Fiber Arts Friday: Sock Mojo, Mom, and the Ravelry Bag

Let’s jump right in with a fail.

Nice job on the matching stripes, though.

These purple socks, while a lovely colorway in the very sturdy, yet soft, Indulgence yarn, are just bad. I don’t love making socks, but I have made dozens of them – beautiful dozens – over the years for myself and my handmade-sock-loving-family. It has been a few years since I made any, but when I saw this yarn I bought a few skeins and made a Sock Plan.

I plunged into the purple and discovered, immediately, that I had lost my sock mojo. How long do I usually make the cuff? Which rib? How high is the leg? Didn’t I used to stop the pattern an inch above the heel? What was that heel I like? What’s the trick for preventing a hole on the gusset? It went like that. They are done, and wearable, but…you know.

On to the second pair, and now that my brain has rebooted in sock mode, it’s good. Great wintry colors, a better gauge, and I’m fitting them to the wearer’s foot, which is always nice. 

These colors are a snowy day, yes?

In other fiber news, my mom, a crocheter, has been making dozens of hats for a children’s hospital, and these beautiful blankets for  Project Linus. It’s my job to wash and deliver them to a local collection point. So pretty.

Bragging on my mom.

I’ve been carrying the socks around in this Tom’s bag,

“one for one”

and look what was delivered yesterday:

I voted for this design!

Yep! The new project bag from Ravelry, the result of the design contest. And how about this sticker on the package?

I’ll be peeling this sticker off to use somewhere else. My love of stickers has continued since the gold stars of my childhood!

Finally I made this Kindle Cover for my etsy shop, and I love it.Enjoy the rest of your Fiber Arts Friday wandering over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder!


Garlic Scapes, Kale Salad, and the CSA Box

It makes me so happy to be in CSA season again!

  • The food is fresh.
  • I don’t have to go to the grocery store.
  • It’s local, organic or IPM.
  • I like the reverse engineering menu planning aspect. Someone else gives you the food, you figure out what to make.
  • Did I mention not needing to go to the grocery store?

This week’s box: Kale, collards, red potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, asparagus, garlic scapes, zucchini, a bunch of fresh dill, and red lettuce. In addition I picked up my co-op store order of milk and mushrooms, a dozen eggs from my egg share, and two pints of strawberries from the fruit share.

Dinner last night, in the midst of all this food, was fast and easy: foil packets of potatoes and garlic scapes served next to a big spoonful of black lentils sprinkled with pine nuts. 

Garlic scapes and potatoes lined up and waiting for seasoning.

They were delicious, but when have you ever had a potato that wasn’t? And foil  packets just send me right back to being an 8 year old at a picnic table. I used three garlic scapes for the four servings and sprinkled everything with salt, pepper, fresh parsley, and a drizzle of olive oil. At 450 they were ready in about 45 minutes.

I also made, for the second week in a row, a raw kale salad. It sounds wrong but tastes great, lasts for a good three days in the fridge, and stands at the top of the Goodforyou Things to  Eat list. I cannot recommend this salad enough! Easy, versatile, healthful, fresh, and a good way to add vegetables to your plate. This is the kind of leafy green we are supposed to be eating.

There are versions of this, but don’t even stress over a recipe. Do this:

Curly kale, red kale, black kale, – kale
Salt & pepper
Lemon and olive oil or lemon and walnut oil or any other combination you like
3 tablespoons pepitas or sunflower seeds, or both

Pull the stems off a bunch or two of kale, and discard. Drop the leaves into a big bowl of water and rinse them carefully. Drain and pat dry, or spin.

Roll a few leaves at a time into cigar shapes and slice thinly, shaping ribbons. Keep slicing, and you will end up with a  large bowl of kale ribbons, more than you’ll think you can ever eat. It’s ok, they’ll shrink!

Drizzle a few teaspoons of oil onto the kale ribbons, and either the juice of half a lemon or a teaspoon of your vinegar. Add a generous sprinkle of salt and then start scrunching up the kale with your hands. Both hands, don’t be shy. Don’t squeeze it to bruise, but rough it up for two to three minutes and it will start to break down. You’re actually tenderizing the kale.

The kale will greatly reduce in volume. Add seeds, a bit more salt, and a few generous grinds of pepper. Prepare a dressing using about 1/4 cup of the oil you’re using with either the rest of the lemon or 1 tablespoon of your vinegar, and toss everything together.

That’s it! My pile of kale turned into this manageable container of kale salad, ready for the fridge, and for serving as is or dressing up.

Last week’s salad went something like this:

  • With strawberries, for breakfast. Really.
  • With crumbled feta and a few chopped walnuts.
  • As a topping for a tossed salad – that was brilliant!
  • A base for a scoop of leftover marrow beans.
  • Tossed into a leftover pasta and bean bowl.

