Monday, April 26, 2010

Survival, a scarf, and yet more garlic.

Good evening internet! I am pleased to announce that I have officially survived my Week-of-Assignment-Hell. I even have my sanity intact (more or less).

Okay, perhaps I'm blowing it all ever-so-slightly out of proportion, but it has been a long and gruelling couple of weeks. Once I had handed the last essay in, I was so wrecked that it was all I could do just to stagger onto the tram and let it carry me a few blocks to my comfort food joint of choice. Half an hour, a dozen steamed veggie dumplings, and a thermos of tea later, I felt more or less ready to face the world again. That was late last week, and while I've had work and uni since, I spent the last two days making the most of my long weekend, and sleeping as much as possible. Which is not actually all that much, as I tend to wake early and get hungry, but hey, I'm trying!

I've not been idle either, despite all of the aforementioned sleep. I finished the Boy Thing's scarf, and it is just as cosy warm as I'd hoped it would be. Just in time too, as cold weather has hit Melbourne in a big way the last day or so - on my walk last night I experienced the first 'visible breath' of the year. Yes, I know that to all those readers who regularly have snow, this is a little pathetic, but in my neck of the woods, below 10 degrees Celsius is cold, all right!

Mmmm... so warm. I only tried it on for a moment, I swear!

I also got a lot done on my current major project - I'm making a Tea Leaves cardigan from some Dream in Colour 'Classy' that I've had kicking around, sad and purposeless, for quite a while now.

I've just finished the textured part of the yoke, so now it's straight sailing in stockinette until I divide for the sleeves. While I am definitely no stranger to top-down construction, this is the first time in ages that I haven't used the raglan style, so the round yoke is providing quite a novel experience. It feels like it's taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r, but they always seem to. And I'm really pleased with how the semi solid yarn is working here. The variegation is quite subtle, and looks quite lovely.

In other news, I have been doing what I always do when I have some free time - cooking! I spent the worst of the Week of Doom living mainly off of tinned soup and breakfast cereal, so the first thing I did once finished (okay, the first thing after dumplings and sleep) was make up a huge vat of vegetable and barley soup. Of course, the wonderful thing about doing this is that you have meals for days afterwards without having to do anything more taxing than turning the microwave on for a minute or two. And, if you feel so inclined, this gives you more time to get creative with your accompaniments. I've done garlic bread before, obviously, and toasted Turkish bread is something I am rarely without, but this was something else entirely:

Isn't it glorious? Cheesy garlic Turkish bread. I grilled some chopped garlic and olive oil on a square of foil until the garlic was cooked, then spread it on the bumpy side of the bread. I then sprinkled some mozzarella cheese over it and microwaved it just a tiny bit to soften the cheese. And then the whole thing got a good grilling - just long enough to melt the cheese. I always used to just spread raw garlic on the bread, but this usually entails toasting the bread to within an inch of its life in order to cook the garlic through. This was the garlic is properly cooked, but the bread is still ultra soft.

I will be making this A Lot over the coming autumn and winter... I know, I know, I have a bit of a tragic addiction to garlic, but how many foods are there that manage to be this delicious, healthy and inexpensive all at the same time? Ours is a love affair that will continue for a long time to come!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Busy, busy, busy...

Alas, aside from this brief post, the blog silence will be continuing on for a little while yet. I am having one-of-those-weeks as far as university goes: three assignments due over the course of four days. I am a very busy girl.

But it's okay, because I have stress-free knitting, in the form of the previously mentioned tasty-warm Malabrigo scarf for The Boy:

I'm also back home, and have my beloved fish to stare at. And a capsicum - I try and make sure that I have some sort of vegie plant growing at times of academic stress, because they're fun to take five minutes to go look at when things are getting hectic. Hah, I'm turning into such a hippie...

Hopefully I'll post sometime late this week, possibly with a completed scarf and news of other projects. In the mean time, enjoy my paltry attempts at home-grown foodstuffs!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Northing ventured, nothing gained...

...especially when it comes to hats, apparently!

Pattern: Druidess Beret, by Anna Bright. Knitted out of half a ball of Bendigo Woollen Mills Rustic 8ply (Midnight Tweed), on 4.5mm circular/dpns.

