Can't blog. Too busy watching the royal wedding. When a prince and princess choose your fifth wedding anniversary for their nuptials, you sort of feel obligated to watch.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
It's been a slow blog week. I'm blaming the rain. And preschool holidays. And a soul-sapping exhaustion that seems to have seeped into the spaces between my bones and my skin. And the rain. Baby number four has arrived, a little girl for my dear friend Kate. She's the recipient of this and these. Welcome, lovely Hannah.
But apart from that, there's no other news. No finished projects to photograph and report on. No pots of goodness bubbling away on the stovetop. Nothing. So I've decided to get a little bit 'Dear Dorothy' and respond to a recent email from a friend here. And we'll call it a blog post. And then I can sleep knowing I haven't skived for another day.
This was her question:
i am trying my hand at knitting, along with jemma, and we are starting with scarves. We have been knitting one row then purling the next, which looks nice but the scarf wants to curl in. what did you do with lola's beautiful red scarf...it sits so flat. if it's simple, let me know so i can give it a go. Thanks!!!
Well, Jo, funny you should ask. When I returned to knitting, about 10 years ago now, I did the very same thing. I remembered how to knit and I remembered how to purl, so I got myself some wool and some needles and began with alternating rows - it's called stocking stitch. Before long I had a lovely knitted tube that no amount of stretching or pulling could make sit flat. So with my next attempt, I gave up on anything fancy and just knit each row. Knit knit knit knit knit. It's called garter stitch. I had far more success. Garter stitch sits very flat and has the added advantage of being the same on both sides, which, for a scarf, is a good thing. I chose to make mine multicoloured, as you can see in the picture below. I still have it and I still wear it. It's not the height of handmade fashion, but it's got a sentimental something.
Back in those early knitting days, I used to enjoy grabbing a ball of thickish yarn, a pair of thick needles (10mm or so) and knitting a really quick, really chunky garter stitch scarf. I found this worked well with those yarns that are uneven in texture, or extra fluffy, or the novelty types (which I not-so-secretly hate).
As for your other options for a flat-sitting but easy-knitting scarf, you need to look towards your ribs. You'll still be using the basic knit and purl stitches, but you will alternate every stitch (or two or three) rather than every row. This makes for a bit more work - you're bringing the yarn forward and backward between stitches as you move from a knit stitch to a purl stitch and vice versa - but the result is very satisfying. Rib is the stitch you usually find around the cuffs, neck and hems of your jumpers and cardigans. You have a few options.
The most basic is single rib - you knit 1, purl 1, all along the row. Then on the reverse side, you knit into the purl stitches and purl into the knit stitches. To make it easy for yourself, cast on an even number of stitches, and then you'll always start each row with a knit stitch. Over time you get to learn by the way the stitch looks whether you'll knit it or purl it. If you accidentally end up doing the opposite and knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches, you'll get moss stitch, which is nice too. The button bands on these cardigans are moss stitch.
Then you can choose to vary your rib. Double rib is where you knit 2, purl 2, etc, then knit 2, purl 2 on the reverse side. Or you can knit 2, purl 1, knit 2, purl 1. On the reverse of this one, you'll knit 1, purl 2, knit 1, purl 2 etc.
And as for Lola's Frenchy chic red scarf, I chose a broken rib stitch for that. On the front it's single rib - knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, purl 1. And on the back, you purl every stitch. Easy as that. Actually, easier than a normal rib because that purl row gives you welcome relief from all the to-ing and fro-ing with the yarn on the k1, p1 side.
And as a final note, to help your scarf stop curling up, it helps to give it a nice soak in wool wash and lay it out flat somewhere to dry.
Happy knitting! I want photos of the finished products, please xxx
Saturday, April 23, 2011
It's late on Easter Saturday night. The 'youth' a few doors down are partying and their drunken sing-alongs to too-loud music are starting to grate. Don't they know what time it is??? (Yes, I'm 100 years old.)
