Monthly Archives: September 2008

Other things to make with your hands

If I wasn’t knitting, I would probably be cooking or baking. I sometimes watch the Food Network (Hi Alton! Call me!), and often spend a chunk of time on the weekend in the kitchen the same way I would put in a weekend warrior attempt at finishing a piece of knitting. I am generally a big fan of making stuff, and the triumph of getting to actually wear, use, or eat the things I make is sort of the side bonus. The downside to cooking or baking is that it’s really hard to do that while you’re sitting on a subway or at a streetcorner cafe. But there are few knitting projects that result in chocolate cakes or loaves of bread, so I think the benefits are probably on par for each.

So, a month ago when there was a lull in the knitting books that were coming through the publishing world, I asked to look at a couple of cookbooks instead, and Random House happily obliged me. This one is from popular television chef Giada DiLaurentis, appropriately named Giada’s Kitchen.

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Now, all skepticism aside about how Giada actually manages to eat all the food she makes and still remain the cute pocket-sized television personality that she is, I have to give this book major props. I’m the sort of person who has flirted with taking Italian cooking seriously enough to have actually made my own pasta (and without a pasta maker, too…and you thought knitting was rough on the hands, HAH), attempted those almond-egg-white cakes that never seem to rise properly, and generally started to wonder what the big deal was about pasta because it is everywhere and seems kind of boring when you make it yourself.

Last night I tried two recipes from this collection; the White Bean and Garlic soup and Linguine with Green Beans and Ricotta, with some garlicy Calabrese bread on the side. It took less than an hour to get both dishes on the table from start to finish, and it is a crying shame only two of us were eating them because it was so good. I was left with a pleasant combination of flavours in my mouth afterwards, not to mention a nice fridge full of leftovers to get me through a few lunches this week.

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Giada’s recipes are, I have to say, an excellent set of everyday recipes. Most of the ingredients she uses are familar and will not have you scouring specialty markets (Naked Chef, I’m looking at you), and they are simple enough not to take up more than a page each of the book (Martha Stewart, I’m looking at YOU). There is also enough variety in here to take you through an entire multi-course meal if you want, right from cocktails to dessert, and also uses a lot of vegetarian recipes as well as meat courses. I’m flirting with the Appetizer Red Pepper Cheesecake and the Lamb Ragu for next attempts, I think.

Thankfully a lot of her recipes are available on the Food Network website (as the recipe I link to above), so you can try some before committing to the whole book. For me though, I don’t think this book is going to gather a whole lot of dust any time soon.

Next up in reviewing over the next couple of months: The Canadian Living Baking Book, Shear Spirit, and Mason-Dixon: Knitting Outside the Lines. Can’t wait!

15 Comments

Filed under book review, cooking

Hay is for horses

Hey there folks – where is the time going these days? How is it possible that in a mere two days, October will be upon us? I’m all conflicted about that. On the one hand, I love fall and I love cool weather that allows me to wear my knitted things, and I love that October will bring some travels to NYC and the Rhinebeck wool festival…but on the other hand, time always does tend to pass by faster than you think it should. This whole last year I think the only month that appeared to go by “slowly” was July, and now I have very little recollection of what I actually did in that month.

As far as what I’ve done this past month, well, I have indeed made some good progress on the Cabled Swing Cardi. The chocolatey Berrocco Ultra Alpaca is lovely and soft and heathery…

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…however it is possible the alpaca content is not the best idea ever for my hands. Yesterday afternoon suddenly my right hand started to cramp up while in the clasping position, and then this morning the same thing happened when I was turning the shower knobs. Not a huge setback yet, there are still 3 weeks left to go until the Rhinebeck deadline of course….But still, one never does want to be plagued by injury. Here’s hoping a few days of ibuprofen and stretching and 100% wool knits only will do the trick.

In other news, in between agonizing over how best to convince my students that ideas are actually important and do in fact matter a great deal in our every day lives, I’ve started to fall a bit behind and have a couple of book reviews to catch up on. I also have some catching up to do on blogging and passing on good will. Marie at Sel & Poivre and Froggie girl at The Crafty Frog have ever so kindly nominated me for blogger awards, and I was extremely touched.

In the rules of this game, one generally does the “pass it on” thing and nominates more bloggers…I always have such a hard time with that because I feel guilty for excluding people at the expense of others. Y’all know I have my fantabulous sister who also knits and whose blog I think is awesome, and I regularly try to keep my Blogroll (down there at the bottom right) updated with the bloggers I read on a regular basis, and I often link to my knitting friends around these parts who I think are the bee’s knees. Please visit them and know that if I was passing out blog awards, these folks would be the first I would turn to.

