Sunday, February 28, 2010

Done: Girly Top

Stella frontRavelympics victory is mine!

Did I already mention that?

My wardrobe has expanded by one.

And what a lovely one is it.

I finally cornered Hubby and made him take my picture. I have to admit he was right about the light, it isn't showing the details at all. But you get the general idea.

And he immediately said, "I can see your bra line." I was like, "Well, this is probably the bra I'll be wearing it with and I don't feel like changing, so take the picture!"

I took it to the store yesterday and everyone oohed and aahed over it and said the fit was just perfect. Which is always nice to hear. I had on a different bra yesterday and nobody said it looked bad and you would think a bunch of women would have jumped on that situation. So I might have to reconsider my foundation garments when I wear this in the future.

Project Stats
Pattern: Stella's Blouse by Robin Melanson from the Spring 2004 issue of Interweave Knits.

If you don't have that issue, the pattern is now available independently from the online Interweave store filed under "tops, tanks, and camisoles." Frankly, if you have a Ravelry account follow the link from the project page, that's the only way I found it.

Yarn: Rowan Cotton Glace in color 827, which is a nice powder blue.
The pattern called for eight for my size. I bought nine, but can only find labels for eight, so I guess I threw one away. But I have two entire balls plus 27 grams left over. So I only used seven balls.

Needles: US 3 & 4 (as required).

Size: 34" scaled down to around a 32", which brings us to...

Stella backI really liked the top but new the smallest size, 34", would be too big for me clocking in at 31".
I was able to track down Robin on Ravelry and ask about downsizing it by ditching 10 stitches, 5 each on the front and back.
She agreed that would give me the right amount of ease and probably still fit properly through the shoulders, etc.

I worked the sleeves as instructed without changes.

I cast on and worked the bottoms of the body through the patterned sections as instructed for the 34" size.

Then I decreased one stitch at each end of the needle on two right side rows, then one on one end on the next right side row.

I worked all the shoulder and neck shaping according to the pattern. Only I didn't have a center stitch to decrease away for the front notch.

Also, the pattern calls for a slip stitch row of crochet around the front notch, but I ended up going around the entire neck opening. I put my hook into the last loop from binding off and just when forward from there. Which meant one less end to weave in.

Finally, the pattern calls for a zipper down the left side, but as I think I mentioned the other day I just seamed it shut and I can get it on and off just fine.

At this point, and in these pictures, the sweater has not been blocked, aside from when I hit it with the iron before I sewed it together. I figure washing it is blocking it.

Photographic Trickery
I'm very pleased with it. I think it looks adorable and I can't wait to wear it. I can't decide if I should go ahead and wear it despite the fact its a short sleeved cotton top and the weather is hovering around 35 degrees F, or wait until the spring.

However, I am a little surprised about how the neckline turned out.

You might remember I was expressing surprise at how open it was when I finished the knitting, but I thought the collar would bring it all in.

But if you look at the original picture it looks like a high collar, almost a Neru collar.

Yeah, not so much on my finished version. And the two projects on Ravelry that are shown on people also don't have a high collar.

I think the size was too big for the model and they shifted it back on her to make it fit better. Because if I grab the shoulders of mine and shift the fabric back I can get it to look like the magazine picture. Also, if you look at where the model's breasts are in relation to the smocking they are much closer than mine.

Anyway, I suppose on the scale of photographic deception this is pretty minor because the sweater is still lovely and fits me really well. But I was a bit surprised is all.

Ok, time to go work on my Tartan Argyle Socks.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ravelympics Medal


I got my medal for finishing my Ravelympics project last night.

I don't have a finished object photo to share with you yet.

It rained for the last three days, then switched to snow overnight.

It snowed all day (with little accumulation) and Hubby said "the light is bad" and refused to be my photographer.

I suppose he has a point. Although I thought the Green Room was rather bright.

Hopefully I'll be able to corner him before the weekend is out.

These creative types, they can't be reasoned with.

Ok, my Tartan Argyle Sock is calling.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Girly Top: Two More Rows

That's it!

I just have to work two more rows on the collar, bind off, and I'm done!

Well, except for crocheting around the neck opening to stabilize it...

and attaching two buttons...

and weaving in the rest of the ends from the body seams.

But, aside from that stuff, I'm basically done.

Yes, I know it seems silly to have stopped knitting when I was so close. And believe me, I considered powering through and staying up past my bedtime if necessary to finish.

But I'd spent time online yesterday harassing other knitters about remembering to rest when they felt pain, so I decided to follow my own advice.

This combination of the cotton yarn on the Addi Turbos in a pattern just kills my hands.

I was fine for the plain stockinette stitch portions, but the way I use my fingers to manipulate the stitches while working the smocking and ribbing apparently causes stress.

Last night I kept having to stop after working two or three rows, stretch my hands, shake them, maybe wander around the house for a bit.

I could tell it wasn't wise to keep pushing myself.

I have to imagine I'll be able to get through these two rows and the bind off tonight without a problem, though.

Then I have to decide on buttons. I just need two.

I was looking through my meager button collection back when I started the sweater and I might have some that will work.

On the other hand, we used to have little rhinestone ones at the store. They could be cute if they aren't too flashy.

The button decision could delay the true finish until this weekend.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Girly Top: Forward, Collar

Girly Top neck Finally managed to pick up the correct number of stitches last night.

Took about another hour, which is just pathetic. But in my defense I was watching TV, again, and kept stopping to actually watch the show. Then I would say, "oh, my goodness!" and get back to my knitting.

Anyway. I decided that I liked the look my work on the first neck edge (which is actually what you see in the picture). So I put a stitch marker after that batch of stitches.

Most of the back neck looked good as well, however it turned out I didn't pick up enough stitches, so I put a stitch marker at the area that could be fiddled.

