Sunday, March 30, 2008

Holey fruit basket, Batman!

I took a week off from my day job, and I am actually getting some knitting done! How novel...

Fresh off the needles, I give you "Pears." I started this one with an old French doily pattern I found and totally enjoyed the knit. I liked her so much that I needed her to be bigger, so I added my own version of a classic peacock tail border. I am quite pleased. The yarn looks different in different light, but all these pictures are the same project. The color is a burnt orange, with flecks of purples and browns. Here she is, still wet and pinned out on my trusty white sheet, on my old Persian carpet.
Again, still wet and pinned out, to show the center detail. I modified the original pattern by changing some of the decreases to make them more directional. I thought this improved the outline on the leaves and along the pears. I also made some minor changes to the tips of the branches. These are all very subtle. I am not sure I really improved the design, but those of you who know me know that I can't leave anything alone in a knitting pattern I didn't write. It might be something diagnosable...I'll leave that to the psychiatric clinicians out there.
Here are a few detail shots. Take note of all the mesh. For this mesh, I knit two together through the front legs of the stitch for the right leaning decreases, and I knit two together through the back legs of the stitch for the left leaning decreases. That saves me all the SSKs, which take me more time. I don't think anyone would notice those twists on this mesh. You can also clearly see the two-stitch cables giving texture to the body of the pears.
Here you can see the clean lines of the leaves and also the transition from the original doily to the border.
Here is another look at the border transition and the "feathers" of the main section of the border.
Finally, here she is spread out on my bed. You can see she covers the entire top surface of a full-size bed.
I am almost finished with a few more things...of course I am going back to work tomorrow, so don't hold your breath! Knit on...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

It’s all Greek to me…

Greek Easter is on April 27th. I though I would start the celebration in advance, by making my Corfu shawl pattern available on Ravelry, in time for anyone with some free needles and the inclination to whip up their own Corfu in time for Greek Easter! The pattern is available as a PDF file, and you can download it and cast-on today if you have joined Raverly. If you have not joined yet, why don’t you? Because Corfu is lace, and the pattern can easily be made larger or smaller, almost any smooth, soft yarn will work.
Here are a few excellent choices: Jade Sapphire 2-ply; either silk-cashmere or Mongolian cashmere, Jade Sapphire Lacey Lamb, any lace-weight from Colourmart, or almost any lace-weight yarn in a solid or semi-solid color that you already have in your stash (about 1800 yards in a fine lace-weight and less in a heavier weight!) To get you in the mood for the clear blue-green water and white sands of Corfu, you can make my own version of Greek spinach pie, which is extremely yummy, if I do say so myself. Working with phyllo dough takes a little practice, but it isn’t a big deal once you start. I use olive oil and not butter, which makes my version both fairly healthy and crispy-good. Because I am only Greek by marriage, I work harder to make my Greek cooking really special! If all goes well, I might teach you how to do stuffed grape leaves next…
Spanikopita BadCat Style
-Frozen phyllo dough: ½ a package from your grocery store: Take the package out of the freezer, cut the roll of dough in half using a serrated knife to avoid crushing it, keep half out to defrost and return the other half to the freezer for future use. It will be ready to work with in 45 minutes. Keep it covered so it does not get dry.
-Olive oil: about ¼ to ½ cup (or more; don’t be stingy)
-1 egg: beaten
-2 large leeks: cleaned and sliced thin
-2 cloves garlic: chopped fine
-Green tops from 4 beets: clean, remove the stem and chop coarsely. (Use the beet roots as a side dish by roasting them, slicing them drizzling with olive oil.)
-1 package of baby spinach (about 10 ounces) cleaned and chopped coarsely
-Grated hard cheese: a few tablespoons of Romano, Parmesan, or other ethnic grating cheese is fine.
-Feta: about ½ cup of good Greek, French or Armenia feta, coarsely chopped
-Nutmeg: ¼ tsp freshly grated or about that amount
-Cumin powder: a shake or two
-Oregano: ½ tsp dried and crumbled
-Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
-8x8” baking dish
-10” skillet
-Brush and bowl for oil

-Preheat oven to 325 degrees F

-Sauté garlic in some modest amount olive oil, in skillet, over medium heat
-Add leeks and stir until wilted
-Add beet greens and stir until wilted
-Add spinach and stir until wilted
-Add spices, herbs, salt and pepper and stir, allowing the mixture to cook through, but not get brown or mushy
-Add more oil if needed along the way
-Turn flame off and allow it to cool

-Unroll defrosted phyllo dough. Keep the waiting sheets covered so they don’t dry out while you’re working.
-Pour the olive oil into a small bowl.
-Brush pan with oil and be sure to include the sides.
-Take one sheet of phyllo and place in pan, allowing the ends to climb over two sides.
-Brush lightly with oil, including sides.
-Take a second sheet of dough and place in pan, turning 90 degrees, so ends extend up the other sides of pan.
-Brush with oil and continue in this way until ½ of the phyllo has been used.
-Add the beaten egg and all the cheese to your veggie mixture, mixing well.
-Put the cheese, egg and veggie mixture into your dough/pan and spread evenly.
-Continue laying the phyllo over the mixture, one sheet at a time, with oil in between, alternating by 90 degrees, until all the dough is used.
-Brush oil on the top and roll the extended edges into the pan on each of the four sides, making a nice sealed edge on all sides.
-Cover the baking dish with foil and bake at 325 F for one hour.
-Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes.
-Let it rest for 20 minutes.
-Cut and enjoy.

