Monday, 31 December 2007

Three hour shrug

A quick project for this evening ----------->

it was a simple case of casting on, increasing for the first sleeve, knitting straight for the back of the body, then decreasing for the second sleeve.....on the knitting machine, of course.

I added a few rows of garter stitch (by hand) at each cuff to stop the rolling. The sleeves came out three-quarter length - not intentionally - but I'm happy with that. I've been wanting to make this for some many of the things I make, it took a lot longer to plan and think about than knit!

The edges across the body curl, as it's stockinette, but that actually is a good thing in this case! It helps with the fit.

I used three balls of Red Heart Soft Touch (acrylic), unravelling the lacy knitting that I started a few months ago and didn't like.

A gauge swatch is even more important when knitting by machine. Yes, if you make a mistake, it's not a big time investment and can be reknitted quickly, but when the knitting is hanging from the machine it's impossible to tell what the gauge of the finished item is going to be. The needles are a set distance apart, and a weighted hem hangs from the bottom of your work. A good size sample square is essential, preferably left overnight to "relax" and give an accurate measurement. Then you can work out how many stitches and rows you need to knit. And even then, it doesn't always come out *quite* how you planned it!

Knitting resolutions

I don't usually make New Year's Resolutions, as they seem to be destined to be broken, but I am going to commit to this one...

I Resolve to Knit More in 2008.

Yup, it'll be hard, but I'm committed to completing as many projects as humanly possible this coming year. I have made a list of all the people for whom I'd like to make knitted gifts. Some will be for birthdays, some for winter solstice, and some will be taken with me when I fly over to visit my family in the Spring. In among all these gifts, I will hopefully also have time to make things for myself. So the needles will be flying this year. And talking of needles, I used some of my Christmas money from my mum to invest in a Boye Needlemaster set - it has aluminum needle tips sized from US#2 to 15, cables, etc. I already have a Denise set of interchangeable needles which are made from resin. Michaels had a 50% off coupon - I wouldn't have bought the Boye set without it as the regular price is $100.

The above picture is of the Fidget I just completed. What is a Fidget, I hear you ask? It's a neckwarmer, basically a scarf that's about 23 by 5 inches that wraps around the neck and buttons at the front. Mine doesn't have buttons yet. You will find the free pattern here.

Michaels are having a sale this week - all yarn is 30% off. I went and splurged on enough yarn to see me through the first part of 2008. I can't say what all this yarn is for, as it is for a number of gifts and those people might be reading this blog! However I can tell you that the creamy coloured Bernat Soy in the centre of the photo below is destined for a Seamen's scarf of my own design for my father-in-law. (He doesn't have a computer and the chance of him reading this is zero!)

I haven't knitted with the Soy before. It's a blend of soy and acrylic and feels very soft, so I'm looking forward to getting started with it.

However there's just one more thing I'd like to get done before casting on for that scarf. I have some brown Red Heart Soft Touch lurking next to my knitting machine that I want to use for a shrug. I reckon I could knit it in one evening - maybe even THIS evening - and then add a little garter stitch around the edges by hand to finish it off.

You are your choices

I have been enjoying this book very much. It is full of interesting, inspiring and insightful information. I think it is the kind of book that is particularly useful to read at this time of year, when many of us tend to set goals and make plans for the coming year. I find Alexandra Stoddard's writing to be positive and practical with plenty of common sense tips that are easy to put in place. The format of the book is one that I like very much, each chapter starts and ends with an inspiring quote, in between those quotes are all kinds of helpful hints on living the "good life." What I like about her writing is that it is, in my opinion, very real. She doesn't give Pollyanna-ish accounts of, and rules for, life, she offers down-to-earth, positive information.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

A walk in the woods

What could be better than a walk in the snow-filled woods on a sunny day? A husband who thinks ahead and is willing to carry chairs up the hill and along the walk to just the right spot for sunning and sledding.Fun for the boys, fun for the dogs, and fun for us too.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Snow, snow, snow

We decided to head to the lake for Christmas to spend it with family. It was the first time in ages that I haven't been responsible for Christmas dinner and it was a welcome change. Much of our time was spent outdoors walking and enjoying the snow, the quiet and the antics of the dogs. We also spent a lot of time sledding. Here is a picture of our sledding hill, you can see part of it on the right-hand side of the photo below. What you can't see is the big pile of snow that my Dad had been making with his tractor for weeks, it gave us quite a slope to start us off on. * Heather's handy hint -Kneeboards (meant for using behind the boat) make for super fast sledding and it is always a good idea to be aware of how fast something goes before heading towards a drop-off.

Just a little further and I might have been taking an early polar bear dip. On the rest of the runs we decided to aim for the wagon...a risk of a bit of a quick crash stop seemed a better idea than a drop down the bank into the lake.
When he wasn't eating the snow E had fun making an angel. We also spotted these tracks. Deer or reindeer? You decide.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Having a deadline really works!

