Friday, January 31, 2014

Under the Tree

I know it's the end of January and a Christmas reference is a bit "late"...or very early depending on how you look at it.  But, I've started a new pair of socks that I HAVE to share with you.

Yarn:  Sparkle Gnome by Gnome Acres, colorway Under the Tree
Pattern:  Firefly by Jennifer Hagan in Knitter's Book of Socks

This is the yarn that has 5% sparkle in the "ingredients" list.  I love that sparkle.  It's a thin thread of gold and is actually very soft.  Sometimes metallic can be scratchy but not this.  I can't wait until I finish this pair of'll be like having Christmas all year.

My thoughts on cables and variegated yarn?  Well...they're hard to see in this picture, but will be much more noticeable when I put them on my feet and everything gets all stretched out.  I was tempted to do a plain pattern, but decided that the cables would be "just enough" to add a little bit of interest, and I liked how they kind of looked like little bows--perfect for the name of the color of the yarn.  So, there you go.  Plus, it adds something interesting to do for 4 rows of 24...which is always a good thing.

Another interesting design feature:  The heel flap has a "garter stitch" edge...two stitches of garter stitch.  I think I really like this actually.  It's super-easy to pick up, isn't "loosey goosey"  and makes the joining to the gussets very nice and smooth.  I may actually switch...we shall see.

(Oh...and next week will be yarn club week...3 are shipped and will be here sometime soon! yea!)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Bertie Bott's socks

I finished these adorable socks yesterday afternoon.  Put them on, took their pics, then put on my other warm socks to save them for when I go to work next.  Aren't they just the most fun ever?

I like how you can see the bottom of the foot and understand how all the color pooling makes for great fun with hugely variegated socks like these.

For all you matchy matchy folks out there, avert your eyes.  Here the socks are laying on their soles to show off how the colors pooled differently on the showy side of the pair.

I like how the little blocks of colors form, then shift.  I wonder how they do that in the yarn...the little blocks, and especially the curves in the foot, reminded me of jelly beans and that just made these all the more perfect.

One more look with the socks on my feet.

Yarn:  Bertie Bott's by Gnome Acres.
Pattern:  Hickory by Jane Cochran in Knitter's Book of Socks.

(and yes, we're still at home, and yes, I'm still knitting, and yes, I started another pair of socks right away after finishing these, and yes, the cowl is making slow but steady progress)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 didn't really snow was sleet, freezing rain, a little snow, and a lot of ice.  My driveway is one solid sheet right now.

While it looks pretty is really pretty awful to get out and about in.  We don't have proper de-icing anything in the south.  They throw sand on bridges and wait for people to fly off of them....then put more sand on and tell people to stay home.

Day 2 and I'm still knitting.  I'm at the point in the cowl where I can manage 3 rounds as long as no one is trying to talk to me, and then I get a little cranky.  I'm almost finished with my Bertie Bott's socks--second one...will post the pair tomorrow.  Fun, these are.  After I finish Bertie, I'm thinking another pair of socks need to be cast on.  I want all those "in progress" projects to be finished.  Somehow a skein of yarn that's been caked and is sitting in a bag waiting to be knitted counts as "in progress"...and more urgently so than the other projects that really are in various states of progress.

And if you're curious how I knit while sitting in my cold house on a cold icy day, here is my butts.

Monday, January 27, 2014

We got a snow-storm a-coming

That's big news around here.  The last time I saw it snow was probably December 2011...maybe 2010?  I can't remember actually.  It was December and David was on the coast and I went outside and took pics of snow on the palm tree.

I'll never get that picture again "thanks" to the tornado, oh well.  I'll be sure to post pics when I do get them though...they think the business will start in earnest tomorrow morning.  I'm actually kind of excited.

(and those of you who knew me when I lived in Kentucky know this isn't normal for be excited about snow...)

I did spend a good bit of the weekend working on my Dragonfly Cowl. I'm laughing at my overly optimistic self of last week that thought I'd finish it on Sunday.  ha!

