Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Vicious cycle

I thought that being unemployed would leave me with plenty of time to write, knit, cycle, bake, and play with the dog.  I also thought I'd finally paint my bedroom.  I haven't done much of any of these things really.  Especially the writing and painting the bedroom parts.

I've been knitting and making up new sock patterns, which I duly work out on graph paper in my notebook.  I make up patterns faster than I can knit them.  Which frankly makes me sad because I think I will never knit all the socks I've designed and then I lay awake at night telling myself that I need to go to sleep now but I can't because I've got to figure out out to make a design work.  So at 2:00 AM the light goes on and I drag my graph paper out and fuss until the design looks like it will work.  All of this over thinking sock design interferes with my sleep which interferes with my ability to do much of anything else.  But I was also unemployed.  So I had plenty of time to do all those other things.  Right?

Well, not really.  Because you see I've landed a sweet, little short-term job in Napa.  Now I spend time driving to and from Napa and when I get home, wait for it, I'm tired.  For real tired.  I guess at the end of the day, I'd rather have a job and a bit of time to do the other things I love like knitting, cycling, and playing with the dog.  Funny thing is that just as much knitting, cycling, and playing with the dog gets done as when I didn't have the wee job.

Oh, and the bedroom really doesn't stand a chance of being painted any time soon.

PS  All patterns in my Ravelry shop are 50% off during the Tour de France!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

New additions to the shop

I just added four scarves to my Etsy shop.  These are crepe de chine and are 14-inches by 72-inches.  They are dyed using a low water immersion technique.  The end results reminds me of water color.

This is a really fun way to dye fabric as the results are slightly different each time, even when I use the same color dyes.  This time I used longer scarves than what I have used in the past.  With the extra length, you can wear them in more ways than with the shorter scarves.  Here is a link to a video which shows creative ways to wear summer scarves.  Actually, there are tons of videos on youtube on how to wear scarves.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I've been dyeing

That's dyeing, not dying. Silk scarves, in fact. A few of these have even made it into my Etsy shop.  The ones I dyed today will make their way into the shop in the next few days.

Normally, I dye during the day so I can see the colors in natural light.  However, and this is a big however, I couldn't sleep last night so at midnight I got out my dyes and an piece of silk that I had sun dyed in cochinel a few years ago and ranged from deep red to pink.  It was kind of pretty but not precious.  In other words, an ideal candidate to experiment with.  I hauled out a handful of itty-bitty hair bands and randomly bound the scarf.  I wish I'd taken a picture because a bound piece of fabric is kind of cool looking.  I threw it into a basin to soak.  While it was soaking, I choose a lovely brown dye with a bit of a gold tone.  After mixing up the dye, I threw everything into the dye pot, everything that is but enough acid.

After all the dye exhausted, I pulled it out of the pot and rinsed it.  The dye was bleeding a bit, actually quite a lot.  But it was very late (or early depending on your point of view) and I released the bindings.  It was lovely, really lovely.  Except my hands, which were not; they were a weird gold-y brown.  It was then that the light bulb went off.  I needed to throw the silk back in the dye pot with enough acid to set the dye.  This changed the color of the areas that had been bound.  I was disappointed!  But it was very late and I was finally sleepy.

This morning this is what I saw.  I love it.  The red is there but is muted.  And the browns, they glow!  It's tie-dye but it's not TIE-DYE.  It would fit in at Hippy Hill but does not scream Hippy.  Bohemian, cool, different, wonderful. 

Monday, April 09, 2012

New Etsy shop

As some of you know, I not only knit, spin, and write knitting patterns, I also make felt scarves and dye and pleat silk scarves.  In the past, I've sold these at a holiday craft fair that my former employer sponsored.  As you can imagine, the audience at this fair was very limited.  So to gain wider exposure, I opened an Etsy shop.  Today I stocked it with some scarves. 

