Archive | August 2014

Knitting for the Holidays

Okay, these people are freaking me out: “Only 16 Fridays until Christmas!!” Why? Why do we have to start that already? It’s still 90 degrees and sunny here, not even officially fall, and people are gunning for Christmas. Don’t get me wrong; I love Christmas. Love to decorate and buy presents and receive presents and eat lots of yummy food. But I don’t want to think about it year-round. And I don’t want to feel the gift-knitting-anxiety so early in the year.

I like to knit gifts for my people. I have a lot of people. That means a lot of knitted gifts. And the last year or two, I waited too long and tried to knit too many things. By the end of December, I was frantic. My love of knitting dimmed slightly, and I knitted each one with less love and more panic. This year, I decided to work differently. I had a potential gift list written out by May, I ordered the yarn this summer, and I already have three gifts knitted. That’s great, right? Right! I’m excited!

But then I see those things on Facebook where people are counting down and it just doesn’t seem like enough time to take care of all the knitting left on my list. Add in all the selfish knitting I still want to do, and here comes the trembly fear in the pit of my stomach. I’ve started to crave lists. Lists of presents, lists of yarns, lists of selfish projects….

Yikes! I have now thrown myself into gift knitting, and I started another today as soon I finished one this morning. I’ve got two more in my mental queue and I have no desire to go back to my current WIPs. At least not until I’ve made a bigger dent in my gift list. So I’m not really alleviating my knitting-anxiety. It’s just moved up earlier in the year. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’ll be worth it once December rolls around. I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, here’s a peek at the gift I finished this morning. He’s a Simple Medium-Sized Bear from The Best Dressed Knitted Bear by Emma King and he used up one whole skein of Knit Picks Brava Bulky in Sienna. The pattern called for knitting each piece flat, but I did the body and head in the round to avoid seaming. When I do the pattern again, I think I’ll also do the arms and legs in the round. He’s a good-sized fellow, a full 16″ tall, and he’s soft and squishy. I think he might get a little shirt too. I really like this pattern and its simple charm. I just hope the little boy who gets him likes him too!IMG_4918

Knitting Fail

Well, I screwed up. Not big time, but still enough to be annoying. One of my WIPs is in timeout while I think about what I did. This project was one where I knew what the yarn was going to be as soon as I got it home. It was a project I was anticipating. It’s a purse made out of alpaca, so I waiting to start it until a little closer to fall. It was my celebratory back to school knitting. It started out well enough, though since I was using such large needles (size 10) and one strand of yarn, the fabric felt a little…loose. IMG_4807

I kept knitting away, and soon I had two sides and the gusset, which grew into the handle (that wider section).IMG_4895

I didn’t worry about it until last night. I was waiting for the girl at flute lesson, knitting away on the handle section. It’s all garter stitch and it was so open and stretchy. The pattern calls for it to sewn around a ribbon for reinforcement, but it just didn’t seem right.IMG_4896

I went back and checked the pattern in the book: it called for Rowan Alpaca Chunky. and I was using Cascade Yarns Baby Alpaca Chunky. Should be the same, right? Wrong. Apparently the Rowan Chunky is a Super Bulky, and Cascade is just a bulky. Substituting the yarns but not the needle size meant the product was coming out much differently than the original. (YES, I KNOW! All you smug gauge-testers are laughing and shaking your head and saying, “I TOLD you so!” You did. I ignored you. Shut up.)

Once I figured that out last night, I stopped knitting. I don’t know what I want to do with it now. I still want to make the bag. I don’t really want to frog the two pieces that are already bound off. I don’t mind their size or level of openness, especially since this whole piece will be lined. It’s just the handle that’s bugging me, even though it’ll also be reinforced and shouldn’t stretch out with use. Do I frog the handle section? If so, what do I do instead? I have enough yarn to double-strand the handle. Or I could knit the handle with smaller needles to make it a closer knit. What would you do?

