Sunday, December 16, 2012

Placemats Galore

I don't make many handmade gifts for the holidays, since non-crafty folks don't always see the love and time and thought that went into them.  Every year, though, I make a few things to give to people that I think will appreciate them.

You may remember that in September I mentioned making myself a set of placemats, having completed a couple of sets for other people.  Well, as the holidays draw nearer, I finally decided I'd better spend some time washing and ironing said placemats, to get them ready for gifting.

They turned out quite lovely: a set in huck, in Bermuda Blue, and a set in huck lace, in Charcoal, for two people that I think will love those colours.  Then of course my own set, which I previewed at the time, also in huck lace, in Frost Grey.  All of them are 3/2 cotton (the first two from Cotton Clouds, and the third from Webs.)  While I love them all, I have to admit that I think the Frost Grey yarn was my favourite, and even better, it was actually the cheaper of the two.

I've got another exciting weaving project planned for first thing in the new year, but at the moment, my crafting table is covered with a different project: a new quilt!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

London Fog Creme Brulee

Having made macarons (and all that swiss buttercream) last weekend, I had a ton of egg yolks left over in my fridge.  How to use them all up?  I had a couple of ideas (mostly taken from this helpful site of yumminess) but I decided on creme brulee, and why not, really.

After the complexities of macarons, Alton's basic recipe for creme brulee wasn't quite exciting enough, so I took some inspiration from my favourite London Fog and turned it up to 11.  A bit of earl grey infused into the cream, and a whole vanilla bean's worth of caviar really made this one special.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Adventures in Macarons

Macarons have been on my radar recently, as I'm sure many other foodies will agree.  I've even heard it said that macarons are the new cupcakes.  Having never tasted one, I've been quite intrigued by the excitement surrounding these little delicacies.  Apparently they can be quite finicky to bake, but I have to admit that the first articles I read about making them, on BraveTart, really took the mystery out of it all: among others, there's one about how to make them, and even better, one that busts so many of the myths about how difficult they are.  They were pretty much a perfect introduction to macarons, since it made them accessible to me, right away, while taking away the intimidation of attempting them.

Over the past few days, I've read and reread those articles, along with some others, like the ones at Food Nouveau, and I gathered everything I needed, so I'd be able to take a crack at it tonight.

In the end, the only equipment I was missing is my oven thermometer, which means that I am a bit unsure how accurate my oven temperature is (apparently a serious issue in making successful macarons.)  I learned with the first batch that my oven is far too hot on the left, since that pan cracked completely.  The second pan was all right, perhaps a bit overdone.  For the last pan, I turned the temperature down juuuust a touch, and they turned out oh-so-beautiful.  Look at those little frilly feet and round tops.  As you can see, I went the "imperfection is adorable" route, and left the little nipples on top of the cookies.  If I had wanted to, I could have flattened those out before baking.

The recipe for Swiss Buttercream on BraveTart is a large one - it calls for two pounds of butter, if that gives you some idea of the volume of it - but it makes enough for several batches of macarons.  After filling these ones, I put the rest of the buttercream into the freezer for another day.

I ate a couple of the halves while assembling (a chef has to test her work, after all) but mostly I just filled and assembled them and stored them in the fridge, since I'm told that they are better after a day (or two) of resting. They were pretty lovely and crunchy and meringuey today - hopefully they will be even more heavenly tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Karma Chameleon Socks

It's always nice to have a stockingette sock to plug away on, when you need a mindless project to occupy your hands.  It's even nicer when the yarn came to you for free from your sister's destashing.

This particular yarn is Koigu KPPPM (one of my all-time faves) in some crazy blue & purple & pink combo.  I knit them toe-up, and put in the afterthought heel before I even finished the leg, just to make sure I could use up every darn bit of the yarn.

Thanks sis!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pretty in Pink

Last winter, I made myself a pretty blue hat from SweetGeorgia's superwash worsted yarn, and I've worn it a lot this year.  It has a great drape, and hasn't lost its charm one bit.

With the holiday season coming, I had an idea to knit another one, as a gift for someone who would look great in a cool slouchy hat.  I thought that pink would be a good colour for her, so this time I chose SweetGeorgia's Orchid colourway, in the same round and lovely yarn.

I didn't change a thing about the hat, since I think it's pretty perfect as it is.  Once again, it was a super-quick knit and I had it done in no time.

Perhaps it's going overboard, but then I decided to make a cute pair of matching mittens, in Orchid and Charcoal.  I wanted to do this herringbone mitten pattern (free on Ravelry) for years, and now was my chance.  I chose superwash dk for this one, and somehow got gauge and made the loveliest mittens.  I have tons and tons of this yarn left over; I bet it's even enough to do a second pair.

I think a chevron might have been more aesthetically pleasing (especially since chevrons are so in, this year) but with chevrons, the floats in back would be up to five stitches long.  With this particular herringbone, they are never longer than two stitches long on the front or back of the mitten.  This means they will be super warm stranded mitts, but not so snaggy as something with longer floats.

I love the look of the thumb, the most - especially the way the stitches grow out of that center black column.  If it wasn't so awkward to get a photo of the inner thumb, I would show you how they disappear into a black column on that side of the thumb, too.  The biased knitting makes the thumb nice and snug and comfy.

The only thing that makes these less-than-totally-perfect is that the two yarns took the Orchid colour slightly differently, so the hat looks just a bit more red and the mittens a bit more pink.  Even so, they're beautiful, and I think the giftee will agree on that.