Tuesday, January 30, 2007
This afternoon, finally, Friend and I managed to get together. I had a beachy-type theme in mind but getting to the beach in daylight, with the model, the photographer, and their (4) combined children, proved to be impossible. So the late-winter front garden is the best I can do right now. Here goes...
Pattern: St Brigid, from Aran Knitting
Designer: Alice Starmore
Yarn: 825 g Paton's Classic Merino in New Denim
Yarn Source: Fun Knits moving sale, Quadra Island
Yarn Cost: $54.25
Needle: 4.5mm Clover Takumi 80 cm bamboo circular
Cast On: November 11, 2006
Bound off: January 19, 2007 (collar added post-blocking, on January 25. Yes, she took a whole week to dry.)
Preblocked size: 49" bust
Blocked size: 52" bust (7-8" of ease)
1) substituted the waist-shaping cable from Rogue in place of the double-moss side panel
2) worked body of sweater in the round instead of flat
3) used a less costly (ergo less durable) yarn than what was called for
4) omitted the fringe the designer added to the hem of the sweater. I thought it would felt a bit, snag on things, and generally start looking hairy and sloppy long before the rest of the sweater did
This was the first full sweater I have knit for myself, and only the second adult sweater I have ever knit, period (Rogue being the first). I think Brenda Dayne is right when she says that you never forget the first, and you pretty much keep it always. I think I will hang on to this, for sentimental reasons, well past the time it should really be put to rest.
Back view. Cables identical to the front - only the neckline changes.
There's a definite sense of accomplishment when you put on your first sweater, and it fits, and it looks great. Mr. HalfSoledBoots, who reacts to my knitting like he reacts to my belly-dancing or any other hobby I hold dear - by laughing his head off - glanced at me in St Brigid and actually said....
wait for it....
I felt like casting on for my next one right that second. It may seem like tepid praise to those of you with supportive spouses, but to me (and to others who know the love of a taciturn man) it was absolutely the zenith.
The side-shaping cable from Rogue, which I substituted for an unshaped panel of double-moss.
This garment is comfortable. The ease is perfect: 7-8 inches above body measurement. Any less and it would be binding and look snug; any more and it would be annoyingly tent-like. The night I first finished it, before blocking, I pulled it over my head, cackling with glee the entire time. I threw open the door and plunged outside into the freezing evening, chortling and gloating that I was perfectly, toastily warm. I was so pleased with myself that I went straight to the shed, rummaged for the loppers, and pruned the rose bush. (This might seem an odd thing to do, but in fact working outside in the chill dampness seems to suit this garment down to the ground.)
The saddle shoulder. I like the fit and the look of it - I think next time I will try a wider saddle.
Standing out there in the freezing, damp twilight, leather garden gloves on my hands and wellies on my feet, I felt utterly rocky-coast-of-British-isles, and thought to myself "I need to be walking some sort of animal right now. Preferably a flock of sheep down a country road, but a corgi will do."
St Brigid is an evocative sweater to knit, and to wear. One can't help but indulge in these sort of reflections. I feel an almost overpowering urge to go for a walk on the wintry beach, trudging along in my serviceable boots, the wind whipping my hair out from my battered corduroy newsboy cap*, the cry of gulls overhead and the slippery, salty scent of seaweed underfoot.
I might get to that later this week...photo shoot aside, the surf is definitely calling me.
Sleeve length, and a bit closer view of the cabling at centre front.
I enjoyed doing all the cables, and was glad to finally master the cabling-without-a-cable-needle trick I had been hearing about. I did get bored near the end of the process, but managed to finish in a respectable time despite the ennui. I would absolutely make a sweater like this again...maybe Cromarty?
Shade shot - a bit closer to the actual colour than the sunlit pictures show.
Thanks to my lovely model Sandy, whose figure is much more ideally suited to this sweater than mine could ever be (I am frighteningly broad and shoulder-y. I dwarf others. I tower. I loom.)...I had to fight the urge to just bow to destiny and give it to her.
