Monday, October 13, 2008

Five years in Seattle...

The city that I started calling "home"...

The UW campus where I worked so hard...

The activities that kept me sane...

And the friends I left behind and miss already...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back to our regular programming...

Yes, yarn-related activities have taken place. Look for a few finished objects in the next few days.

This baby blanket is my sixth baby blanket in four years. Each time, I start with an idea about the pattern or the color palette I want to use, based on the personality of the expecting parents. Sometimes parents decide to find out whether they're expecting a boy or a girl, sometimes they don't. Sometimes I buy yarn before they can find out because I can't wait to get started!

My baby blanket skills have definitely improved over the years. The first one, four years ago, was my one of my first knitting projects in a decade. I decided to knit a baby blanket for my upcoming goddaughter. I had just knit her a baby hat and a pair of booties in a few days from a kit I got at the fabric store. How hard could it be to knit a whole blanket, really? I simply knit the pattern that came with the ball band of the white acrylic yarn I found at the fabric store. It called for some combination of yo and k3tog every other row. I wanted to throw the blanket across the room after 6 rows. I just couldn't manage the k3tog (knitting 3 stitches together at once). My mother suggested I change the pattern to k2tog (more manageable) and only do the pattern row every fourth row. That was much better. I just went on that way. I didn't start over, so the blanket had a few rows of the original pattern at one end. On top of that, the second skein of white acrylic yarn was a different weight than the first one (I didn't really know about yarn weights then), which meant that the second half of the blanket is slightly narrower and at a looser gauge than the first half. It was misshapen and crooked... but made with love! I gave it to my goddaughter on her first birthday. Her parents thanked me profusely at the time. I'm not sure if she ever used the blanket...

My skills were already much improved for my second blanket, a stripey fringed garterstitch blanket in "santa fe" colors, to match the cantalope-colored walls of the baby's room. After that, I switched to crochet. It's faster than knitting and is naturally double-sided, which is a plus for a blanket. I made a granny-squared blanket (the only one I made with input from the expecting mother). I made a striped blanket in bright colors for my pastel-averse friend's baby boy. I made a psychedelic rainbow blanket for my nephew, because I wanted variegated yarn with a touch of yellow to match the color of his room. It turned out much brighter than I expected, which is funny since my brother's usual color palette is limited to earth tones...

Which brings us to this blanket. I knew my friend Katie was having a little boy. I wanted some boyish colors, a combination of greens and blues. The Moderne baby blanket pattern, from Mason-Dixon Knitting, was just asking to be crocheted. I used the schematic drawing in the book to figure out the proportions of each rectangle, crocheted a foundation chain of the right length, and proceeded to crochet one rectangle after another.

Things were going swimmingly, until I added the two bottom (third and fourth to last) squares. I was at a friend's house, admiring her 3-month old baby, got distracted and simply crocheted two many stitches into the previous squares. My new squares were too many stitches wide and were rippling. I was in complete denial about it, convincing myself it would all be fine when I blocked it, until I finished the last two squares and tried to lay the blanket flat. It was abundantly clear that no amount of blocking would fix this problem... so I ripped out the last four squares and put the blanket aside "for a while." Fast-forward to two months later... I picked it up again, did things right, and finished the blanket in a few days.

Pattern: Moderne Baby Blanket, from Mason-Dixon Knitting by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne (see it on ravelry here)
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, 2 skeins each of Celery (905), Caribbean (847), and Colonial Blue Heather (904). Just over 1 skein of Aran (817).
Hook: 5.0 mm (H)
Started: February 27, 2008
Finished: August 9, 2008
Modifications: well, obviously it's crocheted... but I also added a one-row border of half-double crochet.

It's one of my favorites, because it turned out exactly as I pictured it (which doesn't always happen). Katie seemed to like it, and I hope her little Sebastien does too...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Would like some? It tastes like chicken...

I saw this list on Clotile Dussoulier's Chocolate & Zucchini blog. Here's what she had to say about it:

"The Omnivore's Hundred is an eclectic and entirely subjective list of 100 items that Andrew Wheeler, co-author of the British food blog Very Good Taste, thinks every omnivore should try at least once in his life.

He offered this list as the starting point for a game, along the following rules:
1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2. Bold all the items you’ve eaten (I've used icons instead, and added an asterisk for the items I'm particularly fond of).
3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4. Optional extra: post a comment on Very Good Taste, linking to your results."

