Monday, August 17, 2015

Three New Patterns and Stitches Midwest!

On Wednesday, August 5, I released three new patterns! Two of them were shawls that were inspired by my recent trips to the Republic of Georgia; Lenjeri is a lace pattern inspired by a small village in Svaneti, and Polyphony was my attempt to knit a tangible interpretation of the traditional 3-part vocal tunes prevalent in Georgia.

When Doug and I visited Lenjeri on our honeymoon, we were enamored with the greenery and flowers finding homes within cracks of stone walls. When Leading Men Fiber Arts gave me a skein of green merino-silk lace yarn (the Ghost Light base) at Vogue Knitting Live, I immediately associated that green (Envy) with the green I saw in that small village. Fortunately, I had the chance to return this summer with my Georgian Choir on a tour to learn folk songs.

I'm fascinated with traditional Georgian polyphony, most often sung in three parts with close harmony (each word links to a different style of three-part singing in the country--I could not decide). I decided to combine this fascination with my love for knitwear design, and came up with Polyphony, a warm, color-block stole with a lace center. I tried to make the colors work together to make a whole, as well as illustrating that the middle part in Georgian polyphony is often the most detailed. I knit it out of Leading Men Fiber Arts Show Stealer base (80% merino, 10% cashmere, and 10% nylon) in the colorways Dames At Sea, Dusty Quartz, and Sandcastle.

I modeled it by a river in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.

The third pattern I designed for the Leading Men Fiber Arts boot at Stitches was a fun hat pattern called Zipadee, using elongated slipped stitches forming zig-zag zippers that meet at the top.

I knit it out of their Playbill base (dk weight single-ply merino) in the Seaweed colorway. It was a fun, quick knit after all the shawls!

On to Stitches! We set up the Polyphony wrap on the model next to several kits that Steve and Andy picked out to go with the pattern.

I had a wonderful time meeting other designers, fellow yarn-addicts, and seeing some old friends.

If you came by the booth, thank you! I loved the opportunity to meet you!


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Operation Berry Pie

This has been the summer of pies. Usually I attempt one pie per summer, then being discouraged by the amount of work involved, I put off my next attempt for the following summer. Not this year! For my husband's 40th birthday he requested "pie" as his type of cake, and since I figured there would be loads of people celebrating that weekend, I decided to bake two. This is indeed the answer, because yes, it is a lot of work. But if you put in the work and it results in twice as many pies, why, it's really only half the work per pie!

A couple weeks ago I made two berry pies, but forgot to look at a recipe when I started. Therefore, I had to fudge a little bit, and it resulted in everyone asking for my pie filling recipe! I had to think about it, and just to make sure, I recreated the pies.

First, I prepared the filling (remember, this is for 2 pies):

  • 4 cups sliced strawberries
  • 4 cups blueberries
  • 2 cups rasperries
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
I mixed them together, making sure the berries were coated, and set it aside.

I then made the dough. I increased the recipe by a quarter because I can never seem to make a pie crust that drapes over the edge of the pan and still have enough for the lattice on top.

  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 2/3 cups ghee (you can use butter, shortening, or lard, but I prefer clarified butter)
  • up to 16 tablespoons ice water

Cut the ghee into the flour, first using two knives, then a hand mixer (I like my mixers analogue), till the largest clumps of ghee are the size of small peas. You'll still have a lot of loose flour everywhere, but don't worry about that; that's the ice water's job.

Add one tablespoon of ice water and toss it around, then press the dough to the sides of the bowl. Repeat this until you can make a solid clump of dough that can be formed into a ball.

Seperate your dough into four pieces. Roll out your first two pieces into 12" diameter circles and drape them perfectly over the pie pans with no cracks or holes.

I'm far from professional, but I bet even the pros have to play doctor some. Now trim your perfectly-draped (sorry--I just realized that maybe not everyone would recognize the sarcasm here--that's sarcasm) pie crusts and cover with cling wrap and put in the fridge.

