Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Day Five: Dressed up Cloche & Crackers

Well I don't know about you but I'm having a great time with Knitting Contrisstmas, and there is so much left in store! Kathy Elkins was great, Laurie Perry was fabulous and Grumperina is next up on the 7th! Woo Hoo!

One of the common denominators in holiday preparation seems to be that everyone is looking for a way to maximize impact with minimum effort. For the most part only. I've learned not to feel bad, or guilty about that, it's just the truth. We might have the time and energy to create a very small amount of large holiday productions and wring our hands about the rest. Today I have two examples of making a larger splash with a smaller rock! :)

I'm working hard getting things together for you Blitters, as well as doing my own holiday prep, plus work----- and a girl needs a little snack to help keep things together! We wouldn't want low blood sugar or anything, now would we? Absolutely not!!

I've been seeing a super simple recipe at blogs around the 'net lately, a little ditty involving Snowflake Ritz crackers, white chocolate (the melty kind) and some sort of pretty holiday sprinkle. I was doubtful. Very doubtful. I happened to have those cute little crackers, some white chocolate and my favorite holiday sprinkles from the fine folks at Williams-Sonoma on hand so I thought I'd make a batch. Only in the interest of passing on this treat to you of course! Mind you, making a batch is not difficult or time consuming (both a big plus in my book) and they turned out good. Really good. That sweet and salty thing going on all together. Yum! Basically, you melt the white chocolate in the microwave. I used two cubes of "almond bark" from the grocery store packaged like an ice cube tray of white chocolate. I nuked it for about 2 minutes on about 70% power and stirred every now and again with a skewer until it was nice and runny. Lay out a piece of waxed paper or parchment, dip about 2/3 of the cracker in the chocolate and sort of drag the excess across the container so you don't have too much on the edge. Like there is such a thing right? The key seems to be the container, you want it small and deep, I used a custard cup and it was great. Then you set the frosted crackers on the parchment and as you go you happily sprinkle away with festive little sugary yummies. I dare you to wait until one has cooled hard to eat one. (I know I didn't!)

Easy as can be and cute as pie! I don't think I'd serve them to Martha Stewart or anything, but they're darn good.

Still in the hat mode, for unknown reasons--- but I'm going with it! The creation du jour is a Ribbon Trim Cloche. Fast, cute, and happy!

Not like you NEED a pattern for a hat that is basically rolled brim, almost every knitter has one in the arsenal, but here goes. You need to cast on your stitches and really, you know you need to check your gauge. I cast on 50 stitches on a set of US size 9 circular needles in a nice chunky wool. (I know I don't need to tell you to find your own gauge, right?) My yarn was actually from (gasp) Jo Ann, called "Licorice". A nice surprise yarn, fun and it knits up very quickly. Dana turned me on to it if the truth be told!I'm a big fan of the cable cast on but it doesn't really matter because you won't see this edge one single bit. This is what I did and I'm counting on you to use your own favorite rolled hat pattern. Knit the first row and make a nice tight join, drop in a marker and off you go........... knit around until you have about 3 inches of stockinette. When you have the 3 inches (you can go 4 inches or so if you like a lot of roll like my cloche) you put in a row of eyelets (a very fancy word for holes, yes?) Easy as pie, knit one----yarn over------ knit two together. All the way around to the beginning of the row. Knit until you have about 8 inches or so. Check the fit, you can carefully pull that sweet baby on your head and see how you are coming along. When it is time to decrease, knit 8 and knit 2 together on the first decrease row. Knit two rounds plain (with no increses on those two rows) to give a bit more ooomph at the crown. Then knit 7 stitches and knit 2 together, 6 and decrease..... and so on. When you get to the point you can't manage on circulars anymore switch to dpn's, evenly dividing the stitches as you knit them off the circ's. Decrease until it just seems silly to keep on going because you only have a few stitches and it is making you cranky trying to get them all to work out. Cut a nice long thread tail, run that through a fat tapestry needle and pull the stitches tight, weaving the ends on the inside of the cloche. Weave in the starting tail on the brim of the cloche. I blocked my cloche by getting it nice and damp and putting it around a bowl. Mind you, it has to be a head like bowl so I'll trust you to root around your house until you find a likely candidate. One of the dears' at my LYS told a hilarious story about needing a bowl to block hats for felting and she went to her local Dollar Store and spent time in the aisles trying bowls on her head! I'm serious! Can you just see that? I did not try bowls on my head. (In public anyway!) Roll the brim nicely and give it a fabulous cloche-y shape. Voila! When the cloche has dried, dress it up by threading a length of ribbon through the holes and fasten with a simple backstitch and a vintage pin. I chose satin backed leopard print ribbon about 2 inches wide. The 'pin' on my cloche is an old earring from my Grandmother's jewelry box, nothing fancy but it makes me smile. I used a few extra stitches to attach it to the ribbon so it won't pop off during wear and yet can be easily removed if need be. The gift is for my oldest daughter who will love the fact that it is a bit of her Mum and a bit of her Gramma..... and she'll wear the cute cloche with snap and panache!

The ribbon detail, I cut a "swallowtail" into the ribbon on both sides before weaving it through the holes. The 'pin' is so sweet!

To me, the idea behind a simple gift such as a hat is that it comes made from the heart but it has another gift attached--- the pin. The ribbon dresses up the basic silhouette that just about every knitter has in her/his repertoire so that just maybe your recipient won't know that this baby flew off your needles!
Perhaps you can see the nice tight roll to the brim, the back is blocked (and rolled) a bit shorter than the front.


I've actually been working on a pretty cool project for Knitting Contrisstmas and haven't gotten much 'personal' knitting done, well outside of that scarf that seems never ending. It matches the hat above and the set seemed to be calling my name (for unknown reasons). I had to pop out and pick up another skein today, that is becoming a bad habit of mine! I've gotten to the point when I buy fabric that I routinely purchase another yard of fabric (or two, depending on the project) but I usually don't buy much extra yarn. Seems silly------ doesn't it? Remind me next time, really, go ahead--- it's fine! At any rate the scarf will be done soon and the miles of garter stitches were a perfect fit for sitting and watching some tv by candlelight and enjoying the tree. I wouldn't have been able to do that with a more complicated project.

I do have a new audiobook from on the iPod, "Home to Holly Springs" by Jan Karon. The narrator, Scott Sowers, has a wonderful voice. I was/am a huge fan of the Mitford series and I'm finding Holly Springs to be the same really homey, comforting kind of a story. Not War and Peace mind you, just sweet and tender. I'm not certain I'd give it a go if I wasn't already somewhat invested in the main character, Father Tim but so far it is keeping me good company.

Have a wonderful Wednesday, I can't wait to hear what you're making for your own holiday gifts!

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