Tuesday, April 28, 2009

And another thing!

It's not normal for me to post about a finished project (or anything, for that matter) so soon after the last entry, but I finished the Bottoms Up! Bag.

Here it is, before felting:

And after felting:

And here's the cool bottom:

And a close-up of the striping effect caused by the Knit One Below method:

Pattern: Bottoms Up! Bag from Knit One Below
Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted in Roasted Coffee and Victorian Pink (one skein each) and Noro Kureyon (one skein in 240)
Needles: Size 11 dpns and circular
Notes: I had a rocky start with this pattern and technique. It was simply trying to do something I already find fiddly and unpleasant (joining 8 stitches in the round) with my first attempt at a new technique, and once I realized it was all wonky, I ripped out and started over. The bottom of the bag ended up perfectly, and the construction is really cool. The base is (obviously) round, then a welt is formed to give the base stability (and it's stable, let me tell you--it's been sitting upright on the counter for a day), then the column stitch pattern is worked in the round, ending with welts. This was much easier than I remember from my last felted bag, which used applied i-cord instead of the welts. The handles are attached pre-felting, which made me worry they would felt together, but they didn't. I probably over-felted a bit, but there's something off about the measurements in the book, which say the bag is 12 inches wide and 10 inches high. With really, really aggressive blocking (I shoved my biggest tupperware container to the bottom using my foot!), I managed a diameter just shy of 8 inches, but the height easily made 10 inches. So maybe the round bottom felted faster? At any rate, I meant it to be a small knitting project bag for a friend, and it's a bit smaller than I meant. But I think it'll be useful anyway. I thought it was cute. I used all but about 5 feet of the Roasted Coffee (the main color), all of the Noro, and had at least half a skein of the pink left.

I really like the Knit One Below technique, since I'm not overfond of other colorwork methods. This one alternates colors, but uses one color per row. I think it's a cool way to show off Noro without paying the price of three skeins of Noro. It took me hardly any time at all to be totally comfortable with column stitch, and I think the bag bottom is ingenious. As far as the book as a whole...the technique creates a distinctive striping with wider-than-usual stitches, so I'm not sure how much I'll use it, to be honest. The look of all the projects is necessarily very similar, and I'm not sure about it for say, sweaters. There is actually a skirt in there that makes me consider rethinking my anti-knit-skirt position, and a couple of wraps. And a pinstripe-ish vest using Noro (again, it's cool to have part-Noro options to bring down the usual Noro project price), some cute baby things. Okay, I guess there are several projects I'd consider, and I think the technique is cool and interesting, so I'd recommend the book.

Other knitting:
That's a teensy project, a French press cozy using handspun from Stefaneener! This is my first use of handspun, actually. I really like it so far, and I needed a cozy to replace one I lost when the press crashed to the floor, soaking the cozy in coffee and embedding it with glass :(

Reading: I'm reading The Historian right now for book club, and it's surprisingly fun!

Writing: Nope.

Cooking: I did do a really nice pesto, but I don't have a real recipe since it was a pantry-buster right before grocery shopping day. I put the leaves from a bunch of basil in the Cuisinart with the rest of the pine nuts (a couple tablespoons), the rest of the parmesan (a quarter cup-ish), a crushed clove of garlic, salt and pepper, and drizzled in olive oil (a couple tablespoons) until it started to come together. It didn't look like enough for a pound of rigatoni, so I whizzed in some cream (maybe 1/3 cup?). I sauteed halved baby squash in a bit of olive oil, squeezed over half a lemon, and tossed it with the rigatoni and pesto sauce. Yum!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

April Showers

April saw a lot of garden activity! I decided (why?????) to plant with seeds instead of buying plants. Let me tell you, seeds take forever to germinate and the plants stay microscopic for a long time. Next year, I'll do plants. I have planted (wait for it) heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, basil, parsley, garlic chives, and lavender. And catnip for the guys. Everything has had at least SOME seeds sprout, so I haven't completely killed everything yet--yay! A friend is helping me out, which is wonderful, and then we'll share the proceeds.

Clapotis is done!