Tonight I've been sewing, trying to complete pyjamas for my girls. As kids, we always got winter PJs for Easter, and this year, with my new sewing thing happening, I thought I should make some from scratch rather than buy. The babes have got pants only - I'm not up to pyjama tops yet. And for Lola, there's a nightie in lairy hot-pink and yellow flannel, chosen by the little lady herself, as much as I tried to steer her towards something more sedate.
For all my knitting of late, this week I've hit two road blocks. I cast on a cardigan for sweet baby Olive within 24 hours of her birth. The request from her mum had been simple - white with a single button at the top. I found the perfect pattern, a round-yoke cardigan with just enough detail to keep it interesting, but simple enough that I might finish it while Olive still fits into a 3-month size.
Now, if you're a knitter, you'll understand the importance of gauge and swatching. Every bit of literature on knitting, and every pattern, seems to rave on about it. It's the requirement that you knit a small sample with your yarn on the suggested needle size, and then count up the number of stitches in, say, 10cm (or 4 inches, if you're in the States). If you have more or less than the stated gauge - quite possible given everyone knits with a different tension - then you need to adjust your needle size until you hit the magic number, otherwise your garment will be too big or too small or all higgledy-piggledy, and what a waste of all that effort, yada yada yada.
Suffice to say, as a rule, I do not knit gauge swatches. I'm too lazy. I figure nine times out of ten I'm gonna hit gauge, and why not discover that 30 rows into an actual garment than 30 rows into something that's never got a chance of becoming anything. And if 30 rows in I discover I'm way, way off, then it's no great loss.
Unless, of course, it actually happens, and then it's just a right pain in the bum. This is what happened the other night with Olive's cardigan. After an entire evening of knitting, I realised I had about 3 extra stitches in my 10cm, which would have equated to about 18 extra stitches in the entire width - about 8cm which, on a newborn baby, is quite a sizeable addition. Sadly, I realised I had to rip it back and start again. I conceded and knit a gauge swatch on some smaller straight needles. Spot on, first time. But I don't have the requisite circulars for the job, and it's the Easter weekend, and the knitting stores are shut. So all the knitting I hoped to do on Olive's cardigan this weekend now has to wait.
So I did the next best thing - cast on a new hat for one of my babes in a stunning new red yarn purchased just last week. I knit the evening away, but when I picked it up the next day I had lost my enthusiasm. I think it's a sign that this beautiful yarn is not meant to become this particular hat. I will need to rethink.
So here I am with three days left of the long weekend and nothing much on the needles (if we ignore the dozen or so works in progress in various bags around the place.) So I thought I'd preview a few photos of a little red scarf I knit recently for my girl. It's in some lovely organic cotton and has a little keyhole in one end to thread the other end through. I came up with the design myself, and just have to tweak it a bit and I might post it here sometime soon. Alas, the kid refuses to wear it, as much as I tell her how Frenchy chic she looks in it. It actually fits quite well on the little ones, but I can't bear to see all that one-year-old teething dribble landing directly on such lovely yarn.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Royal Easter Show:
:: A gigantic ferris wheel;
:: Cows, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, goats, alpacas, pigs, puppies;
:: Hot chips, milkshakes, fairy floss, ice-cream, corn on a stick;
:: A typo in every carriage;
:: Merry-go-round, spinning teacups, train ride, flying balloons;
:: Sore feet, empty wallet.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Amidst the lows, highs and lows of a stolen car, eventually recovered complete with CSI-style forensic attention, only to be un-start-up-able and who knows how much it'll cost to repair, then the new highs of ANOTHER new baby - welcome, Eden...
..there was 'The Gruffalo's Child'.
Monday, April 18, 2011
I'm posting about this new little vest today because it's finished and I felt I should. But it's not for anyone in particular. No.
There may be a few women in my life expecting babies at the moment, but they shouldn't draw any conclusions from this. This was just a breezy easy knit for no-one in particular. No, no-one. Just a happy, pleasant, while-away-the-hours kind of knit to be gifted when the time is right to...well, anybody really. Just for fun. For the enjoyment of it.
