Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I Hath Knitteth!

As regular readers may know, socks have long been my personal challenge. Why I'm so obsessed with knitting socks is beyond me: I think it might have to do with my deep-rooted suspicion that, in order to fully assimilate with my German habitat and finally become a good Bavarian Hausfrau, I should be able to knit a sock - and knit a sock on double-pointed needles (I know you can knit them on circular needles, but I want the hard-core sock-knitting experience, because that's how I roll, crochet-hookers.) But thus far, it has been beyond my abilities. Like all bad work(wo)men, I readily blamed my tools:

Ode to my DPNs
I hate you so much & I just have to share,
I know that you’re mocking me and really don’t care.
I’m beginning to see you as the essence of evil:
My personal Everest is a double-pointed needle.
The ones not in use have a mind of their own
And will stab or attack me, given a second alone.
My fingers are sore, work twisted and grubby,
And the blue cloud of cussing has scared off my hubby.
You’re psychological torture in crafting disguise
I’m sure you’ve been used to break KGB spies.
It’s taken me an hour to accomplish three rows,
With each knitted stitch my hatred just grows.
I hate you, I hate you! - that had to be said,
And if I didn’t say it, I’d break you instead.
So I give up: you win. What more can I say?
I’m going back to my hook and my comforting crochet.

However, I am pleased to announce that the pregnancy hormones have finally been good for something: I have mastered double-pointed needles (seriously, if I can't get a handle on them, how I am supposed to keep a hold on a wriggly newborn? No messing about any more) and I have knit not one, but two socks, using a boomerang (yo-yo) heel method. This method is wonderful - it has been described as a "miracle of German engineering" and while I'm not sure whether it really is German, I'm willing to ascribe this wonder to my adopted homeland. Vorsprung durch Technik, how are you?

Anyway, I feel this should be announced in Ye Olde English to underline its gravitas:
I doth hath knitteth a socketh!
(okay, I got a bit carried away there, but there's nothing like a splattering of 'th' and superfluous auxiliary verbs to fake Ye Oldinesse.)


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gestational Alcoholism

Aww - look at that tasteful image of the
blooming pregnant lady! Lies, all lies.
That cramped look on her face clearly
indicates an attempt to suppress a bout
of pregnancy flatulence. The Murkel of Life
involves inordinate amounts of gas and
liquids - don't be fooled,
oh childless innocents.
Today marked the end of my fifth month of pregnancy. By all accounts, I ought to be "blooming" and "flourishing" and the sight of my roundiness ought to bring a tear to the eye of random strangers. Instead, I have acne and leg cramps and am so clearly pregnant that people are afraid to ask me when the baby is due, and when they do, their eyebrows shoot up in surprise when I tell them that there's another four months to go.

Ah, pregnancy. I had no illusions about the whole mess before I began but I was lured into a false sense of security by having had a very easy time so far. Suddenly, this changed: leg cramps. Not particularly painful cramps (although I've had those, too) but more often than not, tickly muscle cramps that make me stretch and twitch my legs in search of some kind of relief. I've been taking magnesium and calcium, stretching legs and putting my swollen, Shrek-like feet up on towers of cushions, enduring the loving lymph massages doled out by my husband and his lumberjack hands. I've even tried a couple of folk remedies: my mother told me to squeeze the bridge of my nose very, very hard. That just resulted in twitchy legs and a sore face, to boot.

Were all of that not fun enough, the child has decided to make his presence felt. While I lie in bed in the witching hour between 3 and 4 a.m., my hips and legs breakdancing involuntarily beneath the bed covers, my child decides to get in a few punches. Literally, kick me when I'm down. When I finally do drift off to sleep, I inevitably roll over on to my stomach and then get a sound karate chop ("Mama! You moron! Roll over!"). I've actually woken and shouted, "Sorry!"

Oh, the glamour.

