Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On Wisconsin!

We're big University of Wisconsin fans at the Briney household. It's hard not to be when we've been living in Madison for over 5 years and both have degrees from the University. And seeing as we're in the Rose Bowl and it's Christmastime, I thought my husband could use a new piece of clothing to show off his Wisconsin-love to the world.

This hat was constructed as a two-stripe helix from some leftover bulky yarn (for more on helical knitting, see this post). If the colors were not enough to shout 'On Wisconsin!', I cut out our 'motion W' logo from two pieces of felt and used embroidery floss to sew them to the hat. I really love the look of the felt on the knitted fabric.

It's really not that difficult to add a pretty little touch of felt to a knitted item. Here are a few notes on what I did:
  • I cut the W freehand, though you could easily trace a shape onto the felt before cutting.
  • Use a pair of sharp embroidery shears to cut with as they make clean cuts in tight spaces.
  • Use pins to secure the felt to the knitted fabric as you sew.
  • Work with 3 of the 6 floss threads at a time.
  • Sew through both pieces of felt and the knit fabric using backstitch, working about 1/8" from the edge of the top piece.
With a little extra effort, I was able to produce something that both the husband and I love. U-Rah-Rah Wisconsin!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Season's Greetings!

I'm currently on the road, visiting family for the holidays, but I wanted to stop in here and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

My original plan was only to say hello and point out the pattern for this awesome little Christmas light. However, after talking on Twitter about some delicious jam doughnut mini-muffin that I baked, some of my Twitter friends asked me to share the recipe. So here is a Christmas gift for them and for you!

Jam Doughnut Mini-Muffins
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess

1/2 cup milk
7 Tbsp canola oil
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp strawberry or raspberry jam
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line mini-muffin pans with paper liners.

Beat together the milk, oil, egg, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pour wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined; lumps are okay.

Spoon batter into muffin liners, filling 1/3 of the way up. Add a dollop of jam (about the size of a bean) to each muffin. Fill remainder of muffin liner with batter to just below the top of the liner.

Bake for 15-17 minutes.

After removing muffins from the oven, warm up the butter and place 1/2 cup sugar into a shallow dish. Dip muffin tops into butter followed by sugar.

Makes 24 mini-muffins.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sewing and Spinning

Do you know that throwing a 30-lb sewing machine out of the window is difficult? Not that I really tried, because even imagining it made me tired. Needless to say, my attempts to sew up little globes and start on my PhD quilt are being foiled by tension issues on my old Singer machine. At least I finally located my owner's manual, so hopefully some cleaning and readjusting will fix this problem.

Instead of reminding me of this frustration, let's talk about something that has gone well for me recently: spinning up 8 skeins of sport-weight handspun totaling over 1700 yards of yarn. This yarn is from the 1.5-lb bag of fiber my mother gifted me in May and was one of my big projects this Fall. While the resulting yarn is beautiful with enough yardage to make a sweater, I think it needs to be dyed before any knitting is done with it; a sweater in this natural color will only succeed in reminding everyone how deathly pale I really am.

So now I have to decide what color this yarn will be in addition to planning what pattern to knit. I have half a mind to design something, though we'll see if that ends up happening. In the meantime, I'm searching Ravelry for nice sport-weight sweater patterns. How I love planning sweater projects!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Yogurt 101

I'm doing a little experiment today, not only in the form of this blog post as a pattern plus recipe but also an experiment in microbiology--culturing milk to make yogurt.

It's worth making your own yogurt for two reasons: (1) it is fairly easy and inexpensive to make yogurt at home and (2) yogurt has a number of health benefits. Milk becomes yogurt by encouraging friendly microbes to multiply and breakdown lactose and other molecules in milk. To do this, you simply combine a small amount of yogurt (from the previous batch or from store-bought yogurt) with milk and heat everything up to encourage the microbes to grow.

So how does this all relate to knitting? Well, the yogurt/milk mixture needs to be kept warm for several hours during the culturing process. Wrapping a towel around the culturing container is one way to keep the liquid warm, but as a knitter I find the idea of using a jar cozy to be much more appealing. Both in terms of the cozy-factor and the cute-factor.