The second neck edge was a lost cause.

It helped to realize I didn't have to squeeze all three missing stitches into the one neck edge. I was able to redistribute them across part of the back and the front.

Perhaps my method is too hit or miss.

Then, of course, the section of "Sweater Design in Plain English" I read this morning covered picking up stitches.

Righetti suggests dividing the section in half, then each half into halves. She points out it is easier to pick up a smaller number of stitches evenly across a smaller area.

And I went, duh. Because, of course, I knew that trick, and have applied it in the past. I just...forgot.

It seemed like such a smooth easy yarn I was working with. And the pattern even indicates how many stitches to pick up on each section of the neckline.

I was lulled into a false sense of security.

Collar Time
Hubby called me for dinner just as I was working my first few actual rows of the collar. I was also in the last few minutes of my show. But I halted both activities and tumbled downstairs.

It was just as well. After we finished eating I looked at my work and decided it looked too loose.

I was working on my US 4 needle when the smocking section on the body was worked on the US 3.

Switching straight to the smaller needle might have made and unpleasant and obvious change to the gauge. To avoid it I ripped back the three rows I'd worked by using the US 3 to pick up the first real row of knitting then pulling the US 4 out.

It was sort of slow going, but I didn't want to risk yanking the needle out, having stitches drop everywhere, and starting over again with picking up the stitches.

I was able to get back to the point where I could work the first few repeats of row 3 (which is the wrap row for the smocking) before bedtime.

The shame of it is there are only around 16 rows in the collar, from what I remember, so loosing those three rows of work was actually a significant percentage in this case.

I'm not going to worry about it, however, because it's only Wednesday and I've still got plenty of time.

My Apple!
A few weeks ago my mom and aunt came to town for a fund raising event for the Red Cross that featured chocolate dishes from local restaurants.

My aunt bid on, and won, an auction item. Which meant it was up to me to retrieve it for her.

Their office hours collided with my office hours, so the lady kindly agreed to meet me at 8 am today.

I was hoping to just leave the house for the day, but it turns out I'm not that coordinated in the morning.

Instead I had to leave then come home 10 minutes later to pack my lunch.

Of course this sent the puppies into a tizzy.

As I defended myself from Samson, I grabbed an apple out of the fruit bowl, crossed the kitchen to put it on the counter next to the sink, then crossed back to the other side of the room.

I didn't even realize the apple had rolled off the counter until I saw Baru running victory laps with it in his mouth.

He must have made four or five laps before I said, "I see you, Baru." Then he settled down in the green room and devoured his prize.

Samson was so busy dancing around me that he missed the entire thing.

There was another half apple in the bowl. Instead of eating it, I handed it over to Samson. I was intending to feed it to the pups anyway. It was cut a few days ago and was getting brown.

So instead of a nice piece of fruit for lunch, I have a lame spinach "salad," which is just spinach with dressing since I didn't have time to make a full salad.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Girly Top: Neck Pain

Have I mentioned how much I dislike picking up stitches along an edge? Especially a neck edge.

Oh, I have? Several times?

Well, I'm not surprised because I really don't like it.

First, it's so loosey-goosey. Oh, maybe pick up each stitch, or every other stitch, whatever seems right.

I don't want it to "seem right!" I want a formula! I want to be able to pick them up correctly the first time, every time.

But that is not my fate.

My fate is to struggle with it for over an hour and still not have it right.

Yes, I know for a fact it was over an hour because we were watching Heroes, which we had recorded. It was a little difficult to watch the show and my knitting, which might have been part of the problem, but both had to be accomplished.

I considered working on my Green Step Sock instead, but the week is drawing to a close. (Yes, I know it's only Tuesday.) It would be a shame to have come so far, so fast, on my Ravelympics project only to fail now.


It took me several attempts to get the required number of stitches picked up along the first neck edge.

The back of the neck was a little easier since it is a straight line and mostly one-for-one.

Then I tried to copy the first edge for the second edge and it didn't quite work out. I was three stitches short of the required number.

Which might be a pattern repeat, but I'm not going there. I'm going to squeeze them in somehow.

By the time I'd gotten that far it was 10:30, i.e. bedtime, so I shoved it into my project bag in disgust, tossed it on the dresser, and pulled the covers over my head.

Hopefully with fresher eyes tonight after work I'll be able to spot any gappy spots.

Hopefully I won't have to go all the way back to the beginning.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Girly Top: "Sew" Delightful

Do you see that?

It's actually starting to look like a real sweater!

Very exciting.

What is also exciting is how quickly I was able to seam it up.

Let's see, according to my Twitter timeline, I was able to set-in both sleeves during one marathon 3 hour session Friday night. With, apparently, breaks for playing on the computer and probably dinner.

Then I got both side and sleeve seams done in bursts on Saturday, in between gallivanting across the countryside with Hubby and going to the movies, finishing around 11 pm.

Now, maybe that doesn't sound fast to you, but I'm sure it usually takes me much longer to sew up a sweater.

I don't know if it's because it's a little, short sleeved thing or because it had full on selvedge stitches, but I think it went together a treat.

Not the Voice of Experience
It's not like I've made a million sweaters, but I'm pretty sure this is the first one I've made with a legitimate selvedge stitch.

And by that I mean not just assuming the first and last stitches will be eaten by the seam. This pattern calls for the first and last stitch to be knit on every row, making a garter stitch column up the sides.

This greatly reduced the fussing involved of squishing the edge out while trying to find the ladder to grab for the mattress stitch.

I was just able to bounce from side to side, boom, boom, boom. Because they were right there obvious.

Now I want all my sweater patterns to be like this.

On the other hand, like I said, it is a short sleeve top, so that might be helping.

No Zipper Required
Another exciting turn of events is that I'm going to be able to skip the zipper.

