Monthly Archives: October 2011

too far north for snow

Being too far north for snow sounds like an odd statement. After all (in this hemisphere) North is usually where the snow happens.

snowy sunflower

But this nor’easter came in off the coast, and hit southern New England hardest. We had just a dusting, up to a sticky, wet inch in a few places.

snowy seedhead

And it all melted by noon. The afternoon was glorious, warm, and sunny.

snowy pansy

But at least the boys got a chance to play before it was gone.

playing catch

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rust

I’m attempting to improve my photography skills. It’s not hard given that when I started designing I didn’t have any. Now, not only I can use words like aperture and exposure but I actually know what they mean, and how to adjust them on my camera.* I have no illusions of becoming a fabulous Photography (with a capital P) but I hope to continue to improve my photography, especially as it relates to my knitting (and chickens).

So far all I’ve really been doing is reading a few photography websites and then trying the buttons on my camera. So for my next steps I’ve joined the photography group so I can see good examples and maybe get some constructive critiques… One thing they do is choose a theme each month, and I think it’ll probably be good practice for me to take pictures of things besides yarn and knitting (and chickens). October’s theme is Rust:

october rust

So I managed to find some rust, and some daylight, before October ended.

*don’t laugh, these are things I didn’t know 10 months ago. Well, I knew both aperture and exposure had something to do with how much light made it into the camera. But I didn’t know the difference, or how to adjust them…

little things

I admit it, there are plenty of little things I knit that never make it to the blog. But today I got some especially adorable pictures, and decided I need to correct at least one omission.

waffles

It’s a digital age hat! (I’m told someone just took away his waffle, not that he hates the hat)

My friend Sam provided two of the clocks for the ebook (the melty one in Cocktail Hour and the classic alarm clock in Morningtide) It takes a really good friend to not question my sanity when I ask if she can mail me a couple of clocks from PA just for two knitting photo shoots…

And since she and her husband are pretty geeky people, I thought they’d appreciate the binary coding in Digital Age.

digital hat

So for their son’s birthday I knit him a digital age hat. I took the binary colorwork and arranged it for 5 rows instead of 8. I knit the whole thing on larger needles. Mitts are best with a nice, dense fabric so they don’t pill with all the wear and tear of being hand coverings. Hats for toddlers should be squooshy and trap lots of air. I aimed for 16ish inches relaxed, but with plenty of stretch. Babies and toddlers can have pretty large heads. I don’t remember the final size. I did test it, and I can tell you this hat fit over my 20″ head (it looked badly stretched and didn’t cover my ears, but it didn’t pinch my brain either)

marshalls hat

The hat is knit out of the leftover Chris yarn from Schaeffer. I had more green leftover so that became the body of the hat. The best part is I’m told his snow suit this year: it’s gray and green. I WIN!

in praise of schmaltz

Schmaltz! It’s a fun yiddish word to say. It’s also the rendered fat from a chicken* thus the yiddish, since Jewish people in northern Europe weren’t eating lard like their historical neighbors were.

I like to make schmaltz any time I process chickens. It’s another link the waste-not-want-not chain that comes from putting in all the effort of raising happy, healthy meat birds. When I spend half my weekend putting just 18 meals worth of chicken into the freezer (after spending a whole summer raising the birds) it reminds me that even free range organic chicken at the grocery store is a good deal compared to the work that goes into it. And so I don’t want to waste a thing, not even the scraps of fat.

To make schmaltz I trim as much fat as I can off the birds. Once I’m done with the unsanitary parts of my day I move into the kitchen where I render the fat. I put it in a sauce pan with no lid over low to medium-low heat. (I think if it as “warm enough to keep already simmering water going, but too low to bring cold water up to a simmer) Then I leave it be and the fat slowly renders out, leaving the little bits of connective tissue floating at the top. I’ve heard you’re supposed to strain the fat, but mine is usually clean and clear once I’ve scooped these bits out***.

schmaltz

If you’re buying chicken in the store you’re missing out because most of the fat comes out with the entrails** Too bad for you because this stuff is glorious. It’s a rich, savory, yellow fat with so many wonderful uses. When I have just a little on hand I save it for the basis of soups and stews (frying the onions and carrots in a little schmaltz adds a lot of flavor) or for frying breaded chicken. But it’s been cold for a few weeks, and the 6 birds I processed over the weekend gave me two quarts of rendered schmaltz. It’s good to know all that feed they were packing away was going to something useful! I’m excited to try schmaltz in all kinds of things now. Roasted root veggies, pie crusts for quiche, biscuits. I render mine without any flavorings so if the quiche goes well I’m totally going to try this for a fruit pie too. The more schmaltz I have on hand the more I use it in place of butter when cooking and baking. It’s a wonderful, local source of fat, and handles high temperatures just as well as olive oil (at least in my experience)

awesome jars

AND it gave me a chance to use these amazing vintage 60’s jelly jars my grandmother gave me. The lids don’t screw on, so I haven’t used them for jam. But I freeze my extra schmaltz just to be on the safe side (I’ve been told it’s shelf stable, but I don’t want to loose any!)

