Monthly Archives: February 2012

don’t trust car math

This is a lesson (mostly for myself) in doing my pattern math properly, and not just winging it.

I’m working on this shawl – the body of the shawl is a simple but beautiful stitch pattern with increases every right side row. The pattern* says to knit the chart repeat 12 times total. At 6 increases per right side row and 6 right side rows per chart repeat that equals 432 stitches increased (467 stitches total, in case you care).

Somewhere around 395 stitches I got tired of counting pattern repeats. So I counted all my stitches, subtracted from the final number, divided by 6, and noted how many more increase rows I needed. Now I could just keep track of each right side row with a simple hatch mark on the pattern (we’ve all done this, right? It’s like counting the number of increases in a sleeve rather than counting all the stitches) I figured I needed nine more increase rows.

I finished the eighth increase row sitting in my car** waiting for yoga class to start and I thought “hey, I should actually count my stitches just in case!”

This is where I loose track. I don’t know what happened, but when I counted I didn’t get 461 stitches, I got something less than 400. I double checked my counting. I counted from the other edge of the needle (as if that would help) But I seemed to be getting the same number every time.

So then I complained LOUDLY about screwing up my math the first time. I complained about having another 13 increase rows before I could start my edging. Yes, according to my car math I needed another 78 stitches.

This would actually have put me at FEWER stitches than I had after my first count. You’d think maybe some red flags would’ve been raised? I mean, we’ve all had black hole knitting experiences – where you knitandknitandknit and don’t seem to make any progress, but this is just crazy. Somehow I convinced myself that working 8 increase rows had given me fewer stitches than I had before.

I might’ve caught this mistake sooner, except I was snowed in with friends on Saturday. So I spent the whole day chatting and knitting and not paying attention. By the end of Saturday I’d finished 12 of the 13 additional increases. Then I thought, maybe I should count my stitches again.

521. I had 521 stitches. Somehow I’d overshot and was NINE increase rows beyond where I needed to switch from the body of the lace to the edging. This left me frogging back 18 rows of lace shawl which (by the way) has patterning worked on both the right and wrong sides AND which didn’t have a single lifeline ANYWHERE in the shawl.***

And you know what the worst part is? The pattern is correct. If I’d just kept track of the chart repeats like the designer (that’s me) told me to I wouldn’t have this problem. I’d have sailed through the body and by now I’d be 18 rows into the edging. But I had to second guess the designer (yeah, still me) and try and come up with a better way of counting things. And then I let car math sway my judgement even further.

The lessons: Just follow the pattern. And don’t make big decisions based on math you do in the car.

*yes, it’s my pattern, but the point of writing the directions out first is so I don’t have to think while I knit.

**yoga is in a loud and stinky gym until our teacher finishes building her studio. I’m convinced that waiting in the car is part of why my math got all thrown off.

***not my proudest moment.

finally winter

I’ve been complaining about the lack of true winter weather pretty much since the season started.

February snow mosaic

Last weekend mother nature finally came through. The storm got started a day later than predicted. but once it got going it snowed and snowed and snowed. I had friends come visit for the weekend, and instead of venturing out to explore Vermont we spent pretty much all of saturday snowed in. We knit, the guys brewed beer, and we all watched it snow.

Since we live on the side of the mountain ridge that faces west we got LOTS of snow – 24 inches in my front yard all* from one storm! The valleys only got a foot of snow, and burlington has less than 6 inches.

There’s a technical term for this – Orthographic lift. Basically as the air mass moves over a mountain it’s SQUEEZED through the tight space between the top of the mountain and the top of the atmosphere. And the squeezing presses out the extra moisture. In winter this means snow over the mountains, and lots of it! One of the many reason I love living where I do.

*all of it. The weekend before the chickens had been scratching in the brown grass of my front yard.

Buttons!

As I mentioned, I’m one sleeve, a collar, and button band away from being finished with my Boyden cardi. Usually at this point I’ve already picked out buttons* or at least I know exactly what I’m looking for in a set of buttons.

But not this time. For this sweater I have no idea what kind of buttons I want. And buttons can really make a sweater pop – like the orange ones on the blue Evendim from Twist Collective, or the row of tiny little buttons on Iolanthe.

So I’m looking for suggestions! I’m pretty sure I want medium sized buttons, something around 3/4 to 1 inch. I don’t want high contrast, but I don’t even know if I want them colored, brown, white? Or what material: pewter, clay, plastic, glass?? I think I need at least 5, but 7 would be better, and even 9 might not be bad.

Last night I rummaged through my button collection. These ones (from a button jar I picked up at a yard sale) are my favorites – of course I only have two:

vintage buttons clay buttons

The next ones are the right size and I have 7! But what you can’t see in this photo is that the gold swirl on them is a bit too shiny.

Shininess is the problem with these mother of pearl buttons from my button jar as well:

mother of pearl buttons leaf buttons

And while I really like the leaf imprint buttons they’re only half an inch which I’m afraid is too small. It might be ok if I had 9, but I only have these 5.

