Monthly Archives: July 2007

Birthday cupcakes

(I’m going to need lots of help with these.)

Pear, Cranberry, and White Chocolate

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Chocolate Peanut Butter
(These turned out a lot more like brownies than what I expected)

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And now I’m going to try to get in as much being-lazy time as is humanly possible. ;) And cast on some Monkey socks in birthday celebration

If YOU could cast on anything you want today, what would that be? (pretend time, money and ambition are no object.)

::kisses::

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Book Review: Knits Three Ways

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Yesterday a new book arrived in my mailbox for review from Random House, and with a start I realized I had never actually posted a review for another book that I’ve had for a couple of months! I meant to review Knits Three Ways in June…and then so much of my time in June got eaten up by my fretting over my sick laptop, so I suppose a few things in my brain got shelved and put aside ;) Now, though, I am very happy to write up this review because I think I actually like it better on second glance than I did the first time I looked at it.

Knits Three Ways by Melissa Mathay strikes me as a book that does a good job at combining two seemingly contradictory knitting styles: the organic knitter who wants to create and knit as she pleases with whatever yarn she pleases, and the knitter who needs a pattern to cling to for guidance and structure in her work. You know how a lot of knitting books (particularly beginner books) will tell you how patterns can be adapted and modified and yarns can be substituted and you can create your own look? Well, this book doesn’t just tell you that, it shows you. The book is premised on the idea that a single pattern structure or stitch can be adapted in several different ways for different effects each time. Accordingly, each of the 12 sections presents 3 takes on a single idea. The cover picture provides a good example of this, presenting the same chevron-shaping pattern in a bright, almost ‘Madonna’-esque halter, a muted single-tone tank top, and a bright but slouchy cardigan.

I’ve taken a few shots with my digital camera to illustrate a few more concepts from the book – please do pardon the lo-tech representations! The ‘Leah’ tank/vest on the left and the ‘Celia’ pullover on the right, below, are two sister patterns taken from the ‘Cables Galore’ section. One is a bright, versatile vest with more sharply ‘cut out’ armholes, the other is a casual pullover that can be thrown over a t-shirt or worn on its own. The cabled accents are similar in both cases, but used in different amounts.

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Another sample I quite liked was the take on the v-neck cardigan – this book takes a “classic look” that usually appears in modest, unaccented patterns, and opens it up to some customization. In the ‘Tracy’ sample this is done by using Prism Arts Wild Stuff which creates a fuzzy, variegated, almost ‘kitchen sink’ look. In the ‘Katherine’ example, below, the look changes again by knitting a plain version in Rowan Kidsilk Haze and the optional accent of a ruffled scarf. I have to say, I kind of love this ‘Katherine’ sweater:

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Two other sweaters I was taken with are the ‘Jacki’ off-shoulder raglan, and the ‘Suki’ kimono, below. ‘Jacki’ is one of 3 ‘Sweatshirt to Soiree’ sweaters all produced at a gauge of 8 sts/4 ins, and her 2 sisters are a cowl-necked pullover and a hooded front-pocket sweater. They are all meant to be comfortable, quick, gratifying knits. ‘Suki’ is one of 3 kimonos knit side-to-side, from one arm to the other, and ‘Suki’ also comes with instructions for a matching belt. Yes, I would knit this in about two seconds. I wouldn’t knit it in the yarn shown in the sample, but I would knit it nonetheless.

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There are a variety of yarns used in this book, and I suspect that most of them are readily available in yarn shops across the United States. I can’t say that I’ve gone looking for all of them over the course of my shopping in Canada, but I think this is a book that lends itself very well to yarn substitution, and the sample yarns cut across brands – there’s everything from Lion Brand to Rowan in here. Also, and I never thought I’d say this, but this book is seriously making me re-think eyelash yarns. That kimono above is not my personal colour palette, but you know? That hint of fuzzy eyelash kind of works. I bet it makes the finished garment feel a little bit luxurious, and more than a little unique. I am reminding myself that not all eyelash yarns are created equal, and that there is life beyond Bernat Boa.

Another thing that I like about this book is that, in many cases, the sweaters are modelled on more than one person, so it gives you a slight idea of what the sweaters would look like on different body types. I do say ‘slight’, though, since these women shown do tend towards the thin end of the spectrum. But it is an accommodating book – all of the patterns go up to a finished size of 44/45 ins across the bust, and several of them go higher than that. (Runway Knits, this is not!)

