out of my grandmother's hair for hours at a time, in addition to starting a lifelong love affair with fabric and fiber of all types.

Sadly, this particular Jill is not my original -- who, I hope, found happiness with another little girl and is not a bottom layer in the town dump in Hot Springs, Arkansas -- although they could be twins. For anyone else out there with clutter-phobic grandparents, here's a hint: you can always find your childhood for sale on EBay!

Friday, June 20, 2008


I've always enjoyed growing a few veggies, but in the past have concentrated my efforts on tomatoes and other 'taste better from the garden' types. I thought potatoes were, well, just potatoes and would pretty much taste the same regardless. Then we bought a couple pounds of a new to us variety at the local farmer's market -- whoa, revelation! The next step was to try growing some in our own little plot. Since I had no experience with them, I went with a familiar variety for my first effort (Yukon Gold). They were nice, but now we were ready to take a step off the beaten path. This year's choice? Carola, a beige-skinned, yellow fleshed German potato, and Cranberry Red, which has deep red skin and rosy pink flesh. M-m-m-m, good -- and pretty, too. I'm thinking next year we need to try one of the cool, purple-y blue varieties -- lavender mashies, anyone?

Potatoes are one of the more versatile vegetables in our kitchen -- boiled, mashed, fried, oven roasted -- it's all good. One of my favorite ways to use them in the summer though, is a nice potato salad. And unless you are fortunate enough to live by a very good deli where they make their own, and by 'they' I mean it's made by a Southerner, or at least someone from the Mid-West, then it's something that's always better when homemade. There are a million ways to make it, but here's our 'everyday' version.

Simple, Everyday Potato Salad

  • 2 lb. potatoes, boiled in the skin
  • chopped, red onion - about 1 small one
  • 3/4 to 1 cup good quality mayonnaise
  • a dollop of mustard
  • a splash of cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a tiny bit (maybe just a sprinkle) of cayenne pepper, if you're feeling adventurous
  • some fresh, chopped dill is always welcome

Put your (whole, unpeeled) potatoes in a pan with plenty of room, start them with cold water and some salt, and boil 'til they are done. I start testing for doneness at around 14 minutes of cooking if they are good sized, sooner if they are smaller potatoes.

While they're cooking, get the dressing ready. Combine the mayonnaise with the chopped onions and other ingredients and mix well. What kind of mustard? Plain old yellow works well, but if you like Dijon...You'll notice the amounts are quite flexible -- I season to taste for this, but if you need your hand held, then a dollop will be 'about' a level tablespoon, and a splash will be about a tablespoon too. I like to use cider vinegar, but I suppose you could get all 'fancy pants' and use a wine vinegar instead -- your choice. I love it with fresh dill, but sometimes you just don't have any on hand -- add it when you do, but forget about using dried -- it just doesn't cut it.

When the potatoes are done, drain them and let cool until they are comfortable to handle. If you're using young, 'new' potatoes, or a variety with a thin skin, go ahead and leave the skin on -- extra fiber. Of course, you can also remove the skin now if you prefer. Cut them into nice, bite-sized pieces (not too small now!) and gently toss them with the dressing, until all the pieces are nicely coated. Refrigerate.

This is one of those things that is even tastier the second day -- so, try to make it a day ahead, but if you don't, make sure it has a good few hours in the refrigerator to give the flavor time to meld. Serve, and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In the 'Olden Days'...

...we had to make our own fun fur!

Some designs have aged fairly well --

others, not so much:

A very young Cheryl Tiegs modeling the latest in ponchos, and a patriotic tank top --

The photos above are all from late 60's, early 70's era craft magazines. The spouse was cleaning out the garage, as he tends to do every millennium, and found them tucked away on the side. It's always fun to take a little stroll through the past, isn't it?

Thursday, June 12, 2008


It's always fun to look through a new knitting/crochet magazine, and although Verena is new to the US market, it's been around a while in Europe. It's published by the folks at Burda -- a name that will be familiar to US sewists. Newsstand price was $6.99, and subscriptions are available for 1 year (5 issues) for $19.97.

