Friday, August 25, 2006

Vivaldi!

I'm so excited I'm just about to pee my pants! Marie in Norway was generous enough to send me her leftover Vivaldi so I could see what it was like, and decide what I wanted to make my Drops pullover out of (see my previous post). It came in the mail today and I can't wait to whip up a swatch. Isn't the Internet great? It puts you in touch with so many wonderful people. Life is good. Now... off to start swatching!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Shopping Day

I love Wednesday afternoons - I don't have to work, so that's when I usually do all my shopping and errands. This was a particulary good day. Leaving the house, I noticed that my car was absolutely filthy. Ugh. Well, maybe I'd wash it after I got home. I started off at Unravelled Sheep, poking through the wall of yarn on sale. It's a progressive sale, this week is 30% off. It's only my 4th time down there in 2 weeks (or is it 5th?). Sigh. Anyway, I gobbled up a couple of skeins of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran (for wrist warmers, I think), some K1C2 Ambrosia (baby alpaca/silk/cashmere) in "pale moss" for hmmmm... a scarf? A cowl? Some cute little gift bags? Too many choices. Maybe I'll just leave a skein out on the table so I can pet it. One skein of Artyarns Ultramerino4 in colorway 115 - beautiful reds. I was thinking about the "Cabled Purse" in LMKY, but I don't know if I'll like it in a variegated yarn, so we'll see. A skein of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn in Safari. Loved the yummy browns. Too bad there was only one skein left. So what will I make with it? I dunno... maybe some ankle socks (she muttered under her breath). What was that? Socks? Who said that? Couldn't have been me. I must be hearing things. But wait - what's that other yarn in the pile - the one trying to hide? Sockotta? Couldn't be. How did that get in my bag? I just finished watching "Sybil"... maybe it was one of my other personalities who bought that. Well, just don't tell anyone.

Then I needed to go to Jo-Ann's to try to find some buttons for a jacket I'm making. I bought four the other day at the store in Holladay (2 cards w/2 buttons each), but I really wanted 5. I figured if one Jo-Ann's had them, the others probably would too. Since I was already in Sandy, I trekked down to the new Super Store in Draper. My God! I can't believe how 12300 South has changed. I would never have even recognized the street - and I used to drive down it every day when I lived out there years ago. Of course, that was when there wasn't much besides Guadalahonky's and Neil's. Sheesh! It could take days just to drive through all of those strip malls and see what stores are there. Anyway, found Jo-Ann's and went looking for my cute little buttons. I found them, but in the wrong size - 7/8" instead of 3/4". I thought for sure they'd have both sizes somewhere. But I couldn't find them, and there were no empty slots nearby. I found the same buttons in another color, in both sizes, but not the ones I wanted. Aarrggh. But then I noticed that the item numbers on the other colored buttons were sequential. And that the buttons appeared to be on the wall in numerical order (as well they should be!) So looking at the 7/8" buttons again, I noticed that the buttons directly below were NOT in numerical order. Could it be? I nudged aside the top packet of buttons, and SCORE! There were my lovely buttons hiding underneath. Yes, life is good. Snatched them up and headed to the checkout. Hmmm.. I have a 40% off coupon in my purse. Well, I certainly don't want to use that on a $1.60 packet of buttons. But there by the counter was the Fall Interweave Knits. OK, might as well get $3.00 off!

