Keeping up Traditions

Did you know that the oldest knitted artifacts date from the 11th century? And, the complexity of the knitting in those socks (colourwork, knit, purl and short rows) makes it pretty obvious that knitting had been around for some time before that. How’s that for being able to call knitting an ancient tradition? And you can be sure that if knitting has been around since then, people have also been mending their knitting since then too.

Anyone who knows my shop will know that a huge part of what I do is mending. Now obviously, most of that mending is on clothing, outerwear and outdoors related gear and it’s done using my various specialized industrial sewing machines. It is all mending (and alterations) none-the-less. I grew up in a family that couldn’t afford to be wasteful. My parents were hard-working, practical people. If we kids wanted to watch TV, we had to be mending something while we watched. The job I most commonly took on as my TV-toll was mending socks. Back then, I used an old lightbulb to hold the shape of the heel so I could carefully weave a new heel or toe with needle and yarn.

A long-time customer brought me a gorgeous Norwegian wool sweater, at least 30 years old. Other than the ravaged cuffs and a relatively small hole in one elbow, this beautiful lined garment was in excellent condition. It’s a testament to Norwegian craftsmanship. She asked me what I could do. I told her that there were a few ways to approach it, but that I really felt that it should be restored, as opposed to being repaired. I asked her what her budget was. She was willing to pay a fair bit, and although I knew it would not cover the time it would take to reknit the cuffs and graft a repair to the elbow, I just really wanted to restore it. I told her that I would be working on it in the evenings when I wasn’t too tired, in front of the television. It was not going to fall within my normal wait time for repairs.

I completed it this week and I thought I’d share how it went and show some photos of it. Now, please understand. I can’t afford to make a business out of restoring old sweaters for people. When she picked it up, she said, “I suspect I’m only paying about $2.00 per hour for all the work you did on this sweater!” She’s not far off! This was a labour of love on my part.

I began by choosing a row of knitting that would be easy to distinguish at the beginning of the cuff. There was a single round of green stitches that made it easy to know that I was getting the stitches from just that round. The sweater was knit with what appeared to be 2-ply yarn. The yarn I was using for the cuffs was 4-ply. So I had to decide how many stitches I would ultimately need and math my way through how many decreases it would take to get me there. I settled on 76 stitches and once I planned out how best to evenly divide up the decreases I set to work.

With the stitches picked up, I carefully cut through a single layer of the double cuff. I picked out all the bits of yarn from the old cuff, down to my needle full of stitches. Then I began to knit the cuff. I kept it simple with a 1×1 rib. After 30 rounds I did a purl round to make it easy to fold the cuff and did another 30 rounds before binding it off. I have to be honest, the sweater sat in a heap, mostly ignored for weeks at a time. I would knit a few rounds here and there. I finally repeated that process on the second cuff.

I picked out the stitches that held the lining fabric to the cuff and using the sewing machine, I stitched the lining fabric to the very end of the cuff. Once that was complete, I folded the cuff and very carefully pinned through the layers where the ends of the cuff lined up. Being sure to tuck any exposed fabric into the seam, I stitched through all the layers to secure the cuff layers with the lining in between. I used a herring bone stitch to make sure that it would be able to stretch without popping any threads.

Next I set to work on the elbow. There were several rows that were simply unraveled; the yarn itself was intact. I picked up stitches below and as wide as necessary so that I could create a patch for the other areas and comfortably cover the areas where the yarn was worn away. Using the existing yarn I knitted up until I got to a row where the original yarn was not intact. I then separated the 4-ply yarn so I could work with only 2 plies and knitted back and forth until I had a patch to cover the damaged area. Using a darning needle and more yarn, I grafted that patch to the sweater. It’s not the most elegant patch in the world, but it wasn’t bad. I spritzed the elbow patch and then pressed it with an iron to “block” it. It worked well.

This was a very satisfying project. It felt so good to be able to bring this gorgeous sweater back to life. I feel proud that I was able to be part of a host of traditions by taking on this one project. The sweater may be too warm out now to wear it right now, but I’m confident that it will be back to active use next winter. I’m sure that its owner will get another 30 years of snuggly warmth out of it yet.

And now that this project is complete, maybe I’ll get to some of my other WIPs.

Happy Knitting!

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Scrub-a-dub-dub!

