20k stitches later…

Edit: it’s 40K, not 20K. I was thinking about the 16 row repeat, but it’s 32 rows. Math! But it’s bound off and done. Ends woven in; here are the orts:

done

It’s just the way I imagined it. I love it when that happens. I’ll show you next spring…

20k is a lot of stitches! It’s fairly regular knitting, so this was a good project to read a book by. Reading does slow my knitting down a bit, but it’s worth it to entertain both my fingers and my mind. I just read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. It was a pretty good read, the stories of two women, one current day and one the personal history of an orphan in the 1920’s/1930’s. The current day portions feel like a YA novel, and the older portions were a fascinating look into a chapter of history that was new to me. But the ending of the book seemed like it was thrown together; after so much detail it seemed like there was a sudden push of the fast forward button. Still, a good read.

While not knitting, I’ve revisited what is now my favorite Portland walk. It’s 2.7 miles around the Willamette River waterfront, along the Vera Katz Eastside Esplanade and Waterfront Park on the west side. I walked it with a friend on Thursday morning and was captivated by shadows under the Hawthorne Bridge.

hawthorne bridge pdx shadows

I went back Friday with another friend because I wanted to capture the moving shadows. They’re a little cockroachy, aren’t they?

View from the other side of the Hawthorne Bridge: PacMan-esque shadows #pdx @sue.tangomango

A video posted by Michele (@pdxknitterati) on

Do you Instagram? I love it. I’m pdxknitterati over there, too. Come follow me for more fun pictures!

Here’s a little more Portland eye candy…

pdxknitterati burnside bridge

I’d never noticed the details on the Burnside Bridge turrets. Zoom in to see the detail under the windows. I love the leaf/flower? at the bottom, too.

pdx love locks

Apparently we’re copying Paris with love locks.

Eastbank EsplanadeAlong the esplanade.

Time to write up a pattern, and cast on for the next one! I already have it plotted out…

What’s on your needles?

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.

Add
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).

Yum.

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?

Pink…yarn, wine, and a PDX bridge ramble

I’ve just bound off and blocked a new design project.

Black Trillium Lilt

Such pretty leftovers! And they kind of go with my wine.

Black Trillium Lilt

I’ve loved every moment of knitting with this gorgeous gradient kit from Black Trillium Fibres. It’s Lilt, an 85/15 superwash merino/silk blend. Very nice. I’ve been intrigued by gradients recently, but this was my very first adventure with one. I’ll be back for more.

It’s a gorgeous day for blocking outdoors. And after my bird poop blocking incident, I’ve devised a way to protect my knits. I can’t show you what I’m blocking, but here’s the scoop.

screen for blocking

I had a roll of this fiberglass screen material in my basement. Once upon a time, I was going to make simple screens to put in our casement windows when they were open. Long story short, it never happened, and then we replaced all the windows a few years ago. (54 windows. Ouch. Love the new ones.) So I cut off a piece and laid it over my blocking project. I put a few extra pins in the project to hold the screen up above it, and a few more pins to hold down the corners. Perfect! And no bird pooped on it…this time.

Portland bridgesSteel, Broadway, Fremont Bridges

We’re having a very lovely summer in Portland. I walked the downtown bridge loop with a friend the other morning. It’s 2.7 miles from the Hawthorne Bridge to the Steel Bridge on the East Side Esplanade, over the Steel, along Waterfront Park on the west side, and back over the Hawthorne.

public pianoPlay me!

A picture perfect day. And we also took a little side trip to see the new Tillikum Crossing bridge, which is scheduled to open September 12. It’s for pedestrians, bicycles, and light rail. No cars. So pretty.

Tillikum Crossing

Yellow plums are ripe; there will be some plum bourbon jam in my near future. What’s on your needles or in your kitchen this summer?

Jamming…strawberries

Last month I bought some Hood strawberries, local berries that are so delicate they don’t go for sale outside the area. They’re tender and sweet and perfect. We ate some, and I made a small batch of strawberry balsamic jam with the rest.

strawberry balsamic jam

Three little jars of heaven. I liked Marisa’s recipe at Food in Jars, but I prefer my strawberry jam less cooked, so that there are still chunks of berries and a lighter color and less cooked flavor. This recipe uses no added pectin, so you have to cook it longer for it to set as jam. Still, delicious.