And thank you to Kate, Karen, and Sunmi, the Wednesday night SnB, who were so enthusiastic about this whole process. It kept me on schedule, having to do weekly (informal) progress reports. I hope you'll be there for me next time too...
* I don't even own a newsboy cap. That's how evocative this sweater is.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
So, I'll keep you waiting for the FO post, but I promise you that it will be a good one - the best I can manage.
As to the rest of my knitting, I have started another pair of wristers, these ones for my poor Mum. She has arthritis in one thumb and asked me for a nice thick alpaca fingerless mitt to hopefully keep the cold and damp at bay. I rummaged through the stash and dredged up two balls of beautiful Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk, then spent a couple of days browsing through Cables Untangled, which by the way is proving to be a good basic resource - an intro to cabling, really.
I finally settled on one of the basic designs from the "Cabled Ribs" chapter, hoping to keep it fairly simple while providing lots of stretch and warmth. Because the yarn is so thick, I had to choose something with a small-ish stitch repeat, so the chart reads like this (sorry, I couldn't figure out how to put an actual chart in, and you have no idea what an enormous task it was for me to write this out. Furrowed brow and all - it's almost comical. I'm still not sure I got it right.):
Round 1, 2, and 4: *p2, k2* rpt.
Round 3: *p2, k2tog without dropping from needle; k first st again; drop both from needle.* rpt.
I also added a twisted-rib thumb gusset for warmth and comfort. The mitts are worked in two colours, and are SO toasty.
Pretty, huh? At first I thought they were too chunky, but now they have quite grown on me.
Here's a slightly better shot of the thumb gusset, with palm.
This was nice and quick - a one-evening deal. I've got one more of these to knit, and I can pass them on to Mum. I'll see if I can get her to do a bit of a model for me, and post a proper FO later this week.
As to my other project, well...I'm not sure how I feel about it. I'll tell you: I don't usually knit socks for children, because it's a sure way to heartbreak and resentment. If the child even likes the socks, chances are s/he won't wear them, because if s/he does, they will be "too short/too long/too tight/too loose/too scratchy/too thick/not pink enough", or "they just feel weird". Then, other children will throw fits of rage to have socks too, causing you to run to the LYS in a panic, spend $15 on yarn which will almost certainly be the "wrong colour", then scramble for ten days to knit while neglecting your other projects, only to present them to the ungrateful recipient, who has by now forgotten all about wanting the socks in the first place. Then, even if the child likes the socks, chances are s/he won't wear them, because they are "too short/too long/too tight/too....." well. You get the idea. Repeat ad hysterium. Ask me how I know.
Anyhow, despite my hard-won experience with children's handknit socks, I'm working on a pair of toe-up almost-knee-socks for my niece. There's kind of a long, boring story behind the exception I'm making to my no-socks-for-kids rule, so I'll spare you that. As to the knitting itself, I had to settle for two different dye lots in this pair of socks, so it's dollars to donuts the child will reject them, but by God I'm going to keep knitting.
I've finished one sock already, but will save the full picture for when the pair is finished and I can harass my five-year-old into modelling them for me. They are knit in Paton's Kroy "Winter Eclipse" variegate, in a simple spiral rib (2X1, rib moves over one stitch every fourth row). I hope desperately that Girlie likes them, even if they are slightly different in colour. Here's the second sock, about 2/3 of the way through the foot.
You can't see the ribbing at all there, but I had to show you a picture to prove to you that these socks do indeed exist, and I haven't been a total knitting slacker, even though the Dreaded Lurgy has been raging in my household for 7 full days now.
And now, I'm off to bed. My campaign against insomnia continues, as I work desperately toward my long-term goal of an 11:00 lights out. It's slow going, especially since it's starting to cut drastically into my blogging/knitting/Buffy-watching time. But I guess these are sacrifices I should be willing to make, in favour of a normal amount of sleep.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
1 - You are in charge of all the cooking
2 - You are in charge of all the cleaning
3 - You are in charge of all the grocery shopping (starting to notice a pattern here?)
