Thursday, July 12, 2007

Cherry Harlotty Sherbet

This recipe is in honor of the Yarn Harlot. I had dropped knitting for nearly 20 years, after making Lopi socks (ie slippers) for everyone in my gift circle, and never quite succeeding in getting a sweater the way I wanted it.

Then last summer, during our morning walk, I noticed the path was littered with fruit gunk. Looking up in idle curiosity, I was stunned to discover that we had been walking under sour cherry trees every day for seven years and I had never even noticed. Sour cherries are my central member of the fruit category. We had cherry trees in our yard when I was growing up, and we went to great lengths to pick (and pit!) the cherries for mom to make pie. But sour cherries just don't exist in the stores, so I hadn't had them for years.

We went back with ladders and picked quarts and quarts of the things. Handy tip for extending your reach when picking: bend a coat hanger so you can reach out with the hook to pull the branches closer to you.

I scoured recipe books and the Internet to decide what to make (aside from pie). Somewhere in my researches I happened across this post by the Yarn Harlot. Had never heard of her. Had never heard of knitting blogs. But was charmed by the writing and found a lot of useful information about cherries among the comments.

Still, it was another six months until I took up knitting again, and it wasn't even really the Yarn Harlot's fault I did. But it was indirect peer pressure. All the cool kids at work were knitting, and it looked like a fabulous thing to do during meetings. Then it was time for Christmas travels, when handwork is absolutely mandatory, so I bought some...crochet supplies. Crochet just seemed easier to manage. Easy to pick up and put down, no octopus wrestling. And it's all true. Crochet is very pleasing to do. I just couldn't like the results.

So I dug out the knitting needles and the leftover yarn. And wow, the Internet has changed everything. Knitting is so much more fun now. Everything you could want to learn. All the patterns your heart could desire. And smart, funny, wise, passionate people to help you along the way.

Cherry Harlotty Sherbet
(adapted from 1-2-3 Sherbet, from Arlene J Achterberg of Janesville WI - the original recipe called from strawberries, which are also very tasty)

4 cups fresh cherries, rinsed and pitted (More on pitting in a later post - short answer is Norpro Deluxe Cherry Stoner and dress to mess.)

1 1/2 cups sugar (The original recipe calls for 2 cups, but that was too sweet for me. If you're using very tart cherries, you might want to increase the sugar a little - whatever tastes good to you.)

2 cups buttermilk (I keep dry buttermilk on hand for baking, and that works just fine.)

an indefinable something else (With the ingredients above, the recipe is fantastic, even better than with the strawberries. However, it is not perfect. Which is odd, since the strawberry sherbet was perfect. But each fruit must be measured against its own standards, and my standards for cherries are very high. Preliminary tests suggest that almond extract or Amaretto is probably the missing ingredient when using cherries. I am also thinking of experimenting with toasted almonds, ground very fine. Please send me the results of any of your experiments.)
  1. Blend ingredients until smooth (I used a blender, but a food processor would probably work, too). Freeze until firm. The cherry skins will probably not be completely pureed, but I think they add some nice, subtle contrast. (Other family members think they're icky - ah well, more sherbet for me.)
  2. After the sherbet is frozen, break into chunks. Mash with a bean masher. (That's probably the ideal implement. I expect a pastry cutter would work, too. Or you might even be able to omit this step if you're using a standing mixer for the next step.)
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Freeze again until firm. According to Ms. Achterberg, this step is important for muting the buttermilk taste. I like buttermilk, so that wasn't a worry, but I do think this step is important for the texture.
I was curious about the fat/carbs info on this recipe, since it's clearly radically low fat. According to my amateur calculations, one cup (about 1/6 of the recipe) of the original recipe would run you 228 calories/1 gram fat/ 46 grams carbohydrates/ 3.5 grams protein (I haven't looked into how cherries compare to strawberries, and that's assuming the full two cups of sugar).

Friday, June 8, 2007

Mosaic Turbo Cebulski

a riff by Matt on Mrs. Cebulski's Famous Carrot Cake
(the riff parts are in red)
further refinements of the recipe can be found on Cut-Up Cakes for Grownups

Cake

Cream until fluffy:
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups oil
4 eggs

Sift together and add:
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 - 3/8 tsp black pepper

Mix well and add:
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped nuts
1 1/2 - 2 ounces grated ginger root

Bake in a 13"x9" pan at 350 degrees for 1 hour (I usually spray the pan with cooking
spray).

