Archive for November, 2009

My favourite FO this year

November 27, 2009

Is without doubt my purple Liesl cardigan. You can tell by the silly grin on my face!

I’ve been wanting to knit this for ages, so I’m understandably ecstatic that it’s done. The pattern is Liesl by Ysolda Teague, and I used the beautifully bulky, squishy single-ply Freedom Wool by Twilleys of Stamford. It’s a thicker yarn than the pattern calls for—something I didn’t realise until I swatched—but luckily that meant I just had to knit one size down to get the size I wanted. A nice change from having to knit several sizes up for my owls sweater. And I’m in love with the buttons too—purple-dyed shell, which I got at Tangled Yarns when I was in Brisbane in September. They aren’t exactly the same tone, but they match the yarn better than these photos suggest.

The thick woolliness of the yarn I used has made my purple Liesl warmer to wear than I expected, but this means it will just be a Spring-and-Autumn cardigan instead of a Summer-evening cardigan. Given the number of cardigans I’m planning to knit in the next few months, I’m pretty okay with that.

A slight word of warning if you choose to use this yarn: it’s soft, and squishy, and smooth, and almost the opposite of itchy, but being a thick single it’s loosely spun and does develop something of a halo pretty quickly. I’ve heard it’s easy to felt too, but I’m being anally-retentive-careful with this cardigan so that shouldn’t be an issue. I’m hoping it won’t pill too badly, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, cue more silly grins at the lacy prettiness, more sly snuggles of the epic softness, and many, many boasts of the general purple loveliness. And probably a good deal of wearing it, even when the weather’s really a bit too warm.

I like it when cooking is fun as well as tasty

November 24, 2009

On Sunday afternoon we made Jamie Oliver’s Crispy Zucchini Flowers stuffed with Ricotta and Mint.

They were extremely tasty, and I was surprised by how quick and easy they were. Although there were a few things to prepare, the only fiddly thing was being careful not to rip the petals as you snipped out the stamens. I hadn’t made anything cheffy for a while, so I was very pleased to discover that restaurant-style cooking doesn’t always mean loads of trouble.

Yum! I really recommend you try these while zucchini flowers are available—the great taste and novelty far outweigh the small effort.

Handmade markets

November 21, 2009

This morning I went to the handmade markets with Amanda, Libby, and Emily.

The markets were again fantastic. Like last time, it was at a big old Woolshed, and it was very busy and very dusty. This time however it was pretty hot—but thankfully not the oppressive 38 degree heat of yesterday! The heat had an upside though, because it meant everyone brought out their cute summer dresses, so the whole market was summery and attractive.

We started early, with coffee and some amazing blackberry crepes. We were so excited we hardly minded that we each accidentally ate several small flying insects—there was something of a swarm, but you get used to that in this climate. Then we hit the stalls, and such things there were to discover! So many different products, jewellery, clothing, toys, artworks, food, handbags, fabric, ceramics…all handmade. We all managed to cross some items off our Christmas lists.

We rendezvoused at lunchtime to show off our purchases and give our feet a rest. I had a very tasty gourmet sausage burger and about three litres of cold fluids. Miraculously, a cool breeze had sprung up by then.

After exploring a few more gourmet food stalls (and rationalising that it made sense to buy fruitcake and shortbread, as we’d never want to bake in this heat), we wandered back to the car, dusty but happy.

I managed to find so many beautiful things, some for me and some for gifts.

I was particularly pleased with my new cupcake apron, so I thought I’d show you it in all its glory.

Cute, no?

It makes me so happy that handmade products are so readily available. It must be so lovely to earn your keep by making things you love, and there’s such a variety of things that there’s something to make everyone happy.

My favourite Christmas treat

November 20, 2009

Panettone!

Sweet, fragrant Italian cake that’s a lot like a soft fruit bread. I am addicted to this stuff and start buying it as soon as it appears, hanging from the ceiling in delicatessens like strange cubist garlands. And continue buying it as long as I can find it (one year it was available until April! Heaven). I have a vintage cake tin that is just the right size and shape to store a panettone, and it pretty much gets constant use over summer.

