Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Emily Sweater

Busy busy busy. That's been me lately. Bloggers, just like everyone, have periods of ups and downs and go through different stages in their life. Being busy with work has translated into less available time for me to spend on the Internet and what free time I have I have spent knitting!

Knitting has always been a meditative and relaxing hobby for me. It's a place I can go and relax and forget everything else in a peaceful setting and worldly occupations don't bother me.

This is my newly completed Emily sweater from Kim Hargreaves' Heartfelt - The Dark House Collection. I really enjoyed knitting this sweater and am totally ecstatic with how it came out. I wish the photos did it justice, but the details and rich color of the yarn proved very hard to photograph and there is only so much you can do with fill light.

This will not be an everyday sweater for me. I'll keep this folded in a drawer and only wear it on special occasions. It's nice to keep a special sweater that you know will look appropriate when you need to get a little more dressed up.

As I have found with past sweaters designed by Kim Hargreaves (my Flo cardigan comes to mind) the devil is in the details. She really has a knack for taking a simple pattern and adding finishing touches that make it special but still not terribly complex to knit.

This sweater, as I say, is a very straight forward knit. The only thing that gave me pause was the neckband. The pattern is a bit sketchy on this bit and simply instructs you to knit the neckband separately and then stitch it "neatly" into place. That's not very helpful. I wasn't intending to sew it on sloppily anyway.

I truly had no idea how to tackle sewing it on as I never sew anything! This is where Murielle of Murielle Knitwear a dear friend and invaluable resource stepped in. She pinned the neckband on for me and explained that it would be best to use a simple back stitch to sew the neckband into place on the surface of the knitting. But here's her real gem, that I'm going to fondly refer to here on Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog as "Designer Tips and Tricks." Murielle told me that I needed to use regular thread to sew on the neckband because using yarn would make the neckline too heavy. She was absolutely right and I would never have thought of that on my own because I always use yarn to seam/finish my sweaters. It's a little detail like that which can make the difference between your sweater looking "handmade" versus "homemade."

Particulars: Emily designed by Kim Hargreaves; Heartfelt - The Dark House Collection; 6 skeins Rowan Kid Classic (colorway #832 - black swirled with a dark purple ); US 7 needles (main body) US 6 (lower body details) US 5 cuffs and neckband; Modifications: I knit the body in the round and downsized the pattern to an XXS to achieve a more fitted garment. Dimensions: I began armhole shaping when the body length was 16" and the sleeves are 24" long. Rather than go into more details here I'll put the rest on my Ravelry page for those interested.

Breakfast and its Role in my Quest for a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle!

When I am busy it is hard to take the time to eat a proper breakfast but eating properly is key to avoiding getting run down and sick. I also find that if I don't eat a sufficiently substantial breakfast I find myself hungry around 10 a.m. and then I'll snack on foods that are unhealthy like sweets and chips. So, the key for me, was finding a breakfast meal that I enjoyed enough to motivate me to take the time to make it. Voila ~ a bowl of steel-cut Irish oatmeal!

I love this stuff. A warm bowl of steel-cut Irish oatmeal is how I begin most mornings (along with a sliced up apple and a handful of walnuts). I've been eating this for breakfast for years and I'm pleased to note that it is finally becoming more mainstream which is great, because that means it is more readily available and at a better price.

I have found that the best and most tender steel-cut oats are the "pinhead" variety. I order Organic Pinhead Oatmeal produced by The Oatmeal of Alford on-line and buy it in bulk from Chefshop. I have found that toasting the oats for a minute or so brings out the nutty flavor and adds a nice touch. Simply pour your oats into a sauce pan and allow them to toast up a bit before adding the water - do this very quickly or they will burn. I use 1/4 cup oats and 1 & 1/4 cups water. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon on a low simmer and when the oats are plumped up and the water is nearly all absorbed it's ready. This process only takes about 8 to 10 minutes with "pinhead" oats. Top it off with brown sugar and a banana and you have yourself a warm and tasty meal that you and your family are sure to love!

If you live in Los Angeles or anywhere near a Jamba Juice you will find that they now sell a tasty bowl of this. So if you are out and about you might want to give it a try - it's much better for you than a Cinnabon at the Mall!

Have a great week everyone ~ and make sure to eat a proper breakfast!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cabo San Lucas

A Quick Trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Living in Southern California means that a trip to the Mexican Riviera is only a 2 hour plane flight away. Sometimes you just need a break and it's amazing how a few days away can feel like a lifetime when you are in a totally different setting.

Some of our vacations are very exotic and strenuous (sometime I'll tell you what it was like to trek in the Himalayas of Nepal) but this was purely a plop down and soak in the sun trip.

As a consequence not much of anything was done. Not even of a knitting nature. I did start on a pair of Snicket Socks (free pattern compliments of Sari's Mindful Knitting ~ Ravelry Link) using Madelinetosh sock yarn (malachite colorway). But, as you can see, I didn't get very far. This is beautifully dyed sock yarn and really soft on the hands. I don't know how well it will wear, but it's lovely to knit with.

We did manage to drag ourselves over to the marina one day for an outing. It's a beautiful harbor and is reportedly the sport fishing capital of the world. Next trip we really must give that a try.

Here's Steve acting like a twelve year old. Honestly, I can't take him anywhere. I blame myself, though. Giggling only encourages him.

