Give Me a Bake

I started out wanting to keep this blog very focused on knitting and on crafting in general, and while I’ve enjoyed finding out news about knitting, showing new patterns, and also what I’m knitting, I feel like my blog isn’t totally reflecting who I am.  I love to knit, of course, but I also love to bake and sew and garden, to spend time with my family, and to live in an awesome place. So I will start expanding the scope of my blog, to better reflect my life and my interests -- I will still have a lot of knitting-related content, of course, but I hope you’ll enjoy reading about my adventures in non-knitting endeavours.

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On that note, what’s in the oven this week?   Graham cracker cookies!  It does seem a bit weird to take graham crackers, pulverize them into crumbs, then bake them up into cookies, but hear me out -- these are like cookie versions of the graham cracker crust that you’d find on a cheesecake (or, I hear, certain pies, but I’ve only ever used the graham crust for cheesecake).  And without all that cream cheese getting in the way, you really get to taste the salty-sweet crumbiness. And by taste, I mean baste your tastebuds with. The only changes I made to the recipe were to double the salt (to ½ tsp) and to use a 1-tbsp-sized cookie scoop, so I got about 27 cookies.

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Also, because I wanted to use up the rest of the box of graham cracker crumbs, I made magic bars (I used the recipe in The Redpath Canadian Bake Book, which isn’t available online, but this one is very similar).  I don’t know if I would actually say they’re magic -- there’s no mystery, to me, about how delicious the combination of crunchy roasted nuts, chocolate chips, coconut, creamy condensed milk, and graham crumbs is.  I’m just waiting for them to cool now so I can start mashing them into my mouth with both hands...

Free Pattern Friday: Lissome

What a cute and easy summer-weight wrap https://samsweaterz.wordpress.com/2018/03/27/pattern-lissome/!  The boxy, drapey shape is very contemporary.  Summer has arrived in Edmonton, all of a a sudden, and this pattern is bringing to mind the couple of skeins of linen yarn that I already have in my stash…

Images by Bitchcraft

Taking Stock, April 2018

Making: a pair of mittens, which I am designing myself, and a cowl, which I am also designing

Cooking: noodle bowls and curries, nesting food for the depths of winter

Drinking: lemonade and hot chocolate (alternately, depending on whether it’s snowing or summery.  What an April we’ve had…)

Deciding: just how much brassica (cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts) I can grow this year

Wishing: I had started my greenhouse plants even earlier than I did -- it wasn’t that warm out, but it wasn’t dropping below freezing in the greenhouse overnight, so I think I could have put the seeds into pots at the beginning of April.

Enjoying: Easter chocolate, of course!

Waiting: and waiting and waiting for warmer weather!  We’ve had many days lately that look deceptively warm and sunny, until you step out into the blasting, icy winds and it feels like -15.  In April!

Liking: the song This Is Me from The Greatest Showman (I haven’t seen the movie yet, but my dance class is warming up to this song this session)

Wondering: when my AFLCA certification will come through.  It’s the certification I’m completing so I can be a fitness leader, and I finally finished the practical observation last week, which was the last piece of the (many) requirements.  

Loving: spring cleaning!  We’ve done a lot of the house, plus we took advantage of a sunny day to clean the car.  Next up, the craft stash.

Pondering: a new convertible backpack from Pixie Mood, though I really shouldn’t...

Considering: whether I’m ready for the MCAT prep course I’m teaching, which starts next week.  The course has been updated a lot since I last taught it, and there’s so much to review!

Buying: seeds -- San Marzano tomatoes, as an experiment, and pumpkin (because of the jack o’lantern on the package, largely)

Watching: Alias Grace on Netflix.  It’s good, but when I watch all I want to do is read the book (by Margaret Atwood) because it’s so much more layered and complex than a TV show could ever be

Marvelling: at how fun it is to master a tricky dance sequence -- most of the sequences are fairly easy, but once in a while there’s a trickier one and i just practice until it’s second nature.  It feels so good to finally get it.

