Meet roam

I’m so very glad I dug this project out of deep hibernation and finished it. Roam is a lovely sweater dress. It is cozy and warm. Well designed with good shaping and supportive ribbing on all the hems.

roam tunic

My yarn is Bartlett in their heathered green Bracken colorway. It’s not the softest yarn but the crimp of the fibers makes the cables pop and helps the dress hold shape. These photos are from the end of the day and the only evidence are those creases in the front that show maybe I was sitting still too much that day.

roam tunic

In the end I don’t have many visible mods. Mainly the ribbing at the bottom hem is longer than the pattern calls for. When I cast on in 2012 I thought I was making a vest, and I un-modded those mods by adding ribbing at the bottom hem to make it tunic length again after all. In the process I decided to carry the braided cables down into the hem for visual interest.

roam tunic

I worked garter ribbing instead of standard 2×2 ribbing throughout because I wanted more drape in the cowl and hem. That 2×2 would be plenty soft in the alpaca yarn the pattern calls for, so this mod is based on the yarn I chose.

roam tunic

I now have three hand knit tunics plus one store bought sweater dress. I love them all and I find myself wondering if I can knit one more before the end of winter. Then I could live in them all week long!

roam tunic

and for my next trick

I’ve finished up the Roam tunic. It’s blocking and looks gorgeous. But I won’t be able to get good (read: daylight) FO photos until next weekend.

In the mean time I’ve cast on for ANOTHER garment. I have this delusional idea that I can finish one in February as well. It’s pretty delusional since I only managed to finish that tunic in January because it was 2/3rds done when I picked it up. But a girl can dream.

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That seed stitch trim was a SLOG. I’m so slow knitting that texture. But it’s worthwhile. It’s so stretchy and neutral and lays flat (so well behaved). Now that I’m past it I’m so glad I made that choice.

This will be a lacy layering piece. I’m hoping for overlapping fronts with a chunky button at the underbust, a loose flow to the body of the garment, and a fitted round yoke with cap sleeves. But since I’m making this up literally as I go we’ll see how it works out. I’m taking good notes, so if I love it maybe I’ll get it published! Maybe. I mean, I have two or three designs done and photographed but I just haven’t found time to write them up. The computer time interferes with the knitting time these days. And apparently I’m prioritizing the knitting. Don’t worry, there are a couple of things coming out in 2016 – but I might be a “quarterly release” designer for a while here.

Book signing!

If you’re in the area Calley and I will be signing copies of Cast Iron, Cast On at Yarn (the knitting store in Montpelier) this saturday! Stop by between 2-4pm to see all the sample garments, browse through the book in person, and even buy some yarn. I love this store, and they carry quite a few of the wonderful US spun and dyed yarns that I featured in my designs.

Cover

We even have a facebook event, so you know it’s a real thing!

Blueberry

I love this sweater so, so much. I’m giving it a post of its own! This is my blueberry sweater (on ravelry for more photos).┬áThe pattern is Bluegold, the January sweater from Cast Iron, Cast On. This pattern was inspired by the coziness of winter and the pretty latticework on fancy blueberry pie*. This is not the only book sample which I knit in my own size. But for some reason it’s totally my favorite.

blueberry gaze

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve loved this book sample to pieces. I wore it almost constantly while pregnant. A cardigan is probably the best maternity sweater out there. The fabric has pilled a bit, but the superwash DK yarn from Periwinkle Sheep is brilliantly strong as well as holding those deep, saturated colors so perfectly. The biggest tragedy was the hole in the shoulder – pretty sure we have one of my cats to thank for that.

So before giving this sweater a photo shoot of its own I wanted to patch that up. I was thinking about the duplicate stitch darning I’ve seen tutorials for. But since this hole is in the knit/purl pattern I just didn’t have the mental energy to figure out how that would work. Instead I made up a system as I went. I started by putting in a framework:

foundation

Then I wrapped the yarn around that first strand – so that the working yarn is like a coiled spring that runs through the live stitches at the bottom and around the first rung.

The next set of coils went around the second rung and through the tops of the first coils. The final row goes through the live stitches at the top and the coils of the row below. It’s a patchwork job. But this coiled yarn maintains the stretchiness of the lattice work pattern in way that a traditional darning job wouldn’t. And (while being hard to describe) was easy to accomplish.

patching up

And then I took some new photos

blueberry back

So soft, so lovely!

blueberry texture

And that patch job? It doesn’t look half bad either!

blueberry patch

*Note that the recipe in this chapter ended up being a blueberry jam cobbler – no lattice pastry required. Sometimes the recipes evolved beyond the inspiration of the pattern. That’s the organic nature of our book writing process.

Quickie

Here’s a quick little project: more toddler mittens!

