Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Well, I am really Loving Myself Sick right now!

Yes, I'm pretty happy with myself today!


Because of this:
Yes! Babette is done! After just over a week solid of seaming, and a couple of days to crochet 3 rows around the entire edge, she is done! And I am Loving Myself Sick!

Pattern: Babette Blanket, by Kathy Merrick, from Interweave Crochet, Spring 2006 or from Interweave's web store. A modern take on the traditional granny square crochet blanket, this pattern is quite a hit with the crocheters. Done in 17 colours of 4ply/fingerweight yarn (Koigu, no less!), it really is lovely. Helped quite a bit by the fetching photography and beautiful girl "modelling" the blanket! But I must say, the use of so many different colours means just one thing: SO MANY ENDS! That put me off making this pattern for such a long time.

And then an inspired idea from a very smart blogger, combined with an amazing sale on Regia Kaffe Fassett yarns in the UK, meant the door opened for me to make this. Thanks so much Mooncalf and Kemps!

The pattern itself is made up of 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 row squares - if you use 17 colours, it tells you exactly which colours to use for which squares, but for me, using the self-striping KF yarn, in 3 colours, meant I just had to ensure I shared the colours around the differently sized squares.

Once the squares are done, the blanket is constructed in 10 strips, just like a log cabin quilt. I laid all the strips out on the bed and photographed each, then bagged the squares for that strip - it made it a lot easier to ensure that the different colours were spread around the blanket reasonably evenly! As I was seaming the strips, I felt just like a quilter hand-piecing a patchwork quilt (or at least, how I imagined one would feel). It was a joy watching each strip come together and the colour sing!
I blocked each strip once they were sewn together, then sat down to seam strip by strip.

Yarn: Regia Kaffe Fasset Design Line 4ply sock yarn, 3 x 4251 (Landscape Storm), 3 x 4253 (Landscape Fog) and 4 x 4261 (Landscape Caribbean) for the blanket, plus 0.4 x 4253 for the edging (1 row) and 1 x 50g ball of Jaeger Matchmaker Merino 4ply in col 650 for the other 2 rows of edging plus for seaming (yarn from stash). I thought a plain colour sandwiching one of the striped yarns would work nicely for the border. I also used it for seaming all the squares - I figured no yarn would match perfectly, so I picked the best one from stash.
I picked those 3 KF yarns because they all seemed to co-ordinate nicely - they had common colours in each, but also complementary colours. That KF, he really knows his colours! I just wish I could capture the depth and variation accurately in my photos - it looks so much better in real life!

Hook: 3.5mm bamboo hook for all squares and two rows of edging, 3mm bamboo hook for last edging row. I think my hooks might be a bit small, but I'm still happy with the drape of the squares.
Time: 20 December 2009 - 29 March 2010. Making all the squares was so enjoyable, and even seaming this project (SO MUCH SEAMING!) was something I actually enjoyed for a change!
Modifications: I added an extra strip along the bottom of the blanket - because of the hook size issue, I thought the blanket might be a bit small without it, as I plan on using it as a cot blanket for Teddy. And I'm really glad I did, because I would have been right! As it is, it is 1m (36") wide, and just over a metre long.

Now I (or more correctly, husby) just need to put the cot together so Teddy will have somewhere to sleep!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Desperate Measures

You know the saying "desperate times need desperate measures"? Well, I had one of those a few weeks ago.

Well, I probably wasn't really that desperate. But it did involve me taking the scissors to my knitting. And I wasn't doing a steek...

So I've been knitting these socks (RavLink) - just plain stocking stitch toe up socks in my Wendy Happy bamboo sock yarn. I thought I'd try a new tubular bind off method that I'd read in Wendy's Socks from the Toe Up book. I don't know if it was the instructions, or me (I'll hazard a guess it was me!!) but I stuffed it up royally. Far from being the nice stretchy bind off promised, mine was tight tight tight. Just no good at all. I was so cross - I reckon it took me at least an hour or more to work this method - which involved kitchenering (!!) ALL 64 stitches on the needle. GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

So into the naughty corner the sock went.

