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Brewer Burns

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Little Bit of the Random

I frogged the padded footlet. Last night I was knitting on it and I thought about the fact that after I finished that footlet I would have to knit another, and I knew that I couldn’t do it. The double stranded sole was so stiff that it hurt my hands and arms all the way up to my elbows to knit it. So I frogged it. I think I will probably try it again, with a much thinner, flimsier yarn. I did email IK to tell them about the mistake in the pattern, and I got an email back, and I emailed them again. I will let you know what happens there.

Somebody may have stolen a check out of the mail. I sent off the truck payment last week and then, today, I got back the ripped envelope from the post office. So, either a postal employee stole the check or it was shredded in the machine that ripped open the envelope. Obviously, I’m hoping for the latter. Stephen called the bank at lunch and found out that it will cost us $30.00 to stop payment on the check. Assholes. So, not only did we have to call and make a late payment on the truck, plus pay an additional $8.00 fee since we had to use the check-writing service, we also have to watch Stephen’s account very closely for the next few weeks to make sure that no one is out there posing as him. And no, we can’t just close the account. We have outstanding checks out there in the ether, and the house payment is automatically deducted from his account every month. Resetting everything would be a huge pain in the ass.

I started one of the Perdita bracelets last night using embroidery thread from my stash. It’s lovely. I ran out of thread before I was done, but I will be finishing it later this week.

That’s all for now.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Padded Footlets of Horror

After I finished my mom's mini-clapotis (and a baby hat I knit for charity/remembrance) I needd a new project. I've been working on the Christmas knitting and am really getting down there on the list but nothing on the list was really appealing to me. I was feeling listless. I was feeling bored. I felt that maybe I should pick something from that other Christmas knitting list: things I make for Stephen. One of the things I have had on my mental list to knit for Stephen are the padded footlets from the Summer 2005 IK. You see, my feet are always cold. Sometimes even when I'm wearing my handknit wool socks and wearing my handknit felted wool slippers. I have bad circulation (although it's better when I go to the gym.) My hands too, for those who care to know, are always cold. Consequently I want to knit really warm things for my feet and really warm things for other people's feet. Hence my desire to knit double thickness wool anklets. For Stephen. Don't worry, he wants them too. Did I mention that we live in a house that was built in 1938 and not insulated since then? My main house renovation goal has been to stuff material with insulating properties into every nook and cranny of this place and to generally stuff up any holes that exist (if it wouldn't be a major inconenience I would shellack all the doors and windows shut in the winter.)

Alright. Done with tangent. To make a long story short, I got out some stash yarn yesterday morning and cast on for the padded footlets. Realistically, since I like knitting socks and since these are like mini-socks I didn't think that I was taking on anything too challenging. I was wrong. This pattern makes me want to scoop my own eyeballs out with a dull spork. First, because of the way that the footlets are constructed, I keep trying to knit really tightly so as to avoid gapping and laddering. Since the soles are knit double-stranded (partially, that's part of the unique whiz-bang construction!) this means that manipulating that yarn to simply form stitches has become a little like trying to force my needle between steel loops. In addition, there is that odd construction. Basically, the sole is worked thusly: one row of slip one, knit one, then turn and work back again, slip one, knit one, then knit around the rest of the sock (with a single strand,) then knit across with yarn doubled, and so on and so forth. So the construction is this amalgam of short rows, holding the yarn doubled, and slip stich magic. It's fiddly and unwieldy all at the same time. And to top it off there are two mistakes in the pattern.

The first mistake is corrected on the errata page over at IK. So, no big deal (I always try to remember to check the errata, and I have printed the errata page for each IK issue that I own and stuck it in the back of my internet pattern notebook for easy reference.) The second mistake is not found on the errate page. Which means that I was cursing my knitting at about 10:00 last night. Once you've turned the heel, the pattern instructs you how to pick up the gusset stitches and start the instep shaping. There are five rows which are repeated for the instep shaping. When you start the first row for the first time after you pick up the gusset stitches everything works out fine because you actually start the row on stitch #6. However, once you have finished the first five row repeat and start over again for the second repeat, the instructions are no longer correct because instead of starting on stitch #6, you are now starting on stitch #1. So, if you're planning to make these footlets, this is my pattern correction:

Rnd 2: With single strand of working yarn, !!!!!!Purl 1 !!!!!!!, *slip 1 purlwise with yarn in back, knit 1* (continue on the rnd as written.)

