Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Spudnick Fleece Pictures

I finally got the camera out and got some pictures of the lovely fleece that I'm making my sweater out of. When I found the tub with the bags in it I was very pleased to find the tag describing it. This fleece is from a ram named Spudnick.

I've been remembering it as CVM, but the tag says that he is a mix of Corriedale, Polypay and Cottswold. It was shown by Clyde A. Vair, of Eaton, CO, and took 5th place. I guess I was told it was similar to CVM, and that's what I remembered.

This picture is of the largest bag of fleece awaiting processing. It is dark silver in color.

This fleece is soft, cushy and has a nice sheen to it. Truly lovely.

This is a close up of the bag of nearly black fleece. It is a mix of some completely black, some dark gray, some mixed silver and black.

This is a box of one batch of the fleece that has had the locks combed with a wide-toothed dog comb. In the lower left corner is a single, darker lock, from the nearly black bag, next to a tube of lip balm. This box contains medium-dark silver, just a shade darker than the medium silver shown being carded below.

Close up of the single dark lock with tube of lip balm.

This is my new Strauch carder with the medium silver going through for the 2nd time to blend it well. I ended up with 11 batts of this shade which I then split lenghtwise into 3-5 strips, attenuated, split that attenuated length into half again, and spread the attenuated strip out flat before feeding it into the carder. I used one strip from each of the original batts until the carder wouldn't hold any more.

It may have been more than I needed to do, but the blending has been very even from this method. I've currently got 5 nice recarded batts, and enough strips to make 2 or 3 more.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sweater Update

As I may have mentioned, I got partway along on the body and sleeves of my lovely gray sweater only to realize that there wasn't enough yarn to finish it as the yoked sweater I've been dreaming of. I put it down and went on to other things, trying to decide what to do. Well, as fate would have it, I was looking for some angora/silk/Merino yarn the other day and lo and behold, I found a tub with some wool in it! I brought it in, hoping and praying that some of the bags of washed fleece was the same gray fleece that I spun over the summer. Eureka! It is! I've got nearly-black, some more similar gray, and a 2-4 times the amount of darker gray.

Yay! I may rip back to redo the yoke with the dark as well as the light, but I should have plenty for a nice yoked sweater, no problem.

Well, other than preparing to card, carding and spinning, of course!

I've got one of the bags of medium gray carded. Took me a while to figure out the best process. I have got it to where I'm using a dog comb on each lock to tease/comb it open, then laying the carded locks all parallel. Once I've got a decent amount ready I'll run them through the carder. I've run all I've got done through once, but need to split the bats, thin them down then recard them to finish blending the silver & darker gray.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hats and Socks

I got 4 mitts, 2 pairs, out of a single ball of hand spun yarn, with a little bit left over. The double kit fabric is thick enough to be cushy and warm, but not so thick as to be uncomfortable. Since I'm working on such things, I dug out a very old WIP (Work In Progress) and decided that the best thing was some Frog Stitching. This WIP was a Stahmann scarf that I was trying to knit up in hand spun quiviut but I just didn't have enough yarn to make it. This was the 2nd thing I'd tried to make from this small amount of yarn. I kept thinking I'd get some more fiber and spin up matching yarn, but well, it's been several years now and it isn't happening.

So Frog Stitched it, rewound it into a ball and started knitting a hat. I'd hoped to have enough to make a fine cap with ear covers, but no joy. Then inspiration struck. I remembered a similar weigh of yarn that I'd spun up not long after I got my first spinning wheel, the Lendrum. It is a fine white yarn of 50% superfine Merino wool, 30% Bombyx silk and 20% angora. After poking through my boxes of fiber and spun yarns I found it! Amazingly enough it is an exact match to the quiviut. I'm not sure I could have spun it that perfectly to match if I'd been trying. Ironic I did them the same at totally different times over several years. Running your fingers across the join between the 2 yarns the texture is the only thing different, and that's not by much.

I decided that I'd make a reversible, doubled hat. It's over 1/2 way done now, and I expect will use up nearly all of the angora blend. The taupe/brown of the quiviut should look very nice with a nice fluffy white brim.

I've also been working on the socks using Cat Bordhi's new book, "New Pathways for Sock Knitters: Book One". I'm using I think it's Riverbed, where the shaping is under the arch of the foot. The socks really feel good on my feet, hugging in on the area where they are usually a bit loose.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sweater on hold; Making Mitts

Well, After I got a bit done on the sleeves and the body I decided I didn't like the way it was coming out. Things have been really hectic these days, so I haven't had time to figure out if I messed up my calculations, but that's what I expect. When I get some time (after marching band season) I'll redo my calculations. I expect to have to rip back a few inches of the sleeves and body, readjust and start that part over.