And then I finally pulled them out, and pulled out The Good Scissors.
And did this:
Ending up with this:
After about 20 minutes of painstaking frogging and putting the correct stitches back on the needle, I had this:
And then I did my regular sewn-bind off. And all was good with the world.
Speaking of making things better with the world, this Saturday (yep, tomorrow!) is Earth Hour. If you haven't signed up already, it's not too late. And turning off the tv, the computer, the lights and any other unnecessary electrical appliances, for an hour (or more if you like), and burning some candles, is a really nice way to spend an evening. I guess that means I'll have to cast on a nice easy garter stitch project...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cook from a Book challenge #4

Yes, almost the end of March and this is only #4 ... I knew I should have made it a monthly challenge rather than weekly!! And I must confess, I only completed this one out of necessity - I couldn't find the recipe I wanted (an old favourite), so had to resort to the books!

Thank goodness for The Cook's Companion. Stephanie Alexander has come to my rescue yet again!

This is the quick apple cake:
I had a friend coming over for afternoon tea, and I do believe you can never go wrong with an apple recipe! But I couldn't find my apple tea cake recipe (from my Year 9 Home Science recipe book - I couldn't find the whole book, which makes me sad!!). I thought Stephanie would be my best bet and she didn't let me down. A really nice, easy to make cake, goes delightfully with a dollop of cream and a pot of tea.

(Sadly though, I had to throw out the leftovers yesterday, due to ants! Darn ants got into the cake! I shouldn't have left it out on the bench - although it was covered nice and tight with glad wrap - darn little ants! They should be made to wear steel capped boots so we can hear them getting into things!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Long time in the making

I don't think I've shown this project since I first mentioned it last October. It was a project that really was a long time in the making - as I'd planned to make since I first got the pattern about 4 or 5 years ago, including buying the called for yarn for a fairly large amount of money from eBay and stashing it until the time came where I could actually make this project.
And for something so small, I still took my time in actually making it, but I am very happy with it, and very excited that I shall soon be able to put it on the little fella (6 weeks to go - OMG!!)

Pattern: Classic Matinee Jacket by Erika Knight from her book Baby Bloom (or Knitting for Two as it is called in the US). A lovely old-fashioned (no, classic!) pattern, with option for a shawl collar or stand up collar. The sleeves are knit flat and the body is knit all in one piece, which is nice for minimising finishing - except that for some reason the moss stitch button band is knit separately (for the yoke portion only) and then seamed on. I think, despite my best efforts, I made one band slightly longer than the other, but really, I don't care a bit!
Yarn: Jaegar Cashmina, sadly discontinued. A most lush 80/20 blend of cashmere and extra fine merino. 4 x 25g balls in shade 043 (sky), a beautiful blue/grey.
Sticks: 3mm and 3.25mm KnitPicks Harmony Options - thank goodness we can buy the smaller tips here now, makes it so much easier when you only have to carry around the spare tips instead of a whole new set of needles.

Time: 9 October 2009 - 12 March 2010. I even have the buttons sewn on (yes! these are not stunt buttons!)
Modifications: None - except to do a 3 needle bind off for the shoulders, rather than cast off and seam - although if I were to make this again, I think I would also just continue to knit the moss stitch button band at the same time as the rest of the yoke, instead of doing it separately - even less finishing required then, and you know the band will be the correct length!
I love the simplicity of moss stitch with stocking stitch, the softness and the fullness of this pattern. A most satisfying and meaningful knit for me in so many ways.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Visitors from near and far

Usually when my mum comes to visit I'd consider it a visit from afar, since for her it is an 8 hour trip by bus and train. But I had the chance to meet a friend from much further afield last week, when Roxie and her husband Kyle came to Sydney, all the way from Oregon in the US! A 28 hour trip, Roxie told me!

