Sunday, January 31, 2010

Knitting, marmalade and more snow

It is exactly a year since I made marmalade and we had just finished the last jar. So I took advantage of the bleak weather by having a preserving day!
This year it is ruby grapefruit with tangerine and whisky. My son offered to help, which was a surprise until I realised it was an opportunity to play with all the gadgets on the food processor and have an authorised rummage through FL's spirits cupboard. Hmmm. Might be time to draw up an Assets Register.
Three grapefruit, two tangerines, a kilo of preserving sugar and a generous slug of single malt made 8 jars. That should last another year!
I made a start on a new project I am calling Sprout. The yarn is from my Woolgirl sock club of two years ago and is delicious. More about that when there is something to show.

And I have reached the striped section of Andrea's Shawl. I found a mistake in the lace section which at least proves I was paying attention.
The 16 rows of leaves were DIFFICULT! I haven't said that about a pattern for a long time. Too many "p2 tog tbl"s for my liking! This is the first time I have knitted lace which has action on the knit AND purl rows. Not at all relaxing.

Here is the whole picture. I am about to join in the lime.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Banana Cherry Lime Loaf

It’s Friday and you want to rustle up a little treat for the kids, but you haven’t been to the supermarket yet. All that’s left in the fruit bowl is a pile of stinking brown bananas and a lime. What to do? Make a Banana Cherry Lime Loaf of course!

Roobeedoo’s Banana Cherry Lime Loaf

10 oz weight of peeled bananas (about 3)
2 medium (free range organic) eggs
6 fl oz (organic) sunflower oil
6 oz light muscovado sugar
10 oz SR flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
Juice of one lime (or about 2 tbsp from a bottle)
100g dried cherries (the whole-foody sort, not the bright red glace ones – Lidl sells them, or Asda)

Whizz together in a food processor (or beat): bananas, oil, lime juice, sugar and eggs.

Add the flour / baking powder / spice in “pulse” mode (or fold in).

Finally, fold in the dried cherries. Beware chopping them too finely – the hit of a half-cherry is part of the joy of this cake!

Pour mix into a paper-lined 1lb loaf tin.

Bake at 180 for an hour.

The lime and cherries have a sweet / sourness which works well to cut the sweetness of the over-ripe banana. I cannot bear the smell of squishy bananas but I love this cake! And it is dairy-free for the kids.

I would show you a picture… but it’s gone already!

Monday, January 25, 2010

FO: The Modern Garden cardi revisited


The Modern Garden cardigan by 100-rain.

Size: medium body, extra-large sleeves.

Yarn: Patons Inca from Kemps at 79p per ball. I used 8 balls.

Needles: Denise interchangeables: 10mm and Knitpro spectra acrylic dpns: also 10mm

Buttons: Red plastic from Ebay.

Modifications: I was afraid the sleeves were going to be too tight, so started them again, in the largest size. This meant I had to adjust the stitch count as I joined the sleeves to the yoke, which I did over two rows, by decreasing at the beginning and end of each sleeve piece. It worked, but my stitch count was out when I reached the neck, so I had to do a bit more fiddling.

I also messed about with the button placement to improve the fit (more below).

Would I knit it again? Not in this yarn and not in this size. I think it would look better in a denser single-ply wool, so that it might felt lightly when washed. The Inca is OK, but a bit splitty and lacking in body. However, it makes for a light yet thick garment.

The very open gauge of this pattern makes it super-stretchy, so I ought to have made it in a smaller size, and certainly should have stuck to the sleeve dimensions of the original.

The post-modern modification: I moved the lower three buttons three inches over into the main body of the garment to pull it tighter under the bust. The button-band now follows the curves of the lower leaves. A bit odd, but I think it works. Before I did this, the upper leaves sagged in a most unflattering way in a most unfortunate place.

Verdict? A wearable garment outwith the company of giggling teenagers, or other persons with an immature attitude towards female body parts. Boob-tastic!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

FO: Modern Garden cardi

So I finished my Modern Garden cardi.


Well, I like the red buttons against the grey. It adds to the late-1950's / early 1960's ski sweater effect.

And I like the short-row shaping at the back of the neck.

It lies really nicely across the shoulders.

All the shaping is done via the leaves until you get to this point, which is very clever.

The yarn? It's OK - nothing special, but at 79p a ball from Kemps it would be childish to complain about a wool / alpaca / acrylic mix which is fairly soft and warm.

Actually, the back view isn't too bad.

But the front...? No, really, I can't show you yet!

This project depends on negative ease for success. So why did I knit the medium size? Small, or even extra-small would have been better. Because instead of having a thick warm cardigan which clings in all the right places, I have a slightly-oversized garment with saggy leaves which look like deflated water balloons hanging from my chest.

Believe me, it is not a good look!

I have a plan. All is not lost!

