Monthly Archives: April 2012

dealing with failure

My one knit keeps going wrong and I don’t know why.  Perhaps I’m not purling right, I don’t know, but the whole thing becomes a tangled mess around 3 rows in, so I’m giving up and going back to some beginner patterns I can actually do…

Take, for instance, the bee stitch:

pattern challenge #2: bee stitch

I didn’t find Staci’s video detailed enough for this pattern and turned to a lady known as Sapphires-N-Purls on YouTube (or iknitwithcatfur, which I’m sure she doesn’t… right?)  This lady runs a blog that features a new knitting pattern every week, with the bee stitch coming under June 2011.  Her videos may not have that polished quality that Staci’s do, but her instructions are easy to follow and she provides a written version in case you have trouble remembering.

I’ll be honest: I failed on the first few tries.  Instead of knitting the first row, then alternating between K1 and KB on the second, I stupidly skipped to the third row, which requires K2, alternations between K1 and KB, then K2 for the last two stitches.  Using the third row then knitting the second and repeating the order obviously created something entirely different (I would have taken a picture, if it weren’t for the fact I was incredibly annoyed).

But I was successful in the end; that’s the main part!

hot water bottle, mobile or kindle case?

To ease the flames of frustration, I took a break.  Smoked salmon on toast spread with soft cheese (full fat: none of that disgusting fat-free nonsense) drizzled with fresh lemon juice and black pepper seasoning.  Just for good measure, I also chopped up some pickled gerkins as a side and made myself a cup of good Irish tea.

a meal fit for knitters!

Picture looks great, huh?  Doesn’t that sliced salmon look absolutely gorgeous?  Why, of course it would!  Considering how I utilised the ‘food’ scenic mode on my Nikon Coolpix just to give it some extra colour.

Now, not sure about you but taking photos of my meals isn’t something I normally practice.  I’d rather enjoy my meals through the act of eating, not faffing around trying to get the best angle so I can rush to my laptop and upload the whole process.  Still, I was inspired to immortalise this quintessential vegetable…

The pickled gerkin

hail the pickle!

After my break, I had a go at knitting the linen stitch, a pattern meant to imitate the woven quality of linen.  Surprisingly easy to do yet so very intricate, this pattern can use a lot of yarn and may go exceedingly wrong if you’re not careful with those needles.

pattern challenge #3: linen stitch

Again, I had a few fails when trying this pattern.  I’d forget what row I purled, what row I knitted, and sometimes, I would unravel sections because I doubled the knit or purl somewhere, only to discover that I couldn’t tell whether to knit or purl when trying to rectify.

For anyone whose a beginner and trying the linen stitch for the first time, my tip for knowing whether to knit or purl after pulling out rows is to check where your active yarn – the yarn you’re using to knit the pattern – is coming from on the brand-new row.

If it’s dangling at the front, in front of the second stitch you’ll get to whilst knitting the row, you purl.

If it’s dangling at the back of a new row you’re about to begin, you knit.

Also keep the stitches tight.  Not super tight, just firm so the linen effect remains visible and consistent.  Once I get the hang of this pattern, I’m looking to knit my own coasters – yay!

round of applause!


the knitting bug

Knitting is what I class as one of my ‘secret’ skills.  I say this skill is ‘secret’ because no one I know at the moment seems to be hot into knitting.  So I keep this interest to myself.

At the moment, I am learning how to knit patterns so I can decide which one should be used for a new scarf and hat.  I haven’t knitted in years and the reason why I’ve returned to this interest is down to a purple cowl I found on ASOS.com.

courtesy of asos.com

chunky merino cowl

I have never heard of Lowie but there is no way they’ll be getting me to pay €47.99 (down from €99.98 in the sale) for an item I can very well make myself!

Thus I paid a visit to the Hickey store on Henry Street, an Irish pharmacy and fabric company in Dublin.  From there I bought Patons yarn in a shade similar to the one used by Lowie with 4.5mm needles and matching stocking needles.  If you’re buying needles for the first time, choose the yarn first then the knitting needles; the yarn label tells you the needle size required for knitting with that yarn.

needles and yarn

Even though my ambition is to make my own cowl, I didn’t buy the round needles you would need as I didn’t want to get too ahead of myself and end the project out of frustration.  What I should have bought, though, was a crochet needle to embellish the scarf ends, but I guess I’ll get that later.

