PATTERN: Easy Fingerless Fair Isle Mittens

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We’re still a good few months away from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season (and it’s still over 90-plus degrees outside — eek mad ), but I suppose it’s never too early to start getting ready for it!

Well, I’m not actually getting ready to make holiday gifts or anything just yet.  But I am getting ready for a major holiday / year-end cleanup I’m planning to do in the coming month. My plan is to further reduce the things that are taking up the precious real estate in our apartment (and wipe down every nook and cranny of the place), in an attempt to begin the new year with a fresh, minimalist mindset.

My immediate goal – use up the yarn stash (or at least assign a project to them) or donate them to charity. Since my inventory consists mostly of single skein, I decided to knit up some hats and gloves / mittens to reduce the load!

Enter — a pair of super easy fair isle fingerless mittens!

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Supplies:

A pair of knitting needles in size US 7
1/2 skein of yarn (Color A) — I used Blue Sky Worsted Cotton in Jasper
1/2 skein of yarn (Color B) — I used Blue Sky Worsted Cotton in Honeydew
Tapestry Needle

Instruction:

Note:  The measurements below are for relatively small hands.  Make sure to take a measurement of your wrist and hand circumferences to ensure that the mittens fit comfortably.  

Also, you can adjust the length of the mittens if you want something longer to cover your entire arms! 

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1. Cast on 44 stitches. Rib stitch (k1, p1), using Color A, until the panel measures about 2.5 inches.

2. Stockinette stitch (Row 1 k, Row 2 p, repeat), alternating between Colors A and B, until the panel measures about 4 inches.

Note:  Remember that when you’re doing a 1 x 1 fair isle, you pick up a stitch from the opposite color yarn.  So for example, if Color A is on your left needle ready to be knit or purl, make sure to pick up Color B from the strands.  I had to think about this for a moment because it’s the opposite of when you’re knitting fair isle in the round.

3. Cut Color B, leaving enough yarn to weave in the end. Rib stitch, using Color A, until the panel measures about an inch. Bind off loosely.

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4. Fold the panel into two, facing wrong sides together.  Using a tapestry needle, stitch two sides together until it reaches 3.5 inches.  Cut the yarn and weave in loose end.

5. Leave a 2-inch opening for the thumb.  Stitch two sides together, until you reach the end.  Cut the yarn and weave in loose end.  You’re done!

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This is probably the simplest way to make the fingerless mittens since it requires no shaping, and because there’s no shaping, it lacks a little bit of the sophistication that comes with a more complex pattern. I might try knitting the same pattern in the round next time to avoid sewing together the seams, and make a decrease from the top of the thumb hole so there will be a nice shape on top. But I’m very happy with the pair!

Half of two skeins down.  452,952,241 more to go (okay, I’m just kidding there — I don’t have that big of a stash)! lol

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Teany’s Top-Secret Chili

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I go through a major purging spree about three times a year. My first major overhaul took place last October, after I read this Japanese organizing book called “人生がときめく片づけの魔法” (Jinsei ga tokimeku katazuke no mahou) orThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying.” (It’s translated into English and will be available in October 2014.) This book – that suggests that we should surround ourselves only with things that truly make us happy and bid farewell to the rest that no longer serve us — truly changed the way I look at things, as well as people in my life. The book helped me unload what feels like half of my belongings, including more than 10 large cardboard boxes full of cookbooks that I once considered as some of my most cherished possessions.

While I was able to part with books that I once believed I could never live without with a surprising ease, there is one book that always manage to hang on! It’s a cookbook / tea guide / memoir (the real classification of this book remains a mystery) written by musician Moby and his then girlfriend Kelly Tisdale titled Teany Book. I’m not a fan of Moby (in fact, I’ve never heard his music) but I love teas, and I’m addicted to collecting delicious vegan recipes.

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I think this book is worth picking up, just for Teany’s Top Secret Chili recipe. I recreated this delicious meat-free chili last night, and the result was as amazing as the one I tasted in the Lower Manhattan tea house.

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The secret: coco powder, cashew nuts, and espresso!

I reduced the amount of garlic (1/4 cup seemed a bit too excessive), omitted seitan (because I didn’t have it on hand) and added one zucchini, but followed the recipe for the rest.  (You can find the recipe by clicking here).  I’m so in love with this healthy version of the classic comfort food, this will surely become a staple at our house!  I served the bowl with a dollop of yogurt, avocado chunks, and a splash of Tabasco, which made it even more delicious.

English Muffin Bread from Cook’s Country

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My new obsession: America’s Test Kitchen from Cook’s Illustrated, on American Public Television’s Create channel.