For years, knitters and crocheters have been making cotton cloths for kitchen or bathroom use. Besides the obvious facecloths and dishcloths, many are also making reusable makeup pads. These are small but relatively thick crocheted or knitted circles around 2 to 3 inches across, specifically for removing makeup. Others also make pot scrubbers; the new yarns available mean you don’t even have to cut up any tulle to do so! Trivets, potholders, tea-cozies, placemats… whether a kitchen-specific bundle of goodies, or a spa-related combination of items, these make fantastic gifts that are quick, easy and inexpensive to make. Add to this that they are small projects that won’t make you sweat as the weather gets warmer and you have a recipe for some fun, satisfying, warm-weather crafting.

Around the time when I brought in over 50 colours of “dishcloth” cotton yarn, I also brought in a yarn that is specifically designed for making pot scrubbers. It’s a Rico product called Creative Bubble. It’s available in 23 solid colours and 5 multi-colours. (I don’t have all the colours in stock, but I’m happy to bring other colours in if people want them.)

Rico has a number of patterns to go along with this yarn. The pattern that we did up includes a watermelon slice and a pineapple. You could simply crochet little circles if you wanted to, but these are so cute that I challenge you to resist them! We were able to get two pineapples out of one ball of yellow and three watermelon slices out of one pink ball. The only thing was that the third watermelon slice was one round smaller than the pattern said. You’d never know to look at it. Clearly green was also used for these. (Oh and a quick note: The Rico patterns use UK terminology. Be sure you know the difference if you are used to North American terminology. It makes a difference!)

Each of these scrubbies are as big as my hand. I have been using a pineapple scrubby at home to get a sense of how it behaves and I’m loving it. They are double thickness; they feel soft and cushy under your hand and they are large enough that you can really get some work done with ease. My husband commented that he thought they felt softer than the puffs we use in the shower. Speaking of shower puffs. You know when you put body wash onto those puffs and they get nice and lathery? Well that’s what the scrubbies do when you put the dish washing liquid onto them. They are fabulous!

I did a quick search on Ravelry and found a few easy patterns for scrubbies. The first one is just a nice basic pan scrubby. The second one combines a dishcloth with a scrubby. I’ll be bringing in more patterns from Rico, including a doughnut with sprinkles. How fun is that? If you are inclined to do a search, you may want to try with each of: scrubby, scrubbie and scrubber.

Pan Scrubber

Dish Scrubby

As winter makes way for spring you don’t have to abandon your crochet or knitting. You can always just shift from wool blends to cotton, linen and bamboo yarns. Choosing smaller projects means you won’t be roasting under an in-progress afghan in the height of summer’s heat.

If you are tired of making plain old dishcloths, a quick search on Ravelry will bring up a plethora of designs to choose from. If you want to find some really lovely ones, do a search with the word “spa” and see what comes up. I suppose that technically these would be considered facecloths. You can use any of the dishcloth cotton yarns available to make up spa sets. You could include a headband (to hold your hair out of the way while you wash your face), small round make-up pads, facecloths and shower puffs. The puffs could be made of either cotton, or a yarn like Rico Creative Bubble. Pair all that with your favourite luxury soap, maybe a candle, a bottle of wine, and you have a fantastic gift for someone who deserves to pamper themselves. I’ve included links to ravelry pages to offer some inspiration:

Aubrey Spa Set

Spa Day Set

Mini Almost Lost Washcloth

Extra Luscious Bath Puff

Easy Face Scrubbies

I don’t know about you, but I’m always on the lookout for gift ideas that won’t break my budget, whether that be in relation to time, money or brain power. If you’re looking for projects that you can do in front of the television in the evenings (or in the back yard, when the weather is nice), any of these will fit the bill.

The other nice thing about these is that you can make them up in no time, in advance and stockpile a bunch of them. Make up some in classy neutral colours and others in fun and vibrant combinations. When you suddenly need a gift, you can put together a nice little package to fit the need at the time, effortlessly. Tie it all up with a pretty ribbon or some hemp cording and you’ll look like a genius.

Happy Knitting… and Crocheting!

Sock Madness!

Yes, Sock Madness!

This annual sock knitting competition is for those with skills and a competitive spirit.

