Thursday, February 27, 2014

When it rains, it pours, yes?  But you saw the pile of projects a few posts ago,  and as I said then -- I have just a few too many things in the works, sitting unpublished right now.  So, when given the final go-ahead from Dawn, who am I to make a design wait longer - in order to space things out nicely?

Especially when Judy of Ball and Skein will be at SPA in Freeport Maine this weekend, with a booth full of Lyra, in which you can knit this exact sweater.  If you are not near Maine, it's available through her website here.

Ibisco is a little fancier than my usual designs, but as soon as I saw this yarn, I knew the fiber called for something a little special. The soft hand, the smallest hint of sheen and the subtle haze create such a gorgeous fabric.  Like something you could wear on a date.

So, Ibisco is my date sweater.  Dolman sleeved, with an easy, body skimming fit and a neckline that gives a hint of collarbone without being too deep or wide, it’s sexy and feminine while remaining easy to wear.

I played with the traditional Dolman sleeve, using a long, fitted wrist and a bit less “batwing” than you’re used to seeing. Subtle shaping at the bust tailors the drape in just a bit where it meets the body, for a flattering but easy shape.  And since the sweater is knit bottom up in the round, you can easily adjust length or shaping while working up the body.

The lace is simple and delicate and has a bit of texture to it, plus it can allow you a peek of tank underneath if you feel daring. The star of the sweater is the fabric, though, so I’ve made sure there is lots of stockinette. Soft and light, with a gorgeous drape - the mix of alpaca, wool and silk in the fiber is just lovely to knit with and almost decadent to wear.

The pattern is available on Ravelry or on the Pattern page here on my blog, for $6.50

All the information about the sweater can be found on Ravelry, but some basic information is below.

Sizes: 32(34,36,38,40,42)(44,46,48,50)”  Based on finished size at bust.  In the photos, Melissa wears Ibisco with 2.5” of ease. I suggest 2-3”.

Yardage: 1050(1150,1250,1300,1400,1500)(1600,1700,1850,1950)

Needles:  US#6/4mm needles (or size to get gauge) for the body.  You may want US#5s (or one size smaller) to pick up and work neckline ribbing. 

Gauge:  5.5 sts/7 rows per 1" in stockinette.  6 sts/7 rows per 1" in ribbing.  Gauge based on finished, blocked fabric. 

As for a cocktail with Ibisco, I'm going to save that for yet, ANOTHER blog post.  I've been distracted by Fernet Branca this week and now this is ready, but I am not.  But don't you worry, I plan to work on something later tonight :)  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

While you all cast on for your Creme de Menthe scarves, some cocktail thoughts.     

I was walking into a bookstore when I noticed this sweet little liquor store on High Street in Medford last week.  It was tiny and crowded and the floorboards had that good, creaky sound they have when they have been walked on for decades.  I saw shelves piled high, a detailed tin ceiling, those big vintage lighting fixtures, and an adorable old man behind the counter, so I had to walk in, right?

And I couldn't leave empty handed, so I went to the liquor wall and looked for something I'd never tried before, with a cool name that might come in handy sometime in the future.

I walked out with the Fernet Branca.  To be honest, I didn't know what I was getting myself into, as the label isn't exactly helpful, since it's all in Italian -- except the part on back that says "a unique liqueur, made in Italy."  But it was interesting and not too spendy and hey -- tax deductible, right?

So I went home and Instagrammed my purchase, and Kay Gardiner asked if I could "not make it taste like Lysol".  Uh oh..... Then I checked online.  Uh oh again.  Imbibe magazine had the best description ever:

"Most liqueurs are gentle, sweet and eager to please, like helpful Boy Scouts in a bottle. Fernet Branca is no Boy Scout. A bombastically bitter Italian liqueur, Fernet Branca is an alpha-dog amaro so powerfully laced with pungent botanicals that grimacing attempts at describing its flavor have dotted everything from Bill Cosby’s standup routine to the YouTube commentary of disbelieving wine tasters" 

Oh good, right?  Sounding tasty yet?

Imbibe informs me:  "Fernet Branca is flavored with around 40 roots, herbs, spices and other ingredients, including gentian, myrrh, chamomile and saffron. Redolent with the herbaceous aroma of menthol and eucalyptus, Fernet Branca has a bitter complexity that is jarring on first experience, and bracingly alluring with each subsequent encounter.

