OFFF 2018 weekend and brioche inc/dec tutorial

It was a glorious transition into autumn. What better way to celebrate than with a fiber festival? Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival is done for another year.

I spent Friday afternoon judging the knitting entries. This piece was the winner of several awards, including the top award for the festival.

It’s handspun from Jacob wool (this year’s featured breed), hand knit, with 1300 beads, and perfectly blocked. I loved everything about it. (Shawl pattern is Moon Shadows by Romi Hill.) I found out afterward from the knitter that she had lost at yarn chicken the week before, and had to spin more yarn to finish. She took this off the blocking wires the night before the judging. Close!

This was the felted Grand Champion. It demonstrates wet felting, needle felting, and probably other techniques I don’t even know about. Exquisite.

This felted entry used Jacob wool, which I thought was brilliant.

This embellished knit coat was also knit from handspun. I loved the detail in it. The pattern is by Anna Zilboorg from her Splendid Apparel book. I took this class with Anna just before her book came out.

Saturday I taught Favorite Shawl Shapes in the morning. So much fun! I’m planning to teach this class again, but I may give it a better name. Shawl Design 101? What would sound even more enticing?

I taught Brioche Pastiche in the afternoon. It was interesting that many had tried brioche before but not succeeded. I’m glad to help make new successful brioche knitters! Most had a good grasp of 2 color brioche rib in the round by the end of class.

I’ve just made a video tutorial of brioche increases and decreases. These are the ones used in the hat, but handy for all brioche.

Sunday I went back to shop and play! The weather was perfect.

My favorite purchase? This yarn chicken pint glass from JaMPDX. Yarn chicken is my life!

I also picked up this gorgeous yarn set from Knitted Wit. It’s Victory Sock in Pollen, plus two Sixlet gradient sets in Carbon. Plus two more mini skeins in Ghostly, but I may not need them. I’m knitting one more version of my Lucky Star Shawl, but with two Sixlets instead of one for a deeper, wider shawl. It’s going quickly; I hope to be done knitting by the end of this week.

More eye candy from Sunday:

Stacey’s Fierce Fibers booth, including a splendid version of my Rosaria shawl. Look at those gradient cakes! We’re using her yarn for our Nymphaea Retreat in November.

Speckled gradient cakes from Boss Kitty. I bought some of their cat-eared stitch markers. Mine glow in the dark!

I loved this rug on display with one of the vendors in the main pavilion.

And of course there were animals. Goat? Sheep? I’m never sure. Cute, though. (Goat.)

Bunnies are easier to recognize, yes?

Alpacas!

And humans. Amanda and Margaret representing Puddletown Knitters Guild. Hi, ladies!

A very fun weekend. Now I’m back at home working. More knit fun to follow. How was YOUR weekend? Welcome, fall!

Knitting for the near future

I’ve been knitting up a storm.

Here’s a sneak peek of my newest shawl, coming soon. It’s called Lucky Star. You may now have a Madonna song running through your head. You’re welcome.

You know that hump that happens at the center neck of top down crescent shawls? I didn’t want that on Lucky Star, so I’ve worked on minimizing it. I’m making a tutorial on how to do that. It’s coming soon, too. I’m debuting it in my Favorite Shawl Shapes class at Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival this Saturday morning.

I’ve been knitting little samples for class, too. We’re going to have fun talking about shape and design.

You can still register for this class on-site. You can knit these little shapes, too!

What are you knitting now?

Introducing: Concentric Cowl

Every in a while, a design idea comes together so easily, it just jumps off the needles.

This is the Concentric Cowl. I designed it in a wink, and the only thing that took any time at all was that I ripped it out when it was half done, because I wanted to add a secret between the purl welts.

There’s a tiny bit of lace in there.

It adds just a bit of mystery.

The cowl is knit in the round with 150g/277 yards of worsted weight yarn. I used a 150g cake of KnitCircus Ringmaster Panoramic Gradient in the Fig and Prosciutto colorway. The scrunchy rings capture warmth around your neck.

You can also unscrunch the rings and wear Concentric like a hood. The 150g jumbo cake of yarn makes it long enough to do so.

This pattern pdf is available through Ravelry; pattern page is here. It’s a quick and easy gift knit, even if the gift recipient is yourself! As always, newsletter subscribers have a coupon code for 20% off.