Cringing: because my knitting-related shoulder pain is back...I really should figure out a long-term solution so it doesn’t keep recurring.  Ideas I’ve had so far are knitting with timer so I take regular breaks, knitting in a hard chair (rather than on a soft couch), sitting up straighter, supporting my arms so that my shoulders don’t have to take the weight of the knitting, and stretching out my shoulder muscles every night.

Smelling: my many perfume samples, which I’m trying to make an effort to use (and not just stockpile)

Wearing: shorts and fleece, alternately

Admiring: Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, which I finally got around to reading.  I was a bit underengaged in the first half, but the story picked up and I sped through the last half

Listening: BBC Radio 4’s Friday Night Comedy podcast -- I’m even starting to recognize some voices, and they’re all so funny

Free Pattern Friday: Lace for Mom Stole

The March issue of Knotions is out, and it’s almost all lace projects.  The Lace for Mom Stole is a stunning rectangular piece that would be a perfect gift for Mothers’ Day!

Images by Knotions

Yarn Along with Small Things

Every month, Ginny Sheller shares her current knits and current reads on her blog, Small Things.  Check out what she’s doing this month. It’s a good way to get new knit and book recommendations, so come on and join the fun!

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I’m still beetling away on my Barley Sugar cowl -- I’m almost ready for the last stockinette section! -- and reading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, at long last.  It’s good but I find her prose a bit spare, and not that easy for me to really get into.

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Free Pattern Friday: Eastman T-shirt

Check out this pattern from Berroco, for the Eastman t-shirt.  So springy and fiiiiiinally we have the weather for shorter sleeves!  I like the flattering A-line shape and interesting textured stitch pattern, and I'd probably make the sleeves a little longer (just above the elbow).  

It’s written for a cotton/cashmere blend made by Berroco, which is intriguing -- probably the closest thing I’ve ever knit with is a cotton/wool blend from Rowan, which gets some elasticity from the wool content.  You could probably substitute a different yarn, but I’d stick to a cotton or linen blend (not 100% cotton), as without some other fibre in there cotton itself tends to droop.

Images by Berroco

Knitscene Summer 2018

The new Knitscene is out and there are a lot of tank tops and pool cover-ups -- pretty typical summer-issue stuff.  Some of them are really pretty, like the Seashell Tank by Heather Zoppetti, but I’m not a person who has a lot of use for a knitted tank top.  The Sandy Cardigan by Kiri FitzGerald (left below) really stands out to me, though.

There’s also a collection of colour-blocked patterns, including the Cube Socks by Mone Dräger (right above).  Colour-blocking is very trendy but the patterns in this collection somehow all come out looking very ‘90s -- not bad though, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Check out the whole issue and the lookbook here.

Images by Knitscene

Give Me a Bake

What’s in the oven this week?   Graham cracker cookies!  It does seem a bit weird to take graham crackers, pulverize them into crumbs, then bake them up into cookies, but hear me out -- these are like cookie versions of the graham cracker crust that you’d find on a cheesecake (or, I hear, certain pies, but I’ve only ever used the graham crust for cheesecake).  And without all that cream cheese getting in the way, you really get to taste the salty-sweet crumbiness. And by "taste," I mean "bathe your tastebuds with." The only changes I made to the recipe were to double the salt (to ½ tsp) and to use a 1-tbsp-sized cookie scoop, so I got about 27 cookies.

Grahamcookies.jpg

Also, because I wanted to use up the rest of the box of graham cracker crumbs, I made magic bars (I used the recipe in The Redpath Canadian Bake Book, which isn’t available online, but this one is very similar).  I don’t know if I would actually say they’re magic -- there’s no mystery, to me, about how delicious the combination of crunchy roasted nuts, chocolate chips, coconut, creamy condensed milk, and graham crumbs is.  I’m just waiting for them to cool now so I can start mashing them into my mouth with both hands...

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Free Pattern Friday: Forever April Sweater

How cute and cuddly is this sweater?  (Rav link)  The colour is perfect, and I love the visible shaping on the front and back, which look like very precise darts.  And it is a perfect spring sweater, simultaneously revealing and thermal.