Now I'm headed up I-15, figuring to jump off at 45th South to stop at my mother's house. I need to check her Dell Laptop to see if it's in the battery recall. But as I spy the exit for 53rd... I'm thinking "Costco... Costco". Normally I shop at the Costco on 3rd West, but last time I was there, they no longer had the delicious Marcona almonds that I bought by mistake and then became addicted to. Could it be that they'd have some at this store? What the hell, might as well jump off the freeway and see. YES, YES, YES!!! There were my lovely almonds. If you like nuts and have never had Marcona almonds, do yourself a favor and seek some out. They're lucious and creamy - sort of like a cross between almonds and macadamia nuts. Tony Caputo's has them, but in smaller quantities and for more $$. So I grabbed a couple of cans. Well, now that I'm there, I might as well see if they might also have the incredible Orca Bay Cioppino they used to carry. No such luck, but what else do I spy, but Pirouline cookes! Yes, they're back! There's nothing like a Pirouline and a cup of tea or coffee. OK, so I grab the 3-pack of those as well. As I'm checking out, I decide that a nice latte would be good, and for only a buck, you can't beat that with a stick. As they're making my latte, I turn and look out the door. Well, I try to look out the door. There was an incredible storm going on - the wind was blowing the rain sideways, and it was so windy and rainy that you really couldn't even see out into the parking lot. People were standing at the doorway in horror. I figured it was a really good idea to grab a seat and drink my latte. And there I sat, watching the rain, the wind, the lightening. Boy was it nasty! But then, just as I finished my latte, ta-da! The rain stopped and the sun was peeping out. Ah, just in time to leave. I walk through the flooded parking lot out to my car, and notice that it's now washed clean! Cool! Life is definitely good!

A quick stop at my mother's determines that her laptop battery isn't being recalled. Excellent. I get home and have an email from a gal pal - I'd asked if she wanted to see "The Descent". I love horror movies, and this was supposed to be a good one. DH hates them, but since he's out of town, I figured it was a good time to go. She was up for the movie tonight, so we hit the early show at 5:30. And yes, it was good. Lots of blood (too much - but then, it's a horror movie, after all). But it sure had our adrenaline pumping. Whew!

Yes, it was a good day. Now, any suggestions on what to do with one skein of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn?

They said it was big, but...

Let's take a break from knitting and instead, play "What's in the Garden?". (Click the photos for larger versions, if you like). It's been an odd year for me. Normally I have no problems with tomatoes, but this year only my cherry tomatoes are doing well. My "Early Girl" tomatoes are only just starting to ripen (though the plant is 6' tall and does have lots of green tomatoes). My "Mr. Stripey" tomato was a total failure. Not a flower, not a fruit. So much for Mr. Stripey. Impotent little creep. I have some other tomato plants that were gifted to me, but I don't know the varieties, and although they have flowers, there's no fruit yet. They were planted from seed, so I don't know if they'll have enough time to bear fruit this year. Thank goodness for those cherry tomatoes, they've saved me from tomato withdrawal. And boy have they been good! I planted borage next to them this year - it's supposed to enhance the flavor. I don't know whether that had anything to do with it or not, but the flavor of the tomatoes has defintely been great, and the borage flowers and leaves have been a terrific addition to my summer beverages. I'll certainly plant that again.

And speaking of the borage... I always have some herbs, but this year I planted a lot of different types, many of which I've never grown before. I always have oregano, parsley, basil, rosemary, and several varieties of thyme. This year I also planted borage, chervil, savory, purple basil, sage, French tarragon, lemon balm (in a pot, not in the garden!), caraway thyme (I like it!), creeping oregano, garlic chives, and horehound. The herbs have done really well, and I've been having lots of fun with all those fresh herbs. (Cooking with them, of course.) The tarragon was especially wonderful! And using the tarragon, chervil, and caraway thyme together was yummy.

My peas were wonderful this year, the spinach, lettuce, carrots and beets did okay, and the melons and squash are going crazy - they're all over the place. The strawberries were great too - in fact, they're starting up again, and I picked a handful this morning. Delicious! The blackberries were terrific, though not as large as last year. Techically, they're not "my" blackberries - they're growing between my house and the neighbor's on his property, but they cascade all over the area between the houses. He never picks any, so I keep them trimmed back and harvested. I planted corn this year, for the first time. It did pretty well, considering it's such a small block of plants. The pollination was uneven, so some of the cobs only had patches of developed kernels, but others were perfect. And the corn was so sweet! We really enjoyed it, but since I have such a small garden, I think I'll skip corn in the future and use that space for the melons and squash - they were pretty cramped. But I'm glad I tried growing the corn, it was fun and I did get a good harvest.