4 - If anyone is sick you stay up night and day, for as long as it takes, bringing them water, crackers, cool cloths, and blankets; and brushing their teeth extra gently, changing their sheets, wiping their noses, and murmuring soothing words. You must also be extra patient since whininess is expected and allowable in sick people. Unless you are the sick person (see #5).
5 - If you are sick, suck it up. There are still meals to be cooked, bathrooms to be cleaned, and other people's butts to wipe.
6 - Never, EVER expect to be thanked, except on bi-annual insincerity days such as Mother's Day or your birthday.
I know I'm forgetting some of them, but sadly I don't have time to think things through properly just now (see numbers 1, 2, and 4). If you think of anything I missed, go ahead and remind me.
Monday, January 22, 2007
I thought it was time I gave you guys the post-mortem on the organic Christmas plan I blogged about a while ago.
Overall things went smoothly. There wasn't a complete paucity of chips and pop, but I managed to keep it to an acceptable minimum. The same went for cookies, chocolate, etc., except for one small problem.
Here's the thing. Celebration and food are inextricably linked in the human experience. Whether your family is coming together over a roast beef and yorkshire pudding, a salad and a vegan nutlog, fish cheeks and seaweed, or just a cup of tea, we associate good times with food. I did address this a bit in ManiFeasto, but I think I underestimated the deep, visceral need to have a cookie with your tea at 4:00 PM on Christmas Eve.
At 4:20 PM on Christmas Eve, I was baking.
With that problem solved, it was time to make the turkey dinner. Let's review, shall we?
Christmas dinner, which will be our hour of feasting, is going to be organic: from the burnished bird on the platter to the butter in the stuffing, from the orange cranberry sauce to the ice cream on the free-range-pumpkin pie. Yes, it will cost me a mint - but think what I will save in the long run.
Full of crusader-spirit, I went to the health food store to inquire about organic turkeys. I saw the notice while waiting in line, so I nipped over to read it.
"Free Range Organic Turkeys," the sign read -- "$3.75/lb. Minimum 25 pounds."
Go ahead, open your calculators. Got 'em? Okay, let's do this. 3.75 X 25 = $93.75.
So an organic free range turkey dinner is not for the proletariat. Or for the bourgeosie, for that matter. By those standards, the fresh farm-raised bird for $50 looks positively frugal and eminently reasonable...I got one of those instead.
I DID manage the organic pumpkin pie. But, I'm sad to say that I didn't actually eat any of it: I was too full from fresh turkey and organic mashed potatoes with organic butter. Aside: Oh my gosh...droolworthy. My daughter Charlotte, who usually eschews all vegetables and fruit (except broccoli, which she eats in quantity and with relish), ate the entire pie herself, in three sittings. Christmas dinner, Boxing Day breakfast, and Boxing Day lunch. She practically turned orange before my very eyes.
So the dinner was gorgeous, although not quite as purist as I had hoped. As for the rest of the plan, it was a resounding success. We had a minimum of sweets, processed foods, pop, alcohol, creamy egg nog, and so on. We did receive some chocolates from people as gifts, and I was more than happy to have them since I had, with my steely resolve, not bought any myself. In particular, I got a lovely box of Godiva chocolates and truffles from my brother-in-law. There were only about 12 chocolates in the box, but let me tell you it lasted until well into January.
This brings me to my next point, and the reason for today's subject line. When you do without these things for a good long stretch - maybe a few weeks at a time - a little really goes a long way from that point on. It is shocking to me that, when I had a piece of cheesecake today, I could barely stand it: the sweetness and richness were way over the top, and I felt utterly crappy afterwards. "Weird," I thought to myself, "I don't usually have a problem with cheesecake...unless there isn't any, which can be a problem...why is this bothering me?" It's the weeks I have spent avoiding sugar, salt, fat, and empty carbs. My body has adjusted to the leaner, cleaner fuel, and obviously prefers it.
I have an almost detached interest in the long-term effects of eating this way. I am not talking about being on a weight-loss diet - I don't know how much more fabulous I could get, frankly - but about improving the quality of my body on a cellular level. I'm thinking I could get some smoother skin, maybe a better night's sleep, and possibly even shed a bit of the soft cushiony layer I have acquired on my internal organs and just under my skin. You know the kind of thing. A bit of extra energy never hurt anybody either.