I set myself a deadline of the end of December to finish the top-down raglan sweater. It worked! I finished it yesterday and I love it!

I started knitting it back in October, after we returned home from Quadra Island. I know that because I bought the yarn at Fun Knits on Quadra.

It was a bit of an adventure, as I hadn't knitted a sweater from the top down before and I was somewhat nervous about doing all that knitting and possibly having to rip it all out. As I was following general guidelines from a book rather than a specific pattern, I had to make several decisions as the work progressed.

One of the decisions was to include this Celtic knot pattern from the book Viking Knitting on the front. I liked seeing the pattern emerge as the rounds went by.

On my way down the body, I incorporated some gentle decreasing and increasing for some waist shaping.

I decided to keep the hems plain - no ribbing on this sweater. The bottom edge and the cuff edges are finished with a round of purl stitches followed by an inch of knitting with a smaller needle, which is then turned up and sewn down without casting off. It makes a very neat and stretchy edge.

The final part was the neckband. I picked out a pattern from one of my Harmony stitch pattern books called 5 stitch cable with bobbles. Once I had picked up all the stitches around the neck, most of which were on waste yarn from my provisional cast on, I had 79 stitches, so I just had to sneak in one increase to make a total of 80. Then I was able to fit in ten of these cables around the neck with 3 stitches between each. The bobbles don't "pop" quite as much as I'd like, but that's OK.

All I have on the needles now is the second fingerless mitt to match the one I posted about the other day. After that, I'll just have to make another trip to the yarn store!

By the way, I hope you like the new features in the sidebar. I have listed and linked to the knitting patterns which I have posted in the last year, and also the recipes which the four of us have included in our posts.

Monday, 24 December 2007

This guy should be President

Here's my vote for the next President of the USA. Michael Moore! Yes, really!!

This guy tells the truth. He knows what's going on and he's not afraid to say what he thinks. I worry about him sometimes, because I wonder how long he can go on doing what he's doing and saying what he's saying in the land of so-called free speech.

I highly recommend his movies, Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 911, and his books, Stupid White Men and Dude, Where's my Country. Essential reading for every free thinker in North America.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Fingerless mitts - pattern update

I am in the process of hand knitting another pair of fingerless mitts, based on the pattern I created and posted about here. This pair is for a friend, not for Christmas, just because she admired mine a couple of months ago and I intended to make her some.

Please don't ask me why I am not working on the sweater - I refuse to answer that question!

These are plainer, without the lacy pattern on the back of the hand, so they are way simpler.

I'm using another colourway of James C Brett Marble and 3.75mm double pointed needles. It's been a while since I used dpns - I've been using a long circular with the magic loop method for my recent projects.

This yarn is a light worsted weight. My gauge is 6 stitches to the inch. Cast on 44 stitches, distribute over three needles, join and work K2, P2 rib for three inches (about 22 rounds).

Continue in stockinette (all knit in the round) for another 2.5 inches (about 22 rounds), ending at the end of a round (you don't need a marker, just look at where your yarn tail is hanging). Take some waste yarn in a contrasting colour and knit the next 9 stitches with it, then slip those stitches back onto your right needle and reknit them with the main yarn. Leave the waste yarn tails hanging at the back of your work. Continue in stockinette to desired length (I did 14 more rounds).

It's a good idea to keep track of how many rounds you knit on each section so you can make the second one the same! Having no fancy pattern on the back of the hand means you can make both mitts the right or left to worry about.

Switch back to K2 P2 rib for half an inch and bind off in rib.

Use a thinner dpn or cable needle to pick up the stitches that are being held by the waste yarn. Rather than pull out the yarn, I prefer to pick up a leg of each stitch first, so they don't unravel on me. I picked up 9 stitches across the bottom of the opening and 10 across the top, transferring them onto three 3.75mm dpns, then removed the waste yarn. I knitted a round, decreasing by knitting 2 together across one of the ends of the hole. Work K1 P1 rib on these 18 stitches for an inch and a half (about 10 rounds). Bind off ribwise.

Weave in your loose ends, using one tail to tighten up any holes at the base of the thumb.

These are easily made in 2 evenings, or one day if you have the motivation and the time!

Snow fort

We were out shovelling our driveway again today - I started building a snowman, but soon gave up.....I was getting cold.

K and S had more stamina. Snow fort in progress...

sleds and a very large snowball...

...they were outside until after dark sledding.