I've always considered myself an omnivore... am I really?
Here's my list:

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare

5. Crocodile (I did have alligator in Louisiana, but no crocodile)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue

8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses (have I had this cheese? I'm not sure...)
17. Black truffle (not on its own, only truffle oil)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns = char siu bao (this should be an easy one to check off the list)
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (no thanks, I'd rather feel my tongue... I've learned from Captain Haddock's experience in "Le Temple du Soleil")
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava

30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl

33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float (why haven't I had this before?)
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (cognac yes, cigar no)
37. Clotted cream tea (of course!)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo

40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu (no thanks, am not suicidal...)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel (in sushi/sashimi)
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (best when still warm from the oven, yum!)

50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi (thanks, Yuko!)
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle

57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine (yes!)
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads

63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (or beaver tails!)

68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (eeeww!)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong

80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers

89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab

93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

60 down, 40 to go!
(although I don’t think I would ever eat Fugu (too risky!), Kaolin (dirt?), roadkill (especially if this means eating whatever is left of an animal that was run over by a car), or Bonnet peppers (why suffer unnecessarily?)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Wedding Gift

A friend from my knitting group got married last week. Earlier this Spring, when I learned I was invited, I decided it was only fitting that I give her and her husband a handknitted gift. It had to be something for both of them. I knew Emily was planning to knit them handtowels, so I looked for something else they could use for their home.

At about the same time, I noticed this pattern for crocheted placemats in one of the Berroco Spring pattern booklets. The pattern called for Berroco Naturlin. I could have substituted Knitpicks Cotlin, as I did for the moss stitch handtowels I knit for Katie and Brian's wedding. Naturlin is a new Berroco yarn, and my LYS carries it. It's nice and shiny and still cheaper than Louet Euroflax.

I started crocheting the first placemat mid-May. It's a simple enough pattern, but I managed to do it wrong... The pattern says the placemat is crocheted “from side to side”, which I interpreted to mean that the foundation chain was on one side and that as you crochet the placemat is already at its full depth and grows in width all the way to the other side. The way I understood it, the borders would attach to the foundation chain and the last row. Well, it turns out that “from side to side” means that each row goes from one side to the other (!) (isn’t that always the case? why the need to specify?). The foundation chain is supposed to be at the bottom of the placemat, and you crochet until you get the desired depth. Borders are then supposed to go on each side, perpendicular to the foundation chain.

My first clue should have been the fact that after a few rows my work was over 15 inches. Instead of wondering how my gauge could be off by that much, I just unraveled it and started over with a shorter foundation chain. I only realized my mistake much later, and I decided it didn't really matter. Of course, I did the same thing for the second placemat so they match. If you compare my placemats to the pattern photo, you’ll see that the stitch pattern in the center panel is rotated 90 degrees in mine relative to the pattern. The result looks great anyway: a rectangle is a rectangle...

My other modification to the pattern (this was a deliberate one) is the addition of a border of (sc - ch1) along the top and bottom edges. I think it gives the placemats a cleaner look and helps smoothen the contrast between the border color and the center color.

The Naturlin yarn was a little rough to the touch and contained some plant matter, but it softened nicely after blocking without losing any of its beautiful shine.

Pattern: Randolph, found in Berroco #273 Naturlin (Spring 2008)
Yarn: Berroco Naturlin. 4 skeins of main color (6310 Mate) and 1 skein of contrasting color (6325 Cinnamon). Used all of the main color yarn, and only a tiny bit left of the contrasting color.
Hook: 4.0 mm (G)
Started: May 14, 2008
Finished: July 21, 2008

I would knit these again. They make a great "on-the-go" project, because the pattern stitch is the same for every row and easy to memorize. In fact, I have more Naturlin in the stash for a housewarming gift...

Deidre liked them, and seemed to already have plans for them.
The wedding was lovely, and Deidre and Joel looked very happy. Congratulations to both of them and best wishes for the future!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

First socks...

I know I just posted about my first pair of completed socks, but this is the first pair of socks I ever started... way back in the Winter of 2007. I mentioned them when I made a list of unfinished objects in January (the other socks were on that list too). In an attempt to tie up loose ends, I'm currently on a "finish-all-my-old-WIPs" kick.

