Friday, February 26, 2010

Accidental Yarn Review

I am totally obsessed with making bowls! And felting them!  I meant for this post to be just a photo that I uploaded yesterday, but I got distracted.  So if you're interested in reading about me geeking out on yarn, then you're in the right place.

Crocheted bowls are super easy, very fast to make, and I've been testing out different types of wool yarn for the felting process.  I have an awesome spreadsheet tracking yards per ounce of wool and cost per yard, because I am a total geek!  And I love spreadsheets!

Here's my current list of wool, all in worsted weight:
My least favourite was the Harrisville New England Highland.  It was a nice colour, and it looked nice when I crocheted it into a bowl, but it smelled funny and felt coarse.  Then, after felting, it went completely shaggy--that was the first time I've ever had to clean my washing machine after using it.

Cascade 220 was the other highland wool--excuse me, Peruvian highland--and I had a similar post-felting cleanup experience.  I'm certain that I didn't get all of it out, since the next batch I felted had little red bits floating around.  But despite the cleanup, it barely took 20 minutes to felt (most of my tests required at least 40 minutes for felting, though I wasn't timing very religiously).  Overall I was actually impressed with the final product, as the bowls have a nice weight to them.

Nordique from St. Denis was my first non-Michaels/non-Jo-Ann wool purchase, so I am rather partial to it.  It took forever to felt, however, and I'm not even sure it felted entirely, since the stitches are still visibly separate.  I bought a couple of balls in the Aubergine colorway which was a beautiful amethyst shade, but I'm not sure I would pick up much that line again.

Since I started going to a bunch of smaller yarn shops, I have become something of a yarn snob.  I refuse to buy anything that has a lot of acrylic in the mix, because I think it feels too crunchy.  I love working with yarns made from natural fibres, because not only do they feel better and they look better.  And I like the idea of supporting a local yarn shop--my current favourite being Green Planet Yarn, in historic downtown Campbell.  I could never see them carrying Patons Classic Wool, but I have to be honest: it felts really easily, and the bowls look great.  I have no idea where the wool comes from, and I have no idea if their manufacturing process is ethical or whatnot, but it's a pretty decent yarn for felting, and I actually quite like it.  But I am trying to be snobby!  Oh, what a dilemma.

The merino wools I listed first, but have left for the last, because I liked those two the most.  The O-Wool took about an hour to felt to my liking, but the bowls looked great.  It didn't shrink as much as the Cascade 220 or the Shepherd's Wool, but the felted wool is nicer to the touch than the Cascade 220.  At $14/hank, it was definitely the most expensive, so although I like it very much, I'm not sure if I would buy it very often.
(As a side story, the first skein of O-Wool I bought was from the DK weight Balance line, which is 50% Merino, and 50% Cotton.  Only, I didn't realize that fact until much later, and I eventually gave up trying to felt it.  "Ben, this wool refuses to felt!  I don't know what's going on!")

Last but certainly not least is the Shepherd's Wool.  This has got to be the softest wool I have ever felt. Ever.  I just felted the bowls from that test, so they're still drying on the counter--we'll see if they actually make sturdy bowls (my comparison point is currently the Patons Classic Wool), but I'm not sure if I care.  The first time I worked with a carefully wound ball of Shepherd's Wool, I was cuddling it up to my cheeks.  The Pacifist Knight is made of Shepherd's Wool (not including his face, which is actually SWTC Yin in Harmony, the only skin-coloured yarn I could find), and he is pretty cuddly too.  Green Planet Yarn has a "sale" where for any one purchase during your birthday month, you can get between 20%-100% off of that purchase; I fully intend on going as soon as I can in March, to build up a Shepherd's Wool stash.  Then it will be bowl-a-bonanza. 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Pacifist Knight


Meet my hero, The Pacifist Knight.

After discovering all the cute amigurumi figures listed on Etsy, I wanted to try making my own!  During one of our many foraging trips to Borders, and armed with a coupon and a mission, I picked out a bunch of amigurumi books to peruse, ultimately settling on Creepy Cute Crochet.

