Scania Shawl

My third shawl was a relaxing break from lace knitting but includes a number of fun design elements. The Scania Shawl by Caroline Wiens is inspired by Skåne, in the southernmost part of Sweden. It’s an asymmetrical triangular shawl that uses five colours of fingering weight yarn held double, which produces a marled effect and a wide range of colour combinations. I chose maize heather (a mustard yellow) combined with earth tones from cream to dark brown. Again, I’m using Cloudborn yarn, this time Cloudborn Highland Superwash Sock Twist (80% Peruvian superwash highland wool, 20% polymide).

The beginning corner of my Scania Shawl with colours Espresso Heather, Stone Heather, Maize Heather, Taupe Heather and Oatmeal Heather

Along with the colour changes, the pattern includes a genius way of achieving the cable border and fringe. This is definitely a pattern worth trying.

The cable border and fringe made this a fun knit

Difficulty: Intermediate

Skills

  • Slipped stitches
  • Short rows
  • I-cord bind off
  • Mock cable
  • Fringe
  • Stitches: k, p, k1tbl, p1tbl, M1L, M1Lp, s1wyif, sl1k2psso, YO, k2tog tbl

Knitty fame

This shawl is included as a featured image on the Ravelry Scania Shawl pattern. You can find out more about the pattern there and purchase it!

My Scania Shawl on the official Ravelry pattern page!

Chocolate Maniac Fire Bread

Chocolate maniac fire bread with smoked salt raspberry butter. I know, it’s a mouthful and probably sounds a little strange. It’s good though, seriously. That is, if you like chocolate and a bit of a kick.

This little treat is bursting with pockets of flavour. It’s a chocolate quick bread with Cacao Barry Extra Brute, a high quality amber cocoa powder from Barry Callebaut that tastes amazing. Then it’s got chunks of bittersweet chocolate for pockets of chocolatey goodness. And it wouldn’t be a maniac fire bread if it wasn’t laced with bits of bird’s eye chili that pack a serious punch while at the same time complementing the intense chocolate flavour. To top it all off is butter mixed with raspberries (from my grandmother’s garden in exchange for vacuuming my grandparent’s house) and smoked salt. Chocolate maniac fire bread with smoked salt raspberry butter is what it sounds like, a symphony of flavour complexity you have to try to understand.

I’m not sure if this maniac bread is a breakfast food or dessert, so I’m just going to eat it as both.

A Pile of Books Cake

I always found it remarkable during my early baking years to see photos of cakes that don’t actually look like cakes. I finally achieved that with this one – a graduation cake shaped like a pile of books! Reportedly during the graduation party, the mother of the graduate asked, “who is going to pick up the cake?” She didn’t know that the pile of books sitting on the counter WAS the cake.

This tiered celebration cake is a vanilla cake in disguise, with raspberry filling and buttercream. The hat is a chocolate cupcake in disguise. While the pages of the books and cake board are covered with a white fondant, the covers are a contrasting chocolate fondant that smell a bit like a Tootsie roll. The books and hat are then decorated with both hand painting and applique to achieve the final detailing. A special shoutout to Skylar for suggesting the second book be modelled after the CISC Handbook of Steel Construction, 11th Edition. Clearly, a Civil Engineering special.

A pile of books cake

Congratulations to Bikram on graduating from Civil Engineering! It was a pleasure to create this special tiered cake for you.

Spring Forth

I enjoyed knitting the High Sierra Shawl so much that I couldn’t help but get started right away on another lace shawl just released by the same designer, Romi Hill. This pattern was a little different, as it was part of an MKAL (Mystery Knit Along). In an MKAL, the design of the pattern is unknown at the start of the knit along. Each week, part of the pattern is released, therefore each stage of knitting is a complete surprise! It was a fun process, and I adore enough of Romi Hill’s patterns (which heavily feature lace), that not liking the end product wasn’t a huge concern.

