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I decided that I needed to check something off my bucket list. Madrona Fiber Arts Festival.

Luckily for me, I could visit with someone and enjoy the atmosphere as well. So I showed up and sat around in this booth for a bit. Aren’t these mugs awesome? They sold out of course.

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Unfortunately for me, we were a bit too close to Carolina Homespun‘s booth. I’m not exactly sure what happened here….I must have mouthed off about how I was “NEVER” going to spin. I should not have said that within earshot of Morgaine. Because within the day, I was doing this:

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Then this….because this was prettier:

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And it is resulting in me checking a box on the plane, home bound.

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Whoa.  Moral of the story. Don’t say never. Especially in front of a great teacher.

How I should have spent this week was to take the dogs on long lazy walks every day, sleep 8 hours a night, and organize my life (read, yarn. I am still looking for a skein of yarn I would like to knit into a shawl.).

Of course, I bit off more than I can chew. I thought it would be a really good idea to take a 4-day, intensive cake decorating class.

The first two days were spent making icing and learning some basic piping techniques. And we piped, and piped and piped. Piping is not like knitting. If you don’t practice/pipe on a regular basis, you lose it. You can’t pick up piping bag, pop in a #104 petal tip and start piping buttercream roses to perfection.

I have piped a few of those in my day. But beyond a few flowers that I pipe on friend’s cakes and cupcakes here and there, I have not really picked up the piping bag in about 10 years…..oh wait. 18 years. (YIKES).

IMG_1397So when it came to piping roses, my first few were looking really cabbagy. Then, they started looking a bit more like flowers and then like cabbage roses.

Then finally, after about 10, my right hand found the right pressure to apply on the piping bag, and how to arc the tip just right against the base to create a petal in a shape that sort of resembled a rose petal.

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The teacher gave us great recipes for different kinds of buttercream for icing the cake, piping the border, and piping the rose. All about the type of fat that you use, and ratio of liquids to solids. What I loved about my teacher for the class was that taste was #1 for her. So, while it would have been 100% easier to pipe with a shortening based cream, her buttercream was…just that. Even the highest shortening ratio in her recipes were relatively low so the piping is delicious beyond all doubt.

We also spent time talking about food colors — both for icing and marzipan.

And we took a turn at making marzipan fruits. Mixing colors, using petal dust to finish off the fruit…talk about Play-doh for adults! Remember I said my teacher thought taste was #1? The marzipan is delicious. And she taught us to mix in cocoa powder to get depth in the browns so the brown marzipan? Off the charts. Here’s the assortment we made:

plate of marzipan

And when I came home, I took photos of some marzipan fruits next to their real life counterparts. Not bad for some almond paste, sugar, and food dye!

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IMG_8560The most fun I had was probably making the “chocolate plastic” (it’s basically chocolate and either glycerin or corn syrup) and learning to work with that. We made bows and streamers, leaves, and modeled a full rose!


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And of course, as this was a recreational class (…ok, for semi-serious, crazy people), our chef had baked cake for us to decorate and take home.

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I am having a bit of a knitting get together today, so we will be cutting into this cake today. I hope it is delicious!

If you knew me well, you would know that there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with this photo.

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I do NOT like to wrap presents. I have all kinds of excuses….”It’s environmentally incorrect”; “My presents are good enough that they don’t need to be wrapped”; “We’re all adults now, wrapping is for children”.

When it comes down to it, I’m just too lazy.

So.. you ask…why are all the presents wrapped and beribboned? It is a picture of the state of my mind. I am trying to hide the contents in pretty wrapping. Yes, it’s that bad. My mantra this year: “It’s the thought that counts.”

On another front — there IS something good. Jim Lahey, you’re my hero.

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Hurricane Sandy turned downtown Manhattan into a really surreal place. No power, no cell signal…I was lugging my electronics around and plugging into charge up every time I saw an outlet. I walked dogs in the evening with my headlamp on. It was strange to be able to see stars in the sky. I got off relatively lightly, particularly because I am a wimp and retreated after a day and a half of this to the comforts of my sister’s fully powered up apartment.

Two positive results from Hurricane Sandy. The first was that I was forced to clear out my freezer and refrigerator. Amazing waste of food, but a completely empty freezer for me to fill up (more on this on another post). The second was what I did while I waited for The Frankenstorm to show up.

Waiting for the storm, with two dogs that are super-sensitive to pressure changes was….interesting. I put my (nervous) energy into moving my hands, and cranked on my Pomme de pin Cardigan.

Post storm, it took me a while to truly finish the cardigan — and I had very good intentions. It took me longer for me to knit the button band than it did to knit most of the body of the sweater!

It is, however, the end of the month, which means that I do have to finish things up. And I have finished (and have already worn to work!) the sweater.

Pomme de pin is a cardigan designed by Amy Christoffers. I am attracted to her designs because there seems to be an element of something really cool about her sweaters. With this cardi, I think she’s managed to make a lace sweater really sleek and not grandmotherly at all. I love the way the collar comes up in the back and creates a really long line coming down the front. Do I dare say it? I think it’s SLIMMING!!!!

I knit my sweater out of Blue Sky Alpacas Metalico. The yarn is totally yummy — It’s 50% baby alpaca and 50% mulberry silk. It’s undyed, so all the colors are natural shades of baby alpaca. It’s sport weight, and it’s a single. The very first time I heard about this yarn was on the podcast Ready Set Knit, which is hosted by Kathy and Steve Elkins who owns WEBS. When I heard Steve describe this yarn, I ran to the computer. It just sounded amazing. My sweater is knit in Silver, which is a light grey. The yarn also comes in Platinum, which is an amazing deeper grey (and yes, I have that in my stash). I was a bit worried about how this yarn would knit up as a fabric, and whether it would be appropriate for a garment. I really wasn’t sure whether it had good memory — I knew it wasn’t going to be like wool (which is a super fiber, I’m coming to appreciate!) —  I swatched, and decided that it was a go.

I find that swatching is really useful when it comes to one thing. And it’s not determining gauge. Of course it is somewhat useful for this too, but I find that gauge swatches lie and my gauge changes depending on many different factors so it is just an approximation. What I find it more useful for is in determining (at least a little) how the yarn would act as a fabric.

After swatching, I decided to make a modification (LOL, I know, I know) and I changed all the ribbing to a twisted 1×1 rib. I thought that this would help the sweater keep more structure. Other than this adjustment for the yarn, I made only a few changes, and they were for sizing — I wanted the sleeves shorter, I wanted the sleeves a bit more slim fitting.

I have already worn this sweater to work. I was a bit worried about the sweater shedding a bit because I felt like the yarn was shedding a little as I was knitting, but I wore this sweater over a black dress and black tights and I was fuzz free (trust me, with two dogs I roll myself with one of those sticky rolly things when I get to work!). The lace didn’t completely stretch out, and I didn’t feel like the sweater was dangling at my knees at the end of the day. And this sweater is SUPER warm, while being light.

I have a feeling that this sweater will become a staple in my wardrobe….and that I will be on the look out for more lacy cardis to knit out of the yarn!

A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Got one “errand” accomplished. My Ideal Sweater got the whip cream topping. Buttons on the pocket!

Three sweaters worth of yarn.

Something I use often, and as I learned on this trip, should use more often.

And I may have grown my pottery collection a little. Just a little.

 

Have you enhanced your stash collection lately?