Sunday, March 30, 2008

Beads, bread and a bottle

This post is a mish-mash of various topics. Still not much knitting but I did finish the Klein bottle Hat from the Schoolhouse Press Knitalong. I got really bored with knitting the handle and then grafting it to the 'hole' we left in the inner layer. I botched the grafting. I was trying to be clever but failed. I should have just removed the scrap yarn, transferred the stitches to needles and grafted (plan B). I thought I could follow the path of the waste yarn to graft in rib (plan A) but it didn't work. After struggling with one side, I went to plan B and the second side looked fine. Fortunately it is not very visible. I think the whole ribbed thing is a pain because I didn't like the increases/decreases for the top of the hat in rib and I didn't like the short rows (to make the handle curve) in rib either. But it is done and it will be a long time before I start knitting anything in navy yarn in rib. A question for the mathematicians. Something tells me I should sew up the outer layer to the handle to close the second 'hole'. Should I? These 'holes do not exist in mathematics. They are virtual. So they shouldn't exist but none of the instructions on any of the patterns I found say anything about this. The 'hole' in the inner layer no longer exists as it is where the handle joins the inner layer. But what about the 'hole' in the outer layer where the handle passes through it to join the inner layer? I think it should be sewn up around the handle but I don't know for sure. Any ideas would be welcome. I also baked more bread using a recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 mins a day. The recipe itself was reproduced in the NY Times. I haven't got the book yet but it is on hold in the library. I like to check books out before I buy them. I didn't have all the tools - no stone or peel. So I baked on a cookie sheet with a Silpat on it. The crust isn't anything like the one I got from the Jim Lahey's recipe but that might be because of the lack of a stone. But it looks OK and probably will taste fine. There is another half of the recipe sitting in the refrigerator. It keeps up to 2 weeks and one can bake at any time. I may try the other one in a loaf pan just for larks.I've been shopping for a stone but comments online say that buying from an online store seems to be risky. Many of them arrive broken or cracked. The local Bed Bath and Beyond and Linens 'N Things seem to only have the smaller thinner stones. So I will have to defer the purchase till I go somewhere near a Williams Sonoma or other specialty store. With gas prices being what they are, I don't want to do that just for a stone.

I also went to the bead store and bought the fixings for a necklace for my lovely bead. I am very happy with the results. I may sit down next weekend and make it. I didn't take photos of the fixings and I'm not sure I can do justice to them with the camera.

I've been reading a lot. More Brother Cadfael books and two bread baking books are on my reading shelf right now. I have The Bread Baker's Apprentice and The Village Baker from the library. The latter sells for lots of money as it is OOP. The former looks like a good basic book that explains the process of bread baking in a lot of detail.

If you are wondering why I'm suddenly obsessed with bread, I can't help you. I have no idea. I have been wondering the same thing myself. I haven't eaten bread in years. Especially white bread, which is what I'm baking. Somehow though, I feel like baking it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Yay! Spring is here! But it is so dull and boring outside.

We don't have snow but it is too cold and windy for gardening and the ground is soggy. Wehave had so much rain. In a week or so I am going to go and buy pansies to set out. I bought some dahlia bulbs because I found some nice ones but it is way too early to put them out. My daffodils are just barely breaking through the ground.

I am in a knitting slump. I haven't picked up needles all week and I just don't care. My hat just sits. My Wild Apple just sits. This is what happens to me when I have too many things in the works. That is why I stick to one or two things at a time. I am going to force myself to finish the hat this weekend.

Today I hope to go to the bead store and find the rest of my bead necklace - to go with the Sheila Ernest giant bead.

Last weekend I baked bread after a long time. I had used recipes from the Vegetarian Epicure and Laurel's Kitchen but the crust was too hard or too soft. I couldn't even slice one loaf. Then I saw this recipe from the owner of a bakery in NYC (you may have to register to see it but you can provide invalid info). I thought "why not? I'm as smart as the average 8 year old, in fact I was an average 8 year old once"
There is my first attempt! It looked like bread and it rang hollow like good bread. A bit misshapen but not bad. The inside wasn't too bad either. It had holes. It looked like bread. It was a bit under done - you can see a damp spot on the upper right. But it was slice-able and really really tasty. I made a few mistakes. I kept the yeast too warm over the long rise so water condensed on the inside of the plastic wrap and made the dough too sticky. That is why the loaf was misshapen. Secondly, it didn't rise as much as it should have because the yeast was tired. Lastly, I took it out too soon - hence the damp spots.

