April 24, 2013 § 1 Comment
Another Fashion Friday post missed, but last week was a real doozie, and the week ended with a very special (surprise) dinner.
My husband always tries to downplay his birthday, with singing cake and gifts not in his preferences for the occasion. He desires for nothing more than to pass the day as just another. However, with this year’s passing his number of years ticking to one ending with a “0″ meant I couldn’t feign indifference and planned a surprise dinner party for last Friday evening with just a few folks that Ramon considers family. The theme for our festive event was “A Dinner Party at the Swiss Chalet” and I served all of the makings from a weeks worth of labor for Raclette followed by a desert of chocolate fondue with fruits. Raclette is a traditional Swiss cheese. Dating back hundreds of years to when shepherds tended their herds in the mountains of Switzerland. With limited supplies meals consisted of cheese which was melted by the fire and drizzled over potatoes and pickles. Today raclette can easily be served in the home with raclette grills which can fairly easily be found. Each individual in the dinner party uses their very own grilling tray. It is a little like “advanced” fondue.
I’ve only had raclette once before and it was made from delicious leftovers prepared by the best amateur chefs I know over a weeks time at a cabin up in Tahoe. I used the week leading up to the party, and Ramon’s birthday as an excuse to make tons of food so that once Friday arrived I would have very little to cook. I started planning weeks in advance, and with the Little Buckaroo in tow, I was fully prepared for my week-long culinary adventure, complete with budges and back-up plans just in case crabby pants wasn’t having any of it. I also knew that we would have a vegetarian at the party so I knew that all of my sauces or post-meat-grilling-pared-veggies would need to be handled in a way as to not be “contaminated” by non-vegetarian-friendly tools and ingredients. So, no well-seasoned-with-bacon-fat cast iron skillets, or reducing a sauce with reserved liquid from a cooking pan. Thank goodness I planned ahead and thought about this before beginning a single dish, or I would have had lots and lots of work on Friday to make a whole new set of dishes for our vegetarian guest. All I did all week was cook, and try to hide the evidence. On Friday Ramon had quite a wonderful surprise and we all had an amazing feast.
While the fruits of my labors were expected to result in many dishes for both herbivores and omnivores (and, if I am being honest, at least one carnivore) I didn’t expect to have so many left-overs from my left-overs but found myself happily cooking omelets on Saturday that took mere minutes from start to finish with mustard-seed crusted prime-rib, grilled green onions, seared bell sweet peppers, topped off with a creamy horseradish sauce. Delightful decadence that could never have come about just from getting raw ingredients out of the cabinet that morning. This started off what I am fondly calling: The Best Saturday of the Year (so far).
Later in the day I was able to sit-down and finish my Joan Tank, from the pattern Essential Tank by Wendy Bernhard published in Custom Knits, which I had also been plodding away on while plotting my work carefully. I started out with one huge skein of somewhere around 800 yards of yarn. Not a knot, or an end in the middle other than just the two to start and finish the skein. Feeling lucky that my ball winder was specifically made to handle “Jumbo” yarn masses I happily knit round and round up until the arm-hole. Now this yarn is slippery, mercerized cotton. Anyone who has ever knit cotton knows how difficult it can be not only to weave in the ends, but to do so in a way which makes them invisible on the right side of the garment.
Listed in bullets for other knitters who want clarity on my modifications, they were:
- So, my first modification to the pattern, even before I landed on the lace panel going up the middle, was to add a purl 1 through the back loop to create a faux side seam, giving me a place to hide the first end from the cast-on.
- Then I decided on the 36 stitch lace panel, finding the center 36 stitches and marking them out with stitch markers. I worked my side decreases and increases every 12 rows as it matched up with the transitions of my lace patterns and the length / number of rows and inches I wanted the piece to measure. I started the decreases for the waste after 36 rows. Immediately after finishing the 12th row of the 3rd decrease I began the increases.
- Working my way through the body I started to think about how to handle the armholes, and the neckline. I knew that I’d need an edging of some sort, and the pattern lists out very basic instructions, but they involved breaking the yarn and starting in again, creating two new, and I felt, unnecessary, ends.
- I knit 24 rows up the front which was one full chart of the lace pattern vertically, and worked the armhole decreases just as described in the pattern. I wanted to shorten the armhole and drop the neck.
- I did have to break the yarn for the top neckline to create the two sides, but I chose not to bind-off the stitches at the shoulder, and just left them on holders, each side of the neck was 26 rows. This created 2 more ends, so now we’re up to 3, total.
- Then I had to start in a across the back—1 more end— and work my way up just at the front for 28 rows, as opposed to 24 for the front. I would still need to break the yarn for the neckline, but had another plan for the shoulder and armhole binding/edging. Upon reaching the shoulder, I took the held stitches from the matching front piece, and with right sides together, working across the wrong side of the work I knit 2 together, and bound-off, leaving the working yarn, unbroken at the armhole side of the tank-top. Then, again without breaking the yarn, I started picking-up and knitting stitches down the armhole, and then back-up the other side, 112 stitches in total. I then worked 4 rows in 2×2 ribbing, and bound off in the stitch pattern
- Before starting work up the second side of the back neck I split the rest of the ball of yarn into two balls, and pulled a loop, and without breaking the yarn, started knitting. I worked all of the way up the last neck piece, and followed just as I had done before to bind-off the stitches together with the front side, and then, again without breaking the yarn picking up and knitting 112 stitches around the armhole in 2×2 ribbing for 4 rows.
- Taking the second attached ball of yarn from the base of the neckline on the back I picked up 140 stitches around the neckline and worked 4 rows in 2×2 rib stitch, then did the bind-off in the same stitch pattern.
In the end I wound up with a total of 8 ends to weave in as opposed to a minimum of 14 if I had broken the yarn before each edging/binding. Then I wove in approximately 10 inches of each end into either the faux seam, or the back-side of the picked up stitches for the armholes and neckline completely hiding the ends from the work. Hooray! Success!! My careful planning worked. Thought I knew that I might have a problem with the abundantly open lace-work on the front side of the tank. I had already decided to lower the neckline of the front, and shorten the armholes on both the front and the back. While I was carefully counting my rows as I started in on the back, I realized that the neck wouldn’t gape with the binding the way I was planning it, so if I lowered it, too, I wouldn’t have problems. The back is 4 rows higher than the front where the neckline begins, but they are still both low and don’t gape.
