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Monday, January 31, 2011

Cooking Up Some Comfort Food















Today was my get organized at home day. I do laundry, hit the laptop, and cook for my family.
I also cook for my clients and special occasions. I like to cook in batches.

Tomorrow is my monthly book club meeting. We discuss the book and then have a potluck lunch. One of our members brought a large shopping bag full of butternut squash from her garden. I volunteered to make soup for all of us to go along with our pot luck salad. I wanted to show you what I made before I went to the grocery store to get the ingredients for the special meals I need to make.

The soup recipe is as follows:

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

2 1/2 lb butternut squash
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 C chopped onions
2 T dry sherry
1 3/4 C chicken or veg broth
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/4 fresh ground pepper
Pinch of cayenne powder
1 C whole milk or half and half
2 T minced chives

1 butternut squash (2 1/2 lb) bake whole with the skin on for 1 1/2 hrs at 400 degrees
Cool and then peel and de-seed. Set aside clean squash.

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over med heat for 30 seconds. Add the chopped onion and cook until tender- approx 4 mins. Add the sherry and then the squash. Mash the squash.

Increase the heat to high and add the broth, thyme, salt, pepper and cayenne to the pot. Bring to a boil. lower to medium and stir well. Turn heat off and allow to cool slightly.

Transfer the squash mixture to the blender in small batches and blend until very smooth, about one minute, adding milk if necessary to aide in pureeing. return soup to the pot stir in milk or cream over low heat- do not boil. Season to taste. Serve with minced chives.

This is hearty and delicious served with garlic bread and salad for a meal!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Knitting Bracelets
















This is one of many styles of cuffs, bracelets, and adornments knitted up and on display at TNNA this year. I had a blast, as usual, attending with Nancy Queen and her sister Heather Walpole. We are a fearsome threesome on the trade show floor. No yarn is safe from our inquiring hands, eyes and noses. Yes, Heather sniffs yarn to determine many things. This year the show was smaller and lightly attended compared to other years. I did see many of my favorite knit "Rock stars" as well as friends from the knitting guild. I will share more and figure out how to make up some of my own fancies with my collection of yarn scraps and antique buttons. Stay tuned, sharing will occur...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Up Close and Personal Social Knitworking


Breaking News. Rancho Santa Fe, CA
Reported by Marsha Wenskay AKA- Headknitwit

KNITWITS OF RSF TURN EIGHT: Happy Birthday Knitwits!


Eight years ago, local knit instructor Marsha Wenskay, decided she wanted to spread the knit love by starting a knitting group open to all that wanted to learn.


The no cost lessons and the love of the craft were what motivated her. She wanted to spread the love of a craft that she believes is an art-form in the right hands. Her motto of "no mistakes, just a little design detail" have comforted more than one distraught knitter. Her style of teaching combined with her ongoing support weekly, helps to keep the mistakes to a minimum.

The first evening eight years ago she opened the doors of her classroom and expected a handful of new knitters to seek out some lessons. Fourteen women showed up and Marsha started her aerobic knitting lessons. With giant sized 35 needles in hand and her back to the room she lead the ladies into the magical world of knit. As a conductor of an orchestra leads his musicians, Marsha was able to transform the never-knitters into accomplished makers of knit music.


She incorporated the yarn, needles, friendships,wine and snacks into a regular Wednesday night sit and stitch. Your secrets are safe and no topic is off limits.


The group has a roster of 40+ women from all over the community. They meet in a lovely room with excellent light at the Village Presbyterian Church. Average attendance is about 20 knitters each week. Everyone works at their own pace on the project of their choosing. The "Knitwits" participate in knit-a-longs as the spirit moves them. Currently, the group is working on Christmas Stockings for next year. February will find them learning fair isle knitting on a two-stranded
hat.

The Knitwits have contributed to many charitable knitting projects. Blanket squares for Project Linus, preemie caps, chemo caps, helmet liners for our troops, pink scarves for breast cancer survivors and the Heartscarves Project for survivors of heart disease.

Marsha has pet names for her diverse group of knitters. The "never-knitters" are on the roster because they want to attend the group and have no intention of learning the craft- yet. The "knitter-quitters" came and tried and have switched to another craft for the time being. The "incogknitos" do not want to be affiliated with any group, however are unable to stay away from the party. We protect their identity. The rest are affectionately known as Knitwits. All are welcome.