Make a new project, finish an old one

Crafters have it bad. They’re always thinking of new things they want to make. They look at supplies and their brains light up with possibilities. It’s great to have all the ideas, but it does sometimes make it hard to get projects completed. I have seven WIPs but that doesn’t stop me from starting more. I’ve had some purple LaFurla yarn in my stash for months, but as soon as I got some purple Plymouth Yarn Baby Alpaca Grande to go with it, I’ve been dying to make another furry cowl. It finally got to be too much and a couple of days ago I broke down and cast on. I finished it that day (I *never* finish projects in a day) and love it! The furry yarn was kind of a pain to knit with. It doesn’t like to knot when you finish it off, and heaven forbid you drop a stitch: I don’t know if you’d ever find it! It’s worth it, though.IMG_4865 IMG_4874 IMG_4875

I know, the last picture is terrible. I’m sorry. I wanted a photo showing how nicely it drapes, and a selfie with my phone was my option.

Once that was done, I was happy, and I could switch back to a WIP. I decided to finish the Chiefs fingerless gloves for my friend, since I knew one mitt would go quickly. And it did. I got it knit in the morning and wove in tails last night. They’re fun. I like the reversed colors, I think. Not what I had in mind, but it works.IMG_4879

Having finished two projects in as many days, I thought I deserved to start another one. So last night during the Emmys, I finally cast on for the Honey Cowl, the Madelinetosh pattern that keeps catching my eye on Ravelry and that I tried to cast on twice already. This time it worked, and I’m six rows in. And that Madelinetosh DK yarn is a delight to knit with too. Now let’s see how long it takes me to finish it!



Itching to Knit Some Gifts

The poison ivy was not just two little spots. It is now several spots up and down my inner arm. There’s even one on the inside of my upper arm, right where it brushes against my shirt and itches and itches and itches. My mom recommended wiping it with a rubbing alcohol/water mix to neutralize the poison, so I’ve done that, but it doesn’t seem to do anything for the itch. So far I’m relying on calamine and it’s helping. I’d like to not have to go the steroid route like I have every other time I get this stupid stuff.

The Doctor Who tote bag has gone to its new home and the teacher seemed thrilled to receive it. She even said I was an “artist!” Not really, but it’s nice to hear! It’s fun to make things for people, especially when they’re not expecting it. In that vein, I decided to make a gift for a friend of mine. I’ve had a lot of struggles the last three years, and this friend has been wonderful. She is supportive, kind, and encouraging. She’s a great listener and offers smart, objective advice. I don’t see her as often as I’d like, but I enjoy it every time I do. She loves the Kansas City Chiefs, and has season tickets, so I decided I’d give her something to help her stay warm. She doesn’t strike me as a hat person, so I picked out an earwarmer pattern first.IMG_4847

It’s simple yet has a few details that make it interesting, and it lent itself well to the striping of the Chiefs colors. The first time I tried to do the red purl row, it looked weird. Not sure how to describe it, but just doing one row of red didn’t give the effect I wanted. So I frogged back, picked up the red a row earlier, and knit one row, purled a row, and knit a row before going back to the gold.  This was a lovely quick knit.

Fingerless gloves were next. I picked a pattern I’ve used before with success. They’re called Vancouver Specials: Half-Mitts and they’re just a basic mitt with ribbed cuffs. My first attempt, using the size small, was too snug, so I started over with the medium, and I think they’ll be perfect. Unfortunately, I realized as I was binding off that I forgot to pick the red back up for the top ribbed edge like I intended. I think I’ll just make the other glove in reverse colors: a gold cuff with red body. IMG_4848

These were done with Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Bulky. It’s my first experience with Knit Picks yarn, and I was pleased with how it knit and how the finished project feels. The wool isn’t terribly soft, but not terribly itchy either. I’d love to do some felting with this yarn next!

What do you want in a Local Yarn Store?