Also going on in my kitchen: pressure canned chicken. Not sure what I’ll use it for, I’ve never made it before. But I’m thinking last minute casseroles and other hearty winter dishes when I don’t want to have to thaw and cook the chicken first.

canned chicken

Tonight I’m canning broth. I let it simmer overnight the first night, and spent last night boiling the two gallons down to just 1 gallon of volume. My pressure canner has been getting a good workout this week.

*or goose, but I don’t raise geese.
**which means in the commercial factories it’s probably all going into cat and dog food
***I’ve also heard you can eat these bits, but they look gross to me. Then again, I don’t eat those deep fried pig skin things either.
****I’d forgotten my camera’s USB cord. But the pictures are up now…

sneak peak

As usual my weekend plans far exceeded the time I had available. Well, that and it rained all day saturday which made it a much better day for sitting inside than for planting garlic.

But I did manage to get two pattern photo shoots finished in between the raindrops. I have some november deadlines (self imposed and external) but also a november vacation! I’m hoping to get these designs out the door before I head out myself. One is for one of my favorite online magazines, and so you’ll have to wait patiently. But I had such fun with this shawl design, I’m going to share the artsy photo as a sneak peak:

KMpeak

I’ve been practicing using my camera’s manual setting for shutter speed and ISO. I think these early morning photos show a huge improvement over what the camera could have done on auto.

more e-book giveaways

It’s a purely promotional friday! (don’t worry, this isn’t going to become a thing. Besides I can’t maintain this rate of give-aways forever…)

Annika and Stephannie both have reviews (and giveaways!) of my Time on my Hands e-books over on their respective blogs.

But wait, there’s more. Crystal Palace is giving away a copy of my e-book along with yarn AND needles to knit the Grandfather Clock gloves. They’re also giving away second and third place prizes of more yarn. Seriously, even I’m tempted to enter that give away! And of course you can still enter to win over at the Just one More Row podcast.

Pretty cool huh?

re-entry

I’m having a quiet rhinebeck re-entry week, so there’s not much to tell. Life continues, just as it always does. I plant garlic this weekend, and some more chickens are headed for the freezer.

I also have two photo shoots planned. I like the summer when I can catch the evening light after work, this time of year I need to plan things in advance. After a lull of almost TWO WEEKS with no designs on the needles I cast on for another pair of fingerless mitts last night. Apparently I just can’t get enough of them! There might be a matching hat too. Oh! There’s something you can help me with. Are you more likely to want a hat and mitten pattern as a set, or do you prefer individual downloads?

I feel like I ought to have exciting news about the Boyden sweater. But I don’t. This is the unexciting part of knitwear design. It’s the part where I can’t cast on until I do lots of math, and I haven’t done math yet, so the yarn sits on my craft table taunting me…

on the needles

One of my favorite parts of going to Rhinebeck with friends is that Someone Else drives. I don’t like driving, all that time is so much better spent knitting! For 10 hours of driving (plus knitting at the festival) I packed THREE projects. What? I don’t want to be caught without enough.

The project I worked on for the drive, down pre-sunset, is a christmas gift. You can check it out on Ravelry if you’ve got an account there. If you don’t (ahem, family members) don’t ruin the surprise! I also carried it around the festival to work on any time I sat down. So if I showed you a brightly colored thing, or that thing on my signature needles – then you saw it in person!

