Thursday, March 31, 2011

EZ as Pie Sweater

I recently finished my first sweater using EZ's (Elizabeth Zimmermann) Percentage System. I say this is my first, because this is such a brilliantly simple way to build a sweater based on the yarn you want to use, that I fully plan on using this formula again in the future. I thought I'd write about what I did here, and then perhaps flush out her instructions to clarify.

It's knit from the bottom up, and I used Cascade Eco, with a generous 478 yards per skein. My entire sweater took not even one and a half skeins -- the sleeves were the only thing I needed the second skein for. It's pretty itchy, but knits up into a nice sturdy wool sweater.

A guage swatch is essential for knitting a sweater like this -- you have to figure out how many stitches per inch you get because you will multiply that number by the number if inches around you are so you know how many stitches to cast on. I measured the widest part of my hips, because I knew I wanted the sweater to come down that far, and ended up casting on 144 stitches. I used a knit three, purl one rib for about three, maybe four inches on the bottom hem, then knit straight for an additional three inches. I wanted a slightly shaped sweater, so I added in some decreases on each side, then increased back up to 144 stitches, then continued to knit straight until the body of the sweater measured 10" from the bottom. (Now that it's completed, I can tell that I should have knit for at least another 3"-4" -- it's shorter than what I was planning for.)

The sleeves were simple. I wanted 3/4 length sleeves, so I measured that part of my arm and multiplied that number of inches by my guaged stitches per inch, then added a few stitches since the ribbing would allow for elasticity. I cast on 40sts for each sleeve and matched the bottom hem with k3p1 ribbing. Made two (duh).

I wanted to use Raglan shaping for the shoulders, so I did one round where I simply knit across to join the sleeves to the body. I put 10 sts at the side seams and underarms of the sleeves on hold to be grafted later, and put all 224 stitches together on one needle. I placed markers where the sleeve underarms met the body, and then proceeded to do a standard raglan decrease for another 5 inches or so.

Standard Raglan Decrease:
Round 1: Knit to 3sts before 1st marker; ssk, k1, pm, k1, k2tog; knit to 3sts before 2nd marker; k2tog, k1, pm, k1, ssk; knit to 3 sts before 3rd marker; k2tog, k1, pm, k1, ssk; knit to 3sts before 4th marker, ssk, k1, pm, k1, k2tog.
Round 2: Knit.

I put my sweater on waste yarn and tried it on until the neck was where I wanted it to be, minus about an inch and a half. Since this was my first time using this form of construction, I figured that was the most fool-proof way. When I got to where I wanted (like I said, about 4 or 5 inches up from the armpit), I knit the collar using the same k3p1 pattern for the hems and cuffs. Bind off using EZ's sewn bind off technique, and tah-daaah!!

I blocked the hell out of it -- it was tight and short, so I got it good and soaking wet and stretched it periodically over the drying time (about two days to be completely dry). It's not as tight and not as short, but still tighter and shorter than what I thought I was going to get in the end. Note to self.

I've written out the whole pattern completely, so send me a message if you want more details. I'm thinking of trying this again using some lovely Pima Cotton I got on sale and making a summer t-shirt out of it ... but still have a few things in the works before that will happen. Look for future posts explaining EZ's method in more detail!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tastiness = Happiness in the Form of Scones

I've had the urge to bake lately. It showed up late one night, right as I was about to fall asleep, and it came to me in the form of a pie. My first thought was blueberry (a sure sign of spring) and played with cherry or apple, but I kept going back to blueberry. Dear doesn't like cherries anyway, and it's not very smart for me to bake a pie that only I would eat when I am less than 90 days from WD (Wedding Day).

It occurred to me the next day that I have never made scones, and they couldn't be THAT hard. I found this recipe that is SO SUPER SIMPLE I thought it would make others happy, too. It's adapted from a cherry scone recipe I found on Weight Watchers' website.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray.

Mix 2c flour; 1T baking powder; 1/4T baking soda; 1/4c sugar in bowl. Set aside. Mix 1/4c (1/2 stick) melted butter, 1c reduced fat buttermilk, and 1 egg in another bowl. Take blended wet ingredients and mix them with the dry. Fold in blueberries (or fruit of choice, cut up into smallish bits). Form into 2"-3" mounds and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Mighty tasty, if I do say so myself. These will definitely make another appearance. They took me about 30 minutes, start to finish, so you can even whip these up for an impromptu breakfast/ brunch situation.
In knitting news, I have several projects happening at the moment. The ever-present sock (currently being knit with Crazy Zauberball, so better seen than written about), The Contented Cardi by Hannah Fetig {rav link} and a new neck scarf with a pattern I made up in my head. It's not quite half-done, but I'm looking forward to wearing it this spring:

Knit with Rowan's kidsilk mohair in a pretty pretty blue. I recommend bamboo needles or something that's very very light when you knit with this -- it's thin and I've learned that lighter needles do well with thin yarns.

