Monday, January 26, 2009

Too much knitting?

I know, I know what you're thinking... "no such thing!" But lately, I've been on such a knitting jag that I keep forgetting to update y'all about it... well anyway, I've been a busy girl this week!
First, last week I finished up a pair of fingerless gloves using the Malabrigo scraps that were left after I finished making Calorimetry. (Not really scraps, I guess... it was close to 100 yards).
The Malabrigo makes them super cozy and the pattern is totally easy peasy. And in case you love em as much as I do, this is the pattern I used.
Seriously, super easy. They're knit flat and then sewn up the side. And the fingerlessness makes them perfect for my icebox of an office.

Next, I got started on a drop stitch scarf using some Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride. It knits up super quick because it's on big needles and I totally love it. I used this pattern and the only change I made was adding the tassels, which are super easy. For those, I cut 16 18-inch lengths of yarn. hold two of them together and fold them in half. Now you have a loop at one end and 4 loose ends at the other. Weave the loop end through the end of the scarf and then pull all the loose ends through the loop to knot it. I put four on each end, but you can obviously do as many as you want.

And as if that wasn't enough, on Saturday I decided to make a hat. It knit up super quick. It's the Aspen hat from Twinkle's Big City Knits and I made it using Sirdar Big Softie. No way was I gonna pay for the price of the Twinkle yarn! Big Softie is a great bargain. It's a blend of wool and acrylic and it's super soft and, of course, super bulky.

Here's the result:

Oh, almost forgot that I picked up those buttons at Modern Yarn, and I love them. They might be my favorite part of the hat :)

Friday, January 16, 2009


Late last week, they were predicting that my area would be hit with a pretty sizable snow storm. Since the weather people were being all doom and gloom about it, grocery stores were packed on Friday with people trying to make sure they had the necessities to get them through the weekend.

So, around 8 Friday night, I started to cast on a project. And around 8:30, I came to the realization that the stitches would not all fit on the needles I had. Now, the logical thing would have been to switch to a different project, for which I had all the necessary materials.

But that's not what I did. I decided that since seriously cold weather was being predicted, I just HAD to make myself a calorimetry. And I couldn't bear the thought of a snowed in weekend wasted because I didn't have the right knitting supplies. So at 8:30 on a Friday night, I threw on some sweats and high-tailed it to AC Moore (which closes at 9).

When I charged into the store on my mission, the clerk immediately informed me they would be closing shortly. I told her I understood. That I just needed one thing and I would be in and out very quickly. I got my needles and went up to the register. The clerk looked confused. I guess she'd never witnessed a needle emergency before. I felt I needed to explain. I'm still not sure why. So I explained. My needles are too short. It's going to snow... I wanted to make sure I was ready...

The response I got? "Wow.... ya know, most people just stock up on food before a storm..."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A little selfish

Christmas time felt a little bit odd for me. I guess I'm what you'd call a selfish knitter. I tend to knit primarily for me.... I mean, it makes sense if you think about it. In the first place, the main reason I started learning to knit was because I like to have my own unique style and I wanted to have a few one-of-a-kind pieces in my wardrobe...

So this Christmas was the first time I was doing a whole lot of knitting and getting nothing in return for it (oh, except for the joy of knowing that my loved ones loved something I made for them... blah blah blah...)

So anyway, now that the gifts are out of the way, I'm back to being selfish for a while and I think the deprivation has got me casting on compulsively. So far, I've got a pair of socks in the works, using a pattern called Basic Socks For the Family, which I got from the Mountain Fiber Folk Cooperative.
I'm using some Dream in Color Smooshy for those... yum...
I also cast on a pair of fingerless gloves which are coming along nicely. They're being made using the leftover yarn after I finished the first thing I cast on after Christmas, my Calorimetry.

And what perfect timing, I finished just in time for the North East to start freezing our little tooshies off... Seriously, guys, I would've worn it even if temps were in the 40s... enough with the deep freeze already...
I made this using some Malabrigo worsted. Say it with me now: mmmmmmmm.... Malabrigo.... I know... I understand exactly how you feel... The color is called Rosa Vieja (except you have to say it with an exclamation mark at the end. Like, Rosa Vieja!) And yes, since you asked, that is my lovely profile modeling it for you...

