TNNA, Enhancing Strawberries, & Mellowing Garlic

I just found a delicious thing to do with strawberries, especially those that are suffering from the entirely-too-much rain this year. The berry taste is good but weak – all the delicious flavour of one normal sized berry has been flooded into a behemoth.

But first, behind the scenes at the Spring TNNA (The National NeedleArts Association trade show), where the yarn and pattern creators congregate to sell their wares to yarn stores. Knitty’s Amy Singer took some yarn and people photos that had me wanting the yarn and wanting to attend next year. And Tara Swiger, maker, teacher, and marketer, took a walk-around-and-be-introduced look at the show and posted this You Tube video.

So, the strawberry back story –  I was at my local farmers market with a bag of rhubarb and a flat of strawberries and the scone seller told me about macerating, then roasting rhubarb before adding it to her amazing rhubarb/almond scones. (Yes, I bought one. It was delicious.) It occurred to me that maybe roasting the strawberries would improve their flavour, so I searched on-line and discovered that people have been roasting strawberries for years. It became a thing in 2014.

Into the oven they went at 350°F for about an hour. One pound/1 quart berries sliced in half, on parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet. Rimmed is very important. Very juicy stuff. I added about 1/4 cup sugar to aid the juice release. This photo is the berries right out of the oven, still bubbling.

Delicious. Fantastic on yogurt. They pretty much retained their shape and had silky flesh, crunchy seeds, and concentrated strawberry scent and taste. The house smelled like berries.  And they keep for days.

And here’s a better way to mellow garlic that I learned from Cook’s Illustrated. I was making pesto and the original recipe called for blanching garlic in boiling water for a minute or so to mellow the flavour, but the newer instruction, in the 100 Best Recipes book, has the garlic cloves tossed in a hot pan, skins on, and cooked a few minutes until they are soft. Poke with a skewer to check. This was the best pesto I’ve ever made. Who knows if it was the garlic that made a difference? Maybe it was the basil, the cheese, or the olive oil that was different but I’ll be using this mellowing method for lots of purposes this summer.

It’s Canada’s 150th Birthday

The plan – write about the terrific Canadian yarn dyers and knit designers  who are celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1st. But where does one begin? Canada has an outsized proportion of dyers and designers for its population. It’s impossible to do even part of it justice, so here’s a very small selection.

I chose Canada Deh! socks by Dana Gervais to be front and centre, not just for the wittily appropriate name and the Maple leaves, but also because every element is Canadian. It’s a collaboration with Alberta dyer Stephanie at Knitley Road, using Canadian raised and milled wool, the pattern both tech edited and test knit by Canadians. The mission was “to make a very Canadian sock to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday.” Consider it achieved. And what pattern could be more appropriate for Canada than socks?

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Acacia Fritters From The Woodlot

It’s time for some fun stuff. Acacia trees – acacia blossoms – acacia fritters.

This glorious photo, Acacia Wood, was taken by photographer Ramunas Raundeliunas. My photos of our Acacia trees, aka Black Locust, in full bloom, did not do justice to their beauty, so an internet search was needed. We’re surrounded by these trees. The smell is heady and glorious. Is anyone working on delivering scent on-line?

Every once in a while the internet delivers up something delightful and surprising – this time a treat appeared – acacia fritters. Completely new to me.

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Sometimes It’s a Pattern that Inspires

Impressionist Stripes, a new design from Natalie Servant, was introduced just before my Be Inspired By Your Stash class at the YarnOver SleepOver Retreat in April. Terrific photo, great colours, and Natalie describes it compellingly – “I came up with this simple twist on seed stitch using some slipped stitches when looking for a fun way to work with a gradient set. I wanted the colors to almost melt into each other.”

I was head over heels. Gradient set, combining yarn colours, plus a clever new seed stitch method.

I have loved seed, moss, and rice stitches since my first days of knitting, for the texture, certainly, but more because they look great on both sides. Perhaps those stitches drove my passion for reversibility. Creating new fabric by combining yarns and colours is one of my favourite ways to be inspired by my own stash, so this pattern was a must to show my class.

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Designer Innovation in Triplicate

The more we knit, it seems to me, the greater our appreciation for good pattern design and writing.

And if my feelings about designing are at all common, having an idea that must be turned into a pattern, then taking the steps to create that pattern increases our appreciation ten fold. Pattern design is hard to do well. It’s lonely work and the range of skills required is both wide and deep.

That may be why we’re now seeing more teams of designers producing patterns. Working together, bouncing ideas off one another, can produce more innovation, satisfaction and fun for the designers, and happily, better patterns for we knitters.

A terrific example of this is new design team, Knitacation.

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The Value of Colours

I’ve already written about colour twice: How to Use Inspiration to Choose Colours and Choosing Colours From Inspiration – A Klimt Painting , but it’s clear to me that I’m not done with the topic. It’s a subject that many of us, me included, feel unsure about.

Experts in the world of colour say the best way to learn about it and become comfortable is to work with it everyday. Deb Menz, the author of Colorworks, a terrific book about choosing and using colour in the textile arts, says “..besides reading, you must participate! If you play with colour at least 5 minutes a day, I assure you that you will soon find that working with colour is fun and easy.”

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What Do You Do When Yarn Reaches Right Out and Grabs You From the Shelf?

You swatch, swatch, swatch, and then swatch some more. For the non-knitters who read my posts, designers swatch to try out stitch patterns – to see which ones will bring out the qualities of the yarn that attracted them in the first place.

This gloriously hand-dyed yarn is Mineville Wools Project #2907, a worsted weight blend of merino, kid mohair, and nylon, made by Fleece Artist, a Halifax, Nova Scotia company that’s been around since 1978. Their goal is “… move beyond colour, to showcase the natural qualities of the yarn and thus enlivening your hand made projects.”

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Fibres Under The Microscope – What’s Itchy? What’s Not? Why?

It’s not hard to predict which sweater or scarf will be itchy when you see fibres under the microscope.

Here are a few details about the significance of the scales that you can see and the absence of them, on protein, plant, and synthetic fibres.

Protein Fibres

Animal fibres have scales that protrude; the larger the scales and the more they stick out, the itchier the fibre will feel. Alpaca and cashmere, with smoother, flatter scales are the easiest to wear of the animal fibres.

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Choosing Colours From Inspiration – A Klimt Painting

I fell in love with the colours in Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Eugenia Primavesi c. 1914 and am considering using them as inspiration for a knitting project. This rendering does not do the artwork justice. The colours are wonderfully vivid and varied.

After choosing the Klimt painting, I realized that the colours that attracted me in the NASA photo, from last week’s post, were the same as in the painting. And, more importantly, those  yellows and oranges were not colours I typically choose. Rarely, in fact.

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How to Use Inspiration to Choose Colours

Colour is a seriously tricky topic to teach, but I do include a segment in one of my classes called Be Inspired by Your Stash. I select something that’s inspiring to me in order to illustrate a way to approach choosing colours for knitting projects. I love this NASA photo for its otherworldly excitement. Paintings, fabric, your garden, your dog or cat’s fur, and the colours in one of the newish speckled yarns are just a few places to find your inspiration.

This photo from NASA is my most recent inspiration. The colours, the different values, and the shapes captivate me. I find the feeling of it rather unnerving – the explosive excitement of the orange on the left side contrasted with the somewhat calmer clouds and sky on the right. But the colours are what drew me to it as inspiration for colour work knitting.

The NASA photo is from Unsplash, a site that sends terrific pics every Friday. The site subtitle is – “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos.” And the pics are awesome. Well worth subscribing to.

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