Happy St. David’s Day! (plus some cookies)

It’s March 1st, and that means it’s St. David’s Day. St. David is the patron saint of Wales, and Wales is the land of (most of) my forefathers.

My grandmother, Leona James, lived with us when I was growing up. She was one generation removed from Wales, and she brought one Welsh tradition with her that became an integral part of my childhood – Welsh Cookies. She made Welsh Cookies all the time when I was growing up – everyone in my family was addicted to them; it’s a surprise we all didn’t weight 1200 pounds. 
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Grandma James’s Welsh Cookies

3 cups of flour
2 cups of sugar
3 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder

1 cup lard (you can subsitute butter but it won’t be TRADITIONAL!)
1 cup currants
3 eggs, plus milk to fill up to 1 cup
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all the dry ingredients. Add the currants so that they’re coated with the flour mixture. Cut in the lard (or butter) until the dough is in crumbly bits. Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla together in a measuring cup and add to flour mixture.

Roll out with A LOT of flour to about 1/2″ thick. Use a round 2″ cookie cutter to cut out cookies. Cook on a griddle on medium heat for about 2 minutes a side. You want the cookies to be a medium brown. If some get a little burny, well, that’s cook’s prerogative – I eat the mistakes!  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

These cookies freeze beautifully – my dad used to grab a bag of cookies out of the freezer and eat them then and there. 

 

My Olympics

Every two years there is a frenzy on Ravelry to organize or join an Olympics “team” and participate by choosing projects to knit. Remember when the US Olympic Committee brought down the hammer on Ravelry to stop calling this event “Ravelympics”? Seriously.  Remember how demoralizing it was to serious Olympic athletes that knitters were co-opting the Olympics name? No, neither do I.  End of rant.

Anyway, though I love a bandwagon as much as the next knitter, I’m not organized enough to join a team. Plus I don’t need any added pressure when I’m knitting.  So I didn’t join any Ravelry team, but I did choose some projects to knit while I watched many happy hours of cross-country skiing and speed skating and ice dancing. I love the Winter Olympics.

Here’s what I completed (I seemed to need some sort of colorwork fix):
Snowflake Hat by Jenny Kostka (heavily modified – I basically just used the snowflake chart and threw it on a Shrek Hat. 80 sts on a #7 needle, Cascade 220 worsted weight wool. But it is a beautiful simple pattern, Jenny! I love grey and yellow almost as much as I love grey and red):
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Speaking of grey, I also love grey and grey! This is Little Scallops Hat by Maria Carlander. The pattern is in Swedish, but there’s an English translation at the bottom of the page.  It’s written as a child’s hat, but once again, I really just threw the colorwork chart (which I am cuckoo-crazy about!) on a Shrek Hat. 80 sts on a #7 needle, more Cascade 220.
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I love love LURVE this sock yarn – it’s Schoeller +Stahl Limbo Color, sadly discontinued. It’s a beefy dk-weight sock yarn that knits up in these amazing wide stripes that please me. 44 sts on #4 needle, magic-looped. The pattern is my Easy Toe-Up Sock pattern, which not coincidentally, is my go-to sock pattern.
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I used up some handspun! This is Age of Brass and Steam, one of my alltime favorite shawl patterns (this is my third go-around), using Painted Tiger silk and merino fiber which I spun carried with a strand of sparkly white KidSilk Haze.  This isn’t blocked (I am still not 100% confident about blocking KSH and also yarn that has a heavy silk content) and is also not a great photo. But you get the idea.
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I’m tired of buying dumb pillows! It came to me like a lightning bolt (DOH!) that I could use my own pattern, the Easy Mosaic Pillow, to make some nice colorful new pillows for our couch. I used some leftover bulky weight big box yarn. I love how it turned out. Cat is optional.
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Finally, there is one project that I specifically started for the Olympics, which I am still working on (and will probably not be done until the next Olympics). This is Welsh Blanket Boomerang – a 45-row mosaic pattern shawl triangle in fingering weight yarn. The green is handspun fiber of unknown origin (well, I spun it, but I don’t know what the fiber is); the blue is Ball and Skein fingering. It will be gorgeous when it’s done, but it’s slow knitting.  Also, mosaic knitting needs to be blocked with a heavy hand, so it bothers me that it’s so scrunchy and not-beautiful as I knit it. I want to steam-iron it as I go, but that is the road to Crazy Town. Here’s what it’s supposed to look like:
welsh_blanket_mediumHere’s what mine looks like:
image_medium2I’m always sad when the Olympics end, especially the WInter Olympics. It was nice to have an excuse to start a billion new projects, and it was nice to knit them while watching all the skiing and skating and shooting.

