Monday, June 30, 2014

Eek! My First Steek

It's been a busy few weeks here, preparing for company both this past weekend and next.  The pictures that have been leaned up against various walls for weeks have finally been hung.  Final coats of paint have been applied to waiting surfaces.  And, I finally found a coat rack!  I've been searching for months, but the only ones I've found were at antique stores, and they were not quite the right style or price ($65 and up).  Then, miraculously, I found one on clearance at Target for $17.  Simple, and it fits right in!  At last, I have a place to hang my bag!

A surprising source has taken care of my fungal gnat problem, too.  Because I'm completely inept at caring for houseplants and ALWAYS overwater (or, conversely, never water at all), we've struggled with the pesky fungal gnats that love to lay their eggs in wet soil.  I bought a carnivorous plant last year (a pitcher plant) that never seemed to do much.  This year, though, sundews came up from the same soil.

See all the gnats caught on their sticky stems?   Hooray!

I've been keeping an eye out for new wildlife, but all I've spotted so far is this really cool hawk - variety unknown - that perched in a nearby tree for a quick rest.

Inside, I've been a baking machine.  I've been baking bread (recipe here):

A 3-layer lemon cake with vanilla bean frosting and mascarpone filling (recipe here):

One of my favorites:  pull apart bread, this particular variety being cinnamon and sugar.  Lovely rise...

The moment of doubt when the dough, buttered, seasoned, cut, and stacked, doesn't fill the pan:

Relief!  The first rise takes care of that:

It bakes up beautifully:

A little icing seals the deal!  Recipe for lemon variety here - switch out lemon for cinnamon and sugar to make this particular variety.

I've been knitting, too, but I'm afraid it's been a real exercise in frustration.  I am not content to knit the same easy stockinette patterns over and over again - I want to continually challenge myself.  I decided a few months ago that I wanted to knit myself a sweater.  Not just any sweater, though - a stranded knitting sweater with sew-in sleeves and a steeked neckline.  I picked my pattern (Aunt Fred), ordered my yarn, and got to work.

The first issue I had was switching my dominant yarn color after a brief knitting hiatus.  The result?  The background color changed, and I didn't notice it for SEVERAL INCHES. 

I frogged it down to the mistake and then proceeded to knit it incorrectly, AGAIN.  I had to frog it all the way back to the blue ribbing at the bottom and start over.  Nice progress on the body, the sleeves knitted up nicely, but I attached them incorrectly:

You can't see here, but I knitted several inches above what is shown here before I realized my mistake.  I frogged and re-knitted it TWICE before I finally got it right.  Next came the shoulder shaping.  Again, I knitted it incorrectly TWICE before I finally got it right.  My stitch count was off by 10 stitches, but by this point, I didn't care.

I was ready for my steek.  I had put in 7 lines of "waste yarn" in the middle of the sweater, where the "placket" (V-neck) was going to go.  I spent a night watching youtube videos on how to crochet up and down the sides of the waste yarn to secure the edges...

...and then made my cut down the center, between the reinforcement.

Curses!  I didn't properly secure the top or bottom stitch, so I had little 1-inch pieces of yarn flapping.  I grimly tied them up and kept moving.  I was confused about the shoulder-seaming directions (now WHERE does that fourth needle come from?!?) so ended up grafting them together.  They look shoulder-like, but I'm not sure how they'll hang.

I picked up the stitches for the collar...

...but was confused AGAIN.  Pick up stitches along each side, and then short row wrap and turn along back of the neck...ugh.  Short rows.  I got hopelessly confused and ended up putting the sweater aside, even though I'm in the home stretch.  I need a break from it.  I started another sweater - just one color, and what I thought were detailed directions, but soon I saw the dreaded "Follow this same pattern, changing up x and y as needed, for 28 more rows."  I'm not someone who easily sees patterns, and I really prefer to have each row written out - especially when you have cable rows and seemingly random placement of knit and purl stitches throughout.  I put that away, too.  I think I'm going to take a knitting break for a while!

Phew!  I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Have a great week! 

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