Knit Elbow Patches

I loooove these knitted elbow patches from Anne Hanson over at Knitspot.  She’s got a nice write-up on how she did them, with lovely clear pictures.

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Image by Anne Hanson

In other, general life news, I'm pretty behind on my knitting because I've got more work lately (boo and yay!).  I'm nearing the end of the the Barley Sugar cowl and the end of my self-designed mittens, and we're also nearing the end of winter, finally.

The Fibre Nook in Edmonton, Alberta

I had some time last Thursday to drop into The Fibre Nook, Edmonton’s newest yarn store, and knit and chat with some very friendly ladies.  The space is wonderful, not too crowded and full of light. There’s an area with a couple of couches, should you want to relax, and a larger area with tables and chairs, if you’re more serious about your knitting.  The Fibre Nook also holds classes in this very comfortable and inviting space.

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They carry a huge variety of yarns, some from local (Alberta) and slightly-less-local (BC and Ontario) indie dyers, as well as some international brands that are harder to find around here (I saw and petted yarn from Woolfolk, Malabrigo, and Baa Ram Ewe, to name a few).  They also have print versions of all the current knitting magazines, like Making, Pom Pom Quarterly, and Laine, which is nice as you can save yourself the cost of shipping by buying locally.

The service was among the best of any yarn store I’ve ever been in.  Clifton was open, thoughtful, and very helpful. It’s sad to say, but it’s not that common to get nice people like that working in yarn stores.

And of course, only the best of us could resist picking up yarn!  I ended up getting a sock set in the Lipstick and Lashes colourway from Polka Dot Creek, which is based in Airdrie, Alberta, and an amazing fluorescent speckled yarn in the Lite Brite colourway from Black Cat Custom Yarn, which is based in Chilliwack, BC.

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As for the knitting ladies, everyone was very friendly and welcoming, and when they started talking about knitting a project as being a journey, I knew I was in the right place.  Many people were working on socks, but N had a baby blanket going (this spurred a conversation about moss and seed stitch), and C had just finished a blanket-like poncho that she had designed herself.  

You can drop in and knit any time, but there are set times if you wish to make it more of a social activity.  Check out the drop-in knitting times and class schedule on the website.  Hopefully I’ll see you there!

Images by The Fibre Nook

Free Pattern Friday: Striped Cardigan

This cardigan from Classic Elite has a very basic name to suit a very basic sweater.  That sounds like a knock but it's not, though; it’s the basics that get the most wear, so I won’t turn my nose up at a cardigan like this one.  It looks super cute over a dress, the same way the sample is styled.

The pattern includes options for cardigan length and sleeve length so it’s very customizable, and you could mix it up infinitely in terms of colours.  Curiously, the pattern is written with the sleeves being knit flat and then seamed, though this is easy enough to change if you want to, and if you eliminate the sleeve seams there is very minimal finishing indeed.  Plus, bulky weight yarn! You could start this at the beginning of Spring Break and be done by the end of the week, I bet.

Loose Strands

Sweater insides

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I almost wore my Schnee sweater inside-out the other day, and that made me think about how good the finishing on the inside must look!  I did notice and turned it right-side-out in time, but at a glance, I couldn't tell the inside from the outside. I did give myself a pretty big pat on the back for my finishing on that sweater.

 

Ravelry challenge tab

As of today, in your notebook you’ll see a new tab called challenge. You can enter a goal for the year or opt out, which will remove the tab from your view. After you have set your goal the tab is a home for your challenge –  the projects you have completed this year and the ones in your queue with a deadline in the current year stay up to date to track your progress. You can change your goal at any time, there is no deadline to sign up, and if you opt out and you can decide later to opt back in.

Unwitting underarm felting

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I wore my Icelandic Star sweater on a cross-country ski trip, and managed to felt the underarms just from friction!  It's wool and it was amazingly and reliably warm, but I'm a bit sad about the felted underarms. Maybe it's just a sign of a broken-in, loved piece of clothing?

