Rowan Loves Again

Volume 3 of Rowan Loves is almost out, this time with designs from Martin Storey.  All the designs can be knit with either Pure Wool Worsted or Creative Focus Worsted and most designs can be knit as either a cardigan or a pullover.  The new Rowan Loves series has stolen my heart.  I've been knitting a few garments from each one, and will again with this book.  First up for me will be the striped Bellerose and then must make the scarf and hat.  Gorge.  My lys is having a 20% off sale this Friday and Saturday.  Good timing!  Rowan Loves has not hit the shops yet, but expect to see it in the next few weeks. Ravelry has the complete yarn requirements if you'd like to get a headstart and order the yarn before hand. 

Yikes, over the moon in love with stripes, and love gray and white together with bright pops of color.  Bellerose above can be made in cardigan or pullover.  Oh dear, which one to make first?  

Skyland below uses only 3 skeins of either PWW or Creative Focus.  Love the pompoms and always love the look of garter stitch.

The Union Slouch takes only one skein.  Best hat.

 Bergen Raglan above and Rockette below, for stylish weekend wear.

Astoria above and Driscoll below can be knit long or cropped.

Who loves grandpa cardigans?  Me! Corona can be knit as a cardi above, or pullover, below.

I think I saved the best for last!  Boxy Haven can be either a pullover above or a cardigan below, but what it really wants to be is a poncho!  I especially love the flared back on the cardigan.


let's party

It's nice when you plan a party, do all that work, and next day you consider it a success.  Both my husband and I love to throw (and attend!) parties and I feel that over the years we've developed a very casual, easy-does-it style.  My decorations are always simple and my food is always easy and, for the most part, do ahead.  Just this weekend we had a dinner for 14, including some of the women from my knitting group and their spouses. 

When planning a party, big or small, I like a theme to get me started on my decor and menu.  This could be a color, or a country's traditional cuisine, something growing in my garden, or even a disaster!  Once I was planning a party that happened to fall on the same night as the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. I recreated as best I could the last meal served in first class the night before the disaster.  We must take our inspirations where they come!

On the Thursday before the Saturday night party I sat outside with a stack of cookbooks hoping for inspiration.  One of the first cookbooks I thumbed through was Ojai's Table, my current favorite.  I found this quote below the recipe for an olive oil cake I'd been wanting to make: "Sun, stone, drought, silence and solitude: these are the five ingredients that according to Italian folk traditions, create the ideal habitat for the olive tree."  I looked up at one of our own olive trees and I had to agree--she was looking magnificent even with our year's long drought. She's thriving; no, she's flourishing.

The olive tree quote got me to thinking; I would celebrate the olive:  olive branches to decorate the house and olives in as many menu items as possible.  And add to that: corn, summer squash, tomatoes, oranges, lemons; all things fresh and local from my own backyard.


Honey Marinated Pork with Orange Gremolata from Ojai's Table
Ina's Corn Salad
Sliced Tomatoes

Pecan Orange Olive Oil Cake from Ojai's Table
with Lemon Curd

Can you guess what flower this is?  Nope, not Queen Anne's Lace.  It's carrot!  I let a small patch of carrots go to seed, and was rewarded with these beautiful flowers that smell like CARROT!

We've enjoyed our homemade pear vodka and eau de vie de poire all summer.  We have a few more pears growing in bottles again this year.
eau de vie de poire

My husband and his buddies like simgle malts so we always set out a few.  However, it turned out that martinis were really popular at this gathering.  One of our friends mixed a batch of them, and they were so popular, he had to mix a few more batches!
I received this from my mother for my birthday.  The Napa wine country is Giants country!

My blue and white platters are enormous and work so well for a buffet.   With all these platters and the food that goes on them, you can imagine it's quite a lot of work.  I do all the set-up and cooking on my own, but when it comes to the serving and clean-up, I surrender!  I have a rule: more than 10 guests and I hire help.  I have a young woman who lives a few blocks away who will come over for the evening and help.   I've developed a relationship with her over the years, she knows my style and knows her way around my kitchen.  That extra expense is worth it--I get to spend time with my guests and enjoy the party, and don't have to face a mess before bed!  That is the one gift I give myself as a hostess, and my husband appreciates it too.

I picked little sprigs of herbs to place around the house.  Very fragrant.

