First steeks: “The Little Dude” cardigan

You know what’s scary? Spending two weeks knitting a giant tube…only to CUT IT OPEN!

My current “ambitious” cardigan project takes advantage of something known as “steeks.” Steeking is the addition of usually an odd number of stitches to your circular knitting that you eventually cut open. Imagine that: all of your hard work and then you cut that shit open like you’re performing a dissection. It sounded bananas scary.

As I had only read about steeking, I thought it best to try it on a smaller cardigan, so I found “The Little Dude” sweater by Andrea Rangel. I haven’t seen The Big Lebowski, but I did recognize the pattern from the movie stills.

I knit this cardigan for Elliott, Kya and Brian’s nearly two-year-old son, whom I’ve [sniff] actually never met. He seemed like the right age for a cardigan–sure, you can make handknit stuff for newborns, but they outgrow it, like, immediately. This sweater will fit for at least a month…I hope. I don’t know. I don’t understand kids.

My goal was to finish this sweater in two weeks. It ended up taking three when you factor in weaving in ends, blocking, etc. (all that finishing stuff), but the actual knitting flew by.  It’s surprisingly fast to make a tiny garment!

"The Little Dude" cardigan, soaking

Here’s a picture of the steeks–they are the columns of alternating gray and cream stitches. The purple yarn is the hand-sewn reinforcement to keep the ends from unraveling. There are a couple ways to reinforce a steek; I chose to do hand-sewing for this one because it seemed a little more secure than the crocheted version. I’m not too worried though because I made sure to use 100% wool, which should start to felt together over time.  (You can also use a sewing machine if you, you know, have one and didn’t donate it because you realized that sewing makes you stabby.)

hand-sewn steek, "The Little Dude" cardigan

(I used this blog post and this video to learn about hand-sewing steeks.)

And here is a side-by-side of the un-cut and cut steeks. It was surprisingly easy to cut them open. I had done enough research and trusted in the knowledge of the Shetland knitters who came before me and invented this technique.

I actually lost at “yarn roulette” — meaning that I ran out of yarn before the end of the project. This is the first time that has ever happened to me. Luckily, I had some similar cream-colored yarn leftover from another project to use on the last few rows of the collar. I’m really not sure how I ran out of yarn because I had 80 extra yards to begin with, and I usually knit tight! *I* can tell that it’s two different shades of cream, but I’m 100% sure that Elliot will not give AF about this. He’s two.  That’s what I kept telling myself while it was blocking…

(Also, I finally bit the bullet and purchased foam mats and T-pins for blocking. I’m a real knitter now!)

Blocking "The Little Dude" cardigan

Pinning the sweater down reminds me of those cases with specimens pinned under glass:

Pinning "The Little Dude" cardigan

To further secure the steeks, I used blanket stitch to tack down the flaps. I think it adds a rustic, homey touch as well as some piece of mind. This was, I think, the most satisfying part.

blanket stitch on cut steeks, "The Little Dude"

Finally, this “Little Dude” doesn’t look exactly like the original sweater in the movie. That one zips up, but this version uses buttons. I agonized over picking buttons (Again, Self, the recipient IS TWO.), but I’m pretty pleased with how the ones I picked look:

wood buttons on "The Little Dude"

And here’s the finished project. Isn’t it cute? I’m so happy with it. Not only did it turn out well, I learned how to use steeks and got to keep working on my stranded colorwork technique. (The pattern suggests catching every other float stitch, which I’m not used to.)

"The Little Dude" cardigan by Andrea Rangel

"The Little Dude" cardigan by Andrea Rangel

Once I was done, I sent Andrea, the pattern designer, a link to my completed project page. She liked it so much that she posted one of my photos on her Instagram feed!

Kya texted me as soon as she got the sweater package. She said she’ll send photos of Elliot in it soon! Because they just had their second child, my hope is that Henry can wear it once Elliot outgrows it. That being said, it’s a white, hand-wash only sweater made of 100% wool for a toddler. That seems kind of…well, insane to me.

Here are more technical details on my Ravelry project page, if you are interested.

My weekend, basically.


It rained most of this weekend, so this was what I spent a lot of the time doing. (Plus going to the dentist, testing my one-rep. maxes for lifting, and walking a fair amount.)

I am working on an ambitious cardigan project for Mom, so I have, of course, made a rough schedule for myself to finish it in a timely fashion: one skein’s worth of yarn a week. Go, go, go!

Also, I started watching Outlander because, I don’t know, Scottish time-travel romance.

