Sunday, December 30, 2007

Home for the Holidays

Will not be blogging for a few days; going to go spend some time in the bosom of my family.

We may all live through this.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


added: (photo courtesy

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Knitting in Literature

"Newell brought his gun up a little. I wished I could get some moisture in my mouth.

Newell said, “So you know about the track?”

“Of course, what do you think I do with my time, knit? How much does the track pay off, Newell? Ten grand a month? Enough to commit murder for?”

(“Crime Gets a Head”, Milton Lamb, Ten Detective Aces

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Last Minute Christmas Whimsies

The Toymaker has a little gift box, a bird ornament, and some other Christmas paper crafts up on her site and as always they are charming and FREE (she does accept donations to keep her site going).

This could be a sanity-saver if you have a house full of visiting relatives and need to keep the smaller ones occupied.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

They don't make it like they used to

This recipe is offered verbatim from a 1915 cookbook called “Mary At the Farm” and can be downloaded or read online at the Michigan State University cookbook collection.

This is a favorite website of mine and I can spend an entire afternoon there. Note to cooks: I have not tried this and can’t offer any recommendation pro or con. Like many vintage recipes, the prep method would give a health inspector the collywobbles although presumably all that whiskey acts as a preservative. Some of the ingredients may be hard to find; just what are Sultana raisins, anyway?


Two pounds lean beef (uncooked), chopped fine, ½ pound beef suet, shredded.

Put the beef and suet in a large stone jar, pour over it 2/3 of a quart of whiskey. Let stand covered with a lid for a week, then add 2 pounds large, seeded raisins, 2 pounds Sultana raisins, two pounds currants, ½ pound citron, juice and grated rind of 2 oranges and of 2 lemons, 1 teaspoonful salt, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 2 grated nutmegs, ½ teaspoon ground allspice, 1 pound sugar. Let stand two weeks, then it is ready to use. When you wish to bake pies take out as much of the mince meat as you wish to use and add chopped apples, two parts of mince meat to one part chopped apples, and add more sugar if not as sweet as liked. If too thick, add a little sherry wine and water, mixed.”

Saturday, December 22, 2007


(added: photo courtesy

Friday, December 21, 2007

Quote of the Day

"There are three easy ways of losing money - racing is the quickest, women the most pleasant, and farming the most certain." (Lord Amherst).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Unnecessary Expenditures Department

Unfortunately Primary Cat spilled glass of tea onkeyboard and now weneed new one. Keyboard, not cat.Although that is open to suggestions also.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Winter Visitors

Friendship Cake, Part II

The recipe and my first cup of starter were given to me by the retired WAVE who lived next to us in North Carolina (Doris would have been highly insulted had anyone ever referred to her as a sailor. When she enlisted in the forties, they were called WAVES, thank you very much, and they were still called WAVES when she retired).

1 c butter

1 c white sugar

1/2 c brown sugar, packed

2 large eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 t baking soda

1 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t ground cloves

1/4 t ground nutmeg

1/2 c brandied fruit juice

2 c. brandied fruit

1 c. pecans

1/2 c flaked coconut

Cream the butter and sugar, and then beat in the eggs. Beat in the flour and spices alternately with the brandied fruit juice.

Fold in the fruit, pecans and flaked coconut. The batter will be stiff and very sticky. Spoon it into a thickly buttered 10 inch tube pan and tap the pan on the counter sharply to eliminate any air bubbles and to even out the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 55-65 minutes. Cool for about 15 minutes and then turn out onto a plate. This is best eaten at room temperature and needs no frosting although if you wish to gild the lily, you can make a powdered sugar/milk glaze and dribble it over the top.

You will note there is no baking powder and only two eggs in this cake; it will not rise very high. It is dense, rich, and very sweet (no comments on suitable husband material, if you please).

Young men like this cake. I brought it to Christmas potlucks at Camp Lejeune, and there would be not a crumb left. Doris used frozen coconut because she thought it was fresher and had more flavor, but I use Angel Flake with good results.