The pattern calls for a zipper down the left side for ease of entry, I suppose.

I saw someone on Ravelry who said she was able to get the sweater on and off without it and it gave me hope.

I figured I had nothing to loose since I was sitting there sewing it up anyway. If it worked I could move ahead. If it didn't I would be stalled. I was already plotting finding out how much the tailor at our dry cleaner would charge. Happily it didn't come to that.

After all, since the bottom section of my sweater was technically sized for a person who would take a 34 inch bust I expected to have wiggle room.

And it worked! Yippee!

After I got both sides sewn up I slithered into it, then bounced into the living room. Hubby got a gleem in his eye, which indicated it looked good. So I dashed up stairs to the full length mirror and saw it fits quite well.

Now I just have to get through the collar.

Open Wide
I was still rather concerned about how open the neck line is looking, so I took it into the store Sunday.

We looked at the picture and decided the smocking is going to both draw it in and fill it in, so I'm sure I'll be fine.

I got hardly any work done on it Sunday. I was being good and focused on weaving in the ends from the seams. But then it was time to watch TV, which is not conducive to either weaving ends or picking up neckline stitches, so I switched to my Green Step Sock.

The heel has been turned and the gusset picked up. Decreases here I come.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Girly Top: Getting Close

Girly top frontOn Tuesday I wrote this long post, as I do, and when I hit the "publish" button I was redirected to the login page.

I thought that was a bad sign, but I completed the login process only to be greeted by a polite message that they could not process my request at this time.

And my post was gone. poof!

There wasn't even a draft saved.

I was so traumatized that I've been unable to blog since.

Well, that and we were closing an issue and you know how cranky and unavailable that makes me.

Shape Armhole, Shape Neck
Fortunately, I was not so traumatized that I was unable to knit!

That would have been rather disastrous to my Ravelympic aspirations.

On Tuesday I was just finished the bottom patterning and starting on the stockinette stitch portion of the body.

As of last night the knitting is basically done!

I think I have one more row to work on the shoulders, then I can three-needle bind off the front to the back.

Let the finishing commence!

Shoulder Shaping Rebellion
The pattern is not written for a three-needle bind off.

It is written with some step shaping, a traditional bind off, then sewing the shoulders together.

I rebelled against that, just worked to the required number of stitches, left them live on a holder, and cut the yarn.

I didn't even short row them. Mainly because I botched picking up the short row wraps on Nell's shoulders and I'm worried about botching them again.

Of course, now I wish I had worked the shaping since I've finally been reading my copy of Sweater Design in Plain English by Maggie Righetti and have a better understand of why sweater shoulders are shaped.

Oh, well, too late now.

Actually, I might have to count rows. I might have worked rows even that should have been shaped, so I might have enough yarn to pick them out and shape them. But I wouldn't hold my breath on that if I were you.

I am a little concerned about how wide the neck opening looks when I laid it out for the picture.

I'm pretty sure I worked the neck shaping properly. It just kept saying X stitches Y times. But I went a head and worked the bind offs every other row.

I mean, you basically have to. The yarn isn't in the correct place otherwise.

My coping mechanism is reminding myself I'm going to pick up around the opening and work a little collar.

On Track

The knitting just flew along. I'm a bit surprised it only took me about seven days to knit the front.

This gives me nine days to work on sewing it together, weaving in ends, and working the collar.

This is where things get dangerous.

I don't like finishing.

I like the idea of finishing.

And I like the magic of turning these pieces into a sweater and the way the stitches suck together as I'm sewing, but the actual process doesn't appeal to me.

Also, I can't watch TV and seam a sweater at the same time, which conflicts with our evening activities.

I might have to be focused and work on the sweater when I first get home before dinner while Hubby is doing school work.

Wish me luck.

Oh, and the second green step sock is ready for its heel flap. Thanks for asking.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Things That Smell Good

Vflowers2 And I'm not talking about wet dog!

The flowers I got for Valentine's Day. Sneaky thing had them sent to the yarn store when I was working Sunday.

Because getting flowers is good. Getting them where other people can be jealous is better. hehehe.

The lilies are very fragrant and heady. I've been carrying the bouquet around the house with me.

Mainly had it parked on the coffee table next to me, but also brought it up to the bedroom last night so I could see it first thing this morning. Now they are on the mantel in the living room so the pups can't get them.

Vanilla Vanilla. mmmmm.

The one on the right I bought in Mexico for like $5 back in 1997 or 98.

Hubby and I have been watching the end approach with dread. We've joked that we won't know what to do when it runs out, it's been so long since we had to buy vanilla.

The one on the left I bought on Sunday at Penzeys Spices. We won't discuss how much it cost, but it wasn't $5. Neat store, though.

The bottle doesn't pour well, for trying to fill a little half teaspoon measure. I had to use one of Hubby's wine pouring spouts to control it.

Boston Cream pie Boston Cream Pie.

From scratch.

Yes, the baking spree continues. Oh, and I made another loaf of that sandwich bread, but I did use the dry milk this time. I let you know more tomorrow.

Between Valentine's Day and Hubby's Birthday both being in February, it was a good excuse to make an elaborate cake.

I used the recipe in the Fannie Farmer Cook book. But I did the creamy chocolate frosting, not the eclair frosting.

I gave Hubby the whisk from the frosting to lick.

"Why did you warm up the frosting," he asked.

I made the frosting.

"No one has every made me frosting from scratch before."

I guess no one has ever loved you this much before.

We must not miss an opportunity to drive these points home.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bread and More Bread

Sandwich bread Well, I wasn't getting much knitting done on my Ravelympics project for most of the day.

No, instead I had the urge to throw more flour around the kitchen.

This time I made King Arthur Flour's Classic White Bread. What I like about their blog is they give you extra little tips that aren't contained in the normal recipe. The pictures are helpful as well.

