Saturday, November 28, 2009

Nostepinne: a yarn winding tool

Here is my new yarn winder (made in Poland by Kromski & Sons), purchased at the Hatchtown Website:

It was hand turned, all wood, with a natural finish, available for less than $15. 

You can go here to a video of how to use it, courtesy of Designed by Kristi.

This should make crafting with yarn a bit easier, insofar as winding goes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cranberry Relish by Susan Stamberg

While listening to NPR the other day, I heard about this famous recipe for cranberry relish.

Now don't turn up your nose immediately when it turns out that besides fresh cranberries, it also calls for a small onion and a good bit of horseradish.  Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourment Magazine and author of a number of books centered around food, was talking with Susan Stamberg about this shockingly pink relish.

Here is the link to this fun story, along with the original recipe:
* 2 cups whole raw cranberries, washed
* 1 small onion
* 3/4 cup sour cream
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 2 tablespoons horseradish from a jar ("red is a bit milder than white")
Grind the raw berries and onion together. ("I use an old-fashioned meat grinder," Stamberg says. "I'm sure there's a setting on the food processor that will give you a chunky grind, not a puree.") Add everything else and mix. Put in a plastic container and freeze.
Early Thanksgiving morning, move it from freezer to refrigerator compartment to thaw. ("It should still have some little icy slivers left.")
The relish will be thick, creamy and shocking pink. ("OK, Pepto Bismol pink.")
Makes 1 1/2 pints
I just finished making some, and it is SURPRISINGLY refreshing.  Of course, my conservative husband and his family are into the jellied cranberry sauce out of the can, so I will probably be the only one enjoying this little relish.  Sigh.  What's a gal to do but make herself happy?  ... and pawn off five little sacks of this taste treat to my friends this morning!

Monday, November 23, 2009

LED Lighting for Decoration

Coming up with a new lighting decoration for Thanksgiving dinner being served after the sun goes down, here is an idea: use LED cool white bulbs.  What are the advantages of LED bulbs?

Here is a good summarization of LED cool white lights:
LEDs present many advantages over incandescent light sources including lower energy consumption, longer lifetime, improved robustness, smaller size, faster switching, durable and reliable. However, they are relatively expensive and require more precise current and heat management than traditional light sources. Current LED products for general lighting have higher costs than fluorescent lamp sources of comparable output.
Also, the lights are stated to have a 25,000 hour average light bulb life.  The purchased light string consisting of 30 bulbs was less than $5.

Michael's had last-of-season silk flowers on sale for 90% off, so I bought a bunch of sunflowers and cut out the centers of the stamins so that a LED bulb could be pulled through.  Silk foliage was added, and the resulting lighted garland now decorates the window sill of one of the dining area windows. This was an inexpensive Thanksgiving decoration project for less than $10.

 Although the cool lights do not emit a "warm" glow, hopefully the candles on the table centerpiece will add to the soft lighting ambience. 

Please visit  tomorrow for a famous cranberry relish recipe supplied via an NPR podcast.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Temple of Flora

1799 was the first publication date of The Temple of Flora, Dr. Robert John Thornton's seminal work of supreme achievement of botanical illustration and artistic literature.  The referenced site links to an interesting blog which says, in part,
Filled with lavishly beautiful full color illustrations, botanical information, and even nods to classic poetry, "The Temple of Flora" is truly without a doubt one of England’s premier pieces of botanical literature.
More plates of Thorntons' works can be found here for purchase.

If you have a few minutes, go here to leaf through some of the works in the Temple of Flora available at Taschen Books.

The Botanicus Digital Library, part of the Missouri Botanical Garden Library, is another excellent web source for all things botanical.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Invisible (Provisional) Cast On Technique Video (KnitPicks)

Here is an excellent video link that shows the "invisible cast on technique" used in knitting, so that extra length can later be added on to the cuffs or hems of a knitted garment without showing an obvious seam line.

Using this video helped in starting a sweater from mid sleeve.  The link can be accessed here (about 3/4 of the way down the page) and shows this and many more knitting techniques, thanks to Knit Picks.

The pattern for this sweater is from Elizabeth Zimmermann, an iconoclast in knitting. From Wikipedia:
Zimmermann was the first knitter to be honored with a full obituary and article in the New York Times titled "E. Zimmermann Is Dead at 89; Revolutionized Art of Knitting." It appeared on Sunday, December 12, 1999. Her motto was "Knit on with confidence and hope, through all crises."
Here is a photo of the Zimmerman Adult Surprise Jacket (started with the invisible cast on technique).  I'm about 3/4 of the way through its completion.

Using some yarn from my stash, I also bought these Wool of the Andes skeins from KnitPicks to round out the colors in the striping effect:

My first Zimmermann book, Knitting Around, should arrive tomorrow via Amazon.  In the meantime, I am having a bit of anxiety because one side of the jacket is one stitch over the limit required, but thanks to Zimmerman's advice, I am knitting on with confidence.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tahini Sauce and Hummus: Quick Snack Recipe

Here was this new jar of tahini sauce on the pantry shelf, and it had not yet been opened.  It was just waiting for me to make this hummus recipe sent by friend Lynda in Wisconsin.  She found it in Cooks Illustrated (May, 2008).  Apparently she uses this recipe source often.

