Monday, March 31, 2008

08:07 Clapotis 3 ... or the absolutely uninspirational FO

That's right. Another Clapotis. I like the first one I made so much that I decided to make another one using the exact same yarn (from recycling Ella) of the exact same colourway ... and this time, I am going to keep it for myself! :D

This time, I took the FO pictures in its unblocked stage. I am still thinking whether I should block it ... but it seems with blocking, the stole is more manageable.

Pattern: Clapotis designed by Kate Gilbert from Knitty Fall 2004

Yarn: Araucania's Nature Wool (100% Wool) Labels were lost, so colour unknown

Needles: Denise US8

Cast On: 03-25-08
Cast Off: 03-31-08

On another note, Francesca of Fluffbuff is going to culinary school and she has started a new blog chronicling her school experience. For some reason I am not sure of, I feel very excited for her! Maybe if I win the lottery jackpot tomorrow, I would register too. Other than knitting, cooking is another new found creative outlet for me. From time to time I love to experiment with new recipes. Starting a cooking blog is out of the question for me ... but Flickr provides the solution ... From My Kitchen. The pictures were taken mostly just before the food were served ... so the quality was not really that great but it was great fun recording one's cooking.

Friday, March 28, 2008

08:06 Friday Harbour

I didn't read the rules for SAM 5 carefully and just recently found out that heelless socks don't count. But I really want to be able to get at least one pair qualified for it. Luckily I was using a thicker yarn for Friday Harbour. So I worked diligently and voila, I have another pair made.

One thing I learned from using Cascade Fixation and Elann Esprit is that you can't knit them up too tightly, otherwise, the socks would get too rough after wash. My second Pretty Comfy Socks are still soft, but not the Log Cabin or Embossed Leaves. This is also why the socks can be knitted up so quickly. ;) The second sock was actually started yesterday morning.

Now, say hello to the new socks:

Pattern: Friday Harbour designed by Nancy Bush from Knitting on the Road
I like this pattern. Actually, I love most of the patterns in the book. As I haven't been out of the State of California much, knitting up the patterns make me feel like I am travelling along with Nancy Bush.

Yarn: Elann Esprit (98.3% Cotton 1.7% Elastic) Col: 7530, Nougat 2 balls
There is a mystery this time.
These are the leftovers from the 2 balls for the socks. I never expect the difference to be that great!

Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo dpns US2.5 for the leg and US2 for the foot

Cast On: 03-02-2008
Cast Off: 03-28-2008

Now, what to make next?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

No time to knit

... since I was busy doing other stuff yesterday.

I used up my last tomato pasta sauce Monday night, so I had to make a new batch. Husband always love it when I make the sauce because the whole apartment would be filled with the aroma ... better than Glade candles.

This was chicken stock. I usually use store-bought ones. But since I had some chicken carcases saved from roasted chicken, it would be great to make some myself.

Then, I made the Tarte Lyonnaise for dinner. It is a new recipe for me, so I preferred to prepare it ahead of time ... giving myself time margin in case things went wrong. ;) This is our favourite appetizer from the restaurant and it is just wonderful that they shared the recipe on the web. Honestly mine was not as good as that in the restaurant ... which is just heavenly, but was still very very good. The dough is super easy to make with a food processor. However, I would use less salt next time.

I didn't spend the whole day in the kitchen, though.
I decided to go ahead and block Diva as a vest. It would be perfect for this weather ... so I am going to wear it as a vest before the sleeves are done. :) It must be all the good karma you sent my way, the blocked Diva has just increased a little bit in size ... the fit is still good. Thanks!

I also put into action something I had been considering for a long time -- recycling Ella. It is a lovely shawl, but I am very certain that I like using rectangular stoles much more than other shapes. Guess what I'm going to use the yarns for? :)

Monday, March 24, 2008

I hope my swatch doesn't lie

This is very important. So far, I think my Diva has been knitted to the right measurements and it fits me well, pre-washed:

I think if I want, I can even start weaving in the loose ends and wash it and wear it as a vest! Isn't it lovely?

