Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Few Gift Ideas?

Well U.S. Thanksgiving is done and I hope you're all happily munching on leftovers. We are now in the grip of holiday gift buying and giving. I must admit I usually stick to my motto: if I can't make it or bake it, they don't get it. However, not everyone is as big-box-store-shopping-averse as me, and I thought a round-up of some holiday gift ideas might be in order. Heck, I might even buy some of these (if I haven't already).

Read my review of this amazing book here.

This has been a stellar year for knit and crochet books. Some that would make great gifts (along with some amazing yarn, of course!) are Dora Ohrenstein's Custom Crocheted Sweaters or Crochet Noro; on the knit side, how about Knit Noro: Accessories or the upcoming Kate Davies title The Colours of Shetland? Of course, one could gift my Accessories: Autumne 2012, which has both knit and crochet patterns. Just sayin.


For those who may have space or packaging restrictions to consider, how about a magazine? Again, there has never been a better time for handcrafters to choose a great magazine brimming with patterns and yarn ideas. The seasonal Interweave Crochet or Crochet! Magazine are both great; for knitters there's knit.wear (my new favorite magazine), Vogue Knitting or, for a slightly different twist (heavy on depth writing, slightly lighter on patterns) Knit Edge from Cooperative Press (which is only available electronically). Any of these can be purchased individually or gifted as a yearly subscription. Nice.

Fiber Gathering is a great book from which
to research ideas about the best fiber
gatherings in your region.
Crafting Experiences

Consider giving your favorite knitter or crocheter a crafting experience in 2013. There's (once again!) never been a better time to get out there and get one's craft on. Stitches, Knit and Crochet Shows, Vogue Knitting Live, various Interweave Knit getaways as well as smaller, more niche crafting experiences and fiber festivals are happening across the country in 2013. North, south, east or west, there has to be one close by for your giftee to attend and take a class that will inspire long after the class is completed. This is one gift your recipient will be absolutely thrilled to receive.

I'd love to hear some of your creative crafting gift ideas from past years. What have you given or received that has really stayed in your memory?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Tasty Lemonade

Happy Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday, everyone. I hope those in the U.S. had a great Thanksgiving. I had a great day, but it was turkey-less. Don't be sad, though. I'm not.

I usually order a fresh turkey and then pick it up on Wednesday prior to the big day, but this year I didn't. Big mistake. I was too busy to get out and do my Thanksgiving food shopping until early Wednesday evening. Of course, the store was all out of fresh turkeys by that point. Frozen turkeys were the only big birds left - and they were big. Too big. I would never have been able to thaw it in time to cook it. So, I went to the on-the-spot Plan B - cornish game hens. I brushed them with a sauce of orange marmalade and balsamic vinegar during the last half of cooking time, and they were indeed tasty. Don't be put off by the slightly charred-looking skin, it was yummy.

On the fiber front, I also have some finished items to talk about. Both were gifts for a holiday swap. My giftee really wanted some fingerless mitts, so I found a quick (at least for me) pattern in this year's Knit Simple holiday edition.
I worked these up in some fingering weight wool from Lollipop Cabin (too bad she's not dying fiber anymore, I did love her colorways and smaller environmental footprint) held together with some laceweight kidsilk (Debbie Bliss Angel) and was pretty pleased with the result.

Another gift I whipped up - a striped version of my recently-published L'Hiver Slouchy Hat. I used the two-fiber cocktail from the mitts and added some Lion Brand Wool-ease from stash. It feels almost neapolitan:

Slouchy hats are tough to photograph when not on someone's head. I did the best I could with my cell phone camera. Actually, all of the photos today are from my cell phone. Necessity and all that.

Finally, I hope everyone will skip Black Friday and wait for Small Business Saturday (November 24, tomorrow) to commence their big holiday shopping. Saturday's spirit is tailor-made for many of us who love fiber/design/textile arts and want to support the artisans who provide all of us with so much beauty and fiber and design fun. So I hope you'll wait until Saturday, and then buy a pattern from an indie designer, or some yarn or fiber from an indie producer, or a book from an indie publisher. Oh all right, if you must, you can buy any of these things today.

And if all else fails, head straight for dessert.

Anyone for a little Pumpkin cake?

Now don't forget (after you cut that slice of cake), to check out The Wonderwhygal's blog to see how everyone else is getting ready for the holidaze. I'm going to enjoy my left-overs and work on a few other projects I need to get done.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fibery Winners This Rainy Monday

See, still in the bag, even.
It is raining to beat the band this Monday morning, and my corner of the Pacific Northwest is expected to get several inches of rain over the coming week. Flooding and mudslides (both big and small) are definitely in our immediate future.

Fortunately, neither rain nor mud prevented me from picking winners from all of the nice comments received from last Friday's blog post - thanks so much, everyone! So, the random number generator picked 6, 9, and 10 - which, given that one commentor didn't want to be in the drawing, equated to the following winners:

                                                          heather woollove

Congratulations to these yarny winners - I'll either be in touch with each of you, or will directly send out your prize.

