Monday, August 25

Be Kind to Animals

Hurry on over to Ruth's blog. She's having a "Be Kind to Animals" contest. The prizes are some yummy yarn and several knitting patterns. I'm donating one lace pattern and 2 toys patterns to the contest as prizes. The winner can choose which of my knitting patterns they would like.

To enter, post a comment about what you have personally done to make life better for animals on her blog.

Don't tarry, the contest ends August 31st.

Friday, August 22

Visitors

The month of August is flying by and it will soon be Labor Day. Even though the temps are still warm, we'll soon turn our attention towards fall and cooler weather.

Right now, it's hot here with the temps hovering near the 90 degree mark. We're about 6" under our normal rainfall. We're watering regularly to keep our garden going. Our tomatoes are finally ripening. We finished harvesting the sweet corn last night. Some of that golden goodness went into the freezer for later eating and some of it was consumed by us. Yum! If you haven't had sweet corn that's just been picked, you don't know what you are missing. It is so sweet, tender, and delicious! We've had a running battle with the critters over the corn. Hubby discovered an old method that seems to have kept them out of the patch long enough to harvest the corn. I'm not saying what it is, but it does work! LOL!

Our pear tree is drooping under the weight of the pears. I had to tie up some of the branches to keep them from breaking. Some of that harvest I may turn into pear jam. I found a recipe for it in an old cookbook I have called Make Your Own Groceries. It has recipes in it for making from scratch items that you now to buy in packages at the supermarket. I'll skip the additives, preservatives, chemicals, and such and make my own, thank you. The author also has a second cookbook called More Make Your Own Groceries. I love old cookbooks like this that don't call for using packaged mixes and such to make them.

Hubby's cousin Sue from Colorado was in town visiting last week. She came over with my FIL for dinner on Tuesday night. She's a vegetarian and that's what I cooked. Though we do eat meat from time to time, we eat vegetarian more often than not. For dinner, I served white bean and sage crostini, sweet and sour cucumbers, and a summer squash and rice salad. We finished up with slices of banana bread, zucchini bread, some very sweet canteloupe, and coffee. Yum! There wasn't much leftover when we were done. Now that I've teased you with the menu, I'll post a few recipes.

White Bean & Sage Crostini
1 baguette
3 tb olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1-15 oz can of cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
2 tb water
salt & pepper
1 ripe tomato, seeded and diced
Slice the baguette on an angle into 1/2" thick slices. Brush one side with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet; bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes until hot and crispy. Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat oil. Add onion, garlic, and sage. Cook for a few minutes until onions are translucent. Add beans and water; salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes until hot. Mash the beans to make a rough puree (some will still be whole). Top each piece of bread with some bean puree and diced tomato. Serve warm or at room temperature. Note: You can substitute other herbs or spices for the sage. (The four of us ate almost the entire loaf!)

Sweet & Sour Cucumbers
2 cucumbers
1 small onion, sliced into rings
2 tb vinegar
2 tb sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper or a pinch of red pepper flakes
1-2 tb olive oil (optional)
Peel cucumbers, if desired. If seedy, slice them in half lengthwise and use a small spoon to scrape seeds out. Thinly slice cucumbers and onion. Layer cucumbers and onion in a bowl or a jar with a lid. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over a little olive oil. Combine vinegar and sugar in a glass measuring cup. Microwave until hot. Carefully stir to dissolve sugar. Pour over cucumbers. Cover; let stand for a bit. Shake it up or stir to blend flavors. (Sometimes I will pour the dressing back into the cup and reheat it to speed the pickling process along.) These fresh pickles get better the longer they stand. Serve at room temperature or cold. Store leftovers in the refrigerator. Note: You can add chopped green peppers to this if you like. Serves 6.

Summer Squash & Rice Salad
olive oil
4 c diced summer squash or zucchini, unpeeled
2 c fresh sweet corn kernels
salt and pepper
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2-3 tbl white or cider vinegar
2 c steamed rice, cooked and cooled (I used more than this.)
Feta or crumbly cheese and diced tomatoes, optional
Place the rice in a big heatproof bowl; set aside. Put 2 tbs of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add squash and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned and slightly soft. Stir in the corn during the last minute or so of cooking. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the squash mixture over the rice; mix well. To make the dressing: add a little more olive oil to the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion; cook until translucent. Stir in garlic and cook briefly (do not burn!). Stir in the cumin and vinegar; let cook for 1-2 minutes for the flavors to blend. Remove skillet from the heat. Pour the dressing over the squash and rice. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Serve warm or refrigerate until serving time. You may serve with feta cheese and diced tomatoes if you desire. Serves 4-6.

Thursday, August 14

A tree frog and my toe up sock cast on

We have an unusual visitor hanging around our yard--a tree frog. Aren't these usually only found in the tropics or very hot climates? We don't have a clue where it came from. Hubby has seen it hanging on the side of our house in the evening. Last night, I saw it for the first time. I had the kitchen window open and saw something move outside. I took a closer look and saw this! The tree frog had jumped into the wisteria outside the window! Can you see the green frog in the middle of the picture? It's almost the same shade as the leaves. We've had a number of brown toads around this year but this is the first green or tree frog I've ever seen. We welcome toads in our garden as they help keep the bug population under control.

