Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Milk Stout. 

Last August, the lovely Julie Asselin came down to Boston for a visit and we sat on the front porch with our husbands, having drinks and watching the sun start to set.  It was a perfect summer late afternoon and the four of us hung out and had a great time. Until Julie mentioned that she had a few samples of that "new yarn she was spinning at Green Mountain" in the car.

Next thing you knew, the men were alone on the porch, and Julie and I were sprawled out on my tiny front yard next to the driveway - surrounded by skeins in all the colors - fanned out in the grass, our drinks forgotten (yes! can you imagine....), with a thousand yarn plans swirling in the air -- for about an hour. A hat! No, a shawl! A whole collection! No, a sweater!  I was in love the moment I touched Nurtured, and I may even  have another batch tucked away in my stash already. It's rustic and sheepy, but the Targhee and Rambouillet fiber means it's still soft and light.  The colors are stunning and subtle and it's a joy to knit with.  Plus, it loooooves a cable.

If you know Julie at all, you know her enthusiasm is absolutely infectious - it's delivered with a smile and a charming French accent, often at double speed. Designing the yarn with Green Mountain was a pet project for her, and it's obvious that she enjoyed every moment.  The idea was to combine the color and fiber in a new and exciting way by dyeing the fleece first, mixing the colors and fibers and then spinning the yarn.  I've linked that previous sentence to her series on making Nurtured, so you can read about the whole process and see photos of Julie and Jean-Francois surrounded in pink fluff.   Imagine her voice as you read along, and it's even better.

Sorry for all the digression here - but this has become somewhat of a pet project for me as well, because it involved Julie and Jean-Francois and local fiber and Green Mountain and because it's kind of my dream yarn.  So with it, I wanted to go back and re-attempt my dream sweater - the perfect Grandpa Cardigan.  And Milk Stout  is where I ended up. I chose Irma as my color - it's the creamy perfect neutral, with subtle shades of yellow and pink and pale blue that barely pop until you look for them.

This time I went for texture - a combination of ribbing, garter, and bold, undulating cables, separated by a series of slipped stitches and smaller cables.  There's a lot happening here, but it works together.

I had a little fun with the hem detail, since we already have ribbing --

And the shawl collar isn't overwhelming, which I think keeps the sweater feeling a little feminine, but it could easily be made deeper if you wanted some extra cush around your neck.

And the lines of the saddle shoulder shaping show up beautifully in the ribbing -

But it's really all about the cables.

All the details and a whole bunch of test knits are on the Milk Stout Ravelry page. Julie has tons of Nurtured on hand for this release and you can purchase it in her shop or at one of the retail yarn stores that carry Julie's yarns - and don't worry because if it runs out, she will absolutely be making more in a bit.  The pattern is available for $7.00 either on Ravelry or on the cardigan page of the blog here in a bit.

And if you are wondering why a Milk Stout?  I had a Nitro Milk Stout one afternoon in Putney, with Larisa (who spins this stuff!) up at Green Mountain Spinnery when I was up there teaching at their Knitters Weekend last fall.  I was working on the sleeves at the bar. We looked at the beer and then we looked at the sleeve and we decided it was perfect.  And I still agree. Larisa would know, cause she spins the stuff.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Yes, we are ALL home this week.  So although I got this out in the world earlier, I didn't have time to properly blog about it until now!  But one of my daughters is off at Driver's Ed this morning and the little on is in her pajamas with a scone and some TV, so I can finally take a few moments to tell you guys about Winter Drinks, an e-book accessory collection!

This one is all about simple, satisfying knitting - featuring beautiful yarns with easily memorizable motifs - the patterns use a bit of garter, a single cable and an allover texture.  But each motif pairs really beautifully with the yarn used, and I am extremely happy with how these came out -- and with how they look together!

First is Ice Wine, a giant, reversible cowl, knit in Quince and Co's Osprey.  I'd bought 3 skeins of this yarn up in Portland Maine, while visiting friends about two years ago and always imagined it wrapped up around my neck.  There's nothing like gorgeous, soft wool in garter, and that made it the simplest, most satisfying project ever, so I went against my usual leaning to complicate things, added a few slipped stitches to create a distincte, reversible motif and whipped this one up in a day or two.

