Thursday, January 28, 2010

Itching for Spring

I'm clearly ready for Spring. Working on Hjalte is really taking a backseat to my purse knitting projects. Partly because my purse knitting is one cute spring top after another (mostly in discount Rowan Calmer, yay!) and partly because I found an absolutely idiotic error that means, far from being finished with the back, I shall soon have to rip back several rows and re-do them. Delightful. Motivation is low for this project.

On the needles at the moment:

Not the most exciting picture, but that's nearly one ball (of a projected 6) of Rowan Calmer in Calmer (a nice pale blue) that will become Tomato. A blue tomato, whatever. I'm also not sure if this project is totally doomed. From past knitting with Calmer, I knew how stretchy it was, but I'm having a lot of trouble figuring out the gauge. I can easily stretch the fabric on size 7 needles to 4.5 stitches per inch, but will it be TOO form-fitting? I'm also nowhere near row gauge, which could be a huge problem on a top-down raglan. There's not really a way to easily add rows, I don't think. Unless I just knit even for a couple inches? I ripped back and started with the large size instead of medium to try to counter the gauge weirdness, but I'm not sure how to address the row gauge. Cotton tends to grow lengthwise, but will Calmer with how stretchy it is? Whatever, it's nice purse knitting, and I love knitting with Calmer. I was really excited to find discontinued colors nearly half-off at WEBS, and armed with Christmas money, I bought a few sweaters' worth. Usually I get to sales once all the good colors are gone, but I got several that I quite like.

I finished the Two-Fisted Tank from Pints and Purls. Here it is, pre-blocking:

Not that exciting, but it's sort of cute on. I'll get my husband to take a picture this weekend. The straps do fall down, but it's designed that way. It's a very simple knit, great for the purse.

Pattern: Two-Fisted Tank from Pints and Purls
Yarn: Knitpicks Comfy Worsted in Honeydew, just over 4 skeins
Needles: Size 7 circ

Notes: This is a fun, easy pattern. The top is not the most finished-looking summer top, but it's cute and the easy construction makes it good purse knitting. I was surprised at how much I liked Comfy, which is nice and soft.

Reading: I received a review copy of The Brutal Telling, the fifth Inspector Gamache novel, from LibraryThing, and loved it. I immediately ordered the first four in the series. Penny has a fantastic setting in Three Pines, a village hidden south of Montreal, and her characters practically jump off the page. I'm only disappointed that there weren't more than four more for me to read. These are some of the best mysteries I've ever read. From Inspector Gamache and his team of misfits to the crazy, lonely, or helpful inhabitants of Three Pines, every character is infused with warmth and life. The first in the series is Still Life.

Writing: Still noodling. Having some trouble getting going again.

Cooking: Very little. I did make a baked potato soup from Cooking Light, one of my favorite cold weather meals. It's a bit warmer now, but I have the ingredients for a cheesy spinach soup from a culinary mystery (Dying For Chocolate by Diane Mott Davidson).

Lilah and I have been talking gardening. We had a great time watching our Swallowtail caterpillars grow fat on our fennel plant, so Lilah asked if we could plant more. I also want to add more creeping thyme. Without ground cover, weeds here are insane, but most ground cover is so pointless. Like that annoying vine thing (not kudzu - something someone planted on purpose) that covers much of our yard. Mint and thyme spread nicely and are actually useful, so I'm thinking of adding more. The squash didn't go that well last summer (squash bugs, ugh), but tomatoes did well. We just don't have much yard, and even less with decent sun exposure (darn east-facing house). And the clay here seems to need a lot of help, nutrient-wise. We may just go tomatoes and herbs and butterflies this year.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


In plenty of time for use during the cold weather (though not, it's to be in the 60s), the Tesla Scarf:

Lovely and feminine from the diagonal ruffle at one end:

to the cast-on ruffled edge:

It's got drape and elegance and warmth:

