Making this afghan for my faerie godchildren, Pam & Joe, has been a joy, not to mention the biggest knitting project of my life - on the right.
(Just as an aside, I also just finished the smallest knitting project ever, tiny slides (above left) for a friend with a broken finger who has to keep two fingers taped together. From the ridiculous to the sublime, and I don't know which was which.
Knitting, for me, is a pass-time, with no solid deadlines and very squiggly goals. My craft and knitting hobby motto is "No Hurry," so there is built-in flexibility.
But this is truly an accomplishment. My husband, David and I calculated the time involved in a project like this. More than 300 hours, and that is just actual knitting time.
I knitted four panels of different colors with cable patterns and some filler panels and then sewed them all together .
The piece got kind of unwieldy (almost 6' x 8'). I went to a friend's studio several times to lay the pieces before sewing them together.
Smooch loves to watch me make things, from beadwork to baking. She sits by the counter with her face as close to the action as possible.
For his birthday, David asked for Chocolate Chip Cookies instead of a cake. Not just any chocolate chip cookies, Dana's cookies.
And he's right. They are the best chocolate chip cookies on the planet. She was generous enough to share her recipe, which originally comes from Cook's Illustrated.
So, for David's birthday dinner, first I made the cookies so he could have warm chocolate chip cookies all afternoon.
Here's my version of Dana's version of the Cook's Illustrated recipe:
Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 3/4 cups unbleached white flour*
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
14 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted & cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg plus one egg yolk
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
Set aside dry ingredients. In a mixer, Blend sugars with cooled melted butter and vanilla about three minutes. Add the egg and yolk and blend well. Add the dry ingredients. Add the chocolate chips by hand. Drop by teaspoonful onto a parchment covered sheet pan.
Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes.
After making the cookies, I poached a bit of cod in half and half, doctored up some bechamel sauce and veggies from a Veggie Pie Dana and I made the day before. The cod turned out so flaky and beautiful, I didn't want to bury it in the veggies and sauce, so I gently laid it atop the filling, see below.
Although most of my meals are gluten free,
if I want a pastry dough, I'll make it myself. This is my recipe for
enough pastry for one pie shell or four individual pies, bottom only.
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour*
1 stick unsalted butter, chopped in pieces
1/2 tespoon salt
2-3 tablespoons ice water
the flour, butter and salt in a food processor and blend until "mealy."
Slowly add some ice water until the dough begins to hold together.
Wrap the dough ball in flour dusted parchment and refrigerate until 1/2 hour
before using. Let it rest and come to room temperature before rolling it
I like to lightly spray the pie tins for a good release at serving time.
These pie tins date back to the early days of my cooking career. I used them at Rainbow Ranch in Calistoga, at the Chopra Center in La Jolla, at Ginna's Cafe in Carmel Valley, for Chicken Pot Pies to Lemon Meringue. I love these pans.
When rolling out the dough, I like to keep it thick for a pie like this, so the sauce stays inside the pie, even though it is basically open-faced.
After placing the poached fish on top of the bechamel filling, I fold over the edges and brushed it all with egg wash.
This bechamel,/veggie filling is comprised mostly of roasted carrots, celery and zucchini mixed with sauteed mushrooms, onions and garlic and blended with the bechamel white sauce.
Baked at 375° for about 40 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling.
Let the pies cool for a few minutes before slipping onto a plate. Serve with a green salad or cooked green vegetable.
Then, more cookies.
Smooch has lost interest...
*although I am 90% gluten free, when I do bake with wheat flour, I use unmodified, organic Einkorn flour, just to be on the safe side. Don't get me started on the Glyphosate/Gluten conversation.
I am never without a knitting project. I use short, bamboo needles that fit in my purse. I can knit during a meeting, at the coffee house, even at dinner, if it looks like a long evening. I knit in the car, if I don't have to drive.
This time of year I get requests for the wrist warmers pattern, a good pocket or purse project. It's really simple, even fore a beginner. My basic pattern is like this: knit a 6.5 inch square in the pattern of your choice, fold it over, sew up the sides, leaving at 1 1/2 inches open for your thumb, beginning about an inch from the top.
If you use a worsted weight yarn, use size 7 needles and start with 42 stitches. Fingering weight yarn is best on size 5 needles, and for these Rusty Garden Ornament items on the right I cast on 38 stitches.
These sizes are based on a Woman's Medium. You make them wider by casting on more stitches and longer by knitting more rows.
You can get fancy with patterns and stitches: dots, hearts, cables... The green warmers above are created with the seed stitch, which is all knit, purl, knit, purl: knitting into the purls and purl into the knits.
I started with ribbing on the red and black item on the needles below and increased one stitch at each end before I started with the Midnight Black for a total of 36 stitches. The ribbing adds a nice touch and creates more of a cuff for the wrist.
One of the joys of these little gift items is how little time they take to make, unless you decide to create a Santa Face or get tricky with other colorways. I like to keep it simple so I can knit and watch a movie, talk with friends, listen to an audio book, but not all at once.
All the parts for the colorful Afghan are finished, with the exception of 12 feet of 3 inch trim.
Blocking was challenging, but I took care with the steam iron and didn't let it rest on the fibers for very long. I mostly hovered above it, afraid to scorch the few man-made fibers in the yarn.
I draped the panels over a card table while sewing them together. Each panel is 54 inches by 68 inches, so when trimmed and finished, it will be 5 x 7 feet, the biggest knitted item I've ever made.
To the right, the afghan is spread out on tables at my friend, Anne's studio. She was kind enough to let me spread it out flat for measuring. (You can't get much of a measurement while draping it over the bed or a table.)
Infinity scarves are so easy to make. Here, I use Sky Ranch Fiber's hand-dyed fingering weight yarn. Midnight is about 50 inches long, and the green, which the designer, Becky Mann calls Autumn (though I prefer Rusty Garden Ornament) is a bit longer. Make a scarf in the yarn and pattern you like up to 55 inches, sew the ends together. Wrap it around your neck once or twice. Seriously.
This dragon went through three Southern Oregon winters and was chipped and peeling flakes of red paint all over the walkway. I was so anxious to paint it with my new find, Unicorn Spit, that I forgot to take a before photo. But here he is in all his glory.
I highly recommend Unicorn Spit. It's non-toxic, can be opaque or transparent and has intense colors. Everything is getting painted with Unicorn Spit.