Serve with a dry Greek white wine (well chilled), and a salad plate with the beets, cucumber, tomato, and good Greek olives, sliced and drizzled with a simple vinaigrette. If you have leftovers, which would be odd, heat in an oven and don’t microwave (it will get soggy and not be as yummy if you microwave it.) This serves four people for lunch, two modest adults and one petite teenage girl for dinner, or two people in the mood to pig out.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Trip to Kinokuniya...

I was at a conference in midtown, Manhattan on Friday, and so I took the opportunity to skip the usual chicken lunch and visit Kinokuniya. This is a wonderful Japanese bookstore, and they recently moved their NYC store to new (bigger) space. Here is the map of the new store, at 1073 6th Avenue, across from Bryant Park. They also have a much smaller store at The Palisade Center, in West Nyack. Now that I have been to both, I can say that the selection of knitting books is only modestly better at the NYC store. No matter, I adore Japanese knitting books. They are so well charted that my inability to read a single word in Japanese is no barrier. I was able to add two new books to my collection...
First, I got this lovely book, which is part of a series on traditional knitting. There are some good classic designs in this one.
Second, I got this really cool stitch guide. All the pattern books use charted symbols, and this book has all those symbols, with a knit swatch of what the technique should look like if you do it correctly, and really clear, move-by-move illustrations. I recommend this book to all knitters, even if you don't love these Japanese patterns as much as I do.

I am going to show you just a few of the Japanese books I already had at home, so you can see what else you might find if you venture into Kinokuniya yourself...

These two books are part of the same series of traditional knitting, with that wonderful Japanese attention to detail. Wow on the lacework, colorwork and textures...
This lovely book is the newest in the traditional knitting genre, with more great lacework, colorwork and texture. I got this before they "recalled" it. There are some chart errors, but they are pretty obvious and I got the corrected charts on-line. There is a reprint coming and it is serious eye candy.
This is also some serious eye candy, with that traditional take on gloves (and a few hats!)

Last but not least, here are the Japanese stitch collections I have at home.
This one is the most unusual, with lovely combinations of lace and cables.
This second 250 volume includes both crochet and knit patterns, and also has some unusual stuff.
This 300 pattern book is all lace, and is presented very nicely. The swatch pictures are wonderful. And finally, this grandma of all Japanese stitch collections has enough stuff to keep you swatching into knit on!

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Double Decrease: Buffing Your Lace Technique

Several days ago, my friend JT asked if I had ever done a post on double decreases for lace knitting. Why no, I had not...but what a great idea! So here it is, JT. I believe her question was an extension of a discussion on the "EZasPi" list on Yahoo. Liz Lovick has designed what looks to be a delicious shawl, called The Orkney Pi, especially for this group. Liz suggested a particular double decrease, in keeping with the Orkney knitting tradition and her design, and an interesting discussion has followed. I collected four common double decreases and knit a swatch using all four. Starting from the right:
1) The Left-leaning double decrease
2) The double vertical decrease
3) A double decrease (non-directional)
4) The Right-leaning double decrease

I have a basic way that I suggest you try each double decrease, but there are several ways to do each one, and because we all knit differently, the way I suggest is...well...a suggestion only.

Here is a swatch of a lace design I am working on that will use all four of these double decreases, plus left and right leaning single decreases. I think you can see the subtle difference the choice of decrease might lend to a pattern with strong lines
You can try all four of these double decreases using my chart and directions for each one. You can also see some excellent illustrations of three of the double decreases here. The illustrations are not identical to the way I do each of these decreases, but again, they are another way to achieve the same result.

The pattern I showed above is a swatch of an exercise/scarf for a workshop I am planning. I will share the results with you in a few days. Until then, I will keep knitting in a desperate attempt to actually finish something!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Few Excuses...

Today I thought I would show you my continued lack of significant progress and cast some blame in a few directions. My Conure, Captain Flint, has been working on a new hairstyle for me, without much success. He has had even less luck stealing my earrings, though he will keep trying both. Once again, I have not gotten much knitting done, but we can blame Flinty, right?
He doesn't mind! He is such a good natured and handsome guy. He thinks I am his girlfriend...
My daughter said I should also blame my lack of knitting progress on our recent evening jam sessions. She and I fight over who gets to play the red Gibson. Rock (I mean knit) on...