 

Every ceiling tells a story

This is such a sad story for a beautiful sweater.  Me, I’d be unravelling the half-done sweater and disappearing the yarn from my house, because it would only remind me of things I don’t want to be reminded of.  Isn’t it funny how the things we make become reflections and reminders of our emotions?

A not-totally-unrelated example:  we once hired a contractor friend to refinish our ceilings with a knock-down texture.  He was going through a pretty painful divorce at the time and we thought we’d help out his business.  However, our timing could probably have been better, as our ceilings somehow manage to show how angry and sad and distracted he was at the time.  I never would have thought contracting work could reflect someone's emotions, but they do.  We call them our divorce ceilings now, so at least we can joke about it!  Also our contractor friend is doing better now.

SkyKnit

I’m not going to pretend I understand anything about neural networks or artificial intelligence, but I know about knitting and I know about experimentation, and this whole project is pretty interesting. I know it’s about what computers can do, but all it really makes me think about is how the human mind is capable of incredibly complex tasks, all without us really realizing how many little steps and processes contribute to something relatively simple (in designing a pattern for a knitted dishcloth, say).  

Taking Stock, March 2018

Making: a doll plus a boatload of accessories, from this fabric that I bought a long time ago.  I picked Olive, after a lot of deliberation.  Hopefully it will be all done by H’s 4th birthday.  I am not very good at stuffing soft toys, so we’ll see how they turn out

Cooking: a lot of cakes, lately; pound cake, blueberry muffins, kiwi muffins, blueberry sour cream cake, cinnamon buns...my freezer is stuffed

Drinking: rum and Coke, what can I say?  I need something to scare away the cold viruses

Wanting: to ditch my toque and heavy Sorels

Looking: for non-candy ideas for things to stuff into plastic Easter eggs (I’ve come up with stickers, pompoms, jokes...)

Playing: with portable gym equipment (like free weights, kettlebells, Bosu balls, stretchy bands, etc.), which is kind of neat.  I don’t know why it surprises me, but people are into some weeeeeird workout stuff

Deciding: whether I should indulge in the Buttercream Clothing spring collection.  I love the new fabrics, and everything I’ve bought from them is so high-quality.

Wishing: I could find a pair of jeans that fits and flatters!  Eternal struggle, right, ladies?

Enjoying: Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series, still.  I accidentally skipped from the 5th book to the 16th, but by the time I realized (which took me an embarrassingly long time, actually) that I’d skipped ahead I was way too deep into the mystery to stop.

 A current WIP (Barley Sugar, by Ysolda Teague)

A current WIP (Barley Sugar, by Ysolda Teague)

Waiting: for Easter!  I love the smells of spring, melting snow, my Easter Feaster (™ me) meal (eggs, ham, heavy cream, asparagus), and chocolate

Liking: Girls Trip (the movie)...I can’t say it was all wonderful, but there are a lot of funny and endearing moments (mostly courtesy of Tiffany Haddish)

Wondering: if I could really declutter like The Minimalist Mom talks about...she is right that kid clutter is actually parent clutter

Loving: all the nicknames my daughter comes up with for herself - Princess Leia, Elsa, Emma (the yellow Wiggle), Tap Your Little Heart Out

Pondering: whether we should choose swimming or gymnastics for the spring quarter...it’s nice to have choices like this

Considering: buying cookbooks, specifically Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi and her Dorie’s Cookies, as well as the new book from Smitten Kitchen

Buying: some prints on paper and on canvas to brighten up the house for spring.  How often do you switch up wall decor in your house?

Watching: our solar power collection rack up, up, up...we have an inverter system that we can monitor with an app, so we can see instantaneous and historical data on how much solar power the panels on our roof have produced.  So neat!