Colorwork is slow going.  Even if I could knit with two hands, and I can't, I'd have to keep rechecking my pattern...and I'm no good if I have to carry on a conversation while doing it...or listen to a book...or watch tv.  Or even be distracted by Pearl.  I did mention concern that I might not finish because of past mishaps...and not wanting to be stressed or frustrated...

Well, I did make it just shy of half-way.

You can see the bottoms of the wings taking shape.  I do love the look of this yarn. It's so pretty and rich and very soft.  And of course, it's all kind of gorgeous  knitted up like this.  I will persevere and finish...I do know that.  This is definitely what the yarn should be.  A beautiful cowl in dragonflies.

In order to help myself get through the pattern, I decided that I needed to call upon a strategy that I used back when I used to cross stitch.  I'd keep my place in the pattern by marking out the pieces that I'd finished.  I used to be creative and get different colored pencils each day so that the final pattern had a unique look to it too.  What i decided to do with the knitted version is mark in the white squares with the blue pencil on my first pass through the repeat and then red on my second.  It has allowed me to keep track of where I am, get back to it if I have to take a quick break, AND provide a really quick realization when I'm on the wrong row (which did happen).

After this point, I also decided that marking the numbers along the side will help me keep myself on track and make sure that I'm going back to or up on row when needed.

And because I know everyone wants to see the inside of the it is.
I'm working really hard to keep my tension even, but I'm not perfect at it.  I'm also working really hard and making sure that my purple yarn goes to the left when I'm finished knitting with it and the green to the right.  This way I keep them from getting tangled and making a miserable mess of my yarn ends.

And because it's really hard to is Pearl trying to distract me.  She's very good at distraction, in case you're wondering.

Friday, January 24, 2014

On Friday

Real quickly on this Friday morning in which I'm really tired, a little sniffly, and already counting the hours until the end of the day....

I made it about 1/4 of the way through my Dragonfly Cowl last night.  Isn't it lovely?
I'm finding this particular colorwork pattern to be the kind where I want to do another row and see how the "picture" is emerging.  That's good.  I predict completion by Sunday.  Yes, I plan to do nothing other than knit tomorrow and Sunday.

What's up next begins the little dragonflies that surround the cowl.  I honestly can't wait to get them started but am worried about

1) my ability to concentrate and remember where to start them
2)  my ability not to get frustrated because I can't concentrate
3)  my level of "quitness" should I mess up.  I need easy right now...messing up, having to unknit, that might do me under for a while...

We'll see how I fare and I'll be sure to update you when I'm finished.  In the meantime, I'm going to go get through this day which begins with an appointment with the ear dr, proceeds to a staff meeting, then another staff meeting with my student workers.

I'm so happy there's dinner at the Branch (nicest bar in town) with friends and David.  For now, must shower.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

More Color Therapy

During the day on Tuesday, David sent me an e-mail with the January pattern for my Club Dragonfly...I couldn't wait to get the yarn and hardly hoped that it would be here before the end of the week.  Imagine my surprise when I checked the mail and a package was there...I immediately opened it and found this gorgeousness:

How lovely to have something so bright and cheerful and beautiful during the middle of what is turning out to be one of the coldest winters I remember.  (not THE coldest winter I remember...that was 1997 in Kentucky and I thought we might die of the cold then).  This year, it's so cold in Mississippi our aloe veras are dying on our screened in porch while sitting next to a heater.  It's been below 20 more days than I can count, and we're looking at a 10 day forecast with  more 20s and 10s and...oh my!  I'm so glad I have a good house and a good heater and a good job so that I can pay not to freeze to death because it's really cold out there and we aren't built for it down here.

But back to my color therapy.  I was so excited to get this package, and it took me a few minutes to grasp that the thing inside the zip loc bag was actually a knitting bag...with dragonflies all over it--quite apt.  More on the bag in a minute.

