Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Baby Bundties

I've been intrigued by the idea of baked donuts since I saw a donut pan in the Baker's Catalogue. Donut pans, as it turns out, aren't to be found locally for love or money, but baby bundt pans there are in abundance. Yesterday, I broke down and got a baby bundt pan while I was out with mom, and since then I've made two batches of pumpkin donuts; neither was what I'd call completely successful, but they weren't inedible, either.
The first recipe I tried was this one. The texture was a little lighter, but I made a couple of mistakes; I forgot the baking soda and used too much milk. Somehow, though, they turned out pretty well. The second I tried was this one, and somehow, the texture came out very dense and cakey, and I don't like it at all. Turns out I forgot to add baking soda again, which could have something to do with the problem. They're okay, I guess--everything goes better with a bourbon-nutmeg glaze, doesn't it?
I'd like to try one of the King Arthur donut mixes at some point, but I don't really want to pay UPS shipping for one package of donut mix, no matter how good it might be!

Bourbon glaze:
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup powdered sugar
about 2 tbsp bourbon

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pick Up Sticks

This is where I solicit advice from experienced knitters who use double-pointed needles.
I've got some Susan Bates needles in sizes 1, 2, and 3, and the smaller sizes actually hurt my hands. They work perfectly well to knit with, but using them is never comfortable. I also have a couple sets of Clover bamboo needles, which are fine for knitting socks; they grip the yarn without being sticky, they're comfortable to handle, but the tips are a little on the blunt side for my tastes and they tend to chip over time. Next on the list, I've got two sets of KnitPicks Harmony needles with which I have a love/hate relationship. The tips aren't extremely stabby, but they're sharp enough to slide through stitches easily; the resin impregnated wood is comfortable in my hands, but it can split apart at the ends, which results in yarn snags and occasional sharp edges that can snag my fingers as well. I have one set of KnitPicks nickle-plated needles, too, but I rarely use them because they're so cold to knit with and the seven inch length is a little tricky for me to fiddle with. They're smooth, of course, and rather slippery--metal doesn't usually grip yarn, does it?
Last, I've also had (no longer, alas) a set of Brittany birch needles in smaller sizes. After a while, these also chipped at the ends and I had to smooth the edges with sandpaper to keep the yarn from snagging; the smaller sizes made me feel like I was knitting with toothpicks and, yes, I did break one of the needles while I was trying on a sock--that's how I ended up with my first set of Harmony needles.
I now appeal to my knitterly buddies: Can you recommend double-pointed needles that are comfortable to knit with, slightly stabby-sharp, and of a more economical price range than the Signature needles?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Yarn Delivery!

Yarny goodness of several types arrived in today's post, and I'm happy as could be. It's soft, it's squishy, it's sproingy, it's face touchy... it's... it's Craft's Meow sock yarn. And I can't wait to knit with it. The colors are very lush and appealing, especially in the Caramel Soft Serve; the Witch's Brew is just.. awesome. Gah. I'm not usually at a loss for descriptive words, so I think I'll just quit while I'm ahead and give you pictures of my yarny goodies.
Before I forget, I got another package today. Yarn, a silly postcard--thanks, Greenethumb, for the giggle--and a little tin of faerie mints. The yarn is KnitPicks Essential in a gorgeous semi-solid dark yellow-gold. I've never knit with it before, but as soon as I finished tidying up, I cast on for the Catnip socks. Essential, or Stroll as it's now called, seems to get mixed reviews, so if I'm a dissenting voice, that's too bad. I'm completely enjoying it. It's incredibly soft and has a fair amount of bounce, so I can imagine that it's going to make a really good pair of socks. The color reminds me of ripe wheat fields in the autumn, maybe under a very thunderstormy sky.
So far the Catnip socks are going fairly well, but since I'm only working on the toe, I'm not sure how much chance there is of making a mistake. Of course, I could be wrong. Ahem.
Okay.. pictures.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Around the bend

Fall is in the air. I can tell by the way I'm sneezing and because the poison ivy is turning a glorious shade of red on the trees across the street, which usually happens before the deciduous trees start to change color.
The Rivendell socks are going fairly well; I finished the first one a few days ago and it fits. I made a few minor modifications, like going up a needle size and using a different type of cast on than the one suggested. My go-to cast on is usually the knitted one, but it's pretty un-stretchy and doesn't work very well for sock cuffs because I tend to do it too tightly and then knit through the backs of the stitches on the first row. This means that I have to learn a new cast on besides the evil backward-loop.
When I first learnt to knit about twenty years ago, my elderly neighbor taught me the backward-loop method. The problem was that because she was left-handed, she taught me to cast on as though I were also a southpaw, so I've always done a reversed-backward-loop and never learnt to do it the right-handed way. For me, the backward-loop always produces a long gap between the next loop to be worked and the right-hand needle, which generally means I use the dangly yarn between the needles to cast on extra stitches and take up the slack. As a result, this is my least favorite method to use; that's why I started using the knitted cast on.
The lack of flexibility in the knitted cast on is fine for things that don't really need a lot of give, like shawls or potholders, or maybe even a sweater--if you're one of those people who does it loosely and hits the gauge dead on without having to swatch, maybe it matters even less--but it's probably not your best bet for a nice, stretchy sock cuff. Since most patterns seem to call for the long-tail method anyway--which I've mistakenly thought was the backward-loop for the last five years... oops--it's probably better to stick with what the pattern suggests unless you just don't care.
After consulting a number of sage souls on Ravelry, I headed off to YouTube to see what the twisted German cast on was all about. Rumor has it that it's super-stretchy and is about on the same level as the long-tail cast on. I skipped the long-tail videos altogether and, after watching the same video (KnitWitch, your video is to blame for my new brand of delinquency) about fifteen times to make sure I knew what I was doing, I cast on the second Rivendell sock. And the cuff is way more flexible than the first one I did. The downside is that I misjudged the amount of yarn I'd need to do the required 63 stitches and was left with a tail about a foot long even after I finished. This, I've been told, probably isn't uncommon since there's a lot of trial and error involved calculating the exact amount. The first time I tried to cast on, I didn't leave enough extra yarn to make a 63 stitch cuff. Needless to say, I frogged the cuff and had to start all over; my sock now has a little blob of blue yarn hanging at the beginning of the round.
I said the sock was going well... and it really is.. or will be if I can figure out where I made my mistake. I've finished the first chart and am two rows into the second, and it's that second row that's got me puzzled. I have the right number of stitches, but for some reason I can't seem to get them arranged the right way so the twisted stitch does what it's supposed to. Since I obviously finished the first sock and got something that actually vaguely resembles the pattern in the book, then I should be able to manage the second one just fine. Right?

I broke down and ordered more sock yarn. *sigh* Just two skeins, but that's enough to set my fingers twitching at all the possibilities. It should arrive tomorrow, and that's not quite soon enough for me. The CraftsMeow's proprietoress does gorgeous work.. it's going to be tough to decide which pattern will go best with which yarn.