We are back from our holiday travels, and we are breathing a sigh and starting to relax. I am not a big fan of the holidays, to be honest. Too many people to see, too many expectations, and not enough time for regrouping and relaxing.
There were a few highlights to our trip, however. Isaac tried on his mouse mittens and then ran into the other room to show them off. Alden immediately ate (or tried to eat) his new bib.
And I made cookies with my mother.
The cookies were inspired by Meg's post on speculaas, since my parents have a speculaa mold and I am always game for making something out of the ordinary. Meg recommended lots of flour to keep the dough from sticking in the mold, and I emailed my mother a recipe I'd found online before we headed to Philadelphia. My mom made the dough and it was ready in the fridge for whenever inspiration struck. Which was right before Christmas dinner. Check out the awesome new vest that my mom knitted for me with Jacob's Sheep wool from the Hope Spinnery.
I rolled out the dough, and we pulled of pieces of it to press into the floured molds. Meg was right- lots of flour was the trick- and we quickly got the hang of it. Here's the hitch though: the recipe was wrong. I mean, the cookies were delicious, but I should have read it a little closer, or followed the link from Meg's blog to her favorite recipe. Our recipe contained eggs, which meant that they expanded and lost their shape when they baked. Which meant that pressing them into a mold was a waste of time. Oh well, maybe next year...
Sunday, December 28
We are back from our holiday travels, and we are breathing a sigh and starting to relax. I am not a big fan of the holidays, to be honest. Too many people to see, too many expectations, and not enough time for regrouping and relaxing.
Thursday, December 25
A very happy holiday to you!
We've just returned from the morning at Christopher's family's house, and are going to rest a bit before my parents return from visiting with their friends and we do a second round of holiday celebrating with them. Phew! Does anyone else wish they could just hunker up and be alone for the holidays? How about a desert island? Just kidding (sort of).
Cute baby-eating-knit-bib pictures forthcoming. (I still haven't made the French press cozy, but maybe I can whip it up while Christopher naps. it's quick, right??)
Wednesday, December 24
Last night we managed to put away some of the tools and return some of our kitchen items to their places, which cleared the way for a little Christmas decorating. We didn't get a tree this year; I am still smarting from an offhand comment last year referring to our tree and involving the words "Charlie Brown."
(For those of you who aren't familiar with buying Christmas trees in a city, you should understand that trees must be imported from New England, which means that they tend to be rather expensive. We can't just go cut one down. Around here they go for around $10 a foot, and since we don't have children and aren't here for Christmas itself, buying a 5' tree for $50 is a real extravagance.)
Anyway, Christopher picked up a wreath on Monday, and last night we put up some lights, wrapped presents, listened to sappy Christmas music and ate popcorn. I'm feeling a little more in the spirit, though I am unsure how we ended up with just one measly present for Christopher's stepfather (actually, I do know how that happened-- he only requested one thing, and we have no idea what else he would like. Socks? A paperweight?)When Christopher gets up, we'll open the presents we got for each other (he's getting new t-shirts from me, not so exciting unfortunately) and then we'll pack and head off to Philadelphia for a few days of family time. I still have some gift knitting to do, a pair of mouse/cat mittens for our nephew, who is 4. (the pattern is for a mouse but I thought I'd do a cat instead.) The body of the mittens are done, but they still need to be made into an animal. I knit on an ear to see what it looked like, but I think I need to go bigger.
I am also considering whipping up a French press cozy for Christopher, since I'm feeling so bad about giving him mostly t-shirts this year. The main question is, how can I make the cozy when I'll be with him non-stop from now until Christmas morning??
Sunday, December 21
I have something to admit: We haven't done any holiday preparation. In fact, we've only really thought about Christmas shopping; very little has been purchased. We have no tree, and only a decoration here or there.
This weekend was going to remedy that. I was going to bake Christmas cookies, and get a tree and put up lights. We were going to take control of our Christmas lists. None of that has happened.
Instead, we worked on our kitchen.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. We started renovating it almost 2 years ago, and though we've come a long way, we still had a lot still to do. Here is what it looked like when we moved in:We replaced the cabinets and tore out the soffit as soon as we could. The rest of the work- tiling, replacing the appliances and painting- has taken longer. You may remember that my father tiled one side of the kitchen a few months back.