Like this whole idea of rubbing the top with a stick of butter when you first take it out of the oven, which is why mine looks so shiny. Really increases the butter flavor.

On the other hand, I'm usually going for a crispy, crunchy crust, so I'll probably stick with brushing the top with water when it first goes in the oven. But you have to try these things at least once.

Although I let it rest for five minutes after taking it out of the oven, I totally burnt my fingers trying to cut a slice (or two) so I could munch it while it was still warm.

Definitely a different flavor than the Scali bread I was making earlier in the week. But still very tasty.
Bread int
I'm not sure that mine rose as much as theirs. I think the kitchen got a little chilly. But it still fluffed up nicely and tastes good. If I keep this bread baking nonsense up I'm going to have to get a new box of dried milk and see what difference it makes.

Part of me wanted to put the large version of this picture in the blog because I'm so very please with the interior texture of this bread, but that would have been silly because the picture is so huge.

Seriously, the bottom and side crust are nice and crispy, the interior is soft and chewy, and the top crust is all soft and buttery. So many textures and so much flavor to enjoy, what's not to love?
Samson breadI'm going to have such yummy toast with breakfast tomorrow.

Obviously Samson, who is a little blurry because he was in motion when I took this, totally understands what I'm talking about. Or at least he thinks he understands and would love to experience what I'm talking about first paw.

After all, we're talking about a pup who likes bread and loves butter, so that loaf would be right up his alley. Which is why it safely tucked away in the cupboard over the stove.

I also made a loaf of banana bread. I noticed last night that our bananas had been ignored and got overripe. Whipped that up with the recipe I always use from "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cooking Basics." (What?! I bought it when I got my first apartment after college.) I like to put a half cup each of chocolate and peanut butter chips in it.

At this point, between the three loaves of bread, the peanut butter cookies, and the banana bread, I have blown through the bag of flour I bought barely two weeks ago! I need more flour. Wow, I've done a lot of baking lately.

I was a very busy girl today.

Let's see. I mixed the banana bread and put it in the oven, then mixed the sandwich bread, then went to the library, then shaped the sandwich bread, then played online, then put the bread in the oven, got the laundry going, then finally settled down to knit around like 3 pm. Oh, and I played fetch with the pups a couple time.

Knitting Banana bread
Just now before I came up I made it through the pleats section of Stella's Blouse. About 30 rows. I'm a bit concerned that it's taken me like 4 hours of knitting to work 30 rows, but they are 121 stitches each and there is a pattern.

Of course, now I'm into the smocking section, which won't go much faster. But after that it's all stockinette stitch all the time, and I'm expecting that to whip along. Especially since it's going to have far few stitches to work.

I had to stop because I have to decrease many, many stitches away before I start the smocking and I didn't want to have to figure out the math to balance it. I remember that was rather painful on the sleeves and back.

Of course, I seem to remember the one sleeve had other issues I didn't discover until I was trying to decrease.

Instead of straining my brain, I went to this calculator, which did the math for me. yipee!

At the same time, I'm having to remember to take breaks, stretch, and rest my hands. I kind of forgot the combination of the cotton yarn with the Addi Turbo needles is a bit rough on me.

Really, I'm not accustomed to working with the Addis. Oh, I like them fine, but generally I spend most of my time knitting with bamboo or birch double points for my socks, or my Denise Interchangeables, which are plastic. None of those needles are a slick as Addis and it's a bit of an adjustment.

However, it's bed time now, so more knitting is going to have to wait until tomorrow.

Friday, February 12, 2010

All Riled Up

Stella sleeve close The winter Olympics, and therefore the Knitting Olympics and the Ravelympics start tonight!

I will not be participating in the first two, except vicariously.

As I understand it, The Knitting Olympics are for projects cast on and finished between the opening and closing ceremonies.

I'm all about finishing a work in progress, so I'm sticking with the Ravelympics, which have far more event categories.

My plan is to finish my Stella Blouse aka Girly Top.

All I have to do is knit the front and seam it together.

I believe I've even already cast on and worked a few rows, at last count, so I'm over the hard part.

I know I can finish a pair of socks, even a pair of Hubby Socks, in two weeks if they are my only project. So I'm wondering how a sweater front compares to a pair of socks. It's a thicker gauge, so that has to help.

Anyway, I'm going to be confident in my ability to complete this challenge. And if it's not quite done on Feb 28, at least I'll be well on my way.

Tartan Sock Update
As promised, I counted stitches at many points on the first sock last night.

I counted on the toe just after the side seams and before the shaping. I got 60 sts.


I counted across the instep and got 28. Which didn't make sense because I know the pattern is 30 sts wide. So I was looking at a 56 st sock. Where did the toe morph back into 60?

Oh, right, four stitches were eaten on each side for the seams.


I counted the heel flap again and it's still 28 stitches wide.

I looked closely and think I found the second decrease.

It appears that I probably accidentally decreased those two stitches away since they are both on the same half of the heel flap. That is, if I'd planned them I would have deleted one from each half when I joined the flap together so things would have been balanced.

So it looks like I'll decrease two stitches from the second heel flap just to make them match.

As it is, I've continued on the instep and think I'll probably go ahead and finish the pattern repeat, weave in the ends, then double back to the heel flap like I did on the first one.

Of course, this is all out the door at 9 p.m. tonight when the Olympics start!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tartan Socks: Stupid Heel Flap

Tartan Argyle leg So I'm cruising along on the second Tartan Argyle Sock, and then I get to the heel flap and everything falls apart.

On the first sock I can see that I decreased a stitch on the first row of the heel flap. And when I count the stitches I get 28 not the 30 I would expect in a 60 stitch sock. Which also indicates I must have decreased a second stitch somewhere, not that I can find it.

And I have nothing written down to indicate why I would have done this.