Roll your next two chunks into similar shapes, then use a pizza cutter to slice each one into eight 1 1/2" strips. Lay some cling wrap on a cookie sheet, then arrange one layer of strips, then another sheet of cling wrap, and a second layer of strips. Top with a third layer of cling wrap and place in your fridge.

By now, the sugar has probably robbed your berries of some juice. Set up a collander over a bowl, and slide the berry mixture into the collander. Wait a couple minutes for them to drain.

Reserve 3/4 cup of the syrup for the pie. With the rest, I recommend sweetening a pitcher of black iced tea.

Pour your reserved syrup into the bowl where the berries were. Add:

  • 4 Tbsp Minute Tapioca
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • a dash of cayenne (optional, though I added 3 dashes and it was magnificent)
  • 1 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla (extract)
  • freshly grated nutmeg (does anyone ever measure grated nutmeg?)

Add the berries from the collander, mix, and let sit for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, with two racks arranged in the middle two slots. Place a large cookie sheet on the bottom rack.

Take out the pie crusts and strips from the fridge. When the berry mixture is ready, ladle it in to the pie crusts, equally. Arrange the strips on top of the mixture in a woven lattice, then crimp the edge of the pie crust with your fingers. Seperate an egg and reserve the whites in a small bowl, and paint the egg white onto the lattice. Sprinkle sugar on top, generously, but don't go overboard.

Place your pies in the oven for 25 minutes. Rotate them, then turn the heat down to 350 degrees F. Cook for another 30 minutes. Take them out and let them cool to room temperature.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Roasted Almonds: A Formula

Recently I've been on a not-so-much sugar kick. It's several steps less virtuous than a no-sugar diet; I'll have dessert once a week (or maybe twice or three times...depends on the week), and then stick to fruit and leftover dinner for snacks.
This slight change in my diet has definitely made my baking-brain feel ignored. I want to be creative! I want to make you, my host body, something sweet to nosh on after you get home from work! OK, baking-brain, OK. I hear you. Let's make some honey-roasted almonds, and let's get them right!
A previous recipe I'd tried led to almonds that were stuck to wax paper like button candy. I tried it again, but moved it to the jar before it got to sticky, which resulted them to be stuck to the jar. This time I thought, "hey! My cooling rack has been lonely since I stopped making cookies, maybe that would work?" and bam! slightly-sticky honey-roasted almonds! They still stick to the jar, but will un-stick once I give them a good shake.
Now, on to the formula. You will need:
  • 2.5 cups raw almonds (Costco, all the way!)
  • 1/4 cup dry sugar (white, brown, turbindo, any natural sugar in crystal form)
  • 1/4 cup liquid sugar (honey, maple syrup, agave, molasses, etc.)
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • Get creative with your favorite spices! I use about 2 teaspoons total of spice.
  • 1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • Saucepan
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Wax paper (if using parchment, wet it with a little oil.)
  • Cooling rack (with holes small enough that an almond won't slip through)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pour the liquid and dry sugars and teaspoon of water into the saucepan and heat on medium until the dry sugar dissolves into the liquid. Lower heat and add the spices and salt, mixing until well incorporated. Add the almonds, stirring until each one is coated with the sweet, spicy, syrup. Turn off heat.
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper, then pour the sticky lump of almonds onto it. Use a spatula to spread them into an even layer, then slide the pan into the preheated oven.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, or whenever the smell reminds you that you had something in the oven. Maybe don't leave the room if your method is the latter.
Take out the pan, let it cool for a couple minutes, then lift the wax paper carefully by the corners and slide the almonds onto a cooling rack. Use the spatula to even them out.
Throughout the next hour, revisit the cooling rack, breaking the almonds apart as they dry.
After an hour, or as soon as needed if this is a last-minute present for someone and you need to get to their party RIGHT MEOW, transfer almonds to a jar or a bowl.
The two kinds of almonds I made with this formula are quite fun.
Smoky, Spicy Almonds
  • 1/4 cup honey (liquid sugar)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar (dry sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon each of smoked paprika and chipotle (get creative with spices)
All the other ingredients were the same as the formula. These have a deliciouse, warm flavor. If I had hicory smoke powder I totally would have added that, but the smokiness was definitely present with the paprika and chipotle!
Vemont Vampire-Hunter Almonds
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (liquid sugar)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (dry sugar)
  • 1 clove minced fresh garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Gateway To The North seasoning from the Spice House (this contains a mix of maple sugar, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt, so if you don't have access to this mix, try using a teaspoon of garlic powder and a smidge more brown sugar.)
Add the minced fresh garlic to the saucepan at the same time as the sugars and water. Other than that, everything is the same as the formula!