My Yogurt 101 lesson goes through both how to make yogurt in a standard one-quart canning jar as well as how to knit a cozy for that jar to help with the culturing process. Do try this at home!

Making the Yogurt
Using directions from The Curious Cook

1 quart whole milk
2 Tbsp store-bought or homemade yogurt

Slowly warm milk to just below boiling (180-190 F), being careful not to scorch it. Allow the milk to cool to 115-120 F. Whisk in yogurt and pour mixture into warm one-quart canning jar. Cover jar with cozy and let sit undisturbed for about 4 hours or until the yogurt sets up. If you want your yogurt to be thicker, strain it through a cheesecloth. Store yogurt in the fridge.

Making the Jar Cozy

- 75 yards Cascade Eco Wool (or another bulky wool yarn)
- Set of five US size 10 [6 mm] dpns

15.5 stitches and 22 rows = 4 inches in stockinette

Cast-on 48 stitches. Divide stitches evenly over 4 needles (12 stitches per needle).
Join to work in the round, bring careful not to twist.

Work in [K1, P1] rib for 2 inches.

Work in stockinette (all knit) for 5 inches.

Decrease for bottom as follows;
Work [K to last 2 stitches on needle, K2tog] a total of 4 times.
Repeat this row 9 more times until 8 stitches remain.

Break yarn and pull end through remaining stitches.
Weave in ends, put jar into cozy and make yogurt!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A New Tool

My husband decided to buy his own Christmas present this week--a lathe. Normally, I don’t pay attention to the tools that my husband brings home, but as a knitter and a spinner the prospect of having access to a lathe is very appealing for the following reasons: drop spindles, nostepins, darning eggs, and even knitting needles.

Not that I'm going to be turning out piles of darning eggs anytime soon; I only have about 8 hours experience using a lathe. But that hasn't stopped me from ogling spindle designs in the Ravelry groups SpindleCrafters and Spindle Candy. I particularly enjoy the lovely hand-turned supported spindles by Gripping Yarn.

So if you had a lathe, what knitting-related item would you make first? I'm leaning towards a drop spindle, though a nostepin might be an easier place to start. That's assuming that I can drag my husband away from his new toy for long enough to let me make something. Maybe I'm try that after the holidays.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Simple Gifts

It's starting to be that time of the year again, when I think about cheer and gifts and the like. The time of the year when it gets more difficult to talk about my knitting because inevitably it's destined to be given to someone who reads this blog. But today's post is less about all that worry and more about the joy of giving and receiving.

First of all, no post on gifts would be complete without mentioning the beautiful skein of yarn I recently received from my knitting pal DrChopSuey. I'm amazed by her thoughtfulness, especially as she gave me the yarn in the midst of a busy semester and about a week before she eloped! So congrats to her and her now-hubby, and thanks for the lovely skein and introducing me to the Frontier Fiber Mill!

I was able to balance the yarn karma this week by gifting away some of my handspun as part of a swap between the seven-term members of the Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup on Ravelry. You know, as much as I am ambivalent about swaps, I really liked spindling up this yarn in my partner's favorite color and putting together a little package of goodies for her. Perhaps I'll think about doing another swap after the holidays are over.

Last up is a little item that is actually intended for holiday gifts: this awesome globe fabric from SpoonFlower. I found this project idea through the Craftzine Blog (which is always an amazing source of crafty ideas and inspiration) and I thought that some of the little people in my family would love to get plush globes for Christmas. Between these and my 'PhD quilt', I have a lot of sewing to look forward to!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cleaning House

As I start to generate ideas for new and interesting content for my blog, I feel the need to clean house a bit and update you on what is currently on the needles. I'm the kind of person who likes to put a definitive checkmark next to items on my to-do list, so it's been hard for me to organize my new ideas while my current projects are only half-finished. Writing this blog post has really helped me define the big items that need to be finished before I can start new projects.

