Tag Archives: swatching

Swatching and blocking, yarn and ice cream

Do you always swatch? Do you always wash and block your swatches? True confessions time here: I don’t always swatch, and when I do, I don’t always wash and block it. This has come back to bite me several times. Lesson learned! I’ve modified my approach: If the yarn is familiar to me, I might dive right in. A new yarn? It’s best to do my homework.

knitpicks galileo

This is Knit Picks Galileo in a deliciously plummy color called Urchin. It reminds me of these shield urchins I saw last December.

shingle urchins hawaii

But I digress.

This ia a new to me yarn. It’s sport weight, a 50/50 blend of Merino and Bamboo viscose. Two ply. It’s deliciously bouncy and round to knit with. Occasionally I’ll split the yarn with the Hiya Hiya Sharps that I’m knitting with, but I want that pointy tip for the lace stitches I’m working. It’s a reasonable trade-off.

The ballband recommends a size US 3-5 needle. I started with a 7, just for grins, because it’s going to be lace. Definitely too floppy. I swatched with a 6, and it felt pretty good, but I thought I’d push the envelope and swatch with a 5, too. It felt a little full on the needle, but surprise! It was my favorite of the three blocked swatches. It relaxed a lot from the bouncy knitted piece, but it also had more of the structure it needed to make this lace behave. So glad I swatched AND blocked in this instance. I’ve been knitting like crazy, and I’m halfway done with the project. No pictures; it’s a secret for now.

Speaking of plummy, my friends offered me plums from their super-productive tree again this year. I picked two colanders full, which was enough for two batches of jam.

yellow plums

I thought I’d come up with my perfect plum jam last summer. That was before I had some plum bourbon jam on a mini-doughnut at Pip’s Original Doughnuts. And over the year I’d also decided that I like a more traditional pectin set for plum jam. (Pomona’s is still my go-to for strawberry, and no pectin at all for raspberry.)

pdxknitterati bourbon plum jam

After the first batch, I went for the trifecta of favorite things: Plum, bourbon, crystallized ginger. Heaven. Not particularly boozy, but a extra depth of flavor that plain plum jam doesn’t have.

Notes for myself:

6 cups chopped plums
1/4 c water
Bring to boil, simmer 5 minutes. Add 1 box Sure-Jell pectin for less sugar (pink box) mixed with 1/4 cup sugar. Bring to boil.

4.5 cups sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Boil 1 minute per pectin package drections, water bath process for 10 minutes (sea level).


I must be an extravagant measurer, or maybe I should re-measure my plums after the first simmer, which I don’t, but I always end up with a bit more jam than I’m expecting. I can only process 8 jars with my stockpot/orange silicone trivet setup, and that’s my expected yield. Maybe it’s the added bourbon, ginger, water? Anyway, the extra jam goes into a jar and into the fridge. I had extras from 2 batches in the fridge, so I did this.

pdxknitterati plum bourbon jam ice cream

Plum bourbon jam ice cream. It was a good reason to use the ice cream maker the kids gave to me a couple years ago. And they were coming for dinner!

pdxknitterati plum bourbon jam ice cream

Tastes as good as it looks!

Inspired by Erica’s recipe, but I doubled it and adjusted it for sweetness:

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup plum bourbon jam
up to 1/4 cup sugar, to taste

Mix milk, cream, jam. Taste! Adjust sweetness as desired. Process in ice cream maker 25-30 minutes. This is a soft set; I put the ice cream in a storage container in the freezer for a couple hours before serving for a firmer set. Delicious. In a perfect world I might make a custard base for a smoother texture, but that would mean more work. I wonder if I’d like it with half and half instead of cream? This is like swatching, with food! But I’m guessing that laziness will win out, and this simple version is probably how it will always happen at my house.

I think this would be spectacular with strawberry balsamic jam, with some additional sugared strawberries thrown in. Just sayin’.

So, extravagant swatching, blocking, measuring, eating! What is your extravagance this summer?

Things I’ve learned about lace knitting

(Swatches for 4 shawls I want to knit. Right now.)

  • Swatching lace patterns is fun and addicting, and I like fussing with them to get the effect I want. Combine, alter, chart, swatch, refine, repeat.
  • Swatching in practice yarn is way better than repeatedly frogging and reknitting your “real” yarn. I switched to some light worsted yarn I had on hand. (White swatches in the picture.)
  • Swatching lace with heavier yarn will tell you a lot, but not everything. Swatching with leftover sock yarn is better, if fingering weight yarn is your goal. I wised up and bought a 50g skein of Louet Gems for swatching, because I needed a light color for a design submission. It’s the green ball in the picture, and it’s lovely to work with. I may have to get some more, to knit for reals.
  • Beads add lovely weight, drape, and bling to lace. I’m hooked (hah!) on the crochet hook method of adding beads.
  • Blocking is magic. (We already knew that, but it’s been reaffirmed, and can’t be said enough.)
  • An old black velvet dress makes a great background for a pale lace swatch photo. (No pic, it’s for a design submission.)
  • This elastic bind off is way better than the usual chain bind off, for lace that is going to be blocked: K2, * slip left needle into fronts of the 2 worked stitches on right needle and knit them off together through the back loop (like an ssk), K1, repeat from *.
  • And last of all: I’m a little obsessive.

