Thursday, December 22, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
An appreciation for NFL football (along with single malt scotch and great wine) has stayed with me. I have no interest in the game at the college level - it is professional football that floats my boat.
Monday, December 12, 2011
High-tech sock yarn seems like a bit of an oxymoron. Knitting is an inherently low-tech activity, and sock knitting in particular is deeply rooted in tradition. But knitters are always on the lookout for the new and exciting. And the military/industrial complex is always looking for new ways to leverage their R&D investments. The past several years have seen the introduction of carbon-fiber knitting needles, and conductive yarns now available for industrial use will soon make their way to the hand knitting market, so you won't have to take off your gloves to use your i-phone.
A couple of seasons ago, one of my favorite artisan yarn companies, Lorna's Laces, introduced Solemate, a high-tech sock yarn. Solemate is composed of 55% Superwash merino wool, 15% nylon, and 30% Outlast®.
Outlast® viscose is a fiber that arose from NASA’s efforts to make spacesuits that would keep astronauts comfortable over a wide range of temperatures. It incorporates microencapsulated phase change materials. What is a phase change material? It’s like water. It changes from a liquid to a solid and back again in response to changing temperature. Outlast® is a cellulosic fiber (think rayon) that includes these space age components. I’ve seen in used in bedding and outdoor gear. When spun into sock yarn, it is supposed to keep your feet warmer in cold temps and cooler in hot weather.
Of course, the big question is “Does it work?”
I was given a sample skein of Solemate to play with while it was in the testing stage, long before general release. I made a pair of socks, and they have been in regular rotation for over a year now. They are soft and comfortable and pretty. I wear them often.
In a recent gathering of knitters, I overheard a discussion of the big question. None of the folks involved in the discussion had worked with Solemate, so it was a lot of speculation and conjecture.
It occurred to me that the only way to know if this yarn really does keep your feet more comfortable was to put it to the test. An experiment was born. I would wear Solemate on one foot and a conventional sock yarn on the other foot, and see if there was any difference.
If someone who lives in a colder part of the country decides to try a similar experiment to expand on my “research”, I’d love to hear about it.
PS: Lorna's Laces is developing a sport weight version of this yarn, and are holding a naming contest. Check it out here.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Well, look what we got back last week...
As I began to spin, I thought about what I wanted to make with this wool. I want this to be an everyday, throw on with my jeans classic cardigan/jacket. As I reviewed the options in my head, I realized I've already designed this sweater!
So, I'm spinning the wool for my very own Crane Creek. I'm going to make a woolen 2-ply, trying to retain as much of this wool's lofty elasticity as I can.
The real fun will be seeing what Diane makes with the other half of the fleece - a tale of two sweaters, if you will. I know she is thinking plump, twisty Aran cables. I'll keep you posted.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
ptraci, who said:
Congratulations! Please send me a e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address so I can send the book to you.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Today's soup is one of my favorites, Butternut Squash. Easy, healthy, hearty and delicious. This recipe is an adaptation of one that appeared several years ago in Real Simple magazine.
3 tbs olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
about 6 large leaves of fresh sage, chopped
4-6 cups chicken broth (I like Trader Joe's Organic Free Range, or Swanson's Natural Goodness)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oven to 400. Toss the squash with 2 tbs of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread it on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, fry up some bacon in a heavy soup pot (my 6 qt LeCruset Dutch Oven works perfectly). 4 slices will do, though I usually cut up an entire pound and cook it all, because you can never have too much bacon on hand.
Set the bacon aside, pour off the fat, add the last of the olive oil to the bacon fat that clings to the pot, and saute the onion, celery and sage until the onion starts to caramelize and the celery is soft.
Add the roasted squash and the chicken broth and simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes.
Puree the whole thing - I have an immersion blender, so I do it right in the pot on the stove. If you don't have one, use a regular blender and puree in batches. Check the seasoning - you may need to add salt, depending on how salty your bacon was.
Serve with a sprinkle of bacon bits and grated parmesan. Don't skip this part - the smoky salty is a great balance for the sweetness of the squash and onions.
This makes a big pot of soup - It keeps well sealed in jars in the fridge, though I usually end up giving some away to friends.
Slices of toasted baugette spread with goat cheese are a perfect accompaniment.