The book also starts out with a section on how to design a garment to fit your own body, and this section in combination with a wide variety of patterns makes this an ideal book for a beginner knitter who wants to get creative and work a little bit outside of the box. Knits Three Ways presents patterns as starting points, not fixed guidelines, and that’s almost reason enough for me to call this a win.

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Almost After Dark

AfterDark-blocking

The nightie is blocking. Once it’s dry I’ll be able to weave in a few ends and go on the hunt for some bra straps, and still be able to wear this baby while the summer’s still on. it’s close enough for me to call it done. I would very much like to knit the robe as well, although I don’t think i will do it exactly as it appears in the book – seed stitch is not my first choice for trim. I’ll ponder that for a wee bit.

Pattern: After Dark Nightie by Allison Will Green, in Mason-Dixon Knitting.
Size: 37″ (third size)
Yarn: Elann Camila, 6 skeins
Cast on: July 2, 2007
Cast off: July 26, 2007
Note: I strongly recommend reading Julia’s pattern notes from her experience over at Mind of Winter. They are comprehensive and very helpful.

First, let me talk about the yarn – Elann Camila. I was very pleased with it, and would not hesitate to knit with it again. Obviously I haven’t worn the whole finished garment yet, so I can’t say for certain how it will hold up over time, but based on my experience knitting with it I was quite happy. In fact, I think it would make a great yarn substitute for the Cables and Os cardigan from No Sheep For You, and it is only through sheer force of willpower that I haven’t rushed over and bought more for exactly that purpose. The Queensland Cotolino that the pattern calls for is very, very close to the Elann Camila, and in fact at knit night a few weeks ago Elizabeth was knitting the Cables and Os with the Queensland, and I had my nightie, and we compared the yarns and they were so close it was nearly perfect. The only thing I wish is that the Elann Camila came in more colours – the ones on offer are a pretty pale palette.

Camila feels exactly how you would expect a 50-50 cotton/linen yarn to feel. A little bit soft, and a little bit crisp, and smooth to the touch. There was a faint “grassy” smell to it as i worked with it, and the occasional bit of flotsam, but not to the same extent as, say, Noro Silk Garden. I wasn’t bothered by that.

Next, the pattern. It is a beautiful pattern. I love me some stockinette panels, and the lace trip at bottom and top is enough to take the level of challenge up a notch and give me practice at lace patterns. It is meant to be worked flat in two pieces, however I modified this for in-the-round knitting because I didn’t want to be sleeping on long side seams, and stockinette on circulars is My Favourite Kind Of Knitting.

There is, however, some room for improvement, most notably for the fact that there is no pattern schematic accompanying the pattern. This is not a small detail to miss, particularly since I think the pattern is sized for a fairly petite woman. I’m 5’9″, so I’m used to adding an inch or two in length. However, the added challenge with this pattern is that there is no guideline for where the, ahm, ::ahem:: nipple line is supposed to fall. Is the lace trim at the top supposed to keep you fully covered or sit directly across the bust line? These are details I would have appreciated, because it would have helped me to know how much length to add in the stockinette section of the torso, to accommodate my own size and preferences.

Adding length in the skirt section is easily enough done – but sadly I didn’t add length there and now I wish I had done, because it would cover me just a little bit more. I think I may go back and seam up the edges of the lace panels on the skirt, it would give the whole thing a bit more sturdy feel.

So there you have it, folks, an almost-finished-object. I will be happy to move on to other things and look forward to wearing this to bed. Will you get a shot of me wearing it? Ahm, no. ;) That will remain between me and my duvet cover. (Literally! Yuk yuk yuk. I kill me.)

On with the day…

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This week’s cupcakes

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After all my hemming and hawing, i went with basic chocolate cupcakes and vanilla buttercream frosting. May yet try a bit of garnishing with some mini-chocolate chips, but damn. That is some fine frosting action if I do say so myself. These will be accompanying me to knit night, by the by ;)

How long will this cupcake jag last, you might ask? (This is my 3rd batch of cupcakes in 3 weeks.) Well, at least one more week, because next week is my birthday. And also, I have a twin. So surely I could not be blamed for baking a different batch for each of us, right? and because it’s our birthday, gluttonous and indulgent recipes are required, right? Good. I’m glad we’re in agreement.

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Battening down the hatches

I keep forgetting to mention that I’m moving.

