Whenever I get my hands on a new knitting book, I go through several stages.  First, drop everything and leaf through.  Next, sit down with a cup of coffee and give it a closer look.  Lastly, I put it by my bed and take an evening or two to read through the patterns, my favorite bedtime reading.  I have three lovely new books to share with you in the next week or so.  First up is the clever Bespoke from the girls at the popular knit store baa ram ewe in Yorkshire.  The book is a collection of patterns for the whole family, and even a few for your bike!  Bespoke celebrates the Tour de France that will start near their shop in Yorkshire this July.  So lets begin our own tour of this sweet little book!

Woodrup by Ann Kingstone is the cover girl for the book.  I think this is going to be the sweater that we will be seeing a lot of this spring and summer simply because it's adorable.  It's knit top down in Rowan Fine Tweed, a yarn that is spun in Ann's hometown of Huddersfield in Yorkshire.  In fact, all the yarns used in this book are either sourced or spun in Yorkshire and all are manufactured by Rowan Yarns. My daughter and her family are cyclists, so I will show this to her, and if she likes it, I will make it.  It will be my first foray into colorwork which is on my to do list this year.  A little note about the pattern, it's knit top down and in the round; I kept scratching my head until I read that it was steeked at the end.  As in, cutting open your knitting straight down the center with SCISSORS!  Well, let's not worry.  I have friends who do this all the time and say it's a snap, and only hurts the first time! The lime green bit is an applied i-cord that seems pretty simple to do.  It uses both short rows at the back neck and waist shaping which will make it a very flattering fitting sweater.

Well, well, well.  Now isn't this just PRETTY!  You can knit Picycle by Karie Westermann
 in either a full circle or half circle, the pattern includes both.  It's knit in Kidsilk Haze, 
that is a plus as it would be lightweight yet warm and of course beautiful.  
KSH, a blend of silk and kid mohair, comes in dozens of colors (4 dozen to be exact)
 and I am thinking it needs to be made by me in that beautiful grayed out lilac, Majestic.  
 I've always wanted to make a pi shawl, so now maybe it's time!  Pi shawls are knit from the center, out.

 Just one of the ways you can trick out your cruiser!  Chop Chop by Verity Britton.

Hercules is designed by Sarah Hatton.  Sarah was inspired by the tracks and patterns
left by tires in the mud which translated into these beautiful elongated cables.
Looking at the pattern, I think it's possible to use the
"knitting without a cable needle" method, if you like that sort of thing and I do!
A lovely pattern that produces beautiful cables without a lot of bulk. 

Knit and felt a messenger bag and crochet a helmet!

Maillot Jaune pullover by Alison Moreton is knit in machine washable
Rowan Pure Wool Worsted.  The sweater is knit top down
and comes in a whole family of sizes, 
from child size 6-9 month to a men's XXL!  Love that!

I'm kinda swooning over this grannied bike seat.  Peachy by Ruby McGrath is knit in Rowan All Seasons Cotton.

Frame Mitts by Rachel Coopey was inspired by the geometric shapes of bicycle frames.

I like this very fun crocheted bike bag designed by Julie Graze.
Wickerton uses only one stitch,  the double crochet 
and would be a good beginner project.  
Julie cleverly uses a wire coat hanger to shape it then adds a pretty rose!

22,000 miniature jerseys have been knitted by members of the public to be strung together
as bunting ready for the Tour de France when it hits Yorkshire this summer. 

The Links!

Read how Harrogate is knitting mini jerseys to celebrate the Tour de France!