Once it got dark I switched to a plain stockinette project. Another reason to have so many projects packed is that I need different knitting for different environments. This one was the second sleeve for the Big Brown Thing. And I finished it! In fact, I over-knitted. I’d worked the increases as directed* and then just knit merrily around once I had the right number of stitches. When we got into the hotel I pulled out the first sleeve and compared the two. My second was about 3 INCHES too long. At least it ripped back quickly enough…

I managed to get the joining, and first few brown rounds out of the way in the hotel in the evenings. Which means that I Got To Start The COLORWORK in the car on the ride home.

brown colorwork

I love the way I’ve arranged these colors. I’m following the pattern as charted, but with the colors shifted all over the place. In other words: I didn’t just swap my neutrals for the pattern neutrals and my colors for the pattern colors. In some cases I’ve flipped which is neutral and which is color within the row. If that doesn’t make sense I can’t help. I’d need to show it to you. It’s still just two strands per row which is pretty quick knitting for me. I’m up to the center round of the star already. The yoke has already decreased a bit and that really picks up from here out. I may even finish this sweater this month. Except I have a deadline project that I’ll probably need to start pretty soon here!

*two m1’s every 8 rounds – this is why I have a flashlight in my purse

fiber and friends

Rhinebeck was FABULOUS!! In case you were worried I wouldn’t enjoy myself :-P As I can be heard to explain on the Subway Knitter’s podcast, I’ve decided Rhinebeck is part fiber festival, part knitters’ convention. Amy and I were interviewed by the Savvy Girls as well, I can’t wait to hear their take on Rhinebeck. It’s great to shop, see the animals, watch the demos, and eat delicious food, but my favorite part of Rhinebeck is being with my people, both new friends and old.

knitting friends

People who completely understand taking pictures of shawls and needing to stop a random person in the street and ask what pattern they used for their sweater.

rhinebeck or bust
(that window says “952 miles is NOT too far to go for yarn!” I have no idea who these ladies are, but clearly they’re my kind of people.) People who understand buying fiber when you don’t even know how to spin it up yet, and who will turn the car around to go back to that yard sale with the spinning wheel.

sheep incognito

I laughed myself silly reading the titles at Sheep Incognito.

I blushed furiously when people commented how much they love my patterns and photography (Thanks guys, you made my whole weekend!) I pet sheep and looked at alpacas, and watch a little boy walking a littler goat on a leash.

icelandic sheep cashmere goat

I went to the Ravelry meetup on Saturday and Sunday. The meetups are a great place to chat with knitters, spinners, bloggers, hula-hoopers, because you’re not interrupting any other activities. I found lots of people playing rhinebeck bingo, and almost got bingo in 4 different ways.

bingo

My friend Amy* had her picture taken with Ysolda.

amy and ysolda

I met so many lovely people it’d be silly to try and name them all. Farmers, yarn dyers, authors, publishers but mostly wonderful KNITTERS are what made this weekend so special. Oh, and of course I did some shopping too:

rhinebeck stash

4oz, of blue wool/mohair/alpaca with sparkles, a packet of coordinated silk hankies (which I now need to learn how to spin) a huge hank of green yarn from Briar Rose fibers, and some shiny, wonderful blue glass earrings. But I’m still a little sad I didn’t ask how much the antique spinning wheel at the yard sale cost. but it needed work, and I didn’t need another project wheel (at least that’s what I keep telling myself)

*A different Amy. Amy C and Amy D? Something…

Rhinebeck Eve

I’m going to Rhinebeck this weekend!! (In case you somehow managed to miss my excitement) Today qualifies as Rhinebeck Eve because tomorrow afternoon I load into a car full of fibery friends and we hit the road – which is the start of my Rhinebeck, even if I don’t set foot on the fairgrounds that day…

If you’re going too, and you see me, come on up and say hi! I’m playing Rhinebeck Bingo again this year, so I’m fully prepared for random internet friends and strange knitters* to introduce themselves to me. If you’re not already signed up it’s too late to be a square, but you can still get a card and play along! I’ll also have more 10% pattern discount cards for people who come say hi.

I have my food all planned. I’m bringing instant oatmeal – it’s actually my favorite hotel breakfast food. You can make the hot water using the coffee pot that just about every hotel room provides. When I’m traveling a lot I like instant oatmeal way more than yet-another-restaurant-meal because it turns out I dislike eating at restaurants every single meal for days on end… Also, because oatmeal in the morning keeps more money in the yarn budget (priorities)

I also have my outfits planned. I’ll be wearing my Rhinebeck Sweater on Saturday:

gwen 3

and my Root cellar vest on Sunday:

roots unbuttoned

I’ll probably also be sporting a hat, maybe some fingerless mitts, hand knit socks, a shawl if it gets chilly. Yep, I’ll be the one wearing excessive knitwear even for a sheep and wool festival. Ok, maybe that still describes half the crowd…

*Strange knitters: also know as friends waiting to happen.