I’ve been a bit cagey about my activities for the past few weeks as I’m a bit reluctant to announce when I’m going away. Well, I’m back now so I can say that I was travelling for five wonderful weeks in South and Central America. It was a blowout trip to celebrate finishing my doctorate, and included lots of flying (sorry, environment!). And, for me, flying means knitting while watching films. Except for the one flight (8 hours) where my TV and light were both broken and I sat plunged in darkness, naught but the farts of the other travellers to distract me from my thoughts. Thanks, United.
In one of my regular frenzies of chronological optimism, my backpack contained two and a half balls of yarn and three sock patterns. In total I clocked up 9 flights, about 42 hours, and I finished one pair of socks.
This pattern is called Mystik Spiral, which is apparently the name of a band in Daria. I wasn’t a cool enough teen to appreciate Daria. The diagonal stripes are created using short-row shaping so this was a really engaging knit, yet not requiring too much attention most of the time. Here I am modelling.
Damn right I roll up my jeans to show off my hand knitted socks.
I’ll see how these socks wear- I tend to avoid stocking stitch socks as they stretch out a lot, but I made an exception for these.
Okay, one more shot of my snazzy ankles.
Overall I was really pleased with the skirt my mum and I made a couple of months ago. However, every time I wore it, I remembered why I almost never buy garments that don’t have pockets in them. Women’s clothing is such a pain for this! I tire very quickly of having to store my phone in my bra. So I decided that emergency pocket surgery was the only option.
This is what it came out like. The hint of white is the pocket lining. The pocket does change the line of the skirt, but for me it’s worth it.
I started by sewing the right side of the pocket you can see above to the right side of the seam, with right sides facing. Don’t unpick the seam first as it provides stability and will help the pocket to hang straight. Sew the pocket high enough that you can catch the top when you re-stitch the waistband.
Next, sew the other side of the pocket to the left side of the seam, again with right sides facing.
Ensure there are no gaps between the stitching on the side seams and around the pocket, or you’ll have big old holes in ya pocket. If you have an overlocker, overlock the edge of the pocket for added strength. You could also add a second line of stitching if your mum doesn’t have an overlocker.
Now it’s time to re-stitch the waistband. I have my pocket facing left because my right hand will be going into the pocket this way. Top-stitch carefully, you’re going through a lot of layers of fabric.
Stick a fork in your pocket, it’s done! I was hoping the pocket would be hidden underneath one of my box pleats for added security, but it wasn’t possible to do it this way. So instead, I hand sewed a hook and eye over the pocket to close the pleat and hide the pocket. Here I am modelling.
I’m spending a lot of time on the road at the moment, which means one thing- sock knitting. I spent an inordinate time on Ravelry last week looking up patterns. One of my thesis breaks involved buying loads of gorgeous self-striping yarn so I needed a pattern to show it off. I usually incorporate some ribbing as plain socks often get baggy around the ankles, but I loved this pattern so much that I decided to risk it for a biscuit. This is also my first toe-up sock so learning a few new techniques including Judy’s Magic Cast On. Here’s what the toe looks like.
I started this post over a week ago and had a couple of short-haul flights in the interim, so here’s the first sock completed.
And the progress I made on the left sock yesterday. It’s not the clearest picture but I wanted to give a little sense of my present surroundings. These will be finished soon, and I have a couple more sock yarn projects in the pipelines.
I know I posted a banana bread recipe a few months ago, but I couldn’t resist trying a new recipe when I had more browning nanas in the freezer. I took inspiration from here. This recipe is lower in fat but still moist and flavourful. It also freezes well and a slice makes a great breakfast or filling mid-afternoon snack.
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup butter
- 4 egg whites (you can substitute 2 whole eggs if preferred)
- 4-5 bananas, mashed
- 1/3 cup sour cream or plain yoghurt (use low-fat if you want)
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups plain flour
- 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Makes 1 25cm (10in) loaf
- Preheat oven to 180C (160 fan). Prepare a 25cm loaf tin or cupcake case
- Cream together butter and sugar
- Add egg whites and mix thoroughly, until frothy
- Add mashed banana and sour cream
- Fold in flour, bicarb and salt
- Stir through coconut and nuts. The batter will be quite thick but add a tablespoon or two of milk or juice if it seems too thick.
- Transfer the batter to your prepared tin and bake for 1 hour – 75 minutes, until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. If your cake is looking too brown after 45 mins, cover lightly with foil.
I can’t believe that I haven’t previously waxed lyrical about my passionate love for tat. One of my favourite things about being away is looking around shops at the different kinds of souvenir on offer. Some places have a very clear ‘brand’- think I <3 NY- while others rely on generic tat such as snow globes and little ceramic buses, the kind of thing you could see on offer anywhere in the world. I’ve been away for a while and added to my tat collection with some really lovely items.
I couldn’t resist a new project bag for my sock projects. I think the lady in the shop said the pattern is called ‘The Happy Zoo’. Check out these crazy animals!
It makes me smile every time I get my knitting out.
I was pleased to get some all too rare good news during the week- the card I designed for the competition my university ran won! Although, like my thesis itself, it came back with some minor corrections. Unlike the thesis, however, the corrections did come with a very welcome addition to the prize, which means I should be able to afford a nice new backpack for my summer travels.
I spent an evening working on the amendments. They wanted me to change ‘Life after thesis’ to ‘Life after the thesis’ and also to remove my little quip about thesis-related nightmares. Apparently they want the tone of a celebratory card to be ‘light’. I don’t really do light.
I think it looks okay with the changes. Can you tell? I removed the line with ‘after’ on it, re-cut a line with ‘after the’ on it and popped it in place. Removing the text about nightmares proved surprisingly difficult. I hope the commissioners will be happy with what I was able to do.
A couple of weeks ago a friend and I went on a culinary adventure hosted by the Robin Collective. It was an extreme garnishing class, which involved hearing about different ways to liven up a dinner or cocktail party. They provided this helpful graph illustrating the complex relationship between level of garnishing extremity and guest enjoyment.
This is compelling evidence for the importance of garnishing. We started out with simpler arts such as napkin folding and making roses out of fruit peel.
My favourite part was a little bit of molecular gastronomy. I’ve been considering whether to get some sodium alginate and calcium chloride for a whole. Before you ask, no I don’t have cancer and I’m not cooking up meth to fund my chemo. I live in a sensible country where you’re not financially penalised for becoming ill. Those chemicals are used for spherification and reverse spherification, which is the process that gives you those little popping balls you get in bubble tea. I love bubble tea so much.
We used spherification, which basically gives you little jelly spheres of your chosen liquid. First, you mix your chosen liquid with sodium alginate.
You’ll be left with some caviar (or frogspawn)-like spheres that look rather cool when floated in a drink.
It’s pretty easy to get hold of these chemicals now, so it’s something I’d consider if I had a lot of time on my hands and wanted to make my own bubble tea. For popping balls, you just swap the chemicals, i.e. you mix your liquid with the calcium chloride and drop into a bath of sodium alginate.
They also taught us that you can make sherbet by mixing equal amounts of citric acid, bicarbonate of soda and icing sugar. But I was overstimulated by all the pseudoscience at this point and forgot to take pictures. Citric acid is super sour. You can buy it in chemists but you may raise a few eyebrows as it is also used to cut heroin. Apparently.
We also learnt that you can change the contents of party poppers by squeezing their sides, removing the paper disc at the bottom, removing the paper streamers, adding your own stuff (eg dried herbs) and replacing the disc.
I love Anna’s popper face.