Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cast your vote now, a.k.a. HELP!!!

So, I've been ignoring the finishing, which I told you about before, that I have to do for this sweater from Interweave Knits (by Leslie Scanlon, IK Fall 2005). Why? Because I wasn't sure that I liked the look of the outside seams after seaming the front and back pieces together, and the sleeve seams, even though they were what had drawn me to this very simple sweater in the first place. However, last night I took the plunge and sewed one of the sleeves to the body. There were issues, though.

1) The circumference of the sleeve armhole was quite a bit greater than the circumference of the armhole on the body piece. I managed to ease the piece in to fit, but got a slight gather and pouch, which you can see below.
2) Is it just me, or does the armhole seam look messy and awful? (And this is why I have posted the original sweater photo from the IK website, rather than linking you to it. Normally, I wouldn't do this, but you need a real good look at the original. I hope that, by providing a link to IK, and citing the designer, the copyright police will forgive me.)

3) And, having scrutinized the original photo very careful, I realise that my neckline rolls, whereas the original sweater's neckline lies beautifully flat. Argh!! I'm not sure why it's doing that; I knit the neckline stitches with needles one size smaller (as called for in the pattern) to prevent rolling. Maybe I need to try again, with an even smaller needle size?

So, the question is, what do you think I should do? I have a couple of options, some more painful than others.

a) The visible seams were a bad idea. Save the sweater by ripping out all the seams - sleeves and body - and re-seaming them on the inside, making this an extremely plain and simple sweater. Not that there's anything wrong with that......but, apart from the armhole seam, I think the rest of it looks all right.

b) It wouldn't look too weird if all the sweater seams, except for the armhole seams, were on the outside. I should just undo the sleeve I just attached, and attach both sleeves to the body with seams on the inside.

c) The visible seams really are kind of nice. I should undo the sleeve I just attached, and try to do it more neatly this time. (Although I don't know if this is possible, since the sleeve shaping creates uneven edges at the top of the sleeve, hence the ripply look the sleeve seam allowance has compared to the body seam allowance.)

d) The rolled neckline doesn't look too bad. Try to block it flat but, if that doesn't work, don't worry about it.

e) The beautiful, flat neckline of the original should be the goal. Undo the neckline stitches and try again in an even smaller needle to try and tame the curling.

And, in other news, the gauge swatch I did with the Kool Wool for the jacket I'm knitting lied. I had completed about 60% of the back piece when I measured to verify my gauge, and found that it was off by a whole stitch. That adds a lot to the circumference, so I ripped it all out (frogging, in knit-speak, since you "rip it, rip it") and tried again with a smaller needle size. For the first couple of rows, it seemed the gauge was right. Then, when I'd knit around 7 inches, I checked again, and again found that my gauge had changed. Well, shoot. I'd been using my Denise Interchangeable needles, but I couldn't go down to the next size because Moocow has them; she's working on a bag! Things just aren't going my way at the moment.

So, anyway, I would really, really appreciate your input regarding the sweater I am trying to finish, so comment away!

Monday, February 26, 2007

No More Muffins, No More Pictures

I found a recipe for lemon poppy seed muffins on the Cook's Illustrated website (you need to pay for membership in order to access that recipe) and made some muffins before going home for Chinese New Year on the 16th. Gracious, was that batter thick! I used my newly purchased hand mixer, and the batter (it was practically a dough) climbed right up the beaters and up into the attaching mechanism at the top! I didn't read the recipe properly before going shopping, so I had lemon juice (bottled) but no lemons, and hence no lemon zest, which is what the recipe asked for. So I substituted in a little lemon juice, since the batter was so thick anyway.

Well, everyone at home (Moocow, my parents, my brother) said that it was kind of dry and not very lemony. I think it might have overbeat the batter, which could account for the dryness. And the lack of zest might account for the lack of lemon flavour. I think I'll try another recipe next time, though. But I forgot the last of the muffins at home when I left........and Moocow threw them out! *sniffle* My advisor and his wife, and my roommate, all said that they were nice. Well, of course they'd say that, but surely they weren't so bad they had to get thrown out?! Why, Moocow, why?

That's not the end of my sad news. I took some nice family pictures while I was at home. I think the greatest part about Chinese New Year (or any major traditional festival) is getting together with family. I hadn't been home for Chinese New Year since graduating high school. Well, my computer crashed as I was transferring my digital photos and trying to burn them to CD, with the result that I lost almost all of them. This, the picture of the pretty goldfish pudding, is all that survived. *sniffle sniffle* And thus, having shared my sad news, my head bows back down to my books.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

First Pizza

I was asked to put on a kid's cooking class for a friend whose daughter's birthday is coming up! They wanted pizza. I've never made pizza before. Thought I'd better try out a recipe before I get 14 kids to follow my lead, or else I'd have 14 very disappointed faces to contend with. Probably not good karma. The photo story follows.

