Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Cardigan, Graduation, and Plans...

Wow, did March go quickly! Guess that happens when you're busy. Study is still munching away steadily at my daylight hours (and the evening hours too), but thankfully work eased off a little bit over the last week. As a result, I finally had time to finish my stash-bust cardigan!

This is: Self designed top-down raglan cardigan, knitted from Cleckheaton Tempo (wool, acrylic and mohair blend) on 7mm bamboo circular needle.

What Anna has to say: Okay, for a start, I promise that the bottoms are not as lop-sided as they look in the picture. They are actually perfectly symmetrical - I just can't take photos, is all. When I get around to buying some, I'll be closing the front with a couple of buttons instead of just pinning it as I did above - this should remedy the problem.

As mentioned above, I designed this one myself. Lately I've been keen on cardigans with really low fronts, so I went in that direction again. I did some waist shaping in an attempt to dodge the almost inevitable unflattering tendencies that come with yarn this huge. The edgings and cuffs are garter stitch. So it didn't end up being too generic, I worked the fronts and back separately from the hips down, working to cute little points on the fronts. I worked the sleeves in the round, using magic loop.

I don't actually have all that much to say about this one. I suppose I'm happy with how it came out, mainly just because I never had any great ambitions for it. It was always intended to be a basic, unfancy, around-the-house piece - in fact it was basically conceived as a way of getting the Tempo out of my stash, because I wasn't too keen on it, and being super-bulky yarn and all, it was taking up a lot of space. Unfortunately I still have quite a bit of the stuff - but this made a good sized hole at least.

Also, now that the cardigan is done, I have officially declared it time for the winter knitting to commence. Just so that I can be prepared when the weather starts to get colder. I really need to make myself some more warm socks - most of my existing handknit socks are getting quite threadbare. I am also in desperate need of a basic black jacket. And I always need scarves. Always. A new hat wouldn't go astray either. Ahhh, plans. I love planning. The best part is that from mid next-week onwards I will be house/cat-sitting for some honeymooning friends, so I'll have plenty of peace and quite in which to curl up with tea, a DVD and some knitting. Okay fine, and homework too...

In other news... I graduated!

There I am, on the steps of the Old Law quad, looking every inch the proper student. Why yes, that is two degrees, thank you for asking! That said, the university managed to screw up my testamur - they left the "with Honours" off of my Arts certificate, which was a bit irritating. And they managed to stumble over my surname during the ceremony (jeez guys, it's only the seventh most common surname in the country). It was still a fun day though, after I escaped the boredom of the ceremony and got to the part where my family and I made silly mischief during refreshments afterwards...

Knitting related goals aren't the only plans in the works either... But more on that later!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Tale of Two Raglans

Does having two different raglan tops on the needles at the same time mean that I have some sort of problem?

I like to think otherwise. I love top down raglans - they are the ultimate in brainless comfort knitting, and I've never once had to frog one due to fit issues.

The black project in the above picture is nearing completion now - it's a cardigan in the super-bulky Cleckheaton Tempo that I rashly bought way back when I just started knitting. It's not the nicest yarn in the world, but it takes up a lot of room in my stash (you know, the whole super-bulky thing) and I want to use it up. At least the project is going quickly - if I really sink the effort in today, I might even be able to finish it by this evening.

The green project is a raglan style shrug that I'm making out of my Sanguine Gryphon Kypria yarn. I'm not using a pattern, but I've seen other garments constructed in much the same way. It's basically a top down raglan knitted without any front. I started it because, having finished the shawl I was working on, I need another portable project to take to uni. And I am always, always looking for non-sock uses for my sock yarns (that said, autumn is making itself known, so I really should knit some warm socks as well).

In other news, I've been eating a lot of museli (note also the gratuitous fish-bowl shot). I've started making my own, and I really don't know why it took me so long to get around to it. I've always loved museli, but the varieties that you can buy in the shops tend to be either hideously expensive or full of ingredients I don't particularly like (dried apple - urgh, it's like sour rubber!). And making your own is so ridiculously easy.