I got started with two scrumptious skeins of Manos del Uruguay Alegria in the colourways Orla and Spirulina. They reminded me of new spring leaves, even though this year’s cold winter was still lingering and it was April but still snowing. I should add that this beautiful and richly coloured fingering weight yarn is hand dyed and fair trade. Manos del Uruguay provides jobs to women in their rural hometowns, and each skein is signed by the artisan with the name of the town they are from. Orla is by Maria in Dragon, and Spirulina is by Davida in Fraile Muerto, Uruguay.

Manos Alegria yarn in Orla and Spirulina

This shawl was a great follow up to the High Sierra, as it had some common elements, while also adding in a number of new stitches and techniques. For one, I got to try cabling for the first time. Two of the sections feature tiny two stitch cables, and what could be better than lace and cables combined? Cables have also been a knitting technique (other than lace) that I admire due to how complex they appear. I am one for loving intricate little details.

I didn’t encounter any notable problems or issues knitting up this shawl. It shows how much my confidence and skill has improved since I first picked up knitting less than a year ago. I finished my shawl and despite being an MKAL, I was also pleased with how the colours turned out. In fact, the name of the pattern turned out to be Spring Forth, so how fitting that I had chosen colours that reminded me of spring!

My completed Spring Forth lace shawl. Just look at the detail on that bottom edge.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Skills

  • Lace
  • Cables
  • Backwards loop cast on
  • Pick up and knit
  • Stitches: k, p, k tbl, p tbl, YO, k2tog, ssk, sk2p, kfb, pfb, M1, M1p, k2tog tbl, k3tog tbl, slip st wyif, slip st wyib, c2b, c2f, 2/3 sts, 3/3 sts, 2/3p sts, 3/3p sts, k3 into YO
  • Stretchy bind-off

Knitty fame

My shawl was featured on Instagram by @manosdeluruguayyarns!

High Sierra Shawl

With the Waverton Cowl under my belt, I took a dive in the deep end of the pool and started on the High Sierra Shawl by Romi Hill. It’s my first larger knitting project, and definitely not rated for beginners, even though it’s quite achievable. The pattern is well written and extremely clear. It also comes with video instructions. I love the lace, colour changes and asymmetry featured on this shawl, and I was quite determined to complete it.

I picked out the a Cloudborn Merino Superwash Sock Twist Mini Set in Hill Myna (gold and greys) with a larger skein of Cloudborn Superwash Merino Fingering yarn in black and cast on. It took me about an hour and multiple tries to cast on, even though there were only five stitches required! It was another new cast on method for me (CO through loop), but the result is that the stitches blend in seamlessly with the rest of the shawl. The cast on is actually situated in the middle and not at the edge of the shawl. After that, it was straight off into lace knitting on the first chart.

My colour choices, cast on, and completion of the first chart!

Once chart A, B and C were completed to form the top triangle with circular lace motifs, it was time to bind-off even though the shawl was just beginning. I found this to be a surprising construction, and tried the reverse stockinette i-cord bind off for the first time, which gave a clean looking edge that blended well with the garter stitch of the triangle. Once bound off, I continued knitting by picking up stitches along the lower edges of the triangle, added in some stripes and started the colour changes.

The shawl is starting to take shape

The rest is a combination of lace panels, stripes, and colour gradients that are constructed in an asymmetrical but balanced way. I found the construction to be extremely interesting and eventually got into the rhythm of it. In total there are 7 lace charts. The hardest (for me) was definitely Chart D. This is probably in part because I was still getting accustomed to lace knitting, although it is undoubtedly a very busy chart that includes triple yarn overs.

Completion of Chart D
A couple more lace panels added (E and F) along with two more colours. Just one more lace chart to go!

It was a bit of a relief to complete the last lace chart and see the shawl come together. But just when you think you are almost done, there’s a number of additional stripes to add at the end. And they are LONG stripes of about 400 stitches each, which comes out to many thousands of stitches, so it takes longer than you would think. After a lot of knitting I finished and it looks great!

This High Sierra Shawl is all done!

