Every knitter has leftover yarn. Sometimes entire skeins are left once a project is done, but it’s usually just a few yards of this and a partial skein of that. They may be different weights, different fibers, and they’re always different colors.
What do you do with all that scrap yarn?
I get scrap happy.
I’ve made scarves, a granny square afghan, and other things over the years. Unusually cool summer weather, a desire to use up some of my yarn stash, and a spare bolster pillow form inspired me to turn this basket of mismatched yarns…
….into the pillow on the right:
The cool thing about using random colors in one project is how they almost always find a way to pull together. It’s the reason I love scrap quilts more than matchy-matchy color-coordinated quilts.
But there’s a trick to keeping all the different colors from fighting. Balance.
In this case, I doubled the yarn scraps with black yarn. (I used a couple different black yarns in this project.)
I decided to knit the bolster cover on size 11 circular needles, and switched colors at the end of every round. It would have been easier to use random lengths of colored yarns, but I was going for a subtle stripe.
To create texture, I used a seed stitch, but garter would be nice, too. (Remember: because you’re not turning the work, doing a garter stitch on circular needles is like stockinette on straight needles. Knit one row, purl the next.)
I wasn’t sure how to do decreases in the seed stitch, so at the ends I switched to garter stitch and decreased on my knit rows, switching to doubled-pointed needles as the number of stitches decreased. For the second end, I picked up stitches from the cast-on edge and decreased as for the first end. I’m not entirely pleased with the decreases — I was hoping for flatter ends — so I can’t say I’d make it exactly the same way again.
Scrap happy projects are fun because you can play around and make mistakes without the worry of wasting yarn. When it comes to leftover yarn, the only waste is in not using it.
What are some of your favorite uses for scrap yarn?
I remember when my dad bought an electric ice-cream maker, the kind with a metal canister that rotates inside a bucket filled with ice and salt. The ice cream he made was good, but the mess wasn’t. Let’s just say it wasn’t used very often. After a while he sold it at a garage sale.
Thankfully today’s ice cream makers have self-contained coolants. No ice or salt to mess with. Just pop the chilling bowl into the freezer for a day or so, and you’re ready to go.
For my birthday this year, my brother and sister-in-law gave me an ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid. Now that the summer heat is upon us, I’m experimenting. My first attempt was Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. So good, so rich, so creamy. Then I tried slightly healthier ice milk. Decent flavor, but it had a grainy texture. My most recent attempt? Chocolate Frozen Yogurt.
I found a recipe on line, and just so happened to have all of the ingredients on hand. It used a technique similar to some ice cream and frozen custard recipes that involve cooking part of the mixture.
I was using Greek yogurt and was able to skip the cornstarch. The mixture didn’t thicken much, but as the recipe said: don’t worry. After the mixture cooled, I transferred it to a mixing bowl (with a handy pouring spout!) and added the Greek yogurt. That’s when I worried because the yogurt didn’t stir in well, so I switched from a wooden spoon to a whisk.
A few seconds later it was beautiful, rich, thick and creamy. It tasted good, too! I let the mixture chill a couple hours before proceeding to the fun part.
After setting up the ice cream attachment and turning the machine on, I poured the mixture in and let it run for about 25 minutes. This is seconds after I turned the machine off:
At this point, the frozen yogurt was soft-serve consistency. Almost like a Frosty, only with that yogurt tang. (Even with all of the cocoa and chocolate, you can still taste the yogurt. Not sure if that’s due to the brand of yogurt I used, or if I need to add a little more sugar next time.)
You can eat it fresh or freeze it for later. Trust me. It’s just as good either way.
Have you made homemade ice cream or frozen yogurt? What are your favorite flavors or additions?
Guacamole is one of the simplest, easiest and most delicious dishes anyone can make. There’s no cooking involved, and not much a recipe, either. All you need is a ripe Hass avocado (or two), lime juice, salt & pepper – and maybe a bit of onion, tomato or garlic.
Sometimes the hardest part of making fresh guacamole is finding perfectly ripe avocados.
A lot of people add fresh garlic, but I prefer a subtle garlic flavor so I use a trick I learned from my Aunt Jean: cut a clove of garlic in half and rub it in the bowl you plan to use. (She did that to “season” the salad bowl before adding the greens.) Don’t worry. You can use the remaining garlic for another recipe.
Some people like smooth guacamole, others prefer chunky. I like chunks of avocado, tomato and onion, but sometimes I make it with just the avocado and lime. It depends on what I have on hand and what I’m serving with the guacamole.
Step One: Prep your extras. Rub the bowl with garlic (or mince a clove) and toss in some finely chopped tomato and/or onion if you like:
Step Two: Halve, peel and remove pit from an avocado (or two, or more). I like to roughly cut the avocado in large chunks for easier mashing:
Step Three: Squeeze in some fresh lime juice, add salt and pepper to taste and mash to the desired consistency. (I usually use slightly less than half a lime per avocado, but you might prefer more or less lime.)