So if any of my pregnant friends reading this thinks this is for them, I wouldn't be able to say either way. No decisions have been made, you see. It's just a simple, casual, lovely vest with a couple of wonky owls up the side (knitting in the dark at the movies has its downside) in a gorgeous tweedy Jo Sharp yarn. Made for no-one in particular.
Especially not for any Queensland babies due a week ago whose mums are really into green...and owls.
PS And on that note, welcome little Olive Rose, my second baby for 2011, born this morning in Toowoomba. Now that I know you're a girl, I'm off to buy the yarn for a cardi to see you through your first winter. Can't wait to meet you, little one x
Sunday, April 17, 2011
There's a pile of books in our house kept high on a shelf where sticky fingers can't cause any harm. They're the special books that have become part of a new family tradition, a gift each Christmas for each of my girls from their mum and dad, books to treasure and look after and eventually read and love. It is my vision that these books will form part of my girls' first libraries when they eventually flee the nest. And so, thus far, I've chosen classics, special editions, hard covers. And I thought it might be some time before they were brought down from the shelf to be read.
But this morning, Lola asked to look at the "koala book". So down it came and she carefully turned the pages then asked me to read it. I didn't expect to get very far. Although it's illustrated, the pictures are few and far between, and the words many. She's an avid reader, but all of her books till now have had numerous pictures to balance the words.
But we began. And we continued. When we paused for a break, it became obvious we'd need a bookmark. So we made one. And late in the day we picked up where we left off. And then again at bedtime.
I don't remember reading 'Blinky Bill' as a kid, and it's certainly heavy on the big stuff. Poor Mr Koala meets a gruesome fate in Chapter 2 'A Tragedy', which led to an unexpected conversation with my 3.5-year-old about "What's a gun?" and "What's killed?"
Nonetheless, she is enjoying it, she's getting into it and the story alone, without pictures, is holding her attention. I thought it would be years before we got to this stage, and I've so looked forward to it. So I'm delighted.
And judging by their latest favourite activity, it looks like the sisters won't be far behind.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Three funny rabbits for my three girls this Easter - and with over a week to spare! Don't look too close, my hand-stitching skills are far from perfect. And I do believe that cream and purple bunny has a leg on backwards. That's what happens when you stitch while reading Richard Scarry's 'Funniest Storybook Ever' for the millionth time in a day.
Pattern from here.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
I had a bunch of butternut pumpkins in the pantry. 85c a kilo - what can you do? I've made pumpkin soup a gazillion times before. Plain as plain, with a chicken stock base, with a creamy finish, with herbs and spices, with red curry and coconut cream - you name it. Today I wanted to try something different. So I turned to Stephanie. Oh, Stephanie.
She told me to buy half a kilo of bacon bones and boil them for two hours with a bay leaf and chopped onion. (And allspice too, but I didn't have any of that, so I ignored that bit.) When I strained the stock, I was instructed to cook a kilo of chopped pumpkin, three potatoes and a tablespoon of paprika in it until the vegetables were soft and squishy. Then I had to blend the lot and serve it topped with some sizzling chorizo.
So I did, and it was delicious. Stephanie - she never lets me down.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Saturday, April 9, 2011
This jumper has been sitting on my Ravelry page as a work-in-progress since June last year under the title Henry's Ragman. Henry was two at the time, but I decided to cast on the 3-4T size, just in case I didn't get it done in a hurry.
That much was true - it sat with unfinished sleeves for 9 months, and when Henry, now 3, came to visit last week, I tried it on him. No amount of staring at it could make it look anything other than way too small.
I checked my gauge, re-read the pattern, and I don't think I did anything drastically wrong. Henry is pretty much your typical three-year-old. Skinny arms and legs, average height, cheeky as all get-out. Could it be the pattern's sizings are just way, way out?
Luckily for me, my handsome young friend Joah had his second birthday this week, and as we're heading into winter in these parts, I thought maybe he could do with a special handknit for the cooler months.
