Monthly Archives: April 2010

Knit & Crochet Blog Week: A New Skill.

Is there a skill related to your hobby that you hope to learn one day? maybe you’re a crocheter who’d also like to knit? Maybe you’d like to learn to knit continental, knit backwards, try cables or attempt stranded colourwork.

I would like to learn how to cut steeks. I don’t know how it works, I don’t know what it involves, and I think that cutting into your knitting sounds absolutely terrifying. And yet, knitters do it all the time with no problem. I want to experience that same fearless approach to steeks!

Magic loop is another skill I’d like to learn, but that one sounds less scary. Designing garments is also a skill I’d like to aspire to, but that will have to wait until I have more free time for myself. I think my first step in that direction will be to pick up Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Without Tears and start with the yoke pullover.

Knit & Crochet Blog Week: One Great Knitter.

Write about a knitter whose work (whether because of project choice, photography, styling, scale of projects, stash, etc.) you enjoy. If they have an enjoyable blog, you might find it a good opportunity to send a smile their way.

While I don’t really admire one great knitter, there are a few out there whose styles and blogs I admire. In no particular order:

Ysolda Teague – Ysolda Teague’s designs are popular among knitters. I have made two of them, the Ishbel shawl and Rose Red hat. Her clothing designs have a vintage or nostalgic feel to them, and I would love to knit the Damson shawlette soon. As well, her blog is always full of fun photos and an appreciation for all things crafty.

Kate Davies – I first came across needled when I found the Owls sweater on Ravelry. It is such a simple sweater, and it is perhaps my favourite sweater that I’ve made. It’s so warm and comfortable; I could easily toss it on for a hike in the woods. I really enjoy reading Kate’s blog for the variety of topics, especially when she posts photographs of her hikes around her home in Scotland. Whenever I read her hiking posts, I want to go for long walks. Her recent posts about her stroke and overcoming physical challenges are very inspirational.

SweetGeorgia Yarns – The colours of SweetGeorgia Yarns are absolutely stunning. They’re so bright and vibrant. There are so many great colourists out there in the world of dyeing, but I’ve always been most drawn to Felicia’s colourways. As the website says, they are passionate, relentless, and unapologetic. Her blog showcases these colours with some great photography, and her studio on Main Street in Vancouver is bright little fibre arts haven. I’ve subscribed to her fibre club twice now, and will certainly continue in the future. (Speaking of which, I should post a photo soon of the latest fibre installment. So many greens!) If I hadn’t moved away from Vancouver last summer, I would have signed up for her spinning class in the fall.

And while I don’t know too much about Norah Gaughan, I think she’s an incredible designer. While some of her patterns don’t speak to me, she is so prolific that I think there must be something for everyone in her collections. She is an artist with a biology degree, and this shows through clearly in her book, Knitting Nature. Here is an interview Norah Gaughan about the creation of that book.

Knit & Crochet Blog Week: An Inspirational Pattern.

Blog about a pattern or project which you aspire to. Whether it happens to be because the skills needed are ones which you have not yet acquired, or just because it seems like a huge undertaking of time and dedication, most people feel they still have something to aspire to in their craft. If you don’t feel like you have any left of the mountain of learning yet to climb, say so!

Sylvi, by Mari Muinonen.

I aspire to knit the Sylvi.

I said so last year, and Corey sneakily called Briggs and Little Atlantic to inquire about their wool, but he wasn’t sure how many skeins I needed or what colour, so I ordered it and he paid for it as a birthday present.

Since then, I’ve knit one cuff and maybe five rows of the left panel. It’s slow-going. The main reason for this is that I am a very small, short person, and I’m afraid the Sylvi is going to go down to my ankles. I’m also afraid that even the extra small will be too huge for me. I was planning to make the XS with 6.00mm needles, but I’m now thinking about going down a needle size. I just haven’t put the effort into making all the calculations yet though, because the last thing I want is to spend so much time on something only to have it turn out too large. I’m nervous.

I plan to figure it out this summer.

While the Sylvi is the main pattern that I aspire to knit, there are a few more on my radar.

Maire Riding Jacket, by Margaret Mills.

The Maire Riding Jacket. While this does not seem like a particularly difficult knit, it does look like a lot of knitting. After looking at the prices on Caledon Hills Worsted Wool, it looks pretty affordable (although that’s in US dollars, not including shipping).

I really like how this jacket is fitted, and the vertical cable lines just seem to flow perfectly. The cables are very simple but still add a nice touch.

This is probably a jacket that I would wear open in the front most of the time. Unless the size is perfect to my form with some give, I’d be afraid of stretching the wool at the points where the front is fastened together.

Pas de Valse, by Marnie MacLean.

The Pas de Valse by Marnie MacLean. Again, the skills used to make this pattern may not be particularly difficult, but it’s fine yarn and there is a lot of knitting involved.

I’m attracted to the number of ways this garment can be worn, and this would be a big knit for me, in the sense that I’d wear it all the time and I want it to be of good quality. I would love to use some Sweet Georgia Yarns wool for this, but the amount needed would push this sweater close to the $200 price range. A bit too steep for my current budget.