Or two greased and waxed papered 9" round cake pans for 40 minutes (turn half way through).

Frosting

Beat together:
1 pound box of confectioner's sugar
8 oz. cream cheese
4 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla

Filling
Combine in small saucepan:
1 1/2 cups raisins (packed)
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp water

Cover and boil 1-2 minutes. Then puree in blender (stop to punch down a few times).

Topping

candied ginger, sliced thin

Assemble

Allow cake to cool. Spread filling between layers. Frost. Decorate top with candied ginger.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Your Baby Here




This sweater is for a draft pick yet to be named. When I made it I wasn't planning that it would be for our baby, but the lovely ladies on the knittyboard gave me the great idea of making socks for the birthmother out of the remaining yarn, so I think it will be a keeper.

Pattern: Pinwheel Sweater by Shelley Mackie. Matt picked the yarn and did the design (in AutoCad, of course - which is really nice for figuring the area of each section so you can translate it into yardage).

Yarn: one skein each of Cascade 220 Superwash in colors 855, 860 and 865 (used virtually all the dark green, a good chunk of the light green and not much of the dark red); also Schoeller Stahl Big Mexico in color 7957 for accent (although worsted weight, this yarn is considerably thicker than the Cascade; but I used it sparingly enough that the different gauge wasn't a problem)

The picture washes the colors out something awful, so you'll have to trust me that they're all beautiful. The color combination is very sophisticated, which is part of the reason I wasn't imagining it on our baby at first. The dark green Cascade (865) is particularly gorgeous, with subtle hints of gold in it.

I used superwash because I wanted an easy-care garment. Washing my swatch didn't shrink it, but drying it did, so I haven't decided whether this sweater will go in the dryer or not. I'm uncertain what would happen since it's a circular sweater and the swatch shrinkage was mostly lengthwise (from 6" to 5 1/4").

Needles: Denise size 8 (I think), and dpns in size 7 and 8; the directions called for size 9 on the body, but I got gauge with 8; I also went down a size on the sleeve ribbing because it looked better.

Notes:

I ripped out a lot more sweater than I ended up with. Not sure why I had so much trouble. Partly knitting while socializing. The pattern is such that mistakes in the increases really show. And trying to match up my color changes with the events in the pattern was a bit challenging.

The pattern doesn't include row numbers, which didn't help either. By my calculations (please don't rely on these), the sleeve goes in at row 35 and the garter stitch starts at row 47.

I switched back to stockinette for the second round of the Big Mexiko, because it just didn't look good in garter stitch.

I experimented with a number of techniques on this sweater, including a more beautiful start to the ribbing (TECHknitter) and a kitchener stitch bindoff of the ribbing (The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques)

I am very proud of myself for the kitchener stitch bindoff, but I must have done it backwards somehow on the sleeve on the right of this picture. Still perfectly functional, though.

The loopy edge is pretty ruffly (i.e. girly) at this point. It may improve on blocking. If not, I might go down a needle size next time. Not that there's likely to be a next time for the loopy edge. The drudgery of I-cord hurts my teeth, and it's even worse when you have to stop every six rows to knit it back into the garment.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Niddy Noddy Quiver

Isn't that a lovely phrase?

A little while ago, Matt made me a PVC niddy noddy from instructions at www.doctordirt.com/blog/niddy.html. He says it took him 8 minutes. He is a showoff.

I wanted to make a storage case for my new toy, so I whipped up this quiver. It took considerably longer than 8 minutes, but most of that was design.

As you can see from the pictures, it turned out a tiny bit too small (I was using a scrap from the stash), but otherwise, very pleasing. And the first project to emanate from our newly outfitted sewing/guest/TV/storage room in the garage. The remodel only took 7 years to complete, so it has all our other projects beat.

An Aura of Mystique

In response to turtlegirl's comment on the Monmouth Earwarmer, I asked Matt if we could explain about the pipe wrenches, and he said, "Heavens no! Cultivate an aura of mystique." Anyway, it's inordinately pleasing to have a comment. Somehow, I wasn't expecting that.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Monmouth Earwarmer

I suppose this comes under "don't advertise your man," but here goes anyway. For my birthday a couple of weeks ago, Matt gave me this. (The knitted object, not the pipe wrench.)
Among its many perfections:
  • It is exactly his second finished object and it's beautiful.


