Monthly Archives: February 2013


This isn’t really a blog post so much as a public service announcement, if you haven’t had a chance to sign up for the What (else) Would Madame DeFarge Knit? e-mail list yet be aware! The first e-mail has already gone out. (but don’t worry, there’s still more goodness to come, so you can sign up now) There will be prizes and book details and all kinds of exciting tidbits! So get on the list, even I did it! (yay peer pressure!)

And also, if you were intrigued by the sneak peak I posted earlier, you should REALLY check out the preview photo Cooperative Press has added to Ravelry for my Iseult’s Dress Mmmm….. cables….


Over the weekend I went to Canada to buy a mattress*. Now I live pretty far north, but headed straight up on route 108 I’m still 45 minutes south of the border. That’s a LOT of land between here and there- and a lot of small towns whose grocery store is even further away than mine.

When I got to the border the Canadian guard was very friendly. He even helpfully pointed out that the Boucherville Ikea is easier to get to than the one in Montreal proper (this will be important later). This was only sort of helpful, because I was traveling like it was 1997. My cell phone doesn’t work in Canada, and my GPS doesn’t have maps for that country. Instead I was traveling with carefully printed step-by-step directions from the internet…

Luckily I learned to drive in 1997 and thus am skilled in the art of traveling in this manner. I managed the windy back roads of Quebec with the same skill as the matching windy back roads in Vermont. It was when I got to Montreal that things became tricky.

Did you know? Montreal is a BIG city. Somehow, in all my planning I’d forgotten this important detail. And Ikea is on the far side of that big city, so I had to navigate the flying buttress highways and large bridges that go with city interstates. Somewhat miraculously I made it to Ikea without incident.

Then I had to navigate Ikea. Have I mentioned yet that this was my first time to any Ikea store? And have I mentioned that all the signs are in french? Sometimes they have english subtitles, if I’m lucky.

Unluckily the receipt the nice lady handed me which listed my chosen mattress and pillowtopper did NOT have english subtitles. This made navigating the self-serve warehouse somewhat tricky (pro tip: mattresses are not self-serve. You pick them up after paying)

Eventually I figured it out, paid, and found my way to the pick up location. Where I waited for my number to be called. I waited, and waited. People who got there after me picked up their stuff and left. Finally my number was called, and the guy came forward with just ONE rolled up piece of bedding. He explained the mattress was stuck on a second story shelf. They’d be able to get it down for me after business hours. Could I come back at 5:30?

I blinked two or three times, then mentioned that I live 4 hours (round trip) away. Therefore, NO, I could not come back later. He devised a scheme and suggested that I return the delayed mattress and choose a different one. Seems like a good concept right? Well, except for the fact that I had to navigate Ikea for a second time that day it was a fine idea.

I proceeded with the plan. The second time around I knew exactly what I was doing and it went much more quickly. Soon I picked up my two rolled items and left the store.

The drive home was relatively uneventful** with the exception of the US border crossing guard who apparently had A) never heard of Ikea and B) was wondering how much one could, hypothetically, smuggle in two rolled up bedding items. I’m just glad he didn’t decide to open them right there. They wouldn’t have fit in my car so well in their unrolled state.

When I got home I excitedly unrolled the mattress and pillowtopper. They need a few days to stretch properly. But the moment we got the wrapping off something was visibly wrong. The pillowtopper was about 3 inches too thick…

Apparently when the warehouse guy said the “mattress” was on a second story shelf, he meant the pillowtopper. But because Ikea stuff all has names like Finnvik and Favang I didn’t catch that detail. So now I have two mattresses, no pillowtopper, and a plan to go BACK to Ikea sometime next month for a wee exchange… I think this time I’ll drive to Boucherville. Just to mix things up.

*totally not as sketchy as it sounds. My nearest Ikea is in Montreal.
**uneventful, except for the part where I was sitting in stalled traffic on the interstate in a foreign country and some guy pulled up next to me to ask for directions. This happens to me ALL THE TIME. I swear, it’s like someone taped a “tour guide” sign to my back.

project bags

I’m working on some project bags for Mirim Felton’s project bag swap! If you can sew you should totally join. You just need to get the bags to her by March 15th (I know, I know, I’m running behind on everything these days)

scrap happy cat

Behind on everything, including my sewing. But I’m on top of this, I swear! I’ve picked my fabrics, they’ve been kitty tested (yeah, I might have to wash them again to get the cat hair off before sewing) And as soon as I have some zippers I’m all over this.