Nothing ever turns out how you expect that it will with a knitting project. No matter how many gauge swatches, tests, or blocking you do there is always something unexpected. This yarn was supposed to be for a completely different tank-top and it just wasn’t working out. I uncommitted and recommitted to something new, where I anticipated a lot of problems and planned carefully to work around them. I am glad I really thought about it, instead of just following along with the pattern. Serendipity comes in unexpected sizes. Yesterday I made myself a gluten free ham sandwich with brie cheese, ham cubes, dijon sauteed onions and shallots, gently toasted to perfection from unexpected left overs from my raclette and I stood eating it in the kitchen with a glass of home-made lemon-aide while wearing the my Essential Tank with the lace to the back, the unexpected way in which I prefer to wear it.
For those interested in my compelete menu for our surprise raclette dinner (links for those available included, though I do often make changes):
- Ropa Vieja
- Ropa Vieja peppers & tomatoes
- Paprika crusted pork tenderloin
- Paprika mayonnaise
- Braised Short Ribs
- Port Wine Braised Short Ribs Reduction Sauce
- Mustard Seed Crusted Prime Rib Roast
- Dijon Mustard & balsamic sauteed onions and shallots
- Creamy Horseradish Sauce
- Au jus
- Bourbon & Dijon Sauce
- Asparagus Tips
- Bacon Sprouts (Brussels Sprouts cooked in Bacon Fat, and served with Bacon)
- Seared Cauliflower
- Seared Bell Peppers
- Grilled Zucchini
- Sundried Tomatos
- Cubed Ham
- Red wine marinated mushrooms
- Sauteed Green Onions
- Pesto, made fresh from the Basil growing my garden
March 13, 2013 § 4 Comments
I saw my friend Nicole the other day, an impromptu meeting at her house. She showed me a herringbone cowl that she’d just finished knitting. I saw it hanging on the hook by the front door when I walked in, and just glancing at it I thought it was actually white “camo” fabric. She showed it to me, as we show each-other all of our knitting projects, and explained to me just how, and why she hated it. We gave each-other that look, as anyone who has ever made things for themselves well knows, the “I spent so much time on this, and it is terrible. Now what do I do with it look.” Oh the frustration, the disappointment! Do you just toss it? Donate it? Or the standard, just keep it and hope that someday you’ll change your mind about it, even though you know better.
That is how I felt when I first started my Coachella tank top. I first found it back in 2010 on Ravelry, and added it to my favorites. In the beginning of September 2011, it officially went into my queue on Ravlery, a sacred area I use for that literal purpose of lining up the projects I actually want to do. So many others just use it as a bookmark. On September 12th, 2011 I found the yarn I wanted to use, on clearance at Imaginknit in San Francisco, Lana Grossa New Cotton Seta, but sadly, they only had 3 hanks it was discontinued. I worked my little tail off to find three more, and once I found them, quickly, I began knitting my swatches. Problem was, I hated, HATED the way that felt knitted. The yarn was so soft when just wrapped in the skein. I couldn’t understand how anything with cotton could be so soft. This particular cotton is 60% Rayon, 20% Cotton, 20% Silk, so I guess it is hardly “cotton,” but rayon is wood pulp, and only 20% silk, still I had a hard time believing that it could be so soft. So the yarn isn’t long fibers twisted together, they are sort of braided together, and when knit, you feel the “harshness” off the braiding. Or, at least that is what I thought. I started the gauge swatches about the time I started feeling the morning sickness from the beginning of my pregnancy, and instead of looking at that as the hold-up, I decided that this yarn I had worked so hard to find, and finally got from a little yarn store in Massachusetts was the culprit, and quickly wrote off the entire project.
Now that the move is in full swing, when I had to go through my stash last week to look for two
missing not purchased skeins of yarn, I found my six skeins of Lana Grossa New Cotton Seta, with my printed out version of the pattern stuffed in the bag, and long forgotten. I knew it would be a quick project. I decided I didn’t want to try to use the yarn for anything else and so I got it out, put it on the couch, and once I determined I in-fact didn’t have the yarn to finish my Cara Cara tank, I started this, and it flew off the needles. Even with the packing and the baby I finished it in 4 days, and a strange thing happened: I LOVED the way that it knit-up! I just couldn’t believe it.
Way back when I originally found this pattern I also found Roko on Ravelry, a knitting force to be reckoned with. She knit this top twice, and did it in merely 1 day the second time. I don’t know how this woman knits so fast. Most of her work is in seductive greys and blacks, which are hard to see and dull to look at for mile after mile of yarn yardage. She’s cute, does beautiful work, and seems to have no idea just how special she is, making her that just much more special.
She simplified the Cochella pattern, originally published in Knitty in 2007, widening the back so that it is not a skinny piece requiring a halter-esque undergarment, but so that it might be more comfortable for the average, or more modest wear-er. Her pattern modifications looked so flattering and were so, SO simple that this is the exact route that I decided to go. I didn’t even have to adjust the number of stitches that I cast-on. My gauge was a little larger, which resulted in a size more appropriate for me.
- Her gauge was: 26 sts and 40 rows = 4 x 4 inches on size 4 (US) needles
- My gauge was: 22 sts and 28 rows = 4 x 4 inches on size 6 (US) needles
- Of the six skeins I had of Lana Grossa New Cotton Seta, I only have about 20 yards left, meaning I used about 700 yards.
So, as follows is Roko’s pattern (click here for link to her original) with my modifications as my gauge was different:
- Cast on 160sts, pm, and join to work in the round.
- Work in stockinette st for about 2 inches.
- Divide the sts for the front—120 sts—and the back—40sts, work front and back separately
- For the front, with RS facing Dec 1 sts on each edge as foll: k1, ssk, k across until 3 sts rem, k2tog, k1. Work 1 WS row. Work Dec 5 times, work 2 rows even. Rep Dec plus 2 rows 3 more times (20 decreases, total)-80 sts
- For the back, with RS facing Inc 1 sts on each edge as foll: k1, kf/b, k across until 2 sts rem, kf/b, k1. Work 1 WS row. Work Inc 5 times, work 2 rows even. Rep Inc plus 2 rows 3 more times (20 increases, total)—80 sts
- K across front, PM for side, seam, join, and k across back, PM for beg/end of rnd
- Work in St st for about 4 inches
- Inc 1 stitch every 8th rnd 3 times at both side of M,
- Inc 1 stitch every 10th rnd, 3 times at both side of M (184sts).