Like rays of sunlight shining over the mountain peaks, this shawl is a stunner. It’s bold with stripes and colour contrasts. Elegant with lace and gradients. It’s been my most ambitious knitting project to date, but I’m so glad I did it.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Skills

  • Cast on through loop
  • Reverse i-cord bind off
  • Lace
  • Pick up and knit
  • Short rows
  • Stitches: k, p, kfb, sk2p, k2tog, k2tog tbl, YO, k tbl, M1, k3to, ssk
  • Stretchy bind-off

Knitty fame

While knitting my shawl I had the privilege of being featured on Instagram by @craftsyknits!

Waverton Cowl

After a small handful of successful “beginner” level projects, and while still considering myself a beginner level knitter, I couldn’t help but dabble in lace knitting. I have always admired the intricate detail and femininity of lace. (This being in cakes and fashion!) It perhaps is no surprise that I’d decide to jump right into this as my next step in knitting. I picked out the Waverton Cowl by Kate Atherley as my first lace knitting project for a couple of reasons.

  1. Cowls are relatively small projects.
  2. The design has a small lace repeat across the entire surface, which means repetitive practice.
  3. The cowl is knit in a worsted (medium) weight yarn, and it is generally easier to work with a yarn that’s not too fine or too bulky.
  4. This is a practical cowl for everyday winter use. It’s warm, functional, and also beautiful (because lace).
  5. The pattern is free on Craftsy and includes video lessons! Get it here.

Knitting the first half of the cowl was slow going. I had to redo a number of rows and spend a good portion of time fixing mistakes. Lace takes some concentration to keep track of where you are, and looks complicated. With practice however, I eventually could see how to read my stitches to identify mistakes and fix them. That being said, in a way lace is easier than it would seem. It really just consists of strategically placed holes, stitch increases, and stitch decreases in repeating patterns.

The project is knit in Cloudborn Superwash Merino Worsted Twist Yarn, a warm but soft 100% merino wool that’s machine washable . The colour is slate heather, which goes with everything. This pattern features a delicate chain along the side of a lace diamond motif.

Diamond motif lace detail

In the end, although it was a bit slower to knit, my first lace piece was a success!

Here I am wearing my cowl (and the Chunky Striped Hat I knit previously)

I learned a number of new techniques with this project other than lace knitting in general, including how to read charts. In fact, I now prefer charts over written instructions for lace. I also learned some new stitches (k2tog, yo, ssk, k3tog), and the Russian lace bind off.

Difficulty: Adventurous Beginner

Skills:

  • Knitting in the round
  • 1×1 rib stitch
  • Basic lace stitches – k2tog, yo, ssk, k3tog
  • Russian Lace bind off

First Steps in Knitting

Last August I learned how to knit, and it was fun! The problem is, I don’t have time for knitting. But, I did manage to find a solution to this and I have now been knitting fairly regularly during my daily commute to work. I feel it’s a more productive use of my time than people watching, or trying to sleep but not actually sleeping. I get to make something functional (and hopefully fashionable as well). I get to stretch my mind and creativity in something new. In fact, deciphering knitting patterns is really like solving a puzzle. You get a block of symbols, or list of abbreviations. From that you determine how to make your stitches, put the pieces together, and voila! The puzzle comes together and actually looks like a knit garment if you did everything correctly.

Anyways, below are some of the knitting projects I have finished!

My first project was a pair of fingerless mitts. When I started I fully expected them to be a complete disaster of holes and ragged edges, but while a little uneven in places, they turned out pretty good. In fact, they even fit! I learned a lot from this first project –  the long tail cast on, how to knit and purl (along with garter, stockinette and 2×2 rib stitch), casting off, and some basic seaming including garter seam and mattress stitch.

Fingerless Mitts

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They even fit!
They even fit!

Next I made a waffle stitch cowl – actually two, because the first I gave to my mother for Christmas (Cloudborn Highland Roving in Oatmeal Heather). It was a surprisingly quick project to finish because it used a super bulky weight yarn on thick needles. I had also gotten the hang of basic knitting so my speed started improving. Here I learned to knit in the round.