Colour commentary: Hurrah, I knitted a beret that doesn't look look stupid on me! As previously mentioned, I had reservations about starting this one. It was obviously a gorgeous pattern, but I don't have a history of looking good in berets. Really, this looks to me more like a tam than a beret, and perhaps this is why it doesn't suffer from beret-on-Anna's-head syndrome. Either way, I'm happy with it! And I finished it just in time for the cold snap that has suddenly hit Melbourne.

This is a really well written pattern, and given how beautiful the end result is, I'm amazed that more people on Ravelry haven't made it. That said, it was rather time consuming for a hat, though it would probably go more quickly if the cabling was worked without a cable needle (I have, ahem, not mastered that technique yet - or rather I am yet to find a way that I am comfortable with). At first I wasn't entirely convinced that the finished product was worth the time that it took me, but I think I'm convinced now.

The only changes I made was to omit the bobble from the top of the centre (for no real reason other than laziness, to be honest), and to work the bobbles in the pattern a little differently than prescribed - the method I used made them bigger, and a little more defined.

I also loved the yarn - BWM yarn is awesome, and every time I use it I can't help but feel that I should use it more often. It's so great for the price (and yes, observant readers, you are correct - this is the same yarn I used for my sleevesless pullover last post).

In other news, thanks to everyone who said nice things about the pattern in the last post - I've been thrilled with all of the positive feedback! In other project news, my Kypria raglan shrug is coming along well, if a little idiosyncratically. And now that this hat is off the needles, I can finally start putting some more work into The Boy's (now much needed - see previous comment about the cold snap) scarf. He gets a scarf. I have something new to knit on the train. Everyone wins.

And now I need to go and feed the cats. Five more days of house-sitting to go - I'm not sure if I'll miss them or just be relieved that they're no longer wrecking havoc on my possessions. These guys are constantly treading the line between cute and infuritating, and sometimes I really can't tell what side they're walking on.

(looks cute, but is pure mischief and evil, I swear. Then again, he is a cat....)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pattern: Practical Procrastination Pullover

Well, it took a while, but here it is: the pattern for the short sleeved pullover I designed last year and reknit this January, newly christened the Practical Procrastination Pullover. The alliteration is a little painful, I know, but I just couldn't resist. Besides, it's quite true actually. I designed and knit this in a fit of procrastination come exam period (I actually did the majority of the knitting while listening to endless recordings of Restitutions Law lectures).

But despite these mildly deplorable origins, it's actually a very practical thing to knit. It's good to throw on over a tank top for a little bit of extra warmth when it's not quite warm enough to go without - I've been wearing it quite a lot like this in the current autumn weather, throwing a scarf into the mix on colder mornings. Come winter, I imagine it'll be great for layering. And if one wants to extend the 'practical' theme to finding a use for some of those past impulsive yarn purchases, this pattern lends itself very well. It uses about 420 yards of DK weight yarn, so if you've got anything squirrelled away in an amount that isn't quite enough for a full size pullover, this hits the spot quite nicely. Or if you're feeling all frugal and virtuous, you can do what I did for the purple version - using only one 200g ball of yarn, it cost me a whole $11 to make!

I ummed and ahhed a little about how and when to post this one, if at all. Originally I'd toyed with the idea of braving some maths and then writing up instructions for other sizes, but then I realised that given how hectic my life is, it might take a while for me to get around to doing this. I'll update it when I do, but in the mean time, here's the original version - it probably wouldn't take too much work to up/downsize it. Raglans are pretty flexible that way, which is why we love them.

Also, a brief disclaimer: the following pattern has, as of right now, been test knit only by yours truly (though people are working on this!), and even though I am yet to find any, there may very well be mistakes lurking in the depths. If you find any, please do let me know!

Practical Procrastination Pullover:

This is a raglan style short sleeved pullover, constructed from the bottom hem upwards. Stitches are cast on for the body and worked in the round until being divided for the neckline opening, after which point it is worked back and forth flat. Sleeves are created by provisionally casting on stitches, which are later picked up and worked from the shoulder down once the body knitting has been completed.

Size: Fits a 36 inch bust with a small amount of ease.

