Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Little Something Sweet

For your consideration -- a tasty treat that shows up frequently on the Mingling Yarn holiday dessert table -- "Juanita's buttermilk pralines"
Recipe clipped from a Houston newspaper many years ago, "This is a no-fail easy recipe that withstands even Houston humidity with relative ease. The mixture is initially a creamy white; the sugar caramelizes and turns brown as it cooks. A food editor-tested recipe."

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine buttermilk, sugar, soda and salt in a large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, to the soft ball stage, 234 degrees F. The mixture will foam up in the pan during cooking, so be sure to use a large pan and stir constantly to prevent boiling over.
When candy thermometer registers 234 degrees F., remove pan from heat. Stir in nuts and vanilla. Beat until candy loses its gloss and begins to thicken. Working quickly, because it will turn sugary fast at this point, drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. Lift paper up from counter/table surface as candy cools to prevent pralines' breaking or shattering.
NOTE: if you have a silicon baking sheet (Silpat is one brand), that works really well instead of waxed paper. Probably hadn't even been invented when this recipe was first written! And the "no fail" statement above? I'm fairly sure it refers to the candy never failing to set up in humid weather -- certainly a talented fool could find ways to make this not work -- like using a too small pan...who me?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winter Wonderland, or buried alive?

Hard to believe this is central Virginia in DECEMBER!

No postings lately, because most of my production is for holiday gifts. Hopefully they will be well received, and photos will be posted later. I've been having fun doing lots of smaller projects -- it's amazing how gratifying it is to have some finished items!

To all who celebrate anything at all this season -- HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bits and bobs

Little projects have ruled the day lately. Another pumpkin? Nope, it's Raspberry Beret from the Sept. 2009 issue of Crochet Today. Obviously not worked in any shade of raspberry, but rather in an eye-popping orange (Cascade Eco +). This one should be handy to let the local hunters know it's not a deer out for her morning stroll -- at least that's the plan. The very open stitches certainly won't provide a lot of warmth as the days turn colder, but if it keeps one arrow from zooming past my head...

The next little hat is from a ChicKnits pattern -- Shaker Rib Hat. It's quick and easy and toasty. I've previously knit one in Noro Kureyon, but this one is knit from some of my beginner handspun. The wool fiber is from a Cheviot sheep, and it's a natural, creamy white. The 2-ply yarn has all the "beginner spinner thick and thin" characteristics, but I think it works in the Shaker Rib stitch.

And lastly, the second wristwarmer (yes, the first one has been knit too!) from a pattern in a recent Piecework. The yarn is again a 2-ply handspun, this time in a fingering weight (and with fewer uneven bits!) from hand-dyed South African Fine fiber from The Vildish Twist etsy shop. The beautiful colors somewhat obscure the subtle lace patterning, but for me it's all about the orange love.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Plethora of Pumpkins

I like to try something new in the garden each year -- this year it was a double header of pumpkin and corn. I actually interplanted the corn rows with a couple of pumpkin vines in imitation of early Native American plantings. Strictly speaking I should have added pole beans to the mix, but I stuck with bush beans in their own short rows. If you've ever considered growing your own sweet corn, let me just say -- DO IT! Even though we only gave over a couple of rows to the corn it performed superbly. Delish! The pumpkins did just fine also, so now I'm searching out tasty ways to add them to our meals.

Of course there's the obvious -- pie, but it's also quite delicious simply oven roasted in a little olive oil with some minced garlic and seasonings. I've used it instead of carrots in a hearty split pea soup, and find it works well in a wide range of recipes -- who knew? Pumpkins, they're not just for Halloween anymore.

Our little spinning group has continued to experiment with natural dyeing, and I was lucky enough to stumble across some black walnuts along a nearby country road. Into the dyepot with the husks, and hopefully there will be enough nutmeats to flavor up a nice loaf of banana bread. The spouse did yeoman duty and separated the husks from the nuts for me, and sacrificed his hands in the process. Yes, he used gloves, but the wire brush he was using to clean the nuts simply shredded them.

