Saturday, April 15, 2017

With the Coming of Spring

I enjoy the gradual shift my knitting takes into softer work as Winter dies away once again and Springtime comes gently into bloom around us. While the air outside becomes warmer, the fiber I work with is lighter to keep pace. I love this time of year because it brings back to us bright blue skies streaked with white puffy clouds that float around on breezy days and all the earth returns to green with colorful flowers and trees full of white or pink blossoms.
One of my favorite things to do is walk around town
underneath the canopy of these trees as they sway back and forth,
sprinkling the sidewalks and lawns with a profusion of petals.
I wait for these moments
  and see them in my dreams all through the cold barren months.
When Spring finally appears, I rejoice in the fact I can gather my knitting and cup of tea and sit on my porch swing again to revel in this glorious time of rebirth.
It's funny how every single Spring is so fresh that it feels like it must be the very first Springtime ever.  I'm as happy as the birds singing in the trees and all the little creatures running merrily around the yards,
as I emerge from another long Winter of hibernation.
 I have always known this about myself:
when the days get warmer I feel more alive.
 I am also at my calmest with my knitting close by.
 During the Springtime my knitting needles are usually busy at work
on bunnies of some fashion.
These are a couple of Floppy Eared Bunny Hats
I recently made for a custom order using the same
Knit Picks Organic Cotton I used to make the Bunny Hat with the stand up ears.
The hats are worked in the round on circular needles but the moss stitch ears are done flat on straight needles. I love these needles! They are from Knit Picks also. They're the 10" Straight Sunstruck.
I love the whole Organic/Vintage vibe they have going on.
And as I've said before,
I can't get enough of the Organic Cotton,
especially this time of year.
I never get tired of working with it and it makes perfect baby items.
It's absolutely beautiful as it glides along those blonde knitting needles.
 There's just something about having a whole stack of soft cottony goodness
all piled up together straight off the needles too...
I always like to let it rest for a bit so I can stand back and admire
the entire heap before I construct it into the final project.
But then it's time to sew it all up and ship it off
because there's a customer waiting and more things to be made.
Sometimes more bunnies around the corner.
Miss Bunny was actually already on my Shop but I had a customer contact me last weekend and ask if I would change her eye color to match her nursery.
Her eyes were green before.
I said, "Yes, of course, I would be happy to do that for you!"
So I did and Miss Bunny found herself a new home early this week.

I pray this Easter weekend finds you all happy and healthy,
enjoying your loved ones and Praising God
for the many blessings of another new Spring
and the glorious work of our
Risen Savior.
"With the coming of Spring,
I am calm again."
Gustav Mahler

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Spring, The Time of Plans and Projects

"Spring is the time of plans and projects."
So said Leo Tolstoy in his classic novel Anna Karenina.
Several Springtime's have passed since I read that hefty tome, which I found deeply moving on so many levels of human emotion. Then there were those times it offered small tidbits that were simply straightforward, practical and ageless, like the reality that for most of us Spring really does seem to be the time of
plans and projects.
I think it must be because, just as the earth around us, we find ourselves awakening once again, stretching our Winter weary limbs and blossoming with new growth. The Spring rain washes over us, bringing with it the scent of anticipation and excitement of all the greenness and bright color we are on the verge of experiencing, as though we've never known it before and at the same time have never been without it.
Ahh ...
Springtime ...
I love it!
For many of us it is the time we plan family trips and visits and sometimes quick weekend getaways due to the fact the weather has finally turned lovely. We begin to make our plans well into the Summer and early Autumn months. There will be Spring and Summer holidays and weddings sprinkled here and there as well. Back yard barbeques and lots of family and friends to laugh and enjoy the longer days of sunshine with. Doesn't it just make you happy to plan it all out in your heart?
Then there are always the projects...
This time of year always finds me working on some type of bunny project.
Over the many years I have been knitting these hats with bunny ears I've used a few different fibers and liked them all, however the last couple of years I have finally decided I prefer them knitted in Knit Picks Organic Cotton the very best. For one thing it's organic and for baby skin especially I think that is always an excellent idea. It is super soft and has no dyes or chemicals of any kind.
It also has enough body to it to make those ears stand straight up.
It eliminates any wool in the fiber against delicate baby skin
but is still an all natural fiber.
 I do sometimes work with blends that have a little synthetic in the mix but, generally, I prefer an all natural fiber, whether it's plant or animal sourced.
The Organic Cotton also makes a beautiful little "cotton tail" pom-pom.
I just love that finishing touch!