 

Free Shrek Hat Pattern!

Do you happen to need a Shrek Hat? Well, I’ve got a pattern for you!
shrekI was contacted by the costume designer for the school play at my son’s school, asking if I could knock out a pattern for Shrek hats for “Shrek The Musical”, which is happening at school next month.

We found a pattern on Ravelry, but it was in super-bulky yarn (first problem: it’s not easy to find super-bulky yarn, let alone in an appropriate shade of Shrek green), featured a spiral rib pattern (second problem: keeping track of the pattern, especially at the top where it decreases), and the ears were crocheted (third problem: I have only rudimentary crochet skills).

So here’s my pattern, which avoids all that. It’s written for bulky-weight yarn, is plain stockinette except for a smidge of ribbing to stabilize the brim, and the ears are I-cord.

FREE SHREK HAT PATTERNShrek Hat

Materials:
50 (75, 75, 100, 100) yards of bulky-weight yarn in appropriately Shrek-y green color
Size 10 needle – 16″ circular and double-points or 32″ or 40″ circular for Magic Loop

Gauge: 3 sts/1” in stockinette stitch

Finished Size: approximately 16″ (18″, 20″, 21″, 23″)
Baby (Childs,  Small Adult, Medium Adult, Large Adult)

Cast on 48 (56, 60, 64, 68) sts. Place marker and join into round, being careful not to twist stitches. Work 1.5″ of knit 2, purl 2 rib. Continue in stockinette (knit every row) until piece measures 5.5″ (6.5″, 7″, 7.25″, 7.25″) from cast-on. Begin decreases as follows (switch to double-points when it gets too tight):

Round 1: *Knit 4, knit 2 together; repeat from * to end of round, knit any remaining sts.
Round 2 (and all even rounds): Knit across round
Round 3: *Knit 3, k2tog; repeat from * to end of round, knit any remaining sts.
Round 5: *Knit 2, k2tog; repeat from * to end of round, knit any remaining sts.
Round 7: *Knit 1, k2tog; repeat from * to end of round, knit any remaining sts.
Round 9: *Knit 2 tog; repeat from * to end of round.

Break yarn, leaving 6″ tail, thread onto yarn needle, draw through remaining stitches on needles and draw tight. Weave in end on underside.

Ears (make 2)

(Note: The ears are knit in I-cord.  If you don’t know I-cord, see below for instructions.)

Cast on 7 sts. Work in I-cord (remember to pull yarn tightly behind your work at the end of each row) for 9 rows. Increase Row: k1, kfb [knit in front and back of stitch] in next 5 sts, k1. Turn your work and purl back. Bind off, leaving a 8″ tail.  Use the tail to make the bound-off edge a nice round circle. Then thread the tail down through the ear to the bottom.

Attach the ears on opposite sides of the hat about 2″ down (I sewed them down where the decreases begin.  You’re done!

I-Cord Instructions
I-cord is easiest to work on double-points, but you can work it on straight needles or circulars as well.  Note: If you are using double-points, you will be sliding the sts from one end of the needle to the other without turning. If you are using straight needles or circulars, you will need to move your sts from the right hand needle to the left hand needle without turning at the end of each row.

Cast on 7 sts and knit one row.  The working yarn is now coming from behind on the left-hand end of stitches. DO NOT TURN. Slide the stitches back to the right-hand end of the needle, WITHOUT TURNING, so that the working yarn is coming from behind on the left-hand end of the stitches. Knit the stitches (it is okay that the yarn is coming from the “wrong end” of the work. You are making a tiny tube.) This is I-Cord. Continue with directions above to complete ears.

And now, because this makes me laugh harder than anything else in these movies:
puss

 

 

Shameless Plug….for my Dad!

