It's been quite a while since either Elizabeth or I have had a moment to record our weekly accomplishments here on the blog. I think it's a fun way to share a bit more about ourselves and our projects so I've decided to revisit it this month. I'm not sure we'll try to make it a weekly thing again though, maybe we should change it to "Accomplishments of the Month" instead?
The beautiful vegetable garden pictured above has been a joint effort between myself, my boyfriend and our downstairs neighbours (who just happen to be his brother and his girlfriend). It's been pretty amazing to see this garden change and evolve as we all advocate for space for our own favourite crops, and as we evaluate what grows well in the areas we have available. I'm especially proud of my new pole bean trellis at the back of the yard, and when I went out to check this morning I noticed that I have a few little sprouts just coming up. I'm trying out four different types of pole beans this year, and hoping that if they do well I'll be able to convince my gardening partners to allot more space to them in the future!
Another gardening success this spring has been taking the time to actually thin my mustard greens. I often plant out my greens and anxiously wait for them to sprout, and then immediately get distracted with other things. Then much later I'll notice they're too crowded and have all gotten a little spindly. This time I went out with a pair of scissors when they were still tiny and snipped out enough little sproutlings to make some room for the others to grow. I brought the thinnings inside, gave them a good rinse and served them on tacos, making a delicious first garden-meal of the spring.
I was out checking on things again this morning, and with all the extra room the greens are looking much bigger and fuller - in fact it just might be time to pull out my scissors and do another round of thinning.
In my last blog post I shared a recipe for Chickpea Cookies and talked a bit about Nousrire, the bulk buying group we've been using to get a lot of our pantry staples. One of the great things about this method of shopping is avoiding excess packaging, since you bring your own containers to take your food home in. When we started going we had a lot of large plastic ziplock bags and I got into the habit of just using those. I've been wanting to get away from buying more plastic though, so as the original ones wore out, I've been trying to replace them with some simple home-made cloth bags. This has been an ongoing project, but this week I finally had enough of them sewn up to use them for our entire order.
The first couple of bags I made were draw-string, but I found that they weren't really closing tightly enough at the top to hold in small things like oats, chia seeds or lentils. I saw the idea of using a strip of cotton jersey as a "twist tie" on this tutorial, and have included that type of closure in all my more recent bags. I find it much more secure, and now I don't worry about things spilling out on the way home.
One of the dangers of shopping this way is that you order by the kilo, about a month in advance, so it's not always easy to estimate how much of a particular ingredient you'll need. For some reason on this order we ended up with 2kg of toasted coconut flakes, which it turns out is an awful lot... They're delicious, and we're using them in granola and as an ice cream topping, but if anyone has other recipes or ideas to share I'd love to hear them!
This one is an almost-accomplishment, but I wanted to get a little knitting in here somewhere! I'm very, very close to finishing the second of my Cumulus socks, which I cast on as my vacation knitting last summer. These are knit one scallop section at a time, and I'm on the very last scallop before starting the ribbed cuff. My goal is to get these done in less than 1 year, so that gives me until June 25 - if I don't get distracted with other projects I should be able to make it!
For the past year or two both Elizabeth and I have been buying a lot of our food through Nousrire, a bulk buying group that specializes in organic foods. My boyfriend and I usually place an order once every two months, and then a few weeks later we head over to Mile End to pack everything up in our own containers and bring it home to stock our pantry.
Between our Nousrire orders and getting a Lufa farms box delivered to a local pickup point every week for our produce and other fresh foods, we've been going to the grocery store less and less lately. There are a few reasons that these alternatives have been working well for us. Partly it's the convenience, but we're also getting good prices for organic and local foods, as well as reducing our food-packaging waste. Another benefit is that we're buying a lot of healthy foods, so we're snacking on nuts and dried fruit rather than processed snack foods.
Sometimes though, it's nice to have a bit of a treat. Since our Nousrire orders have included lots of dried chickpeas lately, as well as chocolate chips, peanut butter and the aforementioned fruit and nuts, we pretty much always have the ingredients for these cookies at hand. I like this recipe because it's relatively low in sugar, has the added protein from the chickpeas and nut butter, and is quick and easy to throw together (it's also gluten-free if that's important for you). I often make a double batch and freeze half - mostly to keep us from eating them all at once!
