Sunday, September 30, 2012

Belle Epoque Shawl

Yesterday Mr. SpiderKate and I went out and did a photo shoot for my new pattern, Belle Epoque.  Whenever I need (want) to take photos of a shawl it is guaranteed to be a wind day and yesterday was no exception.  It was very windy.  Ugh.  The good news is that Mr. SpiderKate was very patient and 180 photos later, we called it a day.  

For this particular photo shoot, we took a trip to a nearby park.  Neither of us had been to this park before, so it was nice to see that it was actually well kept and had a lot of walkways.  There was also a little pond at this park that apparently is home to a million turtles.  Okay, so it wasn't million but I counted at least 8 turtles.  Just sitting at the edge of the pond was enough to draw turtles over.  I'm guessing that people feed them so that's why they swim over.  We didn't have any food for them and thus the turtles quickly lost interest in us.
"Why didn't you bring us any food??"
Anyway, on to the shawl details!  This shawl is a twist on the traditional top down triangle shawl in that it is composed of 3 triangles instead of 2.  The extra triangle gives a lot of depth to the shawl and because of that, you can easily cover your arms for instant warmth on cool mornings & nights.  To me, the shawl looks like a mix of a crescent & triangle shawl.  I wasn't really expecting this when I started knitting it, in fact I was excepting the shawl to have a semi-circular shape, but I was really happy once I realized it was taking this crescent + triangle shape.

Belle Epoque was knit with 2 skeins of Manos del Uruguay lace weight yarn.  The actual amount of yarn used was 84 grams, which is 736 yards, knit on a US 5 (3.75 mm) 40" circular needle.  The shawl is not knit in the round, but by the end there are around 500+ stitches, making the circular needle a necessity.   This pattern is available for purchase in my Ravelry shop here: SpiderKate Knits Designs.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cedar Shake Fingerless Gloves

Late last week I finished up the fingerless gloves I was knitting.  The pattern is Cedar Shake from the book JuJu's Loops.  I gave a very brief review of the book in an earlier blog post & about how I immediately cast on for these gloves.  I love these gloves and can't wait for cooler temps so that I can start wearing them.  Though maybe I just need to find some well air conditioned buildings and wear them around in there :o)
The Details:
Pattern: Cedar Shake by Juju Vail & Susan Cropper
Raverly pattern page: Cedar Shake Fingerless Gloves
Yarn: Madelinetosh Pashmina; color Gilded
Needles: US 3 (3.25 mm) DPNs (love knitting with DPNs!)
Glove #1: 29 grams
Glove #2: 29 grams
Total yarn used: 58 grams (180 yds)
I knit this exactly as the pattern instructed including knitted the braided edge as directed.  I'm not sure that it's worth the extra effort to do the braided edge, but it does give a unique edge.  
This edge creates extra ends that have to be woven in later; so if you really hate weaving in ends, then this isn't the edging for you.  I'm pretty sure you would get a very similar look by just purling the last two rounds and then binding off knit wise.  Overall, the pattern is well written, easy to follow, and easy to memorize once you get into it.  In fact, it was easy to forget to change over my row counter because I was just cruising along.  However, you can quickly figure out where you are in the pattern based on the yarn overs. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

