29 January, 2008

I Am Wool

No, I'm not making a Zen knitting statement, I just took the "Which Fiber Are You" quiz at the Pottercraft site and it tells me that I am wool. Finally I know my destiny. Really though, it's a fun quiz and if you email them with your results as the subject and your postal address as the body of the message they will send you a free button so you can tell the world.
So what does it mean to be wool like me? Well according to the quiz results it is this:

Wool – Resilient and extensible“Wool is extremely resilient and highly extensible…you can stretch it a third of its length, or two-thirds when wet, and it’ll recover to its original shape.” –The Knitter’s Book of Yarn
Wools have a very peaceable and amenable personality. You are a social animal and tend to prefer the company of others over solitude. You are agreeable and rarely on the wrong side of an argument. You are not a fighter but you are strong. You are resilient and don't let things bend you out of shape, and you can show a lot of self-restraint when necessary.

Perhaps so, though I would have to disagree on the dislike of solitude. In public, the more the merrier but when I walk in the door to my house it's like walking into my own hermitage. Save for Tom, the dogs and the cat I really just want to be left alone most of the time.
*** Update - 1, February 2008 ***
I just received my free "I'm Wool" button from Potter Craft. It looks just like the picture at the top of this blog. Someone even wrote "Enjoy!" on the card to which it was attached. I'm a sucker for personal touches, they melt my cold little heart.

24 January, 2008

Desperate Measures

I have a big sweet tooth, if it contains sugar (or even sugar substitute), I want it. Well, today was one of those days where I arrived home from work feeling cold, worn out and anti-social. Oh yeah, and really craving something sweet. Tomorrow is grocery day and I really didn't have much in the house to make sweets, especially notable was the lack of fruit, confectioner's sugar, white sugar, butter and milk. ARGH! I couldn't come up with anything. So I collected my thoughts and figured since I didn't have milk or butter I would have to whip up something Vegan. I came across Peanut Butter Coffee Cake at VegCooking.com and it hit the spot wondrous well. Granted, my version didn't turn out vegan and I had to fudge it a bit as well. I used real eggs (yes, I'm going to hell), I substituted water for Soy Milk, and I used oil instead of margarine. I know this sounds like a mess but it came out perfect, delicious and it tamed my sugar craving. Perhaps one more piece? Ah, if only I had a cold glass of milk. Oh, here it is...

Peanut Butter Coffee Cake
Serve this delight at your next brunch, and it will be gone before your guests can say, “Another cup of java, please!”

For the topping:

1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup peanut butter
3 Tbsp. margarine

For the cake:

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
Egg Replacer equivalent of 2 eggs
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) margarine

• Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
• For the topping, mix the brown sugar and flour. With a pastry knife, a fork, or your fingers, cut in the peanut butter and margarine until crumbly; set aside.
• For the cake, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the soy milk, peanut butter, egg replacer, and margarine. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes with an electric mixer. Pour into the baking pan and sprinkle with the topping. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Preparation time: 20 minutes Baking time: 30 minutes
Makes 12 servings

Counting My Chickens Before They've Hatched

The US government is in the process of approving a tax rebate for citizens who meet certain criteria in order to boost the economy. The original plan was an $800 check, but it's looking like $600 is going to be the amount if in fact it is approved. Nonetheless, I'll take it! Though I take everything our government says with a proverbial grain of salt, I'm jumping the gun on this one. Maybe it's the winter doldrums, maybe it's the after holiday poverty or maybe it's the promise of several hundred dollars worth of knitting books and supplies! Tom and I tend to be very simple, practical people who don't splurge on much of anything. Even our income tax returns never go towards anything fun; they go toward things we need, not things we simply want. Tom and I decided that this would be "free" money for us, we can each spend our half however we please. Of course this had me poring through knitting catalogs/websites as well as my Amazon wishlist in order to compose what I called my "$800 List". Well, it looks like I'll be paring the list down a bit but I'm not upset, after all it is money that I wasn't even expecting. I was only at an estimated $700 of my $800 list anyway. At least I didn't get too carried away.