- Work 10 rnds even.
- Bind off all sts.
- Crochet edging: 3 rnds of single crochet, then completed crochet edging
I washed the top in my sweater-tub which is now being used as a box for packing things for the move on Friday. I dried it in the sun, on-top of the barbeque as the weather is getting so nice out. The once again experienced the magic of blocking and I didn’t even have to press my little crochet hem down, so that it woudn’t roll up from all of that stockinette stitch. Then, I put my Roko-chella on. The yarn is amazingly soft. I love the weight of the plant fibers in the yarn. It has structure and drape. This is the most even I have seen my tension since I changed from English style knitting to continental. I just love, love, love it. I think I am going to be wearing it every day, and I even wore it out for yesterday in the 75° heat (I know it’s not that hot, it’s still Spring‚ but I was happy and cool—and comfortable—as a cucumber. (Cucumbers look comfortable, don’t they?) I’d like to go on and on and on about how much I love this yarn, but sadly there is no point as it is discontinued and it was practically unobtainium a year and a half ago. I’d like to make another, but I’ll have to find a different cotton (based) yarn to work with.
The only thing I don’t like? WHY THE HELL DIDN’T I MAKE THIS TANK-TOP SOONER? I guess I just expected to be disappointed. I think that this goes to show that sometimes when we get results that we find less than satisfactory, we shouldn’t just write off the project.
So, I’d like to say: Nicole, your cowl may come in handy, but maybe for something you haven’t even thought of yet.
Wait, did I just promote hording?
March 5, 2013 § 4 Comments
Ooof, I am sick again. No, not another flu, but I have had a stuffy cold since Friday. I guess that is what happens when you get really sick, then never really rest. But when you have a Little Buckaroo that is just super busy, what are you supposed to do? I have been taking cold medicine with pretty good degree of effectiveness, though I feel like I am just suppressing as opposed to really getting better. So yesterday I decided no more “band-aids” to treat my symptoms, the real problem—the cold—needs to be dealt with and go away. Unfortunately with the impending move I really don’t have time to stop, so I guess I’ll just have to get through it.
Then, for the first time, something has happened in Yarnville that I still can’t believe. I am working on a project where I have not just sort of run out of yarn, but really, REALLY run out of yarn. How did this happen?
It is hard to believe that with all of the sweaters, hats, cowls, and everything else that I have knit that I have never really run out of yarn before. Okay, well, it is not exactly true that I have never run out before. But I didn’t lie, exactly. A few times I have come to the end the second sleeve of the beloved sweater of the moment, and Kablammo! One row from the end and I am out of yarn. Well, this doesn’t exactly warrant buying a whole new skein, and chances are that I have another skein lined up and ready to go, it is just a matter of principal. I usually just finish the sweater’s sleeve one row short of the other, and figure no one will ever notice. *Spoiler Alert* no one ever has.
So last week after the worst of my flu had passed, and before getting this nasty cold, I started the super adorable springtime friendly Cara Cara Pullover by Amanda Bell from Knitscene, It was on new stands last year, and I bought the digital edition to save space and paper. And then, of course, then I go and print out the patterns as I want to make them. Why don’t I just buy the physical copy? Well, I guess it is still a lot less paper than buying the whole issue. I looked and I looked for the yarn I wanted for this project. I have been using a lot of KnitPicks Comfy for spring projects. It is super affordable, super soft, and comes in so many colors. The only problem was, I couldn’t find a color for this project in the weight that I needed. The Cara Cara pullover by Amanda Bell should have some weight, and a little drape. It should be warm, friendly and spring-ey. At last I settled on buying the worsted weight version of Knitpicks Comfy, as opposed to the Sport weight, which would have been perfect for the project. I looked carefully at the materials list for the pullover, and for the size that I wanted to make 5 skeins of Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece at 215 yards per skein. This comes to a whopping 1075 yards. For a 3/4 length sleeve pullover that seems like a lot, but it is on size 5 needles with sport weight yarn. So I ordered up my 10 skeins, as there are 109 yards per skein, coming to a total of 1099 yards. Perfect, a little extra, but not so much that I will be wasteful.
I was finishing up the body of my Cara Cara pullover and I realized that I was almost out. How could this be? I know I ordered enough!
I have always said that I can do basic math, meaning addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. I prefer the use of a calculator.When I was at the plant nursery over the weekend I was delighted to find Green Globe Artichoke plants. Now, the thing with Artichoke plants is, no matter how much you freaking love artichokes, they just aren’t going to produce artichokes until their second year of life. So, they had plants that were clearly very young, this season. Plants in gallon pots that are about 2 feet in diameter, and plants in 2 gallon pots that are also about 2 feet in diameter but very bushy. I asked the fellow if the ones in the gallon pots were one year old. “How should I know?” he responded. Um, because you work here?
So I went home without a plant. I really want artichokes in my new garden at our new, beautiful house this year. The bigger plants were $25 bucks, and see this is where I prove to you that I do no basic math, the smaller plants were marked $7.50 on each pot, and then there was a sign that said, 2 for $15! Wow, what a steal … um … really? You need a sign to say that the plants cost exactly twice as much for two plants?
After talking with my mom we concluded that the big bushy ones, and the smaller $7.50 or the super steal 2 for $15 plants were both started last year, and the price difference in the two, $17.50 doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll be getting artichokes growing—and then yummy in my tummy—anytime sooner. So I went back the next day and snatched up one of the few remaining gallon sized plants. The day before there were quite a great deal more, but I think that people were awed by the amazing 2 for $15 deal … just kidding.
While I was wandering around there, as the Buckaroo was thoroughly enjoying his shopping cart outdoor adventure, I came across the bonsai trees.
