Tuesday, February 26, 2013

One Off, One On

Last night the moon was full and when I got up very early this morning the outdoor scene was bright.  The fresh layer of new snow reflecting the moonlight added to the effect.  Wherever I looked at least two deer were visible, browsing on the landscape.  Although we very much dislike the destruction of shrubs and trees that deer inflict, the scene was eerily beautiful.

Since one knitting project came off the needles yesterday, last evening a new project was begun.  A long time ago I found an attractive knitting project on the back of a Bernat yarn label.  I can't say what this project is because it will be a gift for one of the "kids" meaning one of our grown up children.  The label is to the left, and you can see the printing is small, small, small!!!  I was trying to read it last night while watching an interesting PBS program on Ai Wei Wei.  Because most of the conversation was in Chinese and made available by English subtitles, I gave up on the knitting.

This morning I transcribed the pattern on my laptop and now it's readable at a glance.  The yellow sticky is to keep track of which row I'm on.

When we were in Waxahachie, Nevada last October I bought yarn for this project--a nice tweedy brown called "Coffee Fleck" at the ridiculously low sale price of $2.00 for 100g (3 1/2 oz).  The pattern calls for two balls of 100g.  This is the first try at this pattern.  After just a few rows I realized the yarn was way too heavy for the pattern and the project would become way too large. 

 So I went "stash diving."

I found a very suitable yarn, one that had been given to me many years ago.  It's a scheepjes yarn, 100% cotton, called "Granada."  Scheepjes is a Dutch yarn company.  

There were five balls, some partly used.  They totalled 250 grams, and the pattern calls for 200 grams, so I figure there is enough to finish the project.  No, it's not a sweater--the yarn, being cotton and quite unyielding, is not suitable for a sweater, but perfect for the project I have in mind.

A new project is always so inspiring!  This isn't a big project, so it shouldn't take long to complete.  Then we're on to some more socks, also planned for gifts.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Striped Socks

Sometime last year I was given these two balls of sock yarn.  Both very nice combinations of colours, but unrelated except for the medium blue that occurs in both balls.  They are good sock yarn: Paton's Kroy Sock Yarn that is 75% washable wool and 25% nylon. That's a very nice combination of softness, warmth and durability.  The local price for a 50 gram ball of this yarn is $6.99.  It takes one 50 gram ball to make one good sized adult sock, so the makings for a pair of socks, at a saving of $14.00 plus tax, are right here.  But wouldn't that be a strange looking pair!

I decided to use both yarns at once, knitting alternate rows, first from the one ball and the next row from the other.  I started, using the toe up method, but look what happens.  There's a disconnect at the beginning of each round where you change yarns.  This simply wasn't good enough.

I recalled something I had read about knitting stripes and applied that method.

It works this way:  Begin with one of the balls of yarn.  Do your Judy Becker's magic cast on (see videos on the net, especially check out Cat Bordhi's good videos on knitting).  At about the 4th or 5th round knit the first three needles, but not the fourth needle.  Start the new yarn at the first needle of the next round.  Knit that first needle using the new ball of yarn.  Call that ball the "Leading Yarn."  Now knit the fourth needle of the preceding round with the first ball.  Call that ball the "Following Yarn."

Continue in that manner, knitting the second needle of the round with the Leading Yarn, then the first needle with the Following Yarn, etc.  The yarns never have to cross and the result is stripes without "joins."

Just now I finished the second sock.  I left the two starting strings of yarn hanging out the toe just to show you how it went.  Somehow these two very different yarns made a very nice pair of socks!  You can't see any joins.  Once in a while there is a distinct colour change, but that happened in the yarn itself.

The left over bits are to the right of the socks.  I knitted half of each ball into the first sock, saving half of each ball for the second sock.  The half way point was determined by weight.  When the balls had 25 grams left I bound off the first sock and started the second.

This was a fun, rewarding project.  I intend to wear these myself, rather than "gifting" them out to someone else.  The ribbings look quite tight, but stretch out to fit my legs just fine.  The final touch on each sock was using Jeny Staiman's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off.  You can find a good tutorial on that technique from Cat Bordhi if you just google it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Family Day in Alberta

Today was Family Day, I guess throughout Canada.  A very nice idea in the middle of February, a long weekend and lots to do on the Monday.  Free admission to museums, skating rinks, swimming pools, etc.  Since we have no family nearby, the Dear One and I celebrated with a leisurely day at home.