Early in February I was knitting with a good friend. She was knitting a pair of socks designed to use up leftovers of 13 different yarns. Turns out they are the Sock Madness warm-up round socks. I have lots of leftovers I’d love to use up, but competing in Sock Madness… that I wasn’t sure about.

“Sock Madness is an international sock hand knitting competition based loosely on the basketball competition known as March Madness. There are 7 rounds of patterns. The first pattern is reasonably straightforward and as the rounds progress the socks become increasingly more complex in design. Every registered competitor who completes a pair of socks in round 1 will be placed on a team with approximately 40 players per team. It is announced ahead of each round how many will proceed to the next pattern/round. By the 7th pattern there will be one member from each team left to battle it out.”


(quoted from Sock Madness Forever on Ravelry)

Sock Madness is definitely cool. If you haven’t heard of it, I encourage you to do a quick search on Ravelry; you’ll see what I mean. I’ve been intrigued by the interesting patterns they do in this competition for a few years now. I’m curious about the many advanced knitting techniques included in the patterns. Each year I think that if not for the time crunch, it would be a great opportunity to learn some techniques that I’m unfamiliar with.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have a healthy amount of competitive spirit. I just can’t see having enough free time at this time of year to justify being on a competitive knitting team. I know that I’d put way too much pressure on myself and I’d pay a steep price for it. So when my friend suggested I sign up as a cheerleader, I thought, “this could be the perfect opportunity”. You have to make a reasonable effort to complete the round one socks. (One fully completed sock, or two socks done to beyond the heel assures you a spot.) Then you are granted access to the patterns for all the socks and you can knit them at your leisure without the imposed time limit. Registration happens through the month of February and the competition begins at the beginning of March.

I signed up! Since then, I have been toodling my way through the warm up socks. I have completed one sock and I’m less than a quarter of the way into the second sock. I’m very happy with the way they are turning out. Of course, I have two other pairs of socks in progress as well that I put on the back burner, but I’ll get to them all eventually. I figure I should be able to manage the expectations to qualify as a cheerleader.

I’m enjoying the warm up socks. It was so much fun choosing my 13 colours of leftover yarn. I love the way that the pattern gradually incorporates each new yarn. With all those different yarns, I had a mass of “tails” to weave in when I finished the first sock though. I sat there, staring at it for some time, deciding what to do. I imagined what a big job it would be to weave those ends in on two completed socks and that motivated me. I took the time and got them all neatly incorporated before starting the second sock. (I even have photographic evidence! LOL) That way, I’ll only have one sock to fiddle with when completed. It was definitely satisfying to complete that little operation! I ended up with a very pretty sock out of the deal!

Working on this pattern got me thinking. In a way, knitting up a pattern like this is reminiscent of making a memento quilt. Each yarn has a story behind it the same way that each fabric of a scrap quilt does. I like that. I knit a lot of socks. There are certain people that I specifically make a lot of socks for. I was thinking that it would be really interesting to knit a pair of memory socks using leftovers from socks that I made in the past for that same person. I think that’s a really nice idea. With that many colours, I should be able to arrange them in a sequence that will make sense and look good, even if (at first glance) I might not think they should go together. It makes me think about handling my leftover yarns a little differently. It also has me thinking about other projects that I could do using up leftovers. I’m feeling downright inspired!

I’m excitedly anticipating the first round of Sock Madness. I honestly never thought I’d be participating in this event. Who knows, maybe I’ll surprise myself and discover that it’s more do-able than I imagined… Maybe next year I’ll want to compete? I guess you just never know… and I guess you should never say never!

Happy Knitting!

Onward! To the Ravelry 2019 Challenge

Last year I participated in the Ravelry 2018 Challenge. I set out to complete 20 projects over the course of 2018. I figured that would be a manageable number, knowing my knitting habits and my busy schedule. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but I ended up finishing 33 projects. I wasn’t purposely trying to pack a lot of projects in; I feel good about that result. Good enough that I signed up for the 2019 Challenge too. At this point, based on last year’s results, I’ve conservatively set a goal of 30 projects.

During 2018 I completed the following:

  • 1 blanket
  • 1 cowl
  • 5 shawls
  • 1 adult cardigan
  • 2 toddler cardigans
  • 4 doll cardigans
  • 19 pairs of socks

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I have a couple of projects that were started that I didn’t complete yet. Notably “Alecia Beth”, a contiguous cardigan in 4 ply yarn. I hope to finish that in time for late spring when my winter sweaters and coat are too warm for the weather.