In the mean time I've been aware that the lovely warm weather we've had is not going to last, so I found a ball of natural cream color hand spun Targhee wool and invented/unvented a mitt pattern. My goal was to be able to knit or spin while keeping my wrists and the backs of my hands warm. I wanted my fingers and the palms of my hands free to work.

I started by hand-chaining a length of the yarn long enough to fit around my middle or index finger, put the loop on a wooden double pointed knitting needle, then picking up one side of 3 of the chains. Turned, then knitted across those stitches, knitting into the front and back of each loop, thus doubling the number of stitches. Then I started in to make a 2-faced fabric by double knitting. After the first double knit row (k1,s1 across, turn, repeat on the other side) I did an increase at the 2nd from the end of every other row.

When this ever-increasing triangle was long enough that it would fit around my wrist it also seemed to be long enough to cover the back of my hand, so I joined, crossing the first 2 stitches of each fabric face to prevent a gap. Once joined I knit on 6 dp needles until the wrist cuff was about 4.5 inches long, say 11 or 12 cm. Long enough to give good coverage for my wrist, but not so long as to go over the larger part of my lower arm.

After wearing them some I think if I make more that I'll change the increase rate for the last few flat rows (say 5 or 6 increases) before joining to every 3rd row, making the part of the back of the hand a bit longer before joining. They are working, but I'm finding that my thumb moving around as I'm wearing them is affecting how they ride on my hand.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Silver Spudnick sweater - Yoke into Sleeves & Body

Last night I was walking with my kids, dogs and neighbor while trying to work on my sweater. I was trying to count 252 stitches, decrease by 14 stitches around while putting in markers, listen to the conversation, and put in a comment or so when I had a thought! Didn't work very well. I kept loosing track of my count, or increasing instead of decreasing.

I ended up just sitting down with it later in the evening. Decided I didn't like the last half-inch or so. I ripped back a couple of rounds, did the decrease round earlier, to remove the extra stitches I'd added to make the color pattern area big enough to match the rest, put the markers in to tell where I'll break out the sleeves and body, then went to bed.

This morning I've gotten to the point that I'm ready to cast on the underarm stitches for one of the arms, and start to split the yoke into 2 sleeves and a body! Yay!

When I get home tonight I need to take the 2nd skein of yarn and wind it into a ball. I rewound the light silver-gray I had left after making the yoke pattern. Sure is a much smaller ball! I don't know if I'll be able to do the same pattern on each cuff again, or not. I guess I'll have to see when I get there.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Silver Spudnick Sweater In-Progress

I've still got a lot to do, but here it is as of this morning.

I spent 2 wonderful days enjoying the Cincinnati Celtic Festival, sneaking in a few hours up at Wool Gathering at Young's Dairy Sunday morning. This gave me quite a bit of time to knit on the Silver CVM Sweater as I wandered around.

As previously mentioned, I cast this on so I could knit both directions from the base of the neck ribbing. I ended up knitting a couple of rounds of the neck ribbing on the same size needle as the body of the sweater, then switched from US 9 to US 6 to tighten up the ribbing. I then left the neck till later, after I'd done the patterned yoke so I'd have enough of the light silver white.

I knit the yoke patterning, but didn't like the way it came out. I hadn't added extra stitches before doing the color pattern, and the pattern sort of bunched a bit around my shoulders. I also decided it should be lower, on my upper arms, instead of just on top of the shoulders. So back I ripped, taking out the patterning, then continuing in the dark silver. I had about half a handspan (wrist to fingers) from the neck ribbing when I Celtic Festival. I knit another 2 or 3 inches on the yoke, at one point during that I decided I'd better finish the neck ribbing so I could try it on better. As you can see I put 3 stripes of 2 rounds each of the light silver in the neck ribbing. I cast of on the US size 9 needles to give the edge plenty of flexibility while staying stable.

When I figured the yoke was long enough I added some extra stitches, enough that at the end of the 26 round pattern I'd have the proper number of stitches for the number of rows I'd have, then started the pattern. As you can see, it's coming along well. In one of the typical vagaries of hand spinning, even though all of the yarn was spun to the same sample various sections of it were a bit thicker or thinner. The silver white has been a bit thicker than the surround dark silver. The silver white is thus slightly more prominent in the yoke than the gray.

Silver Spudnick Pictures

I finally took some pictures of the Silver Spudnick. I wish the texture of this lovely, springy yarn could come through!

Here's the light silver singles next to the dark silver 2-ply I was spinning to match. The wheel is a Kromski Mazurka stained mahogany.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Silver Spudnick CVM is becoming a sweater!

I finally took the plunge and have started knitting the silver CVM into a yoke sweater from the top. I love knitting sweaters from the top, and socks from the toe, so I can just go until I run out of yarn, or it reaches the size I want. In either case, I don't have to do the "pray the yarn won't run out" thing!