Yarn: Variegated version used Sanguine Gryphon Free Range in 'Green Junglefowl' (2 skeins). I worked from both skeins at once, switching every two rows to avoid pooling, but you don't need to do that if you're not as neurotic as I am! Purple version used Bendigo Woollen Mills Rustic 8ply in 'Midnight Tweed' (1 ball). This is equivalent to approximately 420 yards of DK knit weight yarn.

Needles: 5.5mm circular needle for body, and 5.5mm double pointed needles as well if you're not keen on using the magic loop technique for the sleeves. Optional: 7mm needles for sleeves if working the flared sleeve variation seen in the variegated version.

Gauge: 15 sts / 24 rows = 4 inches on 5.5mm needles. Note: using this size needle with a dk yarn creates quite a light fabric, so upsize the yarn if you want something more substantial.

K: knit
P: purl
PM: place stitch marker
SM: slip stitch marker
K2tog: Knit next two stitches together (1 stitch decreased - right slanting decrease)
SSK: Slip next two stitches, one at a time, then knit together through the front (1 stitch decreased - left slanting decrease)
RS: right side
WS: wrong side
M1: Increase one stitch

Cast on 132 stitches. PM to mark beginning and join to begin working in the round.
In first round, PM after 66 stitches to mark halfway point of round (used for waist shaping).
Work next 6 rows in garter stitch in the round (i.e. alternating knit and purl rounds).
Change to stocking stitch (knit all rounds), and work 4 more rounds.

Waist Decreases:
Decrease round: K1, ssk, knit to 3 stitches before side marker, k2tog, K1, SM, K1, ssk, knit to 3 stitches before end of round, k2tog, K1. (total of 4 stitches decreased)

Work 5 rows even.

Repeat last 6 rows 3 more times (4 decrease rows worked, total of 16 stitches decreased, 116 stitches remaining).

Work even until piece measures 8 inches from cast on edge, or length desired before neck opening (note that I am Tall and probably have a longer torso than most, so this length may vary on someone else!)

Neckline set-up:
K 25, PM, P 8, PM, knit to end of round (these 8 purled stitches will form the garter stitch border for the neckline, so if you desire a wider/narrower border, alter your garter stitch count accordingly here. The important thing to remember is that these stitches are centred on the front half of the pullover).

Knit 1 round even.
Knit to first neckline marker, SM, P 8, SM, knit to end of round.
Knit to first neckline marker, K 4, turn work and (now knitting on the WS, working flat) knit to end, maintaining garter borders (i.e. knitting purl stitches and purling knit stitches).

Begin neckline decreases:
RS: Starting at right side of neckline, knit garter stitch border to marker, SM, ssk, knit around to 2 stitches before the other neckline marker, k2tog, SM, knit garter stitch to end (2 stitches decreased).
WS: Maintaining garter stitch borders, work even.

Repeat last 2 rows until 23 stitches remain on each front side (i.e. in between the neckline and the side marker, including the garter stitch border).

Note: maintain garter borders throughout rest of the body.

Waist Increases:
Continue working neckline decreases as described above, and at the same time:

RS: Work to 1 stitch before side marker, M1, K1, SM, K1, M1, work to 1 stitch before next marker, M1, K1, SM, K1, M1, then work to end, maintaining neck decreases and garter borders (4 stitches increased).
Work 5 rows even.

Repeat last 6 rows 1 more time (total of 8 stitches increased). Stitch total should now be as follows: 4 stitches (neckline), 15 stitches (front), 62 stitches (back), 15 stitches (front), 4 stitches (neckline). 100 stitches total.

Knit to 3 stitches before side marker. Slip next 6 stitches onto two separate pieces of waste yarn - 3 stitches per piece (removing first side marker), PM, provisionally cast on 42 stitches for the first sleeve, PM, work to 3 stitches before second side marker, slip next 6 stitches on waste yarn as previously described, PM, provisionally cast on 42 stitches for second sleeve, PM, work to end.

Note: neckline decreases cease from this point onwards.

Purl next round.

