Monday, April 20, 2009

Help me choose

Ok, so I'm doing a bit of overseas travel this summer, and I think I need a sizeable yet mindless knitting project to keep my hands busy. I do have a couple design projects I'd really love to work on, but I think both will be too tricky to manage while on the road. This evening I thumbed through my stack of vintage knitting magazines and found a few candidates. Any thoughts?

Adorable striped cardigan. The dark stripes are seed stitch, while the light ones are stockinette. I love this in the two shades of gray.
From Fleisher Hand-Knit Favorites vol. 37 from 1967

This placket neck sweater might be the leader at the moment. I'm seeing it in a soft fawn brown color, but not mohair like the original.
From The Mohair Book by Bernat, 1961.

This bulky cardigan is so great with the collar and cables. It reminds me a bit of that really popular Drops cardigan. I'm seeing this in a rich navy blue. Bonus for this pattern is that it calls for Fleishers 'gigantic' yarn on size 15 needles. It looses points for the same reason though, as it would take up more space in the luggage.
From Modern Needlecraft No. 42 Fall Winter, 1963

EDIT: Thanks for the great suggestions so far, guys! I should note that I will be abroad for 8 weeks, and I will be nowhere near a yarn shop (or any other shop, for that matter). The length of my trip (and my flights) and the lack of opportunity to buy new yarn is why I was thinking of going with a bigger project.

First baby sweater

Using about 2.5 balls of leftover white cotton from Sweetgum Duncan, I quickly knit up this cute baby sweater. It is the 6 month to 1 year size of the Child's Placket Neck Pullover which is available in the book Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, and also as a free PDF from the Purl Bee. I think this is really a timeless design, and should be really cute on a baby. This little sweater will be sent off to Chile as a gift to my friend's niece, who was born last week.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stencils take two

We tried out the freezer paper stencil idea on knits last week, with success! This time we cut out the stencil using mylar (thin but sturdy plastic material) so that it could be reused. The drawback to mylar is that it won't adhere to the fabric. I used a bit of glue stick to tack it down, and then was as careful as I could be to avoid getting paint under the edges of the stencil. I also learned that you can use scotch tape to add in little details, like the eye on this 'animal.' The lettering and word bubble were hand painted since stenciling thin lines is kind of a pain. Working on knits is not as nice as woven fabric because it tends to warp more with the moisture in the paint, and the paint stiffened the fabric more than the knit. All in all, a fun project and the recipient of the t-shirt was very pleased.

Recipe roundup

New in the kitchen this week:

Vegan Laksa
Very nice curried noodle soup with tofu. I added a bit more curry than I would have ideally liked, but otherwise this was a nice dish. The fried tofu with salt and pepper was good enough to eat plain, and the generous splash of lime juice really added a nice note.

Fancy Mac & Cheese with Leeks
Yum! Historically, I am not a mac & cheese fan, but this was delicious. The leeks added enough flavor to keep me very interested.

Snickerdoodle Muffins
Also really tasty. Please note: the batter rises like crazy in the oven, so don't fill the tins too high! I ended up with burnt muffin bits on the bottom of my oven. That being said, this decadent treat reminds me somewhat of those cinnamon covered cake donuts, only better.

Meet my latest obsession

I planted a vegetable garden in early March, and it's just about all I can talk about these days. It's the first thing I visit upon waking up in the morning, and the first thing I go to see when I come home. It is so satisfying to see the plants grow day by day. This is my first attempt at gardening, and it has been at least 18 years in the making (and that was before I actually liked vegetables).

The radishes are the first edible products from my garden. They are wonderful to grow because they only take about a month to mature from seed. See the little one peeking out beneath the leaves below?

I harvested a bunch of them today, and was shocked to see how big some of them became! Although I did eat a few raw, I decided to see what other possibilities there are for radishes. I came across a recipe for roasted zucchini and radishes that had wonderful reviews. I'm guessing you're like me (and everyone I've mentioned this to) and have never heard of cooking radishes, but I must say it's actually quite good!