Marvelling: at how happy it makes me feel to have more hours of sun and to see everything melting

Feeling: pressed to plan out the summer, booking trips and organizing meetups and activities

Needing: a little break from dancing -- it’s great exercise, but it’s not easy on your body to dance your little heart out twice a week

Questioning: why it keeps snowing, then melting, then snowing...ah, early spring

Wearing: light boots!  Finally out of those heavy Sorels (I love them when there’s snow, but I’m always relieved when the snow melts and I can stop stomping around)

Noticing: how cool Calgary Olympic Park is...awesome to have a facility like that right in the city, though it is showing its age now.  We went to the tube park there and it was pretty fun

Thinking: that I should get going on designing if I’m going to design six patterns by the end of the year

Admiring: the woman who runs the Tours for Tots program at the Art Gallery of Alberta - she’s amazing with the kids, and she comes up with art activities that are perfect for preschoolers, and the program is free with admission!

Sorting: through toys, trying to declutter so I can sell things at a used-kid’s-things sale in April

Bookmarking: Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran, which I had never heard of until last week.  I'm curious to see where it goes

Coveting: a new backpack, specifically this one -- but do I really NEED another backpack?  The answer is pretty much always no

Disliking: these shoulder-season colds!  I always seem to get a cold when the weather is very changeable (spring-like one day, blizzarding the next)

Giggling: over Ramona the Pest, which my husband reads to H at bedtime.  I’d forgotten how funny she is!

Snacking: on Greek yogurt, cream puffs, and cinnamon buns

Listening: to a lot of CBC Radio 2 lately

FO: Alafoss

Alafoss is done at last!  It should have been a quick knit but having to reconfigure the yoke myself took a bit of extra time.  Also, not knitting this from the top down cost me a ton of time, though I did learn a lot!

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1.  What did you learn from knitting this?

That I shouldn’t be knitting sweaters from the bottom up anymore.  I knit this entire sweater that way, then realized the sleeves and body were too long.  I tried to rip out the top portions of the sleeves and body, but ran into problems when I tried to graft them back onto the yoke.  So, I then ripped out the body and sleeves and reknit them from the top (well, the bottom of the yoke being the “top”) down. To recap, it’s so, so difficult to get the sleeve and body lengths right when you’re knitting from the bottom up, and it’s relatively easy to convert a bottom-up pattern to a top-down one -- however I do the math, it always comes out in favour of the top-down method.

Also, it's the first time I tried the false grafting method:  you start with a bound-off and a cast-on row (no live stitches, hence the "false" part) and then you kind of weave them together to get a neat, nearly undetectable, and hopefully stronger underarm.  We'll see how it holds up, but I am pretty happy not to have as many holes as doing it the traditional way (grafting live stitches together). 

2.  Would you knit this pattern again?

Yes, I think I would.  It’s pretty straightforward and can almost be knit as it’s written.  Even without accounting for converting it to a top-down sweater, I did have to do some math with the decreases in the yoke, to make it so I didn’t end up with strange fractions of the colourwork designs in the yoke, but that wasn’t too difficult.  

3.  How will you wear your new sweater?

This sweater isn’t for me, it’s for O, and I imagine he’ll be wearing it while sipping hot chocolate by the roaring fire in the ski chalet.  

Year of Sweaters Tally:  10

Free Pattern Friday: Calling It Spring

It’s not quite spring here -- we probably have to wait another few weeks to ditch the heavy winter clothes) but I’m always in a rush to call it spring and get into my spring knits.

Speaking of which, I have a few for you today.  Spring in a city like Edmonton means we’re still reaching for hats, mitts, and scarves (albeit lighter ones than we wear in the winter) and so you knit yourself a Spring Strata cowl, a Spring Thaw set, a Magic Spring Shawl, a Spring Picnic Beret, and/or a set of Spring Bloom Mitts.

Images by (left to right above) Mikal Mast, Naoko Ogawa, Cathy-Cathy; (left to right below) Sarah Leadbetter, Rachel Atkinson

Need a bit more covering up?  Try the Spring Cardigan, which you could dress up with some adorable appliqued leaves, and the Spring Stream Socks.

