Friday, December 28, 2007

Disappointments and Tribbles

Poor Dad. A few years ago he got into watercolor painting and started taking classes where he lives in Minnesota. There are few paintings in frames at his apartment, and this year he decided to paint his Christmas cards by hand instead of sending out commercial greeting cards. When he told me, I kidded him about the old episode of Fibber McGee&Molly, in which Fibber also decided to paint cards and ended up with disaster at every turn. Anyway, dad sent out his cards after scanning them--a smart move in my opinion--and waited with baited breath. And no one bothered to even acknowledge they'd gotten a card that was any more exciting than the usual commercial crap. Poor Dad. When I talked to him this afternoon, I thought to myself, "Now you know how it feels to put a lot of effort into something you make with your own hands and do the absolute best you can, and then the recipient doesn't appreciate the result."
I'm not sure if that's a reflection of living in a culture where everything is disposable and it's all about being acquisitive instead of appreciative. Everything is done as quickly as possible, then used quickly, and thrown out to be replaced with something newer, better, faster than the old model. It's disheartening; I know exactly how Dad feels. But, sometimes the best things are the ones without the expensive designer label slapped all over them.

This wasn't as fibery a holiday as it was last year, but I'm fine with that. How many of us are heretical enough to admit that we're actually running out of space? All the soup tureens are full, all the boots and blouse sleeves are stuffed, all the sofa cushions have miraculously turned into cleverly disguised bags of yarn, and you're getting the feeling that you're somehow caught in a taping of "The Trouble With Tribbles"? Something like that, right? Naaaaaah. There are lists and books and magazines and catalogs dedicated to the notion that there is never, EVER enough yarn; the keeper of MochiMochiLand certainly proves it with her photo of the world's biggest yarn stash.
So, while I got neither yarn nor roving to spin more yarn among my holiday gifty things this year, I can definitely say I'm pretty happy with what I've got and that I've been able to pass on at least a little of what I've learned about stash management and stash manipulation (i.e. knitting) to two whole people this year. Not only did I succeed in corrupting one of my childhood friends, but I've also succeeded in corrupting my poor, unsuspecting mother. So many victims, so little time. :P That in itself is a gift that does in deed keep on giving. At the same time, my knitting library grew a little bit because mom gave me a couple more books; one was the Best of Interweave Knits, which does include a couple of nifty sock patterns. She's also gotten me a subscription to that marvelous publication as an early birthday gift. I's a happy kitty, I is.
And, at the same time, I'm knitting myself a pair of extremely fuzzy, warm socks out of the Lopi Lite I snagged from eBay earlier in the year. I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday and that your stashes grew by leaps and bounds, and that your houses are full of warm, happy, woolly tribbles.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


You Are a Gingerbread House

A little spicy and a little sweet, anyone would like to be lost in the woods with you.

Twelve Step Program

The Girls came over this afternoon, and somewhere between all the cookies, the EVIL fast food, and the giant cups of tea and cocoa, Frances and Barb came up with a nifty idea for a twelve-step program for knitters. This is in no way connected with the Knitters Anonymous website, however, and everything listed here is the product of three imaginations hopped up on lots of sugar and caffeine. The Committee of Three (i.e. Barb, Frances, and me) will consider and ratify any and all suggestions and contributions made to this list. Many thanks to The Girls for getting the ball rolling with this. :P

Twelve-Step Program For Knitters:

Mission Statement: Subscribers will knit obsessively under threat of penalty to be determined and ratified by a committee of less than three people, i.e. The Committee of Three.

1. I will admit you have a yarn addiction, that it will never go away, and that my knitting needles will be by my side at all times.
2. I will pay my dues in the form of finished products not to exceed:
A. Five balls of yarn for beginners
B. Ten balls of yarn for intermediate knitters
C. 15+ balls of yarn for advanced subscribers
3. Steps 3 through 12 to be determined and ratified by a committee of not less than three people, i.e. The Committee of Three.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Zenia Cardigan

Yay! It's finished, it's finished, it's finished! I had to tweak the design for the sleeves a little but, on the whole, it actually came out the way I wanted it to. And, best of all, it fits Zenia perfectly; she seems quite pleased with the end result, which makes me feel much, much better. So, without further ado, 'ere eez zee pattern.

Gauge 6 sts/inch
Materials - Knit Picks Swish DK in Cornflower (MC)- 12 balls
Knit Picks Swish DK in White (CC)- 1 ball
Size 6 circular needles -36" and 70"
Size 3 DPNs (for the I-cords)
Tapestry needle, stitch markers, safety pins

Back: CO 120 sts. Work 5 rows of garter stitch; work 2 rows of stst, then begin working Fair Isle pattern (see chart below). Continue working in stst with MC until piece measures 12" from CO edge, then place markers to indicate the beginning of the armhole; continue working until piece measures 19" from CO edge--the armhole edge will measure 7" from marker. BO all stitches, placing markers to indicate first and last 40 sts.

Left Front: CO 60 sts. Work 5 rows of garter stitch; work 2 rows of stst, then work Fair Isle pattern. Resume working with MC until piece measures 12" from CO edge, ending with a WS row. Place marker. Begin decreasing 1 st at neck edge on every RS row 16 times-there will be 44 sts left; decrease 1 st at neck edge every 4 rows 4 times-there will be 40 sts left. Work evenly until piece measures 19" from CO edge. BO all sts.