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If you spend a little time in the knitting-mommy groups on ravelry you’ll start to hear stories about daycares (ok, probably true about any circle of people containing more than two moms). I’d heard that some daycares :::gasp::: don’t like wool mittens because they get WET. Nevermind that wool keeps you warm when wet, unlike synthetic mittens.

But, as in many other ways*, Windsor’s daycare is amazing. They have not worried once about her mittens, honestly they told me that all the toddlers mittens get wet every time they go out. I mean, this age group spends most of their time scooping up snow and shoving it in their mouths. Of course their hand-coverings get wet.

So when the monthly newsletter asked that all kids have two pairs of mittens (in case they go outside twice in a single day) I knew I needed to whip something up. These used scrap yarn and no particular pattern. She’s getting so good at putting her own mittens on that I wasn’t even begrudging about having to knit teeny-tiny thumbs.

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In this iteration the icord has loops at the end. These loops are meant to go around the velcro closure at the sleeve cuff, hopefully this’ll make it easy to switch the pairs of mittens and she still won’t loose them. That’s the theory anyway. It’s been below 10F with windchill for a week and a half and no one has had a chance to try them out…

*they didn’t bat an eyelash when I sent her in as a baby in cloth diapers with woolen covers. That was a sign about how chill they are.

The other way they are amazing is that they take the kids outside at least once any and every day that the temperature/windchill is over 10F. I can’t imagine getting EIGHT two year olds dressed in all that gear on a daily basis.

A very simple soup

The point of this soup is twofold: a warming dish for a sleety January night and to use up leftovers. So keep it simple, don’t rush out to buy extra spices, just substitute in whatever you have.

Broth can be anything. Salty water would do in a pinch. You could use veggie broth if you prefer. I’m not gonna lie, I used that “better than bullion” base.

The squash is a combination of whatever was starting to go soft in my cabinet with whatever was frozen from Thanksgiving leftovers. There’s definitely some white pumpkin in there…

My spices* are either fancy or lazy, depending on your point of view. The French four is just white pepper, nutmeg, ginger, and clove. The garam masala is corriander, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, kalonji, caraway, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. Are you detecting a theme? This squash soup is warm and savory with ginger and just hints of the sweeter spices. If you’re working from a more standard collection of spices I’d use mainly pepper and ginger, add in a decent amount of nutmeg, a good shake or three of cinnamon, and just a pinch of whatever else from that list you’ve got on hand. Oh and the garlic. Don’t forget about it.

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Ingredients
Roasted squash (7 cups)
1 onion
Chicken broth (3 cups)
Olive oil
2 tsp Garam masala
1 tsp French four
1 tsp Ginger
1/2 tsp powdered garlic
Salt & pepper to taste

Roast the squash, or use leftovers. Pour a couple of tablespoons of oil into your soup pot. Saute the onion over low heat (chop it first) until translucent and just beginning to brown at the edges.
Add the squash, broth, and spices. Simmer for awhile (30 minutes, 3 hours, whichever)
Puree. I use an immersion blender. Add salt & pepper to taste.
Serve with bread and butter, if you’re feeling classic. We made muffins, not too sweet and with no fruit, to have on the side.

This was our dinner the night before last. I’m so excited that Windsor is good enough with a spoon to enjoy pureed soups.

*All my spices come from Penzeys these days. Although we’re still refilling old containers for a couple that we have just always bought in their bulk bags. I find the quality is amazing and the prices are so much better than at the grocery store. And I have no affiliation or reason to promote them here other than how delicious they are.

Roam again

I’ve picked up a long term work in progress. This is my Roam tunic, which I cast on back in 2012, and it’s been hibernating for THREE YEARS.

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When I started this, I didn’t want a sweater dress – so I made it shorter. I planned to make it either a vest or maybe a long sleeve sweater. I changed the gauge and took the pocket off. I knit the whole back, and the front up to the waist. Then I ran out of steam.

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But that’s actually a lot of knitting already done! I finished the front within the first five days of picking the project back up. I had a slight hiccup: I started the arms an inch and a half too early and had to frog it all back.

But I still haven’t slowed down. The cowl is half done, I’m making it longer and using garter rib for the second half to make it more cowl-y and less turtleneck-y.

roam in progress

The only other mod? Well, I’ve decided I need another sweater dress. So I took scissors to my knitting. I snipped a strand just above the ribbing, unraveled a row, and put the live stitches onto a holder. Once I finish the cowl and sleeves I’m going to knit enough ribbing to make this vest back into a dress again.

Does it count as indecision if I change my mind over the course of 3 years?

Gift wrap up

I never did a GAL wrap up after the holidays, mostly because I had a serious case of camnesia and forgot to take pictures of a lot of things. But let’s see what I can scrounge up.

I knit two of these Snowshoe hats for my two nephews. This is the smaller one, modeled by Windsor – and it doesn’t fit her very well…

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It’s a cute hat with a LOT of stretch (thanks to that gorgeous cable knot) I’ve always wanted to design a garment where 90% of the shaping comes from some kind of stretchy cable. Someday I’ll find the time for that…

I also knit Windsor a Puddle Duck sweater. Which she loves. Actually, she loves anything with pockets. The only thing better than pockets are pockets AND a hood.

