Sunday, January 15, 2017

[Sunday in Switzerland] Adventures in Knitting

I am much faster and more skilled at crochet than I am at knitting.  Some of this is probably temperament: I find it far easier to keep track of a single loop than all those loops in knitting.  Some of my lower skill in knitting is simply lack of experience.

To gain skill in just the physical stitch making in knitting, I started the Irish Hiking Scarf.  I did not plan ahead well, so I have paused the project until I find some more matching yarn or decide how to proceed.  That pattern didn't teach me much - I already knew the difference between knit and pearl and I know how to make a cable.  Still, the practice of making stitches was good.

To really add skill, I wanted something with increments and decrements.  I found at pattern that claims to be "the world's simplest mittens".  The pattern also had an associated blog post with much more detail about all the possibly tricky steps.  That seemed like a good starting point.
One completed mitten
I made a few mistakes on the first mitten that I'll try to fix on the second one.  There's a "make stitch" after putting the thumb on a stitch holder that was almost impossible to keep the tension right on.  I ended up just sewing the gap closed with some extra yarn when I was done.  I am also still unclear on the difference between k2tog (knit two together) and ssk (slip slip knit).  But, the ssk was easier, so I did that for all the decreases.

In general, working with double pointed needles is intimidating - what to do with all those pointy bits?  Mostly it seems "get used to it" is an approach that works.  I think there are always going to be some awkward hand holds with double points.
All the pointy needles!
The tension is tricky when moving between the needles.  In the mitten above, there are 4 accidental seams where I changed needles.  Two are hidden on the edges of the work, but there are looser stitches right down the middle of the front and back of the mitten.  I think I have solved this one, but I won't know for sure until later.  I find that if I keep the previous needle under the new needle, the gap is not as noticeable.  I find it easier to work the new needle and pull the previous one tight in this arrangement.
Previous needle under the next needle
I now also have experience with three different materials for knitting needles: wood, bamboo, and metal.  Metal is what I started with.  It's cheap and, in crochet hooks, I like it quite a bit.  For knitting, I like the slightly stickier finish on wood and bamboo - it makes the stitches less likely to slide off the needle at the wrong time.  I also like the slight give the wood and bamboo have.  Also the sound of natural materials sliding is much more pleasant than metal on metal.  After making one mitten, my favorite material is bamboo.

The quiet and cozy craft of knitting is a great way to spend the long winter evenings.  While I feel I've mostly mastered crochet, there is a lot still to learn in knitting.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

[Sunday in Switzerland] Experiments in baking

Yesterday, I decided to make some cookies.  The recipe is one I really like, but it's a U.S. style recipe with volumes, not weights.  Also, since I have not yet baked anything sweet here, I didn't have some of the basic ingredients, namely powdered sugar and vanilla.

The only powdered sugar I could find, came in this tube, with a built-in sprinkler/sifter top.

I decided to do a conversion to weights in the recipe for future reference.  Things like the butter were easy to search for online.  The others, I weighed.  It turns out that powdered sugar is very light.  Here is 0.5 cup of powdered sugar, weighing in at zero grams.

I also could only find vanilla bean and vanilla paste at the grocery store.  I used vanilla paste and it turned out okay.  One thing I found here that was very hard to find in the U.S. was pre-ground or chopped nuts.  This recipe calls for 0.75 cups (or 95g), which annoying if you're chopping by hand.  And they're exotic nuts, all the way from California.

Finally, the oven was way off.  I'm not sure if it was the oven itself or the smaller size, but the minimum baking time was too long and the cookies got brown (which they shouldn't for this recipe).  Still, they are tasty, even if they're not super attractive.