This week California berries are on sale at the supermarket for 99 cents/pound, so I decided to have another go at it. I bought 3 one pound boxes of berries, and used them all. A bit more than planned, but I don’t really like fresh strawberries, so there was no use in keeping some back!

I decided to use Pomona’s Pectin, which works with less sugar and the cooking time is minimal. You might remember my plum jam adventures from last year with Pomona’s Pectin. Ultimately, I decided that plum jam really wants to be made with traditional pectin and more sugar for that jewel-like set, so I’ll be back to that this summer. But for strawberries? Perfect.

strawberry balsamic jamsNo pectin on left, Pomona’s on right

I like the fresher taste and bits of fruit in this version with less cooking time. The only thing that I didn’t love is that my fruit wants to float in the jam after processing. Marisa says that it’s due to air trapped in the fruit, making it lighter than the rest of the jam. Possible fixes: Cut the fruit smaller (I wanted chunks, so no), macerate fruit with sugar overnight (too late for this time), or swirl fruit in jars as they cool (bingo).

fruit floating jam

I guess I missed one of the jars! I’ll keep that one for me, and mix it up when I open it. I have 4 half pints and 6 4-ounce jars.

The instructions for Pomona’s Pectin say to mix the pectin with the sugar, I think so it doesn’t clump. Next time, I’ll keep back half the sugar to mix with the pectin, and use the other half to macerate the berries overnight. Problem solved.

Notes to self for next year’s strawberry, with or without balsamic:

Strawberry balsamic jam

6 cups mashed berries, a little less than 3 pounds (I gave them a quick whirl in the food processor)
3 cups sugar (I might cut it back to 2.5 next time)
3 tsp Pomona’s Pectin
3 tsp calcium water
2 TBS balsamic vinegar, or more to taste

Combine fruit and 2 cups sugar; macerate in refrigerator overnight.

Canning day: Combine pectin with remaining sugar; set aside.
Add calcium water to fruit. Bring to boil. Add remaining sugar and pectin. Return to boil, stirring to dissolve pectin. Remove from heat.

Fill jars to 1/4″ from top, wipe rims clean, screw on lids. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath canner. (Sea level, your altitude may vary! See instructions in the Pomona’s Pectin packet.)

Yield: 8-9 cups

If fruit still wants to float, swirl in jar after cooling 30 minutes. Any sooner and it’s still too liquid to keep it from floating back up.

What else? I noticed that a vine has taken over our dead bamboo stand. I thought it might be morning glory, which would need to be removed. It’s been growing on the bamboo for a couple years, wispy and delicate. But this year it’s very vigorous, and covered with buds, which don’t look like like morning glory.

passiflora overtakes bamboo

Yesterday it came into bloom. It’s too high for me to see from the ground, so I took this picture through the window.

passifora

It’s a passionflower (passiflora) vine! I think it was a volunteer from the neighbor’s yard. Pretty, but I can see how it might get out of hand. In fact, it is jumping over to the lilac on the left, so I pulled some down.

passiflora

Should I let it run free, as long as it leaves my lilac alone? The lilac needs pruning, so that will leave space between. But this thing is WILD! I read that some varieties make fruit, and so I guess I’ll wait it out. Passionfruit jam?

Are you jamming this season? I’m looking forward to plums. This year it’s going to be plum bourbon jam…

July: Tour de Fleece, Blues Festival, Chicago

July means Tour de France, which means Tour de Fleece! I participated last year, but that’s pretty much the last time I picked up my spindle. I had started spinning this pretty BFL from Knitted Wit

image

but when I picked it up on Saturday to start again, I was pretty confused! First I had to figure out which direction I was spinning (easy), and then I couldn’t get it drafting. Why not? I couldn’t remember which hand I used for drafting! That’s definitely a hint that it’s been way too long.

bfl spinning

I don’t think my poorly wound cop was helping at all (wobbly spinning), so I wound it on my niddy noddy (thank goodness I eventually remembered how to do that) and started over. Let’s see how much spinning I get done this time! And if I can get something fairly consistent. I want a fingering to sport weight singles, to use as a single ply yarn for a simple triangle shawl. I want the colors to be the star of this project.