Once you have made your cake, take 2 cups of fruit and 2 cups of liquor and give them to a friend. He or she is to make a cake with the fruit and 1 cup of liquor, and use the other cup as a starter for her own Friendship Cake. Supposedly you will have enough starter left to begin the fruit maceration process all over again but that has never worked out for me. Maybe I need to start with more brandy?

I have seen this at bake sales and on the Internet referred to as Amish Friendship Cake, and also as Herman.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Knitting in Literature

"Betty took out some knitting. It was a stocking of fine linen thread, and along the instep it had a pretty openwork pattern that was like lace work.

"That is to wear with slippers," she explained to Doris. "But it's a sight of work. 'Lecty had six pairs when she was married. That's my second sister, Mrs. King. She lives in Hartford. I want to go and make her a visit this winter."

Mrs. Leverett's stocking was of the more useful kind, blue-gray yarn, thick and warm, for her husband's winter wear. She did not have to count stitches and make throws, and take up two here and three there."

(A Little Girl of Long Ago, by Amanda M. Douglas)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In Which I Wish I Could Do Russian Joins

Reserve Cat has a thing for alpaca. He doesn’t eat it, which I guess is a small blessing, given the average vet bill in this household.

He bites it in half. I will be knitting away, not even realizing he is in the room, and suddenly a quick, vicious chomp is heard from the vicinity of my ankles (I don’t know about you but eventually all my yarn winds up on the floor), and he is staring thoughtfully down at the severed ends.

He doesn’t do this with anonymous chain store acrylic, or even the ball of Kitchen Cotton that’s waiting to be turned into a washcloth.

Just the flippin’ seven dollar a skein alpaca I brought back from our last vacation. If he keeps it up, this shawl is going to have more knots in it than a cheap two by six.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Compromise: An agreement between two men to do what both agree is wrong. " - Lord Edward Cecil.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Linens and Lace

I have a small but growing collection of vintage 1912-1925 women’s magazines, books and booklets devoted to the gentle art of needlework. These included now long-departed publications like The American Needlewoman, Hearth and Home, and Modern Priscilla, just to name a few.

Although there was usually at least one dressmaking article in each issue, by far the most popular patterns were for household linens. Magazines and how-to books like these, targeting the female audience, were firm on the subject of the minimum housekeeping requirements for respectable families.

“Dining room linens,” according to the Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences, “usually should include from three to six table cloths, one of large size with 1 dozen dinner napkins to match, 1 dozen napkins for ordinary use, one or more luncheon sets, and as many buffet covers, center pieces, and doilies as one’s allowance will permit.”

“Kitchen linens should include at least a dozen dish towels and as many dish cloths. Bedroom linens should be regulated in quantity by the number of the family. As a rule, one dozen sheets, one to one and a half dozen pillow slips, three or four bed spreads, three blankets, three comfortables, and three or four sets of dresser covers are ample for two bedrooms.”

“For the bathroom, at least one dozen towels for ordinary use, one half to one dozen bath towels, one half to one dozen guest towels, one dozen wash cloths, and one or two bath mats are none too many.”

Beautiful and plentiful linens were more than a matter of pride. “Money for a rainy day is essential and a genuine satisfaction, but having the money when the clouds begin to gather can give no more real happiness to a woman than can well supplied chests of linen for beds, for table, and for general household use,” admonished the Woman’s Institute.

A woman’s character, as well as the welfare of her family, was inextricably tied to her ability to manufacture towels, tidies, bedspreads and other essentials. As an editorial contributor to Needlecraft magazine wrote in 1920, “I wonder if all women realize how much of refinement is centered in a handmade doily or scarf, or other of the many things used in the household? I am not sure but they have their good effect, too, on the morals and health of a family!”

Thus, the woman who filled her linen closet with the works of her own hands not only scored points against her neighbors in the home-making field, she was also subtly guiding her family away from the temptations of the billiard parlor, the saloon and the dance hall, and laying the foundation for a virtuous, healthy and strong nation.

I’m not sure of the moral value of these patterns, but they’re pretty and easy to make. They come from Home Needlework, a little booklet that apparently started out as the house publication for an American silk mill, expanded into a full-fledged magazine in it’s own right, and merged with Modern Priscilla in 1917. If you were a homemaker or bride-to-be during WWI, you might have knitted these to trim your tidies, towels and doilies.

