Sunday, November 27, 2016

Chocolate and Handspun Wool: A Study in Time

Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking. -- William B. Sprague 
And just like that, it feels like winter. Granted, we don't get the same kind of winter that I grew up with back in Winnipeg, but all of a sudden, there is a definite nip in the air, and I'm wearing my knits with regularity just to stay warm and comfortable in my frigid office. I am so grateful for all of my scarves and cowls and fingerless mitts right now: they're the only thing that help me start my workday. By noon, the heat in the building seems to be normal, so I shed my layers throughout, but I maintain that it's better to shed layers than wish you had them on.

I finished my cowl made with my merino handspun early last week. I soaked it in some Eucalan wool wash, and then added a healthy dollop of my hair conditioner because it was feeling a bit scratchy. I think it's helped, but I could have done a better job of rinsing it. Right now, it smells so much like my hair that I feel like I'm standing behind myself in line when I put it on, but I'm hoping that sensation will fade along with the scent from the conditioner. I am so pleased with the result:

I still have just over a ball left of this batch of handspun, and I think I might make it into some mittens so that I can admire the yarn even more. I haven't made a set of mittens since I moved to Vancouver Island, but if the office stays as cold as it has been, it's going to have to be a necessity...

But I digress.

I went back to spinning a some of my alpaca silk, but I got a bit frustrated with it because I couldn't seem to get a good rhythm going, so I've put it aside for now to try to make something out of this huge skein of Fleece Artist BFL that I've had for a while now:

I've pulled out at least a dozen patterns that I thought might work with this yarn. The trouble is that I'm really not sure how all the colours with work in a garment. I can't help but think that I need a simple lace pattern to break up the colours, but so far, I'm not sure what that's going to be. I settled on Pam Allen's Modern Lace Henley, as I've admired it for a while, and I thought it was simple enough to break up the pooling colours, but lacy enough to make the most of my limited yardage.

I started out with the idea that was going to alternate balls of yarn each row to try to prevent the pooling. That lasted all of two rows, and then it turned into a tangled, horrible mess. The yarn seemed to revolt against me as I tried to pull it apart. "How dare you try to control me!" it seemed to say.

How dare I indeed.

I cast on again and started knitting the lower band again. It's starting to pool now, and I am simultaneously enchanted and concerned: enchanted by the colours I am seeing, and concerned that this thing is going to turn into a big, splotchy mess. I changed my mind about the pattern and went looking for a wavy lace pattern that might work best with the undulating pools that I'm seeing. I ripped  out stitches again and again to try to make the best use of my current stitch count, but I've since abandoned that idea and gone back to the Henley pattern. I'm glad I started knitting it from the bottom up in the round: if I end up really hating it as I go, I could always bail out and turn it into a big rainbow-y cowl.

Because, of course, I need more scarves and cowls. See above for my comments about my office temperature.

As I was placing the stitches back onto my needles after my last ripping out session, I recalled someone admiring one of my handknit sweaters one day. She asked me, "How do you do that?"

"Do what?" I said.

"Make sweaters with no mistakes in them?"

I think I might have snorted. I can make a sweater yes, but I am EXPERT at putting the stitches back on my needles after ripping out hours and hours of work. If you're the sort of person who makes things by hand, I think it means that you think about time differently than a lot of other people do. You don't churn out perfect things, and you don't wait around for the perfect time to make something. And you don't feel like your time has been wasted when you have to deal with a mistake. You might shrug your shoulders and carry on, or you might pull it apart and start over, but you always know that, whatever time you are going to put into this thing, you've elected to use it for creating something, and that time is always time well spent.

Speaking of: I decided I'd make some chocolate truffles to give away as little Christmas gifts. Chocolate itself has its own schedule. It's both slow and lightning fast in the same time. You have to be patient while melting your chocolate, but if you give it 5 seconds longer than you think, it will seize up into a horrible mess in your bowl. And then, even when you get it right, it sets in no time if you dilly dally for too long.

I will admit: I would find it hard to mess up a whole batch of this stuff. Chocolate isn't something you can rip back and start over with... but at least the mistakes are delicious.

I had prepared an extra pan in case my first one wasn't enough to take all the chocolate ganache I had prepared, but it all fit into one after all. I'd spent enough time carefully buttering and lining the pan that it seemed a waste to pull it off and clean it without having made something, so I whipped up a batch of lemon slices and used the pan for that instead:

I'm not sure if that's an example of striking when the iron is hot or making it hot by striking, but in the end, the cake was warm and my tea was hot and I made them both myself, and that's all that really matters.

And here I am talking about cake again. Hmm... oh well...

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