Pattern: Clapotis, from Knitty
Yarn: Noro Matsuri in #7, 6 skeins (I used less than half of the sixth)
Needles: Size 8 circular
Modifications: I accidentally kept increasing, so I had 119 stitches instead of 107. That was fine, as I wanted it a bit wider anyway. It's more of a wrap. I also accidentally kept knitting the straight rows, so it's a bit longer. This was such a delightful, almost mindless pattern, that I lost track of where I was :)
Notes: I love this pattern! I can't believe it took me this long. I think a narrower, more scarf-y version would be nice as a gift, but I like the wrap size I made. The yarn is really soft and lovely. I didn't mind the thick/thin parts, but the knots were awful. Three of the skeins had a knot near the end that effectively shortened the skeins by 5-10 yards. One skein sported three knots. I was too lazy to look up the Russian join again, and I regretted it when I had all those ends to weave in. I have over two skeins left, so I'm going to be a dorky mom and make Lilah a mini-Clapotis to match mine. She loves putting on my shirts and stuff, so I think she'll love it.

I now have an actual queue on Ravelry, AND I've entered most of my stash (though not with photos). Since Lilah was born, I've taken it one pattern at a time, and I haven't had as much knitting time and even less "browsing for patterns" time. But I've picked yarn for Shipwreck Shawl, and I just need to get the beads. I'm using Knitpicks Gloss in Dolphin and hoping to find a good mix of blue beads (otherwise, I can pick four colors myself). I'm going to try an actual store so I can ask about beading needles, as far as what size. Apparently, the crochet hook method puts the bead in a different spot than the pre-stringing method, so I'm not sure which way to go. I'm also planning a Bottoms Up! bag from Knit One Below, a neat book that focuses on a different colorwork method (knitting into the stitch below with one color). I thought the bag would be a good way to learn the method. If you look at all the patterns in the book, they have a very similar look, but it's an interesting approach, and I think it'll be fun. That, or I'll be tearing out my hair. I have Hjalte still on the needles, not doing much at the moment. And now I want to knit Fifi after Amy posted her yarn decision for it. And also Twist and Shout, after Kate posted about it. Coincidentally, around that same time, WEBS had Cascade 220 on sale. Mine is going to be Forest Green, and I'm really excited about having a nice outerwear piece I knit myself. Though I'm not allowed to cast on for another cable project until Matt's sweater is done. And let's not discuss my sock yarn stash, from which I have not knit socks (or anything) since...a long time hence.

Update on the Bottoms Up! Bag:

Hey, look at that! The base is done, and I'm working on the body. The bag is NOT a good way to learn the knit one below technique. Well, it is, since I can now do it, but it's in the "hard way" category. I hate joining 8 stitches spread over 4 dpns and trying to wrestle them into knitting in the round. It made trying to master the "column stitch" pattern really hard, and after several rows, I thought it looked wonky and ripped out and started over. I'm glad I did, because does that not look cool? The other reason I think this was not the greatest intro project to a new technique is that it is, as one expects with a felted bag, very floppy and loose. That said, I am going to love this bag, I think. I am wondering if I should have made it a bit bigger (it's meant to be a small knitting project bag), but we'll have to see once the felting is done. Naturally, I did not bother to swatch, so I don't know on the shrinkage amount. I can't imagine it's much different from other Brown Sheep and/or Noro Kureyon bags I've done. Anyway, the combo of Brown Sheep and Noro is brilliant--much cheaper than using, say, three skeins of Noro for a Booga Bag, and I like the effect. The bag in the book is blue and charcoal, but I thought pink and brown would be fun. The Noro starts out purple-y, so it's a little lost with the brown right now, but it goes into pinks that will stand out more.

Writing: Nope. Though I went to a colloquium at Emory given by my undergrad advisor, Ha Jin. It was a lot of fun, and really made me wish I had more writing time. Lilah has stopped sleeping through the night again, so yay, I'm always tired!

Reading: Lots and lots, as usual. Reviews at On My Bookshelf.

Cooking: Oddly, not much of interest here. I did a nice mushroom-cream sauce for pasta, but I didn't measure anything, so I can't really type up a recipe!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Mostly Cooking, a Little Knitting

I will try not to post pictures of Clapotis constantly, as it advances inch by inch, but I'd made enough progress to post another picture.

