Pink Monkey Knits

Using my opposable thumbs to knit up a storm!

Friday, August 31, 2007

I Block Socks 

I know that most people don't bother to block their socks, but I always wash and block mine after I finish a pair. To me, it's an essential step after completing the actual knitting to make my garments fit well and look finished, and I see no reason why socks should be exempted from this process. If they have a stitch pattern on them, the blocking will help accentuate it and even out the stitches. Wool sock yarn can bloom and soften after a nice wash, which only makes a pair more comfortable.

There's one more important reason: colors can bleed, especially hand-dyed yarns in dark colors.

While I don't have photographic evidence of the actual event, I can show you two photographs that, while they were taken in drastically different lighting situations, give an idea of how colors can fade after a good soak.

unfinished oak rib

Finished oak rib

Oak Ribbed Socks
From Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks
Blue Moon Fiber Arts Sock Candy
Size 3mm needles

Clearly, the colors are still fairly bright, particularly the orange. The water did turn very black when I washed these, however, and it took several rinsing before the water ran clear. The socks turned the other items I was washing with them to a darker shade. After drying, the socks seem to have a much limper, less sharp quality of color. It may not be visible in this photo, but there are also subtle lines on the sock showing where the dye ran more strongly.

I'm very grateful that I hand washed these and discovered this before throwing them in with a load of laundry! If you don't want to learn this lesson the hard way, you too should block your socks. I'm cheap and don't want to buy sock blockers, so I made mine from wire hangers; here's a tutorial that shows you how to do it. Note that when I folded the foot for mine, I held it up to my actual foot so that it would be about the same length.

Despite this incident, I'm still pleased with these socks, which are the first cotton ones I've made. The pattern works well with the striping of the yarn, although I did have to modify it slightly due to the heavier gauge yarn. The modifications included shortening the heel flap by four rows and changing the toe to a wedge shape, as the rounded toe didn't fit me well. The socks fit pretty well, mostly due to the Elite fiber content. They're comfortable and, even if they aren't as bright as before, they are still fun and totally Project Spectrum-themed.

Nothing like a well-blocked sock to brighten one's day.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Project Spectrum Rocks My Kitchen 

Please allow me to indulge in a little food blogging. Some dishes take so much time and effort that I feel just as proud of them as I am of a well-fitting sweater!

Last week was Cobra's birthday. Since this wasn't a milestone birthday for him like last year was, he specifically requested a low-key celebration. One of the very few things he requested, along with a dinner at Cafe Flora, was a birthday pie.

I'm a pretty inexperienced baker. I was raised to be very conscious of the fat content in food, so we never made pastries requiring whole sticks of butter in my home growing up. All of my experiments in this realm have to be made with my own process of trial and error. Last year, I tried to make him a blueberry pie with a store-bought crust and a "quick" recipe. Not so good. This year, I decided to step it up a notch.

One of my coworkers has a plum tree and brought in a huge bag of the fruit to share with us. I looked online to see what kind of baked goods I could make with this fruit and came across this delicious-sounding recipe. Yes, this would be my inaugural all-from-scratch pie.

As I was putting the ingredients together, I realized that they perfectly fit with the current Project Spectrum triad.

plums and oranges

(I saw that I had some other color-appropriate foods around, too.

Quinoa and Rice )

I was most concerned about making the crust because I knew that it could make or break the whole endeavor, and also I don't have a food processor or rolling pin. I enlisted Cobra's help with this step, since he's more detail-oriented in cooking than I am. We soon learned that hands work very well as mixers and wine bottles are sufficient, if not great, rolling pins.

After a few hours, a tempting looking and smelling pie emerged from the oven.

Pie and its Eating

My first pie was a wonderful success! As you can see from the many expressions on Cobra's face, he also felt its deliciousness was worthy of his special day. I can also say that this recipe would be divine with peaches and transcendent with cherries.

Will there be more pie-baking in my future? Definitely! I'm going to whip out another one of these suckers for the Rivet Magazine Country Fair on Sunday (OK, except I'm not going to make the crust for this one myself - too much work). If you can, stop by and try a slice to see if my assessment is correct.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Getting Back on the Horse - the Iron Horse, That Is. 

When I lived in DC, I often enjoyed hoping on my bike to explore the city or get where I needed to go. Since moving to Seattle, however, my bike has mostly sat neglected on our balcony. The terrain here is very hilly and our apartment happens to be perched right at the pinnacle of a somewhat steep grade.

Surprisingly, there are many committed cyclists in the city, including Cobra, who rides once or twice a week with a group of fixed gear devotees. Inspired by his many cycling adventures and my desire to enjoy and explore this beautiful place, I decided to go on a ride this past weekend. To keep myself from being too intimidated or discouraged, I decided to ride on the mostly flat Burke Gilman Trail.

