Sunday, November 28, 2010

Girlie Friday

Well, it might have taken me forever to knit this cardigan, but it's finished now, and it's super snuggly and comfortable, and well worth the effort.

A pretty simple (and free) pattern from Knitty, it wouldn't have taken me long to finish this, if I weren't so easily distracted by every impulse to start a new project. I was admittedly a bit intimidated by the idea of altering the pattern to knit the yoke all in one piece, with set-in sleeves, but once I got going on it, it was easy enough. I even added a few decreases to the fronts & back, to make the width from shoulder to shoulder a bit narrower.

I wet blocked it after everything was seamed and tried it on and was worried that I might need to reblock it a bit wider for it to fit the way I wanted. I decided to knit an extra inch of ribbing on the collar and buttonbands, just to give a little more width. Then I got a bit bored with 1x1 ribbing, and let it languish a while longer before finally picking it up and getting it over with.

I was planning to wet block it again after finishing the collar and buttonband, to tidy things up, but once I had it off the needles and tried it on, I wasn't convinced it needed it. I took a steam iron to it to make it lie better, but that's all.

I have to say that I am really happy with this cardi: the colour, the texture, the fit, the warmth. Between the ample collar and the long ribbed cuffs, it is plenty cozy and I really think that all of you should print off the pattern and knit your own. You will thank me, later.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mise en Place

I am feeling really good about my crafty accomplishments this week. I am this close to finishing a quilt, even closer to finishing Girlie Friday, and making good progress on yet another lacy shawl (or two) that I haven't even shown you, yet. I even wound a warp for a sweet weaving project that I'm going to put on the loom, tomorrow.

But tonight, I'm going to take a crack at some Indian cooking. Look at that, all ready to go. There will be leftovers, if you want to pop over, tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Planning Stages

I mentioned a while ago that I've mentally reassigned a big bag of wool I have to a woven blanket (rather than the tweedy jacket I've had in hibernation for a few years.) I have a few colours of the wool (black, white, oxblood, brick, and peach) and am trying to imagine how to make a cool blanket out of what I have. Since my loom is only 27" wide, I can't make a single layer of fabric wider than that (and I'm not quite ready to tackle doubleweave just yet) so I'm going to weave two panels and sew them together, to made a wider lap blanket. I've been imagining different designs, stripes, etc, and different weaving patterns. I had initially thought I'd do the warp in the three shades of red/orange, in wide stripes (to make it easy) and weave each panel in either black or white, rather than switching colours in the weft (to make it even easier) but I just don't think that will look as nice as if I overcomplicate things (as is my usual choice.)

So I downloaded a free demo of Pixeloom, this great weaving software that has recently come out with a Mac version, and played with a few ideas. In particular, I found that the white yarn, when used as a weft with the others as warp, tended to wash the colours out, and didn't look as good as the black. I thought maybe I'd leave the white out, altogether, and see how that looks. So I came up with a pretty simple striped warp in a pretty simple twill weave, which makes a cool sort of plaid when repeated in the weft (click to zoom):

I like it a lot, but having played for so many hours with the tartan design website, long ago, I know what a difference just a smidgen of a shocking contrast colour can make, so I decided to try adding a narrower stripe of white between the other colours:

I think it really makes the fabric three-dimensional, and adds a lot to it. Now I just have to sit down and do the math to figure out how much of each colour I need for warp and weft, and whether this pattern is doable with what I have in my stash. I hope I do -- I think this might look pretty cool when I'm done.

(Don't get too excited, though. I have one more weaving project to make before I get around to this one. Patience, padawan.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Happy Discovery

I made a discovery at work, recently, and completely by accident. I was in need of some basic sunflower oil for cooking, and I was drawn to a lovely looking bottle by a Canadian company called Maison Orphee. Once I got it home and opened it, I was delighted to find it had a beautiful sunflower seed aroma. Bear in mind that I have used a lot of sunflower oils in my day and I have never had one that was fragrant like that. Of course I tasted it, and it also has a lovely strong sunflower taste. What a perfect oil for salads or vegetables! Needless to say, I have been using it ever since. I made some cinnamon buns with it and while the dough was deliciously scented with sunflower as it rose, the scent and taste were not noticeable once the buns were baked, perhaps because of the overriding cinnamon flavour.

The other night I decided to make a carrot cake. I gathered a lovely bunch of organic carrots and set some cream cheese out to soften, and opened my precious bottle of sunflower oil.

I was happy to discover that there is a subtle nutty sunflower flavour in the finished cake. I left out any walnuts or pineapple or icky raisins or anything else people dump into carrot cake, so the texture is relatively smooth and the flavour really comes through. Even better is a big thick slice with cream cheese icing and a scattering of fresh raw walnuts on top. Bliss.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Some Greenish Socks

These socks were the first chance I had to try out Sanguine Gryphon's Skinny Bugga sock yarn, which is a decadent merino/cashmere/nylon blend, and it certainly won't be the last time I use it. The yarn is very soft and strong and round (perfect for cables) and of course the colours from Sanguine Gryphon are always spectacular.

This particular colour is called Goldenrod Crab Spider (and if you look up that particular kind of spider, it really is that crazy colour.) I love the way the yarn is such a shocking greenish yellow -- not the sort of colour I would usually use, but I really enjoyed it while I was knitting.

I also have a fair bit of it left over, so there will be a lot of crazy yellow crocheted hexagons in my ongoing blankie.

As for the pattern: it was simple enough, basically a 2x2 rib with cables every sixth round. The cables were a bit fiddly, since you are crossing the two knit ribs while leaving the purls in the center. I found that the cables really took away from the stretchiness of the resulting fabric, and I had to make a larger size sock (with a larger gauge needle) than I would have had to, if it were simply ribbing. In the end, they are lovely and soft (and bright!) for cold winter months to come.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Green Scarf

Although I have been remiss about blogging, I did finish that scarf in no time flat. I dressed the loom on a Saturday morning and did a bit of weaving throughout that day. After I worked all day on Sunday, I came home and finished the weaving, then cut it off the loom, tied some fringe and gave it a bit of a soaking and blocking.

Monday morning I woke up to snow on the ground, so I grabbed my new scarf off the floor and was nice and warm for the walk to work.

The washing and blocking certainly helped to plump up the yarn and hide my uneven beating. While it was under tension on the loom, I could really see the difference in my weaving tension -- sometimes the rows of weft yarn would be spaced closer together or further apart. It's the first time I've woven with wool, so I'm not used to how grabby it is. Cotton or bamboo yarns are smoother and slide against each other, which helps with consistency, I think. Also, I've previously woven at a tighter sett (with the yarns all closer together, with respect to the diameter of the yarn) so I have been more used to beating each weft in pretty solidly. Weaving at a looser sett takes a gentler hand, since you don't beat the weft so much as coax it into place.

It was certainly a learning experience, and I am looking at all of my stash yarns again with a different eye -- not just for knitting possibilities, but also for weaving ones. I have already decided to reassign one big bag of wool from a hibernating knitting project to a multicoloured woven afghan.

I have many other projects on the go, as well, of course. I will get some more photos up, soon.