Although it's Springtime,
I oftentimes knit off season due to the fact I am filling custom orders.
I actually enjoy this because it keeps me all over the place in my day to day work, ensuring that I never get bored
{as if I could get bored with knitting or crocheting!}.
I recently shipped off an order to a customer out of state who wanted
some pumpkins knitted in the colors of Auburn University.
So, in March when I am usually elbow deep in all things bunny
I was knitting and stuffing pumpkins.
The order was for a half dozen. Three in each color.
I always knit my pumpkins in a double thickness of 100% Wool and stuff them within an inch of their lives {or my life...}.
The wool used for these was Cascade 220.
These plump pumpkins found their way to their new home last week and now I am finally putting the second sleeve in this lacework sweater that I had set aside for several weeks. I was able to let it wait because the customer who ordered it doesn't actually need it until early Fall.
This photo shows the first sleeve. Today's project is to finish the second sleeve then work the ends in so I can wet it and block it and sew on some pretty buttons. The entire sweater is worked in the round from the top down using Cascade 220 Superwash Wool. The sleeves were meant to be worked in rows back and forth but I decided to convert them into working in the round as well and am doing them on double point needles. I always knit round things in the round if at all possible. It only makes sense, as far as I'm concerned. This makes the entire sweater completely seamless.
A final note on the yarn used for this sweater ~
For those of you who have never worked with Cascade 220 Wool in the Superwash and might be worried that it is scratchy, it is NOT. It is a lovely wool to work with, offering beautiful stitch definition and enough softness even for a child's skin as long as there is no actual allergy or sensitivity to wool. Plus it can be machine washed in cold water and tumbled dry.
It's time for me to lay this sweater project to rest
 because there are more bunnies waiting to be made for the next custom order...
It is, after all,
"She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor;
"Winter is dead."
A.A. Milne
When We Were Very Young 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Wildflower, I Think I Love You

This lovely Wildflower Shawl and I have had quite the journey together.
We've brewed many pots of tea from English Breakfast to Earl Grey and all the way to my favorite Rose Petal Tea. It's been sipped from bone china cups, porcelain tea mugs and sometimes sturdy mugs.
Together we have finished an entire audiobook series.
At times I was forced to lay my sweet little wildflower aside and work on various other items that were needed for customers. But always my heart was being pulled back to a wildflower that was dancing inside my soul.
You might say I fell in love with it. Truly, I think I did. Even while I worked on other things I couldn't wait to pick up this shawl again and watch it magically grow beneath my fingers. Each row and each pattern repeat just seemed to come alive all on its own. I could hardly wait to see the dance of colors that lay ahead.
It was like watching the wind blowing gently through a Summer field full of wildflowers...
And I was dancing in the sunshine with them.
I found myself being soothed at the end of a long day by the gentle cadence of the fiber, the remembered stitches, the flowing colors and the promise of beauty and warmth that seemed almost ethereal in as much as it was solid. Sometimes shawls have this effect on me. They conjure forth that "old soul" I was born with. They whisper to the heart of my romantic nature.
It begins with the first stitch...
Then as the shawl begins to grow it begins to work its magic on me and I find myself away with the fairies in my mind.
 I am suddenly wrapped in that shawl, because I can already envision it finished and flowing all about me, and I am twirling in the sunshine... or strolling in the moonlight... or just swinging on my front porch with the scent of rain and wildflowers surrounding me in the freshness of Spring.
I can't explain it, but there's something about a Shawl that Sets Me Free.
It makes me feel warm and feminine, yes.
But it also makes me feel free.
All of these emotions must be the reason shawls are really my absolute favorite thing to knit or crochet. I enjoy the process of everything I make typically.
But a just simply feeds my soul.
When I got all the way to the very end of this beloved friend, I realized I would have to eliminate the final row in order to have enough yarn left to bind off.
No problem. This pattern instructs to bind off purlwise on the right side so I simply bound off knitwise on the wrong side and the effect was the same.
It made absolutely no difference in the pattern or the beauty of the shawl.
As with all things in Life...
All I had to do was Relax and Breathe and think it through for a minute.
Then it was time for blocking. I will tell you this...
I always block everything.
Now, that being said, I don't always block it out as seen in this picture.
I have a steam iron that could blast the feathers off a bird in flight and I use it for a tremendous amount of my blocking. Steam blocking works beautifully for potholders, dishcloths, all sorts of random small articles and even some shawls. However, with a lacework shawl it really needs to be dampened and properly pinned out to be seen in all its intended glory. If we are going to spend our money, our time and our talent on something we need to see it through all the way to the final phase. Trust me on this.
Blocking makes a HUGE difference!
By blocking this shawl properly it gained 3 inches in length from top to bottom point and 5 inches in wingspan. That was after I had steam blocked it first. The final measurements are 18 1/2 inches from top to bottom with a wingspan of 62 inches. The pattern is Knit Picks Reflection Line and I used only One Skein of Chroma Fingering Weight in the colorway Wildflower.
I absolutely love the way this shawl turned out.  It's lightweight enough to be worn with the gorgeous points and lovely colors cascading down the front. The color striping worked up perfectly in this pattern like it magically new what to do.
With proper blocking the lacework holes opened up
and the points did their thing beautifully.
The whole asymmetrical affect captures my spirit too.
Plus the versatility of how it can be worn
makes it pretty much a perfect wardrobe accessory.
So ...
If you happen to spy a wildflower dancing in a field
that looks a little taller than the rest,
just drive on by ... 