The correction is the that you must purl one stitch first, before you start slipping stitches. If you don't do this then you will be a stitch off and end up with two slipped stitches one after the other, then a purl stitch to end the row. Then when you turn the work and purl back you will be slipping stitches that were slipped on the previous round and purling stitches that were knit on the previous round. This is clearly not what was intended and would result in screaming knitters and a jackass pattern. So, use the correction. Otherwise you will scare the animals with your swearing and crying. Right. That's just me.

The thing that completely ennervated the crazy in me last night was the fact that I knew the instruction for that row had worked just fine the first time through the repeat. So I couldn't figure out why something that had worked just fine before would suddenly be mathematically and practically impossible the second time through. Finally, after much swearing, wringing of hands, and scaring the animals I figured it out. So there you go. Yet another knitting mystery solved.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Christmas Gift for My Mom

When I was deciding what I was going to give everyone for Christmas I immediately thought of making my mom a mini-clapotis becacuse she had admired mine when I was making it. However, I knew that I couldn't use the Noro Silk Garden to make hers because she had also told me that she is sensitive to wool and the silk garden is rather scratchy, even after being washed. I knew that I would have to find a soft substitute for it. First, I decided to use the recycled sari yarn that I had. As you all know, there was no way that was going to work, so I ripped it. Next I thought about giving her a simple scarf made from the sari silk yarn. I decided against that because I really wanted my mom to have something a little more special, a little more complicated. She is my mother, after all.

I agonized over this decision and agonized over it. I thought about making her socks instead, or a shawl. I thought about getting her a gift certificate to REI and being done with it. Part of the problem was that none of the yarn I was seeing at my LYS or elsewhere said "mom" to me. My mom needed a yarn that was several things. Smooth, since any hint of fuzziness makes her itch (she felt the backyard leaves scarf, made of buttery alpaca and she said, and I quote, "Eew. Itchy.") Soft, since I don't want her to itch. And brightly colored. My mom's favorite colors are magenta and red. Preferably together. Finally, I sort of gave up. After looking and looking for the right yarn and not finding it I decided that I wouldn't make any decisions about my mom's Christmas present until I found the right yarn and I wasn't going to choose something simply because it happened to be in the yarn store when I got there. No. I would wait until the right yarn appeared.

Then last week, right after work on Friday I stopped off at the yarn store to buy another hank of Mountain Colors to finish off the Column of Leaves Scarf (I didn't ultimately need it) and there it was sitting. In a basket in the middle of the table where people sit and knit in the yarn section. 210 yards of Lorna's Laces Shepherd's Sock Worsted in Bittersweet. It was the perfect mix of red, pink, purple and orange, and best of all, it's superwash. My mom is not big on the handwashing of garments. So, I found the yarn and decided to knit up yet another mini-clapotis. I knew she would love it and the yarn was perfect for it.

The only hitch that I ran into was that, like with sister's mini-clapotis, I ran out of yarn with only the tiniest bit of corner left to knit. I substituted a little bit of the leftover alpaca that happens to match the colorway perfectly. Serendipity.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My Life as a Limerick

I’m having a hard time today getting a post out. First, I wanted to write about how much my work life has sucked over the past year, but after I had written three and a half pages I decided that I really didn’t want to let it all out like that. Then I thought I would write about my current project but my heart wasn’t in it. Now I’m thinking that maybe I should give you the Cliff Notes version of both of those posts. Something like: 26 sucked, I hated going to work, recently I’ve started hating work slightly less, I’m making my mom a Mini-Clapotis. How’s that? You would like a little more insight, perhaps in rhyming form? Okay, how about this:

There once was a girl named jennifer
who was sorely in need of a mentor
instead she found
after looking around
what she sought could be found in her center

A little too new-age-y for you? And perhaps a little trite? I agree. It is a little trite. Really, I’ve just decided that digging my own grave is counter-productive so I’m going to work on not doing that anymore. I still do that sometimes but I’m working on doing it less, and occasionally even filling in the grave that I’ve already started to dig a tad. Maybe even pull myself up out of the hole and only jump back in it when I really need a little time to wrap my head around things, you know?

