Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Knitting, knitting everywhere

Tonight, the Fool and I went to another childbirth preparation class. The instructor was talking about how babies are positioned when the mother goes into labor. She had all kinds of props to illustrate her point - a big model pelvis, a small baby doll and a knitted uterus!
It looked like a bag with a ribbed opening and drawstrings running the length of the bag to simulate some kind of ligament.
So she stuffed the baby doll into the bag and started showing us how the cervix (depicted in 2 x 2 ribbing) stretches to accommodate the baby's head, etc,. etc., etc.
I couldn't concentrate, though. See, the uterus was striped. Blue and brown. And I found that highly distracting.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A brief update

Those scones? If you substitute slivered almonds for the hazelnuts and apricot jam for the raspberry jam and half-and-half for the heavy cream... they're still really good.
Off to enjoy the fantastic spring weather.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Up for air

If you read Crazy Lanea, you may already have an idea that Big Things Were Afoot over the weekend. When we found out, way back at Rhinebeck 2006, that Amy was not only one of the fibrous, but also a contra dancer and fan of Irish music, the Fool and I started trying to figure out how we could hang out together more.
We tried some old-time jamming at Maryland Sheep and Wool in 2007, and then this year, began hatching the Big Plan, centered on the University of Chicago contra dance weekend.
Then we beefed up the plan with a trip to The Fold, the big Midwestern quilt show, and lots of good breakfast food.
The only flaw in the plan was when my camera ran out of batteries. Amy has better pictures. Go see hers.

But here's a quick summary.

Hazelnut-raspberry scones, from Bon Appetit, Dec. 2002.
(makes 12)
2 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 c. plus 2 T. chilled whipping cream
3/4 c. hazelnuts, toasted, husked, coarsely chopped
4 T. raspberry preserves

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in food processor, blend 5 seconds. Add butter and blend, using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 3/4 c. cream. Blend using on/off turns just until dough comes together. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with 1/2 c. nuts. Gently knead to mix in nuts.
Divide dough into 4 equal pieces, shape each into ball. press into 6-inch round, about 1/4 inch thick. Spread preserves over two rounds, leaving 1/2 inch border. Place one plain dough round on top of each jam covered round, seal edges. (can be made 1 day ahead; wrap in plastic and chill.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter baking sheet. Place rounds on work surface. Brush with 1 T. cream each, sprinkle with remaining 1/4 c. nuts, press to adhere. Cut each round into 6 wedges, arrange on prepared sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake until puffed and deep golden, about 16 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
(After discussion, Amy and I agreed the scones would also be good using almonds and apricot jam, which I'm trying this weekend, dark chocolate bits and sour cherry jam, or shredded cheese and carmelized onions in the middle.)

Angus is a big Amy fan. He generally likes the ladies anyway, but he felt comfortable enough to hop on the couch the first night Amy was here, flop down next to her and try to bite her. Sigh. Luckily, she has a feisty cat too, and recognized what the Fool and I call "the bitey face" before he got her. It turned out Angus became so enamored of her that he borrowed her green wool sweater from her room Monday morning and dragged it into our bedroom so he could roll on it and otherwise molest - and I do not use that word lightly - it. Spoot and Mab behaved very well in comparison, which is not that difficult.

The quilt show was excellent. Amy and I supported more small businesses and the Fool admired quilts, texted me with booth numbers I should stop by and carried the canvas bag with our lunch in it.

Look at this one. Here's the front.

And here's the back. (I think I rotated one of these images funny. But you get the idea.)

I like the fact that the show usually has quilts I could never make in a million years ... but some ideas for things I could actually do.

This one, too.

Here's one of those never-in-a-million years ones.

The Fool made me take pictures of his favorite quilts too. Like this one. He was especially interested in the quilts that looked more like painted pictures.

(Evidence she was really in Chicago. She's rearranging her bag or looking for a cough drop or something like that.)

Not every weekend in Chicago is packed with contra dancing, quilts and trips to yarn stores, but we're glad this one was.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ahhh, spring

No one is interested in working around here today. The cats are sprawled in sunny spots on the floor, the squirrels are sprawled on the deck ... I slept in and took an afternoon nap....
I think the Fool and I are just recovering from a really busy, really fun weekend. And when I can string more than a handful of words together, I'll write about it.
Meanwhile, if it's warm where you are, I suggest going outside and lying in the sun on your stomach for a while.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Whoo-ee, busy week