I love opening a fresh panettone—the floraly-zesty scent (what do they flavour it with?) is strongest then. I inhale the smell greedily after I’ve unwrapped it. Shucking the cardboard box, divesting the panettone of its plastic bag and then peeling away the paper is a ritual that promises exotic delights.

It’s not just the heady scent of panettone that makes it my favourite Christmastime indulgence. I love the lightly sweet, buttery taste, the juicy sultanas, and the contrasting textures of the crumb and the crust. I think part of the reason I eat a lot of it is that it’s not as sweet or as rich as many of the other Christmas treats we get. I love panforte, and almond bread, and fruitcake, and shortbread, and chocolates, and gingerbread, but I only want them every now and then. But panettone is perfect for everyday consumption—in fact I find it hard sometimes to limit myself to one piece a day!

Ooh, I’m getting hungry now. What’s your favourite Christmas treat?

Pasta with broad beans, lemon and herbs

November 18, 2009

I made this quick, tasty and relatively healthy pasta for dinner last night, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Pasta is my go-to meal when I’m short on time, can’t think of anything else, or am in need of comfort food. The pasta dishes I cook the most tend to be the fast sort—if you can do everything in the time it takes the pasta to cook, then I’m all over it like a rash. You do need to spend a few extra minutes shelling the broad beans here, but after that it’s simple and speedy.

Pasta with Broad Beans, Lemon and Herbs

serves 3

250g pasta (to be honest I usually just use what looks like the right amount instead of weighing it)

250g frozen broad beans (so much easier than buying them fresh!)

75g butter

half a bunch of basil, finely chopped

1/3 of a bunch of parsley, roughly chopped (you could really use any herbs that take your fancy, or that you have lying around)

juice and zest of half a lemon

salt and freshly ground black pepper

a block of parmesan, for grating

Add your frozen broad beans to a small pot of boiling water and blanch for 2-3 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and then squeeze the bright green beans out of the tough greyish skin. Keep the beans but chuck the skins, they’re tough and nasty.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook for 10-12 minutes, according to the packet directions. Meanwhile, warm the butter over a medium-low heat in a small frypan. Once melted, add the shelled broad beans and gently warm them—they shouldn’t fry.

Once the pasta is nearly cooked, add the finely chopped basil and finely grated lemon zest to the broad beans and stir around to coat in butter and heat through. Take the beans off the heat and add the lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water. Put the pasta back in the saucepan and add reserved water, beans, parsley, and finely grated parmesan. Mix it all together, then serve with some extra parmesan and lemon on the side, so people can adjust the flavours to their liking. Quick and tasty!

First apricot of the season

November 17, 2009

Well, actually the second, but the first one I had tasted like woody water so we’re not going to count that.

Mum says they’ve been getting stonefruit in Queensland for weeks now. I really miss that climate! Bring on summer, with many sweet apricots.

Thoughts on productivity

November 16, 2009

I  haven’t been knitting very long. It’s about three and a half years now, and while I wouldn’t call myself a beginner (I can do some stuff pretty well, you know) I don’t think I really qualify as intermediate—there’s lots of things I’ve never tried, like fair isle, or i-cord edging, or learning the right way to weave in ends. Let’s call me an advanced beginner, then. I’m decent, but I’m learning new things all the time.

With knitting (for those of you who don’t) some of the things you learn aren’t about the craft itself, but are instead about yourself, or the community, or the practicalities… kind of like the knitting metadata. For example, I’ve learned that knitting with small pointy needles will inevitably poke small painful holes in my right index finger. That the majority of knitters will come at you with pointed implements if you give them acrylic yarn or fun fur. That you shouldn’t go into a yarn shop on payday.

Lately I’ve been discovering about knitting productivity.

I was always determined not to be one of those knitters who never gets any knitting done over summer. I mean, sure, you’re less likely to want to wear knitted garments in summer, but not knitting means you’re wasting a whole season. And imagine how prepared you’d feel if you could have your entire winter wardrobe finished before the first frost. A good argument, no?

But then I discovered how unpleasant it is to have a lap full of woollen jumper on a 35 degree day. Quite unpleasant, really. Rather like portable prickly-heat rash.