Never fear, he has been rewarded with pie.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

To Dye For --

Recently a spinning group I belong to decided to try something a little different. Instead of our usual spinning sessions, we thought we'd try out some natural dyeing. The original intent was to use solar power to heat the dyebaths (this was in the height of summer), but that didn't work out so well when I gave it a go. Not to be denied, we turned instead to a grill, and a hotplate. We met at a member's home (thanks Susan!) and proceeded.

Some of us used our own handspun, some chose unspun fiber, and I, being unwilling to give up my handspun to possible disaster, used Lamb's Pride worsted -- a blend of 85% wool/15% mohair, color - creme.

Herewith, for your viewing pleasure, are my results -- (as always, you can click for bigger)

One of the books we used for how-to information was "Wild Color" by Jenny Dean. With one exception our mordanting was done with alum, which is fairly safe (just don't inhale!). I did try making my own copper mordant solution, however this is a toxic substance so you need to exert great care.

It's been fun so far -- you just never know exactly what you'll get from any dyepot. We still have some lichen "brewing", and hopefully some other plants will catch our eyes before we're done!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

And I'm Back...

There now, that was a nice, relaxing break, but prime knitting/crocheting weather is approaching and it's time to get serious.

While away, I discovered a fun new yarn -- Color Changing Cotton from Wolle . Want to see what I made? Sure you do! First up, is a cute little shawlette -- Traveling Woman by Liz Abinante.

And then, with the leftover yarn -- a decorative little scarf from a Japanese accessory crochet book.

See how the yarn slowly changes color? (As always, click on the photos for bigger.) It's four strands of cotton that has one strand changing color at regular intervals, for a mesmerizing effect. Well, possibly I'm easily mesmerized (!) but it is fun to watch the changes happen.

The original scarf went off to the big city with one of the daughters, but I liked the effect so much that I'm now working on one for myself. Normally I hate to repeat patterns, so you can understand just how much I've enjoyed working with this yarn.

There's more to come -- including Adventures in Natural Dyeing -- whereby I tear up my yard looking for good candidates for the dye pot, so y'all come back!

Monday, June 22, 2009

See You In September...

There comes a time when you just need to step back from the blogging -- when it's a chore, instead of something you look forward to doing on a regular basis. I think I'm there.

I started writing this as a way to keep in touch with my good knitting friend back in New Jersey. We both had Webshots albums for sharing and showing off our projects, yarn, etc., but I tended to be a little wordier, so... Back then she was probably my only non-family visitor, and even as more folks started to drop by she remained the primary 'audience' for my ramblings. This past January, at much too young an age, Valerie lost her battle with breast cancer. I don't think you have to be a psych. major to connect the dots -- at any rate, I'll be taking a break, and hope to be back with renewed enthusiasm in the autumn.

In the meantime, here's the latest knitting project -- "Buttercup", a shrug from Kim Hargreaves. Back in the day, it was sold in kit form, although I don't think that Kim is marketing her designs that way anymore. In any event, it fit the recipient, and she appeared to like it. What more could you want?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Those who know me...

...in real life, know that I am not a major fan of odocoileus virginianus. But, even I have to admit that this little fellow is cute --

(click for bigger)

He was resting in the meadow in front of our house -- I got about 2 feet away from him, and possibly could have gotten even closer, but I didn't want to stress him too much. I'll save the stress for his grown up, ornamental plant eating, poop leaving, tick hosting relatives.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Birthday Boy!

Now I'm 3.

How about a little color inspiration from the garden?

Lavender blue --

Cherry red --


Or maybe some fresh green?

It's amazing how much happiness you can get from a handful of sweet cherries from your own tree!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Hint of Pretty...

Tilli Tomas "Pure and Simple" silk -- Arts & Crafts colorway. Feels delightful as it runs through my fingers! Project details to be revealed later -- it's for someone else.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Rainy Day in MD

It's sheep, it's wool, it's MD Sheep & Wool!

(As always, click on an image for bigger)

Despite the overcast skies and intermittent rain, someone's out there stimulating the yarn economy -- my, what a full bag you have before the 9 AM opening!

A little dampness won't stop those determined "Socks That Rock" folks from lining up (also pre-9 AM)!

A fine flock of fellows wait for judging to begin --

Wet alpaca -- not so light and fluffy now, eh?

Who can resist a bunch of frisky kids?