Pattern: Tesla Scarf by Deb Barnhill

Yarn: Malabrigo Sock in Tiziano Red (just about one full skein)

Needles: Size 5

Notes: This pattern, which I first saw on Turtlegirl's Bloggy Thing, is a pleasure to knit. The ruffle at the cast-on edge takes a bit of concentration, but that's only one row. Once that's done, the easy-peasy lace pattern just clicks along. Before you know it, you're near the end and have only an ingenious diagonal final flourish to enjoy. I'm sure it's divine in the Sea Silk called for, but I had the Malabrigo on hand with a scarf in mind, so decided to go for it. I never regret using Malabrigo, and the scarf is soft and richly red with subtle variegation. All in all, a fantastic project. I'm going to miss this purse knitting, and I would certainly make this pattern again as a gift for someone special.

In other knitting news, Hjalte is still almost at the armholes on the front. Whatever. The ribbed tube that was the early stages of the Two-Fisted Tank from Pints and Purls is a longer ribbed tube:

I am definitely doing one of the Calmer tops after this. Maybe Audrey (in Carnation). Or maybe Tomato in the Knitpicks Simply Cotton.

Reading: I finished re-reading the Thursday Next series, and finished Death at the Alma Mater, the third in the Inspector St. Just series by G. M. Malliet. Malliet manages to both parody and honor the conventional mystery novel, in a thoroughly enjoyable balancing act. The first in the series is Death of a Cozy Writer. This installment takes place at one of the lesser Cambridge colleges on alumni weekend, and is great fun (as expected).

Writing: Not much this week. I've been up in the writing nook, but mostly getting started again.

Cooking: I did a very nice roasted vegetable thing, with Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, potatoes, and garlic scrubbed, chopped, and tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roasted at 425 for about 20 minutes. And served over farro (2 cups farro cooked in 5 cups salted water for 45 minutes, then drained) with parmagiano-reggiano. Delicious and simple. I used some of the leftover farro in a basic vegetable soup the next day. I haven't been very into cooking lately, but it seems like it's coming back a bit.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Resolution-free knitting

So with my 2010 goals modest and relatively non-specific, here's what I've got on the needles.

Tesla Scarf:

The Tesla Scarf is too lovely not to knit. Being short on Sea Silk, I went with Malabrigo Sock that I had bought in a gorgeous dark red (Tiziano Red). I also skipped the beading on the cast-on, just because I was ready to start knitting and didn't have appropriate beads on hand. The ruffle was fun, and the lace pattern quick to memorize. Not quite mindless knitting, but close. And it seems to be going fast, considering I'm barely working on it at all. I have enjoyed my Love Bites Scarf so much that I wanted to make a couple more scarves for the rotation. I find that I'm cold this winter (maybe my blood has finally thinned after moving from Wisconsin), but a bulky coat gets on my nerves. Just the addition of a scarf helps me stay warm, although on really cold days, I still have to pull out a bulky coat.

The Two-Fisted Tank from Pints and Purls:

Exciting, right? It's a 2x2 ribbed tube. But I think it'll be a cute top, if the falling-down straps don't drive me insane. It's in Knit Picks Comfy Worsted in Honeydew.

Hjalte is clicking along on the front (the back is finished). I enjoy the cabling, but the rows seem really long. And I don't have a ball-winder and swift, so I have to stop knitting periodically to wind another ball of Silky Wool. I wouldn't say I hate the sweater; I'm just over it. I'm really ready to be done, but even after I finish the front, there are sleeves to contend with. And I really can't start another complex project until I'm done. I have my two easy-peasy projects on the needles, but the Twist & Shout and the Shipwreck Shawl I have planned probably won't go on the needles until it's too warm for me to wear. Sigh.