I have been on a citrus and fruit tree buying blitz. (Don’t worry, by blitz I mean that I have bought two tiny lime trees and one self pollinating Bing cherry tree). So when I came across the Bonsai trees I stopped and had to marvel at their unique beauty. So short, so cute, and so darn easy to kill. Reminds me a lot of Orchids. I started wondering about why the smallest of things usually take the most work. My seedlings look like they’re suffering from the Great Plant Plague of 2013. If you don’t get the watering and sun just right those sad sprouts just keel right over and whither away. But that is sort of the deal with starting your own plants. You have to plant many, MANY seed to get one viable goodie. That Little Buckaroo of mine, so short, so much work. My projects, with my tiny needles take far longer than something with huge needles, like say, US size 8! (Again, a joke). But I like the fine knits. I like my small needles. I loved my orchids, and I love my little seedlings—mostly the ones that are growing and surviving, and I really, REALLY love that Little Buckaroo, too, and watching him grow every day and learn new things is a rewards that I cannot even begin to describe. And with that, I picked up the bonsai tree. Those seductive blossoms, that trunk, so tiny, but with such an old soul.
With my Cara Cara pullover I felt astounded that I could get so much done in just a week. The entire body after it was divided for the sleeves and the body, I finished in two days! So why was I running out of yarn. Starting the collar I only had two skeins left, and that certainly wasn’t going to be enough for two sleeves a cowl neck/collar and a pocket! Off to the stash! I pulled out my ENTIRE YARN STASH looking for these two missing skeins. I knew I had them, but since I had taken to hiding my yarn in multiple locations over the year they could have wound up just about anywhere. After going through every ball and every scrap of yarn I have I came to the amazing realization that my yarn stash hasn’t grown in the past year, which also means that I’ve been knitting a hell of a lot. But no-where to be found were my missing two skeins. Crapper.
I went to my email, and found my receipts.
I ordered Eight. Not ten. I am ready for some humble pie.
I took my total yardage of 1075 and divided that by the number of yards in a skein of Knitpicks Comfy. Here is where the problem occurred. Originally I was dead set on Comfy Sport because it is the right size for the project and wouldn’t make it too bulky, and then I finally settled on a color I love, giving up some of the lightness and picked a worsted weight. Well, the two have different yardages, as they are sold by 50g skein. 50g of a Worsted weight will be less in total length than a “skinnier” sport weight yarn.
Eight times 109 does not equal eight times 137. Double Crapper.
This is a huge mistake, and after thinking about it for a while I am now able to admit that I am surprised it didn’t happen sooner. With longer days and spring quickly approaching I find myself feeling incredibly, lets say, optimistic about the amount of things that I am able to get done, or the things that I want to get done. In my mind I have this whole master plan for my garden at the new house, but if I stop and think for a bit I am able to realize that it is going to take years, and on-top of that it should be FUN to do. I have loads and loads and loads of knitting I want to get done, and I am a pretty speedy knitter, but it should be fun, at the same time. And lets face it, we all make mistakes! The little things take a lot more work, but the pay off can be so great. The let-down of failure, even only partial, can also be devastating though.
Pictured Above is my Cara Cara Pullover so far, with body and cowl completed, and sleeves and pocket still left to go. I am saving what I have left of my yarn, in case I need to stripe in into the sleeves if the die-lot of the new yarn doesn’t match exactly, to hide my yarn miscalculation.
I think that I should look my big yarn miscalculation with my Cara Cara not as coming up short, but as an opportunity to step back and evaluate. How long do I really want those sleeves? How much more do I really need to order? Did I just rush through this entire project and not enjoy it? When I got to the cowl, when I already knew I was going to run, out I took more time. I love seed stitch. It’s rhythmic, beautiful, and delightful to run your fingers across. Yes, it takes quite a long time to do, but I really enjoyed knitting the cowl. Maybe round after round of stockinette—which means just thousands of knit stitches in a row—is pretty darn dull, but I picked this yarn for a reason, for how soft it is, and for the warm gray which makes me smile. So yes, I am short on yarn. I need to place another little Knitpicks order very soon anyway! Now I just need to figure out how I want the sleeves to be on my dear Cara Cara.
My little sprouts aren’t coming up short, they’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing: Trying to survive. The best ones will make it, and this is my FIRST TIME starting my own seeds, so I can’t expect perfection. My first scarf has mistakes, and my first *little* garden will, too. That is how it will grow, learning from what works and what doesn’t.
As for the Little Buckaroo? I really feel like I am not coming up short with him these days. I feel happy and focused on raising him. I feel that my much-needed break a week and a half ago, which turned into the flu, was just the right dose of medicine, and reality. Getting to take a step back and just watch made me really happy. And he’s not coming up short. He just is short, but really, really cute.
And what about the Bonsai? If I over extend myself with my projects and my gardening too much it is not going to be just my yarn yardage and my sprouts that come up short, but I will, too.
So, don’t worry, I put the bonsai back.
February 20, 2013 § 2 Comments
So, not last Friday, but the Friday before I posted my successful new Jill’s Sweater, with the re-wound yarn from my Jill’s Dress in my Fashion Friday post. This sweater has become a new staple of my wardrobe. I have been wearing it so much, that I have actually even already noticed some slight pilling, ARGH! But it is a small price to have something new that I love so much, and is so unique.
You know, I have come to a very important realization recently: It is only as hard as I let it be.
“What?” you say. “That sounds Dumb.”
No really though, it is true.
This goes back to recently reading Yarn Harlot, by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. I find myself thinking a lot about this book these days. The chapter currently in my thoughts is titled “Three Blankets,” which is a broad—but personal—view about the learning curve of both having a child, children, and also about knitting. The blanket that she made for her first daughter, while at the time she thought was quite lovely, she grew to see later as “messy” and “horrible,” made from nasty acrylic. The blankets made for both of her successive children were far more successful. She talks about how, somehow, magically, it just got easier with each child, and then I realized, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this. In fact, almost every parent I have ever asked has said it got easier with the second child.
Why is this?
Is it because we just have no freaking clue about what we’re doing with the first one? Everything must be researched, looked-up, looked into, worried over, washed, sterilized, sanitized, nutritional-ized, and beyond? Is it just that we are so tired by the time the second or third one arrives that we really don’t care if they’re sitting on the floor, licking the carpet at the bank? Or is it because we realize that that small stuff really doesn’t matter so much? If the poopy jammies don’t get washed RIGHT NOW, by God, the Earth is just going to keep on turning …
So, maybe we do this to ourselves.
Wow, there’s a thought.
And … maybe this is a silly thing to do?