We did a little yard work on Monday, and today I woke up with two little spots of poison ivy on my arm. Of course. It never fails. Whenever I do yard work, I get poison ivy. Doesn’t matter what precautions I take or whether we can see any where I’m working. It just happens. Fingers crossed that it’s just the one spot and the calamine continues to do its job. Then I had a blog post half-written this morning before I realized I’d already posted about that topic (the purple crochet fedoras). Shoot. That was my big plan for the morning. Instead I’ll go down and cast on for the Honey Cowl again with my Madelinetosh.

My brain is a little preoccupied, I guess. I found out the other day that one of my favorite LYSs is moving. It will still be in the metro area, but it’s farther away. It leaves the area on this side of the state line with just one LYS, and not a great one. There are some positives, the best one being that it’s a 3-minute drive for me. It’s a big store and they have good prices. They’ve been there for years and years and it seems like the customer base is much older. The ladies who work there don’t always take kindly to younger crafters like myself invading their space. It is not a welcoming store. It’s not really a friendly store. I like to look at the yarn but I’d never want to just sit down and hang out there. And that’s what I want in my LYS. 

So this news started a little voice in the back of my head talking, poking me about opening my own LYS. I’ve thought about it, dreamed about it. I have a vision in my head of what it might look like. It’s fuzzy and shifts, but it’s there. Certain aspects stay the same. I have ideas of promotions I would do, groups I could host, how I’d arrange the comfy chairs for crafters. I’ve already thought about what types and brands of yarn I’d want to carry to distinguish myself from the other LYS, but I think the atmosphere would be the biggest variant. Knitters and crocheters are such a friendly, community-oriented bunch that I think we flock to places that encourage it. I *want* to encourage it. I want to foster it and be part of it.

My husband and I have talked about creating a shop together, one that would allow us both to showcase our creations and help others create. He dreams of building custom furniture, and a yarn store could easily also be a showroom for his sample pieces. We have a name picked out, we’ve looked at available buildings…every For Sale or For Rent sign in our little downtown area catches our eyes.

Right now I’m dreaming. I’m even yearning a bit. But it’s not time yet. My kids are busy, and aren’t old enough to drive themselves to their various activities. I still want to be there for them, help them be active in band and theater and music and whatever else they dream of. I have some other family stuff going on, too, stuff that wouldn’t allow me to easily take on something as huge as my own store. I have a puppy who would eat the house if left alone all day, every day. We haven’t begun to write a business plan yet, something that definitely needs to happen. We need to do some research, start compiling numbers and working out the details. But I think this could happen. I think this could be our future.

It makes me wonder, and I want your feedback: What do you look for in a LYS? What compels you to go there again and again? What do you like and not like? What do you wish your LYS had or did? If you could have a dream LYS, what would it look like?


Doctor Who Tote Bag

Several days ago, my SIL and I made a pilgrimage to Nerd Girl Yarns to check out her studio and hopefully score some Doctor Who-inspired yarns. There were several to choose from but not the one we both wanted the most: Blue Box Exploding. It’s a gorgeous blend of TARDIS blue and golds. See, look at it here. Go ahead, order some. You know you want to. It’s okay. I’ll wait. … Happy now? Okay. So I bought a couple of other skeins and figured I’d order some myself in the near future. Then I went to Knitcraft and found two separate skeins of mercerized cotton that spoke to me.IMG_2857

They said, “Hey! This blue looks like TARDIS blue! And look, here’s a fiery blend that could be explosion colors!” And I said, “Hey! You’re right! I’ll buy you then.” And I did. And it was good.

I knew they needed to become a market bag so I had to find a good pattern. Fortunately, I had several in my Ravelry library. (Of course.) My favorite is the Ilene Bag. It’s pretty, it’s knitted, I love the short and wide handle. So I cast on and within a day I had a new market bag! And I love it!IMG_2883

The only part I’m not crazy about is the way the handle attaches. It’s a 3-needle bind off, which I normally like, and it’s definitely sturdy, but it’s not seamless and the seam jumps out at me.IMG_4840