Instead of knitting class or asking somebody’s grandma, I watched a few videos on YouTube to remind myself what knitting’s all about. A knitter whose videos helped me a lot were Staci’s, founder of verypink.com.  She has been knitting for years and the look of her woollen gear often leads me to think she made them herself because the yarn she uses for her demonstrations matches certain clothing…

Anyway, her videos ran through the basics, even teaching me how to rectify mistakes like dropping the odd stitch or reducing an increased row.  While watching her video for adding fringe to scarves (the part where I realised I should have bought that crochet needle!), Staci mentions a fellow knitter called Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka The Yarn Harlot), champion of the one-knit scarf.

courtesy of verypink.com

Above is a screenshot of the one-knit scarf featured in Staci’s “Adding Fringe” video.  The image is a little small but you can see how the scarf is embossed by thin rows.  I want to give this pattern a try!

But here’s what I’ve managed so far with the cable knit:

pattern challenge #1: cable

I used 6 rows, starting with a right cable and only cast on 10 stitches.  I should have probably cast on more than 10 so the cable can be seen against a backdrop, but I will move onto that sort of thing when I add more cables to the pattern and get better at knitting as a whole.

Wish me luck with the one knit!


the books i’ve betrayed…

kindle touch

I bought it.  I went and bought the Kindle Touch.  And I don’t feel guilty.  

After much deliberation, and with the help of many a friend who had already gone to the dark side, I was able to purchase the Kindle Touch from Argos (€129.00), the cheapest price on offer for a customer in Dublin (although PC World has since updated their website).

Being  a Kindle virgin, for want of a better word, I have no prejudice against Amazon’s latest edition;  I merely presumed it would try and imitate actual books whilst acting like a typical tablet computer or touch-screen mobile.

Contrary to the complaints of some Kindle Touch users, the absence of a printed manual was no obstacle to me: I found the on-screen instructions easy enough to follow.  You simply depress the small rectangular button along the bottom right of the Kindle for a couple of seconds then let the gadget load.

starting up...

And connecting your Kindle to the internet is pretty straight-forward.  If you have Wi-Fi at home, click the Menu button and select “Turn Wi-Fi On”, entering the password you set for connecting to your personal network (you can find this password again by rummaging through your drawer of printed manuals or right-clicking on the signal bar on your computer screen).  Once the Wi-fi is done, you can start exploring the Kindle Store for something to fill your archives!

Since my e-book piracy knowledge is zero, a majority of  my free e-books came from the Kindle Store.  By searching for “free books for kindle”, over 30,000 entries will greet your thrifty eyes, and should you be a cheapskate as dedicated as me, you will probably download 4 out of 6 entries on every page, which is probably the reason why the Kindle continues to crash around the 500-800 mark.

but NOT frustration-free contents!

Now, this minor can be quite annoying when you just want to freeload to your heart’s content.  After hours of swishing my fingers up and down, I finally reach entry 1,012 – only to have the search results freeze, a moment that forces you to start the whole process again with no means of cutting straight to entry 1,012.  A forum on the Amazon website seems to suggest this issue is a long-standing problem and the best thing to do is switch the Kindle off then switch it back on again.

Hmm.

Not really what I expected…  Apart from the Kindle Store crashing, I thought the touch-screen keyboard and the screen’s responsiveness to physical contact would be on a level much higher.  The characters appear so slowly on-screen when typing anything from your password to a search term.

Having said that, I am impressed with the e-ink and matte finish of the screen, where fingerprints, no matter how numerous, may accumulate as unpleasantly as they wish without obstructing enjoyment of the Kindle itself.  Ghosting seldom happens, the Kindle is slim and light, and if it reawakens after rudely crashing, I might just purchase a Kindle cover to ensure it remains pristine on every journey to work.

But we’ll see.  It is driving me bonkers.

i hate you...?


betraying the books

Perhaps I’m becoming too materialistic, but hey, I’m Asian; brands are what I do!

the devil wears silver

Recently, I’ve been thinking of buying a Kindle Touch, just so I can read “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R R Martin without lugging around some really fragile paperbacks.