I’ve been thinking about what new things I’d like to try and knit this year. I definitely want to make a steeked, stranded colour-work cardigan. I have been looking at designs. I like the way that the colour-work wraps around those yoked sweaters that Tin Can Knits are known for.

Steeking is a construction method used to make cardigans. It’s typical of Fair-Isle and Norwegian sweater knitting. The idea is that you knit the sweater in the round like a pullover. Easy peasy! You allow extra rows of stitches in the areas where you want to cut it apart. Some people simply make a tube for the body with some extra steek rows where the sleeves will go, and down the centre front. They knit it to the full desired length. Then they knit the two sleeves separately. To put it into a nutshell, you reinforce the stitches on either side of where you plan to cut it open so your knitting doesn’t simply disintegrate. Then you cut it open. YIKES! Then you add button panels in the front (or a zipper) and insert the sleeves. Some people finish it off with a band of ribbon or a knitted band to cover up the edges where it was cut. If you use wool that isn’t super wash it is expected to felt enough along those edges so you don’t have to fuss with a binding. Some people knit the sleeves with the body so they are connected without having to steek them. I’m thinking that’s what I’d prefer.

What I don’t love about the yoked style of sweater is the neckline. To me, it always looks like it barely hangs onto the shoulder. I am not crazy about necklines that sit right at my neck either. So I’m hoping to find something that will be along these lines but with either a V-neck or a scoop neck. I could probably use short rows to shape the neckline more the way I like it. I suppose I could be brave and knit it using a pattern like the one above, but then do a steek around the neckline so I can shape the neck however I want it. That would be an option. Hmmm… for the first steeking project, that might be a little bit scary. But I figure that if I start with a child sized cardigan it should be less intimidating. Then, if I mess around with changing the neckline, it won’t be as big of a time investment (or yarn investment for that matter). Yeah, I definitely want to try my hand at steeking this year.

When thinking about what else I’d like to knit, I realized that I don’t have much in the way of toques or cowls. I’ve got some patterns in mind that I would love to knit. This time I will choose the yarn colours so that they actually look good with my coat though! There will definitely have to be some hats in my challenge list.

Obviously, I will knit socks. In particular, I have had a pattern in my queue for some time that I really want to do this year. These dirndl socks play all the right notes to thrill the German ancestry running through my veins.

Then there are these beauties:

Dornröschen schlafe hundert Jahr

I also want to get the next size up in my contiguous child’s cardigan designed and tested. I want to get the pattern cleaned up and ready to publish and I need to have at least 2 sizes to feel like it’s worth finalizing it. I may go for three but it’s such a tedious process that I might just be dreaming on that count.

I want to make a mohair shawl for one of my sisters, and a sapphire blue lace shawl for another one of my sisters. (She’s got a significant birthday coming up in 2020 and the shawl I have in mind is a huge project. I need to start it this year if I want to complete it for her birthday in May.)

I plan to participate in Tour-de-sock again this summer. That’s always a fun challenge that nets me six to eight pairs of amazing socks. I love my fancy socks. Even if no one else sees them inside my shoes. They make me feel good.

I have bits of leftover sock yarn that I might make into a net shopping bag to see how that goes. Every time I dig in my leftovers bag I’m frustrated that there isn’t enough of any of the yarns in there to make a pair of socks. This might be a good way to use some of that up. I think that will be a good mindless knit to do in front of the television in the evenings.

Oh my, I think that’s a year’s worth of knitting summed up in a 1000 words! Whee! I hope I haven’t bored you with my ramblings today. I must say that taking the time to think about what I want to make has me feeling inspired.

Happy Knitting!

 

Merry Christmas… and my Favourite Cookies!

As promised, I am sharing another one of my traditional German Christmas recipes that has been adapted to be gluten and nightshade free. Most people with either a German or Dutch background will be familiar with Spekulatius. These cookies are immediately recognizable by the relief images baked right in them. They are crisp, light and spiced with the three “C’s” of Christmas: Cardamom, Cloves and Cinnamon. If you have tried to make them at home and found that the texture was different than (and not as nice as) the commercially made ones, you’ll love this recipe.