What else? Oh, the beginning of July means it’s time for Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival. It’s been egregiously hot here (mid-90’s), so I wasn’t interested in spending much time listening to music outdoors, but I did go with DH on Saturday evening for a couple hours. Portland really knows how to throw a party.

blues festivalClick the picture for a closer look: Thousands in the park, the Hawthorne Bridge, and Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin and the Guilty Ones on stage.

The weekend before, DH and I flew to Chicago to visit a friend who moved away last year. We were joined by two other friends who had also moved away from Portland. Reunion tour!

Lincoln Park group shot

We had a great time. 72 hours was enough to get a taste of Chicago, and make us want to go back. Here’s the whirlwind. We did an architecture tour by boat. Highly recommended.

chicago architecture

postmodern chicago

chicago architecture

Chicago has many beautiful parks, which feature free activities, including the zoo. Lots of public art:

chicago beanThe Bean in Millennium Park

Jaume Plensa Awilda

This is the back of “Looking into My Dreams, Awilda” in Millennium Park by Jaume Plensa, which is very similar to his “Echo” that I saw at the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle in May.

daily bride and AwildaAwilda snuck into this picture, too.

At first I thought this was another bride at the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool in Lincoln Park, but it was a fashion photo shoot.

Caldwell Lily Pool Chicago

lily pool photo shootGorgeous.

chagall mural chicago

This Marc Chagall mural is in the plaza at the Chase building (which is a cool looking building itself). I didn’t realize until I looked at this picture that there’s a Ferris wheel in it. I saw it as an echo of this, which I took to be a rose window from a cathedral.

chagall mural chicago 3

Chagall mural Chicago 2

Love this signature.

And I love that there’s a beach in this city! Lake Michigan is huge.

Chicago beach

We got around by trains, cabs, Uber, and Divvy.

Divvy

And ate and drank our way through town. Sometimes simple is best: This avocado toast at Le Pain Quotidien

avocado toast

inspired this when I got back home.

avocado toast breakfastToasted English muffin, avocado, sea salt, cumin, chia seeds. Simple and delicious.

lox and latke Diner food!

Eataly Chicago is two floors of fabulous shopping and eating. The cheese counter is impressive. They have the same for meat, and bread. And the pasta selection is out of this world. Or this country, at least.

eataly cheese counter

Of course I took my knitting, which seems to echo the antennae on the Sears Tower.

knitting sears tower

Good friends, good times. I wish you the same for your summer!

So, so close, yarn chicken!

19 said yes, 19 said no. Ever the optimist, I forged on. And this is how close I got:

pdxknitterati yarn chicken

I made it! With 3 inches to spare. Just enough to sew in the end. It wasn’t really high stakes, because I would have just moved to the next color a little early, but I love a good game of yarn chicken. At least when I WIN.

Speaking of win, I did the random number thingy with the yes voters, and the winner is the 5th yes, Lindarumsey. I’m sending her an email to figure out what to send her, yarn, pattern, or other. Thanks to all for playing, and congrats to Linda!

Congrats also to pdxknitter, who won her own game of yarn chicken with 18 inches to spare. Woot! And sending good vibes to the Yarn Harlot, who is playing a much higher stakes game of yarn chicken

A little game of Yarn Chicken (contest), classes

Edited to add: Contest closed! See next post for the results and winner.

I’m playing a little game of yarn chicken. Do you think there’s enough yarn left for me to get 1050 stitches? Yes or no. Leave a comment, and I’ll do a random drawing from the correct answers when I find out. Winner gets something fun from my stash!

yarn chicken pdxknitterati

Yarn chicken is always more fun with wine, yes?

In other news, I’m teaching three classes at Twisted next week: Monday Cast On, Bind Off, Saturday Tink Drop Frog and Blocking. I know it’s summer and you’re not sure you want to be playing with wool, but we have air conditioning! Sign up now and make it happen!

Tiny harvest is tiny

The blueberry crop is still going strong, despite the best efforts of the birds and squirrels to make me share. The new raspberry plants have given me almost a dozen berries. I wasn’t expecting any this year, so it’s all bonus.

raspberry blueberry

I ate the first raspberries immediately, and then I saw Sue’s raspberry post. Wish I’d seen it earlier. What a great way to make a tiny harvest special! I had to try it. Click the link for her gorgeous photo.

raspberries and chocolate

No, they’re not giant raspberries, but isn’t it cool how close my iPad can get without zooming?

