Thursday, August 30, 2007
Favorite Gourmet Item: Illegal Cheese--It's illegal to import any unpasteurized cheese that's less than 60 days old. If you know the code and have a dealer, you can get it though. My cheesemonger used to call me up and tell me he had some "really fresh stuff." Keep asking for "fresh" stuff, and maybe you'll find it.
Favorite Snack at Home: At the moment, Penzy's Chip & Dip mix w/ rippled chips.
Favorite Fast Food item: McDonald's French Fries w/ two salt packets.
Favorite Food when Driving: Arby's Ultimate BLT Wrap
Favorite Food with a Beer (or other libation - please specify): Welsh rarebit, with the beer cooked in it. Either that or beer-braised rabbit. I'm not much of a beer drinker and prefer my hard liquor on an empty stomach.
Favorite Food for Invoking Romantic Intentions: Red velvet cake
Least Favorite Food: Beets. Can't do it. No way.
Food that Conjures a Childhood Memory: Cupcakes made in ice cream cones and open-faced grilled cheese sandwiches with smiley faces made out of ketchup.
Food that Conjures a Sad Memory: Swiss chard. There were definitely threats of violence if the plates were not cleared.
Food that Conjures a Happy Memory: tapas--from a college trip to Spain and from our wedding. Either that or soft-shell crab sandwiches with mayo on white bread.
I tag Carrie, Peggy, and Annie. I think TroyBoy wants to hear that you responded.
Conveniently, I have now met a baby. Well, I haven't actually met a baby, but I met someone with a baby. She doesn't actually have the baby, however, but I've been assured that she will soon. And I don't exactly know her, have never met her in fact, but I will, next Wednesday apparently.
So, FO#1 has found a home.
And yesterday, I talked about a baby whose mother had on knitted undersleeves. I love how she's hiding behind the baby, peeking out to see if the photographer is finished yet.
So today I ran across another baby, whose mother is also hiding, but this time, quite oddly, under a shawl. I love the expression on the little dear's face, and check out his knitted sweater.
I'm pretty sure all this baby contact won't rub off on me, but I hope it's not an omen.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Tomato soup cake is basically a spice cake (cinnamon, allspice, ground cloves) with a can of condensed tomato soup added in. I also added some chopped dates and pecans. Frost with a cream cheese frosting. Hopefully make it prettier than I did. I was not expecting to take pictures, and the heat yesterday was making the frosting slump.
It's a pretty good cake, and the tomato soup doesn't really make a noticeable difference in texture, color, or flavor. Depending on whom you're serving, you may or may not choose to reveal the mystery ingredient. The revelation was not well received last night, I must say.
A quick online search will turn up a jillion recipes, but mine came from an old edition of the Campbell's Soup Cookbook. Next on the menu will be the Rosy Chiffon Cake (also made with condensed tomato soup) and the Steamed Pudding (also made with--you guessed it!--condensed tomato soup).
I have a surfeit at the moment.
Obligatory knitting content:
Currently, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City is having an exhibit on the origins of American photography.
I cannot go, alas, but they have a nice online tour of the exhibit with features to zoom in on photos with great detail. Zooming in on the c.1855 photo to the right reveals that the woman is wearing knitted undersleeves.
To see details, go here, click "enlarge image" and then zoom in two or three times.
The sleeves are really interesting in that they seem to be done in garter stitch, but of stripes made of different fibers, not just different colors. I don't know how else to account for the sheen on the alternate stripes. The cuffs looked ribbed with a crocheted border, but something seems unusual about the rib stitch. It's possible they're done in a twisted stitch by knitting into the back of the loop. It's really hard to tell, but the baby may also be wearing a knitted undershirt.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
I loved working with the hemp and was surprised at how soft it ended up being. Getting the cord through the toggle was a major pain in the ass and involved yarn needles, vice grips, and lots of grunting and swearing. Even LB gave up at one point, but dammit, that cord was going to go through that toggle.
A baby sweater when there's no actual baby is fairly foolish, but sock monkey monkey socks are foolish beyond belief.
The brown yarn is from Regia, the solid from Brown Sheep, and the pattern is my own. I suspect the two socks don't entirely match. In the future, I'll learn how to do a short-row heel. The current heel is a flap heel and involved me graphing out the heel diamond.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
On Friday, we went to an exhibit at Webster University's Cecille R. Hunt Gallery. The link gives show information, hours, etc, and uses a lot more jargon than I would.
Basically, I'd say go. It's cool. As long as you aren't turned off by dead animals. Or by acrylic yarn and crochet.