Unfortunately dear little Mr Puffy wasn't able to go. Somehow I don't think the medallion pendant quite made up for being left behind.

Have a great week everyone ~ and if you can't get away ~ try cooking a dish from some place you would like to visit and invite friends over for a theme night potluck!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Romantic Beaded Scarf

There's something romantic about long flowing scarfs and twinkling beads. That's why I'm calling this my Romantic Beaded Scarf which ~ serendipitously ~ I finished in time for Valentine's Day!

If you have never played around using different textured yarns in your knitting, you will find it is a fun way to create a unique and complex fabric all your own. The technique of "layering" works best with yarns that are in the same color range. If you are anything like me or my friends (Renee of Renee knits too can attest to this) your stash is likely filled with yarns in the same color tone already. In fact, I personally find it very hard to break away from my "colors" even when I want to. On more than one occasion I've come home with new yarn only to realize - in shock and disbelief - that once again I've bought yarn that is very similar to something that I've already got. But that won't happen again because I. will. not. buy. blue. yarn. again. maybe.

To create a rich and complex fabric what you want besides yarns in the same color range is yarn in different textures as well. Rowan Kidsilk Haze is a great choice for layering because it will soften up any yarn and give it a soft halo of color. My Lace Ruffle Scarf is an example of a project knit using this technique. All you do is hold both strands of yarn together and knit away. Wonderful stuff that kidsilk haze.

The only real design element in this scarf came from a suggestion of my dear friend, Murielle of Murielle's knitwear, who suggested that I try adding a couple of rows of lycra to the middle, which I did. It is for this reason that the fabric breaks very sharply and gives a nice clean modern look to the scarf which is best illustrated in the picture above. I'm actually hoping to get Murielle (a knitwear designer) to write a guest post for us here on Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog and share some of her designing tips and tricks with all of us!

This is the first project that I've knit with beaded yarn and I love the effect. It is hard to show in the pictures but the texture and tactile feel of this scarf really makes it special. I did enlarge the picture below to better show the detail.

Free Pattern: Romantic Beaded Scarf

Materials: Approximately 450-600 yards DK weight yarn (use two or 3 different textured yarns of similar color) I used 3 skeins Tilli Tomas Flurries (colorway skydrop); 2 skeins Tilli Tomas Aspen (colorway skydrop) and 1 skein Rowan Kidsilk Haze (colorway heavenly). Optional: small amount of Lycra or very thin lace weight yarn.

Needles: Circular US 10.5

Gauge: Not terribly important but I like my scarfs to be at least 60 inches in length so swatch and calculate the number of stitches to achieve whatever length you chose. I knit this scarf on 190 stitches and my scarf measures 62" x 6" - without including the fringe.

Note: This scarf is knit in garter stitch and is knit from side to side and not top to bottom - hence the need to use long circular needles. Yarn A = Aspen yarn stranded with Kidsilk Haze and Yarn B = Flurries yarn. Using Yarn A cast on 190 stitches (or whatever your gauge indicates) and knit 2 rows. Knit the next two rows knit using Yarn B. Continue alternating every two rows between Yarn A and Yarn B. To knit the scarf on the bias (which is what I did) on all odd rows increased 1 stitch at the beginning of the row and decrease 1 stitch at the end of the row. I did this on odd rows as follows: K1, make one, K to last 3 stitches, K2tog, K1. The optional middle design is worked on very thin yarn using much smaller needles (I used 2 strands of Lycra and dropped down to US 5 needles) and knit in stockinette for approximately 6 rows. Make the fringe ~ because I wanted lots of texture in the fringe ~ I made my fringe using only Yarn B (beaded yarn) and cut strands 16" long (8" when folded) and attached them using a crochet hook. Have fun playing with different yarns!

And a Little About Valentine's Day while I'm in the mood to talk about Romance!

Fifty years ago the blue velvet heart pictured below held a stand of pearls given to my mother as her wedding gift from my father. That's romantic. But it's even more romantic that he sold his fishing boat so he that could afford to buy my mother a beautiful engagement ring.

Today it displays a beautiful romantic necklace that I purchased from the talented and thoroughly enjoyable blogger, Tracy of Pink Purl, whose Etsy shop is filled with fun and romantic accessories and jewelery. Her blog is a delightful place to visit with wonderful writing, varied craft projects, and tasty recipes! I tell you, some women are so multi-talented it just floors me.

We don't exchange gifts around here to celebrate Valentine's Day but we do try and make it a fun day and an occasion to make each other feel special. That's fun and easy to do if you write a special Valentine poem. To get you started I'm sharing a couple of our Valentine's:

Mr Puffy's Valentine to Mia (Mr Puffy harbors a crush on this little dog who lives next door):

You're so cute
You're so sweet
I'm going to share
My milk bone treat

Claudia's Valentine to Steve:

Hair dark as coal
Eyes blue as the sky
No one's cuter
Than my sweetie pie

Steve's Valentine to Claudia:

I regret this was not printable. It failed to pass the strict family guidelines here at Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog. No good asking what it said as I will not gratify any prurient interest.

But I will share one way that Steve and I keep romance in our lives and that is to eat dinner by candlelight every night. So rummage up some candles (unscented candles work best for dinner) and give it a try this week ~ it's a nice way to relax and begin your evening!