Every month or so, a brave new-knitter ventures in and finds that she will receive personal attention and group support in her quest for becoming part of a knitting sisterhood. This sorority unites every age, border, network, financial level or any status that can separate women. The act of knitting has been found to have the same medical benefits of yoga on the body and brain.
The meditative and psychological joy is harder to measure. The internet has groups with knitting memberships that top one million.

Join us and join a party that you want to never leave. Happy Birthday Knitwits.

Math in the Family
















Soon to be divorced. That is minus one husband. Five take away one, is four.
Adopted one lovely eight year old female cat named Cotton. That is plus one.
Four plus one and we are back to five. That is my bottom line total that feels complete to me.

Cotton is a fiber I love to knit with. Especially, cotton blends. Cotton the cat is beautiful. She is a blend. Part Siamese, part Tabby lynx. She is tall and sleek with blue eyes and the coat of a wild lynx. Shades of gray and cream. She looks great draped all around the house. The Siamese part keeps the shedding to a minimum. She came declawed, so she can scratch w/o consequences. So far she watches me knit and her curiosity is confined to a gentle swipe at the feeder yarn and an occasional taste. Cool and aloof, just the way I want her to be. I stay on one couch cushion and she watches from the other.

When I put the knitting down, or put the laptop on the coffee table, that is her cue to hop on my lap for some loving. She also likes to perch on the back of the sofa and watch my mechanics with yarn.

She is very shy and quiet. She likes to hide and startles easily. Ryan should freak her out. We have had her here since Saturday and that is a whole week for her to settle before the storm of her eldest brother enters the scene. She and Evan have bonded completely. I can see the joy a pet brings all over Evan. I know it was the right thing to do. There is love in the house.

She will have many new experiences ahead of her. Cotton has never been outside. She was an apartment dweller and the spaciousness of this house overwhelmed her initially. She is now looking out of the windows of this "glass castle" and I envision her joining me on the patio one day. We are both entering new phases of our lives. Math figures beyond addition will be involved. I am expecting exponential changes. It is good.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Local Social Knitworking

Vista group is bringing back "The Social Knit-work"

Clever Knits, a store in downtown Vista, hosts a popular social knitting night on Tuesdays

Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 6 a.m.

A group of women come together every Tuesday night in Vista to share their love of knitting. They meet at Clever Knits, a store in downtown Vista, which has three "social knitting" sessions a week.

Charlie Neuman / The Union-Tribune

A group of women come together every Tuesday night in Vista to share their love of knitting. They meet at Clever Knits, a store in downtown Vista, which has three "social knitting" sessions a week.

Long before this decade’s social networks of Facebook and MySpace, many women would weave lasting relationships with a couple of knitting needles, yarn and good conversation.

It’s happening again, and a group in Vista is part of a nationwide revival of a movement spearheaded by women who prefer the connections made over cross stitch to those over the Internet.

It’s called social knitting, where women of all ages in the Vista group bond over the centuries-old craft, exchanging projects, patterns or just friendly chat in a shop full of brightly colored yarns and knitting needles.

Tuesday nights at Vista’s Clever Knits isn’t your grandmother’s knitting club, though. Conversations can get a bit naughty, which is why children aren’t allowed. And crocheters are welcome (apparently, they aren’t in some knitting circles).

Clever Knits, which by day sells knitting accessories and tools, opened in a downtown storefront in July 2009. Owner Helena Bristow said it was always her “wild fantasy” to run a store where women could gather and bond over yarn.

She’s been crocheting since she was 4 and picked up knitting in college.

“It’s a really welcoming and open environment,” said Bristow, who has twice dropped out of graduate school programs because, admittedly, she’d rather be knitting. Bristow moonlights as a UCSD employee.

“We have since the beginning wanted to make it really open, and this group of women has made lifelong friendships as a result of the Tuesday night knitting group.”

The Tuesday night group, which meets from 6 to 10 p.m., comprises 20 to 30 women ranging from age 20 to 70, some of whom drive from Poway and Rancho Peñasquitos for good times and a break from their everyday routines — and their significant others.

“It’s good for me, I really enjoy the company ... and it is worth the commute to be with all these people whom I share so much in common with,” said Jimelle Beavers, who lives in Poway. “There are some Tuesdays where my husband will look around and say, “Hey aren’t you going knitting?”

The ladies sit around and work on their projects, chatting about everything from politics to their significant others.

The regulars nickname one another. Melissa Silva-Torcedo is “Malabrigo,” named after the high-end yarn, after people couldn’t remember her name when she started attending.

