Monday, February 25, 2013

Baby Baby [with tea and cake]

If last month was Jumping January here in my Stitchity world, then this one has definitely been Flat February. Despite all my best intentions I have found it near impossible to make any sort of time in the last few weeks for stitching of any kind. The first month of the new year was a blurry haze, fueled by pain and painkillers, but it was also a strangely creative time as well. And now that the dust has pretty much settled, quite literally, I have been attempting to recover my household from the five-week absence of the housekeeper (me).  During the time that I was missing in action I had to delegate the dismantling and relocation of my sewing room from one end of the house to the other. The boys did a sterling job under the circumstances, but until I can muster the time and energy to reorganise their effort there will be no stitching here.

So I have turned to knitting in the evenings. There is a vaguely suppressed feeling of panic about the arrival of my very first grandbaby, due in 17 weeks time. It will be high winter, and a bubby must have warming woollies for those chilly and frosty days. In a serendipitous moment I made one of those bookish "heart buys" last year when trawling the shelves of my local repository of tomes, The Turning Page in Springwood. I now wonder, was it prophetic perchance?

I love this book, each and every page, but I especially love this almost vintage little chappy man-vest. The design is simple, with a purl stitch detail running in lines down the front and the back. The pattern called for Debbie B's own Baby Cashmerino, but sadly finding it absent on the shelves of my local yarn stockist I turned to a tried and true old classic in Paton's Bluebell. This is a crepe yarn made from 100% Australian wool (and therefore it is good).
The vest was finished over the weekend - a miserable grey Saturday, where up and down the Eastern coast rivers were swelling and spilling from torrential rain and howling winds were uprooting trees and tearing at already battered communities. It was wet-wet-wet here in the mountains, but there was no risk of flood and the worst of the winds seemed to pass us by. In a household denuded of people I sat quiet and content with basket of yarn and a puppy at my feet. I have been listening to a reading of Anna Karenina over the last few weeks - an audio-book loan from my local library. The vest is finished, the matching socks are almost a pair. The book is still a work in progress, but I have yet to fashion a little woolly beanie to finish the set, so there are hours more of comforting cocoon-time ahead. But back to the cake ...
I found this recipe for Delicious Lemon Bread with Lemon Glaze on the Primally Inspired webpage over the weekend. As someone who tends to avoid grains and refined sugars I thought I'd give this a whirl and see whether it really WAS a cake substitute. The cake is based on coconut flour and uses loads of lemon juice and zesty zest with a small whack of honey for flavour. So I measured, and grated, and juiced, and whisked the whole mess together and tipped it in a pan ...
I thought a light sprinkling with poppy seeds in order with all that lovely lemony goodness in the mix. When the timer on the oven went *bing* piping hot cake was removed and liberally brushed with a lemon and honey glaze and left it to cool. And the verdict? Um, I shall be polite and say that I think this is a recipe with potential. The generous amount of "baking soda" [read bi-carb] is much more generous than good taste would dictate. So next time, I think the soda won't even leave the cupboard, and maybe a goodly cup of shredded organic coconut wouldn't go astray. But in the end, I have for the most part given up cake. And there really isn't any substitute for good cake, is there!

Evie xxx

Monday, February 4, 2013

Evie's Perfect Baby Sock Recipe
Free Pattern!

I have been a relative latecomer to the knitting scene. Not that I couldn't kind of knit before. I did learn years and years ago, when I was a girly girl and crafty macrame things made out of string were all the rage. And truly, I was a deft hand at whipping up stripey scarves and ugly coat hanger covers ... but that is all. I have a sister who has forever been a wonderful knitter, and I marveled at how she could wrap her head around such strange things as "*K1, YO, K2, (slip 1, k2tog, psso,) K2, YO, K1* repeat until end of round". These secret little codes left me completely bewildered ... Until I was made to discover sock knitting.

Said sister was knitting socks, knitting socks, and naively thought that she would attempt to guide me on to sock-dom. Never was a sorrier sock knitted. I managed to cast on with these unfamiliar DPNS (Double Pointed Needles - obvious, isn't it). And then came the ordeal of slipping stitches onto additional needles, and did I have the right number of stitches on these needles, and was there any chance that I could join this strange thing together without getting it in a twist?! It has been such good fortune that I was blessed with the sister of eternal optimism. It seems I had a special knack for dropping stitches, losing stitches, adding stitches, knitting on the inside of the round as well as the outside (where I was actually supposed to be knitting). Each misdemeanor was lovingly corrected by my knitty guardian angel, and the sin expunged. But I couldn't learn from my mistakes. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't "read" my knitting. After many weeks, nay I say months, ball of yarn with the the first five inches of sorry sock attached were tumbled into a bag and flung into the drawer of abominations.

Then came the crazy winter of sublime content. A sudden and unexpected urge to knit struck me afresh, and I remembered the sadly abandoned sock-of-all-worry. And here I say "thank you" to YouTube. You taught me what a Heel Flap was, and how to construct it. You taught me how to Turn the Heel, the decrease that makes your heel narrow down and turn the corner! And then how to pick up all those magical stitches along each side of the sock, until I had a lovely circle again. You showed me all this. How those stitches form the Gusset , and how to work the decrease rounds that create the triangle bit on the side of the sock. And finally, that finishing touch, the toe; first the Decrease rounds and then, the icing on the sock, that thing I love best of all, Grafting the toe using Kitchener Stitch, creating that wonderful invisible join that simply can't be seen. And now I sound like I know what I'm talking about.
I couldn't stop at one, I had to knit more! I finished my second sock, so making a pair, even though one of them was much dodgier than the other. And then I had to knit more and knit more so that I could not be in danger of forgetting this wonderful new trick! So many pairs of socks have followed. I started to experiment with my very basic pattern, knitting up happy pairs of socks for all the beloved ones. I moved on to baby beanies. I LOVE knitting in the round! I can do it, I can do it. Little baby booties followed, and then I went on the search for the best baby-sock pattern I could find ...

And here I stumbled. Each of the little sock patterns that I tried just didn't quite work for me. They required a 4-ply sock yarn, but employed 4mm needles - Too Big! Not Right! I couldn't get the look that I so desired, a nice finely scaled baby sock. Enter Knitty's Socks 101 tutorial - a whole screed full of the workings of sock anatomy and how to deconstruct or simply construct a humble sock. 

And so, my own version of the perfect baby sock pattern was born. So many baby socks have been knitted, for the babies of nieces and nephews, for friends, for strangers, and now for my blossoming Nana glory box. 

So here are my baby sock construction photos. Would you like the pattern? [scroll down to the bottom]
The ribbed cuff, the leg, and the slip-stitched heel flap
Decrease for the heel completed

Heel decrease is complete - back view of sock

Picking up stitches along the heel flap

Heel stitches on side of sock, front of foot on cross needle

Back view of stitches along heel flap
Gusset decrease has been worked
Front of sock - foot and toe decrease complete

Back view of sock - heel, foot and toe decrease complete
Ready to graft the toe

Grafting using Kitchener stitch

And finished!
And now that you feel like jumping in and knitting Baby Socks (just because they're way too cute) you can grab the pattern for free from my little knitting spot on Ravelry. I give you Evie-May's Perfect Baby Sock Recipe . I'm about to down needles and drop into bed, but I hope that if sock-knitting has long been a mystery for you, that my warts-and-all confession of a novice sock-knitter might encourage you to go forth and Sock it! Let me know how you go?

Evie xxx