Did you come up with a creative combination? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Indie Gift-Along!

As knitters, we have a tendency (and need) to think about Christmas gifts months in advance.  As a designer, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling every time a design of mine flies off the page (or screen), onto someone's needles, and into gift-wrapping.  Even though I'm not there for the gift-giving, I love to imagine that's what happens when someone buys my pattern.

Last year, a crew of independent knitting- and crochet-desginers created the "Indie Gift-Along."  It's essentially a group in the Ravelry forums that is dedicated to bringing knitters and independent designers together to make gifts for loved ones, and to share pictures with one another as they work.

I couldn't be more excited to be one of the participating designers this year!  Thanks to all the tireless volunteers who organize this (including Alex Tinsley and Nina Machlin Dayton), I get to be a witness to the gift-giving process, as well as get to know the work of so many amazing independent designers.

I know I'm a day late to report this, but for the next 7 days (ending November 21, 2014), 20 of my patterns will be on sale for 25% off! Simply use the code, giftalong2014!

By all means, take advantage of the sale, and plan ahead for the Indie Gift-Along this year!

Friday, October 24, 2014

New eBook, Stormy Knits

After months of knitting, designing, pulling up older, unpublished designs, re-knitting them into my desired palette, working with my saintly testers, photo-dates with my friend Teri Jo and my husband Doug, plus days upon days on my computer, I have finally published this collection of 6 designs!  

First, an art-deco inspired, asymmetrical hat with wayward, bouncing zig-zags and bobbles that drip both up and down, Altgeld.  I love this hat because it's fun, interesting to knit, and works for both men and women.  

Next, in the sportweight Arroyo yarn by Malabrigo, are the Torrential Mitts.  These are knit sideways, with a provisional cast-on and grafted together on the palm side, with short-row gussets and a nice picot detail.

With the rest of the yarn in the skein, I made Ainslie Street, a lacy beret with a swirling vortex on the back.  (Don't wear this hat during a vortex of the Polar variety; save that job for the other hats.)

Using a thicker yarn, I made a lacy cowl that actually might keep you toasty.  This, I call Thunder Cowl.

Veering away from an exclusively-Malabrigo book, I diversified by using this amazing skein of Madelinetosh Vintage in the colorway Black Velvet.  Ship Bay Beret utilizes a broken, or "mistake" rib pattern that looks deceptively like brioche.  Very sneaky.

Last, but definitely not least, is Stricken, knit with Dream In Color's new base, Jilly.  I named it because it looks like bolts of lightning, ones that might strike.  I had no idea (and this makes me a bad Waldorfian) that Stricken auf Deutsch means "to knit."  This is equally embarrassing because Dream In Color was created by two Waldorf moms.  Ah well, I took Spanish in school.