I’m teaming up with KnitCircus to do a kit for the Concentric Cowl in October, but if you can’t wait you can shop their ready to ship 150g Ringmaster Gradient cakes here. So gorgeous!

On the cusp of fall

Oh, Labor Day! Farewell summer, welcome fall…

I ran away with my knitting last week. Good thing I brought more than one project; I lost at yarn chicken on this Mitered Crosses Blanket square. I just needed 2 more green garter ridges, probably about one yard of yarn. I considered using the red as an accent stripe, but it would have been too much. One garter ridge, yes. Two garter ridges? Christmas! I had to finish at home.

This is for a group blanket project through Mason Dixon Knitting. #mdkteamblanket2

My other project is a slipper sock. I’m using 4 50g balls of KnitCircus Ringmaster Panoramic Gradient (worsted weight), colorway Thanks for all the Fish, to double strand the socks. They are glorious. (Picture from KnitCircus site, since I forgot to take a picture before I started knitting.) I finished the first one at the coast. Good thing it was time to go home; I was out of knitting!

No real sneak peek on the sock yet; the excitement is on the cuff! I knit mine using the magic loop technique, and Biscuit thought that was pretty interesting when I tried it on. I’ll be looking for test knitters soon. Would you like to knit slipper socks? They’re really quick! This one took me one day.

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach

It wasn’t all knitting last week. I love walking on the beach. This one was a solitary walk, just me and the seagulls.

Lone sea star at Chapman Point

I saw a lone sea star. Five years ago, there were hundreds of sea stars here. Sea star wasting disease killed many of them, but they’re starting to come back. I’m glad.

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach

It was a perfect getaway.

Now I’m swinging into knitting season! I have several new designs coming soon. The first is this cowl, which is also designed with KnitCircus Ringmaster Gradient, this one in Fig and Prosciutto. Look for it later this week.

Fall brings more teaching opportunities, too. I’ve got my schedule mostly set at Twisted and For Yarn’s Sake; you can see it here.

There’s still room in my Favorite Shawl Shapes class at Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival (pre-register by Sept. 8).

And a few knitters’ spots left at our Nymphaea Fall Retreat (Nov. 9-11).

What are you knitting this fall?

Flock and Fiber? Yes Please!

Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival is just around the corner! This local fiber festival has something for everybody: yarn, fiber, classes, animals, cooking, shopping, and more.

I’m teaching two classes this year. Brioche Pastiche is sold out; I’m really looking forward to introducing more knitters to two color brioche in the round!

There’s still room in my Favorite Shawl Shapes class. We’ll make mini samples of four of my favorite shawl shapes, and talk about how to incorporate your design ideas into them. You’ll have a better understanding of how shawls are made, and a good basis for designing your own. Come join me on Saturday morning, September 22. Registration link is here; pre-register by September 8 to make sure you get the class info you need.

I’m judging the knitting entries at OFFF again this year. It was educational for me last year, and I hope my comments on lasts year’s entries were educational for the knitters! You can enter your knit, crochet, felted, woven, and other fiber projects at OFFF, as well as spinning. Last year’s winners were stunning, and all of the entries were worthy of praise.

One more class! A reminder that registration is happening now for the Nymphaea Shawl Retreat that I’m doing with Laurinda Reddig at Quinn Mountain Retreat in the Columbia River Gorge (near Camas), Nov. 9 – 11. There are only 4 knitter’s spots left. Come get a jump start on knitting or crocheting this beaded shawl with us! Gradient yarn by Fierce Fibers and beads are included in the registration price. Registration link here.

Fall is coming; make plans to get your knit on!

Piano and Pinot 11.0

My home was filled with gorgeous music on Saturday evening. The eleventh annual Piano and Pinot Fun-Raiser brought together three musicians, 16 guests, and wine and dessert. I don’t play my piano much these days, so it’s nice to hear it played by someone else. For this event, I’m in charge of the venue, a freshly tuned grand piano, and dessert.

We had two intermissions; the first one featured this simple dessert:

Mini blueberry cheesecake shooters. I adapted The Pioneer Woman’s Cherry Cheesecake Shooters recipe, and topped it with my blueberry compote. These mini wine tasting glasses hold just enough, and look fabulous. Updated recipe is at the bottom of this post.