"You belong among the wildflowers.
You belong somewhere you feel free."
Tom Petty

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Scones & Wildflower Fairy Dust

While it's still February I thought you might like one more scrumptious,
 heartfelt dessert to have with teatime.
Before I start out with the recipe, I want to say that for those of you who have never baked scones and have always thought you might like to try your hand at them, but for some reason find the idea intimidating, they are actually quite easy.
 There are just four essential things you need to remember:
1) Use cold butter cut into half inch sized slices. 
2) Work the butter in with either a pastry blender or your clean hands, 
leaving noticeable sized pieces, as this makes a nice, buttery scone.
3)While working with the dough, do not handle overmuch.
{We want our scones to be light and buttery, not tough and dry.}
4) Ideally, scones should be baked from fresh, just made dough and 
eaten within two hours after removed from the oven for optimum delight...
now that's not to say we have not eaten them the next day in my house
  if there are still one or two still lingering about, 
however, they truly are at their most divine when fresh baked.

So... here's a yummy recipe for you...

Chocolate Strawberry Scones

3 Cups All - Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
2 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 1/2 Sticks Unsalted Cold Butter,
cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/4 cups hulled and chopped Strawberries
1 Cup Chocolate Chips
1 1/4 Cups Buttermilk
1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla

1/4 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream (for brushing tops)
1/4 Cup Sugar (for sprinkling tops)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder,
 salt & cinnamon.
With clean hands or pastry blender, work butter into dry mixture until it is incorporated evenly.
Add Strawberries and chocolate and combine well.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour buttermilk and vanilla into it.
Combine ingredients until all the dry mixture is wet, but do not knead!
Turn mixture onto a floured surface and gather dough together.
*Dough will be moist due to the juice of the strawberries.*
Gently pat the dough to make a rectangle about 1 1/2 inches thick.
Using dough cutter, cut scones into wedges measuring about 3 1/2 to 4 inches thick or use cookie cutter in shape of your choice.
Cover baking sheet with parchment paper  {and do not spray}.
Lay cut out scones on prepared sheet and brush tops with heavy cream.
Sprinkle each one with sugar.
Bake for about 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
{Makes 12 to 14 scones}

As for what's been on my knitting needles this week, I've still been working on my Reflection Shawl in that gorgeous, making me happy all over, color
that I showed you in the last post.
The skein of Cascade 220 Superwash in Magenta that I needed to finish the sweater sleeves actually arrived in today's post and, thankfully,
 they had the same dye lot for me.
I will get those sleeves knit into that sweater right away
 so I can have that project all finished up.
However, I really must admit, it's going to be hard
to lay this shawl aside now that I've started it.
I just love watching as each new color magically appears. 
Honestly, I am totally enchanted by this shawl.
I love the way the colors are working out so beautifully
 and the stitch pattern is lovely too.
I can hardly wait to see it finished.
Every time I sit down to work on it I am surprised by how much it grows.
 It almost seems to knit itself.
 I think there really is some magic to it. 
Who knows,
 maybe the little people sprinkled it with fairy dust for me.
If that's the case,
 I wish they'd sprinkle all of my knitting
 while I'm off in dreamland... 