I’ve recently started watching Mad Men, from the beginning of the first season. I’ve not watched it before, so it is all new to me, but everyone I’ve ever asked about it says the same thing, “It is amazing, you must watch!” I really haven’t had
much any time for watching anything recently. Now that the Little Buckaroo is bigger and AWAKE AND ACTIVE so much, we’ve started going to the park more, and Gymboree pretty much daily, just trying to wear him out. I can’t remember in which exact episode this came up, but it is before episode 7 of the first season, as that is as far as I have made it since I started watching at the beginning of the month. In the episode, Don Draper is consulting with his wife’s therapist, when he the therapist comments that the problems she is having with feeling overwhelmed by taking care of the children and the household, likens Betty’s to being a child herself. Ouch. Yes, I understand this is a period piece, taking place in the 60′s when social views were quite extremely different than they are today, but hell, I am having problems keeping up, and I am feeling overwhelmed. Am I just not owning up to my duties? Am I a whiner? Or, perhaps, I am just making things too hard.
I think that Stephanie is onto something with the knitting simile. I kept my very first real project, but alas, I did not keep my original “learning to knit” swatches. I kept ripping them out, bent on not wasting the yarn and hell bent on perfection. It seems like a funny thing now. I spent so much time—hours—making those swatches. They were terrible. My first project, a simple ribbed scarf with pretty wine colored burgundy wool isn’t perfect, but I still love it. I love that I made it. I love that I went into a real yarn store with my sister where she helped me pick it out. I had no idea what I was doing, but I had an idea, a memory of a scarf that I fell in love with when I lived in Italy. I knew, deep down, that my scarf wouldn’t come out the same, as it was to be my first project, and so I didn’t try to recreate my vision. I just tried to make something great. I picked my battles with that scarf. I didn’t know how to fix mistakes, so I tried my best, and then I just let them be. I remember binding-off with instructions written in a note on my cell phone through the worst plane turbulance I have ever been in, a huge storm in January of 2010, on my way back from the craziest photo-shoot trip of my life. Feeling like vomiting, I finished my bind-off with about 12 inches of yarn. I was so thrilled I showed the business-man next to me, “Wow, that is really amazing. I’ve never made anything like that. My wife tried knitting, but it is just so hard.” I felt to proud.
Since then my skills have improved, and my standards raised. A lot. No, A LOT, a lot. So, when it came time to re-do my sleeves for my Jill’s Dress/Sweater, I was happy to dive right in, at long last, but I certainly had expectations about exactly what I wanted, and knew I would except nothing less. All of my knitting books have been packed away for months now. The instructions for how to make this sleeve? Or even one like it? Freaking gone. Fifteen boxes lie between me and those instructions. So what to do now? I write lots of patterns, but I have only done this type of inset sleeve, worked in the round, picking up stitches once before.
It is only as hard as I let it be.
Damn it. I made these sleeves once before. I just said that I did, and I remember what it was like, don’t I? Have confidence, Julie!
I vaguely remembered making them for my Feather Dress (above), from the same book of patterns as the Jills Dress … Pick up the stitches in a circle. Mark the center at the shoulder. Mark the center at the underarm/join to work in the round. Work to center stitch. Work X number of stitches (I don’t remember an exact number but I do remember it was not many!) past that. Work and turn, work and turn, work and turn, work and turn, and an inset sleeve is beautiful grown from the shoulder center.
That’s it, just let it grow. Take notes on what I’ve done so that I can recreate it on the other side. Some basic math based on the gauge and the rest of the sleeves quickly completed, also in the round. Just like that. I didn’t let it be hard, and so, it wasn’t.
I love this sweater now. I just, freaking love it. I wear it at night when I am knitting, even if it is too warm. I love the deep, rich purple. I love the variegation in the yarn. I love the warmth. I love things about it that I normally don’t really like. The sleeves only took a day each, and that was really just working on them in the evenings. I really do wish that I had done this sooner, but emotionally with the project I just wasn’t ready yet. I was worried about not having anything to look up about the technique. I was worried about ripping out my hard work for the dress and regretting it. In the end, I found that the yarn-rewind was cathartic. I don’t regret making the dress before, and I also don’t with that I’d just started with the sweater. I think it was the right time, and I was mentally and skill wise in the right place to rewind, and let it be. It’s not a bad thing to make mistakes, or change our minds. It’s not bad to feel overwhelmed, and like you may not be able to do something, especially without any damn books around. But it is only as hard as I let it be.
I tell myself this new mantra every day. Actually, in all honesty, probably about 100 times per day. It is only as hard as I let it be. The baby is teething, and it is hard. We are remodeling our house and I don’t get to spend any time with my husband, and it is hard. We are living in a cramped apartment that we don’t fit in, and can’t baby proof, and it is hard. But, It is only as hard as I let it be. I can either choose to take him on the errands while screaming, or not. Sometimes these things just NEED to get done, and as much as he hates being in the car, and WILL NOT sleep, I can do it, but I don’t need to over-do it. When I need help, ask for it. As my sister says, instead of just assuming that other people know what I need, I need to tell them. Instead of just saying, “I need help,” tell them WHAT I need help with, specifically. I can do that, it is not hard. It is only as hard as I let it be.
Like Betty in Mad Men, I do feel overwhelmed, and this is going to happen. It doesn’t make me a child for feeling overwhelmed with my baby, or with my house. It means that I am riding and climbing the learning curve, and I’ve gotten to a steep part. I need to figure it out. Take a step back, rewind (literally, or figuratively, whatever the best scenario is). Take a new step forward. It is only as hard as I let it be.
In the last week or so that I have been working on this things have gotten a lot better. Yes, Ramon has been staying home a lot more than before (meaning, more than from 7:30 at night until 10:30 at night). He’s helping with the dishes, and making sure I get out by myself for an hour here, or a couple of hours there. And, yes, I did tell him that I needed this but things have still been a lot better either way. Crabby Pants has his first tooth! So a small break in the teething … for now. We’ve also discovered his LOVE for balloons. Gymboree helps a lot, too, giving us something fun and exhausting—in a good way—for the Little Buckaroo, too.
I am not perfect. Following my new Mantra isn’t easy, and sometimes even seems impossible. I know I still have a LONG, LONG, LONG way to go—my baby isn’t licking the floor at the bank anytime soon, but those plastic balls and mats at Gymboree? Sure, go ahead and lick those.
