I Brioched and I Loved It

Photo of two-color brioche knitting

I made my dad a hat for his birthday.  He is not into bright colors and energetic motifs.  I could have knit him a very plain watch cap, but I settled on an idea to spice it up, for my own sanity (?).  What might appear to the untrained eye, a very simple hat, is, in fact, two color brioche in the round.  Wheeeeee!

Photo of two-color brioche knitting

I knit it in two colors of Happy Fuzzy Yarn American Worsted, “Shadow” and “Moss.”

Dad is not a cold-weather kind of person so gifts of warm clothes are always appreciated.

Picture of a man in a hat

OMG, I love this hat so much!

I need to make one for myself.  Doncha think?

Picture of a brioche hat

I used the Brioche Hat pattern from Weekend Knitting and sadly the directions for the crown decreases are confusing.  And this is NOT a reversible pattern, although you will be tempted to think it is until near the end.  That, I can live with, but I want to find a pattern with clearer directions for the crown.

So what’s a girl to do?  Nancy Marchant, the living expert, doesn’t appear to have a published pattern for a straight-forward two-color brioche watch cap.  Anyone have a pattern they’ve used to recommend?

What do you have a craving to cast on?

Surprise, Baby!

The Baby Surprise Jacket in Happy Fuzzy Yarn Superwash Sport

The Baby Surprise Jacket was the most fun thing I knit all year.  Bold statement considering we have three more months to go, but I’m sticking by it.

This is probably one of the world’s most famous knitting patterns, first published by Elizabeth Zimmermann in 1968. The knitter just knits along, tracking some not-complicated increases and decreases, and when you bind off, you are left with an odd blob, but with a quick fold here and there, the garment’s shape is revealed. A couple quick seams later and you have a really cute jacket.

This pattern has spawn child and adult versions and is a favorite for those who want to use scraps and handspun because the geometry of this pattern shows off stripes and multicolored yarns to great effect.

I was able to see all this for myself in Ravelry under the projects tab for this pattern. Armed with that knowledge, I chose a gender-neutral green and yellow multicolor from Happy Fuzzy Yarn called “Colorado River” in the Superwash Sport base. This yarn is incredibly squishy and dyes up vibrantly thanks to the superwash quality.

It knit up quickly and when I was near the end, I puzzled out the folding just to see what it look like.

The Baby Surprise Jacket in Happy Fuzzy Yarn Superwash Sport

It took my breath away, it was soooo adorable. I think the Baby Surprise Jacket, done up in a sportweight yarn, makes a sweater that fits a 3-6 month old — well, based on standard clothing sizes for babies. YMMV.

If the pattern weren’t awesome enough by itself, my son FINALLY learned to knit one night on a weekend trip by working a couple rows on this sweater.  Yes, I left them in.  His stitches were fine! (Those are his hands in the action shot above.)

The Baby Surprise Jacket in Happy Fuzzy Yarn Superwash Sport

This sweater was a gift for our newest nephew, born at the end of August.  He’s a little bean now; we can’t wait to play with him when he gets a little older!

I can’t recommend this pattern highly enough. It kind of makes me want to go on an EZ pattern bender. Have you made any of her patterns? I’ve knit a few and enjoyed them also; I think it’s time to discover others by her.

Week #1: What We Did With Our CSA Share

A photograph of a salad with cucumbers

I do grow some of the vegetables my family eats, but the garden has been hard for me to maintain for the past several years, so this year we downsized the the vegetable garden and signed up for a CSA half-share with Tantre Farm in Chelsea, Michigan.  (Read more about community supported agriculture here.)

Tantre is well-regarded locally, but I didn’t fall under their spell until my daughter’s preschool took a field trip to the farm.  It is a magical place — welcoming, hardworking, and kid-friendly.

This is not my first CSA, but it is my first since having kids.  We decided to hedge our bets and split a share with some good friends of ours.  Since there’s only two of them — and they’re not vegetarian — they were only too happy to go halfsies.

Here’s my record of what we received and what we did with our Wednesday box of mystery!  All amounts were halved unless otherwise noted.

