Thursday, February 25, 2010

Progress Report

I had a great time in the 2006 Knitting Olympics, and I've really enjoyed watching other knitters in this years' Olympics, but I decided not to attempt to start and finish anything in such a short period of time. I have enough challenges without challenging myself with knitting. However, I have been busy with my knitting during the Olympics...

We haven't seen much of Hjalte around here, and there's a good reason for that. That sweater is my Everest. I thought I'd finished the front, but realized I'd bound off too soon and had to rip back and re-do the last few inches. I slogged along on the back for what seemed like eons. There's also the lack of a ball-winder and swift, which means I interrupt knitting time to hand-wind balls of yarn periodically. And it requires me to pay some attention, what with the 52-row cable pattern, so it's not suitable for all television knitting. Depends on how visual the show is. But, I have actually finished the front AND the back. Yes, that's right. If I seamed it, it would be a vest right now!

Here's the front:

And the back:

And a closeup of the cables:

And just so you don't think I'm pulling a fast one by photographing the same side from different angles, here are the front and back together:

The next sweater I make Matt will be stockinette. Maybe rib, if I'm feeling REALLY ambitious. I like the cabling, but it seems like every row takes forever. I'm really excited to have finished the front and back, though. I'll cast on for the sleeves tonight. I haven't held this up to Matt yet, but this is a big sweater. I hope it's not really really big on him (I would cry). He's a medium, and I'm making the Medium/Large size, but it's a big sweater. It seems bigger than a Medium/Large. I'm slogging along anyway, because it's not like I'll rip the whole thing out and re-size it, even if I could (and a 52-row cable pattern would make that an ordeal). So I'm just going to keep going and hope for the best. I started it just shy of a year ago (February 28, 2009 - thank you, Ravelry), so it's high time it was finished.

Meanwhile, Audrey is my easy knitting. It's in Rowan Calmer, in Carnation, one of the discontinued (cheap!!!) colors I picked up. It's a nice bright pink with a hint of orange. Like a pinker version of coral. It's easy and even kind of boring. I'm nearly to the armholes on one side, and really wishing I'd thought to do it in the round.

Here's a close-up of the increase/decrease line:

I really think I'd get more use out of Audrey with short sleeves. I think she'd go well with a couple of my summer skirts, but it's too hot here for 3/4 sleeves in summer. However, I've only seen one project on Ravelry that adapted it for short sleeves, and I wasn't crazy about the look. Maybe it's the length, which is longer than I'd go (I'm thinking cap sleeves). Any suggestions? Is this a bad idea given the neckline and general appearance of the sweater?

Reading: I just started Apple Turnover Murder, the latest Joanne Fluke mystery. These are really pretty fun. I'm WAY behind on my book blogging. I have a review to get up for The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley. It's the second Flavia deLuce mystery, and an utter delight.

Writing: Some. Not a lot. But some.

Cooking: Not a ton. Let's see, I did a mushroom pasta. I made these olive oil crackers for snack at Lilah's preschool, along with cheddar and apple slices. The crackers are delicious. I made them fairly thick and not really crunchy at all, but I think they'd be nice either way. Delicious.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Blue Tomato

Tomato, after blocking:

Last weekend, we had snow. This weekend, I actually wore Tomato with my favorite jeans out to the playground with Lilah. Before we left, I got Matt to take pictures! Yes, actual modeled shots of a finished object. Weird wild stuff for a knitting blog. I'm trying this new thing where I'm not as self-conscious when a camera is pointed at me. It's a work in progress.

The front:

The back:

Detail of back raglan line:

Front detail:

The pattern: Tomato by Wendy Bernard
Size: 40" (see notes)
The yarn: Rowan Calmer, in Calmer, about 4 and a half balls
Needles: Size 6 and 7 circulars

Notes: I really like this top, but I was living a bit dangerously using the Calmer. I didn't see any other projects on Ravelry using it, and as I got going, I realized my row gauge was way off. Instead of 25 rows in 4 inches, my row gauge was 32. And with a top-down raglan (and my being too chicken to adjust the increases to be less frequent), I was concerned. In addition, while I could get 4.5 stitches to an inch, I could only do so with stretching the fabric maybe more than I would want. So instead of doing anything crazy like, I don't know, swatching or something, I just ripped back the inch I'd knit and cast back on for the 40" size (my actual measurement is 36"). And you know what? It worked out fine in the end. If you look at the pattern photos, mine has a higher neckline and is more snug around the arms. It's less of a comfy t-shirt and more fitted. It *is* comfortable, though, just a more fitted look.