Ameri-cakes & Pies: Connecticut snickerdoodles

I had this plan to bake the “Hartford Day Election Cake” for the state of Connecticut. After all, in case you somehow missed this (HA!), it’s an election year.

Except that cake actually sounds gross…or at least, it doesn’t sound very tasty. (Recipe here.)  Plus, my enthusiasm for this election has been replaced with fatigue and disgust. I’m so ready for it to be over!

Instead of some heavy fruitcake, I present snickerdoodles, which are apparently the state cookie of Connecticut.

Truth be told, I made chocolate snickerdoodles because my trusty Hand Made Baking cookbook had a recipe for them. (Bless you, Kamran Siddiqi! I hope we get to meet in person one day!) Plus, I happened to have all of the ingredients in my kitchen on Tuesday when I realized I didn’t know what I was making for the Great British Bakeoff viewing party. And I didn’t know that they were the Connecticut state cookie until they were cooling and I was doing some research on the etymology of “snickerdoodle” (Still not sure). As such, I don’t have any photos of the baking process.

chocolate snickerdoodles

They don’t photograph terribly well. I mean, they’re just light brown chocolate cookies rolled in cinnamon-sugar before baking. The one notable thing is that the dough was very soft–so much so that I was worried that I hadn’t put in enough flour. To stiffen it up, I let the dough rest in the fridge while the oven finished preheating. This helped a little bit when balling the dough up and rolling it in the cinnamon-sugar, but I still had to use a soft touch.

The Wikipedia article on snickerdoodles informs me that one of the defining characteristics, besides the cinnamon-sugar, is the cracked appearance. The cookies had some crack, but again, because they were chocolate, it was harder to see it through the filling.

chocolate snickerdoodles

Kamran’s recipe yields 20 cookies if you follow his instructions to use three-tablespoon balls of dough. Knowing that I was going to a Bakeoff event though, I opted to cut the size in half so that they cookies weren’t entirely overwhelming. My dough scooper is one and a half tablespoons, which worked out perfectly. I cut the baking time down to 8-9 minutes and got about 40 cookies.

chocolate snickerdoodles on cooling racks

They were a pretty big hit at the party. One guest told me that they were like a brownie and a cookie mixed together. And, yes, they are very soft, not at all crisp! I took the leftovers to work today, and they were devoured quickly. That being said, I don’t love them, but that’s mostly because I don’t really like cinnamon. (The Hus-friend says the texture is nice and soft, but he agrees that he prefers chocolate cookies unadulterated by cinnamon.)

I was much more excited that Andrew had brought Viennese whirls to share space on the cookie tray!

snickerdoodles & Viennese whirls

Oh, and I can’t forget to share a picture of Natalie’s amazing chicken and mushroom pie, complete with a dough chicken decoration:

Natalie's chicken pie

Can you believe that was her first time making pie dough? Actually, she called it “shortcrust pastry,” which I have come to understand as a British term. As far as I can tell, it’s basically pie crust; it has all of the right ingredients: flour, fat, water, and salt If you know of a difference, please let me know!

Last week, briefly.

“What is THAT?!?” Ashley said on her visit last week, noticing the large booklet sitting on our coffee table. Why, it was the California voter guide! As CA residents, we get to vote on propositions on each ballot–things like legalizing marijuana and banning single-use plastic bags. Hooray! The voter booklet has a detailed explanation of each proposition in addition to arguments for and against. And because this is a big election, we get to vote on a record 17 state props this year. BIGGER HOORAY!

…then today, the SF city and county book came in. It’s EVEN thicker!

voter guides, SF

Cynically, I don’t think that most residents read the book and consider the arguments for each proposition. On some elections, I certainly haven’t read the whole booklet, instead, just skimming and then looking at a variety of voter guides. It feels like a lot of responsibility–a privilege and a right–to do the right thing about propositions. And my non-California friends think this is crazy…it is certainly a change after Virginia.

In other news, I finished a fun knitting project last week, but I’m waiting to post pictures until the recipient gets it. In the mean time, I started gauge-swatching for an ambitious cardigan for Mom. I was simultaneously watching Leap Year on Netflix, which meant the Hus-friend was also sort of watching it and interjecting his critical commentary (“YOU DIDN’T EVEN PAY, LADY!”). At one point, he made me laugh and spit tea all over the pattern:


We’re super great at being married adults. Yesterday, we even unclogged our bathroom sink together.

Coffee cake with boulders!