I'll show you tomorrow!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sewing plans for 2010

I was surprised at how few garments emerged from my new sewing machine last year. I was sidetracked by bags and aprons! So this year I am planning to get my machine into more regular action. I definitely need smart items for work, especially top-halves, but bought jackets always seem to have ridiculously long sleeves and wide shoulders.

I found this New Look pattern(6570) : flippy skirt, neat little jacket, wide trousers AND a simple v-neck camisole. A whole wardrobe in one pattern!

But when I looked again I realised that every item looked like it came from a Boden catalogue. Do I really want to sew Boden-rip-off garments? But I suppose I do get to choose my own fabrics, which need not be floral prints in primary colours!

And I am tempted by this Hot Patterns biker jacket (1037).
I found a black rep suiting with a fine metallic thread through it which would be fierce in this style!

Inevitably, I want to sew more wide-legged trousers from my favourite pattern (New Look 6190), and have my eye on some chocolate and tangerine pin-striped fabric. Though I would prefer chocolate and lime…

And I already have material for two or three summer dresses from Japanese patterns. Plus my organic denim for an over-dress / apron.

That lot should keep me busy!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Works in Progress: Knitting

I thought I might have a finished garment to show you this weekend, but it was not to be. My Modern Garden Cardigan was speeding along merrily until I got to the yoke. At this point, you take a break and knit the sleeves, cuff up in the round, and later join them to the main body.
But I didn't have any 10mm dpns. I tried to work the first sleeve using my Denise circulars, but negotiating a mere 17 stitches round the loop left them mis-shapen, stretched and uneven. A 17 stitch sleeve? Err... yes. I note that several other knitters have become frustrated at this point and added "extra-large" sleeves" to their otherwise "small" cardis. I am knitting the medium size and I am thinking it would be wise to grade-up the sleeves. Although I can get the 17 stitches round my upper wrist , they aren't going to go much higher.
So there will be a pause for needles to arrive in the post and for thinking time. I have a nagging worry about the open-ness of the gauge of this garment. It is supposed to be that way, but I am not sure that it is my style. As my mother would say "you could riddle corn through it". Actually, you could probably riddle potatoes through it!
To take my mind off it, and keep myself excited about knitting, I cast on Andrea's Shawl by Kirsten Kapur. I liked this pattern the moment I saw it. It is in danger of having too much going on, but I like the dense stocking stitch stripes framed by leaves and then again by a pretty delicate openwork edging. My daughter (who hates shawls) remarked on the brocade effect of the leaves, and that is just the right word I think.
I am knitting it in two Yarn Yard yarns from the stash: 281 (brown) Bonny and Probably Jane (green) Clan. There have been two days this week when I have noticed my lack of a scarf in these colours so I know I will wear it! I have just begun the outer edging, and I am only about a third of the way along that section, but I am OK with that. I enjoy stopping to admire it every time I do a pattern repeat! I am really motivated by the construction of shawls - every one seems to be slightly different and there is such a feeling of achievement when you complete one part and move on to the next.

And finally, this week's waiting room knitting - a square for the blanket. It's ready to cast off.
Another Online Supersocke 100 Sport Color - this time leftover from my Pippi Longstockings.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Health and Fitness in 2010

My Christmas holidays turned out to be a time to eat less and exercise more. FL wasn’t interested in food so our Christmas pheasant lasted me almost a week (lucky it wasn’t a turkey!). And the dog required regular walks despite the snow being over the top of my wellies, so I was burning off at least twice the usual number of calories as we plunged across the fields in pursuit of elusive deer and rabbits. As a result, my work skirt waistbands are noticeably looser this week, and I am determined to keep them that way. N.B. I don't want to get thinner I just want to be fitter.

The smallest and yet most crucial change I am making is NOT to buy a full-fat latte and a KitKat on the way into the office every morning. I have made myself a Star(bucks?) Chart and every time I avoid the cafĂ©, I get a Star. Each Star saves me £2.25 and a large number of pointless calories. I am making my own coffee with skimmed milk and NO accompanying chocolate treat. So far so good. At the end of the year I will reward myself with the cash that I saved, to spend on any frivolous item I choose – woo hoo!

In terms of exercise, it is so easy to sit at my desk all day fermenting. I am going for a walk every lunchtime. Shame the dog can’t come too! I have dog duties in the evening which will get easier as the nights get lighter. If he drags me through the whins in the dark one more time...!
And inevitably I bought a new dance dvd to kickstart my New Year regime! Don’t laugh too hard – it is the Clubland Workout of Your Life! I liked the earlier Clubland dvd but this one is even better. I seemed to find the moves easier to pick up and can do the first two sections without a second thought. And it is a great way to clear the room of husband, children and dog, who all hate the nnst nnst music! I don’t care for it myself either but it is good for dancing! Once the room is cleared I can get the hoovering done too – double prizes!
I don't take the gold hotpants seriously. And I was really pleased to see that two of the backing dancers have a bit more meat on them than is usually the case, though you can't tell from the cover shot. I will let you know if I keep it up!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Knitting in 2010

So… 2010 eh?