The first project on the to-finish list is spinning 1.5 pounds of Corriedale/Mohair fleece my mother gifted to me in May. Thus far, I've spun up over a pound of this fiber in to 6 skeins of 2-ply, sport-weight yarn. My current total is about 1350 yards and I'm hoping end up with enough yarn to make a Cria sweater from Ysolda's upcoming pattern book.

The other project that I'd like to get off the needles is a Swallowtail Shawl. Goodness knows why I thought it was a good idea to cast on a lace shawl so soon after finishing the monster-shawl-of-doom, but at least the Swallowtail pattern is easier and I'm not using lace-weight. Still, I'm having a hard time finding the motivation to work on this project, which I strongly suspect is because this yarn sheds worse than anything.

Now that I've put a voice to my shedding concerns, it makes me wonder how badly the finished object will shed after I block the shawl out. If I weren't so afraid of getting Mohair everywhere, coupled with the fact that I'm not sure I would ever use this yarn again, I would frog the whole thing. So yeah, perhaps I should focus on my spinning this week while I figure out what to do with this fuzzy little problem.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sleep Sleep

I've been sleeping easier recently. A lot of this is because my PhD thesis defense is done and all of my paperwork is submitted to the grad school. The other reason I'm sleeping better is that I found a way to deal with my neighbor's porchlight being just outside my bedroom window--an eye mask. Crafting to the rescue again!

This particular eye mask was made using a combination of hand-sewing, felt-work, embroidery, and a crochet motif from Crochet Adorned. I really love to do projects that combine multiple crafts as they utilize lots of supplies from the stash (so I can tell my husband that yes, I really do use all that stuff) and always make me feel like a crafty superstar for being proficient at multiple crafting techniques.

The other benefit of using so many different crafting techniques in one project is that it excersizes my creativity. Now that grad school is officially over and I'm working more normal hours, I am so ready to be a more creative and balanced individual. Hopefully my creative exercises will translate into some interesting blog posts in the future!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Knitting Around Town

My hometown of Madison, WI is a pretty cool place. Located on an isthmus between two lakes, it's a small city with all of the big-city amenities. Nowhere else can you ride your bike to the country's largest farmers' market in the morning, watch a sailboat race in the afternoon, and end the night by enjoying some of the finest locally-made beer and cheese curds. Oh, and I should mention the knitting.

Madison has a HUGE local knitters' guild, but as I've mentioned that in a previous post, I want to show off some really neat knitting that I've seen recently around town. The first is the bus-shelter cozy which was created by the UW School of Human Ecology. It's located on State Street, just a few blocks from the capital, and I know that its bright colors must be turning lots of heads. Personally, I think that such a unique knitting project in a high-traffic area is a great idea!

The other knitting I espied was at the new Madison Children's Museum, which I took my family and in-laws to when they were in town for my PhD defense. The second-story wall of the museum is home to this neat knitted tandem bike. There is obviously a bike frame under there but almost all of its surfaces are covered in wool. It makes me wonder what I could do with the tandem bike hubby and I ride.

Finally, though it's not knitting-related, I want to put in a good word for the local fabric shop Stitcher's Crossing. I'm really excited about my 'PhD quilt' idea and just purchased a bunch of cute fabric from this shop (almost everything in the photo is from this shop except for the fabric at the middle left and in the upper-left corner). I can't wait to start cutting and sewing!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I had my PhD thesis defense on Monday afternoon. Both the presentation and the closed-door defense went very well, so I'm happy to report that I passed!

It's definitely a big weight off of my shoulders! I think the best thing (besides enjoying a little champagne and a lot of sleep in the last couple days) is the promise of more crafting time in the future. I have a strange desire to break out my sewing machine and make a 'PhD quilt' to mark the occasion.

In the meantime, I'm trying to get used to a new work routine and a new title in front of my name. 'Dr. Briney' still seems weird to me.

