Monthly Archives: December 2015

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?

berry_front_view

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:

il_570xn-894796298_2ord

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!

berry_cuffs_and_cocoa_medium2

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…

The Shortest Day

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

-The Shortest Day, Susan Cooper

longest night

This poem has been an annual tradition of mine that apparently slipped the year Windsor arrived. I hope not to miss it in the future!

It’s beginning

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here!

2015 tree

This year’s frazier fir came from our local llama and tree farm (as always). It’s a bit shorter than what we’re used to because we had to trim up the stump to make it level once we got it home. I was in charge of cutting down the tree this year, and apparently I could use the practice!

The ornament collection has been sorted, so that only toddler-friendly items are on the tree. She loves to hang them up, take them off, and hang them up again.

ornaments

And yes, that IS a needle felted sheep on my tree. Why would you even need to ask?

The weekends have lots of fun activities like baking Christmas cookies. Toddlers are really good at crushing candy canes:

breaking candy canes

She also loved dipping the rolled up balls of dough in the crushed candy canes, and smushing them onto the cookie sheet!

And we even managed a family photo, although we had about 45 seconds of cute snuggles before the toddler made a break for that interesting, moving, whirring camera on that stand over there (I took these with the remote control)

family christmas

break for it

I hope that where ever you live, and whatever your beliefs, you take a moment this month to slow down, enjoy your loved ones, give thanks for what you have, and give help to those who need it. I don’t often get political here, but I just want to implore everyone to remember that love and kindness toward our fellow humans would go a long way toward solving our problems.

Meristem

Remember waaay back in August when I was knitting a second of my Meristem pattern? I probably finished the knitting in September? I don’t remember exactly. I even got the ends woven in. But then is sat. And sat and sat and sat. I really don’t know why it sat for MONTHS waiting for me to sew the shoulder seams. When I finally got around to it, it took about 10 minutes.

meristem yoke

Rather crazily, over those months, I dropped a garment size. And I’d been knitting this vest with positive ease already. What to do? Instead of giving up on it, I decided to block the crap out of it and see what I could do. Instead of blocking it flat I blocked it by hanging it upside down – the goal was to stretch out the body. Essentially I blocked it to throw the row to stitch ratio all off and make the garment longer and narrower.

meristem side

And it worked! Well, pretty much. This vest is still a bit loose at the edges. Mostly the underarms, but honestly also the garter stitch hem is mis-sized compared to the body now.

meristem whole

Not too much, but if you’re looking you can see it.

Luckily somewhere over the fall I decided I needed more sweater dresses. So adding this one to my collection is a pleasant surprise.

meristem back

The biggest problem is the static. The trim is handspun, but the body is silky wool – and apparently this fiber blend is static-prone? I didn’t know, until now. And the dress could probably benefit a LOT from a slip (especially over my microfiber leggings) except that my slip is too long.

meristem perched

But still, I finished this weeks ago. But it was late fall, or early winter, and I couldn’t take photos because it was dark. Until this week I finally took my camera with me to work. And the remote, the sweater dress, and I, we had a little photo shoot in the freezing fog.

meristem fog

I’m so glad to finally be able to share! Obviously, there have been some (ahem) changes to the pattern. The two color yoke is the biggest, and I love it. The length is different, but if I were doing this again I’d actually add rows, not just block it all wonky. Details, detail…

too

The weather has been TOO weird this month. We’ve had no snow, very little cold, and some really weird freezing fog.

foggy rosehip

I’m not complaining, because we’re putting in a new leachfiled* soon. And it’s not the sort of thing you choose to do in the middle of winter, unless you can’t avoid it. Since our current system is TOO old it is on the way out, and we can’t avoid it. But if the snow holds off so we don’t have to dig through it – that’d be really nice.

Maybe you’ve noticed, or maybe the world is TOO crazy, and you haven’t. But I’ve been a bit withdrawn. I’ve been spending less time on social media; even less time on Ravelry. Windsor has been very TWO these days. And with sleep issues, and learning how to use the word no, and all the joys and struggles that go with a toddler – my evenings have been consumed.

foggy cedar

But it’s not just the TWO year old. I’ve been spending TOO much time cleaning, packing, and trying to keep this house real-estate ready. Moving sucks. It’s stressful and emotional and time consuming, and slow. TOO MUCH.