I am making my mom a Mini-Clapotis in Lorna’s Laces, Shepherd’s Sock Worsted, colorway: Bittersweet. It should look smashing. The color is my mom to a T, and she has told me more than once how much she loves my Mini-Clapotis so I know that she will love this. I’m loving the yarn too. It is soft and smooth and very prettily died. I will say that it is very loosely spun and plied, but I think that actually adds to the soft texture and nice feel of the yarn. Oh, and my measurement of the Column of Leaves Scarf, shows it to be about 66" long, and more than 6.5" wide. A good blocking, with pins, really helped it to open up.

I can’t believe that I’m 27. It’s not that I feel old, exactly, it’s that I’ve reached an age that I never really imagined myself being. I’m also not the person that I thought I would be, in a lot of ways. But I think that happens to everyone. We all change all the time and daily life has a way of changing you: of grinding you down a bit and forcing you into a mold in a way that you never thought possible. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I’m just observing that it is true. We all do what we have to. We all change whether we want to or not.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Birthday Cake with Dirty Dishes; Column of Leaves Scarf; Birthday Yarn

Monday, October 23, 2006

I'm Old Enough To Make My Own Birthday Cake

Yeah. That title is complete nonsense unless you know that 1. yesterday was my birthday and 2. I made my own birthday cake. It is a carrot cake with buttermilk glaze, covered by cream cheese frosting. Yum! My favorite. I hope you all saw and like the pictures that I posted on Friday. From the bottom up they are: Stephen’s Fuzzy Feet, my Fuzzy Feet, Mr. Stegs (for Noah), my first recycled silk scarf, the Laura Jane Teddy Bear (for Anna), my second (kid-sized) recycled silk scarf (I used a lace pattern of my own but you can’t see it), and finally, in-progress shots of the scarf I just finished making for my sister-in-law. It’s Brooke’s Column of Leaves Scarf

I actually finished the scarf yesterday, and I will post finished pictures of it soon. I used leftover Mountain Colors Weaving Quarters (a DK weight yarn) in “Juniper.” It’s a really beautiful (and easy) lace scarf.

Project Stats:
Pattern: Brooke’s Column of Leaves ScarfYarn: Mountain Colors Weaving Quarters in Juniper
Needles: Size 7 straights
Mods: None unless you count simply working it until I had no more yarn left.

The pattern is simple and well written. The only thing that I did to make it easier on myself is create a chart for the lace pattern. This was simple and involved a chart-in-pen-on-notebook-paper type of endeavor. The wrong side (purl) rows have 39 stitches and the right side (knit) rows have 41 stitches. Like I said, the pattern is well written. No mistakes. And the finished project is pretty impressive (in my opinion.)

My birthday went well. I bought myself two balls of Kaalund Enchante (100% silk) in “Moss” and I’m still in the process of absolutely drooling over them every time I look at them. At the moment I’m thinking of making either: Ene’s Scarf from Scarf Style or the Swallowtail Shawl from the Fall IK. Either one would look beautiful.

Oh, and that new “bike gear” that I keep talking about? It’s actually a 24" brand new iMac. Yes, we are now Mac people. I’m happy though. The internet works at my house again. (I turned 27 yesterday. If we could keep this just between us, that would be great. Mmm-kay?)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Me and Willow

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Turn On The Lights

Myths from all around the world tell of a creature that is neither living nor dead, and feeds off the life blood of other living beings, notably humans. When exposed to sunlight, this creature burns into ash in an instance. Light destroys what can only exist in the darkness. The vampire can exist only in the darkness, in secret. In The Art of Happiness an interviewer asks the Dalai Lama how it is that he can relate so easily to those with whom he has nothing in common, not even a language. The Dalai Lama tells the interviewer that it is because he is able to be open with them and relate to them on the most basic of levels: because they are both humans, and share the human condition. In the Bible, when Jesus comes upon the men that are preparing to stone the adultress, he tells them that if any among them have not sinned, then he should cast the first stone. Since none of the men can say that they have not sinned, the adultress is released from her death sentence.

All of these stories speak to the power of self examination and the illumination, the bringing to light, of secrets. In the story of the vampire, we can see the vampire as a metaphor for secrets themselves. Kept inside and buried deep, they grow in power and suck the lifeblood from us. They literally steal our energy, because it takes so much mental and emotional energy to keep them hidden. The story of the adultress is often cited as an illustration of the evils of judging others (“judge not lest ye be judged”) but I think it also illuminates another important point. In the story, the men are preparing to carry out a death sentence against the woman because she has been cheating on her husband. The men were easily able to see her flaw, her sin, and judge her accordingly, and without mercy. What Jesus requires of them is to examine themselves. To look inside their own minds and be honest with themselves about their own failings, their own human frailties, their own sins. It’s easy to judge others and condemn them. It’s easy to point to another and say: I would never do as they have done. But it’s much, much more difficult to be honest with yourself about your own weaknesses.