I'm definitely looking forward to things being back to normal next week and getting back to blogging about knitting!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Batty for Batts

This is a good week for putting pretty things up on my blog and pretending that I don't have a looming PhD defense. And while we're in this alternate reality, we're also going to pretend that all of the pretty colors and pretty fibers I'm about to show are not part of an overly large spinning stash. Agreed? Okay, onto the lovelies!

All of these batts come from the Etsy shop Hobbledehoy, which is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. This shop was the fiber source for 'Gryffindor' in my recent Hogwarts spinning project. I loved spinning that yarn so much that I've since bought four more batt sets, three of which are shown above (without their partners). The fourth set I spun into fingering-weight singles on my favorite drop spindle.

There is something very special about spinning up these lightly textured batts on a drop spindle; the slower act of spindling gives time for true tactile enjoyment. While I would be happy to spin up the other batts into similar singles, I suspect that this fiber would also be lovely core spun. Still, I am thoroughly enjoying spinning up and, having recently finished a hat from my Gryffindor singles, knitting up singles from these batts.

The hat in question is from a Hobbledehoy batt set in the Sunstone colorway and was knit into the pattern Ripley by Ysolda Teague. Need I tell you that knitting a Ysolda pattern from my own handspun is possibly the best thing ever? It's definitely right up there with curling up with a book and mug of tea on a crisp autumn day. And this particular hat definitely invokes the feeling of autumn and its falling leaves.

So now that I've waxed poetic about colorful batts, the joy of spindling, and the genius of Ysolda, it's probably time to pull my head out of the clouds and get back to reality. Or at least preparing for my PhD defense. I would love if you all could send positive thoughts my way next Monday at 1:30PM CST!

Friday, October 15, 2010

203 Pages

That's the final page count on my PhD thesis which I will be defending 10 days from now, at 1:30PM CST on October 25th.

I just got my examiner's copies back from the printer today and all that's left to do is make my defense presentation. This month has been a whirlwind, but the end is definitely in sight!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Two Crochet Books For Knitters

I don't consider myself a crocheter, though I do know how to crochet. It's something that I do when I find a pattern I like, need to reinforce an edge, or want to use up leftover yarn. While I enjoy the act of crocheting, I always approach it from the viewpoint of being a knitter. In this context, I've found it very helpful to have a few crochet reference books on hand and there are two in particular that I cannot do without.

The first is Stitch 'N Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker, which offers very clear diagrams on how to crochet in addition to 40 modern crochet patterns. The how-to section at the front of the book is particularly nice, covering everything from crocheting in the round and stitch patterns to making extras like buttonholes and pom-poms. I always reach for this book when I start a crochet project to double check that I'm doing things correctly.

The second book I recommend is Crochet Adorned, which centers around using crochet motifs to embellish everyday items. I like this book because it has a bunch of small projects, meaning that instead of worrying about screwing up, I just try things for the fun of it. The patterns themselves include earrings and pins, dress/coat/shirt trims, and a beautiful starched lace bowl. Plus, the book has a nice stitch dictionary in the back that includes different trim ideas, flower motifs, and granny triangles and hexagons.

Perhaps the flexibility of the motifs is why I like Crochet Adorned so much. For example, I made elbow patches for an old sweater using a motif that was originally intended for a table mat. Overall, the book really encourages me to explore different uses for crochet that, as a knitter, I would not have otherwise realized were possible.

I hope my book recommendations encourage my fellow knitters to take another look at crochet!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ysolda Fever

I've been feeling a bit under the weather lately and after a recent visit to my doctor, I discovered why: I have Ysolda Fever. I'm afraid to say that it's very contagious and I've probably infected several of you without realizing it. So please, if you experience [lack-of-sweater] chills, visions [of grandeur], sore hands and wrists, and sleepless nights [but finished projects], consult your doctor right away to see if you are infected.

Unfortunately, the only way to deal with this disease once you've contracted it is to knit through Ysolda Teague's entire pattern catalog. I didn't realize just how sick I was until I counted how many things I've knit from this list: Elijah (below), Liesl, Gretel, Coraline, Garter Stitch Mitts, Tiny Shoes, Vivian, Icing Swirl, Veyla, Damson (twice), & Ishbel (thrice).