I'm using some techniques I've learned recently, as well as tried-and-true ones. The cast on is one I learned in "New Pathways for Sock Knitters: Book One" by Cat Bordhi. She credits another knitter with inventing/unventing it, but unfortunately all I recall at the moment is her name is June. I think. In any case, the cast on let me make a totally invisible caston, then have live stitches to knit both up and down.

I started with 80 stitches in the dark silver gray, then used the usual increase 4 stitches every round to get the yoke. I made the increases totally randomly, trying only to keep them from stacking up. Every so often I would count how many stitches and make any corrections if I'd forgotten to make an increase at some point. I've knit it to 180 stitches, and have now started a mosaic pattern using the silver-white. This pattern is from "Mosaic Knitting" by Barbara G. Walker, Band 29, page 110. I'm also using Walkers book "Knitting from the Top" to figure out my "pattern" for the sweater. All of Barbara G. Walkers books are available from Schoolhouse Press. I couldn't manage without these, and many other books Schoolhouse carries! No affiliation, just a satisfied customer who is glad Elizabeth Zimmermann's legacy continues!

At 4.25 stitches per inch my yoked sweater is coming along fast. With luck maybe I'll finish it before really cold weather hits!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Silver CVM - Spudnick

The hand spinning has been going wonderfully. I so much enjoy the process of making yarn, the feel of the fibers sliding into the twist, flowing through my hands. The dark silver CVM (California Variegated Mutant) type wool I've been spinning is now in 2 huge skeins ready to be balled and knit. They are 6 7/2 and 6 3/8 ounce, respectively. I ended up with 5 bobbins spun on my Mazurka which I plied into a 2-ply using the jumbo head on my Lendrum.

I'm now working on 4 drum carded batts of a silver-white from the same fleece. I'm about a quarter of the way through spinning that to match the dark silver. I expect about a single bobbin of this silver-white, which I expect to use as contrast on whatever garment I decide to knit of the dark silver.

Spinning this fleece was a bit of a challenge for me, as I've not had much experience spinning from carded batts, and because I wanted to spin it worsted weight. My usual spinning is very fine, so allowing so many more fibers into the twist, making a much thicker yarn, meant I had to slow way down. It worked, though, and I'm totally thrilled that I was able to stay pretty much in range of my target sample through 5 whole bobbins of yarn!

When I get a chance I'll get some pictures.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Limoncello & Mandrinetto

A few years back my husband was traveling to Europe fairly regularly. On some of his trips he brought home Limoncello, a lemon cordial, and Mandrinetto, a tangerine cordial. Both are very good. My husband's boss learned I make cordials and sent me the below recipe. He has a lemon tree, and had tried it and liked it.
"This is the one I used but I have immersed the lemon zest for a much longer period to get a fuller flavour!

From JB, who kindly posted this to the BBS: - Here is a Limoncello recipe from the food section of the San Francisco Chronicle of several months ago.

• 15 thick-skinned lemons (Eureka, Lisbon or Citron)
• 2 bottles (750 ml each) of the best 100 proof Vodka
• 4 1/2 cups sugar
• 5 cups water

Wash the lemons in hot water before you start. Remove the peel with a vegetable peeler, removing all white pith on the back of the peel by scraping with a knife, and put the peels in a 4-quart Mason jar. Add 1 bottle of Vodka and stir. Cover the jar, date it, and put it to rest in a dark cabinet at room temperature.

After 40 days, take out the lemon-Vodka mixture. Ina sauce pan set over high heat, stir the sugar and water together and boil for 5 minutes. Let the sugar syrup cool completely in the pan, about 10 minutes. Add the sugar syrup to the lemon-Vodka mixture along with the second bottle of Vodka.

Stir well to combine. Replace the cover on the jar and note the finish date. Return it to the dark cabinet and store for 40 more days.

At day 80, remove the limoncello from the cabinet. Strain the mixture and discard the lemon peel.

Pour into clean, unused bottles with caps or decorative corked bottles. Store the bottles in the pantry, but put one bottle at a time in the freezer until ready to use. "

I tried the recipe, too, and it sure came out well.

Last November, when the Clementines showed fresh in my local market we got a nice flat of them and decided to try the Limoncello recipe on them, hoping that would make Mandrinetto. Clementines have very thin skin, so we ended up just grating it off, as it didn't come off well with a peeler. It turned a lovely orange color, and seemed to be working up quite fine.