The second intermission featured a buffet of lemon bars, shortbread, fruit salad, and my favorite sensational dessert, a flourless chocolate cake with chocolate glaze.

Untitled

This cake is so good that the gluten free status is just a bonus. This is easy, elegant, and delicious! Recipe is also at the bottom of this post.

Biscuit was very well behaved.

Yadi wanted lemon bars. I had to put him in the back room where he sang along(!).

It was a lovely evening among friends.

@@@@@@@@@@

Blueberry Cheesecake Shooters
adapted from the Pioneer Woman’s Cherry Cheesecake Shooters

Make the blueberry compote the night before, and refrigerate.

For the blueberry compote:
2.5 cups frozen blueberries, unthawed
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C water
1 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp pectin plus 1 tsp sugar

Combine 1.5 C berries with the sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until berries burst, about 10 minutes. Add remaining berries and lemon juice. Continue stirring; cook until compote thickens, about 8 minutes. That wasn’t thick enough for me, so I stirred in a tsp of pectin combined with a tsp of sugar at the very end and cooked for another minute. Perfect. Cool, then cover and refrigerate.

For the cheesecake (same day, or night before):
1.5 cups finely crushed graham crackers (12 whole crackers, crushed)
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds

I used graham cracker crumbs, already crumbly, which is a great time saver.

Place graham cracker crumbs in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the melted butter and mix until crumbs begin to cling together. Spoon this “crust” into serving dishes: mini wine glasses, wine glasses, whatever you’d like.

Combine cream cheese,sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whip until fluffy. Place mixture into a resealable plastic bag, cut off a corner and pipe mixture over graham cracker crumbs.

Spoon blueberry compote over the cheesecake mixture. Top with sliced almonds just before serving. Enjoy!

Yield: 24 servings in mini wine glasses, fewer if you’re using larger dishes. I used two sets of Libbey’s mini wine tasting glasses. They’d also be cute in little half cup canning jars.

********
Flourless Chocolate Torte with Chocolate Glaze

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 19 minutes

Ingredients:

6 ounces coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Glaze:
2 ounces coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoon milk
1 1/2 teaspoons Agave syrup or honey
1/8 teaspoon vanilla

Fresh raspberries for garnish, 1/2 pint (about 30 berries)

Preheat oven to 350°F
Line the bottom of a 9 inch round cake pan with parchment paper and spray the paper with non-stick cooking spray.

Melt 6 ounces chopped chocolate and butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Stir until chocolate and butter are melted and smooth.

Add sugar and salt and reduce heat to low. Cook while stirring for about one minute, until sugar starts to dissolve.

Remove pan from heat. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Whisk in vanilla.

Use a mesh sieve to sift cocoa into mixture. Whisk until batter is smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for about 19 minutes. (I check mine at 15, first.) The center of the cake should be just firm to the touch; do not overbake.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert cake onto serving plate.

Glaze:
Melt 2 ounces of chopped chocolate and 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a small saucepan. Remove pan from heat. Add milk, agave syrup OR honey, and vanilla and stir until smooth. Cool glaze for about 5 minutes.

Pour glaze in the middle of the cake. Spread over the cake, allowing glaze to run down the sides of the cake. Garnish with raspberries around the edge.

Serves 16

adapted from http://glutenfreecooking.about.com/od/dessertsandsweets/r/flourlessgfcake.htm

Nymphaea Retreat registration is OPEN!

Registration is open for the Nymphaea Shawl Retreat! The event is November 9-11 at Quinn Mountain Retreat in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. It’s a small retreat, so you’ll get lots of attention as you start your Nymphaea Shawl. Register soon, because there are only 16 spots, 8 each for knitters and crocheters.

You can choose to knit or crochet your shawl; my knit version or Laurinda Reddig’s crochet version. We designed these shawls as a collaborative project with Bead Biz.

The retreat fee includes a jumbo skein 150g/645yards of Fierce Fibers Abyss (50/50 merino/silk) in a continuous gradient. Choose your main color: Surf and Sand, Dragonite, Hummingbird, or Tide Pod (clockwise from upper left). You’ll also get 50g of a coordinating color for the contrast bands. And beads from Bead Biz, specially selected by Laurinda and me.

You’ll get your shawl started, and learn different ways to add beads to your knit or crochet, how to change colors, knit or crochet edgings, and blocking, which is essential for lace.