Over the past four months or so I've been teaching kids to weave at my local homeschooling centre. I'm by no means an expert weaver, but I do have some experience with a floor loom and various smaller looms. I started to get very into weaving about 7-8 years ago and I really love it, but I've barely touched my own loom since my son was born five years ago. One of the best parts of teaching the kids is that it's motivated me to get back into weaving and I'm looking forward to returning to some of my own projects that I'd put on hold.
The kids that I've been teaching range in age from about 4-8 years old. We started out with a simple project weaving placemats out of wool felt. I really enjoyed seeing which colour combinations the kids chose.
Since then I've been guiding the kids (and some of their parents!) through individual projects using various small looms. We have belt weaving on my Inklette loom (shown above), some tapestry weaving on these cute little looms I got from Pretty Little Yarns, and lots and lots of pin loom squares. I made a very simple little buttoned purse by sewing two pin loom squares together and this has been the most popular project so far. Now a couple of the other parents are helping the kids make their own wooden pin looms in various sizes which is so great! It's fun to see how one project inspires another at the centre.
The whole reason I was inspired to teach weaving in the first place is because last year I found a 4-shaft table loom sitting way up on a high shelf at the centre that hasn't been used in years. I've slowly been working my way up to figuring out a project to make using the table loom, and at the suggestion of one of the other mothers this week we are getting it warped to make drawstring bread bags. I still have a few steps to do to complete the warping process and hopefully we can start weaving next week. Wish me luck!
Last fall knitting friend who had just returned to Montreal from a trip to St John's mentioned to me the delightful work of Christine LeGrow and Shirley Scott. They are working hard to document and preserve the Newfoundland tradition of "trigger mitts". I was intrigued by what I heard, and became further interested last December when one of our aunts sent me and Elizabeth the link to a short documentary piece on CBC's the Sunday Edition about their new book. I still hadn't yet gotten my hands on a copy of the it when the lovely folks at Boulder Publications contacted us earlier this year and asked if we would be interested in carrying Saltwater Mittens From the Island of Newfoundland. But by then we had heard such good things about it already that we happily said "yes"!
I had high expectations for this book, and when we got our first batch of them in the mail and I finally got a chance to read it myself I wasn't disappointed. The mittens featured in the book are both practical and beautiful, featuring bold and graphic traditional colourwork patterns. They're traditionally knit from sturdy wool that stands up well to use in all weather and use the unique Newfoundland "trigger finger" construction for warmth and dexterity.
One of the things I love about the way this book is put together is that all of the designs are shown in multiple variations and colour combinations (such as the Big Diamonds pattern in the photo above). This makes the book itself a visual treat, and I think also encourages the reader to have fun and experiment with creating their own combinations, rather than attempting to make exact replicas.
For knitters who are new to working with two colours these patterns may seem a bit daunting, but the authors carefully walk the knitter through each step of planning and executing their project. Their conversational tone makes the detailed instructions very accessible, and they cover every aspect of the process from yarn selection and colour choices to increase and cast-off techniques. They also recommend beginners start with a pair of "Wee Ones" (their baby mitt pattern, shown above) as a way to practice the colourwork techniques on a small project with minimal shaping.
Although the baby mitts are adorable, and I'm sure I will knit a pair or two in the future, I actually need a new pair of mittens myself, so decided that I would try my hand at a pattern called Spring Ice, which is given in a women's size and features the traditional trigger mitt shaping.
I'm working these up in Andante (our superwash merino worsted weight) and am super pleased with how they're turning out. Once I got started on the pattern it was hard to put down, I kept wanting to knit one more round to see the design continue to emerge under my needles.
Another charming aspect of the book is the inclusion of little tidbits of wit and wisdom from Newfoundland knitters, and I think my favourite is this quote from Elizabeth Warner:
I unfortunately am not so practiced at knitting in my sleep, so eventually had to give in and leave my newly started mitt to go to bed, but not before I had nearly completed all the thumb gore increases!
I think the rest of these mitts will knit up very quickly, and I might get them done while it's still cold enough to need them this year...
