I have a confession... since starting to knit with natural fibres last year I have become obsessed with high quality natural yarns. I prefer locally sourced, but it's not easy to find. My favourite is A to Z Alpaca's Hand dyed chunky weight yarns. They are a small family run farm located in Southern Alberta, and the yarn is 100% Canadian made. The skeins are soft, supple, and a massive 200 grams. I have, however, begun looking into other sources for other fibers, like Merino wool and Silk. I have found the Malabrigo yarns to be amazing to knit, with beautifully soft Merino wool. They are a small family owned company from Uruguay, that works with a cooperative of women to produce these stunning yarns. So not local, but certainly a small business worth supporting. So my latest batch of items is dedicated to experimenting with new fibres, and sources. FUN!
This hat is made using Malabrigo Rasta yarn in Plomo. The pattern is free on Ravelry, and is called 'An Unoriginal Hat'. It's soft, thick, and super warm.
This hat is a pattern that is a modification of a YouTube tutorial that I used to first learn how to crochet. After crocheting most of the beanie, I picked up all of the stitches with 4mm circular needles (92st) and knit in a 2x2 rib to get the brim. The yarn is Noro Haniwa (50% silk, 20% wool, 20% nylon) which knit more closely to a cotton than a wool fabric.
I named these mittens my Utility Mitts. I needed to accomplish a couple of things with these: 1. I wanted to use some of the handspun yarn my Grandma gave me when she quit knitting (arthritis is evil). 2. I needed a pair of wool mitts for managing the cool, crisp fall weather. So I cast on 24 to a pair of size 8 circular needles, and after a 2x2 rib cuff, stockinette the rest of the way. I didn't have enough handspun to do both mitts, so I added in the teal stripe (Patons wool) to extend the length. I always do an afterthought thumb, because I find Gusset thumbs to be a little ugly. Overall the mitts are thick and warm, but a little snug, I would cast on more the next time, but they will grow with wear being a natural fibre, so I'm not too worried.
Kids Fall Knitted Projects
With the weather cooling, and the leaves changing colour, it was time to go through our stash of mittens and hats. A fair number of last years knits will not fit Lauren this year, so it's time to knit up some cold weather items for the kid. After trolling through Ravelry, I decided to just go with what I had already knew worked (didn't feel like experimenting with new patterns). So Lauren got a 'Pony Hat' which was the 'My Mohawk Hat' pattern with modifications to make it more pony-esque. She also got another set of spring/fall mittens, made out of random scraps of my gorgeous alpaca yarn (pattern based on the 'Stashbuster Charity Kids Mittens'). Two tried and true patterns, and now the kid is ready for sn.... hmmm let's not say the word yet. Ready to play!
A co-worker friend of mine asked if I could sew her a stethoscope cover... I had never tried before, but I gave it a whirl, and gave her the results. It was not very pretty... the seams were not straight and the closure was a mess. I have been working on a new design and I have finally come up with something that I like. So I have begun sewing stethoscope covers for all those healthcare workers who would like one. I will take custom orders, and post any unsold covers in the Store section of this blog. Currently I'm using designer quilting cotton, however, I am going to start trying out organic bamboo french terry, and up-cycling cotton jersey. Hopefully it works!!
Canning Fresh Salsa
The poor tomatoes ended up getting picked very early, and very green this year, because of the dump of snow we had early this September. We let them ripen in cardboard boxes over the past week and a bit, and have finally collected enough ripe ones to start canning some salsa!
This salsa recipe is one I received from a very good friend of mine, and she makes this stuff like a master. I hope I do it justice Chrysten!
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
10 cups chopped tomatoes (either remove the seeds or squish chopped tomatoes in a colander to remove the juice)
2 cups bell peppers (red, yellow, and green)
2 Tbsp chopped jalapeno
1 cup loosely packed cilantro OR parsley, chopped fine
1 cup cider vinegar
1 Tbsp dried Oregano
1 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 cup Franks Hot Sauce
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
Canning Organic Applesauce
I am very fortunate to have a grandma who supplies me with beautiful produce all summer and fall. My Dad comes to visit me in Grande Prairie once a month, and always has a car filled with goodies from Grandma's garden. This last visit included pickling cucumbers (which I used to make the Bread and Butter Pickles yesterday), as well as two giant bags of apples. My husband LOVES fresh applesauce with pork chops, so applesauce it is!
Applesauce is very simple to make... All you really need is apples and lemon juice. Peel and core them, and make sure to put all the slices in a lemon-water bath to prevent browning. Cook the slices in a large pot with a lid, and use either lemon juice or Fruit Fresh to make sure they don't discolour. When everything's all soupy and bubbly I like to give it a quick once over with the immersion blender before packing the sauce into sterilized jars. Then process in a boiling water bath for 15 mins. You can always add fun stuff and be creative with your applesauce... cinnamon and a hint of brown sugar perhaps. Or while the apples are cooking add in some frozen strawberries to make strawberry applesauce. Leaving it plain adds to its veratility though, and I often sub out half the fat in baking recipes with my homemade applesauce!
Bread and Butter Pickles
This recipe also came out of the canning book my Grandma gave me. It's something I remember having since I was a kid, and it has a certain nostalgia for me. The sweet, salty, sour balance is truly perfect, and makes an excellent replacement for classic sweet relish on burgers.
The Best Pectin-Free Concord Grape Jam
I don't have anything against using pectin when making preserves. It shortens the cook time so those delicate summer fruits can retain some of their fresh beauty. But there's always something in the back of my mind that feels like it's cheating. It's not the old world way of doing things. I like to make preserves without any additives whenever possible, but I will never mess with the basics of a recipe. It's like baking... you can adjust the odd spice or seasoning here or there, but veer to far and you've got a soupy mess instead of jam. So when my grandma gave me her canning recipe book I was in heaven! I can't find a date on it anywhere, but it was given out by the Edmonton gas company (Northwest Utilities Ltd.) to customers. The recipe inside for Grape Jam is the best I've ever made... and appeals to the purist in me!
5 cups concord grapes, stemmed and washed
21/2 cups sugar
The garden has been quite the adventure this year. I decided to try a new gardening method called square foot gardening. Everything was planted a little late because of the extensive planning, and construction required before planting (ok maybe not that extensive, but certainly more than I was used to). Watching the garden grow into the new method was pretty exciting, and I think I increased my yield compared to previous years... I will need to change the layout for next year, and fine tune things, but overall, I'm not disappointed.
The weather is cooling, and I finally finished my squishy soft alpaca cardigan on September 1st. Time to think about Christmas knitting! I have been scouring Ravelry patterns (a little obsessively, I'll admit) and came across one called 'The Hurricane Hat', and I just happened to have a hand-dyed skein of alpaca called 'Thundercloud'. A match made in heaven I think.