That gave me the opportunity to finish up a project that had its beginning a year ago in December when we were visiting #2 son and his family in the lower mainland.  I went to a good fabric store with our DDIL looking for good knit fabric to make long sleeved turtle neck tee shirts for Jim.  That's his standard garb, even right up to the very hottest days in summer, when he might possibly consider wearing a cotton shirt.

While in that great fabric store, after I found lots of appropriate knits, DDIL said, Don't you want to look at the quilting area?  Well, of course I did.

There were great projects displayed throughout that area, and  both of us were immediately attracted to a "Farmer's Market" lap quilt.  I decided to make one for her, but because they had no kits made up I had to buy the fabric by the 1/2 meter.  That gave me twice as much as I needed, but I wasn't worried about that!

A year ago January when we went to Edmonton to watch the dear granddaughter in a synchronized skating competition, I took along the finished quilt for the DDIL.

This past December when I went to the rural quilting group I needed a simple project along as the things I was working on were too complicated to take out for the day.  So I picked up the remaining fruit fabric and began a second quilt, just like the first one.  This is a quick pattern, so I soon had the blocks made, and began shifting them around on the design wall.  There was a picture of that sometime last month.

Last Tuesday this was the project I took along to the town guild, and finished the machine quilting that day.

I had run out of the blueberry fabric after the first quilt, but had found more when the guild went on its shop hop last spring, so I had enough for the blocks, the border and backing, but not enough to make the binding of the same material.  I looked through my stash and came up with a wonderful substitute, in fact, I think I like it better than the blueberry binding.  It has all the colours in the quilt, except the yellow, and makes an excellent finish.

Here's a look at the quilting, which this time is a series of loops along a curvy line.  It can be interpreted as a whole bunch of "L's."

This quilt is going to be a gift for a good friend's birthday, and has been finished two months ahead of time!

Oh, the sad part is that not one of the long sleeved turtle neck shirts has even been begun.  Can't see to shake myself loose from all this quilting!

I just checked and the other posting of this quilt was a year ago on January 31.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Snailish Mail and flowers

 The Dear One gave me a dozen roses for Valentines' Day.  Here you see him reading in the background and the very lovely salmon coloured roses on the dining room table.  Sadly, they immediately began drooping, and it seems they will be finished by this coming Sunday.

Last year for a treat he had a barbershop quartet serenade me at the Arts Academy.  They popped up on the stage while I was teaching a violin lesson, and it took me a minute to realize what was going on.  At first I thought, Do they think they can just rehearse up there while I teaching right here?  Then I realized they were singing to me!  I sat down and enjoyed it.

This is our second pot of daffodils, and these are blooming nicely.  They
are so fresh and springlike they cheer the whole place.

What's even more cheering is the weather we are having today: we hit a high of +8º, equivalent to 48ºF, made even nicer by an absence of wind.  Utterly the best weather we've seen since we headed south last October!

We've rented out the condo we bought in Arizona for the long term.  Our renter signed a year long lease, so we will be looking for other accommodations when we go there next October.

She didn't want to use all the furniture in the condo, so we made arrangements to store some of it.  On January 29 I mailed a registered letter to the storage depot with a signed contract and the identification they needed to make the rental legal.  Amazingly, that letter has still not been delivered!  We could have driven back and forth three times since then.

The Canada Post tracking service shows that it was received in the U.S., in Los Angeles, on January 31.  How can it take over two weeks to go from California to Arizona?  I think I could walk that distance in two weeks!  Next time I'll rely on a fax to send something like that!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Beauty in Nature

Dear Son #1 sent us some pictures yesterday that he took while on a morning walk.  They are so beautiful I want to share them with you.

You can click on them to enlarge them.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cascades Quilt Top

This morning I finished the Cascades quilt top:
The blocks in the quilt are set "on point" so the rows are sewn together on the diagonal.

This is going to be a large quilt for a queen sized bed, so I've sewed the top in three sections.  The middle three rows of blocks, starting at the upper left hand corner comprise the centre strip.  The four rows to the right and to the left are the other two sections.  I do this to make quilting the top by machine easier.