However, I just think this is an incredibly versatile knit. If I had the money, I would have no problem spending that amount to make this, especially if it’s something that will last me several years. As shown in the image, you can belt it, leave it open, or pin it. It would look great over a skirt, dress, or pants.

I also aspire to design my own garment one day.

Knit & Crochet Blog Week: Starting Out

It’s Knit & Crochet Blog Week, and I will be participating! There are a set of seven questions, so I will be answering one per day. Let’s begin.

How and when did you begin knitting/crocheting? Was it a skill passed down through generations of your family, or something you learned from Knitting For Dummies? What or who made you pick up the needles/hook for the first time? Was it the celebrity knitting ‘trend’ or your great aunt Hilda?

My mom first tried to teach me how to knit when I was a young teen, but I could never figure it out. I kept adding stitches and dropping stitches. My first piece of knitting turned out to be a green lump with holes in it, so I gave up. In university I tried to take it up again with some guidance from a knitting friend, but I continued adding and dropping stitches, and I found purling to be absolutely horrendous. I couldn’t do it very well, and I hadn’t realized then what I could do with knitting aside from making scarves and dated sweaters.

Years later, I went home for a weekend near the end of my final year at university, in the spring of 2006. I don’t remember what compelled me to do so, but I asked my mom to teach me how to crochet instead of knit. I was bored that day and had been inspired by Craftster.org to take up some sort of fibre art. It worked – I caught on quickly and made a case for my camera that first day. That same weekend, we went to the bookstore where I picked up Stitch ‘n’ Bitch: The Happy Hooker, and I was definitely hooked. I started envisioning all the things I could crochet.

In the fall of that same year, after I had been working at the bookstore for several months, my friend Celia invited me and a few others over to her house for a knit/crochet night. I thought I’d try knitting again, even though I brought my crochet project with me. I cast on, and all of sudden, knitting became really easy. I remembered how to cast on, and, most surprisingly, I remembered the knit and purl stitches. Thanks to crochet, I knew how the yarn worked and what was happening as I knit. My swatch became a basket stitch scarf and that was my first knitting project. It helped having Celia around because she carries as much, if not more, enthusiasm about fibre arts than me. She was always one or two steps ahead, so she could teach me new techniques and tell me how easy it was going to be.

Since then, I had a slow and steady start. There were periods when I didn’t knit at all – I wanted to take some knitting with me when I spent three months backpacking through Europe and one month in Thailand, but I didn’t want to deal with packing my knitting needles and yarn at the major border crossings on airplanes. When I came home, I rediscovered knitting. I went to a weekend knitting camp with Celia, joined Ravelry, read knitting blogs, and that all brings me to today. I haven’t even crocheted since I learned how to knit.

One Week in Dinners.

As I mentioned last week, I planned to post photos of each my meals from Monday to Sunday in the hopes that I will see what I’m eating every day, and hopefully be inspired to eat healthier foods. Here are the results:

Indian-Style Yoghurt Chicken

Monday: Indian-Style Yoghurt Chicken from Kayotic Kitchen, with wild rice and salad. (I blogged about this earlier in the week.) This was a pretty spectacular meal. I marinated the chicken for only 30 minutes, but it was so easy and I already had most of the ingredients. The rice balanced it out and for greens we went with a simple salad.

Pasta and Meatballs.

Tuesday: On evenings when I work from 6-9pm, I usually eat dinner either before or after my shift depending on what I eat in the afternoon. This Tuesday, I took a nap until 5pm and I didn’t have time to make dinner before running for the bus! I grabbed some chocolates before heading out but when I came home I just made some pasta. I mixed four cheese Classico sauce with some generic Superstore brand tomato sauce, and added some Blue Menu meatballs from Superstore.

Pork Bits with Pasta and Salad.

Wednesday: I call this “Pork Bits” because I’m not sure it’s actually called, although “Pork Bits” doesn’t sound too appetizing. They come frozen from M&M Meat Shops so we heated it up, had a Sidekicks pasta, and a salad.

Wontons.

Thursday: I worked again on Thursday evening, and again I had dinner after my shift. It looks simple but the wontons are actually homemade so I wrapped them earlier in the week and saved a bunch in the fridge. I eat them with a mixture of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, with a small teaspoon of sweet chili garlic sauce. Just microwave them and they’re good to go.

Asian-Style Perogies.

Friday: Yup, it all started to go downhill from here. Corey wasn’t home on Friday evening and I don’t really get too motivated to make a fantastic homecooked meal for just myself, so I boiled some perogies and stir fried them in soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, and sesame oil. I didn’t have any green onions but I usually chop those up and throw them in there too. The dollop of yoghurt on the side is to even out the spice – left over from Monday’s dinner!

Spinach & Artichoke Dip with Tortilla Chips.

Saturday: Here’s where it gets embarrassing. Spinach & Artichoke dip from M&M Meat Shops with chips. That’s all. Corey was also not home on Saturday evening.

