Monday, October 27, 2008


Along with all the other things to love about fall- there's apple season. I'm a big fan of the humble apple. It's tasty fixed so many ways. And this year I have every reason not to restrain myself, because my sister and her husband have given me a bushel and a half of apples from their trees.
boxes of apples

So, we've had applesauce. I make it in bulk using a food mill. I'm not generally a fan of single-use gadgets, but this one is so darned useful if you like applesauce, that it's worth every minute of cabinet space for the 11 months of the year it waits for its true purpose. So all I do is wash and quarter the apples and remove stems. (These being somewhat feral apples, I also remove unwanted wildlife. Future dinner guests will be happy to know that part.) Fill a big pot.
apples in pot

Add water and boil to mush. Then run the whole mess through the food mill (sort of a pan with a sieve in the bottom and a crank/paddle arrangement that presses the mush through the sieve. Then add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg (and sometimes ginger) to taste. Yum.
food mill with applesauce

And it freezes very well, without the funny taste (or all the work) of canning. I either pour the sauce into a bag inside a container (seal the bag, freeze, then you can pop the frozen sauce-in-a-bag out of the container and reclaim the container for use). Or I pour them into my collection of single-serving yogurt cups. The cups are easy to decant into a bowl, and five minutes in the microwave gives me hot applesauce for breakfast on a cold winter morning.

In addition to the industrial production of applesauce, we've had pie.
apple pie

Apple crisp.
apple crisp

And applesauce spice cake (my grandmother's recipe).
apple cake

There's only one thing that scares me a little. I'm only halfway through the first box of apples.

Friday, October 24, 2008


It's rare that a knit grabs me so hard that I drop everything else to work on it. But the colorwork pullover was just such a knit. Five weeks from cast on to blocking has got to be a new record for me.
colorwork sweater

Woats got bored with helping knit after a while, but the yarn itself hasn't lost it's appeal:
Woats sniffs the yarn

Of course with the advent of cooler weather, I suspect that I could practice the tuba and she still wouldn't get off my lap.

I wasn't entirely confident about how the yoke was coming out, but blocking helped a lot. Blocking also let me stretch the sweater a critical couple of inches that I think will improve the fit. Enormously fun, I'm clearly going to have to do more colorwork. I will say, the two-handed technique was way, way easier than my one previous attempt (when I swapped yarn back and forth in my dominant hand and just about went cuckoo). And it's a huge advantage to learning two-handed technique if you start out being a right-handed Continental knitter. I'm not especially fast knitting English style, but I didn't have to be- being able to use both hands at all made it all go much more smoothly.

So then to celebrate finishing, I shopped. (That thud you hear is my mother fainting dead away in shock.) No, really. For more yarn. The colorwork sweater used up most of eight balls of merino I had on hand, and that was the last yarn I had in any quantity. I've got a bunch of odd balls of acrylic, a few balls of sock yarn, some scraps from other projects and that's about it. And, my LYS was having a sale. Hence:

Some nice plain superwash wool for a baby blanket. And I am officially saying that anyone of my acquaintance who tells me they're expecting? Should consider delaying the birth of the child. I've got a schedule to think about.
superwash wool

Then we have some lovely bamboo-soy blend sock yarn, part of my quest to try different yarns and fibers. I've been extremely curious about how the bamboo will wear since I found out it was a cool-weather wicking fiber. These should make a good pair of go-anywhere types of socks.
bamboo sock yarn

And last but not least, more bamboo- this I want to use for a summer top. I'm starting to notice some attrition from my last big summer clothes shopping trip-(well, it was in 1992). I've only had to take the radical step of demoting a few things to the ragbag, but there are bunch of other clothes I've had to reluctantly banish from the work wardrobe. (There's business casual, and then just casual...)
bamboo yarn

And I'm resisting the urge to cast on all of these. Priorities. Plans. I've got socks to knit, and one or two things for the holidays. And in the meantime, I need to go pull out a few hundred pattern books and magazines that I can reject contemptuously before knitting the baby blanket to an improvised design. Hey, why mess with success? I finished the sweater!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Seasonal Finery

I'd hold onto the daylight with teeth and fingernails if I could, but even with the shortening of the days, I've always loved fall. The cool air, the brilliant colors. On a sunny day the trees have their party clothes on, and on a cloudy one they practically glow.