This is my confession

Okay. Here it is - I've been collecting Plucky Knitter Yarns so that I can knit a Color Affection shawl.  Plucky Knitter Primo! Fingering weight yarn to be exact.  Before I divulge how many I have, I want to note that the pattern needs 3 colors.  How many do I have, you ask? I have 7 colors.  Yes, I have 7 skeins of this yarn.
The middle color is Vanity
It all started with the purchase of the At Last kit.  This kit comes with the following colors: Bisque, Bashful & En Vogue.  The colors themselves are gorgeous, but I just don't really like the look of the color Bisque with the other two colors in the kit for the Color Affection pattern.  There just doesn't seem to be enough contrast between Bisque & Bashful, at least for me.  
Bisque (top), En Vogue (left) & Bashful
Then I acquired another kit: Blue Bayou.  Included with this kit are the following colors: Early Light, Something Blue & Bohemian Blue.  I should have stopped here because I really love this combination of colors.  But then I was torn because I really do love the colors in At Last, just minus the Bisque color.  I decided that at the next Plucky Knitter update that I would buy a final color to substitute into the At Last kit.  That last color was Vanity.  
Early Light (top), Bohemian Blue (left) & Something Blue
That is story of how I came to own 7 skeins of Plucky Knitter Primo! Fingering weight yarn.  The kicker is that I still haven't knit the shawl yet.  My plan is to finalize colors this weekend and cast on for the shawl.  Part of me is leaning towards knitting the Blue Bayou kit as it is, but I think I'm more interested in combining skeins from each kit.  For example, I kinda like the combination of Bohemian Blue, Bashful, & Vanity.  Or maybe combining Something Blue, Bisque, & En Vogue.  Hmmm. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The design process

I've had a design in the works for awhile now for a 3 triangle shawl.  When I first started designing & knitting this shawl, I had in my head that it would look have a semi-circle shape to it.  However, after working out the details to the cast-on, it looked like the shawl would end up a cross of a crescent, triangle, & regular shawl.  One of the reasons I got hooked on the idea of this semi-circular type of shawl is that I was really curious to see how it would "fit".  I just had a feeling that it would fit more like a cape, but without being an actual cape.  I'm not sure that makes sense, but it will once you see the photos (stay tuned for a post on that!).

After picking out my stitch patterns, I settled on a shawl that would not only have 3 triangles, but 3 sections of lace as well.  The first section would be stockinette, the second section the main body of lace and the third & final section would be the lace edging.  Next, I needed to chart the lace motifs as well as decide the order they would come in the shawl itself.  My favorite order to put lace motifs in is to have a more open motif follow a more closed motif (see the photo of the swatch to make more sense of this).  I got my first round of charting done and then decided to rearrange the order of the rows in the lace motifs.  Well, this took a little bit of figuring, but I finally got it to how I wanted it to look, which I confirmed with a knitted swatch.  
Swatch in the process of being blocked!
Now comes the fun part.  Taking those charted lace motifs and putting them into the format necessary to knit a triangle, top-down shawl.  I love this part because it's like a puzzle that needs to be solved and only I know the solution.  And sometimes I don't even really know the solution until I'm charting it and working out the math and various lace combinations.  I'm not gonna lie - I can become a little crazy and obsessive during this phase of designing and as Mr. SpiderKate likes to remind me "You aren't working against a hard deadline", but I just can't seem to rest until I've "solved" the chart.
Merlin says "Did you make this for me to sit on??"
Once I've solved the details of the cast-on & the charts, it's now time to pick out yarn and needles.  For me, this is a whole other ball of wax.  There are just soo many yummy yarns that I want to knit with, that I can have a hard time deciding what to knit with!  Usually I have an idea of yarn weight & the fiber content that I'm looking for, so that isn't a problem, but more so which brand of yarn & what color.  There are just soo many fabulous brands AND colors of yarn!  I will spend quite a bit of time looking at yarns online, at my LYS, and even in my own stash to see if something speaks to me.   Maybe I should make it a goal to knit every design with a different brand/type/color of yarn every time so that I can experience more of them....hmmmm....I might be on to something here.  

Well, after I finally settle on a yarn & needle choice, then all that is really left is to knit the shawl sample.  Depending on the yarn & intended size of the shawl and what else I have going on, this can take anywhere from 1 week to a month.  Sometimes even longer if I get distracted, but it's never the knitting itself that takes long.  It's more I'm not giving it the proper attention to get it done because I'm working on either another design or another knitted item.  I think that the quickest I've ever designed & knit something was in 2 weeks and the longest being 4 months from designing start to knitting finish.  