Just recently we here in the U.S. have been treated to the public outing of a congressman, complete with the tantalizing details of his contacts, over the course of several years, with teenaged boys. We learned that Mr. Foley’s habit of grooming congressional pages was known to many people inside congress. This scandal is a seeming echo of the Jim West scandal. Mr. West’s proclivities were an open secret when he was in office in the state capital. Once he was elected as Mayor they were again an open secret. Even the young man that West sexually harassed was loathe to publicly out him. In fact, this person resigned his position on the Civil Rights Commission rather than outing West by filing a formal complaint against him. In both of these scandals, it was a secret, tightly held and protected, not just by the secret-holder himself, but by those around him, that caused his downfall.

What can we take away from each of these stories? Secrets, though buried deep, have a habit of coming out at the most inopportune times. Self-examination is a highly underrated activity. But most of all, in order to be a happy, healthy, well-functioning human being, you must first be honest with yourself, and then you must be honest and open with others. Hoarding secrets will do nothing other than drain you, and drain the happiness from your life.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Other People's Houses

We did something this weekend that normally we refuse to do: we traveled. Not only did we travel, but we used up the whole weekend in traveling and visiting. We left as soon as I got home from work on Friday and didn’t get back until well after dark on Sunday. Let me give you the short version of all we did:

1. Mike and Lori’s house, Friday night. There was no indoor plumbing (bad) but there were sticky buns for breakfast, and tea, and coffee, and I got to see the socks I knit for them in the wild.

2. Mushroom picking with Mike, Lori, Mike’s nephew Lance, and his wife and two little boys (cute as buttons!) Very good. Several hours in the forest. Beautiful. And we found chanterelles.

3. Paula’s house. Bad. Freezing and smelling of propane. Stephen soon discovered that the furnace in the house was turning on, pumping gas into the chamber, but failing to ignite it. Stephen did get the furnace working luckily.

4. Mike’s Art Opening. The reason for all the traveling. Mike had an opening of his work, along with Paula and Joe Lee (another friend.) The opening lasted about four hours and had fabulous food. I bought Mike’s best painting and saw lots of people that I haven’t seen in a very long time.

5. Sleeping at Paula’s house. We got back to the house and found, to our relief, that the furnace was continuing to work properly. Unfortunately, when we got up in the morning the thermostat had somehow reset itself to about 55 degrees, meaning that it had stopped pumping out heat.

6. Breakfast at Paula’s. Since Mike and Lori’s well has run dry, they, Lance, and Joe Lee all congregated at Paula’s house for breakfast. I made french toast, Joe Lee heated up the sticky buns, Stephen made the coffee, Lori made the tea, and Mike mostly ate. We got out of there at about 11:30.

7. My sister’s house. We took the long way home and stopped in at my sister’s house for about an hour. My nieces are beyond adorable and my parents also stopped in briefly. It was a very short, but good, time.

On the knitting front, I finished Stephen’s Fuzzy Feet before we left, I finished my Fuzzy Feet as soon as we got back, and I finished knitting Mr. Stegs for Noah on Sunday night. Pictures will follow. I also blocked the second silk scarf, embroidered a face on Anna’s Laura Jane Bear, and sewed the buttons into Willow’s Miss Dashwood. Things are moving along smoothly.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Socks in the Wild Plus Swamp Dick

Okay, so I really wanted to show you some pictures today but Blogger is not cooperating. What is it? Do I need to try in the middle of the night? Early morning? When the moon is full? That new bike gear that Stephen bought, it really is temperamental in terms of interfacing with Blogger on the picture thing. I think maybe they need therapy.

Alright. I'm exhausted. I'm hungry. We were gone all weekend and I can't fucking upload any of the pictures I took of: birthday socks I knit and saw on the actual recipients, fucking awesome art, some of which I now own, or the mushroom picking adventure that I went on. Plus I'm all drugged up. So I will just have to say that I'm going to keep trying with the pictures. And I will post again tomorrow. Oh, and my nieces are incredibly beautiful.