Nothing scribbled on the chart, which would be a sensible place since it's "the pattern".

Nothing in my little metal notebook I keep in my purse, which is where I scribble just about all my pattern notes.

Nothing in the numerous, long winded, supposedly detailed blog posts I wrote about the first sock.

Nope. Just randomly decreased from the 30 stitches that are half the sock down to 28.

I suspect that I wanted the foot to be 56 stitches, which will fit me better, but why not just take the extra stitches out in the gusset decreases?

In fact, I tried to count the sole stitches after the gusset decreases and I think I did get 26. But I didn't account for the stitches used in the seam, so I need to count the foot again.

Also, I tried to count the stitches after the heel turn, as a cross check, and got 16, which can't be correct because my little metal notebook indicates I usually have 18 stitches left after turning a 28 stitch heel.

Still, it might have been nice for me to actually write a note about this important point in the pattern.

Unless I thought I'd be finishing them so quickly that I'd remember. Obviously I didn't expect them to take me, like, a year. Or maybe I was still so flustered by the failure that was the Moccasin Sole that it didn't occur to me to write stuff down.

The Bright Side
Regardless, you can take all this babbling as an indication that I've finished the leg and am ready to divide for the heel.

Well, step back, I spent time last night weaving in most of the ends on the leg. I couldn't finish the last diamond because it was too close to the needles.

Remember I had that cunning plan to work the heel flap before the instep because I thought it would be easier to keep the instep and sole the same length?

Well, it turns out this heel flap stitch count mess stopping me cold is a good thing.

It occurred to me this morning that if I join for the heel flap now it will be rather difficult to weave in the rest of the leg ends later. I'll be working into a tube. I'd have to flip the sock inside out.

So I think I'll work a bit of the instep to give myself slack to weave in the rest of the leg ends.

Then I'll count foot stitches on the first sock obsessively a couple times. Then I'll plunge into the heel flap for the second sock.

On whatever stitch count that maybe.

All before the Olympics start tomorrow night.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Back to Socks

Green step sock 1 With Hubby's Chunky Cabled Scarf done, but a few days remaining before the Olympics (and Ravelympics), I returned to working on the numerous pairs of socks I have on the needles.

These Green Step Socks are my plain stockinette stitch pair for waiting rooms and anti-fidget activity when I'm battling writer's block at work.

I finished the first one over the weekend.

I noticed the toe ended at just about the same point in the color pattern where the sock started.

Against my better judgment, but because a girl can dream, I went ahead and cast on.

As expected, I was too far into the color section. The pinky salmony bit came up around row 7 of the ribbing when I shouldn't have reached it until row 14 or 15.

Since the idea of unmatched self-patterning socks still makes me twitchy, I reeled out yarn until I found the same section. I used tied a little knot in the yarn under then new ribbing, unraveled it, then used that section to backtrack on the working yarn to find the correct spot to cast on.

I think that little method worked rather well. I'm probably one a row shifted at most. Of course, I'm not neurotic enough to do that all the time. I'm willing to just eyeball it and have those rows of ribbing actually count for something.

Tartan Argyles
In the evenings at home I've been working on the second Tartan Argyle.

At this point I'm through the first two diamonds and into the third. Then it is just the instep to go in pattern.

I think this time I'll stop before the instep, work the heel flap/turn, and then work the instep and sole simultaneously to reduce the counting I need to do to ensure they match.

That means I'll have to fish the rest of this set of double pointed needles out of the test sock I was working on a few weeks ago.

At the moment I'm going to pause in the knitting and start tackling weaving in the ends. That takes focus and is not something I can do while I'm watching TV.

Snow Day!
My office was closed today because of the snow. It started this morning between 6:30 and 7 (I was up at 6:20 and didn't see anything, although I didn't have my glasses on). Not a ton of accumulation so far, but it's supposed to get worse tonight for the evening commute.

I'm really happy the powers that be at the office decided to close. We were worried they'd have us come in, then close early, and that would have sucked.

Of course, I'm working on an article that was due like last week, so I can't take a true snow day.

Still, I've managed to slack off most of the morning.

We finished the bread I baked, so I'm working on another loaf. I mixed up the starter last night in anticipation of being home today.

I asked Hubby I if should make the sandwich bread instead and he said the Scali bread was good so I should make that again.

This time I was smart and misted the started with olive oil (we have an atomizer that we can fill with whatever we want, as opposed to canned cooking spray) before I put the plastic wrap over it. Didn't stick so bad.

Also, I remembered that I did change the recipe. It calls for a bit of dried milk and I don't have any so I skipped it. I think it adds protein and helps with the texture or something.

Anyway. Last week I pulled out my box of dried milk. It did not have an expiration date on it, but I distinctly remembered buying it when I was living in TX, which shows you how much I use it. That made it at least 10 years old. eeewww. So I tossed it (finally). The only boxes I saw at the store were massive emergency reserve sizes, which didn't make any sense since I never made it through a normal size box.

I guess if I stick with this baking bread on a regular basis thing I track down another little box of dried milk. Until then, I think I managing fine without it.

Now, I must go weave in ends on my Tartan Argyle while I mull over my article topic.

Stay warm!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bread and Soup

Scali bread "It's like a baguette," Hubby said. "I didn't know you could do that."

Eh? I can shape bread any way I want, I thought.

Then he want on about how he was more excited about this loaf than my previous loaves, "Which looked like a hat."

Eh? A hat? But I guess my most recent attempts (which were absolute disasters) have been round, which is the easiest shape.

He then proceeded to pick up the entire loaf and start gnawing on the end.

I suggested perhaps he would like a slice with butter, but he said we didn't have time since we had to go grocery shopping.