On the knitting front, I sent off a new design to my friends at Kollage Yarns this week, and I have to say I'm happy to see it go. For this project, I wrote up the pattern, then handed it off to Pat the Wonder Knitter. When it came back, it was wrong. Just wrong. Too long, not hanging correctly, just bad. Not Pat's fault - the design was flawed. I begged more time from the client, ripped the whole thing out, re-worked the pattern and started again.
This design is made in Kollage's Milky Whey, a 50/50 blend of milk and soy. The yarn is soft, with an incredibly fluid drape. This design was intended to make the most of that drape, but my original pattern included borders which caused constriction along all the edges, and spoiled the effect. Now it works. Here's a sneak peek for you.
This was one of those projects that fell into a hole in the space/time continuum. It took 3 times longer than I thought it should. In all fairness, I should point out that I am a master of self-delusion when it comes to how long a project will take. Still, this one is done, and it looks the way I want it to, and the client will love it (right, Susie? You do love it, don't you?).
Now I'm making swatches and sketches for a bunch of new designs, and plugging away on my handspun cardigan, which can only be worked on during 49er games (I get to work on it this afternoon. Hooray!).
I'm spinning the Rambouillet/Alpaca blend I bought at the Boonville Wool Festival a couple of months ago. This is some beautiful fiber - spinning it is pure joy. I'm spinning the singles as a fine semi-woolen, and plan to make a 3-ply that should come out to about sport wieight. I only bought 8 oz of fiber, and I'm thinking I should call Morgaine and see if I can get 8 more.
Heads up - the new issue of Twist Collective goes live on November 15! I have a new design and an article in this issue. As usual, Kate's styling is spectacular, and the issue is packed with designs you'll want to knit.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Last night, my friend Clara Parkes was the star of a talk and book signing at A Verb for Keeping Warm. (Just Verb to its friends). The event was a dual celebration – Verb’s one year anniversary in their lovely, light-filled retail space near the Oakland-Berkeley border, and the publication of Clara’s new book, The Knitter’s Book of Socks.
First, let me brag a little – see the colorful sock on the cover? The one on the far left? That is Hummingbird, my humble contribution to Clara’s fabulous book. (Hummingbird also appears on the spine of the dust jacket, so I’ll be able to see it when the book joins it siblings on the shelf – how cool is that?)
These socks were specifically designed to use wildly variegated or stripey sock yarns. The arrangement of yarn overs and decreases breaks the surface of the fabric into chunks which can tilt and rotate (like tectonic plates). This lets the rows, and the stripes of color contained therein, swoop and bend. I made two versions of this pattern.
This one is knit in Step from Skacel, a commercial dyed yarn with a subtle stripe.
This one is knit in Crazyfoot from Mountain Colors, a variegated hand-painted yarn.
Go on. You know you want to knit a pair.
Of course, the book is about far more than my socks. Clara, the publisher of Knitter's Review.com, and the uber-geek of all yarny goodness, explains the qualities a yarn needs to make excellent socks. She discusses twist, ply, moisture management and abrasion resistance in a way that is technically thorough, but never boring. After reading this book, you will understand why your favorite socks are your favorites, why some have let you down by wearing out prematurely, and why some end up sitting in the drawer because something about them just isn’t right.
And then there are the patterns. This book contains designs from Cookie A, Kathryn Alexander, Karen Alfke, Marlaina Bird, Cat Bordhi, Ann Budd, Nancy Bush, Jane Cochran, Jared Flood, Norah Gaughan, Jennifer Hagan, Anne Hanson, Sivia Harding, Stephen Houghton, Melissa Morgan-Oakes, Lucy Neatby, Cirilia Rose and Jayme Stahl. Also me, and Clara herself. Cables, lace, colorwork, twisted stitches, double knitting – it’s all here.
If you haven’t already done so, buy this book or put it on your list for Santa. Check your local yarn store or independent bookseller first, but if you can’t find it there this link will take you to Amazon.
Clara is always superb company, funny and intelligent whether one on one or in front of a large crowd. The knitters who gathered last night had the pleasure of hearing Clara tell about her journey as a knitting writer. I was pleased to be able to spend some time with my buddies WonderMike and Carson Demers, and to meet Rachel Herron, Maureen Hefti and Brenda Patipa.
If you find yourself within 50 miles of Verb, it is worth a side trip. They have a lovely collection of natural fiber yarns and spinning fiber, much of it hand-dyed, including their own beautiful line of yarns. There is also a corner of the store devoted to fabrics, mostly printed cotton. Verb offers a full schedule of knitting, spinning and sewing classes as well. Check them out.