Here is what we did this weekend:
Christopher sanded. I primed the area across from the fridge with special magnetic paint. 3 coats.Christopher primed the areas where the soffit had been.I tiled the other side of the kitchen (above the sink) & Christopher painted the kitchen. (there aren't any action shots of me tiling; you'll just have to notice that this is now tile where there was not.)He's actually still painting it, but I'm done with the tiling (for now, it still needs grout). I should move on to writing Christmas cards. Or to reading a play that I've just agreed to work on. But I'm up for a break, and I'd still like to make those cookies...
Friday, December 19
Thank you all for your support with the Metropole. I guess I wasn't clear; I'd already washed and blocked what I'd knitted, and those were the measurements I'd gotten. I think I'm going to knit a larger size, as suggested by Lisa. If I go up yet another needle size, I'll end up with a coat that doesn't do much to keep out the wind. I also hope I can use the gauge information that I now know in order to make the appropriate adjustments when knitting the next size up. Oh, it will be hard to motivate on this yet again.
I've basically given up on gift knitting. I still have plans to make some very cute mittens for my other nephew, but I haven't found the right yarn yet. (I actually haven't looked, but I know my local yarn store doesn't have what I want, so again this requires motivation.)
The real reason that I've not started on these mittens (which I know will be very fast to knit), is because I've started some new mittens for myself (Vinterblomster mittens by Heidi Mork), and I'm totally addicted to them. (Some people love knitting socks; I love knitting mittens.) I'm just about done the first one, and I've sworn that when that is done I'll make the Christmas mittens.
Our leaky windows are being fixed! Some contractors arrived yesterday and set up some scaffolding, and I woke up this morning to banging. They apparently have to take off some of the brick above the problem windows. I'm a little nervous that they'll break something, but for now I've just closed the curtains and let them do their thing. I wonder what will happen when the snowstorm hits this afternoon. I can't imagine they'll work through it...
Sunday, December 14
I've been having issues motivating recently. Both this weekend and the last one have been washes in terms of getting things done. Real things, I mean. Knitting doesn't count. On the list have been Christmas shopping, Christmas cards, house cleaning (mopping would be nice), and general maintenance. So far this weekend, I've hemmed curtains and hung a shade in our den. That took maybe an hour. (I left the sewing machine out with the idea that I'll do some more fun sewing projects, but somehow I think that mopping might be more important.)
Christopher and I took a very pleasant walk to the hardware store today, where we got paint for our kitchen. This is the last room in our apartment to paint, and it will be a relief to have the years of food oil streaks painted over (is that TMI?). I also need to finish tiling the back splash, but that might take more motivation than I've got a the moment.
Anyway, my reason for blogging today: the coat that I'm knitting, Metropole, still has the wrong gauge. I seem to be knitting it at a tighter gauge than I knit swatches. I need 3.5 stitches per inch, which translates to 7 stitches to 2" or 14 stitches for 4". I'm getting 14.5 stitches for 4". Minimal, right? Well, it's supposed to be 23" wide at the bottom, and it's 21.5".
The waist should be 17", but it's 16". Either I have to frog and reknit it again, or I need to make the front really big, or... I'll have a coat that is too small for me. It does knit up fairly quickly, but man, I'd like to move out of the washing and measuring stage. Ideas?
Saturday, December 13
Our windows leak, but we mostly see evidence of it only when there is a real soaking rain. The rains on Wednesday and Thursday were hard enough to seep through and stain the shade in our bedroom, and it dripped enough that we put out bowls to catch the water on Thursday night. The dripping sounds weren't so bad, or maybe I was just really tired. I remember sleeping terribly the first time this happened. Maybe it's just peace of mind; on Monday our Board approved repairs to our lintels. This may be the last rain storm that we experience in our bedroom.
I have been really non-committal about knitting Christmas presents this year, but my sister-in-law sent an email yesterday with their Christmas wishes, and on the list was a bib for her almost 6 month old baby, Alden. I set to work immediately, grabbing some yarn I've had forever. I'm not really sure what it is or where it came from; perhaps it's Debbie Bliss Cotton DK? In any case, it worked perfectly. The bib pattern was so quick and fun; I clearly need to make bibs for all the babies I know.