15 January, 2008

KP Options Harmony Wood Interchangeables

Today was my day. I arrived home from work with a hunch that I would see a parcel from KnitPicks with my name on it and sure enough, there is was. I carefully opened the package and beheld what I had longed to behold (for seven business days at least)... my spanking new Knitpicks Options Harmony Wood Interchangeable Knitting Needle Set! My quest for interchangeable knitting needles came about last November. I decided that an interchangeable set would be the most practical and economical way of obtaining a good arsenal of assorted knitting needles. I did a bit of research on interchangeable sets and the Harmony set won me over.

The needles have the perfect feel in my opinion, the birch needle tips have that paradoxical combination of hard and soft texture that makes me partial to wooden needles. The finish on the needles is hard and slick with just that minute amount of "drag" which I'm sure will be much appreciated when working with slippery yarns. The needles are also nicely tapered and have good points. The colors are lovely as well, they're not at all as garish as I was lead by some reviewers to believe. I even think they're more subdued than the pictures on the KnitPicks website. Then again, I'm of Swedish and Pennsylvania Dutch heritage so I'm not afraid of color. The joins are smooth and align virtually seamlessly to the cables. The cables have a nice amount of flexibility to them but they're not droopy and have a good bit of memory to them. Overall, I couldn't be more pleased with the construction and appearance of these needles.

Before receiving my set, the one thing I thought I wasn’t going to like was the case for these needles. It seemed too plasticky for such pretty wooden needles and it struck me as the type of thing women receive as a freebie from department store cosmetics counters. I was a bit hasty in judgement as I do find it practical for the time being and it snugly holds the needle tips in individual sleeves along each side of the bag. The provided case also leaves room for the size 13US (9.00mm), 15US (10.00mm), and 17US (12.00mm), needle tips (sold separately), as well as two additional sleeves for what you will. There is room in the center for the bag of cables, cable caps and various other knitting accoutrement. I may however, replace this bag as my only fear is it’s lack of harder, more protective sides. It was suggested to me that I look at sportsmen’s shops for a “worm binder” which is a case that fishermen use for their (synthetic) tackle. The Browning Fishing Jumbo Worm Binder looks like it would do the trick nicely.

I had also read a complaint that they didn’t come with any type of instructions as to how to properly attach the needles to the cables. I beg to differ; the card that is enclosed with the cables (the thing said complainer probably pulled out and threw away), has the instructions printed right on it, and frankly it's not that hard to figure out. I liked KnitPicks low-profile, low-waste product packaging, I wish more companies were as conscientious. Mind you, everything was packaged securely enough to arrive unscathed.

Because KnitPicks has the lovely policy of free shipping for orders over $50US I picked up two little extras with the money I had set aside in case of shipping & handling fees. I bought a set of the Needle Size ID Tags which are sturdy and convenient, as the needles themselves are not marked. I was also pleased that these tags displayed both Metric and US sizes. Finally I picked up a KnitPicks View Sizer, while not as pretty as the metal sheep needle sizer I had my eye on, it is solid and quite practical. It's a needle-sizer, magnifier, ruler, gauge check, and pattern marker all in one. This is also far more handy than my current (now previous), model.

In closing, I'll wrap up this review with...

The Rundown: Knitpicks Options Harmony Wood Interchangeable Needle Set

What You Get:
  • Nine pairs of laminated birch needle tips. Sizes 4US (3.5mm), 5US (3.75mm), 6US (4.00mm), 7US (4.50mm), 8US (5.00mm), 9US (5.50mm), 10US (6.00mm), 10.5US (6.50mm), and 11US (8.00mm).
  • Two 24" cables and two 32" cables.
  • Eight end caps (for storing work on cables or making "straight" needles.
  • Two cable keys for ensuring a snug fit when joining needle tips to cables.
  • A vinyl cable case.
  • A large zippered vinyl storage case with compartments for needle tips and room for additional pieces and notions.