Anyway, this pattern is super easy and quick. My favorite part is that it's adjustable. Because it uses short rows to make the shape, the button holes are formed in the spots where you turn the work, which means they appear every few stitches the whole way around... brilliant! (I just want to go on record saying I hate those stupid Guinness commercials, but that was the first thing that popped into my head..... Sorry.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

How fearless are you?

My friend, The Spinning Hand, calls me a fearless knitter. The name came about because I've only been knitting for a little over a year and there's very little I won't try. I've already tackled a sweater, socks, lacework, circs and DPNs, and even designing my own pattern... There's pretty much two reasons I'm "fearless" in her eyes:

1) I don't know any better... I have a really bad habit of not reading directions all the way through... as in, I think a recipe looks good, so I decide that's what's for dinner. And it's not until I have water boiling on the stove and chopped vegetables all over the counter that I realize that it calls for an ingredient I don't have (and occasionally, have never heard of). In the case of knitting, I see a pattern, I really like the picture. I glance over the instructions, thinking they don't look so bad.... I cast on and I'm doing just fine... then, all of a sudden... what the heck does that mean???!?!? Yup... I come to an instruction that I don't even know the meaning of, let alone how to do it... (but of course I never learn my lesson)

and the reason I never learn my lesson brings us to:

2) There are no consequences. A couple key pieces of information about my friend, The Spinning Hand: Not only is she a fellow knitter, in her spare time, she's a knitting teacher. Oh, and at her day job, she sits two desks away from me. All it takes is a free cup of coffee over lunch to get her to give up the goods on whatever I don't know how to do.

But I'm finally being honest with myself that even with the moral support and the stupidity, there are things that I'm even afraid to try... and I covet these patterns so much... I even have the yarn to make these patterns... I've bought the needles... the pattern is ready and waiting... but I'm afraid to start.

So here it is, my confession of not-so-fearlessness... I am deathly afraid of cables... I love them so much... but I can't bring myself to cast on a cable pattern... so come on, make me feel better... tell me about your own personal crafting paralysis... what creative endeavors stop you in your tracks?


even better, what used to... and how did you overcome it??

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The scarf that means business

OK y'all... feast your eyes on the first item I've EVER designed myself!!! Yes, I'm fully aware of the fact that it's only a garter stitch scarf but I had to start somewhere! And I'm really liking the striping... I'm calling it The Scarf That Means Business because I designed it for BF to wear with his work close and overcoat... basically, I wanted something that looked polished but still kept him warm... not something bulky and fuzzy with tassels... The finer yarn keeps it from being too bulky, but the nubbiness of the garter stitch adds just enough bulk to be warm and cozy.

A note on changing colors... I'm sure that someone more talented than me knows a way easier way to change colors back and forth. I use the most basic possible way, which results in weaving in a ton of ends when you're done. Basically, here's what I do. When I come to the last row of the color I'm using, I leave about a 6-10 inch tail and break the yarn. I then start knitting the next row using the next color, leaving a tail at the beginning, the same way you would if you were starting a new ball in the middle of your project. Like I said, You'll be left with about 20 pieces of yarn that have to get sewn in, but it's not so bad. I think it took me about 20 minutes to do that.
So anyway, here it is...

Materials: 3 balls Rowan Cashsoft DK in Black
1 ball Rowan Cashsoft DK in grey (you actually only need about half a ball of the contrasting color if you have some lying around)
U.S. 8 needles

With MC, CO 36 stitches.

Knit using MC for 28 Rows

Switching to CC, knit 14 rows

Switching back to MC, knit 10 rows

With CC, knit 5 rows

With MC, knit until work measures 56 inches (or longer if desired. My BF is about 5'10" and this hits right around his pelvis, which is perfect for him. If adding additional length, remember to factor in 6" for the end pattern)

Switch to CC and knit 5 rows

With MC, knit 10 rows

With CC, knit 14 rows

With MC, knit 28 rows.

Bind off and weave in all ends.