From what the recipe indicates, the problem with most hummus is that it has a course, dense consistency caused by the tough skins of the chickpeas.  The solution is to use canned chickpeas, not fresh garbonzo beans.  Not a problem since there was also a can of chickpeas patiently waiting on that same pantry shelf. 

But the REAL secret for smooth hummus is to emulsify the beans in a blender while slowly adding olive oil.
Here are the ingredients:

3 tablespoons juice from 1 to 2 lemons
1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons tahini , stirred well
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil , plus extra for drizzling
1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas , drained and rinsed (see note)
1 small garlic clove , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch cayenne
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro or parsley leaves


1. Combine lemon juice and water in small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk together tahini and 2 tablespoons oil in second small bowl or measuring cup. Set aside 2 tablespoons chickpeas for garnish.
2. Process remaining chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne in food processor until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. With machine running, add lemon juice-water mixture in steady stream through feed tube. Scrape down bowl and continue to process for 1 minute. With machine running, add oil-tahini mixture in steady stream through feed tube; continue to process until hummus is smooth and creamy, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.
3. Transfer hummus to serving bowl, sprinkle reserved chickpeas and cilantro over surface, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until flavors meld, at least 30 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Lucky for us that our parsley is still growing outside and was available for garnishment.  No pita bread in the cupboards, but Fritos worked just fine with the hummus.
Thanks, Lynda, for this superb recipe.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Calorimetry Scarf

The Calorimetry Scarf is off the needles.  It is a free download pattern available at the referenced site.  Check out a copyrighted picture of the scarf here.

The word "calorimetry" has been given this definition:
Calorimetry is a scientific term describing the measurement of heat lost or gained. Knit hats are a wonderful way to block out the cold, but when you have long hair it usually requires wearing it down, not often the most comfortable option on a blustery day. This headscarf allows you to wear your hair up while keeping your ears warm and preventing heat from escaping from the top of your head.

Above is a picture of the one just completed, and here is another that Velvet (her blog posting can be found here) finished a few weeks ago:

It is toasty warm, and doubles in its function as a way to keep not only your ears and head warm, but also serves for iPod earphones to stay in place while walking. Best of all, it can be knit in just a few hours.

It's a good thing.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Vintage Embroidery for Baby Pillowcase

Anticipating the birth of her first child, Marie at Knitted Gems is busy making darling things for soon-to-be born Elizabeth.  Knowing that Marie is a beautiful knitter, it would be like taking coals to Newcastle to give her a hand knit baby item.

Looking through my vintage pieces of needlework that good friend Dorothay sent me a while back from her mother's and sister's stashes dating from the early 1900's, here is what I found: a baby pillow case cover that was about 3/4 completed in embroidery.

The bunnies and flowers were so cute.  And the flowers gave it a whimsical feel.  But the back of the pillowcase was a grey cotton linen and definitely needed an update.

Here are the project finds that would help complete the "new" pillow after a bit of tweaking with embroidery floss, crayons, and a new piece of fabric backing:  Tracey at Giggleface Studios has an excellent tutorial on using crayons on fabric that can be accessed here. Using those techniques, more color was added to the picture.

Just a  fat quarter of fabric was required for the new backing for the pillowcase.  $1 would purchase a bit of batik color fabric that coordinated with the existing floss colors.

Knowing that Elizabeth has a great chance of inheriting her mother's beautiful strawberry blonde hair color, just a bit of mixed orange and pink embroidery floss was used on the fabric for the little girl's head to make it a personalized pillow for Baby Elly.  A new pillow, a bit of vintage tatting and lace, re-worked embroidery and a bit of sewing turned out this:

This was a fun project, and hopefully the pillow case will be something that Elizabeth will save for her own daughter in future years.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Easy Cowl to Knit

Using only 150 yd. of yarn, the Rievaulx cowl can be knit in a few days.  Here is what designer Kelly Herdrich said about this pattern:
Rievaulx is modeled after the green, rolling landscape on the drive to Rievaulx Abbey, and the gorgeous columns and architecture that make this abbey ruin such an amazing place to visit in Yorkshire. There are two versions for the pattern; one long, drape-y, reversible version, perfect for warmer days, and one snugger, taller version perfect for chilly weather.
Kelly's blog can be accessed here, and the pattern is free.  I modified it by adding a bit more ribbing to make it wider, and held two yarns together while knitting to add some color into the monochrome dark green and brown novelty fiber.  The second, more colorful, yarn was a bit of leftover hand dyed sock yarn in reds, purples and greens.

This cowl will be just the ticket for keeping warm on morning walks.  Thanks, Kelly.