Since we did get our stereo receiver back I'm going to go put on Van Morrison and make Stephen dance with me. He loves that.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Thursday, October 12, 2006

List Recap, Other Knitting News

I am behind on my blogging duties. I have finished (or almost finished, anyway) two projects that I have barely mentioned on the blog, and started yet another that I haven’t talked about at all. At the same time I have left some finishing things undone on three separate projects.

Let’s talk a little about the things that I need to finish. First, I have not yet hunted up the buttons that I need to sew into Miss Dashwood. I have buttons and I even think that I know where they are, but I have been too lazy to get them out and sew them in. What is the purpose of these buttons, you might ask? To button the earflaps to, so that they are up inside the hat on warmer days when you might not need the earflaps. I should really get on that. Second, I need to block my second recycled silk scarf. Didn’t I mention it? I’m pretty sure I did. I’ve made a second recycled silk scarf. It is of my own design and features what will probably be a completely obscured lace pattern. I only had enough yarn left to make a child’s sized scarf so it’s ultimate destination is unknown at the moment. I should block it tonight. Third, I need to embroider the eyes and nose on my second Laura Jane Bear. Then she will be perfect and ready for my niece.

Seems like this might be a good time to review my christmas list. So far, I have made: A Mini-Clapotis for my sister, Laura Jane Bears for Nieces #1 and #2, Miss Dashwood for Niece #3, and Backyard Leaves Scarf for my MIL. I have also made two scarves out of recycled silk, one adult sized and one kid-sized that I have yet to decide what I’m going to do with them. To be honest, my mom has me stumped. You see, she is my mother and I want to make her happy, but she is also has sensitive skin and is a little bit allergic to wool. This doesn’t mean that I can’t make her something from wool, but it has to be really nice wool. In fact, she just has sensitive skin. I don’t know what to do for her. I’m totally rethinking my plans at this point. All that being said, my List now looks like this:

Mom: ????????
Niece #2: A hat that I’m going to design (for christmas)
Nephew: ????? I’m leaning towards Nautie, perhaps, although the pattern is fiddly and therefore somewhat annoying to knit. I may make him Brontie instead
Kevin: hop pillow
Emily: Nautie
Noah: Nautie
Brother in law #1: socks. I think.
Brother in Law #2: Dinosaur of some kind, to round out the family tradition
Brother in Law #3: well, probably nothing knitted.
Sister in Law #1: Possibly nothing knitted.
Sister in Law #2: Something. Something knitted.
Father in Law: Sharfik. Full size. Good yarn (not yet purchased.)

Yes. That’s much better. Lastly, I must confess that I got really sick of the List and thinking about the List so I ran out and bought the yarn to make Fuzzy Feet for Stephen and myself. I just turned the heel on Stephen’s second slipper last night. I’ve never felted anything before so I’m sure it’s going to be great!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I Swear This is My Last Backyard Leaves Post; Also the Wrap-Up on Miss Dashwood

Pattern: Backyard Leaves Scarf from Scarf Style by Annie Modesitt
Yarn: Baby Twist, 100% baby alpaca, by Alpaca with a Twist, four skeins with plenty left over
Needles: Size 6 straights
Mods: I changed needle sizes because I didn’t have any size 7 straights (although I have several pairs of size 7 circulars), I also substituted a yarn.

The pattern is well written and easy to follow. It took me a good long while before I saw the pattern in the chart because it’s 19 rows long and changes frequently, but it really makes a nice scarf. The lace leaves that are created really pop out in relief. It’s just a really clever pattern. My only gripe about it is that the join in the middle is wonky. When I made this scarf I joined the two scarf halves using the “fake grafting” technique from the first SNB book, and just did the best I could to make it even and look right. It’s not perfect, but it’s passable. If I were going to make another scarf, though, I think I would provisionally cast on the first ten stitches (pulling up loops through the back loops of a crochet chain.) Then when I got to row three or five where the pattern instructs you to cast on five stitches at the end of the row, I would pull up those five stitches as loops from the back loops of the crochet chain as well. Then I would kitchener stitch the two halves together. Alternatively, you could also pick up stitches along each cast on edge, then graft those together. Either way I think would look a little better than what I did.

