4.4.14

prince george's sweater - a knitting chart!

oh procrastination!

i ought to be getting the kiddo ready for school, but instead i did a quick alphabet chart for knitting prince george's sweater. i just love the way he is looking at the dog lupo in this picture!

here's a closer look at the sweater:

and here's a simple chart of his name:

if i get my real work done, i'll chart the rest of the alphabet later.

18.3.14

more progress

feeling pretty good about this!

after the interminable picking-up of stitches and short-row shaping, i am finally on the straightaway for the first sleeve on the maple leaf forever cardigan.

but before i even got there, i had to re-think the shoulder seam. i was going to do something similar to what i did for the argylette cardigan - fronts & backs the same, three-needle bind-off to join. but! because the shape of the fronts was dictated by the width of the maple leaf pattern, that wouldn't work. so i had to rip out some of the back, and re-do it in a style often seen in commercial machine knits, where all the shoulder decreases are worked on the back, and the front piece wraps around to the back.

i've done that on top-down sweaters before, but not on a bottom-up. so this was a first for me, and involved seaming (which is annoying, but whatever), but it worked!

can't wait to get this done and blocked. goal is to get this done by the end of march. i don't think i've ever knit a full-size sweater in fingering in such a short time - well, maybe the kid's cobain sweater? i got that done in three weeks... would be hard-pressed to beat that record. anyway, i'm feeling pretty good about how quickly this is going. just hope i haven't jinxed myself by being too cocky.

13.3.14

the maple leaf forever!

i am pleased with my progress on this cardigan! the other day, a non-knitting neighbour was over, and i, excited, said, "look, you can see the pattern now! can you tell what it's supposed to be?" and he said,

"um, ah, oh, it's - it's a maple leaf! you are a knitting sorceress!"

which was pretty nice.

i've just joined the third skein of alpaca (the second one had a million breaks, hope this one is solid like the first) and finished the third leaf. about to start the neckline shaping and then the armscye shaping. i'm really quite surprised at how quickly this is going. when i was at the endless swatching and charting stage, it seemed like it would never get done. but now that i'm doing the actual knitting, it's pretty smooth sailing. and since i've got two other fingering-weight cardigans under my belt, it doesn't seem as daunting.

9.3.14

stashdown progress!

in keeping with this year's resolution of buying no new yarn & finishing off old projects, i've cast on with some yarn i've had for close to 20 years. i got it with the intention of making a twinset. i got as far as knitting a turtleneck shell, which i loved and wore to death. but i never cast on for the cardigan - until now.

that ribbing took forever! the idea is to have two panels of maple leaves going up the front. i thought i'd find a lace panel charted up eons ago for that - there are loads of antique lace panels floating around the internet, surely i'd find my maple leaves? strangely, it seems no one has ever done maples before, probably because they're a bit more complex (i.e. annoying) than the standard elm. anyway, i was on my own charting the leaves.

it took a few tries, but i think i've got it?

i used up most of a partial skein of patons dk superwash on the swatch. each leaf is a little different. i also toyed with purling the wrong-side rows, vs. reverse stockinette for the background.

after much futzing about and numerous obscurely-coded spreadsheets, i got back to real knitting. half-a-leaf done, not sure how many more to go.

ta-dah!

8.3.14

tart tatin!

i had always wanted to try making a tarte tatin, but had never quite gotten around to it. then this week, we had a pile of people coming over for dinner, and a bunch of organic apples from our veg box, so the timing seemed just right!

i did a bunch of research and read a number of recipes - jamie oliver's, smitten kitchen's, canadian living's, and then i found this wonderful article in the guardian that compared and contrasted the various techniques while discussing the history of the dish, and decided that was the recipe to go with.

then i remembered that on of our party is dairy-free, and "buttery" seemed essential to tatin success, so i decided to switch to smitten kitchen's simplest apple tart instead.

i made the pastry with a couple of tweaks; shortening instead of butter, i swapped out some of the all-purpose for pastry flour, and i upped the salt and sugar a wee bit. when it came time to bake, i started melting some margarine to replace the melted butter that you're supposed to brush over the apples, and thought - screw it, i will make a tatin!

so i winged it. i dumped a bunch of sugar in the pan, caramelised it (remembering the guardian suggestion that it needed caramelising before the apples were added), decided it wasn't enough, and added more. cut and arranged the apples (a mix of red delicious, which you're not supposed to use for pie, and spartan, because my son is crazy for ancient greece) according to what i remembered of the canadian living recipe. i love the smitten kitchen technique of using a melon baller to core apples; will be doing that again! cooked on the stove top for a while. worried that the apples were cooking only on the bottom and not the top, so cooked them covered for a while. worried it was getting too soupy, so through it in the oven for a while. then finally topped with the pastry, which was too big a circle, so i folded over/rolled in the edges.

the apples were a stunning deep caramel colour and meltingly rich, the pastry was a perfect light crispy contrast. and the rolled-up edges contained the caramel nicely.

it was delicious!

so i have concluded tarte tatin is somewhat foolproof. really, anything with caramelised sugar is delish. but next time i will use butter.

tarte tatin

2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
6 tbs shortening
a few spoons of ice water
1/2 cup margarine (or butter!)
1 cup sugar
6 or 7 apples

combine flours, salt, and sugar. cut shortening into pieces and cut into the flour with a fork. blend in water just until it holds together. form into a disc and chill for at least 30 minutes.