He wrapped the loaf in parchment paper, put it in the center of the kitchen island against the utensil jar, and put the cooling rack on top of it. All the while Samson was watching intently from the Green Room. So Hubby informed him that if Samson stole the bread while we were out Hubby would kill him. I said Hubby would have to get in line.

This story is not going to end the way you expect, because I put the loaf on top of the fridge. With a clever, determined, bread loving pup in the house it just wasn't worth the risk.

Bread Success
The bread was very good, if I do say so myself, and really knocked Hubby's handmade socks off.

He was quite blown away by how good the bread was. This is understandable considering how bad my last loaf was (old yeast, possibly stale flour, let's not discuss it). The success of this loaf totally opens the door to future loaves. And I was able to say, "See, I haven't been lying all this time when I claimed I can bake good bread."

I follow King Arthur Flour on Twitter (@KingArthurFlour), but they did not bribe me with coupons to say nice things about them. I've been using their flour for years. Couldn't tell you why I first started buying it, maybe price, possibly because it's unbleached.

At the end of January they sent out a link to recipes for this Scali bread and Italian Wedding Soup.

I was all over it because I like Italian Wedding Soup but it isn't in any of my recipe books.

The bread recipe was easy, well as easy as scratch yeast bread is. I didn't mess with it at all, which is to say I did not sneak any whole wheat flour into it. After the last loaf was such a disaster I figured I have to get my chops back with some simple, basic white bread recipes.

I mixed up the starter Saturday night. Then started in on the loaf Sunday between the six loads of laundry I had to do. Much abuse of my souvenir tea towel with the French wine appellations took place. Since it's flour sack material it was just perfect for covering a rising loaf. I even set the time for 10 minutes to make sure I stuck with the kneading long enough. I think the egg wash, which I don't normally use, went a long way toward the nice crispy crust.

Making the braided loaf probably went a long way toward impressing Hubby as well. We have blown through it with only a roll size amount left after breakfast this morning. Hubby might even finish it as an after school snack.

In fact, this recipe was such as success that I don't know if I should repeat it this weekend or go with the basic sandwich bread recipe KAF link to earlier this week.

Soups On!
I also made the soup on Sunday. I did not time them to finish at the same time, but it didn't matter.

I went wild changing the soup recipe, so I'm not sure where to start.

First, I didn't make the meatballs from scratch. I cheated and used the frozen Party Size Meatballs from Trader Joe's.

Second, since I wasn't feeding a wedding of any ethnicity, I reduced all the ingredients by a quarter—so half a cup of each veggie and 4 cups of broth. This was a good amount for the two of us. Hubby had some for lunch Sunday, we ate it for dinner, and I finished it for lunch on Monday. It was a light lunch, so maybe a wee bit more would have been good.

Third, I used fresh spinach instead of frozen. Couldn't tell you why. I bought one of those 6 oz cello bags of baby spinach and use most of it.

The soup was tasty, but we agreed it was a bit bland. We put this down to me not using enough bullion. Hubby points out I usually do that and suggested that I put in what I think it needs, then put in more. Usually he comes along behind me and fixes my seasonings, but he was very busy with school work Sunday and dropped the ball.

Still, I'll make it again.

Of course the parts of Sunday that were not devoted to being a domestic goddess were dedicated to finishing Hubby's Chunky Cabled Scarf.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Done: Hubby's Chunky Cabled Scarf

Hubby's Chunky Cable scarf done Well, that picture doesn't do it justice at all, but you should be accustomed to that from me by now.

I finished Hubby's scarf Sunday evening. yippee!

He was rather disheveled when I presented it to him. Privately I thought he looked cute, but I recognized that he wasn't in a photographable state.

Photographable? Is that a real word? I think I'm looking for photogenic.


Project Stats
Pattern: Lamar scarf by Gale Zucker (free online!) Modification: I cast on an extra repeat (12 stitches) because he wanted it wider. So 48 not 36.
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed Aran. 4 balls blue, 3 balls green. wool and angora, 96 yards each. Held doubled throughout. I had a 3 gram blob of yarn left over, mostly green.
Needles: US 11
Finished dimensions: Between 7 and 7.5 inches wide. About 50 inches long.

Since I worked it from both ends I wound up doing a three-needle bind off to attach them. Yes, it left a ridge on the inside, but it must not be too noticeable since I think Hubby had it on "inside out" last night. I was going to graft the two halves together, but couldn't get the ribbing to line up. Probably something about joining two tops. I couldn't be bothered trying to figure out a work around.

It took me most of the day Sunday to weave in all the ends from the stripe changes. However I was working on it in bursts between doing laundry and other chores, so total work time probably wasn't as much as I thought.

The pattern was easy, once I got going. I kept making silly mistakes when I first started. I think I worked the first cable when I should have worked the second and that hosed everything up.

Just stay alert and you'll be fine. It sort of flew along because of the chunky yarn.

The yarn is nice. Not the softest I've every worked with, but it didn't make me itch either. It does go rather thick and thin, which wasn't always leveled out because I was holding it doubled. Often it seemed the thin spots matched up! However, the ribbing and cable did seem to compensate for the variation.

It was a little hard to work the cable. Maybe I should have been on a larger needle. I mean, I know working the stitches off the cable needle can be tight, but this seemed especially so. Which is a long winded way of saying it's not a very springy yarn.

It has some angora content, but it's not really fuzzy. It does have some texture, which I think makes the puppy fur blend in nicely. Maybe it will soften up and bloom a bit after it gets washed. But I don't foresee washing it any time soon. It's a scarf, after all, how dirty will it get?

I wish I had done less blue at the beginning of the scarf. When he's wearing it the scarf looks mostly green because of the way the stripes were distributed. That's fine, but I'm kind of surprised I ran out of blue first since I felt like I had more of it. However, I'm glad I decided to work both end at the same time. I'd be going wild if all that green had ended up at the other end. Frankly, I'm not sure Hubby would have liked it to be that random either.

