Archive | June 2014

You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello

We’ve had some bad luck with dogs the last year or so. I’ve posted about our Siberian Husky, Max, recently, and the latest update is not great: he has serious resource guarding issues and we were unable to curb his biting. It was more than playful mouthing; this was serious biting of all of us. Considering I have two children of my own, and several younger kids in our family, Max was a huge risk that I could no longer afford to take. The guarding was made worse by the fact that he considered everything food, and paper and socks were huge temptations for him. We tried very hard to help Max but we just weren’t the right family for him. He is now back in the shelter where I’m sure he will find someone who is able to work with him and love him.

After that, we all knew we wanted a dog in our family, we just weren’t sure when. We took a vacation, vowing to take some time to think about it and really look for the right dog this time. Well, I’m not good at that. I was ready to get a dog the day we came home. It wasn’t unanimous though so I pretended to be patient while I pored over the dogs at Wayside Waifs and Great Plains SPCA and the Kansas City Pet Project. There are so many awesome animals that need homes! I looked for dogs with good demeanors, ones that were recommended for homes with kids. We weren’t particular about looks or breeds, we just wanted a friendly dog that could safely be around the whole family.

Finally, this weekend, we all agreed it was time to go meet some pups. I picked out several options, and we started at the Great Plains SPCA in Merriam. One of the dogs I liked was on hold to be adopted and the other two were in a different location, so instead we met one we liked there. Roxy was a young shepherd mix with tons of energy. She wanted to PLAY! But she was super strong already, and managed to knock the boy over just playing. He clearly wasn’t comfortable around her, so we moved on. We met Cookie Monster next. He was older, around 4, and really mellow, and my son loved how calm he was. Cookie has a sweet face too. But I really wanted a dog with more energy. I wanted a playmate, one that would play ball in the yard and go on walks. Back in the car we went, this time headed to Wayside. There were three dogs on my list there, so I was cautiously optimistic.

We saw Barrel first. He was another young Shepherd mix who would probably need some obedience training but otherwise would be okay with kids. He has a great face. Kody was next, an older Husky-Lab mix. He’s five and I thought he’d be calm. Finally, we came to Biff Barker. He was on my list but at the bottom, partly because of his age (only five months) and partly because his face in the pictures just didn’t speak to me. Well, when we saw him in person, I think we were all in love. He’s just the cutest darn thing.


Oh, we all pretended. We said we’d meet all three dogs and make a decision then. Yeah right. We met Biff first and he was fabulous. My husband sat down and Biff came over and gave him a hug and a kiss and I could see my husband melt right there. He played with all of us, had a gentle mouth with the treats, responded (somewhat) to commands. He was bouncy and energetic and just perfect. We talked to the kids about how housetraining would have to be a family commitment, and we’d all have to be willing to clean up messes. After several minutes, the volunteer started to take him back and bring us the next dog. As soon as she was out of the room, I looked at Alex and said, “Why are we even bothering? We love Biff, why not get him?” Everybody grinned and agreed and we chased after the lady taking our dog away.

It was a fun ride home. Biff sat in the back with the kids, and they both kept exclaiming how cute he is. We’d saved some toys that Max didn’t use, so I pulled those out when we got home. I loved watching my son interact with Biff. He’d been so tentative and cautious around Max that I loved that he was able to relax and just enjoy the dog’s company.


We have now renamed him Captain Jack, after the character in Doctor Who, because the dog is cute and loves everyone. We’re all so happy to be a dog family again! And I’ll say it again, if you’re looking for a furry friend, check your local shelters first!

Cotton Cardigan, pretty in purple

I’m a small-project knitter. I like immediate gratification, I like being able to finish projects quickly, I like being able to start new projects quickly. But sometimes a certain yarn has something else in mind.


I found this Cotton Supreme Splash in the Hillcreek Yarn Shoppe in Columbia, Missouri over a year ago. It’s purple, it’s cotton, it’s soft–it’s everything I love in a yarn. I bought two skeins with no idea what I was going to do with it. Soon after that, I saw the same yarn at Knitcraft, my LYS, so I bought three more skeins. With that much cotton, it was obvious this yarn wanted to be a bigger project. I had crocheted a cardigan, so maybe I needed to knit one.

The yarn hibernated for a long time, months, while I waited for inspiration and the right pattern. For my first knit cardigan, I didn’t want to take too many risks, so I wanted a pattern using yarn the same fiber and weight as my yarn. When I found the Lilas Cardigan on Ravelry, I knew it was the right one. Even though I almost always use free patterns, I happily paid for this one. I found one more skein at my LYS and grabbed it, just in case. I cast on quickly, thinking I could maybe get it done in the couple of months before my summer vacation.