The secret to crisp, light Spekulatius is lard. When you use butter or margarine, they come out like any other spiced cookie, but with lard, this little Christmas gem is elevated to “Singing Choirs of Angels” cookie status. (IMHO) I am probably biased. Nope, I’m definitely biased! (As mentioned in the recipe, you can use a mixture of butter and lard, but don’t use more butter than what is recommended. You do need the lard to get the texture right.)

This Christmas cookie will always be my favourite. They take some attention to make, but only because the rolling pins and blocks that are carved out to make pictures on the cookies have to be kept well floured, yet not so well floured that you lose the picture in the process. It takes a little practice to find the sweet spot for this process. But they are so worth the effort! Any good kitchen store will have one of these rolling pins and if not in stock, they can certainly order them in for you. Well, not in time for this Christmas, but there’s always next year.

There are a couple things you’ll want to know before you get started on these. First of all, don’t substitute the lard, and don’t use artificial extracts. These are a once a year cookie and they just aren’t wonderful if you don’t trust the recipe. Also, the nuts absolutely must be ground really fine. If they aren’t, you’ll have a lot of trouble forming the cookies with the blocks or rolling pin. Don’t rush chilling the dough. It needs to be cold, especially in this Gluten Free version. Have a pastry brush (a real one, not a silicone one) on hand so you can gently brush away any extra flour from the surface of the cookies before you bake them. In the grand scheme of things, it’s easier to use the rolling pin than the individual blocks. You want the dough to be relatively thin, but there has to be enough thickness so it can fill the recesses in the blocks and rolling pin and give you that lovely relief picture that these cookies are famous for. Every oven is a little different, so watch the first batch and notice how long it takes for them to bake. Use that as your guide. The time will vary depending on how thin they are.

 

Gluten Free Spekulatius

500g Gluten Free Flour Mix (as given in last week’s blog)

1Tbsp Gluten Free Baking Powder

1 tsp Xantham Gum

250g Sugar

1 Tbsp Vanilla Sugar (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)

1/4 tsp Pure Almond Extract

1/4 tsp Cardamom

1/4 tsp Cloves

1 tsp Cinnamon

2 Eggs

200g Lard (do not substitute; though it is okay to use 150g lard and 50g butter)

100g Finely Ground Hazelnuts (Almonds are okay)

Instructions

1. Combine all dry ingredients together and mix thoroughly with a whisk.

2. On a clean counter, make a pile with the dry ingredients.

3. Make a well in the dry ingredients; put eggs in the well and mix with a fork, just enough that they won’t run all over the place.

4. Cut up the lard into small pieces and dump it, as well as the ground nuts onto the messy pile on the counter. Mix the dough, with your hands, and work it until it is smooth and uniform. Chill the dough for at least one hour.

5. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

6. Roll out the dough with a regular rolling pin to about 1/4″ thick. Using either a well-floured rolling pin that has relief images carved into it, or wooden blocks with relief images carved in them, press images into the dough. If using blocks, take your time and use a small, sharp knife (like a paring knife) to coax the dough out of the carved portion of the block, if it gets stuck.

7. Use a knife to cut the individual images into separate cookies and arrange them on the prepared cookie sheet. Gently brush away any excess flour from the surface of the cookies.

8. Bake for about 4 minutes or until lightly golden (compared to when they started). Allow them to cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

And there you have it!

I sincerely wish you a Merry Christmas. I hope that however you celebrate this season of the year, that your celebration is filled with Love and Kindness; yes capital “L” Love and capital “K” Kindness. Because really, that is all that matters.

Happy Baking and when those cookies are all done…

Happy knitting… and good luck keeping the cookie crumbs off your project!

 

 

What? Recipes? From the Yarn Shop?

You might be surprised at the number of people who come to my yarn shop looking for a pattern, and then can’t think of the word pattern, in the moment. What do they call it? They call it a recipe. And of course, that is exactly what it is. Well that got me thinking. What with Christmas coming up, I thought I’d break from blog tradition and share some of my Family Christmas Recipes.

Many of you will know that I am a celiac but in addition to not being able to eat gluten, I am also allergic to the nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant). Before you ask, I rarely eat out because it is simply too risky and too stressful… and quite frankly in the time it takes to explain everything and figure out what is safe for me to eat I could cook something at home.