I don’t care for salty or greasy chips, so I usually cut up a small corn tortilla or two and bake my own chips in the toaster oven.
The final step? Enjoy!
Once avocados are cut they turn brown quickly. Even the lime juice doesn’t help stave off oxidation. I’ve heard putting plastic wrap directly on the guacamole helps keep it green because it reduces the exposure to air. Some people claim sticking the avocado pit into the mixture keeps it fresh too. But who am I kidding? There are never any leftovers to worry about!
While I love classic guacamole like this, it’s also be fun to experiment by adding things like grilled corn, hot peppers, cilantro, even mango. What are some unusual ingredients you’ve added to guacamole, and how did it turn out?
I wish I could say I’m behind on blog posts because I’ve been even busier with work than usual. That was true in March and April, but my schedule returned to a more normal pace this month. The truth is most of my creative energy (outside of work) has been focused on creating entries for a contest, but I can’t divulge details just yet.
However, I made a point to carve out some time to write a guest post for Lori Widmer’s fabulous blog, Words on the Page. Not only is Lori the founder of Writers Worth Month, she’s also one of the best motivators around when it comes to spurring freelancers to keep marketing their services and skills to a wider range of clients. Lori’s also built a great online community of writers who make her blog a must-read for any writers serious about building a successful writing business. Actually, anyone who’s self-employed could learn a lot from her blog.
Mine is just one among dozens of guest posts celebrating all aspects of Writers Worth Month. If you’re a writer, bookmark Lori’s blog page – you’ll want to keep coming back well after May ends.
Ever heard of the Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown? I hadn’t until a friend told me about it this week. Sure, the odds of me winning the $10,000 Grand Prize are slim to none, but boy will I have fun testing recipes to submit.
Grilled cheese aficionados have long debated what makes a classic grilled cheese sandwich. I prefer sharp cheddar on whole grain bread with tiny touch of spicy brown mustard, like this:
Others like white bread with American cheese. (Honestly, I don’t even consider American cheese actual cheese since it has barely any flavor. But at least it’s not Velveeta.)
This contest isn’t about ordinary grilled cheese, so my mind is already dreaming up various flavor combinations. Who else is up for creating a decadent twist on a grilled cheese sandwich? Let us know if you plan to enter the contest, too.
Contest entries are due by May 12, so get grilling!
Remember how a bunch of my family members made fresh Christmas wreaths last year? At the time, Mary told us once the wreaths were past their prime we could disassemble them and reuse the heavy-duty wire wreath frames next year.
Spring is here, and my community has resumed collecting and composting yard waste, so it was time to deconstruct my glorious wreath.
Any wreath constructed around a metal frame can probably be disassembled, too. Even a store bought wreath. Not sure how your wreath is constructed? Take a look at the back.
Untwist or cut the greens free. We tied small bunches of greens together before attaching them to the frame, so I started by pulling a few out. (Do I even need to point out you should be doing this outside if your wreath is made from real greens?)
Each of these little bundles was bound with green wire. If you’re planning to mulch or compost the old greens you need to remove all of those wires. Some of the greens slipped right out of the wire for me, others had to be unwound or cut. The wire-free greens were tossed into a paper yard waste bag.
I simply reversed the process we used when making the wreaths and systematically worked my way around the frame.
It probably took about 20 minutes to untie and pick wires out of the greens, but now I’ve got a wreath frame ready to be reused.
Deconstructing the wreath wasn’t as much fun as making it, but the faded greens still smelled wonderful – and my gloves didn’t get covered with sap this time!
I’ve had foot problems my entire life. While Morton’s Neuroma is the most annoying issue with my feet, hypersensitive skin is a close second.
Because my skin is so annoyingly sensitive — contact dermatitis, allergic rashes and relentless bouts of eczema are common — I have to avoid most natural and synthetic socks. Cotton is the one fiber that doesn’t irritate my feet.
Despite that sensitivity I can still knit with other fibers because the yarn doesn’t smother my skin so it can still “breathe.” (When my hands do get a little irritated, I just set the knitting aside until they’re better.) In fact, I had so much fun making wool-blend socks for other people that I decided to find a thin, smooth cotton yarn and make my own socks.
I bought a few skeins of Cascade Yarn’s Ultra Pima Cotton (color: Syrah) and made my own socks…just in time for Spring. I know. My timing could be better.
I’m wearing them for the first time right now. While they’re a perfect fit. I can feel every stitch. These may end up as layering socks, with a smoother store-bought pair of socks underneath, but I still love having a handmade pair of socks for my very fussy feet.
The instant gratification of knitting with thick yarn and large needles is hard to beat. That’s why I long resisted the idea of knitting socks. Tiny needles, fine yarn – worse yet, you have to make two!