I just can’t get enough of Christopher Kimball and his wicked dry humor. He reminds me of a slightly more cynical version of Alton Brown — both equally scientifically geeky. And I also can’t get enough of the recipes! Every time I watch the show, I get the urge to go into the kitchen and cook up whatever I just saw. And that’s exactly what I did with the English Muffin Bread.

It probably wasn’t the wisest thing to heat up the oven to bake this bread when it was over 100 degrees outside, but the result was well worth the sweat. The recipe is super easy and this yeast dough comes around in no time. And the best part – there’s NO KNEADING INVOLVED!

The end result – a perfectly soft and chewy bread, with every nook and cranny waiting for a slather of strawberry jam. It may not look like the round and thin disk that we might be accustomed to, but it’s English muffin alright.

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English Muffin Bread
From Cook’s Country

The original recipe made two 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pans but I cut the recipe in half to make just one loaf. What you see below is for one loaf. The instruction was taken directly from the Website.

Ingredients:

Cornmeal
2-1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast (one packet)
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups whole milk, heated to 120 degrees

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Grease  8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan and dust with cornmeal. Combine flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and baking soda in large bowl. Stir in hot milk until combined, about 1 minute. Cover dough with greased plastic wrap and let rise in warm place for 30 minutes, or until dough is bubbly and has doubled.

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Stir dough and divide between prepared loaf pans, pushing into corners with greased rubber spatula. (Pans should be about two-thirds full.) Cover pans with greased plastic and let dough rise in warm place until it reaches edge of pans, about 30 minutes. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.

Discard plastic and transfer pans to oven. Bake until bread is well browned and registers 200 degrees, about 30 minutes, rotating and switching pans halfway through baking. Turn bread out onto wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Slice, toast, and serve.

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Is it fall yet?

RECIPE: Homemade Laundry Detergent

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I’m hardly the first person to try the homemade laundry detergent (I can easily be the last) but I recently put it to the test and found that it works great! The strong, nose-twisting scent of Fels-Naptha soaps overwhelmed me at first (okay, it’s not that bad), but I was happy to find that the smell goes away after a wash, leaving clothes with a clean and crisp feel.

I don’t know which site(s) to attribute the recipe to because everyone pretty much offers the same combination of washing soda, Borax, baking soda, and Fels-Naptha soaps, just in different amounts. Some adds color booster (like Oxy Clean) and fabric softener, but I just stuck with the basic.

Here’s my version of the ever-so-popular homemade laundry detergent!

Homemade Laundry Detergent
Makes 1 gallon

Ingredients:

4 Cups Borax
4 Cups Washing Soda
4 Cups Baking Soda
2 Fels-Naptha soaps

Instruction:

Grate Fels-Naptha soap bars with cheese grater (I ran them through food processor afterward for finer grate). Pour in Borax, Washing Soda, Baking Soda, and grated soaps in a jar (I used one gallon cracker jar) and mix well. Use 2-4 tablespoons per load.

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RECIPE: Homemade Kitchen Soap

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I love the Honest Company Dish Soap we use at home but it’s still a luxury. It’s concentrated and little goes a long way, but I like the squeaky clean finish so much that I end up using more liquid soap than I really should. This results in an empty bottle every week or so, which is way too much, especially at about $6 for 16 fl. oz.

I didn’t want to walk away from my Dish Soap – I love it way too much – so I needed to come up with a creative way to stretch the cost. I tried diluting the liquid soap by adding water but I ended up using double the amount. I thought about alternating it with a less expensive kind but I don’t like the heavy artificial scent and the filmy residue that many supermarket brands leave behind.

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I never entertained the idea of making homemade kitchen soaps but after doing some research online, I found that it’s a pretty common thing. I found lots of great ideas for which oils to use, particularly from this cute Japanese soap-making blog. Necessity is the mother of all invention, that’s for sure!

I created a recipe that used mostly Palm Oil (to create firm bars) and Coconut Oil (to provide a nice lather), and threw in some Olive and Castor Oils as a good measure, to provide a little bit of moisture for the hands.

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Homemade Kitchen Soap
1200 gram batch — makes about 14 bars, at 4 oz each.

kitchen soap ingredients

I’m only sharing the recipe / ingredients and not the instruction. Please refer to soap making books or online resources for a proper and safe soap-making process.