“They would look at me and say mmmmmm, trying to remember my name,” Silva-Torcedo said.

“And then finally someone said, Mmmmmmalabrigo, which is this awesome yarn,” Bristow interjected. “It’s so delicious.”

“Like me, so it’s a perfect nickname,” Silva-Torcedo fires back, prompting laughter at the table.

Knitting has been around for centuries, but is making a comeback during the 21st century as many women are turning to the pastime as a way to meet friends and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with the shared interest.

Websites and social networking sites such as Ravelry.com have helped launch hundreds of knitting groups across the country.

“There has been a resurgence and interest in slowing down,” said Kerry Wills, a New York Daily News reporter who wrote the 2007 book “The Close-Knit Circle: The American Knitter Today.”

“Our lives have become overwhelmed by technology and the demands of work, and knitting, along with other crafts, is enjoying a revival because it gives you an alternative to that pace.”

There’s also a sense of pride in watching the strands of yarns become a creation — sometimes over a period of decades — Bristow said.

“A lot of my friends play video games or go to the movies, but when you’re done with a video game or a movie, what do you have to show for it?” Bristow said. “It’s unlike any craft because your fingers touch every strand of that yarn, which is kind of amazing and special.”

Clever Knits is at 214 S. Indiana Ave., Vista.

aaron.burgin@uniontrib.com

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Social Knitworking


In the middle of her recent book tour, Debbie Stoller got down on the floor of her Seattle hotel room and blocked out a shawl she had just cast off her knitting needles.

She’d made the shawl using her own bamboo-wool yarn and said she was happy with it. But you could tell from her tone that she would have been happier if she was still working on it.

“I am a process knitter,” she says. “I have more interest in doing it than in the results.”

If you aren’t a knitter, you might not know Stoller’s name, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman in North America who hasn’t heard of her stitch’n bitch groups — small home- and shop-based knitting groups that have swept the continent, bringing a new enthusiasm (or should we say obsession?) to knitting.

There was a time not too long ago, when knitting was just about the most uncool thing a young woman could do. Well, except maybe crocheting.

The second wave of feminists rejected needlework along with many other domestic arts in an effort to free themselves from societal limits, Stoller says. Very few knitted and purled during the 1970s, ’80s and even the ’90s.

But then along came Stoller, a self-proclaimed third wave or “girlie” feminist with a PhD in women’s psychology.

Stoller rediscovered knitting as a young woman in 1998 and set out to “Take back the knit,” a play on the women’s movement chant “Take back the night.”

“I understand why they rejected it,”Stoller said from her Seattle hotel room. “But it also got devalued and these skills are a big part of women’s history.

“The third wave in the late ’90s had a different strategy. They had a strategy of reclaiming, which gave it value in a new context.”

For Stoller, that value was in the delicious pleasure knitting gave her. She became a knitting evangelist and invited all comers to meet in a New York café and knit, talk and share expertise. She called it a stitch ’n bitch group. She wasn’t calling herself a capital B who stitches. She uses the B-word as a verb for what women do when they get together.

The name grabbed people’s attention and gave knitting an edginess it hadn’t had in years, at least not in North America. Twelve years later, stitch ’n bitch groups are almost as popular as book clubs.

“I don’t think anyone has done more for getting people back to knitting than Debbie Stoller,” says Anina Hansen, co-owner of Urban Yarns, who recently brought Stoller to Vancouver as part of her tour promote her fifth book, Stitch ’n Bitch Superstar Knitting.

Up until now, all her books have been for beginners. They offer clear step-by-step instructions, techniques and patterns so that anybody can learn.

Her first knitting book, Stitch ’n Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook, was published in 2003. It became a New York Times bestseller and has sold more than one million copies. She has since written Stitch ’n Bitch: The Happy Hooker for crochet and Son of Stitch ’n Bitch for male knitters. She has also developed her own yarns.

“Women in their 20, 30s, 40s would look at her book and say ‘Okay, I can learn now,’ knitter Kathleen Seeley said. “I don’t have my mother or grandmother beside me teaching me, but I can learn from [Stoller] because she has very detailed descriptions. It’s kind of the pop culture of knitting.”

Hansen says Stoller can be credited with bringing the cool back into knitting, giving it a buzz that our grandmothers couldn’t offer.

But Stoller takes umbrage when her books are described as being unlike anything your grandmother might do.

“It always feels like a poke at grandmothers,” she says. “And I think it is your grandmother’s knitting. It is exactly your grandmother’s knitting. It is part of a centuries-old tradition that we engage in, and I think that is what is wonderful about it.”