Cost: $69.99US

***EDIT*** I previously forgot to mention I was also pleased with the needle tip length on these. The needle tips (from join to point) are approximately 4 1/2 inches (11 1/2cm) long with the wooden part (just the wooden "working area" excluding metal join) being approximately 3 1/3 inches (8 1/2 cm) long (this varies from size to size but the total length seems consistant). This suits me nicely as some interchangeables had much shorter needles and I have big hands.

13 January, 2008

Yarn Review: Lion Brand Jiffy

Disclaimer: I know fiber-snobs are probably scoffing at the fact that the first review on this blog would be Lion Brand Jiffy. At least they'll be pleased to know that it wasn't a pleasant experience. I chose this because I was looking to pick up a cheap skein of whatever that didn't feel too horrible for making some practice swatches. Also, I don't have a local yarn shop since the only thing that can survive the void in which I live is Wal Mart. As this blog is meant to cover all the aspects of what I am currently doing, (I have purchased much better fibers for finished works), I thought I'd be fair and give equal time to the best and worst of my experience.

The Facts

  • Brand: Lion Brand
  • Style: Jiffy
  • Color: Grass Green
  • Material: 100% Acrylic
  • Weight: Bulky

My Take

I did not like working with this yarn at all. First off, I chose this one from the isle of plastic yarns at Wal Mart because it seemed to have the least offensive texture. They had Lion Brand Homespun (which I *gasp* think is rather nice for a 100% Acrylic yarn), but I wanted something smoother for practice since Lion Brand Homespun is not so hot in the stitch definition category. I didn't notice that Jiffy is actually considered a Bulky Weight yarn, and looking at it now it does not seem terribly different from a Worsted Weight. I also didn't notice that this yarn is described as having the look of mohair (how soon would I find out). As I cast on, the yarn already began to "bloom", leaving my with a faux-mo mess. I persisted and made up my fuzzy swatches. The yarn was a pain to work as splitting was a consistant problem on sharp needles and more gently tapered needles. Over all, I felt that everything about working with Lion Brand Jiffy was sloppy and I would not use it for a project (or even for practice again).


  • Large range of solid and multi-colors
  • Soft feel (though not as soft as mohair)
  • Reasonably looks like mohair (though I don't think it would fool many)
  • Widely Available
  • Inexpensive


  • Splits and snags easily
  • Yarn "blooms" quickly and distorts stitches
  • Yarn also sheds rather easily

Will I Purchase it Again? No.

09 January, 2008

How I Knit

Currently I knit using the Continental method. I originally learned to knit using the English method and for some reason, nothing I was doing was terribly clear to me. I don't know why I had such a mental block with the English method but I wasn't even sure if I was really purling, or knitting for that matter. For all I knew I might have invented some combination of loops that produced a fabric similar to knitting.
The switch to Continental knitting was a lark, I didn't think it was a superior method, I'm not left handed, I've never crocheted a stitch in my life, I just thought I'd give it a go and see if I liked it better. And yes, Continental knitting personally suits me much better; I can see what I am knitting, I knit with a more even tension, I knit with certainty as to what I am doing and I no longer feel the need to hold my needles with the dreaded "death grip".
I suppose I brought this tidbit up for sake of conversation, but there is a point... I would suggest that any new knitter try both English and Continental knitting. I suppose some may find that they have little to no preference between the two, but there is also the chance that some may find the "other method" is how they should have been knitting all along. I also suppose that learning both methods would have it's merits.
If any fellow new knitters are interested in more information regarding the aforementioned methods of knitting, Wikipedia has articles on both Continental and English knitting, and KnittingHelp.com has some fantastic videos in both methods as well.

08 January, 2008

Why Am I Here?