We serve the food buffet style and everyone will come to the table with their plate and wine glass.  We put salt and pepper on the tables, a few bottles of wine and a jug of water, then it's serve-yourself style.

The harvest on party day.

Ina's corn salad was a bit hit!  This is going into my party recipe rotation!
The pork loins were marinated in orange juice and honey and served with gremolata, also a huge hit.  The gremolata was made with Italian parsley, mint, garlic, olive oil, plus the zests of a few lemons and oranges.  I felt it was a bit too strong so I added some Parmesan cheese to mellow it out.  It was a winner that is going into the party recipe rotation too.  In fact, all these recipes are.  This recipe, the corn salad and the dessert were all new to me.  It may sound risky to do that, but I've had pretty good success.  More often, like this dinner, I'll find recipes I'll want to make again and again. I really do recommend Ojai's Table.

Wedge salads are back!  They look beautiful on the buffet table and everyone loves them.

A selection of hand knitted shawls to pass out when the sun goes down and the weather gets cool.
"Sun, stone, drought, silence and solitude: these are the five ingredients that create the ideal habitat for the olive tree."


the perfect fit: sleeves

Edited 2/7/17:  I've updated this post here, with more concise instructions and better pictures.

Knitting top-down, set-in sleeves is a technique I learned years ago, and from that first time, it became my go-to sleeve construction.  This is the best way to get a perfectly fitted sleeve around your shoulder and arm.   It occurred to me that many experienced knitters aren't familiar with this simple and fool-proof construction.  This sleeve technique can replace any standard sleeve that has a bell shape at the top.  I've only used it with stockinette and garter, but I think with a little bit of planning, this technique could be used with more complicated stitch patterns.  

The sleeve scythe, or the opening where the sleeve is set into the body,  is totally customizable.  If this is a sweater you will be wearing right next to your skin, you might like the look of a more fitted sleeve.  If this is a sweater you will most likely be wearing over a shirt,  such as a cardigan, you'll likely want the opening a little larger to accommodate for that. Top-down set-in sleeves give you the freedom to change these measurements on the body of your sweater, but your sleeve will need no adjusting; your sleeve will automatically fit!  You'll never have too much sleeve and not enough sweater or vice versa,  avoiding any potential puckers around the sleeve scythe once and for all.  And, this sleeve will fit your arm too, because you can try it on as you go along.  

You can either knit your sleeves in the round or flat.  If you knit them in the round, seam both sides.  If you are going to knit them flat, leave them un-seamed.  For both, seam the shoulder seams.

Before you proceed, please read the entire directions below.

Start with the right sleeve, and using a circular needle with the right side of the back facing you, start at the underarm and pick up stitches all around the back arm scythe to the shoulder seam.  The ratio is 1 stitch per 2 rows, even at the underarm.  Pick up the same amount of stitches down the front arm and underarm.  If you have 30 stitches up the back, you will need 30 stitches down the front.  Now the knitting begins.  Turn your work and with right side facing, begin row 1.

Row 1:  Knit stitches up the front to 1.5" (for an adult, less for a child) past shoulder seam, wrap and turn next stitch.
Row 2:  Purl to 1.5" past shoulder seam, wrap and turn next stitch.  
Row 3:  Knit to your last wrapped stitch, knit the wrapped stitch, wrap and turn next stitch. Turn your work.
Row 4:  Purl to your last wrapped stitch, purl the wrapped stitch, wrap and turn next stitch. Turn your work.
Repeat rows 3 and 4 until all stitches have been incorporated into the bell.  Note, I almost always stop at the last 1/2" on each side of the side seam, the first cast off stitches at the underarm. These stitches do not need to be wrapped and turned, instead, simply knit "through them".  

If you are knitting your sleeves in the round, join for working in the round.  If you are knitting your sleeves flat, cast on one stitch each side for seaming and continue working to end.  For either way, you can add any sleeve shaping desired.  Generally, the decreases are made every 1.5-2 inches, but try it on frequently to get your perfect fit. Knit to desired sleeve length, adding the finish edging the pattern calls for; ribbing, lace, etc.