This, on the other hand, is a tasteful
image of a bottle of wine that I would
like to rub my face up against and
inhale deeply.
And if that weren't bad enough, I've developed something that I think is actually gestational alcoholism. See, I was never a big drinker - during my student days I didn't have enough money to drink myself stupid in the grand ol' tradition of college parties and once I actually started to earn decent money, I discovered that I was more of a Quality rather than Quantity Gal. I can go for months without touching a drop of anything exciting, and then really, really, really appreciate a glass of good wine. But ever since alcohol has been denied me (24th January, 2012), nothing, but nothing has a greater appeal. Do you know how good Bailey's Irish Cream smells? Do you know how luscious a glass of Burgundy looks? And how about that delicious fizzzzzzzy sound of champagne splashing into flutes? Oh, man. I'm aware that I'm beginning to creep other people out, what with my googly eyes and pathetic facial expression. I definitely ruined the strawberry limes cocktail my husband got to drink yesterday at his father's birthday celebration ("Is that good? It's good, isn't it? Is it really sweet? Can you taste the strawberries? Is it made with vodka? A lot of vodka? Is it chilled or are there ice cubes? Are you enjoying that? Are you?") When someone (usually my husband) suggests that I take a sip, I cover my unborn child's ears and hiss, "Are you crazy? Don't you know the dangers of foetal alcoholism??" Actually, I'm more concerned about my own lack of self-control: a sleepless night of leg twitchery and a battered uterus might not allow me to stop after one sip - and he mightn't be able to wrestle the bottle of strawberry vodka out of my hormonal hands fast enough, to be honest.

Sigh. Four months. About 18 more weeks to go. And knowing my luck, childbirth will put me off alcohol forever.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

TUTORIAL: Sprinkly Donuts


This pattern is available for download as a PDF here.

This "recipe" was inspired by Nevada Mama and KTB Design's iced donut patterns. I've tweaked the instructions a bit to create a donut that worked well with my yarn and tension. Bear in mind, though, that this is a recipe and, like every recipe, you might have to add or take away a stitch or two here or there to make something you like.

You need:
  • Some brown yarn for the donut (about 15g)
  • Scraps of pastel yarn for the frosting
  • glass-headed pins (the 'sprinkles')
  • a smaller hook than the size recommended for the yarn. I'm using a sport weight/DK yarn with a recommended 4.50 mm - 5 mm hook (G or H) and I'm actually using a 3.50 or 3.75 mm (F) hook. The reason for this is that you want a really tight weave, so the stuffing isn't visible.
  • ... and a darning needle.

This pattern uses American terminology. The British terms are in [brackets].
  • SC [DC] - single crochet [double crochet]
  • 2SC [DC] tog - 2 single crochet [double crochet] together (Insert hook into stitch of previous row, draw yarn through. Put hook into the next stitch, draw yarn through. You now have three loops on the hook... yarn over and pull the yarn through all three loops. Picture demo here.)
  • HDC [HTR] - half double crochet [half treble]
  • DC [TR] - double crochet [treble]

You will be working in rounds, so end every round with one slip stitch into the top of the first stitch in the round. Chain 1, then begin the new round by doing your SC [DC]s into the top of the first stitch of the previous round.

The increase rounds (with 2 SC [DC] in one stitch) and the decrease rounds (with 2SC [DC] tog.) don't have to be exact - the increases/decreases have to be spaced more or less evenly across the round. So don't worry if you've done 2 SC [DC] before an increase and then 3 SC [DC] before the next one - no panic, just a minor blip, no one will notice!

The first round is quite wriggly. Persevere!
Begin by chaining 18 stitches.
Rd 1: 1 SC [DC] in each stitch.
Rd 2: 2 SC [DC] in each stitch around.
Rd 3: 1 SC [DC] in each stitch
Rd 4: *2 SC [DC] in first stitch, 1 SC [DC] in next stitch**. Repeat from * to ** all round.
Rd 5: 1 SC [DC] in each stitch
Rd 6: 1 SC [DC] in each stitch
Rd 7: 1 SC [DC] in each stitch
Rd 8: *2 SC [DC] in first stitch, 1 SC [DC] in next four stitches **. Repeat from * to ** all round. 
Rd 9: 1 SC [DC] in each stitch
Rd 10:  *2 SC [DC] in first stitch, 1 SC [DC] in next five stitches **. Repeat from * to ** all round.

At this point, my donut is like a flat(tish) saucer with a hole in the middle. It measures about 12 cm/4.75 inches across. If yours is bigger, don't worry - you might be using a thicker yarn. You can either rip back a row or keep going to make a bigger donut. (See? My tape measure does imperial and metric!)


Now we're going to decrease:
Rd 11: *2SC [DC]tog, 1 SC [DC] in next five stitches **. Repeat from * to ** all round. 
Rd 12: 1 SC [DC] in each stitch

At this point, you might notice your work is starting to curl back in ... that's perfect!

Rd 13: *2SC [DC]tog, 1 SC [DC] in next four stitches **. Repeat from * to ** all round.
Rd 14: 1 SC [DC] in each stitch
Rd 15: *2SC [DC]tog, 1 SC [DC] in next three stitches **. Repeat from * to ** all round.

Rd 16: 1 SC [DC] in each stitch
Rd 17: *2SC [DC]tog, 1 SC [DC] in next two stitches **. Repeat from * to ** all round.