I learned last week at the Great British Bake Off viewing party that Brits use “coffee cake” to refer to cake that is coffee-flavo(u)red. Here’s a sample recipe published in The Telegraph by the GBBO queen, Mary Berry, herself. In the picture below from last weeks’s party, it’s the cake surrounded by a purple box, made by co-worker Andrew.

British coffee cake at GBBO party

Andrew, Natalie, and Simon were all quite surprised to hear that for Americans, coffee cake has no coffee flavoring. I tend to use “coffee cake” and “crumb cake” interchangeably–the best part of a good, moist coffee cake are the hunks of crumb topping, right?

This past week’s theme was “desserts,” and the other attendees attempted the dreaded roulade or a Swiss roll cake. One of the foundations of our marriage is my promise to the Hus-friend that I will not attempt a rolled cake while he is in the apartment. The likelihood of cracking coupled with my, shall we say, short and explosive fuse, makes for a tense situation, which he would rather avoid.  I admitted that a roulade was not in the cards for me this week. Instead, I decided on an American coffee cake…

…or “Brooklyn crumb cake” as Kamran Siddiqi calls it in Hand Made Baking. I’m sure you know by now that this is my go-to baking cookbook for un-fussy, homemade desserts. And once again, it did not fail me!

The cake itself is pretty standard. I ran out of sour cream and made up the difference with buttermilk. The best part is, of course, the crumble, and I like my cinnamon crumbs to be the size of boulders. To make them, you squeeze handfuls of the topping mixture until it holds together, and then you break off varying sizes of chunks and press them into the cake batter. I erred on the side of large:

making Brooklyn crumb cake

The final baked cake was moist, and the crumble was perfectly crunchy-yet-crumb-like. I heard someone say “This coffee cake is delicious!” and a few people went back for seconds at the viewing party. I would say it was a success.

That being said, since I have an aversion to bumpy, irregular things, looking at this photo of the finished product is slightly uncomfortable:

Brooklyn Crumb Cake

Oh, and the other attendees were so brave! Natalie made a colored roulade, which did not rise as much as she wanted. It was a beautiful roll though, filled with cream and jam!


And Andrew bravely jumped right in with a rolled flourless chocolate cake. Like, WHAT? HOW WOULD THAT EVEN WORK? I like to think that the angles make it very modern.


I really admire my coworkers for baking difficult things. I have an intense fear of failure (and serving people sub-par and/or unattractive things), which keeps me from trying anything too difficult. I will one day attempt a roulade…just when the Hus-friend is out of town.

Some nice gifts I got recently

Our apartment comes with a parking space, and our landlord has given us permission to rent it out to someone in the building. The most recent “parking space tenant” is a Korean woman with two sons, one of whom is using the space for his new car. It actually really annoys me that her son, whichever one is using the space, has never interacted with me except for one terse email. Their mom, who is very clearly NOT a native speaker of English, is the one who comes up to the unit to interact with me and who calls me on the phone. (Lots of mumbling about maybe ungrateful sons….)

This woman, Jeanie, is SUCH A KOREAN MOM, constantly giving. The first time she delivered the rent, she also brought us a pack of songpyeon for Chuseok. And this last time, she gave us more Korean snacks and this “accessories bag”:

accessories bag and Korean snacks

When I called Jeanie to thank her (I was actually at the gym when she came by.), she asked if I “knew kimchi” and if I liked Korean food. She was surprised that I like Korean food because I grew up here. “My sons grew up here,” she said, “They like some Korean food, but not a lot of it.” (MUMBLEMUMBLEmaybe ungrateful sonsMUMBLEMUMBLE). She told me to come visit her whenever I like and said “Well, I only have nieces. I don’t have any daughters….and I think you are SO CUTE person!” Sounds like we might be getting some Korean food with a future rent payment…

The other unexpected gift came from Kim! She sent a sweet “just because” kind of card and this reminder of our trip to the Golden Pyramid for our fridge:

I got that Busan magnet in Korea last year. “Hometown” pride!

I really like decorating our fridge with postcards, pictures, and fun magnets. It actually makes me feel like a grown-up because it’s all evidence of things I’ve done and the places I’ve been and the relationships I’ve built.

Updating with some more gifts I received this week:

I’m sipping some herbal tea as I edit this post. Sahar brought it back from her and Ganbi’s PNW road trip back in August. It’s sweet that she remembered that I like tea (no coffee, just tea!) and thought to bring me a souvenir from their travels.

