Last FO of 2007…

It was a good year for Malabrigo.

Pattern: Worsted Weight Foliage by Emilee, from Fall ’07 Knitty

Yarn: Lovely soft and squishy Malabrigo Worsted in Autumn Forest (aprox 100 yards or a little more than 1/2 a skein)

Needles: US8s & US7s (I knit the crown on US7s, but couldn’t find my circs in that size, so I knit the body & the ribbing on US8s)

Love the pattern.  Love the yarn.  Love the result.

Because I knit it using slightly larger needles, I got a slightly larger hat, which means it doesn’t open up as much as the lace has in other hats I’ve seen.  This gives it a more textured, nubby look – but Lindsey likes it, and that’s all that matters!

Lindsey’s wearing a scarf and hat I knit for her.  I’m wearing earrings, a necklace, and a neckwarmer she knit for me!

I’ll see you all in 2008!

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Cabled Progress, a Meme, and Happy New Year!

And it’s cloudy out and the sunshine is doing something funny.

And this is what happens to a beautifully cabled pullover.

DSCN2373
Weird, huh? I feel like my camera’s messing with me.

DSCN2374
Cabled close-up.

Anyway, the pullover is coming along remarkably well. A few nights ago, I cast on the underarm stitches and joined the whole thing to be worked in the round (you can see a bit of them in the top picture – they’re worked in seed stitch). Hurray for no more purling of wrong sides! Woohoo!

I like the density of the flanking cables, combined with the negative purl space of the center cable. I think it sets it off nicely.

It’s fun to knit, and easy to pick up and put down, so it’s been making a lot of progress.

Lindsey tagged me for a meme, and I’m not that into tagging people, but I will share 7 facts about me here, some random, some weird.

001. I can never remember how to spell “definitely,” and I usually mangle it so badly that spell-check won’t recognize it, so I when I plan to use it in a sentence in writing, I usually just take it out. No one misses it. It’s kind of an extraneous word.

002. I once ate an entire bottle of ketchup (with a platter of chicken fingers) at a diner when I was in high school. I really like it. Oddly enough, every guy I’ve ever dated has not liked ketchup.

003. Sometimes, it freaks me out how large a part of my life the color green has become.

004. I have very strong opinions about certain stuff, but I’m not the best debater and I don’t like to alienate people, so I don’t often share them. Like, I think any woman who does not consider herself a feminist should take a Women’s Study class or read read this and change their mind. I won’t get started on religion. [See? Look, I alienated you].

005. I had wanted to learn to knit for years before I actually learned, but couldn’t find anyone to teach me.

006. Before my fifteen birthday, I had been on a plane too many times to count. Since then, I’ve been on a plane four times. And one of those was two weeks ago.

007. I like to be very cold when I sleep. I have a fan in the bedroom I use year round. This drives my boyfriend a little crazy. It’s ok – he likes to sleep with the TV on, and this drives me a little crazy.

I’m heading up to Boston for the New Year, so you won’t hear from me till then. Have a safe and happy one!

Chicago Yarn.

On my last day in Chicago, I had some non-training time, so I went out to find yarn.

I visited Loopy Yarns. They had a really great selection – not only a wide array of yarns, but plenty of colors and fibers and textures, too. They had the new Manos Silk/Wool Blend, and I spent a good ten minutes just standing by it, petting it and trying to decide if I wanted to purchase a sweaters worth. It’s DK weight, and I’ve had my eye on the Gathered Pullover from the Winter IK 2007. I wanted a beautiful yarn, with great texture and primarily wool. I thought the pullover would show off a semi-solid hand-dyed yarn beautiful, like Lorna’s Laces or Socks That Rock. The Manos Silk/Wool came in a wonderful acid green, and it took all of my control not to grab ten skeins and let that be it.

In the end, I decided to get a few skeins of a few different yarns. This worked for me for a few reasons: it’ll let me try yarns I’ve never used before, and wouldn’t necessarily want to purchase online, and I didn’t want to check my luggage, and ten skeins of Manos, no matter how beautiful, might be the difference between carry-on and checking.

So I said goodbye, and found a few other yarny friends to come home with me.

Two skeins of Misti Alpaca Chunky in a deep pink color. So soft and a lovely color.

Two skeins of Mirasol Sulka, a worsted mostly Merino with a little silk and alpaca blend. It’s a single ply, and has a great texture – very shiny, because of the silk, and wonderfully soft, because of the alpaca and merino. It also has a great heathered look.

 

Three skeins of Needful Yarns Joy, a self-striping single-ply wool with a lot of loft and very fun colors. I read that it felts like crazy, too.

