I finished! I finished! And I can still type, grasp the pole in the subway, hold a book—and look good while I do it.
When last I wrote my hands ached and hurt so badly I didn’t even know what to do. I iced both wrists on and off for the rest of the evening and took as much Aleve as was possibly recommended. That night I slept with my only brace on, prioritizing my left hand, which is generally worse than my right. When I woke up in the morning it was better. Friends came over for brunch so I was cooking and using my hands differently. When we all sat down in the living room after we ate, I picked up the knitting and discovered that knitting wasn’t torture any longer!
I took it very slowly, and it was done later that afternoon. I could not believe it. It went into a tub of water and the new Soak scent, yuzu (so bright and springy!), and the sweater was blocking that night. A three-needle bind-off two days later, and I was ready for the Bridesmaids’ Luncheon the day before my cousin’s wedding! (Because I was doing a reading at the wedding, I was considered part of the bridal party.) Paired with a khaki skirt, pearls, and a sock bun, and I was feeling very appropriate for the event. The sweater was actually comfortably warm on what turned out to be a chilly, dreary day by the beach, and so soft. So soft!
Setting aside the pain, I really enjoyed knitting this. My only modification was to do another whole round of the increase chart to add both length and width. Thanks for cheering me on while I worked my way through the pattern! As a reminder/for posterity: Pattern is the Lace Batwing Top from Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 2012, designed by Brooke Nico. I knit it in Artyarns’ Ensemble Light, the called-for yarn in the color it calls for, even!
It’s been a full month since I posted my swatch of the lace pattern in Brooke Nico’s Lace Batwing Top from the latest Vogue Knitting. And I’m pleased to report that I’m nearly finished! I thought I would be done by now but my hands are in incredibly bad shape, so I can’t knit for long periods anymore.
Turns out I love, love, love knitting this pattern though. The yarn (Artyarns Ensemble Light) is a dream to work with (50% cashmere, 50% silk: how could you go wrong?) and, best of all, it seems, to me, to work together perfectly with the needles I’m using (addi clicks) so the experience is nothing short of lovely. However, tiny needles and fussy lace (oh how I hate ou double decreases!) mean aching thumbs, wrists—basically my whole hands.
The pattern, which at first seemed so daunting, is nearly memorizable. The only thing I couldn’t be confident I’d remembered every row was how many stitches were at the edges, outside the repeat. A quick glance at the chart was all I’d need, though. Because I hoped to finish this quickly, I employed a few time-saving measures, such as wrapping the ssk stitches backward on the plain rows, so that they are sitting on the needles correctly when it comes time to decrease them.
As I type this I am taking a break from the sweater, but I’m about 10 rows shy of a completed front. I really really want to wear the sweater in a week at my cousin’s bridal luncheon, so I’ve got a deadline but I’m also trying to preserve the feeling in my hands! Wish me luck I can do both in the coming days.
I somehow ended up with a copy of this book, 5500 Quilt Block Motifs, and every now and then before bed I browse it. The blocks in the book are all individually inspiring to me—as potential quilts. I have a long list of blocks from this book that I think would make great full quilts if blown up. I find it both inspiring and soothing to think about quilts before bed—in fact, if I’m having trouble falling asleep because of work stresses or something spinning around in my head, I shift gears and mentally plan quilts. Getting caught up in both color planning and actual math (calculating sizes based on internal blocks) is better than counting sheep for me—I zone out and drift off to sleep in no time. But I wake up with ideas solidified in my head, so it’s a win-win. My recent mini quilts are a perfect example of that. But this traditional square caught my eye; it seemed perfect for a Big Birthday present for my dear friend, Holly.
It came together over a few weeks last fall, using fabrics in a variety of colors that coordinated, many from my stash. Rather than make HSTs by stacking two squares and cutting on the diagonal, I cut each triangle individually, decided on my preferred placement, and sewed them together. I wanted all the pairings to be unique, rather than structured in pairs. It was also not that useful to work it as HSTs because there are a lot of triangles that don’t have an opposite one. The backing, which is hard to see in the photos she took, is just a zig zag using up extra triangles I’d cut, and the binding is the Kona Berry that I used as the background for Rosie’s Spoked. The quilting is just double lines along all the angles.
Holly took these pictures for me on her birthday weekend trip to Mexico. She took the quilt with her on her trip. Sniff. It’s just the best to make something for someone you love, and then find out that they love it exactly as much as you’d want them to, you know?
Despite my all-around crafty hobbies, and even though on a call I once explained my passion for handmade by saying I’d churn my own butter if I could (that is a lie: I have no desire to ever churn my own butter), one thing I know a lot about but never do is can. I haven’t (yet) spent a day boiling sugary substances and sterilizing jars and then listening to the telltale ping of a seal. See, I know the lingo and the theories both from reading Twitter and from having proofread some canning cookbooks, notably Canning for a New Generation. But while I haven’t done it myself, I have plenty of friends who are masters at it—and they share the fruits of their labors (heh) with me.