Pattern: Modern Cable Baby Bib by Gibsongirl
Yarn: I think it's Debbie Bliss Cotton DK in stone
Wednesday, December 10
I have been thinking about alternate ways to make a living. Not that I want to quit designing, but I'd love to quit my day job. I'm not yet ready to announce my new money making scheme (and everyone seems to have one these days), but it involves photography. And that means that I need a better camera. An SLR.
I've always had cameras, and I used a 35mm SLR (my trusty, vintage, no batteries required Nikon F) from high school until I made the break into digital in about 1999. And that also meant moving to a point and shoot camera, which was alright. If you haven't noticed, many point and shoot digital cameras offer many manual settings. In 2003 I upgraded to a Canon Powershot S50 (another point and shoot), and that's what I've used until now.
Last night, I opened the box to my new Canon Rebel Xsi. It's beautiful: light, quick, a huge screen on the back. Even more interesting is that it makes really dull shots look good. Hopefully this won't make me into a lazy photographer.
I started reading the manual last night, and there's a lot to learn about those buttons on the back. What does the one with an asterisk do?
It's all good. A Christmas present for myself.
Thursday, December 4
I don't know about the rest of you, but my neck gets cold. In fact, if there's a little cold air on my neck in the winter, it really gets me down. I need a big scarf in the winter, something that seals all the cracks, something toasty that I can wrap around my shoulders too, to keep any stray wind from getting me.
But I am not a big scarf knitter. The endless rows of the same thing over and over really bores me. It was a miracle that my father received that brioche scarf from me last Christmas. He must realize that I really love him. For myself... well, I've turned to cowls, but they aren't so snug. They don't keep the air out quite as well. Has anyone noticed this?
I've been searching for the perfect cowl pattern, something snug and warm. This is hard, because a cowl has so go over your head and therefore has to be wider. Many cowl patterns seem to be all about the drape, which looks great but doesn't do much to warm, in my opinion.
Then I saw Pam Allen's Ariosa Cowl in the most recent Twist Collective. It looked nearly perfect, except that I would rather use stash yarn and I had nothing in the required weight. Plus it doesn't quite cover one's shoulders.
And so I designed my own. Using stash yarn.
Can you believe it? I'm very pleased with how it turned out. An extra bonus is that the yarn is so light and airy and soft that it is warm without being heavy, and the brioche stitch allows for quite a lot of stretch going over one's head. It also seems to breathe fairly well; I didn't need to take it off once I got on the subway yesterday. I think I'll be wearing this quite a lot this winter. Specs:
pattern: my own. Should I name it?
yarn: 1 skein each of Blue Sky Alpacas, Alpaca Silk (50% alpaca/50% silk)
Colors 122 and 129 (bought on sale last summer at The Yarn Tree)
needle: #6 circular
Wednesday, December 3
When I went to the Mason-Dixon book signing at the BPL back in October, they had all of the samples from the book, and I tried on the Metropole coat. I'd never considered knitting a coat before, but this one fit me perfectly, and I'm not so satisfied with how warm my current coat is or how it looks. So I bought various colors of Cascade 109 (which is on clearance at Webs), swatched and washed the swatch, and the ordered more, in the color that I chose.
Those of you who don't knit might think it's funny that I decided to knit myself a coat. It is ambitious, but the pattern calls for a bulky yarn and chunky needles, so in theory this could be easily achieved. It's basically like a big sweater, really. (Sort of how a wedding is just a big party.)Problem is, getting 4 stitches per inch isn't the same as getting 3.5 stitches per inch. You can't really fudge that, and somehow I imagined that I could. I'm not really sure why I was surprised that halfway up the back of the coat I noticed that it was going to be way too small. I washed and blocked my knitting, and yes, it's still way too small. I've got to frog it and start over. It's very sad.
In other news, when I went through all my fabric on Sunday I came across this: I think it must have come in a bag of material that Terra gave me a few years ago. In any case, I like it a lot and there's enough of it to recover the old ottoman that came from my grandfather's house. It's a very similar green to what we painted the walls in our den, which could be good or bad. I'm going to go ahead with it anyway. I just need to learn a little about piping, and brush up on my upholstery skills. (I've done it before, but only for something that's used on a stage and therefore only had to look good from 30 feet away.) Any pointers?