 

One skein of Berroco Ultra Silk in a periwinkle color. This was kind of a whim – they had a cable swatch knit up and I just loved the drape of it. I don’t exactly know what it will become. It’s a tubular construction, which is neat.

I had to spend a good twenty minutes at the airport shoving it into my suitcase, but we (the yarn and I, that is) made it home safe and sound.

Did you finish your holiday knitting?

I did.

I tried to keep it simple, and didn’t knit for that many people.

One of the gifts has not been given yet, so it shall remain a mystery for the time being.


The Holiday Gift pile at my parents!

My major project was the sweater vest for my stepfather. I did most of the knitting and finishing in about a week, then life got a little crazy – I started a new job, I traveled for said job, I fell deeply in love with my cabled sweater project [which, by the by, is looking good! It’s worked top down and I just cast on for the underarm stitches, woohoo!].

So soon it became the day before our holiday celebrations and I still had to pick up the stitches for the button bands and sew on the buttons (beautiful antiqued wooden buttons I had picked up at Pins and Needles in Princeton on that morning.)

Button Close-Up.

I knit and knit and marked and sewed and blocked and wrapped.

And it worked!

Finished Vest

Pattern: Classic Camel Vest from Men in Knits by Tara Jon Manning

Size: Medium (worked at a tighter gauge to achieve a small)

Needles: Us6 for 5.5 spi, instead of 5 specified in the pattern

Yarn: Filatura Laranota Chaco, good ol’ 4-ply worsted wool, in a tweedy hunter green (about three skeins)

Mods: None!

Began: End of November, 29 or 30.

Finished: December 22.

And it fits. Woohoo!

The one funny thing I did was to place the button-hold on the top button a little too high. I didn’t realize this till after I had knit the button-holes. That’s why it is unbuttoned in the pictures.

Button/Cable Close-up.

I also knit my grandmother a scarf for her birthday, which is on Christmas. I finished it up on Christmas Eve, tasseled and blocked and wove in ends and wrapped it before going to sleep. Just in the nick of time.

Grandma's Scarf

Pattern: Shifting Sands by Grumperina

Needles: U8s

Yarn: Two skeins of squishy soft Malabrigo Worsted in Pearl Grey.

Mods: 37 sts across instead of 50 for a worsted-weight version. I slipped the first and last stitch of every right side row instead of the last stitch of every row for my own aesthetic tastes. A little bit of fun with tassels.

Grandma's Scarf

It’s squishy, warm, soft, and lovely. I love Malabrigo, and the pattern was just perfect for the texture and subtle color of the yarn.

Homemade Coffee Liqueur!

Be warned: there is no knitting in this post!

Dan and I decided to make homemade coffee liqueur (like Kahlua or Tia Maria) for holiday presents this year. An assortment of our friends and family will be receiving these bottles. I’m really impressed with how the liqueur came out – the coffee really mellowed out, as did the vodka, and it’s really sweet without being overpowering and very tasty. So if you’re wondering if it’s worth the effort to make instead of picking up a bottle of Kahlua: yes. Totally.

Coffee Liqueur

Our estimated costs, total, were $75. That breaks down to $6.25 per bottle – and we have 1.5 quarts left over! But no more bottles. [The bottles were from Sunburst Bottle Company – the labels are from MyOwnLabels]

Edited to answer some questions:  We used Gordon’s Vodka, which was pretty inexpensive at $15 for 1.5 liters at the warehouse club.   I had intended to use a better quality vodka, but was low on cash that day.  It doesn’t taste like we used cheap vodka – I wouldn’t recommend, say, Leed’s, but it doesn’t have to be top-shelf.

The same goes for the coffee.  I used instant coffee [Nescafe to be exact] – partly because I’m not a coffee drinker and thus did not have any coffee grounds or a coffee maker at hand, and partly because I realized I COULD make some cold-brew coffee and use that instead of instant AFTER I had purchased the instant coffee.’

Both of these slightly cheaper, less quality ingredients made for a very bitter drink right after it was mixed.  The coffee flavor was very predominant, as was the sting of the vodka.  As it sat and aged for a few weeks, it mellowed considerably, and the flavor expanded, as well as became less bitter.

The moral of the story?  Use top shelf ingredients if you want.  Figure out the ratios to use real, brewed coffee, spend a few extra bucks on espresso – but I didn’t, and my liqueur is still amazingly delicious, and much better than any coffee liqueur I’ve ever had off the shelf. 

As for how to drink it?  How not to!  I found it much more palatable straight up than Kahlua, and it would be fabulous in any cocktails that call for Kahlua or Tia Maria.  I think it would be delicious over ice cream, or used as a coffee flavor in baking.  Mmmm..

Coffee Liqueur
The leftovers. For us!

