Friday, 11 March 2016

Cast Iron, Cast On: A Review

Today we're going to look at Cast Iron, Cast On, written by Becky Herrick and Calley Hastings, and published by Cooperative Press. Cast Iron, Cast On offers a bit of a twist on the usual knitting pattern book by being a combination pattern book and cookbook, and the recipes and patterns are seasonal so that readers can cook and knit their way through the year. And why not? Knitters tend to be multi-crafters who like to make other things from scratch, and we all need to eat. Even though I don't much like to cook (although I can), I am thinking I'll be trying some of these recipes. However, I'll be focusing on reviewing the sweaters in this post, with perhaps a few drive-by comments on the food, as I am neither a food critic nor even a foodie.

Cannella. We begin with December. The recipes are for chocolate bark and deep winter infused holiday vodkas, to which I would not say no. The first knitting pattern for the month is for these lovely little gift bags, which would be such a great way to use up odds and ends of yarn. The idea is to use the gift bags for the chocolate bark, but of course they'd be useful for so many other things: sachets, jewelry, fragile Christmas ornament storage.

Lavandula. The second pattern for December is a hooded wrap. It looks a little long and unwieldy to me, but for the sort of woman who doesn't mind a bit of fussing over her accessories, this might prove a quaint and warm addition.

Bluegold. For January the pattern is for an open front cardigan. It's an attractive, relaxed look on the whole, though I'm not thrilled with the way the collar sits around the neck. The recipe of the month is blueberry jam cobbler, which I must make for my father, a lover of all things blueberry.

Bovinae. A very simple yet pretty pullover for February. I love the yarn combination, and this would be the perfect unfussy sweater for skiing or working around the house. The recipes are for brioche burger buns with curry sunflower seeds and goat cheese stuffed hamburgers. They're making me want lunch, and I just finished my lunch.

Saccharum. I wish I liked the front of the March pattern as much as I love the back. The ribbing and maple tree stitchwork looks fantastic, but the front looks fussy and ill-fitting. The recipe is for maple mini pavlovas, which sound like a great way to use up some of the 5 litre jug of maple syrup currently sitting in my freezer. Why would a single woman living alone have so much maple syrup on hand, you ask? It's an annual gift from my father, who, as my mother puts it, all but drinks maple syrup and thinks everyone else does too.

Taxara. The April pattern is... okay. The lines are good. I think such a simple pattern calls for a more interesting yarn choice than was used here, as this sample looks rather bland, which probably accounts for my general lack of enthusiasm. The recipes are dandelion fritters with chive horseradish sauce and dandelion green, bacon, and radish salad. Perhaps I'll get up my courage to try those sometime. Strangely, although dandelions have always been a very commonplace sight for me, I've never tried a dandelion recipe, perhaps because my mother imbued me with her view of dandelions as the bane of her existence, always spoiling her lawn and garden.

Lactuca. May's pattern is a ruffled skirt. I can't get on board with this one, which looks like an upcycled bedskirt to me. I do think I might like it better if it were in a solid colour and on the right person, namely someone other than me and half my age. The accompanying recipe is for fresh nasturtium and pea shoot salad, which looks... less like a salad than like the aftermath of an earthquake that happened to combine the table's floral arrangement with its garden salad.

Cucurbita. This is quite simple but well designed enough. The recipe for June is for a hearty-looking summer pasta with zucchini, squash, and goat cheese.

Sola. This would make an attractive throw or baby blanket, but I don't think too many people have enough picnics to justify the work that would go into a special purpose knitted picnic blanket. See also: picnic baskets, which so many people get for wedding and bridal shower gifts and which wind up at thrift stores. The napkin version makes a little more sense to me as it could be used to line a bread basket on a dining room table. The recipes for July are garden picnic pockets, which look like an interesting variation on a certain French vegetable pastry recipe I sometimes make, and luscious blackberry oat pancakes.

Sativus. I don't like either the look or the concept of this knitted apron that is the first August pattern. It looks what remained after the original top part wound up in the meat grinder, and that's a lot of work to put into something that's bound to get stained before too long. The first recipe for August is Dukie's cross-cut pickle, which sounds a good bit like the pickle recipe my mother makes, and which in turn reminds me that I've been meaning to have a go at making those for myself pretty soon. I've been trying to make sure that I learn to make all my 77-year-old mother's best recipes, such as her famous Christmas fruit bread, while she's still around to give me the recipe, as well as any advice I might need.

Mentha. The second pattern for August is this little top, which I rather like. The lace detailing at the shoulder and sides is pretty, though I'd consider loosening up the fit a little. This pattern is paired with a collection of infused green summer tea recipes featuring herbal and fruit pairings.

Calais. The first pattern for September is quite a lovely tam and mitts set, which looks both nicely detailed and beautifully draped but also well suited to casual clothes. The reverse colourway is a nice touch. The accompanying recipe is harvest pesto cornbread, which looks as though it would be tastier than the plain, rather dry "Yankee cornbread" recipe I use.

Puncia. The second pattern for September is this absolutely exquisite lace stole. That's definitely the best lace pattern I've seen in some time. The recipes paired with this piece are fall roasted reds with crispy seeds and parmesan, and red quinoa, spinach, and feta salad.

Braeburn. I like this one except for that rather sloppy looking hood and unfinished neckline. The recipe for this October pattern is boiled cider apple dumplings, which look mouth wateringly good.

Cervus. Nice simple sweater with a front panel of textured stitchwork to add some visual interest. This is a very decent basic sweater, but I do dislike the "longer sleeve with thumbhole" look, as that always looks like the arms are both too long and have holes in them to me. This is easy enough to correct if you feel the same. Alternatively, the cuffs can be worn folded back. The recipe for November is hearty mashed potatoes with shiitake mushrooms, and venison steak with a thyme, butter, red wine sauce.

Oleracea. This is a very cute and rather original hat design. Unfortunately I can't quite get away from the unfortunate marriage of this hat with the recipe for Brussel sprouts and cranberries braised in cider. The photo of those little green balls of vileness in the cast iron pan have become inextricably associated with the motifs on the hat, even though they don't look much at all like Brussel sprouts. I will try to forget about the Brussel sprouts and love the hat on its own merits, but it will be hard in the same way as keeping up a friendship with a good friend whose new spouse you simply can't stand is hard.


  1. I also love the Puncia pattern, and agree that the Saccharum is much better from the back. I wonder if I like it enough to figure out how to pair it with a better front? Anyway, thanks for the review.

  2. You must try Clara Parkes recipe for granola to use up that maple syrup!

  3. Maple syrup, I'm assured, is better for you than most other sweeteners. I use it in a breakfast bar recipe I make with oats, Grape-Nuts, nuts and dried fruit. (Sometimes I add the mini-chocolate chips. Mmm. Chocolate.)

  4. While Oleracea conjurs up brussel sprouts for some, I think with different colors this has some great potential. Overall, I rather like the shape!