The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ripping Good Yarn

by Melissa Bell

Actually ripping out your yarn, good or otherwise, is known as "frogging" - a vile necessity when one has dropped a stitch or miscounted something when working in a pattern. Nobody likes to frog.

Ah, such are the things one can learn from this book. And an awesome book it is - probably the best selling book for knitters out there, beginners and advanced. What makes it so great? The fact that it pretty much covers everything one needs to know about knitting, from knit and purl to intarsia to fair isle. The truly diligent could get through most of this book in a day or two, and start right in on knitting a sweater if they were so inclined. Truth be told, I've never knitted a sweater. I haven't the patience...yet. I prefer quick projects like scarves and hats - and this book has plenty of them.

And there's no guesswork with the instructions. Everything contained within the patterns is detailed and specific right down to including which techniques in the book you'll need to learn (or master) before tackling the project. And while some projects are more complicated than others, none of them involves rocket science. You won't be knitting up versions of your great-aunts' doilies either. Stitch 'n Bitch introduces the reader to trends such as "illusion" knitting (the easiest and most amazing thing ever), a hand-knit bikini, and the "Ribbed For Her Pleasure" scarf (yes, it does have a touch of naughtiness - let it be known than knitting isn't just for old ladies and nerds).

If there's a knitter in your life, this is a must-have book. In fact, it's such a must-have, best check with your knitting friends to see whether or not they already have it. Chances are good they might (Stitch 'n Bitch is a huge best-seller which has already spawned several sequels). And keep in mind there are plenty of men out there who knit as well!

It's snowing like crazy here in Toronto, so that's what I'm going to be doing today - knitting! And baking. Here's the recipe I'm going to be using this afternoon for some gingerbread cookies. Stay warm, everybody.

Gingerbread Snowflakes
Gourmet | December 2002

Active time: 1 1/2 hr
Start to finish: 2 1/4 hr
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

2/3 cup molasses (not robust)
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Decorating icing
Special equipment: assorted 2- to 3-inch cookie cutters (preferably snowflake-shaped); a metal offset spatula; a pastry bag fitted with 1/8- to 1/4-inch plain tip (optional)

Bring molasses, brown sugar, and spices to a boil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, and remove from heat. Stir in baking soda (mixture will foam up), then stir in butter 3 pieces at a time, letting each addition melt before adding next, until all butter is melted. Add egg and stir until combined, then stir in 3 3/4 cups flour and salt.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead, dusting with as much of remaining 1/4 cup flour as needed to prevent sticking, until soft and easy to handle, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Halve dough, then wrap 1 half in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.
Roll out remaining dough into a 14-inch round (1/8 inch thick) on a lightly floured surface. Cut out as many cookies as possible with cutters and carefully transfer with offset spatula to 2 buttered large baking sheets, arranging them about 1 inch apart.
Bake cookies in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are slightly darker, 10 to 12 minutes total (watch carefully toward end of baking; cookies can burn easily). Transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (reroll once).
Put icing in pastry bag (if using) and pipe or spread decoratively onto cookies.


Blogger T. Lee said...

Both those suggestions seem yummy. How I wish I had the knack for crafts and cooking.

Mon Dec 17, 06:19:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I tried to knit once and was hopeless at it. Should have had that book, I guess, although I would have balked at the cover, would have looked for a gender neutral book.

Mon Dec 17, 01:14:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

There must be a whole culture to knitting, one we're not aware. I won't use the recipe, Mel, but it feels good knowing it's there.

Mon Dec 17, 10:53:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Anne C. said...

I might make the recipe, actually. I'm only hesitating because of the icing. Icing is not my strong point.

Tue Dec 18, 04:29:00 pm GMT-5  

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