Tag Archives: cast on

Sabbatical?

I can’t claim to have been ridiculously busy since I last wrote, but I have done some things. The lack of writing is more due to the spotty internet at my apartment and my still-unhappy laptop keyboard that makes bringing my laptop elsewhere to write uncomfortable since it necessitates not only my laptop but also that pesky (i.e. huge) USB keyboard.

Things that happened:

  • My grandmother turned 80 and went down to Mexico to celebrate. That’s an interesting story all on its own, which I may put in another post. Don’t worry, though, she’s safely back home now.
  • We had the first real snow storm of the year, and then an almost-blizzard. We only got 6 inches of snow each time, and never got real blizzard conditions, but just south of town the roads were awful and they had to close the highway for a full 12 hours. I love living on the great plains.
  • The almost-blizzard meant that we had a snow day, so I didn’t have to substitute in a 3-year-old class. I really don’t like teaching 3-year-old classes.
  • I did teach many more private lessons than usual, which is good for my finances, but bad for my free time.
  • I had a master class with James Sewell through my company, which was wonderful.
  • I started on The Great Apartment Re-Organization of 2012. I’ve been doing a little every day, and things are slowly starting to take shape. My biggest accomplishment is that my dance shoes and accessories are all organized, and so are my tights. Everything was in there before, but now it’s in order.
  • I continued with progress on my various projects.

First up is my awesome dance stuff organiation:

My Blackberry Bramble Beret is coming along, with just the very top to complete. I got a lot done on it during full-cast rehearsals, and I’m now in the final stretches. Of course, this means that the pattern is no longer totally predictable with the way that the cables and decreases come together, so it’s gotten harder to bring it to rehearsals.

To that end, I started Queen Silvia from Nancy Bush’s “Knitted Lace of Estonia”. I’m using my 2-ply superfine alpaca laceweight from Dharma Trading Company. I can’t even begin to express how soft this yarn is. I thought that the ball of yarn was soft, but it’s so much better knitted up! It has just the right amount of halo to make it a bit fluffy without distracting from the lace pattern.

I also picked up several more books from Knit Picks during their sale:
200 Fair Isle Motifs” by Mary Jane Mucklestone
100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet” by Lesley Stanfield
75 Birds Butterflies & little beasts to knit and crochet” by Lesley Stanfield

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Hazel the Horrible

Until a trip to my LYS, that is.  You see, I bought my first pair of Addi Turbo US 0 needles during my magic loop phase.  They had a 47″ cable.  Then, when I was thinking of doing my fuzzy pants on them, the excess cable just kept on getting in the way.  After the second or third time that I managed to wrap the needle cable around my mug of tea and nearly tip it into my lap, I went to Bouclé Yarn Studio and picked up a 24″ US 0.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned Bouclé before, but they deserve a lot of credit.  I’m not a yarn shop aficionado, but in my experience, they have a great selection of needles and hooks, yarns, books, spinning supplies, and everything in between.  The shop is beautifully decorated with shelves of yarn creating a meandering path to the back of the shop, and large tables and chairs where you inevitably find people sitting and knitting.  The staff are always helpful and nice.  I wish I had the money to buy more yarn there, but they do tend toward the more expensive brands.  I can say that, of the last 15 pairs of needles that I’ve bought, 13 of them have come from Bouclé.

So, I had a 47″ and a 24″ US 0 Addi Turbo.  I used my favorite provisional cast on (crochet a loose chain, pick up stitches from the bumps on the back of the chain), divided the stitches onto my two needles, and joined in the round.  And it was horrible.  Things were all over the place.  I’m not even working in double knitting right now, choosing instead to get through the initial increases separately in my two colors before I put everything together.

I got through one horrible, messy row, and set it aside.  I went back to Bouclé today, picked up another 24″ US 0 Addi Turbo, and all of a sudden everything lined up.  I didn’t get very far, because Saturdays are one of my busiest teaching days, and we had our annual winter showcase at the studio this evening, but I did knit a couple more rows, and they were lovely without all of that extra needle getting tangled up in my yarn.  I’m actually looking forward to knitting the rest of this whale now.

The moral of this story is that the right tools really make a difference, so when in doubt, go to your local yarn shop and buy more stuff.  It will make your life better.

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No More Knitting Tonight. I’m Making Nisu Instead.

I did cast on for Hazel the Humpback Whale with some scrap yarn to see if my thought that a provisional cast on was really best to make her snout close up cleanly, and it worked out pretty well. (Sorry for the really terrible lighting. It gets very dark here very early and I live in a 90 year old building with fewer outlets and lights than I’d like.)

But now, I’m baking bread and no one can stop me. Nisu is a Finnish sweet bread, and the recipe that I use has been in my family since before they immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s.  The matriarch of the family made it more precise over the years (she was a huge fan of improvements in cooking technology, and lived through a lot of change in her long life), so the recipe that she wrote down for my mother is pretty easy for the modern cook to execute.  I copied it down for myself when I moved into my own place, and here I present it for your edification and amusement.