Overall though, I think it’s pretty darn cool. I’m not a Whovian but I play one at home, so I was sorely tempted to keep this little baby for myself. Instead, it will be a gift to the Gifted program teacher who helped my daughter make it to DC in National History Day, a teacher who is unfailingly kind and encouraging and fun and wacky and wild. She has been my daughter’s favorite teacher for the last three years and is now my son’s favorite teacher, and the one teacher I truly look forward to seeing at every school function. She’s a Whovian too, and I think she’ll enjoy this little tote. And I like knowing it’s going to a good home.IMG_2884

Silk Yarn from India

My husband got home this weekend from a two-week work trip to Bangalore, India. For the most part, it sucked. A lot. I’m not used to being a single parent to our two kids and rambunctious puppy, so that was stressful. Plus I missed him. I didn’t think I would. I thought I’d be all “Oh yay I can do whatever I want!” and I kind of did, but…I do that anyway and he never cares. So that part was the same except I didn’t have him around and I didn’t like it. But enough mushiness. Because he’s home now, and he came home with presents! The best present ever: YARN!

That’s right, my fabulous husband found a company in Bangalore called Silkindian that creates specialty, luxury silk products, including handpainted, handspun yarns. (They also have machine spun yarn, custom yarns, fiber for your own spinning pleasure, silk fabrics and knitting needles.) Not only that, he convinced his driver to go out of their way to find this place so he could buy me yarn. That was difficult since apparently not many women in Bangalore knit for fun and the driver couldn’t figure out why Alex would want to go to this place.1381183_10152534539164724_1301209726800138021_nSilkindian’s wall o’yarn12188_10152534538949724_6360805160988210479_nMohammed poses with some of his offerings10609572_10152534538804724_9182705025302663282_nAlex and Mohammed. I like these guys. They provide yarn.

Yarn yarn yarny yarn for me! I have no idea how Alex picked but pick he did, and he picked out a lot more than I expected. Probably more than I would have allowed myself! Look what I ended up with:IMG_2885Let’s take a closer look, shall we? Obviously it’s all silk. My favorite is two skeins of Roving Silk, a worsted weight with 200 yards of variegated purple in each skein. Gorgeous.IMG_2872I got three skeins of this worsted Duke Silk Yarn, and these are the softest skeins of yarn I’ve ever touched. They’re heavenly. The colors are so rich too. Truly, this photo does not do the yarn justice.IMG_2869Two more skeins of Roving Silk, again in worsted. (The man knows what I like!) It’s a really pretty combination of colors and I can’t wait to see how it knits up. I’m thinking they’ll be a shawl, maybe with an edge of the lilac Duke in the previous picture.IMG_2871Another Duke Silk Yarn, 225 yards of worsted, in two of my favorite colors. I adore pink and green, especially together. Just one skein of this. What will it be?IMG_2873This Duke Silk is a gorgeous rainbow with purple and teal and olive and salmon and mint. Mmm. The colors are brighter than the picture shows. Multicolored yarns are my favorite way to do colorwork! I think this will make my new favorite cowl.IMG_2868More multicolored but these are pastel, and a bulky weight. 115 yards in each, so I’m glad I have two! Maybe a hat and mittens? They’re soft enough that I’ll love the feel against my skin.IMG_2865These are my “outside of the box” yarns. The purple is a sport weight, thinner than I usually use but 350 yards of it! I’m excited to branch out and see if I can make a pretty spring shawlette with it. The green isn’t labeled but I’m pretty sure it’s a DK weight. I just have no idea how many yards are in it, so I’ll have to find a great flexible pattern for it. I do love the subtle variations in the greens.IMG_2879Whew, are you getting tired yet? I am, but I’m not done! I have four more mystery skeins, already wound but lacking any labels. I’m pretty sure they’re worsted weight. Three are these marvelous rainbow skeins. I haven’t weighed them yet but I will, which should give me a basic idea of how much I have to play with. And one little random skein of pink and brown which will make a darling hat, I think.IMG_2874