I'm thinking this year will be an interesting one. I foresee a lot of inventive vegetable preparation (maybe I have never mentioned that I am not a green girl -- nothing is more loathsome to me than salad...unless maybe sushi?) and a sad, tearful goodbye to my good friend, Gravy. Hopefully I can also say "Sayonara" to insomnia, deathly pallor, and that odd little malaise that overtakes me sometimes.
On the other hand, maybe I will fail utterly in my New and Improvedness, swandive into a bag of Cheetos (LOVE Cheetos) and backstroke blissfully through a warm, silky lake of full-fat Chai latte. Which would also be quite nice.
I'll keep you posted.
Friday, January 19, 2007
On to the wristers. I started knitting these about a year ago, with the DROPS Alpaca I bought with my Christmas money. The first pair I knit were these:
...fingering weight alpaca, knit on 2.75mm needles at 25 sts/10 cm.
Then came these, same yarn, same book (Garnstudio 86), my first attempt at stranded knitting:
These are one of my favourite pairs ever. Two strands of yarn = SO warm. They're a bit big - I have learned that, to be comfortable for me, gauntlets need to be fairly snug.
Then I took it upon myself to invent these for my friend, using a leaf lace pattern from Knitting on the Edge, then picking up and ribbing down the wrist. I love how these turned out. Check the cute little buttons on the inside:
I loved "Mrs Beeton" when I first saw it, and cast on right away. Made these:
and will definitely make another pair soon.
Anyway, by Monday I hope to have St Brigid finished and blocked - though who knows how long it will take to dry. Maybe I'll get a couple of pre-blocking pictures so you get the idea...I can't WAIT to wear this sweater.
'Kay dudes, hope you liked the gallery of gauntlets. This has actually inspired me to start another pair, that I've been planning for a while. So, all I have to do is finish the Albatross and I can cast on. Yeah baby.
Monday, January 15, 2007
I haven't yet shared with you my 2007 resolution. (Well, my "January to July" resolution - I figure that's as far as my stash will take me.) I have a little......well, a little situation I need to deal with. Here's the situation.
==Pause for a moment to reflect on the beautiful, sumptuous, dreamy sight before you==
But, the fact is that nobody needs that much yarn. There is enough here to support a couple of knitters, and I am only one moderately-productive knitter with two young children to look after (and in a single-income family, no less). So, I have imposed on myself a yarn moratorium. I plan to knit only from my stash for the next six or seven months, until I deal with some of the backlog, and until our finances allow me to shop once more. I will make exceptions, however, as outlined below.
1) I may buy yarn to make up quantities for current projects, if I know am going to run out.
2) I may buy yarn to knit things for other people - i.e., Christmas presents for Project HandMade Christmas 2007.
3) I may buy deeply discounted yarn for future projects, if I KNOW what I will be making with it, and if it is A MINIMUM of 30% off. Since yarn hardly ever goes on sale for those prices, I'm guessing I will not be availing myself of this loophole.
4) I may buy books, magazines, and needles as needed to help with the Stash Reduction Plan (SRP).
The SRP is effective immediately and will continue as long as possible.
What a drag.
I started to get the feeling I was going to run out of yarn. I had one ball-and-a-bit left, with one sleeve and the collar to go. I weighed the sleeve and discovered it took 125 grams of yarn. I had 155 grams left, with the collar still to knit, and the sewing-up to do.
"Hey, kids - wanna come to Quadra today?" We were off to Fun Knits on Saturday afternoon, where I found one last lonely ball of my yarn left in the store. The dye lots matched - it was serendipitous. I also picked up a fourth ball of Malabrigo Hollyhock, so I wouldn't run out of THAT when it comes time to knit up.
I'm about done with this sweater. I'm getting bored of knitting the same repeats of the same charts over and over. It has become a matter of powering through...sticking with it until it's finished. I really want to wear this sucker. But it's close - REALLY close. Observe:
The colour is completely inaccurate, but using the flash obscured the cables too much.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
I could say "after it occurred to her" but the truth is we were both equally culpable.