When it comes right down to it I think anybody who writes a blog, a knitting blog or cooking blog or whatever-you-are-most-passionate-about blog, is doing something that is not without significance. It takes time, energy, and thought to write a blog, any blog, whether you’re posting every day or every month. I have a lot of respect for anyone who does it, and having this blog right here has been an important experience for me. I could write blog posts while I was working on my thesis and remind myself that writing things down and thinking thoughts was not always going to be an agonizing experience, just as one example, and yanno, that’s not nothing. Reading others’ blogs always reminds me that we are not just our knitting, we are people who find knitting very important, and our blogs are always some very small window on what that means in our lives.

Ever since Ravelry came on the scene a year and a half ago or so, there has been a lot of speculation in the Knitblog world about whether Ravelry would take the place of blogging. And I think there’s some truth to that only if you value Knitblogging for pictures and Finished Object specs and yarn information. But for me Knitblogging is more than just an archive of information; it is a different medium for sharing ideas and expressing ourselves and figuring out who we are as people who identify so strongly as Knitters. I mean, we haven’t abandoned newspapers, magazines, or novels, merely because Google has become such a big part of our lives, you know?

Anyway, if you’re a blogger, cheers to you. Me and my yarn stash salute you.

With that, i’d better get some lunch and continue sorting out my day and the rest of my week…Onwards to October! I sense great things in October, don’t you think? What’s on your knitting plans for October?

10 Comments

Filed under knitting addiction, knitting philosophy, sweaters

And the moon is in the seventh house

I’ve got me a new pair of travelling socks, one that is staying firmly planted in my handbag, to ward off incidents like that one time a week and a half ago when I found myself on a bus, gone for the day, and no knitting in my possession. As a result these are going a bit more slowly, but thankfully are more than cheerful and bright enough to make up for it:

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These are the beginnings of a pair of Primavera Socks, in Madelinetosh sock in (I think) the ‘violas’ colourway which was one of my Boston purchases back in April. They are an extremely belated birthday gift for friend P (also known as Beatrice the kitty’s regular human). I showed her my basket of sock yarn and she stuck her hand in and went right for this stuff, for the psychedelic greens. It is just the right shade of crazy to be fabulous, and the stripes are working up beautifully in this pattern.

This is my first time working with this yarn and so far I think I’m on the side of thumbs-up. It’s thinner than the sock yarns that I’m used to, but it’s also fairly squishy and sproingy, which – and Pam will hate me for saying this, as she has had a pair of Madelinetosh Jaywalkers on the go for, oh, a while – might just make it an ideal combination for the Jaywalker pattern. Move over Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock, you’ve got competition for my Jaywalker affection.

In other news, I still want to knit approximately eleventy million things, wish it was Rhinebeck weekend right now, and am resentful of the “work” I have to “do” that prevents me from knitting all day while eating chocolate. But at least the knitter in my head is well-occupied, even if my hands can’t be all the time.

Happy Tuesday and may your knitting be close by!

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Filed under socks

Shiver me timbers

(The internets tell me today is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Yarr, mateys).

I’ve been having one of those weeks where I want to knit everything. Like, everything. Only willpower is standing between me and casting on for three more sweaters, two shawls, and four pairs of socks right this very minute. It’s that sort of must-knit-must-knit sensation where I’ve even been looking at knitting books before bedtime, or in the morning, as if just by reading the knitting patterns they will somehow magically start to knit themselves.

Part of this comes from the stash reckoning I did last Sunday, post-Knitter’s-Fair-purchasing, wherein I recognized just how many sweaters I could knit with the yarn I currently own (I did not count the actual number, I thought it was best not to reveal such things in polite company, even if said company is the yarn itself), and how many pairs of socks I could make…and then I felt a little bit dizzy and had to restrain myself from falling on the yarn with patterns and needles and starting everything right away.

