Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pumpkin. Pie. Doughnuts.

I know - second post in a day? Since when, say what now? I agree, but bear with me for a minute. 

My first love was not, in fact, knitting. Or spinning. It was food. I used to work in commercial kitchens and I love love love food. 
A few weeks ago, I bought my husbeast (who also love love loves food) a new toy for the kitchen. A deep fryer. Since then he seems set on frying ALL THE THINGS and I have not been able to get near it. 'Til tonight. 

I steamed up some pumpkin to make pumpkin and cheese scones (because I am a lover of all things pumpkin and also all things cheese) but there was way too much there, so I got to thinking ebout what else I was going to use it for. And the idea for these babies was born. I have to put a warning here that they are concentrated evil and if you make them (and I suggest you do) please be aware - they are most definitely found in the category of 'sometimes food'. 

1 cup plain flour
1 cup self raising flour
14g dried yeast
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of all spice
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup ricotta cheese

First in one bowl combine your flours, yeast and allspice. In a second separate bowl place your pureed pumpkin, brown sugar and ricotta. Hit this with a stickmixer or pop it in a food processor until it is smooth and creamy and well blended. Make a well in the centre of the flours, and pour your puree mix in there, then work it through until it is well mixed. You should have a ball of slightly sticky dough at this point, so knead this until it is smooth and elastic. 
Place your dough in a clean slightly oiled bowl and set it in a warm place for an hour, or until it is doubled in size. 
Pop your dough onto the bench top and separate it, with a knife into manageable sized chunks. Now you need to make your wee donuts. I made mine bite sized. 
To do this I separated the dough into quarters then rolled each quarter out into a sausage shape. Then I cut slices off, and poked a hole in each one with my little finger, stretching out a touch. But you could make them any size you want. 

Next you want to fry them! If you don;t have a deep fryer, you could obviously just use some oil in saucepan on the stove. Fry them at a low temperature for about 2-3 minutes or until golden brown, flipping them over midway through so that both sides are even. 
Drain them for a minute or so, then toss them through a mix of cinnamon sugar with the ratio weighted towards sugar. 

DON'T yank them straight out of the sugar and into your mouth as I did because you WILL wind up with third degree burns of the tongue and you will sound like someone cut out your tongue for at least ten minutes afterwards.
Once they are cool enough to eat - do it! Delicious bite sized chunks of slightly chewy pumpkin pie doughnut. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spinning around.. and around.. and around..

The only problem with not blogging for a while because you are busy is that when you get back to things, there's a backlog of pics of finished things to get through. This is ecspecially true in times of high activity like I have had, mostly due to the Tour De Fleece. 
The Tour De Fleece is a spin-a-long run on Ravelry and the aim of it is simple - to spin every day that the Tour De France rides. Some might say I am a bit of a dill for choosing to do it when the Ravelry events occur smack bang in the middle of it every year, but I enjoy it too much not to, really. This year was extra special because of the awesome Cadel Evans winning the Tour De France after many years trying! There were many very VERY late nights, but now I am all caught up on sleep I can share. 
First off I was consumed with the need to finish the mammoth spin I had been working on for some time, before I could get to anything else. Finish it I did!
There's 500 grams of yarn there. I am proud of a number of things with this spin - to start with, I finished it, and proved to myself I could. Generally speaking I start to get bored with any particular fibre right around the end of a 100g lot. It's like I have some form of colour related attention defecit. But I have proved to myself now that it can be done. I'm also proud of it's consistency - each of the five 100g skeins comes in at 12 wraps per inch, and each of the skeins has between 200 and 217 metres in it. 

Once that was done, there was this optim/soy/bamboo blend which I bought at Ewe Give Me The Knits at Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show nearly 5 years ago now. Two house moves ago, I had spun two thirds of it into singles, aiming for a three ply. I wound the first two lots into balls, stuffed them in a bag with the final third of fibre, then promptly forgot about them. So I dug them out, spun up the final third of the fibre, then plied them together. 
And again, despite there being a 4-5 year break in between spinning the first two lots of singles and spinning the last lot, when it came time to ply there was less than two metres difference in the length of the three spun lots. Huzzah for consistency!

While I was on a roll of finishing things up I pulled out some Southern Cross Fibre that had been half finished for a few months. One of the Southern Cross Fibre clubs contained two 2oz braids of polwarth/tencel blend in contrasting colours which were just delicious. I spun up the chocolate brown braid pretty much straight away and while I had intended to do the same with it's cherry coloured friend, I had not gotten to it. So I sat down and spun it up, too. 
So I now have two contrasting skeins of luscious shiny goodness and can now dream and imagine about what it wants to become. 

Now that all of the unfinished wheelspins were complete, it was time to focus on something 'new'. So I pulled out two magic balls in 'Lorikeet' that I bought from Ewe Give Me The Knits last year. I split the colours into the braid and arranged them in the proper order of the spectrum, overlapping them slightly. Then I spun them in order, and navajo plied them to retain the colour progression. 
The resulting yarn is roughly an 8 ply, or a dk weight yarn, and when knit up will knit up in a colour progression through the rainbow. The second magic ball I had of this has been spun exactly the same way and is just waiting to be plied. 