The Saltwater Mittens book is now available for purchase on our website, so if you're inspired to join me in being part of this continuing mitten tradition you can purchase your own copy here.
We are so pleased to present a mini-collection of patterns featuring our Crescendo gradient sets! As we did for our Presto collection last fall, we sent yarn out to several indie designers and they have recently released their beautiful designs. This collection includes knitting and crochet, lace and texture, large projects and small. We hope you enjoy perusing the patterns and then don't forget to enter our giveaway! (See all the details at the bottom of this post.)
First up is Sarasi by Lana Jois in our Lavender Dusk colourway. Lana designs stunning patterns, often incorperating lace, and we were delighted to work with her again for this collection! Sarasi is an asymmetrical triangle knit in an airy lace pattern in that makes a good-sized lightweight shawl with just one set of Cresendo.
The Storm Dance Wrap by Vicky Gory uses two Crescendo sets (Daydream and Deep Blue Sea) to create a long 12 mini-skein gradient from very pale to dark blue. I love the beautiful crocheted patterns representing the rain and the clouds. The rectangular wrap is worked on the bias, ending with a dramatic diagonal edge.
As a special offer for our readers, Vicky is offering anyone who purchases the Storm Dance Wrap pattern a second pattern of your choice for free with coupon code Crescendo until February 28th.
The Sunny Honey Infinity Scarf by Margo Bauman is worked in Tunisian crochet and shown here in our Sunrise colourway. Tunisian crochet is one of my favourite crochet techniques and this pattern uses a double-ended hook. Fun! The honeycomb pattern has a different but complementary texture on each side so is guaranteed to look great whether you wear the scarf long or wrapped around the neck.
You can find Margo on Ravelry - those of you who have participated in the Indie GAL may recognize her as flyingflower :).
The I'm Spiraling Cowl by Carla Pera is knit in our Pretty in Pink colourway and is shown here with a gorgeous shawl pin by Crafty Flutterby Creations. This pattern is the perfect project for newer knitters looking to increase their skills. Carla (who is a TKGA certified Master Knitter) includes lots of helpful tips to guide you through the pattern and make your project shine.
You can find Carla on Ravelry and see her website here.
What is #OperationLoveNovember? See my previous blog post for why and how we came up with these ideas.
After we finished up #OperationLoveNovember this past fall, I had a few people ask for our list of actions that we came up with, either to use now in January or February (which can also be hard months), or to refer to next year. So, in no particular order, here they are:
This is the fifth year that Debbie and I have been involved in the Indie Design Gift-along on Ravelry as both designers and participants. It's a fun event and it’s a chance for us to take a little vacation from designing ourselves, support our fellow designers by working from their patterns, make connections with knitters and crocheters around the world, and maybe finish off a gift or two or three. Last I checked there have been over 900 projects completed as part of the event! The event runs until the end of December, so it's not too late to join if you're feeling inspired.
These are the gift-along projects I'm working on this year:
Please excuse the slightly blurry photos for this post - as you can see, I had a little "helper"!
First on my needles were these Colorblock Slippers designed by Kelly White. I did the tech editing for this pattern earlier this fall and fell in love with it and knew I straight away I wanted to make a pair for myself.
The original pattern uses two colours, but since I was trying to use up stash yarn, I ended up using four colours. The two grey yarns are particularly dear to my heart as they are from a farm I visited during a family vacation in PEI five years ago. After I finished knitting the slippers I felt they needed something to bring the colours together so I added some free-style embroidery on top of the knitting. It took a couple of tries to get it looking the way I wanted, but I'm really happy with the way these turned out!
Next I knit this adorable Worsted Entrechat Bonnet by Lisa Chemery. It was such a fast and enjoyable knit - perfect for a quick baby gift. And to go with the bonnet I'm working on a pair of Toasty Talus legwarmers by Clare Devine. This may be the most-knit pattern I've ever purchased. I find these legwarmers so cute and practical and have made several pairs both for my own kids and as baby gifts.
Still in stash-busting mode with lots of babies to knit for, my next planned project is to make Granny's Favourite by Georgie Nicolson to use up these two leftover balls of Rowan Calmer that I've had sitting around for ages. I even have leftover matching buttons too - bonus!