Edging #1 was published in July of 1914 and was contributed by Miss Sarah T. Converse. It is simple and versatile, and because it is knitted horizontally can be made as wide as you like. It is also reversible; in mohair on size 8 (US) needles it would make a lovely stole or throw. If this is your first foray into lace knitting, try it in alpaca on #5 (US) needles as a scarf as shown.

Cast on a multiple of 10 stitches plus 1.
Row 1: *k1, yo, k3, sl1, k2tog, psso, k3, yo.* repeat from *, end k1.
Row 2: knit across.

Knit as many rows as required for the width you want. If you are making a scarf or throw, bind off in pattern to retain the scalloped edge. If this is for an edging, end with 2 rows of garter stitch and bind off.

Edging #2, “Lace for a Small or Large Spread,” came from a Mrs. Tonge in January 1915. The sample shown was knit in #5 DMC tatting cotton on size 2 (US) needles. As shown it will make a pretty edging for a bath or hand towel. In a finer thread, it is suitable for dresser scarves or doilies.

Cast on 16 stitches.

Row 1: sl1, k2, (yo, k2tog) 4x, k1, yo, k2tog, yo, k2.
Row 2 and all even rows: knit across.
Row 3: sl1, k2, (yo, k2tog) 4x, k2, yo, k2tog, yo, k2.
Row 5: sl1, k2, (yo, k2tog) 4x, k3, yo, k2tog, yo, k2.
Row 7: sl1, k2, (yo, k2tog) 4x, k4, yo, k2tog, yo, k2.
Row 9: sl1, k2, (yo, k2tog) 4x, k5, yo, k2tog, yo, k2.
Row 10: bind off 5, knit to end. You should have 16 stitches on the needle.

Repeat rows 1-10 until edging is of sufficient length.

Miss Jessie G. Lane submitted edging #3, “A Knitted Pillowcase Border,” in January 1916. For a neater edge, slip the first stitch of every even numbered row. All yarn overs are double, and are knitted on the following row as k1, p1. The sample shown was knit in #10 crochet cotton on size 0 (US) needles.

Cast on 22 stitches.
Row 1: knit. This is the set-up row and will not be repeated.
Row 2: k3, yo2, k2tog, k10, (yo2, k2tog) 3x, k1. (26 stitches on the needle)
Row 3: k3, p1, (k2, p1) 2x, k12, p1, k3.
Row 4: knit across.
Row 5: knit across.
Row 6: k3, (yo2, k2tog)2x, k12, (yo2, k2tog) 3x, k1. (31 stitches on the needle)
Row 7: k3, p1, (k2, p1) 2x, k14, p1, k2, p1, k3.
Row 8: knit across.
Row 9: k3, k2tog, (k1, k2tog) 8x, k2. (22 stitches on the needle)
Row 10: k3, (yo2, k2tog) 9x, k1. (31 stitches on the needle)
Row 11: k3, p1, (k2, p1) 8x, k3.
Row 12: knit across.
Row 13: k3, (k2tog, k1) 9x, k1. (22 stitches on the needle)
Row 14: k3, (yo2, k2tog) 9x, k1. (31 stitches on the needle)
Row 15: k3, p1 (k2, p1) 9x, k3.
Row 16: knit across.
Row 17: bind off 9, knit 21, ending with 22 stitches on the needle.

Repeat rows 2-17 for pattern.

General notes on lace knitting:


2. Always slip the first stitch for a neater edge

3. Do not get wrapped around the axle about needle size and gauge if you are making one size fits all items like stoles or doilies. As long as the needle is neither too large nor too small for you to knit easily with the yarn you’ve chosen, you’re fine.

4. If you can get your hands on them (and can afford them), Addi Turbo lace needles are the very best.

5. If this is your first lace project, use a decent thread or yarn. Stay away from the cheap stuff until you are more experienced as it will drive you mad.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Knitter's Advent Calendar

This is amazing.

Not, of course, that I'm going to be able to finish any of these by Christmas...