Thursday, January 29, 2009

WIP: Vivian

Ah cabled cardis. So cuddly and tempting, yet interminably slow. Vivian is coming along at snail's pace...I did only TWO rows at knit group!
At least it's soft and warm and cozy to knit as the snow blanketed the city. I hope winter sticks around just long enough for me to wear this sweater!

Monday, January 26, 2009

FO: flapper hat

This is the hat on the cover of Boutique Knits, which convinced me to buy the book without even looking inside. And sometimes, one just has to abandon all the other long-term WIPs, go out and buy the yarn and cast on and finish a whole new little instant-gratification project!

It's Side Slip Cloche, by Laura Irwin. The recommended yarn (Rowan Soft Luxe) is no longer available, so I used Lang Silkdream instead, which is 50% silk and 50% merino wool. It has a nice sheen to it, so I thought it'd be a good substitute for the Soft Luxe, which has little sparkly bits in it.

The pattern is very easy, and went fast after picking up the stitches from the brim. The little curly ruffles are so cute! They are meant to be worn this way, with the "wrong" sides of the ruffle facing forward, and Laura Irwin must have been sort of miffed that it is worn backwards on the cover.

My husband, upon seeing this hat, asked, "What is this, some sort of flapper hat?" Er, yes, yes it is--I even named it that yesterday when I cast on! This hat is so adorable and soft that I want to keep it for myself. Since this one's a very late Christmas gift, I may have to make one for myself too.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

FO: Cochineal Fair Enough

This one languished, awaiting buttons, but it's finally done! The pattern is Fair Enough, by Wendy Bernard (Knit and Tonic). The only modification I made was making the sleeves 2" shorter. This is the first sweater I've ever had, purchased or knitted, where the sleeves don't go past my knuckles. Hooray for handknits!

The yarn was a gift from my niece, purchased from the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown, New York. There's no brand name, but it's now entered into Ravelry in case someone else gets it too. It's a nice, smooth worsted-weight 100% wool yarn, that's surprisingly not too itchy. It's dyed with carmine dye, which comes from beetles, hence the name of the sweater. I was afraid it would look too valentine-y, with the red, pink, and white, but in the end very little of the pink shows, and it's perfectly wearable. (I carried the yarn in the back too tightly on the pink pattern, so despite my stretching-est blocking efforts, it is still puckered and the pink stitches are tiny). The red is a rich, lovely, not-screamy red, but unfortunately there is some subtle color variation, and one of the sleeve-to-yoke joins is really obvious.


The camera battery ran out before I got a close-up of the buttons. They are pearl shank buttons, and I'm happy to say I was able to find non-plastic buttons (the shanks are metal), although I was not happy that they cost about what the yarn in the sweater cost.

Overall, this was a fun little cardigan, and I think it turned out pretty well for my first attempt at fair isle. I have lots of yarn left over, especially the white and pink, so I may make a little one for my niece. The only beef I have with this pattern is the puckering in the underpits, which seems to be a common problem with these yoked sweaters. I'd appreciate any suggestions for an easy fix!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Almost a FO

Fair Enough is blocked and ready to go...I was going to show you today, but I still have to sew on buttons, and all such activity will be on hold tonight for LOST (woohoo). So check back for it soon!

A group of us met for a lovely knit night at Cafe Ventana, a newish cafe/bistro near the Central West End. If anyone in the St Louis area wants to join us, we'll be there on Tuesday evenings. Look for the people with the pointy things in their hands!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fair enough fair isle

Oops! A whole week has gone by without a single post! I've been working on Fair Enough, which was coming along so fast initially that I thought I'd have a FO by now. Then, of course, I had to do the sleeves. Sleeve-knitting exists in its own, sluggish world, and it took me all week to finish them. Granted, they were being magic-looped at the same time, but still.

As much as I love top-down designs, there's something to the said for bottom-up raglan or yoke sweaters, once the dreadful sleeves are done. One goes from this (these are the sleeves and torso separate)

to this in one row,

and then (with lots of decreases so the sweater grows exponentially faster) to this in no time!

This is my first fair isle project, and it's a fair enough (har!) job so far. On the pink diamond pattern, I was carrying the yarn too tightly in the back, and the pink yarn was just a little bit thinner, so the pattern is puckered and not very visible. I started weaving the yarn in the back as I knitted on the top (white diamond) pattern, which looks a lot better.
I'm hoping everything will even out in blocking...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Change

Funnel Cake is going to go into temporary hiatus. This change of heart is a good one though! I'm a huge fan of cables, yet I haven't knitted anything cabled in forever, certainly nothing (ever!) for myself. Funnel Cake is languishing, mainly because I've realized that the Alpaca with a Twist (twist, hee) yarn is going to stretch too much to maintain the shape I want. Then I saw Tina working on her cabled cardi (and the cables looks like sheepy marshmallows, so squishy), and remembered the palpitations I got when I first saw Vivian, from the Twist Collective winter 2008 issue.