Thanks for perusing these new designs!  You can, of course, buy the patterns individually, but if you buy the book, you'll get all the patterns for $20 (a savings of $13.50)!  Each pattern, as well as the book, comes with a printable, text-and-chart-only black-and-white version so you don't end up wasting your precious ink on all the black I'm wearing in these photos!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Minnesota Nice

Last week, Doug and I drove up to Minnesota with his mom to see his brother's sweet family in Wayzata, an unabashedly charming little town on Lake Minnetonka. It had everything from gorgeous foliage, a sparkling lake, and still-blooming roses. There was even a miniature electric train set outside the train station!
Did I mention the foliage?
After many pleasant turns around the small town, Doug and I went over to Minneapolis to see my friend Leslie. I'd heard about Steven Be's store, so I asked if it would be cool to meet there. Leslie doesn't knit very much, but she accommodated my request. Obviously, I got distracted:
Then, I met the man himself, Steven Be! We posed in front of both the chandalier...
And also by the "Red Carpet" area!
What's in the bag, you ask? Well, only a couple yarns that one can only buy at this shop! On the left is MadelineTosh in the colorway Dead Sexy, and on the right is an amazing, sparkly yarn by Three Irish Girls in the colorway Trust Me, I'm The Doctor. They had almost an entire merch island devoted to Doctor Who. My kind of store!
Upstairs there's a fantastic workspace:
In this workspace there is some Loopy Mango yarn, and I kid you not, just lying around. Even Leslie was impressed! Or at least I asked her to look impressed, and she complied!
After this lovely trip, we went to Modern Times, which had such delicious food (and a friend I had nearly ignored for several minutes while I was fawning over yarn) that I did not take any pictures. Then we headed to Electric Fetus Records, which had a very impressive selection. Doug found a record by the De Zurik Sisters, and we had to buy it. They grew up on a farm in Minnesota and developed the most uncanny yodeling-in-harmony we've ever heard:
The rest of our time involved pancakes, bacon, and a pumpkin patch with our baby nephews. They were so cute, the weather was so perfect, and it was so amazingly autumnal that I couldn't help but wonder if maybe Doug and I should move there. I decided to make a pros and cons list:
  • It's as pretty as New England this time of year. That means super pretty.
  • People stun you with their niceness, kind of like in the South. Apparently this is called Minnesota Nice.
  • There are Meat Raffles. At bars, probably on game nights, you can enter a Meat Raffle and come home with meat.
  • This is Choir Country. I love choirs.
  • In the wintertime, people leave parkas and sleeping bags in parks so the homeless can try to keep warm. This warms the cockles of my heart.
  • A Prairie Home Companion.
  • The Walker Museum of Modern Art is impressive, but unpretentious. There's a big spoon and a cherry!
  • I am susceptible to Frost Bite.
I'm sure there are other cons, but that last one is kind of the end of the conversation (for now...let's see if I survive one more winter in Chicago, and then we'll see if I can handle a steady 10 degrees lower). Anyway, the point of this post is that I was charmed off my feet by Minneapolis!
Also, on our way out, we stopped for breakfast in St. Paul. I had a bacon caramel roll at Swede Hollow:
It was as yummy as it looks.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Much Ado About Beading

 Today I added the Much Ado Shawl to my pattern store, and I'm so happy it's available!  The cast-on edge is a beaded picot, which adds a glimmering detail while wearing it.  The beads I found are green at some angles, and red at others, making them appear to be either dewdrops or berries.  When I came home with them, I rummaged through my stash and found a fantastic skein of Leading Men Fiber Arts Showcase in the colorway Steve and Andy, the names of the yarn's creators, but also the names of my cousin and uncle, who are woodsmen of the most badass degree, and the color makes me think of them!
 Doug and I went to the forest preserve in Des Plaines, where he was about to play saxophone at a Romanian festival.  I stole him away from the goulash for a moment and he took pictures while I frolicked.  Or I did my best at frolicking.
 I stood still for him, too, wearing the shawl in a way that was actually practical.  It's fantastically soft, and the length means I can wrap it around my neck a few times, creating just as many layers of the beaded edge.

I hope you like this shawl!  If you do, twirl on over to Ravelry and buy it now!