Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 3: Tidy Mind, Tidy Stitches (aka "Yarn Wrangling")

Day 3 of the Knitting & Crocheting Blogging week is: "How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised? It seems like an easy to answer question at first, but in fact organisation exists on many levels. Maybe you are truly not organised at all, in which case I am personally daring you to try and photograph your stash in whatever locations you can find the individual skeins. However, if you are organised, blog about an aspect of that organisation process, whether that be a particularly neat and tidy knitting bag, a decorative display of your crochet hooks, your organised stash or your project and stash pages on Ravelry."

Okay, oddly enough, while the rest of my house might be in layers of chaos, my stash is pretty well organised.  I keep track of most (90%) of it on Ravelry, in my stash pages, with individual listings and photographs.  And the main storing of it is here:


It was only a couple of weekends ago that I went through all of this above, as I was already taking inventory of Gaia's Colours' supply of undyed yarn & fibre.  These bins contain my personal stash, mostly hand-dyed (big surprise), and are now all properly labelled and organised.  I do need to sync it with my Ravelry stash pages though, as I'm a bit behind in some of the older yarns that I bought as a newer knitter.

Overall, I'm happy with how it's all organised, and I do try to go through it every few months to review what to use, what to keep, what to sell or give away, etc.

What NOT to say to potential readers....

I really should be heading to bed, but I just had to quickly post about a crazy little situation I was linked to this evening.  I believe Neil Gaiman tweeted about it and it was retweeted through a friend I follow on Twitter.

What is it, you ask?  Why, apparently the self-destruction of a new indie (self-published) writer!

There is a blog called Big Al's Books and Pals that reviews books on the Kindle e-reader.  I get the impression that Al reviews a lot of indie writers, but I could be mistaken.

Recently Al reviewed The Greek Seaman by Jacqueline Howett.  He writes that the storyline itself is decent, but that the spelling and grammatical errors are numerous and quite distracting, making the story difficult to finish.

A basic review that seems, in my opinion, fair.  But that's not what has made things explode suddenly over on Al's blog, oh no!  Ms. Howett started replying to Al, and to others commenting, and grew more and more vicious, childish, and unprofessional.  She even used the F-word!  I was so aghast that I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!

But I leave it to you, dear reader, to marvel in this spectacle that is a reputation both flaming, and sinking, while I am to bed.

EDA: this morning I wanted to pass along another blog's take on this debacle.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 2: Skill + 1up

For Day 2, we get to blog about: "Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet (can you crochet cable stitches now where you didn’t even know such things existed last year)? Have you recently put a foot in the tiled world of entrelac? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or crochet hook this time last year?"

Okay, well, I think my chart reading/using skills have improved.  I'm getting quite comfortable with the top-down sweater format (with various variations, like set-in sleeves - a new thing for me), and socks done toe-up (starting with the Turkish Cast-on), with the fabulous new-ish technique of "Jenny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off".  I've learned a new way of a provisional Cast-on (using the Long-tail Cast-on), and am getting more comfortable with picking up stitches along the sides of other stitches.  I'm getting faster with knitting socks, and am more likely to be monogamous (read: alternating between two projects at a time).  I've decided that I'm most likely to be a sweater/top knitter for the foreseeable future, and have several sweaters-worth of yarn.  Several.

Tomorrow, Day 3...

Day 1: A Tale of Two Yarns

This morning I discovered that Eskimimi Knits was holding the 2nd Annual Knit and Crochet Blog Week (March 28th - April 3rd).  We bloggers get to post everyday for a week on the various topics that Eskimimi has suggested. (Yes, I realise that I am posting this a day late.  To be fair, I did start it on Monday night, but posted it today)

Day 1 is "A Tale of Two Yarns": "Part of any fibre enthusiast’s hobby is an appreciation of yarn. Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them."

How do I choose only two?

Well, the first is pretty easy obvious, as I've sung the praises of this yarn before here on the blog.  QED, the 100% Blue-faced Leicester wool, 5ply worsted from The Sanguine Gryphon.  I even wrote a wee "ode" to QED last May!  It is tightly spun, sproingy, spongy, soft (not cashmere soft, but strong wool soft), with a subtle sheen that comes naturally to BFL wool.  It is an excellent sweater and outer garment yarn - durable and warm.  I have knit mittens with it, as well as three (count 'em), THREE sweaters out of it.  And I have plans for three or four more, including this pale gray QED seen below.


The other yarn I love is my own hand-dyed Heithrun MCN (80% SW Merino Wool/10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon), in either fingering or DK-weight.  I have knit with both and will do so again.  Like the QED, the DK is spun tightly, with a sproingy texture of 4 plies, but so soft!  It's fingering counterpart is also very soft and feels wonderful draped against the neck or embracing the feet.  I have knit socks with the fingering weight, and intend to knit a top with it.  And with the DK I have knit a scarf and a cowl.  It will also be worked into a sweater of some sort down the road.