And yes, we put it to rights before the children got up in the morning.
We had a great time, though, knitting and chatting. She leaves in ten days or so to the Antarctic, and she's not back until mid-April. I'll miss her while she's gone. It's her last trip to Antarctica - she is moving on to other priorities - so she intends to make the most of the Stash Enhancement opportunities available down in the Southern Hemisphere. Apparently the yarn shops in Argentina are To Die For, never mind the ones in the Falkland Islands and in New Zealand. (She really makes the most of her trips, spending weeks on side excursions before and after her guiding cruises are over.) When I was staying with her in Victoria she showed me her stash...it's completely full of gorgeousness. She actually has a few balls of merino/possum yarn, which is so soft you would not believe it. She tells me it's prohibitively expensive, though, so she could only afford a scarf-worth.
I'm on the home stretch of St Brigid - I have finished one sleeve and have only the other sleeve, and the collar, to knit. I'm doing everything I can, up to and including neglecting my children, in order to finish in the next six days. It's so annoying - I have had to teach them all kinds of things to increase their independence.
CHARLOTTE: (Tentatively) "Mom? Can I have something to eat besides Kraft Dinner and Wheatlets?"
ME: (Vaguely, while trying to do a tricky cable cross) "Oh, are you hungry again? There's a box of Ritz over there - help yourself."
CHARLOTTE: (Sighing) "Okay... but my tummy doesn't feel very good."
ME: (Impatiently, while counting stitches and joining in a new ball) "Oh for goodness' sake... all right, grab that green bottle from on top of the microwave."
CHARLOTTE: "You mean the vitamins? But I can't open it."
ME: (Rolling eyes) "All RIGHT, Charlotte. Push down while turning..... no -- DOWN.... no, push down WHILE turning. There you go. Enjoy. Oh - please give one to your sister too."
I should be nominated for some kind of parenting award.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
I LOVE new books. I am still expecting some more from www.amazon.ca - Melanie Falick's Handknit Holiday (at last), Gaughan's Knitting Nature, and J. Sowerby's Victorian Lace Today. My lovely Mum and Dad gave me yarn money for Christmas, so I clicked over and changed my "Wish List" to my "Shopping Cart"... I love doing that.
I took a chance ordering the above books sight unseen, and they are FANTASTIC. I am especially keen on Melissa Leapman's Cables Untangled: An Exploration of Cable Knitting. It's a very well-rounded volume. A basic how-to book, with quite a few nice designs from a wide range of difficulties. There are several I've got my eye on, which may even displace Eris from the "Next to Knit" list.
I actually ordered this book with Erika Knight's Classic Knits in the hopes that I could lift a cable or two out of the Leapman book, and add them to one of the basic designs in the Knight book. I've got three skeins of Malabrigo merino worsted in the stash, and I've been wanting to design a vest for it. I was hoping to end up with something with a central vertical cable that splits at the neck and wraps around, to be grafted together at the centre back. The idea has been sort of swimming around in my head for a long while, but it's the shaping that has stopped me from casting on - I want to be sure it'll fit first, since the Malabrigo doesn't like being frogged too much.
We'll see. I don't know when I'm going to get around to the sweat-and-tears design work on the vest, so don't hold your breath or anything.
One thing I love about Cables Untangled is the sizing: one of the sweaters I want to knit, for example, has finished measurements from 37.5 to 50.5 inches. The smallest design in here is a sleeveless V-neck top - its finished bust ranges from 34 to 46.5 inches. There is a cool knitted skirt (I know - never been a fan, but I would actually make this one) with a hip range from 31.5 to 47 inches. As someone with a generous bust, I always have to grade up knitting patterns to fit me, and sometimes it's just not worth the trouble. It's a relief to have it done for me.