I had a lovely lunch with them, along with Janette and her husband Marc, and Grandma Flea, last Friday. And received gifts too - I shall have fun picking out some recipes to try from this book!
A really lovely day, thanks Janette for organising!

And this week my mum is here - because she's quite sure we needed her help in getting things organised for Teddy's arrival. (And she's quite right!). For those wondering about her reaction to the shawl, here's how it played out:

I spread it along the foot of the bed in the spare bedroom - the bed has a plain red quilt cover on it, so the shawl didn't really stand out too much. She went in there to put her handbag down, and I was standing in the doorway behind her waiting for her to notice it and grinning like an idiot. Of course, she didn't see it straight away, but did see me grinning at her, and wanted to know why I was standing there grinning at her!! So then she figured something was up and looked all around the room and I thought she was never going to see it! But then she did, and her hand flew to her open mouth and she couldn't speak for a minute! Then just repeated "I can't believe it! I can't believe it! I can't believe it!". Kind of funny, since that's almost what I called the post about it too! (does that mean I'm turning into my mother? Ooooh scary!)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I almost can't believe it...

I almost can't believe this project is done! Done done done! No longer a WIP! No longer on the sticks! Over! Finished! Done!
And it only took me almost 3 years ... but I can't wait to see the look on mum's face when I finally give it to her this weekend! I think she's probably given up on it ever being done.
And I got a medal for it in the Ravelympics! weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! It's amazing how you can get 25% of a shawl done in just 2 weeks if you really set your mind to it.

Pattern: The very descriptively named Alpine Knit Scarf with Double Rose Leaf Centre Pattern and Diamond Border (!!) (otherwise known by me as the Alpine Lace Shawl!) by Jane Sowerby from Victorian Lace Today. I chose this pattern for a couple of reasons - it's a stole, so more wearable, the border is knitted at the same time as the centre, and it's just a lovely looking pattern. But on the downside, it's lace on both sides - which is one of the reasons it took me so long to do. Never underestimate the power of the purl rest row when choosing lace patterns!
The other thing to note with the pattern is that the centre pattern is an 8 row repeat, while the border is a 16 row repeat - so I did a cut and paste job on the charts - pasting two centre repeats in between the border repeat charts, which made it a lot easier to work from the charts.

Yarn: Filatura di Crosa Multicolour, in colour 3053, 6 x 50g balls. I chose this yarn with my mum, based on the colours really. But totally the wrong yarn for this pattern (or for lace really) - it's a 60% mohair/40% acrylic blend - which meant it didn't block out the same way as a 100% natural fibre yarn would have (I ended up adding a bit of length by adding 4 extra centre repeats). The pre-block measurements were 160cm/63" x 56cm/22", while after blocking it ended up 173cm/68" x 63cm/25".
And it was next to impossible to frog and even tinking was hard. Which means I fudged a bunch of mistakes in the shawl, moreso at the beginning though. Another contributing factor to the length of time to knit!

On the upside, mohair hides a lot of sins! And I reckon my ends will never come out, because the yarn is so sticky!

Sticks: KnitPicks Options 4.5mm 80cm circular. Another newbie to lace (at the time) mistake - needles too small for yarn. Or really, yarn to heavy for needles! The yarn is really an 8ply/DK weight, so I should have used at least 5mm or 5.5mm sticks - although this would have made the shawl tooooo wide. Anyway, have learnt my lesson about yarn choice from this project!

Time: April 2007 - 28 February 2010. Oh my!

What I learnt: As this was my first big lace project, I made a lot of mistakes - yarn choice, pattern choice, needle choice. But somehow it all came together in the end, and I really am pleased with this (not just that it's done either!).