Once roasted, radishes lose their bite and most of their crunch, but remain really juicy and have a nice mild flavor.

It's pretty incredible to know exactly where my dinner came from, and that it was as fresh as it could possibly be!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

And the winner is...

Wisy of Sew Isy is the winner of the sewing patterns for giveaway #3. Thanks everyone for playing!

Quilt notes

A few weeks ago I finished my first quilt, and I wanted to share some notes on how I made it to encourage all of you to give it a try! It is a twin sized quilt, and I finished it in under three months. In order to save time and keep myself interested, I ended up taking several shortcuts. I figured that if I didn't, I'd lose interest and this would take me many months to complete.

The first step in making a quilt is picking the pattern, colors, and fabric. I spent a good long while thinking about this. I looked at flickr for inspiration, flipped through books, and thought a lot about what colors go well together. I was nearly set on making the 'ice pops' quilt from Denyse Schmidt Quilts, but I found it difficult to choose colors for it. I didn't really want many shades of a single color, and I didn't feel it would work with the color palette I wanted. So I moved on instead to the idea of making a wonky log cabin quilt following the great little tutorial at Tallgrass Prairie Studio. After seeing her fantastic Square Motion quilt, I was pretty sure that this tutorial would lead to a great first quilt.

I wanted to choose colors that were somewhere between neutral and bright. I wanted to keep it simple, but perhaps have something related yet different on the back. I mostly used Kona solid cottons with the exception of the green fabric, which was a Kaffe Fassett shot cotton. The shot cottons have different colored warps and wefts (in this case blue and bright chartreuse). While I absolutely loved the way this fabric looks, and the fact that the color changes depending on its orientation, it was not the most fun to quilt with. The fabric was thin and more likely to stretch and warp. I really wish I had used wider seam allowances with it, because it has already started to tear at the seams in a couple places. Sigh. But hopefully it will hold up to use. The Kona cottons were great: very easy to work with, lovely range of colors, and sturdy enough to last.

I cut my fabric in long strips of varying width and pieced them somewhat randomly by machine. For the back, I tried to use large pieces of fabric when possible, and pieced a smaller section to make up the difference. I used a 100% cotton batting and spray adhesive to baste using the tutorial from Anyone Can Quilt. This saved a whole lot of time and held everything together securely during the machine quilting process. I chose to quilt in a diamond pattern with white thread as this seemed like a good, straightforward way to jump into quilting for the first time. Plus I like how clean it looks. I'd love to try free motion quilting sometime, but perhaps on a baby quilt. This one was hard enough to wrangle for straight lines!

Although I suppose I could have made my own quilt binding, I chose to save time again at this step by purchasing quilt binding made of Kona cotton in the 'curry' shade from here. It was really nice to have the binding ready to go, and by following Heather Bailey's tutorial, I ended up with a really nice finish.

Since this was a wedding gift, I really wanted to give it a personal touch for the recipients. I decided to use some sort of symbol that made me think of them. At first I thought maybe a tropical flower from the wedding destination, but that didn't feel quite right...finally I came up with the perfect thing: a retriever silhouette. Both dog lovers and owners, I figured this would do the trick. I sort of followed the freezer paper stencil tutorial at Neither Hip Nor Funky, but I only had wax paper, which apparently will not stick to fabric when ironed. I ended up using a bit of glue stick on the back, then ironing the stencil in place. The Jacquard textile paint I bought at Dharma Trading worked really well. Be careful about what textile paint you use for this--the majority of the ones sold at Joann or Michaels are too thin, and require a resist material to keep them from bleeding.

