Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Canary Knits: the Hinderland collection

As a blogger, I have developed into quite a blog enthusiast. One of my favorites is Canary Knits, the blog of knitwear designer Teresa Gregorio. I discovered Canary Knits when I found a copy of a then new-release, Brave New Knits. In it, Teresa's Milk Maiden top made my fingers itch to knit it. Sadly, then as now, I was already working on a project, and being a gift knitter, another project followed that. And another followed that, but I still want to make this adorable sweater. Someday I will.

Teresa has a knack for creating interesting designs that are also utterly wearable. As a bonus, I have won a little something thanks to her giveaways on more than one occasion, including a pattern for an ornate but very stylish bonnet and some Be Sweet yarn.

Recently, Canary Knits has been working on a seasonal series of designs called "Hinterland" that are based on the wilds and wildlife of the Carolinian forest zone (spanning most of the Midwest), the newest of which, "Hinterland: Autumn," was released about two weeks ago. Sadly, given the current incomplete status of my latest year-long knitting project (as well as our current household budget), I can't justify buying yet another book of patterns I won't be able to cast on yet, but I when I finally bind off on my gargantuan blanket, you can bet this little book will be my reward. What I do have now is the first book in the series, "Hinterland: Summer."

"Hinterland: Summer" includes three patterns. The handy ebook form means that you can see it in all its full-color graphic glory on your computer screen but you can also print out simple black and white copies of the pages for any patterns you might be currently working on and you can write all over them without guilt that you are marking up real book pages.

The first pattern is an ingenious blanket/shawl/pillow combination pattern called Raccoon's Home Range. It uses 11 hanks of Knit Picks Billow and looks equally fetching in each of its three incarnations. Moreover, I love the idea of a knit that I could wear to a picnic, use as the picnic blanket, and then roll up to slumber upon in the car on the ride home from the picnic.

The second pattern is a cozy little tank called Ontario Skies. This knit has over-the-shoulder straps that culminate in a behind-the-neck halter tie, making them completely adjustable, and a pleat in the back combined with short-row shaping for a feminine fit that should hug where it needs to and not where you really would rather it didn't.

The third pattern (my favorite!) is a short-sleeved cardigan/summer cover-up called Killdeer. It has a front tie closure and little pockets on each front side with barely-there front coverage that keeps your shoulders modest without hiding the rest of your ensemble, perfect for those hot summer days when a tank top is a must but work dress-code insists no shoulder be exposed.

(My print out of the Killdeer pattern- Love this picture.)

In addition, the book has some breathtaking cover art, numerous pictures of each pattern on a model (Teresa herself) so the knitter can see what their FO should look like, clear schematics of each pattern, an annotated bibliography of references about the Hinterland, and small explanatory essays explaining the Hinterland itself, stewardship, raccoons, and killdeer (a bird and not a directive).

Likewise "Hinterland: Autumn" features three patterns: a cardigan hoodie called Paridae, a sweet little bonnet called Soft Rime, and a unique convertible mitt set called Rustling Ruffles. Of course, I'm sure this book will also include the inspiration, research, and meditation on place that "Autumn" has, so do yourself a favor and go score a copy. While you're at it, buy "Summer" too.

And in the spirit of the season (and things that are Midwestern), you could also mosey over to Midwestern Gothic, were my first short story publication "The Godmother" will be included in their 12th issue, on sale starting January 1, 2014 in print or ebook versions. The story does include knitting, allowing you to satiate your literary and fiber-related fix all at the same time.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cleveland's Finest, my source for books

The area I have migrated to out here in the Midwest has a lot of things going for it that I love, like its support of the arts, for example. Of all these things--the radio stations, the public transit system, the local restaurants--what I love most about this area are the libraries. The fact that I'm an English major should make this confession of no real surprise to anyone.

That Ohio's citizen's visit their libraries more than citizens of any other state is the stuff of internet article fact (for what that's worth). In Northeast Ohio, it's easy to see why. Cleveland has an excellent library system. In fact, Clevnet is less like a library system and more like a network. It has participating library branches as far west as Sandusky and as for east as Trumbull county, as far north as Ashtabula and as far south as Wayne county. A patron belonging to Clevnet can request items from any of the 44 currently participating libraries. What's more, the main branch in downtown Cleveland is gorgeous, a grand old building with sweeping ceilings, architectural intrigue, and a convenient drive-thru. The literary magazine section, which I visited once, may house more magazines that the AWP book fair (and that's saying something).

I admit, though, that didn't really appreciate what I had stumbled upon until I momentarily lost it. When we moved this past Easter to our new house, the local library was not a participating clevnet library. For several months we tried to make do, but the fiction section had only the most current books in any given series and there was no way to request the earlier books from other branches. There were no other branches. The knitting section looked plucked right out of the mid-80s, with none of the newer works that the knitting renaissance has inspired. The new books section was composed mostly of cheesy genre fiction (and not the good kind either). I was unaware that many romances set in Amish country even existed. What's more, there was never an available copy of Downton Abbey.

Fortunately, a few months post-move, I found out that the next town over is part of Clevnet. Moreover, it's closest branch is housed in a window-laden two-story building nestled between an I-hop, a Texas Roundhouse (LOVE their loaded sweet potatoes that they top with mini marshmallows), a Target, and the future location of the local Jo-Ann Fabrics. Their children's section has a pet turtle and once, a visiting tarantula bigger than my hand. While the immediate magazine selection and knitting section are slim pickings, they offer everything I need by way of Clevnet. Just request the item in question and an email arrives in my inbox the day it comes in.