I mentioned earlier that the Ravelry event I organise and the Sheep and Wool Show occurred in the midst of all this furious spinning. It did occur, and my event went well, and many thing were bought at the sheep and wool show, and loads of people were met and re met and fun was had. However, because I am full of fail, I did not take a single photo, so you will have to take my word for it. However I did come home from the wool show with three new spindles! One of which I have not yet figured out how to use, two of which currently have spins in progress on them, and a third I already had has a spin in progress on it too. 
The one I already had, a bosworth, contains some Southern Cross Fibre polwarth/silk in 'Sprout' which is slowly but surely being spun up, much of it done within the Tour De Fleece. 

The second spindle I bought at the Ixchel stall on the Friday of the show, and the fibre being spun on it was bought at the same time. The spindle has a stone whorl, and the fibre is a naturally coloured blend of camel,bunny and silk. It spins like butter!
The third spindle, another I bought at the show is my 'new baby' of the spindle family. It's a Jenkins Turkish spindle and oh how I love it! It is currently spinning up some Southern Cross Fibre BFL in 'Dauntless', and this spindle, flies!
For those who don't know how a turkish spindle works, all three pieces of the spindle that you can see in the pic disassemble. You spin and spin and instead of winding the yarn around the shaft like on the drop spindles above, you wind it through the arms on the bottom of the spindle. Once your spindle cop is full, you can pop out the shaft of the spindle out the bottom, pull the arms out the sides, and you end up with a wound ball of singles, all ready to be plied. It's like MAGIC, and it spins so fast and so even that I can see I ~might~ need more of these spindles!!
So that was my Tour De Fleece. My apologies for no pics of sheep and wool weekend, but hopefully I can make up for it in my next post - I've seriously fallen behind in sharing finished objects, and I have three knitted finished objects to flaunt, and a fourth well on the way, as well as numerous (and spectacular!) sewn finished items. Wheee! Yay for striking while the iron's hot!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Creative spaces and not so big places.

There is just so much going on here at the moment. I've said it before but every day seems a struggle to get through the ever growing to-do list. 
I have finally finished the mammoth spin however, and completed another spin which has been waiting to be finished for TWO YEARS now. I've cut out pattern and fabric for a new dress, over the weekend we rearranged the lounge room. I finished the vest for the babe, and the mitts and scarf set, both of which are now blocking. So I don't actually have very much to show for all of this time and effort outlay. However I do have one thing. 
Way back in December, when we had just found out the babe was going to be a boy, we headed down to spend christmas at my mum and dads. To celebrate a trouble free scan I found a lovely pale blue coral fleece blanket in the pharmacy down there and bought it. I'm not the hugest fan of pastels, but coral fleece is just so soft. The babe loves it! he snuggles into it when he is in the pram or capsule and rubs his wee cheek against it. It's small though - strictly a pram or capsule size, definitely not cot size. 
Enter - one metre of coral fleece and one metre of cotton jersey from spotlight. Fold jersey over edges of coral fleece, sew. 
Result! Cot sized coral fleece blanket backed with jersey, for when he grows into a cot. Cute! Took all of half an hour, and cost less than the original pram sized one. 
While we wait for vests and mitts and scarves and handspun yarn to dry though - and while we wait for me to get off my butt and sew my new dress (as well as some stuff for Master Mayhem and Miss Chaos that is in the works too) I thought I would borrow someone elses idea and show off my creative space. 
I may have mentioned it before, but the house we live in is small. And old. It's charming, but space around here needs to be used creatively. My studio exists as one half of a closed in back verandah. The verandah was also split in two by a partial wall and a door when it was closed in, and my main studio exists at one end. 
This photo is taken to the doorway looking in. Just to the left of this shot is the fabric cupboard, the alpaca vortex corner and the fibre unit. The big black section you can see is my design wall, and at the end there is my work table on which resides my small stero and clock, sewing machine, overlocker, laptop and patterns (behind the laptop)
this is a better shot of the design wall which is a fairly new addition to the room. About a year ago when the winter clearance sales were on, I bought a metric buttload (that IS a real unit of measurement, shutup!) of this black 100% wool fabric. It's been sitting in the fabric stash since then, till last week. BigMac has helped me fix it to the wall using some dowel and I now have a big space that I can stand back from and really see whats going on with something. See how colours work together. The added bonus is that fibre, yarn and fabric alike, all stick to it with static. Slap it on there, and it stays. Awesome!
This is the Fat Quarter basket that sits on top of the fabric cupboard. In this resides my collection of fat quarters, my buttons, and the cardboard containers in front hold scraps that could be useful. I love this thing. It's really inspiring. 
The fibre unit. In this unit, within boxes and tubs, is all of my fibre for spinning, all my handspun, and all my yarn. In the basket and up top are knitting patterns, spindles and spins in progress. The space just to the right of this is a corner, created by sandwiching the cupboard and unti together. This is the alpaca vortex. Their fleeces just keep showing up? There's 6 alpaca fleeces, one sheep fleece and a massive amount of hobbyfill, all in separate bags, smooghed into this corner. To the left of the unit is the doorway through which you can see the other studio. Currently it has a table in it for pattern cutting, but the rest of it is used for storage until we can find a better way to use the space. 
Lastly, the fabric cupboard. Holds all the fabric that is larger than a fat quarter, either folded, or hanging up in there. It's like a treasure trove!

I'm looking at these photos and realising I really do love this space. It's like my own little cave. But in the photos it also looks a lot bigger than it really is. This entire room is 2 metres wide, and three metres deep. Thats it. Two adults will fit in it if we are right next to each other, but when the kids come in it becomes difficult for either adult to get out again until the kids leave. But considering it's size? An awful lot happens in here!