My eggplant did okay, though for some reason I only planted one plant, an Ichiban. I think I meant to go back and get some other varieties, and then forgot. The bell peppers are on the same track as the tomatoes - not doing much. They have flowers, but nothing else. Odd.

But overall, it's been a good year. My husband is amazed that I just go out in the garden, pick things, cook them up togeher, and voila - there's dinner! (He's a big fan of spaghetti squash, which is a good thing because he's going to be eating a lot of it.) By the way, try some cooked spaghetti squash sauteed with butter and fresh sage, topped with some grated Parmesan cheese - mmmmm!

I planted grape vines last fall, but of course, won't have any grapes this year. I got some "Seedless Concord", which are supposed to have pretty small grapes, but I won't mind. One of my very favorite desserts, which I never get unless I make it myself, is Concord Grape Pie. But I HATE making it because it's so time-consuming. (Pop the grapes out of the skins, put the skins in one bowl, the pulp in another. Cook the pulp until it's soft, and then strain it through a sieve to remove all the seeds. Then combine the strained pulp with the skins (and other ingredients) for the pie filling. It takes hours, so I usually do enough for 4 or 5 pies at a time, and freeze the prepared filling.) I'm hoping that I can use these seedles grapes whole, just like blueberries. Yum!

One thing I'm quite excited about - I finally have one fruit on my Valencia Orange tree! I've had it for a number of years, and it always has flowers, but usually the fruit falls off when it's still small. My one little orange is a little larger than golf-ball size. Hopefully, it will actually ripen. I always get a few lemons off my Meyer Lemon each year. They're small, but very juicy and delicious. The citrus, of course, must come in during the winter, but I set the pots out in the garden for the summer.

Here's a close-up of the squash from hell, taking over what used to be the patio. This was my first time growing spaghetti squash, and I underestimated how much space it would need. I keep thinking of a quote from the movie "Roxanne" with Steve Martin (love that movie!) - "It's huge! It's enormous! It's gigantic! I mean, they said it was big, but I didn't expect it to be BIG!"

Monday, August 21, 2006

Paulina, Paulina, Paulina!


Here's another recently-finished project, made from the Berroco Paulina pattern. This was by far the most complex and challenging thing I've knitted, and for the most part, I'm pleased with it. I'd have preferred it to be a bit longer, and also a bit larger width-wise. It's supposed to be form-fitting, but it could have been an inch or two wider, and still fit well - it just wouldn't be quite as "stretched".

The original yarn specified (Smart Cotton) has been discontinued, and not ever having seen it, I had no idea what might be a good substitute. Smart Cotton was 68% Cotton, 29% Rayon, 3% Nylon with a gauge of 21 sts/28 rows to 4". Based on a suggestion from Mayflower, I used "Sock it to Me!" by Esprit, which I purchased at Elann. It's 98.3% cotton, and 1.7% elastic, but it has a very different gauge - 25 st/40 rows to 4". I don't know what I was thinking! This is definitely a pattern where row count matters, and I'm not that experienced in manipulating patterns. Between the ribbing and the elasticity of the yarn, my swatches were so stretchy that it was impossible to know for sure if my gauge was going to work out width-wise, so I just took my best guess. I was still off quite a bit on row count, but I decided to give it a go anyway, figuring out a few places where I could throw in some extra rows to make up the difference without messing up the pattern. Throughout the whole project, I was positive that it was going to be too small. After finishing the back, I pinned it to an existing tank top which fits snugly, and tried it on. At that point it looked like it might actually work! I figured that if it didn't, it would be close enough that I could just knit some "gussets" for the sides if I had to make it slightly bigger. So onward I went.