Chez Sock Knitters, we're trying to cram a whole lot of stuff into the first four days of the week in order to have lots of time for fun over the weekend. It's the second University of Chicago contra dance weekend featuring Nightingale (one of my favorite bands ever) and Lanea is coming out from DC to share in the fun. We have a trip to The Fold planned, as well as lots of dancing and a visit to the big quilt show. I'm trying a new recipe for fancy breakfast (salmon potato casserole and raspberry hazelnut scones) and we expect much merriment.
In order to get to the Big Fun Weekend, I have a freelance editing project I need to finish, the Fool and I need to clean the house in a big way, and there are a whole host of other things that need doing. (So today, I'm going to go out for lunch with an old friend and then to a career panel tonight - why do today what you can put off until tomorrow, y'know?)
Naturally, in the middle of this, when I thought, "oh, I'll knit a bit to unwind and get my head on straight..." I screwed up a mitten. I didn't even think to photograph it before I frogged it in disgust. It would be a great pair of mittens - for someone with two completely differently sized hands.
Instead of mismatching mittens, I'll leave you with this photo of the Monday night contra dance in Chicago. The Fool decided it was "Pajama Night" for reasons I'll never quite understand, seeing as he owned no pajamas until Monday morning when I found a pair at a store for him.
This is the Cosmic Otters with Extra Otter Edward (who you will, of course, remember from earlier posts. Despite admitting he owns "four or five" pairs of pajamas, he showed up in flannel pants and a T-shirt. But he did have a robe that matched the pants, so he gets some credit for that. A man in his pajamas gets no pseudonym.)

Friday, April 04, 2008

Thanks for all your good wishes

We're especially thrilled to see all the delurkers - hi! Welcome!
To answer a few of the more pertinent questions - we haven't had a sit-down with the cats to explain the Wee Sock Knitter coming along, because we are not so sure the cats understand the facts of life. None of them have the parts necessary to make that talk personally relevant. But Lorna, in my knitting group, believes the cats "know" somehow, which is why, for example, Angus has been downright insistent that I pet him every morning before I get out of bed, paying particular attention to the sweet spot behind his ears until he wraps his paws around my wrist, bites my arm and ends the love-fest. He knows the good times are only going to last so long before I have someone else to pay attention to upon waking up.
I've considered alternative yarn/ needle storage methods, as well as alternative CD storage methods, book storage methods and, heck, household item storage methods.
For now, I'm trying to knit all the yarn up before the kid is old enough to make a mess of the stash.
With that in mind, I present a string shopping bag that is going to be a belated birthday present for my friend Janice. I started this an embarassingly long time ago.
It's made of about 1 2/3 skeins of Peaches and Creme dishcloth cotton. It's not my favorite yarn, but I fell for the colorway and concluded that a string bag would be a good thing to use it for.
This is the Everlasting Bagstopper from Knitty. I knit one of these out of hemp yarn which I liked quite a bit. It's a good pattern, but I wasn't happy with the handles. The original pattern calls for sewing ribbon on to make handles.
I know what my handsewing is like, and I wasn't confident that hand sewn ribbon handles would hold up to several pounds of farmers' market produce, so I came up with a way to knit I-cord handles onto the bag, which I think holds better.

The bag has a garter stitch edge, so the first thing I did was pick up and knit five stitches through adjacent garter stitch bumps.

Once I had the stitches picked up, I turned the piece and knitted the five stitches back. On the third row, I knitted each stitch together with another garter stitch bump picked up from the edge of the bag. I knitted back again, and on the third row, knit each stitch together with a bump picked up from the edge of the bag. Depending on how far down you start this, it might take more rows to get to the edge.
Then it was a matter of knitting i-cord until it was the desired length. I knit the handles a little shorter than I thought because I think the handles will stretch.

Once the handle is long enough, loop it over to the desired position and knit each of the five stitches together with an edge stitch. Knit the next row, knit each stitch of the third row together with a garter stitch bump, knit the fourth row, knit each stitch of the fifth row together with a garter stitch bump and bind off. Weave in all ends. Here's what it looks like from the wrong side. Maybe not the most beautiful piece of knitting in the world, but it's sturdy. From the outside, you really can't tell anything has happened at all.

Finally, here's the whole thing.

Now, go forth, knit net bags and save trees and oil wells.
Happy Friday.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Pigtown Flung

Whoo-ee, another fun dance weekend. Too much dancing, too little sleep, all the good things.
Great tunes late Saturday night with a fiddler we know from Urbana-Champaign, who we never really see enough of, and a little time to explore Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon.
We went to a couple of yarn stores.

(Lambikin's Hideaway)

(One More Stitch. The ladies here like frogs.)
And we stopped at Jungle Jim's, our favorite crazy international supermarket. The entrances to their public restrooms are built into the back of two portajohns, so you open the door to the privy and there's a giant room behind it. It's a little trippy the first time, but well worth a pit stop.
I got the Fool to pause for a photo op near the men's room.

Now that we're back, the knitting has begun in earnest again. I stopped by Knitche yesterday and picked up some supplies for two upcoming projects. The Fool is knitting something with a big frog on the front, and I'm knitting something with a seal (arf, arf, not 'of approval'.)

If you are the inquisitive type, you might wonder, "Why are they knitting Dale of Norway baby sweaters?" We're planning ahead. See, the sweaters aren't the only WIP in progress around here. We expect a FO in mid-August.