What that really means is that at first, it's terrible but then you get used to it.  Like coffee.  And surprisingly, I have.  Kay said Lysol, Craig said medicine. I absolutely cringed when I took that first shot.  Now, however, I think it's kind of amazing - and a little shot of it brightens a drink up.  Let's say -  Zesty!

In Argentina, they like to mix it with Coke and in San Francisco, a "bartenders handshake" is a shot of this with a chaser of ginger ale.   After pairing it with a lot of things in the pantry, we decided the more flavor the other ingredients have the better.  And, the more booze.

So far, this is our favorite:

1.75 oz bourbon
1 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz dark rum
shake of orange bitters

Put ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake.  Then pour into small glass over ice.  Craig likes it just like that.   I need a little something more, so I add a about 3 ounces of Izze's Sparkling Apple Soda.  (This works with almost any Izze's, by the way)  Be careful though, this drink is more of a entire TV show sipper. With all that booze, you need to go slow, as it's got a little kick.

The mixing with Coke is good, and the mixing with Coke and bourbon or Coke and Rum is also good, but I'm not a huge Coke fan, so I prefer the combination above.  


Another one that worked was the Toronto:

2 oz rye
.5 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz simple syrup
1 shake of Angostura bitters
slice of lemon and twist

Shake rye, FB, bitters and syrup in shaker with ice.  Rim the glass with lemon before pouring drink into it, and add lemon twist.   Again, a sipper.   And you really do have to embrace the taste of the stuff.

One more way in which we liked it was to  just add a bit into a gin and tonic with a little fresh orange  squeezed in - adds just a tiny kick to the usual drink.

And the next thing I want to try it with is the Cinotto - and some lemon flavored seltzer.  Do any of you have any recipes for this one that you like?  I'd love to give them a try....

Monday, February 24, 2014

When Courtney  (of Seed Stitch Yarns in Salem, MA) asked if I'd design something for the 2014 North Shore Yarn Crawl, we thought a shawl would be the perfect project.  I'd been wanting to play with shawls, and the timing seemed right for wearing in March in New England, where the weather can be cold or warm or snowy or wet or even, just maybe - gorgeous.   So jacket or no, a shawl can still be seen, right?

When we wanted to use a local indie dyer's yarn to make it an especially North Shore project, we thought Ana Campos of Toil and Trouble would be the perfect dyer. (And she was. Not only is she talented and charming in the yarn department, but she's the lovely model in these shots!)

Based in Salem, Ana has a great sense of color and style and works with some beautifully bold combinations.  I, however, stayed semi-bold and asked for this pale green and gray that I'd seen on her blog and thought was perfect for early spring.  If you must have the same colorway and yarn, she's set up an Etsy page here to take pre-orders.    I do recommend it, having just made mine ;)

So, that's how Creme de Menthe came to be.  It's a light but cozy shawl in the most beautiful shades of delicate pale pistachio green and subtle dove gray, perfect for this time of year.  You want a little warmth, but need a spring color to remind you that better weather is just around the corner.

The lofty single ply knits up like a dream.  I love the airy, fluffy nature of this fiber.  

A combination of stockinette and garter stitch sections are simple enough to show off the subtle colors, and little lace diamonds accent both the top and bottom edges of the piece.  Just enough detail to keep the knitting fun.  It's a quick, addictive project - and perfect for a beginning shawl knitter, since it works up fast and the lace is nice and basic.

If you are part of the Yarn Crawl Email list, you've already gotten an email with details about the pattern,plus a special discount.  You can purchase the PDF using your code on Ravelry.  If you are not part of the Yarn Crawl, you can still purchase the pattern on Ravelry for $6.50.

Some details are below, but all the information is on the Ravelry page, located here.

Yarn:  Toil and Trouble Single Ply Worsted, shown in Isa.  240 yds per skein, 3 skeins/600 yards.

Gauge:  4 sts/6 rows per 1".  Gauge based on final blocked fabric.

Needles/Notions:   US#8/5.5mm needles, or size to get gauge.  Darning needle, markers.

Size:  60" from tip to tip, 23" deep.

As always, there are notes in the pattern if you want to adjust for another weight of yarn or finished size.  If you substitute yarn,  I suggest a worsted weight with subtle color variations such as this.  A single ply will keep the delicate, airy nature of the shawl, but a distinctly plied yarn could work as well and would just feel a bit distinct and less airy.  A little drape would not be a problem either, so you can play with mixed fibers. 