Okay, the yarn. I love this yarn. It is soft like butter, with just a hint of a halo. And it’s reasonably priced. Each 110 yard skein was $6.00 at my LYS. That means that I got 440 yards for roughly $24.00 (plus tax.) I think that’s an imminently reasonable price for natural fibers, and enough of them to make a rather long scarf. Oh, right. I haven’t actually measured the length of the scarf but trust me, it’s long enough for any person under six feet tall.

Pattern: Miss Dashwood, by Heather Ramsey, from Knitty.
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Merino Aran, two skeins
Needles: Size 6, 16" circular, and dpn’s
Mods: inadvertent yarn substitution and I subbed in I-cord ties for the seed stitch ties in the pattern.

This pattern nearly killed me. Now, I don’t mean to smear the designer or Knitty, because the pattern itself was exceedingly well written and totally understandable. HOWEVER. This pattern includes two things which made me want to gnaw my own fingers off: picot cast on and bobbles. Let’s start with the picot cast on, shall we? The picot cast on requires that you: cast on five stitches, then cast off two stitches. That leaves you three stitches, right? So, in order to cast on the 169 stitches for the size I was making (the 1-2 year size) I actually had to cast on 281 stitches (or so.) A pain in my ass. Especially since casting on is actually the part of a project that I kind-of-sort-of-hate most of the time. I mean, I like starting new things (who doesn’t?) but I want to get the actual casting on of new stitches over as quickly as possible. Especially since I have a hard time, when I’m working with circular needles, not twisting the stitches as I join. This was all compounded by the fact that I didn’t have a 16" circular needle when I started the project so I decided to cast on using my set of dpn’s instead. Yeah. That nearly put me over the edge since there was barely enough room on the dpn’s for the number of stitches.

So, why so many stitches, you might ask? Well, because you’re actually forming a ruffle. A very cute ruffle. But a ruffle nonetheless. Said ruffle takes a lot of stitches and a lot of yarn. When I had used up one whole skein and I had not yet finished the bobble row, I was worried I was going to run out of yarn before the end. But that’s the thing about picot cast ons, ruffles, and bobbles: they take a fuck load of yarn to create. The rest of the hat, including the ear flaps, took a half to three-quarters of a skein of yarn. The bobbles were also a true pain in the ass. But I knew they would be and prepared myself for them mentally. Oh, and I substituted I-cord ties for the seed stitch ties that are in the pattern. I just thought that the I-cord would be faster.

Now for the good parts. I love this hat. It is incredibly cute. It has the ruffles and the bobbles and the earflaps. It has earflaps! Not only is it incredibly cute, it is also practical, because if it’s actually cold enough to put your baby in a wool hat, it’s definitely cold enough to pull down the earflaps and tie that hat on. Totally cute. Totally well-thought-out. Of course, the woman who designed it is a mother, so of course she thought these things through when she designed it.

Lastly, the yarn. I thought the pattern called for Merino Aran yarn, so that’s what I bought. Not so. It actually calls for Cashmerino Aran. If you are making this hat, go for the Cashmerino Aran. I had never used the Merino Aran before and I was disappointed in its softness. It felt a lot like crunchy acrylic yarn. Not so much like Red Heart or something like that, but just not very nice, and if you’re going to spend a lot of money on yarn you might as well get something that feels really nice.

That’s all for now. I’m still trying to figure out how to post pictures to blogger using my new camera, and the new “bike gear” that Stephen purchased. I’m going to work on that tonight.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Big Things

Big things happening around here. First, my parents came and visited over the weekend. It was nice. They bought me a digital camera for my birthday. I'm very excited about it. Stephen also got to buy a big thing this weekend. However, I'm not saying what yet. For now, I'm going to refer to it as his new "bike gear." That way I don't have to think about all the money he spent or the thing that is sitting in what was my reading room. Ahem.