Sunday morning

We've been gone for a few weeks on a cruise through the western Caribbean.  Since my husband planned it I only had a rough idea of where we were actually going until we got on the ship and I read the itinerary.  It was kind of nice that way, letting him plan the whole thing.  We went on board in Miami, then on to Key West, Cozumel, Mexico, Guatemala, Roatan, Belize and Grand Cayman.  It was a wonderful trip visiting Mayan ruins and meeting locals, plus we took advantage of the area's famous sport fishing and the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest coral reef system in the world.  The weather was great, the ship was fantastic, the people on board were super friendly, and I found a whole new sub-group of people that I didn't know existed: Cruisers; retired people who spend up to half their lives on a cruise ship!  They go on back to back cruises and may not even get off the ship for weeks at a time as they love the ship so much!  Three month cruises and around-the-world cruises were popular, as were repositioning cruises.  All of these people were friendly and outgoing, and none seem to have strong ties at home.  No pets nor garden to worry over.  They certainly didn't worry about any dinner invitations to extend or accept or care a bit about missing any golf games or missing their church family, let alone their own families.  I heard several times, "they know how to get a hold of me in an emergency!"  Of course they were all retired and most likely very wealthy, I couldn't help but think how very different I was from them.  I missed my routine, and while I loved the break, I was looking forward to getting back.  On one hand I envied their lighthearted attitude, they seemed so nonchalant and carefree, but I know that's not really me.  I do realize that most of these people are coming from very cold weather places and were absolutely delighted to be in sunny weather.  But me, coming from California,  I couldn't wait to get back home and see my garden, I missed it so much! And the weeds are not going to pull themselves, are they?

We came home late at night and fell exhausted into bed.  The last thing we said to each other was, "I wonder what the garden looks like?"  The next morning I let out a scream when I saw the peonies.  I counted 52 blossoms on just 3 bushes, all the size of a dinner plate.  (I stuck my hand in one picture so you could get an idea of just how big they are!)  I picked a bunch as mother was coming over for dinner.  A dozen peonies completely consumed my largest silver bowl!  Mother almost fell over when she saw them on the table! 

Peonies...sigh, I just love that they look like ballerina's tutus.  
Both perfect in their fussy, overblown and overdone way.

No food in the house, so dinner the first day back was going to have to be from the garden: a simple leek and potato soup and salad.  My vicchyssoise looks more like pea soup as I use the light green part of the leek, not just the white.  I don't know why recipes tell you to toss it.  I like to first roast my leeks and potatoes in the oven for about 10 minutes tossed with a tiny bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Next, I put them in a pot with a quart of chicken stock and simmer for another 10 minutes or until soft.  I use an immersion blender to puree and add milk to thin if necessary.  Then, for a kick, I stir in a good spoonful of prepared horseradish.  When serving, a little dollop on the top to finish looks pretty.  Sometimes the most simple dinners are the best and this tasted so good.  We were feeling a bit shaky after two weeks of rich food.  It's been almost 48 hours since I've had any caviar or fois gras so an adjustment needs to be made ;)

Oh, there was lots of knitting done on the ship too.  I brought along 3 projects and worked on them all and finished none.  April will be my finishing month because now I have about a dozen more I want to start! 
Thanks for stopping by.  I have some great posts planned so come back soon! favorite needles and a super giveaway!

Needles are the most important tools of my favorite hobby  It can make or break the knitting experience, and I don't think I'm exaggerating here.  Matching needle to yarn is important!  Besides the obvious different sizes and lengths, there are dull points and sharp points; some needles are slick and fast and some are grabby and slow.  There's room for all of them in our knitting needle arsenal. As many needles that I have in straights, I have just as many in circulars and they all have their specific use.  So before you decide you hate knitting with a yarn, try changing the needle and see if that helps.  The right needle can turn that horrible slippy yarn into your well behaved buddy. Changing needles just might stop the snagging or make that grabby yarn seem smooth as silk.  I'll share some of my favorite needles here with links.

 And I have a fabulous giveaway at the end!

Edited 4/4/14, the contest is closed and a winner has been chosen.
Thank you to all who entered! Winner Juels has been contacted and will 
soon receive this fabulous set of Knit Picks Caspian Interchangeable needles!