My swatch hasn't changed too much in measurements after wash. But I read in KR Forum someone's Bellerina was blocked to 62" instead of the intended 56" ... and I don't think it is wearable without going through a bath ... the yarn is a bit rough before wash. I am keeping my fingers crossed for this project.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring is here

I know in many parts of the States, most probably the world too, the weather is still foul. But here, we are definitely having the second best season for me (the best is the warm summer). Spring time here is when the mornings are chilly enough to put on wool handknit socks, with clear skies, lots of sun ... or even overcast skies are welcome because then I can put on light sweaters. Both Diva and Celtic Icon would be ideal (thin yarns, light cardigans) for this weather too.

I am still working on Diva. Now that all the mysteries have been revealed, my energy level for the project has lowered a little bit. So, I have nothing to show you today. But I did have 6 more crocheted squares added for the cotton afghan. If you are interested, you can have a look here ... they are #20 to #25. I am having a good feeling about this project again ... which is always the one important thing for me to get through a project.

Since I don't have much to show, I think maybe I can share with you a foolproof semi-homemade recipe of Apple Tart. The ingredients are super simple and the result would improve the more you know how your oven works with the puff pastry.
Before Trader Joe's have their own brand of puff pastry, I used the almost only option available in the market. But I love the TJ one a lot more for 3 reasons: 1) it's a lot less greasy 2) the size of the pastry sheet is smaller, thus it works better with my pastry dish and there is less waste 3) it tastes a little bit sweeter, thus the tart tastes better to me.

Using ready made apple sauce actually guarantees the sweetness of the tart is what you like ... just choose the apple sauce you love. If you are crazy about the combination of cinnamon and apple, you can choose apple sauce with cinnamon. We just love the plain original sauce.

Here are the simple steps:
1. Thaw the pastry sheet as instructed. Spread it onto the tart dish or cookie sheet. Roll it thin if necessary.
2. Bake the sheet blind without using pie weights in a 400F pre-heat oven for 10 minutes. The pastry sheet would puff high ... but don't worry, it would collapse once it is out of the oven.
3. In the meantime, remove the skin and core of the apple and thinly slice it.
4. Take the baked sheet out and let cool a little bit.
5. Spread a thin layer of apple sauce on the baked pastry sheet.
6. Mix the remaining apple sauce with the apple slices and put them onto the pastry sheet in whatever fancy way you like. I prefer just pouring them without any arrangement at all.
7. Put the assembled tart back into the oven and bake for another 15 - 20 minutes, or until the tart edges are lightly (or very, depending on your taste ... just don't burn it as I had done several times before) browned and the apple slices are soft.

And of course, you have to wait for the tart to cool down a bit before you bite in:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It is an illusion

I did make big progress over the last weekend on Diva. Thus I kept thinking, "Well, this is going to be a quick fast knit." Illusion.

Last time I showed you the back and the fronts (both left and right) done. You know what takes the longest time? The quarter circle!

This is the first section of the collar. Before you read on, guess what the next step is? Ready? Click on the photo above to see if you get it right. Interesting, huh?

The right quarter-circle collar is finished and it should be joined to the left mirror-image of its mate and then to the neck of the cardigan. I have tried it on and I am loving my unfinished half cardi! So, got to work on the left side now ... see you on Friday, hopefully!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Deja vu

A couple of years before I left Hong Kong, the housing market there slumped. It is always like this ... everybody knows that there is a bubble building, but when the bubble bursts, it just feels like things happening overnight. The effect on other sectors of the economy started to spread ... jobs were cut, people were laid off, salary dropped, foreclosure rate at all time high; soon, the general overlook became very grim and the spirit of the whole society was very low. At the time, I was paying the mortgage for a very very small apartment. Though I had a stable income and had no plan of selling the property, the drop in its value was still quite disheartening.