Cost for the retreat is $225, which includes yarn, beads, 2 days of breakfast, lunch, and instruction. But don’t worry; there will be free time for you to explore, too. Register with Recrochetions, link here. If you’ve purchased a Nymphaea kit from Bead Biz, there’s a discount for the retreat. More information at the link too, including lodging options.

I hope you can make it!

Madrona Farewell

As you may know, Madrona Fiber Arts Festival is one of my favorite events of the year. I’ve been going to Madrona for many years, and teaching there since 2016.

Last week, founder Suzanne Pedersen emailed to let the Madrona community know that 2019 will see the 20th Madrona Festival, and it will be the last. She and co-founder Cornie Talley will be retiring this beautiful event.

If you’ve never been to Madrona, please make plans to join us in February! Madrona is more than a festival; it’s a community. There are classes, amazing speakers, a well-curated market, a teacher talent show that raises funds for charities, and lots of places for people to just hang out together and share knowledge and joy.

Last year at Madrona, I met Sarah Hauschka (inventor of magic loop!), and she taught me linked double knitting: brioche knitting holding a color in each hand, which meant all stitches could be worked in the same row. Astounding. She showed me as we sat in the Rotunda, just hanging out. My brain was too full to really take it in (and no pictures, darn it), so I introduced her to my friend Pamela Grossman, who took to it like a duck to water. This is an example of the happy sharing that is part of the Madrona experience.

The spirit of Madrona will live on, as we continue to share our love of the fiber arts. But this will be your last chance to have the Madrona experience in person. Mark your calendar for February 14-17. It will be a very special weekend.

Summer knitting reckoning: Knit, or not?

Oh, the siren song of a new project! It’s so easy to be seduced away from the current ones, isn’t it?

I like to have two projects at any given time. One is usually a design project I’m working out, and it stays at home. The other is a simple knit that I can take to social occasions, or traveling. Usually the design project turns into the take-along knit, because that’s the kind of thing I like to design. Simple but elegant.

Right now I have five projects on my needles. That’s probably too many, so here are my reasons for not working on them…

This is the Nymphaea shawl sample that I’m knitting for our fall retreat. It’s a simple, rhythmic knit with beads every fourth row. This was great travel knitting on a trip to St. Louis last week; it’s simple enough to knit on planes, even with beads. I was planning to finish it in time to use as a promo for the retreat when registration opens August 1, but clearly it won’t be done by then.

I have a non-gradient sample of it already, so I could continue to knit this gradient version at the retreat, using it to demonstrate techniques. I made a spreadsheet to figure out how to distribute my three different sets of beads (I love spreadsheets!), so it’s all planned out. Check!

This is a shawl that I was knitting for a design proposal. It’s simple and lovely and fun to knit. I was just going to make a swatch, but it was so much fun that I didn’t want to stop knitting it. I got all the way to the bottom edging, where I need the stitch markers. Note my symmetrical marker setup. This, plus the aforementioned spreadsheet, probably tells you a lot about the way I think! This design didn’t get chosen, which means I don’t need to finish it right now. Check!

This is the beginning of a white linen top that I’m making up as I go. I want it to have a lace pattern at the hem, a split back, and otherwise be a pretty basic T shape. But honestly, I don’t know if I have the time or inclination to actually knit an entire top in fingering weight linen right now. I don’t think it will be finished for this season, so I’m declaring it a backup project…for next year. Check!

The blue/brown shawl I was knitting in Scotland? It’s in permanent time out. I didn’t like how the design was turning out, but I’ve frogged this single ply yarn twice and it is definitely looking a little ragged. I’m going to take some of those ideas and re-work them with the yarn I bought from Ginger Twist Studio in Edinburgh.

I ordered the gray to go with the blue; the mint was too exciting for me. It’s not here yet, so I don’t have to think about it for a bit. Check!

This is what I’m working on right now. It’s a fall/winter cowl in Knit Circus Ringmaster Panoramic Gradient, 150g. The color is Fig and Prosciutto. The yarn is round and bouncy and fun to knit. I was about a third of the way through when I decided it needed a little something more than what it was, so I ripped it back down and am enjoying the yarn just as much the second time. It won’t take long to finish, and it’s a great multi-tasking knit.