And for a cocktail with Creme de Menthe,  I can't seem to beat the Girl Scout: 

1 oz Creme de Cacao
1 oz Creme de Menthe
1 oz milk

Shake ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice and pour into martini glass.  You can also add a bit more milk and another ounce of vodka for a bit of extra kick :) 

Enjoy and stay tuned -  Ibisco, my date sweater is also ready to go in about a day or two!  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

So, Sarah asked me to come up with something special for the Plucky booth at Stitches West this weekend.  And I know when I'm in that booth, I cannot pick just one skein.  So I designed something that means that you HAVE to walk out with 2 skeins.  Have. To.

Stripes, right? 


I'm calling it Mixed.  If you happen to be at Stitches or have plans to go by the booth, look for the special Plucky Knitter/BabyCocktails exclusive kits to make your own Mixed hat.  Sorry, since this one was a special design for Sarah, it's a Plucky exclusive and it won't be available for regular purchase through me. 

However, for those of you who are stuck in the snow and won't be going to Stitches, I've got another design up my sleeve.

I've also been asked to come up with the North Shore Yarn Crawl's official pattern this year.  And although folks in the Boston Area who are part of the yarn crawl do get a little something special in regards to that design, the rest of you will also be able to purchase the pattern as soon as it's  published.   It's a shawl (my first!) in a gorgeous pale greenish (tealy?) and gray vareigated single ply merino by local indie dyer Ana Campos of Toil and Trouble yarn.

For now, here's a sneak peek of Ana in said shawl.  Keep your eyes out for another announcement about this guy.  It should be ready in just a few days!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Things may be getting away from me these days.  A few of those things have begun to pile up around here and I have that sinking feeling I may be in the midst of too many projects at once, as evidenced by my desk, below.   Usually I try to keep it at a low hum, with one or two things on the needles, one thing in testing, one thing in editing and one in concept stage.  That's not what the desk says, is it?  You aren't even seeing the other sweater projects grouped on the floor below.

So yeah, I probably did let things get away from me here, and the scary part is that I didn't really even see it happening until now, as I sit knee-deep in both real and imaginary deadlines and look around.  On the desk are a few manhats, the beginnings of some mitts, another hat that will be part of a textured mini-collection, a sport weight sweater awaiting colorwork, a whole bunch of Bello needing love, and sweater swatches in Bare Naked Wools.  Plus my second version of a my Colorwork Cowl that still needs a name.

This is what the Finished Knits Chair has going on.  The Creme de Menthe shawl and unnamed Plucky Cowl on top are with Dawn (my tech editor) and just need photos before publishing, so that's good, right?  The cozy pink cardigan, named Paloma, folded on the bottom is in testing, so I'm in a holding pattern there.

But the lovely lace one in the middle?  That one is in a timeout. It's knit and finished and I love it, only almost.  Something isn't right and I am delaying the inevitable moment when I frog back half the yoke and redo the neckline.  I just can't put my finger on what I want to do differently so I don't want to rip just yet.  I put it on the dressmaker dummy, look at it each day, and evaluate.  And change my mind.  But luckily, that deadline is an imaginary one, so it's OK that it keeps moving farther back in time.  However, it's weighing heavy on my mind and until I have my "aha" moment, it kills me that it is just sitting in the pile, waiting.  A whole sweater, just sitting.  In Primo Aran no less. The guilt increases each day.

However, I can feel like there's a little forward motion in the air, since this is about ready to go.

Ibisco, is my date sweater.  It's not physically on the chair, since it's off with Judy of Ball and Skein, traveling around in her booth to fiber shows right now.  I plan to release the pattern next week - since every sweater knitter on Ravelry is working through their Olympic knit and wouldn't cast on till then anyways.  So, that's one thing about to move off.  The others?

The rest of them need to be figured out, prioritized and dealt with. Or like the hat below, just finished up.  And probably not this week.

February vacation has just begun, and although I have an hour to blog now while Maya practices guitar and Zoe works on a cartoon project, I don't see myself getting too far ahead on that desk until both girls are back to their routines.   So, this is "Hi".  And a little update on what's what's going on around here.   I should have been knitting maybe, but it felt like time to check in with all of you before the week gets underway.  

Maybe I'll get organizing.  I want to at least hang my birthday present on the office wall.

And I did buy some weird new booze, so maybe I'll also get mixing.