Thursday, March 27, 2008

Um, Does This Look Like a Hat to You?

If you look closely at this photo, you will notice that there are short rows on the left hand side in the background, a provisional cast-on in the left forefront, and two different sizes of knitting needles being used at the same time... Well, you might ask, what kind of a frigging hat would be so convoluted? I'll tell you -- it's the BS Johnson hat from the Winter 07 Knitty. It's a wacky crazy, totally fun knit. It has to be, since it's named for a character in Terry Pratchett's novels.

While I am not a crazy fan of Terry Pratchett (I have only read a few of his novels, but I enjoyed each of those) I am a Process Knitter. There. I said it.

Those of you who have known me for the number of years that I've been knitting know that I am a Process Knitter (even if you didn't know there was a word for it) because you have seen me pick up and make many projects that have limited usability, at best. I often cast on for things just because I relish the challenge of it, or because I want to pick up a new skill, and not because I need or want the end product. A handful of my knits have been relegated to a storage cabinet because I have no practical use for them. Or, of course, given to someone who will use them.

Now, don't get me wrong -- I don't only make things for the process. I also have a growing collection of very useful socks & mittens & hats & scarves, and I really try to make only the sweaters or cardigans that will be flattering to me when I wear them. I do have some practicality in mind, so I know that I also am a so-called Project Knitter.

But when I pick up a pattern for a hat that uses short rows and horizontal cabling and two different needle sizes used at the same time, and I plan, in the end, to never even put it on my own head, but instead to give it away upon completion, in the hopes that someone out there who needs a hat will want one that is crazy and lopsided and inspired by Terry Pratchett.... Well, times like those, I know it's all about the Process.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Pair of Flamers

So I finished these several days ago, and just haven't posted them until now. Today, the sun is out and it seemed like an ideal day to get that elusive Natural Lighting Photo that I hear so much about. Just for a recap, they are Yarnissima's Firestarter Socks (ravelry link) in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the colourway Flames. I am so in love that I am offering far more photos than are strictly necessary. First, just a couple to display how hard it is to get a flattering photo of one's own feet. Then a couple of close ups, just to show off.

I have to agree with others who have mentioned that the variegated handpainted yarns don't really show off the cable pattern along the sides very well. However, they do make the stocking stitch look great, and the purled gussets look phenomenal with the added colour variation, so I'm still a little up in the air about whether I would use it again for this pattern. (And yes, I did enjoy the pattern enough to do it again. Normally a pair of socks is enough for one pattern, but this one was pretty engaging and turns out so nice, with no little unsightly gaps at the heel/gusset area or anything.)

Of course, the other potential concern with handpainted sock yarn is that you find pooling in some places. The funny thing with this pattern is that I got such an even stripe through the areas with the same number of stitches, but then as you increase for the gusset, it changes the pooling, and then when you go up a needle size (or two) the whole thing changes again. I got a lot of pooling toward the top of the socks -- in the back of the calf area, there is a big purple/pink pool on both. I am learning to Live With The Pooling. Knitting socks can also be a lesson in acceptance and appreciation of the randomness of life.

As I was saying, I did change things a bit when I got to the top of the sock -- I did another increase in needle size, just to add a bit more shaping. I had initially thought that I might add some purl stitches into the ribbing to make the shaping for my large calves. Because the pattern already called for one increase in needle size for shaping, I decided to just to do an additional one, rather than adding stitches. It worked just fine, but left the upper part of the sock a bit loosey-goosey, since they gauge is way more than the yarn would ideally be at. In future, I might opt for the added purls instead.

Overall, I am a big fan of this knit, and definitely recommend it for knitters ready to take on cabling without a cable needle on some cool toe-up socks.

Now on to the charity knit... and then... sewing?

Friday, March 21, 2008

This. Blew. My. Mind.

For extra credit on stripey knits, try this: helix stripes (here and here)

There is even a sock pattern out there using this technique, if you aren't brave enough to just jump in and make your own.

Holy crap -- who thinks of these things???