So really, it looks like I have ONE project that I’m actually working on. And several (Nymphaea, linen top, miscellaneous shawl) that I can work on at my leisure. See? I’m a monogamous knitter, whether intentionally or not. There are a few other design ideas knocking around in my head, too, and I’ll pick one up as my thinking project at home, while one of these other projects turns into the mindless project.

What’s on your needles? How many projects are you actively working on? Helpful knitting cats wanna know! Speaking of which…

We’ve added this little guy to our household. He’s two years old, and he’s charming. His shelter name was Gerkin, but we think he’s going to be named Yadi, for Yadier Molina, the St. Louis Cardinals catcher. We have had several baseball-themed cat names, including Mookie (Wilson) and Jess (Jesse Orosco). We adopted Yadi from Purringtons Cat Lounge, alma mater of Biscuit, Gator, and Mis Mis.

He has a tiny white spot on his chest, and a tinier one on his belly that we didn’t know about until after he came home.

Biscuit is occasionally hissing at him, but mostly getting along. This picture is from introduction day, which was Day 3 in our house. Much calmer than the introduction to Gator (son’s cat who was visiting for 2 months). Maybe she thinks Tyler is going to come take this one away, too?

Now to see if Yadi is ok with yarn. My studio door stays shut while I figure this out!

Highland Games, Harris Tweed

When we decided to meet Tyler in Scotland, highland games were high on my list of things to see. The Lorne Highland Games are pretty small, but going to Oban meant we could take the train from Edinburgh and not have to drive. Also, puffins! (Still not over them.)

Admit it, you’re not over them either.

These games were small but fun, and included most of the things you’d expect.

Highland dancers, Lorne Highland Games

Highland dancing.

Mull & Iona Pipe Band

Piping. This is the Mull and Iona Pipe Band.

Scotland the Brave! Of course.

Track and field events, and the heavies. Heavies? Hammer throw, heavier hammer throw, stone put, throwing a weight over a high bar, and caber toss. (Like tossing a slim telephone pole.)

It’s cool to watch kilted men and women make the hammers fly!

Unfortunately, we had to leave to catch our train to Glasgow before the caber toss. I’m guessing caber toss comes last because it’s like a finale, and also because it must really tear up the field! This just means I need to go back to Scotland for more games.

I did come home with an awesome souvenir, though. It even involves wool!

Harris Tweed bag

This is my new knitting bag. It’s certified Harris Tweed. What does that mean? The wool has to be sourced in the UK, and it’s spun and woven on the Isles of Harris or Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The fabric has to be woven in a crofter’s home, on a human-powered loom (not electric). Some weavers weave for Harris Tweed, and some are independent weavers designing their own cloth that will be certified as Harris Tweed, but not sold by Harris Tweed. The woven fabric goes back to the mill for washing/finishing (*see below for historical sidenote) and inspection. Independent crafters can purchase this fabric for their designs.

Harris Tweed bag by Thistle Fairy Designs

This bag is made by Shona of Thistle Fairy Designs. I love the colors of this tweed; it’s so vibrantly pinky purple!

Harris Tweed bag by Thistle Fairy Designs

The fabric lining features Highland cattle (hairy coos!), stags, heather, and pheasants? grouse? All very Scottish.

It was a pleasure meeting Shona and talking to her about Harris Tweed. Her work is exquisite. I love my new bag!

*Woolen fabric used to be finished by hand, and this was called waulking the wool. It involved stale urine(!), rhythmic beating, and usually singing to pass the time. More info here (this is the singing group I wanted to see at Auchindrain on our Oban weekend, but it was too far and we didn’t have a car). Nowadays this finishing is done by machine at the mill, using ammonia rather than urine. Thank goodness.

A taste of wool waulking

Now I’m home, catching up, trying to decide if I like my current design project enough to continue with it. So far, it’s not blowing my kilt up. No pictures! I’m also trying to perfect that no-hump crescent shape I mentioned earlier, so I can make a tutorial, as requested.

And I’m dreaming of more Sheepish Sock yarn from Ginger Twist Studio in Edinburgh.

I have the blue in the center, Pappy’s Garden. I wrote to Jess to see if I could get a coordinating color so I could design a shawl. She suggested either Dove on the left, or Breakfast with Ginger on the right. What do you think? So far Dove is trending on Instagram and Facebook!