I have since been wearing my waffle stitch cowl almost daily. It is a comfy, warm and soft, as it is knitted in 100% merino wool (MadelineTosh ASAP in Gossamer). Great for this year’s cold cold winter.

Waffle Stitch Cowl I – Cloudborn Highland Roving (100% highland wool) in Oatmeal Heather
Waffle Stitch Cowl II – MadelineTosh ASAP (100% merino wool) in Gossamer

And third, my latest project to complete was a Chunky Striped Hat. Each took me less than a week of train rides, but I learned how to switch colours, and basic shaping, including a decrease stitch (k2tog). It is also super soft and warm in 100% merino wool (Cloudborn Merino Bulky in Ocean and Grey Heather). The pompoms were especially fun!

Chunky Striped Hat
I had exactly enough yarn for two hats with jumbo sized pompoms!

I have some projects currently on the needles in some increasing complexity now. Stay tuned!

Sugar Lace Cakes

Flexible and edible, sugar lace has amazing detail. For quite some time I have been in awe of this decorating medium, and recently I finally got the chance to make some of my own. How it works is you mix up a paste and apply it to a silicone mat with the lace impression. Then you scrape away the excess and let the lace dry for a few hours (or speed things up by baking the mat in the oven on low heat). Once set, you remove the lace and get an intricate lace piece that’s completely edible.

Flexible sugar lace

I followed this up on a couple cakes. The first features a toasted coconut chocolate cake, decorated in edible lace, pink sugar carnations, and a big floppy bow. The result is fantastically elegant.

A modern lace cake

For my sister’s birthday, I experimented in creating a more playful design with a chocolate raspberry cake that features a layering of bright colours, Antwerp lace, and applique flowers.

Layers of bright colours, Antwerp lace and applique flowers
Antwerp Lace birthday cake

Ice Cream Sandwiches

A few weeks ago, I was busy baking cakes with my sister. A lot of cakes in fact, for a three tier wedding cake. The cakes were levelled, filled and looking perfect. This left a lot of garbage cake.

And I mean a lot of garbage cake! This is probably one 1/4 of the total garbage cake

You might ask, what do you do with all that garbage cake? You certainly don’t throw all it in the garbage? No, of course not. There are in fact a number of great things you can do with garbage cake, and here are just a few of the many options:

  1. Eat it for breakfast
  2. Make cake pops
  3. Make ice cream sandwiches

I picked #3 a couple weeks ago, and I am sure glad now that the weather has suddenly warmed up. The great thing about making ice cream sandwiches are that they are a great opportunity to also use up any leftover icing, cookie chunks, etc. you have lying around from previous projects.

  1. To make the outer cookie, mix 5 cups of cake crumbs with 1 cup of icing (you can use more or less icing depending on how moist the cake is). Mix it until it comes together into a dough. It should be like a cookie dough consistency.
  2. Line an 8 inch square pan with plastic wrap. Ensure there is a lot of excess along the sides (to cover the top and help get it out of the pan).
  3. Press half of the dough into the bottom of the pan.
  4. Cover the dough with ice cream
  5. Freeze until firm.
  6. Press the remaining dough onto the ice cream and freeze again until hard.
  7. Unmold the pan, and cut into squares.
Finished ice cream sandwiches

I made orange lemon vanilla ice cream sandwiches as well as chocolate vanilla cookie ice cream sandwiches. The orange lemon vanilla ice cream sandwiches are made with lemon cake and orange buttercream icing, then filled with vanilla ice cream. The chocolate vanilla cookie ice cream sandwiches are made with chocolate cake and cream cheese icing. They are filled with vanilla ice cream mixed with Oreo cookie chunks. You can be creative with your cake and ice cream flavours for all sorts of tasty combinations!