It's easily modified for length or width and can be worn long or wrapped around the neck.  And the Osprey is super soft, but has just the right amount of heft to make the cowl "stand" up a bit, which I love.  And Ice Wine is a dessert wine made from grapes actually frozen on the vine.  It's thick and sweet and we had it while up in Quebec last year -- I may have been saving this yarn special for that name ever since.

Next are my Tom and Jerry Hats (and yes, a Tom and Jerry IS a cocktail, much like eggnog).  You all know I'm in love with YOTH, and these skeins of Big Sister were beckoning.  I love these detailed little cables so much - and they were so addictive that I decided to knit a second hat after finishing the first.  The are delicate and unusual and absolutely addictive.  I may not be done with them yet, as Veronika has just sent me a little more yarn to play with.  

But for now, I've knit them in beanie form --

And a slouchy iteration --

Lastly are my Peach Whiskey Mitts.  I've really been saving this yarn for a while, but it's gorgeous and needed to be used in just the right way.  It's Fancy Tiger Crafts Heirloom Romney, a sheepy heathered yarn that's just stunning to look at.  I fell in love with this Butternut colorway - a mix of apricot and gray that's just so unusual, yet makes a gorgeous neutral.

Knit on needles one size smaller than recommended, knitting the yarn in this allover texture makes for some warm, rustic, and hard wearing mitts.  I know because I have NOT taken them off and they still look as good as the day I blocked them.  From my pockets to my bag to my hands.  And the color just makes me so happy.

The Rocky Mountain Peach Whiskey that these are named for is by Leopold Bros, and in keeping with the spirit of Fancy Tiger, their products are handmade and even local to Colorado.  It's made with real peaches and even says on the bottle that you should use it within 30 days for maximum tastiness.  Which we did.

Anyways, I hope you like these!  I think I did justice to these three lovely yarns and am really happy with how the pieces came out, and with how pretty they look together.  Melissa agreed and didn't even mind posing in the cold snow.

She looks pretty cozy, doesn't she?  And in this pic, she also looks eerily like her big sister.


More photos and details can be found on the Ravelry page for all of these projects.  They are available as an e-book for $14, or as single patterns, for $5-6 each.  I will add the links to the website here, but I've run out of free time for today -- we are off to the high school now to drop off a bunch of props - including the "bar" for the school play.

If you are going to Stitches West this weekend, you can see the Tom and Jerry Hats in the YOTH booth - and squish a few skeins of Big Sister or pick a color... at the Santa Clara Convention Center!  

Thursday, February 04, 2016


This one wasn't even planned, but once I swatched this cable in a skein of Yarn On the House's Big Sister, I went down the rabbit hole.  YOTH's beautiful blue, the squishy perfect wool, and the delicate cables made me pretty happy. I quickly wrote up a sweater idea, got a bit more yarn and cast on two weeks before Rhinebeck.

And it was so satisfying and addictive that before I'd even realized, I had finished the sweater and was able to wear it to the Festival on Sunday.  So when I say it was addictive and that I could not put it down, know that I am absolutely telling the truth!

I also kind of love that this is YOTH's Big Sister yarn, and my little sister is wearing it.

A beautifully intricate (but easier than you think) motif is the focus of the design, framed by double seed stitch and twisted cables. 

The twisted cables again define the transition from sleeve to body at the shoulders. 

And although it looks complex, Sazerac is much easier than you think – both to knit and to modify. The cables themselves are geometric and become routine quickly, plus alterations for width can be added to purl sections outside the cable repeats.  The fit is easy and a modified drop shoulder keeps it from being too boxy.  Once finished, it’s a beautiful, wearable sweater that’s sure to turn a few heads.

More images, the test knits and lots of info are up on the Ravelry page.  The pattern is available for 7.00 either there or on the sweater section of the blog.

And as for the drink, something about the flourishes in the cables, the color of the yarn and the delicacy of the design reminds me of the heyday of hotel bars and cocktail culture in the late 1800s into the period before prohibition - especially down in New Orleans.  About things fancy and delicate and a bit less ordinary than perhaps they often are these days.  Like lacy ironwork and etched glass lamps. Even the words Sazerac and Peychaud's are kind of fun and delicate.


You need  a 1/4 oz Absinthe, a sugar cube, 1.5-2oz of Rye, 3 dashes of Peychauds bitters, and a lemon peel.

Rinse the glass with the absinthe and set aside.  In extra cup of ice, mix other ingredients and then strain into rinsed glass over ice and add lemon peel.