My mom's visiting this weekend to help me take care of some wedding chores and we're expecting to have a lovely time. Knit happily!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tasty Adolescent Chickens

Last night I made some pretty tasty baby chickens for dinner -- or, more accurately, cornish game hens which only LOOK like adolescent chickens. They had them on sale at the King Soopers near our house and I had never made them so I decided to give it a try.

They were MUCH easier to roast than the full-size chicken I did a few weeks ago. First of all, they came giblet-free, which I have now decided is a must for me. Or at least get them contained in a little bag, like with turkeys. The chicken had them all loose in the cavity and I even surprised myself at how grossed out I was cleaning the inside of that chicken. Much simpler to give it a hearty rinse inside and out and be done!

After rinsing them, I put them in my make-shift roasting pan and prepped them for seasoning.

Them's some nekkid chickens. I mean hens. Nekkid hens.

I made an herbed butter (super simple: take as much butter or margarine as you think you'll need and dump some herbs in it; moosh together) and spread it on the breasts of the hens under the skin. Someone told me this trick for seasoning a turkey -- the butter melts and helps keep the meat moist, and still gives it a good flavor if you (like me) choose to remove the skin when you eat it. It was a little difficult because the butter (which was actually margarine) wanted to stick to my fingers more than the hens, but it worked out eventually. I used parsley and a little Italian seasoning in the butter, and sprinkled some more Italian seasoning on top.

Not so nekkid hens. I used the toothpicks to keep their legs and wings tucked in during baking. Helps them stay moist. You could also tie the legs closed, but toothpicks were closer.

Pop in the pre-heated oven at 350 degrees and bake about an hour (larger hens may need more time). I took these out about halfway through and drizzled some olive oil on the top to make sure they didn't get too dry, and they didn't at all! The hens came out absolutely perfect, although my potatoes on the side were a little under-done.

A tasty meal for me and Dear. It was the first time we ate at our table without guests! I felt very grown up. I really enjoy cooking for other people, and my mom and grandmother taught me that setting a nice simple table is quick and easy, and makes a huge difference. This is a very simple setting, but it was a lovely dinner anyway.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ripped it and re-cast on

My Good Ness, how time does fly. I can't believe it's been so many months since I took a little blogging time for myself and posted here, but I suppose calendars can't lie. Rather, they can, but I get the idea that this one is not.

It's been a crazy five months (FIVE?? Holy cripes, I may need to sit back and ponder that one for a moment). Dear and I were happily ensconced in life in the Denver-Metro area, me working at a couple LYS's teaching and knitting away; him in his office downtown, finding oil and natural gas for the rest of us to play around with. Then we got word that his job was transferring him (yes -- again) further north, to Cheyenne, WY. That means he was facing a four hour drive every day, so we packed up (yes -- AGAIN) and moved an hour north to the slightly quieter town of Fort Collins, CO. We're quite happy here, we were able to find a nice house and we have lots of space and a yard for the first time ever. I'm planning away my garden and get a quiet little thrill every time I peek at my craft room.

That's right, you heard me. I have a craft room.

I tried my hand at working in an insurance office for a few months, only to find out that I do not have the drive nor the desire to sell insurance. Now I'm getting back in touch with my crafty roots, knitting on several of my own projects and sticking my toe into waters related to test and sample knitting. More on that as it develops (and as I am allowed to share).

But enough words! Photos! Photos of Finished Objects, I say!

First, there was a sweater:

The Cobblestone Pullover by Brooklyn Tweed, knit for Dear; yarn: Cascade Eco Plus

Then, there was a second sweater:
My first sweater using EZ's Percentage System; the sleeves are 1/2 length. Yarn is Cascade Eco Plus

Somewhere in there, I also finished a pair of socks:

The Yarn Harlot's Earl Grey pattern, from her blog; yarn, sadly, unknown

This is not all I knit in the past 5 months. I made multiple Christmas gifts and promptly forgot to photo every one before mailing them off. I also knit and ripped several hats, and have a few things on needles at the moment, but I'm saving those for a future blog post.

Oh, I also got engaged!

Hope all has been well with my readers! Please don't give up on me -- I know it's not the first time I've disappeared, and I can't promise I won't take another hiatus someday in the future ... but be sure to check back for more on my knitting adventures, and my upcoming adventures in learning new recipes and gardening. I call it my Idiot's Guide to Home Making.