I had actually bought this book before, as a gift, because I liked it, but ultimately returned it because it seemed inappropriate to give a crochet book to a recipient who did not crochet at all (in my defense, the contents of the book suited her well, anyway).  But despite my obvious underlying desire to own the book myself, the reason why I bought it the second time around was because Ben wanted me to make him a knight.

And so,

The Pacific Knight was born.  In the book, she recommends fashioning a sword out of felt, or perhaps out of clay, but I don't have felt in the right colour, I wasn't interested in using more wool to create the felt to fashion a sword, and I don't want to get into yet another craft, so I have no clay.

Then Ben got it in his head that no sword was necessary, since our little knight was a pacifist.  I'm not sure if that means he resolves problems, or if it just means that he doesn't get involved, but either way, the chocolate lolly I bought Ben for Valentine's Day made a fitting addition to his photo.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Almond Plum

So here is another chicken recipe; I am going to start calling these my cop-out blog posts, because they're easier to write up than a craft post.  No photos needed!  Anyway.

1 chicken breast
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp honey
a pinch of salt
a bunch of almonds (very specific!)
2 plums, not too ripe, cut to 1" pieces

Combine wine, water, and honey until the honey is dissolved.  Cube the chicken and let it marinate.  Grind the almonds until fairly fine; I used my little food processor and it worked great.  I mixed in the almonds just before I started cooking, and dumped everything into my skillet with a bit of olive oil.  Add plums once chicken is mostly cooked, and let everything simmer until the liquid is gone.  Then be like me, and completely forget about vegetables!  We're nomming this one right now with a carrot, half an onion, and cilantro rice, and it's really good!  Now I need to go stop typing and keep eating.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Honey Garlic Chicken, and, a sale!

One of my bowls sold on Etsy!  Apparently it sold last night, but Etsy didn't see fit to tell me until this afternoon, which means I can't send it until Monday morning.  But it'll be very nicely packaged and ready to go, before then!  Later tonight, or tomorrow, I'll have to list the other bowls I finally managed to photograph--I made a few amethyst coloured bowls; it is February, after all.

Tonight on the menu is honey garlic chicken and rice.  I found a recipe at Christmas that worked really well, but I never wrote it down, and I can't seem to find it any more.  So, I'm trying a new experiment today, which I will actually write down.  But we will see how it tastes.  The chicken is marinating in it now, while the rice cooks, and it smells pretty good so far.. of course, it is basically swimming in garlic. Noms...

Honey Garlic Marinade (good for 1 chicken breast)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced

Rice vinegar is starting to be one of my favourite marinade additions. Have I mentioned that yet? It makes me wonder how horrible it is for my health.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Apple Chicken

Here is one of my classic dishes: apple chicken.  I've been making this delicious one for a while, and as usual, I, er, never have the sense of mind to write it down, but it needs to be posted all the same!  Works great with rice or bread.

 - 1 chicken breast
 - 1 apple (washed but not peeled)
 - 1/2 onion (I prefer sweet onion, though yellow or white are both fine)
 - ~2 cups apple juice
 - ~1 tsp dried basil (honestly, I just shake it in until it looks good)
 - ~1 tsp vinegar (I use rice vinegar, although vinegar can be left out entirely)
 - salt, to taste

1. Cut the chicken into cube or strips, whichever you prefer.  Allow chicken to marinate in 1 cup apple juice, salt, basil, and vinegar.

2. Cut the half onion into 8.  For the apple, cut into very thin slices.  I usually use an apple corer (dropping in some lemon juice when the corer is halfway in will help keep it from browning), then cut the apple into fourths, and slice each quarter carefully.

3. Cook the onion and apple in ~1/2 cup of juice, until partially tender and the juice is evaporated. Remove from heat (placing it into a temporary holding plate works).

4. Warm the remaining juice, add chicken and marinade, and cook until mostly done. Add in the onion and apple, and continue cooking until chicken is well done, and juice is mostly evaporated.

5. Serve, and nom!

Today I'm trying out a new mango chicken marinade, one that involves red wine and orange juice. We'll see how it turns out.