My dad’s newest book was just published, and I shall now shamelessly plug it. Here it is:

51i1NRX3DkL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_It is available here on Amazon or here from McFarland Publishing. It would make a great gift for any baseball lover you know! I can vouch for it – I am a baseball lover and I loved it!

About 15 years ago, my father wrote this book:
51VAV6FFZSL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_It was a history of his favorite team, the Philadelphia Athletics. Like many teams in the 1950′s, the Athletics left their East Coast home and thus my father’s heart was broken. The team moved to Kansas City and then Oakland, where they’ve been since 1968. My dad’s new book follows the team’s fortunes after they left Philadelphia. Arguably, the Athletics were even more successful in Oakland than they were in Philadelphia. They were certainly more colorful! Remember these guys?
oakland20a27s201970s20teamCharlie O. Finley and his hirsute crew. Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, and Philadelphia native Reggie Jackson! 1970s baseball at its groovy best.

The book tells the entire story of the Athletics franchise from its inception in 1901 to the end of the 2013 season. My dad was hoping the A’s would win the World Series in 2013 to make a fitting finale to his book, but they did not oblige.  In any case, the new book would make a great addition to any baseball lover’s library!

 

Pinterest Challenge – Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies

Are you addicted to Pinterest? I know I’m not, of course, not in any way, shape or form! Why would you think that?

Oh, all right, I am. I love Pinterest. It is one of my favorite ways to while away the time. Here is my Pinterest page – it is a window into my very soul. Or my shallow, cats/baking/knitting/vintage clothing and craft-project-lovin’ soul. Occasionally I tear myself away from the computer and try out an appealing recipe or craft project. One pin that I kept seeing again and again is this one, for Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies. This combines many things I like – i.e. brownies, pretzels and chocolate, and caramel!7f20e43fa509d8b77df3e251e3738dff There’s not even a recipe attached – just those self-explanatory pictures. We got invited to a neighbor’s Super Bowl party last week, and since there’s no way I could justify just making these bad boys for my little family, I seized the opportunity to try them out on a crowd.

Here are my self-explanatory pictures: 1) regular uncooked brownie mix;  2) place pretzels on top before baking; 3) after baking, pour caramel sauce all over;  4) yum.  Success! They were delicious and well-received.

IMG_0559 IMG_0561 IMG_0564 IMG_0567Only one caveat: since there were no directions, I poured the caramel sauce on right after they came out of the oven. I had some idea that that would slightly cook (or dare I say, caramelize!) the caramel sauce. But what happened is that the caramel sauce seeped into the cracks in the brownies and soaked into the brownies. Not the worst problem in the world, but next time I would wait until the brownies cooled a little before I poured the sauce on, to preserve the separate chocolate and caramel flavors a bit more.

Final Thoughts: These were ridiculously easy to make and made for a snazzier party gift than regular brownies. They would be fun to make with kids. People (other than my husband, who delicately picked off the pretzels) loved the salty/crunchy quality that the pretzels added.
Overall Pinterest Duplication Success Score: 95%

 

Snow Day Knitting

Like everybody in the Northeast, we are experiencing a seemingly never-ending cycle of snow storms, school delays, snow days and power outages. I work at a school, which is not the same one my son attends, so there is a whole other layer of excitement when school closings are announced. Today I had a snow day and my son did not. That is weird.

Now of course any knitter worth his or her salt will seize the opportunity to have some snuggly snow-day knitting projects lined up, and I am no exception. In keeping with my New Year’s Re-Energization to knit up my handspun, I knocked this out:
Quaker Yarn Stretcher

Quaker Yarn Stretcher by Susan Ashcroft. Easy and perfect for handspun. This allowed me to use every inch of 220 yards of superwash Corriedale from Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club. This colorway was “Sundown”, and the fiber was fractal spun (I split the fiber in half lengthwise, then spun one half from end to end, and broke the other half into 4 parts and spun them end to end in the same color order, then plied the two halves together).

I love this pattern – honestly, these are not my colors in any way, shape or form (the double-edged sword of the automatic shipment of a fiber club), so I think this fiber was languishing because it didn’t appeal to me visually.  But I love this scarf – I would definitely wear this. Highly recommend. Thank you, Susan Ashcroft!