There's always a black sheep in every group --

Awww, how cute are they?

And finally, for Brenda, who asked me to bring back a bunny -- here's a bunch!

Swag? Not too much. I went with no real shopping list in mind, and decided that I would not buy anything that was already in the stash. This limited me rather severely, but I did manage to find some super soft yak yarn. I'm hoping I have enough of the laceweight yarn to make a little lacy something for around the neck. It's naturally colored dark brown, so doesn't photograph very well, so use your imaginations! Besides, softness is it's calling card, and that photographs not at all. Add in some goat's milk soap, some local honey and a tomato plant, and you'd hardly know I was at a fiber festival. The long-suffering (in the souvenir tote bag/tee shirt line) spouse graciously shared some of his super delish funnel cake (it's his yearly bribe) so life -- in the rain -- was good.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Spring Fever...

...at least that's my excuse for not posting much lately.

But here's a cute little number from the talented Doris Chan -- just right for those "still a little cool" days or nights right about now.

The pattern is free at the Caron International site (sorry, you'll have to use those Google skills -- I'm too lazy to make a link!). I lengthened it just a bit (9 rows) and left off the deep lace trim around the sleeve edge, replacing it with a simple scalloped trim.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Button Up!

Just in time for spring -- a cute little necklace that will add a pop of color to casual tees -- and what better material for a sewist to use than buttons?

I happened to see this little project while catching up on some sewing blogs. Directions are available at Craft Stylish, "Make a Button Link Necklace..." by Susan Beal. It's quick and easy, and not too expensive -- most of us probably have the buttons on hand already! Add some split rings (in two sizes) a small amount of chain and a fastener and you'll have a cute little necklace. It's not Bulgari, but who needs that heavy stuff in the Spring!

And for something completely different -- how about a dog on a rug? See how nicely he blends with the decor?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A shorter Yank...

...perhaps a Yank(ette)?

Another design from the creative mind of Bonne Marie Burns of Chic Knits . This one is from the book "Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines" rather than her web store.

Stats -- yarn: Gjestal Naturgarn, a long-ago purchase from Elann. needles: size 8 and 9 size: custom Modifications: yarn used is heavier than the one called for in the pattern, so numbers were re-worked to reflect gauge change. Shortened in length to make it more of a jacket, rather than a coat.

Color me pleased.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

That's Sew Odd...

I was browsing the patterns at our local JoAnn's, and came across a little top with a cute ruffle detail (which probably isn't showing up in my lousy photo!). Bought it, took it home, opened up the envelope and discovered -- I had the paper pattern for the pattern I bought, but the instruction sheet was for another pattern entirely. First time that's ever happened to me -- anyone else?

I probably could have stitched the top without instructions, but I really wanted to know how that ruffle was done, so the next day, back to the store I went. After explaining my problem to the clerk, we went back to the pattern display to see if they had another copy. They did, but when we opened that one up -- same problem -- I'm guessing this particular pattern was produced the day after a major drinking holiday! At any rate, the store clerk having no further clues as to how to help, I sent off an email to the pattern company. Imagine my surprise when I got a response the very next day! It was no big deal for them to fax a copy of the instructions to me -- hmmm, wonder if they've done that before? So, props to Alicia at Simplicity patterns (parent company of New Look) for helping out this sew-ist!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


...who made her debut (last week) on someone else's blog actually.

Stats: Sandrine by Bonne Marie Burns of Chic Knits. Yarn is Rowan Lenpur Linen, color blanche. Sleeves were shortened from the original design.

Currently on the needles --

This one is also a Bonne Marie design -- can you tell I'm a fan? Not sold on the website though -- this one's from the book Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines. It's knit from Gjestal Naturgarn, which is knitting to a larger gauge than the called for yarn, so a little math is being done. I'm also shortening the jacket's length by a bit. It seems a little strange to be knitting with a heavy wool now that spring is finally here, but I'm thinking I'll be just a little ahead of the game come autumn!

And just to show a little crochet love --

Gotta love those Koigu leftovers! Pattern is from Interweave Crochet.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Thank you, Beverly, and thanks for the tutorial on how to actually post this!