The pattern starts at the floppy collar and it knit up quickly.


After the collar, the pattern moves into the yoke. With the size I’m making, I had 30 increase rows to do, and after the first couple, I had the hang of it, and found it…a bit boring, I hate to say. It was a lot of stockinette stitch. I got about eight rows into that section and couldn’t stand it anymore. It would be too hot to wear in the summer anyway. So into hibernation it went, and I ignored it for the next two months.


I did pack it when I went on vacation, thinking I could work on it on the train. I didn’t work on it at all, but getting it out reignited my interest, and I started knitting on it again when we got home. I powered through those boring increase rows and finally yesterday I made it to the next section of the pattern. It’s still the yoke, still working on increase rows for the sleeves, but I can see the progress.


I can see that it’s growing into a real sweater, with sleeves and everything, and it’s exciting.


I can’t wait until I get to divide for the sleeves! And with any luck, I’ll have a lovely new cardigan to wear in the fall!

An evening with Ray LaMontagne

Last night was date night for me and my husband, and we got to see Ray LaMontagne in concert. It was our second time seeing him. The first time we went mostly because Brandi Carlile was opening for him, and she’s one of my all-time favorite artists. At that time, I’d heard a few Ray songs and liked them, but that was it. After that concert, though, I bought all his albums and listened to them often, so this concert was even better than the first. His performances focus solely on the music: he doesn’t talk between songs besides a soft “thank you” here and there. There’s no banter or chatter, just music. The lights aren’t overpowering, and often the spotlight goes off him completely and highlights someone in his band. There’s a lot of emotion and honesty in his music to begin with, but the live performances are infused with extra energy. I felt sorry for all the people who left early, because they missed a rousing encore performance of “Hey Me, Hey Mama”. Anyway, long story short, I’m tired after our late night and this is the only blog topic I can come up with right now. If you haven’t heard Ray before, please check him out. Watch him perform one of his new songs here, or one of his older classics here

Felting for Father’s Day

Before Mother’s Day, I told my husband I didn’t want him or the kids to go out and buy me presents. Instead I wanted gifts of their time: something handmade and thoughtful. He went above and beyond, gifting me with gorgeous knitting needles and a yarn swift. In return, he mentioned that for Father’s Day, he’d like a new pencil case to replace the crocheted one eaten by the dog. Since I’ve been on a felting kick lately, I decided he needed a felted case.

The design itself would be simple, but I wasn’t brave enough to try to wing it without a pattern, mostly because I don’t have a good sense of how much things shrink when felted. There weren’t a lot of free options on Ravelry but I did find one I liked the look of: the Felted Acorn Pencil Case. Shortly after that, I was at Joann and found some variegated gray Patons wool that looked nicely masculine. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy enough, and sitting there waiting to cast on, I was too lazy to drive out to Joann. Instead I drove the two minutes to my LYS and bought a solid black Galway to mix with the Patons.

The knitting went quickly, as did my realization that this case would be much bigger than I expected. I finished it, though, and felted it. The Patons didn’t seem to want to felt, and I did have to do some handfelting after two rounds in the washer. But it finally felted enough and I added a nice button and called it done. It was about 5″x8″.



So I had a case that was too big, and plenty of yarn left over. I went back to Ravelry and did more pattern hunting until I found this Felted Pen Case. I decided to just do one strand of the Patons variegated, cast on 30 and knit until I thought it looked long enough, which was tricky since I didn’t know how much it would shrink. And, well, it didn’t shrink as much as I anticipated. It’s a good width but a bit longer than I wanted. It will work well for newer (i.e. longer) pencils but it’s too long for his pens. Plus the Patons really didn’t want to felt this time; I had to fight with it in the kitchen sink for quite a while. I do like the pattern, and I’m pleased with how it came out.


Here’s a better shot of the button. Buttons are one of my favorite things to add to my knits.


Overall, I think he was pleased with his gifts. I enjoyed making them, but I won’t choose Patons for felting in the future. I think I’ll use the rest of the black Galway to knit up another pen case, in a pen-appropriate length this time. 

Souvenir Yarn

Before we left for our vacation to Washington D.C., I made sure to research the local yarn stores. There were several in the metro area, and two actually in DC. I wasn’t sure I’d have a lot of time for yarn shopping, but I hoped. Thankfully, our hotel was only a 15-minute walk from Looped Yarn Works. I can’t remember if it was in Georgetown or Dupont Circle, but I do remember it was full of great old homes and unusual shops. Our second evening there, we had a free evening and I decided to get my yarn fix while I could. We left the hotel at 6:15 and the shop closed at 7, so I knew it would have to be a mad dash.

