Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Topsy-turvy Upside-down House

This could end up being a very long story or a very short one, so let's keep this simple. Mother dearest got a brand new Pomeranian puppy named Baylee. In less than three days, this little fuzzball has successfully turned our house upside down. Our cats are furious, but it comes with the perk that my cat will now be sleeping with me in my dog-free room. But because my mom and dad both work in out of the house locations on some days, I get to watch this little rascal.

In knitting related news, I have finished a single sock. Not a complete pair of socks, but one singular sock. Yes, I do know it is the end of October and we only have 56 days left until Christmas. Socks aren't impossible if you knit on them. The trouble is I haven't been knitting. I've been playing games instead and that cuts into my knitting time since I only have one pair of hands. Whoops.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sewing Machine Love

Ever since I sewed on my mom's fussy sewing machine, I completely fell in love with sewing. It was so fast and fun to do! Don't get me wrong, I love the meditative quality of hand sewing, but sewing on a machine is just so much easier to get more done. It is no wonder that it was invented to help people sew more clothes for more clothes.

But, my mom's sewing machine and I don't get along at all. It jams on me whenever I try to use it. It never wants me to get the bobbin thread up. Even if I use a new needle for every seam, it refuses to sew for me. So I have been looking for a reasonably priced workhorse sewing machine that I can save up for and finally get so I can have my own and don't have to try to make ridiculous bargins to get mom's machine to work for me.

I finally found the sewing machine I want!

It is a Janome Decor Computer 2014 sewing machine. I did go to a sewing machine shop here in town and they told me that the Janome brand was great for beginners who want a quality machine. They also said Brother was a good company and the main difference between the two is that the Brother machines in the price range I was looking at had all plastic parts. It is a computerized sewing machine which as far as I can tell just means that you press buttons to change your stitches instead of turning a dial. It comes with everything you need for basic sewing as well as some fancy decorative stitches for embellishing and three types of buttonholes. The base also slides off so you have a smaller area to sew things like shirt sleeves and pant legs.

And from the video reviews I have seen of this machine, it is quite a reliable workhorse machine. It sews through eight layers of denim without any trouble (unlike my mom's sewing machine). And it is such a good machine that the changes to it over the years is just a cosmetic color change. The model that fits in my price range that I just love is the Janome DC 2011. Not only is it $100 cheaper than the Janome DC 2014, but is comes in pink. I mean, who wouldn't like a pink sewing machine?

Now that I have finally decided that I do like sewing enough to actually save up for a sewing machine, this is the one I'm going to save up for. Hopefully, it won't be that long of a wait. In the meantime, I'll be knitting lots of socks!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blocking is Magic

So many people are afraid or intimidated by blocking when it is one of the techniques in knitting that is so easy to do. I think that is because that we use a specialized term instead of actually saying what it is we are doing. Blocking is simply washing your knitting and then laying it out to dry.

I think the reason why people (especially beginners) are afraid of blocking is that it is an extra step and people talk about how hard it is to block out shawls and other lacy things. I think that it is always a good thing to wash your knitting before you wear it (the exception for me is socks, they go straight on the feet) so it isn't really an extra step. It gets rid of all that extra dirt and evens out the stitches so that everything looks nice and neat.

The second point about blocking out lace is unfounded as long as you know what you are doing. Blocking lace is really extremely easy and simple to do. To prove that point, I'm going to walk you through it step by step.

First, you want to fill up your sink with warm water. Since my mom and I got a bottle of Soak wool wash, I like to squirt a little of that into the sink after the water has finished running and swish it around. That way it doesn't create lots of suds and because Soak is a brand of non-rinse wool wash I don't have to soak the shawl twice. 

I then lay my project on top of the water like it shows in the picture above. Yes, just sit it on top of the water and don't press it down. When the shawl sinks to the bottom that means it is completely wet and the water has penetrated all of the fiber.

 Leave it there for about 15 minutes or so and then it will look something like the picture above. It is completely wet. At this stage the fabric is really, really stretchy so be careful lifting it out of the water. You don't want to accidentally drag your nice clean project all over the floor.

 I do squeeze as much water as I can out of the project over the sink. Then I take a couple of towels and wrap my project up in it. Then I stand on the towel bundle. I figure if I can apply so much force with my hands, imagine what gravity can do with all of my weight.

After this last squeeze the project is still damp, but it isn't dripping everywhere. That is when the "difficult part" of blocking lace comes in.

 My mom has a set of blocking wires, but I still have to go through and thread the wires through the garter stitch bumps of the boarder. That took around 45 minutes to do so on each side. The shawl was still damp enough to let me go ahead and pin out the points at each end to keep the ends nice and scalloped. I pinned out the points quite drastically, but you could also use more pins and shape the scallops into nice gentle curves.