No, this isn't a theological question. I started this blog as sort of a journal of my progress (and lulls), on my quest to become a knitter. Yes, as I write this entry I can technically knit. I can cast-on a few different ways, knit, purl, yarn over, PSSO, sk2tog etc. with the best of them. I can determine gauge and even follow a pattern, but it's all completely new to me. I still consider myself a beginner.
I have done several types of needle arts through the years and some time ago, I decided that I should learn to knit. I didn't know anyone who actually knitted so I made a poor attempt at it myself and soon tired of trying to figure it out.
In 2007, I made a connection that I never made before, knitting + Internet = virtually unlimited information. I spend at least an hour a day on the Internet looking up one thing or another and it never occurred to me to look up knitting. I soon discovered a handful of websites that make up my knitting arsenal. If someone were to ask me how to knit, I would tell them to buy a skein of yarn, a pair (or two or three), of needles and to log onto Knitting Help. Honestly, with the exception of a little book of various stitches I bought in the craft section of a local department store, I have yet to buy a knitting book because of Knitting Help.
I also found Men Who Knit, an online community for... you guessed it, Men who knit! This is a fantastic community with lots of friendly, helpful fellow knitters. It was some of the guys on Men Who Knit who inspired me to knit something other than garter or stockinette stitches. They are bold and creative and unafraid to try new projects, even if they have to frog the thing and start all over they are cool headed and determined. I think if I hadn't found this site I would be knitting garter stitch scarves for the rest of my knitting life.
So after all of this searching and learning, I started by making swatches (with the occasional garter stitch scarf for good measure). My swatches were for practicing new stitches and techniques, the scarves also had their merits. Some people frown upon a garter stitch scarf as a "waste project" but honestly I learned from them, I learned how to cast on, how to cast on neatly, how to knit, how to keep a good tension, and how to cast off. Because I used nice yarn for the scarves (I use cheap crap for the swatches), I also had some nice scarves to keep (just one), and give away as much appreciated gifts (the gushing over them made me blush because it was such a simple process to make them).
To get you up to date with me, I am currently working on Mary Joy Gumayagay's Liesel scarf pattern, and naturally learning quite a bit from it. I am frogging the thing for the last time (I swear), and starting over. Here's one of my lessons, I "discovered" the life line, the strand of contrasting thread you weave through the last row of work in a repeat so if and when you screw up the next time you don't have to frog the whole blessed thing. I felt like man discovering fire when I came across that one. I was beginning to have nightmares involving the Liesel scarf.
Well, that's pretty much my story thus far. Also, if anybody actually reads this, look me up on Ravelry as well, I'm on there as Asbjorn (sans umlaut).

Why Would a Man Want to Knit?

I am a man and I knit. I knit because I find it fascinating to create things, to be able to express myself in an artistic way, to be able to say "I made that". Certainly there are other ways to achieve those sentiments but I'm terrible with paint, clay, pencils etc., I'm not a dancer, I'm terrible with wood or metal so I've deduced that fibers are kind of my thing.
Frankly I don't see how knitting, (or needlework in general), can be ascribed to any particular gender. I see knitting as completely neutral, it involves large needles and yarn; nothing emasculating there. How could one not be fascinated about the entire process of knitting? From sheep to yarn, from yarn to a series of twists, knots and loops that can create anything from delicate lace to the most utilitarian of items; knitting's reach and appeal is endless yet for some reason it is looked upon culturally as "no man's land". Google even seals the notion when "man knitting" is typed into the search window, before the displayed results is the possible correction suggested by Google "Did You Mean: Man Sitting", as if to say "how preposterous, this must have been a typo". But I digress, this is merely an observation. I am not terribly concerned how my fellow man (or woman), perceives me. I seldom deny myself anything and I'm certainly not going to trade my knitting needles for the semi-professional arm wrestling circuit anytime soon.

My Favorite NPR Spot: The Writer's Almanac