And to change the subject completely...

a quick update on the top-down raglan sweater. This poor sweater has been patiently waiting in my knitting bag while I have been cheating on it, working on other projects. My knitting machine has been distracting me with the promise of quick finishing. Other smaller hand knitted items have also drawn me away. However, I gave the sweater the attention it deserved yesterday and finished both sleeves down to the wrist. At the moment, both sleeves and the hem are on my Denise cables, waiting for the size 6 needle tips to come out and play. Then I can knit the hems. As for the neckband, I haven't decided what it's going to look like yet. I may have to get that Viking knitting pattern book from the library again - I like the idea of a horizontal cable.

The sleeves unfortunately don't quite match each other - I didn't double check that I was starting with the same section of colour when I started at the underarms, so the stripes are slightly off. However I do not intend to do anything about it!

Nut roast recipe

For Rebecca, and anyone else who's looking for a cruelty-free Christmas lunch, here's the recipe for the White Nut Roast that I showed on my previous post.

This is a recipe from a British magazine from yonks ago that I have had in my messy recipe folder for many years. It's all in ounces/grams. Where I can, I'll estimate cups. Best to use the proper measuring equipment though!

Outer layer:
1 onion, chopped
50g/2oz vegan margarine (Earth Balance Buttery Spread) [about 1/4 cup]
1 tblsp flour
1 tblsp chopped chives/green onions
300ml/0.5 pt soy milk [about one and a quarter cups]
250g/8oz mixed ground white nuts - for example, cashews, almonds, pine nuts ([about 1 cup]
100g/4oz fresh vegan breadcrumbs [about 1 cup]
salt and pepper
0.5 tsp ground nutmeg

Inner layer (stuffing):
100g/4oz vegan margarine, melted [about 1/2 a cup]
150g/6oz fresh vegan breadcrumbs [about one and a half cups]
4tblsp chopped parsley
1 bunch green onions, chopped, or 1 small onion
grated rind of 1/2 a lemon
1tsp marjoram/oregano

Preheat oven to 190 C/375 F. Line a 2lb loaf tin with parchment paper. For the outer layer, fry onion in marg for a few minutes, add flour and chives, then stir in milk and heat until thickened. Remove from heat, add nuts and breadcrumbs. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Set aside while preparing inner layer.

Mix together the remaining ingredients to make a "stuffing".

Now press the nut mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the loaf pan, place the stuffing mixture in the centre, and press down. Cover with oiled foil and cook for one and a quarter hours. Leave for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate and garnish.

I was able to use the oven to the max by baking the nut roast, stuffing, roast potatoes and apple pie at the same time.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Solstice dinner

This was our vegan feast on the night of the Solstice.

White nut roast (cashews and almonds), stuffing, roast potatoes, brussels sprouts, green salad, gravy and cranberry sauce.

And apple pie with vanilla Rice Dream ice cream for dessert......

......a rather unusual apple pie! Well, it does look a little like a sun :o)

Gingerbread cookies

Thanks to Samantha, I now have a photo to show you of the "famous gingerbread cookies". So many people tell me that these are the best they've ever tasted. I assume that most people don't bake their own, so once again are comparing them to store-bought, which just isn't the same!

Here's the recipe, which I adapted many years ago from a preschool activity book that I was using with my oldest son when he was 4. He's 15 now! Anyway, I "veganized" it.

This makes a big batch to fill at least two cookie sheets, though if you decide to roll it out and use large cutters you may fill three.

Dry ingredients - mix in one bowl:
5 cups wholewheat flour
one and a half tsp baking soda
half teaspoon seasalt
2 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 cup turbinado sugar

Wet ingredients - mix in a second bowl:
1 cup lightly flavoured oil, eg grapeseed
2 tblsp soyflour blended with half cup water (this is a substitute for 2 eggs to make it vegan - you could use eggs if you prefer)
1 cup blackstrap molasses
2 tblsp apple cider vinegar

you may need a little extra water, but be careful not to make the dough too sticky

Combine the two mixtures and mix well to make a dough. To shape, take blobs of the dough with your hands, make a ball for each head, a sausage shape for the arms and a sausage shape for the legs. The head goes onto the cookie sheet, the arms underneath, and the leg piece is curved into a C shape and butted up against the arms. Tricky to explain in writing! Take a look at the cookie in the photo, bottom centre.

Alternatively, you can roll out the dough (I do it between two layers of wax paper as it's sticky stuff) and use cookie cutters. You can add currants for eyes and buttons if you want.

Bake at 350 for 10 - 12 minutes - I usually bake one cookie sheet at a time on the top shelf of the oven - I know it's more economical to do two at once but then they may cook unevenly. Leave them to firm up a bit before transferring to cooling racks.