This is also partly due to the sudden realization that my trip to Rhinebeck is only a month away, which gives me only a month to finish my ‘Rhinebeck sweater’. Risa is making good speed on a beautiful ‘Town and Country’ from A Fine Fleece, causing me to go back and re-read my copy and start thinking things like “sure I could start a Fylingdales cardigan, I could have that done AND do my Rhinebeck sweater in a month…” And then there are the seven skeins of beautiful red wool I got last year from Wild Apple Farms, which is the only yarn I haven’t knitted up from last year’s purchases, and which I was convinced I would have knitted up into a new Twist by now. (“Maybe I could have that done too…and the Fylingdales…and…um…”)

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But my first commitment, it must be said, remains with the Cabled Swing Cardi. The pattern is by Norah Gaughan from The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, and is one of the ones I coveted as soon as I got my copy of the book. I’m working on it in the suggested yarn, Berrocco Ultra Alpaca, purchased on sale from the WEBS spring sale back in April. The colour is Lobster Mix, and while it turned out to be a more chocolatey-brown colour than the deep purple I thought it was going to be, it’s still absolutely delicious and I can’t wait to finish. So far, I’ve done only the right front piece (above), although this also happens to be the piece which requires the most thinking, so that’s got to be worth something, right? I’m still enjoying the yarn, and the pattern isn’t causing me any problems, it’s just gotten sidelined by other things and it’s time to give it some good solid quality time.

So I’d like to at least have this done by Rhinebeck, and preferably not have to walk around with just one front piece pinned to my t-shirt…Though Elspeth has sagely pointed out that this would still, at the very least, make me recognizable. In an ideal world, all Rhinebeck-goers set knitting goals, complete them before the festival, AND arrive at the festival to find perfect weather appropriate for the wearing of the knitted items. Is it wrong to hope for all three? I think I can do it. I just have to actually, um…knit it. Yes.

Happy Friday!

13 Comments

Filed under cables, knitting tourism, rhinebeck, stash, sweaters

So are the days of our lives

There’s not much I can say about the Hourglass Sweater (from Last Minute Knitted Gifts) that hasn’t already been said. It’s simple, comfortable, and surely destined to become a wardrobe staple. After the usual Finished Object hemming-and-hawing, I’m pleased with mine:

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Pattern: Hourglass Pullover from ‘Last Minute Knitted Gifts’ by Joelle Hoverson
Yarn: Malabrigo Worsted (in ‘holly hock’); I alternated skeins every 3 rows to prevent any pooling from the semi-solid kettle-dyed skeins
Needles: 4.5 mm circulars.
Size: Between the 37″ and 41″. I aimed for 39″ based on my gauge swatch (aw, lookit, I even swatched like a good knitter should…) and this worked out well.

Modifications: Although this is a fairly uncomplicated pattern and could use a variety of ubiquitous yarns, it is also a pattern that rewards attention to your own body shape. If I’d made the pattern exactly as written, it would have been too short and sat too high on my hips. As I often do, I added an inch in length before and after waist shaping to get the shape to match mine more evenly.

The other key ‘fit’ issue is the shoulders. A very brief search on Ravelry will turn up no shortage of finished Hourglass sweaters whose necklines turned out too wide. My sister warned me about this possibility as well, as she had made this piece last winter, so I took this to heart and worked a few more raglan decreases along the yoke. I also spaced out a few of the decreases 2 rows apart instead of just 1 row apart, since my row gauge was coming out a bit tighter than what the pattern intended (this is so rare for me as to be almost unbelievable, usually I have looser row gauge than whatever the pattern wants).

However, in the larger sizes it seems as though the opposite approach is required – that working a few decreases more often would result in a better fit. So, your mileage may vary.

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In the book this is identified as a ‘More than twelve hours’ project, which I would laughingly label an “understatement”. Although it is a fairly quick knit as far as sweaters are concerned, it’d have a hard time fitting this into a weekend. All in all I think I even managed the bulk of the work in about 2.5 weeks, but then was stalled at the end by going away on a trip and then getting side-tracked. The finishing is quite minimal as it is worked all in the round, so once you’ve done the knitting, all that remains is a bit of sewing up hems and the underarms.

This is going to be my ‘backup’ Rhinebeck sweater in case of disappointment with my intended Rhinebeck project. I’ll get to that one next post!

26 Comments

Filed under finished object: sweater, sweaters

Just in time for fall

So, remember when Noro first announced that they were coming out with a sock version of their Silk Garden yarn, and you got really excited and waited and waited not very patiently all summer long for it to finally be available in stores, and then you finally got some and brought it home and petted it and only then stopped to think about what to do with it?

Okay that might actually have been me, not you. Well, if you’re me, you bought more than one skein and did this with one of them:

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Pattern: So Simple Silk Garden Socks, available here as a free download or for free on Ravelry.
Yarn: Silk Garden Sock, 300m/330yds per 100g, lamb’s wool/silk/nylon/mohair blend (1 ball).
Gauge: 24 sts over 4 inches in stockinette on 3.0mm needles
Sizing: I’ve written this up for 3 sizes, to fit a leg/foot circumference of 8, 9, and 10 inches, all of which are possible from just 1 ball of Silk Garden Sock. I made the middle size and had enough to make a swatch, complete the socks to fit my ladies Size 11 feet, and still have a little bit leftover.