I worried about the dough rising since it's freezing in NY and the landlord is stingy with the heat, but I just turned the toaster oven onto 200F and sat the dough right on top in a ceramic bowl, turning the lump over once every 15 minutes or so. It worked beautifully. Sauce was from scratch - crushed tomatoes, some spices. I added some spicy salumi from Zabar's that had been sitting around, green bell pepper, and sauteed garlic (per one garlic-lover's request.) Unfortunately, all the store had was low-fat, low-moisture mozzerella, so the pizza's aromas suffered, but on the whole it was yummy! What a relief! If this Bumbling Bee can do it in a freezing cold kitchen, 14 kids should be able to manage just fine.

It must be admitted that the crust wasn't classic NY, given the constraints of my oven and lack of pizza stone. It was very nice though - slightly crispy outside, soft and tender inside. Paired with a lovely Tuscan Brunello (won't be on the kids' menu!) and a nice, crisp salad, it was a delicious meal.

Pompe a l'huile

Saw this recipe in Saveur's Christmas issue and just HAD to make it, even though I live alone and didn't have anyone to share it with. It's a sweet olive oil bread from Provence, and is a cross between brioche and focaccia. It's one of the centrepieces of a Provencal Christmas. Traditionally, the oldest person present at the Christmas meal breaks the bread by slamming it over the head of the youngest person. Everyone in the house gets a piece, even the dogs, cats, and farm animals, because it symbolizes togetherness and friendship. In that spirit, the bread is also never cut, only torn. The result was addictively soft, warm, and totally delicious. It's also deceptively rich. There's 3/4 cup of olive oil in there, so you get the idea. The second piece was still delicious, but by the third I came to a screeching halt. Definitely a food for sharing.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Come out, Snow Bunnies!!

Don't tell me there isn't global warming. Up until now, it's been an eerily warm winter with mostly rain rather than snow. In fact, I was beginning to think that the snow bunny (Cuniculus nix, ssp. skii) was going to be another victim of global climate change. You used to see them hanging out around ski slopes, bundled up in their winter garments. With the lack of snow here in upstate New York this year, I feared they were going the way of the dodo. After all, when that slope has no snow - or is all ice - the snow bunny is just your average couch potato.

Well, when it rains, it pours. Or, It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas? Whatever. We have around 3-feet of snow here in Albany. I had to dig my car out of the snow this morning (aided later by my kind landlord's snow blower - yes, I blew my way out of there) to make an appointment with an orthodontist. (Yup, I'm going to get braces at age 25.) The drive was treacherous, but I got there and back without too much trouble. Then I had to dig a place to park by the curb in front of my house so that I wasn't parking in the middle of the road. That's a picture of my car, two hours after I parked it. It's still coming down pretty hard, and is expected to continue until morning.

So, classes were cancelled today. I took the time to do my weekly cleaning. Then, I took pictures of all the works-in-progress that I have been saving up. That's the Greek Pullover (from IK, Fall 2005) in the rose-coloured Rowan Kid Classic that I splurged on when the colour was discontinued and it was on sale. It was still expensive, but I'd wanted that sweater, in that yarn and in that colour, for so long, and it was my last chance. The sweater is wearable now as it is; all I have to do is sew on the pink chiffon ruffles at the hems. But, technically, it is still a WIP.

Here's another sweater that I love from the Fall 2005 issue of IK, Essential Indulgence. Well, I didn't indulge myself on this one. Blue Sky Alpaca Silk is just too expensive! Instead, I got some Pure Alpaca from Elann, and knit this up pretty quickly. Now that I'm sewing it together, though, I'm having second thoughts about those outside seams (see how the seams are visible in the picture from the magazine?). The problem is, my seams seem (excuse the pun) a lot more prominent than in the photo. But this unusual feature in the pattern was one of the things that caught my eye. Well, if worst comes to worst, I'll undo all the seams and sew it back together again with traditional, on-the-inside seams. Here's hoping I won't have to do that!

This pair of Mittens from Lapland (in Folk Mittens) is something I've had on the needles for a long, long time. You see how the hat I bought almost perfectly matches the mittens? Well, I bought the hat after I'd started knitting the mittens, and you'd think that would be motivation to hurry up and finish them, so I could have a set. Well, that lone finished mitten you do see is too small! I guess that will have to be a "practice" mitten. I've started a second/new first mitten now, and this time I'm going to be good. I've resolved to knit a couple of rows each week, at least. The worst part of knitting this pattern is the braided cuff. It's lovely to look at, but a pain to knit because the yarn gets all twisted up.

