Friday, December 24, 2010
I am feeling great - this pregnancy feels easier than the last - but staying up into the wee-hours of the night crafting is not really in the cards for me these days. However, now that I am done with school and work, and as rested as I'm going to get, I am ready to go!
In the past few days I completed the socks and created a nice partially-handmade gift for my SIL. I was also able to pull together a little gift for each of my girls.
Starting with the socks:
I am very happy to report that my quick fix job really worked. I completed the pair with about 5 yds. of yarn to spare. That's cutting it close! But they look really cool. The photo doesn't do the colorwork justice - and I like that they are matchy without matching. I even finished them with 4 days to go before Christmas. That's a good feeling.
I am also giving my SIL my favorite book on writing, a to-go coffee sleeve (thanks Erin for the great tutorial!) and two gift certificates to local businesses: one coffee shop and one pet store. [There was a second coffee sleeve with a GC for a local coffee room that went to a special kindergarten teacher, but that was gifted before a photo could be had.]
And now for the gifts for the girls! I recently borrowed the Wee Wonderfuls book from the library and fell is love with many of the projects. I knew I didn't have time to complete any of the projects before the book was returned, but a few of the ideas stayed with me; begging to be made for my girls. Using photocopies of three patterns I ploughed ahead with a doggie necklace, a mermaid and a Gretel doll, and finished all of them inside of three evenings.
First, a doggie necklace for my dog-loving daughter:
This project is perfect for her. She is obsessed with dogs right now. She has checked out every book at the library on dogs, told Santa she wants a 'box of puppies' for Christmas, and is counting the days until our family gets a dog (not for a few years, mind you). The handiwork was a bit tedious - this little doggie is small - but I am very happy with the result.
Second, a mermaid for my excitable girly-girl:
What can I say about this mermaid? It's perfect. It's got golden brown hair like my daughter, she's got some bling in her flowing locks, which my daughter loves, and she is just overall a lovely doll. The pattern was fantastic - I really like how the doll is assembled. However, my free-quilting skills are not quite up to par (there is some embellishment on the hair and fins). I probably should have practiced some of the decorative stitches first, but this doll will do just fine.
And lastly, a Gretel-inspired doll for my little redhead:
This doll really stole my heart in the book. Gretel is paired with Hansel (who even has a feather in his cap) - can't you just imagine a pair of them together?! I took the idea of Gretel and modified her a bit to suit my 3 year old. She definitely prefers stuffed animals to dolls, and I'm hoping that she will take to the puppet feel of this special doll. Oh, and my painting skills? They leave something to be desired. But it works, it's handmade - and it's made with love. There's no better present than that. As for my pattern notes, I skipped placing the pipe cleaners for the arms and I also whip stitched the felt backing to the front template.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
I am knitting a pair of bright, self-striping socks for my SIL for Christmas. We have a big-ish family and draw names for gift giving. This year I was lucky to get DH's younger sister. She is fresh out of college, just moved to our town, is writing a novel, has a steady job at a bookstore and has just entered adulthood. What a cool stage of life to be in! (Ok, maybe that is just my mid-30's, kid-raising mind rambling some BS. I think I also remember that stage of life being plenty full of longing, uncertainty and confusion too.) Regardless, I think that she'll like the socks. I think they are suited for a 20-something.
The thing that I didn't account for before starting the socks was her foot size. She wears a shoe that is 3 sizes larger than mine and I didn't make any changes to my pattern to accommodate. Yikes. And how many days until Christmas again?
There are a couple of things that I could have done to make this error easier to deal with, before I even started knitting. First, I could have split my skein into two balls and weighed them, thus ensuring that I had equal amounts for yarn to work with for each sock. I would have very quickly realized I was running low on yarn on the first sock before finishing it and could have made changes then. