Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cork Gnomes

Cork Gnome pattern (Korknisse)

I got addicted to making these a few weekends I mourn the loss of all those corks I threw out before!!

Guess what everyone is getting for Christmas this year :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Perfect Baguette: IV

The baguettes are coming along nicely. Here's a second batch using the recipe from Baking Artisan Bread by Ciril Hitz....

They turned out even better this time. The crust is nice and crispy-chewy, and my stipples are looking prettier. I forgot to take a picture of the inside, but it was pretty good - not enough holes though. I guess I'm still not proofing it long enough, or maybe I'm degassing it improperly. I'll roll the dough more gently on batch 3 to see if that helps.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Weekend Cat Pics

Last weekend Gatsby became a member of The Seniors Club at our local vet clinic (!) I guess 9 isn't that young anymore in cat years. He's mellower, friendlier and lazier...but the gleam in his eye informs us he can still be a feisty beast. And the yowling around meal time has only gotten louder. Ah Gatsby. You lovable pain in the neck.

Here he is in action, running to the fridge at mealtime:

Seeking attention while D tries to work:

Friday night Yuengling...

"Do I look fat to you?"

D and I took a little trip down to Philly and participated in some touristy stuff, and ate a lot of Chinese food...the non take-out kind. It was awesome. On the way home, we also scored some IKEA goods to furnish our little house, so now I'm typing on our new coffee table which I think makes our living room a bit more complete.

More to come later.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I finally started quilting...

Indeed I did! I finally overcame the quilting inertia... I'm following the basic idea for the snowball quilt in Kaffe Fassett's Kaleidoscope of Quilts

Are you thinking the same thing as me? It's bright, eh? I'm hoping it will look less kindergarten-decorationish when it's all sewn up. It took me the longest time to choose a pattern because there are just sooo many to look at...of course, it was my own fault for looking at so many books at once, but I like having lots of options.

The cutting was done over two days, which could have gone faster if I just focused on doing that instead of arranging the squares as I went along...a difficult task, I have learned. And then I ended up spending ages rearranging them all over again. When you stare at so many colours for a long time, your eyes start playing weird tricks on you and you lose your sense of design (I do, anyway), so D had to help me finish up as Gatsby sat on the squares, getting them all hairy.

So, each octagon is made by sewing four small squares diagonally from corner to corner, then folding it over and trimming the excess bits. That means LOTS of little bits. Maybe I can use them for something...? It would mean teeny teeny work though...

I've finished three of these strips so far, each one 13 octagons in length...another twelves strips await. I'll probably add a big border around it so that it will be a queen-size quilt. I'm hoping to finish before next Wednesday since we'll be having people over that night, and I've got to be all cleaned up. I'm staying home all day today, so I should get a lot done. After that, I'll have to think about how to actually quilt this thing. Likely by hand.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pleated Smock Dress

Three for three this week! More sewing this time.

This little dress was made from Simplicity pattern 3808, which claims to be a top but I think it could be a dress. The fabric is just quilting cotton from the stash I've managed to accumulate over the past year, and I think it's just a little bit girly and not dripping with pink sugariness. It's got tucks in the front, pockets, and a scalloped fact, I'd like to wear this myself, if it were in a bigger size.

Who's it for? Not me...but I do know several little girls whose mommies might dress them in this.

I woke up this morning feeling completely wired, thinking it must be time to get up and that I'm just feeling refreshed from a good night's sleep. Noo, it's still the middle of the night. I've been up, doing dishes, tidying up, looking at knitting magazines, cutting quilt pieces and blogging. It's about 6am now. Ech. I blame the cup of coffee I had at knit night.

Hmm, I wonder if I'll be able to manage four for four this week...

New Clothes for Queenie

Another excuse for not blogging as much is that I was working on some pretty boring stuff that I didn't think was particularly blog-worthy, but because I'm feeling pretty pleased with the results, I'm going to share it with you, in case you had some home furnishing craft urges too.

...I made a bed skirt. Because it was outrageously expensive to buy one.

We got a new bed for Christmas, but it's just on metal rails. One day my dream is to own real bedroom furniture not made of pressed wood, but since that's expensive stuff, it'll be some time before that happens. But while I'm waiting, I figured the least I could do was give the bed a skirt to make it look a little nicer. After some research, I realized I'd need a skirt length of 17", which just doesn't seem to exist. I found some 18" skirts, but they were usually full of ruffles and eyelets... I just wanted something plain. Plus, I would have had to hem an 18" skirt, and I wasn't about to fork over $175 to do another 2 hours of work myself.

Being thrifty is kind of fun, especially when you've got lots of time to spare and like crafts. I went to TJ Maxx and bought a luxury King-sized sheet, got a DIY book from the library, and set about making this box-pleated skirt. The book was Simple Soft Furnishings by Katrin Cargill, and I did the skirt without the cording in the pattern (a major pattern errata: it told me to add 22" to one piece of fabric when it should have been 2". Stupid typo).

My box pleats turned out quite neatly if I say so myself! But not without significant whining and fussing, and bit of cursing...I had to do it over a few times, but that's because I'm a semi-perfectionist. The plus side is that I've now totally got the box pleat down, in case I ever need the technique again...maybe a table cloth? A chair cover?

Anyhow, I'm liking the skirt. I think it makes my bed more appealing. Gatsby and D agree too. Maybe I should have chosen a more exciting fabric...the book used a cute gingham fabric. I never really thought about making clothes for my bed eyes have been opened!