After straining a thin layer of rind from the grating came to the top in addition to the expected small bits that settled to the bottom. I didn't think it was going to be possible to rack the clear liquid from between them, so I used a coffee filter in a funnel and strained it all. Came out wonderfully clear, and it's got lovely flavor. It's not as dark in color as commercial Mandrinetto, which appears to have been colored orange, but the aroma and taste are fantastic!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Mocha Delight - Coffee Cordial

I sometimes enjoy a cup of milk, cocoa or coffee with some coffee cordial in it. A couple of years ago, when I started making cordials at home, I tried the recipe my book had for coffee cordial, hoping to be able to make my own version of 'Kahlua' or something like. I'd done taste testing years before, trying various coffee liqueurs side-by-side, and found Kahlua and Kamora to be the best. Kamora was quite a bit cheaper, so I rarely got Kahlua.

My new book had a recipe for coffee cordial, so I tried it. And didn't like it much. So I put the idea of making my own out of my head as I had plenty of other things to try! Then one day my husband asked me why I hadn't been making my own coffee liqueur. We decided to see if other recipes were better, and did a lot of searching on the internet, as well as going through my now slightly larger library of such books.

We found a lot of recipes, many similar, and next thing I knew, my husband was cooking up recipes! He rarely drinks, but he's an awesome cook, and I very much appreciate his interest. We did a bunch of trials, mixing up tiny batches of likely-looking recipes, and tried them. We then made some recipe adjustments based on taste preferences, and made some more. A few rounds of this and we ended up with the below recipe, which I call Mocha Delight. It can be cut or multiplied. These instructions make about a gallon.

Mocha Delight

In a large sauce pan put:
2 quarts water
1/2 cup instant coffee (I use decaf)
2 Tbsp chocolate syrup (or to taste, I often squirt in a bit more)
4 cups, which is 2 1-lb packages, of dark brown sugar
2 cups sugar

Bring to boil, then boil for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave
until cool. I generally do this right before bed, then leave it to
cool overnight.

If your pan will hold a gallon you can just add the last 2 ingredients
to it, otherwise get a container that will hold a gallon and put into
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
4 cups 80-proof vodka (I generally use Schmirnof's red label)

Add the coffee mixture. Stir to blend well, then put in clean bottles.

This can be used immediately, and will last well without need of refrigeration. I do not recommend using higher proof Vodka, as it will give a harsh taste.

Elderberry Cordial

Over the 4th of July my mother and I started some Elderberry Cordial using the recipe in "Cordials from Your Kitchen". I've made this before, and it's wonderful! The berries were some Mom had picked last year and frozen. We put the frozen berries straight into the mix. Per instructions I've shaken the containes (quart and other such jars) every few days.

Yesterday was the day to strain the cordial. It sure is lovely. Dark, rich purple, and the smell is heavenly. A week of settling then I'll rack it and put it into nice bottles.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Spinning again

It's been a while since I've posted and a lot has been going on. Now that things have settled down just a bit I've gotten back to handspinning. I spun some Targhee, then decided it was time to spin some CVM I've had waiting for just the "right time". This fiber was from a fleece I'd purchased, washed and then carded up on a drum carder. It's been waiting for quite a while.

I spun up some samples, which was a bit interesting, as I've not spun from carded bats much. I settled on a 2-ply worsted weight yarn. The singles are spun on the 6:1 ration of my Mazurka spinning wheel, with about 21 degrees of twist, about 17 wpi. The finished 2-ply is 8 wpi. I've been using techniques I learned from Rita Buchanan in a spinning for knitting class to match my sample.

I've spun 4 bobbins, and have enough more fiber to do another bobbin, possibly 2. I'll ply it up mixing up the bobbins so the first is plied with the 3rd or whatever is the middle one, and so on.

I'm still deciding how to knit it up. I'm thinking a from-the-top, seamless sweater ala Barbara Walker. This CVM is a medium silver-gray, too dark to show cables all that well. The yarn is a bit randomly heathered, so should be quite interesting enough without much fussiness.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Showtime Rotisserie

A couple months ago my husband purchased a countertop rotisserie. The idea was to use it to roast coffee, as well as to cook. We've used it quite extensively, and I highly recommend it. I think it's about the best way to cook most meats. It will roast 2 chickens at a time, or the basket can be used for steaks, veggies or other flat items. It takes no longer than using the regular oven, doesn't heat up the whole house, and the food is wonderfully tender and juicy.

There are several additional things that it either can come with, or that you can get separately, including 2 sizes of baskets and skewers. Some packages come with a warming try that can be put on top.

A lot of thought went into the design. The drip tray is square, so there's no 'wrong' way to put it in. The spit can go in either way, so you just use it. It comes with a gray plastic disk that takes the gear shaft and holds the spit vertically, allowing you to position the foods/baskets on it without it falling over, and which will protect the table/counter when taking food off.

All in all, I highly recommend these rotisserie ovens. They take up about the same amount of space as a breadbox, coming in several sizes to suit your needs.