The one problem I may run into is cutting the batting and the backing into these strips.  I will have to work that out and see if it is possible.  If not, I will have to sew the whole top together and manage it from there.

These are batiks so the colours are quite vibrant.  There will be some borders sewn on yet.  The pattern calls for an 1 1/2" border of the same dark fabric as the sashing.  Then there is a 4 1/2" border of a batik, and then a binding of the sashing fabric.  I'm think I might do more for the border, but have to see how much fabric I have.

This kit came only in a single bed size, so I bought two kits to make a large queen quilt.  That means in certain areas I'm on my own.  The directions do not apply.  Just making the top this large was a challenge.  I photocopied the picture of the top twice, and then cut one of the photocopies along the sashing lines. Then I added that to the left hand and bottom of the original picture.  Following the new layout I enlarged the quilt from 4 blocks across and 5 down to 6 across and 6 down.  Now I need to sit down with pencil and paper and figure out the borders to reach approx. 110" x 110".  I believe it's now about 88" x 88".  That means about 11" of borders on each side.

For now I'm going to put this particular project aside and work on finishing the blocks needed for S's quilt.  I also have some more machine quilting to do on the "fruit" lap quilt.  Plus, Tuesday I am teaching another session of machine quilting at out guild meeting.

There's never a shortage of things to do here!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Lots of Baking

We're having a lovely Saturday morning.  The sun is shining, the Dear One is relaxing with the Toronto Globe and Mail, Saturday edition, a favourite activity of his.  I gave the living room a super cleaning yesterday, just short of "Spring Cleaning" as I didn't wash the walls, windows (it was too cold), or the blades of the ceiling fan. Nevertheless, it's a treat to have the room spic and span.

Saturday morning is a good time for me to do some baking.  I started by loading the bread maker with the ingredients for hamburger buns. I always use the bread maker to make dough, but never bake in it, just don't like how the bread turns out that way.

Once the dough was underway I started mixing a batch of cranberry/bran muffins.  I had made the cranberry sauce yesterday.  The recipe for both the cranberry muffins and cranberry sauce can be found in the post of March 10, 2012.  (I've never learned how to make a link to click on.  That would be a good idea, though.)

Once the muffins were in the oven, I rinsed out the mixing bowl and started a double batch of Cranberry/Orange loaf.  The recipe for that was posted on May 31, 2011.  I now always double the recipe, as long as I'm doing the mixing anyway.  I was baking it in two standard bread loaf pans, but always had trouble with the centre being too soggy while the outside was quite dark.  This time I used my "mini loaf" pan and two other small bread pans.  They turned out great! -- eight mini loaves and two small ones.

We like the hamburg buns to be quite large and flat.  I learned that in Chile.  So I don't let them rise very long.  I was holding back the first tray while I upped the oven temp. to 400 and quickly made a batch of 12 cherry tarts.  That was quite simple because I use the prepared tart shells.  They definitely have too much fat in them, but tart shells and other pastries are just not my thing.

We have two large containers of pitted Evans cherries in the freezer, put there last summer.  This is a great way to use them.  Here's my recipe for that:

Cherry Tarts
Mix 3 TBS sugar, 1 TB Minute Tapioca, 1TB corn starch in a medium saucepan.
Gradually stir in 1/2 cup of unsweetened cherry juice.
Bring to a boil and cook, stirring until thickened.
Add 1 1/2 cups of pitted Evans cherries and a 1/2 tsp of almond extract.
Spoon the cherry mix into 12 tart shells.  Bake in 400º oven for 12-13 minutes.
Cool.  Eat up or put in the freezer.  They freeze well.  (They are good even when eaten frozen!)

The first picture also shows the closest I ever came to a fire in the kitchen.  See the scorched area of parchment paper on the tray to the right?  It's hanging over the left front side of the tray.  You can click on the picture to see it enlarged.  The tray on the right has been baked, the tray on the left is on its way into the oven.

This tray of buns was rising on the stove top, in a crosswise position where it caught the warm air from the oven.  I had just cooked the cherry filing for the tarts and forgot (!!!) to turn off the burner before I moved the bun tray into position.

OOOH!  I am SO grateful I caught it before it actually ignited.  That might have ruined the morning!