I couldn't decide whether I was excited about the pattern or not.  I've had a love-hate relationship with colorwork.  Sometimes it's awesome, sometimes I hate it.  I can't figure out if it's me, the pattern, the yarn I chose or what.  I liken it a lot to cross stitching...reading the pattern, selecting the right color, and making a picture with thread/yarn.  Initially I thought I'd love it...and the first colorwork I did (back in March) I got rather addicted and couldn't put it down.

But then there were these mittens, that while I was super excited to start working on, once I did, I hated them.  hated hated hated them and ended up cutting and not even bothering to rip out.  I've done another hat which I loved and love wearing it in all this cold weather...that double layer of yarn formed from color work truly is very very warm.

So, it was with some reservations and Plan B (striped socks), that I cast on the 192 stitches to start this lovely cowl.  If you look at the pic real carefully, you can see a B&W printout of the pattern.

I have to tell you that I'm thoroughly enjoying this pattern so far.  The yarns are beautiful, and I seem to be in the right frame of mind to do colorwork.  So, I'll plow ahead and see how far I can get in my January Club Dragonfly before some other colorful project distracts me.

Oh, and the bag?  It's a Yarn Pop bag.  It has a hot pink interior a bright green zipper and it just lovely.  I want to get a bag for every project I am working on...I'd need about 30, so the accumulation will be a little while :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Color therapy

This weekend I went to see my parents.  It's a 9 hour drive each way.  While it doesn't seem like it should be, riding in a car is exhausting.  Even when the weather is gorgeous and you have your sweetheart driving you all the way.

I was trying to put a positive spin on things by acknowledging that I had 18 hours of knitting time.  I didn't think about my 6am departure as actually taking away from that knitting time...nor really the fact that on our return trip I would lose knitting time at the end of the day.  But it was a good 14 hours of knitting (or knitting related activity) time.

SO, my car knitting...therapy knitting...comfort knitting...whatever you'd like to call it is this blanket from the Berroco Comfort Afghans.  The pattern is called Autumn Haze, and while I'm not using Comfort yarns, I do find the knitting of this blanket to be very comforting indeed. You'll also notice that I'm not using autumn colors, but I've mentioned that before.

This photo shows the blanket 1/3 finished.  That's one full pattern repeat.  I've decided to reassign colors to the "letters" in the pattern to create a more random and overall colorful effect.  I'm now about 1/2 finished (expect to be tonight if I feel like working on it).

The yarns I'm using are a mix of things from my stash--some Malabrigo Worsted (the delicious purple on the end, pink and turquoise solids).  There's a fun alpaca tweed in a lighter turquoise--can't remember the yarn brand or company.  I'm using some Cascade 220 (light purple) and Knit Picks Swish worsted (the variegated purple and pink).  I love the colors in this afghan, I love the knitting of this afghan (even the slip-stitch color work is gorgeous and interesting) and I love the textural interplay between all the different yarns.  The plump Malabrigo next to the springy Knit-Picks and the slick Alpaca.  It's just gorgeous in so many ways.  And total color therapy.  It's very difficult to dwell on sad or depressing things with all that color and lovely yarn in my hands.

On the way out, though, I almost hit a road block though.  I ran out of the ball of turquoise I was using and needed to wind off a hank of yarn...I usually do this with my swift or David, but David was driving, so I had to improvise.  Thankfully I've lost a lot of weight and am more flexible so was able to get the hank of yarn around my legs and wound it off by going under my legs about 100 times.  See I got exercise too.  Need proof?

Lastly, yesterday I took the day off to recuperate.  I knitted on the Purple Blanket and rested and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  At some point I decided that it was time to examine the stash and see what I could get out of it to make Alyssa's afghan. (I'm sure this is the case when having 2 children, but it's more so when having twins...if I commit to making one thing for one, I MUST make something for the other immediately, sometimes simultaneously...)  In the interest of stash reduction, I wanted to make this happen as much as I could from the stash, but in conversation with David we decided that if I HAD to buy some yarn to flesh out a project that it wasn't a bad long as the net income of yarn was less that the outflow.