I'm busy designing and knitting a new shawl pattern. This one is a Faroese style with beads. Progress has temporarily ground to a halt while I wait for more yarn to arrive. Shame on me for starting this project, knowing that I didn't have enough yarn to complete it. :-( I couldn't help it. This shawl wanted to be knit up in some Miss Babs Bamboo Baby yarn that I bought at the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair. Too bad it was only a 400 yard skein.

In the meantime, I finished a pair of Regia toe up socks I started in March. Yipes! Where has the time gone? I decided to start another pair. Cold weather will be coming back one of these days. In my stash, I found a partial ball of a wild Opal colorway from a Ravelry trade. I'm lucky that I can knit a pair of socks for me with about 200 yards of yarn. I have a small foot.

I divided the yarn into 2 balls and cast on for toe up socks. I've been using 6" Crystal Palace bamboo double points. This time I decided to use some Chiao Goo 5" dpns that I purchased recently at Threadbear. I love these needles!

The first sock flew off my needles in only 3 days! (The other pair took about 3 months! LOL!) I started the second one last night. See how far I am already? These 5" needles are much easier for me to knit with than the 6" ones. They're making it a joy to knit socks instead of a chore.

I've also "uninvented" an easier way to start my toe up socks. For me, it is much less fiddly than any other cast on for toe ups that I've tried. I used to start my toe ups with a crocheted cast on using a piece of waste yarn. When I picked up the stitches on the cast on side, I had to carefully unravel the waste yarn and place each stitch on my needle without dropping any of them. I found it to be slow, fiddly, hard to see the stitches I was working with, and very aggravating if I dropped one of them or had to start over again.

Here's my new twist on a toe up cast on.

With my sock yarn and a crochet hook, I crochet cast on directly onto a dpn. Cast on about 1" worth of stitches. (For me that's 10.)

Knit 5 rows in stockinette (knit 1 row, purl 1 row).

Next you're going to pick up stitches in the crochet cast on. Take another dpn needle, place it under both loops of the first stitch of the crochet cast on edge and pull through a loop of sock yarn. This creates 1 stitch on your dpn. Repeat until you have as many stitches on this dpn as are on the other one. This method pushes the row of crochet loops from the cast on to the inside of the toe where it won't be seen.

You do not pick up any stitches in the end of the rows. Pull the first stitch or two tightly to close the gap around the end between the two dpns. Trust me, this works.

Divide your stitches evenly between 4 dpn needles, if you're using dpns. Now you'll begin knitting in the round. Start with a round of toe increases. Alternate with a round of plain knitting (no increases) until you have enough stitches for your sock.

If you don't know how to do a crochet cast on. You will find pictures and instructions at this link.

Tuesday, August 5

SquiddyCat -- a cat toy to knit & crochet

My name is SquiddyCat. I'm a new cat toy for you to knit and crochet.

The toy is knit sideways in garter stitch beginning at the head. It starts with a provisional cast on, is shaped using short rows, and ends with a three needle bindoff. Crochet the legs for a fast finish!

This is a quick and easy knit that should take less than 30 minutes.

Don't be intimidated by the advanced techniques used to construct this toy. I walk you through each technique.

You do have to know how to crochet a chain and slip stitch to make the legs.

Rated: Intermediate or advanced beginner knitter with some crochet experience

Supplies needed:
Size 7 (4.5 mm) knitting needles
1 double point size 7 (4.5 mm)
Size G or H crochet hook
18 yards worsted weight yarn
Large eye tapestry needle
Poly fill or stuffing of your choice
Catnip

The 3 page pdf file contains written instructions and many pictures showing you how the toy is constructed.

November 25, 2008. The pattern is now available as a free download in my Ravelry pattern store.

Friday, August 1

Walden Pond -- a lace scarf to knit

Announcing the debut of my newest lace pattern -- Walden Pond.

The leafy motif and rippling waves in this design remind me of the serene tranquility of Thoreau’s Walden Pond retreat. This “no purl” lace scarf is easy enough for a beginning lace knitter. There is no right or wrong side to the scarf–both sides look exactly the same. Only one skein of fingering weight yarn (150-200 yards) is needed to knit this project. This will make a scarf about 6" wide x 60" long when blocked.

The pdf pattern is 3 pages long. It includes lace knitting tips, line-by-line written instructions, and a lace chart.

I hope you use my designs as a stepping stone. Knit more repeats to make it longer, use a heavier or lighter weight yarn than specified, or add beads to the design. Let your creativity reign!

I knit the original (green) scarf with straight ends. After blocking it, I thought it looked a little unfinished or needed something. Adding points to both ends finished it very nicely. :-)

Here are pictures of the scarves knit by my Ravelry test knitters--Karen (purple), Victoria (pink cashmere), and Sunni (1) green hand dyed wool and 2) gray handspun Pygora with beads). Thanks so much for your help! They all told me the pattern was an easy knit and not boring. Sunni has already knit two. All three have told me they will definitely knit it again.

Several knitters who have seen this scarf have asked if I would
expand this design into a stole. I will work on this option as I have time.

Taleah suggested the name for this sca
rf pattern. She has received a free copy of the pattern as a thank you. (She plans on knitting it soon. LOL!)
The Walden Pond scarf pattern is now available for sale through my Ravelry pattern store for $3.00.



Pattern prices subject to change without notice. Check my Ravelry Store for current pattern prices.