Each scarf is unique.  Some are nuno felt, which is wool that is felted onto another fabric, usually silk.  Some are straight up felt made of wool that I dyed.  Some take it a step further and are over dyed using resists to create a pattern.  The pleated silk scarves are individually dyed using a low water immersion technique and then pleated borrowing a Japanese technique that is also used in shibori dying. 

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Cobblestones Neck Warmer

It's spring and in Northern California, it is still nippy.  I'm ready to put away my bulky scarves but still want to keep the chill off my neck.  So I decided to use some very special yarn to make a neck warmer.  In my view, this is not a cowl.  It is fairly close fitting without being at all tight. It scrunches so I can adjust the length.  In a pinch, I can pull it up and use as a hat if my head is cold. 


Krista of Pigeonroof Studios gave me this gorgeous skein of Siren Two Sport in a unique colorway.  It deserved to be made into some special that wasn't  hidden on my feet.  I used a simple lace pattern.  Then I cast on and knit until it was long enough.  I call it cobblestones because the knit fabric reminds me of cobblestone roads that are laid out in random patterns.  I used less than 250 yards of sport weight yarn. You can download a free copy of the pattern from my Ravelry shop.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rip It and some more

I had a wonderful idea for a new sock pattern.  At least in my mind, it was a wonderful idea.  In reality, I've ripped it out at least four times and re-charted it at least a dozen times.  Well, that maybe a wee lie about the charting.  I re-charted it at least six or seven times on paper, trying different stitch counts.  I've also lay awake at night charting it in my head.  At one time, I totally gave up and told myself to try a different design.  At least, I was able to go sleep after that!

The next morning, however, I decided to try the original idea one more try.  I sat down with a blank sheet of graph paper and charted it one more time.  All of a sudden, I saw the mistake I'd made in my first chart.  It was so obvious; yet, I hadn't seen it before.  Corrected the mistake and the chart looks right.  I started knitting and it looks right--like it looked in my head when I first envisioned it.  If it works, I'll post a picture soon.  The yarn is especially yummy--Pigeonroof Studios Siren 2 sock in a one of a kind color called Pomegranate and deserves an equally yummy design.

In an effort to reach more knitters, I've set up an Etsy shop.  Right now, you can purchase copies of Indigo Waves, Slipstream and the Basic Shaped Arch Socks pattern there.  I will be adding more patterns soon.  I also hope to use this shop to sell items such as felt and silk scarves.  Stay tuned!

In other news, I've been training for a cycling event which takes place on March 31.  It's an all women's ride called the Cinderella Classic and Challenge.  Last year, I rode the Classic, which is 65 miles.  I am aiming to ride the Challenge at 95 miles this year.  Most events like this are dominated by men so it is really quite a sight to see over 2,000 women riding together--well, kind of together since the large group breaks into smaller groups riding at different paces.  I'm feeling really great about my chances of having a good ride.  I'm hoping for good, meaning no rain, weather that day!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Sourdough

It's crazy that I want to bake bread.  After all, I live in an area rich with incredibly great bread.  Yet, I want to bake bread.  And, not just any bread.  Sourdough. 

Years ago when my daughter was very young, I baked bread every weekend.  And every weekend I baked sourdough bread.  You see, I have this starter that my mother has had since I was a kid.  It was given to her by this old man in Placerville in the mid-1960s.  As he told my mother, it was already a really old starter.  I was about 8 years old at the time and believed that meant it was starter from a 49er, as in Gold Rush, as in 1849.  My mom made bread with that starter sometimes.  Sometimes she made sourdough chocolate cake.  The best things she made with that starter was biscuits.  I, however, cannot make sourdough biscuits.  Mine are like hockey pucks.  Smell wonderful, total inedible.  The dog seems to like them though.

So earlier this week, I hauled out the starter that lives in my fridge.  It was nasty looking. Gray water with heavy sludge in the bottom of the jar.  Opening the jar emitted a powerful whiff of alcohol.  No wonder it's claimed somewhere that the 49ers drank the watery stuff when better alcoholic beverages were in short supply.  The smell like to knock me over and I wondered if I'd neglected my ancient starter too long.

