Friday, February 27, 2009

Favorite Things

I recently participated in a swap on ravelry. This was my third virtual swap (see others here) and I am really happy that I did it. This one was called the Favorite Things Swap and the point was to send someone else a bunch of your favorite things.

Here's a photo of the items that my partner, from Montreal, Canada, sent to me. She included two skeins of 100% alpaca yarn, some lavender shower gel (made with local Canadian lavender), dark chocolate infused with pear, a wonderful book on healthy living, some indulgent teas and a handmade hair clip. She is also an incredible knitter and has made a pair of lined fiddlehead mittens - for a charity auction - that would make anyone envious (and hopefully made someone bid a lot)!

For those of you that know me IRL, you might know that DH and I went on our honeymoon to Montreal. Aside from Annie's package being lovely it also brought on a trip down memory lane. Dan and I took out the photo album and had a good time remembering our trip.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kitchen Sink Dyeworks

I recently sold off some stash yarns on Ravelry and put the money towards a new yarn that I am really excited about. It is a superwash sock yarn, hand painted by Kitchen Sink Dyeworks. They have lots of yarns and lots of color choices - no two hand painted skeins are the same. My color is Farmhouse: full of robins egg blue, turquoise, light greens, butter cream yellow and dashes of white. They have lots of other beautiful selections such as Dandelion, Fiesta, Chicago Blues, Harvest Red, Indian Corn and Absinthe.

I'd had the yarn I sold for many years. I think I purchased it when I was living in New York City (pre-kids) and just getting into knitting. Apparently I really liked big needles back then b/c the kids sweater I made with that yarn called for size 15 needles. I seem to have transitioned to smaller needles since then. I am happy the yarn went to someone that is going to use it and I am happy that I found something new that I will use.

After some years of trial and error I am finding my knitting style and yarn preferences. And while nothing will replace going to my LYS and picking out yarn for a special project, I am excited to build a base of yarns that I can draw from when inspiration hits. This was also my first purchase through Etsy and I am smitten.

I think this yarn will make its way into a pair of "no purl" monkey socks (knit the same pattern, just substitute knit sts for the purl sts). Lots of folks are going for this modified sock pattern on ravelry and I think that this yarn would look quite nice. I hope to cast on one evening this week.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Guilt + Sew, Mama, Sew! Fat Quarter Month = Doll Quilts

After reading a post from Sew, Mama, Sew!'s month-long ode to fat quarters I was inspired. Three doll quilts were in order. A dose of mama guilt helped. How could I not have sewn my girls doll quilts before?! Well, maybe you can understand my aversion to sewing anything doll-related after reading this.

With three very young girls around the house we are never in short supply of baby things: diapers, blankets, brushes and cute clothes are everywhere. So when they do play with their dolls they just grab things we use everyday. But I hadn't made anything special for their dolls. In fact they have been hopelessly neglected if I do say so myself (many don't even have clothes to wear).

My girls don't particularly have an affinity for dolls anyway - they seem to prefer more active games like dress-up, spaceship and school - but I thought I would give these a whirl. I have plenty of fat quarters and scraps around the house. I didn't spend one extra cent on these projects, I just used up things I already had in my stash. I even used up some thrifted binding strips that were really too small for anything else. I feel particularly happy about this aspect of the project.

There is one in blue tones, one in green and one in tan/brown.

I also have to share that this was truly an inter-generational project. The girls and my mom created the the 'sandwiches' and helped get them ready for the final quilting. It wasn't hard to convince them to join in once they saw the fabric, masking tape and fluffy batting on the dining room table. Later that afternoon my older girls took turns sitting on my lap while sewing at the machine. I asked only that they sit relatively still, and place their hands on top of mine as we sewed. They sniped stray threads for me, picked up scraps from the sewing room floor, and were generally happy to play near me when not directly involved in the sewing. It didn't result in the most beautiful (or quality) quilting ever - and the experience wasn't without it's stressful moments. But I must say these are among the most meaningful projects I've ever done. I'm not too sure how much the quilts will get used. I couldn't even find them when I was picking up this morning. But right now I don't care. We had fun together.

With so many great little projects going up on the Sew, Mama, Sew! website for fat quarter month, I am tempted to go out and celebrate not spending money on this first project by snapping up some new fat quarters and making more cute things. I really have my eye on this little boxy pouch.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bird in Hand

Happy Valentine's Day! Let me present some red mittens in honor of this day of love.

I first spied these mittens on the hands of a fellow knitter here in town. Do you see the bird?(Photo credit: Kate Gilbert, 2007) I was instantly in love and quickly added them to my ravelry queue. Last weekend I decided to give them a try as I have now frogged my forest mittens, again. Third time is a charm, right?

These are knitting up like a dream. I even learned a two new techniques from this pattern: picot edging and braids. Let me just say that picot edging is so cute and easy! You'll be seeing more of it in the future from me.

I also had a light bulb moment and finally figured out how to wrap - or carry - the yarn while doing two color knitting. I had been trying to do it a bunch of different ways with no success. Then I realized that I really just needed to twist the yarns around each other - not actually knit the color I was carrying - to make it work. Viola.

