Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Down, Get Up

I did promise a picture.
autumn tree
Autumn colors for my friends in other places.

Yeah, about that colorwork sweater. It is steeked. I painstakingly measured the sleeves against the body four or five times, then marked the depth. Checked the second sleeve a couple of times for good measure. So. Why, I ask you, when I started sewing the sleeves on, did I come up with the steeks an inch too deep? It is a profound mystery. One of the few un-fixable errors in knitting, and I went and did it. I put the sweater back in the knitting basket and we stared at one another for most of last week. At the end of the week, I pulled the sweater back out and wonder of wonders-- the steeks were still too deep. Drat. I'd hoped it would see reason. As in, "I measured you four times, you can't be wrong!".

Fortunately while the error cannot be *fixed* it can be worked around. I ripped back the last pattern band on the sleeves and reknit them with extra increases so the sleeve width at the end now matches the steeks. Then I sewed it all together and had my husband try it on. I'm now really glad that I made the sleeves wider, because it's still just a tad tight. Nothing that can't be resolved in blocking, I think. Still, I'm puzzled. I know the EZ percentages are a guideline, but after the first sweater I made using these I increased the sleeve width--and the sleeves are still tighter than I'd have liked. This is something I'll clearly have to do some additional work on the next time I knit a sweater using percentages. Then further progress was temporarily stymied by feline assistance. Isn't that too cute to move?
Help with knitting

However, onward. I extracted the sweater from under the cat, and started the neck. Stopped and wove in all the ends (because I hate finishing the neck, getting all excited about being done, and then realizing I have two hours of weaving ends still ahead of me).

I got a third of the way around the neck with a vague sense that there was something not right. And then I remembered that the last crew neck sweater I made, I had to make sure I had a stretchy seam to ensure that the neckline wasn't too tight. And I was being very careful of that, because I'd cast off edges and picked up instead of leaving live stitches. This was to try and combat the tendency of my husband's sweaters to stretch out at the neck. (It may have worked a bit too well.) So...I unsewed the start of the neck, contemplated schemes for introducing a bit more stretch, but not too much, firmly returned the colorwork sweater to the basket for the evening (it was almost 11, I wasn't going to accomplish anything more on it that day), and picked up a green Aran sweater sleeve.

The green Aran sweater still loves me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Maple Baklava

I've given out this recipe so many times, I figure it's time to give it a permanent online home where people can find it. The story behind it is that my husband loves real maple syrup with a pure and undying passion. A few years back, we started a search for the world's most perfect maple dessert. Baked goods- cookies and the like- tend to overwhelm the maple, which is a delicate flavor. Maple frosting is pretty tasty (goes well on spice cake). Maple flan is excellent. But we kept looking. Then one of my coworkers gave me her recipe for baklava, and an inspiration was born. I revamped the recipe to swap out the usual honey for maple syrup (maple typically has more water, so I had to recalculate the proportions to keep the sugar content constant), and substituted cashews for the nuts- both for their mild flavor and because of a family member who is allergic to the more usual types of nuts. The result- was outstanding. The recipe has since traveled far and wide, and I occasionally meet someone for the first time who says, "Maple baklava? Oh, you're that Robin!".

I wish now I'd thought to take a picture of the baklava last week- but let's face it, it didn't last all that long!

Robin's Maple Baklava
1 lb filo dough
1 lb butter (or margarine), melted
1 lb cashews, crushed

Cut filo dough to fit 9 x 13 greased cake pan. Place one sheet of filo dough in the pan and brush with melted butter, repeat this process until 3-5 sheets line the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle nuts thinly over the sheet. Add another sheet, brush with melted butter. Continue alternating 3-5 layers of butter sheets with nuts until only 3 sheets remain. Sprinkle remaining nuts, and continue placing and buttering last 3 sheets until all are used.

Cut in diamond shaped pieces. Bake in 300 degree oven for 45 minutes, then raise the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 15 more minutes. Pour syrup over baklava.

2 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. water
1 1/4 c. maple syrup
5 cloves
1 tsp lemon juice (or 1 slice lemon)

Combine ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour syrup over hot baklava.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Too Busy for Pictures

Funny, the last couple of weeks is all kind of a blur. However. Since last we left our heroine:

a) She was busy cleaning things in preparation for the big house concert.

The concert went off on schedule and was a definite success. We had over thirty people- which isn't bad at all for a Tuesday evening. I made my famous maple baklava, along with an applesauce spice cake and some oatmeal butterscotch cookies to feed the ravening hordes. (The hordes ravened appreciatively.) The music was lovely, and we were largely on schedule. Very nice indeed.

b) She was knitting the colorwork sweater.

And- the second sleeve is done. All that's left is to steek, sew it together and knit a crew neck onto it. Which will hopefully happen Real Soon Now, as the weather has turned quite chilly. The only reason I haven't done it yet is having been so busy. Nothing to do with being nervous about cutting up knitting. Really. *shifty look*

c) She was knitting a green Aran sweater.

This one has also made progress- I'm two thirds of the way through the back. Not even to the halfway point though. But I'm still delighted that I'm keeping this one for myself. I do love cables, and the yarn (Northampton Dark Green Heather) is so pretty.

d) She was resisting the urge to cast on more projects.

And is still resisting- I want to get at least one of the sweaters done first.

e) She was ignoring the hapless bamboo sweater.

What bamboo sweater? Oh, that. But I can't wear it for months. It can wait.

f) She did finish a sewing project.

It was a tablecloth, to cover up the battered folding table we were serving refreshments on at the concert. I'm not going to post a picture because how interesting can a hemmed piece of fabric be?

g) She has done battle with pool hardware!

My delightful husband thoughtfully took the week of the concert off. And then spent a chunk of it doing all the pool closing prep (cleaning, lowering the water level, going to the pool store to replace the floating pillow that no longer floats), patching the pool cover. So we got the pool winterized and undercover in good time (the acorns had already started raining down, but the deluge of leaves had barely started). Over the weekend, I disassembled the filter and pump, emptied and stored them. I even managed to avoid the traditional skinned knuckles by the cunning stratagem of wearing gloves. It's one of those tasks that you really look forward to finishing. Otherwise known as, it feels so good when it stops.

In our next exciting installment... the finished colorwork sweater! Or else humorous excuses for failing to do same. Or at least a picture.