It's fun! Everyone who said this pattern was fun is absolutely right. It advances row by row in a quick, pleasant fashion, a perfect balance between interesting and simple. I'm on the straight section now, on the second ball of yarn. I expect to use six in total based on Ravelry comments. This leaves me plenty of brain power to muse on my next project. I rarely get to the new issue of Knitty until the next issue is imminent (another change from pre-Lilah knitting when I would check daily for the new issue), but I'm glad I got there, because I *have* to make the Shipwreck Shawl. I had a few decisions to make, and I'm getting there. The designer calls for knitting the entire shawl (beaded, no less, with 5000 beads) in Knitpicks Gloss Bare, then dyeing it. I am SO not crazy enough to do that and risk ruining a completed shawl, even if I did a few dyeing projects to be less of a novice first. So I'm left with pre-dyed yarn, and I had to decide on a color. I think I would use a grey shawl a lot more than a blue one. Then, I thought, do I put expensive yarn on my Christmas list or go with Knitpicks Gloss so I can make it now? It's a rustic-looking shawl, I think, and would be fine in Knitpicks, plus the beads add a lot, so I don't think expensive yarn is needed. So I'm thinking grey Knitpicks Gloss, with maybe a blue mix of beads. Also, I'm a bead newbie, so I'll have to figure out how many (since they seem to be sold by ounces, not by number of beads) and if blue mix will look okay with the grey. Good story, huh? Aren't you glad you read the whole thing? Anyway, any input is always welcome while I work this out in my brain.

Reading: I finally read The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian, who wrote Midwives quite a while ago. I think I liked Midwives okay, because I don't really remember it that well, so it's unlikely I either loved it or hated it. I had to really force myself to slog through the first 100 pages, which were disjointed and full of endless exposition (because why not introduce an irrelevant character with a scene of action or dialogue, when you can just summarize their life in paragraph after paragraph?). There was a "surprise" ending that I saw coming (though I didn't get all the parts of the surprise) and felt cheated quite a bit with internal inconsistencies (all conveniently explained by the twist, argh). And a ridiculously brutal depiction of violence that seemed way out of place. A disappointing read. But I did read the forthcoming fourth book in the Sam Acquillo mystery series, Hard Stop, and I really just love this series. And now I'm reading The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, a novel about a graduate student who cleans out her dead grandmother's house and finds clues about Deliverance Dane, a woman who may have been a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. It is a fun, fun read so far! It sounded similar to Interred With Their Bones (which was Shakespeare instead of Salem Witch Trials), which I did NOT like, but this one is an absolute blast. I think it'll be a great summer read.

Writing: Nope.

Cooking: Oh, I have some fun stuff here. For my birthday, my mother-in-law gave me Wine Bar Food, a cookbook by Cathy and Tony Mantuano (he's the chef at Spiaggia in Chicago) that does little dishes from all over the Mediterranean and pairs them with wines. She also gave me a pound of Caciocavallo, a cheese called for in a baked appetizer in the book. So we had friends over and I made:

Crispy Parmesan Flatbread (Milan)
Red Grape Focaccia (Florence)
Baked Caciocavallo (Forence)
Nonna's Broccoli Rabe (Naples)
Moroccan Vegetables (Seville)
Chickpea Puree With Flatbread (Nice)
Almond Cake (Milan) with Amaretto Whipped Cream

Everything was great. No duds here. The broccoli rabe was fantastic, and I'll have to snag more at the market so I can make it again. I had Moroccan Vegetables over couscous as leftovers for lunch, and that was great. We also sliced leftover focaccia and stuffed it with mozzarella, then baked at 350 until the cheese melted for really yummy sandwiches. Anyway, I've been asked before to post food photos, but since my photography is extremely basic and our lighting is yucky, I usually don't bother. But Matt said I *had* to get pictures of this meal. I actually like the one of the cheese before baking--I like the herbs scattered on top! I forgot to get dessert pictures, though.

I also made Hedonistic Fudgies. They are so good. There are a couple of things missing in the recipe, so I decided to type it up because I use Lee's recipe printed out with a bunch of my notes on it, so this will be easier. But this is NOT my recipe, it's entirely Lee's.

Hedonistic Fudgies
(from Lee Davenport
Makes 4 dozen

4 cups chocolate chips, divided (I use two bags of Ghiradelli 60%)
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 350. Heat 2 cups chocolate chips and chopped butter together in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until chocolate begins to lose its shape. Remove from heat; stir until smooth.

2. While chocolate is heating, beat together eggs, sugar, and vanilla into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Whisk egg mixture into melted chocolate mixture, combining well. Stir in flour mixture until smooth, then add remaining chocolate chips.

3. Spray cooking sheets with nonstick spray and, using a teaspoon, place mounds of batter an inch apart. Bake for 7-9 minutes, or until cookies are dry around the edges. Repeat with remaining batter. I make these small and get about 4 dozen using a teaspoon. That makes them approximately 2 Weight Watchers points each, a nice treat.