My Steed

I'm so glad that I got over some of my fear of riding here and finally pushed myself to do it. It was a great way to enjoy the beautiful day and get my body moving. I rode for a while towards the northeast and when I got tired, I gave myself a break with a special reward.

Wild Blackberries

Blackberry bushes grow along both sides of the trail, so I decided to stop and partake of the delicious fruit. If it's wild, it should mean it's organic, right? I was a little worried about accidentally encountering bird poo or huge sacks of spider eggs, but the juicy flavor of the ripe fruit carried all those thoughts away.

Caught Purple-handed

Thankfully, there are no blackberry cops around because I would have been caught purple-handed.

I backtracked a bit then decided to take a detour. Melissa has been raving about Trophy Cupcakes in Wallingford since she's started working nearby, so I figured I'd give myself a much richer treat than the blackberry bushes could provide. This involved getting off the trail and riding on some hillier terrain. I had to take my time and stop a few times, but I'm proud to say that I made it.

Trophy Cupcake

My hard work before digging into my Red Velvet cupcake made it taste twice as good.

Otherwise, this week has been very tiring for me. I had two job interviews at the beginning of the week, which combined with a day of work at my temp job really exhausted me (I haven't heard back from either place yet, wish me luck!). Thankfully, I have some delicious comfort knitting waiting for me at home.

Sizzle Start

This is the start of the Sizzle tank top in Artfibers Galicia. My father went to San Francisco for business earlier this year, and I suggested that he stop into the store to see if there was anything I'd like while he was there. In a tremendous act of kindness, he bought me a large cone of this Galicia yarn and two colors of Satori! Needless to say, it was one of the better birthday presents I received this year.

Unequivocally, I can say that this is probably the best yarn that I've ever knit with. The silk creates a multi-shaded sheen while the wool and mohair make it so soft to the touch. The slight difference in the colors of each ply make for a beautifully multi-hued fabric. It drapes superblyand complements the simplicity of the pattern perfectly. If you have a generous father, see if he'll get you some of this yarn to play with, as it's absolutely divine. For that reason, I'm calling this top Delicious Sizzle.

The best kinds of Sizzle result in a delicious finished product, and I hope this holds true for this top.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Out the Door Again 

Just as I was writing about how wonderful it felt to come home, I was getting ready to head right out the door again! My parents decided to have a joint 60th birthday party while my brother and sister-in-law were in the country, so off to Pittsburgh I flew to join in the festivities. This was my first time visiting them and the East coast since coming to Seattle, so it was good to see how much time I could cram in and how my body handled a long weekend trip (not well).

My parent's party was very nice and allowed me to catch up with some of my former neighbors. The highlight was definitely the cupcakes my mom ordered; each cake had a rendition of either my mom's or my dad's face on it make from chocolate and candy. Despite their hilarity, the partraits were actually somewhat accurate. I didn't get a picture on my camera, but I will post one as soon as I get it.

The travel time gave me some good knitting opportunities.

Wooly Cherries

This is a My So-Called Scarf done is Manos Del Uruguay, Bramble colorway. I'm calling it the Wooly Cherries scarf. Lolly gifted me with this yarn for my birthday last year, so I figured it was time to move it out of the stash. The colorway is beautiful and, as I'm sure many other folks who have made this before have noted, the stitch is easy but keeps your interest. I started this scarf in Uganda when I was really feeling like I needed some simple, wooly comfort. I was feeling a little weary of the slow pace and overwhelming nature of the country by that point and just didn't have the patience to work on the other project I had going, which is complicated and on small needles (that I probably won't continue). This scarf really fit the bill for knitting comfort. I actually finished this on the plane home from Pittsburgh and will get a modeled shot soon.

On my last day in the 'Burgh, I was able to attend the Chihuly at Phipps: Gardens & Glass exhibit at Phipps Conservatory. I hadn't been to Phipps in many years, so I enjoyed seeing the remodeled areas of the building and the beautiful flora inside. Of course, seeing Chihuly's organic, alien-looking glass works was a tremendous treat.

Balls in Boat

Colorful Bowls

Fern and Butterfly

Pink Tower and Cathedral of Learning

The only drawback was that we visited an a nastily hot and humid day, which was only heightened by hanging out in a greenhouse for a few hours. If you want to go, wait until September!

Sadly, going out of town caused me to miss some major summertime events in Seattle. The first was Seafair, which apparently involves boats and getting buzzed by the Blue Angels. While I missed the main events, I was able to see the military ships circling the Seattle harbor on their way into town from the office in which I've been working.

Ship and Ferry

I also missed the Dead Baby Bicycle race (which I was sadder about than Seafair, honestly). Cobra missed the drunken dangerousness that apparently comprises the race, but he did make it to the after party. You can see some folks on tallbikes jousting, pedal-powered ferris wheels and other, blurrier mayhem in his photos.

Seriously, this time I'm really staying here for a while.

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