Well Received
Hubby declared it "awesome" when it was finally done. It is a good length for just hanging around his neck, or tossing one side cavalierly over his shoulder.

It is a little too short to fold in half and stick the ends through the loop. And probably too chunky. He tried it and it looked like a neck brace. But I think he mainly just hangs the scarf around his neck anyway.

He seemed pleased with it regardless.

Fashion Plate
However, when he was getting ready this morning he grabbed his old scarf, which is shades of orange, green, and brown.

When I gave him the evil eye he happily explained that now that he has two scarves he can kind of match them to his outfit. Since he had on an orange and blue tie his old scarf made more sense.

Although this was charming it was also worrisome as it means he might be developing the idea of increasing the frequency of his scarf requests in order to have multiple colors and designs.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hubby's Chunky Scarf: 8 Knitting Days

I forgot to mention yesterday that the ejector is right next to the washing machine.

The washing machine is fine, but the floor in front of it took a hit.

I would prefer to avoid doing laundry until the clean-up is complete. However, this will rapidly become a problem since I didn't do laundry over the weekend and we will soon run out of clean clothes.

Why, yes, I will avoid doing laundry at the drop of a hat. Don't we all?

Ravelympics 2010
In a moment of insanity I signed up for the Ravelympics again. You know, because I did so well back in 2008.

The Ravelympics are a take off of the Yarn Harlot's original Knitting Olympics.

The idea of both is to choose a knitting or crochet challenge for yourself to start and complete between the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics.

The Ravelympics are hosted through Ravelry. You join a team based on one of your interest groups so you can have moral support.

This time I was smart. I only signed up for WIP-Dancing with Stella for Team TARDIS. For this event the goal is to finish a work-in-progress (WIP) that you haven't touched since at least January 12.

Last time I signed up for two events and was overmatched. But I figure all I have to do is knit the front and sew it all together. That should be totally doable in the 17 days allowed.

However, it also means I only have eight days in which to finish Hubby's Chunky Cabled Scarf.

25 Grams
I have been practicing strict project monogamy. Well, except for the Green Step Sock, which is my travel project so it doesn't count. (Started the toe shaping on the first sock, thanks for asking.)

I'm pretty sure I'm going to finish the scarf before my eight days have expired since I'm rapidly running out of yarn.

I weighed the balls this morning. There are 25 grams total of blue and 29 grams total of green.

Considering the amounts are being split between both halves since I'm knitting them consecutively I'm expecting to blast right through them.

Not Matchy-Matchy
Despite my hard work in catching the second half up, the two halves don't actually match.

This is not apparent to the naked eye.

I thought I had worked the first half in repeat increments of one, half, and one-and-a-half to keep everything square. Turns out I didn't.

I knew I had ended the first half on a green section after row 12 (a full repeat). When the second half was reaching the top of the final green section I was falling short of a full repeat. But both halves had 11 rows of green. I couldn't understand it.

I thought perhaps I hadn't advanced my row counter properly, so I went ahead and cabled, then put both halves on one long cable needle.

The second half was short. Just a wee bit. I tried to stretch it out, but it sprang back.

So I started counting rows, since I'm neurotic, and discovered my mistake went all the way back to the very first blue section.

Yes, I did briefly consider ripping it all out, but I came to my senses in time.

I put the scarf in time-out for a night and spent some quality time with the Angora Bed Sock of Power and Fortune.

Rolling With It
The scarf has won. I'm embracing its unintended randomness. The two halves are cabling at the same time, but not on the same row (one is 5 the other 11), so I've resorted to two different row counters to track them individually.

I told you I'm neurotic.

I was afraid that if I just skip ahead to the row 11 cable the pattern would go all wonky. Separate tracking was the lesser of two evils.

One benefit of all this is that since I've been working on the scarf so diligently Hubby is free to engage in other pursuits that don't involve yarn-napping.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oh, Sewage

As I was walking from the living room to the kitchen last night I kept smelling something icky.

At one point I even thought perhaps Hubby had gas. But then I smelled it even after he went upstairs to bed.

Then it occurred to me that the heat vent is next to the big couch and that must be a bad sign. With a sinking heart I went down to the basement.

Our house is on the down side of a hill, which places us below street level. We have this contraption in the basement that ejects the sewage back up to the street.

And there it sat in the corner with water trickling out of it.

I went shrieking up to the second floor, because I wasn't dealing with a nasty situation like that directly.

Oh. Shit.
Well, not really. Fortunately, it was all just liquid seeping out.

Hubby got the shop vac and started sucking up the liquid and I scrambled around being useless trying to find information about the pump online, seeing if any of my friends could recommend a plumber, and shutting off the upstairs toilets to prevent flushing.

Hubby said he could hear the motor humming, but nothing wooshing. We debated unplugging it, but didn't. (That would have been the right decision.)

He got the water to stop seeping and set an abandoned garbage can under it to catch any drips, then we went to bed.

It was 11 pm by then and we opted not to call an emergency plumber since it would probably cost more and things were relatively under control.

Balancing Act?
We figured this turn of events was either God laughing at us, or karma re-balancing itself. Although you would think things have been so rough all over that we need good stuff to happen to balance things out.

But not in our case. Hubby got a little windfall we thought we could use for bills and I got a bonus day off at work from trooping in during that snow storm last week—and now they are both gone.

Putting a positive spin on the situation, at least we had the extra money to pay for the repairs.

The Biggest Ad
This morning I called Master Plumbing out of Stratford because they had a local number and their ad in the phone book said "ejectors."

Hubby asked, "Why did you choose that company?"

I said, "Because they had the biggest ad."

The plumber got here around 10 am. I locked Samson and Baru in our bedroom. Boy, were they pissed about that, missing all the action.