Eeeeee! Look at the fabulous shaping that's done with the cables! Plus I absolutely love Ysolda's patterns and blog. Did I mention I love cables? And I have exactly the right number of skeins of yarn. The fates agree, it's time for a change of plan.

In other news, my washing machine broke. I valiantly tried to get a repair person, which is incredibly difficult when one has to, oh, work during the day. After calling a dozen appliance repair people, someone finally agreed to come on the one afternoon I'd be getting out of work a little bit early. This was still several days later, so I ended up doing a load of laundry in the bathtub, and nearly broke. I have a newfound respect for washerwomen. On the appointed day, I rushed home and waited breathlessly. No one came to fix the washer. I called the repair dude, who said that he had been closer to my neighborhood earlier, but now he wasn't, so he wasn't going to come. What?!? I hadn't realized a repair person could just not show up for an appointment. Well screw trying to fix stuff! I bought a new washer--and appeased my guilt by getting an energy star one--and they came and installed it the next morning! No wonder this is such a consumer culture!


The big bonus from the whole ordeal, besides the piles and piles and lovely, clean clothes and linens...hidden in the very thick layer of dust and lint that had been under the old washer, I found 80 cents in change. Woohoo!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

FO: Very plain vest


This is a very, very plain vest in gray wool for my husband. It wasn't the most exciting project to knit, but provided lots of mindless stockinette in the round, good for knitting during travel and meetings. It's knit seamlessly, top-down, which I keep trying to tell him is a feat of engineering, and he thinks is just fooey!

There's no pattern, but I followed the instructions in Barbara Walker's Knitting from the Top. The main deviation from her instructions is that the V-neck is much wider and shallower than she and many other sweater patterns recommend. (Apparently V-neck styles have changed...the V-neck on the Urbane sweater has been deemed too deep, and the sweater will frogged, once I gather up the necessary strength and courage.) The only other change was making it somewhat fitted, instead of knitting straight from the underarm to the hem, so that it is not so bulky and sloppy.


The yarn is New England Shetland by Harrisville Designs, which is on the heavier end of fingering weight. It blooms beautifully with blocking, and the final fabric is nice and smooth and so, well, sheepy. I used just short of 4 skeins. Needle size was US 3 (sigh). I got some Addi circs after my bamboo circs broke, and thankfully my gauge stayed the same, as I can't even tell where I switched needles. The tiny gauge got really tedious, and this (among other reasons) made me very glad that DH is not fat! Small gauge does have the advantage of making a thin fabric though, and in the end I'm pleased with how it turned out--it's warm, but thin enough to layer, and it's not too casual.He wants another plain vest, made from the frogged Urbane Sweater, but that's going to have to wait for a few big-gauge projects, so I can rest my wrists!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How to make friends and be happy in 5 minutes, or Black Bean Dip

This recipe is ridiculously easy and so good! There's no tedious peeling and chopping of ingredients. It's great for using up the last little bit of cilantro that's about to go bad. It's pretty good nutritionally too! Feel free to fudge, based on what's in your fridge.

Black bean dip

Ingredients
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 to 1/2 onion, depending on taste. No need to chop.
1 clove garlic peeled.
1/2 to 1 jalapeno, depending on taste. Do not remove seeds.
1 small or 1/2 large lime or lemon
~1c cilantro, including stems
salt
pepper
food processor or blender.

1. Whizz garlic, onion, and jalapeno in food processor until minced like this. Scrape down sides.

2. Put beans in processor, whizz until mealy like this.

3. Add cilantro, juice of lime or lemon, generous pepper, and very generous salt. Whizz until smooth. Taste, adjust seasonings, and whizz again until velvety smooth.

4. Enjoy with chips, crackers, tortillas, carrot sticks, potatoes, or whatever you like. Store covered in refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.

Great balls of...yarn

I've been putting off knitting the rest of Fair Enough because of having to ball up the skeins of yarn. The yarn is a tad self-sticky, and the layers of yarn overlap in the skein. Each skein takes about an hour, and there are two more to go.

Usually, I get my yarn balled at the store, and I've never had so much trouble winding a ball by hand before. I don't want to buy or make a yarn swift (too much bulk to store). I'm using the grand method of putting the skein on the back of a chair, which seems to be the only trick out there, and it doesn't help a whole lot. Does anyone have any better ideas for balling up yarn without a swift? There must be some sort of duh-smack-the-forehead trick using normal household items. Like a lazy susan and an umbrella, or something like that. Please comment with your suggestions, oh wise reader!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

WIP-omania

Suddenly, there are so many WIPs I don't know which one to knit! All my new yarn is on needles, plus another project from old yarn, so that makes five! I know some knitters keep lots of WIPs around, but I'm more of a monogamous knitter, and this is somewhat overwhelming.