Then, I came to the States. And now, the whole thing is happening again here. Difference: we don't own a house. Against the advice of some of our friends, our bank and our tax people, we didn't buy a house at the prime of the market ... and we don't plan to in the foreseeable future. On a personal level, we dodged this bullet. But still ... the value of the US dollar keeps dropping, the oil price keeps rising, the onset of recession, the budget crisis here in California ... Well, I am old enough to know that this is part of a recurring cycle; but can't help wondering how many individual's dreams have to be crushed before the cycle reverses!

I count myself among the blessed. At least I can still find comfort and happiness in my own little world ... like making progress on a favourite project:
The full length of the jacket done!

The Right Shoulder finished

The Right Front in progress

The Right Collar just started

Or waking up to a hummingbird and gorgeous weather:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Garter stitch

Well, who would imagine a piece knitted in garter stitch would be so enticing? Especially for me who would easily be bored to tears by stocking stitch!

Maybe it is the stripes?
But I think it is more the desire to unravel the mystery of the pattern. So far, I felt like knitting a triangular shawl in striped garter stitch. Now, 26 stripes completed and I have cast off for the armholes. It is not visible in the photo, but the piece is now divided into 3 sections. The next step would be working the center section which would become the back.

One minor glitch, though. I might have forgotten to do one set of increases around the center stitch ... so now I am 2 stitches short in that section. Considering the gauge is 25 stitches to 10 cm ... I don't think it's worth ripping back, right? I have checked ... it was not visible at all. :D

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It was started!

The picture tells it all ... Diva! The first 10 stripes went fast ... but with every stripes there would be more stitches on the needles. There are 16 more stripes to go before there is a change in the pattern. I am just having a very very vague idea how the pattern works ... and this is what makes this project interesting!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Weekend swatches

The past weekend was a swatching weekend. Since I haven't decided which project to start first, I just did the swatches for both. Whichever found the right needles and gauge would be the chosen one, I thought.

Seeing Deb's Celtic Icon, I dug up the Silky Wool in my stash and swatched. So far, I am happy with it:
And I like the cornflower colour a lot too! I need to use 4 mm to get the gauge. Coincidentally, the right needle size for Diva is 4 mm too! Now I just have to wait a couple of days to see how much the swatches shrink back without the pins ... that way I would get the more realistic gauge. But still the same old question, which one to start? A couple of you have voted for Diva ... and acutally I am leaning towards Diva too ... the more mindless knitting.

For the time being, a couple more squares for the afghan:

The cat square was designed by Melissa Leapman. At first I didn't like it as I felt the cat was not round and chubby like the way I love cats. But when the square was done, I think it is pretty cute. Acutally, it was so cute that Tricia made a whole afghan using this square!

Friday, March 07, 2008

08:05 Heelless Sleeping Socks

When I first started knitting socks, I told my mom what I was knitting ... and this was her response, "Oh, that would be simple, right? You just knit a tube and sew up one end, that's it, right?" That's my mom's idea of a handknitting a sock.

To someone who doesn't knit, or even to someone who knits, like me, turning the direction of knitting 90 degrees is an amazing thing. Heel turning is always one exciting moment in the knitting of a sock. So, I seldom consider knitting a heelless sock. But this time, I am knitting for a recipient whose foot measurements are unknown to me ... and I'd like to keep the socks a surprise.

Taking the heel out of the equation also seemed to have taken a major part of the fun! You can imagine how happy I was when these were done! LOL!

Pattern: Heelless Sleeping Socks designed by Nancy Bush from Knitting Vintage Socks
The pattern is amazing! The number of cast on stitches is only 48 but it can fit my 8.5" foot. The foot I had in mind should be smaller ... and so the socks should be good. :)

As you can see from the photos, though they are heelless, the socks don't seem to be saggy. Actually, they wrap around the feet very well. But I would suspect their life would be shorter if being worn in shoes.