The strength of my infection comes from the fact that I contracted it directly from the source, so I strongly warn you to not touch anything at a Ysolda trunk show or when meeting the designer in person. Honestly, I don't think I'll be cured anytime soon. Especially because I keep seeing more and more Ysolda patterns in my fever dreams: Ripley, Cria, Rose Red, Emily Capelet, Peaks Island Hood, Snapdragon Tam, & Smith. Pray for me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Tale of Two Skeins

If you've been following this blog for a while, you may have noticed an increase in the number of post on spinning since the beginning of 2010. I swear it wasn't my New Year's resolution to actually use my spinning wheel, I just caught the spinning bug. And as I learn new and interesting things about making my own yarn, I like to share them here in the hope that you learn something as well. We're all about learning at Casa BrineyDeep.

Today's spinning post deals with how I processed the above roving, which was dyed by one of my Ravelry friends, Pacasha (you can find her hand-dyed rovings and skeins here). This is a superwash merino in blue and brown, in a colorway called McGonagall. Seeing as this is a simple two-color roving, I set out to see if I could get some variability in the final yarn based upon how I spun it up.

I spun two skeins out of this roving; the one on the left is a two-ply spun on my wheel and the one on the right is a Navajo-ply spun on a spindle. You can see the difference in their structure in this close-up picture, but I find their color difference to be even more interesting.

The Navajo-plied yarn on the left has more concentrated sections of color, due to the plying method. I also think that spinning slightly thicker singles for the two-ply on the right at makes the colors wash out a bit. The real test, of course, it to actually knit up swatches in each these yarns.

The color intensity observed in the third photo really carries over into the swatch, but now we start to see pooling in the Navajo-ply swatch (lower swatch) that does not occur in the two-ply swatch (upper swatch). While there is some variability in the two ply, it is much more subtle. I really like the fabric created by each of these yarns, but for very different reasons.

Eventually I hope to use both of these skeins in a single project, somehow showing off both their differences and their similarities. I think that that may be easier said than done.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wisconsin Sheep and Wool 2010

It's starting to feel like Fall here in Wisconsin. The cooler weather, football games, and students returning to class all make me eager for sweater season. And for the ultimate knitter's transition from Summer to Fall, nothing beats a visit to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival.

I went to the festival with my friend Mary Beth, who was my companion at Sheep and Wool two years ago. I tried to get her to bring home a sheep again this year, but she seemed to think that her new roommates were no more amenable to the sheep than her last. Someday, MB, someday.

So no sheep this year, but I did bring home some wool. For some reason I kept picking up bamboo blended roving and ended up bringing two home with me. The one on the left is from Winterhaven Fiber Farm and it's a Merino/Bamboo/Silk blend in the 'Autumn Gold' colorway. The roving on the right is a Merino/Bamboo blend from Creatively Dyed. I also picked up a huge sport-weight skein from Briar Rose Fibers that will probably be knit into a Ysolda design (surprise, surprise).

In addition to wool, I snagged a pair of earrings made out of knitting needles. That's right, those are cut-up knitting needles. I was actually perusing the artist's Etsy store only two weeks ago and fell in love with the above design, so it was fate when I saw them at the festival.

After shopping, I met up with a few members of the Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup on Ravelry for dinner (left to right: greenheron, dontpokeme311, jayannell, xamonster, caffeinatedkate, isisonearth, naturallyknitty, me, and bandbabe). Besides a little hiccup with our planned restaurant being closed, it was a lovely evening as House Cup people are always so nice.

And no trip to Sheep & Wool would be complete without seeing a few of sheep. I hope this guy cracks you up as much as he does me!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Lightweight Mountain Peaks Shawl

It's done.

I still can't believe that I made something so beautiful. The best part is the moment after you pull out the blocking pins and can fully appreciate the transformation from lumpy knitting into lace. That being said, if I ever decide to knit another large lace shawl on size 2 needles, someone please check my sanity.