I didn't actually block this at all. It was fine without it. But I'd imagine it would end up a bit longer if you block it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Green knitting

Lately, I've been wrestling a lot with the idea of green knitting. And know, I don't mean my internal debate over which pattern to make with my new chartreuse yarn....

I'm talking about knitting in an environmentally responsible way. Of course, part of me likes to argue that any knitting is better environmentally and conscientiously because clearly my living room is not a sweat shop or a factory emitting toxic fumes and neither, to the best of my knowledge, is the Starbucks where I knit on my lunch break.

But there is the yarn to consider. It has to be processed somewhere. And some of that processing uses some pretty harsh chemicals. Plus there's the idea of sustainability and the impact that actually creating the fiber has on the environment (waste from the animals, pesticides if it's a plant fiber...)

Being the yarn snob that I am, I rarely use acrylic, so that cuts out one major process offender... but a lot of "natural" fibers, it turns out, aren't so natural after all... take bamboo, for example. A bit hit among vegans because it's not animal based but have you ever thought about how much processing is involved with getting that stuff soft enough to wear next to your skin??

You see why I'm wrestling with it... there's a lot to consider... Fortunately, I found this awesome Web site that really does help you sort it all out. But there are still things every knitter has to decide for themselves... namely, what's most important to you? For me, it's all about process. I try to minimize the amount of harsh chemicals I put near my body and the amount of waste I create. So for me it means fibers that don't require excessive processing and don't use harsh chemicals. But like I said, it's up to you.... hopefully this Web site helps, though :)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Lighten up!

If you're like me, one of your new year's resolutions is to get back on track with healthy eating habits. Last night I made a lightened up version of a Shrimp Bisque that was soooooooooooo good!

For all you fellow Weight Watchers, it comes out to 6 points for a 1 1/4 cup serving. The nice thing is that because it's not quite as rich as the original, you actually can eat a serving that size without feeling sick about it. Add a lightened up garlic bread for dipping, and you've got a meal!

In the interest of giving credit where credit is due, this is a takeoff/combination from two other recipes... I took the best parts of each and added a couple of my own tweaks and here's the result! It's part of a shrimp stock recipe from Bobby Flay's Boy Meets Grill cookbook, and part of a bisque recipe from cooking light, and part my own ideas. Anyway, here goes:

First you need to make the stock. This is actually the most time consuming part.

Cooking Spray (olive oil flavor if you have it)
1 white onion, roughly chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 celery rib, roughly chopped
About 4 cups of shrimp shells and tails (I save mine whenever I make shrimp and freeze them in ziploc bags)
6 cups water
1 cup dry vermouth (or other dry white wine, but I really like the flavor this gives)
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 bay leaf

Spray a stock pot with cooking spray and heat over medium. Add onion, celery, carrot and shrimp shells to the pot. Cook for about five minutes or so. Add water, vermouth, tomato and bay leaf. Cover partially (rest the lid on the edge of the pot) and simmer for about an hour and a half. The longer you let this simmer, the more concentrated the shrimp flavor will be and since we're trying to lighten up this dish, concentrated is better.

1 Tbsp. butter
1 lb. of shrimp, uncooked, roughly chopped (you'll want it to be big enough chunks so that you can notice them once they're in the soup.)
1 can of no salt added corn kernels (frozen works too)
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup dry sherry
3 Tbsp. all purpose flour
4 cups of the shrimp stock
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1.4 tsp. white pepper
1 cup half and half (yes, the real stuff! It's still a big upgrade from the amount of heavy cream this soup usually calls for)

In a large, nonstick saucepan, melt butter. Add corn kernels and tomato paste. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring frequently. In a separate bowl, combine sherry and flour and whisk until they create a slurry. Add the slurry to the pan and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Add shrimp stock and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add shrimp. Allow to simmer for about 10 more minutes, until the bisque starts to thicken and shrimp is fully cooked. Stir in half and half and simmer another minute to bring temp back up. Serve immediately. (and try to convince yourself there's nothing sinful about it!)

Off topic, but too bad... Attention North Jersey yarnies! Stix n Stitches in Montclair is having a pre-inventory sale this weekend and it is sooooooooooooooooo worth the trip! (Just a quick brag, I got Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk DK weight for $3 a ball!)