Here’s my recipe (which I doubled).

JD Blumriel Coffee Liqueur

1 & 1/4 cups instant coffee
1 lb brown sugar + 1/2 cup white sugar

6 cups of water

6 cups of vodka 

2 vanilla beans (or vanilla extract, but I don’t know the equivalent)

Yields: 120 oz

In a large pot, heat the water and sugar until sugar is fully dissolved. Take off heat and add coffee. Stir until coffee is dissolved. Allow to cool.
In a even larger pot or large jar, combine your cooled coffee/sugar syrup with the vodka. Split the vanilla beans in half and add. Seal tightly, and place in cool, dark place to mature for as long as you can stand it (a month is good). The vodka bite will mellow, the coffee flavor will expand, and the vanilla will come out.
Pour into bottles, removing vanilla beans*, if you used them. Give to people you like, or drink it yourself.

*You could probably dry off the beans and soak them in some vodka to make home-made vanilla extract when you’re done with them in this recipe.

 

Coffee Liqueur
A close-up of the labels. MyOwnLabels has a bunch of different patterns and templates to choose from – this was one of the “beer” ones, I believe. The name is our initials, and a portmanteau of our last names.

 

The weather outside is frightful…

Bad news: New Jersey is closed. Well, actually, the North East is closed. They don’t want me anymore. All flights from Chicago to the NYC area were cancelled today. So I’m in Chicago for another night.

Good news: I went from a room on the fourth floor to a room on the forty-ninth floor. Hello, view.

Good evening, Chicago. And how are you tonight?

Bad news: I gave up, and completely ripped out the sweater I was working on a few nights ago. And then I couldn’t decide what to do with it for two nights. Two whole knitting nights lost! Thank you for all of your advice!

Good news: I’m back on track this evening.

Mmm. Knitting, cookies, and Veronica Mars. I really know how to live it up in the city.

I started from the beginning. I reknit the saddles, using a different cable but made it the same length. I modified the cables for the front panel slightly. They now read, with nice two stitch purl ditches in between them: 10-st braid, 8-st horseshoe, 10-st braid, 2-st cable, center motif with a cross in the middle, 2-st cable, 10-st braid, 8-st horsehow, 10-st braid.

 

The inspiration is still all Amy Swenson’s Charisma Pullover (did I mention how much I love that sweater?) – I mostly played with the numbers and made the cables a little more fun for me to knit (like.. I prefer to knit left leaning cables. They’re easier for me to do without a cable needle). The 2-st cable that flanks the central design was added because I made a math mistake – for some reason, I thought the braid cables were going to be 12 sts, and then when I started knitting – I realized that I wanted them at 10. This left me with 8 extra sts, and I didn’t want to rip out and pick up stitches again (I’ve been doing that for days!). So.. with a 2 st purl ditch to go with each cable, my only option really became that 2-st cable. It was a happy mistake – I really like the frame it creates.

 

See that cross in the center of the cable motif? And the little two stitch cables?

Bad news: I miss New Jersey.
Good news: I get to go home tomorrow! That is, if the New Jersey opens again.

Help me in my hour of cable need.

I had my traveling project all ready to go: Amy Swenson’s Charisma Cable sweater, knit in good old 4-ply worsted weight wool I got at Rhinebeck at the Little Barn, $35 for a bag of ten (woohoo!). I knit the saddles waiting for the plane, and joined for the first panel waiting on the plane, and knit a good few inches last night.

All ready to go...
The orange cotton is waste yarn, and I don’t have a printer, so I copied down the charts and color coded them.

I was about four inches into the first panel this evening. Except.. I just didn’t like how the center cable was looking. If you look at the pattern, the cables kind of butt up against one another, and the idea of having them cross, of being one big cable instead of two next to one another really appealed to me.

Rip.

Before
Picture’s a bit shaky, but honestly, wouldn’t that pile of yarn in the middle make you shaky?

Two episodes of Veronica Mars, a lot of patience, and the dream of chocolate kept me going.

After
My hand is much steadier now. I added a cable cross in the center, where the cables “butt up” against one another. See those loose sections?

And now I can’t decide if I like it or not. Actually taking a photo and looking at it really helped. The reverse stockinette surrounding the cable is really loose – just the byproduct of going back and fixing the cable. I’ve tried to tighten the individual stitches on the reverse, but it left me with a lot of little loops, and the front still looking kind of straggly.

At this point, I was ready to rip it all out, and use something a little more complicated and a little less reverse stockinette driven, like a Saxon Braid cable. But all of that knitting! And I do like how the cable looks now with its center cross.

Your honest opinion – will an hour of meticulous stitch tightening and a good blocking save this cable? Or should I rip and re-adjust?