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July 2008

June 2008

making yogurt

First, thank you for all your well wishes for my Mom's recovery.  She's doing well.  Better than she thinks she is, or at least I hope so.

Lisa wrote me:

I have toyed with the idea of making my own yogurt for awhile now and thought that you had to have a machine. Seeing you just cooked it on the stove intrigues me. Do you have a recipe? Would you mind passing it along?

A few people have written to ask how I make my yogurt.  Rather than
answer everyone individually, I thought I'd post it.

About yogurt..

I've made my own yogurt for as long as I can remember.  Back when I was in college, I had one of those little yogurt makers, the kind with 5 or 6 little jars that sat in a heated base.  It was good for low consumption.  But, that's not me.  I eat a lot of yogurt so I quickly moved on to bigger and better things.  If you have a stove, or a hot plate and a pan with a lid, you have all the equipment you need.  Don't buy anything. 

This recipe is for 1/2 gallon.

  1. Pour 1/2 gallon of milk ( I prefer whole milk but any will do) into saucepan.  Add 1/2 cup powdered milk, stirring to dissolve it.  The powdered milk isn't absolutely necessary but I find that the yogurt is creamier if I add it.  Heat until milk begins to froth.  Make sure that you stir your milk to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  I use a wire whisk and a great little heavy bottomed stainless steel pan.  When the milk is hot remove from heat.
  2. Now to cool down the milk.  The fastest way I've found is to use a water bath.  Place the pan of hot milk into a silk filled with about 4" of cold water.  Stir it or not.
  3. You don't need a thermometer to tell you when it is the right temperature.  Here's the trick.  The milk will be the right temperature when you can submerge your finger all the way down to the bottom and hold it there for 20 seconds.. a thousand one, a thousand two...   If it is too hot for your finger, it is too hot to make yogurt.  Don't let it get too cool.  Just to the point where you can hold your finger for the count of 20. 
  4. The starter is yogurt from the last batch.  If you are just beginning, I'd suggest you buy a container of a good, preferrably organic whole milk yogurt.  I like Stonyfield.  Their yogurt has a good combination of   yogurt bacteria.  Whisk about 1/2 cup (not more) into the warm milk.
  5. Put the lid onto the pan and wrap it in a blanket.  I use a bath towel.  Place it in a warm spot if you have one.  Just keep it wrapped up and don't slosh it about too much.  Give it 3-4 hours.  Less time gives a sweeter, thinner yogurt, more time a stronger, thicker one. 

That's it.  Easy peasy.

ledbetter spindles.. they're here!

I got a little behind putting these spindles up on the Ball and Skein site.  Just about the time that my spindle order arrived from Ken and Carol Ledbetter, my Mom ended up having an unexpected surgery and I flew out to help her get back on her feet.  Flying isn't fun anymore.  Is it my imagination or is there a much higher percentage of delayed flights than in the past?  lost baggage? mixed messages when it comes to policy?  

This time I had asked for some with turquoise and lapis, spindles accented with blues.  Yummm!


They were worth the wait.  I've spent a little bit of time "testing" them, tempting myself.  My house is littered with little plied test skeins.  Each is a good lesson, not at all a waste of time.  I'd carded a bit of the soft white alpaca that I washed a few weeks ago with some merino & silk.  Testing these out gave me time and the excuse to make samples of two and three ply spindle spun yarns  in several weights.  In a class I took with Rita Buchanan several years ago, I learned to Navajo ply / Andean ply a three ply using a spindle.  It's fun to try if you haven't.  The technique is the same as you'd use with your wheel.  The difference for me is mainly that I leave the single that I'm plying from, wrapped around my left hand.  The weight of the spindle can do all the work if your single is new and still energized. A little twirl speeds it up.

10! 10! 10!

Just 10 minutes a day..

Ten_minutes_button copy4

Carole, just as she said she would, came up with this button the other day.  Let's make it a movement, or at least a give it a try.. just 10 minutes a day, on your spindle or wheel.  Or maybe just on the preparation of the fiber you'll spin next, a bit of predrafting.   I think you'll be surprised at the results.  It keeps the thought processes in motion.  No rusty joints.  No one will know if you join in or if you miss a day.  Only you.  Post the button on your side bar or not.  But, give it a try. 

10 minutes is perfect for test spinning a sample.  Just sayin'..

the white alpaca I washed yesterday

alpaca / merino / silk  carded together 2 ply

alpaca / merino / silk carded together 3 ply.   Plied using the Andean ply on my spindle.