And then it was gone.


Kitchen Cookbooks

It would be nice to have a full wall of shelves near the kitchen table, filled with cookbooks ready to be perused – and returned – right in the room in which they are used. I don’t have that. I do have a library, and there are several shelves full of cookbooks, but it’s nice to have a spot, even if it’s counter space, for currently used books.

When we were designing this kitchen and filling a secondary wall with cabinets, I traded a wider bank of drawers for a turned base. Easier with a picture:

Accessible to the working area of the kitchen and hidden from the table and guest area, it’s never neat and tends to gather dust as a busy corner, but it’s great to have. The top is stuffed with planning papers, the occasional cooking magazine, appliance manual, and recipes I’ve printed. The shelves are not, by any means, favorite cookbooks, but a mix of currently used, new-to-be-read, or simply resting.

Cool Waters is kind of fun for jazzing up water or plain soda. Marcella Hazan for many reasons but recently her pasta gorgonzola, and Tender is a gigantic, beautiful combination of gardening and recipes. The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper is a fun read, and I hear there’s a new one, must look into it. Do you know Super Natural Cooking and its sister on the shelf below, of 101 Cookbooks?  La Tartine Gourmande, also new and a nice blog. Mark Bittman. Of course, Mark Bittman.

There are two tiny paperbacks I bought in Italy, which I never use but love to see there on the shelf. Over the winter I made a delicious chickpea stew from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and a cake from Martha. More Mark Bittman. Between him and the slow cooker book is my recipe journal, where I try very hard to record recipes I want to make again so they won’t be lost forever in the flurry of sticky notes marking pages. Love Mollie Katzen’s Vegetable Heaven.

I don’t dislike the cookbooks I haven’t mentioned – I would give them away if that was the case – I just haven’t used them recently, or perhaps enough. Now, it’s nearly 9 a.m., and it is time to figure out what’s for dinner!

Baby Surplice Jacket

Nothing like an impending baby, summery colored yarn, and a new knitting book. 

  • The baby: We haven’t met her yet, but we know she’s a girl.
  • The yarn: Wool in the Woods Dunluce, cotton/rayon blend
  • The book: Knit One Knit All,  a book of garter stitch designs by Elizabeth Zimmerman, published last year.

Have I mentioned how much I enjoyed browsing my personal library of patterns on Ravelry? How lovely it is to sort the patterns, flip through them, check out project examples, research yarn ideas, then walk into the next room and pull the book off the shelf? 

The Baby Surplice Jacket is classic EZ – one piece, minimal seaming, cute as a button. I wanted to make something not-pink, so I chose this beautiful yarn (it was in my stash) that reminded me of the beach on a sunny day.  I used an icord trim on the wrap edges, crocheted an edge trim at the hemline, and added a removable flower. Full disclosure: My mother made the flower. Beyond an edging and picking up stitches, I’m useless with a crochet hook.

Mom-to-be loved it.

Favas; Spring in a Bean

 Fava beans, artichokes, nettles, tiny peas, garlic scapes.  Spring! All favorites, but, oh, fava beans.  Hard to find, in the market or CSA box for a very short time,  worth seeking out and preparing. Yes, there are two steps to getting at the brilliantly green bean, but you still need to try them fresh. The  fava/ricotta toast I made for dinner, above,  was perfect with a salad of fresh greens and walnuts.

Call around, see which market has fava beans this week, then come back when you find them. This pile below, about two handfuls, was little more than a pound, and produced just under a cup, shelled. These look blotchy but are fine. Select firm pods, disregard any that are rubbery or have soft spots. If in doubt, find your way inside and take a peek. The beans,  covered in a pale green waxy shell, should be unblemished. You’re good to go.

Start a large pot of water boiling, turn on some music or an audio book and start shelling. This is relaxing work, good for many (multi-age) hands or just your own, as you wish. People have been shelling these beans for thousands of years; think about that as you work!

Snap one end of the pod and pull the resulting “string” down as far as you can, then split the pod open.Gorgeous, no? Big beans. Pop them all out and you have a nice pile of pods for the compost bin, and this:Give them a boil for just a minute or two, then drain and cool them down with water. The shell needs to be split at this point; just tear a small piece of one end and gently squeeze the other. Voila! A vibrantly green fava emerges, just looking like spring in a bean.For starters, you can simmer them lightly in olive oil and garlic, toss them with pasta, top grilled polenta, smash them into a hummus, or use them as a topping for grilled bread and ricotta, as I did.

The recipe

I tossed my little cup of beans with a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, a splash of olive oil, salt,  and two finely minced cloves of garlic. A bit of plain ricotta spread over a slices of good bread, broiled, made a fine base. I topped the whole thing with slivers of Gruyère (because that’s what I had), torn pieces of parsley, and a fresh grind of pepper.