After stenciling the dog onto the fabric, I zig zag stitched the patch in place before making the quilt sandwich.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Box bag

I completed my first box bag today. You can make your own by using the tutorial at Dragon[knit]fly, and the helpful suggestions at Twenty acres. It went pretty smoothly, though I managed to break two needles on the zipper (and nearly lost an eye in the process). I also got so caught up that I forgot to follow the directions and accidentally left out the handle. I made mine from a larger rectangle--16" x 20" with squares 2.5" on each side cut from the corners. I wanted to be able to fit my straight knitting needles inside. It's pretty large (11" x 5" x 5"), which would be great for a sweater-in-progress. I might need to make a smaller one for smaller projects too...

The fabric I used is vintage canvas that I found at an estate sale around Washington, DC a couple summers ago.

Minimalist giveaway #3

I've been Spring cleaning and found a few patterns I'm unlikely to use for one reason or another. The patterns should all be complete and are in the Small to Medium size range. There's a vintage Simplicity skirt suit and blouse set, a Betsy Ross hip blouse pattern (they are a small indie pattern company), and two recent McCall's patterns. Yours for free! I'll draw a winner from everyone who comments on this post one week from today. One entry per person, and you must leave me some way to contact you (email, blog, ravelry, etc.)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Stash organization

I recently had some big news that changed all my plans in the upcoming months. I'll be leaving the country again this summer (and will tell you more about it when it gets closer) and there's a chance I might have to move out of my house several months earlier than anticipated. As a result, I'm already starting that familiar process of paring down my possessions. My yarn stash got ignored during the last move, and I ended up bringing a bunch of yarn across the country that I probably will never use. Last night, I brought out all the odds and ends to see what I realistically could use, and what will be passed along to a friend or via a giveaway.

I thought I would share a tip on what I did, cause I thought it was pretty clever! First, I organized my odds and ends into piles. I then took note of the approximate yardage and weight of the yarn. After writing all that down, I hopped onto Ravelry and used the advanced search to see what patterns might be possible with the amount of yarn I had. You can input the yardage and yarn weight, and even limit it to only free patterns. Let me tell you, there were a ton of great patterns to choose from that I never would have thought of on my own. I decided that three groups of yarn could stay and be knit up, and I feel much better now that they all have a purpose.

Leftovers from Sweetgum should be enough to make the Child's Placket Neck Pullover, which is from the book Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, and is also available as a free PDF from the Purl Bee.

Two skeins of Ultra Alpaca (one of which is currently knitted up into a never-worn Anthropologie shrug) will be used to make a February Baby Sweater. Now, I've never made baby clothes--mostly because very few of my friends have children. I'm hoping that by the time I knit these two baby sweaters I figure out who the recipient might be! I'll be able to get the Knitter's Almanac from the library for this project.

Two skeins of Knit Picks Shimmer lace weight yarn will be plenty to make one or two lace shawls. I've really enjoyed the bright red one I made, and this midnight blue color should also be lovely. I really like the look of the North Roe Shawl, which is available for free in French and English here.

Recipe recap

French Lemon Yogurt Cake
From Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours, and blogged here. Very nice, simple recipe using ingredients you probably have on hand. I might reduce the amount of oil next time.

Perfect Pumpkin Pie
This took about 8 minutes to prep then an hour to bake. Easy as...

Eggs Ranchero
Another excellent recipe from Karina's Kitchen. I can tell that it's been a week with some mental turmoil for me because I not only forgot to add the cilantro, but I also completely forgot to add the fried eggs! It took me about 2 days to realize they were missing. Still excellent even without the eggs.

Chow Mein Casserole
This week, we decided to do a little kitchen experiment and try to make a couple of LQ's favorites from home. Casseroles always make me think of the American Midwest in the 1950s. There's something very wholesome and comforting about them. That being said, as a vegetarian with tastes that tend toward Asian and Middle Eastern food, I have very little experience in this realm. It was fun to try some new things! I don't want to give away his mother's recipe, in case it's a family secret, but this recipe kind of gives you the idea--although we made ours vegetarian with faux ground beef and cream of mushroom soup, and there wasn't any rice involved.

Casserole #2, basically a mix of cream style corn, egg, and saltine crackers. I forgot how much I loved cream style corn as a kid!

Thursday, April 2, 2009