Stoller can take a bit of credit for adding the communal dimension to today’s knitting culture.

It has become a way to stay connected with friends in this busy world, or to meet kindred spirits when you relocate.

“I really think the communal aspect of knitting has really been central to this trend of the past decade in a way that it never was before,” Stoller said, “first with so many stitch ’n bitch groups forming where people meet in person, and also on the Internet where people share patterns and information. I think that is interesting.”

In her new book, Stoller introduces knitters to the next level of knitting techniques. She has easy-to-follow instructions for colour and stitching techniques such as aran, intarsia, lace, cable and steeks. As with all her earlier books, she includes patterns as well. But this time, she also explains how to make your own. It’s very mathematical.

“There is an immense amount of information,” she said. “I wanted to put a warning on the cover: Caution, very explicit instructions inside. I get very explicit about how to design a sweater.”

kgram@vancouversun.com

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fireplace Comfort


Our good friends offered free, split, aged firewood to us just before Christmas. My son drove over and loaded the El Camino with wood and Momma taught him to stack a half cord, like her Daddy taught her.


Since then we have enjoyed the mystery and hypnotic power of the fire. The man I lived with for 30 years was allergic to smoke. Asthma, post nasal drip and noises ensued following exposure. Not worth it. Not even in a house with 3 fireplaces. Now- a little woodsmoke in the air smells like freedom. It smells good and it feels good.

I taught my son to make a fire the way my Daddy taught me. We use the tee-pee technique. As the fire mellows it falls in on itself and it rarely fails to make a hot and entrancing fire. We have had the longest cold snap in our recent history and I have fire and I am using it!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sticks and Strings



This is an article that appeared in the Yarnmarket newsletter. I wanted to share it with my knitting friends. I think knitting goes as far back as fiber and fabrics. Historically, there is some disagreement to the origin of knitting.


A Brief History of The Knitting Needle

The knitting needle that we use today is a remarkably modern invention. This is the version you'll find in your own supply closet in a myriad of sizes and materials. Whether it is crafted of bamboo, ebony, aluminum or the carbon fiber composite used for Stealth jet airplanes, the modern needle has a long, tapered shaft that's pointed at one end and has a knob at the other to prevent stitches from dropping off. It's hard to believe that this exquisitely simple and practical tool was invented almost yesterday- in the 19th century- although knitting has been popular for over 1000 years.

Archeologists, historians and fiber fanatics alike marvel at the intricate detailing and remarkbly fine gauge of out earliest known examples of the craft- a pair of cotton socks dating back to Medieval times. These "Coptic socks" from Egypt were knitted using sticks to create a stockinette stitch. Purling and other stitches had not been developed yet so multiple needles were used, knitting in the round. Sometimes these round tubes of fabric were cut open ( a process called "steeking") to create a flat piece of fabric.

Some archeologists suggest that the earliest needles may have been fabricated of metal, probably brass, in order to achieve the fine gauge used on the Coptic socks. Can you imagine painstaking effort and incredible patience that must have gone into knitting 10 to 12 stitches and 10 rows per inch??

Because the needles would have resembled very thin rods and sticks, it's possible that archeologists may never find examples of the tools. We may just have to depend upon their conclusions after examining the fabrics.

If we fast forward 400 years to the 1400's we begin to see knitting needles presented in works of art like the various "knitting Madonnas" that depict the Virgin Mary. In these priceless paintings we have positive proof that knitters were using double-points. The craft continued to evolve with the introduction of purling and other new stitches, and examples of items that were created in those days are masterpieces of color, fiber and intricacy. Needles evolved to become unimaginably fine: some knitted items that remain have as many as 25 stitches and 32 stitches to the inch!

As knitting became more widely practiced by the common man, a myriad of styles and tool preferences emerged. Today we have a mind-boggling array from which to select- straight, circulars or space-aged double points. Whatever you choose to knit, and however you choose to knit it, you can be certain that amongst the hundreds of needles available there is going to be one that is absolutely perfect for the task.

And to think it probably got started over a thousand years ago with a couple of sticks and some thread.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Baby Its Cold Outside



Sunny southern California on a January morning. The temperature dips to 38 degrees.
My breath made clouds around my head while I dressed to fend off the freeze.
I bundle up in hat and gloves and fumble with my keys.
A pot of coffee at the Pancake house with my girlfriends will answer and appease.
Warmed within we walk outside to see the sun has melted the frosted muting of our greens.