  • It is entirely his own design, including the decorative bits.


  • He neatly solved all the engineering problems I'd been struggling with in my own attempts to design an earwarmer. Plus, it's reversible.


  • The present included a complete written pattern, with chart (created in AutoCad, which, it turns out, is not a particularly easy tool for making charts).


  • He made it entirely in secret without ever asking advice or help from me (or at least not doing it in such a way that I noticed).



  • He gave it to me, along with the remains of the skein, just as I was about to run out of yarn for my Monmouth Cap, and figured I was going to have to go buy more.

At first I thought he ought to try to get it published somewhere, but then we found a very similar object in Elizabeth Zimmerman's Opinionated Knitter. If it had to turn out to be an unvention, who better to have unvented it from? (Is that grammar?)

Details: Lamb's Pride Bulky (85% wool, 15% mohair) in M77 Blue Magic, about half of a 125-yard skein, on size 10 needles

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Monster Feet Toddler Slippers

Pattern: Monster Feet from the book Felting on the Go

Yarn: Lamb's Pride Bulky (85% wool, 15% mohair), color M68 pine tree (flash photos below are much better approximations of the color); used about half of one skein (125 yards) for the larger slipper size

Needles: US size 13

Gauge: I made a swatch, but was too eager to start knitting the slippers to bother felting the swatch. I got a pre-felted gauge of 10 stitches and 13.5 rows = 4".

Notes:The construction is very clever, but there are no diagrams in the book so you have to simply knit on faith that it's going to turn into what you want. This is made more difficult by the fact that the pattern contains errata. Here are some process photos.

Heel: Start knitting at the top and decrease to the bottom. Switch to garter stitch to make a squishier heel. The bound off part at the bottom will later be sewn in half to make the back of the heel.


Foot: Pick up stitches along your original cast on and knit the foot. The sides will later be sewn to each other to make the top seam.



Toes: First, knit the two outer toes. Note that there are 1+4+1=6 stitches left over on stitch holders. The book claims there are 2+3+2=7 stitches. You will have to fudge it.


Third toe: Bring the leftover stitches into the center and knit the third toe.


Sewing up: It is not easy to do beautifully, but all that matters is that it be secure, since you will be felting.


Felt: It took 14 minutes in our top-loader with jeans. As it turns out, I should have stopped earlier. The slippers were a little too tight for our fast-growing nearly-3-year-old friend. He loved them anyway, viewing them as excellent slide-y toys. (And how cool to have socks with toes, just like Mum has!)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monmouth Cap

It seems fitting that the first entry should celebrate a first finished object. These two hats were made from the same pattern, same yarn, same needles. One new knitter (Matt) determined to strangle the yarn. One experienced knitter (Sharon) exploring Continental knitting for the very first time.

Needles: Addi Turbo US size 10, 20" (a bit too short) or 24" (a bit too long); size 10 dpns; it also helps to have another circular needle for the stitches from the provisional caston when you knit the hem

Yarn: Lamb's Pride Bulky (85% wool, 15% mohair) in M77 Blue Magic or M03 Gray Heather; 125 yards per skein

Looser hat takes very slightly more than one skein; tighter hat takes very slightly less; to be absolutely sure, suggest seeing how much yarn it takes to complete a stitch, and counting stitches, so you can make adjustments on the fly to make sure you'll have enough.

Pattern: This pattern for a Monmouth Cap - the brim is constructed by doing a provisional caston, knitting for a couple of inches, doing a purl ridge, knitting a couple more inches and then folding at the purl ridge and knitting the two edges together before proceeding on to the body of the cap. The picture at right shows the cap just after the brim was knitted together.

Modifications: Knitted plain until hat is 5 1/2" (rather than 5") and tossed a couple of extra rows into the decreases, too. It's just too short, otherwise. Finished when there are 8 stitches on the needle - didn't make the little I-cord Jughead detail.

Sharon's looser hat is simply enormous, and will probably need to be fulled, which, fortunately, is traditional.

Notes: Very warm. Fits well. Handsome, simple, traditional and distinctive.

Additional background material:
http://www.qualitycaps.co.uk/pages/products/product-details.asp?ID=34
http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/jennifer/Monmouth.htm
http://www.gtj.org.uk/en/item1/7998
http://genvieve.net/sca/monmouthcap.html