Posted by: wellimaginethat | November 13, 2009

Totoro

I love the film My Neighbour Totoro.

As assignments have started piling up with the semester nearing its end, I have started stress knitting, as always. This time around there is a strict theme to what I’m knitting, it is all Totoro related. First I tried to knit this Totoro hat, but I ran out of yarn at the very end. It was a yarn from my stash, that I had bought a long time ago and couldn’t get any more of.

After that failed, I made the mistake of typing Totoro into the pattern search in Ravelry. First I contemplated knitting these Totoro mittens, because mittens are one of my absolute favourite things to knit, but then while going through the rest of the pattern designer, Brella,’s patterns I saw her Chibi Totoro pattern. I had the right yarn in my stash, and the right needles, the only logical thing to do was knit two in one day and completely neglect the big projects I should be working on.

First I made one on a set of 4mm DPNs.

Unstuffed 4mm Totoro

Unstuffed 4mm Totoro

Then I stuffed him with polyester fluff.

Faceless 4mm Totoro

4mm Totoro after stuffing

Then I gave him a face. His eyes are lopsided, but I somehow like them. He reminds me of the Totoros in the border of the opening titles of the film.

Eww, scary.

4mm Totoro with eyes

I think the reason he’s such a strange, but somehow lovely, shape is because I think I skipped the part of the pattern where rows 8-13 were supposed to be knit all stitches. I’m not sure though.

I also made one on 2.25mm needles. Here he is.

Smaller Chibi Totoro

Smaller Chibi Totoro

I had never made a bobble while knitting before this pattern, and I’m quite impressed with the method. It’s a bit magic-y.

Bobble tail

Bobble tail on the 2.25mm Totoro

Any other fans of the film who want to be mildly traumatised should look at this theory on the meaning of the film.

Posted by: wellimaginethat | August 26, 2009

It Certainly Can Fail to Please

I haven’t updated in a long while because I’ve been on holiday. I’m back now to bring you all up to speed on some of the things I’ve done over the summer. I got my copy of Jane Waller & Susan Crawford’s A Stitch In Time, and am still in love with it three months later.

To combat boredom while sitting around doing nothing I decided to try out one of the patterns called It Cannot Fail to Please.

copyright © arbour house publishing

copyright © arbour house publishing

Some quick specs for anyone interested. I used a single set of 2.0mm straight needles, rather than one set of 2.25mm and one set of 3.25 because when I tried those it was far too large. And I  used seven skeins of Melanie Wolle Sport & Strumpfwolle Klassik in a green colour.

This project has been a see-saw of hellish proportions since I started on the 24th of July. I was almost finished with the back a few days after starting,  but as usual I was too lazy to make a test swatch of the pattern, the English word for which I can’t remember at the moment. Once I was a two thirds of the way in I realised that my knitting was already twice the size of the final dimensions of the largest size. I undid everything.

I started again, and this time did make a test swatch of the pattern on 2.0mm needles that was still too big, but only by a small amount. My mum, a knitting goddess, then looked over the pattern for me, and said there was no way that the medium size was going to be big enough, and that I should be knitting a large. So when I cast on again, I knitted the large size. She later asked me why I was knitting the large size, when the medium looked more my size. So now I have a huge jumper.

Pattern swatch

Pattern swatch

There are a reasonable number of mistakes in the modern pattern, but most of them are so obvious that I caught then right away, and they were correct on the original pattern, so it really isn’t a big deal. Outside of the sleeves which I think are fine if you’re knitting the original, smallest, size, but at least for the large size didn’t always make sense. Again, it was fairly easy once I got the hang of the pattern to fix up the mistakes.

Because of the lace pattern, I want to make sure to block this before I make it up. This means I’ll have to wait until I get my pins out of storage on the 8th of September before I can put it together. I’ll update on this project again once it’s finished, unless something huge happens.

Until then, here are some photos of the finished pieces waiting to be blocked. I never trust that blocking will make the pattern look like it should, even though logically I know it will, I’m still afraid that it will look like it does now when I’m finished. Rather than the leaves.

Sleeve

Sleeve

Front

Front

There is a fun stitch I hadn’t seen before used in this pattern: purl twice into a stitch. It involves first purling into the front, but leaving the stitch on the left needle, then purling into the back of the same stitch, then completing the stitch.

Posted by: wellimaginethat | June 7, 2009

Malalkov Torte

Since I’m back in China at the moment my ability to access my blog is fairly sporadic. That’s why I haven’t updated in so long.