I used a mixture of oats, sunflower seeds, chopped pecans, flaked almonds, and sesame seeds for my base (that's more or less in descending order of quantities). Then I made a mixture of honey (warmed a little so it mixes easier), vegetable oil, and a wee bit of vanilla essence and cinnamon, and stirred it through the dry mixture. Then I tossed it all onto some trays and put them in a moderate oven until the mixture was toasted and crunchy. When it was cool I added some chopped dried dates and some sultanas. Gorgeous. I encourage everyone else to try it too. I haven't given quantities here because I didn't even use a recipe for this - I just did my usual trick of reading a bunch of them online to glean the basic rules, and then winging it. Anyway, for me to give a recipe would be against the point of the exercise - it's all about making up your own version, with ingredients that suit you! Go and try it!

And finally, I got tagged by the lovely Cadence to produce seven random facts about myself, so here we go:

Seven weird things about Anna:
  1. I don't drink coffee, and have only tried it about three times in my entire life. I'm not really sold on the taste (though I'll concede that the smell is heavenly), and I am weirdly impervious to caffeine, so I don't drink it for pick-me-up purposes either.
  2. I have been bitten by a member of an endangered species (an orangutan in Malaysia, when I was about 13)
  3. I can't whistle, and have only succeeded in clicking my fingers once in my whole life.
  4. I am hopelessly hooked on sweets, but could probably give up chocolate without too much angst (pop culture would have you believe that I fail at womanhood for this reason).
  5. I was born without wisdom teeth.
  6. I love science fiction/fantasy. I was indoctrinated quite young by my parents - they made me watch a delightful British series from the late 1970s called Blake's 7 (which hardly any Australians these days have even heard of), and I've been hooked ever since.
  7. I am a huge bird nerd, and can identify a great many Australian species from just a quick glance (and even by their calls in some cases).

I always feel weird tagging people - if anyone else wants to do this, they can feel free (just say I tagged you - nobody will ever know, it'll be our little secret!).

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Cure for the Rut

So, a few posts ago I made reference to a shawl that I had started in an attempt to get out of the knitting rut that I found myself mired in. Amusingly enough, knitting the shawl wasn't really as enjoyable as I had hoped it would be. I kept angsting about whether or not I liked the way that the stripes looked, and when you're unsure about whether a project is working, it takes away some of the joy of making it. The fact that the last few rows of triangle shawls last forever didn't really aid matters. Still, I'm happy to say that I'm actually really pleased with how it turned out:

And this is: A basic triangle shawl with stripes of 'Sundara Sock' (100% wool) in 'Brambleberry' and some black Patonyle (wool/nylon blend), knitted on a 3.75mm circular needle.

Anna says: As previously mentioned, this project basically revolved around my desire to finally use the Sundara yarn, and use it in a project that wasn't socks - the colour was far too beautiful to be subjected to the ravages of my feet. There wasn't really enough of it for a garment, or to make a decent length scarf, so a shawl it was.

For all those interested, my process went roughly as follows (this is a basic triangle shawl, and about as basic as you can get, but writing this out makes me feel important and knowledgeable!):

Cast on 7 stitches.
Row 1 (RS): k1, m1, k2, m1, k1, m1, k2, m1, k1 (4 stitches increased, 11 stitches total)
Row 2: Knit all stitches
Row 3: k3, place marker, m1, k2, m1, place marker, k1, place marker, m1, k2, m1, place marker, k3
Row 4: Knit all stitches

From this point, work as follows: On every RS row, knit first 3 stitches, slip marker, m1, knit to next marker, m1, slip marker, k1 (this is the centre stitch), slip marker, m1, knit to last marker, m1, slip marker, k3. On every wrong side row, k3, purl to last 3 stitches, k3. Basically you are increasing 4 stitches per right side row - once on each edge, next to the garter stitch edge, and once on either side of the centre stitch. Continue on until your shawl reaches the desired size.