If you’re making the largest size and are at all worried about running out of yarn, you can either shorten the leg by an inch or so, or substitute a short-row heel instead of the heel flap to extend your yardage. Or, for an even larger size, you could follow the pattern instructions for the S or M sizes and increase your needle size – SG Sock can handle 3.0mm-4.0mm pretty easily.

It’s a basic ribbed sock with a single cable for accent running along the outside of the foot – the ribbing and the cable add just a little bit of snugness, a teensy bit of vertical visuals to ease the sharp horizontal stripes, and keep things a little more interesting than plain stockinette. I am finding more and more that 3×1 ribbing has become my default for plain socks, more often than stockinette.

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I am definitely a fan of Silk Garden in all its guises, though I know not everyone is. Like the Noro Kureyon Sock, the Silk Garden Sock is more of a thinner version of its worsted-weight origins, than a sock yarn like the popular superwash merino softer-than-kittens sock yarns that are so ubiquitous now. (Sidebar: if lace yarn is the new sock yarn, how long before Noro delves into lace? Cash Iroha lace perhaps? Anyway…) The Silk Garden sock is also a slightly heftier yarn, and behaves more like a sport/DK than a fingering weight, so the possibilities are endless. Lightweight sweaters and scarves would be beautiful with this.

These socks took me just less than a week to finish, which also makes me a fan of this yarn – a slightly thicker sock yarn means fewer stitches and faster completion time. The socks themselves won’t be as slim and svelte as they would be on a lighter fingering weight yarn, but around these parts the fall air is starting to settle in in the evenings and I don’t mind having snuggly socks on my feet from time to time.

If you do knit up this wee pattern and have any comments or questions, please feel free to let me know! Happy knitting as always.

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Filed under finished object: socks, free pattern, socks

A Day at the Fair

Yesterday was my first visit to the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter’s Fair. It’s been on my radar for a few years but I’d never been able to go, and it was just as fun as the Knitter’s Frolic back in April, if not even a bit more fun. Several of us caravaned down from Hamilton, and once we had all gotten there it was a sort of strange but fluid and workable scattering and re-convening. We would drift off one or two or three at a time, be lured into one of the vendors’ booths and carry on, moving around the two big conference centre ballrooms in that pleasant sort of yarn-induced stupor.

The Purple Purl was, quite rightfully, my first stop. I think they are fast becoming one of the booths to find first, as just as at the Toronto Knitter’s Frolic in April, they had a steady stream of customers all day! And I think just about everything in their booth was on sale, which of course just adds to the degree of frenzy. You’ve seen my purchases from yesterday, but here are some pictures from the day:

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As a special treat Miko had brought with her the tiger dress she had just been treated with – another (extremely generous and patient Toronto knitter whose name I sadly do not know) knitter had made this masterpiece from the slightly aged ‘Knitting Wildlife’ book. It truly is a masterpiece, as Martha‘s expression attests:

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And to top it off, their ‘Purl’ mascot received her own matching threads:

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Elsewhere at the fair, we stopped at the Wellington Fibres, whose spinning fibre and mohair blends quietly sneak up on you and entice themselves into your wallet:

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It was outside their booth we saw Debbie New, who is quite possibly the nicest human being ever, and who was ever so brilliantly wearing a just-purchased hank of yarn around her neck, all the better to begin knitting with it right away:

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Overall I didn’t notice quite as many people from the Toronto knitting world as at the Frolic in April, but there were definitely a few there and it was great to notice people to say hello to throughout the day. Lisa finished her Cherie Amour while working a volunteer shift, in time to wear it for the afternoon, Sherri was contemplating her Malabrigo purchases, and, Martha and I ran into Divy at the busy busy Camila Valley Farms booth (she was fresh from a new Namaste bag purchase at Village Yarns):

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Steph and I engaged in some mutual photography:

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And then when it was all done we left with many bags and drove off happily contemplating the purchases of the day. At lunch, Dee demonstrated the how-to-knit-with-freshly-purchased-yarn technique and cast on right away for a scarf with her new Dye-Version bamboo:

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Now that it is the next day, i am left with that inevitable combination of eager startitis and twitchy contemplation of the ever-growing stash. Sounds just about right for a Sunday.

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Filed under knitting tourism, ontario knitters