So, I finished up MIss Dashwood and Backyard Leaves last week. Over the weekend I finished knitting the pieces for my next "Laura Jane Bear" from magknits. I also started a new scarf from the rest of the recycled sari silk. I'm liking the scarf, still pretty much hating the silk. It's just difficult to manipulate and hard on my hands.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Decision Made

The join stays. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

To Re-Seam or Not To Re-Seam, That is the Question

Backyard Leaves is almost finished blocking (read: drying) and I still have not decided whether I’m going to rip out and re-seam the joined ends. I googled the scarf and saw the way that other people’s scarves looked, and mine is not terribly different. Apparently, there is some wonkiness inherent in that portion of the pattern. But then, I got a suggestion on the knittyboard to do a three needle bind off to seam the ends. Now, of course we’re talking about two cast on ends so I can’t do a true three needle bind off but I could probably fake one. I’m still ruminating on this one. Let’s review the pro’s and con’s, of ripping out the seam and re-seaming:

Less puckering in the join would look nicer
possibly a more even join could be achieved overall
three needle bind off might make a less bulky seam

I have to find the original seaming yarn and unseam
I’m not sure I can do that
I can always find one seam, and cut the yarn, but you have to be really, really careful with that
The end result might not be that much better than the original attempt (thus wasting precious knitting time)

At the moment, I’m leaning towards ripping and re-seaming, provided I can find a seam to cut. Oh, I also wanted to make a correction to some earlier information: the yarn that I used for the scarf is Baby Twist, 100% baby alpaca, manufactured by Alpaca with a Twist. Previously I misidentified the manufacturer as Misty Alpaca. I seriously can’t say enough good things about this yarn. It is beautifully dyed to a bright pumpkin color, and it is soft like butter. It’s just beautiful.

Alright, moving on to my current project. You may remember that I started Miss Dashwood on Sunday night. Well, I finished up with the knitting and the sewing and the weaving in of ends last night. The only thing that I have left is to find some buttons and sew them in. The hat is darling. It’s also huge. Like it could practically fit me. Luckily, my sister’s kids have big heads. So it should fit just fine.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Things that Brought a Tear to My Jaundiced Eye Today

Please go and tell Stephanie congratulations.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Way Too Much Information

I worked so hard yesterday nearly every inch of my upper body aches. I think that calls for a recap.

8:30 a.m.: My mother calls. She wants to know what I want for my birthday and what Stephen and I want for Christmas. Mom, all I have to say is: gift card.

8:50 a.m.: I get out of bed. Since Stephen is tending to the coffee-making (without which I might cease to function entirely) I start breakfast. While brandishing my newly purchased chef’s knife (early birthday present) I weigh the ginormous parsnip that we got in our last CSA share box. A pound and a half. Once I have the parsnip prepped and sliced into thin wafers, I put them in my cast iron skillet with three tablespoons of butter and let the parsnips cook. The goal here is to cook them until they start to brown, thereby signaling that the sugars in the parsnip are beginning to "caramelize" or burn slightly (this is good.)

9:00 a.m. In the middle of the above procedure I remember to take the yeast out of the refrigerator since we plan to brew after breakfast. The yeast needs to warm up to room temperature to be fully effective.

9:13 a.m. The parsnips are in the pan and it’s time for the next procedure of the day. Stephen was planning to dissect the whole chicken that we had purchased but I saw the way he was eyeing the chicken. I could tell that he wanted to disassemble the chicken the way he wanted to gnaw off his own arm, so I offered to do it instead. He was pretty happy about that and agreed to watch the parsnips while I cut up the chicken. Have you ever cut up a chicken? It’s really not that hard. Mainly you just need to have a really sharp knife (and I have a brand-spanking-new one.) Step 1: Remove the wings. Grab each wing in turn and pull it until you hear it snap. The snap means that you have successfully dislocated the wing from the body. This is good. Now, take your knife and make a cut in towards the wing joint (where the wing meets the body of the chicken.) Can you see the joint now? If not, then cut some more. Once you can see the joint, carefully cut away the wing at the joint. Step 2: Legs. You’re going to do to the legs what you already did to the wings. Grab a leg and move it around. Can you tell where it’s joined to the body? Good. You’re going to make a slice right into the joint, so that you can see it. Once you’ve done that, you’re going to attempt to pop the leg out of the socket the same way you popped the wings out of their sockets. Once that is accomplished, you can cut between the leg joint and the rest of the body. Step 3: Breasts. Okay, so you have your armless, legless (headless) bird in front of you, breast side up. What you’re staring at is the top of the breast bone with a breast on each side of it. So, you’re going to slice open the top of the bird, all the way down to the breast bone, then slice along the rib cage, removing as much of the breast meat as possible (preferably in one piece.) A sharp knife really helps this operation. At the same time, you have to be careful to slice deeply enough to get as much meat as possible. Also, watch your fingers. You don’t want to cut yourself slicing a slippery chicken. Step 4: Thighs and Drumsticks. You need to detach the thigh from the drumstick, so grab your two legs again (already detached.) You’re going to play around with the leg until you dislocate the thigh from the drumstick. Then just cut between the joint to fully detach one from the other.

