The Trick to Finishing

Sometimes I think the sewing up and finishing of a garment is the hardest part.   I have knit more than 10 sweaters now (10 being the number of sweaters I made before I started to consistently get the fit and style of the sweater right) and sewing in a set in sleeve is often a mental challenge. The problem with sleeves is that they are not uniform. There are bound off edges and side edges. Sleeves are curved so sometimes you are sewing a side edge to a bound off edge. 

And sometimes you are sewing side edges to side edges. 

1. Side edge to side edge in stockinette 

When sewing side edge to side edge I use mattress stitch. I pick up the piece of yarn that lays in between and underneath the two legs of a knit stitch and  run my needle underneath it, and then do the same to the corresponding stitch on the sleeve that I’m sewing into the armhole.

2. Side edge to bound off edge 

When sewing a side edge to a bound off edge, like when I sewed in the saddle shoulder tab on to the top of the One Way Tee, I use mattress stitch in the side edge. On the bound off edge I run my needle underneath the two legs of the knit stitch and I only pull tight enough so that the fabric doesn’t pucker. Some of the sewing yarn will still be visible. 

3. Side edge to side edge in garter stitch 

For garter stitch edges I find the purl underbumps. The underbumps are the purl bumps shaped like a frown instead of a smile. I thread my needle under one, and then find a corresponding underbump on the sleeve side and thread my needle under that stitch too, then pull tight. 

4. Easing

I almost always have some portion of the sleeve and the armhole that need to be sewn together that aren’t the same length. After pinning the sleeve into the armhole I assess carefully. On the side that is longer, I sew two stitches to one on the other side of the garment until the length becomes even. This takes some patience. Usually I sew a few stitches together, then reassess. Then sew a few more and reassess. It is slow but I have found that any difference in length can be masked this way. The important thing is to even out any difference in length all along the seam. If you wait until you get all the way around the armhole and you have a significant difference in length in the sleeve or armhole side, and then try to sew the extra fabric in, the sleeve will be crooked on the sweater and seriously uncomfortable. When pinning the sleeve in make sure that the top of the sleeve is pinned to the top of the armhole and the bottom is pinned to the bottom of the armhole. Then add a pin or two along the sides of the armhole so that you have a good guide when you are sewing the sleeve in. 

Cracked Wheat and Bacon Soup with Greens

A January like this- 3 weeks of lows in the negative zero range, highs in the teens, then snow, then ice– calls for soup. Not bright, cheery soup. Heavy, hearty, spicy soup. Soup with meat and grains and beans. Like this soup. 

Cracked Wheat Soup with Bacon, Kale and White Beans

  • 3 slices thick cut bacon, cut into chunks
  • 1 c bulghur wheat 
  • 1 c onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 c jicama, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6-8 c vegetable or chicken stock 
  • 1 3/4 c white beans
  • 2 c kale, torn into bite size pieces
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Place onion in food processor and chop fine. Then add carrot, celery and jicama and do the same. I know the jicama seems like an odd ingredient in a soup like this, but it adds a nice crunch. 

Cook bacon on medium heat in a large Dutch oven or soup pot until crisp. Add bulghur wheat and cook until it has darkened from light brown to medium brown. About 3 minutes. Add onion and vegetable mixture to the pan and stir until the veggies start to soften. About 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and stir to mix. Add stock to pot, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom. 

Bring pot to simmer over medium high heat then reduce to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until bulghur is cooked through. Then add beans and kale and stir to mix. Serve. 

The Problem With Hats

I’ve made lots of hats over the years. Cabled hats. Colorwork hats. Hats so tight they made my forehead hurt. Hats so big they flop over my eyes. I started one hat that I could have worn as a skirt. I frogged that one. The problem I always have with hats is sizing. To make a good beanie you really need to swatch, then stretch the swatch when you measure it. Not too much stretch and not too little. It’s a delicate process that I often screw up. 

A few weeks ago Owen asked for a hat. A blue hat. This is a kid who doesn’t often request hand knits so when he asked for something I was excited. Pleased. And I had the blue yarn already– leftovers from the Dinosaur hoodie I made him last year. But I didn’t want this hat to be too big or too small. So I measured and searched and measured again. Finally, I cast on. 

At first I thought it might be too big. Then maybe too small. But as I knit I found it was just the right size. 

Seed Stitch Rib Hat

Yarn: Brown Sheep Company Nature Spun Worsted, I used 39 grams of yarn for this hat

Needles: size 7 cable needles, I used the magic loop method

Size: hat will fit heads probably between 16-22″ circumference, depth is 8″

Gauge: 14 stitches= 3.5″, stretched, in the round in seed stitch rib. Rows: 7 rows per inch

Seed stitch rib: 

Round 1: k 3, purl 1

Roound 2: knit


Cast on 80 stitches. Work knit one, purl one rib for 10 rows. 

Knit one round

Work rounds 1 and 2 of seed stitch rib until hat measures 6″ from cast on, ending with round 1.

Next round: knit 6, k2tog around

Next round: knit

Decrease round: k to 2 stitches before decrease, k2tog, around

Repeat decrease round every other row until there are 5 stitches remaining. Break yarn and pull through remaining stitches. Weave in ends and block.

Ginger Pork Broth

Last week I was leafing through back issues of Bon Appetit. I have about 6 years worth. I had to stop my subscription when I ran out of storage space. And time. And ability to keep up. Now I pull out the back issues for inspiration. 

This time I was drawn to a recipe for poached chicken in a ginger broth. I knew I didn’t want to make the recipe exactly as written, but I loved the idea of a gingery garlicky broth with noodles and meat. I have pork chops in my freezer so I decided to use that and build a soup around it. 