A few years ago a great knitter I know, Ruk, took a sock making class and really loved it. She suggested I try it and sent me one of her favorite patterns. That’s back when I was blogging for a yarn company that gave me free access to all kinds of gorgeous yarn so I had no reason not to give it a try. I requested some fun, self-patterning sock yarn, bought a set of size 3 double pointed needles, and gave it a go.
While there are thousands of sock patterns to choose from, the basic construction is usually quite similar. The stitch counts mentioned below are specific to the pattern I used.
Adjusting to such small needles was frustrating. Despite each round being only 48 stitches, I was knitting at the sluggish speed of one inch per hour. It took days to knit the leg of one sock:
By the time I got to the heal flap of the first sock I was hooked. The heel flap and heel turn are my favorite parts of the sock because 1) only half the stitches are worked, 2) nearly every other stitch of every other row is slipped, not knitted, and 3) after a couple inches you start decreasing. All of which makes the work go even faster.
The next section is the gusset. Because you pick up new stitches along the edge of the heel flap and continue knitting in the round, this is when you’ll have the most stitches on your needles. That’s to make enough fabric to accommodate the ankle, foot and heel. There are decreases in every other row (until you’re back down to 48 stitches) which keep the work interesting.
The really cool thing about the gusset? The decreases create a graceful curved line at each side of the foot.
Speaking of the foot, that’s when the inch-per-hour frustration once again rears its head. You need to knit several more inches until you’re just shy of the desired foot length. (The upside: you can custom size socks for people with hard to fit feet.) Once there, a few rounds and some strategically placed decreases round off the toe.
When only eight stitches remain, I use the kitchener stitch to seamlessly join the toe, then weave in the yarn tail.
The pair of socks shown here were made (upon request) for my cousin Mark. They’re made with Patons Stretch Sock Yarn in “Mineral.” To be honest the yarn didn’t feel as soft as other sock yarns I’ve used, so I’ll be curious to hear how they compare with Mark’s other socks.
I’d intended to finish them for Christmas but was so far behind that Mark got a box of yarn instead. He finally got his new socks in January – just in time for the Polar Vortex!
For some reason unknown to the rest of the world, Mark likes wearing socks with flip-flops that have divided toes. Even in winter. When I asked for a photo of him wearing the socks, he replied, “With or without flip flops?” When I said without, he said, “Well, okay, if I must.”
Looks like they’re holding up pretty well despite being stretched around those toe dividers!
Have you tried knitting or crocheting socks? If so, do you love sock making or do you hate it?
Whenever my dad bought apples he managed to choose the bag containing the largest number of bruised apples. It didn’t matter what variety he chose, what season it was, or whether they were on sale or full price. They were always bruised.
No one likes biting into bruised fruit. That’s why people turn old bananas into banana bread, and why I turned this lot of mismatched, slightly past-their-prime apples into applesauce.
Perhaps best of all, it’s a lot easier than baking banana bread.
I started by peeling, coring, and quartering about two pounds of apples. (If they were fresher I would have left the skins on.)
I put the apples in a medium sauce pan with:
- approximately 1/3 cup of water (apple cider or apple juice would work, too)
- roughly one tablespoon of lemon juice (the amount depends on the varieties of apples you’re using and how tart you like your applesauce)
- one cinnamon stick (you can substitute about 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon if you don’t have a cinnamon stick)
- about 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (optional)
Start it on medium heat, and when it begins to simmer reduce heat to low or medium-low. Cover, but stir every couple of minutes. Simmer 20-25 minutes. Timing depends on how large the apple chunks are and which varieties are used.
The cool thing about adding cranberries? They pop when cooked, which turns the applesauce pink.
Once the apples are tender it’s time to mash them up a bit with a spoon and taste the sauce.
You might want to add a little sugar, a lot of sugar, some honey, or no sweetener at all. You can also add dried ground ginger, nutmeg, even a dash of vanilla if you like. I added:
- 1/4 teaspoon dried ground ginger
- about 1/3 cup of sugar
- a few grinds of freshly ground nutmeg (a little nutmeg goes a long way)
Quick aside: I was never a nutmeg fan until I got this cool nutmeg grinder for Christmas.
The types of apples you use — and whether or not you add cranberries — will make a big difference in what you decide to add. That’s why tasting is so important. If it’s too tart, add a small amount of sugar or honey and taste. Repeat until you like the flavor.
If you add sugar or honey, continue to simmer another minute or two so it cooks in. Remove the cinnamon stick.
I like chunky applesauce so I used a wooden spoon to break up the apples. Potato mashers also work well, especially if you prefer smoother sauce.
All that’s left is to dish up a nice bowl of fresh, homemade apple sauce and enjoy. It’s perfect warm or cold!