Thanks to my phone and the Fresh Stitches blog on DC yarn stores, I found the shop easily. We ran up the stairs and turned the handle…the door was locked. It was only 6:45 so I knew we weren’t late, and thankfully someone saw us and welcomed us in with a big smile. We were the only customers in the store, and there was a friendly, chatty guy working that night who showed us around and answered questions. My son liked him because he shared his Swedish Fish. There was one room with the bulkier yarns (worsted to super bulky) and there were brands I could find at home, some I’d heard of but never seen, and some I’d never heard of but coveted desperately. There was a small cozy couch and a couple of chairs in there, and samples everywhere. One of the samples was the Purl Ridge scarf I’d started on the train!

I touched a lot of skeins, but the first one to call my name was this vibrant green wool from Stonehedge Fiber Mill. I just love this bright grassy green, and I like that I can use this for felting if I want.


I saw some Manos del Uruguay Maxima, which I can get at home, but this was a gorgeous color.


Then I saw this nifty icy gray yarn, and for some reason, it said I needed two to take home. It makes me think of winter and snowflakes. It’s called Finch, by Quince & Co., and the color name is Iceland. I’d never heard of this brand before but I like it!


I was running out of time so I popped into the other room for a quick peek. It had all the thinner yarns, from sock to DK, plus a big table that I’d love to sit and knit at. I’m not a big sock knitter so this room didn’t tempt me much…until I found the madelinetosh yarn. I’ve read about it, seen pictures, but this was my first personal experience. The colors were vivid and gorgeous, and it felt delightful, but I could resist…until I saw this Iris colorway.Image

That was all I could do in 15 minutes, though I did find a neat little digital row counter by the register. I figured I was done with DC yarn. But late in the trip, we’d had a long day and I wanted some yarn retail therapy. Because I married the best guy in the world, we went back to the yarn store. They were open until 9, so we had plenty of time. There was a knitting group in the bulky room, and my daughter and I marveled at the women knitting without even looking at their needles. There was a beginner’s class in the other room, and I smiled at the women struggling with casting on, remembering when that was me.

I chose some Cascade 128 Superwash in a great pink called Cerise. I can find this yarn at home but I really enjoy knitting with it, and this was a color I hadn’t seen before. I picked out two skeins of Blue Sky Alpacas Worsted Cotton because it’s one of my favorite yarns, and I’m collecting different colors to make a fabulous blanket someday.


 I explored the sock yarn room a little more this trip, and found two little prizes in a corner. The first was two skeins of Cascade Ultra Pima Fine cotton, and the main reason I snatched them up is because they were only $4 per skein! Plus the cranberry color was pretty.


But my favorite finds that day were these two little skeins of bright blue Urban Silk yarn by Skacel. They’re 80% silk, 20% cotton and feel like a soft, puffy cloud. They were the last two skeins of that yarn, which has been discontinued, and at $8.50 they seemed like a good deal. They should make a lovely little cowl or scarf, maybe a shawlette if I can find the right pattern.



Thank goodness my addiction is yarn, because otherwise my suitcase would have been overweight coming home. I had yarn stuffed in every nook and cranny of my suitcase. But what a treat to come home and get to take it out and play with it again! I really enjoyed exploring that store; I wish I’d had time to visit others but can’t imagine any other store being better!

Vacation Knitting



So, that’s me in front of the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. (pretty obvious, I know). We just got back from a two-week vacation there, and I’ve been going through photos and souvenirs and trying to get back into the swing of normal life. And by normal life, I mean finding time to knit!

I thought I’d have a lot of time to knit this vacation: we were traveling there by train, so I’d have two days on the train, plus I figured I’d have time in the evenings to pick up my yarn. So I packed six projects, one a WIP and the others new. Of those, I managed to finish the WIP and…that’s it. And that I finished on the train. I didn’t knit at all while I was in DC! We spent all day exploring the city, and by the time we got back to the room, I was exhausted with no energy left for my needles. But like I said, I did finish one project, and it was very rewarding for me. I’d started a shawl a few months ago with some gorgeous Simply Sweet Whipped Cream yarn in my three favorite colors and it was going swimmingly until my dog got hold of it.


I frogged and started over right away, but I’d lost some steam. I’d pick it up occasionally and do a few rows, but mostly it hibernated. I packed it for the train, hoping I could wear it in the evenings in DC, and I finished it that first day on the train. I had to fudge the end a bit, since I ran out of purple sooner than I anticipated, but I’m happy with it. No one would know if I didn’t point it out. Since I started it around Easter, when the colors reminded me of jelly beans, I named it the Jelly Bean Shawl. That’s my son helping me show it off.