Solstice Celebration

We had a wonderful night last night. The boys chose our "feast", which was pizza (round, to symbolize the sun, and just plain yummy too). After eating, we went out wassailing in our backyard - anything to appease our apple and pear trees, doncha know. ;-) Then we had a fire outside. Oooh we love us a good fire! We wrote down on paper some things that we wanted to let go of in our lives, and then we burned them. Oh, we burned them alright!!
See that paper about to burn right there? I had to snap a pic of that one, that one my husband threw in and it says "working too much." We all really liked watching that one burn.!!!
Afterwards we came in for the next part of our cream "sun"daes.Then we had our candle lighting. We each have small candles that we light from the big candle. We take turns lighting them. The first one we say something that we love about the time of darkness we have just had ( I have to admit this was a bit of a stretch for me this year). With the second we say something that we love about the light coming back or something we look forward to when the sun returns. The third is for whatever we want, sometimes the boys say something they love about our family, or they like to say things that they are grateful for.
Happy Solstice.

Knitted gifts

I made this bright little shawl for a young friend who's leaving the country soon to return home to Australia. The yarn is called La Playa and it's cotton and rayon. I used bigger needles than that recommended on the ball band to give a lacy effect. The plan was for something decorative rather than warm.

This green yarn is Carro Magic. It's a self-striping worsted weight yarn which I discovered just this week. I bought six balls of it and used three for the scarf and one for the fingerless mitts. I may make a hat with the rest. It took me a few hours to make this set.....with my Bond knitting machine of course. I didn't want to make it double thick, so of course the scarf edges curl in like crazy. I almost forgot to mention that this is a gift to myself!

And finally a sweater for my 9 year old. I measured a sweatshirt of his to get an idea of the size, figured out my gauge with the TLC Essentials yarn (on the Bond again) and whizzed up the main pieces in one evening. It took me a lot longer to hand knit the ribbing, sew it up, and embroider the pattern across the front.

The design was inspired by the Scholastic books by Emily Rodda called Deltora Quest and Tales of Deltora. The seven ovals across the front represent the Belt of Deltora - seven gems whose initials spell out DELTORA - diamond, emerald, lapis lazuli, topaz, opal, ruby and amethyst.

I'm glad to say the sweater fits with growing room to spare. I hope he wears it!

Friday, 21 December 2007

More Handmade Prezzies

We seem to have left some of our gift making 'til the last minute this year...well, what I would consider last minute, I'm not talking about what men consider last minute. :-) So, here are some pics of some of the things that we have been making today and yesterday.The boys made these yesterday, they are flower pens and they seem to be a hit with all the females in our family.
We have also been packing up a lot of preserves and I am wishing that I had done more jams and jellies this year, that'll teach me for just throwing all those fruits in the freezer to save time.

Some simple crochet cloths with some divine soap. It is Mountain Sky soap made in the Kootenays. I think that is the only bought gift that we have for the adults in our family. I love, love, love the Kali Spice bar.
A gift W made for my dad, he saw this shirt in a "help save the earth" book that he was reading and we thought it was great.
And this? Well, it will get done....I still have...what, four days?

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Fun with fruit

I uploaded a few photos off the digital camera tonight and found some I'd forgotten about!

Last week, I dehydrated some apple, orange and lemon slices and the kids and I had fun with the hot glue gun and some bayleaves and dried cranberries. I also made a wreath for the front door with greenery gathered from the trees at the bottom of the garden but haven't got around to photographing that.

Now, I want to know why fruit cake gets a bad rap every year. People make jokes about it! I love fruit cake, but I'm talking about the kind that's home made and eaten fresh. It's not the dry stale plastic-wrapped kind from the supermarket that's made with white flour, white sugar and tons of artificial crap. So what if the kids don't like it - that just means R and I get to eat more!

Just in case you're ready to be converted to fruitcake-ism, here's the recipe I used today, adapted from an old paperback book called The Cranks Recipe Book (a restaurant in London, England). I haven't converted this recipe to cups, so you'll have to get your scale out for this one.


1.5 lbs / 675 grams mixed raisins, sultanas and currants (I used some cranberries too)
0.75 pint / 450 ml apple juice
0.25 pint / 150 ml oil (I used grapeseed)
12 oz / 350 g wholewheat flour
1 rounded teaspoon baking soda
2 oz / 50 g chopped walnuts
1 tblsp / 15 ml molasses
rind and juice of a lemon
1 tsp cinnamon, 0.5 tsp nutmeg, 0.5 tsp allspice
3 0z / 75 g raw sugar (turbinado)
optional sherry or rum (I don't use this)

Mix all together (except the sherry or rum) and pour batter into an 8 inch cake pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for two hours at 300 F or 150 C. Allow to cool slightly in the tin, spoon the sherry or rum over the cake if you're using it and leave to get completely cold.

This cake doesn't have a long shelf life but that's OK because one slice is never enough!!!

Oh, and I just had to show you one of my Christmas cacti - I have two large plants and a number of smaller ones and most of them are flowering. Amazing that they always seem to know what time of year it is!