Friday, July 25, 2008

Debate isn't an Olympic event

I'm completely up in the air about whether I want to participate in the Ravelrympics or not.

I didn't do the Knitting Olympics back in 2006 because I was starting a new job and didn't really have the time, but right now I'm not working and even though I have lots I want to do in August I should have plenty of knitting time.

I looked at it earlier today and decided against it. Too much work to sign up, and I'm not really sure what I want to make or if I want to finish WIPs/UFOs.

Besides that, KALs and I do NOT get along. I'm really enthused about it and then after the first day or so of knitting it is like a curse. Someone on a podcast once said that seeing everyone else post their pictures, especially those from speedy people who are way ahead, made her feel like she already knit something before she did. The element of looking forward to the next step was gone, and worse, if you feel so far behind that you'll never catch up, why keep going? That is part of the problem I have. I mostly get really grouchy when I'm told what to knit (not like someone saying "it would be really great if you could make one of these for me," more like being assigned something) because for me knitting is supposed to be fun. I really hate being told I have to knit this, or I have to knit with that yarn, and I should knit it in this specific time frame.

The Ravelrypics was out for me. Then they changed it. Now there are these cool tags and I can sign up myself and it is looking like fun. No one is telling me what to knit either. I can choose anything I want, out of whatever I want, or I could just work on finishing up old projects. So now I'm thinking about doing it after all. I still have some time to decide what I want to do. If it doesn't work out for me, so what? If it does, well I have another FO and less stash. I can also look at it as an excuse to start a completely new project (hehehe) without feeling guilty about the lingering WIPs and UFOs I have.

I'm thinking...maybe I need to go browse some of my books I didn't pack away

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Currant Jelly

My parents have red currant bushes in the back yard, and for the last two weeks, Thursdays have been jelly making days.

This week I thought to take some pictures and share.

On the left you will see what red currants look like, in case you aren't familiar with them. They are tangy and juicy and sort of resemble other berries that happen to be poisonous, so obviously, don't just assume berries that look like this are red currants.

To make a batch of jelly (that would be 4 8-oz. jars) you need at least 2 1/2 quarts of currants. You gently wash these, and then smash them up with berry masher. This works best if you mash a single layer of berries at a time. Jelly is made with juice only, so mash them up really good to get as much juice as possible. Once all the currants are mashed, you bring them to a boil with 1 cup water and cook them for ten minutes, stirring constantly so they don't stick to the bottom of the kettle and burn.

The next part is a little tricky. Since you only use the juice to make jelly (you use the fruit too when you make jam- that explanation is forthcoming) you need to strain the cooked berry mixture. You can do this with several layers of cheesecloth to form a bag, or you can buy a "jelly bag" and stand like my mom and I did. This was available in the canning section at RKO (that would be Rural King Ohio, it is all right if you laugh at the store's name, I think it is funny too) but I imagine you could probably find such things at hardware stores too since they usually have canning accouterments. Incidentally, that stand we bought for the jelly bag can fit over most standard sized mixing bowls or pans. Like I mentioned, a cheesecloth bag would work too. Apparently my grandma used to use that and hang it up on a hook from the ceiling of the back porch for it to drip into a bowl. The thing that is most important - DO NOT SQUEEZE THE BAG. This will cause the jelly to cloud (which I guess is bad).

Let the juice strain through for 2-3 hours, or longer if you like. To make a batch of jelly there needs to be 4 cups of juice. If there isn't enough, add unsweetened apple or white grape juice, but the flavor will not be as strong. We didn't need to do this with either of the batches we made.

The next part gets a little complicated and works best with two people, but at any rate, you do need some preparation.

We used 8 oz jelly jars, which need to sterilized prior to starting the jelly. It is also helpful to keep the jars in a bowl of hot water since the jelly will be very hot when you fill them and this will greatly reduce the risk of thermal shock. The lids and rings should be treated this way too.