Rd 18: 1 SC [DC] in each stitch
Rd 19: 2SC [DC]tog all round - crochet every two stitches together

 It now ought to look something like this:

Now the fun bit starts! Stuff it with as much stuffing as you can manage and sew the the inner edges together as shown. And then stuff some more stuffing in there - they have to be really full.



Begin by chaining 18 stitches.
Rd 1: 1 SC [DC] in each stitch.
Rd 2: 2 SC [DC] in each stitch around.
Rd 3: 1 SC [DC] in each stitch
Rd 4: 1 SC [DC] in each stitch
Rd 5: 1 SC [DC] in each stitch
Rd 6: *2 SC [DC] in first stitch, 1 SC [DC] in next four stitches **. Repeat from * to ** all round. 
Rd 7: 1 SC [DC] in each stitch

You should now have a shape similar to the flat donut photo above, but it might curl in a little more. Again, don't worry - this is good. The edge of the frosting is done by making stitches of different heights into each stitch of the previous row - randomly, to look like dripping frosting. For example, I usually do:
1 SC [DC],  1 HDC [HTR], 1 DC [TR], 1 HDC [HTR], 1 SC [DC] - up and down, up and down!


Then sew the inner edge of the frosting to the inside of the donut and whipstitch the edge of the frosting dribbles to the outside. Stick in your pins ... and there you go!

You may use these patterns to make for your personal use, as gifts, or to sell at craft fairs or craft markets. You may not reproduce this pattern in print or claim it as your work. You may not sell the pattern. Do not copy and paste pattern to another website, please use a link.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Naughty Me, Pudgy Me

Yes, I've been a bad Gingerbread Lady and haven't posted in ages and ages. In case you've been worried about me, I have to reassure you that this was mostly due to the fact that nothing much was happening in my life. As I said, pregnancy is sucking out my creativity - it's being turned into valuable vitamins and minerals for my little Murkel. But I am doing a number of baby blankets - 2012 is awash with fecundity. This is one I just finished:

As you can see, I am expanding daily. Daily. As in, every day. My midriff now has a mind of its own and, as you can see above, has started to gatecrash photographs. If you've never been pregnant before, you might find it alarming to imagine that one morning you wake up and look down - and you've grown a potbelly overnight. Or so it seems. Even more unsettling is the fact that everyone congratulates you on your roundiness: what a great bump I have! How rotund I've become! It's like wearing a very silly hat: everyone feels compelled to comment on it.

In addition, I'm beginning to feel movement (strange) and see movement (creepy). Mr Gingerbread is currently reading a book about his impending fatherhood and this is giving him Notions, e.g. every time I mention that I can feel something squirming inside, he drops everything to get in on the action by kneading my stomach. Yesterday he had his hand on my stomach when the fruit of his loins decided to karate chop the wall of my uterus. He shrieked and whipped his hand back, as though stung. "I'm sorry," he said, "but that just feels weird." Haha. Bet they didn't tell him that in his stupid book.

See, gone are the days when men were present at conception (just about) and then, nine months later, were hauled out of the pub closest to the hospital, handed a cigar and told the sex of their offspring. No. Nowadays, they are involved from the beginning onwards and are encouraged to interfere.
"Your bag is too heavy, let me carry it."
"No, it's not too heavy. I took most of the stuff out of it so I could carry it myself."
"Give it to me, I'll carry it."
"I said I was fine, thank you."
"You're pregnant, let me carry it."
(tug of war with bag ensues)
"I'm pregnant. It's a condition, not a disability. Let me carry my own bag, please."

Worse still is the Battle of the Bicycle. Mr Gingerbread is not keen on my riding a bike. We have a battle of wits every time I try to mount my trusty velocipede. He's not so much afraid of my cycling abilities, but rather the possibility of me falling off, or being hit by some other vehicle. Clearly, there is more of me to hit than there was before, but that doesn't mean that the entire population of Gingerbreadtown has plans to whack me off my bicycle on the way to work (and if they did, they'd have to drive up into the bicycle path to do so.) On the rare occasions that I cycle, he stands in the doorway and watches me reproachfully, his big, blue eyes full of remorse at my wilful endangerment of our unborn child.

P.S.: Mammy, I know you're reading this and I know your fingers are itching to pick up the phone and lecture me the dangers posed by bicycles in pregnancy. I cycle at a snail's pace on bicycle paths, I will not fall off, go into premature labour or be hit by a bus, I promise. The husband has already outlined every possible danger from attacks by rabid squirrels to crashes involving out-of-control trucks.
No need to worry, honest.