I took my traditional German family holiday baking recipes from my Grandmother and reworked them so that they can be gluten/nightshade free. If you are unfamiliar with gluten-free baking, potato flour is frequently used in the flour mixes as it gives a nicer quality of crumb in baked goods. Most commercially made gluten free baked goods contain potato.

Growing up in a German immigrant family, Christmas baking was a big deal. Stollen  is a traditional German Christmas cake. It is nothing like the heavy fruitcake that we typically see at this time of year. It contains raisins, currents, nuts and some candied fruit (Zitronat) as well as almond paste. This was always the first thing to be baked. Mom would soak the nuts, raisins, currants and candied fruit in rum for the better part of a week, stirring them daily to make sure the flavour permeated all of it.

Today, I want to share my recipe for Gluten Free Stollen.

To begin with, you have to make up the flour mix. Weigh out 925g of brown rice flour and 400g of Tapioca starch. Combine these well. I have a good sized Tupperware container that I keep this mix in. I usually weigh it into the container (remember to reset the tare on your kitchen scale when you begin adding each ingredient) close the lid and shake it well before mixing it well with a whisk. This is the flour mix used in all the recipes I’ll be sharing with you over the next couple blogs.

Judy’s Gluten Free Christmas Stollen

125g Dried Currants (they look like tiny raisins; do NOT substitute!)

125g Black Raisins

125g Yellow Raisins

150g chopped Almonds

150g chopped Hazelnuts

100g Zitronat*

1/4 tsp Almond extract

1/2 cup Dark Rum (or more if you like)

1/2 tsp Pure Lemon Extract

1/8 tsp Cardamom

1/8 tsp Mace (Nutmeg blossoms)

500g Gluten Free Flour mix (above)

1 – 1/2 tsp Xantham Gum

1 Tbsp gluten free baking powder

200g sugar

1 Tbsp Vanilla Sugar (you can use 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract instead)

pinch of salt

2 eggs

       250g Quark**

175g Butter (at room temperature)

250g Almond Paste (at room temperature)

       Butter and Icing Sugar to decorate

Instructions

  1. Combine the currants, raisins, nuts, almond and lemon extracts, rum, spices and Zitronat in a large metal or glass bowl (not plastic). Stir them well. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Stir this mixture at least three times a day for a minimum of 2 days. 4 days is ideal, you can go as long as 5 days provided the bowl is covered tightly the entire time and refrigerated.
  2. Prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Using a mixer, combine the butter and Almond paste.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, xantham gum and baking powder and whisk together thoroughly.
  6. In a separate bowl, weigh out sugar and add vanilla sugar (or vanilla) and salt
  7. Pour the flour mixture onto your clean kitchen counter. Make a well in the centre of it. Place the sugar, quark and eggs in the well and using a fork, mix them just enough so the eggs won’t run all over the place. It’s okay that it is only mixed with a portion of the flour at this time.
  8. Add the butter/almond paste mixture to the great messy pile on the counter. (Don’t mix it in yet.)
  9. Add the nuts and fruits mixture to make the pile even bigger and messier.
  10. Mix this big pile of delicious-smelling stuff until you have a beautiful smooth dough. It should mix quite quickly. It may be a wee bit sticky. This isn’t like bread dough, you don’t have to knead it extensively. Just get it mixed to a nice smooth texture.
  11. Form the dough into two equal loaves and position them to fit on the large baking sheet. I find that I have to place them diagonally-ish to make them both fit happily.
  12. Bake for around 40 minutes.
  13. Once it comes out of the oven and while it’s still hot, brush the top with butter (not margarine!) and sprinkle profusely with icing sugar. The butter will absorb a bunch of icing sugar. Don’t skimp on the icing sugar, it should look like a good layer of snow on a rolling hill.
  14. Allow it to cool before cutting.
  15. If it doesn’t immediately get devoured by everyone who has been staring in the oven window, salivating while it was baking, store it in a sealed container.

*Zitronat in this recipe is candied fruit made from citrus. Look for the container in which the fruit is all and only shades of yellow. It is important to use the right one. Don’t use the mixed candied fruit, it will ruin your Stollen!