September 3, 2012 § 2 Comments
9 Months and 11 weeks.
This is how long it has taken me to finally have first the energy and second the time—in that order—to post again. Oh how I have missed writing, knitting and sewing, but I was working on a much more amazing project! Now that he has been here for almost 12 weeks, which I have learned is not the same thing as 3 months, I am introducing him, and I think that I am ready to start getting myself back into the swing of things.
So, without further adieu, here is my little critter, now 11 weeks old, wiggling with his little lamb:
And here I am at 40 weeks, 1 week before he was born. You can even see a smidgen of the Little Joey Kangaroo Hoodie that I made for him:
I didn’t have the easiest pregnancy, and sadly, the moment that I began feeling morning sickness I was knitting, which left a bad taste in my mouth for the entire 41 weeks, and I hardly picked up a pair of knitting needles. Our nursery was slowly created, as my sewing room gave way. Packed into the carrying case on a shelf, my 40 lb Bernina was only liberated by my husband for simple projects, as he didn’t want me overdoing it, which didn’t take much at all. Last fall I had to drop a class, and got to Pass/No Pass with another. Needless to say, I got a NP. I finished my Fabric Science class with the highest grade of all my fellow pupils. But sitting down and reading was something, if not the only thing, that I was capable of.
As I get back into the swing of things now, I will have much more to say about my new favorite little guy. Since his birth I have really started getting back into my knitting, but was unable to even think about getting thew sewing machine out for about 8 weeks after he was born. Ramon did get it out for me when our little critter was a month old, to make him a little hat. But so far, that is the extent of my postpartum sewing. I spend a lot of time reading to the little buckaroo, and watching him sleep in my arms while I knit in our Luca Glider chair—my new favorite piece of furniture that we own—in his nursery.
About two weeks before the critter was due I started a Father’s day gift for my dad. Since I started knitting, I have been trying to think of something to knit for my dad, who happens to be a big monkey lover.
He’s not a sweater guy, or a sock guy, not much for mittens or scarfs … but when I stumbled across the Monkey Hat from Cascade Yarns book: 60 Quick Knits, I knew it was meant to be.
He takes the dogs hiking in the forest daily, and wears a hat that he sticks feathers in, as he finds along the way. He’s super excited about the new baby, and says that he can’t wait to take our little guy out on hikes with him, so I though that for father’s day, he’d get a kick out of him and the little guy having matching hats.
Thus, I altered this pattern significantly for a baby size, and also for an adult size. This also turned out to be a great stash-busting project as I was able to utilize my yarn nubbins and leftovers from making all those Little Joey Kangaroo Hoodies! I diligently kept notes as I know my dad, and I wanted my promise of being able to re-make the hat should anything happen to them, be true.
14” circumference. To fit my baby in a few months, not as a newborn, as shown in the picture.
Muzzle: Worked 4 rows less than specified, and kept it to 22 sts.
Earflaps: Worked I-Cord to be about 11 inches, so I can tie it more securely, with a bow. Changed the shaping of the earflaps from a triangle, to more of a “U” shape, which I think is more aesthetically pleasing. Each ear flap 15 sts, and a little shorter.
Cap: 72 sts total, around. So, I subtracted 2 from each “side” and according to gauge also subtracted 2 inches. I worked the cap in the garter st/ stockinette st pattern for 3” then started with the 2nd decrease.
For my decreasing I worked the piece even for fewer vertical rows/inches, and then I included some extra rows after each decrease, which I think makes a more gently rounded crown, and which is also what I prefer. So, I decreased as follows:
Dec 1: Didn’t follow/didn’t need a I had 72 sts already.
Dec 2: Same, but continued working in garter st/stockinette st. Worked 3 rows even after decrease row.
Dec 3: Same, but continued working in garter st/stockinette st. Worked 3 rows even after decrease row.
Dec 4: Same, now working in garter stitch all the way around. Worked 2 rows even after decrease row.
Dec 5: Same, but instead of K2tog I needed a P2Tog. Worked 2 rows even after decrease row.
Dec 6: Same.
Dec 7: Same.
Dec 8: Same.
Dec 9: Same.
Dec 10: New! K2Tog until 4 sts remained.
Muzzle: Worked 10 more rows than specified, and increased it to 30 sts.
Earflaps: Left the I-Cord off. I added a small buttonhole to each earflap, so Grandpa can wear them them “up” if he’d like. Changed the shaping of the earflaps from a triangle, to more of a “U” shape, which I think is more aesthetically pleasing. Each ear flap 20 sts, and is 3” long.
Cap: 104 sts total, around. I worked the cap in the garter st/ stockinette st pattern for 5” then started decreasing. I CO 6 sts between the muzzle and the earflap, and CO 22 sts in the back.
For the decreasing, I worked 11 decrease rounds. After the first round, I worked 5 more rows in patt. For the proceeding 10 decreases, there was 1 even row after each decrease.
For the eyes: I cast on 36 st, and worked first 3 rows as specified in pattern. Decreased to 24 sts, and worked 3 rows even, then followed decreases as specified in pattern.
For the ears: I cast on 36 st, and worked first 3 rows as specified in pattern. Decreased to 24 sts, and worked 1 row even, then followed decreases as specified in pattern.
August 26, 2011 § 1 Comment
So at long last I finished my Continental Owls sweater. About a month ago I mentioned that I feel it is time for me to step up my game, but that means taking a few steps back.
Switching from English knitting style—which I have done everything in until this point—to learning how to knit Continental style, wow, this little puppy took me a while, and caused a great soreness in new muscles! I had to try holding the yarn 4 different ways on my left hand to finally find a comfortable position. But I finally did find a good place, and now I am working on even more things in this new style. The soreness is now also going away.
Starting the leftover yarn from my Rihanna Inspired Nautical Cropped Pullover —Berroco Comfort in Black/Liquorice— and acquiring a wee bit more, I accomplished this sweater in the wrong yarn weight, and I feel like my modifications created a successful outcome!