I was determined to bring it back to life.  I left the jar out on the counter overnight so the poor starter could get warm.  Or at least warmer than it is in the fridge.  Although, I was certain at the time that my kitchen was just as cold as the fridge since we were having a rare cold snap in the Bay Area.  The next day I dumped it in a bowl gave it a wee amount of water and flour to start it's feeding.  Yes, you feed a sourdough starter.  It's kind of like having a baby that needs to eat every few hours.  Then I fed it again and then one more time that day.  It had some life!

The next day I fed it two more times and left it overnight.  The next morning it was lively.  It had small bubbles that are characteristic of sourdough starter.  It had a lovely smell.  It poured from a ladle like silk.  It was beautiful.

The time had come to make bread.  I decided on mixing half white and half whole wheat flours since my boyfriend is partial to wheat bread.  Using all whole wheat flour produces a loaf which is heavy and dense and has a texture that I can't abide.  The actual physical effort involved in making bread is pretty slim.  You spend a whole lot of time waiting for the yeast to do it's thing, which is quite magical when you really think about.  The yeast give the bread its lightness and flavor.  You spend a couple of days waiting for sourdough yeast to do its magic.  It ferments in a bowl after mixing and kneading.  You punch it down and let it ferment again.  This takes four to six hours depending on the temperature.  You then take it out of the bowl and slap it on your board.  (At this point, I kneaded in some olives into half the dough.)  Then it's roughly shaped and allowed to rest.  After its nap, you shape it into its desired shape. 

I use willow baskets that are made for proofing bread, so I put the loaves in there.  They proof at room temperature for about an hour and then go into the fridge overnight to retard.  Retarding slows down the yeast and allows for more flavor to develop. 

This morning I pulled the dough out of the fridge and let it come to about room temperature while still in their baskets.  After that, the loaves were removed from their baskets, docked, and placed in a very hot oven on a baking stone.  I didn't get the docking quite right and ended up with a heavy lip of crust on the slash.

Anyway, I made bread.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

In honor of winter finally arriving

Winter has finally arrived in Northern California and in honor of it's late arrival, all patterns in my shop are 20% off through March. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pyroclastic, Revisited

I've been meaning to publish the pattern for Pyroclastic with the charts for the arch shaping since the copyright reverted back to me last year.  Well, I finally got around to it. The pattern is available in my Ravelry shop. 

I've clarified the reason for the marker placement.  If you have thought about knitting Pryoclastic but were confused by the written directions, this version should eliminate all doubts about what exactly is going on with the arch shaping.  I also added some other yarn suggestions. 

The sock in the photo is knit in Lorna's Laces Shepard Sock Solid Pond Blue, which is now available in 100 gram skeins.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sweater from stash yarn

At the end of last year, I was sitting in my coffee place freezing.  Just like a cartoon thought bubble, a thought popped into my head:  I need a sweater.  Now, it's not as if I don't have any sweaters.  Of course, I do--I'm a knitter after all! But I needed a new sweater.  Luckily, I also have stash.  Some really old stash.  And since I'd just been informed that I would be out of work at the end of January, I decided that some stash diving was in order.

Well, I pulled out a lovely dark blue DK weight yarn called Merino Style from Knitpicks that I'd purchased eons ago.  Since I didn't have a pattern in mind and didn't want to search through all the pattern books and magazines I own, I decided to wing it with a top-down, raglan sleeve that I would design on the needles.  I knew that I wanted something simple style-wise; yet not plain Jane and it would have to look good with jeans as well as dress pants or a skirt.  I also decided that I would knit the sleeves before finishing the body.  I think as this as akin to knitting socks toe-up.  The body will be as long or short as the amount of yarn I have left after the sleeves. 