Given that I mostly do small projects, I was quite pleased that I was able to complete such a large piece, and I love the pattern. The mohair makes it fuzzy and it sheds on anything it touches, and it’s a warmer shawl than I expected. I thought it’d be more of a summer shawl, but I think it will be perfect for spring and fall evenings. And it’s already seen some use: the girl got cold on the train and borrowed it. My mom also borrowed it later in the trip. I was always too hot to wear it but I’ve got it set back for cooler nights.


I did start another project on the train, a Purl Ridge scarf with one skein of vintage purple Malabrigo from an estate sale. It went quickly and smoothly, and the yarn was a joy to knit with. I pulled it out yesterday on the flight home and got almost to the end of the skein. The problem was I only halfway through the pattern. It has now been frogged and restarted with fewer stitches. It’ll just be a bit shorter.

Sadly, that’s all for recent knitting progress. But just because I didn’t have much knitting time in DC does not mean I did not have yarn time. My hotel was near old Georgetown, and we were a 15-minute walk from a lovely yarn store called Looped Yarn Works. It was a delightful store, and tomorrow I’ll try to post some pictures of all my lovely souvenir yarn. 

Finally, Some Finished Objects

I promise, I have been knitting. I haven’t had time to write about it, but it’s still happening. I’ve finished several projects recently that I’m tickled with, so I’m going to whiz through and show them off. Plus, it’s dark and stormy today and I don’t want to go anywhere.

The first is a big project I finished about three weeks ago. A friend commissioned an afghan for her newly-decorated living room. She gave me the colors and free reign on design, since she’d liked all the other blankets I’ve made. I had a pattern called Greenway in Comfort Knitting and Crochet: Afghans that I’d been wanting to make, so this seemed like a perfect fit. I’ve discovered I prefer crochet for blankets over knitting: crochet goes so much faster for me, and since I am not a fan of projects that take a long time, I need blankets to go as quickly as possible. I loved the pattern: it was simple but looks complex. And for a blanket, it did go quickly. But still, by the end I was cursing a bit each time I measured and it was too short. I was aiming for a 48″ square blanket, though of course it never ends up that way for me. It finished at 48″x55″, so not too bad. I used Bernat Super Value for the white and black, and Red Heart with Love for the red and orange. I’m not crazy about Red Heart in general but I needed something affordable and washable, and I really like the squishiness of the Red Heart with Love. My friend seemed delighted with the end result.


After that I got to switch gears completely, and I whipped up a wee baby hat. An old friend of mine is expecting a second baby, and I wanted a yarny gift for the baby shower. Again, I’d been wanting to make the Pointy Elf Hat from More Last Minute Knitted Gifts and this was the perfect excuse. She didn’t know the sex, so I picked out some super-soft washable acrylic, Bernat Satin Solids, in a gender-neutral camel. I held the yarn double to mimic a bulky weight. I discovered newborn hats fly off the needles; I can’t wait to make another.



Then it was time for some selfish knitting. I bought the pattern for The Teddy Bear that Saved Me by the Mad Man Knitter recently and was desperate to try it. (I know, I’ve been mentioning him a lot. He’s awesome. Seriously.) I even went to the nearest LYS and bought a skein of Berroco Ultra Alpaca just for this bear. The pieces knit up quickly and soon I had all the bits of a bear ready to assemble. That brought me to my least favorite part of toymaking: assembling. I don’t mind the stuffing, but the embroidery and sewing together is so awkward for me. I did watch all his videos as I did it, and they helped, but the bear still came out a bit…wonky. His mouth is off-center and the eyes don’t exactly match. The ears are too big and make him look like a mouse (or an elephant. Whatever.) As I was finishing him up, he told me his name was Perry. Don’t know why, though my son said it was because his head was pear-shaped. He is cute, and I like him. But I want to practice a bit more before I start making them for gifts!


I was craving simplicity after the bear, so I turned to hats. I made a simple slouchy beanie from my most favorite yarn ever: Cascade Yarns Baby Alpaca Chunky. You can find the pattern here, but I did make some modifications.


I love making hats. Love love love them. One wasn’t enough. I know it’s spring, I know it’s hot. I don’t care. My sister had said a while back that she needed a hat, and I know she likes forest green. I had one skein of dark green Cascade 128 Superwash in my stash. Then it was pattern-hunting time, so I got to browse Ravelry for a while until I found this Swirling Beanie. Love it! Want to make it again!



So those are the results of my last month’s worth of yarn time. I’ve also been working on my two bigger WIPs, a shawl and a cardigan. Okay, not really the cardigan, but I’ve thought about it. And now I’m getting ready for a two-week vacation that includes 4 days on a train, so I’m planning out the projects I need to take with me. I’ve got seven in mind; I hope that’s enough!