Our pantry is actually bursting with filled jars of jams, jellies, cordials, and sauces that my friends have made. Some jars are finished immediately: Give me a jar of dilly beans and they’re gone within an hour. Introduce me to Cowboy Candy, and I’ll eat so many in one sitting that I end up curled up in a ball with the worst heartburn I’ve ever experienced. But the truth is, we rarely put jam on things. We almost never have bread in the house, and though there are times when I make biscuits, they are few and far between. Even though I rarely eat them, I will not refuse them or part with them—I consider them some of the most special foods we own! I realized that baking them into cookies would be the perfect way to finally enjoy them.
Enter Dorie Greenspan’s Beurre & Sel Jammers, which were featured in Bon Appetit’s Christmas cookie issue from last year. What a fussy recipe—right up my alley, I suppose. You make a sugar cookie dough that is rolled out, frozen, and cut to shape from the hard discs. Then you make a separate streusel. Assembly is actually easy once all the parts are prepped: Drop a disc in a muffin tin, dollop with jam, sprinkle with the streusel. I did learn some things about making these cookies as I went: Make a lot more streusel because you’ll run out (I had to make more twice!), and add more jam right before baking because it’s tastier with more jam. Oh, and maybe you like to fuss with making streusel by using your fingertips but I believe in better living through technology so I use the food processor.
The taste? Like a delicate, light shortbread with a morsel of sweet jam. I used 4 different flavors of jams: cherry, lemon, lime, mint marmalade from JulieFrick, nectarine also from JulieFrick, mango-lime jam from Nova, and then strawberry-raspberry from a storebought jar (we wanted a 4th complementary flavor that was also pretty, and it seemed the right fit). The recipe recommends a firm jam, but I didn’t mind a little spreading under the streusel.
Beurre & Sel Jammers, adapted from Bon Appetit
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
Streusel and Assembly
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
10 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
various jams, about 1 cup total
A 2-inch cookie cutter; 3 standard 12-cup muffin tins
Beat butter in a large bowl in a mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add both sugars and salt; beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low; beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Add flour and mix just to combine. Dough will be soft and slightly sticky.
Divide dough in half. Place each half between sheets of parchment paper. Flatten dough into disks. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough, occasionally lifting paper on both sides for easy rolling, until 1/4 inch thick. Freeze dough in paper until firm, at least 2 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep frozen.)
Mix flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the butter and vanilla into the dry ingredients until the mixture is sandy. Cover and chill. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.)
Arrange a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Using cookie cutter, cut out rounds of frozen dough from freezer. Place rounds in bottom of muffin cups. Gather scraps and repeat process of rolling out, freezing, and cutting. I found it made well more than the recipe-specified 34 rounds—I got something like 40. Spoon about 1 teaspoon jam into the center of each round of dough. Using your fingers or a small spoon, sprinkle 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons streusel around edges of each cookie, trying not to get any in the jam. Top off the dollop of jam with more jam to cover an errant bits of streusel.
Bake cookies, in batches if needed, until sides and streusel are golden, 20-22 minutes. Let the area around the jam be pale. Let cool in tins for 15 minutes. Run a small knife or offset spatula around edges of muffin cups; gently remove cookies (it’ll pop right up) and let cool completely on a wire rack.
Every year I resolve to post more WIPs, but I almost never do. This is the year, I swear! In fact, I swatched the other night so I ought to get some credit for that, right?
This is Brooke Nico‘s latest pattern in Vogue Knitting, the Lace Batwing Top, and I’m using the exact yarn called for—Artyarns Ensemble Light, in the same delicate blue color even. It’s been a long time since I knit any complicated lace, and whoa. The pattern has a long repeat, and while I bet I’ll eventually memorize it, well, it did not click for the short duration of the swatch. I’m going to have to employ some of those tried and true tricks for following a chart—a long Post-It should do just fine. But I’ll admit it’s kind of pleasant to be knitting something that’s actually mentally challenging as opposed to all the mind-numbing garter stitch I’ve knit of late! This one is going to take concentration.
Originally I thought I’d tweak the pattern—oh it would be so simple, I thought—by making the knits twisted. I thought it would give a little more depth, and I honestly love knitting twisted stitches. But then I started knitting it and I realized how foolish I was being. There are decreases, and much of the pattern is worked flat, and who am I kidding? That was overly complicating the lovely design, and was entirely unnecessary. I did make one small change, though: Instead of a sk2p for the double decrease, I’m doing a centered double decrease. It just seems slightly more elegant even if it’s a bit more fussy to execute.
Knitting this complicated lace, which is going to definitely mean slower going, is going to be completely rewarded by using this yarn. You guys. I actually said to Jason that I don’t know how I’ll go back to knitting with normal yarn again. Because 50% silk, 50% cashmere? This is the stuff. I’m going to go block the swatch to be thorough, but I can’t wait to get going on the knitting. Casting on for the ribbing asap!