Both Sides Now, backstory

I started designing Both Sides Now last winter, even before the Knit Picks call for submissions for a brioche collection.

This was from January 2019. I knew I wanted brioche, and a half-pi shawl.

February 2019: I played around with some stitch patterns. The little round leaf pattern didn’t thrill me, and I cogitated for days on how to make that twig pattern bend to my will. Once I figured it out, I contacted Knit Picks to see if they had more of these colors. Nope, discontinued. But they sent me some glorious blues to play with.

I was playing with this at Crafty Moms weekend in March last year.

There was definitely some trial and error and learning curve involved. And then there was a call for submissions for a brioche collection. Perfect! I was halfway there already!

When I blocked and photographed the shawl, I discovered that there really was no wrong side. Both sides looked great. Voilà, Both Sides Now.

I found it fascinating that the twigs on RS and WS faced opposite directions, down and up. And when you look at it closely, the lower sections look like light veined leaves between dark outlines on the RS (left half), but they don’t look that way on the upper section of the WS. Clearly, it’s not an exact reversal of color and texture.

Usually KnitPicks writes their patterns for MC and CC, but I requested that we use DC and LC designations (dark color and light color) because I wanted to make sure those lower veined leaves were reproducible. They’re especially nice if the yarn colors are very tonally contrasty.

After I finished the blue shawl, I went back and finished the purple version as a shawlette to see how far the yarn would go. I used almost every last bit of yarn, one skein of each color.

The leaves show up really well here, too. Instructions for both sizes, shawlette and shawl, are in the pattern.

Here’s the Knit Picks sample, same side as the purple above. In the top section, the light colored twigs point downwards. With less tonal contrast in the greens, the leaf veins in the lower section don’t pop as much as they do in the blue and purple versions. Still very pretty, just different.

This was a lot of knitting that I couldn’t show you last year! Now all has been revealed.

For a chance to win the YO: Brioche Knits ebook, visit the first Both Sides Now blog post and leave a comment there. I’m drawing a name at the end of the weekend. Good luck!

Aspen Leaf scarf in progress

I finished my syncopated brioche Aspen Leaf scarf. It was perfect vacation knitting; the leaf pattern repeats over 10 leaves, and once you understand how the leaves widen and narrow, it’s pretty easy to memorize. This sample is in Huckleberry Knits’ DK Blue Faced Leicester; the gradient is Practical Tactical Brilliance, and the speckle is When You Said Hi I Forgot My Dang Name.

I’ve just finished the pattern and sent it to my tech editor. I’m looking for a few test knitters; let me know if you would like to test knit. Testers should already have experience with syncopated brioche knitting.

I’m also knitting another one in worsted weight, but I haven’t decided if it’s going to be in Knit Picks Chroma Worsted (single ply) or Malabrigo Rios (plied). Swatching now, and the Chroma may be winning…

Knit on!

Both Sides Now, and Window Pane

Have I set an earworm for you? Joni Mitchell or Judy Collins? Read to the bottom for a giveaway opportunity!

My Both Sides Now shawl pattern is on the cover of the new book, Yarn Over: Brioche Knits from Knit Picks! I’m really pleased.

Both Sides Now is a brioche half pi shawl. Both the “right side” and “wrong side” look good. The cover photo is what I think of as the wrong side. The second photo above is what I consider the right side.

My blue version has contrastier colors, so the lower section really pops, and looks like veined leaves. On this side, my right side, the twigs point downward.

But the back side of it is pretty awesome, too. The twigs point upwards on this side, just like on the book cover. The upper section doesn’t show as leaves quite as much, though. I love that you can wear it either way, according to your mood.

Oh! I have TWO patterns in this book; the other is my Window Pane Scarf. It was my first foray into syncopated brioche; I was going to use it as a teaching piece but then I had the opportunity to use it here. So I designed Hopscotch for my teaching piece, and Syncopation after that.

