Thursday, June 30, 2011

All I can show you are giant thistles

Like this.



Not sure how giant it really is? Don't believe me? Also that sucker bit me, which wasn't very nice.



Taken this weekend during a lovely bike ride on the bay trail. The thistle had a little path worn out to it from the bike path - clearly I was not the first person to visit it. I am not sure exactly what it is. I don't think it's a cardoon, as it was quite spiky.

All I can show you are giant thistles because all of my knitting is samples, or secret, or "look I knit three more inches of stockinette on this shapeless top-down raglan thing" which isn't particularly interesting. So there you are.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Leaving

It's hard to simply title a blog post "Leaving", even though it's the name of this sweater; it makes a bad impression. But don't worry.

Leaving


I'm not going anywhere, but this sweater is! Soon it will be winging its way to fibre space and you can see it there in person. It's called Leaving, designed by Anne Hanson, and was published in the Winter 2010 Twist Collective. The instructions have a pullover and a cardigan version.

I knit the 40" pullover. As usual my gauge is a little funny so it came out closer to 38" which fits me perfectly. I think the yardage estimates on the pattern were a little generous - the pattern said that this size would take at least 1500 yards, but I used less than 1200. My other notes are on Ravelry here.

Leaving in progress


It's knit in Miss Babs' newest yarn, Northumbria DK. The color is called Luna Granite. The Northumbria has been great to work with. It’s 100% Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) wool. BFL is smooth and fine with great stitch definition. BFL also has a lustrous silky drape after it’s blocked, which you can see in the photo above. Because of the sheen, it takes color beautifully. Luna Granite doesn’t have a ton of variegation, but it works up in subtle shades of dove grey with hints of lavender (I had to correct the color on the first photo, so it isn't very good).

Here's another glamour shot...

Leaving in progress


I will miss this sweater! I love sample knitting... but I also love to keep my projects once in a while. For a few short days (of course, another deadline looms not too far into the future, but that one's a secret) I get to knit something for myself. I am going to enjoy each and every stitch.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The babies are coming! The babies are coming!

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No, not babies for me! Two good knitting friends of mine just had baby boys.

I don't know what it is about the news of impending babies that compels us to knit, but I knew I just had to make adorable Baby Surprise Jackets for both of them. Booties, too.

These are probably my two favorite baby patterns. The classic all-garter stitch BSJ is perfect for TV knitting, and the booties match fairly well and are quick to knit. They're also a great way to use up leftover sock yarn if you just want to make booties.



The top set is knit in Miss Babs Yummy 3-ply Sport in Spring Lettuce and Bruin; the bottom set is knit in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in... uh... two shades of sage green. I embellished my BSJ's with a little applied I-cord edging on the bind off and around the neckline; I did some crab stitch (reverse single crochet) on the sleeves.

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The booties are Christine's Stay-On Baby Booties, and from what I hear from parents they actually do stay on - important for wiggly babies. They are a little fiddly, but well worth it. The soles are knit in a separate piece, so it's easy to make them a contrasting color. I finished them off with some twisted cord - faster than i-cord, better looking than a crochet chain.

Because I can't find any instructions I like online for how to make twisted cord, here's what I do:

1. Determine the length you want your finished cord to be. [For example, two feet.]
2. Cut pieces of yarn (in this case, two) to a length THREE TIMES the length of your desired finished length. [For example, six feet each.]
3. Grab a friend or a secure hook or something else that won't move - put one end with your friend, and take the other.
4. Twist! Be very careful not to let go, and twist and twist and twist until you can't put any more twist into the yarn. You have to keep tension on the yarn as you're twisting, so hold on tight.
5. Without letting go... grab the halfway point and bring the two ends of the cord together. Let go of the center and the cord will twist up on itself like crazy.
6. Smooth out the twisty lumpy bits, and knot both ends. Ta-da, cord! If you need to shorten it, just tie another knot and cut off the excess.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Win-Win Situation

So a while ago, when I was visiting Alexandria, I was knitting a pair of socks in the rocket lounge at fibre space. After I got past the heel turn and most of the gusset, I was finally able to try them on.

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And they wouldn't go over my heel. Argh! I have wide feet and high arches, and really it shouldn't have been a surprise that a sock covered in cables wouldn't stretch to fit.

It's an otherwise lovely pattern, called Bouton d'or, by Nicole Masson. I knit these in Hazel Knits Artisan Sock, which I got at Bobbin's Nest and have discovered I like very much indeed. The color is called Equinox and is somewhere between the two photos shown here.

I took the needles out and got ready to rip them out when Cindy, who was sitting nearby, had the brilliant idea to try them on. Luckily they fit her, and we worked out a swap. And lucky for me, Cindy has wee tiny feet so the knitting was speedy!

Cindy might be generous to a fault, and the other day this scrumptious package showed up in the mail.

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And I'll bet you can't guess what was inside....