For my father’s birthday party, my mum and I cooked a lot of traditional Austrian cold dishes and a cake. The cake is one of my dad’s favourites, probably because it has a ridiculous amount of rum in it.

Lady Fingers

So here we go, I don’t know who to credit for this since it’s one of my mum’s hand written recipes, which she got from her mum, who probably got it out of a newspaper or magazine. The only thing I’ve done is translate it into English, and added a tonne more rum because the amount in the recipe would only have worked for about five lady fingers.

Ingredients

3 boxes of lady finger biscuits
1/4 litres milk
2 table spoons flour
200 grams margarine
200 grams powdered sugar
A bottle of rum, preferably dark (you’ll probably use about 1/4 Litre)
1 packet of vanilla sugar (or a table spoon of vanilla extract)
3 egg yokes
100 grams ground nuts (I used almonds, but hazelnuts are also very nice)
whipped cream (make it yourself, from a can, whatever you like)

Instructions

Combine the milk and flour in a saucepan, stir with a wooden spoon over low-medium heat. Once it looks like the photo, transfer it into a bowl and set it in the refrigerator to cool.

Flour-milk mixture

Place the margarine in a large bowl, beat until fluffy. Continue beating while adding powdered sugar and ground nuts a little at a time. Once this is well combined, the flour-milk mixture will have cooled. Add this one or two spoonfuls at a time while beating. Set aside.

Batter

Open the packet of lady fingers and get out a spring form cake mould. Get a shallow, wide bowl and pour some rum in. Look at the height of your spring form, and cut some lady fingers to just above that height. Dunk the lady fingers one at a time in the rum. Dunk the side that isn’t coated in sugar, but it’s not a tragedy if you dunk the sugared side.

Dunking lady fingers

Line them up on the inside of the mould along the circumference. With some more lady fingers, line them up on the bottom of the mould after dunking them in an attempt to cover the entire base. You will end up cutting some of them to fit.

Cake Base

Pour about half of the batter into the form over the lady finger base. Smooth it out so it covers the base evenly. Now cover this in another layer of lady fingers, placing them rum side up and perpendicular to the ones on the base layer, otherwise you run the risk of your cake falling apart.

Second layer of lady fingers

Follow this with the other half of the batter.

Final layer of batter

Next the final layer of lady fingers, rum side up and perpendicular to the middle layer, and parallel to the base layer.

Almost finished!

The cake tastes better if you let it sit in the refrigerator for a day before serving it, but it’s your choice. If you plan on refrigerating for a day, place something like a plate over the top layer of lady fingers to put a bit of weight on them.

The plate I used as a weight

Soon before serving cover the top with whipped cream. I also grated some chocolate over that when it was done.

It is a birthday cake, hence the candles.

edit sorry about the photos, I couldn’t get the regular uploader to work in the way that I’m now accessing the blog. I may fix them once I get out of China.

Posted by: wellimaginethat | May 21, 2009

MMmmm 饺子!

Recently, I had been craving dumplings. I don’t think I’ve seen vegetarian dumplings at the Chinese restaurants in the area yet. So, even though I’m going back to China in under a week I cooked steamed dumplings two nights ago.

The recipe I eventually ended up using was a mixture of all the different ones I’d come across on google. Or the ingredients were anyway, the process I took mainly from HOLY SHITAKE except I steamed the dumplings rather than steam-fried them.

Alas, there are no photos since I waited too long afterwards to think about taking pictures, and by that time they were all eaten

So on to how I made them. Be forewarned this was ridiculously time-consuming without a food processor and being one person. With an assembly line and a food processor I’m sure I’d be much faster.

Also, if you can’t find dumplings wrappers, you can make your own, but from what I hear it’s very messy and are prone to fall apart if you’re not a pro dumpling maker, so I decided use store bought ones. I’m glad I did since that would just add more time.

Recipe (makes about 50)

Ingredients

  • 500g Soft Tofu finely diced
  • 1 head Napa Cabbage
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 scallions
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup shitake mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 packets of dumpling wrappers

Method : (Taken mostly from HOLY SHITAKE)

Wash the cabbage, put some of the outer leaves to the side, these will be used for steaming. Finely dice 4 cups of cabbage. Blanch in salted water for five minutes, then strain and rinse under cold water. Squeeze out the excess water and set to one side. Chop scallions and put to one side.