Changes to the pattern:
- I used a worsted weight vs a chunky weight
- I worked the ribbing on size US 8 (5.0mm) Needle, and the body, St St, Owls on a US 9 (5.5mm) Needle
- Instead of working size 1, which would fit me, I did some calculations from my gauge swatch and worked a size 5 (second largest) in the smaller needles/yarn to compensate
- I worked long short rows around the arms and back to elongate and shape, compensating for the lack of height after the owls, which wouldn’t have been an issue if I had been working with the specified materials in the pattern
- I made the sweater have more of a crew neck than a boat neck, as that is what I prefer to wear. This was done with the previously mentioned short rows.
- I made the owls have pointy ears by working a SSK, K4, K2Tog over each owl, after finishing the owls. I then had to go in and calculate the rest of the decreases for the yoke to be shaped appropriately.
- I also learned that it is VERY difficult to take pictures of a black sweater with detail work …
Overall, I am super happy with the outcome, but the stitches overall looked fairly uneven. After throwing this machine washable and dry-able yarn in the laundry on the delicate cycle the stitches really evened themselves out. Though I will add that I am still glad that I chose to do this project in problem-hiding-black. I wish it were colder out right now, just so I could wear this sweater more. It will be treated like a sweatshirt in the winter, in that it is going to be used frequently, and I don’t have to care to much about looking after and being kind to it.
March 25, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I don’t know what it is about Friday’s, why do I always end up feeling like crap? Ramon had pretty bad food poisoning two nights ago, which we think was caused from Salsa. Feeling nauseous all day yesterday and today, and having foul tummy issues, I think I have the same food poisoning, but in a more minor way. It was pretty much all I could do today to get this post written, and sweater finished. All that being said …
Happy to reunited with my knitting mid week, I was finally able to finish the sweater that I am titling, “The Sweater That is Trying to Kill Me,” also known as the the sweater that was the cause of the mandatory Knitcation, also known as the cover sweater from Precious by Kim Hargreaves.
I was so excited about this sweater when I bought the yarn from Stitches West, from Nordic Mart. The yarn was great, and fun to work with, but the pattern was a nightmare, a disaster … I should have re-written it from the top-down before beginning.
I did make a few changes to the pattern, in order to make it even, well, wearable. The sweater is supposed to be a wide neck, and even though my gauge was dead on, the neck was so wide, it didn’t even come around or over my shoulders at all. I had to add a good three inches to it to get it to work, and 16 short rows on the side/arm pieces, which also meant going out to buy additional buttons.
In the end, I am not super excited about it. With the additions made at the neck, I feel like there are some funny looking areas, and if I had known what was going to happen—if I had been smart enough to rewrite the pattern top-down in the round—I could have avoided these small, but noticeable eyesores. I just feel like if you are going to spend THAT LONG on a sweater, you should be totally happy with it in the end.
Additionally, I have either lost weight, or did something else funny, because, as previously stated, even though my gauge was right, I feel like the sweater is overall too loose, and is a bit baggy. Boo for baggy. Not what I wanted.
Sweater still in progress, trying to figure out how much more to add:
Perhaps I tend to get sick-ish on Friday’s because my body is trying to tell me to slow down. There is just so much I want to do, and right now, I don’t feel up for any of it.
Also, a quick thanks to Ramon, for helping me with getting a sweater picture tonight. He is feeling under the weather, too.
March 13, 2011 § 3 Comments
Stitches West. Ok, ok, so it was a month ago, but I at least I am finally getting to it. With a neck that isn’t functioning, and my mandatory knitcation, I finally have time to get up to date.
So, before I proceed, I’d like to define two terms that I have created in my wooly webbed world.
1. to Yarn (verb): the act of working with, or playing with yarn of any type. Ex. As I wrote an email to each of my sisters, I was unaware that my cat was yarning with 183 yards of fingerling weight superwash merino wool, and then I had to spend 45 minutes sorting, collecting, and re-winding it.
2. Yarnie (noun): A person, or creature, who yarns. Ex. Me, both of my cats, but primarily the fat one, and anyone who knits, crochets, spins, or weaves.
I understand that Yarnies sounds a lot like Carnies, you know, the fine, weird folk from the Carnival. It is not meant to be insulting, but, lets be honest here, yarn people, much including myself, tend a little more to be the black sheep of the flock. I have called people who yarn, Yarnies, for quite some time, but never in public, as I haven’t wanted to offend anyone. However, at the Ravelry.com Happy Hour, just after the market preview, I did meet a woman with a beard gloating over her yarn purchases before the flocks of yarnies could rush the market hall during general admission the following day.
I did meet some great folks at the happy hour. Though, in traditional Yarnie fashion, the happy hour happened from 8–9:30 pm, which, in my book, is a weeeee bit late for happy hour, and more like, well, dinner time.
The following day I had a strict plan of previewing, making notes, taking pictures, and gathering information to bring home, dwell on for the evening, then return the following day to make my purchase. Well, we all knew that my plan had only a chance in hell of being fulfilled, but I lied to myself to try to make it through. Overall, I did really well, only purchasing a few small things that day, and I did, in fact, ruminate over my notes and ideas on Friday evening, and returned on Saturday to make my well thought out purchases.
I have to admit that I was disappointed not to see many of the big yarn manufactures there. In fact, I only saw a few. Cascade Yarns was one of them, and I made good friends, but no Plymouth, no Malibrigo, no Berocco, and well, really no one else. There were many small manufactures there, which was great. Fun to get to see and touch unique fibers and colors that you really can’t find anywhere else. I was also disappointed to see many signs saying “No Photography,” which meant that I lugged my 5lb Nikon D200 around all day as an exercise weight. I guess the yarnie vendors are worried about you seeing a knit garment/blanket/accessory/what-have-you and taking a picture and re-creating. But really, no pictures of a hank of yarn? Really? Bummertown. Thus, all of the pictures in this post, the few that there are, are crappy sneaky/hidden iPhone pics. Bummertown about the quality, sorry.
One of my favorite was Tess Designer Yarns. Such luxurious yarns and amazing colorways. I couldn’t keep my paws off of them. I made one impulse buy from Tess, and another for a specific project. I resisted the cashmere that I really, really wanted, as I felt that $225 pre tax was more than someone who is unemployed should be spending on a sweater.
Caption: Impulse buy baby blanket. No, I know I don’t have a baby, but it was just so beautiful that I bought the yarn to make one. It will be waiting for the day, but in my yarn-stash none-the-less.