My stripe pattern went as follows (MC being Sundara, CC being the Patonyle):
4 rows CC, 4 rows MC (72 rows, 18 stripes, ending with MC)
2 rows CC, 4 rows MC (30 rows, 10 stripes, ending with MC)
2 rows CC, 6 rows MC (18 rows, 5 stripes - end with an extra 2 row stripe of CC)
16 rows MC
4 rows MC in garter stitch (maintaining increases).
Bind off all stitches.

As previously mentioned, I really wasn't wild about the striping while I was knitting the shawl. But now I've decided that I quite like the way that it turned out. And while it's smaller than most of the other shawls that I own, it's still just large enough to wear in a couple of different ways (as a scarf, knotted around the shoulders, as a shrug with the ends tied behind the back, etc). And I finally managed to get that Sundara knitted up and out of my stash! This was a classic case of a yarn that just felt 'too nice to use'. Which is arguably a state that no crafting material should ever reach. At least I've found this skein a good home.

In other news, I am making good progress on my cabled Cybele vest. I've survived my first week of the new course, and I am actually really liking it so far! This week I ate my body weight in delicious home-made museli. Oh, and I forgot to mention this earlier: last week I went and saw Amanda Palmer play at The Forum, and it was awesome! I even survived the crazy rain/hail that Melbourne weathered yesterday. The flooding was pretty nuts though - the underpass next door to my work flooded so deeply that the cars that got stuck under there were fully submerged, to the point that they weren't even visible. This situation wasn't made better by the fact that people kept trying to drive through... *rolls eyes*

So yes, I have officially survived the first week of uni, flash flooding, and death by museli. Let's see what next week brings...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March at Last!

So, it's finally March. February felt oddly long for me, but March is bringing a lot 0f change. New season, new course at uni, new plans, and so on. Oh, and now having to pay full price on public transport because apparently postgraduate students aren't real students *gripe*

Now while I'm feeling cautiously optimistic about this year and the coming month both, seemingly everyone else I know has taken it upon themselves to get sick (probably has something to do with that lovely alternation between searingly hot and cold and rainy that my beloved city tends to do so very well). As of right now, I do not have this dubious honour, and am attempting to continue on in this way by employing my three proven ways of staying well: resting, staying warm, and good food.

Homemade lasagne (vegetarian of course). Looks awesome, does it not? And it tasted even better...

I was particularly pleased with this one because it was the first time I'd tried my hand at lasagne, and I didn't use a recipe. I've noticed that more and more these days I tend to rely less on recipes. What I do instead (and this is made So Much Easier with the internet, and the wealth of information that it provides upon the simple entering of a few choice words into Google) is find a handful of different recipes for a dish, read through them, take note of the key points, and then make my own version. I did the same thing day before yesterday with homemade toasted museli (which may warrant a blog post of its own in the near future, so awesome was the result). While this method might not be for everyone, I'm finding it works really well for me. I'm very much of the opinion that one of the best things about cooking yourself is being able to tailor recipes to suit your individual likes and dislikes, and this method lets you do this while hopefully making a minimum of fatal errors (and while I dearly love doing my own thing, I'll be the first to acknowledge that cooking does contain a great many non-negotiable rules).

At any rate, for all those playing along at home, I filled my lasagna with instant dried pasta sheets, basic tomato sauce (made from onion, garlic, passata, bay leaves, olive oil and a slurp of some gifted red wine that was, ahem, not really a desirable drinking option, with some baby spinach tossed in at the end), thinly sliced zucchini and pumpkin, and a small amount of grated mozzarella cheese. I topped it with more sauce, poured some extra passata around the edges (because I was clever and didn't make enough sauce), and then topped it with some more cheese and some dried basil and oregano. Once it came out of the oven, I put some fresh basil on top, because I am a fiend for basil. And I lived off the leftovers for three days. Happy Anna.

In knitting news, the boy has been walking around wearing several shop bought scarves. As you can all probably imagine, this simply will not do. It's been a while now - I think I can tempt fate and knit him one. After all, they call it the "sweater curse", not the scarf curse. I am planning on knitting this scarf in the worsted Malabrigo pictured above, just like this version.

Yes, I think I might be in the middle of a bit of a cable binge. Oh well - at least there will be pretty things by the end of it.