My vote for the best all purpose needle is Knit Picks Caspian (exactly the same as the Rainbow and Sunstruck, just a different color!)  Because they bring out the best attributes in almost every yarn, they are the first needle I choose.  Caspians have my favorite point, not too sharp, not too round, but the right amount of pointiness.  The wood is smooth, which makes it surprisingly fast for wood.  I own the straights, dpns and fixed circulars.  They are all terrific.  I also own a set of both the Rainbow and Caspian interchangeable circulars, as I put these needles on my birthday and Christmas wish lists.  The joins are smooth and cables are flexible and never curl up.  There's a little tool you use to tighten the screw and then you don't have to think about that again for the entire project.  A set of interchangeables may seem expensive, but it's economical in the end.  You end up with an array of sizes and cords and you'll be set for most projects. And guess what? You could win a set! Knit Picks Caspian and Rainbow are the best needles ever and they are beautiful too.  But if Caspian doesn't work for some reason or another, I'll move on to more specific needles like the ones below.  

Knit Picks Nickel Plated:  I have gradually added some of these to my collection, although I don't have a complete set yet.  These are very fast and have a great point.  I use these if my yarn is difficult and slow to knit.  They can be too fast and slippery on the wrong yarn, but they fly when the yarn is right for them.

I adore Addi Lace Circulars.  Every single thing about this needle is fantastic.  The lightweight hollow core metal warms quickly and has a super cord and smooth join.  But the true beauty of Addi Lace is the point, it's long and well shaped and is perfect when you have to manipulate the unforgiving stitches of a cranky yarn such as silk or cotton.  I imagine they could even tame kite string.  They can be too fast on the wrong yarn, but I do love them for cotton and other slow going yarns.  I own them in fixed circulars but they also have this interchangeable kit that I am lusting over.

Clovers.  This is the needle many of us started out with.  They're inexpensive and can be found in every craft store across the US so you won't have a heart attack if you lose or break one.  Or if your needle is deemed a weapon and is confiscated by a TSA agent.  That's why these are my travel needles.  I only once had my needles taken from me, that was in Australia, they were ebony and I loved them.  I sat on the plane and read my book and fumed over my confiscated needles.  (I gave the grumpy agent my address and some cash and asked her to mail them to me, and she said she would, but you can guess I've never seen them since.)  Clovers are warm, lightweight and smooth, have a round point and the circulars have a decent join with a decent cable cord although they can get curly.  Clover bamboo needles come in 15 sizes, 2 different lengths, dpns, fixed circular and circular interchangeables.  They are a good, inexpensive needle that I use for slippery yarn and whenever I need a needle that is a bit more grabby.  Since they are fairly blunt, they don't easily separate plies.

Karbonz.  These are pretty awesome.  They are smooth, warm and flexible with good points.  I especially like them in the smaller sizes, US 4 and under.  I think they are a good all purpose needle.  Available in straights and interchangeables.

Signature Needles:  I have to add these because they are all beautifully customizable. On the website, you pick the size, available in US 1-10.  You choose the length, 7, 10 or 14".  Next you choose the point in Stilleto, Middy or Blunt.  And lastly you choose the cap, either a Spiral, a Bell or a pretty Teardrop.  They are made of high quality light weight metal and are super pretty.  But gulp, these babies are expensive.  A special treat needle.  They also have dpns, fixed circulars and interchangeable circulars.  Aren't they pretty?

My first choice is always a Caspian KnitPicks and then I adjust from there.  To speed things up, if the yarn just won't glide across the needle, I choose an Addi Lace or Knit Picks Nickel.  To slow things down, if I was losing or slipping off stitches, I try a Clover bamboo.  If I'm having a problem manipulating a complicated stitch pattern, like a P3tbl in cotton, I try an Addi Lace first but the stiletto Signature would also be great.  If I'm having a problem with the plies separating on me, I try out the more blunt Clover.  I mess around a bit until I find the right needle for that yarn and pattern.  The only needles I despise are the square ones.  I just don't get them at all. 

These are just my personal favorites and naturally I'm biased with the needles that compliment my knitting style.  I just encourage you to experiment.  Don't forget to display your needles like works of art!  They are!