Images by Cascade Yarns (left) and Life is Cozy (right)

Pom Pom Quarterly, Spring 2018

This is the 24th issue of Pom Pom Quarterly, and the designs featured within all used a postage stamp as inspiration.  I don't know how obvious the connection is between the inspiration and finished garment, but they are all very pretty. Two sweaters in particular caught my eye, Durumi by Isabell Kraemer and Vita de Vie by Amy Christoffers.

All images by Amy Gwatkin

Free Pattern Friday: Yarn Bobbins

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How cute are these little llamas?  They're intended for storing little bits of yarn -- they would really be handy when you're done a project and want to keep a sample of the yarn for future reference or repairs.  Or you might even use a little bobbin like this for intarsia, though I would use pretty thick cardboard.

Image by Picot Pals

 

 

If you're not into llamas, there are kitten ones, thread-themed ones, these adorable sheep, and little waving animal ones.  

Images by (clockwise from top left) Little White Whale, Wild Olive, Wild Olive, American Felt and Craft

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Or you could emulate these sly lambs (I can't find these for sale anywhere, but I couldn't leave them out of this round-up!):

Image by Gwyn M. Lewis

 

 

 

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And a last, very quick and pretty idea, is Attic24's yarn pegs:

Image by Attic24

My Five Deserted-Island Knitting Tools, Part Two

This is Part Two of the list I started discussing on Monday, because one post just wasn't enough to contain all the goodness!

4. Interchangeable needle set

I  can’t claim to have tried many of these – although I think they’re worth it, they are pretty pricey.  And if you have a set that you love, you really don’t need more than one (maybe two; one set with blunter points and one sharper).

I only own the Chiaogoo Red Twist interchangeable needle set, and I really couldn’t be happier with it.  It might not be the best for every knitter: I think when you’re going to be spending $150-$250 on an admittedly very nice set of tools, it pays to think about what you really want, and do some research to find which set would fit your needs the best.  I like knitting with sharper points, and I prefer metal to bamboo. I also looked for needles with a very smooth join between the needle tip and the cable, and one that wouldn’t come undone as I was knitting. I don’t knit a lot of small-circumference projects with circular needles (I prefer DPNs for those), so I looked for longer cables and little connectors to join the cables to make even longer ones.  I wanted a well-designed storage case, with the tip sizes marked on the pockets – and on the needles themselves, come to think of it, to make it easy to identify them without having to measure. And extras like stitch markers are always nice, of course, but not essential.

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And that’s how I came to decide on the Chiaogoo.  I read reviews like the ones at Knitter’s Review, and looked at comparisons between the different sets on the market, and based on my list of wants (and my budget too, obviously) the Chiaogoo was the choice I made.  I am really happy with the set, as it fulfills all my specifications. They’re my go-to needles now, because they’re so nice to use, and I have nearly every cable in the set taken up in a project.

Although it’s easy to think that you could have a project for every set of needle tips in the set, that’s not true; you’re limited by the number of cables.  You can always buy more cables, of course, especially if you find yourself using certain lengths more frequently than others, but it might be better to limit yourself in terms of your ongoing projects anyway.  Or so the theory goes...

5. Cable needle

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You don't need an expensive one -- even a plastic set is fine, really.  Even in a project with a lot of cabling, the needle doesn't really get used as a needle very much.  It's mostly a holder, to be honest, and so the quality doesn't matter so much. I'd get a set of three, so I can best match the size of the cable needle to the size of the stitches.  There's really nothing worse than slipping a bunch of stitches onto a too-small cable needle, and having them fall off the needle and unravel quickly because they're under tension, and then you have to rip back because you're not good enough at reading cables to fix them...hypothetically speaking, of course ;)  I have tried cabling without a cable needle and maybe I'm just not that good at it, because I always end up losing stitches. I prefer to do my cables with a needle, because it saves me time and aggravation in the long run.

I've tried both the U-shaped cables needles (left above) and the flying-bird-shaped ones (right above) and they're both fine.  Nearly anything would do in a pinch, like a spare DPN, a bobby pin, a pencil...the possibilities are endless, assuming you have an endless supply of long skinny pointy things at hand.