And since the world has been TOO crazy it has felt pretty good to pull back, to focus on what is needed, and let the rest slide on by. I hope you don’t mind. I’m still here, just taking things at a slower pace, so I don’t put TOO much of myself into anything I can’t sustain.

foggy weed

To that end, the December Knit-Along for my book is going to be postponed. I haven’t had a lot of interesting and I’ve had even less time. I am shifting gears, downshifting, we’ll do chapter knit-alongs every other month. The Periwinkle Sheep fans are looking forward to January’s sweater already. And we’ll come back to December next year, so no loss – we’re just spreading out the book love so it’ll last longer.

So for the rest of the month I’m paring back. I will post when I have knitting to share, but not TOO much. No stress. I hope you’ll be kind to yourself as well. Take this holiday season to slow down, calm down, share some love, donate to charity, whatever it is that makes you happy. There’s TOO much anger and stress out there. Everybody breath. Take in the fog.

foggy seedhead

Our path will come clear, eventually.

*a leachfield is where all the household waste water goes, when you live in a rural place, like most of Vermont…

GAL selfish knitting

I knew I wanted to do a little knitting for myself this month, but I didn’t know what. That’s pretty weird since I’m usually a product knitter. But I knew it needed to be quick and I didn’t have my eye on a specific accessory.

Instead I picked out a special skein of handspun I’d been gifted. Shannon at Spun Monkey provided yarn support for my book. Except she sent not one but two lovely skeins of bulky weight handspun! Usually I would try to design something with the second to honor her generosity. But since she’s not selling handspun right now I decided to find the perfect pattern for this variegated yarn. (check out her blog linked above anyway. She’s moved on to some fun new projects and if you like what I’m doing here you’ll love her new blog too!)

2015-12-07_08-12-16

This is the slip stitch beanie by Sarah Cooke. It’s an amazing gift project because it knits up fast and looks SO PRETTY in multicolored handspun or solid colored commercial yarn. It uses under 100yds of bulky yarn and with the slip stitch pattern it is perfect for blending and mixing the colors of the yarn.

2015-12-07_08-12-25

I love how squishy the hat is. The fabric is dense and cozy and warm. And I think this pattern would be perfect for any soft yarn with so many gorgeous colors that you might have trouble with it overwhelming the pattern.

2015-12-07_08-12-32

Searchable giftalong

One of the absolute best things about the gift along this year is the searchable bundle.

No, wait, that’s not right. The BEST thing about the gift along is the fabulous people participating, the wonderful designers, the entertaining games, the amazing prize list.

So, do you want to participate? You just need to choose an eligible pattern and dive in! Ok, and THAT is where the searchable bundle comes in. If you look at that page you’ll see that with 335 designers we have over 300,000 eligible patterns. But instead of having to sort or scan, or just look at your favorites list and guess you can use the powerful Ravelry search feature!

Want to knit a hat with a single skein of bulky yarn? You can sort for that:

gal hats

No, instead let’s consider something big, really big, epic. Maybe a lacey square or a circular shawl?

gal giant shawls

Or my favorite, cabled sweaters:

gal sweaters

If you’ve never played with the Ravelry search now is a great time to test it. You can filter for patterns already in your library, patterns you’ve favorited, or patterns your friend has favorited – if you’re knitting a gift for someone else! You can choose a yarn and search for patterns that will work or look at all adult cardigans and then see what you already have the pattern for. Frequently when I’m looking on other websites I WISH for a search engine this customizable. It’s awesome.

GAL FO2

Here’s my second finished gift-along project of the season! It’s the Laura cowl by Jennifer Dassau.

2015-12-03_08-02-34

This is a snug little cowl perfect for wearing under your coat collar and keeping the wind out.

2015-12-03_08-03-05

It’s also perfect for using up small amounts of magical yarn. This one took just two skeins of Road to China aran weight. The yarn is an amazing blend (65% Baby Alpaca, 15% Silk, 10% Camel, 10% Cashmere) and I only had 150 yards in this color. I think my cowl is a tad longer than the pattern calls for because I just kept knitting until I ran out of yarn.

2015-12-03_08-02-54
I highly recommend both the yarn and the pattern. I love them as a combo too, since I got the yarn from last winter’s retreat and I met Jennifer there too!

Next up I’m knitting this slip stitch beanie. And the pattern is really doing brilliant things with my colorful and variegated yarn. I might need to try this stitch pattern again with other yarns…