But I love this, too, and it would be a great learning piece for syncopated brioche!

The Yarn Over: Brioche Knits ebook has simple and complex projects in a variety of yarn weights. There’s something for everyone, from beginner to expert.

To celebrate these new designs, I’m giving away two copies of the Yarn Over: Brioche Knits ebook. One will go to a commenter on this post, and the other will go to a PDXKnitterati newsletter subscriber. I’ll be drawing a name on or around January 12. Good luck!

Aloha and brioche to ring out 2019

We had our annual getaway to Hawaii in December; it was warm, wonderful, and relaxing. As one son said, it was vacation, not travel. Reading, knitting, long walks, watching the waves, the birds, the sunsets…and one day of turtle spotting.

You know I have a thing about moonsets. Our first morning coincided with the full moon, and this is what I saw at 5 a.m.

The next morning I saw the sunrise chasing the moonset. Tap the picture to embiggen. Gorgeous. I want these colors in gradient yarn!

Speaking of gradient, I finished my Aspen Leaf scarf; I love the gradient and brioche together. More on this later.

We loved the birds that visited our lanai. Mostly Java finches (Java sparrows) and yellow billed cardinals.

I learned that if you push the white still photo button while taking a video, you can get hilarious pictures of birds in action.

We spent one day at our favorite beaches, Ai’opio and Honokohau (they’re right next to each other and perfect for a walk to both). There’s a cool old stone fish trap in the water; fish would come in on the tide, and then be stuck in the pool when the tide went out. Passive fishing at its finest!

There are lots of honu, green sea turtles, lounging in the water.

And at least one petroglyph!

I love spending time with the family.

Aloha!

Wishing you sweetness and knitting in 2020!

Wishing you a happy 2020; I hope it brings you much joy.

We had a delicious family Christmas with my side of the family. Hosting Sis not pictured; she’s behind the camera.

We celebrated Hanukkah on the 10th night. Yes, I know Hanukkah has 8 days, but I believe in celebrating when you can. It’s better than not celebrating!

Mom-in-law was here for this Hanukkah/New Year’s Eve celebration, and we made this Chocolate Cloud Cake. It was fun to make, and it looked and tasted divine. The picture isn’t particularly artful, because everyone wanted to eat the cake instead of wait for me to style it. I can’t blame them. This is going into my repeat file, for sure. Link here. Oh, it’s flourless and gluten free, too!

I hope your 2020 is full of sweetness, and knitting, too.

In the kitchen for Christmas gifts

I’m back from vacation, so I’m in the kitchen today, making some quick gifts. I last posted this recipe in 2017, but it’s still just as quick, easy, and delicious.

DIY Irish Cream, adapted from Smitten Kitchen. This comes together in 5 minutes, and makes three of these cute 8 ounce bottles. (You get 30 oz of liquid, but I barely filled three of these 1/4 liter (8 oz) bottles the first time I made this. No worries; just adjust your expectations accordingly.)

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup (235 ml) heavy cream
1 (14-ounce or 415 ml) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 oz Jameson’s Irish whiskey (original recipe calls for a cup, but 9 oz fills the bottles just a little better, and yum)

In a small bowl, whisk cocoa powder and a spoonful of cream into a paste. Add more cream a splash at a time until the paste is liquid enough that you can whisk in the rest of the cream. Transfer to a pitcher, and whisk in condensed milk, whiskey and vanilla. Bottle for gifts. Keep refrigerated for up to two weeks. Seriously, how long do you think this will last? Give it a good shake before using; the cocoa wants to sink, and the cream wants to rise to the top. Of course!

A little more work, but I’m also making Pear Vanilla Caramel Sauce, also from Smitten Kitchen. I made some last year, and it was fabulous. I’ll add a bit of bourbon to give it some warmth and depth. I like this recipe because it’s canned, so I can ship some back to my aunt and uncle! They send me a box of beautiful pears every Christmas, and I love finding new things to do with them. Previously, I’ve done cranberry pear jam, and lots of pear tarts with puff pastry.