Weekend before last, I went hiking on Mt. Monadnock in southern NH. The leaves were still turning:
autumn leaves

From the top of the mountain, you can see the splashes of color running down the side of the ridge:
view from the summit

Then last weekend, I was out in western Massachusetts, and shot some nice foliage around the college town of Amherst:
town center
across the field
a wayside church
If you'd like more foliage, there are more pictures of Monadnock and of Amherst. Leaf season is all too short, so I'm delighted that I've been able to get out and enjoy it this year.

And for the last of my recent travels with knitting, I battled traffic on Wednesday to get down to Cambridge and hear Stephanie Pearl-McPhee speak. I picked up her new book at the reading, but then ducked around the corner to check out Porter Square Books, the lovely bookstore that was sponsoring the event. And found something else I'd been looking for:
new books

I'm really hoping for a long lovely autumn, but when the nasty weather arrives, I'll be ready for it. This weekend? I may need to buy yarn.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Photo Op

And now that I've finally had a sunny day to shoot some decent photos, the Optic Waves Beaded Scarf:

It didn't grow as much in blocking as I'd hoped, but 54" isn't a bad length for something that is really an accessory. The blocking did spread out the lace and show off the scallops of the pattern beautifully. Now all it needs is to find its destined recipient. Surely there will be someone who will love it as it deserves.

In other news...the stealth project is also done. It wasn't stealthy the last time it was here, but I've since found out that more people were reading this blog than I realized. (Hint- if you've any reason to suspect I might be giving you something knitted for Christmas- don't click on the package. There are also more photos on the the Ravelry project page.)

And yes, that officially makes three completed FOs on my Christmas list. I might actually finish everything, if I can resist the urge to add more! (Not to mention the urge to get obsessed with projects that *aren't* on the Christmas list! Yes, colorwork sweater, I'm looking at you.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Surprising Turn of Speed

As I've been knitting around and around the first sleeve of the colorwork pullover, I've been thinking about Toni's comment on how quickly this is all going:
colorwork sweater pieces

Yes, that really is the whole body of the sweater, ready to have the sleeves joined on, underneath the first sleeve. I cast on the ribbing in the middle of last week, and started first band of colorwork on Friday evening. So- this is going unusually quickly. Being of a scientific turn of mind, I considered several hypotheses for why this might be the case.

Hypothesis #1: I'm a really fast knitter.

I really like this one. Unfortunately, over twenty years of experience suggests that while I'm reasonably expeditious, I'm not unusually fast. To check this, I timed myself on a representative round of the body. I did stack the deck by making it one of the plain stockinette rounds in one color, which would presumably represent my maximum possible knitting speed...and, no, not really. Research shows that experienced knitters may produce anywhere from 12 to over 100 st/in (depending on the type of knitting). My 42 st/min maximum is quite respectable, but not exceptional.

Hypothesis #2: I've developed the supernatural ability to siphon progress from the projects of other crafters.

This occurred to me because of the of the many times I've heard people say on a project that they knit and knit and knit and don't seem to be getting anywhere. I had kind of mixed feelings about this. Because if this was what I was doing, I'd feel obliged to give it back. Which is a problem, because it's really cool and I don't want to if other crafters found out I was doing it, they'd come after me with many pointy implements of retribution I have no idea how. Fortunately, I could not posit any plausible mechanism by which this could occur.

Hypothesis #3 Assistance of the feline persuasion.
cat on pattern book

Okay this was a long shot. (And an excuse for gratuitous cute cat photos.) But, Woats has been taking an unusual amount of interest in this sweater. Normally she likes to knead people exclusively, but she has several times kneaded the sweater-in-progress (it wasn't even on my lap), curled up on it for a nap, and kneaded the ball of yarn. She's also helpfully sat on the sweater and pattern and talked to me while I was knitting. But none of these things obviously translate into knitting progress.
cat kneading sweater

It was at about this point that I realized that I had done almost nothing at home for the past five days except knit. This had several causes- first the crappy weather, which made sitting on the couch underneath a cat with yarn in my hands pretty attractive. Not that it's hard to sap my will to do housework. Really, almost any excuse will do.

And then there was my karate practice on Monday, where I and another middle-aged student spent much of the class throwing each other on the floor and practicing techniques coming off a forward roll (somersault). Since I don't bounce quite the way I did in my twenties--or even thirties--this resulted in a certain amount of stiffness and disinclination to move off the couch except for more yarn or ibuprofen. (See notes above re sapping will to do housework.)

My conclusion? Spending a lot of time knitting results in swift progress on a project. Drat. And here I thought I was on to something new.