roll out the dough till it's about 1 1/2" bigger than the skillet you are using for the apples. move to the freezer to rest.

peel and core the apples and cut into eighths.

melt the margarine-or-butter in an oven proof skillet with half a cup of sugar. let cook over medium till deep amber. stir in the remaining sugar and arrange the apple wedges standing up in the pan. if necessary, cut come of them into thinner wedges to fill in the top so it is somewhat level. cook over low till the sugar is bubbling up all brown around them, then cover and cook 10 minutes. uncover and cook 10 minutes more.

top with pastry, rolling up the edges to tuck in around the apples. bake on top shelf of 400f oven for 30 minutes.

let sit for 5 minutes, then flip upside down onto a serving plate. i was a bit anxious about this, due to all the warnings on jamie oliver's recipe, but i put on my oven mitts and it was actually easy.

3.3.14

argylette cardigan!

i set myself a goal for february: finishing off two sweaters that had been languishing in single-sleeve purgatory. one was a sweater that was an xmas present for my husband back in 2010 (eep!) the other was the argylette sweater i'd started for myself back in november and set aside over the holidays. both of these goals fit with my bigger goal for the year, which is not to buy yarn! or at least, not to buy yarn until we get closer to xmas gift season again.

(n.b.: please ignore the messy room. refinishing that vanity & replacing the mirror are also items on my eternal to-do list, which i hope to get to someday... along with removing the cheesey wallpaper border and painting the walls... sigh)

so pleased with this sweater!

i was getting antsy about fit, because i like things tailored, and then i worry that it will be too small (especially when people kept asking if it was for a child!), and i have been known to over compensate and make things a bit too big, and then be unhappy. so i am really glad this fits perfectly and looks just as i'd hoped!

here's a close-up of the pattern. will chart this up properly, i think. i love argyle!

i used 2-and-a-bit skeins of mad tosh merino light, in tart. i had a crush on this yarn for so very long, i treated myself last fall when i was in a slightly drug-induced post-op pity party. have 1-and-some left, to make a shell so i can have a twinset. yay.

and here's the sweater i finished up for my husband, a simple garter-rib pattern in briggs & little tuffy, which i also love, and which is kind of at the opposite end of the spectrum from madeline tosh! it only took a few days to finish that ruddy sleeve, and rip and re-knit the neckband which wasn't sitting properly. this pic was taken pre-blocking, which is why the sleeves look so different.

for comparison's sake, my cardigan dried overnight on the blocking boards, tg's has been there for days longer and is still a bit damp in the armpits!

17.2.14

happy valentines: a romantic dinner for 5 with black forest cake

we had family over for dinner for valentine's day, so since we have heart-shaped cake pans courtesy of a garage sale, of course we had cake for dessert! my father-in-law isn't a big fan of sweets, so i thought, what's not too sweet - maybe a bit tart? cherries. and chocolate. black forest cake!

cherries are not in season, so i bought a jar of sour cherries to start with. i used about half the jar, i think. i started by straining out the syrup, sweetening it a bit (they were very sour cherries), and thickening it with a bit of corn starch. i also added a bit of cognac (one of these days i will break down and buy a bottle of kirsch).

the cake itself was a half-recipe of david lebovitz's devil's food cake. it was absolutely perfect, the most even and lovely cake i have ever baked! i only did a half recipe because i foolishly worried we would have too much cake otherwise. does that even make sense?

i really wish i'd taken a picture of the putting-together process. i am generally bored to tears by blogs that have endless pictures of everything (look! an egg! look! a mixing bowl with some sugar in it!) but one pic could have been quite useful. i sliced the single heart-shaped layer horizontally to make two thin layers, coated the cut edges with a thin layer of cocoa buttercream, and then - here's the clever bit - piped a thick edge of buttercream around the edge of the bottom layer, and another thick heart outline in the middle. then i chilled both layers before assembling.

basically, i was trying to recreate what i remember of the swiss pastries black forest cake i remember from childhood. the idea is to use the butter cream to create a vessel for the cherry filling, so you can get more cherry goodness inside without it squooshing out the sides. you can sort of see what the edge-barrier looks like in this photo.

anyway, i did that, then filled it up with as many cherries as i could get inside without overflow (and saving some cherries for decoration), and filled any outside gaps with more cocoa butter cream. then i grated enough of a bar of bittersweet chocolate to sprinkle over the top, and melted the rest with some heavy cream to make a ganache (no measurements, just eyeballed it), and used that to cover the whole cake.

then the cream! i always get organic or small-dairy cream, or really any cream that doesn't have ingredients other than cream. lots of commercial cream now has sugar and thickeners added. meh. i will add my own stuff if i feel like it. (i added a bit of icing sugar and vanilla, actually.)

i spread the cake with whipped cream, sprinkled with grated chocolate, piped a few dollops for the cherries, and then because i still had some cream in the piping bag, did a heart/arrow on top as well.

it was delicious! but my father-in-law still wasn't interested. ah well, all the more for us! it didn't last long, really. next time, full recipe of cake, and more layers.

also, i finally took a picture of my january sewing project. pyjamas!