The last of the Christmas knitting:

I finished the mittens in time for Christmas. It was a basic pattern I had printed ages ago, and I'm not sure of the source. The hat I sort of winged. I cast on 72 stitches on size 6 dpns and knit in rib until decreasing. The scarf is just 2x2 rib. Lilah really likes her hat and mittens. She specifically asked for a scarf "like Mommy's" to match, so I used the rest of the skein for a small scarf. The yarn is something I picked up from a local dyer at our city's art fair in October. She uses plant dyes, which is amazing. I mean, look at those pinks! Her etsy shop is right here.

Reading: I finished Shades of Grey, Jasper Fforde's new novel. It was fantastic. I should have the review up soon. I'm re-reading his Thursday Next series before going on to review copies.

Writing: Regular work on the murder mystery has begun! Preschool is a fantastic invention.

Cooking: Nothing at all, really. Totally uninspired. I've recently made more Pears in Bittersweet Chocolate and Pears in Pinot Noir, but I have yet to mail off my last "holiday" gifts. Maybe they'll be Valentine's presents...

2009 Knitting Wrap-Up and 2010 Goals

I didn't really set goals for 2009, which is just as well. But I did manage more projects than I did in 2008, including some items I was very pleased with. My favorite (to-date) knitted sweater, Gathered Pullover and the Love Bites Scarf that I wear almost every day. I also adapted a pattern and came up with a cotton-linen bracelet bag that will be a go-to last-minute gift idea for me.

Setting goals I can't achieve actually adds more stress to my life, so I won't be setting very many.

1. Finish Matt's Hjalte: Before I can knit anything else of any complexity, I have to finish Hjalte. It's been my almost-exclusive television knitting, but I don't actually watch that much television. I am finally nearing the end of the front. Then it's just the sleeves. Oy.

2. Summer tops! With Christmas money, I made some cotton-blend yarn purchases, including Rowan Calmer, which I love. My purse knitting at the moment is from a cute book I got for Christmas, Pints and Purls, a very basic ribbed tank top. In Knit Picks Comfy Worsted (a surprisingly soft, yet very affordable, cotton-blend yarn), and size 7 needles, it's going really quickly, and it's delightfully mindless. Other summer tops I have planned: Arbor, Siesta, Audrey, Tomato, and Camisa. I may obviously not finish these this year, which is fine. It's just nice to have enough summer yarn to keep a summer top on the needles indefinitely.

3. A sweater for Lilah. She's requested a purple sweater.

4. I'm not planning gift knitting this year; I'll just add those projects in as they strike me.

Non-knitting goals:

1. In 2009, I read 116 books. Not terribly impressive after 2008's 217 books. Not that it's physically possible for me to top that one. I'm not setting a specific number of books as a goal for 2010, but I would like to be more organized with my book reviewing over at On My Bookshelf. I'm entering review copies into my calendar with release dates. I also continue to be conscious of balancing my fluffy reading of mysteries and kids' books with literary fiction. This year, I'd also like to add a couple of classics I haven't yet read to my list. I haven't really determined what a reasonable goal for classics would be. One a month would be nice, but seems a bit much with review reading and entertainment reading. And brushing up on my Shakespeare thanks to the iPhone Shakespeare app :)

2. Lilah is in...preschool! Someone else is in charge of her three mornings a week! This is exactly what I need for 2010 to be the year the murder mystery is finished. Though I am going to be saaaaaaaaaad when summer starts. I'm just getting as much done as I can while she's in school.

3. I always set a goal of more frequent blogging. It's good for me to write something non-murder-mystery-related on a regular basis. I don't think I'll be a daily blogger, but maybe. Weekly would be good. Anyway, I'll throw a nonspecific "more blogging" goal out there.

2010 Finished Knitting Projects


A Blue Tomato
Two-Fisted Tank from Pints and Purls

Wraps, Shawls, and Scarves:
Tesla Scarf


Kid Stuff:
Lilah's hat and scarf (to match mittens)

Socks and Hats:

January: Lilah's hat and scarf, Tesla Scarf, Two-Fisted Tank
February: Blue Tomato
March: Nothing??? Really???
April: Audrey