Photo credit: Triona Murphy
Lastly, I could not resist buying the Cat Person pattern by Triona Murphy to make for my cat-obsessed daughter. I don't have any suitable yarn in my stash for this one, so I'll have to go yarn shopping... oh well, three out of four projects from my stash is not bad!
November can be a challenging month for those of us dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I've used light therapy at some points in the past, but the best way I've found to deal with it (for me) is to be proactive. Choose to live in housing with most natural light possible, get outside everyday, be physically active, and plan things to look forward to.
Several years ago my sister Margaret and I came up with a little activity to get us through the month of November and we decided to repeat the project this year. We each came up with 15 actions to make our day more fun.
They're not big things, but little things that are easy to do and can help brighten up the day. Between the two of us we have 30, one for each day of November, and each evening we're randomly picking an action for the next day.
Margaret has named our project #OperationLoveNovember and we've been sharing photos of our little missions everyday on Instagram stories and Facebook stories. Please feel free to play along with us, make up your own actions, use the #OperationLoveNovember hashtag, and share your stories. We're halfway through November already - here's to a great rest of the month!
P.S. The action for today, November 16th, is to make a cup of chai. If you need a recipe, you can find my husband's recipe here on the blog!
I had been intending to put together a blog post with some of my recent accomplishments last week, but life got in the way as it sometimes does, in the form of an injured foot this time. What with trips to the clinic for x-rays (it's thankfully not broken!) and a few other such distractions I never got around to posting this. And of course in the meantime I finished off a few other things that I'm excited about sharing, so you're getting a bit more than a week's worth of accomplishments this time.
Home-made bread! I really love baking bread at home, and I actually rarely buy any bread products except bagels (and croissants when I'm feeling indulgent). But with the crazy heat we had all summer I got out of the habit of baking, and until last week I hadn't made bread since last spring. I like using the method from the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day cookbook. In reality it does take a few more than five minutes, but once you've got a routine going and have the dough stored in your fridge it really is pretty easy to whip up a fresh loaf whenever you feel like it. I like to make small loaves so that we can use them up while they're fresh, and I've baked three already this week.
As Elizabeth mentioned in her last blog post, we went apple picking together in early October, and wound up bringing home a few more apples than we'd really intended to! It took me a while to get to processing mine, and when I did I wanted to do something different from Elizabeth so that we could trade preserves. I ended up borrowing a food dehydrator and making a whole bunch of dried apples, and some fruit leather. These took quite a bit of work to do, and we had apples all over the kitchen for about a week, but they turned out super tasty!
Other than the apples, I haven't done much food preservation at all this year. One of my challenges to myself since having mono last year has been to be okay with letting go of the things that I don't have the time and energy for – even when they're things I really enjoy, like making jam and pickles. However, I did let myself get sucked in by the giant bowl of green tomatoes that I brought it from the garden a few weeks ago.
They sat in the fridge for a while before I found the time to deal with them, but I managed to spend a few hours last week turning them into Green Tomato Mincemeat. This consists of disguising the tomatoes by chopping them up and cooking them down with apples, raisins, currants, spices, and sugar until the mixture is thickens.
I decided to freeze my mincemeat instead of canning it, since I had enough room in the freezer and that simplified the whole process quite a bit. I ended up with quite a few jars, and it will be more than enough for our family's traditional Christmas tarts, so I think I'll be on the lookout for some new recipes to use this in over the coming winter!
When I was putting away my winter gear last spring I noticed that my Lanark gloves were starting to get some holes in the finger tips. Which honestly is hardly surprising, given that I've been wearing them every year since I first designed them in 2012... And actually, other than those few spots and bit of discolouration on the palms, they're showing very little wear-and-tear considering how much I've used them.
The holes were starting to get bigger though, and there was a chance that if I continued wearing them they'd really begin to unravel, so I haven't worn them at all this fall, and I've been missing them.
So, I hunted down some matching yarn from our scrap bin, and made myself sit down and mend them. (Mending is one of those things that I really don't mind doing once I've started, but I have a hard time getting to.) I managed to pick up all the loose stitches and close up the holes, and even secured a few other spots where the yarn was getting a bit thin but hadn't actually broken through yet. They feel good as new, and will hopefully last me many more winters!