Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What to do?

I have all this yarn, and so many (too many!) things I want to knit, that I need some help deciding. I bought enough of the Classic Elite Four Seasons cotton to make either a tank top or a cropped cardigan/bolero. I love this blue-red colour. It isn't at all garish, and won't make me look sallow as an orange-red would.

I have shamelessly borrowed pictures from other sites/people to ask for your opinion, but I'm hoping I won't get in trouble because 1) I am not stealing bandwidth, and 2) I have given credit where it's due. So, first up, possible patterns for the red cotton. This is Sahara, available from Stitch Diva Studios. I've seen some very nice ones that other people on Ravelry have made, with modified (and more modest) necklines and beads optional.Perhaps because it's summer (or it will be, even though it is still freezing here!), I have been obsessed with cropped cardigans and boleros! I like the nice, simple lines of the Fiery Bolero from Interweave Knits, which would showcase the smooth yarn and rich colour beautifully.And then there is Stefanie Japel's Drop-stitch Lace Tank (the one in this picture knit by Lilybeth), which has such interesting textures and her signature fitted shaping.
And, at the other end of the spectrum, a light, sweet yellow cashmere, merino and acrylic blend. I have a fleece hoodie in this shade of yellow that I have literally loved to death. It is time to retire it, which is why I was so happy to find this yarn (so soft, so smooshy!) in this colour. Rowan yarns (and this one, with cashmere!) are usually out of my price range (at least, enough of it to make a sweater with), so it's quite a treat for me, and am going to be very careful about choosing a pattern.

I want something classic - so that it won't go out of style and I can treasure it and wear it for a long time to come - but with enough interesting details to save it from being boring. Here are my many choices: Norah Gaughan's Pink Vintage Cardigan, which would be equally pretty in pale yellow.Carrie Bostick Hoge's Little Smocked Cardigan, which is another instance of my cropped-cardigan craving. I can just imagine wearing it over a sundress.Melissa Wehrle's Wallis Cardigan, which I very much want to knit this summer, but which may do better in a drapier yarn, such as the original cotton/silk blend that was used in the photo version.Pam Allen's Flutter Sleeve Cardigan, which was originally knit in a light, drapey bamboo/soy blend yarn.Another design by Stefan Japel, the Puff-Sleeved Feminine Cardigan (also from her book Fitted Knits), here knit by Charmaine. An ultra-simple wrap cardigan by Debbie Bliss, but I don't have any wrap cardigans.

Or this very cute, swingy cardigan/jacket from Vogue Knitting, designed by Margaret O'Leary. (The one in this picture was made by mzanita.

What to do, what to do?

I went crazy at Webs

After not posting, or knitting, for months and months, I have come out of deep hibernation. It was a very trying semester, but I came through with flying colours (if not with a thesis!), and am ready to take part in real life again!

Last weekend, a coworker and I drove to Northampton, MA and went to the Webs annual sale event and, oh my, was it glorious! It is about an hour and a half from Albany, NY, and we very nearly ran out of gas on the way, but it was worth every minute.

So much yarn, so many yarn lovers, and such irresistable prices! I confess, I went a little crazy, although I did try to rein myself in there at the end. I could easily have come away with four or five times as much, which would have been a very, very bad thing. Financially speaking, of course.

So, what did I take home with me? 13 balls of the chunky weight Valley Yarns Shelburne in a light blue (above).....

6 glorious, silky-soft skeins of Bristol Yarn Gallery Buckingham in a rosy pink.....
10 buttery soft balls of Rowan Cashsoft Baby DK in the lightest lemon yellow.....
10 balls of Valley Yarns Florence, a fuzzy mohair blend....
8 skeins of this vibrant Classic Elite Four Seasons cotton yarn, in the kind of red I have been looking high and low for.....
And 10 balls of Jaeger Roma in a muted blue-grey.

Ahhh, my lovelies, I do have plans for you.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Yoghurt Attempt No. 2

My first batch of yoghurt came out kind of lumpy and gritty. The taste wasn't bad, but the texture was off. A quick search of The Internet tells me that this is the result of too high temperatures. It makes the milk curdle.

This afternoon I decided to try again. I boiled up some cheapo UHT milk (I hear that even soy milk will work), let it cool down a bit more than the other day, and poured it several times through sieve in case any lumps had formed during the boiling. I stirred in the last two tablespoons my lumpy home-made yoghurt, poured it into jars, and placed the jars into a bucket of - not hot - but pleasantly warm bath water. This time I wrapped the whole bucket in aluminum foil and a big fluffy bath towel.

That was about seven hours ago. I just checked on it. The yoghurt's smooth but still a little on the runny side, so I'm going to let it sit for a couple more hours.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Making Yoghurt

The first time I ate yoghurt was at the age of 9 or so, at a friend's house. My parents couldn't abide the stuff so there was never any in the house. My mom had always said it was disgusting, so when I finally got around to eating some, I was pleasantly surprised. I think it may have been grape flavored. But then I forgot all about it.

The second time I ate yoghurt was in Year 8 science lab. We did an experiment in bacterial cultures. Unfortunately, due to the class schedule, it stayed in the incubator for 3 whole days and by the time we opened it up, it had gone halfway to cheese. By that time I had so little memory of what yoghurt was supposed to taste like that I didn't even realize that anything was amiss until my Australian lab partner turned her nose up at it.

That episode left me with the impression that you needed all kinds of equipment to make yoghurt. Where was I supposed to get an incubator, or powdered bacteria? I don't even have a cooking thermometer. Today, I found out that all you need is a cup of store-bought yoghurt (one that says it's got live cultures), and a bucket. Or preferably a beer cooler.

First you need to sterilize a jar. And then, you need to sterilize your milk. Bring it up to boiling point, stirring frequently, and then let it cool down to a hot but not scalding temperature.

Wikihow says that the ideal temperature for culturing yoghurt is between 90 degrees F (32C) and 120F (49C). Since the human body is at around 98F (37C), that's about the temperature of hot bath water.

Then you add the pre-bought yoghurt, just 2 tablespoons of it, and then pour the mixture into your sterilized jar. Seal it, then dunk it in a beer cooler or bucket of hot bath water for 4-12 hours. Change the water whenever it starts getting cool.

I covered my bucket with aluminum foil (shinier side down) and wrapped it in several dish towels to keep it warm for longer.

When the yoghurt has solidified, pour off the excess liquid (whey), flavour it, stir, and put it in the fridge. I just added a teaspoon of sugar. Next time I might experiment with little fruit chunks. And the awesome thing about it is that it's self-perpetuating. I can use this batch to start off the next one!

I think I'm going to have some for breakfast tomorrow morning. The little spoonful I tasted seemed all right. Here's hoping that it doesn't make me ill.

My Boyfriend's buddy, who's Indian, says that his family doesn't even bother to incubate the yoghurt. They just leave the jar in the fridge overnight and eventually it yoghurtifies. I'll have to see if this really works. From what I remember of biology, the cold of a fridge doesn't kill bacteria, it just slows it down. So maybe if you leave it long enough, you'll still get yoghurt. Perhaps his family likes their yoghurt on the watery side for cooking? He says he grew up on yoghurt poured over rice. Some people are lactose intolerant; this guy's lactose dependent. He gets ill when he doesn't eat dairy products.