Saturday, August 02, 2008

Wow! knitted gifts, and best yet home-made hot chocolate

Look what I got, wow -its baby soft, shades of hand dyed blue, and very interesting. I wish I could claim I knitted it but I didn't because Ruth did, and she knit it for me. I in turn knit some socks for P, who knit a hat for another P, who knit something for .... well I lost count, there were to many lovely knitted and felted and dyed things being presented and passed around. Today's post explains why we were knitting for each other, I post the Cioccolata densa recipe as promised, an update on my socks - surprise surprise they don't match, and a swatch goes awry.

But first I need to explain why I now have this wonderful felted shibori scarf to keep me warm. Last Saturday our local group of Thursday night knitters, held a mid winter dinner party. It was suggested ages ago, by Kelly, as she watched us all madly knit gifts for Christmas. The very wise Kelly said - wouldn't it be nice if we did a knitted gift exchange, secretly drew names and knit a gift for another knitter. Kelly pointed out that as knitters we gave a lot of knitted gifts and usually never received knitted gifts, Kelly wanted to re-dress that imbalance, she thought we all deserved knitted gifts. So months ago we drew names, and filled in little questionnaires about ourselves - what we liked, what sizes we wore in terms of hats, gloves, scarves, and socks, and what we didn't like. Saturday we dined well on all sorts of yummy food that people shared, and exchanged our carefully planned knitted goodies. Thats where my Salto Socks went, and why I initially nick-named them gifty socks, My recipient - put them on, announced the fit was perfect and wore them right thru the party.

My contribution to the dinner was diary free Cioccolata densa, thick hot italian style chocolate. Now this recipe is not perfect, and it may not be authentic, I don't know I've not bought hot chocolate in Italy yet. It is an adult style hot chocolate (my kids love it though - they have adult tastes), its dark and not to sweet. I do warn you, use the darkest cocoa and chocolate you can find, I used Equagold Dutch Cocoa, you need to find one without any dairy and without any added sugar. I used Lindt Excellence 85% Dark Cocoa chocolate. I did try and use organic cocoa - but it had sugar added and was much to sweet, and not dark enough, I also tried to us Fair-trade dark chocolate, which was very nice - but not quite dark enough. This recipe really needs the darkest forms of cocoa and chocolate you can locate. Still like any recipe there is the full on cafe style dinner party version, then the more relaxed at home version - so try with all the forms of chocolate you have at hand and see which one you like best.
To make diary free Cioccolata densa for two (- because it is to good not to share), put
  • 4Tbsns Cocoa,
  • 2 Tbspns sugar,
  • 1 scant tsp cornflour
in a heavy based pot, add
  • 200 mls water,
wisk together, then bring to a simmer stirring all the time. When simmering, continue to simmer gently for 30 seconds, remove from the heat and stir in
  • a few squares of dark chocolate &
  • half a teaspoon of good vanilla paste or essence

Serve, enjoy. We served ours in little white handle-less cups from the local Asian food shop, with a dessert spoon to scrape out the last thick drops. On the night, some guests stirred in all sorts of liqueurs and flavorings. For international kitchen clarity 1 tspn is a teaspoon and is officially in New Zealand cookbooks 5mls, 1 Tbsp is 1 tablespoon and is officially 15mls.

so - my next socks, my two Toasty's grow, and are slightly lopsided. I'm not sure if you remember that I decided to modify the gusset and move the shaping under the heel? Then once knit I bemoaned the fact that the other sock had to be the same. that socks really ought to be a pair, and what I really wanted to do was play more with the gusset shaping? Well - that saying, you know the one about the best laid plans of mice, and men, and knitters? I planned the second sock to be a pair for the first sock, I recorded all my knitting decisions for sock one and follow them for sock two ... and look what happened! I increased inside the markers on sock one, and outside the markers on sock 2 ... whadda-you-know, I ended up with the very shaping I was thinking of. Its still highly experimental, and the increase lines ended up slightly wider than the heel flap - I guess i need to continue playing and knit up sock 3 and perhaps even 4? So - thinking forward, I could either make the heel flap wider, or start the gusset shaping at a point, not a 4 stitch wide panel.

My plan was to set sock one aside once the heel was done, and knit the heel of sock two whilst I still remembered what I did (just in case my hand written notes were not legible and meaningful - but instead unreadable confusion). Once the heel of Toasty two was done, well .. it made sense to knit both the legs at the same time. So I have transfered both to 2-circs and am knitting away. This always seems a much slower way to knit, effectively halving the rate at which each sock grows.

And I swatched, for a top down yoked cardigan for Poppy. I attempted colour work with some of my variegated hand spun and a cone of dusky pink Milton Mill wool. Intellectually I know that cone yarn 'bloom's when washed - practically I ignored that knowledge. Result - my colour work pulls in, narrows my knit in the round swatch something wicked. It happens most on the rows where there was more blue than pink, gauge matters you mutter and here is the proof. You can see the cause of the problem cause below, the pink yarn to the left is unwashed cone yarn, the pink in the middle washed/blocked cone yarn, and the blue - my own hand-spun. Notice the difference thicknesses? I do - now after the fact. I think I will set this aside for a wee while - the knitters study group project for the end of the year is a top down raglan - Poppy can have something in the pink then, perhaps I will find a similar weight yarn to use for the colour work, or perhaps I will overdye some of the pink. I'll keep you posted.

For now - I want to knit my hand-spun into something. I recognise the importance of knitting my yarn as I make it, not to reduce my stash or to use it while its 'fresh', but to learn from my knitting what my yarn is like for knitting with. I hope that knitting my hand-spun will teach me what I need to modify to make my hand-spun better to knit with.

I also have 2 more babies due at work, so more baby things on the way soon. Maybe the inner section of a baby blanket - so maybe I'm off to swatch my blue with some white ...

take care


jigidyjensen said...

I have a few tricks of making a good cup of hot chocolate. It has to do with where you put the whipping cream. Also, it involves using some dove chocolate.

Hot chocolate tip

Knitting Linguist said...

Mmm...that hot chocolate sounds yummy -- I will definitely revisit that recipe when it's cooler here! The socks are looking good, I can't wait to hear how the difference feels on the foot. And I really like your point about knitting with handspun as it's spun in order to learn what to change in the spinning for good knitting yarn. Thanks for sharing that thought, it's going to inspire me to use up what I've been spinning.

Shirley Goodwin said...

Lots of yummy knitting eye candy on your blog as usual, Stell. I have a Knitty article on knitting 2socks at once (and also a whole book doing the same using a different method) and can't work either of them out, so I have to do mine separately, leaving me open to

I made a F&F scarf in the same colour as yours, out of a Tencel yarn but didn't block it, so the ends didn't look too different. The friend I made it for loves it.