Raglan decreases:
Row 1 (RS): Knit to first sleeve marker, SM, k2tog, work to 2 stitches before next marker, ssk, SM, k2tog, work to 2 stitches before next marker, ssk, SM, k2tog, work to 2 stitches before last sleeve marker, ssk, SM, work to end. (6 stitches decreased)
Row 2 (WS): Purl
Row 3: Work as for Row 1
Row 4: Purl
Row 5: Knit to 2 stitches before first sleeve marker, ssk, SM, k2tog, work to 2 stitches before next marker, ssk, SM, k2tog, work to 2 stitches before next marker, ssk, SM, k2tog, work to 2 stitches before last sleeve marker, ssk, SM, k2tog, work to end. (8 stitches decreased).
Row 6: Purl.

Repeat the last 6 rows 2 more times.

Work as for Row 5 on all RS rows, purling WS rows, for 18 rows more. Stop decreasing when 48 stitches remain (you should have 5 stitches remaining on each front - including garter border, 8 stitches on each sleeve, and 22 stitches on the back).
Work 4 rows garter stitch.
Bind of all stitches

(Optional: On the purple version, I decreased 1 stitch on each neckline edge in the last 2 rows before the bind-off, just to make the corners a little less pointy).

Starting middle of armpit, knit 3 held stitches onto needle (circular or dpn, depending on how you choose to work the sleeves). Pick up 1 stitch between these stitches and the sleeve stitches, then carefully undo the provisional cast on and knit these stitches. Pick up 1 stitch in gap between sleeve and held stitches. Knit remaining 3 held stitches.
Place marker to mark start, then work in the round for 3 rounds.

Work 4 rows garter stitch in the round (optional: if you want a slightly flared sleeve, switch to 7mm needles at this point).

Loosely bind off all stitches.

Weave in ends, block, and you're done!

If anything in this doesn't make sense, or you have questions, drop me an email!

Pattern and photos © 2010. Permission is given for personal use only. Please don't copy this pattern or sell items made from it without talking to me about it first.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Peaceful Interlude

Well, as you all might have guessed from the lack of new blog posts, the last week and a bit has been absolutely insane in my neck of the woods. I worked quite a lot, had the first major assignment due in my editing subject, and last but not least, one of my dearest friends got married. I am proud to say that during the ceremony, I got through my reading with only a few small, virtually imperceptible mistakes, and that's really no mean feat, considering the fact that I was reading from Dr Zeuss! Erm, bride's choice, not mine!

Anyway, the wedding went off wonderfully, the bride and groom had a lovely time, and now that they've departed on their honeymoon, I am house-sitting for them and tending to their two lovely cats.

The above kitty is Loki, and there's also a sweet ginger and white boy called Puck roaming around, trying to eat my yarn whenever I attempt knitting. Thankfully I worked yesterday and used the mighty power of my staff discount to purchase a dangly toy to distract them.

With cats distracted, I've been free to keep working on this hat! It's a Druidess Beret, and I'm a bit over halfway through it. I was a little hesitant to start work on a beret, because they tend to look absolutely terrible on me, but then I decided to throw caution to the wind. If it looks awful, I'll just give it away, but I'm hoping it won't come to that - this pattern looks like it can be worn as a beanie too if you just pull it down a little, and I have a better track record wearing beanies. At first I didn't think that the yarn had enough stitch definition to really make the cables pop properly, but it's looking a bit more promising as it grows. The problem was particularly pronounced in the bobbles, so I ditched the method specified in the pattern and adapted a tried and true technique instead, and they're looking much better now.

I also did a bit of yarn dyeing over the last week (I fitted it in somehow, though it did involve frantically rinsing the yellow hank out when I should have been prettying myself up for the wedding ceremony... oh well). As usual, I just used supermarket gathered food dyes, and my lazy take on these instructions for cold-pour technique dyeing. The blue had a few irksome white patches after its first encounter with the dye, so I tossed it back into my trusty dyeing saucepan and heated it in a weak dye solution for a while.

I'm really, really happy with how they came out. Every time I dye my own semi-solid yarn, I always wonder why I don't do it more often. And why everyone doesn't do it - it's so easy!

The above yarn is destined for a pair of warm, stripey socks to get me through winter. I deliberately dyed it as brightly as possible, as I think that come June I'll need the extra colour. Until June 14th that is, because that's the day I will be getting on a plane... On that note, I'm off to drink more tea, eat another English muffin, and do some travel plotting!