Total cost: $9.99 plus tax, and a full day of fussing. If I ever make a second one, I'm sure it would take less time.

So, what are you going to make for your bedroom?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Perfect Baguette: Part III

Does anyone remember my ranting about eating bad baguette after bad baguette in Columbus? It seems like a long time ago, but it never got better. The best bakery I came across was actually passing off sourdough as baguette-shaped imposters. At the time, this baguettelessness lead to some big talk about how I was actually going to bake them myself and become the artisan baking pro...

There was a loaf here and there, but admittedly my baguette-making had been unusually slow, which I readily blame on such problems as lack of ingredients, laziness, poor timing, vacationing, moving, and preoccupation with cake decorating and knitting. Consultation with blog records show that it has been well over a year since I last attempted baguettes. A year! Excuses no more. I recently acquired a copy of Baking Artisan Bread (written by my friend Devon's chef from school), loaded with fantastic pictures and descriptions to make beginners feel like they, too, can join the ranks of seasoned bakers.

Just look at those loaves! Crispy, chewy, and flavourful. Consultation with the book's trouble shooting section told me that my loaves were a little under-proofed, oh well. See how tight the crumb looks? It should have more holes, but whatever. Tastes good, and is on its way to being a regular in my kitchen. D said it was the best baguette we've had since moving out of the mid-west.

The Baguette recipe was rated as a medium-difficulty bread. I followed every instruction step by step (rare), and where I didn't have the equipment mentioned, I improvised - a dish towel instead of a couche, a greased mixing bowl covered in plastic wrap instead of a lidded box, a wooden chopping board instead of a peel. From start to finish, there were only a few hours of active work and a whole lot of waiting around spread over 1.5 days (machine mixing = no sore arms!) Shaping the dough was simple with all the nice pictures provided in the book. I was even brave enough to roll the tops in sesame seeds and trying out the snip/fan thing. Pretty. Of course, this means that it was no longer a true baguette, which only has flour, salt, yeast and water. Did you know that in France, there is a law that prohibits anything else to be added to a baguette sold in a bakery? I didn't know you could face charges involving bread. Be warned.

My dinky oven presented an annoying challenge. With its ridiculously small size (think large microwave), a regular cookie sheet just barely slides into the rack holders, and it burns things more quickly than a large oven. Forget about double-layering your pans to reduce bottom-burning. I ended up putting an extra cookie sheet on another level in hopes of offsetting some of the heat. It destroyed my pan, but at least my bread bottoms survived.

D and I devoured two loaves immediately by dunking the pieces in hot molten cheese (Valentine's day fondue) and I saved the other two in the freezer. With results this good, I'm sure going to be making a lot more out of that stay tuned!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Turn-A-Square Hat

It's never too late for more winter hats!

While I was back in Toronto last month, I churned out two of these Turn-A-Square hats and busted through some of my worsted weight leftovers. How I love using up leftovers! There is something just so satisfying about it.

It's an easy and free pattern, so go and download it for your pattern library - you'll be glad to have it when you're thinking about Christmas presents later this year. Each hat took only a few hours to make, and I gifted one to my SIL. You also get to practice jogless stripes, which I now realize I did completely wrong for my striped vest. Just shows you how you're never as clever as you think you are...

My knitting is a bit all over the place right now....I finished the orange sweater and blocked the sleeves, but haven't photographed it again. Another pair of fair-isle mitts are in the works, but after about 4-inches of progress I realized I forgot to leave a thumb hole - GAH. I'm not ripping out sticky wool, forget it. It will probably become a cell phone cozy or something. With that failure, I cast on for a pair of ankle socks to use up some leftover DK weight wool with a simple cable lace pattern, which will hopefully knit up quick enough to maintain my interest.

I've been baking and making bread too, which I plan to post soon - I've been a bad blogger lately, so I've got to pick up the speed and try to redeem myself a little.

Hope you all had a great Valentine's weekend and did something fun with your sweetie. D & I gorged on cheese and chocolate fondue, an appropriately 80s date-like dinner for two.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ingenue in progress

Meet my red-orange Ingenue, the sweater I started at the end of December in a fit of knitting enthusiasm - I'd just discovered Wendy Bernard's (of Knit and Tonic) new book called Custom Knits, which seemed to answer all my questions about top-down knitting. I had no idea you could knit a set-in sleeve from the top down, or how you could make a big scoop neck from the top down. This pattern is actually really easy, and has a simple garter lace pattern to make it a bit more interesting. I haven't yet decided if I'll roll the neck down and stitch it in place, or leave it as a funnel. Did I mention that I *LOVE*LOVE*LOVE* how there is virtually no seaming, and being able to try it on as I knit?

After holding onto the book for as long as possible from the library, I decided this was worth ordering. Thanks to my brother for the exciting box of craft books that arrived in the mail yesterday: along with Custom Knits, I got the Well Decorated Cake, Denyse Schmidt Quilts, and Kitchen Confidential! Yippee!

It's almost done, but as usual, finishing is taking me forever. I gave it a good soak and blocked it last night since the bottom hem was creating this ballooning effect near the hip decreases. What's left is the sleeve's meant to have 3/4 sleeves, but since I am running out of yarn (what else is new) I am planning to knit the cuffs separately and join them on with a Kitchener stitch. I think the short sleeves will look cute.

I'll probably jinx it by saying promising when it'll be done. Let's just say it'll be done when it's done, and hopefully that doesn't mean next year!