Pork Ginger Broth

  • 10 oz. pork chop, cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 10 cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1″ ginger, minced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 chile, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tbl. Soy sauce
  • 1 tbl. White wine vinegar
  • 6 c. Stock
  • 3 oz. udon noodles
  • Parsley 
  • Scallions
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Heat up the oil in a Dutch oven. Add pork and brown. Season with salt and pepper. When pork is browned, remove from pan. Add mushrooms and sauté until browned. Add ginger and garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add chile. I used jalapeño but a red chile would be even better. Stir. Add a little more salt and pepper, then allspice and the 2 bay leaves. Stir. 

Use soy sauce and vinegar to deglaze the pan, stirring a scraping to get any browned bits up from the bottom of the pan. Add pork to the pan again. Then add stock. Bring to a simmer and add the udon noodles. Allow to simmer, uncovered, until noodles are done and the flavors have melded. I actually put the soup back on the stove for an extra 10 minutes last night because I felt like it needed to reduce a bit more. Remove bay leaves before serving. Serve with parsley and scallions. 

Winter Fresh

I love eating vegetables but I want them to be fresh. This is a challenge in the winter. There aren’t many vegetables that are still fresh in January. Except kale. Kale is so hardy it will keep growing even after it freezes. So, as soon as all the other greens start to look wilted and about 2 minutes away from turning to slime, I start buying kale by the bunch. 

Kale is the perfect winter green. It will keep for a week or more in my refrigerator. You can pair it with vinegary dressings and sweet vegetables like carrots and spicy ones like onions. And the best thing about kale? You can dress it, put it in the fridge, and it will taste even better the next day. And that’s what I do.

Twice a week I chop up onions, parsley or cilantro, tear up a bowl full of kale and grate a couple of carrots. Then I toss it all together with whatever dressing I have available and let it sit overnight before dividing it into single servings that I pack in my lunch. Sometimes I add pickled onions or different veggies. Cracked black pepper and sea salt is also nice. 

Kale is full of iron, calcium, vitamin c and several other vitamins and minerals. And when I eat it I feel like I’m doing something good for my body. 

Routine Maintenance 

My boyfriend asked me on New Year’s Day what my resolution was. And I told him that was going to try to be less of an asshole. I was only half kidding. 

My anxiety sucks my patience away like a vortex some days. My own mind is chaotic and the harder I try to control the chaos in my head the harder it is to tolerate the chaos in my life. So I try to control it. To orchestrate the morning perfectly so that no timetable is overturned. No deadline missed. And the result is always more chaos because control is an illusion. It’s like throwing rocks down a well. Pointless. Energy depleting. 

So my real resolution this year is to deal with my anxiety more effectively. To take better care of myself. To not allow my fear of dealing with mundane details keep me from performing necessary maintenance on myself. 

If I can do those things the 300 pound gorilla that crushes me beneath its weight will visit less often.

Always Check the Project Notes Before Choosing a Pattern

This is what happens when I try to make things easy. In the end I always work harder than if I had put in the preparatory work. 

When I cast on this pair of mittens (Dwarven Mittens) I decided to not swatch. That actually went ok. I also decided to not look at the pattern very closely before printing it out. This was a problem. Specifically, the cable chart doesn’t tell you where the cable sections start and end. When I got to the cable portion I had to sit down, study the cable chart, study the picture of the mittens themselves and figure out where each cable began and ended. 

I figured it out but I think if I were a new knitter or even a newish knitter I would have given up in frustration. 

Once I figured out the cable pattern the knitting went pretty smoothly until it came time to decrease. I did something that I often do– I kept on knitting even though it was obvious that the mittens were working up to be too long. In the end I had a pair of mittens that would have fit a gorilla, and the recipient of this pair of mittens is not in possession of a pair of gorilla hands. So I ripped back about two inches.

Once I made the commitment to tip back and got all of the stitches into the needles the rest of the knitting went smoothly. I completely winged the decreases at the top because I didn’t like the way that the pattern instructs you to finish the mittens– with kitchener stitch. I thought it looked too boxy. Less elegant. I prefer it when mittens come to a point so I decreased until there were 8 stitches left, then cut the yarn ad pulled the thread through the remaining stitches. 

After my disappointing experience with the pattern I went toRavelry and read other people’s project notes and found that almost everyone who knit this pattern had issues with it. 


Pattern: Dwarven Mittens

Yarn: Lettlopi — I used just over one skein for this project

Needles: size 5 and size 7

Let’s Talk About My Foot

This is the bottom of my left foot. 

Doesn’t look right, does it? Well, it’s been like that– calloused toes and strange calloused skin on the ball of my foot — since sometime last spring. 

The summer of 2015 I had plantars fasciitis pain in my heels so I changed where my foot was striking the pavement. Eventually I developed this new, possibly more serious, issue. My doctor says I have a neuroma and I’m sure that’s true. A neuroma is a cyst that forms around and inflamed nerve. It’s the result of my foot striking against the ground millions of times. And about 2 months ago it flared so badly I had a run where I had to stop, take my shoe and sock off, then try to run/limp home while running on the side of my left foot. It felt like there was an electrical shock coursing through my toes. 

After that I bought new inserts and started sticking a callous cushion to the bottom of my foot every time I head out for a run. It definitely helps. I haven’t had any more days of electricity shooting through my foot. But it’s clearly still not right. I wish I could slice out the callous that has formed in the bottom of my foot. I feel it even during the day when I’m walking around doing everyday stuff. But it’s not like a regular callous– the skin is hard but it doesn’t seem to really build up. Instead I feel almost like it’s forming inwardly, putting pressure on that flaring nerve.