As you can see, Amazon are running a fabulous deal on the Kindle Edition (costs the same as buying the actual books).  Should I go for it or should I not?  Decisions, decisions, decisions…


my sewing dream

Let's dance

I saw this on the Argos website and have dreamt of it ever since.  I will make that skirt I’ve been searching for… to hell with buying it!


burt’s bees “radiance”

royal jelly goodness

While searching for supplements in Holland & Barrett, I came across Burt’s Bees and decided to extend my quest for a healthier lifestyle by purchasing cosmetics using 99% natural ingredients.  

Since I’ve never purchased Burt’s Bees before, I had no idea how effective their products would be or whether they would suit my combination skin type.  Nevertheless, I went for their “Radiance” day and eye cream range, which only cost me €38.00 due to an in-store discount of 20% (thank you, H&B!)

I tried my new creams later that evening, though not before I read some reviews by other “Radiance” users, who surprisingly complained about the ‘over-powering’ smell and the fact that Burt’s Bees had changed the original formula.  Personally, I found the scent quite fresh, sweet, and subtle; and while I can hardly comment on the formula, both creams left my skin feeling soft and moisturised and looking much ‘brighter’ after several applications.

In particular, the eye cream is very good.  Most users like how it helps with their make-up, ensuring foundation, powder, and eye shadow stays in one place; what I like is the way it relaxes the skin around my eyes, as the skin there can get really dry during the Night Shift.

Unfortunately, though, I wouldn’t say these creams are essential.  If you apply too much, your skin ends up heavy with oil in less than an hour and sometimes takes a while to completely soak in.  By applying less, you are likely to find a suitable balance and also increase the products’ cost-effectiveness, which could last for up to a year, depending on how you use them.  All the same, the creams are still ordinary compared to products like Simple, which aim for similar results at a much lower price.

As for reducing the appearance of wrinkles?  No experience with this whatsoever, given my graceful ageing on the right side of 30, but I can tell you that the “Radiance” creams wouldn’t stretch that far; they’re just an alternative to the chemical-laden brands that currently populate the market.

All in all, I enjoy using these creams and would recommend them wholeheartedly to those with drier skin or a really sensitive conscience when it comes to their impact on the local environment.  In terms of whether Burt’s Bees would suit anyone on the Night Shift… of course it would!  Who would say “no” to brighter, healthier skin?


bittersweet supplements

mr simms olde sweet shoppe (dublin, ireland)

Look what I found on Dame Street at the weekend: a shop selling sweets we all know and love from our childhood!  In this wonderful pocket of Dublin you will find not only the likes of Nerds, Refreshers, Fruit Salads, Black Jacks, Dib Dabs, Roll-up Bubblegum, Flying Saucers, Jawbreakers, and much, much more, but also the infamous US cereals no longer sold in the UK due to fear of excessive sugar and E numbers; such as the addictive and colourful Lucky Charms:

pot noodle format

In addition to filling my hunger for retro sweets and cereal, I had to act on my increasing health concerns by visiting my local Holland & Barrett, where I picked up three supplements which I felt would help me during the Night Shift.

three of my best friends

The most obvious choice for a dietary supplement on the Night Shift is Vitamin C.  The fact you stay awake at night, a time when your body is meant to be naturally recuperating and rejuvenating, means that your body is hardly getting the down-time it ought to.  Working the Night Shift leaves you surprisingly susceptible to coughs and colds, particularly in an air-conditioned office environment, therefore topping up your immune system can make a difference for those who seem to catch every seasonal bug available.

Not so obvious is Lutein (pronounced “loo-tane”), a substance derived from blueberry plants and generally obtained through the consumption of spinach, kelp, and egg yolks.  Lutein helps to support the eyes, with recent studies noticing its importance in delaying age-related macular degeneration.  While I am still relatively young and unlikely to suffer this condition for quite some time (crossed fingers), I see no reason to ignore the positive margin on offer here, especially since we seem to be destined for centenarian survival.

My final supplement is Cod Liver Oil, a traditional way of keeping bones and joints supple, as well as a natural pick-me-up for those who have mild depression.  Despite these great benefits, there are some who would argue that Cod Liver Oil is a danger to your health.  During a visit to Nourish, an Irish version of Holland & Barrett, one of their store clerks gave me the momentary fright of my life by advising me against the supplement due to potential mercury poisoning.  As this was her personal outlook, I found myself less inclined to thank her and more intent on escaping; after all, the industry uses molecular filtering these days to ensure their produce does not contain harmful elements, and people who press their opinions at the expense of ruining their sales pitch will always fail to interest me.