Wasabi Peasy

Another little sweater made for Annie, and another one that we both love.   Peasy, by Heidi Kirrmaier is knit top down in one piece with a very simple lace pattern on the front yoke.  I don't remember making any mods except to the sleeves, I decreased down to make a more fitted sleeve.  The original patterns calls for Rowan Felted Tweed DK which is a lighter weight yarn and billowy sleeves per the pattern would be perfect using that lighter weight yarn.  But I used a heavier yarn and so felt that the sleeves needed to be fitted.  The pattern was very well written, typical for Heidi, and had a clever way to make the garter stitch neckband to give it a little curvy shape.  You can see the detail on the last picture.

I used Cascade Superwash 220.  The superwash yarn is an excellent choice for easy care knits and is a good value with great yardage.  It goes in the washer and I even put it in the dryer for a few minutes, then finish drying flat.  It's a bit stiff feeling when you're knitting it, but does soften quite a bit after washing.  So I wouldn't exactly say this is knitting bliss, but the stitch definition is excellent and because of it's value, large color selection and easy care, I give this yarn an A+ and wouldn't hesitate to use it again.  I've used it before on a hoodie for my son, he is pretty tough on it and it still looks great.

I'd like to give a little shout out to Jimmy Beans, who, when I found out I didn't order enough of the same dyelot, went though their database and wrote to customers and asked them if they had extra yarn they were willing to sell back to a needy customer.  Seriously excellent customer service, they have always been gracious.  When I am in Reno I always drop by, they are the tiny little store with a huge warehouse and a big heart.  And while I always support my lovely lys first, JB is the first place I go if I need to place an internet order.

This bright color is a particular favorite of Annie's and brings out the beautiful green in her eyes!

Twigs and Willows

I recently finished two sweaters for my pre-teen granddaughter, Annie.  First up is Twigs and Willows from Botanical Knits by Alana Dakos.  My granddaughter looks adorable in this plus she loves it.  Alana did a great job designing this little cardi, knit flat and seamed with just a tiny bit of waist shaping.  The lovely and simple details such as the bas relief leaves on the yoke and the deep ribbing are just the sort of thing I look for in a pattern...I like a tiny bit of detail, not much, simple is best.  I've reviewed Botanical Knits on this site and shared with you how much I love it.  This is why.  I will be making a Twigs and Willows for myself soon.  It was a quick, fun and simple pattern to make and turned out so darned cute.

Knit with Rowan Amy Butler Belle Organic Aran in color Bluebell.  Excellent yarn of 50/50 wool cotton blend that on US 6, knit for me as a light worsted at 20 stitches per 4 inches.  Very soft and easy to knit with excellent stitch definition, plus appreciate that it's organic.  I loved this yarn in DK weight and sorry to see that both aran and DK have been discontinued.  Annie loved the feel of the sweater next to her skin and didn't take it off until bedtime.

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Linked to Anything Blue Friday at the Dedicated House.

Move over kale chips, there's a new chip in town.

Kale chips are all the rage and a snap to make.  I'd never made them because I don't grow kale, but I do grow Swiss chard.  So I figured what works for kale will work for our chard that I swear is growing 6 inches a day.

With lots of Swiss chard and a free Saturday morning with a husband out of town, I decided to experiment. I tried oven and microwave, low heat for a long time, high heat for less, salt and pepper, no salt and pepper, etc.  Here's what worked best for me.

Swiss Chard Chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Wash and pat dry chard leaves.  Cut out rib with a v-cut.  Break into large chip size pieces, they shrink.  Place on non-insulated baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Using a Misto type sprayer, spray lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Bake in oven and start checking after 6 minutes but may take as long as 10 minutes.  They will darken, shrink and curl slightly.  I also used the microwave chip maker and prepared the chard the same way except they took just minutes to cook.  They were very similar in taste but retained more green color.

So happy I've found a new snack, they are scrumptious!  Next time I have people over for drinks I'm serving these!

