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.