Yarn: Hand-Painted Superwash Sock Yarn (100% Merino) by Royale Hare (2 skeins) in Geyser Peach
For 2 years, these 2 skeins have been sitting in my stash. I am happy that I finally managed to find a pattern to knit them up. The yarns are very soft to touch. I didn't notice this when I bought the yarns, but now I think I'd prefer the colours to be more saturated. I hope my giftee would like this colour more than I do. ::fingers crossed::

Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo dpns US 2.5

Cast On: 02-06-2008
Cast Off: 03-02-2008

I already have another sock on the needles. This time, I think it would go faster as I am using the thicker Fixation:
Pretty crappy shot, isn't it? :) I hope I can take better ones with the FO.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

March is National Crochet Month

Though crochet garment is not for me, I am always fascinated by the various gorgeous crochet stitch patterns. I just learned from This Week in Ravelry that it is National Crochet Month in March ... and this motivated me to dig out my age-old UFO and start crocheting again.

One thing is certain ... I am much better in how to count the stitches. At the beginning it was really a big pain not being able to do so ... I had to keep mumbling to myself the number of stitches I did when crocheting. You can imagine ... I wouldn't talk to Husband in fear of losing the number ... and he would love talking to me just for the fun! LOL! Being more capable in visually recognizing the stitches encourages me to be more confident.

I have 3 more squares to add to the pool:
The Cluster Square is a lovely one. At first I was not good at crocheting in circle ... but that seems to make the most beautiful ones. Crocheted bubbles are more fun than knitted ones.

This is called Woven Relief Stitch ... and I think it is a pain to make ... Uggghhhh!

Compared to the Cluster Square, this Circle in a Square is a lot plainer. But it seems the stitch numbers in the pattern were not accurate. I tried several times but still couldn't come up with the numbers stated ... so I improvised.

The Babette Blanket is such a big hit ... and honestly, it is a true beauty. But I wouldn't allow myself to start another one before this UFO is finished. And I still have 44 more squares to go! 44! Let's make finishing this project the goal for 2008.

Monday, March 03, 2008

08:04 Pewter Filati Sweater

Husband has been sick during the weekend. He hasn't been sick for a long long time and when it came, it seemed to come at full force! Luckily, there was no fever but yet, he was still not in the mood to model the sweater. He is a lot better today. However, there is still no modeling shot. Why? The weather here is just too nice to wear a thick sweater. Today the temperature is in the 60s and 70s ... clear sky, lots of sunshine. There is no way he is going to wear that.

He did put it on for a moment ... just not long enough to get good shots. I can understand that. One would appreciate a thick sweater more when the temperature is right for it. The sleeves are a bit too long. It's just funny ... I knitted the sweater to the exact measurements of a sweater he has. One thing I hadn't done, and wish I had, is to try the pieces on him before sewing. Mistake mistake! But anyway, the sweater is done for now. That's good. :)

Pattern: Model 5 from Filati Special Man Edition 3
Only after I started did I realize the stitch pattern is a double knitting one. Otherwise, I would have chosen one that would give a thinner fabric and leave this for knitting at the end of summer. That way, the sweater would come out at a better timing.
This is a one-size pattern giving a 48" chest ... just the size I need. I did a couple of mods. Instead of the garter stitch border, I did the more conventional K2P2 ribbing. I also replace the V-neck with a K2P2 crew neck:
Isn't it nice and neat? I knitted double the length I wanted and sewn it to the inside ... the same way I did the last sweater for Husband. Even though the yarn is thicker this time, the result is still very good and not bulky.

Yarn: Jaggerspun Zephyr Silk-Wool 4/8 DK weight (50% Chinese Tussah silk, 50% fine grade Merino wool) (from Sarah's Yarns)
Very good quality yarn, which I am sure many of you know already. Though labeled DK weight, I feel that it is a tad thicker. I also love the large range of colours available too. This pewter is very suitable for man's sweater ... a pleasant change from the darker conventional colours.

Needles: Addi 4 mm for the body and sleeves; Addi 3.75 mm for the neck band.

Cast On: 01-24-2008
Cast Off: 03-01-2008

I am very happy to have this sweater done ... now I can make something for myself again! YAY! I am thinking of either the Celtic Icon (Ravelry) or Diva (Ravelry).