Microwave chip maker at left, and on the right the tray is ready for the oven.

seduced by yarn

Choosing yarn. It should be something we spend a lot of time on.  Yarn is expensive, time spent knitting is valuable.  Ensuring we've got the right yarn for a project is essential but no easy trick.  The marriage between yarn and pattern can be a perfect union or a dreadful pairing.  When choosing a yarn for a specific pattern, I think, do I want this to be flowing and drapey?  If yes, there are many yarn choices.  Or does my garment need to be fitted and snug?  Totally different yarn choice here.  A sweater gone bad is not often the fault of the yarn, or the pattern, but simply not coordinating the yarn and pattern together properly.   And never forget that yarn quality can't be ignored.  With a little bit of homework, we can make perfect choices!

I want to share with you what I've learned over the years.  Actually this post has been a few weeks in the making and I've been writing down my thoughts little by little whenever I think of something brilliant.  Then I decided to look around the internet and see what others have said on the subject and came across this wonderfully informative post by The Knitting Harpy and promptly deleted my entire post!  I am completely humbled by her wealth of knowledge.  She got it right and goes through it all: weight, ply, density and much more info that will have you winging on your way to become a super savvy yarn chooser and discerning yarn buyer.  I want to thank The Knitting Harpy for her research and for sharing, knitters are wonderful sharers and I hope you'll take the time to read her posts, you'll thank me.  And while I can't add one thing to her words, I can share a few of my thoughts and also some of my bad habits that I'm trying to break.  Maybe you'll recognize yourself here too!

Discontinued Yarnitis50% off you say?  I'll take it!  I am trying to wean myself off purchasing discontinued yarn.  If a yarn is on sale because it has been discontinued, look out folks, there may be a good reason.  Unless I've used the yarn before and know I love it, I try to turn away.  I'm not always successful, sales are so tantalizing.  My buying logic is that I may NEVER in my lifetime see this yarn again.  It's discontinued, remember?  This is when I need to muster up my meager self control.  And just sometimes a yarn you love is being discontinued because the manufacturer is going to introduce something similar, only better!  Ever think of that?

Woolfestfluenza.  The excitement of being in a convention center with thousands of knitters with hundreds of booths selling the very stuff you dream of, then buying a heap of it to add to your already massive stash, oh dear, what to do?  I have no cure for this one.  Do you?  Maybe you don't attend?  So sad.  Or do you set a budget?  I have done that and didn't think twice about not sticking to it.  Maybe next time leave the cards at home and just bring the cash I'm willing to spend.  I don't know the cure.  Hopeless.

Supersoft-o-mania.  What is up with the craze for the super-soft yarns?  I. Don't. Get. It.   They pill like the devil.  The Knitting Harpy explains WHY this happens.  She'll tell you that yarn very often gets it's softness by being loosely spun, and that means softness but also fuzziness and pilling.  A great example is Malabrigo.  It's so soft and the handle is incredible, but it will be pilling and ratty before you're half finished and I can't handle that. I don't understand the love affair that knitters have with this yarn.  Picking off pills from your sleeves is entertaining at the stop light and all, but um, no thanks.   I love soft yarns, but give me a little twist to my yarn please.  I do not suffer from this illness, I'm cured.

And just a few more words on pilling.  All knitted fabric, machine or hand knit, will pill.  When I say a yarn does not pill, I guess what I mean it that it has minimal pilling over time.  Depending on the other qualities of the yarn, I can handle minimal to moderate pilling.  I draw the line at severe pilling, I can't be bothered with the constant shaving it requires or the general rattiness and fuzziness of the fabric.

The Stash.  I try to keep my eye on it and regularly sort though and gift or sell what I'm not going to use.  I'm thinking that if I only purchase yarn with a specific pattern in mind then I will make fewer mistakes and have a more manageable stash.  Me wrestling with the size of my stash, well, it's an ongoing battle I've yet to win.  There are worse vices.

You Get What You Pay For.  For me it's been safe to stick with a fine yarn brand I trust.  I'm loyal to Rowan and have been for 20 years.  They consistently offer high quality yarns.  They are considered a luxury brand, but to me their yarns are hard workers and therefore have good value.  In the end I'll just say I've been a crafter my whole life and have never been able to disprove the old saying, "you get what you pay for".  It's just true.  The good stuff costs more, but in the long run it's worth it.  (But what if you buy expensive yarn and it ends up ratty anyway?  Ahh, that's were you have to read Harpy's posts.)  Bottom line, I expect my sweaters to look great for years even with constant wearing and washing.

