Sunday, September 26, 2010

On the Needles

My latest "finish something from the workbasket" project is a little baby sweater I started well before a certain baby cousin of mine was born...and she is now well past the one-year old mark. Honestly, from what I hear this is not really that bad in the grand scheme of unfinished knitting projects. Frankly, I'm sure if I kept digging I'd find some even older projects down deep at the bottom. It still grates on me, though, to have so many of these projects littering my apartment. And I'm saving for a 40th birthday trip next year, so I'm really trying not to buy any more yarn (which would be ridiculous even without the trip, as after a couple of yarn binges this summer I am more tham amply stocked).

Incidentally, I love that word, "workbasket". It sounds so....productive, doesn't it? Slightly old-fashioned, of course, and conjures up Ma Ingalls sitting in her rocking chair by the fire on a chilly fall evening. While I would lose my mind without electricity and indoor plumbing, I can appreciate the sort of calm one must have felt back then, a quiet respite after a hard day of working in the fields. I imagine it was kind of like the little snippets of calm I find on weekend mornings curled up on my sofa, next to the window...although I have my tea and croissant and Nutella, a book and my knitting, Antje Duvekot on itunes, and the cat purring somewhere nearby. (Not to mention the indoor plumbing.) My life would be a lot better if I could manage this morning routine on weekdays too, but that would entail getting up at some ungodly-to-me hour (like 6 am). After two months at my job, I'm still fighting getting up at 7 am, and inevitably find myself making a mad dash for the train, praying I've put matching shoes on my feet. And, while I actually really like my job, there's no workbasket filled with yarn, just inboxes (electronic and paper) that never, ever seem to be empty. I have no problems, however, deluding myself into thinking that my knitting workbasket at least has the possibility of being cleared out, some day, if I just stop adding to it.

But on to the baby sweater. It's Sirdar Pattern #1752, a cute little cardigan (they call it a coat) with a knitted flower on the chest. It's knit in their bamboo yarn, which I've never knit with before. I haven't made my mind up about it, either. Mostly it's nice to knit with -it's not as impossible or stretchy as knitting with cotton, but the fabric just isn't turning out (for me) as well as my wool knitting. It's a little....drapey? flimsy? Definitely not the body that wool has. I've also found the yarn a little splitty in places, and (sort of weirdly) I've had the yarn break in sections. It's the strangest feeling to be knitting along and then all of a sudden realize you have about three inches of yarn left in your right hand, even though the ball is still full. Whenever this happens it takes a minute for it to sink in, my eyes dart from the knitting to the yarn and back again, trying to absorb why the rhythm has stopped working. To me, this is proof that knitting is meditative, or at least has the ability to turn off certain areas of my brain for short periods of time.

The pattern is a fairly easy knit, but has been slow going because I actually have to refer to the pattern while knitting, something that is a little tricky whilst being bounced around on a rickety old commuter rail train. The back and left front are done, and the right front only has another hour or so of knitting (if that) before I can start on the sleeves. The end really is in sight!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Cookies

My weekend was a blur, from guitar lesson to eye doctor appointment and other errands, then on to making oodles of cookies for an anniversary party. Sunday was a long drive up to Maine for the party, then a quick dinner with my parents before turning around and heading back to Massachusetts. I'm really not sure who the genius was who decided it was a great idea to do night paving on 495 right after a NASCAR race in NH, but I'd like a word...I got home pretty late, and haven't managed to quite catch up on my sleep yet.

I'm also not sure what happened to a childhood friend's house. The anniversary party was nearby, and I was shocked to see that the house is now gone. There's now just a vacant, empty lot - and this was a nice house! My friend's family hasn't lived there in a long time, and honestly he hasn't been my friend in like 25 years, but it was always his house, y'know? And now it feels like one more relic from my childhood is gone forever. It's a pretty strange feeling.

So it probably goes without saying that there was no sewing or knitting, and I have nothing to share in the crafting department. But let me tell you about the cookies I made. I don't think they are a Maine thing per se, but I've never seen them sold anywhere else; back home, almost every mom & pop general store sells these, and they are a staple at bake sales. These are one of the first things I learned to cook, mostly because my mom was something of a health nut, and my sister and I inherited my dad's sweet tooth. We usually had the ingredients on hand to make these, though. (And fifty bazillion cans of fruit coctail.) Mom hates these; she's very proper and ladylike, but refers to these as "cat shit cookies" because they look like...well. No need to explain further. The rest of us love them and call them "no bake cookies", though I will tell you don't eat too many; they have the tendency to sit in your stomach like lead.


1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
4 heaping tablespoons of cocoa
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter
3-4 cups oatmeal (quick oats)

Put peanut butter and vanilla in a bowl. Melt butter, sugar, milk, and the cocoa in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Pour over peanut butter and vanilla. Once the peanut butter is melted in, stir in the oatmeal.

There's a fine line betwen too much and not enough oatmeal. The more oatmeal you add, the faster the mixture will begin to set. Once it's all mixed in, quickly spoon the mixture by dropfuls onto wax paper and let them sit for about 15-20 minutes.

Excellent with cold milk. And, the sugar aside, they are full of oatmeal and peanut butter and have been known to be used as a substitute for a granola bar in certain households that shall remain nameless.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Six Hours

I know, right?! I am a painfully slow knitter. This time even more so, as I knit right-handed, and therefore seed stitch is time consuming, because I'm constantly having to move the yarn back and forth to go from a knit stitch to a purl and back again. It's also a bit of a beast to sew up. But I love seed stitch, though - I love how it looks, and I love the texture. I used a pattern from the Debbie Bliss book Baby Knits for Beginners, and I used her baby cashmerino yarn. I followed the pattern for 3-6 months, blissfully (no pun intended) ignoring gauge as I always do for baby stuff. Alas, these would most likely fit an 18-month old. Ooops. I clearly used the wrong type of yarn.

Truth be told, though, I wasn't knitting for six hours straight. There were breaks to switch over the laundry, several episodes of House, and a few playtime breaks with Miss Sweet Pea, who has been tearing around the living room this morning as if she were possessed. She finally conked out in the middle of the living room floor a few minutes ago, but here she is taking a break midway through her romp:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Power of a Good Bootie

I'm not sure I even need to write about this. So ridiculously cute.

I've always eschewed knitting baby booties. I don't really know why, either - I never knit them for any of my sisters children, nor any of the other family/friend babies that came later. But I currently have a pregnant coworker, and I thought I'd give it a whirl. The white pair (which are knit to resemble Mary Jane shoes) is the "Side Strap" pattern from the book "Easy Baby Knits" by Claire Montgomerie, using Debbie Bliss cashmerino that has been lingering in the depths of my knitting basket. The green pair, also Debbie Bliss cashmerino dug up from the depths (I'd love to know what I actually bought this yarn for....) is a pattern I found here. Both are easy patterns, though the green ones were REALLY quick to knit up, maybe an hour total? Although, I did have a bit of a "fraternal" issue with both of these. I actually had to knit three of the white ones for a more-or-less matching pair, which is weird given I was using the same needles, yarn and pattern. The green ones were less so, although I found them difficult to sew up.

Incidentally, the green ones were just happenstance. I brought my yarn and needles to my sister's house yesterday, but forgot my knitting book. I briefly considered just trying to wing it and make up my own pattern. Instead, I sat by the pool, one eye on my niece and one eye on my Blackberry, and this was one of the few free patterns I found that was not in PDF format. Gotta love 3G!