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Admittedly not on the sewing -- I am still working my way up to that. But, in the meantime, I have finished my first Firestarter sock and am about halfway through the second (just about to the heel turn) so things are progressing nicely, there. I have the twisted cable pattern memorized by now, so it is smooth sailing. In fact, most of the second sock was done today -- I had only the short-row toe finished last night, and have been puttering away at it all day. I will get at least past the short-row heel tonight before I throw in the towel. With knitting like this, who can blame me for not getting any sewing (or fabric cutting, really) done? Btw, I know they look sort of goofy, since the stockingette and the purl cable columns curl into each other, and the purled gusset curls in, etc -- I will post a pic wearing them when they are finished. I promise they look cool and snug and fancy.

I also spent a few minutes (very few) today making some biscuits using a recipe from Cooks Illustrated. This recipe appealed to me because it uses heavy cream rather than butter or shortening, which means easier mixing. It also makes a dough that can be handled and kneaded without risking overworking it and ending up with flat biscuits. Fabulous. (Hmmm so far the two recipes I've made from that site are a bread with no kneading and a biscuit which requires kneading. I've never been one to do things the usual way, I guess.) But really -- doesn't this biscuit look delectable? Let me tell you: it is. I had a couple (okay, a few) and they are just beautiful. I also made some with a little shredded cheddar in, for my HLM, but so far he hasn't tried one and given me a verdict. He has more self-control than I do, when it comes to little carby snacks.

Lastly, check this out: the new Vogue Knitting preview is up. As usual, there are some horrific things and some must-haves. What do you like?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Pink Quilt

I am told that March 15th is National Quilt Day. This may be a holiday merely in the U.S. for all I know, but I am taking the opportunity to show off the last quilt I made, since several people have been after me to post it, already.

I used the book One-Block Wonders by Maxine Rosenthal, which I borrowed from my sis. It is so much simpler than it looks (no, really!) Basically you stack your fabric so that the same repeat is layered six times, and then cut triangles which you then sew into hexagons. It makes a cool kaleidoscope effect, which you then arrange and rearrange to your heart's content. This rearranging step takes... oh... infinity. At some point you become so exhausted with it that you just decide it's good enough, and you stop. Then you slap on some borders and quilt it and show it off as much as possible so that everyone will tell you how pretty it is and how hard you must've worked and basically stroke your ego much more than this easy quilt really warrants.

I have fabric chosen to make several more. They are addictive, due to the ease of construction, the total surprise of what you end up with, and the general heaping of praise once finished.

About the surprise aspect -- here are a couple of pics of the original fabric to give you an idea of what I mean by this. I made the leftovers into a pillowcase, to coordinate with the quilt. It's a large-repeat fabric from Alexander Henry that is called Inked. Not sure how apparent it is in the photos that these girls are covered in tattoos. They are hot babes, the fabric is hot pink, basically it is so perfect, so me. When you initially choose the fabric for the quilt, you really have no idea what it will end up like. It's sort of like creativity mixed with a surprise party, with a dash of fate. I mean, c'mon, doesn't that sound like a good time?

I've never seen one that is remotely ugly. Really -- do a google search for One Block Wonder photos and you'll see what I mean. They are all stunning. If you want to see some close-ups of the single blocks, go to my flickr page and you can see some (click on them to see them bigger.) They are so fun to sew up -- it's hard to stop once you start, because each triangle leads to something so different and fun and interesting.

Hopefully soon I will get a couple more things made, and out of my sewing queue, and then I will get around to the next quilt.

(In knitting news, I have just turned the heel on the first sock...)

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Oh I had big plans for my days off this week... mostly starting to sew a large-ish project. Needless to say, I barely started that one. Every time I look at it I groan with awareness at my own lack of inspiration. It's the seemingly overwhelming amount of fabric/interfacing/lining pieces to be cut, and then all of the markings and tailor's tacks to be made before I can even start to sew (which is the fun part, after all.) If only I could hire someone to cut out the pieces... So far I've only got as far as cutting out the lining. The interfacing and fabric are glaring at me as we speak.

I was mostly distracted by a trashy vampire novel, an addictive computer game I discovered at MacFun, and playing video games with my HLM. Then I finished my charity scarf (that makes three so far) and I finished the addictive game (already) and picked up some sock yarn that has been calling my name since I was nearing the end of Ribby Cardi.