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See? More badly lit cell phone photos. Aren’t you glad I’m not trying to photograph any designs right now? Winter is such a hard season for any kind of photography…

I also finally wrapped up the little Colin sweater that I’m knitting for a co-workers first baby. She doesn’t know if she’s having a boy or a girl, so she gets a red sweater:

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And I have actually, finally, finished this sweater. It’s blocking downstairs. We’ll see if I manage to get a final photo of it before I wrap it up and give it away. It’s more of a 9 month size. Which means I almost put it on my littler nephew for a photo. But that didn’t seem fair, since it’s not really for him…

And now that January is upon us I’ve fully embraced selfish knitting month. I dug a half-finished sweater dress out of deep hibernation and I can’t wait to finish it up. I’ve got three sweater dresses in rotation right now but I want more. More! Good thing this WIP is 3.75sts per inch. It’s knitting up FAST. Stay tuned!

January KAL

I have a January book KAL coming up and I’m hoping you’ll join in! January is a cold month (duh) and since it comes after all that gift-knitting in December it’s also an excellent time to start a new project just for yourself. May I suggest the Bluegold cardi from my book?

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Bluegold is knit up in Periwinkle Sheep’s Merino DK yarn. This is a scrumptious high-twist merino. The plies of the yarn make it the hardest wearing super-wash yarn I’ve knit with. I lived in the book sample of this sweater for two winters after it was finished and it still looks really good. Even better? Karin is offering kits on sale for the whole month of January! Head over to her Etsy shop and you can pick up yarn in one of three colors for 15% off:

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Check out the Ravelry page for Bluegold to figure out how many skeins you need for your size. Or check the book, unless you’re still waiting for Amazon to deliver it ;-)

The KAL will start January 1st and run (officially) through Feb 15th. But of course I’ll be around the Ravelry group long, long after that for anyone who has questions later on! I’ll be posting prizes and ways to enter next week. So please join in!

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Bacon Gingersnaps

In the grand tradition of putting bacon into random things I would like to present this recipe. It’s AMAZING. Possibly because gingersnaps are not really a sweet cookie, so they go with the bacon much better than some other things I’ve tried (bacon ice cream, I’m looking at you.) I hope you enjoy it, I’m probably just gonna leave this here until next year. It’s a wonderful way to wrap up the season!

bgs ginger

Bacon Gingersnaps

Ingredients
3/4 cup bacon fat*
1 cup white sugar, plus extra for rolling
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
2 TBSP chopped crystalized ginger
1/2 tsp clove
1/2 tsp cinnamon

bgs ing

In a big bowl cream the sugar into the bacon fat. In a smaller bowl beat the egg, then add the egg and molasses into the mix. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and all spices. Mix until a smooth dough forms. You can mix everything by hand. Or break out the kitchenaid, use a metal blade, and this dough whips up so quickly you’ll be able to make it AND chase a toddler around the kitchen to keep her entertained.

bgs mixer

Chill the dough for at least an hour. I’m not kidding. This dough is much softer than butter based doughs. I actually left half in the fridge while rolling cookies with the first half.

Preheat the oven to 350F and prep your favorite non-stick cookie sheets.** Put a layer of white sugar in a flat, open bowl or plate.

Once the dough is nice a firm break off tablespoon sized lumps and roll into smooth little balls. Roll these balls in white sugar and arrange them on the sheet with about 2″ between each. The cookies will spread out as they cook.

bgs balls

Tuck the cookie sheet into the oven for 10-12 minutes. The cookies will spread out, then puff up a bit (that’s the baking soda) then flatten as they cool. You want them to be dark and just starting to crackle on the top – but not burnt around the edges. Good luck with that (I rotated 4 trays through the oven and only *almost* burned one) Once out of the oven let them cook on the sheet for a minute, then transfer them to the cooking rack.

bgs cookies

Enjoy them! But don’t eat the whole batch, even if you want to. That’s a lot of bacon fat to consume in one sitting… This recipe originated from a newspaper. Somewhere. My coworker’s father copied it and sent it to her. She modified it and passed it along to me. I tweaked a couple more things before I was totally happy with it.

*Note: We save our bacon fat and use it in many recipes. I’m not going to pretend it’s healthy. But if your subbing it in for lard, crisco, or butter – it’s probably not that much worse for you either.
Also note: I’m not a purist when saving fat, some mornings it’s darker than others. Sometimes there may be bacony bits in the mix. I have never, not once, used this mottled jar of fat in cooking and thought “gee, I wish this was less bacony.”

**say whatever you want about the ugly patina on my old cookie sheets – but they don’t really need anything to be “non-stick” these days…