I cannot recommend this enough; a simple bite, fresh and healthful. I also can’t wait to find more fava beans!

Books on the Coffee Table

Books. Gorgeous when they are sitting around in piles, awesome when they are opened up in your hands.

In the library there is a leather loveseat, a coffee table to catch new books, and often a cocker spaniel between the two. Other shelves hold “to be read” books as well, which means that the books here are either going to be shelved with their mates once read, or moved over to the TBR section when other new books arrive.

They look nice there, although the table is pretty much useless for anything else. It has become a landing place for new books, but also, unfortunately, a place where books I’m reading can get buried.

Let’s see…

Top to bottom, above:
Leonard Cohen, Poems and Songs Required reading, he must remain visible at all times.
A Year of Living Your Yoga Nice.
Infinite Jest I swear I’m going to finish it someday.
Wool Omnibus I read all of these on my Kindle and loved them. Wanted to support the author by buying a copy, which he signed.
Far Flung and Well Fed Food writing, TBR
Zeno’s Conscience TBR, I think my son gave this to me, but maybe I just thought he would also like it?
Brain Candy TBR, I have no idea what this is.

Snowmen and History of the Snowman Would have been so fun to read through again during a snowstorm. If only we’d had one.
In Defense of Food I’ll get to this soon.
The Food Matters Cookbook I was pleased to find that my husband remembered that I love Mark Bittman, and bought this for me for Christmas.
Shirtmaking I will never attain this level of achievement in sewing, and I’m okay with that.
The Kitchen Linens Book is exactly what you think it is.
Steve Jobs A friend gave it to me and I look forward to reading it.
World Vegetarian My first Madhur Jaffrey. Obviously, cookbooks do not move into the kitchen until I’ve read them.
Nutrition A textbook from someone’s class last semester.

Blink I’m loving this book!
La Bella Lingua Ditto, although it is a reminder than I have been lax in my Italian language study.
Gandhi I flew through most of it and then it found its way to the bottom of the pile on my nightstand, and now I have a hard time whenever I try to get back into it.
New York Diaries This was a great idea for a diary anthology, look into it! It’s one to pick up now and then, read a bit, and put back down.
Bigfoot: I Not Dead  We, meaning my family and a few dozen people of various ages, got a kick out of this. It’s pretty brilliant sometimes.
The Anthologist Started it. Stopped.

Fiber Arts Friday the 13th!

Ah, a Fiber Arts Friday with stuff to share!

First up, Dillon’s Longies, which I think of as Dillongies. I made these for a neighbor who lives in these comfy wool pants, longies for winter and soakers for summer, over his cloth diapers. I was shocked to find that they took a little more than two skeins of Cascade 220, and rather longer to knit than I expected. Worth every penny of the many pennies his mother pays for them! 
I swatched this Valley Yarns cotton/microfiber from my stash for a possible cardigan, but it’s not going to work. I will store the swatches with the yarn for next time, with a note that I washed the swatches and they didn’t budge. 
Every now and then I make a square of sock yarn for this eventual throw. Yes, it’s going to take forever, but it’s not only a good use of odds and ends of yarn, it gives me something to buy when I visit a yarn shop and don’t see anything else! You know how it is, you want to be supportive of the friendly shop owner but there isn’t one thing calling you? I can always find a pretty sock yarn, and I can tell my husband it’s a vacation souvenir and not a yarn purchase. 
It’s been such a long time since I worked on this (it usually lives in the car for emergencies) that I had to search for the original pattern online to figure out how I did the increases and decreases. Right, forever until it’s done. 
Summer is a good time for sock knitting, and I’m getting a few things ready. I bought these two gorgeous sock yarns at The Knitter’s Edge in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I love that shop and wish it was closer. I will be dividing these into two toe-up balls with matching starting points, because that’s just how it has to be. This yarn is super soft.
My daughter-in-law brought this gorgeous skein back from Trieste, Italy. I’ll be casting on a pair of socks for myself this summer, too.
I added two new patterns to my library this week:
Clara, Lori Versaci
Yoked Cardigan, Hannah Fettig, from baby to adult sizes.
Finally, I knitted and donated a dog sweater for Pottstown’s Bark for Life, I sewed a few Kindle covers for my etsy shop, and got a signed copy Wool in the mail yesterday. Check this post for a review of Wool! 

I’m off to explore other Fiber Arts Friday blogs!

Knitters, Wool, and Hugh Howey

Knitters are diverse. There are girly-girl knitters, geek knitters, grandma knitters, hipster knitters, nerdy knitters, and conservative knitters. A quick run-through of knitters I know gives me pagan, pastor, teacher, seamstress, software engineer, social worker … kind of fun. Knitting brings us all to the same table, where I’ve noticed at least one other commonality: we read. During a gathering, once we’ve checked out what everyone else is making/frogging, commiserated with this one and congratulated that one, and after acknowledging yet again that we really can’t cable and talk at the same time, we talk about books.

