Monday, November 16, 2009

More East Meets West

I've actually made a bit of progress on the strap. I'm nearly done with the short row section. I'll be glad of that because my tension still isn't as good as in the round. I think it's okay enough though to work itself mostly out in the blocking process. Only about three more short rows though and I can go back to working in the round.

I'm also hoping to get some sewing done this week. I got a really cool new book on pattern-drafting and I've already drafted a basic skirt pattern. (I hope to review the book after I make a few things out of it, but as of right now, I think it's going to get a glowing review.)


Friday, November 13, 2009

Book Review Friday

It's occurred to me that I may own quite a number of books. They range in subject matter from history, trashy romance, Learning Ancient Greek, Mark Twain, Jane Austen, and more. In that library of books, I also happen to own quite a few crafting books. These books also cover all interests - Temari, sewing, beading, weaving, spinning, and, of course, knitting. I also own a few cookbooks. Anyway, I thought, since knitting is occasionally scarce on the blog due to my number of interests, I thought maybe I'd share some of my other interests (including knitting) by reviewing a book or two from my personal library every week according to my fancy. (A caveat: since I usually preview books from the library or at the bookstore before I buy, most of these reviews will probably be fairly positive.) One week, it may be cookbooks, another may feature sewing, probably whatever books I've been using or looking at the previous week.

This week's book is a new cookbook called Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It's by Jeff Herzberg and Zoe Francois and is a follow up to their Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Both of these books feature "no-knead" yeast bread. You basically mix the dough, give it an initial rise, then stick it in the fridge. When you want a loaf of bread, you cut off a chunk, shape it, let it rise and bake it. This dough is wetter than the traditional, knead-it bread dough and for some reason (which honestly isn't well-explained, but maybe I'm the only one interested in the actual chemistry of it), that makes it work without kneading. It makes really good bread without a lot of effort. I'm one of those people who has spent time kneading dough out by hand as well as kneading it by heavy-duty mixer. I can't tell the difference in taste except that this is much easier! I've tried the 100% Whole Wheat Bread, Plain and Simple and with Olive Oil. Both were really good. I've also tried the cracker recipe from the whole wheat bread dough. It was a pain rolling the dough thin enough to work, but they were good. (I brushed them with oil and sprinkled a little chili powder on them. Yum.)

I like that there are lots of recipes to choose from. Something I didn't particularly like though is many of the recipes have varying amounts of regular old white flour. Since I make my own bread mostly to make it healthy and better-tasting than store-bought wheat, I'm sort of disappointed to find so many of the recipes do call for white flour because it supposedly produces a lighter bread. Yeah, well, there's a reason I'm making whole wheat bread. Yeah, it's a little denser than white, but it's whole wheat. They say you can substitute whole wheat, but you need to adjust the amount of liquid. I'd hoped they'd have already done that work for me. Anyway, having said that, the whole wheat recipes that I've tried are really good and will probably keep me pretty much in bread for a while. If you make bread, it's worth the purchase price for the whole wheat recipe alone, in my opinion. With the amount of bread I've made, I've already saved the price from not buying wheat bread in the store.

This book also features a few gluten-free recipes, but not having tried them yet, I can't attest to how they taste or bake up. Luckily I don't have to avoid gluten, but having to read labels religiously to avoid a couple of other things (do you know how many items contain sucralose these days!?), I can sympathize a little with having to avoid certain items, but really, wheat is everywhere. If I make one of the gluten-free recipes, I'll certainly post my opinion!

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Hey, Look Over There...

I'll tell why there's no knitting to show in a moment. Meanwhile, there are pictures of fluffy animals taken at the zoo yesterday.

First of all we have a fluffy animal that could bite your head off.

Isn't he cute trying to get his ball out of the water?

These little guys are always so pretty.

So why am I distracting you with no knitting pictures? Because I had to frog some more. The short row section tensioning didn't look right to me, so I frogged. Just the short row section, the rest of the handle, I'm very happy with. You know though, if I'm putting all this effort into a purse, I'm going to be really happy with it, so I'll do a bit more work if need be.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Do Not Adjust Your Monitor

The color change for the center short-row section of the strap seems rather, um, abrupt, don't you think?

The pictures of the finished bag on Knitpicks seem to bring all the colors together though, so I'm going to continue on.

As you can see I'm a bit past where I was when I had to frog and now getting spot-on gauge (yay!), so I made the right decision, and it's moving right along. Colorwork in short rows is interesting. For those of you not familiar with the bag, the strap is a circle and the bottom of the circle becomes the bottom of the bag. It is a bit bigger at the bottom due to the insertion of a short-row section. Now this means that you have to turn the colorwork and purl across the row. Since I'm a continental knitter and sometimes have trouble with purl row tension anyway, I'm not about to attempt purling two strands. I taught myself how to knit backwards several years ago for an entrelac bag I did (see my tutorial here), and that's what I'm doing for the purl row of the colorwork. Though it goes a little slower than the regular knit rows, I think my tension is staying fairly consistent and I hope to get the hang of it as I progress.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Someday I'll Learn

Someday, I'll learn to make a darn swatch, especially when 450 stitches are involved! I'm a tight knitter, so I knew I should have moved up a needle size or two to begin with, but I decided to go with the called-for size 1. It's a purse, if it's a little off, it won't matter much. If it's significantly off, however...

Well, last night, after I'd shown everyone what I was working on at my guild meeting, I decided to take a closer look at the gauge. Yep, it was significantly off. Whereas the recommended gauge is 32 stitches per 4 inches, I was getting 40 inches per 4 inches. Now, two stitches per inch difference doesn't seem like much on paper, but over the course of 450 stitches, let's do the math. Eight stitches per inch over 450 is 56 and a quarter inches; ten stitches per inch is 45 inches. I'd say a difference of eleven inches qualifies as significantly off.

So, I frogged and started casting on again (after doing a small gauge swatch). Ugh. Well, it was going to be too small, so I'm casting on again. I'll be happier with the finished product.


Monday, November 02, 2009

Actual Knitting Progress.

I'm really enjoying the East Meets West Bag so far. I think I may have FINALLY figured out how to keep a fairly even tension in Fair Isle. I've always used two hands to hold the yarns, but it's never really given me results I'm overly happy with. So, I tried to hold both yarns in one hand and I'm much happier with the results. Here's a little bit of the first five rounds (keeping in mind that each round is 450 stitches, I think I'm doing pretty well).

It's quite apropos that the beginning colors were orange and black since I was working that part on Halloween.

So, how am I holding the yarn? Well, I'm a continental knitter and I usually wrap yarn around my pinky twice and then over all the fingers and control tension by the index finger and the pinky curled in. So, at first I tried wrapping both yarns together around the pinky and separating them with the index, but they seemed to keep getting pretty twisted and I couldn't seem to maintain an even tension on both yarns, especially when I did five stitches of one color before doing a stitch of the other. So, I then tried wrapping the secondary color around my pinky, putting it over the fingers and under the index finger. Then I wrapped the primary color separately around the pinky and put it over all the fingers.

It seems to be working out pretty well. I can use the index finger to tension the yarns appropriately and I think I like how the floats are on the back, not too tight, not too loose.

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