Monday, December 1
Yesterday I was feeling a little more perky (though not enough to brave the rain) so while Christopher did the laundry and corrected his students' essays, I hemmed some curtains and made chicken noodle soup.
Once the sewing machine was out, I decided to pull out all of my fabric - bags of scraps and random things I've bought or inherited over the years - and took stock. There's quite a lot, and some of it is really interesting and inspiring. I also pulled out my Denyse Schmidt Quilts book, which Derek and Terra gave me for my birthday. I've been longing to make a foray into quilting, but have been terrified by the amount of skill that seemed necessary. There is a simple sachet project in the book, and I decided to try it. Recently I've noticed that our sweaters have grown little holes and I know it's time to take some action against what is probably a small moth infestation. It could quickly get out of hand, especially with so much yarn around. Though greater action is needed, some sachets filled with lavender might help keep them at bay.
I chose some tan linen and some fabric that I designed back in 1994, when I had a silk screening apprenticeship at the Fabric Workshop and Museum. My finished object is a little bigger than it needs to be, and I didn't have as much lavender as I thought I did, but I think it will work.
My sachet was quickly done. It was a lot easier than I'd imagined, and SO FAST. I realize that I'm comparing sewing to knitting the equivalent object, but still. Fast. Christopher rolled his eyes when he saw my excitement. I'm not sure what I'll make next, but I think that a small quilt is on the horizon...
Sunday, November 30
Since returning to Brooklyn on Friday night I've come down with a nasty cold. Sore throat, sneezing, coughing, congestion. I walked down to Park Slope yesterday to get some groceries, and the trip really wiped me out. I don't think I'll be going out today, especially since it seems to be sleeting or something.
I spent most of yesterday on the sofa in the living room, wrapped in a blanket with Dinah and reading The Golden Compass. I'd been wanting to read it, and when we stopped into my parents' local used bookstore on Friday morning I bought a copy. I finished it last night. It was alright, a little more complex and interesting than Harry Potter, but still not great literature. Still, I'll see if I can track down the next book at the library. I'd like to know what happens next.
Christopher once again made dinner last night. I decided that we should have some leftover pasta with broccoli that I'd made on Monday night, and stuck the whole bowl in the microwave. Christopher came in and took over, saying that he'd rather heat it up in a pan with garlic and oil. And then he added the leftover tomato sauce he'd made on Friday night. It was delicious. I asked him if he's actually a chef and has just been hiding his skills from me for the past 5 and a half years. (I swear, all I've ever heard him say is that good food is not worth the effort of cooking it. But hello, he just chose to cut up garlic and saute it, which I think takes more effort than microwaving it.)
I was in bed and reading by 11 last night, and was disturbed by some loud banging in the hallway. It sounded like someone was trying to knock down a door, and I padded out in my PJs to see what was going on. (I wasn't alone, there were many heads peering down the stairwell to see where the noise was coming from.) It turned out that the super was trying to break down a door on the 4th floor. The residents weren't home, and a torrent of water was pouring into the lobby downstairs. It looked like the people below them (on the 3rd and 2nd floors) also weren't home. There was a small crowd watching the super, and another crowd watching the waterfall. can you see there's an inch or two of water on the floor? And that there is more streaming off the ceiling fixture?
I'm not sure how it resolved itself, but the water was turned off for a few hours, and a firetruck sat outside for a while too. I can only imagine what those folks will find when they get home. There was another flood in the building a month or two ago, and these same apartments lost the ceilings in their bathrooms. Oh, I'm glad I live on the top floor!
Friday, November 28
Oh, we are back! I can't wait to sleep in our very firm queen sized bed tonight; the sag and smallness of the double bed at my parents' does not agree with my back! (sorry Mom!)
Tuesday night my father showed us his bounty-- many textiles bought in India. Many of the fabrics are meant as Christmas gifts, but before he went my mother and I somehow convinced him to buy yardage and what he brought us is gorgeous. I am moving closer and closer to doing some sort of quilting, though there's yardage enough of these prints for a dress or skirt, and should probably think carefully about whether I'll make a quilt. He also bought many beautiful scarves and several quilts, most of which I didn't photograph.