And last, but not least, is the Peacock Feathers shawl from Fiddlesticks Knitting that I'm knitting for Moowcow. This is the most complicated lace pattern I've knitted to date and, maybe it's just me, but the pattern isn't intuitive, and my eyes are glued to the pattern chart. It's a headache, and I've just admitted to myself that I really want/need a magnetic chart holder so that the pattern is held up, and I can keep track of which line of the chart I'm on. So this is kind of on the back-burner until I order and receive the chart keeper from KnitPicks.

I do have a finished object: a pair of mittens I designed and knit for my roommate for Christmas. I finished at the last minute (before leaving to go home for Christmas) and boxed it up without taking a picture, so I'll have to ask her for them so I can get a picture now.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Chipping at the Stash

I catalogued all the yarns in my stash yesterday. I didn't think I had that much, but a little tucked away here, a little tucked away there....... Suffice it to say, I'm feeling more than a little guilty. I should be using this stuff!

Well, it seems I've suspected that I should be feeling guilty for a while, because I bought a pattern from The Lansingburgh Yarn Depot the other day, since I thought my stash of Lion Brand Kool Wool would knit to the correct gauge. Last night, I knit a gauge swatch from a ball left over from the first Blackberry I'd made, (Procrastinate? Who, me?) and the gauge I got was close enough. I think I'm going to proceed.

The question is, which colour should I make? A deep, wine red? Or black? Well, chances are I'll probably be knitting two - one in each colour - to use up all the Kool Wool I grabbed at the Smiley's yarn sale in Manhattan last year. I guess the real question is: What colour would you like, Moocow?

I won't be starting right away. I do really have work to do. And I have a couple of projects that are in the finishing stages (being sewn up) that I really should complete first. I'll have pictures of my WIPs next time.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Farmhouse Yarns

I have a grant proposal to write and six papers to read for class tomorrow, but I took some time for myself today and went to a spinning demonstration at The Lansingburgh Yarn Depot (it's my favourite LYS in the area). The spinning demonstration was given by Carol Morgain of Farmhouse Yarns. Of course, I forgot to bring my camera, and so I don't have any pictures of Carol spinning.

It was wonderful, watching as she spun and told us about how she started her business. Hers is really an inspiring story, and you can find out more about Farmhouse Yarns on her website. Carol herself is fun and gracious; I asked her all the questions I'd been saving up about spinning. I think, some time in the next two months, I'm going to get a drop spindle and learn how to spin. I don't have the space or the funds to buy a spinning wheel now, but a drop spindle is a perfectly legitimate way to start.

Pat (the owner of the Yarn Depot) hosted with her daughter, Danielle, and provided all sorts of goodies to snack on while we talked and shopped. The Farmhouse yarns are lovely, the colourways exquisite. Even though I really, really shouldn't have, I bought three skeins of Cotton Blossom (a cotton and rayon blend) to make a summer top. I couldn't resist the cool, rippled feel of the yarn and the luscious peach colour! Then, being one of the last customers left at the end, Pat let us help her choose which of the yarns that Carol had brought with her today she was going to stock in the shop. Oh, what fun we had! Could time be any better spent? Even though I didn't get to take all that lovely yarn home, I did get to pick the colours that I liked, and know that I might see them again in the shop (unless they all get snatched up before my next visit!).

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Oh, thank God!

Yes, it's been an inordinately long time since I've posted. Or since any of us have posted. I'm sure we're all busy. I was certainly busy last semester, with school, teaching and waitressing. Also, I've been having roommate issues. Serious roommate issues. So I haven't been in the mood to post. But that doesn't mean I haven't been crafty. No siree! I've saved up pictures of the sewing (minimal) and knitting (substantial) that I've been doing.

But first, I'd like to thank Google for FINALLY giving us CATEGORIES!!! When I have a longer moment, I'm going to have to figure out how to move various posts from our category blogs into the main blog. Once that is done (and I'm a little afraid that it is going to be a painful operation) it will be so much easier to post.

Anyway, here's a picture of the only serious sewing I've done in the past couple of months. It was a yoga mat bag for Moocow. I used a sewing pattern (it was either McCall's, or Simplicity; can't be bothered to dig it out right now), but it was really simple, and probably didn't really require a pattern. Oh well. The bag pattern came together with patterns for various pieces of exercise clothing. Don't you love the fabric?