Tell Us!  Do knitters a favor and post your personal reviews of the yarn and pattern, and then post pictures of your FO, it's so helpful.  With the internet, knitters have come to rely on each other for information when we're looking at new yarn or a new pattern.  Yes, I know we knitters can be biased and anecdotal, but that's just part of our charm and I want to read everything you have to say!

Designers and yarn companies read our reviews.  Once I wrote to Madeline Tosh and told her my skeins were next to impossible to wind into balls and I was very frustrated with all the tangles.  She wrote back and said yes, they have heard this before and were in the process of finding a new way to put up their skeins.  She offered me new yarn, but I declined saying I did manage in the end after frustrating hours, but still, wasn't that nice of her?  She was listening to her consumers.  Bravo.  Remember, most of these manufacturers are pretty small, they know we talk, they want to please and want to make the best product they can.  Pattern designers too, they listen to us knitters.

Indie dyers and spinners.  I know they have a huge fan base and get a lot of support from knitters worldwide. I admire the pioneer spirit of these small independent dyers and spinners and yarn manufacturers.  At trade shows and wool fests they will be very honest with you, they know their product well.  I've had great luck when I did my homework.

Knitting is a luxurious hobby, time consuming and not inexpensive, but I'm so grateful I am hooked!  I've said this before:  So many hours, so many memories, knitting has been such a good friend to me.  Knitting has brought me calm when I've felt anxious, something about the rhythm and repetition of the gentle and precise motion perhaps.   It's all good.  Knitting gives me an outlet to be productive and explore my creativity.  It's amazing that I can do something I love, then have something beautiful at the end.  The best hobby ever!

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make it fast!

Centerpiece with the last of the peonies and the first David Austin roses.

This dinner was planned in the morning while the guys were on the phone arranging a golf game.  Our friends have recently returned from a long trip and next week are going on another and I was pretty certain they would prefer a home cooked meal rather than going out.  But with such quick notice I knew everything had to be simple.  We were already having slow cooker chicken and while it's not something I would normally think to serve guests, I knew there would be enough for 4 and it turned out to be a really good dinner.  I think the trick with slow cooker chicken is to buy the best chicken you can, I got a Rocky from Whole Foods, and season it well.   I used a quartered lemon, garlic cloves, a quartered onion, bunches of fresh herbs and salt and pepper.  That's it, no oil or water.  After 6 hours or so on low, it makes a delicious broth to serve with your tender chicken.

With guests coming I knew I wanted  to step up my vegetable offerings and use one or two recipes from one of my new vegetable cookbooks for inspiration.  I love those books!  But always the first thing before planning a dinner party is to take a quick look around the garden to see what I can use.  For the centerpiece there were the last of the peonies and the first of the David Austin roses.  Easy and beautiful, they almost arrange themselves and looked so pretty.  I haven't seen my David Austins in 6 months, and when they come back, it's like welcoming back a dear old friend.  My roses are just about ready to saturate our garden with color and scent.  I cannot wait!

In the vegetable garden there was lots of Swiss chard, oranges and dill and other herbs so knew we would use these and augment the rest from my trip to the vegetable stand later in the morning.   I love my local vegetable stand and next time I'll remember to get pictures.  It's been a fixture in our town for as long as I've lived here, 40 years, and it's busy every day.

I made Swiss Chard Pancakes with Sorrel Sauce from the cookbook Plenty.

Beet, Orange and Olive Salad also from the cookbook, Plenty.

These days I use mother's vintage champagne glasses as compotes.

For an appetizer I made those microwave sweet potato chips again.  I told you about them before, oh my, they are so good, we are pretty much hooked on them.  Whenever I serve them people rave, so I show them the little chip maker and mandoline and tell them where I got it, they rush right out next day to get one too!  Dessert was strawberries with a splash of balsamic vinegar and a spoon or two of sugar, really easy, fast and good.  It's great to have a few easy and fast recipes in the arsenal for emergencies. 

This was a fast and easy dinner, yet looked beautiful and was delicious.  Entertaining doesn't have to be time consuming or fancy.  Our guests are so fun, we had a blast!