So I present the first toe of my Firestarter socks, made in Lorna's Laces Flames. I know that a variegated sock yarn takes away somewhat from the design of the twisting cables, but frankly, the original was done in a variegated yarn anyway, and how could I resist using a yarn called Flames for these?? I mean, honestly. (Btw, the colours are somewhat off in this photo. It is more golden and warm, not so pink. I couldn't get it right.)

Tune in another time for more sewing news...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Doughy Saga and a Balloon

So various places in blogland have written about their adventures with the No Knead Bread recipe from the NY Times... I ran into some modifications of the famous recipe on the Cooks Illustrated website, who have also made a video podcast for their mods. Well, I don't have a fancy cast iron dutch oven (yet) but I took a stab at it with a little ceramic casserole dish I have. I say "little" because it's about half the size of the one called for in the recipe.

Well, my loaf turned out small and round and totally adorable -- and yummo. It was ridiculously easy and I will do it many more times to perfect it. Since this is theoretically a cooking blog, too, here are a couple of pretty pictures of it. It is by now mostly consumed, but remains adorable. I am exceedingly proud of it.

In other news, I have finished the little lacy hat. It is the one called Bonnie from Kim Hargreaves Heartfelt Collection. I eliminated the slouchiness by leaving out one repeat of the lace pattern. (Doesn't it seem like it should take more than just one out of five repeats to take away slouchiness? I am a bit skeptical that the original as written would be very slouchy.) I did sub the yarn, using Debbie Bliss Merino DK rather than the Rowan Bamboo Soft that it calls for (perhaps the drape of the Bamboo would have provided the slouch?) I also used a slightly smaller needle to get gauge.

Overall, I am very happy with it, since the merino gives it more sproinginess. Since it wouldn't fit over my massive dreads (and I couldn't convince my HLM to model it) I had to use Ms Balloon Head to show it off. Trust me, it looks absurd when it isn't stretched out to display the lace pattern. Hopefully my coworker will like it.

Friday, March 7, 2008


My HLM laughed when he saw the zipper I chose -- he said the colours look like Superman's costume. I reminded him that he helped me to choose the yarn colours, oh so long ago. Needless to say, I've been hearing the theme song periodically for the last couple of days. Fortunately I am totally okay with having a Super Cardigan. (FYI I am squinting in all outdoor photos because I am a mole person and the sunlight makes me cry.)

So I am pretty ecstatic with how my Super Ribby Cardi turned out. It fits perfectly and is warm and not itchy... The zipper makes the colour scheme pop just exactly the way I'd hoped it would. It is comfortable at all ranges of zippiness, but I like how it looks, casually open at the neck like that. Mind you, it displays some horrible-looking hand stitching on the back of the zipper, since I had to use blue thread and the zipper is red. Yikes.

I used Elann Peruvian Worsted Wool, as I probably mentioned before -- I had enough left over to make another charity scarf, which is nice. I can understand why this knit has been a popular one for first-time-sweaters, since it's totally easy and very flattering. I'm sure I will get lots of use out of it, and am considering another one, which of course will have to wait a while until I make some more progress on the queue (and the stash.)

I have been working on a little lacy hat in the meantime, for a coworker who doesn't read the blog, and am gearing up for a pair of socks. It's been nearly half a year since I had a pair of socks on the needles, and considering how crazy I went with the Knitting Zone's Leap Year sale -- c'mon, Koigu KPPPM at 29% off? How could I not??? -- I'd better start working on the sock yarn stash.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Sew News

Well, I've been remiss in getting stuff on here -- I finished Ribby Cardi completely and it looks great, but my HLM and I haven't been able to coordinate a photo yet. I should have one up tomorrow, assuming that I am not so consumed by Lost tonight that I don't get to it.

In the meantime, here is a pic of two of the four laundry bags I whipped up yesterday. The pattern pieces are taken from Amy Butler's In Stitches, but I didn't refer to the book in the least after I cut them out. I pretty much winged it and they worked out pretty well, I think. Now I will sort my laundry as it comes, rather than having a huge assorted mountain on the bedroom floor. Well, that's the theory, anyway.

I have the supplies for several more sewing projects (and obviously for several more knitting projects.) I find that sitting down to do some sewing reminds me why I used to do it so much. It is certainly a faster payoff than knitting. One day = four bags? I mean, it took me two hours just to install the zipper in Ribby Cardi. Sheesh.