Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tea Leaves: Not Just for Teapots!

Happy weekend everyone! I'm pretty tired - I spent last night baking 60 blue and yellow iced cupcakes for a fundraiser at work. However, bearing in mind the promise that I made last post regarding more knitting and less food, I did not take pictures. Perhaps I'll take a few shots of the second batch. And following up on the other half of that promise, I give you the (finally completed) Tea Leaves Cardigan!

What, this old thing? This is: The Tea Leaves Cardigan, by Melissa LaBarre, in Dream in Color Classy (November Muse), knitted on 4.5mm needles.

Anna says: Wow, this felt like it took forever, especially since I normally burn through patterns with this much stocking stitch! But I'm rather happy with how it came out. I had a few reservations about the pattern and yarn choice: I don't wear a lot of brown, I'm not convinced about these buttoned-at-the-top, loose-at-the-bottom cardigans that are so in at the moment, and so on. But all that aside, I quite like the finished product, and I've already worn it out and about!

The pattern was very well put together. I made a few modifications, but not many: I shortened the body a little bit (hip length things don't tend to be particularly flattering on me), and made the garter stitch band at the bottom a little narrower. I had heard people saying that the upper arms were a little snug, so I picked up two extra stitches at the arm hole, and did not do any decreases while working the sleeves. I made them 3/4 length, and once again, I made the garter stitch bands a little narrower.

The yarn is just lovely - but we we all know I have a bit of a thing for Dream in Color (jeez, I'm never sure whether to write 'colour' with the 'u' as we normally would down here, or without because it's a brand name... *gripe*). There wasn't that much variation between the skeins, thankfully. One was a little darker, so when I was working the sleeves I alternated it with one of the lighter balls, and there's no pooling to speak of in the end product. For some reason, one of the other skeins decided to break a lot, which was a little disappointing (and made for a lot of ends to weave in), but I've never had this problem with DiC before, so hopefully it was a one off.

See that? That's the yoke that felt like it took forever! Worth it though - I really like how the gathered pattern looks in the semi solid yarn. I even managed to work a semi decent button band - I'm gradually conquering my phobia of picking up stitches!

Okay, now that I've discharged my knitting-update duties, I can talk about other things! This morning I staggered out of cupcake servitude and made my way to the Handknitters' Guild Wool Show in Brunswick. I saw lots of lovely Ravelry people, and had a good chat with many of them. I went home earlier than I was expecting to in the end, as I wasn't feeling very well, but not before picking up a few lovely, lovely bits and pieces from lovely local spinners/dyers like Ixchel (angora! Whee!), Ms Gusset, and a couple of others.

It was a crafty week in general actually. On Tuesday it was a good friend's birthday, so she came around and we tried our hand at making candles! We started small - just little beeswax tea lights - and they came out beautifully. They have a lovely subtle honey smell when you burn them. I've also been sewing lots of rice packs (as in the kind that you heat and then apply to aches and pains). They're quick and easy, but rather satisfying. I made one for a friend with lavender in it, and another for myself with chamomile flowers.

So, the above depicts my week in craft! Rice pack and candles in the middle, some lovely acquisitions from today at the sides. Okay, fine, there were a couple more acquisitions at the wool show, but they're a secret for the next few weeks *is mysterious*.

And now I'd probably better try and be a good student and get some of my essay done before I renew my assault on Mt Cupcake. Wish me luck!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Food and Hats: Both Good Things!

Life is going on, and alas, I am no less busy. But it's a good kind of busy - the kind where you feel like you're getting somewhere, where none of the tasks are loathsome, and where at least you have time to stop and pause once in a while, even if it's not for very long (just long enough to read a few chapters or eat some cake or knit a few rows).

Anyway, to business! First off, here's the hat I knitted for my brother:

Specifics: Pattern is Turn a Square, by Jared Flood. Yarn used was Bendigo Woollen Mills Rustic 12ply in 'Redcurrant' and Cleckheaton Merino Supreme (black). I used 5.5mm double pointed needles.

Comments? This is a great pattern. Followed unaltered it makes a rather nifty, very wearable hat, and it also provides a useful template to work from when you want to do something a little bit different. This is the second time I've made it, and both times I actually ended up using a different weight of yarn, but it's a great starting point, and very easy to adapt. This time around I decided to do some colourwork instead of stripes (my brother already has a stripey hat), so I just made up a very, very basic red/black chequered pattern (didn't bother drawing up a chart or anything - it's not like you really need to with something this basic!).

I managed to make the entire thing in a day without having to stress about it too much - the heavier yarn makes it a very fast knit, and the colour stranding doesn't slow you down too much since you don't have to be forever consulting a chart. Brother seemed quite happy with it, so I'm calling it a successful project!

My other knitting is coming along well. I have high hopes of finally finishing the Tea Leaves cardigan today, so stay tuned for that one in the next few days. I also started a cute little mini-neckwarmer in the lovely Louisa Harding yarn that I found squirreled away in a bedside table drawer.

Still, the last few days have really belonged to essays, work, and kitchen!

On Saturday night I made baked felafel, and then proceeded to eat nearly the entire batch, dipping them in Greek yoghurt and hummus as I shovelled them down. Even though the ingredients are pretty humble, they are really, really good, and I foresee many more batches in my future! Possibly starting tonight... And for all those omnivores out there who never know what to cook when they have to entertain vegetarian/vegan friends, I strong suggest these - they're very easy.

I also made the cupcakes to end all cupcakes. It was a coworker's last shift on Sunday, and she had requested something chocolatey. So, I complied... and then some.