Peel fresh ginger with a spoon (this is amazing!) and then grate (messy and weird and only added to my dislike of ginger). Mix all the ingredients, except the wrappers one of the stock cubes and one of the garlic cloves, in a large bowl. Wash your hands and continue to mix together more thoroughly with your hands. If it’s too dry add some water.

Let the wrappers thaw for about half and hour if frozen, and then keep covered with a damp cloth to stop them from drying out while you’re working. Now for the extremely tedious part, folding. At first it’s difficult but then you get the hang of it.

Fill a small bowl with water sit it near you. Place a wrapper in your palm, place a spoonful of filling in the centre, dip your finger in the water and wet the edges all around. Press two opposite edges against each other so that it’s now semi-circular. Now the tricky part, here I advise you look at the various videos on the technique since it’s hard to explain. Make two pleats on the side facing you, on each end. Then press the top together all the way along. The dumpling should now be shaped like a crescent.

Once they are all folded, or, if you’re like me, you run out of wrappers. Place a small amount of water, a clove of garlic and the last soup cube in the bottom of a pan with a cover. Then, add the cabbage leaves you saved earlier, make sure they are on top of the water, not under it, as they are what keeps your dumplings from the water-soup-mixture. Place a few dumplings on the leaves, taking care to make sure they don’t touch or else they’ll stick to each other. Put the top on the pot and let steam for 5-7 minutes. Continue until all the dumplings have been steamed. Or, alternatively, freeze them while raw and save them for later.

I hope that makes sense. They were very tasty.

Posted by: wellimaginethat | May 8, 2009

Block around the clock

I completed the Laminaria shawl I’ve been working on since late April. It’s on my floor drying some more as I type this. If you followed along from the previous post you know this means that I finished the shawl before my copy of A Stitch In Time arrived. That should be happening mid next week, hopefully.

First I’d like to make a statement I will probably take back at some point in the future. I dislike hanks of yarn, this project has almost taught me to dispise them. Before this shawl I’d never used yarn in a hank before, and thought they were neat because they look like the symbol for enfinity. I didn’t have the foresight to look up how to best unwind the hank for use, and thought it would be like a skein, just pull and for the most part it won’t tangle. Boy oh boy was I wrong. The first two hanks ended in such a tangle I had friends picking at them at a pub quiz trying desperately to salvage the yarn. Once I moved on to the third I decided to look up the best way to use a hank, and found that I would have to unwind the entire thing on a chairback and then wind it back into a ball. The process took about half an hour each time.

The ball of yarn the hank turned into.

The ball of yarn the hank turned into.

Despite the trauma of unravelling the hanks, I still managed to finish the final two charts of the knitting quickly, which meant it was time for blocking. Having never blocked before I did some searching around before I started, to see what I needed to do. The pattern liked to this tutorial by Yarn Harlot, which I read to get the basic idea. I also looked at what Knitty.com had to say about blocking,  because I vaguely remembered the fact that I was using 100% silk might change the process a little. Knitty had the following to say on the subject, which is why I went into this project a bit aprehensive.

Silk garments can grow since silk is inelastic and has little memory; I personally find silk best in a blend. Silk is very fragile when wet, so wet blocking is NOT recommended. Pin out to required dimensions, spritz, and let dry.

I was fairly excited about blocking for the first time, it looked tedious and time consuming. Two things I really enjoy. Once I finished the knitting part of the shawl I was fairly disapointed with how it looked, none of the patterns that were supposed to be in the lace showed at all. I put that down to my yarn being to think and my needle size too large, and my general capaticy for screwing things up. But, once I started pinning the edges down all of a sudden the patterns emerged and it was beautiful.

The centre edge as I started blocking

The centre edge as I started blocking

I blocked the entire monster out, the whole process taking about forty minutes after stripping my bed. I then filled an empty fabreeze bottle with water and sprayed it. This was at six pm. I left it to dry looking as follows. I appologise for the poor quality of the photo, lighting in the area was using for blocking was far from ideal.

Fully blocked shawl

Fully blocked shawl

I returned to my room at ten pm hoping it would be dry so I could rest a bit, since I’m a bit ill. Alas, it was still damp, but seemed to be holding it’s form, so I unpinned everything and put the sheets and duvet back on my bed so I could take a bit of a rest. I moved the shawl onto the floor, still in the same position as it was on the bed, only without the pins. I also wove in the loose ends. I’m hoping despite being moved too early that it will still retain it’s shape. If not, I’ll just try again at a later date.

I will probably edit this tomorrow to add a photo of the finished shawl if it kept its shape over night.

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