Saturday, March 24, 2012

K'done: GAP-tastic Cowl

Another win for my sister.

Pattern: GAP-tastic Cowl, by Jen Geigley
Yarn: Gedifra Extra Soft Merino Grande, in Blackberry
Needles: 9 mm / US 13

I think if you were to ask my sister, she'd tell you that it's pretty good to have a sister who enjoys knitting.

This wasn't my first time working with bulky weight yarn, but it might well be the second - I knit a lot of socks, a fair number of sweaters, but not many accessories, really, and that's where you typically find the bulky yarns. Well, that's how things have been running for me, at any rate. So I think it's understandable that I was shocked at how quickly this sucker worked up - it's done entirely in seed stitch, which doesn't go particularly quickly for me, all that flipping the working yarn back and forth, and there's a lot of fabric to generate too. I did, after all, use nearly 400 yards of yarn to knit it.

And yet, cast on to bind off was eight days. And not eight days of intense effort, where all spare moments were poured into that cowl. It was pretty easy going.

It also surprised me by being more fun than I expected an all-seed stitch cowl to be, but I think the amusement came from my shock at just how quickly fabric sprang into existence and then dripped off the needles. Perhaps I am easily amused. Importantly, though, I never came to hate it, and I can totally see myself making another one - which is good, because a second in a different colour may very well be coming down the request pipeline. (For the same sister - I only have one.)

I strayed from the path of the pattern instructions by casting on 141 stitches, rather than 131 - I got a bit carried away, and decided I didn't want to pull out the extra ten. I don't think I ended up working the full 15" of depth called for either - I never really measured, just kept going until I got so nervous about having enough yarn to bind off that I couldn't stand it anymore, and bound off. I used Jeny Staiman's pair of stretchy cast on and bind off techniques.

There's not much else to say about this cowl. There were more ends to weave in than there should have been, because three of the six balls had knots in them, which I undid as I came to them and then made like I was joining a brand new ball - I'd knit five or six stitches with the yarns held double, then drop the old shorty tail and keep going with the new working yarn. I took care to make sure that all ends were woven in on the same side, so there's one side that is 'perfect'. I never did block the cowl, not sure that blocking would do much for seed stitch worked at such a loose gauge - even though the yarn is bulky, the resulting fabric has what looks to me to be a decent drape to it, in that it's not stiff and it doesn't do weird standing up things. It's also amazingly squishy! My sister didn't think it needed blocking either, but she may have been biased by a strong desire to wear it right away. She's been wearing it not so much as a layer under the coat to keep warm, but as a part of her outfit - a true accessory, as it were.

She also told me that the item was a source of great comfort to her one day at work - she teaches elementary school, and has to deal with difficult parents on a somewhat regular basis. She happened to be wearing this cowl one unfortunate day when a parent came in to see her with the intent of blasting her into next year with insane, impossible demands. (I ask you, if your child is in a classroom with twenty-five other kids, what makes you think that the teacher should spend an extra two hours each week dedicated to your child alone? True, two hours a week may not sound like much, but think about it. There are twenty-six kids in the class. For each kid to get equitable treatment, that would add fifty-two hours to that teacher's work week. Not a reasonable request.) The cowl worked like a security blanket for her during that most unpleasant meeting.

No, that's not the only thing I've wrapped up recently, but taking pictures of other people wearing knits is profoundly simpler than taking pictures of myself wearing knits. I tried a few the last time I wore my newest sweater, and they pretty well all bit. I'll try again next time I'm wearing it. Or I may just take some unmodeled pictures. I'm so pleased, I want to be sure that the presentation really reflects that.

I suppose I could ask my sister to model the sweater for me.

But no. It's mine. I'll figure something out.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Not yarny, still good

Okay. I know I'm running this thing as a knitting blog, and I do have stuff to show you, but I didn't get around to taking any pictures, and I'm running low on time here as I've got to head out the door earlier than anticipated, so I'm not talking yarn adventures today.

Instead, I've got a kitchen adventure.

We all have fond memories of things we ate as kids, and one of mine is a dish my mother simply called beef with rice. That's basically all there is to it - you cut up a slab of flank steak, season it with fresh grated or crushed ginger, soy sauce, sugar, salt, cornstarch, and some oil, and then cook it on top of a pot of rice. It's simple and straightforward - though it does take awhile - and it keeps fabulously in the fridge, and reheats beautifully in the microwave, so it's awesome for lunches. A few months ago I finally managed to get the recipe from Mum, and I've made it at home a few times.

I made a batch this morning, which is part of why I'm sort of pressed for time.

I've discovered a pleasant side benefit of cooking this in the morning. When you make this, you end up with a crust of slightly burnt rice at the bottom of your pot - not fun for cleanup. But, I discovered by chance that if you cook up a batch, but then leave it covered to cool off - that is, don't serve it right away - that crust comes off the bottom of the pot easy as pie. (Well. I'm using a small enamelled cast iron dutch oven. Maybe it still wouldn't work well in a non-enamelled pot.)

Now, that crust isn't exactly pretty. And it's got a strong tendency to stay together, meaning you can't easily break it apart into smaller pieces, so it's a bit awkward to serve it along with the rest of the beef with rice.

But it's been infused with some of the seasonings that were put on the beef - not strongly, but a touch. Meaning, it's still totally good to eat.

And I've discovered that if you make this dish in the morning, you get a very pleasant surprise snack in the early afternoon.

Om nom nom.

More yarny content coming when I'm not so busy stuffing my face with rice and not too lazy to snap a few pictures. I have a finished sweater to show off!

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Yesterday, I was working a bit on a sock, and I was nearly at the point where I'll be starting in on the heel flap, and I looked at it, and something seemed off. It's a pattern I've knit before, very recently, and something didn't look right. The spacing between two elements seemed shorter than I remembered.

So I double-checked the chart, and it turns out that I went ahead and omitted a few rounds of the pattern. Whoops.

So this is what it looks like now.

That wouldn't bother me, except I have an appointment on Monday, and that means I'll be sitting in a waiting area for a good chunk of time, and I was planning on taking that there sock with me. All that loose, ripped out yarn presents a bit of a challenge for portability.

Apparently, though, I'm not so worried about it that I'm knitting away right now. So far today, I've put a large chunk of time - like two hours - into seaming up my latest sweater.

I don't mind seaming, really. But it's sort of demoralizingly slow. Is everyone this slow? Or do other folks get all the finishing on their pieced sweaters done in like half an hour, and I'm just mind-numbingly sloth-like? Anyway. In the two hours I've been at it, I've sewn a small seam where the neckline has an overlap, I've tacked the shoulders together - there were only like three stitches to deal with at each shoulder - and sewn the collar in place around the back neckline, and I've set in one sleeve. I've got the other sleeve left to set in, plus my sleeve seams, and my side seams, and a handful of ends to weave in - I've taken care of a few of them, but not all.

From what I've accomplished in two hours, I suspect it will take me another three or so to finish it up.

Is needing five hours for the finishing of a pieced sweater normal?

Maybe I don't want to know.