Friday, August 24, 2007
First, how did women find shawl patterns? Women's magazines and needlework books had plenty on offer, but many were poorly edited. The shawl on the right, for example, came out of Mrs. Beeton's needlework book. If you try to follow the directions, you'll realize that the lace pattern on the back is not the same as the illustration. Worse, there is some sort of huge error in row two of the border lace, making it impossible to complete.
This particular shawl pattern appears in several period sources, each copying or compounding the errors of some ur-shawl.
I am certainly all for going to period sources, but do expect some degree of frustration.
Another option knitters used was to look at other women's shawls and try to copy them or even one-up them. There's a great quote from a period diary about a shawl craze in one southern town where local women vied to create the most vivid, intricate borders.
So a second option is to look at period-CDVs for inspiration.
The simplest option might be to design your own within period parameters.
Read enough period patterns and you'll start to get a feel for period yarn sizes. No one will yell at you for lace weight, fingering weight, or sport weight. If you want to go heavier, be prepared for an argument. I'm not saying no, but I am saying that some folks have made up their mind on this matter.
It should go without saying to use natural fibers for period knitting, not blends. Some fibers to avoid or be prepared to defend are silk, mohair, or angora. Wool is the most defensible, and since shawls were designed for warmth, cotton would be an unlikely choice. Wool. Definitely wool. Wool is safe.
Needle sizes should be proportionate to your yarn, allowing it to drape when knitted. Size 5s are a good bet. If you're knitting at home, go ahead and use those circular needles or blue aluminum, but at an event go for an appropriate needle: wood, bone, steel. For long projects, they used many sets of double pointed needles. Once a shawl gets to a certain size, I just tend to work on it at home.
The basic shape to aim for is a triangle. I have yet to see a period shawl that is circular. Again, I'm not saying there weren't any, but I'd want to see a period photo before spending dozens of hours knitting something incorrect.
The most basic shawl would be like the one above (which is shown folded in half). It's done in garter stitch (all knit). Cast on 5 stitches. Increase 4 times every other row--once at each edge & once on either side of your center stitch. I like a yarn-over increase as it makes a pretty lace effect. Stripe as you will. Consider slipping the first stitch on each row for a tidy edge and to make fringe easier.
Why start with only 5 stitches and work your way wider? At first, it doesn't seem to make sense, for each row will get progressively longer, and potentially more tedious. I know; I knitted this shawl myself. By the end, I never wanted to see garter stitch again.
The advantage, however, is that you don't have to worry so much about gauge or running out of yarn. You simply knit until it's big enough.
That's pretty much it. Don't forget to send photos.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
First, there was the instant gratification of the nostrils (I seriously doubt that sentence has ever been uttered before). In ten short rows, there they were.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I intend to get back to daily updates. They're good for me. On Monday, I was halfway home before I realized I hadn't posted. Today? Same thing.
I have resolved to make more of an effort with my appearance so I don't fall into frumpiness. I got showered and fully dressed this morning before noticing that my cute sleeveless top revealed that I had forgotten to shave my armpits for what looked like a few weeks.
I had also resolved to take care of myself, make sure to eat breakfast, and have at least a reasonable idea of dinner plans. I was halfway to work today before realizing I hadn't eaten breakfast, had no money for lunch, and was facing back-to-back student conferences until 3 p.m. When I got home, head pounding, nauseated from no food, I realized I had forgotten to plug in the crock-pot.
I had resolved to stay away from fast food, but the crock-pot failure smashed that resolution as well.
I had resolved to go on a yarn diet, complete unfinished projects, work down my stash, stretch my creativity and use of colors. Then I spotted an ad for this scarf from Morehouse Merino.
Thank heavens I never resolved to abstain from eating extra salty french fries with a double cheeseburger and knitting at the same time.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Sunday, August 19, 2007
On the product end, sooner or later we stop getting graded on our writing projects and no one grades us, thank god, on our knitting projects.
On the process end, we all have plans for projects in the pipeline: a letter to a friend, an email to our boss, a novel; new socks, a baby blanket, an aran sweater. But the funny thing about process is that you can sit down, intent on cranking out a certain project, and then without warning, something completely different appears.
It's almost magical sometimes.
I wonder how she did it, J.K. Rowling. What she has pulled off has so many layers of meaning, is so intricate (although occasionally simplistically symbolic), that it boggles the mind. My big question is how did she know to lay clues so many years ago for things that would come together in her seventh book?
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Today, however, I broke that rule and happily cast-on, knitted, and cast-off a "fur" collar for my niece. Actually, I don't know who it's going to; I just knew I had to make it, particularly this morning.