And there's no denying, this jumper is boy all the way. It makes me think of a big cuddly teddy bear and, after all the girlie knits that have been completed here lately, it's nice to see something a bit different.
For all my frustration with the sizings on this pattern, it was a really easy knit - top-down raglan with the sleeves completed in the round on double-pointed needles. And using bulky yarn made it so quick - that is, if we ignore the 9 months it sat in a bag unfinished... I've used my favourite buttons again, this time big 3cm ones in a green check.
And I should take a moment to wax lyrical about this yarn. It's Cascade Yarns Ecological Wool, a 12ply that comes in mainly natural colours and actually smells like a sheep. In a good way. As my knitting obsession has grown over the years, I'm becoming familiar with that little thrill I get from the beautiful colour of a yarn, or how soft it feels in my hands, or the texture of it once knitted up. But I've never before experienced an olfactory tingle as I knitted.
A few nights ago as I was finishing this off, I sat on the couch with a
glass of wine mug of chamomile tea, and it was the first really cool evening of the year. There was the faintest hint of woodsmoke drifting through the window, and the sheepy lanolin smell wafted up from the wool and a feeling of immense calm and satisfaction came over me. The next day I washed and dried the jumper (blocked, for those in the know) and it came up all soft and squishy and so, so beautiful. Yes, I will be using this Eco Wool again very soon.
Let's hope this handsome devil enjoys wearing his cardigan as much as I enjoyed knitting it. Now to cast on another one for Henry. Size 12, perhaps...
Pattern from here.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
I have a chocolate cake recipe that is tried and true and tested and, dare I say, faultless. It is so good, a couple of friends and I once decided to start turning down any requests for it on the basis that it was an old family secret. I like to think we built up a bit of an aura around this cake. In actual fact, the recipe first came to me from my sister, who got it, I believe, from a book called 'Kitchen' by Michele Cranston. It was the recipe I used when my friend Aimee asked me to make her wedding cake. I turned to it again for my own wedding cake. It has been a birthday cake, dinner party dessert, just-because cake and, most recently, swathed in white plastic icing, a christening cake.
I'm not sure why it is so good. It's not overflowing with chocolate or eggs, though it feels as luxurious as if it had a kilo of one and a dozen of the other. I think the coffee gives it a bit of something special. And the nearly half kilogram of sugar probably doesn't hurt. But it's easy to throw together, hard to stuff up, and while it may look ugly when it comes out of the oven, it settles down into a nearly smooth surface for ease of decorating. It freezes well and is actually better after a stint in the fridge. It is my go-to perfect chocolate cake. And now, from me to you, an old family secret recipe, passed down through the generations...
200g dark chocolate
375ml strong coffee
450g caster sugar
175g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
In a saucepan, combine butter, chocolate and coffee over low heat until melted together. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Whisk in flour, baking powder and cocoa (sifted), then whisk in eggs and vanilla.
Pour into a lined and greased 20-23cm tin. Bake for one hour.
Note: It's better if the chocolate is excellent and the coffee is real, not instant. Believe me, I've tried. I used to always bake it in a 23cm springform tin. Most recently I did it in a standard 20cm tin. I think the extra height and density made it all the better.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
I did say I'd post about the dress Lola's mum made her to wear to her sisters' christening. Some time ago I bought this book, and while I loved having a flick through, I think I decided most of the clothes were just a bit 'carefree'. All those unfinished hems and lopsided patches seemed a bit contrived. But then, on closer inspection, it occurred to me the basic patterns were great, and I could do what I wanted on the embellishment side of things.
So here we have the Dress with Ruffle Trim in a fabric from Ikea (!), lined with simple calico and all - against instructions - hemmed. I added some broderie trim that I bought recently at an amazing antiques shop in Rozelle and used one of those beautiful buttons on the back.
The little miss refused to stand still and be photographed, but I can vouch for the fact she looked mighty sweet. She just wishes it was pink.