Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Picturesque (aka Dust Bunny)

photography by Christa Tippman
I am very proud to have a new pattern in an Interweave Knits publication. I do feel a bit goofy about it being in Jane Austen Knits (digital edition / print edition), because I’m not a trendy gal, and Ms Austen is certainly trendy these days. Still, my Austen credentials are solid and longstanding, so I’m not too fussed. In fact, the title of this blog is an allusion to an Austen piece that most folks would be hard put to identify (NB: the original quote has nothing to do with knitting).

I know I should lead with the quote from Northanger Abbey in which Henry Tilney instructs Catherine Morland on the art of the picturesque.* But this quote is priceless, and I couldn’t resist:

Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.
"The advantages of natural folly in a beautiful girl have been already set forth by the capital pen of a sister author [anyone know who this is?]; and to her treatment of the subject I will only add, in justice to men, that though to the larger and more trifling part of the sex, imbecility in females is a great enhancement of their personal charms, there is a portion of them too reasonable and too well informed themselves to desire anything more in woman than ignorance.

(People do tend to forget what sharp claws Austen had.)

I’ve always been fascinated by historical clothing, so it was great fun to pore over the local library’s collection of books on Regency costume.

garrickThis garrick, from A History of Costume by Carl Kohler [Dover Publications, 1963], stopped me dead in my tracks. Although the piece is wildly romantic, a man’s overcoat may not at first seem very promising for conversion to a feminine nonsense. I think I’m going to have to stop claiming I’m not very girly, because I didn’t find it all difficult to see the frippery potential (although I found it quite challenging to realize that potential.)

I decided early on that I wanted to use a laceweight silk-mohair yarn. I also knew I wanted the bottom of the cape to hang fairly straight across, which argued for having some kind of shoulder shaping. Most Excellent Matt, King of the Short Row, eventually showed me the way, drafted the schematic, and rendered the sketch for my submission package.

In the mysterious way of fashion, this Regency-inspired garment also works as Mid-Century Modern.
Picturesque Cape in mid-century modern sweater clip from It's A Swindle
Mohair? Sweater clip? Marian the Librarian glasses? Check, check and check.

This excellent clip (the Audrey) comes from It’s a Swindle on Etsy which is definitely not a swindle, especially at the moment, when everything is discounted for Halloween.

This project was the first time I’d used laceweight silk-mohair, and the Schulana Kid Seta turned out to be really lovely to work with – so long as you don’t need to tink or frog (and so long as you’re not the long-suffering tech editor trying to count stitches through the haze). But knitting a strand of nothing into a cloud of lusciously soft dust bunny glamour is so magical that it’s more than worth the unholy alliance the yarn forms with itself.

If grey is not your only color, here are some palette ideas in similar yarns.

With glitter! Schulana Kid Seta Lux (71% mohair, 20% silk, 9% lurex) in 206 Purple, 202 Grey and 201 Silver.

The classic. Rowan Kidsilk Haze (70% mohair, 30% silk) in 641 Blackcurrant, 632 Hurricane and 639 Anthracite.

DROPS Kid Silk (75% mohair, 25% silk) in 17 Dark Rose, 10 Gray, and 09 Pearl Grey.

* Here's the quote that actually inspired the cape’s name:
It seemed as if a good view were no longer to be taken from the top of an high hill, and that a clear blue sky was no longer proof of a fine day…she confessed and lamented her want of knowledge, declared that she would give anything in the world to be able to draw; and a lecture on the picturesque immediately followed, in which his instructions were so clear that she soon began to see beauty in everything admired by him, and her attention was so earnest that he became perfectly satisfied of her having a great deal of natural taste….Catherine was so hopeful a scholar that when they gained the top of Beechen Cliff, she voluntarily rejected the whole city of Bath as unworthy to make part of a landscape. Delighted with her progress and fearful of wearying her with too much wisdom at once, Henry suffered the subject to decline…
--Northanger Abbey

Thursday, October 13, 2011


not until my husband informed me that
is a man's hat,
while this
is not
did it became fully manifest to me
that even a lifetime of study
will be insufficient to plumb the intricacies
of the male mind

pretty cool, huh?

(Green and purple hat is Matt's Runner Beanie. Blue and black hat is my newly published Tidepool Hat.)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What to Do with 40 Pounds of Plums

It was a banner year for our Italian prune plum trees, partly because we’ve been letting the trees get too big.

  • Dried 18 pounds for prunes
  • Froze 12 pounds for cakes and eating with breakfast oatmeal
  • Canned 4 pounds in savory plum sauce (per the Ball Blue Book)
  • Canned 2 pounds as preserves (per the Ball Blue Book)
  • Made a pie and a bread pudding (per Sharon's tinkering)
  • Ate some and gave some away
  • Discovered a fabulous way to cook them with pork chops
We often eat pork chops with savory plum sauce, but it seemed silly to open a newly canned jar. Still wanting to have pork and plums, we did the following:

Pork Cutlets with Plums

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 small, thin boneless pork cutlets (~ 3 oz each)
salt and pepper to taste
2 Italian prune plums, diced (~1 oz each)

Heat the oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Rinse cutlets, pat dry, and season both sides with salt and pepper. Add cutlets and plums to skillet. Cover and cook 1 1/2 - 2 minutes on each side, or until done. Serve. The plums will taste slightly of burned sugar, which is part of their divinity. (I can’t really explain the rest – the divine does not easily reveal its secrets.)

You could probably do something similar with larger pork chops – just add the plums later in the cooking process.