The picture below is actually of the second mitten I made. I knit up the first one on size 3 needles and they came out way too big. They would have fit a giant. I ripped it apart and dropped down to a size 1 needle. Now it fits me perfectly. I also added the gold color as an accent. Adding that third yarn sparingly was a good choice on my part. Going from two yarns to three yarns is difficult. More difficult than, I dare say, going from two kids to three :)
The mittens are pictured with some cool mitten blockers handmade by maudawoodworks. I showed him this DIY tutorial (these sisters have lovely blog too) then traced my hand for him. A short time later he presented me with a pair of these. Besides being lovely, who can resist a detachable thumb?!

I still have the thumb of the right mitten to finish, but I have already cast on for the left mitten. I'm pretty excited to finish these off and use them. Even though the weather has been at record-breaking temps (50 degrees!) lately I know more cold weather is on it's way.

In reflecting on my other pair of mittens, I've decided to re-work them with the same yarn/needles I'm knitting these up with. The patterns don't match up exactly, but they sure are close. So, with some help from a lovely friend a solution has been proposed. Modify the pattern (slightly). Unfortunately this does mean monkeying a bit with the tree design, but really not too much. I like to think of it as sustainable forestry of sorts.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"I hope this isn't too forward, but..."

My husband's co-worker stopped him on his way out of the office last week. He said, "I hope this isn't too forward, but do you think your wife would knit me a hat? I lost mine last week."

When my husband relayed this story I wasn't sure how I felt. At first I was flattered. Then I wondered how this guy knew I knit. I thought back to the first and only time I met him - at my husbands holiday party. He's younger then I am, but not by much. He seemed nice enough. He is the assistant to the office librarian.

In the end I decided to go ahead and knit him a hat. I guess I felt a little maternal about it. "His ears must be cold," I thought. Besides, I needed a knitting break from my mittens. The trouble was that I didn't have any measurements for his head. I also have no idea what he might like in a hat. So I just went with my imagination, and used my husband as a model.

I pretended that I had a teenage son. Then imagined what I would knit for him. I found a pattern that matched my vision on ravelry. It's called The Boy Hat. Perfect.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Springing forward in fall colors

I love the name of this sock pattern: Spring Forward.  I like to think of these socks actually springing forward - over and beyond my frustrations about my mittens.  Propelling me forward; towards melting snow and the warm spring rain.  

These lovely socks have given me the respite I needed from my mittens.  I like having 2 or 3 projects going at the same time.  I usually divide them up by difficulty, or more accurately how much of my attention they require.  For example, I have one project that I can do while the TV is on and/or the kids are arguing over toys and/or the baby is climbing on me like a jungle gym.  These are, as you have guessed, projects that I can pick-up and set-down at a seconds notice without any worry about messing it up.  

Then I have projects that require fidelity, focus and concentration.  Usually this is a lace pattern or a new project like the mittens.  I tend to save these projects for the rare nights when I have energy past kiddo bedtime, or I find some spare time while the kids are napping.

These socks are luckily of the first variety.  Once you've got the basics of sock construction figured out these are easily put-down and picked-up.  These orange socks are made with the second (color: pumpkin) of three colors of knitpicks essential sock yarn that I purchased in the fall.  I have to say that I really do love this yarn.  It knits up with ease and seems to be very durable. 

A (gratuitous) kid-related story:  This is the first pair of socks that I have knit with my new row counter - a gift from DH for Christmas.  The older girls are just fascinated with it.  They love to watch me change the numbers and always ask, "Momma, what number are you on now?"  It is the kind of question that melts my heart.  I love that they are interested in my knitting and I look forward to teaching them how to knit over the next couple of years.  In the meantime we've been playing with yarn in other ways.  Inspired by a friend to knit with we made some yarn-based birds nests over the weekend.  Arn't they cute?!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Can't see the forest for the trees (Deep in the Forest Mittens)

We are back up to speed with the semester underway.  I have found my study time, my writing time, my mommy time, my wife time, and my knitting time.  [Like how I laid those out there like they are separate things with affiliated hours of the day?  The truth is I am always all those things all the time - just a little more one thing and then the other from minute to minute.]  So here's a status report on one of my current projects: frustration.

I can't seem to get this two-color stranded knitting thing down. I purchased this pattern awhile back. I HAD to have it. It's incredible - striking, complex and lovely all in one.  People seem to be knitting them like crazy on ravelry and I even heard the pattern mentioned in a podcast this past week.  I scrolled through ravelry for yarn ideas and settled on this. I immediately tried knitting the first mitten and it came out all puckered.

I frogged it.

I tried again on larger needles - and I was cautious to leave more trailing yarn than I thought I needed to. It came out too big, and didn't look right with the yarn I was using.

I frogged it.

Now I am back to my original size needles, leaving WAY more yarn that I think I need to and it is still puckering.

I need to frog it.  But...

my ego hurts.

My patience left me days ago.

I so want these mittens.

Any advice from seasoned knitters out there?  I was able to chat with a wonderful local knitter who encouraged me to try to get the knitting to lay flat (i.e. no puckering at all) because the puckering won't really be undone during the blocking process.  

Maybe I need different yarn?  Maybe I try a different pair of mittens first?  Maybe I should just stick with it and try again?  HELP!!

On a related note, I celebrated candlemas with friends this past Monday.  During our time together I drew a Native American medicine card - the dog.  Loyalty.  Huh.  Maybe this explains why I can't let this project go.