Japanese Vines Scarf

When I first saw this pattern, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.  I knew what color I wanted to dye and the yarn I would use.  It was mid May in New England.  Everywhere I looked, there is was, a fresh new green sprouting up, harbinger of renewed life in the woodlands, fields and gardens.  There was a green canopy forming overhead.  They went together, this pattern of twining leaves, looking as if they also were only just waking, unfurling their leaves on their trip to the sun and the new colorway I imagined.

The yarn is Arbori, 50% merino / 50% tencel, the color is "Sprout".   Michelle and I emailed back and forth discussing the possibility of kitting it up.  I swatched with the Arbori and came up with what I thought would be the finished dimensions.  I made up a few kits to sell at MA S&W and continued working on my own.  I can see myself making a larger version as a shawl.  I love the pattern.  After the first few repeats, I was able to memorize it.  The few times I dropped a yarnover, I found it on the next row.  This was a knit that I wanted to go on, and on.  Perfect travel knitting.  Sunday, I have to travel and this knit is done.  It'll be a hard one to replace.  This morning I soaked it and stretched it out on the table.  No blocking.   This may be enough.

The Japanese Vine Scarf by Michelle Molis
Needles: Knitpicks Options #4
Yarn: Ball and Skein Arbori  "Sprout"
Finished Size: wide version 7 1/2" x 52"

This will be offered as a kit.  Pre-order for July. 

I know that quite a lot of you have purchased the Arbori yarn from me at shows and as part of the Persephone kit.  It will be offered in a limited number of colors soon.

summer days

There are three things to blog about.  Two for today, one is a teaser, and the third saved for tomorrow. 
1. After days of record breaking, unbearably hot and humid weather, Mother Nature delivered a couple of the summer's most beautiful days.  Mid 80's and dry.  With a breeze!  Perfect for getting a handle on the bags of unwashed fleece that have been hanging around.  I wasn't planning on washing fiber but Wednesday morning I got a phone call.  A friend had been phoned by an acquaintance, who just happpened to have llamas, or was it alpacas, and she was shearing them that morning and had no idea what she was going to do with the fiber.  Last year, she threw it away.  Oh my!  I bit, llama or alpaca, it was a lovely morning, perfect for a 15 minute drive to look at fiber.  To make a long story short, it was alpaca, and for various reasons, I didn't take it.  But it put the bug into my head to get moving on the alpaca that I already had. 
The first fleece that got washed was some absolutely gorgeous white alpaca.  Check this out.  If I remember correctly, there was about 6 lbs.  I washed it in four loads.


DSC_1306  DSC_1302

If you are looking for a great tutorial on washing alpaca, try this site

Then, I moved onto some brown Montedale I'd split with a friend last year at Rhinebeck.  No pictures, it is in the wash now.

2.  While I was busy doing the million things, the postman came to the door with a package. 


Want to guess what's in it?


Yep!  More of Ken Ledbetter's beautiful spindles.  Pictures as soon as I can get to it.  They'll go up on the Ball and Skein website.  Probably not for a week or so, sorry.  But they are gorgeous.  Of course.

too hot?? make yogurt

It IS too hot, too humid, and too uncomfortable to be outdoors working.  Except, if you are making yogurt.  This is  perfect weather for getting your culture to do its work.  Heating the milk on the stove, even first thing this morning was hot.  But once I had it cooled down and the starter whisked into the milk, I didn't give it another thought.  Wrapping the pan in a towel probably wasn't necessary.  I always do that, it keeps the warmth in.  No need for that today.  


After a couple hours, I checked it.  See how it has set up?  Time to refrigerate.


The hibiscus surprised me this morning..  must feel at home.  At last look the thermometer was closing in on 100 F. 


The jasmine will pop tonight.  I'll be able to smell it through the open windows.  What this little blossom lacks in color and show, it makes up for in a nearly overpowering sweetness. 


Too hot!


somewhere there's more

I wish I knew where.  I bought a 2 oz. bag of this gorgeous Foxfire blend of cashmere and silk a year or so ago.  I guess I could check back in my blog entries, but no matter.  Since then, I've spun and / or misplaced .7 oz.  Out of a 2 oz bag, that's quite a lot.  Imagine the uproar if this were a bag of something else.. whew!!  Movies are written with less plot.  There's only me to blame.  Only me.  It's somewhere and hope against hope it hasn't been spun into some other yarn than this light 2 ply.  I've searched through my bags.  The other day I found a small amount in a bag with another spindle, unspun, and added it to this before I plied it yesterday afternoon. 

The remaining 1.3 oz.  192 yards.  Spindle spun.


192.. maybe a stripe?