what's for dinner tonight?

Just a quick little post to show you those hydrangeas and how beautifully they've dried and how gorgeous they look with my Portofino dinnerware.  I've got baskets, platters, bags, vases and bowls of hydrangeas, all over the house, all in different stages of drying, and all looking beautiful at every stage.  I need a lot because I have a project coming up at the end of the month and I'll be using every last one.

It's chicken soup tonight, getting together with friends to talk about an upcoming trip we're planning together.  Maine and Quebec, nice, right?  My chicken soup, it's homemade.  I'm that homemaker who saves chicken bones, chicken carcasses (what a word!), bits of unloved vegetables and throw them all in a baggie and store in the freezer.  About once every month or two I take them out, throw them in a pot and cover with water and simmer away.  You just cannot beat homemade chicken stock.  I think this might make me a frugal cook.  And I think that started 41 years ago when my young and very hungry husband came home and ate the entire recipe I'd cooked that said "serves 8".   Crestfallen, I didn't say a word, but really, I worried how could we afford his appetite?  When I roasted my first chicken and he ate the entire bird that night, I was heartbroken.  "Honey, I was planning on having that be our dinner for at least 3 days.  That's what Joy of Cooking says."  Well, I soon learned that would not be the case in my house with my husband and his appetite and if I wanted the little extras in life, I had to be frugal in the kitchen.  I was saving up for important things; there was always something like cute sandals I just had to buy and I remember I really wanted this gorgeous canister set.  Remember those?  Flour, sugar, coffee, tea?  I simply HAD to have a very pretty set I'd seen at a fancy store I would visit at lunch hour.  I'd wander around the store and daydream and always came back to the canisters.  The lady got used to seeing me and let me put them on layaway; what I could save with my grocery budget I could pay it off and finally bring them home!  They were so delicate in white fluted porcelain.  After a few years, they chipped, then cracked, then were broken and eventually thrown out.  They were too delicate for my kitchen, but I remember loving them so much, and was the first pretty thing I ever bought for my home.

By the way, I have 8 soup bowls and only 5 dinner plates.  If you ever find an Arte Italica Portofino dinner plate during your travels, please let me know!  I need 3 more!  (I'm not so frugal anymore about every little thing, ya know!)  They were discontinued about 5 years ago and are as scarce as hen's teeth.

I have no idea why this soup looks red.  It was chicken soup and was not red, oh well.


Oh my, I do do do love this little cardigan so much.  Jill by Martin Storey is a free pattern download and is knit in DK weight yarn.  I first fell in love with the adorbs posie-in-a-basket pocket.  I'm especially proud of it as I incorporated a few new-for-me finishing techniques that I'll share here.

When Sarah Hatton was in town I took an Understanding Lace class at my lys, Uncommon Threads which I told you about here, but I also took a Professional Finishing class at Imagiknits in the city.  I learned so much and would really recommend that class if you should find Sarah teach it in your neck of the woods.  I brought a few things that needed finishing just to see what Sarah would suggest.  First tip, when attaching a patch pocket, do not attach it with a slip stitch, but instead use the mattress stitch.  Brilliant!  I use the mattress stitch for all my seaming but never occurred to me to use it with a patch pocket.  The pockets turned out beautifully and do look professional!  In the above photograph you can see the pocket on the left in finished.  The Rowan site has some tutes for that stitch here.  Do do do learn the mattress stitch for finishing, you will be so happy you know it, and perfecting it will ensure your seams always look neat and clean and professional.

The other tip is for the collar.  For this sweater and collar you pick up stitches at the neck and work stockinette out.  Sarah recommends that at the folding point of the collar, where you would fold the collar down, to add a few stitches to give the collar some extra room to spread out to flair and fold.  In other words, you would knit a little less than an inch to the point where you think the collar will fold.  The next row with RS facing, knit a third of your stitches, m1r, k1, m1l.  Repeat this at the matching 1/3 spot of left side.  At both sides of the collar you have increased 2 stitches, 4 stitches total.  Even if you are working your collar in rib she said that you can still use this technique as the uneven rib won't be noticed in the collar.  I hope this makes sense as it's a terrific little trick that professional knitters don't want to keep secret!  It's little tips like these that make a knitted garment go from ho-hum to fab.

The embroidery is very easy with the most basic of stitches:  a chain stitch handle, lazy daisy stitches for the petals and leaves, stem stitch for the stem and French knots for the flower center.  I used 6 strand DMC floss.  The pocket is a simple basketweave stitch, k3, p3 for 4 rows, then switch.  Excellent directions are on the free pattern.  I downloaded Jill from Martin Storey's Classic Babies Online Collection on the Rowan site.  Download ALL the patterns, they are all just completely precious. 

The yarn I used is the machine washable Rowan Merino Silk Baby DK.  Holy cow, I love this stuff.  It's super easy to knit and uber soft in the skein, it's hard to believe it goes in and out of the dryer.   The patch pocket was a scrap of Pure Wool DK, also machine washable.  When subbing out yarn to use in the same garment like I did, make sure it's the same weight and has the same washing care.  My Ravelry link here.

I have 2 sweaters I've been wearing all summer but haven't photographed to share.  One is in Rowan Denim yarn, one in a cotton blend and also another baby sweater.  Must get on that, hopefully next week I can start the FO parade.  So, how's your knitting coming along?  Are you thinking ahead and planning all the wonderful wooley knits to knit for winter?  Me too!  I'm hard at work already!