This is where the magic happens. You basically pin it out to the shape you want it to be and then you let it dry. I did it on the kitchen table because it has a nice fan overhead that I switched on. It was dry when I went to check on it an hour later, but it might not have even taken that long to dry.

When it was dry I went ahead and unpinned everything. The result is a shawl that was as long and wide as I wanted it to be. The stitches look even, the eyelets are nicely spaced out and "opened up" so you can see the lace pattern easier. The scallops are nice and pointy. And it is nice, clean, and oh so soft!

I have to wait until tomorrow before I can send it out so my fiance can help me with some more pictures. Hopefully, my friend Rebecca loves it as much as I loved making it for her. Now that the weather is turning cooler it will be perfect for tossing around her shoulders or neck to chase away the chill of the evening.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Knitting Confessions #1

Like most things in the world, knitting has a set of agreed upon rules and conventions. As you grow as a knitter, you find yourself breaking more and more of them. You have a choice to either decide not to care and brag about it or stress yourself out so much that knitting just isn't fun anymore and becomes a chore.

Thankfully, I'm part of the former and have decided to share my own knitting confessions about the conventions I break. I guess I was never good about keeping to the status quo.

Knitting Confession #1: I don't swatch in the round.

For some reason, the way I knit is very even no matter if I knit flat or knit in the round. Because I knit in the "throwing style" instead of continental, it means my tension on both of my knits and my pearls are very even. I don't row out on my pearl rows and I don't knit overly tight.

I discovered this when I was working on my fiance's pair of Library Socks. I had just received a couple of new pairs of socks needles from Knit Picks and noticed that I had ordered them in a half size and decided to take a break and swatch them. When I got 9 stitches per inch (SPI) on those needles, I took gauge on the socks and discovered that I was knitting them at 10 SPI. I was a little skeptical because it was a flat swatch vs a round swatch, so when I made my Juice Box Socks with the Knit Picks needles, I took the gauge on them as well. They were still 9 SPI.

This means that I just don't feel the need to swatch in the round. What's the point if I am one of the lucky ones who has a good tension that doesn't change if I knit flat or in the round? 

Knitting Confessions

A big thank you to Brandy from the Stitched Up in Toronto blog for starting this link up. I will be doing my list of knitting confessions on Mondays and I don't know how many I will do, but feel free to go over to her blog and join in on the fun!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles!

Monty & The KnotI've been having some issues with the knitting front today. I went to wind a couple more balls of yarn and I encountered an enormous tangle in the first ball of Felici. Luckily, I managed to save most of the yarn and only had to cut 1/8th of an inch off of the ball of yarn.

Though, if I didn't spend two hours unwinding the and untangling the knot myself, I would have sworn that Monty had jumped up and broken the yarn himself. I adjusted his eyes today and he sure looks devious enough right now to do it himself!

So, instead of spending more time winding yarn, I decided to take a break and bake a little bit. When I was on the Loopy Ewe blog earlier this week, I managed to find a recipe for cream cheese filled pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies. They looked so good that I had to try them myself! Of course, that isn't the only reason why I wanted to make the cookies. They happen to be filled on the inside and I've never made a cookie with a filling before or even had a cookie with a filling. The closest to that I have ever had was a thumbprint cookie and you can see the filling on top of that one.

The verdict for the cookies is: tasty, but far too challenging to make.

They are big fluffy cookies with the cream cheese filling inside them. And I do mean big! Even when I tried to make them smaller they were still large cookies that took up at least half of a dessert plate. They are so fluffy that it is like eating pumpkin bread instead of pumpkin cookies.

The cookies were fairly difficult to make. The dough was so sticky that it would stick to everything even if you did chill it in the fridge for an hour. It made it really hard to flatten into pancake shapes and put the filling in the cookies. It is even more difficult if you tend to run warm and you can't get your hands cooled down enough to handle the dough without it sticking to everything. And the amount of filling you had to put in was too small an amount to actually see or really taste when you ate them.

I really, really love the idea of these cookies, but I don't think the recipe and I agreed with each other. I think I might take this as inspiration and try to make a more user friendly recipe. I would totally save the base cookie of this recipe though and just make them drop cookies for a big fluffy pumpkin cookie. They are good, but they just aren't what I was looking for.

 And as a final note about the yarn tangle disaster: I did manage to do a decent Russian Join on the two broken ends and then finish winding it into a ball. I think Monty approves too!

Did a Russian Join on the ball and finally got it all wound up into a center pull. Of course, Monty just had to help!