"If I'm honest I have to tell you
... I still read fairy-tales 
and I like them best of all."
Audrey Hepburn

Friday, February 17, 2017

Seasons of the Heart

New Beginnings.
Isn't that what so much of life is about? I love this time of year. Not because I especially enjoy the tail end of Winter but rather the subtle hint of fresh Springtime that flits around us in the air ever so slightly. The moments of bright sunshine that break through the old days of grey and shine right down through the bare, leafless branches of the trees, melting away the last traces of snow. They whisper a promise of things to come. A work that is just beginning, like a beautiful new shawl just cast onto the knitting needles waiting for its full beauty to be brought into life one glorious day at a time.
Other times life is all about transitioning or even putting things on hold, if just for a little while, like this toddler sized sweater that's oh so close to the finish line in my check list of things I can call done... until... 
 I realized I made a mistake that I haven't made in more years than I can count on both hands.
I didn't order enough yarn! So... hopefully sometime next week there will be another ball of Cascade 220 Superwash Wool in Magenta on my doorstep so I can finish the sleeves of this sweet lacework sweater. Right now it looks like it has cap sleeves in it, which is kind of cute but I think the long pink sleeves will be a whole lot prettier. Then I'll sew some tiny flower shaped white buttons down the front and return to the knitted shawl if it's still stuck in limbo on my needles. That beautiful yarn, by the way, is Chroma in fingering weight by Knit Picks. The color is my new happy color ... Wildflower. Doesn't that just work for you?
 It does for Me.
It conjures all sorts of fanciful visions for the Springtime I know is coming.
Visions of breezy days that smell of sunshine. Days when I'll swing gently on my front porch with knitting in my lap, a cup of tea close at hand, my dogs eagerly greeting passersby and Spring rains that bring forth tiny buds of new growth that soon turn into beautiful blossoms. 
If I look close enough I just might spy a fairy or two dancing beneath them, feeling the same joy that I have in me for the days of fresh, new beginnings that lie ahead. A whole Spring and Summer to dance and play. A whole year of new projects to make and new friends to meet. 
There are also times life is about finishing things and moving forward so we can see what's waiting for us around that next magical corner. I finally finished my Dancing With the Fairies Scarf and was able to wrap it around the neck of a happy customer.

Life is a continuous cycle of seasons.
Seasons of weather and seasons of the heart.
No matter what season we are in
 sometimes all it takes is a bit of faith to get us through...
And the memory that after every hard Winter,
Springtime comes again.

"To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven..."
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Perfection of a Rose

I have to confess, having been born with a romantic nature I love Valentine's Day.
Or shall I say I love all of the beautiful things associated with it? Honestly I feel like there's a perpetual state of Valentine's Day in my heart all of the time. I also have to admit that my house looks like it's living in that holiday year round too. You know how some people are happy being stuck in the 1970's? Well, that's me and all things pertaining to Valentines... roses, hearts, cupids, pearls, pink, red, satin, lace, but especially the hearts and roses ...
Yeah, I don't seem to be real "trendy" when it comes to my décor.
I love everyone's "clean lines" and "less is more"  but ...
I don't know. I just can't seem to live like that in my own space. Sometimes I wish I could. But I like having hearts hanging up year round. They make me happy. The only time they come down is for the short period they are replaced with Christmas decorations. Then they go right back up.
Then there's all the roses everywhere. Those can be found in every room.  My house is decidedly feminine for sure, which has never bothered my husband. Thankfully he finds it homey. I have tried over the years to "simplify" every time I have had to repaint the walls by telling myself I would not be hanging so many things back up but then ...
Here's a glimpse of my corner of the dining room where I sit and knit or crochet in the afternoons. There's a dining room table in there too. It's off to the left of the picture just out of view and the living room is to the right, through the French doors. A sweet old calico cat can usually be spotted curled up in that chair with me as I drink tea and play with yarn during the months the weather is too cold to sit on the porch swing with my tea and knitting.
When I have to be indoors I feel more peaceful and happy when surrounded by beautiful things. I have always loved antiques and china and roses. My mother dubbed me early on as being "born with an old soul". So even though I am now in my early fifty's, believe it or not, my house looked much like this when I was in my early twenty's as well. It's just who I am. The funny thing is, when I was young I didn't worry so much about my house looking like an "Old Lady" house and now that I am gaining speed on that territory ... Uhhh.... I look around and think... "Wow, this looks like an Old Ladies house." It bothers me ... for about a minute and then I am comfortable in my own skin again and in the nest I have made for myself and my family in the thirty years of living in this old house.
The thing is, we just are who we are.
I can step into someone else's home and absolutely love it even when it's totally different from mine. That's because it's a reflection of who that person is. I love to see the expression of a persons individuality on such an intimate level. If you want to get to know someone, step across his or her threshold; spend time in their personal space. That's where the true depth of their character will unfold. I have also always really enjoyed having friends and family in my home. One would think our front door was fixed with a revolving door due to the amount of traffic we have always had over the years. I love it like this. Filling my home with the laughter of others brings me great joy.
As you all know by now I also love to bake and since next week has Valentine's Day in the beginning of it, I thought you might like something sweet and simple to try.

