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Posts Tagged ‘winter’

I find that sometimes my knitting mojo wanes. It’s not for lack of projects on the needles, or ideas for projects, or yarn to knit with, or even inspiration, perhaps just slight burn out? So I tend to turn to all things knitterly or fiberish in print or online to try to occupy my cravings for my fix.

My local library system surprised me by adding a few scholarly reference knitting titles to their shelves and I jumped at the chance to loan them. I’ve been geeking out ever since! So go and search out these titles yourself:

Knitting around the world: a multistranded history of a time-honored tradition by Lola Nargi. A wonderful retrospective of the art and history of the handicraft. I was drawn in by the detail with which she researched each of the chapters and the historical photographs. There a few patterns, the knitter in me would have liked a few more, but as a library reference book this title is quite inclusive. I was a tad disappointed to not find any mention of the country where my ancestors harken from; Poland. I have yet to see it mentioned in any ethnic knitting book, I know there are lots of elaborate folk embroidery patterns from there and the Ukraine area, but I couldn’t help being curious and hopeful for a mention. Personal let downs aside I still had to renew it after the three-week loan because it was such a fascinating read. (Voyageur Press, 264 pages, $35.00 list price)

After reading about the international history of knitting I loaned the title,  Knitting in America: A glorious heritage from warm socks to high art by Susan M. Strawn Forward by Melanie Falick. It’s not often I enjoy a forward or introduction to a nonfiction book as much as I did this one, each wet my appetite for this enjoyable and readable retrospective. The images were the first thing that grabbed me on the cover, because of course we all love to judge a book by the cover, but that is like assuming there is nothing inside a creme puff! Yet inside this volume there were delectable chapters of our eras in history complimented by savory images I had never seen before. Some of my favorites were the modern art pieces towards the end, they inspired me to knit outside the pattern so-to-speak. There are twenty historical knitting patterns and the best part is that they are indexed separately in the back of the book! I do enjoy a good index. (Voyageur Press, 208 pages, $24.99 list price)

The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook: More Than 200 Fibers, from Animal to Spun Yarn, by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius. This title had me ignoring the family for many a night as I studied its pages learning about the many varieties of natural fleeces, how to use them best and where on earth to find them. Did you know that there are eleven classic colors to the Shetland rainbow? or how about the controversies surrounding upbreeding/upgrading? It’s in here! There are even entries for horse, cow, and wolf which I thought were among the more unusual. Most every entry has a photo of the fleece in various stages: raw, clean, spun, woven, and knitted when available. I enjoyed reading the histories behind many of the breeds, especially ones that were left feral for decades or possibly centuries to fend for themselves and how they adapted to the local conditions and lack of shearing. I know now more than ever that there needs to be a space in our family for a fiber animal or five soon, perhaps some angora goats and some guard llamas. (Storey Publishing, 488 pages, $35.00 list price.)

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All I wanted for Christmas was an oven mitt and a clean and organized basement. Did I get either? NO!

So I set about knitting myself and oven mitt, but while I was at it I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try out some color work experimentation because I have never attempted anything of the sort.

Not too shabby looking from the outside, but then an oversized mitten bound for felting can be quite forgiving in the final project.

All set up for the Kitchener stitch, I do it so infrequently that each time I do it I need YouTube's help!

A close up of the floats, no one was too ‘floaty’ for a first time, and nothing seemed too tight until…

Ug!

But with a little pulling and stretching it seemed to sort itself out as you can see.

I used my own hand-dyed yarn for the orange tones and scraps of brown I had from other projects. It needed two trips through the washing machine for a really good felting. Heck I didn’t want to risk any well done fingers, I already have oven mitts that do that.

For the pattern, I researched a bunch on Ravelry, then I kinda cast on with what I had and went with it. There are a few different styles of thumbs and I chose my favorite, although it seems to have come out a bit stubby.

The finished project came out not too bad for a first time felted (on purpose) project, although it could use a good shave, but I’ll be gosh darned if it doesn’t keep my hands from getting the least bit burned though!

I guess I’ll have to keep my fingers crossed until Mother’s Day for the basement. One can hope…

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What do you do with all those little bits of yarn that you snip off after weaving in your ends?