It is also good to start a hot water bath since the jars should be processed right after they are filled. This is not my strength because my mom keeps doing it. She has a small canner (not a pressure canner for this) she keeps simmering. There is a rack in it and she has tongs especially made for picking up the jars. All this would be available in the canning section. She also has a funnel specifically made for filling wide mouth jars. Once everything is set up for canning, the jelly making can begin.

Heat the juice. Add an envelope of fruit pectin and stir. From now on you keep stirring constantly. Once the juice reaches a hard boil that cannot be stirred down, add 2 cups sugar. When the mixture returns to a boil cook for 3 minutes and then immediately remove from heat. We figured out 3 minutes was the right time for our currant jelly, but there is this "metal spoon test" too, and when the juice slides off the spoon in almost a sheet rather than in drops, that is the jellying point.

Then you skim any foam off the top (tip: add 1/2 t butter to the juice when it is boiling to reduce foam) and quickly fill the jars, place the lids, and tightly screw on the rings. (You might want a hot pad for holding the jars.)

The jars go in the hot water bath, increase the heat and bring to a full boil, and process for 5 minutes. Remove jars and place on a wooden surface (to avoid damaging the counter) and let them sit undisturbed for 12 hours.

Oh, and if you have more jelly than fits in the jars (leave head space!) just put it in a bowl and enjoy! Tomorrow I will show you the other berries I've been working with this week.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Summer Flowers

Just because I like to wander around the back yard with my camera sometimes

Cover Crazy?

The other day I was sitting on the couch knitting and my mom came into the room and asked if I had any old dishcloths I'd be willing to part with. She was also holding her swiffer mop. I put the two together and guessed that she was looking for a solution to those expensive disposable pads for the mop.

I knew patterns for this existed since Luscious Luka knit a couple, so I was off to Ravelry to search some patterns.

Here is what I've come up with in the last 48 hours. I'm working on a second crochet one now.

There is also a crochet pattern with loops to create a dust mop or sorts. I'm going to have to figure out how to do that too.

The first picture is my mom's mop. It actually has a spray mechanism thing and the mop head isn't flat like mine (see bottom two pictures) but the covers fit her mop head with no adjustments.

I think I'm going to need to make a couple of these for myself now too. It is great stash busting too!

I totaled my yarn again the other day.

Here is what I had:

7/1/08 yarn total is 47,586.5 yds = 27.00375

7/6/08 yarn total is 45,186.5 yds = 25.67415 (see how much yarn that afghan ate!!)

Goal: Reduce stash to < class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_5">yds by January 1, 2009

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I don't get to subtract yardage from my stash until a WIP is completed.

Oh, and I visited the new yarn store in town today. They have a pretty nice selection of yarn, it is similar to what the old LYS had. There's a lot of Rowan, Brown Sheep, and Cascade, also a nice selection of sock yarn; I noticed Regia Bamboo, Schaffer Anne, Jitterbug, and Koigu. There was another brand I wasn't familiar with that had a lot of alpaca in it, that looks interesting. On a disappointing note, they don't seem to have a lot of patterns/books/magazines just yet, and there needle selection appears to be exclusively ChiaoGoo. Somewhere in the back of my mind I think people had some problem with that brand of needles. I bought a crochet hook to check it out, I thought maybe that would hold up better than needles, I guess we'll see, but so far so good. Anyhow, when and if I need something I will check them out, but my stash is nice enough right now I don't feel like I'm missing out too much.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


In the last week and a half I've barely picked up the knitting needles. This is partially due to the packing/moving/driving things, but mostly it is due to this:

For the last week and a half I've been sort of obsessed with crocheting a giant granny square. This measures 65" x 65" and used nearly 2,400 yds of yarn. It all started because said yarn didn't fit in my yarn storage bins and I didn't want to pack it. I had initially planned to knit a log cabin-style blanket with this yarn, but that got tedious very fast and I wasn't too excited about having hundreds of stitches on a needle. By the time I got to the last 10 rounds of the afghan that was tedious too, but at least all I had to do was move the crochet hook along the outside.

Back to knitting for me now, which I'm very happy about. I've missed it.