At the Ravelry dinner-time happy hour I heard stories about The Sanguine Gryphon and made my way over to the booth, which, sadly was hidden sort of near the back. The gals working the booth were dressed in ren-faire costume, and the yarns and samples at the booth were even more impressive than the yarn wenches. After some bad experiences I am trying to stay away from variegated yarns, and even though The Sanguine Gryphon had some of the greets variegated colorways I have seen yet, I only bought a solid color, enough to do a cute, lightweight sweater.
Caption: Not the yarn I bought, but a notable yarnie item at the Sanguine Gryphon booth.
Then, around 4 o’clock on Friday, it hit me. I had over-yarned. I found myself just wandering through the market halls, glassy-eyed and parched. I forgot to bring water, even though I did remember my glut ten free sandwich and a yogurt. The yarnies running Stitches West weren’t accommodating an audience with a glutten allergy, so I was glad I planned ahead. Knowing it was time to go, I left, arriving back at home in a heap, unable to review my notes until after getting dinner, and a margarita.
In addition to the many yarn vendor booths, there were also some vendors of other varieties, though most all related to yarn. Looks like I am not the only one who has trouble with their cats yarning.
All in all it was a great event, and I was so happy that I learned about it in January, so that I was able to attend. During the Happy Hour, I a yarnie—not the one with the beard—tried for about 20 minutes to convince me that Stitches West is unlike any trade-show I had ever been to before, though she never really stated why, just “You’ll see! You’ll see.” I have to disagree with her assessment. I have been to enough trade-shows in enough different segments of the consumer world to know that they are all the same, just the goods change, and the genders/ages/weights/general demographics of the die-hard enthusiasts at the show.
So, in total:
Bearded Ladies: 1
Dogs in Knit Handbags: 2
Booths for removal of cat hair from yarn projects: 1
People who stopped me to comment on my Subway Hat: 50+
Great yarn: too much to count.
Days until the next Stitches West: 325, give or take.
March 12, 2011 § 4 Comments
So I have been working like a mad-lady trying to get these two dressed designed, patterned, sewn and photographed to submit for a competition, and while I finished one, the second one, I realized only at the very last moment, just wasn’t meant to be. With the production rush I have been very, very bad about not posting, but what can I say.
Last weekend, Ramon and I traveled up to my mom’s house to hang out. So funny and so cute, my mom had called a few days before we arrived stating that, “Since you are having so much fun with your yarn, I want to try to take up crochet, again. Can you give me a lesson.” Happy to oblige and after a trip to Walmart to buy cheap, big yarn, and big crocheting needles, she is now off and running, able to 1. identify mistakes and more importantly 2. go back and fix them.
Also on our little northern voyage, we took a 22 mile drive out to see Lamborghini. And while, sadly for us, it was raining, Lambo didn’t let that stop her from a Triscut feast. With sheering time only weeks away, I tried to make good friends with Lambo, as I will be super lucky to acquire her goods after the woolly event, which I will hopefully be able to watch, and maybe even participate it.
Now to the bad news.
I have been working on this sweater that I love, the cover sweater from Precious by Kim Hargreaves but really, why would you ever not do something top-down … Size three needles and some stress from the sewing extravaganza, my wrist really started hurting. After a week of hurting, I finally [made the mistake and] said something to Ramon. Now he has mandated a knitcation for 1-2 weeks, though please note, it is a vacation from, not for, knitting.
This was all fine and good, as I was able to sew, until a few nights ago, when I had a very bad muscle spasm in my neck.
Basically unable to move my neck at all, it took 5 hours yesterday to get to the art store to buy illustration board to mount the pictures I had already taken of my sewing competition entries, get the pictures mounted to the board (a task I have done hundreds, if not thousands of times), and get it down to FedEx. I already had all of the forms filled out, pictures touched-up and printed, but FIVE HOURS!!! This was followed by a two hour nap, then a margarita, then sleep. Ugh.
Today my neck is still very stiff, but since I can’t knit, I feel like a bump on a log, and totally worthless. With nothing else left to turn to, I have started to crochet the Broomstick and Lace hat from my 12in11 list. Making good progress, and I love the Blue Sky Alpacas: Alpaca Silk Yarn in 120 White that I am using, though I still feel like crochet is much more difficult than knitting.
So now slowly I go, trying to get back to normal, whatever that is.
February 27, 2011 § 2 Comments
OK So, last week, I had a serious meltdown.
Infact, I think I am still having it. So, I decided I needed to take a long, hard look at my priorities, get some things straight, and weed some projects out.
Ramon determined that I need to start telling people “no” more frequently, so I am trying, now, to put this into effect. Still, I am still feeling completely overwhelmed, and as thought I absolutely can’t get any time for myself to work on my projects. Though, quietly, and through the cracks, I am seeing some progress being made. My sketchbook and swatch-books are filling, slowly, but none-the-less. I have also decided to eliminate one project completely, or, at least until after I have finished my McQueen project, and I am being a little less adventurous with cooking dinner. I still just wish that I had more time though …
While in the midst of my meltdown, I decided to finish the last project that caused a meltdown, the blue Alexander McQueen Sweater Dress. I ripped the collar out for about the sixth time, and it would appear that I have learned a lot in the last few months as I didn’t have any trouble with it this time. I happily finished weaving in all of the ends, and then wore it to Stitches West, where the kind folks at the Cascade Yarns booth took my picture in the dress, and posted it on the Cascade Yarns website.
Having now worn this dress out three times, I feel incredibly proud of my handywork, and pattern-making skills. So soft, and SO WARM!
Also in the middle of the meltdown, I finished a knitting project that should have taken me a week, but instead took three: the Feather tunic from my favorite knitting book of 2011 Modern Top-Down Knitting
Looking falsly lumpy on my crappy dressform, I L O V E this tunic. I have worn it four times since finishing it last week. A fun, easy project and easy to wear. I did make a few changes, and I also learned a few new skills. I changed the shaping of the skirt to be a bit more fitting, spacing out the increases from four rows to four inches. I also had the opportunity to learn how to crochet elastic into the waistband, which was very easy. Additionally, i learned how to double crochet, and while it is a useful skill, I preferred the look of two rounds of double crochet at the bottom, so went with that, instead. I am still looking for trim to put on the inside of the hem, and haven’t yet found anything that I love just yet.
I will do my best to get some hallway images of both of these dresses as soon as I can!