Right Front: Work as for Left Front, but decrease at neck edge on WS rows.

Sleeves: Make 2. CO 110 sts. Work 2 rows of garter sts, then 2 rows of stst; on the next row, dec 1 st at each end of the needle (108 sts remain). Dec 1 st at each end of needle every 6 (work the decreases on RS row) rows 9 times more (90 sts remain). Continue working evenly until piece measures 19". BO all sts.

Finishing: Block pieces if you feel it's necessary. Sew shoulder seams; sew side seams to the markers. Sew sleeve seams and attach sleeves to the body of the sweater. Pick up stitches around the neck and front edges of the sweater using the longer circular needles and knit 4 rows of garter stitch. BO all sts. With DPNs, make 2 I-cords about 12" long; sew these to the bottom corner of the neckline, one on the front and one on the left.
Weave in ends.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Monster Cookies

Davros has really been earning his keep since I got him last winter. The dough hook is invaluable and has been working overtime because of endless loaves of bread and batches of bagels; the beater has also proved useful for things like fudge and cookie dough. Okay, enough rhapsodizing about the virtues of Davros and his nifty attachments.
Today was a cookie day, you see, because it's so close being Yule. Mother seems convinced my increased crabbiness stems from me being an Artiste, and this is the reason I chose to do one of the most complicated types of cookies. I just like challenges.. what's wrong with that? See, this is what happens when mom subscribes to magazines like BGH. It's worse when PBS airs its regular Saturday schedule of cooking shows.
Rather than going completely vanilla and doing my usual chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter blossoms, and ordinary sugar cookies, I decided to do something more complicated. The cookies in question were a sugar cookie version of linzer cookies, complete with raspberry jam and a dusting of powdered sugar; mom called it the Pastry Chef Challenge and was surprised when they came out as they did. I tweaked the recipe a little by changing the spices and omitting the ground nuts (sugar cookies, remember?), and adding some lemon oil along with the vanilla extract. Here's the recipe and a picture:

5 cups flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups unsalted butter, softened

2 whole eggs plus 3 yolks
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp
lemon oil
powdered sugar for sprinkling
about 1/2 cup raspberry or other jam for the filling

Beat the butter, eggs, yolks, sugar, vanilla and lemon oil until fluffy, then start adding the flour about a cup at a time, then add the spices. Scrape the bowl down once everything is combined and still fairly fluffy. Divide the dough into quarters and wrap it in plastic to chill for about two hours before you roll it out. If it gets too warm and starts to get sticky, use cornstarch instead of flour on the board or whatever surface you're using; extra flour just makes the dough heavier. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and switch one of the racks to the middle position. Bake the cookies at 350 for 10 minutes, then let them cool before you start assembling the little sandwiches.
While they're cooling, put the jam in a small saucepan and warm it over low heat until it's melted and slightly thickened; put a small blob on the bottom cookie, then add the top layer. If necessary, add a little more jam to the cut-out opening, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Get creative! Use nifty cookie cutters! Get messy!
Happy Yule, kids. :P

Friday, December 14, 2007


We're supposedly gearing up for a big storm, which means the grocery stores and such are absolutely packed and people are going nuts trying to buy eggs, milk, and bread. Today, the weather was surprisingly mild, so I took advantage of the sunlight--the first in about a week--to go take pictures of the great outdoors. Rather than have this be a photo-heavy post, I'll just share the link to the folder where the pictures are stored. It was a lot of fun, but I found myself wishing I had a telephoto lens for a couple of the shots. Still, I'm pretty pleased with the way they turned out.
Otherwise, Zenia's sweater is much closer to being finished. I just have one sleeve left to do; mom's being nice and doing the nasty job of seaming things for me--she does a much better job than I do. The sweater pattern will be posted as soon as the second sleeve is finished, and then I'll be able to go back to working on Evil Ambition. As usual, I procrastinated, so the holiday knitting idea has pretty much gone out the window. I haven't even got my Christmas cards in the mail yet, and I'm really running out of time. *sigh* Sorry, guys. Maybe I'll be able to do a better job of scheduling things next year. I hope.
Well, here's a picture of Zenia's sweater, modelled by its recipient. Like I said, it still needs its sleeves; I'll take another picture when it's finished, so you can get a better idea of what it looks like and how it fits.
Also, tonight, dog and I surprised a group of deer in the yard. There were four or five of them, so when they took off running, dog was very excited and didn't know quite what to do. Poor dog. I think she thought they were dog treats on the hoof.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

First Fall

It's about 26 degrees and it's snowing--obviously. First snowfall of the year for us, though I hear a few towns in the surrounding area have already gotten their first flurries long before we did. It's definitely a good day to stay in, knit, and drink lots of tea. The wind has finally died down, but it's still a good idea to stay in. The cats are in and the dog refuses to go out; if I succeed in getting her to go out, she rushes back in and goes to stand next to the wood stove until I'm sure she needs to be basted. Smart dog! Motzie is hiding in the liquor cabinet--I wonder if cats get drinking problems--and staying warm. And I just finished the body of Zenia's sweater. Picture forthcoming, as usual. Now just the sleeves and i-cord are left, as well as the band around the front edge and the weaving in of all those little ends. I should finish well before the Dec. 22 deadline. Yay!