The first sleeve took me forever.  At first I was thinking I wanted a wide sleeve so I knit without decreases.  Well, it looked just awful, really frumpy.  I ripped back and decreased to taper the sleeve.  I still didn't like it.  Then I sat down with a few stitch dictionaries and found a pattern I liked.  So I ripped back again and this time figured out how often I needed to decrease in order to get down to a stitch count that would work with the pattern and wasn't too loose or tight.  The photo on the left shows the detail of the pattern on the sleeve.  I've got about 2-inches to go on the body before I start the lace pattern on the body.

It has been fun to mix up sock knitting and designing with knitting a sweater.  Especially since winter temperatures have arrived in the Bay Area.  I figure in less than a week I'll have the sweater I needed back in December.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

 I've been rediscovering the joy of baking bread.  A few weeks ago I started making focaccia, which was eaten very quickly.  Then the other day I was flipping through the recent issue of Cook's Illustrated and read an article on perfecting cinnamon bread.  I think that Cook's Illustrated has some very interesting ideas but find their processes fussy.  Their premise was that one can make a cinnamon bread at home that doesn't have the big gaping holes that occur where the cinnamon filling meets the bread dough.  I wondered if one could achieve a similar effect using a pullman loaf pan.  So I tried it.  I made a challah dough using the recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, which I tweaked just a bit by using regular yeast instead of the instant yeast called for and allowed for longer rising times.

Here is the dough before it's first rise. Challah is a very forgiving dough.  Plus it is super simple to make in a stand mixer.  It has a lovely pale yellow color due to the eggs and egg yolks in the dough, which according to Peter Reinhart was probably a way to use up excess eggs before the Sabbath made it impossible to harvest new eggs. It also has a very small amount of oil in it; I used a lovely pale green grapeseed oil.  I let it rise twice in the bowl.
Then I patted it into something that resembles a rectangle and let it rest under a towel for about 10 minutes.  Then I rolled it out into an even larger rectangle, really it was more like a parallelogram, which really didn't matter much to me since I was going to roll it up jelly roll style.  Then I brushed it with a small amount of melted butter, spread cinnamon sugar over the surface, rolled it up, tucked under the ends and put it in a lightly oiled pullman loaf pan.

A pullman loaf pan has a lid and makes a loaf with a flat, rather than rounded, top.  It also doesn't allow much of a crust to develop so that it is easy to make crustless finger  sandwiches with bread baked in one.  But, my quest was for a cinnamon swirl bread that didn't have a bunch of giant holes in it.

I put the cover on most of the way--I left it open about 1/2-inch and let it rise until it was about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pan.  I closed the lid the rest of the way and put it in a 350F oven to bake for about 50 minutes.

 Here is the loaf as it came out of the pan.  The filling leaked just a bit but not so much that the pan had gooey filling all over it.  So I considered that a success.  Of course, the real telling was when I cut into the loaf.  There were some holes where the filling and dough did not stick together.  But wasn't not so bad that the slices didn't hold together.  I put two slices in the toaster this morning, which maintained their shape.  Again, I think this is a success.

Oh, and the toast was very lovely.  This is an experiment worth repeating.

Monday, February 13, 2012

President's Day Weekend Sale!

Starting Friday, February 17 through Monday, February 20 the following patterns in my Ravelry shop are 20% off:  Newland, Dervish, Adrienne, Kristine, Slipstream, Ella's Tea Socks, Caitlin's Lace Anklet, and Oliver.

Enjoy!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

New sock pattern

It has been a long time since I published a knitting pattern so this feels really great.

The new pattern is called Indigo Waves and is available for purchase on Ravelry. I used Siren 2 sock yarn from Pigeonroof Studios.  The color way is Indigo Ink.  It is a beautiful semi-solid showing dark blues at their best.

I have a few tricks up my sleeve for 2012 including an improved written pattern with charts for Pyroclastic.  Look for it soon in my Ravelry shop.