So what do you have now? You have: two wings, two thighs, two drumsticks, two breasts, a carcass (consisting of back, ribs, neck, and whatever giblets and whatnot that the butcher stuck down inside the chicken.) You know what to do with the individual parts, I’m sure, but what about the carcass? Do you toss it in the garbage? Feed it to the dog. No and NO! You make stock.

Once I finished dissecting the chicken I put the legs, thighs, and breasts into a casserole dish filled with buttermilk, covered it and put it in the refrigerator. I put the wings, carcass, and assorted bits into a bag and put those in the fridge as well.

10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Finished with breakfast, Stephen I brewed beer. We made a chocolate stout. Very dark, very malty. Since we’ve been making beer together for about three years now we have it down to a science. During the down times I worked on my backyard leaves scarf, whose chart I had finally memorized.

1:30 p.m. Once the beer was tucked away in the corner, we cleaned the kitchen, and I started the stock pot. To make really fabulous chicken stock, first take out your chicken bits. The defining characteristic of chicken stock is the presence of extracted collagen. Collagen comes from the chicken bones (not from the meat.) In order to extract as much collagen as possible from the bones, it really helps to break up the bones as much as possible before you put them into the stock pot. Once the bones have been broken up a bit, put them into the stock pot and add enough water to cover them. Bring them to a boil and skim off the foam that rises to the top. Then it’s time to add some vegetables and spices. I generally add: onions, garlic, carrots, celery, sometimes a potato and a handful of whole peppercorns. The great thing about making stock is that you don’t have to peel or slice anything. Cut the onions into quarters, leaving the skin on, smash the garlic with the blade of your knife and slice the carrots and celery in half and throw them in the pot. Then you want to lower the heat to a low boil over low heat and let cook for several hours. I left mine on the stove for eight hours.

2:30-6:30: Worked on backyard leaves while watching the first season of The Office (the BBC version.) I love the American version but the BBC version is really fantastic too. I finished Backyard Leaves right before I made dinner. I am unhappy with the way that I joined the two ends and may rip it out and do it again. The problem is that I don’t know what to do differently.

6:30-7:30 Dinner: fried chicken. Okay, the first thing you must know about me is that I am a Good Eats junkie. I love Alton Brown the way that teenage girls the world over love Justin Timberlake. I use his method of making fried chicken. First, marinate the chicken in buttermilk for at least eight hours. Next, set up your stations. Station 1: the seasoning station. This should consist of a plate to put your raw chicken on and a shaker full of your favorite fried chicken seasoning. I used garlic pepper, cayenne, salt, and coriander. Station 2: the dredging station. A gallon freezer bag with enough flour to coat the chicken pieces. Station 3: the frying station. A frying pan, preferably cast iron, filled with enough oil to cover half of the chicken pieces. Alton (yes, we’re on a first name basis) uses shortening. I used peanut oil because I had it. The oil needs to be between 350 and 375 degrees to properly fry the chicken. Also helpful is a splash guard. Station 4: Cooling rack. A metal rack set over paper towels for the chicken to cool and drip grease onto once they’re done. Once the oil is just about ready, prepare the chicken by: seasoning, dredging, and then placing into the oil. Fry until golden brown and delicious on the outside, and done on the inside. Then let cool on your cooling racks for about ten minutes. Eat!

After Dinner: After dinner I blocked my backyard leaves scarf. After squinting at the join on the scarf long enough to really and seriously believe that I’m going to find the end that I had already woven in, undo the seaming, and redo it (in some more improved fashion that I have yet to decide on,) I then cast on Miss Dashwood. Wait, no, first I took out all the needles in my needle vase looking for a size six 16" circular needle, found none, and then decided that a set of five dpn’s would do the job. Right. Anyway, I did manage to cast on the 169 stitches called for in the pattern. I’m going to my LYS today, at lunch, and buying the circular needle. The dpn’s are just barely long enough to hold all the stitches and they’re driving me nuts.

Last thing I did before I went to bed: kissed Stephen good night. But right before that, I poured the stock into gallon size freezer bags and made room for it in the downstairs freezer.

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