As always, there are rules, and here they are:

  • Copy the award to your site.
  • Link to the person from whom you received the award.
  • Nominate 8 other bloggers.
  • Link to these on your blog.
  • Leave a message on the blogs you nominated.

Well, it seems that most of my regular blog reads have received this, so I'm going to have to go with only 1 nomination. And that would be Vilde, who is a talented knitter, spinner, dyer, and all-round lovely person!

Friday, March 13, 2009


And to update my last post -- I did call the retailer about the problem needles and cable. I spoke with a polite and helpful customer representative, and replacements are winging their way to me as we speak. Since I publicly vented about my frustration with the needles/cable, it's only fair to mention this top-notch customer service. I'm sure I will still feel nervous about those cables, but hopefully I won't have the same breakage as before.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


So, I'm knitting along with a very splitty yarn (Rowan lenpur linen) on 200+ stitches on a long (about 36") circular needle when suddenly I hear a "pop" and I find myself holding a needle tip and the cable is heading south with quite a few stitches merrily escaping. (Insert your favorite curse right here)

I can't express how sad I was at that moment. Splitty, slippery stitches falling hither and yon. A deep breath, another muttered curse, and slowly I recaptured the errant stitches and managed to fix several runs.

Sadder still was the realization that I could no longer trust these needles. I mean really -- the cable breaks (or pops out -- I really can't tell) the first time I use it? Not good, not good at all. And this was after having to super glue the wooden needle tip into its metal connector before I even started the project. Totally unrelated problems by the way -- this is an interchangeable needle set -- the cables are sold separately from the needle tips. So, first time use of the needles AND the cable and both have a problem. I had such high hopes for these needles -- such nice pointy tips, such a lovely flexible cable, such a reasonable price! I've heard the retailer is good about returns, but frankly I don't want to spend the postage to send them back only to receive a replacement that may also go the same way. Really, how can you trust them once they've strayed?

On a happier note, the Slinky Ribs top has found its way to Charlestown, MA -- give a little wave if you see it passing by this spring. I really hope it fits its intended recipient (victim?) because it's a cute little top. Stats: Silky Wool by Elsebeth Lavold, from the book Custom Knits.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Doesn't this just make you want to smile?

Stats: hand spun yarn from South African Fine top. Colorway: autumn Purchased from The Vildish Twist on Etsy. Spun to about a fingering/sport weight on a Schacht/Reeves wheel. Room for improvement in evenness, but I'm quite pleased with the results.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Just because he's cute

Monty posing (reluctantly) in his new sweater. Knit in Noro Kureyon recycled from a previous Fashion Disaster (a poncho -- what was I smoking???).

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Another little project from Everyday Crochet by Doris Chan. Stats: Valley yarn Longmeadow - 60% cotton/40% microfiber acrylic. Size I crochet hook.

It has taken me a while to get used to the directions in the pattern. There is a lot of flipping back and forth necessary, which makes it hard to know what you need to do next (at least for me). However, after working a couple of patterns from the book I feel that I have a handle on Doris' methods -- well worth the effort needed, I think.

Monday, January 12, 2009

"Isn't She Lovely...?"

Stats: Schacht-Reeves 30" Saxony, cherry wood, double-drive, double treadle.
And thanks to spinning pal Margaret (who spent considerable time getting her up and running, because I am an idiot who could not properly thread the drive band) I am now able to produce some fairly nice yarn on her --

(Hand dyed roving from The Vildish Twist, Etsy)

And there's finished knitting too!

What's that you ask? Three mittens? Perhaps I should say I decided to knit a spare for that inevitable time when one goes missing, but the truth is my first effort in finishing up the pair resulted in two LEFT mittens. Ouch, that hurt! So, I knit a third. What's that you say? It's not the same color as the first two? Why no, no it's not. For some reason the idea of knitting a third mitten exactly the same as the other two (well, except for that thumb thing) made that little forehead vein start to throb, so I decided to make the third in the colors that came up next in the Kauni yarn (which has l-o-n-g color runs, for those who have not yet seen it).

See, the cuff of the third mitten picks up from the color on the tip of the second. Wild and crazy, free-spirited, right? Or maybe just nuts, but a fourth mitten is not in my immediate future.