If you are a Kim Hargreaves fan, her new autumn designs in North don't disappoint.  Kim's trademark classic and simple style combined with a sexy twist and her impeccable choice of yarn has me queing yet again.  Here are some of my favorites.  Prepare to swoon.

I see Kim using this wide ribbed boatneck variation a lot in this book and in her last.  It's very flattering and think this will have to be a new sweater for me this year, because of that sexy neck.  Sway uses one strand of Rowan Fine Lace together with one strand of Kidsilk Haze.  I'm just finishing a sweater of Kim's using this yarn combo, it's divine.
Oh my gosh.  Here's the back.

Honesty, a classic v neck cardi using a new favorite fall yarn intro, Rowan Mohair Haze.  Love this color.

Touch in the great Felted Tweed DK uses a simple slip stitch with moss stitch to get this gorgeous fabric pattern.

Beauty also uses one strand of Fine Lace and KSH together.  What makes this great is the v neck front and...

...the matching v neck back.

More texture with Sense, combining one strand of Felted Tweed DK with Felted Tweed Aran.

Ahhh, Truth, with it's gorgeous off shoulder neck, is knit in super soft Lima.

Sweet and simple, in Captivate, Kim again combines Fine Lace and KSH. 

Here's that wide neck again, I really do love it.  Brisk uses Mohair Haze.

Maybe the best for last?  Lovely is indeed lovely in cables, bobbles and the new Rowan Finest, a glam fingering weight combo of merino wool, royal alpaca and cashmere.  To die for.

Links for ya!

Purchase North from Kim's site where you can view all 21 designs.

Check out the yarn!


we've only just begun

While on our family vacation in Sunriver, Oregon, my granddaughter and I went into the town of Bend to shop.  We stopped at a knitting store and while there we both fell in love with a shop sample, Zuzu's Petals, a lace cowl.  "Can I knit this?"  "Yes, you can", I assured her.  She is 13 now and has been knitting since she was 9.  "There are some new techniques, but they are easy to master.  You'll follow a graph, but I know you can do it.  Let's do a knit-along!  We can skype while we knit!"  (We live 500 miles apart.)  So we chose our yarn and I do have a recommendation for yarn shopping with a 13 year old:  She went through the shop and picked out her favorite colors.  We eliminated the ones that would not come close to gauge.  We then removed the ones that were itchy or difficult to knit.  We were left with one, one beautifully soft, easy to knit yarn that she was positively thrilled with.  We put it away and decided to start it when she visited us in August.

Now fast forward to August and she is having her last grammy and papa visit before school starts.  It's time to begin our knit-along, but I did start the pattern for her, it's much too fiddly at the beginning and not fun until the knitting really starts.  There's a few things for her to remember:  Garter stitch first two and last two stitches, the middle is stockinette.  Increase on the right side only.  Purl the wrong side and make no increases, but don't forget the garter stitch edges.  We are working on section one, which is just stockinette and increases.  The lace portion doesn't begin until section two. 

For a new knitter to avoid mistakes, it's best to look at your work on each row and correct mistakes before you go too far.  A new shawl knitter will want to make sure there are consistent eyelet increases so count often.  If you find yourself purling away and notice that you've forgotten to make a yarn over on the previous side, it's easy to fix, don't rip it out.  Just pick the bar between the two stitches up and around your left needle and purl it.  (I showed her how to do this, and I know there are youtube videos for this little fix).  She felt clumsy, but she does know enough about knitting and realizes that it will become much easier as she goes along.  There are 48 increase rows before we get to the lace part in section two.  It is charted and written, so it will be interesting to see which way she prefers.

We'll skype, I told her whenever she needs help, I'm available.  She starts 8th grade next week with all honors classes.  She's on swim team and in concert choir and then there's all the friends to keep up with.  I know knitting will not be a priority for this busy teen, but it's there when she has the time.  I told her we could take a year if we wanted to.  Even two years.  Knitting is patient, it will be waiting for us when we have time for it, and it won't matter one bit how long we take.  I told her I wouldn't go on ahead, but keep up with her pace so we could truly knit it together. 

Off she went on the airplane with her knitting in hand and loads of confidence.   Oh my gosh, it was so sweet, I'm tearing up now just thinking of it.

Annie is knitting with ToshDK
I'm knitting with Freia Ombre Sport

that time of year again

You'll never have to guess when it's time to dry hydrangeas, they'll let you know.  They turn from the brightest pink to dusty pink.  Maybe they'll go lilac, maybe lime tinged with pink.  As they lose their pigment, some may even go spotty.   But they will be a dusty version of what they were in spring.  The blossoms start to feel a bit papery, even a little leathery.  They're done growing and intend to show off their fall colors which makes it the perfect time to dry them. 

The time to pick hydrangeas for drying happened early this year, even in California when everything in the garden seems to happen at warp speed anyway, this is still extremely early.  Maybe our drought is the reason?  Maybe I need to remind my garden it's still summer.

Drying them couldn't be easier.  After picking trim off all the green leaves.  Place them in a vase less than half full of tap water.  Give them some space and leave them alone, they will look pretty as they dry.  In a few weeks the water will have evaporated and your hydrangeas will be dry and ready for fall arrangements.  They're pretty.