SO, I went into the studio, dug through my wool basket, my alpaca basket, my basket with yarns set aside for other projects long-since forgotten...and I even raided the sock yarn baskets.  (I had put a few skeins of worsted in their with the intention of making some thick socks for around the house).  I came up with the yarns below:
I had intended Alyssa's afghan to be much more green, but what happened is the rose colors really came through...and blues and greens...and some gold, oranges and browns.  And they all look perfectly lovely together.

And yes, that's a calico cat in there.  She totally loved all the yarn in the floor and I had to put everything away to keep her from "cleaning" the babies I'd left her.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Glamour Shot

I worked very hard to get this photo...I tried very hard to get sweet Pearl to open her gorgeous green eyes and look at me when I took it, but she's learned oh-so-well that the camera makes this awful flashy thing and she will not look at it anymore.

I still think it's pretty funny that after 3 years of having this cat I still try to take pictures of her, she's all but invisible except on very bright colors...and her gorgeous green eyes, of course!

I did want to show you that the Noro blanket which got such a good showing on the blog is used very often.  Both kitties love it, and if I want one to come sit in my lap all I usually need to do is put the blanket on me and someone furry will jump over to the ottoman, curl up, snuggle their head somewhere near my feet and start to purr.

And it's cold, folks.  A blanket and a kitty are definitely needed to keep MY feet warm!

Monday, January 13, 2014

In which a pillow is finished

2014 is just cranking out things...finished things, with great enthusiasm.  Very exciting.

And by that I mean very very exciting.

My next finished project is a lovely pillow that will be left at my Aunt Betty's house this weekend.  She lets us stay there when we visit my parents and it's a lovely little house.  My dad and his sisters grew up there, and I spent a lot of my time there between the ages of 1-6 (and a good bit afterwards too).  My grandmother kept me while my mom went to college, and the fact that the chinaberry tree where the swing was hung is no longer there is one of the "wrongest" things I've ever seen.  (and that thing has been gone for many a year now).

Betty has lovingly fixed up the house and made it very comfortable indeed.  I love staying there because it really is so peaceful and quiet.  The first time I stayed there with David and the girls the memories of all the fun things we used to do just poured out and we talked all night.

I could do without the coyotes, but that's a minor issue in the grand scheme of things.

And now, for the pillow.  I paid homage to my family's quilting heritage by making one side a "log cabin" block.  This one is done in the courthouse steps style.  I would have made one more round of bars, but I was quickly running out of the red and didn't think I would have enough to finish it all the way.

In order to do this side of the pillow, I cast on 10 stitches and knitted for 20 rows and bound off.  Then I joined the yellow, picked up 10 stitches on the side and knitted for 19 rows.  Same on the opposite side. At this point, I had along rectangle, so I picked up on the long side with the red--30 stitches, knit for 19 rows and bound off. Red again on opposite side, then yellow on the other sides.  I finished off by picking up 50 stitches along the top and bottom in red and knitting 19 rows.  It came out the perfect size to fit over a 14" square pillow form. (yarn Berroco Comfort Worsted, size 9 needles).

For the other side, I wanted something slightly different.  I don't see the point of a single sided pillow, and if I'm going to knit both sides I want them to both be pretty.  SO, I cast on 101 stitches placing a marker after the first 50.  Then I worked in garter stitch making a miter square by knitting to 2 stitches before the marker then knitting 2 together, knitting one, then knitting 2 together and knitting to the end of the row.  Knitting back on the "wrong side."  I used the red from the front, a slightly darker red and a variegated white and tan, alternating the white and tan stripes with the lighter red and darker red stripes.  So, it went like this: dark red, white/tan, light red, white/tan and started over until I finished.  I really love the look of this side.
While my method of doing the mitered square doesn't form quite as smooth a decrease line as doing a double decrease, it does keep me from having to count and possibly mess up because my marker is always right in front of the center stitch on the right side.

Because the edge where I carried the yarns was so messy, I wanted to put a border on.  So, I picked up stitches along each edge, knitted back and bound off.