The mess that was my mental state across the Christmas period prevented me from doing a knitty review of 2009 or writing about my plans for 2010. But I do have some!

In 2010, I intend to knit from stash. This decision is not about saving money or the "credit crunch", but simply an acknowledgement that I have some lovely yarn which I could be knitting up if I didn’t allow myself to be distracted by shiny new things. I signed up to the Socktopus Knit Love Club, so will automatically receive new yarn every two months as a regular knitty surprise – and I will still have treats to look forward to! Contrary to what you might expect, I am really excited to be giving myself permission to use my “best wool”. I have deleted the “shops” folder from my web favourites in preparation!

My £5 mystery bags of Rowan wool from Kemps boosted my stock of “whole garment” yarn. I received 10 balls of Rowan wool tweed in a gingery colour which will make a delicious cardigan / jacket. Audrey in Unst perhaps? Something cabled?

And I have 10 balls of Cashsoft Aran: 8 in a light grey/green and 2 in a limey pistachio shade. The colours go well together and I am thinking of a slipover with a striped waistband… or else to split the yarn into hat and baby garment sized portions.

I also succumbed to 12 balls of Patons Inca, for the Modern Garden cardigan, which is already underway. More of that when it is looking more exciting!

There is no need to mention the sock yarn stash. I have plenty. Some of it is destined to be knit into shawls, which I am surprised to find myself wearing every day. My greyish “boring” Ishbel has been round my neck for the past two weeks! Why don’t I have the confidence to knit more neutral garments? So much more practical than the crazy coloured ones!

So my knitting year ahead looks something like this:

Baby gifts – a minimum of three of these are required!

Shawls: Herbivore, Andrea’s Shawl, Damson, another Ishbel, another Aestlight…

Garments: Audrey in Unst, Modern Garden, Owls, Cabled Hoodie, Staccato for my son…

Socks: too many to list! Lots of socks!

Barn-Raising Squares: will I manage one a week? I ought to keep to that goal.

And that doesn’t include the projects which sneak up on me: more hats, fingerless mitts, Christmas gift knits…!

Happy knitting in 2010!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Free at last! - and an FO

I made it to work yesterday, despite a cold morning start at minus 11 degrees! FL drove me to town and then went home to sleep in his chair. He still has an upset tummy and a racking cough.

Having to pick me up again in the evening meant he had to find the energy to walk back down the track in the snow to the car, but he managed, and was glad to be able to do it. For me, it felt good to put my desk in order, ready for next week.

We got some firewood and essential provisions and sledged them home. We are warm and well-fed - what more can we ask? It makes me realise how hard it must have been to live here before cars and electricity!

In knitting news, I have rustled up a pair of mitts for Amne.


The Lace Twist Mitts from Knitscene Fall 2009.

Less than half a skein of Dream in Color Classy in "Black Parade" with oddments of Hipknits organic merino aran (pink)and Debbie Bliss Aran Tweed (teal) for the stripes and crochet trims.

3.75mm dpns.

Knit as writ, although the stripes were my own invention as I knew I didn't have enough of the DiC yarn. The crochet flower was totally improvised, to cover up a mysterious 2 stitch purled seam which I added to the second mitt because I wasn't concentrating!

A very quick, satisfying knit. I will definitely make them again.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

FO: Central Park Hoodie with Extra Lime

I have finished my Central Park Hoodie. Hooray!

Although it has come out with a more open gauge than I might have wanted, it is warm - which is just as well! I might line it with fabric to keep the wind out.
My yarn is, I think, thinner than the recommended brand, but with a very similar look. I kept to the stated needle size and it fits perfectly.

It is a well-written pattern with a very wide range of sizes. My only quibble was the lack of instruction on how to deal with the decreases on the top of the hood if you choose to continue the cable up the back. I fudged it and it is fine, but still...

If I was knitting this again I might make it a bit longer in the body and hood. I extended the sleeve ribbing to allow for thumbholes, which are just gaps in the seams.

Central Park Hoodie from Interweave pattern downloads.

Size 36" on 4mm and 5mm Denise interchangeables.

Yarn: deeply rustic single-ply pure wool bought from Thou Art Woolly at Ebay. I pre-washed and slightly felted the skeins before I began knitting as my swatch was badly warped. This definitely fixed the yarn's problems. Thanks to my blog-friends who suggested this cure!
Odd buttons: from a mixed bag bought at Twist Fibrecraft.
Modifications: I knitted the body in a single piece and extended the length of the sleeves.

Verdict: I love it! I will wear this a lot.