So all that remains in my stash are these horn buttons. They’re a good size, and I like the color. But I’m still not sure if 5 buttons is enough.

horn buttons

Do you put this kind of thought into buttons? Where do you like to find them? Got any good online sources you can recommend?

*Sometimes I pick out buttons before I pick out yarn…

Thwarted

I’m feeling a bit thwarted in my knitting right now. I’ve run out of yarn for my awesome colorwork socks – so sad! I’m actively searching for remnants Lang Yarns Jawoll Solid Superwash in the tan colorway and and Knit One Crochet Too Ty-Dy Socks in the vineyard colorway (do you have any? I’ll pay for them!) I really want remnants not whole skeins, it just doesn’t feel right to buy a whole skein when all I need is another 50 or so yards…

Meanwhile I was working on my brown afghan:

big brown blanket

Which is a full square now. This might seem pretty good, until you learn that two days ago it had 16 rounds of edging. But the lace pattern I’d made up was pulling in too much along the edges. It took me so many rounds to realize my problem because I thought that the circular needle was pulling in the edges: until I took it off the needle and still couldn’t spread the thing out. So now the blanket is in time out until I figure out how to work the edging.

I am making good progress on a lace shawl. But hundreds of stitches of lace all smashed together onto a needle doesn’t look like much. And each row takes almost 30 minutes at this point. So while I’m making good progress it doesn’t feel like it…

My boyden cardi was going really well! Until I finished a sleeve (I shouldn’t complain!) Now I need to do more charts before I can knit the second sleeve. I also really need to add the body edits to the electronic file before I forget them.

So – with all these projects in various stages of holding I was a bit at a loss trying to decide what to knit in front of the TV last night.

just another washcloth

Good thing I always need more kitchen wash cloths…

Blueberry lemon corn muffins

I had a bit of baking inspiration this weekend! After briefly consulting my standby recipe book* for important things like how-much-baking-powder-to-use-if-citrus-is-involved I created a muffin recipe of my very own!

lemon blueberry corn muffins

My blueberry lemon corn muffins were delicious. Although Neil suggested that they lack bacon. I might actually be willing to try adding bacon next time. If you wanted to I suppose you could substitute 1/4 cup of blueberries with 1/4 cup finely crumbled bacon. If you try it, let me know how it comes out…

LeBlCo muffins2

Ingredients
1 1/4 cup yellow corn meal
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
4 Tablespoons veggie oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups blueberries

Grease 12 standard muffin tins (or line with papers) and preheat oven to 400F.
In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
In a small bowl whisk together milk, eggs, and oil. Add lemon juice, whisk briefly and fold into dry ingredients. Note that if you mix the milk, eggs, and oil well enough the milk will not curdle when the lemon juice is added. But I wouldn’t push your luck by letting it stand around for awhile or anything.
When dry and wet ingredients are almost all mixed add the blueberries and mix.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tins until they are almost, but not quite, full.
Place in oven and bake for 12-15 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean)

Good luck letting them cool before you start eating them!

LeBlCo muffins

*The Joy of Cooking, in case you were curious…

Fruit on Top

The other day the lid on my yogurt container cracked. Not wanting the plain yogurt to absorb lots of funny refrigerator smells I needed to transfer it to some other container. I figured while I was at it I could divide it up into smaller containers so it’d be easy to grab one for breakfast or a snack.

yogurt parfaits

I usually buy plain yogurt (or make it myself, if I’m on a yogurt kick) I’ve found that jam makes an EXCELLENT addition to plain yogurt. It adds the sweetness and the fruit that spice up unflavored yogurt all in one go. It’s also a great way to use up extra jam.*

yogurt layers

I added the granola as an experiment. I was hoping the jam would separate the yogurt and keep it from getting too soft. It sort of worked. The granola got a bit softer than normal, but still added texture and didn’t go completely mushy.

I feel pretty brilliant about how this came out. They make easy, home made, quick snacks. Home made and quick is a tricky combination to find. They can be as little or as much home made as you desire (depending on if you’re the kind of person to make your own yogurt, granola, and/or jam) Also you’ll never find fruit on the bottom yogurts in the store in these flavors (strawberry rhubarb ginger, strawberry black currant, peach nutmeg, my jam flavors are pretty good)

I’m always on the lookout for quick and easy food ideas that aren’t commercially made (in the “eat only food your grandparents would recognize theme) So when I came up with a great idea of my own** I figured I’d share it.

yogurts2

*I have a lot of jam leftover from last summer that needs to be eaten before I start making more next summer!