I cannot leave a Clevnet library without a giant stack of books.

Sure, we have a river that once caught fire and a grifter population so insistent that it puts NYC to shame, but this library thing? We've got that perfected.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Chocolate Mousse Cake and Trifle

 It's no secret by now that the other members of my household and I love chocolate, so I wasn't surprised when my son requested chocolate mousse cake for his birthday. He had a slice of chocolate layer cake with mouse filling at our favorite local eatery, Blue Sky, and just absolutely loved it. Now, no other kind of cake will do.

Of course, his party was celebrated the weekend before the date of his actual birthday at my parent's house in Michigan with my siblings, niece, and nephew. Transporting a six-layer cake over two hours? Not bloody likely. Thus, we compromised, the boy would accept a chocolate trifle substitute
for the party with a mousse cake to follow closer to his birthday.

I whipped up the chocolate trifle at my mom's the morning of the party. It's super simple and the most time-consuming part of it is waiting for pudding to set.

Chocolate Trifle
What you need:

1 box chocolate cake mix, your preference and necessary ingredients
1 large box of chocolate pudding mix and necessary ingredients.
1 tub of whipped topping

1. Bake the cake according to package instructions, cool, and cut into small squares.
2. Make the pudding according to package instructions and allow to set.
3. In a large, even-diameter bowl, layer half of the cake squares, then half the pudding, then half the whipped topping. The repeat, so that there are two layers of each ingredient.
4. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This is a holiday stand-by dessert in our family. The kids love it and it's quick and easy to make. Because it was the first time I've been in charge of making it though, it ended up a little sloppy-looking. Usually, Mom makes it. It was hard to get the candles upright, but otherwise, it worked out just fine.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the mousse cake didn't end up made until the week after the boy's birthday. The husband made the cake and the mousse, I, as usual, made the frosting.


Chocolate Layer Cake with Mousse Filling and Chocolate Frosting
For full instructions: click here.
Our cake turned out not quite as pretty as the one in the blog from which we found the recipe, but no worries. A slightly lopsided cake is just as tasty as a perfectly cylindrical one with fancy frosted details.

This cake was super moist and super rich. In a word, it was just criminally decadent. The cake was light and fluffy for a from-scratch recipe, which I usually find a bit on the heavy side. The mousse was creamy and chocolate-y and added a much-needed lightness to the rich chocolate flavors. The frosting was almost too sweet, but not quite and very very, intensely chocolate-flavored. If I could do it over again, I probably would have cut the sweetness with a pinch or too of flour, like I do with my vanilla frosting. There was not a dissatisfied customer at the table after this one.

Of course, the cake is featured on top of our new dining room table, which looks a little something like this:

Friday, November 8, 2013

Garter Stitch

I am a bind off away from finishing the penultimate section of the Maize and Blue Stained Glass Blanket. This section is a rectangle, roughly 42 inches wide and 9 inches tall, done in off-white Red Heart Super Saver in a colorway called "Aran." The beauty of this section that makes it such a sigh of relief: it's comprised entirely of garter stitch.

If you are new to the lingo of the knitting world, garter stitch is one of the two workhorse stitch patterns that make up most knitted fabrics. The other is stockinette stitch.

For flat knitting, garter stitch is what happens when you knit every stitch of every row, resulting in V-shaped knit stitches for every other row, with the bump-shaped purl stitch for the rows in between. This happens because knitting creates knit stitches and when knitting back and forth on a flat piece of fabric, the knit stitch is created on opposite sides of the fabric for every row. The purl stitch is really just the backside of a knit stitch, so on one side of the fabric, the first row will be knits and the second will appear as purls and the other side will have a first row of purls and a second row of knits. Garter stitch is reversible, looking fairly identical no matter which side of the fabric faces front.

To create stockinette stitch when knitting flat, you have to learn how to purl. Purling creates purl stitches. Thus, stockinette stitch, which involves knitting for a row and then purling for a row, results in all the knits being on one side of the fabric and all the purls being on the other.


When the main side of the garment is the purl bump side, this is called reverse stockinette stitch.

For circular knitting, because you knit every row from the same direction, the reverse is true: knitting every row creates stockinette stitch and garter stitch requires purling every other row.

I love really complex stitch patterns and unique constructions on small projects. It makes them take a little more time, but that's okay, because they really don't take too much time in the first place. A 70-inch by 50-inch flat-knit blanket, however, is just huge, so for something this time-consuming, I'd rather it not take any more time than necessary. Most of the sections, though, required lace patterning or color work, each of which takes a long time to do compared to the ever-efficient garter stitch (not to mention a significant amount of concentration and the added time required to figure out the charting). Hence the year it's taken to get this far.

I'm so into this nice, easy, meditative garter stitch. Just one knit after the other until this blanket is done.

...Well... almost done. There will need to be a crocheted edging. And possibly a fabric backing. But the blanket will be totally done knit-wise. Of course, first I have to buy another skein of the Caron worsted weight in Cape Cod. I've run out of blue yarn, and this last section, all blue.