Chocolate Mousse
1 Tablespoon Cold Water
 1 Teaspoon Unflavored Gelatin
2Tablespoons Boiling Water
 1 Cup Cold Heavy Whipping Cream
1/2 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla
3/4 Cups Hershey's Chocolate Syrup

Place Cold Water in a small cup and sprinkle gelatin over water to soften.
Let stand for 2 minutes.
Add Boiling Water, stirring until gelatin is completely dissolved.
In a medium bowl, beat whipping cream until slightly thickened.
Gradually add gelatin mixture, beating until stiff.
Fold in syrup and vanilla.
Spoon the mixture into individual serving dishes.
Refrigerate 30 minutes or until set.
Garnish as desired.
Serves 4 - 6.
{I like to double the recipe and use the whole 24 oz. bottle of syrup.}

*I like to garnish with homemade whipped cream and chocolate curls.*

Whipped Cream
2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla

Chill metal or plastic bowl in freezer for 15 - 20 minutes, along with beaters.
Whip COLD cream on MEDIUM {so cream does not become buttery}
until almost stiff. Add sugar and vanilla.
Beat until cream holds stiff peaks.
Can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 hours before serving.

Chocolate Curls
Run a vegetable peeler along the edge of a giant Hershey's chocolate candy bar.
When chocolate becomes too soft from the warmth of your hand,
place in freezer for a few minutes.
I run it over the short end when I want small curls like the ones to top off the mousse.
When making curls for the top of a cake I run the peeler down the longer sides.

P.S. For the Crocheted Heart pictured in the very first photo at the top,
if you are a crocheter who is interested in the pattern,
you can find it on Ravelry by clicking here.

I hope you have a lovely weekend and enjoy the upcoming Valentine's Day!
As for Miss Puss and Me...
We'll be tucked in as usual ...
Taking time to smell the Roses...
And sipping our Tea.
"The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies.
Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential.
It seems to be constantly in the process of change:
Yet at each state,
at each moment,
it is perfectly all right as it is."
Paulo Coelho

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Warmth of Home

Like the last fading rose, January is slipping away from us. Not that I am sorry to say goodbye. I hope she gathers up a serious portion of her frosty breath and blows it in another direction.
While I find the sight of its sparkling beauty magically enchanting,
I do not enjoy the frigid touch of it on my skin. 
Actually, there are things about Winter I do enjoy, such as:
afternoons wrapped in my favorite cardigan,
with a steaming pot of tea and an audiobook to accompany my knitting,
long evenings of family at home together and nestled in for the night,
the cozy glow of candlelight flickering on the walls all around me,
the beauty of snow...snow... I really do love snow,
pots of homemade soup bubbling on the stove
and the smell of cookies baking in the oven,
filling the whole house with that
"I just died and went to Heaven" aroma.
One of my favorite things in the world has always been for family and friends to enter the front door and immediately say, "What is that wonderful smell?!!"
To me this is what makes a house smell like a home. That's one of the things I love most about baking. Another thing I love so much about it is that the end result is always quite lovely; a real feast for the eyes. I like pretty food. Plus it makes our loved ones so happy. I also like the time it gives me to get lost inside myself and think over and sort out all the things swirling around in my mind and in my life. So I guess you could say it warms my kitchen and my heart. Although I bake year round and always love it,
I really enjoy it throughout the cold Winter months best of all.
If you would like to warm your home with the divine scent of butter and chocolate, vanilla and coconut, love and homemade goodness, then I have just the recipe for you ...
Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/3 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter {room temperature}
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Large Egg
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla
1 3/4 Cup Baker's Angel Flake Coconut
1 1/2 Cups Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.
Cream butter for 3-4 minutes on high in a large bowl.
Add sugars and beat till fluffy and well blended.
Add egg, vanilla, coconut and chocolate chips.
Beat on low until blended.
Add flour mixture, beating on low till just blended.
With dampened hands, shape into 1 inch balls and space 2 inches apart on sheets.
Bake approximately 15 minutes or until slightly golden.
Yield: approximately 3 dozen.
Cool on wire racks.
Trust me...
One won't be enough and ...
There should always be tea with cookies.
"Ecstasy is a glass full of tea and a piece of sugar in the mouth."
Alexander Pushkin

"Winter is the time for comfort,
for good food and warmth,
for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire:
it is the time for home."
Edith Sitwell