GIVEAWAY!  Now for the super good news!  The kind folks at Knit Picks have offered a set of Caspian Interchangeables for one of my lucky readers!  I cannot be more excited about this because I know you will absolutely love them! It's always easy to enter my giveaways, just be a follower of Knitionary either by Facebook, Bloglovin or whatever, leave a comment to tell me how you follow and that's it!  For a second chance at winning go to my Knitionary Facebook page and leave a comment under the Needled post. I'll keep this open for a week.  This contest is open to readers in the US and Canada only.  Good luck! 

Edited 4/4/14, the contest is closed and a winner has been chosen.
Thank you to all who entered! Winner Juels has been contacted and will 
soon receive this fabulous set of Knit Picks Caspian Interchangeable needles!

Knit Picks describes their Caspian needles as oceanic waves of sea green, teal and marine rippling across Caspian - the newest addition to the Knit Picks Options family! Boasting the same strong and smooth layers of laminated birch that you know and love, Caspian shows off a sea-inspired colorway along with a distinctive emerald cord to complement its oceanic hues.

This pouch has 9 needle pockets to hold your tips and two 4 1/2" pockets on the back of the snap case to conveniently store your cables. For expanded versatility, add additional sizes to your collection with our interchangeable needle tips and cables available separately.

This set is a great starter set for any knitter, beginner or experienced. We have assembled knitting needles and cable lengths in the most popular sizes and packaged them into a clear snapped vinyl pouch. Each needle tip length is 4 3/4 ". The sizing of the Knit Picks interchangeable cables refer to the total length achieved when the needles tips are attached to the cables.

Friday's dinner party

Hey!  We haven't gone to a dinner party in a long time have we?  Well, let's put on a little lipstick and one of our prettiest sweaters because Kathy and Lee have invited us over!  It's always FUN to go to their house.  We have had plenty of laughs with this fun couple and some of my funniest memories are when we've been with them.  Kathy rolls her eyes when I tell this story, but I can't help it.  Once when we were clothes shopping together the sales lady ran up to her and begged her to try on their new leggings, because she would look perfect in them, she being tall and beautiful and all.  Kathy's response?  "No, I really can't wear those, my legs are just too long and thin."  Don't worry, I gave her a good slap for that one.  Being somewhat vertically challenged I cannot imagine that legs could ever be too long or thin.  Ahem.

Well, on to the evening!  The table was so pretty set with their collection of Vietri Campagna.  I have another friend who owns this set too and the table really looks best when you mix and match the patterns up.  This is an old pattern and has been in production in Italy for hundreds of years. 

Our host and hostess are both tall and their ceilings in their kitchen, family room and living room are high and beautiful!

I love a big bay window behind the kitchen sink.  Plenty of room for pretty flowers and plants.


Hummus and Crackers

Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons
Chicken Marbella and Risotto
Fresh Asparagus

Angel Food Cake with Berries and Cream

If you don't know Chicken Marbella, well you should!  It's the unlikely concoction of chicken with prunes, olives, garlic, capers, vinegar and wine and so delicious that there is no one that doesn't like it.  It's one of those do-ahead party menus that everyone should have in their recipe arsenal.    Caesar Salad is simply a California Classic.  I love it for lunch with a few slices of grilled chicken on top.  Kathy served it with homemade croutons, shaved Parmesan and anchovies; de regueur for an authentic Californian Caesar.   When local asparagus is in season, it's just a shame not to have it often!  It makes it more special that we only eat it in late winter and early spring.  Here she oven roasted it with olive oil and garlic and finished it with a little squeeze of fresh lemon and a shake of salt.  That's all it needs. 

As a side note, one of the other guests that evening is having 50 people over for dinner next month.  Yes, no typo, fifty!  She loved the Chicken Marbella so much she is making it for that evening.  It really is a wonderful do ahead recipe and can hold well in the freezer.  Try it!

Kathy and Lee presented the platters on the kitchen island.  We served ourselves buffet style and made our way into the dining room.  Lee likes choosing wine and picked several lovely reds to stand up to the hearty flavors of the Chicken Marbella.  Everything was scrumptious, a perfect winter dinner!

Thanks for dropping by!
Come by tomorrow for a needle review and a terrific giveaway!