Our Thanksgiving was fairly uneventful. My mother, Christopher and I cooked for most of the day on Thursday. My father watched the first part of Game 5 of the World Series, which he'd TiVoed but not yet watched. Christopher's family came at around 4, and we had dinner on the table at exactly 5, which was actually quite amazing. (Amazing in that 5 o'clock was the goal, and we met it.) The food was pretty good, the company fine and the night not too long. The house actually warmed up quite a bit with the oven and various wood fires that my father got going once he arrived. (Apparently hooking up all the vents was just too big a project and was not done by the end of the day on Wednesday.) It was comfortable and no one complained. The pies were delicious.
Today we had a very friendly visit with my Brown cousins, and then we hopped a bus back to New York. Christopher is actually currently making pasta sauce, since he doesn't like the vodka sauce I bought. I'm trying not to get too excited about this, but those who know him should know to be impressed. This is a man who subsisted on pizza, yogurt and breakfast cereal before we moved in together, and who actually made a fuss when I suggested that we would share meals nightly as a married couple. This man is now making pasta sauce, without a recipe and while I blog in the other room. I'm trying not to be too hopeful that this is a sign of our future together, but man, it would be nice!
Tuesday, November 25
I've left New York for the holiday, taking the bus to Philadelphia this morning with a promise to go through my old closet and throw things away so my parents could have a little less clutter.
I got here ready to do some major closet cleaning, but it wasn't so clear what I was supposed to sort through, and my mom was at work, so I spent a few hours rereading letters I'd received from friends when I was in college. What's most interesting about these letters is that they were written right on the cusp of email-- one friend tells me that she has a new account that she's sharing with a friend-- and there are no letters from friends who did have email. There are also some really sweet and funny notes from my grandfather, who had just turned 90 and was designing and building a secretary for me. It's nice to remember that he was so sharp and witty; he was so frail and grumpy his final few years. (He lived to be 99 and a half, if you're wondering.)
I'm currently waiting for my mother to get home from teaching. Christopher is coming tonight and my dad is also flying in from his vacation to India (yeah, I know). My father is a major DIYer, and sometime this summer he disconnected the heat vents in order to do some maintenance (perhaps he was going to install an AC unit?), and never bothered to reconnect them. It wasn't so bad throughout the fall, but the last few weeks --weeks when Dad was in balmy India-- my mother has been freezing here. The house is very drafty and has 14' ceilings, so it's also not so easy to just cuddle up with a space heater. Hopefully this will be solved before Thursday, but in the meantime I'm cold. It's almost paralyzing. I am baking some sweet potatoes in hopes that the kitchen will warm up a few degrees, and I have on my hat and a heavy wool sweater and a blanket wrapped around my shoulders. I wish I had my fingerless gloves...
(photo added 11/28)
Saturday, November 22
This summer I got a hankering for a knitted t-shirt. Not the Hanes type, more the skater type, wool with short sleeves worn over something with longer sleeves. I already had a pink sweater tee, a vintage thing bought at a thrift store, which I liked to wear under a cardigan on really cold days.
The problem was that I couldn't find the right pattern. I had decided to use one of the giant balls of yarn that I got in Denmark (and of course there wasn't that much of it) and I also wanted it to look slightly feminine and fashionable. Nothing was out there for the weight of yarn, yardage and style of my sweater. And so I decided to design one myself. The yarn was a DK or worsted (though listed as fingering in Ravelry), and I made a swatch of various lace designs from Barbara Walker, hoping the yarn would tell me what to do. There were weird color gradations in the swatch that I hadn't anticipated, and when I washed it it softened and bloomed considerably. I decided on a top down pattern, so I could try it on while I knit, and an all over lace design.
When I wound the yarn on Tony's winder, I discovered that I had about half the yardage that I thought I did (the label only told me the weight), which meant that I needed something else to fill out my sweater, since I didn't want a cropped T. This led me on a bit of a search, and I finally settled on some naturally dyed yarn from the Hope Spinnery, which I bought back when I visited the shop in August. And then I cast on and knit.