A couple of weeks ago at LK I mentioned this and Maryann and Emily reacted with surprise and concern. I’ve known about this for quite a while but I think it hasn’t registered in my conversation because a) I’m planning on having a first draft of my dissertation before I go (which will be mid-August,) and if I somehow don’t talk specifically about that then maybe time will move more slowly and the draft will get done easy, lalalalalalalaaa…. and b) I’m not going far. Only to my hometown, which is about an hour’s drive away from Toronto and attached to regular bus and train transportation. I’ll also still be coming back and forth to Toronto quite a bit because of study and work keeping me here, so I’m hoping to still manage to get to Lettuce Knit once a month at least. But the main thing is that I’m a little up in the air right now while I finish my degree and figure out What To Do Next, and Toronto is just too expensive for people who are up in the air.

Stash1

The thing is my hometown doesn’t have the same depth and variety of yarn availability as Toronto does – there are yarn stores, yes, but it’s nothing compared to living within walking distance of Romni Wools and Lettuce Knit. So, the last few months I haven’t felt guilty about snagging a couple extra skeins of yarn (let’s say, oh, from the Lorna’s Laces and Socks that Rock that LK has recently gotten in stock), because soon I won’t have the same yarn shop access. Emily called this ‘battening down the hatches’.

My stash has grown quite a bit in 3 years – what you see above is about half of it. It’s a young stash compared with many others, I know, but it’s a lot for one knitter and I’m going to have to start applying my talents to it more dedicatedly. Sometimes I have guilt over it. But I also find it very comforting to have around, it reassures me that I will always have something to knit no matter what.

In the last month or two my sister and I have taken a few weekend trips home and have been bringing with us bags and boxes of things we can live without for a short while (she is moving too, though we will not be co-residents as we have been for the last 4 years). On a psychological level this has helped us start to prepare for the Actual Move, and to prune out old clothes, books, and papers we don’t need any more. I haven’t pruned any of my stash, but I did move it, too. Before I did I had to pull out a few projects’ worth of yarn to keep with me here in Toronto, and it was kind of an odd feeling. I’ve gotten used to just having that pile of yarn at ready access, rather than actually planning out what to use first.

Bookshelf2

For a brief moment I considered sending on the knitting books, too, but I couldn’t in the end. I like having them nearby to pore over and dream. (These are probably my favourites, but not all). Sometimes I just like reading through a couple of them before bed and it’s very comforting. Or in one of those moments when even though I’ve got 3 projects on the go, that shouldn’t stop me from dreaming 5 projects in advance, so I go through the sock books and mentally figure out which sock yarn I have would go with what patterns, or I wonder if I’ve got enough of one yarn to knit that one shrug in ‘Runway Knits’, or I ask myself what yarn I would buy if i was going to knit that beautifully ambitious cabled sweater from ‘Viking Patterns for Knitting,’ or I look at stitch patterns and wonder what sweaters I could turn them into…It’s hard to live without fodder for dreams, you know? ;)

And now, Monday begins…

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Can’t knit. Reading.

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Although the After Dark Nightie is so close to done that some knitting breaks may be required. As will be food, drink, and sleep breaks, naturally. The day started out quite busy and bustly but now I’m settled in, enough to give myself lots of time for this this weekend. No speed-reading for me. ;)

Better get down to business…

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Muddling through

This is my brain:

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Well, actually, it’s a chalked/painted maze that I saw on the street the other day outside Honest Ed’s just off of Bloor St. I sympathized. And also – isn’t that cool? Yeah anyway, the urge to procrastinate is strong, but I am doing my best to fight it and Apply Myself. Stupid thesis that won’t stupid write itself.

This is the carrot I’m trying to dangle in front of me so that I will somehow manage to get a flaming first draft of my dissertation done (the plan was to have that done by the end of July. Erk. Might be tight… ::whistles::)

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This is a future Venezia Pullover (from Interweave Knits Fall 2006). When KnitPicks released a whole whack of new heathery non-Crayola shades of their Palette fingering-weight, something snapped in my brain. I ordered a bunch. It arrived this week. I want to knit it SO MUCH, but I am trying to use it as bait instead.

Oh yeah, and here are some Pictures of Cute from Lettuce Knit last night, and Aven‘s young man, who is quite pleased to (alternately) grab for yarn, grab for anything shiny, chew yarn labels (from already-wound skeins) and explore from the perspective of the floor. He’s a crowd-pleaser.

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The cupcakes were yummy. I’m already thinking about what to bake next week. Chocolate-Espresso…Amaretto Cream…Chocolate with Coconut Frosting… ::drool::

And oh look! It’s dinner time. ;)

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