But the crust was all crackly and and inside all soft and it tasted heavenly. I normally only like bread the day it is baked. Otherwise I only like it toasted. But I ate a couple of slices on Wednesday - 3 days after baking - and they were chewy and lovely.

Here's the second loaf that I made this morning. Doesn't that look professional?The inside still needs a tad more cooking. It wasn't damp any more but just a little underdone. I think next time it will bake covered for 35 mins or so and then uncovered for browning for the 20 mins I did today. If I bake it any longer uncovered, it will burn. It has a nice brown color on it already. Here's the inside. All lovely and airy.

Looking at the books I cited above brought me back to a different time in my life. When I was younger, I wanted to grow my own food organically, process it all myself, and live on it all year. I had a 20x30 foot organic vegetable garden, I canned and froze all my vegetables, tried to bake bread, cooked everything from scratch and wore myself out. I had a full-time job and young kids and it was too much. I gave up on the gardening and found short-cuts in the cooking. I still cook almost all our food at home but I use short-cuts in techniques and in ingredients. I get my vegetables from a CSA farm in the summer and freeze as much as I can for later. But I focus on enjoying the produce while it is fresh and seasonal and that is all that counts.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tortoise Knitting

Lately I've realized that I knit like a tortoise. Not in huge spurts like some folks but I knit regularly and inch along till I'm done. Since I only work on a few things at a time, I have enough FOs to compete with others.

I broke one of my rules this week. I started on a simple project while I still had one on the needles. But I really wanted to do a KAL with Debbie New and a hat seemed innocuous. Of course I started late - on Thursday when the KAL was to begin on a Monday. Oh well! I'll be caught up to the KAL by tomorrow when Debbie posts the next set of instructions on the Schoolhouse Press site. Oh no! She already posted Part 4. I'm behind again. This is why I don't do KALs.

Here's my Klein Bottle Hat so far, looking very much like a ribbed watch cap. That top-most contrast colored yarn is the exciting part - where the inside turns into the outside and becomes one surface. The other bits of colored yarn are just marking where I need to start counting from. I'm done with the inside and part-way done with the outside. I need to get the outside up to that little slit on the inside by tomorrow. It is very boring so far, lots of ribbing in navy. It looks narrow, I think, because of the ribbing.
In true tortoise fashion, I am moving along on the socks also. Or should I say sock? Here's the first one of a pair. I'm done with the heel and am moving steadily along on the leg.I did a little purling at the heel to maintain some interest and also to count. I was able to count the increases easily on the first gusset and when the purl sts are gone, the second gusset was done. This is the heel that I gave instructions for a while ago. The colors are a little overexposed as I took this by the window and I wantedto show the details. The actual sock is much darker in color - like boysenberry jam.Instead of knitting, I am still reading. I went through three Brother Cadfael books this week. Mehitabel, I also love Margery Allingham but not as much as I love Peter Wimsey and Brother Cadfael. In times of extended comfort needs, I have spent lots of time reading her books and Harry Kellerman (the author of the 'Rabbi' books).

Monday, March 10, 2008

No calorie comfort

Not much knitting last week. I've been feeling very tired. So I have taken to going to bed early with a book.

When I'm in need of comfort, I like to read familiar and favorite books. Dorothy Sayers is at the top of the list. Last week I read Busman's Honeymoon and Murder Must Advertise. Then I read Monique and the Mango Rains. We have an event to celebrate Women's History Month each year. Kris Holloway, author of Monique and the Mango Rains, was our speaker this year. She is a very impressive speaker, and I got a copy of the book and read it.

I also love the Brother Cadfael books, which are another source of comfort. I am currently reading Monk's Hood.

I did knit a little while riding to the airport on Saturday. I turned the heel of my purple Shibui sock and started on the leg.

Today I wore my red double knit headband while going for my lunch-time walk. It feels really nice, and is warm but not too warm. I am very motivated to knit a pair of fingerless mittens to match. I think I have enough yarn. I won't double knit them but put the same snowflake in black on a red background. This will be a good travel project over the summer.

I am going to knit along with Debbie New as she makes a Klein bottle hat. I've always wanted to make one and I have a bunch of worsted weight yarn that will make a lovely hat. But for now, I'm going to curl up with Brother Cadfael and try and get some rest.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Travails of Travel Knitting

My initial objective was to finish the yoke of the Wild Apple and get started on the sweater body on the trip to Madrona. I had hours of uninterrupted knitting time on the way out and back, and bits of time during the trip. So I wound up a couple of extra balls of the main color and set out. The yoke attracted a lot of attention on the plane and in the airport. People were fascinated by the colors.