IMG_2875Now look at these little beauties! Alex knows how much I like a little sparkle, so I’ve got two skeins of this yarn with some shimmery gold woven through. No labels but they look/feel like maybe a sport weight. They’re not as silky soft as the worsted & bulky yarns, but they feel light and bouncy. I’d love a shawl from them, I think. Do I work the colors separately or together?IMG_2862 IMG_2863Okay, we’ve reached the last bit of yarn, and these are the most unusual. They’re the recycled silk skeins. They’re cheaper than the others, not as soft, and there can be a lot of variation in thickness throughout each skein, but they’re fantastic nonetheless. The colors are still so bright and vivid, and more than any of the other yarns they evoke the feeling and personality of India. I’m saving these four to make a purse for myself, and it will be a treasure!IMG_2860That’s the end of the yarn, but not the end of the presents. Alex picked up a lovely pair of knitting needles from Silkindian too, a 14″ set of size 8 with nifty ends. I’m already trying to figure out what pattern I can make to use them.IMG_2888And finally, I got a silk pashmina in shades of fuchsia, purple and teal with stripes and polka dots: all my favorites in one article of clothing! I’ve already worn it and LOVE it. (This wasn’t from Silkindian.)IMG_2881I know. I’m so terribly spoiled. I quite like it that way. If you’re jealous of my yarn, check out the Silkindian’s website here or find him on ravelry here. What I have is just the tip of the iceberg!

On School, Bullies, and Doctor Who Knitting

So the kids started school yesterday, and overall both considered the first day a success. The girl said her day was “Awesome!”, and the boy said his day was “okay”. Given that he didn’t get lost, show up to class tardy, miss the bus, or have problems with his locker, my son said his day was better than he was expecting. In my mind, that’s a win, especially since he was in a good enough mood this morning while we waited for the bus.

My daughter loves her teachers, her classes and her new high school. She got a map from a helpful teacher and is figuring out where everything is. She’s excited about all the club and activity options offered, and is trying to decide which ones she wants to join to go along with marching band. She’s in a somewhat difficult situation, because 99% of her middle school friends went to a different high school, so she’s trying to find some new ones. She’s a great kid, friendly and helpful and kind and outgoing, and it won’t be long before she’s got a gaggle of friends again. But it’s hard to get there, especially when the people you trust turn on you.

With all the talk of bullying these days, I’ve seen more friend-on-friend meanness than true bullying. I know bullying happens, believe me, I do know. I’ve been through it and it’s horrible. And the Mean Girls stuff has been around forever, too. It’s just sad. It’s sad that kids can’t even trust their friends to be kind to them. Maybe it’s typical, maybe everybody makes fun of their friends. But it hurts. I think it might even hurt more to hear it from a friend than from a stranger. And it’s not just kids, it’s parents too, questioning and ridiculing my daughter’s choices. So maybe these kids are taking the hurtful things said to them and spewing it back out. Could it be a defense mechanism, a way to cope? I don’t know.

All I know is that I’m trying to teach my daughter how to be strong in the face of unkindness. I’m thankful she is self-confident, so these incidents sting but don’t crush her. I’m thankful she’s sympathetic and generous, and I am confident she would never talk to someone else the way some of her “friends” have talked to her.

I know I am trying very hard to restrain my mama-bear tendencies to go after those who have hurt my girl. She *has* to learn how to deal with people like this, unfortunately. And the sooner the better. I’m trying to help her find ways to communicate with these people, to let them know their words hurt, but it’s a hard skill. It’s something I didn’t learn until I was an adult. But boy does it help. I know sometimes teasing comes with love, and is not intended to hurt. But if it does hurt, you’ve got to let them know or else it will keep happening. And if it keeps happening, then you’ve discovered a sad truth about that person and you can move on.