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Yes, that's a big lovely hank of Wollmeise Lace. (The color is Madame Souris WD, if you're a Wollmeise junkie and you have to know these things). I haven't the foggiest idea what to do with it, but that's okay. It is purple and grey and gigantic and wonderful and I'm sure something lovely will come of it.

Finally I got the socks done and they have been washed and blocked and they are winging their way back to Virginia. I can't imagine Cindy is going to get much wear out of them for a little while, what with the heat, but I hope she loves them all the same.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Homemade Nutella

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Who can resist Nutella? The chocolate-hazelnut spread seems to be as ubiquitous in Europe as peanut butter is here, and for good reason. It's delicious! But Nutella is kind of pricey, and here in the US it's distributed by Nestlé, a company which we try to avoid.

Thank goodness for David Lebovitz, who is a pastry chef, blogger, and creator and compiler of delicious recipes. We've made some of his recommendations before. Can't remember what at the moment, but I'm positive it was delicious. Ooh, wait, no, here it is: Strawberry Frozen Yogurt. Will be making that the very moment I get the mixer out of the shop and get the ice-cream maker frozen again.

David's recipe for Nutella came out of a French cookbook, the Encyclopédie du Chocolat. It wasn't hard, but like any good kitchen project, it required a shopping trip, used lots of pans AND the food processor (which I hate washing), and kind of made a mess.

So. Let's do it.

Melt chocolate. Warm milk and honey.
Homemade Nutella making Homemade Nutella making



Toast hazelnuts; remove skins. (We used all hazelnuts, omitting the almonds called for in the original recipe - because we'd bought too many hazelnuts).
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Blend hazelnuts into oblivion (I didn't have any issues with texture or not having the hazelnuts be chunky; then again my food processor is kind of a behemoth).
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Add chocolate. Add milk. Blend like crazy (this step probably would have been better in the blender, but who wants to wash another appliance?)
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Pour into jars. Make crepes. Eat all the Nutella that didn't fit into jars on crepes.
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And now, the hard part. Try to forget the jar of nutella in the refrigerator, coupled with the fact that you own spoons and could just eat it out of the jar any time you want. Oops. Already failed on that one today.

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Bicycle!

I'm so excited.

Bicycle


I haven't had a bicycle since high school, and now I am the proud owner of this little green (what a surprise, green) Schwinn. Nothing fancy here, just a cute little bike for pedaling around town. It needs some kind of basket.

This must have been bicycle-buying weekend, as every shop we visited was having a sale. Simon had to order the one he wanted, and it should be here by the end of the week. Then we can go riding together. So much fun!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hummingbirds

The hummingbirds who live near me continue to delight and fascinate me, probably to the annoyance of all my houseguests. I can only hope they are at least momentarily amused by the tiny birds. I can sit by my back window and watch them all day, as they feed every 10 minutes or so. They never seem to go too far.

Here in Northern California, Anna's Hummingbirds are the only hummers that stay the winter. There are enough flowers and insects year-round to keep them from going hungry. In my yard, they visit my feeder as well as my fuchsias, red-hot poker (Kniphophia), coral bells, and other flowers. Hummingbirds are picky and I have to be careful to keep the feeder very clean - no dirty sugar water for these guys!

They are really hard to photograph. This is the female:

Anna's Hummingbirds


And this is a sadly unfocused photo of the male:

Anna's Hummingbirds


Check out a google image search for Anna's Hummingbirds to see much better photos of their amazing iridescent hot pink head feathers.

They make a surprising amount of noise for tiny birds, a dry, high pitched chirping noise. And of course they sound like giant bumblebees while flying - if you are near enough to hear it. They fight over the feeder, chasing away other birds. I think I only have two right now, but earlier this spring I did find a tiny hummingbird nest in my giant bamboo:

Anna's Hummingbirds


The nests are made out of cobwebs and grass and tiny twigs. Yes, cobwebs: I watched mama hummingbird collect them. I'm not sure what happened - whether there were babies or not. Still, I will keep watching.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Work in Progress

I feel ever more like a work in progress these days. Some of it's big stuff, like trying to find a new job - or little stuff, like growing my hair out. And a lot of it is knitting stuff.

I love to wind yarn. I love to start things. So here's what's new in my knitting.

Top-down raglans. Hello, easy knitting! After discovering how much I loved my first Featherweight Cardigan, I've started one for myself in madelinetosh tosh merino light (the color is Mare). I'm almost to the point where I can take the sleeves off and just knit the body.

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And, because I hear that summer will one day come to northern California, I started a Buttercup. (We had rain this weekend! rain in June! Apparently this is so unheard of it made the national news.) Anyway, that's Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy in Blue Pine Green. Not much knitting yet, but that's OK.

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Socks, because I can't not be knitting a sock.
These ones are going to be for the mister. Round and round.

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Last but not least, it's time for a new sample for Miss Babs. This is Anne Hanson's Leaving from Twist Collective. I'm making the pullover version. The yarn is Northumbria DK in Luna Granite... it's got tones you can't see in this photo, and it's lovely.

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Maybe soon I'll even finish something. What's new with you?