Week One

Arugula, Asparagus, Sorrel, Green Onions, Parsnips, Potatoes, Radish, Rapini, Sauerkraut, Spicy Salad Mix, Spinach

Arugula: We received both Astro and Sylvetta (aka wild rocket).  We used some of it in a dinner salad on Saturday and the rest went into pasta sauce on Monday night.  I’m not completely sure which type went into which dish.  I had figured out which was which (Sylvetta is more deeply lobed and pungent than Astro), but I wasn’t involved with Saturday’s meal prep and Monday’s meal happened really fast.

Asparagus: We didn’t get a lot of this — after splitting, I think it was 4 big stalks — but we added to them a few spears from our own asparagus bed and they were roasted with oil and salt for Saturday night’s meal.

Sorrel: I haven’t used it yet!  I have some in my own garden (a VERY winter hardy vegetable and yet it took a beating this past winter) and want to make Sorrel soup with it.

Green Onions: First of all, they’re huge.  Easily twice as thick and twice as long as the ones you buy at the grocery store.  I forgot to use them in my pasta sauce so they’re still in the fridge.  My mother gave me the idea last night to plant them so I might do that!  Green onions are perennial and I have some growing in my garden already.

Parsnips: There were about 4 or so small ones and I gave them all to my friend because Matt does not like the flavor of parsnips.

Potatoes: We each got a quart of German Butterball and I still have mine (potatoes keep well!).  Maybe we’ll make oven fries or hashbrowns with them tonight because we’re having eggs and oatmeal (aka BFD, breakfast for dinner).

Radishes: We got about 8-10 French Breakfast radishes after splitting. My five-year-old and I ate these with lunch on Saturday.  Yes, I am not kidding even a little bit about that.  Yes, I was also surprised.  We had them with dipping dishes of oil and salt, which I learned from my soon-to-be sister in law, who swears to me that radishes are just vehicles for salt.

Rapini: Also known as broccoli raab, this one was tricky.  I was all for cooking it, but my weekend chefs decided to put it raw into a salad.  The salad disappeared so no harm done, but I kind of hope we get more so I can try it my way.

Sauerkraut: We got a half jar of pickled watermelon radish made by the Brinery a very new local business that is in partnership with Tantre Farm.  It is zippy and yummy.  Matt kept putting it on hot dogs this past week (we had a lot leftover from a cub scout picnic) and I ate it as a side dish with my lunches.  We’re about halfway through our half jar.  It will get more tangy as time goes on.

Spicy Salad Mix: This went so fast.  It was used for some sandwiches, etc, but ultimately ended up in Saturday night’s big salad.

Spinach: It was used on sandwiches, but I think I still have most of the spinach!  Of course, last week I only just finished off the bag of spinach I received three weeks before at our membership meeting.  I couldn’t believe how long it kept — talk about fresh!  If we get more spinach this week, I might cook it with some bacon to make greens in the style that my mother-in-law’s family makes.  That or it goes into a salad.

That’s week 1.  In less than an hour, I am going to pick up our Week 2 box.

In other local food news, a friend gave me a dozen eggs from her suburban chickens yesterday (hence the dinner we’re planning) and my son is taking great pleasure in picking greens from the deck planter to put on his daily lunch sandwich.  I planted mesclun seeds a month ago on a whim because it was too cold to put in the flowers yet.  Then the squirrels or chipmunks dug around so it’s rather uneven, but as I like to tell people when they express nervousness about gardening: the plants WANT to grow!  And grow they did.

It sounds like we eat a lot of sandwiches, doesn’t it?  Not really, except maybe the boy, who is picky.

Dressing Up the Holidays

Close-up of Abby's stocking

My brother, Noah, was the catalyst for the other holiday gift knitting experience.

Last summer Noah asked me if I could secretly knit a pair of Christmas stockings for himself and his fiancée, Abby.  He likes the set of handknit colorwork stockings I made for my house.