I picked up a copy at Barnes & Noble, and here's a few thoughts --

The cover states it contains 50 designs and I'll take them at their word, because I'm too lazy to count. My criterion for a worthwhile magazine purchase may be a bit different from most. I don't really care if there are X number of styles I would make from the issue, since I don't always make patterns as presented anyway. What I want to see, however, is some inspiration. I loved the idea of using wide satin ribbon as a neckline facing (pattern #10) although I probably wouldn't knit it as shown. That detail may be showing up in a future Mingling Yarn production though. I would make the red, ribbed tunic (#31) although please shoot me if I try to wear it with leggings. There are several cute little halter tops, which would work for the younger set chez Mingling, but many of the other styles are things which look vaguely familiar. In particular, the "Desert Outpost" spread encourages thoughts of boxy, over sized, off-the-shoulder 80's fashions. Has that look come around again?

Instructions are in the brief, "Sandra" or "Rebecca" style, not surprising for a Burda publication, and not something that would bother me. Knitters who like a little hand holding may feel a bit left out though.

There were a few styles for kids, but again, nothing that made a big impression. If I remember correctly, there are no styles for men -- if I'm mis-remembering it's likely due to anything that is there being entirely forgettable.

The magazine has made an effort to include plus sized styles for women, I believe there were 8 of them so labeled. Anyone spending even a little time on knitting lists would know that the availability of fashions in larger sizes is a hot button for many. With the exception of one top (Lace Chevron) these all start at a finished bust width of at least 40" and range up to 62" finished width. That says to me that they have been particularly targeted for plus sizes, rather than all sizes. So, let's take a closer look, shall we?

I've culled this particular design from the herd. "Brilliantly planned sections of knitted lace and crocheted net skim the hips for a slimming effect", or so states the copy.

So, where to begin? With the long sleeves perhaps? I have to wonder why, if you really want long sleeves on a summer dress, why wouldn't you at least have used the lacy openwork stitches there, instead of at crotch level? Still, some folks get chilled in overly conditioned air, so the long sleeves are really the least of it.

How about that navel plunging neckline? No way you're going to wear that out without at least one layer underneath (the photo shows two). But wait, the 16" skirt will keep you cool -- it's nicely ventilated. Make sure you're wearing your prettiest underpants though, because they'll be on view! Of course, you could always layer on the leggings -- modesty will reign, but pass me an iced drink, 'cause I'm 'glowing' now.

The other "plus" sizes are not as extreme as the dress. However, I see lots of long sleeves, lots of openwork needing additional layers underneath, and one style with a strange asymmetrical double flap over one hip. Yes, finally, every plus gal's dream -- funny flaps over one hip -- I'd say they nailed that one!

So, thanks for the effort, Verena, but next time let's give it a little more thought, eh?

I probably will look through the next issue, and certainly those of a certain size could find some cute little things to make from this magazine. Be a careful consumer though, if your magazine budget is limited, and especially if you are in the market for flattering, plus sized fashion.

Monday, June 9, 2008

It's a Wrap...

Elann Soie Bambou - 65% silk/35% bamboo. 8 oz. (227 g) cone - 680 yards (624 m). Completed shawl used 1 complete cone, plus a few yards from a second. Pattern - from a Japanese book "Crochet Lace" (ISBN 4-277-17188-5). Edging - pattern #139 (slightly adjusted) from "Complete Book of Crochet Border Designs" by Linda Schapper. Love how those staggered blocks mimic the 5 treble blocks in the design itself! Color - the label inside the cone states "basil", but Elann is calling it "sea grass".

After finishing the shawl, I decided to give the yarn a little knitting test drive. As previously stated, several Ravelry folks mentioned a splitting problem, something I didn't notice too much with this crocheted project.

I used 3.75mm (US 5) bamboo needles and cast on for the "Horseshoe" pattern (B. Walker's 1st Treasury) and off I went. I chose the simple Shetland lace pattern because it's a favorite, and although it has no complicated maneuvers, I thought the k2tog and psso's would reveal any splitting tendencies the yarn might have. My results? Well, although I did manage to split stitches (maybe 3 in the swatch?) it certainly wasn't terrible. My results may not be entirely indicative of other's experiences however. Needle choice, knitting style (I knit "English" style) and pattern choice all play a role.

I washed the swatch when completed and smoothed it out to dry. It didn't look too bad when dry, but I liked it better after a pressing with the iron on a "silk" setting.

All in all, I wouldn't hesitate to use this yarn in a knitted garment. I did, however, prefer the appearance and ease of working when used for crochet. You may notice some stitch splitting, but I've worked with far worse in that regard. Available (currently) in 9 colors and at US$28 per cone it seems a fair price. I don't anticipate Soie Bambou becoming a stash staple (which skews to wool), but it's an attractive yarn for the right project. As always -- my opinion, my views -- yours may vary!