I got brave and put up our tiny tree and menorah, but I hedged my bets with Calvin. I wasn’t sure if he could be trusted with decorations.

Apparently not. So the truly fragile ornaments will stay in their boxes!

Our Christmas stockings are up and waiting to be filled.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to you!

New class: Syncopation

I’ve been having a lot of fun with my 2 color in-the-round brioche classes, Petite Brioche (free pattern) and Brioche Pastiche. Petite Brioche is plain 2 color brioche rib; Brioche Pastiche introduces increases and decreases.

Now I want to teach a class that tackles 2 color brioche knit flat, and adds in syncopation (switching MC and CC color) mid-row.

I taught syncopated brioche with my Hopscotch pattern last month at Twisted, but I really want to use my Syncopation shawl/scarf for the next class. It’s a little more ambitious, because it also includes increasing/decreasing. If you’ve knit brioche rib in the round, it’s a do-able next step. The new class debuts at Twisted on February 22.

Planning a new class is fun; it requires organization like a general! Or someone hosting Thanksgiving guests for an entire weekend. (Menu planning, I won!) How can I best lead you down the garden path to a positive outcome?

Here’s how I plan to structure the class:

Brioche knitting is the current “it knit” and there are so many ways to play with it, once you understand the basic brioche rib stitch. We’ll review basic brioche rib, then practice syncopating (swapping main color with background color in the same row), and finally learn an increase and 2 decreases. Voilà, it’s a gauge swatch, and then we can cast on for the real deal!

3 hours, intermediate. You should already be familiar with knitting brioche rib; this is not a beginning brioche class.

Sound enticing? February 22 at Twisted, be there or be square!

Cranberry Brie Wreath

I made this appetizer the other day, and it was delightful.

It’s made with puff pastry and filled with cranberry sauce and toasted almonds. The centerpiece is a round of baked brie for dipping. The whole thing is garnished with fresh rosemary. Sound good? It was, twice! The second one was prettier than this one, as I figured out what I was doing.

I saw a video on Facebook for a Camenbert version, and had to play with it. Link here.

Now I’m thinking it could be filled with lemon curd, with a blueberry compote in a dish in the center after baking.

Or cinnamon sugar and butter, and icing in a dish in the center after baking.

Or chocolate chips, and…what goes in the center? Nutella?

The possibilities are endless. But start here:

Cranberry Brie Wreath

Ingredients:
1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm, frozen. Defrost for an hour)
1/2 – 1 cup cranberry sauce (mine had whole berries in it, so it took about 1 cup to spread enough)
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds (I bought them already toasted, supposedly a salad garnish)
1 small round brie
Drizzle of olive oil
Fresh rosemary for garnish
1 egg and a bit of milk or half and half for an egg wash

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place one sheet of puff pastry on a sheet of parchment paper, roll it out lightly to reduce creases.

Spread cranberry sauce in a circle on puff pastry, avoiding center where cheese will go, and corners which will be removed to make a circle.

Sprinkle toasted almonds over cranberry sauce.

Roll out the other sheet of puff pastry, and put it on top of the first.

Round off corners of puff pastry, and cut out circle in center (use your Brie as a guide for size). Set Brie in center, score top.

Cut 4 slits in puff pastry, from outer edge to about 1/2 inch from center circle, North, South, East, West. Cut 3 additional slits between each of these first 4 lines (you’re making 12 equal pieces).

Working with paired pieces of puff pastry, twist each piece outward 2 times. Then give the ends another half twist to press the ends of each pair together.

Brush with an egg wash.

Score the top of Brie with a knife, and drizzle it with olive oil. Garnish the whole wreath with snips of fresh rosemary.

Transfer parchment to cookie sheet and bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until puff pastry is golden brown. Transfer to serving dish. Serve hot.