Monday we went for a short hike from the Hoyt Arboretum up to Pittock Mansion. I always think of hiking as something you do elsewhere; it’s so nice to have very local options. This is inside Portland’s city limits.

maidenhair fernMaidenhair fern

buzzWhy hello there! (What kind of flower is this?)

hikers

And of course, any outing with Sue, Mimi, and Kelly means food! We had lunch at Pho Tango in Hillsboro. Fabulous!

bun bo hueBun bo Hue

spring roll

I always thought the vegetables were garnish, just eye candy, but Mimi says you eat them wrapped around the spring roll. That makes a spring roll way more interesting.

yucca and coconut

Mimi made dessert. Yucca and shredded coconut tossed with toasted sesame seeds and a bit of sugar and salt. Sounds odd, tastes great!

Summer is in full swing here. It’s supposed to be 100 degrees (fahrenheit) this weekend. Time to water…again.

Sunriver getaway

After the busyness of TNNA and Ryan’s graduation, I headed to Sunriver in Central Oregon for a mid-week rendezvous with friends. I stopped at The Stitchin’ Post in Sisters to drop off a look book, and chatted with Paula, Nancy, and Ivy, but forgot to take a picture. Oops!

I had two full days in Sunriver. They were both gorgeous. We kayaked on Wednesday.

kayak Hosmer South SisterSouth Sister from Hosmer Lake

Hosmer Lake is gorgeous. Tons of birds, including red winged blackbirds, yellow headed blackbirds, and a magnificent bald eagle that flew right over our kayaks. I didn’t bring a zoom camera, just my phone, so no bird pix!

Bachelor and lenticular cloud

I watched this lenticular cloud develop all day next to Mt. Bachelor.

kayak hosmer lake

South Sister Hosmer Lake

I love the way the wind distorts the once straight jet trails. You can see that the water is pretty shallow here at the upper end of the lake. We couldn’t paddle up the creek; it was too shallow and muddy. It’s been a pretty dry winter, which isn’t good.

Hosmer Lake panoramaSouth Sister, Broken Top, and Mt. Bachelor is hiding on the right

damselflies

Lots of blue damselflies, but it’s hard to catch a picture from a drifting kayak!

We hiked along the Deschutes River near Benham Falls on Thursday.

deschutes river

Deschutes River

This turn in the river is an awesomely beautiful spot.

It sounds great, too.

But it wasn’t all play. I brought my knitting. Of course!

knitting

On Thursday night I sat in the hot tub under a canopy of stars. And I saw two shooting stars (meteors). Lucky? I think so.

Friday I came home and picked my first ripe raspberries. These are from the two new shrubs the kids planted for Mother’s Day.

raspberry blueberry

I also see that the birds have been busy while I’ve been away!

bird strike

Guess I should have picked more before I left. Oh, well. It’s been busy around here!

How is your summer so far?

Blocking: A cautionary tale

You know I’m a big believer in blocking hand knits. It makes such a difference in the finished piece.

Rosaria edge detail

I love blocking my knits outdoors in the summer. Last month, just before TNNA, I finished my second Summertime Blues and took advantage of the very fine weather to block it in the back yard. And for the first time ever, a bird pooped on my knitting. Crap! And I do mean crap. I spot cleaned it, but there was a definite stain. No time to wash and re-block, so I wore it anyway. It was clean, just spotty!

Summetime Blues pdxknitterati

Today I washed and re-blocked, but no luck. I think the sun baked it in. It’s small, not too noticeable (there are some darker dye spots in this semi-solid, but they’re blue, not greenish), and it’s on the back, at least the way I wear it.

pdxknitterati summertime blues

So there you have it. Did I block it outdoors today? You betcha! What are the odds that it would happen again? I think I just dodged a bullet there!

Speaking of blocking, I’m teaching Blocking, It’s Magic this summer and fall:
Twisted in Portland, Saturday July 11, 2:30 p.m.
Wool ‘n’ Wares in West Linn, Saturday August 1, 2 p.m.
Twisted in Portland, Monday August 31, 5:30 p.m.

And I’m doing a short presentation on blocking for the Tigard Knitting Guild on August 20, 7 p.m.

Clearly, I’m a blocking evangelist! Do you block your knits?