I have yet to sit with a group of knitters without ipads, phones, and Moleskines being whipped out of knitting bags to jot down the book titles that start flying around the room. We’re a literate bunch. We knit and we read, and while I’m not willing to go so far as to give the collective “we” to a genre, I’ve noticed that a lot of us read sci fi.
So have you read Wool?
Wool is the first in a series of short stories – novellas? installments? – by Hugh Howey. They are not about knitting. I repeat, they are not about knitting, although there is a character who knits and there is a piece of wool. We spend a few lovely paragraphs with the knitter’s thoughts as she admires her needles (wooden needles in a leather pouch, “like the delicate bones of the wrist wrapped in dried and ancient flesh.”) and casts on for a sweater. The titles are the best use of knitting metaphor ever:
Proper Gauge
Casting Off
The Unraveling
The Stranded
I started to think that Howey either knits or is close to someone who does, and I was  right. I read the first book, Wool, and then immediately bought the Omnibus, with the first five stories. (God love a Kindle for instant gratification.) Go get it, in print or on your Kindle .  Then you’ll go to his website and discover, as I did, that there is an imminent sixth story, and that there is much more to discover about Howey, his fans, and his work.

You’re welcome.

Charlottesville Rambling

I spent a few days last week visiting my oldest son and his wife in Charlottesville, Virginia. I had a wonderful time…

  1. I really like my son.
  2. I really like my daughter-in-law.
  3. She knits.
  4. Really.
  5. He doesn’t mind walking long distances.
  6. He walks really fast and I’m shorter than he is.
  7. A lot shorter.
  8. They read.
  9. Charlottesville is a nice place to live.
  10. They have a cute dog.
  11. Our dogs get along. 
  12. Mostly.
  13. She invited me to her knitting group.
  14. Her knitting friends are lively and lovely.
  15. Thomas Jefferson knew how to pick a building site.
  16. He walked all over town with me on a self-guided walking tour.
  17. My son, not Thomas Jefferson.
  18. Thomas Jefferson is dead now.
  19. The Spice Diva is a nice woman.
  20. I sleep on their couch when I visit alone.
  21. It used to be my couch.
  22. Feast is an awesome place to eat and shop.
  23. I still get a little weepy when I leave. 
  24. Privately, in the car.
  25. On my day of being a tourist, I logged THIS MANY steps on my Fitbit:
  26. It was great.

Ed the Barber’s Wife

I have waited to open this shoebox for a few months. It’s just a box full of someone else’s sewing supplies, but that someone is gone, and I have her stuff. It seemed that I needed to give the box my attention, or maybe intention, before either incorporating or donating its contents. So it was set down in my sewing room, glanced at now and then, and moved out of the way until today.

Carol was Ed the Barber’s wife, and I never met her or her husband. Ed is my brother’s friend, barber, and fellow business owner in a small community and yes, we refer to him as Ed the Barber. After his wife’s death Ed gave my brother her sewing machines and supplies, and a machine and this box passed on to me. Carol sewed for many years and was by all accounts accomplished at her craft.

My brother and his wife kept a sewing machine in a beautiful furniture-quality cabinet. I have her 1962 Singer slant-o-matic – the Rocketeer! –  which I am in the middle of cleaning and oiling, and will share when it’s ready for its close-up. It is pretty awesome.

Back to the box.

I opened it this morning, with my coffee, and discovered that Carol was a lot neater than I am. Every single loose end of trim is either secured with a pin or thread. Elastics are wound around cardboard, opened hem tape is pinned and reinserted in its original package. I am embarrassed by the contrast to my jumbled drawers of supplies: tangled black and white elastic of all lengths and widths, ends of bias tape looped around odd pieces of cord and piping.

Wide trims are secured by two pins. I am in awe.

Red is a theme in this box.

There are lots of thimbles, needles, zippers, trims, and elastics. 
This thing, I love. I wonder if it was a small part of a box or kit, because two of the sides are squared, as if it was inserted into a larger piece. The top comes off and can hold needles and thimbles; the stems will hold bobbins. Right to the sewing room.
There are no unfinished projects here to give one pause, as when I opened boxes of my grandmother’s sewing and crocheting. Instead I smile at how neatly stacked the worn thimbles are, at the rainbow of zippers, and the pennies-per-yard price of the trims. I will add her supplies to mine and will know where they came from when I use them. It’s a continuation. For years I’ll be able to say, “Hey, the hem tape on that skirt was from Ed the Barber’s wife.”

Thanks, Carol.