We have been saving our yarn bits & pieces for the birds. I remember reading over the summer from either a wonderful blogger or a magazine article (so sorry I can’t cite it) about how the family would save up theirs and then come spring time stuff them in an inexpensive suet feeder hang them in a tree for the birds to pluck out to line their nests with. One of the Monkey’s suggested we weave some of the longer strands through pine cones to be hung up on the trees too (great idea if you don’t have a suet feeder).

Our neighborhood birds will have a great selection of colors and fibers to choose from this spring. I can’t wait to spy the nests.

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Just because there has been lack of blogging in the past two months does not mean there has been lack of knitting. We have been pining away for snow in Western New York, yeah, I know, for most of you that read this not from around here you think Buffalo = Snow. But we have had maybe two sledding days all season. Extremely insufficient and not a good snow shoeing day yet either.

This has been good news for the Mama who has been a bit behind on the Monkey sweater front. Cold nights and hot tea have been conducive for cuddling with Monkeys, wool, good books & movies.

Monkey Boy was a bit reluctant to try on his sweater in progress, due to knitting needles still attached and then because I reached for the only other thing I could think of to help hold the pieces in place = clothes pins! Hey, they worked!

His sweater pattern is based on this one but it is heavily modified. I started it in the round from the bottom up because I hate to seam! I’m using wool yarns I’ve picked up from some local fiber festivals over the past two years that are from regional farms that were giving me very close gauges AND of course were to Monkey Boy’s tastes. Green and stripes rank extremely high on his list of requirements.

Modeling for Mama to take measurements and pictures: Not so much!

No Monkeys were harmed in this photo shoot (they rewarded with chocolate!)

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I just realized I forgot to tell y’all that in November I twisted the (fencing) Coach’s arm one day and asked for a special class = Mom’s with Swords – and got it! (Thank you Colin!) So I started fencing!! But there aren’t gonna be any photos of that. It’s strictly a women’s class for all of us ladies that want to get out and learn something new and frankly I can’t stand walking the treadmill or elliptical staring at the same walls the whole time (I’d rather be hiking). Besides nobody wants to see a picture of me all sweaty and yucky after being in the fencing get-up, AND I think I’d get impaled by the others if I even tried to take the camera out the bag during a practice session (they all know where the photos would end up).

After watching for almost a year, it was time to try on a mask, chest protector, glove, jacket and foil annnnd…… I loved it!!! I did keep going back and brought a partner (thanks Kristi). It is very mentally and physically challenging.  Much more different from the team sports I participated in high school and college (soccer & basketball). I get a great workout, it fills my competitive side, relieves stress (oh boy did I need this desperately in my life), has helped my coordination and balance (I’m not getting any younger), and I do believe is forging new mental pathways (this is especially good for me, again the not getting younger thing, and couldn’t we all use a new mental challenge?). And after all these benefits; I have been pacing myself against the Crafter Monkey with sit-ups, crunches, push-ups and now that we’re on break…  jumping jacks! I’ve sent packing twenty-one twenty-three pounds and don’t plan on ever wanting them back again! (I love that my skinny jeans have become my fat ones) It’s crazy but I really don’t feel like it’s hard to go or even like it’s exercise, I look forward to it, to the challenge, it’s something so foreign to myself and my muscles that I learn so much that it ends up being and education and workout all in one. Some of us Mom’s have commented at practice that we find ourselves lunging while doing laundry or advancing and retreating while putting dishes away, we laugh, but I secretly think the Coach thinks we’re nuts (hey we gotta work on our form in our own way)!

On the CM’s fencing anniversary – her one year anniversary of her introduction to the sport I had the opportunity to spar with my daughter. Now of course I do not have that much experience – only about six or so lessons versus whole year under her belt. She did not wipe the strip with me, I did give a bit of competition, nobody got hurt, we shook hands at the end, and I still gave her a ride home. But really all kidding aside…. it was so fun to fence her. I’ve watched her style develop over the months, so I kinda knew what to expect but she still had a few tricks up her sleeve and she is much faster than her ‘ole Mom… the bout ended 2-5 CM. Not bad for my first time, (I did score the first touch) I won’t let her live that one down – can you tell we had some verbal bantering going on beforehand? It was so great to see her get frustrated not only trying to figure out how I fenced but also because I fence left-handed, not because I am a lefty, but because my right hip was giving me trouble early on in practices, so I switched and now it’s much more comfortable. Although working with the left has put me at strength disadvantage it’s been a great way to balance out my body.