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I’ve been using these soaps for a week and I love it! Here are some thoughts:

  • The bar holds its shape well, thanks to Palm Oil.  I put the soap in a little bowl and the water doesn’t drain completely after each use but it’s still nice and firm. 
  • The lather is perfect!  I’m not into big bubbles so the finer suds this soap produce are just right. 
  • The scent is refreshing without being too artificial. I’m happy with the Cucumber Melon Fragrance Oil from Bramble Berry, especially because I got it as a free sample! 
  • I feel like the dishes don’t get as squeaky as Honest Company’s, but you still get the nice clean feel. You can definitely hear the squeak when you rub the dish after a nice wash.
  • The suds wash off the sponge faster than the liquid kind so you might need to reapply more frequently. 
  • I was pleasantly surprised to see that the soap doesn’t leave a streak on glass and stainless steel pots! 

I’m so satisfied with the homemade version, I may not need to go back to the Dish Soap for a while! 

Enjoy! smile

Easy Bolero

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I often preface my knitting projects by calling them “easy.” The reason is because I usually select patterns that are truly simple to make. They usually require no intricate stitches and I seldom use patterns with complicated charts to read. If you know the knitting basics, any beginner knitter will agree with me. This goes for items I create on my own, like these baby hats and these lace ponchos.

I think my latest project earns the title of the easiest garment I’ve ever knit. It’s a bolero. And a cute and wearable one at that!

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I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a bigger “AHA” than when I figured out the construction for a bolero. What? All I do is knit one long piece, sew together the arms, and pick up the sides? That’s it? No seaming together pieces? How can something so cute be so simple?!?

Yep, that’s exactly how I knit this bolero: I knit a panel (that looks like a shorter but wider scarf) using a simple stockinette stitch; create sleeves by sewing two sides of the panel together; and pick up stitches around inside the panel using a rib stitch and knit 2 purl 2 all the way around.

It’s a little difficult to explain it without any visual aids but I’m sure I’ll knit another one of these little shrugs soon and I’ll post a tutorial then, for anyone interested.

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Boleros are so awesome because it’s light and perfect for breezy summer nights, just like ponchos. It’s also a great remedy for someone like me who loves summer dresses but don’t feel comfortable showing bare shoulders and arms.

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I used one skein of Cascade 220 Sport in Doeskin Heather.

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Easy Fair Isle Baby Hat

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My BFF Maya recently requested a custom knit bag with a 1 stitch x 1 stitch Fair Isle pattern, like the beautiful Arctic Wrap from The Purl Bee. She saw and felt the actual wrap on our recent trip to Purl Soho and fell in love with it. I think turning it into a bag is a marvelous idea and I’m delighted to make it for Maya, but I panicked a little because I’ve never knit a Fair Isle pattern before.  cry

Over the weekend, I dusted off a few skeins of leftover Amy Butler yarns and made itty bitty baby hats to practice the pattern. I didn’t want to commit to a large project so I settled on the hat … but I had so much fun with it that I ended up knitting three in two days. I knit as I went, with no pattern, which allowed me to make them very quickly.  I think I’m now ready to knit that custom bag for my BFF!

I’m no expert in pattern writing but if you would like to try making the hat, here it is! It’s a great solution to use up your yarn stash, especially if you have some half-used skeins you didn’t know what to do with!

Happy knitting!

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Supplies:

    • Circular needle in US size 7, in 16 inches (You can omit the circular needle if you’re just using the double pointed needles)
    • 4 double pointed needles in size 7
    • 2 different color yarns (about 25 grams each)
    • A pair of scissors to cut off yarns
    • Tapestry needle to bind off loose ends

Note: The first number in the pattern is for the small size (pink) with a 14 inch circumference; the larger size (gray and yellow ones are the same size), in parenthesis, is for a 16 inch circumference.

Direction:

Using circular needle US size 7 in 16 inches, cast on 80 (88) stitches with Color A (pink).

Knit 2, purl 2 in a round and repeat this rib stitch until it measures about 2 inches.

Now, add Color B (yellow) and knit, alternating colors at each stitch. You might need to M1 at the end of the first row to avoid repeating same color twice. Continue to knit until the entire hat measures around 4.5 (5) inches. Note:  Because you’re knitting in a round, you don’t have to worry about purling the alternate rows.  You can knit all the way around to create a stockinette stitch. 

Cut off Color B. Using Color A only, knit for 1 (2) inches. At this time, the hat should measure around 5.5 (7) inches.

Hat pattern

Begin decrease:

Row 1: k2tog, k2. Repeat this for the entire row.  Change the circular needle to double pointed needles. Note: If you are left with uneven number of stitches, simply stay as close to the pattern as possible. 

Row 2: K2tog, until you are left with one stitch.

Bind off lose ends.  Add a pom pom on top (optional).  I ran out of yarns but I would have loved to put it on the top!

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Amy Butler Rowan belle organic dk in Cilantro (016) and Tomato (012)

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Amy Butler Rowan belle organic dk in Cilantro (016) and Slate (015)

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Same as the hat above, in contrasting colors.