I’m considering box bags and pyramid pouches. My crazy hope is to sew two of each, so I can swap one and keep one in each shape. That’s totally reasonable, right? I mean look at the pyramid tutorial. Seems simple enough… (famous last words, especially coming from someone who’s fabric stash is currently a cat bed)

chicken noodle, again

I’ve done this once already for a soup and bread post. Honestly I’m surprised we’re only up to 2 times. Chicken noodle, or chicken and rice, are the obvious answers to leftover chicken in the fridge.

I wish soup and bread were more photogenic. Or that I had actual daylight to work with. Because this post is gonna be boring. No recipe, no good photos. I mean look!

chicken noodle soup again

I even threw a book swatch into the photo and it adds neither interest nor color. Sorry folks.

Don’t get the wrong idea. The soup itself is delicious! I used sage, tarragon, and shallots in the broth. But that doesn’t actually make it look fancy, it just tastes fancy.

But wait! Before you go, would you mind measuring the hands of the men and children in your life, and adding them to the spreadsheet? I’m trying to balance out my survey.

New mittens!

Yesterday I released my new mittens pattern, meet Pinales:

pinales hold on for dear life

These are the couldn’t-get-any-more-basic wool mittens that get us through the winter here in VT. And by “us” I mean Neil and I each have a pair now!

tree mittens2

I know it’s february and you might be starting to think about spring. But here in VT it is still SOLIDLY winter. As I mentioned it was tears-freezing-on-my-face cold when I took these photos.

And then when I took my mitten off for a few un-modeled shots? That was a really bad idea (poor frozen fingers).

pinales draped

Pinales is latin. It’s the name of the order* that includes all the existing conifers. And now that you’ve had your science lesson for the day – don’t forget to favorite and queue Pinales on Ravelry!

pinales mitts and trees

*Remember Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order? Except these days they’ve started including Domain up above Kingdom. Science is constantly changing – keep up!

photos photos photos

I managed THREE photo shoots this weekend! By far the worst was on Sunday morning. Conveniently I was playing model and photographer so I didn’t destroy any friendships on this one.

sad model is sad

Why do I look so sad? Well it was 6F (that’s -14C) before wind chill. Oh yeah, and the wind was gusting to 30mph! And my MEAN photographer made me go outside without my handknit scarf and hat! Giant meanie.

What you can’t see is that the wind was blowing so hard it made my eyes water, and the tears were freezing on my coat. Oh woe is me…

human light box

Luckily my other two shoots happened indoors. For this one I have arranged a GIANT HUMAN LIGHTBOX in my living room. This works surprisingly well. The sheet hanging from the ceiling keeps my dark living room from absorbing the light. And that door faces due west, so it lets in glorious, natural lighting all afternoon. It means all the joys of an outdoor photo shoot, but with tables and warmth and stuff. Good deal.

The third shot was at the local opera house, gorgeous site, pretty model, and I got to play with the DSLR again. Which means I haven’t seen those photos yet. But they looked awesome on the camera display…


We’re getting so close!! Close to what, you ask? Close to the big release for What (else) Would Madame DeFarge Knit!! The book is already available for pre-orders and it will be going to print soon!

Why am I so excited about this book? Well if you haven’t guessed yet, I have a pattern in it! I’m not going to tell you my story, or my character (yet). But I can say, it’s VERY me.

sneak 1
crown optional

This is going to be an awesome book. We’ve got 25 designs from both new and established designers. There will be COLOR photos (this is new compared to the first in the series.) That gorgeous blue in the sneak peek? It’s Cornflower Highland, a 100% shetland wool from the incomparable folks at Harrisville Designs.

I hope this book is very you as well! If you’re looking for more information check out the book details over at Cooperative Press, or on the W(e)WMDFK website.