Heithrun sock in "Oeno"

Heithrun DK in a "Lakshmi" variation.
 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Walking into the world of E-Readers

I am contemplating buying an E-book reader, or E-reader.  I am trying to figure out which one is really good, would suit my needs, isn't crazy expensive, and would last a long time.

The two main candidates are Barnes & Noble's Nook, and Amazon's Kindle.  It seems that both have lots of good feedback, so how to choose?

Hm, will have to do some more research and reading of personal feedback.

In the meantime, if any of you have an E-reader, perhaps you can share what you like or don't like, or if you have feedback from others (online or in person), please post here!

EDA: it looks like the Nook isn't available outside the US.  Dang.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Who am I - Goldilocks?


In approaching the knitting of my next cardigan project, Every Last Yard, I had to swatch, naturally.  I had talked with the designer, Amy Swenson (aka Indigirl) about achieving such a "Aran" gauge (16 stitches per 4 inches) with only worsted-weight yarn on 4.5mm needles.  She told me to wash and block the swatch, then measure, to see if/how it stretched.  Now, normally I don't wash and block my swatches (even though I likely should), but I thought it best to see how the yarn I was intending on using, The Sanguine Gryphon's Codex (single-ply, light worsted 52% BFL wool, 48% Silk), would knit, wash and block.   Plus if the designer says so, then I best follow her instructions, no?

The Codex yarn is a fairly slender worsted, in my opinion, and 4.5mm needles seemed small for getting the necessary 16 stitches per 4 inches.  So I started with 5.5mm needles, knit up my swatch, then soaked and pinned (blocked) it.  It was 17 stitches pre-washing/blocking, and 14 after.  Damn, too big.  Am now seeing the importance in washing/blocking one's swatch...

I then went for the 4.5mm needles and knit up a second swatch.  22 stitches pre-washing/blocking and 19.5 after.  Way too small.  (Do you see where this is going?)

Sighing, I pulled out the 5mm needles and started a third swatch.   I don't recall the pre-washing/blocking gauge, but post-washing/blocking came to 16.5.  Close enough in my book.  I won't block as aggressively in the finished piece anyway.

I haven't swatched so much for one project before, but I'm glad I did.  I wanted to get it Just Right.

A second photo, to show more of the true sage-green of the yarn (the skinny pale gold swatch was from a sample skein of Codex that I received in a package from Sanguine Gryphon) :


A Knitterly Friend's Video Podcast!

I am so proud of my friend, Dennine!  She has started her own video knitting podcast, called Complex Texture.  It's over on iTunes and there are now six episodes.  She talks about what's going on with her knitting, and throws in other tidbits about books, art, and some personal stories too.

Please visit her site and check out her videos.

Off to bed.  More posts in the works....

p.s. Dennine was kind enough to talk about my wee dyeing business, Gaia's Colours (and show off the goodies she bought from me), in episode five - thanks Dennine!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Desk!

This past weekend, when I strolled into the local London Drugs store (a western Canada pharmacy, that also sells other things, like electronics and some small furniture) for a pack of Kleenex tissue, I came out with a new desk.  I'm not sure how it happened really.  Ah, who am I kidding...?  It was on for less than half price and is just my style - how could I resist?

I give you, the Desk...

 It's a dark-stained, old fashioned type where the writing desk part folds open, like this:

 It has four drawers, compared to the one my previous desk had, so more storage - yay!

 For how noble and elegant the pen and paper look on the desk, it really looks more like this shot above.  And in case anyone wants to know, that is Franklin Habit's blog I have open on my laptop's browser.

And perhaps best of all, it folds up, the chair is put back at the dining room table, and it just looks like a classic piece of furniture.

I'm in love!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recipes: Apple Fritter Pancakes

My husband, Lee, has become known around the house as the "King of Pancakes & Waffles".  He makes one or the other every Sunday morning, and our boys gobble them up (no surprise there).  I was pleasantly surprised, however, when a couple of months back Lee came up with his own pancake recipe.  I tried the resulting steaming flapjacks and declared them excellent!

"They taste just like Apple Fritters!" I exclaimed.  "I must write down your recipe and post it on my blog."

And so I present to you, Lee's Apple Fritter Pancakes:

Ingredients

Dry:
  • 2 cups flour (Lee uses all purpose white, I'd likely use Spelt and Oat, and maybe some Whole Wheat)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch fine sea salt
Wet:
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk (or milk substitute)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2tbsp melted butter (measure after melted)
Apple mixture:
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked fresh or overly defrosted frozen apple slices, no skin (plain, unsweetened apple sauce may be substituted)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
Directions:
- combine all dry ingredients in one medium mixing bowl, set aside.
- in another mixing bowl, whisk eggs till frothy.
- add milk and vanilla to eggs mix and whisk again.
- in glass measuring cup, measure out apple slices, pack down a little.
- add cinnamon and sugar to apples, then use hand-blender or food processor to the consistency of apple sauce.  blending will reduce apple amount/measure to about 1 cup - **use only 3/4 cup of apple mix.
- mix wet with dry ingredients and gently stir until thoroughly incorporated.
- gently fold in apple mix to wet/dry mix.

