Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Sometimes I worry that this blog should be titled "Starry Creative", since I often feel compelled to share anything I make with you all (not just the knits). I guess then the title wouldn't be nearly as clever, though. The husbeast and I have been waiting for the "right" time to try out a really cool-looking bread recipe, and two weekends turned out just right. We both took some much-needed personal time, and with the arrival of more fall-appropriate weather we both felt back in step with life after the hooplah of the summer. I made soup and bread.

I went against one of my own cooking rules (don't change the recipe the first time you try it), so the process was a little stressed but it was a good kind of stressed. I was excited to see if the bread would come out okay. This is the first time I've made bread all by myself (I made bread with my mom when I was younger, but never on my own). The recipe is pretty simple, though (it's America's Test Kitchen "Almost No-Knead Bread", if you're interested. You might need to register to see the recipe.) Here's the loaf rising:


Here's risen loaf going into the super-preheated dutch oven (500ºF!):


And the final product:


Just for fun, here's the bottom of the loaf:

It was amazingly delicious. When the first loaf came out of the oven, we both simultaneously exclaimed "Holy crap, it's bread!" We devoured the first loaf within three days, and I shared another with my gal friends on Monday. I developed a fantasy wherein two nights a week I mix bread dough in the evening after work, knead it in the morning, and bake the following evening. I was on such a roll (the first two loaves were amazing, despite my futzing with the recipe a bit. So in the middle of the week, I tried it out. Turns out bread won't rise in our kitchen unless the heater is on and all the windows are shut, so no mid-week bread for us yet. But I'm not giving up entirely yet. Homemade bread is too good to give up on!

Looking at all these bread pictures makes me want to spin something appropriately colored... maybe some Falklands wool?
GOTR Ceylon Falklands

Or perhaps Targhee?

Or some cashmere!? So many choices!

One half-ounce of failure

So after I took Blake's fleece to be washed and pin drafted, I decided it was high time to wash the pillowcase the fleece had been sitting in for approximately one year. Guess what fell out of the leg of my jeans as I was pulling them from the dryer in the laundromat?

Felted Locks

This, girls and boys, is how we do NOT treat lovely fleece. It was wrapped up in the pillowcase originally, which smelled fanTAStic (if you like sheepy smells), so it was in the hot load. Also, while not squeaky clean, the locks definitely encountered some laundry detergent because they don't have that lovely sheepy smell. Instead, they have that lovely fresh laundry smell. Finally, this heated and soaped-up bunch of locks must have worked their way from the comfort of the pillowcase into the agitation-machine that is the leg of my jeans while in the dryer.

Felted Locks

Shockingly enough, even after all the agitation, heat, and alkalinity (which stand for AHA, the three conditions you want to avoid while washing fleece for spinning purposes), the locks are not completely glued together. There's definitely lots of cohesion there, but some parts of the fleece did not stick together as readily as others. The cut ends look more solidy cemented, while the tips tend to still be free from lock to lock. So now I'm curious: can the "stickiness" of the scales on a single fiber of wool vary along the length of the fiber? It makes sense in my head, since the tips of the lock would have been more exposed to the elements (and perhaps "worn down" a bit more), but that might not have any basis in reality. Does anyone know if feltability varies this much in a single fleece?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A kind of rain dance

That's what I've been trying to do these past two weeks, to coax this autumn into actually feeling like autumn. Friends are planning Halloween costumes, and the equinox has passed. I want to feel a nip in the air when I go outside in the mornings. I want to pull out my box of hats and mittens. I want to drink hot cider. I want to wear my handknit socks. It doesn't help that both of my siblings have moved to locales with a very significant wintery season, and are gloating over the trees changing color (the bright side is that they will most likely appreciate handknit gifts this year!).

So I'm trying to convince the universe that we really don't need any more 90ºF days, that cooling off is not giving up, and that we've all had enough tomatoes for one season. Seriously, we are drowning in late tomatoes from the parents' garden. I am sick of caprese salad.

How am I doing this? By knitting a thick, textured scarf out of crunchy homegrown wool. I hit the halfway mark on Friday, and sure enough the clouds came out and I needed a coat yesterday.


Please excuse the badly-lit office picture! I'm absolutely thrilled with this pattern, although after studying other people's photos of the scarf in the delicious-looking Shelter from Brooklyn Tweed I think my yarn might be a smidge heavy. I could probably have gone up one needle size. It's from a local farmer called Bodega Pastures, and I got the yarn from Verb's old Berkeley store. How exciting is this news about Kristine's new shop? It's hard to fathom that I've been around here long enough to watch the little half-booth I visited at the SF Bazaar Bizarre in 2006(7?) turn into the presence it is today in the Bay Area's fiber arts community. But back to the pattern.

I'm withholding judgment on whether the yarn was too heavy until after I block the thing. Yeah, I'm gonna block it, even though it's a scarf. Normally I think a scarf should go straight from the needles to the neck, but I'm willing to block a scarf if it truly needs it. If it's a lacy item, then that's a no-brainer. Lace ought to be blocked, even if it's in worsted weight yarn, if only so that the ssks and k2togs have a chance to even out in the wash. The other free pass to the sink when it comes to scarves is texture that can warp the fabric. The last scarf this happened to was a Noro Silk Garden entrelac scarf, which I made in my pre-Ravelry days. I don't own blocking wires, so I won't be able to block it as precisely as Jared asks us to in the pattern. It'll probably mostly be me massaging the wet fabric into a suitable shape on a dry towel, and then hoping the cat doesn't become too interested.

In the meantime, the weather report calls for rain today. It's dry right now, but according to the radar map it's only a matter of time.