The base was Nigella Lawson's chocolate cupcake recipe from How to Be a Domestic Goddess (amazing book - I have made so many wonderful things from her recipes). Some are iced with basic chocolate butter-cream and topped with a Malteaser, and the others have a cookies and cream icing (made by folding roughly chopped Oreos into vanilla butter-cream) and are decorated with an Oreo quarter. They were actually very easy to make, despite the fact that they look pleasingly fancy. I got out my piping bag. I love my piping bag.

More knitting and less food next post, I promise!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Birthday! May Also Contain Traces of Zoo.

So, it was my birthday two days ago! Alas, I had a lot of study to do on Monday, and several hours of classes to not only attend, but also lead discussion in, so there was not a lot of birthday-ing on my actual birthday. However, last Saturday we celebrated with (another) trip to Melbourne Zoo. Yes, I know that there was a zoo trip only a few months ago. But the zoo is fun! We all brought cakes and biscuits and savouries and picnicked on the grass near the seal enclosure. This was the first time in over 10 years that I'd dared to plan an outdoors event for my birthday - Melbourne has enjoyed torrential rain on May 17th for the last two years running, so I was a little wary. But I am happy to report that the sun shone on both my plans and all of the intrepid (cake-bearing) adventurers who came along for the fun.

I had never seen the bottom of a bear's foot before. It looks entertainingly like a slipper (these slippers in particular). And just to make sure our good old Aussie wildlife is represented:

After the zoo, there was a knitting at the pub, and I ate a cupcake with a criminal amount of icing (I got some assistance from The Boy, and even so I was barely able to finish!). On Sunday, my family presented me with some new cupcake and muffin tins, a new teapot, and a couple of nice leather notebooks (I plan on lugging at least one of them along with me on my travels). And yesterday The Boy and two good friends organised a surprise dinner at Kamel, which was lovely. We ate the vegetarian banquet, and walked out very full afterward. Oh, and they gave me the Wuthering Heights mug that I have been coveting for months now.

In knitting news, I made an impromptu hat for my brother's birthday. Amusingly enough, it's from the same pattern as his Christmas hat, but instead of stripes I made up a chequered pattern in red and black. I think he liked it. Pictures next post, if I can coerce him into modelling for them.

I've also been knitting away on my Tea Leaves cardigan, but it's been a little while in finishing because I just can't make up my mind about the sleeves. More specifically, I can't decide whether to make them 3/4 length or full length. I am pretty sure I have enough yarn for full length, but not 100% positive. So then I started considering 3/4, and now I just can't decide. I've reached the stage on one where if I wanted to go 3/4 I would have to start the garter edging, so I'm thinking that I'll just slip the stitches onto waste yarn for the moment, knit the other sleeve, and then see how I'm going for yarn when they're at matching lengths. I've already knitted the button bands, so I don't have to factor those in. Urgh, I hate indecision - it's the single biggest enemy of creativity, in my experience. Even more so than procrastination.

On other fronts, I've just been busy busy busy. I'm trying to get final assignments going, trying to organise my internship for next semester, and just dealing with all of those other random things that crop up (like, oh, I don't know - planning an overseas holiday that starts in LESS THAN A MONTH!). Still, busy is good. Makes you remember that you're alive! Or something.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Episode Eighty-Four: In Which Anna Emerges from her Book Pile

Whew! (Comparatively) Long time, no post! The strange thing is, I'm not really sure what's been holding it up. I would like to pin it on assignments, but I haven't really been grappling with any more of those than usual. I'm not working a larger number of shifts than usual. My social calendar has not been filled to bursting point with glamorous social events, leaving me too time-short to post. Nope, this is the scary kind of 'life going fast' - the kind where you don't even know where all of the time has gotten to!

All of that said, life is going well enough. I got the results from my first round of assignments, and for the most part they were all very pleasant surprises. I have been busily planning my holiday - a good thing too, seeing as I'm off in a little over a month. I acquired a brand new fish tank. I will be retiring my old, too-small one (because I really don't need three tanks to maintain) and hopefully making a valiant attempt to turn it into a terrarium (for some reason the urge to make one has been circling in my head like for the last few months). My fish seem very happy in their new home, and this pleases me to an extent that is probably quite silly. And finally, people on Ravelry have been making my pattern, and this fills me with excitement.

As for the knitting, I have been working feverishly away on my Tea Leaves cardigan, and it's not too far off of being finished. The body, including the Yoke That Just Wouldn't End, is all done, and I am about halfway through the first sleeve and progressing at a good speed.

Despite at least one friend concluding that the yarn is 'poo-coloured', I've decided that I quite like the colour. I can't say that there's a lot of brown in my wardrobe, and I wouldn't have the first clue as to what kinds of colours go well with brown, but I look forward to finding out! Besides, jeans go with everything, right? Even poo-brown.

Besides, Dream in Colour yarn is gorgeous. Just plain gorgeous.

Now, because I'm sure you're all sick of looking at the poo brown (see, now I'm saying it), I have been working on other things too. The sock yarn shrug that I was playing around with a month ago is coming along, though it's been on hold the last week or so, just because magic-looping the sleeve was grating a little. I've finished one sleeve though, so now there's just the other and a bit more of the back to go. I edged the sleeve with a picot bind-off in a contrasting colour and I quite like the way it looks, though I'm not sure how well the bind-off worked with the loose gauge. Oh well, you live and learn.

In other news, I finally caught up with The Boy and was able to apply my lovingly knitted scarf to his Melbourne-autumn chilled neck. See!

(note: he does not actually have a Man-Bob. It just looks that way because the rest of his hair is covered by the scarf, I swear. And yes, my desk is apparently covered in fish food and limes. Want to make something of it?)

And that's about all I have for the moment. Stay tuned for the conclusion of the Tea Leaf cardigan saga (okay, perhaps saga is a strong word), and also for cupcakes. I've been conscripted by my work to bake a huge batch for a cancer fundraiser in a couple of weeks, and I'll be sure to take pictures...