During my years as an editor at Interweave Press, I didn't have time to participate in any fiber groups—other than those that naturally arose as part of work, which were more task-oriented than social. I still don't have a lot of time. So I'm especially happy to have found, a number of years ago, a particular knitting group. We meet one night a week. We have no scheduled activities. We show up, we knit, we talk, we occasionally vent, we often laugh, we go home. Oh, yes, we also eat. Because we start showing up at 6 and hang out until at least 8, maybe 9 or later, we do have food around, although it's not planned.
This is the group that supported me through the research, spinning, and writing of The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, although most often—unless deadlines were just too imminent—I'd take my R&R knitting, like the Ink sweater. When I showed up with my spinning wheel, these good folks would know that I was seriously scrambling. I'm grateful for the ongoing and unqualified friendship of each individual and of the cluster that includes us all.
(Four folks are missing from that picture: Kristi Schueler, who took the photos of the group at our gathering last week; Dee, whose dining room we refer to as "the clubhouse"; Irene, who participates more often in the summer; and Ashley, who now occasionally commutes from her new job in California. Present are Kathryn, Amanda—who can be recognized as one of the models in Nourishing Knits—Sarah, me, and Rebekah. Rebekah's wearing her first completed knitting project, a blue wool pullover with a cable motif on the front.)
This group has also informally supported another recent project during its development: Kristi's Nourishing Knits: 24 Projects to Gift and Entertain. This electronic book contains a dozen knitting projects and a dozen (well, a generous dozen) recipes. The yarn-related and kitchen-based components are paired, with stories about each. Kristi is a gifted knit designer, recipe deviser, and photographer (she took the author photo of me that's on the back of Fleece and Fiber). We watched the development of the patterns and we taste-tested the recipes, sometimes in multiple iterations (from yum to WOW).
In the next photo there's Dee, pouring the spice tea that makes our world go 'round. (Recognize the sweater I'm wearing? Sarah's working on a Swirl, and has actually figured out how many stitches are in each section, as well as a total, and gives us reports on her status. She's an engineer. Dee's working on a Swirl of her own, and being an accountant has prepared a spreadsheet and revised some calculations: her work-in-progress is on the table in front of her. I think Kathryn is knitting socks. Rebekah is making another sweater. I have no idea what I'm knitting. I may have ripped it out. No, I think it might be a Christmas present that will be ready by spring.)
In addition to providing perspective, useful and not, on Kristi's knitting designs, we have joyfully contributed reliable feedback on her kitchen adventures. In the reddish glass by Kathryn and on the plate in front of Sarah are a few remaining saffron pastries that Kristi brought last week. They were absolutely scrumptious: not too sweet, delicately flavored, satisfying.
Nourishing Knits contains lots of options of the knitterly and cooking varieties. I subscribed to the early version of the book, so I've been getting updates as things progressed. Now it's finished, and I have the whole thing! You can, too. It's currently available only through Ravelry, the online knitting community (free memberships), but Kristi is working on a landing page on her website as well so non-Ravelry folks can get it.
One of the patterns in the book is "Guided by Love," a sock design constructed on one of Cat Bordhi's architectures so that pawprints go spiraling from the toe area up to the cuff, with "guided by love" added in braille beadwork around the top of the sock. (Note: Designing pawprints in lace is no small accomplishment. I've done it, independently. Getting the components to line up correctly takes a lot of trial and error. Kristi's standards for how things will work are really high.) Early sales of this pattern earned $1400 in donations for The Seeing EyeTM. The accompanying recipe is for Bow Wow Biscotti, dog treats that were tested by Kristi's dogs. . . .
very sweet Emma, who will, if she knows you pretty well and you don't look at her directly, let you pat her:
and spicy Brandon, a more recent addition to the household:
as well as our dogs, Ceilidh (with some of the yarn for Dee's Swirl). . . .
and Tussah, who, like the others, doesn't get fed people food but is hoping for a pup-biscotti:
. . . plus Amanda's and Sarah's dogs, and maybe some others as well. Everybody's been involved in Kristi's book, at least at the tasting level. All of the dogs shown here are rescues. Being rescued to test Kristi's dog treats is a pretty good deal for a dog.
Looking over the finished product of Kristi's book brings back lovely memories for me. The patterns and food ideas in it have been carefully selected to create similar fine memories for you.
Because it can be hard to know where to start, I'll pick out four of my favorite patterns and recipes.
Although I like and would knit all the patterns, the specific designs that I personally would be happy to cast on for immediately, and be working on by tonight, include:
- "Buttercream," elbow-height hand and arm warmers with twisted-stitch patterning and shaped thumbs
- "Challah," warm warm comfort socks
- "Masala," unique slippers, and
- "Ciabatta," a sweater to steal from the guys
I'd revisit all the recipes. Yet the ones I want to make this week are:
- Savory Pesto Cheesecake, even though I don't like cheesecake! (it pleases cheesecake lovers and non-lovers alike)
- Smoky Sweet Pumpkin Seeds, which I should warn everyone are addictive
- Chai Concentrate, created in the spirit of a local restaurant's exquisite brew
- Pumpkin Fig Muffins, not too sweet, great texture, nice gingery punch, and
- Slow Cooker Black Bean Chili—this stuff is awesome, worth the price of the whole collection
Oops, it turns out I can't limit myself to just four.
Hmmmm. . . . They must have tested the Antipasti Bread Pudding while I was doing something out of town. I'll have to experiment with that one on my own.
Another plus of this book is that Kristi talks about her design processes, for both yarns and foods, and offers suggestions for modifying and principles for diverging from the written instructions. She's aware of allergy issues; likes whole, unadulterated foods; and is vegetarian-friendly.
Both patterns and recipes would be appropriate for the run-up to the holidays (even, for some of them, at this late date), but are also prime candidates for cheering up January, February, and mud-slushy-stormy March. And on beyond that. Check out Nourishing Knits. You'll be glad you did.
Photos by Kristi Schueler, © 2011 and used by permission. / I purchased my subscription copy of Nourishing Knits.