Heat griddle to 325degreesF.  Pour 1/2 to 3/4 cup of batter to make each pancake.  Makes around 2 dozen pancakes.  Serve hot with butter and syrup.  Optional toppings for the pancakes: the leftover apple sauce blend; toasted, chopped nuts (like almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts); or perhaps roasted maple pecans (toast pecans on dry skillet, then toss in a little maple syrup and let set in fridge - divine!  Also tasty on a good quality vanilla ice-cream.).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Everyone loves a sale! (And a bit about Tarot)

Wow!  In the days following the start of the sale at Gaia's Colours, orders came rushing in with the force of a waterfall.   I was, understandably, blown away.  I might as well have been hit by the force of the said waterfall.  I think the combination of great discounted prices, the element of "get 'em before they're gone", and having a fair bit of stock just sitting there, made it far too tempting for my fellow crafters.

But I am thoroughly pleased, and relieved, knowing that the fibrey goodness will be going into loving hands and used to create lovely things.  It's a nice way to close, a delightful way to "let go".

"Letting go" and "moving on" were two things that recently came up in a big way in a Tarot card reading I did for myself.  I don't read my cards as often as I used to, but felt, as usually happens, that when I arrive at the proverbial crossroads, I need the cards as a guide, a reminder, a voice saying "Isn't this obvious, you silly fool?".   My main deck is The Druid Craft Tarot, by Philip & Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington.

The cards that came up for me on this were the:
  • 8 of cups (keywords: "Letting go, Seeking your higher purpose, Moving on" - see? obvious)
  • 3 of wands (kw: "Enterprise, Confidence, Realizing goals")
  • 6 of wands (kw: "Victory, Success, Leadership" - I see this as more "self-leadership")
  • 9 of pentacles (kw: Gain, Pleasure, Living your ideals" - also, pursuing paths previously unexplored, i.e. screenwriting)
  • 4 of swords (kw: "Retreat, Rest, Solace" - very important for me)
  • 6 of swords (kw: "Journeying, Solace, Healing")
  • The Star (kw: "Intuition, Hope, Optimism, Healing, Openness, Calm, Bright Prospects")
  • The Magician (kw: "Creativity, First steps, Empowerment, Will-power, Flow, Life-force, Inspiration, Direction")
  • The Lady (kw: Passion, Fertility, Abundance, Nurturing, Healing, Motherhood, Happiness, Beauty, Creativity")
  • The Fferyllt (Temperance) (kw: "Fluency between worlds, Creativity (notice a pattern?), Harmony, Peace, Magic, Alchemy)
So things seem to be going in just the right direction for me at present.  And I've made plenty of knitters happy - always a good thing.

best,
Ursa
p.s. I had no idea I was going to blog about Tarot today.  Just kinda happened.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cauliflower as Rice & Potatoes?

Hey gang,

A quick post to share something new I tried last night in the kitchen.  I found a "healthy tip" last week about using cauliflower instead of rice or potatoes with your evening meal.  For those of us following a specific style of "losing weight" diet, carbs are minimized, and only specific carbs are okay, and then no starchy carbs after 3pm.  So!  With this in mind, it was pointed on by the source of the tip that cauliflower could replace the starchy carbs one might want with the evening meal, to go with a meat dish or on a stir-fry.  Interestingly enough, we made a stir-fry last night, and so I thought I'd try using the cauliflower to make "rice".

I grated it manually (this is when I wish for a really good food processor with the grater blade), and it was tiny and crumbly.  Steaming this would be a challenge, as steamers have holes in them, and the tiny, crumbly bits would fall right through.  So what I did was heat a frying pan on medium with some olive oil and a wee bit of bacon fat, then place the grated cauliflower in it.  After stirring to coat, I added about 1/4 cup of hot chicken stock, and placed the lid on to let it steam for about five or ten  minutes.  I wanted it slightly crunchy, more so than rice would be however.  After steaming, I took the lid off and let any remaining liquid evaporate, stirring gently.  Then I took it off the heat, and added to our stir-fry.  It was tasty - definitely different, but worked just fine with the stir-fry, and I felt more noble about all the veggies I was eating :-)

Soon I might try the "mashed potato" version of the cauliflower - that should be interesting....

Posts about Banff and knitting to come soon!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Neglecting my readers?

I've been meaning to post here, and, in fact, have three or four posts already in the works.  It's just been such a crazy, busy week with the Gaia's Colours Sale (which has far exceeded my expectations), that I've had little time to do much else.  I think as things settle down in the next week or so, I should be able to finish my posts about Banff and my knitting projects.

Thinking of you lovely crafters and hoping the early tendrils of Spring are slowly reaching for you in these cool March days....

best,
Ursa