The yarn: I love Rowan Calmer. I enjoyed my last summer knit with Knit Picks Comfy, but Calmer is delightful. Stretchy and soft and polished-looking. It's even better that I got a discontinued color for about half price. Otherwise, it's an indulgence.

Two-Fisted Tank, the Real FO Post

I posted about the Two-Fisted Tank right here but it was too cold for modeled pictures. I am actually coming back with the promised modeled FO post. Usually, I show the FO on a chair or on the porch swing and say I'll do modeled pictures later. And either I never get around to doing photos or I talk Matt into taking pictures, don't like them, and never post. But not this time! Obviously, Matt and I need some practice to get this knitting photo shoot down, as I'm not sure the back door/siding is the most attractive background. There were also times when he snapped the photo before I was sucking in my stomach. And the first couple of pictures the top was bunchy, but we got into a rhythm where he would adjust it. Anyway, I think we're showing some improvement over my usual bland FO pictures.

The front:

The back:

The sassy, falling-off-the-shoulders shot:

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. The straps are designed to fall down, so don't consider it if that will drive you nuts. To be honest, I'm not sure how much wear this one will get, but it was fun!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Still Waiting For Spring

Our groundhog, General Beauregard Lee, predicted an early spring. But that Yankee groundhog was right. It's winter here. Lilah and I have started some plants indoors, and this weekend, we were going to plan our raised beds for our tiny yard, which is covered in snow. We have planted carrots, thyme, basil, fennel (for our Swallowtail caterpillars), parsley, and some flowers Lilah picked out. The herbs and fennel will go in one of our front landscaping beds. The carrots will go in a raised bed out front. I think we're going to do at least one other raised bed, in the back, and plant some sunflowers in the landscaping beds as well. We have a sort of strange looking rose bush that sprawls on the ground. I'd like to move it, but that seems like a production. Once the raised beds are set up, we'll plant broccoli rabe, the carrot seedlings, zucchini, and who knows what else. Lilah is particularly excited about the carrots, and the fennel for the caterpillars. We used a biodegradable egg carton, along with some peat pots we picked up when we bought seeds. Lilah was thrilled to do the entire project. She scooped in the soil, made a space for the seeds, dropped in the seeds, and "tucked them in to be so cozy", then watered. She checks on her seeds every morning after she gets up. The flowers, thyme, and fennel have all germinated, and the carrots are just barely starting. We also did an avocado pit in a jar of water. That's taking forever, of course, but she hasn't lost interest.

Knitting: I sucked it up and ripped back on Hjalte's back (after finishing the front...yay!!!!). Just one more pattern repeat to the neckline. I'm nearly finished with Tomato. Just the sleeve edging and neck edging to do. I love the top-down, in-the-round construction with no seaming! So nice and easy. This has been my purse knitting, and it's been a blast. I love Calmer, and I love the pattern. I expect to have modeled shots of this by the time it's warm enough for modeled shots of the Two-Fisted Tank. Meanwhile, here is some of my knitting out in the snow. My Tesla Scarf:

On my hands are fingerless mitts crocheted by my talented SIL.

And Lilah's hat, mittens and scarf:

She loves wearing them! Most kids avoid bundling up, but Lilah really likes her special things I knit her. That's so awesome.
Lilah's preschool is a co-op, so parents volunteer in the classroom a couple times a month, bringing a healthy snack with them. My dad gave us a cute muffin/cakelette pan with bug shapes, so I decided to use those. Lilah loved helping to make bug muffins! I took an already healthified version of an apple bread recipe and tweaked it. These were the most moist, flavorful healthy muffins I've made. Even Matt liked them. My apple butter was my homemade version simmered with lots of spices. You could substitute drained applesauce, but you'll want to add spices to the batter or it will be bland. Lilah's school is nut-free, so I chose to add granola for a bit of crunch in place of the walnuts I'd normally use.

Reading: Not much of note lately, but I did just receive a review copy of Alan Bradley's second Flavia deLuce mystery, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag. The first, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, is well worth picking up if you enjoy mystery and/or precocious heroines.

Writing: Nothing really in the way of page number progress, just more noodling. But that's better than nothing.


Apple Granola Muffins

1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup apple butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
4 cups peeled, chopped apple (Granny Smith makes for a nice, tart muffin)
1 cup granola (I used Back to Nature apple blueberry)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add oil, apple butter, and sugars. Beat until combined. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla. Whisk together flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add slowly to liquid ingredients. Stir in apple and granola. Pour into muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes (shorter for smaller muffins) or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Makes 16 large muffins. Get your own bug muffin tin here.