I wanted to tell everyone who commented on those braised potatoes - since I'm a tester, I can't give out the recipe just yet, since it's still in the testing stage. However, as soon as I can (or have any other information about where to get it), I'll fill you in. Promise. Those potatoes were seriously good. I got four generous helpings out of them, and they actually got better with reheating.

Happy turkey day preparations - peace out till Friday.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fiber Potpourri Friday

Hello everyone - it's been a busy week here at chez Voie de Vie. I've got lots to blog about, so let's get right down to it.

Initially, I have a new published pattern to report - the L'Hiver Slouchy Hat! I seem to be on a small hat jag - this perfectly decadent, slouchy hat is published by Premier Yarns and uses their Alpaca Dance yarn. The yarn is soft, has a halo, and comes in a field full of colors; I used dusty green for these samples. I write "samples" because there's a coordinating scarf that Premier has photographed but for which it hasn't quite yet managed to post the pattern (but it's coming).

Both of these accessories combine tunisian crochet ribbing (the "other" 2 x 2 ribbing) + traditional crochet lace. The hat also has directions for a big, lush pom-pom, although the pom-pom has managed to escape making it to a photograph. I'll see if I can't rectify that next week. Everyone can download the free pattern at the Premier site (linky above).

If you'd like to win a skein of Premier's Alpaca Dance, I've got three to give away - each skein has plenty of yardage for a wonderfully slouchy hat, or two, even. Just leave a comment here (and feel free to let me know how you feel about the scarf, too!) and I'll pick three random winners next Monday.

Now, on to my NaKniSweMo sweater - it's the middle of the month and I'm at the point where my Sera (top-down construction) is ready to have the armholes attached at the bottom. This photo is from earlier in the week. I am loving this color. A lot.

There's almost no finishing to this sweater, which is a plus because I'm going to go down to the wire in terms of getting it completed by the end of the month. Just don't forget - I'm determined. :)

Speaking of -alongs, if any of you crocheters are interested in getting your ripple on ... the Underground Crafter has been hosting a Ripple CAL since mid-October. It runs through almost the end of November and there are instructions on various different ripple techniques (yes, there are several in case you didn't know); the CAL boasts some great prizes at the end for anyone who posts a qualifying FO/UFO photograph. Quite frankly, the Lion Brand Amazing yarn prize would be motivation enough for moi - I love that Amazing yarn. You can check out all the CAL information at this Underground Crafter blog post or just head directly on over to the Ravelry Underground Crafter group ripple CAL thread. Get your ripple on, people.

Finally, and in honor of U.S. Thanksgiving next week (next week! eek!) - I leave you with a photo of the results of my most recent America's Test Kitchen  recipe test - braised red potatoes. While I think this recipe needs a few more tweaks before it's ready for prime-time cooks, the test kitchen is definitely on the right track. With the appropriate braising liquid and ingredients, who knew red potatoes had so much natural sweetness? And yes, that's a burger next to the potatoes, with some carmelized onions. And yes, it was good.

Now don't forget to head on over to the the WonderWhyGal's blog to get the rest of your weekly fibery fix. Have a great Thanksgiving - I'll be making a turkey and checking out the dog show - go bernese mountain dog!

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Slightly Different Veterans' Day Celebration

Remembering military service in any form, whether by statue or memorial service or song or national day of remembrance, is fairly universal (as evidenced from every other country I've visited or experienced in some other way).

However, there can also be a positive cultural exchange that occurs with overseas military deployment that often gets overlooked. In our zeal to try to get veterans to talk about the horrors of war (which many are reticent to spill for a variety of reasons), I expect there are service members who would enjoy speaking of the positive interactions that occurred; the mirror image is also true - many in occupied countries (especially during and immediately after WWII) want to speak not of the horrors of war, but of the happiness at seeing American food and supplies, and the positive interactions with those from friendly countries. As the nature of and mission for war changes and becomes more blurred, the likelihood that those serving will interact with locals in foreign settings in a more routine and non-combat-like manner increases.

As a result, I thought a nod to our universal humanity as a way of honoring veterans' service might be appropriate. I provide you with a snapshot of some of the postcards I've received (as a result of my Postcrossing participation) from a whole host of nations: China, Japan, Germany, Russia, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands. I've managed to create a little piece of art with my favorites (thanks to a painting canvas and some corkboard pins). Let our positive interactions with those of different cultures hopefully diminish the need for service.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vote for Great Color and Design

Happy election day to everyone here in the U.S.! I cast my vote yesterday (love mail-in balloting); I also cast another vote several weeks ago when I pre-ordered the new Crochet Noro book. When I received it at the end of last week, I could hardly wait to sit and pour over it. I was not disappointed.