Now, I knit everywhere. I rarely encounter comments on my knitting. Maybe I am so absorbed in it that people don't comment. Sometimes I get into long conversations with folks but mostly I don't get comments. This yoke generated comments. People walked over to ask what it was and to see pictures of the finished product. Sadly, I had none. I got as far as round 56 or so - the last round that used color #60. I ran out of it with 6 repeats to go to the end of the round. There was no way out except to put it away. I knew I could get more yarn from Solveig but not while I was travelling. I emailed her, she replied she would send it but my knitting plans were all awry.

Fortunately, I was at Madrona. It has a market! And I had taken a number of fine gauge needles with me for the Wild Apple. So I bought the Shibui sock yarn which I had meant to try anyway. I figured that I could always use some more socks and it was good to have a project in my back pocket even though I had brought an emergency knitting project. Which knitter doesn't? And I moved on to the emergency project I had brought with me - a double-knitted headband.Two years ago at Meg Swansen's Retreat 2.75, M'lou Baber had done a workshop on double knitting and given us the pattern for this headband. M'lou is the most amazing double knitting wizard. Schoolhouse Press is publishing a book of her designs which you can see at the link above if you scroll down. I started it in Berroco Ultra Alpaca (yummy!) but had not gone too far into the design. On a whim, I packed it for Madrona thinking I could finish it there if something happened to the Wild Apple.

As you can see, I finished it on the trip. I can vouch for the durability of this yarn. That cast on edge was ripped out and re-used at least 6-8 times and was looking bedraggled when I cast on. But it is fine in the finished headband. The first couple of rips was due to not figuring out what pattern I was actually knitting from two years ago and making the headband too big. Then my tails were too long or too short. I am a perfectionist when it comes to the length of the tail and I cast on anything at least 3 times. The side I plan to use is above.Here's the other side. The snowflake doesn't look as nice done in red on black. But the entire thing feels very lovely. Of course, since I returned, I haven't had a chance to wear it.By Sunday, as I was travelling to the Bay Area from Madrona, I was done with the headband. I cast on for the sock on the flight to San Jose. Here's the sock as it was when I returned. But I could have finished the heel. I am only half way up it. What stopped me? This little thing down below. My needle snapped. Now Knitpicks sends an extra needle with their double pointed sets. But it was not in my carry-on bag. So I had to wait till I got home and dug the extra needle out to continue.
Since I got home, I haven't knit much. I got the yarn from Solveig and am working on the Wild Apple. I am in the middle of round 61. 10-ish rounds to go. There are 71 in the chart. But with 400 sts on the needles, each round takes some time.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Madrona Acquisitions

Part II of the Great Madrona Report is what I bought. I didn't buy as many items as others but I am not sure I spent any less. I didn't buy much yarn. I bought the DVD I mentioned last time and the bulk of my purchases were from Sheila and Michael Ernst at This is the primary purchase - the one I'm most excited about. It is a blown-glass bead with glass filigree work on it. You can't see the colors in the photo. It has red and orange and bits of yellow when the light hits it and of course it reflects the colors around it. In this photo, the undertones are blue because of the tissue paper surrounding it. It is large. That is a standard #2 pencil next to it. I am going to make a necklace with two relatively large beads on either side of this one and then seed beads to pick up the colors in the bead. This bead will serve as a pendant.I also bought dichroic glass buttons to go with the yarn I am going to use for the Jean Wong sweater. The swatch is underneath this button. It was the buttons that made me not want to knit a pullover but knit a jacket. Ideas for it are coming to me.These are the rest of the dichroic glass buttons. Sheila attaches the buttons to the card with a little clip so you can take them off and pin them to your swatch or sweater to see them without the card. Lastly, I bought two skeins of Shibui sock yarn so I would have something to knit since I ran out of one of the colors of the Wild Apple yoke. Solveig is sending me more yarn but I had a week's business trip after Madrona and wanted (no, needed) to have something to knit. I had taken an emergency project (which knitter has not?) but even that wouldn't serve to keep me occupied for a week. I finished the emergency project and half a sock. Here's the untouched skein - a bit over-exposed to show the colors. After Madrona, I went to the Bay area for a week. While there, Joy and I went to Daiso, a Japanese 100-yen ($1.50) store. It was a fun trip. I bought silicone baking cups and ocean life picks for my lunch. I take salsa in a little loaf pans to dip my veggie burger into, and hummus for my carrots or pretzels in a baking cup. The picks serve as fun replacements for a fork, to pick up pieces of fruit or cheese. I want to go back but there isn't one in this area. I have to wait for another trip to the Bay area for more.
Part III will be my knitting during the trip. I haven't knit much since I returned as I've been a bit tired.