Another day in Paradise. It is not tropical, just beautiful.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Knitting In The News

Op-Ed Contributor

Crafting a Recovery

Providence, R.I.

Harrison Haynes

home economics
The United States economy added 103,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department said Friday — proving that the recovery still can’t make up for all the jobs lost during the recession. Four writers share what the economy looks like in cities around the country.


I HAVE been knitting a lot lately — as I do whenever the New England weather turns colder. Baby hats and fingerless gloves. Blankets and dishrags. I’ve returned to a scarf I once grew bored with, a sweater I never finished.

I learned to knit in 2002, six months after my 5-year-old daughter, Grace, died suddenly from a virulent form of strep. I was unable to read or write, and friends suggested I take up knitting; almost immediately I fell under its spell. The clicking of the wooden needles, the soft yarn spilling onto my lap, the rhythm of repeating stitches helped to soothe my broken heart. Time passed, as it will, and eventually I was back to books — reading them and writing them.

It had been a few years since I’d gone to a knitting circle, but on a recent Friday, I headed to Fresh Purls, a three-and-a-half-year-old knitting store on Hope Street here in Providence. The owner, Karen Holmes, was a casualty of the economic downturn when she was laid off from her product manager job at a local technology company.

“Why don’t you open that knitting store you’ve always dreamed of?” her husband suggested. In March 2007, Fresh Purls opened its doors.

As the Rhode Island economy continues to struggle, business at Fresh Purls is, in Karen’s word, “awesome.” Crafts like sewing and quilting are also on the rise. “People aren’t taking as many vacations or going out as often,” Karen noted. “So they’re looking for things to do at home.”

At noon, women began to arrive, taking out patterns, yarn and needles. We cabled and purled, knit in stockinette and garter stitches. The store manager, Helen, helped me turn some gorgeous blue and pink and green stitches I had started as a sweater for my daughter Annabelle into a vest. I wasn’t the only one there salvaging discarded knitting: more aware than ever how much that skein of alpaca costs, how many expensive skeins it would take to make a shawl, many knitters had been searching through their stashes for abandoned projects.

Within an hour, the store was full, and the clacking of needles filled the air. Helen and Karen checked gauges and corrected mistakes, scurried to find measuring tapes and stitch holders. I got lost in the simple task of knit one, purl one, adding a row of turquoise to the borders of the vest. Eventually, the crowd thinned as women left to pick up kids at school or return to work. All of us, I knew, felt calmer and lighter. Whatever weighed on us — our personal sorrows, our financial woes, our uncertain futures — had temporarily vanished as we knitted. “It’s cheaper to buy a sweater at Target,” Karen pointed out. “People don’t knit to save money.”

As I leave the store, Helen tells me that Fresh Purls is running a food drive for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank: “If you bring in a can of food, you can pick a tag from the basket and get a discount on yarn.”

It gets dark early these winter days. The sky is most often pewter and the wind is sharp. We bundle up here, wrapping ourselves in scarves and hats and mittens. I already have a pattern ready for a baby blanket, the brightly colored yarn waiting to be cast on to bamboo needles, that will take many evenings in front of my fireplace to finish. In my neighborhood, across my state and beyond, more and more people will be taking up their own winter knitting projects, keeping hard times at bay, if even just for a little while.

Ann Hood is the author, most recently, of “The Red Thread.”













Tuesday, January 11, 2011

1-11-11 Ones


One day I will start to blog again. This seemed like the day.
One is the loneliest number you will ever find... sing with me!
One Day at a time I will open up again and begin to allow the creativity within me flow out.
One entry at a time I will share and find acceptance without fear.

Knitting related and life relating is the tag line of this blog.
I quit when life began relating to me with sucker punches.
I did not want to drag you readers down. I may have underestimated you.
If anyone is still out there- I thank you. Let's try one today and see about tomorrow.

All of the ones that mark this day has me contemplating the idea of firsts.
So this is my first blog entry of 2011. This is my first attempt at getting my mojo back.
I never quit knitting and I have all of my pictures to prove it.
I did quit relating. This is my first attempt to get back to cyberspace and express myself.
One must try, mustn't one.

I still love red wine and want to have fun. Yarn is still my passion.
I have just attended TNNA- the trade show for all of the needle art world. I still have lots to share with photos and words. One reader, one comment, one another. We can take the crap and turn it into wonderful. One to won. That is the plan.