I cast on two projects with patterns by designers whose blogs I follow. The Tyro socks, by Orata (Feather and Fan), haven't grown since I cast on. This yarn is Tofutsies, a soy yarn that has two different colors plied, so complex patterns probably won't show up, and I'm hoping this lace pattern will show better. This will be the small take-along-in-purse project.

The other is Fair Enough, by Wendy Bernard (Knit and Tonic). It's a pretty easy-looking first-time fair isle project, in worsted weight yarn. Of course, I haven't gotten to the fair isle part yet, so I may have spoken too soon! I'm using the beetle-dyed yarn I got from my niece. Thanks to Julie (Team Knit) for the suggestion to do fair isle with the three colors! I was nervous about running out of yarn (especially since this is bottom-up, very unusual for me), but this is how far I've gotten with just one of the four balls of yarn--halfway between the waist and underarm. I may be able to eke out a child's sweater with the leftover yarn! Fortunately this pattern is actually the matching adult pattern for a Drive-Thru, a kid's fair isle sweater, also super-cute.



The plain man's vest just needs the ribbing around the neck/arms and a couple more inches on the body, but picking up stitches, especially with skinny yarn, is so tedius! It's much more fun to cast on new projects with thicker yarn, hee.






I have completely neglected Funnel Cake, a sweater jacket that I'm designing as I go. Part of me just wants to make this Manchester Jacket from winter Interweave Knits that calls for the same yarn, but the rest of me wants to be creative this time! Also that coat is knit bottom up, bleagh.







Last but not least, I'm knitting a pet bed out of the leftovers from the Weasley sweater, in Gryffindor colors. I'm trying to find an appropriate charity for when it is finished, since Cammy already has a bed. And a pillow. And a puppet. And a bazillion toys.



Even with all these projects, I am sorely tempted to start all the patterns from Boutique Knits: 20+ Must-Have Accessories, by Laura Irwin, which I just got. Every single pattern is so lovely, which is good because I got the book just for the hat on the cover!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Resolutions

Happy New Year!

2008 was a busy year, especially for knitting. The only one of my 2008 resolutions I kept was finishing my yarn stash! Hooray! Meanwhile, I knitted 55 projects during 2008.

FO's include
-5 sweaters: Peachy baby, Daisy, Urbane, Lush + Lacy, Weasley
-2 shawls: Elisabeth, Taos
-1 dress: Corinne
-5 tops: Corset Tank, baby Onesie, corny ballerina, St James, another St James,
-4 pairs socks: toe socks, mintchoc, Baudelaire, Knotty or Knice
-7 baby hats + booties: Saartje's, another Saartje's, Elfin hat, Maryjanes, Cable hat, simple shoes, Berry
-0 adult hats
-2 scarves/neckwarmers: Flower, man's neckwarmer
-9 toys: carrot, goldfish, penguin, Kangaroo Jill and Joey, bunny, two Korknisse, End-of-stash scrappy mouse,
-4 gloves/mittens: Broken heat, Staghorn, Gauntlets, Chlorophyll
-8 things to hold other things: two mug cozies, cupcake pincushion, small drawstring bag, market bag, apple cozy, Brea Bag, needleholder
-8 misc: huge blanket, cat bed, cat bed pillow, cat puppet, three tribble scrubbies, Flower pin

I usually make as many resolutions as the age I'm going to be in that year. For the past couple years I've been skimping, due to residency using up most of my time, energy, and enthusiasm. But I'm turning 30 this year, and the nice, round number is inspiring me to start resolving again.

The 30 resolutions for 2009 are personal, but I'll share the one knitting-related one: No yarn stash. This means that I can have leftover yarn in the bin o' yarn, but all new yarn will be purchased for a specific project and immediately placed on needles. Right now I have four projects on the needles: a nearly-completed vest, a just-started sweater coat, a cat bed started with leftover yarn, and I just ceremoniously cast on for a pair of socks with the only un-used yarn in the bin. I still need to cast on a project with the beetle-dyed yarn, but I figure I get a day's grace period since it was a gift.

After some hemming and hawing, I decided not to make any other knitting resolutions. I'm jealous of truly prolific knitters, like Stichywitch who made 18 sweaters this past year, of Mooncalf who made approximately a billion sweaters (or as she would say, jumpers). I'm tempted to do NaKniSweMoDo (National Knit a Sweater Month Dodecathon), but I would like to focus on some different larger projects this year, like dresses, shawls, and work-approriate tops, which don't really count. I'm astonished to see I made no adult hats or real scarves in the past year, and I'll certainly be knitting some in 2009.

I ate my Korean New Year's Day soup today. In Korea, one is born at 1 year old, and gets a year older each New Year's Day. However, the magical aging process occurs only by eating a bowl of special soup, which features rice flour dumplings. So now I am a year older, hopefully a little bit wiser, and blissfully stash-free!