Dealing with these hiccups, I’ve found that one of the best ways to cheer up my kids is to say the words “Doctor Who”. Yesterday I distracted them by showing them my LYS find. I celebrated the first day of school by going to Knitcraft and found some gorgeous TARDIS blue mercerized cotton. A row below was a fabulous red-orange-yellow multi. Well, put those two together and what do you get? Exploding TARDIS! I may not be a Whovian but I can speak the language pretty well. Needless to say, I bought them and am planning to make a market bag with them. I’ve cast on the bottom of the bag and hope to get plenty more done today.IMG_2857

Back-to-School Knitting

The kids started school today, one in high school and one in middle school. I cannot believe they’re that old, or that I’m old enough to have kids that old. We had an early start to the day to get them on the bus, and now I am relishing the quiet. I still have a bouncy puppy who wants to play, but otherwise the house is empty. There’s no one else here that I have to worry about, or take care of, or anticipate the needs of. It is bliss. It’s a feeling that I haven’t felt for a long time, and I’ve needed it. I like being their mom, I like helping them and the rest of my family, but I need this time to myself too. What’s the saying? “In the event of an emergency, apply the oxygen mask to yourself before helping others.” I’ve been trying to remind myself of that lately, that I need to take care of myself so that I’m healthy enough to help others. But it’s hard. You all know it’s hard.

Anyway, so today. Quiet, empty house. I finished another Christmas present last night so as a reward I’m casting on a treat for myself. When I went to that store-closing sale a few months back, I bought a bunch of yarn, but I also bought an awesome book by Rowan called Winter Warmers. It’s full of patterns for their Lima (worsted) and Alpaca Chunky yarns, which are the weights I use most. They’re all these gorgeous muted tones of gray and blue and lilac and caramel and I want to make everything in there. I don’t have any Rowan chunky, but I do have several skeins of Cascade Baby Alpaca Chunky, which is probably my favorite yarn ever.IMG_4801I have three skeins of this red, and they’ve been earmarked for this pattern since I looked through the book.IMG_4802 Can’t wait! I’m off to cast on now!


Knit along if you know what Happiness is to you

Whew. After a few really crazy weeks, I finally have time to catch my breath and post a few pictures of my latest projects. With a lot of kid activities and back-to-school stuff happening right now, my yarn is all that’s keeping me sane! So this is a photo-heavy post–I need a lot of help to stay sane right now. I had another request for girl/doll hats, but this time in blue. IMG_2667 IMG_2669 IMG_2671 IMG_2674After that, I had another set to make, but it was a little trickier. She wanted the cowboy style (only more like a fedora) but she wanted it for a girl and doll, and before I’d only made that style in the doll size. I searched for a good pattern, and went through three of them and wasn’t happy with any of them. I even bought a pattern! But they were all wrong in some way. Either they were too small or the wrong shape or they were too floppy.

Finally, I went back to the original hat pattern and modified it to fit a child. (*fingers crossed* She hasn’t received the hats yet.) I doubled the yarn, went up two hook sizes, and kept increasing by about 20 stitches. I do like how it came out; it’s soft but still holds a shape somewhat. I just hope I made it deep enough for her head. If not, I’ll be making another attempt!

IMG_4784We celebrated my niece’s birthday this weekend, and I got to make her a couple of things too. She loves stuffed animals, so I crocheted a little cardigan for her Hello Kitty doll to wear. It went so fast, and it’s super cute.

IMG_2697I also made her a hat of her own. She’d seen me making the purple one, and kept telling me how much she liked it, so I worked up a blue version for her. I used a single strand of a bulky yarn, with some wool instead of all acrylic, and I wasn’t happy with the end result. It came out floppier than I wanted, and today I discovered that it’s too small for her. (*insert sad face here*) However, it looks adorable on my nephew, so I might just make another, bigger one for her.

IMG_2703Finally, I was done with all those hats! With no pressing yarny needs and a sore wrist from crocheting, it was time for fat yarn and knitting needles. I picked up my indigo Cascade Magnum and my size 19 needles and made a Marian twisted cowl.

IMG_2690 IMG_2692I think that’s all. Ok, not really, I also made an adorable Christmas present but can’t show it off yet. Darn it. I do love it, too. And now I think I will be working on some more Christmas presents because I ordered a bunch of stuff in the Knitpicks summer sale and I have this fun box of yarn to play with now!