I wanted to knit socks, but I was intimidated by DPNs. Too many needles, too short, too pointy... Instead, I found a pattern on the KnitPicks website. It's a pattern for toe-up socks on two circular needles. It calls for knitting both socks at the same time, but I opted to only knit one at a time. Since I had no idea what I was doing, the first sock was far from perfect... First, it's definitely too wide. The pattern says to increase until you get the right width, but I overshot it a bit. Plus, I think socks are supposed to have a touch of negative ease. Second, the afterthought heel included in the pattern didn't fit my heel well at all. It was a spiral heel, and my heel is not that round... Finally, I didn't use the right bind off, and it was not stretchy at all. Which meant the sock was hard to put on and take off. I started the second sock at the time (i.e. Winter before last, or maybe Spring...), but stopped at the top of the foot. I can't remember why I stopped. I probably had other projects to work on. But I do remember that I wondered if and how I could ever fix those problems...

I picked up the second sock last week and finished it over the weekend. I used a yarn-over bind off, very stretchy... I used a different afterthought heel. It's triangular and fits my heel much better. I also made the leg longer.

I unraveled the bind off on the first sock, lengthened the leg and bound off using the yarn-over method. I frogged the heel and replaced it with the triangular afterthought heel. They're still a little too wide, but I don't think I could have fixed that easily... still, they're very comfy!

Pattern: Two at Once, Toe-Up Socks, by Kelley Petkun. Replaced the afterthought heel with the one described in Sandy Cushman's Up-Down Spiral Sox, in Interweave Knits Favorite Socks.
Yarn: Colinette Jitterbug, in Blue Parrot. About 0.85 skein or 270 yards (320 yd/110g)
Needles: 2 US 3/3.25mm circular needles (24")
Started: Winter 2007
Finished: June 16, 2008

Ta-daa! A pair of handknit socks!
Funny how fast a pair of socks are done when you start with one and a half socks...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

110 dropped stitches... no problem!

Pattern: Phiaro Scarf (on Ravelry), by Katie Himmelberg, from Knitscene Winter 2007/Spring 2008
Yarn: Southwest Trading Company Bamboo, in colorway 134/Azul. Approx. 1.4 skeins (or 350 yards)
Needles: US 7/4.5 mm
Started: Late April 2008
Finished: Cast off on May 25, 2008. Completed finishing (weaving in ends and braiding fringe) on June 3, 2008.

In April, I decided to knit Emily a scarf for her birthday. I knew she had been eyeing this scarf in the new Knitscene magazine. I picked some Bamboo yarn from the stash, in a colorway I knew she would approve (it has teal in it) and set forth.

This pattern is a wonder of design. It's a scarf, but it's knit in the round in stockinette stitch, so it's pretty mindless knitting. (The cast-on edge is slightly tighter than the cast off edge, but it isn’t really obvious once the scarf is wrapped around your neck. I’m not sure how this could be avoided or fixed.)

The magic comes during the finishing: when casting off, you cast off a block of stitches, then drop the next block of stitches, etc, until you get close to the end and then drop 30 (yes, 30!) stitches in a row. After reading about other people's experience with this pattern on Ravelry forums, I knit through the back loop the stitches immediately before and after the stitches to be dropped (like suggested in the pattern for the Clapotis). This is meant to minimize pulling on the edge stitches.

Once you unravel the dropped stitches all the way down, you now have a big circular band, that just grew to more than twice it's original length and looks like a big mess!

To get the fringe you cut the strands from the 30 dropped stitches right down the middle, and then proceed to braid the bazillion ends you just created... Blocking is essential, or at least getting the scarf damp enough to get the kinks out of the strands of dropped stitches. I didn’t actually pin it down, I just draped it over the back of a chair. It dried really quickly, because it's so airy.

I cast off on May 25, after knitting to a width of about 15 inches (I measured at the time, but now I forget the exact measurement). It’s a pretty airy scarf, so I think this width works. I then spent 3 evenings braiding the fringe… The finishing for this scarf is pretty intensive, with a lot of ends to weave in on the cast off edge and all the braiding to do. But it’s a pretty easy knit (if a bit repetitive) and the end result looks really cool.

Gave it to Emily last night, who promptly wound it around her neck and didn’t take it off all night! I think that counts as a great success!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Seattle in June-uary

Seven inches of snow fell on I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass last night. Seriously.

Yesterday, while waiting for the bus dressed in a long-sleeved t-shirt, a sweater, a weatherproof jacket, and a scarf, I really wished I was wearing gloves. The warmest it got was a record breaking low of 55F/13C (and it got as cold as 45F/7C).

"Seattle just experienced the coldest first week of June, according to climate records dating to 1891", according to the Seattle Times.
Yes, 1891.

Well, at least I'm glad to know that this weather isn't normal.

Can't wait for Friday: if the forecast is right, it will be a balmy 73F/23C!