And that's a peek at the design process for my next to be released shawl pattern.  The pattern is currently being technical edited and should be available for sale at the end of the month/beginning of next month.  Stay tuned for another post with more details and photos!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chicken & Pepper Stir Fry

Okay, I have a dinner recipe that I just have to share because it is super easy.  Mr. SpiderKate and I are typically early dinner eaters.  We are talking about eating dinner at 530 pm or so.  Sometimes earlier.  I know, we are crazy.  But with me now working until 6 pm three nights a week, our dinner times have been pushed back and I've been looking for dinners that I can prep ahead of time and Mr. SpiderKate can either pop in the oven when he gets home or cook on the stove top.  The latest of these dishes is what I call Chicken & Pepper Stir Fry.

This isn't a new recipe for us and in fact it's a Mr. SpiderKate original recipe, but we've never prepped it ahead of time to be cooked later.  Basically I prep everything and leave it in the fridge, then Mr. Spiderkate can start making it once I'm on my way home.  The recipe is as follows:

4-5 bell peppers
2 good sized boneless chicken breasts
1 bottle of Kikkoman Stir-Fry sauce
Canola or Vegetable oil (for coating the pan)

Bell peppers: cut into approx. 3/4 inch cubes (or desired size)
Chicken: cut into approx. 1 inch cubes (or desired size)
--> These can be prepped ahead of time either the night before or morning of OR prepped just before cooking!  Do whatever works best for you!!  Just remember to refrigerate bell peppers & chicken if you prep them ahead of time.

Using a large sauté pan (I use the largest one we have made of stainless steel), coat with canola or vegetable oil and heat pan on medium-high to high heat.  Cook chicken.  Once chicken is cooked through, remove from pan and set aside.  Now cook the bell peppers in the same pan (add more canola/vegetable oil if needed), stirring constantly.  If you have the heat up pretty high, the peppers only take a few minutes to cook.  You basically just want to cook them enough that they are heated through but not wilted or burned.  Once peppers are cooked, add chicken back in and reduce heat to medium, allowing the chicken and peppers to come to the same temperature.  Add approx. 1/3 of the bottle of Kikkoman Stir-Fry sauce (or to your taste preference) and stir.  Once all combined, your meal is done!

We typically serve this with rice on the side, which either is from leftover rice or cooked fresh alongside the Chicken & Pepper Stir Fry.  We used to add in crunchy noodles (like the ones seen here by La Choy), but we discovered they had trans fat so we stopped using them.  Oh!  We are only making this for two people, so feel free to add in more chicken if you are cooking for a larger crowd.  Also note that you can substitute sirloin steak for chicken if desired, it's good either way.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