Celebrate Lavender Tea

In response to some good news I received at work this week, Noah gifted me this amazing Buddha’s hand. This one is really a marvelous specimen with so many fingers! I had it on my desk at work all day, and it gave off a pleasant, citrusy + floral scent. I’m not sure what I’ll do with this one. (Last time, I had lots of experiments.)

Buddha's hand

And finally, Jenn, who has been rapidly leveling up with her knitting skills, offered to make me a tiny little something from her book of MochiMochi patterns. Because I love Christmas (and this makes me very special), I asked for the tiny Christmas tree. Isn’t it adorable? I’m going to hang it as a little decoration. (Only 79 more days until Christmas!)

tiny knit Christmastree

I’m quite the lucky one, right?

Tina and Ben are married!

This past weekend, we celebrated Tina and Ben’s marriage, making it 100% official-official! (Okay, so they’ve been married since July, and this weekend was the reception…or the fun part of the wedding.)


Tina & Ben, first dance
She was a lovely bride, and I totally failed to capture that on camera.

Having known them both since high school and through college, I’m so delighted that Tina and Ben are married. They are a fun, sweet, and well-matched couple! Also, selfishly, I love that Tina’s partner is someone I know and think is awesome.

Tina & Ben: parents dance
I obviously started bawling immediately.

Like a traditional reception, there were drinks (with a delicious EANAB for the non-drinkers), a multi-course meal, dancing, and a lot of mingling. The Hus-friend and I had been looking forward to this for years because we knew that it would be a mini reunion of sorts for our class…and it was! 20 people from our class were there…19 are in this photo because one arrived later (HANS!).

group GSGIS shot
fun fact: 3/3 of my homecoming dates are in this photo.

This meant that we had SO MUCH FUN together, catching up (loudly), dancing (badly, on my part), eating leftover pie off people’s plates, and trying to guess the identify of the prolific crop-duster near the bar.

group photo, Tina & Ben's wedding
Self-we with Rohan, his wife Khushbu, and Kevin

It was really special to attend a wedding where we had known the couple for such a long time and even knew their families. Tina’s mom Joy gave a really hilarious speech with two anecdotes of what a “stubborn and unpredictable” person Tina is. I used to be really afraid of Joy (She was the first tiger mother I really met.), but now I love her dearly. I don’t think she understands this, but oh well. I was also quite touched that Tina’s cousin remembered me and said hello.

with Joy

Our table was a fun one: I was seated next to my oldest friend Thomas (“Tom” now apparently). We met in first grade, back when we used to tease him about looking like McCaulay Culkin. It was really great to catch up with him and his wife Katie, who moved to Albuquerque last year. He teased me a lot for translating the menu item “albondigas” as “meatballs,” but YOU KNOW WHAT, THAT’S THE WORD IN SPANISH FOR MEATBALLS.

Mica & Thomas
(Was actually using my phone to check my teeth for figs here. Thanks, Thomas.)

Of course, Ashley and Kyle were at our table too, and hanging out with them is always a delight. We teased Ashley for needing 2+ hours to do a “full get-ready” before the wedding. By contrast, my get-ready was about 35 minutes, including a shower and a much-needed  entire-leg shave. I’m about the laziest get-readier you can imagine.

Ashley & Mica
This photo makes my bicep look incredibly beefy.

I actually rented my dress online, and it worked out really well. Much easier than going shopping for an outfit I’ll only wear once. I found the cheapest dress that I liked, and I got several compliments on it, so that was great. Here we are looking like respectable adult humans:

respectable wedding guests at Tina and Ben's wedding

…and the end of the night. (You will notice that the pear has a bite taken out of it. I think the pear, like the aforementioned figs, was a table decoration, but I tried to eat it anyway.)

wedding polaroid
(The tie-on-head is a reference to a Korean drama trope.)

I unfortunately have not tracked down the photo Ashley, Tina, and I took while we were eating the leftover pie and cake in the kitchen. We are the classiest.

Having friends in town for the wedding meant that we got to hang out with them for the rest of the weekend. We took Ashley and Kyle to some of our favorite places, including Ice Cream Bar (which Jordan and Maria took us to when we visited on WVT).

group photo at Ice Cream Bar

I’m very excited that Ashley and Kyle are engaged now (!!!!). (KYLE, YOU’RE STUCK WITH THIS GROUP OF WEIRDOS NOW.) We took them to Corona Heights Park, where it was the perfect day to marvel at the city.

Corona Heights, SF
Can you find Ashley and Kyle?

All around, a kick-ass weekend! I love this group of people and can’t wait to reconnect with more of them soon.

high kick in Corona Heights