And voila!  Sew the side together, insert pillow, close up top and you're done.  A 2 sided fun little pillow that can be flipped over for instant home deco fun!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Look! Look!

I managed to get a warp wound and on the loom yesterday!  woot!

I'm making Alyssa's birthday scarf.  The warp is a tencel variegated held together with a rayon slub.  The weft yarn is "Little Flowers" by Crystal Palace (from stash...I'm still being good, don't worry).  It's a fun string with tufts in black and white...and there's something silver and sparkly in there as well.

One note about the yarn.  I originally thought I would knit something up with this.  I really wanted the yarn to be all alone and shine by itself.  I didn't make it past the first row.  It's a pretty yarn, but it's grabby and was a major annoyance with knitting, or at least the way I like to knit which is to crank out stitches as fast as I can maneuver hands and yarn and having adorable little tufts grab at each other every time you try to set the stitch...just not fun.  I didn't even try frogging what I'd knitted, so be warned...if you intend to embark on knitting with this yarn, be patient, have time, and do not make a mistake!

And a couple of notes about weaving:  It's been a long time since I've been with my loom.  I don't think I've made anything on the big loom since moving back to the house in May.  I've lost at least 50 pounds since then and almost 100 overall.  I'ma different person inside that loom and it's a very different experience dressing the loom and working with it.  I expected as much just wasn't quite prepared for the actual feeling of it.

Also, I need a bench cushion...the cushion that used to be my rear is now gone, and the bones there weren't super happy about sitting on a hard wooden bench and moving back and forth as I treadled.  Something to make?  possibly...would be a great stash buster!

Friday, January 10, 2014

I'd rather be weaving

...right now...right this very minute.    Weaving...sitting at my loom passing shuttle through shed and making a gorgeous scarf for my daughter (and then another for the other daughter).  And THEN I want to embark on a major stash reduction of towel yarn, so be prepared.  There may be stuff for sale eventually.

I truly do love weaving and I've missed it like crazy the past two years.  It's been really difficult to find time to weave once I started working away from home again.  Plus, the diet this past year left me really drained of energy so weaving of an evening wasn't really an option.

I'd planned to spend my Christmas break this way:
-4 days with my parents
-10 days weaving and dying (the latter if the weather was warm enough)

Instead I spent my Christmas break this way:
-4 days with my parents
-3 days at home getting everything ready to go BACK to my parents
-5 days with my parents
-2 days recovering from being at my parents.

Don't get me wrong.  I wouldn't trade that time with my parents for anything.  It's become painfully apparent that every minute I get to spend with my dad that he's aware that I'm there and interacting with me is a blessing, just not what I'd planned.

And, those of you who are artists and serious crafters know this, when you have been itching to cast on a new project, set up the loom for a woven design, or just need to get your fingers on yarn, substituting another craft because of time or space allocations doesn't really do you justice.

And, you also know this, crafting is an emotional release.  I need lots of that right now.

The right kind of crafting for the right kind of emotional release.

All of this is to say that what I WANT to do is weave, what I've had time to do is knit.  And knitting just isn't "cutting it" right now.  I love the pillow I'm making.  It's pretty and soft and will fit perfectly in Betty's house...and is almost finished on one side.  I've enjoyed seeing my "design" come to life.  I've even enjoyed that I'm combining my former love of quilting and my current passion for knitting by knitting a traditional quilt square.

But what I'm finding each evening is that when it's time to sit down and craft, I don't want to do what I'm doing.  I want to do something else, but there's a reason for me not doing it.  And I'm frustrated with that. I'm sad about it and I want to get to it.

SO, I'm (kind of) looking forward to the fact that David has to work 3 nights a week this semester.  I'll not have that excuse pulling me away from weaving.  And maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to find a rhythm that works for me--weaving, knitting, hanging with the family, seeing my parents when I can.  Not overwhelming myself and stretching too thin, but being able to meet my creative least somewhat.