I finally finished the front, pinned it together, held my breath, and tried it on. To my great surprise, it fit! Will wonders never cease! I must have had good karma that month. One thing bothered me though - the large "dip" in the front and back center. You can see it in the photo on the pattern, though the model is mostly hiding it with her hands. I didn't think I'd mind it, but hmmm... once it was on, I decided it just wasn't that flattering on me - maybe because it ended up shorter in length than what it looks like on the model (and let's face it - anything would look great on her, even a burlap sack!). So after thinking about various options, I ended up filling them in a little with some rows of single crochet. I didn't fill them in entirely, so there's still a dip, just not quite what it was. I'm much happier with it now.

Would I knit Paulina again? Yes, I'd like to some day, and use a yarn that's a closer match for the gauge. Perhaps Rowan Calmer? I haven't knitted with that yet, but the yarn does seem nice and stretchy, and the gauge is much closer. The pattern was challenging to keep straight (yes, I did lots of frogging when I messed up), but it was fun to do, too. And it certainly wasn't boring!

For those who want to know where I added length to compensate for my gauge, here's where I added rows: For the back, I added 8 extra rows after the 1st Shaping Row (worked to row 50 instead of 42). That changed my row count from 62 to 70 for Row 4 of the Beg Diagonal Bands section, and from 76 to 84 on the 3rd Shaping Row. I knitted another two rows in the section right before Shape Armholes - where it says 106 rows, I went to 116 (the first 8 extra rows, plus 2 more rows = 10 more than the original pattern). This is a good place to throw in extra rows, but if possible, do them so your total number of increases ends up in a multiple of 10, so the cable pattern comes out correctly at the neckline. After shaping the armholes, where it said to work until the armholes measure 7", I worked to row 173, which was a little more than 7", but I didn't write down what it was - 7.5", I think. This is another good place to sneak in some extra rows - if the armhole ends up a bit lower than you'd like, you can always add some rows of single-crochet around the armhole after you're done to make a smaller opening. The front of the tank was worked the same as the back, adding the extra 8 rows after the 1st Shaping Row, and then an extra two rows right before doing the armholes (to a total of 127 rows instead of 117). Then I worked until the armhole measured the same as the front, to row 173.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Catching Up

Since I started my Blog so late this year, I've got a bit of catching up to do with old projects. Here I am in my "Sort-of-Soleil" (mostly from the Soleil pattern on Knitty, but with some modifications, and using and the picot edging from the Silk Camisole in Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson. It was knitted from Interlacements “Cheyenne” 100% merino wool. I added 2” to waist and decreased a bit more on each sleeve edge. So that the neckline wouldn't be so low, I separated the front and back at the armhole first, then did the split for front neckline.

"Brown Betty" (my brown paper tape dress dummy) is modeling my first Honeymoon Cami - made according to the pattern, and using Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece in "Banana".

"Betty" herself was technically my first project of 2006 - my husband and I spent several hours on New Year's Day getting a bit kinky in the kitchen with brown paper tape (which, by the way, was somewhat difficult to find, but we finally scored at the local Staples). She's been a great fitting assistant.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Instant Gratification

Between bigger projects, I like having something small and quick to do, to satisfy that urge for instant gratification. Hence the Children's Cotton Hat from Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson (a very nice book, but if you have the first edition, as I do, be sure to check out the errata).

Made in "Baby" size, using the specified yarn - 1 skein of Mission Falls 1824 Cotton, in color #201 (Coral). It took just over 2 hours, but after doing one, I'm sure the next one would be even faster. I think it's darling -- now someone I know just needs to have a baby. OK, so I've got the cart ahead of the horse. But I might as well be prepared -- sooner or later, there's bound to be a new baby in the family. Especially when I have three nieces in their 20's.