Anyway, I haven't decided what to knit out of here yet. There is a chapter of cabley stuff for the home (pillow, afghan, rug-type stuff), a chapter of clothing for women, and a chapter of designs for gifts - men's sweaters, scarf, bag, child's sweater, and so on. Lots of options. Leapman has also included an extensive stitch dictionary in three parts: "Cabled Ribs", "Cabled Panels", and "Allover Patterns". In conjunction with the "Designing with Cables" and "Techniques" sections, you could do a lot of interesting things.
In other news, I have almost reached the spot I was at before I tore out St Brigid's first sleeve. I have probably two more 24-row repeats to knit before I get to the saddle (which will fly), so a couple more sleepless nights should do it. An aside - I'm so glad I decided not to knit both sleeves at once with two balls of yarn...it would have been fairly daunting to have to frog and reknit TWO sleeves instead of one. I can't wait to get this sweater finished. I'm pushing my luck, as here on the West Coast spring is literally breathing down our necks. My friend Kate has sharp, deep green furled crocus leaves already out of the ground in her garden. I'm thinking when I get St Brigid done, it will be just in time to pop it into a muslin bag for the summer.
Friday, January 05, 2007
and now I'm ready to start again.
I have lots of other knitting to show you, but it will have to wait until the next post, because I've got a sick child in the house now. Next time, though, I will hopefully have an FO. I am just doing the weaving-in on my cousin's baby's Trellis, and it's looking pretty good. I have plans to sew a dress to go with it, and a soft toy from a book I recently acquired. It will likely take me a couple of days to do all the sewing, so I may stall you on the Trellis FO until next week. But, here is a little glimpse of the Trellis being mattress-stitched, and the dress fabric underneath it, just to give you an idea.
Oh, yes they do.
Anyhow, it's cleaner, and I think the font is easier to read. The whole template is more in the spirit of January's asceticism.
BUT.... I am going to be spending the next however-long reconstructing my FO list and my links. I can't believe I didn't save them somewhere else.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
And this was my New Year's Day culinary contribution: Bobo's meat and potato pie ("Bobo" is the name we called our wonderful maternal grandfather). Big chunk of this, some cold sliced dill pickles, and an icy root beer - nothing better. Actually, I realize it's probably better with non-root beer, but our family tradition, based on Snoopy's annual celebration, is "quaffing" root beer on New Year's. Tasty.
By the way - the weird thing about organic root beer is, it's clear. Man, does that feel strange, drinking clear root beer.
All right, I'm obviously short on content today, so I'm giving you the recipe for this pie, then I'm off to spend a few days without blogging. I have this panicky feeling that, if I don't post at least every other day, all (well, both) my readers will abandon me. However, I myself have been daily checking a blog I read, though it hasn't had a new post since November 27, so I know some of you will return, like the swallows to Capistrano. Hope so.
Bobo's Meat and Potato Pie
Equal weight lean ground beef and russet potatoes
1 large onion
Bit of garlic
Teaspoon or two of dried sage
Lots of salt and pepper
Basic pastry recipe, like the immortal Tenderflake version from the inside of the box (excellent for large batches, can be rerolled as often as needful without losing its flakiness)
Brown ground beef with onion, garlic, and spices. Drain and add a bit of water if you think the pie needs it.
Peel and chunk potatoes, boil in water til tender, drain. Bash up the cooked potatoes a bit , leaving plenty of large chunks. Mix with the ground beef.
Roll pastry to fit your tin, which you will have chosen depending on the amount of beef and potato you have used. I sometimes use a large deep glass pie plate, or a cookie sheet, or, as in this case, a Pyrex 8X10 rectangle. Personally I prefer the cookie sheet - I like that proportion of filling to pastry. Generally speaking, the deeper the container the more filling you'll get per inch of pastry.
Cover the bottom and sides of the container in pastry. Pour in filling, being careful not to compress too much. Cover with another sheet of pastry. (Optional: you can lay slices of onion on top of the filling, under the top pastry. I've never tried it but others tell me it's good.) Pinch edges to seal, and cut steam vents in the top crust. Then, brush the crust with a beaten egg, and bake at 375 (350 if using a glass pan) for about 30 to 45 minutes, just to cook the pastry.