**Not that I’m the first person ever to do this, just that I haven’t seen anyone else talking about it.

Finished Objects

Once the steeking was done there wasn’t much left. I grafted the underarms, wove in the ends, and attached 11 little brown buttons.

plum tree2

I definitely recommend Plum Frost if you’re looking to try a little colorwork. And if you don’t want to cut up your knitting the pattern includes pullover directions too.

plum tree4

Now I have another finished cardigan. I admit I’m loving my cardigans more than my pullovers in this weird, warm winter that Vermont is experiencing. I love the warm brown shetland wool of this sweater, the pretty red and purple in the colorwork. It’s a great cardigan, lighter weight than many of my other sweaters. It was perfect for strolling around outside while I was in South Carolina for training last week.

plum tree1

Of course the locals thought I was crazy. They were all wearing coats and hats and mittens…

While I was traveling I also finished my first scarf for the HRBP cancer research fundraiser*.

zaftig wisp2

The pattern is Knitty’s Wisp. Instead of the silk/mohair yarn I used Plymouth yarn Worsted Tweed. I also cast on a different number of stitches and left out the eyelets along the edges. Other than that it’s just exactly the same…

*It’s certainly not too late to knit a scarf if you still want to get involved!

what I’m wearing: pants!

I bet you’re all really glad to hear I’m wearing pants today* but these aren’t just any pants:

high school pants

Nope, these fabulously flared pants are High School Pants. They surfaced from the back of my old closet earlier this month while I was helping my mom clear out clutter.

I’ve been saying for years that I’m still wearing the same sized pants as high school. This IN SPITE of the fact that the clothing industry keeps changing the number on the tag of the pants I buy. In case you’re curious, the pants I got for christmas this year say “Size 4” on the tag. These pants say “Size 12” Whatever stupid fashion industry, you’re just making it harder for me to figure out what size to try on…

These pants are still in pretty good shape. They got put away when I went to college because that was about the time I decided I really couldn’t wear white clothing without getting stains everywhere. I still feel that way, but I can occasionally pull off something cream colored (if I’m careful.) But those 60-esque bell bottom flairs seemed a little over the top to me.

modified pants

So I did a little alteration over the weekend, and now I have a new pair of work pants! The sewing job isn’t as great as it looks from a distance. The CORRECT way to have done this would’ve involved picking out the double folded seam (same as on most jeans) on one side and taking a little bit of fabric off each edge of the pant leg. But That seamed** like too much work. So I just pinned, sewed, and cut all the excess fabric off one edge. This means that from the knee to the cuff the fabric is now slightly biased. It’s not a problem when I’m wearing them. But the bias makes the material curl just enough that they can’t be folded perfectly flat. Ironing these pants would be a nightmare. Good thing I never iron pants…

*as opposed to not-wearing-pants, which could be problematic.
**HA! It was a typo, but I’m totally leaving it in!

Little Snippet

I still LOVE the scrappy scarf I knit up earlier this winter (the one I knit not once, but twice) It seems a lot of other people would love one too*

scrappy1

So I wrote up a little pattern! And I’m making it available to everyone for free. You can favorite and queue it on Ravelry as always.

scrappy3

download now

As I mentioned before, it’s wicked easy. But this PDF includes a diagram for the overhand knots I used to trim the fringe. I also included a half page of suggestions for choosing and organizing colors so your scrap scarf can look something like mine. I’d like to thank Ravelry for making this free download available to members and non-members alike!

scrappy5

But of course it won’t look much like mine, because the wonderful thing about these scarves is that each one is unique!

scrappy4

You only need approximately 6 yards of yarn for each stripe. Since this scarf is designed to use many different weights of yarns your gauge will vary from one row to the next. For once I’ll tell you gauge isn’t important. (shocking, I know)

scrappy2

*almost every day I get visitors to my blog who are searching for “scrap yarn scarf” or scarf pattern scraps some variation on that. Seriously, if all the variations were combined it’d be the single biggest search term for me…

Onions

Last fall Neil and I got a 40lb box of onions. We’d never bought bulk onions before, but they’re so tasty we figured – why not! Well as February rolled around the early bloomers* of the box have started to sprout.

On Saturday Neil made french onion soup (and we could make it a few more times before putting a decent dent in our onion supply!) I don’t know where Neil found his recipe but it took HOURS. The chopped onions were roasted in the oven for 3 hours before moving them to the stovetop. Then there were FIVE rounds of deglazing the pan (the last time with sherry.) Then came the usual soup steps of adding the broth and simmering things. It took Neil all afternoon**, but the results were AMAZING.

french onion soup

This is on topic for Valentine’s day in our world. Years ago (when we were poor college students) we agreed that rather than spending money for gifts for valentine’s day we’d make a nice dinner for ourselves. It was a lot trickier at the time because we both lived in dorms. Sterling College had an old kitchen in the upstairs of an random class building. This kitchen had an electric range you couldn’t trust and a fridge straight out of the 1950’s. But we had so much fun hanging out there, cooking for each other, and spending the evening alone together that we agreed we should do it every year (except in nicer kitchens.)

We still make a point of cooking a nice dinner for each other on valentine’s day. We’ll make a special dish, something that takes a little extra effort. There will be candles, and dessert once dinner is finished. We’re not the sort of people who buy into a commercialized version of any holidays. So this is a great way for us to celebrate our relationship without going all commercial.

But I have no idea how we’re going to improve on Saturday’s dinner…

*pun intended
**he made a baguette from scratch too, for the topping.