Have fun with the possibilities!

Dotty Cake backstory: Evolution of a hat

Just a reminder, today is the last day of the introductory sale for my Dotty Cake pattern. It’s 15% off through midnight tonight on Ravelry, no coupon code needed.

I’m really happy with Dotty Cake. But it took a while to get there!

I knew I wanted to use the Dotty stitch pattern I developed for the Dotty Cowl that I designed for Knit Picks last year. And I loved the Chroma Worsted combination of Natural and Pegasus, so I wanted to use that again, too.

I cast on a guesstimate of stitches, based on my gauge from the cowl. The number seemed a bit big, but not totally unreasonable. I have a big head.

I knew I wanted a herringbone braid for the bottom edge of the hat, but I was going to have to be canny about it. I had planned to use it for the cowl, but when I was knitting the braid last year, the soft, single ply low-twist yarn wanted to drift apart in the first row of the twisty braiding process. I figured a hat had fewer stitches, so maybe it wouldn’t have enough time to drift apart.

And that’s when I finally realized…if I made the braid point in the opposite direction, I’d be tightening the twist on the first row, and then loosening it back to normal on the following row. Problem solved.

I finished the braid and began the Dotty stitch pattern, which is simple and easy to memorize. The shifting color was mesmerizing, too. This was great mindless travel knitting as I went to Vogue Knitting Live in Columbus. But as I knit, I started wondering how the heck I was going to finish the top of the hat. The Dotty stitch pattern wasn’t going to play well with my usual swirly crown decreases.

What about a pointy Santa-style stocking cap? I kept knitting as I pondered how to make that work nicely with the Dotty stitch pattern. I wasn’t inspired.

Well, what about a straight up cylinder, kitchener stitched across the top, and then bringing the two corners together like an envelope fold? I kept knitting to get the extra height I’d need, but I started to think that an all Dotty stitch hat with that much height was boring.

And then I tried on the hat and realized it was too big, even for my big head, and needed to be frogged. I had 9 inches of knitting when I finally realized this. Blergh.

So I ripped it all out.

I added more braids to the second version of the hat to make it more interesting, and that’s when I noticed that it looked like a layer cake. That was a happy accident!

Still, the crown shaping had to be addressed. And it needed to work for two sizes. The diretionality of the swirl was giving me fits, so I decided to go with paired decreases for each section of the hat. Perfect!

I needed to knit a smaller size for heads smaller than mine, so I could make sure the crown decreasing would work for that, too. I used the Malabrigo Worsted that wasn’t working for the brioche project I was playing with earlier this fall.

Sometimes a design jumps right off the needles. And sometimes you wrestle it to the ground. Dotty Cake took a while to work out, but I’m so glad it did. Happy knitting!

Introducing: Dotty Cake

I’m in love with my new hat!

Dotty Cake is a fun to knit hat that combines herringbone braids and slip stitch dots. The crown is fairly flat, like that of a tam. The braids create sections, making the hat look like a layer cake! I find that the flat crown is more flattering on me than a traditional closely fitted beanie.

Dotty Cake is knit in the round from the bottom up. It’s a quick knit in worsted weight yarn. I used Knit Picks Chroma Worsted for this larger hat, in Natural and Pegasus.

This smaller hat is knit in Malabrigo Worsted in Sunset and Malamba. Only one color is used per round in the Dotty stitch sections. The pattern includes a video tutorial for the herringbone braids.

The hat is meant to fit with a bit of negative ease; I’m wearing the 19” hat on my 22” head.

The Dotty Cake pattern is on sale for 15% off through December 12, 2019, no coupon code needed. You can find the Ravelry page here.

Thank you to tech editor Meaghan Schmaltz, and test knitters Ann Berg, Susan Schwartzenberger, Jae Tauber, and Nan Wagner. And thank you to my sister Sharon Hsu for taking pictures of me!