Dude took the pump apart, which stunk to high heavens. He'd asked if we flushed anything inappropriate—paper towels, feminine products, toys, etc. I said, no, no, no. Then I said, oh we used to use those flushable wet wipes.

He said, oh, those are real bad. Those will gum things right up.

So the moral of the story is not to flush inappropriate things or use those so called "flushable" wipes.

I wonder if plumbers enjoy calling you down to the stinky basement to see the nasty thing they pull out of your pipes? Well, I guess it's only fair, they are dealing with the nastiness more directly.

He informed me that, unfortunately, the motor was burned out and we'd need a new one. Which was the $900 fix rather than the $200 fix. Figures. He said that unplugging may or may not have saved it since we don't know how long it was plugged. But he did say he was at one house were it was still plugged in for a long time and the motor got so hot the water was practically boiling.


Anyway, he finished around 12:30 and cleaned up nicely after himself.

Of course, there is still clean up to be done, with a little water still on the floor and the carpet wet.

At least the stink is greatly dissipated. I've had every scented candle I can get my hands on lit for most of the day.

A Mop? for Me?
Hubby was not able to participate in all this fun because he had to go to school. I was keeping him updated by e-mail and phone.

He called me while he was driving home and bemoaned us not owning a "real" mop. As opposed to?

He wanted a string mop instead of the sponge mop I had. I retorted that if he felt so strongly about it he should buy a new mop. I need a new sponge head anyway and can't locate one.

And he did.

I don't like this new mop. Not my style and it's hard to wring out. Not to mention it's already filthafied from the little clean up I've attempted to do.

I'm not doing anything else until Hubby comes home from his errand. I can't pull the carpet back any further. I'm worried about spilling the mop water, which needs to be changed. And the shop vac might have to come into play again.

Yes, I've dealt with this enough on my own. pout.

Not a Princess
Oh, and as though I haven't been capable enough already all day, I also shoveled the driveway from that wee bit of snow we had overnight.

Ok, well, it was fairly soft and fluffy so really I just pushed it off to the side. But still, the driveway looks awesome now since it was kind of a warm day.

Samson wants you to know he helped with the driveway. Supervising is hard work. As soon as I picked up the shovel he started barking his head off and I had to let him out with me.

Good thing I bought that new yarn last week because I won't be buying any more yarn any time soon.

And how was your day?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sock Club: Join the Knitting Adventure

I won't even pretend that this is a legitimate book review since I'm not going to be unbiased at all.

Because I have a pattern in this book! Squeee! Right there on page 50 is my Rainbow Swirl sock in all its glory.

The colors are quite vivid and fetching as well.

I also like that they maintained all my little notes about how to read the stitch pattern to in case you make a mistake, and how to re-establish the pattern on the instep after you've picked up for the gusset.

Really, it doesn't look like they've changed the pattern much from the way I wrote it at all.

Turns out there are 22 other very nice patterns in this book as well.
Sock Club: Join the Knitting Adventure, edited by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott (Martingale & Company, 2010) B1010, $24.99 (CAN $31.99), 80 pages, 8 1/2" x 11", full color, paperback, ISBN 978-1-56477-936-6.

A Sock What?
A sock club is a subscription plan for knitters, sort of like a book of the month club. Only instead of books you get yarn and a pattern (and sometimes a gift) every month or every other month.

Sometimes the club has a theme, sometimes it is run by an independent dyer and/or spinner. In that case the color is often exclusive to the club.

The book is composed of patterns that were originally for a sock club as well as a new pattern from both Charlene and Beth. This is exciting because sock club patterns are usually exclusive to the club members for at least several months, if not in general.

My Rainbow Swirl Socks were for the first year of the Knitting Central Sock Club through the store. Our hook was members received an exclusive pattern designed by the staff members they knew and trusted from the store, often using sock yarn they were already familiar with. This cut down on bad surprises. AND we allowed them to tell us a color they didn't like so we would know to avoid it for them. Often everyone in a club gets the same color.

We also focused on tips, tricks, and techniques to improve their sock knitting. Mine technique was a discussion of fit and negative ease.

More Than Patterns
Of course my club letter isn't in the book, but there is still very useful tips and techniques information included. Sock Club Rainbow Swirl

The beginning of the book has a discussion of resizing sock patterns based on changing the gauge using different needles or yarn, changing the pattern elements, background stitches, or repeats. Each method has a code, which is reflected on the sock patterns.

At the same time, most of the patterns reflect stitch counts for multiple sizes when possible. Some of the designers had to rework their patterns for the extra sizes, my pattern was already written for small, medium, and large.

Most of the patterns are rated as Intermediate or Experienced based on the Craft Yarn Council standards.

That surprised me, but then I realized that sock clubs are usually for experienced sock knitters, so of course they would want challenging patterns.

I like that one, and that one, and...
Aside from my own pattern, ahem, I think my current favorite is the I Love Gansey pattern by Janine LeCras. Actually, I'm wondering whether I can upsize it to fit Hubby. I've been wanting to make him cabled socks and I like foisting socks with heart motifs on him.

You know, to remind him how I feel in case hand knit socks are a strong enough sign.

As a side note, he was wearing his I Heart Husband socks over the weekend. They have little hearts on them.

I also like the Celtic Spirit pattern by Judy Alexander, because it has nice cables.

And I notice that Charlene's Havana Lace pattern has a Cuban Heel! In one of the pictures it looks like the lace pattern continues down the heel flap, which is intriguing.

And, of course, the Indiana Jones socks by Emily Johnson are awesome by virtue of being about Indiana Jones. Sadly, the colors are achieved by using specially dyed yarn whose availability is unknown to me. There is a note about just using two complimentary colored yarns, so that might be the route to go.

Of course, I could find something nice to say about all the patterns in the book, but I have to shut up sometime.