Monday, March 08, 2010

Ravelympics 2010 - medals 1 & 2 - Teddy's Blurp Cloths

I'll start with the basic project and leave the big reveal for later this week. With this project, I qualified for two medals - Stash Compulsory Dance (for using stash yarn more than 1 year old) and Junior Olympics (knitting for baby/kids).
Not the most exciting knitting but very practical - and easy to do while sitting by the pool, or watching the Olympics themselves.

Baby Genius Burp Cloths by Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner, from Mason-Dixon Knitting. According to Ann and Kay, "studies have proven that babies who spit up onto burp cloths that display interesting textures, patterns and colours, do better on their SATs than babies who spit up onto plain white diapers or bare shoulders". I believe them!!
Yarn: I don't know if it was a moment of weakness or inspiration that lead me to buy a cone of Peaches and Cream dishcloth cotton a few years ago when a friend did a big order, but buy it I did, and it sat in my knitting room waiting for me to make something of it. So now I have. Well, at least of some of it - each blurp cloth used just under 100g of the cone, so now I have about 250g left!!

It's nice to work with, for a dishcloth cotton, but I was a bit annoyed to find 2 knots in the course of knitting the second cloth. I know it's only dishcloth cotton but one of benefits of buying a cone is to avoid unnecessary joins. Oh well...more practice at sewing in ends!! (gah!!)
Sticks: 4.5mm KnitPicks Options.

Modifications: I made each one as per the pattern except for making them longer - about 40cm (16") rather than 25cm (10"). I figured a bit of extra length wouldn't go astray - babies can really project when they like to!! And because I used worsted yarn rather than DK/8ply, my cloths are wider too (about 25cm rather than 20cm).
Time: Cloth #1 (my Olympic project): 13 - 23 February 2010; Cloth #2: 23 February - 7 March 2010. And I'll probably make at least one or two more, maybe with stripes!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

There's a bandicoot in my backyard!

Husby and I were sitting on the lounge this afternoon when he said "there's a bilby in the backyard!"

I've never seen a bilby in real life, and so we both got up (carefully and quietly, so as not to scare him) to have a look. And there he was, scratching and snuffling around in the garden right near our back door! I grabbed the camera (again carefully and quietly) and husby took some photos.

After checking on the internet, we decided it wasn't a bilby (they have much bigger ears and don't really live in our area!!) but rather more likely a bandicoot, and probably a bit of a baby one at that. Still very cool, considering we live in suburban sydney, where a possum* is common but not so much a bandicoot (as far as I know!)

(*not nasty opossums like you get in the US, much nicer, although still a bit of a pest!)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Aw shucks

Today I gave a tutorial on crochet cables at my crochet guild meeting - not that I'm an expert, but since I have been working on my Solas Caomh I guess I have the most recent (or only?) experience with them amongst the group.

I did up a couple of small samples, a left crossing cable:
and a right crossing cable:
and wrote up the pattern and some notes for everyone.

I think it went ok. I hope so anyway! And I received a lovely thank you gift:
Teddy's first knitted hat! (I am slightly embarrassed not to have made one for him myself ... but now he has one!). All the ladies at guild are very excited, as this is "their" first baby too! It's very sweet!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Keeping Track - February 2010

A day late, but here, and with good news too! (Finally!)

My in's this month - 1 x 50g ball of Regia Kaffe Fassett sock yarn - a spare for my Babette blanket, and 1 x 100g skein of lovely handspun from Donni - do check out her shop Moggy and Me for some lovely stuff (click on the "spun" link for the handspun). After knitting Teddy's Pebble vest from her handspun in January, I had to get me some more handspun, it is so nice to knit with!
Shame I couldn't quite get the colour right, it has more green and less grey/brown than the picture shows, but I think it will look gorgeous knitted up, if I can only decide what pattern to use...

And as for the good news, yes, for a change, my "outgoings" are bigger than my "incomings" this month! Hurrah!

In: 3 x 50g balls
Out: 7 x 50g balls

YTD: 27 x 50g balls. Making my monthly average a much more reasonable 13.5 x 50g balls! I like this monthly average business, thanks Lyn!