Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A giveaway

I could blame it on the holiday weekend, the gardening or the kids. But the fact is I just simply forgot to note the sign-up deadline for the Sew, Mama, Sew! giveaway day on my calendar. Melissa over at Tigerlily Tinkering - be sure to check out her recent apron adventures - reminded me of this amazing creative effort and I felt the urge to jump in too. So…I'm not sure if I am an officially sanctioned participant, but I will host a giveaway anyway. Here are the details:

I'll be giving away two knitting pattern collections, both by Melissa Matthay and Sheryl Thies (rav link), this one and this one. This means there will be two – yes two – winners here. Each pattern collection will arrive at it's destination packaged alongside a homemade, freshly-baked batch of biscotti. I usually make chocolate-almond, but I am happy to accommodate any food preferences or sensitivities.

To win, leave a comment describing either who taught you to knit (or sew, or create, or do what it is that you do) or why you began. Beginnings and origins are interesting to me and I'm curious to learn if crafting/creating is something that we are raised with, or whether we reach for it during particular moments in life. Or is it both? My twin daughters will pick the winners from a hat at 12 noon CST on May 31st. Lucky for them there are two winners! I will post the winners later that afternoon. Unfortunately I won't be able to send these items internationally, so the giveaway is only for individuals in the U.S. and Canada.

Good luck and I look forward to hearing from all of you!

New Sewing Machine

Our local newspaper recently ran an online auction. I won a new sewing machine. It's proven to be better than my old one by leaps and bounds (and no problems with the tension).

I'm celebrating the new machine by working on a coin quilt. This one is modern fabrics (Amy Butler, Anna Maria, Kaffee Fassett, and others) in green/blue/tan tones with white sashing. I'm loving how it's turning out. I've got fabric for a second one cut, but in red/yellow/tan tones. I'm thinking of matching quilts for my twin daughters; similar in spirit to these. I'm hoping they look a bit like this one when they are finished.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Picking up where I left off

Introducing the French Market Bag by Polly Outhwaite. It's been a long time in the making. I think that I started this project 3 or 4 years ago, but I can't be sure. I found the half-knitted project shoved carelessly in the bottom of a storage bin late last week as I was searching around for something else. It was the intense purple color that caught my eye.

I remembered the project and mumbled something along the lines of, "oh, that bag again," but then I stopped myself. Why did I have such negative feelings about this project? I couldn't remember why. I've done some pretty intense knitting lately, surely I could handle a bag now, right? So up from the depths it came, and downstairs to the couch for a good once over. Everything seemed to be in order - the needles, the yarn, the right number of stitches. So I started knitting away.

You might be able to see in the photo below that I must have changed something about my knitting over the intervening years - the stitches are twisted. Not sure exactly what changed, but boy am I glad that it is a project to be felted. No worries about actually being able to see the twisted stitches in the end!

I can't remember why I let this project drop. I can only imagine it had something to do with not knowing how to do a kitchner stitch and my general fear of felting. Sorry to report that despite my growing sock habit I don't really understand the stitch any better; and since we have a front loading machine I don't really have any control over the rapid felting. Luckily for me, it turned out this time. Even though the bottom looks a little pointed it is knit so that it has a square base. It sits lovely when full of yarn.

I think the basket is looking beautiful, and it's begging for some fresh cut flowers. I will have to indulge at the market next week.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fiber Gathering

Kathy Mack from Pink Chalk Studio (blog) hosted a great giveaway last week. And I won. I didn't quite believe it, even after we exchanged e-mails. But then I received the book, Fiber Gathering: Knit, Crochet, Spin, and Dye More than 20 Projects Inspired by America's Festivals by Joanne Seiff, in the mail over the weekend and I knew it had to be true. Fiber Gathering reminds me a lot of a cookbook on my shelf, Local Flavors by Deborah Madison.

Both books take you from coast-to-coast showcasing the best fiber festivals and farmer's markets (respectively) in the United States. I love that I can open each book and travel immediately to another part of the country - and learn a tremendous amount along the way. Included in Fiber Gathering are a host of patterns and how-to tutorials for dyeing, spinning and other assorted fibers skills. I'm excited to give both dyeing and spinning a try some day, and this will be my go-to book when I am ready.

Cheers to the wonderful blogosphere and the way that unique, talented and supportive individuals reach out to others; to encourage creativity in every aspect of our lives. You can be sure I will pay it forward soon.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Deep in the Forest Mittens: The saga continues

Remember this post? Well, here is my progress. I decided to forgo the thumb for the moment and just cast on for the second mitten. They are so lovely and I'm excited to see them develop. I can finally see the forest for the trees. You, however, can find the pattern for these mittens here.

What worked? I found my magic combination: size 1 needles, with worsted weight yarn (Cascade 220 for these). For whatever reason, I needed something more substantial to do stranded color work properly. Fingering weight just wasn't cutting it for me. Luckily they are not coming out too big - a worry with thicker yarn and hence more sts/inch - and with a wee bit of felting in the sink they should fit well enough. I didn't wind up modifying the pattern at all, with the exception of the cuff. I added a picot edge, which I fell in love with here. Although the mittens are not lined, the underside of the cuff is a lovely heather purple.

I hope to finish them before fall comes. Funny to be saying that when it's only May (hence spring in my neck of the woods), but the pattern does require a lot of attention to detail and that is hard to come by in our household. Especially during the summer months when we want to be outside and digging in the dirt, not inside reading a knitting chart. On that note, I've been busy outside. In addition to our usual vegetable and herb gardens, we added blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and cranberries to our yard this spring! Combined with the established apple tree, sour cherry tree and rhubarb we've got quite an operation going.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

May birthday present

These lovely socks are going in the mail to a lifelong friend for her birthday. I finally finished them and am really happy with how they turned out. I think the hand painted yarn is gorgeous with this pattern. She still has a pair of socks I knit her from three years ago; and she still wears them - no darning needed. I remember they were one of the first pairs of socks I ever knit and I'm so happy they are being put to good use. These have a bit more character (brighter, more texture) then her last pair, but I hope she likes them just as much.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

We come like trees

When the twins turned one I made each of them a book with photos of the immediate family members. Madeline's first year came and went. I realized I hadn't made her book. So I am technically making it for her second birthday, but will give it to her early.

They are simple books: embroidered felt covers with construction paper pages that are laminated with the photos. I punched three holes along one side and placed binder rings to keep them together. I also wrote in peoples names and their relationship to each girl.

I love these books for many reasons. Early on the girls used them to learn the names of family members that live far away. They are also a photographic record of our family and its changes over time. In the years since I made the books for the twins we've sadly lost some family members. But, with great joy we've also added a few too. There is also a quote, by Maya Angelou, that opens each book. It reads:

No one comes from the earth like grass
We come like trees
We all have roots

We do not practice or explore religion/spirituality in a formal, organized manner - this saying does, however, come very close to what I consider to be my faith. My faith that life and spirit endure; they were present before we were and will persist after we are gone. The saying is superimposed over a black and white photo of the gigantic catalpa tree that my husband and I were married under.

I've never kept baby books, not really even a record of things like first steps, first words or first foods. I feel badly about this, but hope that some of the other things that I've done for my kids during their first years of life will make up for this. One thing I do is take photos - lots of them - and I hope that they will fill in where memories fade.