**Quark is a soft cheese, ask for it in the deli. If you can’t get it, you can approximate it by squeezing cottage cheese through a metal sieve and mixing it with a little bit of yogurt to give it a smooth and creamy texture.

Happy Baking… and then happy eating the baked goods while knitting!

Let’s Get Worsted, in Kettle Valley!

This year, I finally felt ready to hunt for local hand-dyed yarns and patterns to sell in my store. I believe strongly in supporting local small business whenever possible. Now that I have built up my inventory of staple yarns I really wanted to offer something a bit more luxurious. I had a small selection of hand-dyed yarns in solid colours, but I wanted something with really interesting colourways. I found it.

Black Cat Custom Yarn is located in Chilliwack, BC (Canada).

I was excited to have the opportunity to meet the owners this fall and to see and feel their yarns in person. A customer told me about them and I was not disappointed. I brought in a modest selection of two weights of Black Cat yarn. It has been a hit.

I have already placed another order and they are dying it now. Once it arrives it will expand the selection to 17 colourways of “Let’s Get Worsted” and 15 colourways of “Everyday Sock”. The price point is typical of hand dyed yarn.

I recently made up a project using the “Damsel” colourway of  Black Cat’s “Let’s Get Worsted”. The pattern was the Kettle Valley Shawl from Knox Mountain Knit Company out of Kelowna, BC.

So first of all, I should have done a gauge check. I didn’t and my gauge was a bit soft. I ended up using three and a half skeins rather than the three that the pattern called for. That was definitely on me. I’m confident that it could be done with three if the gauge is matched.

The Pattern: Kettle Valley Shawl by Knox Mountain Knit Co.

knox-mountain-knit-coKnox Mountain Knit Co. patterns are inspired by landmarks of the Okanagan Valley in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. I love that each has a short write-up describing what inspired the pattern. They are beautifully printed on sturdy paper and priced reasonably. They all come with a Ravelry code that allows you to have both the hard copy and a Ravelry download to access on your devices. I now have hard copies of all their designs for sale in my store. (The patterns are displayed in two binders; if you’re in the store ask me where to find them. You can also view them on Ravelry.) The photographs are beautiful. They offer sets (hats, mittens and cowls) that are sold separately but made to coordinate. This is a wonderful option if you are making gifts… especially for those individuals whose birthdays land near Christmas.

The instructions were clear and easy to follow. I loved the twisted stitch method used. The first few times I did it, I had to check the instructions but once I comprehended what was happening and why it worked, I was off to the races. It’s a nice big shawl without being so large as to feel like a blanket. It was my first worsted weight shawl and I had my doubts because I like lace shawls and I love to knit with sock weight yarn. I think I may have been converted. Yes, by the final row I was knitting 357 stitches. However, I finished this, knitting leisurely in front of the TV in the evenings over the course of 10 days. I didn’t even knit every evening. It is made up of sections that when viewed as a whole mimic the trestles of the historic Kettle Valley Railway in the vicinity of Kelowna, British Columbia. I found that with each section, it took very little time to get a sense of the pattern so I could just knit away without checking the reference. That’s how I like it! I’m delighted with the outcome and so is the person who received it as a gift.

The Yarn: Black Cat Custom Yarn; Damsel; weight “Let’s Get Worsted”

This yarn was an absolute pleasure to knit. It was soft and smooth. The stitch definition is fantastic. All the effort I put into creating those trestles stood out and made the pattern proud. It reminds me of Malabrigo yarn. Sometimes when I make a larger project I get a little bored of looking at the yarn by the end of the project. Not with this yarn! There is just no getting bored of this yarn. The colourways are so fun and the names are nerdy and sometimes a bit cheeky. It definitely has personality. I washed it with Eucalan and blocked it. I thought it was soft before I washed it. Washing it softened it even more. I sat there squishing it between my hands and against my face for ages! I guess you figured out that I highly recommend this yarn.

Because it is dyed to order, it takes some time from when I order it until it arrives. That’s probably the only real drawback to this yarn. Once I get a sense of how much and how frequently I need to reorder, that will be less of an issue.

I encourage you to take the time to check out Black Cat Custom Yarn and Knox Mountain Knit Co. Both of these small BC businesses offer a high quality product for a reasonable price. If you want to make a special gift for someone you care about, I recommend combining the two for something truly memorable.

Happy Knitting!