Thursday, December 19, 2013

Spicy Food, Spicy Yarn (aka Why We Do It, part 2)

Ahhh, oops, I forgot (insert the multitude of things on our to-do lists this time of year here)____!
That's about how every 'okay, I can relax a minute now and get my thoughts together,' moment goes in my world right now.  A busy time, but a good time because giving is something I really enjoy doing.  It's hard to remember that sometimes, though, when the lists get longer, the days left to ship 'gifts' gets shorter and time seems ever more elusive.  Also, really, how fast can one knit without going permanently cross-eyed and falling over dizzy from intensely staring at the needles trying to will them to work faster magic? 

Every year, I vow to knit for MORE of my friends and loved ones.  Yes, you read that right, MORE.  Experience, the passing of the newness of the life I've taken on as a fiber artist, reality, and a total understanding that I am lucky to manage the basic list I've had for years (which may or may not be due to the fact that I never seem to get it together and actually start all of my made projects before Thanksgiving - LOL) do not appear to have affected my hopes and dreams of knitting something for everyone.  Clearly, something has to change but I'm unclear, at this moment of crazed holiday making fever to discern whether it will be the ridiculously late start date, the expectations, or the cold, bleak hand of reality gripping my 'to do' list and tearing it to shreds with an indignant flounce in front of my face.

Sometime last week, I started to really kind of panic.  Not a super crazy dramatic panic but a slow burning panic of, 'Man oh man there is no way I'm getting all of this done," sort of panic.  Then, it occurred to me, like as if I didn't know it before - almost an epiphany, if you will, that I can make OTHER  things.  I say this in total sarcasm because I've been a 'handmade' gifter for 20 plus years so, clearly, before I was a knitter I 'gave' other gifts.  So, I through a batch of my jalapeno jelly together, with which I'm toasting some bagel chips.  I had to product test so I spread some cream cheese on my favorite tamari seaweed rice cakes and spread some of this spicy deliciousness on them for breakfast.  Yum!  This afternoon, I'm on sugar scrubs, some yarn dyeing (still gotta work for a living - ha!) and some special caramels that I won't talk about until they are tasted and a recipe is ready!

Want to make your own?  This recipe is super easy!

1 1/4 lbs jalapeno peppers, split in half and seeds/stems removed
2 cups apple cider vinegar
juice of half a lemon
1/2 inch of grated ginger
6 cups of sugar
2 pkgs sure gel pectin powder

Put the jalapeno halves and the vinegar in the blender and puree.  Pour into saucepan with sugar, lemon juice, ginger and bring to a boil.  Boil for about 10 mins.  Stir regularly to avoid scorching.  Skim foam off the top.

Add about 4 tbsp water to the pectin powder in a bowl and stir well to remove clumps.  Stir into your boiling jelly mix.  Continually stirring, boil mixture for about 2 minutes.  Add 2-3 drops green food coloring if desired for color.   Pour into jars.  Put clean lids and rims on jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 mns.  Check jars for seals, label, give most away - keep some for the loved ones IN YOUR HOUSE!

A variation if you want a relish - add 2 cups cranberries, slice and diced (removing seeds) lemon and 1 orange, 1 tsp vanilla extract - add 1 cup of vinegar and sugar as well.  Follow exactly as above adding all fruit in the very beginning.  Makes a spicy, tart, sweet relish!  Looks gorgeous in gift basket.

I would just like to admit, right here and now, that the jelly is going in my packages but I still insisted on including knits as well - LOL.  I have some serious weaving in of ends and toe closures to do as I've been knitting scarves and cranking socks like a madwoman! #noselfcontrol

A totally quick knit?  Art yarn.  I know, I know, not everyone is sold on this yarn form.  I love me a good art yarn.  Give me a sexy boucle, a coiled skein of happy, or a skein full of baubles and jewels any day.  But, for some, art yarn just makes the sound, 'blech'.  So, in fairness and for purposes of showing that art yarn is highly personal, I chose the form I'm not usually a big fan of myself - slubby yarn.  Slubby yarn, if I can be totally honest with you, kind of makes me angry - LOL.  I don't know why - I'm certainly no purists in terms of handspun.  I love a superfine handspun lace or sock yarn that is oober consistent and nearly identical all throughout and then I'll put it down and fall right in love with a thick and thin single that just screams at you, "What, are you afraid to play a little?".  But, slubby yarn irritates me.  It just seems hard to knit, hard to conform to a shape or look, hard to love.  So, I took some black top and some noil (camel, silk, wool YUM!) that I'd dyed in deep jewel tones and corespun it very loosely and airily over my core.  I did this to get a super lightweight, bulky yarn full of air and warmth but still very stable.  Then, I plied that with a single strand of handspun black top. Let me tell you, this is some seriously poofy but noticeably slubby yarn....little pops of color peeking out of the slubs that I'm trying to love.  Still, as I knit them, I growled a time or two when a slub would make a row look a little wonky.  So, I ripped it and moved up 2 needle sizes to get a drapier, more relaxed gauge.   I made two skeins - one just plain and one infused with trinkets and charms.

My girl is all about Steampunk so those trinkets were brass key charms, black pearls, glass beads and some wooden skulls.  What happened after that took only about 4 hours of knitting and produced, even with all of those charms, a 5 ounce scarf that is SO SOFT, so blingy, and so easy I may make a few more, oh, I don't know, instead of sleeping tonight:)  We'll see.  This simple keyhole scarf was made like this:
I know this look is not for everyone and there are definitely people on my gift list that I would not gift this scarf to.  Well, maybe this scarf knit in a basic or 'normal' yarn but not with the bling and baubles.  But, the girl I knit this for will love it.  And, with her dark chocolate wool coat or black leather coat and boots, she'll look stunning it it!  She's the kind of cool chic that will class it up with some simple wardrobe choices and relish that camel, silk, wool softness keeping her warm as she jots from class to class and then hangs in the campus coffee shop.

These keys were a lot of work to spin into this yarn but I know they are the 'special' touch that will really thrill her to no end!  Totally worth all that pre-stringing and coaxing it through my orifice. Spinning muggles, that is not as perverse as it sounds!

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