Where to begin? Well, let's start with the designs. There's a little something here for everyone - sweaters, accessories, interior design pieces, and jewelry. Each pattern is marked with a skill level: one box is easiest, four boxes for the seasoned crocheters out there. Personally, I find several of the designs deceptively simple, and for good reason - the yarn is the star here, so no need for intricate stitches (more on this below). There's also a lot of motif-based designs - a full quarter of the designs in the book are accomplished with motifs. I love a great motif, so I'm all for this. More involved patterns (including all of the motif-based designs) include charts as well as written instructions.

The collection also brings together most of the big names in crochet design - Robyn Chachula, Doris Chan, Lily Chin, Yoko Hatta, Linda Permann and Mary Beth Temple just to name a few. Of some note: a full 8 designs (just slightly more than a quarter of the collection) belong to Yoko Hatta. Incredible. Three of my absolute favorites include two from Hatta - the Boxy Cardigan and the Puff Stitch Cowl. I'm also partial to Lily Chin's Chevron Hat. Her great use of yarn and stitch makes the cap look like a piece of jewelry. I've also fallen hard for the Buttons & Flowers Shawl - what a great design concept for a shawl. Buttons at the center of each motif make customizing fit a breeze as well as ensuring it stays around the shoulders. Just genius. I even have loads of similar mother-of-pearl buttons. Hmmmmm.
But let's not stray too far from what we're all head-over-heels in love with: that great Noro color! This lushly styled and photographed collection is a feast for the eyes. With each flip of the page, you will have an intake of breath at the color explosion. The pieces run the gamut of color - from deep, earthy fall to bubble-gum-inspired to jewel-toned. No matter your color palette preference, there's something here for everyone. I really appreciate the wonderful layering of color in each photo. It really speaks to me as a painter (as well as a home cook). Layering is the name of the game, and the wonderful Noro colors are showcased to perfection.

I've had four skeins of Kureyon in the discontinued number 221 colorway (greens, purples and peach) just waiting for the right project. You know I broke out hook and Kureyon and in two days flat whipped up the Puff Stitch Cowl. Hatta's pattern calls for 6 skeins; I augmented my four with an unknown (but perfectly coordinated) aran weight yarn from Vivian over at Bits 'n Pieces and wound up with a lush cowl just 7" shorter than the original:

My version of the Puff Stitch Cowl, made
with 4 skeins Noro Kureyon (colorway 221) and
augmented with an aran-weight wool
This cowl is a simple 4-row repeating pattern, constructed flat and then seamed at the end. I wet-soaked in a small amount of hair conditioner and blocked prior to seaming and the yarns bloomed and softened nicely. I cannot tell you how much I love the color in this cowl.

The back of my Puff Stitch Cowl
If you haven't gotten the message yet - I love, love, love Noro yarns, and I am thrilled with this new Crochet Noro book. Run, don't walk, to your local bookstore and pick it up. I think it might sell out quickly. Sixth & Spring is on a crochet roll this year (with the special crochet edition of Vogue Knitting earlier in the year) and I couldn't be happier.

Er, well, I might be if they would invite me to submit a design or two ... but that's another story for another day.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Happy November

It may be Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday, but more importantly - it's November! This is my absolutely favorite time of year: we in the U.S. get ready for Thanksgiving (my absolutely favorite holiday), everything is an absolutely burnished shade of red, green and gold, we feel the nip in the air and actually like it, there's more parties to attend, more great food to eat, more great drinks to celebrate - it's the last great, big, fun gasp before the end of the year and the much-needed renewal dead of winter. As I'm sitting here composing this, watching the bubbles rise in my glass of prosecco and the lights of the city skyline twinkle, I feel equal parts happy (I met a design deadline yesterday) and grateful and contemplative (many are just starting to dig out from Storm Sandy).

And if it's November, it's also NaKniSweMoDo time. You know, that month every year where many of us celebrate writers who churn out a 50,000 word novel in a month by knitting (or crocheting) 50,000 stitches in a month (which usually boils down to a sweater). Feel free to check out the NaKniSweMoDo group here and join in the sweater-making fun.

I am determined to complete my sweater this year, since last year's NaKniSweMoDo-started sweater is still waiting to be finished. Yeah, yeah, I know ... but I am determined. That's important to keep in mind. I'm planning on tackling the Sera Lace Top, which I've had queued since January, 2010. Better late than never. Here's the yarn I've selected:

I get all kinds of jazzed just looking at that color. Yes, yes I do.

Of course, I'm still working on projects in my Accessories: Autumne 2012 JAL, which reminds me that next week the collection is set to visit Bits 'n Pieces. Take a look at what I'm almost done with, using the WonderWhyGal's handspun no less:

Btw, all of my models have confirmed their requests: I'm making three Enveloped Cowls. Two in neutral shades and one in deep blue. I've got the yarn for two of them and the third all picked out, so I'm set on personal projects for a little while. Of course, don't think that will stop me from working on my Froggy Block Swap blanket. Nope. No siree Bob.

It's November. I think more prosecco is in order.

Now definitely head on over to Andrea's blog and see what everyone else is celebrating this first Friday in November.