Tuesday, February 28, 2012

No Campbell's Here

It's that time of year here, when you think winter is NEVER going to end, when there is a dearth of sunshine, and grey is the dominant colour.

Yesterday I fought back with tomato soup. Not the Campbell's stuff out of a can, but the next best thing to sunshine in a bowl--homemade tomato soup. I've been making this recipe for years, and don't even know its origins. Here it is:

Tomato Soup

1 small onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 28-oz can tomatoes (no salt), with liquid
2 ½ tsp sugar
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unbleached flour
2 c water

Place onion, tomatoes, celery, sugar, paprika, basil, pepper, and salt in a large pot and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, stir the flour into the oil over low heat. Add the water with a whisk and stir over medium/high heat until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens.
Add the oil/flour/water mixture to the tomato mixture and, using a hand blender, puree until smooth.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Well, I've spun the little bit of fleece that I had from my class kit, and I've managed to produce a really crappy tiny skein of yarn. The spinning is out of my system, probably for another year--which is why I'll never be any good at it. I realize it's one of those things that takes a lot of practice, and I just have too many other things at the top of my to do list ever to master it. But I'm left with sincere admiration for all you competent spinners out there!
Trellis, the pattern, is written up, but I'm giving it a few days before coming back for proofreading. A little distance does a lot to improve the final result, I find.
In the meantime, I've frogged my sideways jacket while I do a re-think, and resorted to a bit of mindless zombie knitting in the form of the Hitchhiker scarf. Hard to believe that something so amazing can also be so simple. I just adore the way the little points form themselves so perfectly out of almost nowhere.

That's Sweet Georgia's 100% merino Superwash Sock in "botanical". OK, so a few posts ago I ranted about not liking superwash. This is a project where I'm prepared to use it. The final size isn't critical, and I actually want it to lose some body and develop drape, and also, it won't itch around my neck. Now no one can say I'm doctrinaire on the subject.
Our storm didn't come to much. The snow turned to rain, and all we have left is a couple of inches of crusty, icy stuff. Today is brilliantly sunny and still below freezing.

I've got bread in the oven to go with a spicy chickpea stew for dinner. But first, a little more hitchhiking.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Spinning Out of Control

We're in the grip of our first (OK, maybe second) storm of the season.

View across the street through our bedroom window
There's something so cozy about a storm; it's an excuse to let errands go, to sit warm and snug indoors with some nice fibre and a pot of tea. I've spent the day working on the charts for Trellis and having a go at ...drum roll, please....spinning. Yes, that's right. I took a drop spindle class last fall at KnitEast, after which I put it aside until yesterday. The day before yesterday I ran into Liz at my Wednesday early music group and she was wearing a gorgeous cardigan (sorry, no photos) made from her own handspun. I felt completely inadequate. Yesterday I woke up with the urge to have a go at spinning again. I went onto Youtube (really, how did we learn anything before it?) and looked up Abby Franquemont's excellent beginner tutorials. The long and short of it is that I was hooked and still practising away at midnight. Clearly, it's going to take a great deal more practice to master even the basics, but I had a ton of fun producing this:

 My little obsession has meant that my sideways project, here,

has been put on the back burner for a bit. Hope to get back to it soon. (I might have to get someone to hide my spindle.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Trellis Waistcoat Photoshoot

I use the term "photoshoot" loosely, since I have somewhat limited equipment and even less knowledge, ability, and patience. Anyway, I took Isabel in her new waistcoat and James, wearing the original Sandridge jacket, out for a walk in the park in front of Queen's University's Theological Hall. There may have been a touch of bribery in the form of a trip to Tim Horton's prior to the walk. It was below freezing, after all, and a little something warm in the hands was some inducement to co-operate. Here's what came of it all:

"What should we talk about now that Mum's got us out here freezing our fingers off?"

"She told me to get closer!"

"I should be an ad for Tims."
"Brrr. Hurry up!"

10-year-old cowl still going strong.

"Are we done?"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Superwash (or Not)

At many yarn shops it's becoming increasingly difficult to find wool that hasn't been treated as "superwash". Yarn shop owners tell me that superwash is what their customers want. Unfortunately, it's not what I want. I've had some bad experiences with superwash yarns over the years. Apart from the fact that superwash is difficult to mould into shape, it lacks all the qualities that you really want from wool, including heat retention and elasticity. Usually, after you wash superwash treated wool, the garment grows, sometimes to elephantine proportions. Most manufacturers tell you to throw the garment into the clothes dryer for 15 minutes and then lay it out flat to complete the drying process. My experience has been that although the garment shrinks back considerably, the finished size is somewhat unpredictable. It's also difficult to get nice sharp corners or points. And, every superwash product I've made loses body and feels limp. Keep in mind, too, that especially if you have an old-fashioned top-loading washer, you can soak and spin dry non-treated wool with ease.
There's some good news, though. Apparently there are other knitter/designers out there who feel the same way I do and who've made a deliberate decision not to treat their wool products. Here's a short list:
1. Jared Flood (aka Brooklyn Tweed) has put out two newish yarns, "Shelter" and "Loft". I have some of each in my stash and they're absolutely gorgeous to work with.
2. Veronik Avery's St. Denis line of yarns comes in a ton of beautiful colours. You can double-strand the Nordique to create heavier garments.
3. My recent discovery in this area is Quince & Co. I think I'm in love with the colours, the beautiful photography, and the wide range of yarn weights.

Check out these companies if you, like me, are a real wool person.