My family's handknit Christmas stockings

 

These stockings are knit from Nancy Bush‘s pattern, Christmas in Tallinn, published several places, but the only souce that matters is her excellent book Knitting on the Road.  I made the first one, the red one, in 2005 for my infant son; Matt’s green stocking was made in 2006; my blue one was made in 2007; and then I had a year reprieve until our daughter came along in 2009.  She got a purple stocking.  I substituted the yarn Bush’s pattern calls for, Dalegarn Tiur, for Dalegarn Heilo simply because I liked the Heilo palette better.  (This was, by the way, the first time I was bit in the ass by yarn substitution.  Tiur is 109 yards.  Heilo is 126 yards.)

E's Christmas stocking

Noah left me in full creative control, so I of course immediate sought out ways to make this project as difficult as possible.  First, I had to design my own.  Second, if one design was fun, then two new designs were twice as fun!  (Right?!)  Third, the yarn (O!  The yarn!).

Abby's Christmas stocking, designed by me

I really enjoyed picking out colorwork patterns for these designs.  I found everything I wanted, and pretty quickly, in Sheila McGregor’s Traditional Scandinavian Knitting.  For the top of Abby’s stocking (green), I chose a boy-and-girl motif; for Noah’s stocking (orange), I chose reindeer.  The body patterns on each of their stockings come from the same 19th-century sweater: one was the pattern on the back and the other was the pattern on the front.

Noah's Christmas stocking

Can you imagine knitting that sweater?  Maybe…

There was some math to work out to make these motifs go together, resulting in Noah’s stocking being noticeably larger.  Noah has no problem with this.

As for the yarn, Cascade 220 Superwash Sport, it wasn’t my favorite.  Noah and I chose it based on wide color palette and affordable price, but it has just about put me off superwash yarn for the rest of my life.  It did not hold up well to repeated ripping and reknitting, coming un-plied and… for lack of a better descriptor, flacid.

Of course then my friend pointed out that many of the high-end end indie yarns, like Mashtosh and Tanis and Plucky Knitter, are superwash now so never say die.

The Gift of Gift Knitting

It’s really no fun to read about how crummy someone’s vacation was so we won’t dwell on it.  I’ve only just recovered, psychologically, this week.  Farewell, 2013!  Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out!

The BEST part of winter break, for me, this year was seeing how genuinely happy my husband and children were upon opening their handknit gifts.  Does that sound too cute and saccharine?  It’s true.  There were big Os of surprise, there were smiles, thanks, hugs, and kisses from four through thirty-six.  GO ME!

boot socks

(It does help that I have made it clear that the best way to get on the handknit list is to appreciate the things I make, sincerely and loudly.  This elf is making her own kind of list and checking it twice.)

For the past few years — in my efforts to enjoy the winter holiday season rather than just survive it — I’ve stepped way back from trying to make something for EVERYONE (that’s 11+ people).  It seems like a good idea in the planning stage (I looooove the planning stage), but the execution of the plan goes on too long for my available knitting time.  There’s the amount of knitting time I actually have and what I wish I had or sometimes just think I have.

Full disclosure: I was on the crazy holiday knitting train at times this season.  And then I got off.  Got on. Off.

red scarf

I try to have a pair of socks on the needle for one of the four of us at all times.  So when Z’s latest pair came off the needles in mid-November, I decided it was serendipity and tossed it in the gift knits basket.  Then I saw, in that basket, a lovely, drapey, moss stitch scarf in heathered burgundy Paton’s Classic Wool.  Guess who likes burgundy?  Not me.  But Matt does.  (Like me, his favorite color is green, so this really wasn’t obvious to me or him while I was knitting this scarf, off and on, for a couple, um, years.)

purple mittens

That only left my four-year-old, who could use a handknit pair of mittens.  Something to balance out all the pink and leopard print.  I finished on Christmas Eve, after tucking my puking children and husband into bed.

She, by the way, wins at appreciating my work.  She reminds me almost daily how much she loves her mittens. Aw! Her savvy father, in between appreciations, has already put in his request for a Purl Soho Shawl Collar Cowl.

I wish I had better pictures to share, but here I am, working at home, and my family and all their handknits are out of the house.  The dark purple of those mittens is especially difficult to capture at this gloomy time of year, while attached to a four-year-old.  More information and photos are available on their Ravelry project pages, linked above.  An account on Ravelry is required to view.

How did your handknit holidays go?