Do you want to know the moment the book is released? Do you want a chance to win FREE patterns and other goodies? (Of course you do.) Just sign up for the WWMDFK e-mail list. There are lots of exciting treats and announcements coming soon!

Sweet potato, corn, pumpkin soup

I totally stole this one from friends on twitter. It just sounds so tasty!

sweet potato corn pumpkin

I made this soup over two days and I took lousy notes, so I really have no recipe. I roasted the pumpkin (squash), sweet potatoes, onions, and garlic in olive oil on tuesday night because I knew I’d be out later than usual wednesday night. This was ideal because I could perfectly slow-roast them until 9:30. When they were done I just threw them in the fridge for later.

The spices are what I didn’t write down, and they’re the base of the stock. Garlic, sage, oregon bay seasoning, country french dressing mix, and some other things I’ve forgotten were all tossed into hot oil. On top of that there’s just water and squash in the broth, no stock of any kind. I added a big spoonful of apple chutney for depth, and because this soup can handle the gentle sweetness of the apples.

The broth is pureed. It’s thinner than a normal squash soup. I did that on purpose. I didn’t want it to be thick and creamy, I just wanted it to be the base for the sweet potatoes, corn, onions, and garlic. I tossed them in once the broth was simmering and it was ready as soon as everything was heated.

I’m surprised I didn’t think to do the prep work the night before sooner than this! The soup was done in 20 minutes flat, including the bit with the immersion blender.

sweet potato corn pumpkin soup

The bread is from a bakery, because I met up with my friend and sample knitter wednesday night for a secret book project hand off. Told you I knew I was going to be out later than usual…

Hand sizes

I had a conversation with my tech editor yesterday that went something like this:

Becky: Here’s my pattern!
Chris: Gee, your thumb gusset numbers look weird. I wish I had a reference for this sort of thing.
Becky: Golly, you’d think with the number of mittens, mitts, and gloves I’ve published that I’d have some sort of reference by now…

But apparently I don’t. In the interest of SCIENCE! I went through every hand pattern I’ve written and recorded the palm circumference and thumb gusset length.

hand gusset raw data

I wish these were at least SLIGHTLY more consistent… Different lengths for the same palm size can sometimes be attributed to needing the pattern to fit the mitt – cables, colorwork charts, etc… sometimes skew things a quarter of an inch or so. But these numbers are all over the place.

For the purposes of this discussion by “thumb gusset length” I mean the distance from where your wrist ends and your hand begins up to the webbing that joins your thumb to your hand – measured vertically along the edge of your thumb. This is the distance you need to knit your mitten/glove/mitt increases* before creating an opening for the thumb.

I averaged those numbers, and smoothed them out as best I could, and created this little chart:

Hand chart estimated sizes BeckyinVT

But it’s still just numbers I’m guessing at, based on my sense of understanding how hands are shaped.

Wanna help this be more scientific? Get out a tape measure, and record the following numbers:


Now go to this Google form and enter your data. Got a spouse and/or some kids? Maybe a friend who already thinks you’re crazy? Measure their hands too! All the raw data is available for anyone interested to see. In a month or so I’ll come up with some averages and create a newer, better chart. A chart based off of actual facts.

I love data.

*I think if you’re working an afterthought thumb you’d actually put the opening a little lower, so it’s more centered on the base of the thumb… But nevermind that for now.

Mmmm, butter

I’d like to introduce you to my new favorite piece of pottery.

butter bell

The butter bell is an old fashioned thing (I like it already) meant to let you store your butter at room temperature without it going rancid.*

Water goes into the base, and the bell turns upside down and goes into the water. The butter stays dry**, and the water acts like an airlock.

That’s not why I like it though. I like it because it means my dogs don’t steal the butter off the counter anymore. With the plain butter dish Neil*** would forget it on the counter, or leave the lid off, and the dogs would eat an entire stick of butter. Something about the butter bell keeps us from forgetting. Either because it’s a new toy, or because it looks precarious all opened up. Either way dogs-not-eating-butter is something we can all get behind (well, except the dogs)

*seriously, does anyone go through butter that slowly?
**mostly, if you try to get an extra tablespoon or two into the bell it gets wet. But good news, butter doesn’t dissolve.
***or me