Directions for Short Rows, Wrap and Turn:
On knit side: Knit to the stitch you want to wrap, bring yarn between needles from back to front. Slip stitch purl-wise from left needle to right needle.  Bring yarn between needles again, from front to back. Slip stitch back purl-wise to left needle.  Turn work to begin next row.
On purl side:  Purl to the stitch you want to wrap, bring yarn between needles from front to back. Slip stitch purl-wise from left needle to right needle.  Bring yarn between needles again, from back to front.  Slip stitch back purl-wise onto left needle. Turn work to begin next row.

If you are familiar with wrap and turn short rows, you're probably used to "picking up the wraps".  In this sleeve technique, you DO NOT pick up wraps.  This gives a more "full-fashioned" look to the sleeve, which I prefer, however, you can pick up the wraps if you prefer that look.

See the pictures below for help with each step.  I hope you give it a try!  I bet you'll find yourself using it as often as you can!  (Please see this post for better pictures!)

This color does not represent the color at all, it's a very bright and cheery navy blue.  In this picture I've finished the short row shaping for the bell and now knitting down the arm and just starting my decreases.

A close up.  This sweater may not be the best one to show off the technique as the body has ridge panels on the side, but I think you can still get a good idea.  See, no puckers, and no seaming!

This picture shows the very beginning; I've just picked up the stitches and getting ready to knit the short rows.  The yarn is Rowan Fine Art in the most gorgeous shade of blue, just hate that it's looking so washed out and gray.  I'm pairing it with a strand of Rowan Kidsilk Haze in navy.  The fabric is incredible--it just about glows.  V. happy.

This shows just a few of the short rows at the beginning.  Again, maybe not the best sweater to show this technique because the stitch pattern on the body hides it a bit.  

I'm making Langestt from the Winterscapes book by Sarah Hatton.  I had the FA and KSH in my stash and knew it would be perfect. 


big parties and little


Last night we had a dinner party for six that was meant to be a much bigger party.  Last week we sent out emails to the 12 guys that my husband plays golf with on a regular basis.  We were punished for our very short notice as half of the people were either hosting out of town guests or were out of town themselves.  Our four friends who could come were long-time and very dear friends, and one just happened to be celebrating a birthday.  She likes champagne, I like champagne, we thought it was a good idea to pop open a bottle of expensive champagne.  I never think that's a bad idea!

There were highlights and lowlights during the evening.  The highlights were: the weather was lovely and we sat outside for before-dinner drinks and after-dinner coffee; the vegetable tian is now officially my all-time favorite party dish for it's ease, beauty and taste (see it below); my house looked beautiful dressed in green; and lastly, Nigella cracks me up.  As sophisticated as she is, she never minds some shortcuts.  For an appetizer, I made her potato pancakes made with processed potato flakes, which I didn't even know they sold anymore, I remember them being a gluey mess. But they do sell them, and the recipe was  good!  You make them in advance then top with smoked salmon before serving.  My addition was to add a dollop of sour cream spiked with horseradish.  I'll be making them again.  

The lowlight was the main course!  I made a new-to-me chicken dish that looked better on paper then it actually was.  Something with almonds, rosemary and lemon zest.  Meh, it won't ever appear in my recipe rotation again.  To start we served an old fashioned wedge salad with homemade Roquefort dressing and bacon and finished with a fresh ollalieberry sorbet and Bob's GF brownies from this mix.  I love that gluten free baking mixes, pastas and breads are so much higher quality these days, and so easy to find!

For the pretty side dish, I use Ina Garten's Vegetable Tian recipe for the most part.  I make this often in the summer, and each time it's similar, but changes with what's growing or what's on hand.  Everything was from the garden except the potatoes.  After slicing the vegetables, sprinkle with salt, then start layering in a dish.  It calls for a sliced onion that I didn't have so I sprinkled on some chopped green scallions that I did have.  I think Ina has you layer the veggies a different way, but I think the arrangement below is prettiest.  Douse with a few tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle with fresh thyme, salt and pepper and cover with foil and bake in a hot oven for about an hour.  When tender, sprinkle with grated gruy√®re cheese, perhaps a cup, and bake uncovered until melted and browned, another 15 minutes or so.  It's really popular and perfect for this time of year. 

I'm having another party next week, this time for my knitting group.  We will have more people as I actually gave them two weeks notice, not just one!  I'll be serving the vegetable tian again, but don't know what else.  Maybe I can get my husband to bar-be-que as I'm planning to eat outdoors.

I hope you are having a great summer.  
Go Giants!