Grandma Anna’s Coffee Bread (Nisu) – makes 3 braids

  • 2 packages yeast
  • 1/4 C very warm water
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/4 C shortening
  • large pinch salt
  • 1 C hot scaled milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 tsp cardamom
  • 5 to 5 1/2 C flour
  • melted butter
  • sugar

Scald milk and soften yeast in very warm water.

Combine sugar, shortening, salt and milk in a large bowl. Cool to lukewarm. Stir in eggs unbeaten, softened yeast, and cardamom. Add flour gradually to form a stiff dough. Knead until smooth (5-8 minutes) on a lightly floured surface. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Using a large, sharp knife, divide the dough into 9 or 12 equal parts and make 3 braids of 3 or 4 strands each.  (This recipe doesn’t need a second rising.  It will rise again as you cut and braid, and you’ll be fighting the clock as it is.  The loaves inevitably end up crooked because of this, but I’ve even seen this effect in professional bakery loaves, so I don’t let it concern me.)  Bake at 350º F for about 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and immediately brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.  (I like to really cake on the sugar.  It’s not traditional, but it works!)

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Progress! Then Frogging! Then Progress(ish)!

Progress on the pointe covers has been all right.

Progress on the hair baubles has been equally exciting.  (Or not.  It depends on how much you love bright colors and novelty yarns and crochet.  I don’t really, but I went through an eyelash yarn phase in high school and the balls have been sitting in my stash for nearly a decade now, so I figure I’d better use them, and they look cute as hair thingies.)

My little yarn cakes are squishy and adorable, too.

I also cast on for the narrow ribbing at the bottom of the legs.  And, yes, they’re on size 0 needles, and, yes, I’m totally insane, and, yes, it’s going to take forever.  I like knitting on small needles (this will change to a US 1 for the legs and a US 2 for the skirt/waistband) and I have several long plane trips scheduled in the coming year, so I’ll have hours of uninterrupted airplane and airport time.  I’m also under the impression that smaller needles are easier to get through airport security.

That being said, casting on with these tiny needles is a pain in the butt, and I’ve already done it twice.  The first time, I cast on and went to knit the first row when I realized that I hadn’t carried the reinforcing nylon along with the yarn.  Seeing as that edge is the one that falls apart first on this type of pant, I decided to rip it out.  The second time, I cast on, knit two rows, and on the third row realized that I’d cast on the wrong number of stitches on one of the pieces.  I’d counted those stitches three times, and I still ended up with the wrong number.

There are 72 stitches on the right needle here, and 71 on the left.  I’m proud to say that there was no swearing when I discovered this.  I just calmly set it down and went to pet my sewing machine for a while (because it soothes me).  Then, I cast on and knit the heel patches, finished them last night, and I felted them with the laundry that I did today.  Now I have to decide between knitting from the waist down, picking up from the heel patches, and casting on those same 71 stitches again.  Twice.  In theory I know that casting on for the waist means that I’ll be casting on more stitches, but at least I won’t be counting to 71 again.

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How Procrasterina Plans to Finish This Darn Cowl if it Kills Her

I just love the planning process of a new knitting project.  I get really excited at the prospect of researching on Ravelry and other sites to find the best yarn and pattern, and then tweaking the instructions to fit my measurements.  Then I gather everything that I need, cast on, and leave it sitting out for months.

I have bins and bins worth of yarn sitting in my apartment.  That’s not so unusual for a knitter, but the number of unfinished projects mixed in with the yarn is truly amazing.  I have 1″ worth of a laptop case that I started 2 years ago when the laptop that I’m writing on was new.  I have 2″ worth of gloves that I started for my mom last Christmas.  I have swatches of lace patterns and leafy edgings.  I have single mittens and foot-long proto-scarves.  It’s appalling, and a real drain on the number of needles I have available for a new project.

So, when I bought two skeins of S.R.Kertzer On Your Toes Bamboo many months ago, I didn’t start a new project with it.  I know it’s not the most expensive yarn in the world, but it was a splurge, and it’s delightfully soft, and I didn’t want to waste it on something that would sit on the needles for months before getting frogged when I’d finally forgotten what the original pattern was.

But on November 21, I found Karen Scott’s beautiful Cornflower Cowl on Ravelry and decided that those feminine cables were perfect for my yarn.  I cast on, and now, a mere 2 weeks later, I’m halfway done.

Of course I’m already planning my next project(s).  I need to come up with something to do with the ~1800 yds of 2-ply laceweight alpaca I have, and I ordered some KnitPicks Stroll Sock Yarn in black for a pair of warm up pants/knit tights for dance and Wool of the Andes Worsted in blackberry for some warm up socks to go over pointe shoes.  Let’s hope I get the cowl done before those arrive in the mail!

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