Sunday: I forgot to take a picture of today’s meal, so you’ll have to rely on my description. On our last trip to M&M Meat Shops, Corey bought a small stuffed turkey breast, so we heated that up and made gravy. (St. Hubert’s gravy out of a can, but oh man is it ever delicious – it’s an Ontario/Quebec thing.) We had the turkey and gravy over bread, and then salad as the veggie part of our meal.

The Results: Well, it’s clear I’m eating a lot of processed food, or food that doesn’t really need to be “cooked,” just heated up in an oven or on the stove. Only Monday’s meal involved any real cooking, in my opinion, and even then the rice came packaged as “instant.” The wontons also show some real cooking effort, as you have to mix the meat with veggies and then wrap them in wonton wrappers (which you can get at the store), so it’s a bit time-consuming when you make close to fifty, and then you have to boil them.

What I’d really like to stop doing is eating frozen foods and Sidekicks pasta. We live right by the M&M Meat Shop, and if you’re unfamiliar with that store, it basically sells everything frozen, so whatever you buy from there, you just put it in the oven or microwave and that’s it. No cooking, just heating. They sell everything from pre-cooked packaged meals (a la TV dinners) to stuffed turkey (today’s meal) to kebobs, desserts, pizza, Chinese food, etc. I also have a weakness for Sidekicks pasta, cause I sure love sodium. Again, I would like to stop eating this stuff. Where is the nutritional value, I ask you?

I read a blog post recently where the author decided to start buying groceries from the store that only her great-grandmother would recognize. Fresh vegetables? Check. Raw meat? Check. Dried pasta in a bag with powder? Not so much. And certainly no ready-to-go frozen dinners, whether it’s a frozen pizza or TV dinner.

For awhile now, I’ve been wanting to get back into good old-fashioned cooking, as in reading recipes and spending some time in the kitchen making food. I definitely miss my mom’s homecooked meals every day (Mom, I know you’re reading this, thank you for feeding me properly and I want to cook just like you). I have a few ideas of what’s stopping me – first, I sometimes can’t spare the extra time to get some ingredients together and make dinner, so I choose convenience instead. Second, I have very little income as a student and usually can’t afford all the ingredients for seven incredible meals per week.

There are certainly a few things that probably won’t happen. For example, I’ll never make fresh pasta on a regular basis (although I’d like to try at least once). I don’t find baking bread very interesting but that could change. And I will probably continue buying pasta sauces but at least I can add some ingredients to pasta sauces (that don’t include other pasta sauces with frozen meatballs).

Last year (or the year before?), I set a goal for myself: to try cooking at least one new recipe a week. I did it for about two months before I got lazy. I think I’d like to try that again. In the meantime, I will try to make more informed choices about my eating habits, and when I go grocery shopping, I will try to refrain from buying processed, prepackaged, frozen foods. Obviously I can’t change my eating habits overnight, and I can’t have gourmet food everyday. As long as my meals are balanced and healthy, I will be pleased.

But I will never, ever give up instant kimchi noodle bowls.

Feather and Fan Comfort Shawl.

Corey and I are doing a 4-5 day road trip in a week and a half, going up to Quebec to visit some of Corey’s extended family members whom I haven’t met yet. I thought I would knit his each of his grandmothers a shawl, and this is the first one.

Feather and Fan Comfort Shawl.

Pattern: Feather and Fan Comfort Shawl
Yarn: Noro Kureyon Sock

This is such an easy pattern with a great result. Most people on Ravelry who’ve knit this shawl have used Noro Kureyon Sock wool because of the beautiful colour changes. This shawl was knit using only one skein and actually, I didn’t even use all of it. Corey suggested a smaller shawl rather than a larger one for his grandmother.

The shifting colours in Kureyon are really beautiful, and this was the most neutral skein at the wool shop. Noro is known for their bright, vivid colours but I wanted to go for something more natural so I chose this one with browns, greys, and ecru. The yarn is pretty rough at first, but after I soaked it and blocked it, it’s softer.

It was nice to be able to knit this pattern up, as it is so popular but not really my style at all. So now I’ve done it, and it will (hopefully) be put to good use by someone else.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

Alan Bradley, a Canadian 70-year-old first time novelist, has written a witty murder mystery set in 1950’s England. It is narrated by an 11-year-old girl named Flavia de Luce, who has a passion for chemistry and a penchant for poison.

I loved this novel. The sequel, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag has just been released, and Bradley has a six book series deal planned.

The first person narrative is fantastic from Flavia’s point of view. Flavia is a smart, confident, know-it-all who keeps a notebook of scientific observations and has set up her own chemistry lab on her family’s property. When she finds a dead body in the cucumber patch, she isn’t so much scared as she is completely interested. It’s like reading Agatha Christie and Alexander McCall Smith in one novel. Flavia is a fantastic child narrator, with all the wit and intelligence of an adult. The following passage from the novel describes Flavia’s character quite well:

I made the Girl Guide three-eared bunny salute with my fingers. I did not tell him that I was technically no longer a member of that organisation, and hadn’t been since I was chucked out for manufacturing ferric hydroxide to earn my domestic service badge. No one had seemed to care that it was the antidote for arsenic poisoning.

I will be following this series eagerly.