Because...look at this face...she wants me to finish "her" monster. (which is knitting, not weaving, but also not really a possibility right now considering my hands hurt when knitting monsters, so I'm pacing myself!)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Gift Knitting Continues

While everyone else in the on-line world seems to have finished up all their gift knitting and started knitting for themselves again, I can't seem to shake the gift knitting path I'm on.

I've decided to make a pillow for my Aunt Betty (surprise Aunt Betty) to go in her living room out of the lovely Berroco Comfort I have in my stash (see I'm still being good one week into the year...yea me!)

I WAS going to make her one from the Comfort Afghans book I bought...It was a star and so pretty...but decided against it after fighting with yarn ends and hating the way the intarsia looked...I haven't done it before and clearly wasn't getting something special that has to happen when doing intarsia in garter stitch.

So, that got ripped out and I'm now doing a log cabin in red and gold.  The back will be a mitered square.  It'll be pretty.  I'm thinking about doing some sort of attached i-cord to close it up.  That would be nice and tailored looking.  We shall see.  I'm HOPING to have this finished by next weekend so I can leave it after I visit...but here it is after 1.5 evenings of working on it:

I'm doing the "courthouse steps" version of the log cabin and will have 3 bars of yellow when I'm finished.  More to come!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

3rd Finished Thing, and a few others from 2013

I know I'm probably cheating a little, AND I almost forgot to post about her, but Rosie, the knitted elephant, is my 3rd finished project of the year (technically 2nd, but I posted the slippers first and don't want to confuse).

I'm finishing off the leftover bits of yarn from the Noro blanket by making first my mitts,

 and then the Jackalope.

I'm making a "slug" next...too cute with eyes popping off the top of his head.  But these little critters require patience on my part...the kind of patience I have in very limited supply.  The kind that requires me to hold back from knitting on them non-stop for hours until they're finished.  And I'm doing that because I don't like pain.

After I make the slug, I don't know what will be next.  We'll see how much yarn I have left...I think I should get at least 2 more critters, but we shall see!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Second Finished Project of 2014

I'm really not trying to brag or anything, but I've finished 2 projects already and 2014 is only 1 week old!  Now, both of these were knit with chunky yarns on size 10 needles...but they WERE knit for David who has big hands and feet...

David was so thrilled when I finished these last night that he had me starting another pair to make for him just in case he wears these out quickly.  "It only took you a day to make them, right?"

Aaah, sweet David.

He's a challenge to knit for anything that should touch his skin because wool "feels hot."  And he doesn't mean that it makes him feel feels like it's burning his skin, and sure enough when he takes off whatever he's wearing he's red.  Even the softest loveliest wool is not an option.

These are knit using the Family Foot Warmer Slippers pattern in Berroco Comfy worsted--2 strands held together.  And they are very very soft, and not a hint of wool in them...oh...and they came from stash!  Big bonus.

p.s.  I did not start another pair of slippers for him.  Besides the fact that knitting on size 10 or bigger needles makes my hands hurt, I want to make a pillow from a pattern for a blanket...if I like knitting the pillow, then I'll save up my allowance and buy the yarn.  Yes, I'm using stash.  And yes, some more stash yarn fell out into my lap when I was selecting the first yarns and not I've got 2 pillows I want to start...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

First Finished Project of 2014

Not to brag or anything, but I actually FINISHED a knitted project on 1/1!

These mitts were super-easy and totally made up by me.  I cast on the wrong number of stitches to begin with and had to pull it out and re-cast-on with fewer stitches (20), but that was just right.  I knitted 12 rounds for the wrists, worked back and forth for 11 rows for the thumb opening then 8 rounds for the fingers in ribbing and another 8 in garter.

I didn't worry with a thumb gusset on these since I didn't intend to knit a thumb and the back-and-forth rows are really quite perfect.

I used a soy/wool blend from Southwest Trading Company.  It's super-bulky yarn and I knitted these on size 10 DPNs.  I think total knitting time was about 4 hours...and it qualifies as stash busting since I found the yarn in my stash!  yea!