My other snow day project was a pair of cozy socks. This is my Easy Toe-Up Sock pattern, in Limbo Color yarn, on size 4 magic loop needles. I love dk weight sock yarn – still very wearable as socks, but it knits up so much more quickly. I am in serious love with this yarn, as evidenced by these, which are my favorite handknit socks.
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Valentine’s Day Knitting

Happy February, everyone! Time to start thinking about Valentine’s Day. As an old fogey, this time of year I like to think about everyone I love, not just that good fellow I so luckily ended up with. Also, I love holiday-themed knitting!valentine cat

Here is some Valentine’s Day knitting I’ve dipped into in the past, not for my true valentine (who wouldn’t appreciate them anyway), but for my 2 sweet sisters and some lovely lady friends, all of whom I would like to shower with heart-themed knitting.

These are Heartfelt, by Norah Gaughan. I actually made these as Christmas ornament gifts for friends a couple of years ago. I loved these. Felting is fun!
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heartfelt

That’s a lot of hearts.

This is the lovely Mitered Heart Sachet. Fussypants knitting at its finest! I actually enjoyed these tremendously and taught a class in them. As fussy as they are, we all had a blast, and they actually knit up pretty quickly. Great way to use up leftover sock yarn (of which I have buckets). The pattern used to be available on Interweave Knits’ website, but alas it is not now. I have the PDF and will happily email it to you if you leave me a comment.
mitered heart sachet

Here’s a heart-shaped dishcloth, which is a much quicker (and admittedly, more useful) knit. Pattern is free on Ravelry:
heart dishcloths

Finally, in honor of my friend Cheryl, who loves intarsia (unlike moi) and taught this Intarsia Heart Mug Cozy class for years so I didn’t have to, here is another useful, pretty, free pattern:
heart mug cozy

There are a SLEW of Valentine’s and heart related patterns over at Ravelry.  And of course, as I always say, if you’re not a member of Ravelry, go join now. It’s free and it’s the best resource for knitters that ever was.

Celebrate love!

 

 

 

Introducing Our Newest Pattern!

Hello, Baby Chestnut Hill Gansey Cardigan!

Baby CH Gardigan partial

Some background – for 12 wonderful years I worked at The Tangled Web, a delightful yarn store in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia.  Chestnut Hill’s main street is Germantown Avenue, which until recently had trolley tracks embedded in cobblestones as its pavement. Inspired by that and by my deep deep love of textured knitting, I designed a series of sweaters and matching hats called The Chestnut Hill Ganseys*. The stockinette lines and seed stitch sections of the yoke pattern echoed the tracks and stones of Germantown Avenue. Like so:
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Anyway, I knocked out pullovers from American Girl Doll size:
AG CH Gansey Pullover

to adult and hats to match:
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Eventually, there will be Gansey cardigans in all sizes because I love a cardigan with a textured yoke! Here is the first in that series, the Baby size:

Baby CH Gansey Cardigan

Simple knit/purl patterned yoke, nice wide neck opening, and very little shaping all make for a pleasing knitting experience. This one was a fun knit. I wish I had more babies to knit for!

The pattern is available here. And if you’d like to make a matching hat (why wouldn’t you?!), go here for that pattern.

Baby CH Gansey Hat

*History of the word “gansey” (or “guernsey) here.

 

 

 

Weird Knitting…

My tendinitis is still killing me, but I have these occasional glorious windows of painlessness where I try to squeeze a bit of knitting in.  Weirdly, in the middle of all this cold and snow here outside Philadelphia, I’m positively craving grey. Yes, grey. Not rich deep red or lively yellow or gorgeous purple, but grey. All shades of grey.

So here’s what I knit last weekend:

"Aren't we soothing?"

Accelerating Stripes Mitts from Churchmouse Yarns, knit in Regia Angora Merino in 2 shades of grey. According to the pattern, the stripes are supposed to get narrower and narrower toward the top, but I liked how the initial 5-row stripes looked, so I just kept them that way. Unfortunately, it’s too cold to wear fingerless gloves right now, but I can’t wait to wear these when the weather warms up a smidge.