So now that you know what I’m doing in the New Year to stay fit and mentally challenged, What are you doing?  Are you looking for a new challenge? Join me!

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Just a few pictures from the last couple of fiber get together’s with wonderful like-minded women…..

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We sit, we knit, we chat, we drink (caffeine or otherwise) we wish we had more time to do this more often, without crazy Monkeys niggling us for things like snacks, help with bathroom issues, zipping up jackets, refereeing, finding the green crayon, etc.

So I took the plunge last month and started a local area Fiber Lovers group! Yep! I invited everybody I could think of, plastered the town/county with fliers and was pleasantly surprised when sixteen women joined me at the local coffee shop to crochet, knit, quilt, spin, and chat! There are even a few weavers in the mix, but alas looms don’t generally transport very easily. I was thrilled with the warm response and am anxiously awaiting our future gatherings!

Our next gathering is Sunday, January 8th at 6:00pm at T.F. Brown’s restaurant in Batavia, NY! Join us!! Bring lots of fiber friends!

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This is my Mom, together we worked (with the help of Dad) to make many stuffed perogies for our Christmas Eve (Wigilia) dinner.

Mixing and rolling out the pastry/pasta dough is extremely sensitive and important! Never try to roll out the whole batch at once.

Recipe for Dough:

6 cups flour

6 eggs

1 container of sour cream (not light sour cream folks – this is holiday fare!)

Measure flour into large mixing bowl and create a well into the middle, set aside. In another bowl, beat eggs and sour cream together until everything is smooth. Pour the egg & cream mixture into the flour well. Stir to incorporate all the egg mixture into the flour, do NOT over mix! Dough will be slightly sticky, turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently. Do NOT over knead. It will result in a tough chewy dough – not what we want!

See? It's really sticking to Mom's hands.

Now please don't ask how thick to roll out the dough, because I'm just gonna tell you to roll it out 'not too thick and not too thin'. Too thick and your perogies will be chewy-al dente all over, too thin and the filling will explode when you boil them.

Now for the fillings: our family prefers two choices = sauerkraut with mushrooms, and cheese. Mom cooked the sauerkraut with mushrooms  and mixed up the farmers cheese with ricotta the night before so we could just work on the process of rolling out, filling & boiling for one day.

I highly recommend refrigerating the sauerkraut overnight. It was easier to spoon onto the dough circles and seal up the little pouches of tastiness. That mixture can be quite greasy and little pieces of cabbage can inhibit the perfect seal.

It takes a very special tool to seal the perogies. Perhaps there's still time for you to ask for one for Christmas. It's called a 'fork'! Pretty new & unique! Go get yourself one if you don't have one yet - it's all the rage!

To seal a perogi properly: dip a finger in some water and rim half of the circle of dough, fold over dough with filling inside, press firmly, and then proceed to fork seal, then flip and fork seal the other side. After you have quite a few stuffed and sealed, bring a large pot of salted water to almost-boiling. If you put the perogies in a rolling boil you will most certainly cause the fragile pockets to burst!

Gently remove the perogies from the almost-boiling water after the dough has begun to cook. You really will be able to tell, they become more rigid. Run them under cool water, but be careful not to let the water stream burrow a hole in it. Once cooled and mostly dry, the perogies are ready for the freezer bags (our preferred method of stashing them so we won’t eat them all before Christmas Eve).

Of course there will always be a few that break or explode in the cooking process, so you will be forced to taste test along the way. Quality control is a good thing. There are many bonuses to making these: working with family, carrying on a Polish family tradition, learning the tradition, and sharing the tradition with my kids.

On Christmas Eve we cook the defrosted perogies up in a frying pan with some butter and olive oil along with chopped onions. Served along side monk fish, sweet rice, lazy perogi (unstuffed) and sauerkraut with split peas we pass around the traditional oplatki.

Me & Mom just starting out... many thanks to Dad the photographer, barista, and perogi boiler!

This is only half of the dining room table. I did marry an Italian, so unbeknownst to me when we first started really getting serious it really is ok to eat meat on Christmas Eve! I was so shocked my first CE dinner with Mr. Monkey (not yet my Mister) to see all sorts of pasta in red sauce, meat balls, bricihole and not a piece of seafood to be seen. So the other half of our dining room table is loaded with foods covered in red sauce! Have a blessed Christmas Eve.

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