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

The festive season brings a good excuse for all manner of baking. This December, I revisited some old favourites – chocolate chip cookies, and the decadent Queen of Sheba Chocolate Torte. At the same time, the month was also a first for me in chocolate making, with Earl Grey Ganache Bonbons for gifts. I also baked madeleines for the first time, a traditional shell shaped French cookie. Finally, for Christmas Day, I made a batch of two dozen cupcakes. Cupcakes are my childhood baking favourite, so I’ve likely whipped up more of these than any other baked good. Yet, I am proud to say I also incorporated some experimentation in flavour and texture.

Meet my Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes!

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes
Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

They are all cupcake in appearance, but inside, they have some pie genes. Lemon shortbread lines the bottom for some lemony crunch. The centre of the cupcake holds a surprise of strawberry puree, surrounded by lemon cake. With the best of both worlds, the beautiful aesthetics of a cupcake is present with strawberry buttercream ruffles piped on top with a large rose tip, and finished with a sprinkle of yellow and pink sanding sugar.

Cupcake anatomy
Strawberry lemonade cupcakes – inside and out

I have to say, the cupcakes got some great reviews. A funny story – earlier, after hearing there was still one left in my fridge, my dad hurried over (while worrying that my sister might beat us, and therefore gobble it up before him).

As the year comes to an end, many wishes for more cupcake-pie hybrids in 2017!

Creamy Artichoke and Garden Tomato Tart

October has come, and summer seems to be long gone. It has been snowing a fair deal already, as if retribution for last year’s mild winter. It snowed last weekend. It also snowed last Friday, causing all sorts of havoc on roads.

Rewind back a couple weeks ago. The tomatoes were still happily growing late in the season, abundant and green, when my sister hurried outside to harvest them amidst the frost warnings. Now, they are ALL getting ripe. A large abundance of fresh, flavorful heirloom tomatoes straight from our backyard. In boxes on the floor, all over the kitchen table, filling up the fridge…

There doesn’t seem a better way to celebrate this bountiful harvest than adorning a homemade quick puff pastry tart with artichoke filling. To top it off, I added a variety of tomatoes including yellow pear and zebra (with green and red stripes), as well as other mystery types. One is a pinkish colour, while another a more conventional tomato red. Just use what is on hand for a delicious treat – layers of crisp flaky pastry, creamy and tangy artichoke, and succulent tomatoes.

Creamy Artichoke and Garden Tomato Tart
Creamy Artichoke and Garden Tomato Tart
All the glorious tomatoes
All the glorious tomatoes

Disclaimer: I have no gardening talent. Luckily my sister does.

Svolvær and Magic Ice

We headed back into the main part of Svolvær and sat by the scenic harbour to eat our lunch. We had a view of the ocean, the mountains (including Svolværgeita), and the town centre. Across the water were wooden racks with fish drying. All in all the scenery here is stunning at every turn.

Lunchtime harbour view
Racks with cod drying

We wandered around the small town after that. The town centre consists of only a few main streets and mix of modern and older buildings.

Cod drying in the sunshine in the main square.
The church in town. Simple but distinctly Scandinavian.
More traditional buildings in the town

We visited Magic Ice next, where you can see a large collection of ice sculptures. Magic Ice is located in an old fish warehouse freezer, therefore quite cold. We were given gloves and fashionable warm cloaks to wear. Then we entered, marvelling at the many ice sculptures, dimly lit in coloured lights.

A large rowboat all made with ice
A big face made of ice
Ice octopus
Cute little ice crab
Kind of creepy?

We were also given a drink of ice wine in glasses made of ice at the ice bar. You can order drinks there all day if you can stand the cold.

Intricate ice sculptures and our ice wine drinks at the ice bar

Once done, we headed for dinner. Again, once we got outside we caught some more beautiful shots.

Kayakers in the harbour

We ended up at the restaurant Bacalao. Aptly named, we both ordered Bacalao, which is a Norwegian dish recommended to us by our climbing guide Charlie. Bacalao is a tomato based stew of clipfish, potato, onion, red pepper, olives and garlic and served with bread. A satisfying end to this scenic and exciting day!

Bacalao for dinner. Tasty but not cheap (205 NOK or $32 CAD)