I’m determined to get through this. I’m sick of having my winter knits finished just as the first real hot weather arrives. I’m sick of getting that guilty feeling of idleness whenever I look at my WIP bag and realise I haven’t knitted for a month. And anyway, blocking is so much quicker in summer. My house is so hard to heat that in winter it can take over a week for a large project to dry.

So, this summer, I am pledging to knit at least once every week. Given that this is in line with wanting my summer shrug and my autumn cardigans finished, it should be easy, right?

We’ll see. Maybe I’ll ask for calamine lotion for Christmas.

My favourite dress

November 13, 2009

This week for Favourite Friday, I’d like to share my favourite dress.

sequins

This is a vintage 1960s handmade shift, with a wide neckline, no sleeves, a scooped back and body darts, falling to mid-calf, and covered, covered, in blue and green sequins.

vintage glamour

I found it last year on Ebay and loved it so much I hardly batted an eyelid at the international shipping charges. It’s always a bit risky buying clothes without trying them on, and with vintage you absolutely have to know your measurements, since sizing has changed so much. Even so, things sometimes need altering (and yes, I’m one of those people who sees no problem with altering vintage pieces). But this fits like it was made for me. I love it.

retro femininity

I love the way the sequins are sewn overlapping, like little scales. When I wear it I imagine I’m a mermaid or a magical sea creature. I love the wide and gently curved neckline, which shows a modest décolletage. I love how the back swoops slightly lower than usual. I love the colour, distinct blues and greens up close, but from further away melded into my favourite in-between shade, which so suits my pale skin. I love the length, longer than other skirts of the era, which is so flattering and at the same time a little classy. It’s funny how a few extra inches changes a look. I wore this to work on my birthday last year and it made the day wonderful, even if it was a little incongruous.

I love this dress because it’s special, because it’s one of a kind, because it’s pretty and sparkly and flattering, and because it makes me happy. It’s definitely my favourite.

favourite!

New wheel

November 12, 2009

I almost forgot to tell you, but I bought a spinning wheel last week!

sickinger

It’s great to finally have my very own wheel. I wasn’t sorry to see the back of the Guild’s Ashford, heavy clunky thing that it was. This one is sooo much easier to get in the car—it sits on the front seat, carefully restrained by a seatbelt. And I was beginning to find the limits of the Ashford’s capabilities, especially its ability to spin bulky yarn (practically nonexistent). This is a secondhand Sickinger (an Australian make) that came with five bobbins, a handy bobbin-carrier/upright lazy kate thing, and a jumbo flyer as well as the normal sized one. Yay! It’s all pretty and just about all the wooden parts have been nicely turned—something that makes the girls at Spinning Group think it must be an Esther, the top of the line model. Double yay! I took it to spinning last week and had fun showing it off, learning its quirks and talking shop. I think the Sickinger and I are going to be very happy together.

Blue damson (and many parenthetical remarks)

November 11, 2009

damson1

Introducing my latest finished knitwear project: the blue damson.

I finished this shawlette a couple of weeks ago but the eventual (welcome) arrival of Summer means there hasn’t been a pressing need to block it. It languished in my knitting basket (okay, okay, on the couch covered with knitting paraphernalia), ends unwoven, until the quiet idleness of Sunday afternoon made me think that I really should get on with it. It blocked beautifully (oh, the millions of pins…) and quickly (ah, the delights of summer!), and yesterday afternoon was all done and ready to meet the world.

damson2

Pattern: Damson by Ysolda Teague

Yarn: 2 skeins of Cascade 220 in a bright, saturated blue (possibly 8891 or 8892)

Needles: 4mm circular that was much too short

My blue damson on Ravelry

I like this pattern, and although it calls for sock yarn I think it works well with the DK-weight Cascade (and the yardage is perfect, binding off was a bit tense but I had at least a metre left). It’s shaped perfectly both to drape around your shoulders and scrunch around your neck. And when laid out, the tapered crescent shape and the zigzag lace edging make me think of a moth’s wings.

So: world, meet blue damson. Blue damson, meet the world. And now, back in the cupboard to wait for autumn.

damson3