The collar got me through an introduction to our new president, a talk on the self-study the school is doing for re-accreditation, a lecture on how we need to be nice to the reaccreditation people or we could all lose our jobs, the presentation of awards to outstanding part-time teachers (if they're so freaking outstanding, hire them why doncha?), a rambling talk from the chief of campus police about what to do in the case of a campus shooting (essentially--run!), a perky talk from the campus communications director on how to avoid being interviewed by CNN after said shooting, and then a series of fairly idiotic audience questions from the same adjuncts who monopolize the Q&A every single blessed year.
In tribute to all the advice being offered to me this morning, I offer you this--staff meetings where no higher ups in your department are present and where you can hide amid hundreds of coworkers are great places to knit in public.
The pattern is from Lion Brand (free registration required). The model is not my niece. She's from Lion Brand too. My collar is white.
Note to Rachel & Annie: Now imagine it in Mardi Gras colors!
Thursday, August 16, 2007
One of the things we and they discussed was the spread of free patterns on the internet. Many are beautiful and incredibly inventive, but pattern writing is a difficult thing, and sometimes you get what you pay for.
Then this afternoon, I got an email asking for some pattern translation. It's a cute pattern for a lace scarf* but it assumes a degree of knowledge on the part of the knitter.
- Start the chart in the lower right corner. The odd numbered rows will be the front side of your knitting, and the evens will be the back.
- On the front (odd) side, you will follow the pattern from right to left. On the back (even) side, you will follow the pattern from left to right. In the case of some lace patterns, the designer won't even bother printing the even rows as they're usually simply purl rows.
- Use a post-it note to mark the row you're working on and keep moving it up as you go. Pretty soon you'll have the pattern memorized.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Monday, August 13, 2007
I've nearly completed one top-secret knitted object and already begun its twin. And, no, it's not socks, although I've turned the heel on the second one of those as well. I'm also almost done a mohair sweater.
I'm at the phase where I actually carry my text books around with me, periodically open them even, but quickly toss them aside.
Since I just used teaching to postpone jury duty, I suppose I should do my civic duty by the little darlings and figure out what I'm going to say to them this year.
- There's no magic to becoming a good writer
- You have to write, revise, and write some more
- And in the end, remember this: Better done than perfect.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Mohair Tip #2: When it comes time to knit a mohair sweater in August ... DON'T.
It's that time of year:
- Tomato and white wine sauce over pasta for dinner last night,
- Fried green tomatoes for lunch today
- Cherry tomatoes for an afternoon snack
- And tomato jam simmering in the crock pot even as I type.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
This was my original seat. Faces have been obscured to protect the nice folks on either side of me, but the problem should be fairly obvious.
After the excitement of the ten-run fifth inning, I realized I was doubled over with my elbows on my knees, looking and sweating for all the world like I had a bad case of the trots. We were so wedged in I wasn't even sure if it was my own sweat I was feeling.
Fortunately, the heat had driven off a lot of less intrepid fans, so I moved up a few rows and stretched out.
The haul (plus 2 other skeins of yarn that I already stashed):
Thursday, August 02, 2007
No photos, but I do have links.
We started in Carondolet, looking at historic homes, some dating back to the early 1850s, and visiting the first kindergarten in the United States. We got so distracted by all the homes that we almost didn't get out of the area. It's easy to forget Corondolet's history. It looks just like any other neighborhood, but it was actually well settled even before the Lewis and Clark period and was annexed by the city of St. Louis in 1870. Cool local sites include the several mansions, one of confederate General Bowen, a convent that had been in the city since the 1830s, limestone laborers' homes, the site of where Eads made ironclads, and more.
Next, we went to Benton Park and the monument to Friedrich Hecker, one of the Forty-Eighters.
Nearby, covering a two- by three-block area, was Fort No. 4, the site of a massacre of Confederate prisoners in retaliation for earlier abuses of Union prisoners.
Fort No. 5 bordered Lafayette Park (scroll down for history), and we ate lunch at Soda Fountain Square (any place that wants to charge $8 for a corn dog had better be damn memorable--and this ain't. It's not bad, but eminently forgettable).
After lunch, it was up to Fairgrounds Park and Benton Barracks. It's amazing to think how many tens of thousands of troops were quartered there.
We finished up by visiting the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing, an underground railroad site. It was woefully under-marked and very difficult to find, but find it we did, and climbed all the way down to the river to view where the runaways had crossed in the hope of freedom. Really well-written PDF here.
Thanks Doug! I know we barely scratched the surface, but it was an inspiring day and made me so glad to live in St. Louis