News + San Antonio

You have no idea how many times this blog has been on my mind lately.  More so that I feel like I've been neglecting it, even though it's only been a week since my last post.  Okay, so it was a week + 2 days.  A lot has been going on around casa de SpiderKate.   The biggest news is that I start working part time at my local yarn store!  I'm super excited for this new role and I'm not even sure that saying "super excited" really conveys how excited I am.  I started the last week in August, on the 29th actually, and will be working Wednesday, Thursday & Friday afternoons.  Since I haven't worked outside of the home since October 2010, it has been an adjustment back & doing all the things that I regularly do at home.  I'm happy to report that the transition is going smoothly and honestly I didn't expect anything less.
View of desk in our room complete with beta fish!
In other news, Mr. SpiderKate and I went away this past weekend to San Antonio.  We arrived on Thursday and left on Sunday.  My first impression of San Antonio was that it was hot.  Very hot.  I mean I know it's hot in TX because we live in Houston, but it was easily 10+ degrees hotter in San Antonio compared to Houston.  Wow.  We were putting on sunscreen like nobody's business and while we didn't get burned, we did get some sun.
Mission Conception
The first day (Thursday) we went to the Alamo and I learned that apparently I knew very little about the Alamo besides the basics.  Mr. SpiderKate and I opted to do the audio tour and while I think Mr. SpiderKate listened to each recording in perfect order, my listening was a bit more sporadic.  I started doing them in order, but then decided to skip around to what topics looked more interesting to me.  By the end I was ready to be done.  There were a lot of audio topics you could listen to.  I'm pretty sure I didn't listen to all of them.  That night we had some AWESOME Mexican food and margaritas for dinner.  Yum.
Part of Mission San Jose
The second day (Friday) we rented bikes and rode along the river to visit two of the missions within biking reach: Mission Conception & Mission San Jose.  Essentially this is all we did this day because it took up a good portion of the day.  We also got pretty tired of being out in the sun.  Nothing zaps your energy like being out in the sun in 100 degree temperatures.  At least being on the bike was a little cooler than just walking since you get a little bit of a breeze from biking.  I got some knitting done this day and cast off for the main portion of my fingerless gloves and started the thumb.
Cedar Shake fingerless gloves
On our last full day (Saturday) a "cold front" came through which dropped the temperatures to the high 90s and what a difference it made!!!!!!  I always forget how much a difference 10 degrees can make in hot weather until I experience it.  It was awesome.  I guess we should have looked at the weather because this would have been the day to do the biking.  Oh well.  Instead we took the bus out to the McNay Art Museum.  Everyone on the bus (including the driver) was really friendly with helping us out on where to get off for the museum.  The museum was awesome!  I would call it a  medium sized museum, which I think is the perfect size.  While I think that big museums are awesome, I tend to find them overwhelming.  Very overwhelming.  The McNay Art Museum was perfect sized, in my opinion.  Oh! Another awesome thing about this museum? The totally FREE audio tour available from  your cell phone.  Basically you call this number enter the exhibit number on the sign of whatever piece of artwork you are looking at and you get to hear a little blurb about it.  How cool is that??
Courtyard at McNay Art Museum & I'm dressed like a ninja
I am back logged on projects that I need to update here in the blog.  The big thing is that I finished up Mr. SpiderKate's socks.  My progress has slowed on my Rocky Coast Cardigan, but mostly because it's become too big to take out in public to knit on (though I'm almost done with the first sleeve).  I also have a scarf that is almost complete since it makes for good public knitting and of course I have the fingerless gloves.  I'll try to get a post about one of these knitting projects soon.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

New book!

I think it was last week when I was talking to my mom on the phone she told me about a new knitting book she picked up: Juju's Loops by Juju Vail & Susan Cropper.  What do I do immediately while on the phone with her?  I start looking up the patterns on Ravelry.  The pattern that I came across first was the Cedar Shake fingerless gloves.  It was love at first sight!  After checking to see if my LYS had a copy of this book (they didn't), I asked my mom if she could have her LYS reserve a copy for me.  My mom then picked the book up on a Sunday, my dad mailed it out to me on a Monday and by Thursday of this past week I had the book in my possession. 
I've never seen a package say "carbon neutral shipment"
There are eleven patterns in the book consisting of mostly accessories (shawls, cowls, fingerless gloves, scarves) and a couple of garments - a child's cardigan and two adult cardigans - and one toy project.  There is also a section in the back that highlights some free patterns available on the blog for the shop where both women work.  The best way to locate those patterns is either via Ravelry, which has a link to the pattern on the site, or to go to the shop's blog and search for the pattern in the "search the blog" box on the left hand side.
I have the book!!!
Sadly, I didn't have time to cast-on for the fingerless gloves on Thursday, but found some time on Friday morning to get started.  I'm knitting these using some Madelinetosh Pashmina from my stash that was actually a present from Mr. SpiderKate for my birthday last year.  I'm knitting these using US 3 (3.25 mm) double pointed needles.  I didn't get a chance to knit much on them on Friday beyond casting on, but on Saturday I got through the first chart and am now on the second chart.
Progress as of Friday!