Of course, I couldn't resist attemping to model it on my cat... she was none too happy about it (what a surprise), and it ended up looking more like a Napoleon hat. I soothed her indignity with a little catmint out of the garden. She's forgotten all about that silly hat already.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Sock Virgin

Last night I attended my first SLC Stitch 'n Bitch. Great group - I had a very nice time. It was revealed, however, that I am, in fact, a sock virgin. Sigh. I guess if I'm going to be in the group, I'm going to have to change my ways. I don't know why I haven't really been inspired to knit socks, especially when I have to wear them to bed 3/4 of the year to keep my feet from freezing. Maybe it's because I often put Bag Balm on my heels before putting on the socks at night, and I can't stand the thought of doing that with something I spent hours knitting. Maybe it's the idea of even more "hand wash and dry flat". (Yes, I know, some can be machine washed and dried.)

Some days I wonder why I even have a dryer, for as often as I use it. I do admit that all of my hand washing gets done in the washing machine (love those mesh bags)! But then, I run out of places to dry everything "flat". Nothing like a house covered in laundry. I guess it could be worse - when my parents young (and my dad was a starving student), they lived in a poorly-insulated trailer in Wisconsin. No running water in the trailer. There was a Quonset hut for all water-related needs. Normally she had to line-dry everything (there were no dryers), but during the winter they couldn't do that, so she'd spread everything around the trailer (sheets and all). It was so cold that the water would freeze on them, and she'd have to shake off the ice. Interesting way to dry something. Even worse, my older sister was just a baby, so there were diapers to deal with. Every morning my mom had to crack through the ice at the top of the diaper pail. So, I guess I shouldn't complain. But I do wish all those clothing manufacturers would get a clue, and understand why it was that we bought washing machines and dryers in the first place. It certainly wasn't just to have more flat surface to dry things on.

But I digress... (sock avoidance?)

So back to socks. It isn't as if I haven't thought about knitting socks. I even have some sock yarn in my stash. I remember talking to a woman in a local yarn shop who was shopping for sock yarn. She said if you can knit socks, you can knit anything. (I guess that probably doesn't apply to tube socks.) So what's the problem? Maybe it's just because I don't really wear a lot of socks. I'm usually either wearing nylons (for work), or I'm bare-legged. But then again, maybe if I had some really nice socks that I actually made myself, I'd wear them more often. Hmmmm, maybe that's the problem -- I'm afraid of developing a sock fetish? Well, no, probably not. More likely it's just procrastination, and having to face a "new challenge". Like they say, "It's the start that stops most people".

So now that I've joined the S&B, maybe I'll finally get the motivation and support I need to take the plunge, and be a sock virgin no more.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Just off the needles - Honeymoon

The famous Honeymoon Cami in Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece (Terracotta). Instead of the Twisted Rib Eyelet border, I used the Arbor Lace pattern from "Knitting on the Edge" by Nicky Epstein (by the way, see the book errata here).

It's not as baggy as it looks in the photo - it's just the way I'm standing.

Oh yes, and I got my own special name from the "Stitcher's Name Generator". I'm officially "Mother Superior of Frantic Frogging".

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Drops 88-23 pullover

Yes! I want it! Drops Pattern 88-23 done in GarnStudio Vivaldi. Unfortunately, it seems that GarnStudio yarns are difficult to find in the U.S., even by mail order - most places that carry the brand don't carry the full line, and if they do carry Vivaldi, it's out of stock in nearly every color. Sigh. But I'm thinking that perhaps I could substitute Kidsilk Haze, Kid Seta, or Douceur et Soie. They're easier to get, and I can see the colors in person before buying. I was eyeing some Douceur et Soie the other day, in sort of a tangerine or coral, which would be a better color for me anyway. But, the Vivaldi is nearly twice the weight of the others, so that might be a problem. I guess I'll have to try a sample swatch with some Douceur et Soie I have left over from another project.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Vegan Knitting

My DH said I should combine my hobbies of gardening and knitting by knitting something out of my spaghetti squash. I guess that's one way to use them up faster!

So here's my newest project.