PS: I blame Sivia Harding for this trip down the lace rabbit hole. I took her workshop last Sunday, and can’t stop playing with ideas. You can take her class at Twisted next Saturday, March 30. It’s from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. But don’t say I didn’t warn you about possible obsession!

Have some class(es)!

I spent all day Sunday learning about Sideways Lace Shawl Design in an inspiring workshop with designer Sivia Harding. She’s a perfect teacher, patient and full of great tips. This particular crescent shawl construction is new to me. It’s nice to have more options. I loved the class, and have fallen down the rabbit hole with many, many ideas. How to choose just one?

(Some of my stitch dictionaries. Sivia has more than I do…)

Swatch! I know, the S word. But after frogging the same bit of yarn 3 times, I realized that I should really swatch on something other than the good stuff. Now I’m playing with swatch #5, in a dk weight yarn and size 7 needles. I’m saving my lovely Knitted Wit Cashy Lite for the real thing.


I love taking classes. It’s so much fun to learn something new with a group of people who love the same thing you do. I’ve done this with piano (camp), and do this with knitting. Books and videos are great, but they will only take you so far. Sometimes you just need to see it live in front of you, and discuss it with your friends! Have you taken knitting workshops? What do you think?

I’d like to take this opportunity to put in another plug for the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival, April 19-21. There are some great classes available, but they can only happen if enough people sign up for them. Yvonne, the organizer, needs to know by April 1 whether there are enough students to make a lot of these classes happen. I’m scheduled to teach two classes, the Thrill of the Thrum (thrummed slippers), and Tink Drop Frog (finding and fixing mistakes), an expanded version of the class I teach at Twisted, with more tips and tricks. I’ve taken classes from instructors Mary Scott Huff (steeking) and Deb Accuardi (drop spindling) before, and enjoyed them both. You can see a full list of classes and instructors here.

Besides the classes, there is a wonderful marketplace loaded with fiber goodies, and a treasure hunt based on Chrissy Gardiner’s fabulous book, Indie Socks. Entry to the marketplace is free.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my stitch dictionaries are calling! As is the S word. And really, swatching is pretty fun when you’re playing with design ideas. It’s not like knitting a gauge swatch at all…

Road trips, and swatching

The week has flown by! The weekend is here and I’m still on last weekend, which I began at Menucha Retreat Center in Corbett, in the Columbia Gorge. This is spring on my side of the mountains…damp and cool.



I always walk the labyrinth at Menucha. It helps me quiet my busy mind, and focus. A meditation and a revelation, perfect.


I don’t remember ever seeing this much color in the mosaic stones before. I guess all that moisture can have its advantages.


And Diane became a new spinner! I’ll pass along a spindle to her; I have more than I need.


I went home Saturday night, and on Sunday morning I headed to the other side of the Cascade Mountains with my friend Vickie. We went to Kahneeta to hang out with her mom in her mom’s new RV. Nice digs.


The landscape is completely different over there, sunny and dry.




The cattails reminded me of spindles, with their loads of fluff.


The cottonwoods were shedding their loads of fluff, too, and it made me think I should try to spin that…


With all that fluff going on, you may ask if there was any knitting. Yes, a bit.


I’m going to call this swatching, mostly because I’ve completely frogged it. I’ve started and ripped three times now, as I hone in on what I want from this piece. There have been a lot of “aha!” moments. I’m about to start my last (I hope) rip, because now I think I know exactly what this needs. This time. Real swatching would be smart, but I get so excited about getting started, I just jump right in. Oops. We’ll just call them “very large swatches.” At least this yarn can put up with repeated froggings. I may be impetuous and lazy, but I’m stubborn, too, and I will prevail…


The original colors, below. It turned out that the pale green in the variegated didn’t pop against the gray, so I had to choose a new background. It’s Violetas, also in Malabrigo worsted.


On our way back over the mountains, we stopped up at Timberline Lodge for the view. Here’s Mt. Jefferson from the parking lot:

(Love that sky!)


And Mt. Hood out the back window of the lodge, near the bar.


The bar window is pretty cool looking, too.

bar glass

And now mama bird is home, for a while.


What’s up for you this weekend? I think the boys (young men) are going to help me whip the back yard into shape. It’s Mother’s Day, and that means they’ll do it, even if it’s not their favorite thing to do! Don’t worry; I’m making a fabulous dinner as their reward…