It actually wasn't so hard to knit, once I'd figured out my measurements and what direction I was going in. I added short rows on the back and on the sleeves to make the whole thing sit a little more comfortably. At one point I thought I'd run out of yarn mid-torso and have an overly wide lavender band at the bottom, but that didn't happen. I also added a partial trellis and pear pattern down the side, to both add a little extra interest and to hide where the two sides meet up. Overall, I'm very happy with the result. I realize that the yarn is a little funky, but oh well. I like it, and it reminds me of my trips to Denmark and Maine, and that makes me happy. (I was actually with my friend Laura when I bought both, and so the sweater reminds me of her, too.)
I'm already getting a lot of use out of it. It's exactly what I wanted.
Sunday, November 16
It's done. Christopher's sweater, I mean.
This is more than a feat than you might think. I started this sweater back in May of last year (yes, '07) and actually finished knitting it by the end of last summer. When I'd pieced it together and had Christopher try it on, it was clear that the sweater was a disaster. It was enormous, and the sleeves didn't fit into the armholes.
My solution? I tore out the collar and cut a chunk out of the back. And then I redesigned and reknit the sleeves. It was painful. The first sleeve cap didn't fit into the armhole and so I had to redesign and reknit the sleeve cap again. Which I did, but then I lost my mojo and couldn't bring myself to tear out the first sleeve cap. And then I forgot what I'd done to make it fit.
This fall, with a little encouragement from my mother, and continued questioning from Christopher, I reknit the second sleeve cap and sewed it on. Done. Today for the first time it was cool enough for Christopher to wear it, and I took some photos while we were at the Botanical Garden. It still isn't a great fit, but it's better than it was. And I am actually prouder of it than of most of the other things I've made. There's a lot of love in that garment.
Pattern: Jarrett by Kim Hargreaves, from Rowan Vintage Knits
Yarn: Ultra Alpaca, knit on #7 needles
Saturday, November 15
As I said recently, I've been on a roll with finishing projects. Christopher's sweater is finally done (though not photographed) and I also finished the lace t-shirt I designed for myself (though only photographed flat). Someday I'll photograph them and you can see what I'm talking about!
In any case, means that I don't have anything big on the needles-- no sweaters, just a lacy scarf and a shawl, both from Victorian Lace Today. The shawl is a long term sort of thing. I'm to the point where there are 500 or so stitches per row, and I made the mistake of calculating how many more stitches I need to completion: roughly 10,000. I know that this is actually very doable, but the number has me slightly paralyzed. This was the shawl back when a row didn't take me over an hour to knit!
The scarf is actually zooming along; I take it on the subway and am able to do about 3/4 of a pattern repeat done per day (there are 20 repeats for the whole scarf). Recently I noticed though that about two repeats down I missed a yarn over, and I'm not sure whether I really want to rip out all that lace or just keep going. I'm lazy, but it looks really bad. (the mistake is not in the photo, so don't bother looking for it!)
Anyway, this brings me to mittens.
I have cold hands. In fact, I have condition that makes my fingers go numb if they go below a certain temperature. Holding a cold drink can trigger it, even in the summer, or a brisk day. I have a very trusty pair of mittens, knit several years ago and I usually wear them all winter with a pair of store bought glove liners underneath to keep my fingers from going numb. But wouldn't it be nice to have a pair of mittens that were actually warm enough? Perhaps they would be lined with something soft?? I'm still on the lookout for the perfect mittens, and the perfect pattern. I've already cast on one pair, and am not sure whether they're The Ones yet or not. Stay tuned.
To get me in the mood, I decided to knit some more mittens for the latest Afghans for Afghans drive, which this time is for children's mittens. I wasn't feeling so inspired to start until I saw a post on Ravelry about the thrummed mittens someone was making. I cast on immediately, and was halfway through the first mitten in an hour or two. I brought it to my knitting night on Tuesday and finished it, realizing (or knowing all along) that I didn't have enough yarn to make a second mitten. Flickr won't let me flip this photo vertically, so I apologize for the weird angle.
Clearly the thrummed mitten is either just for me (though I'd prefer a more colorful background) or will just have to be finished later.
And so I cast on yet another pair of mittens, this one from the Easy Striped Mittens insert from Knit Simple. They knit up very quickly and I like how they look (though they still need to be blocked)
All of this brings me to the fact that I'm actually suddenly feeling inspired to make tons and tons of mittens. Have I have gone off the mitten deep end? Will my family all be receiving mittens in their stockings this year?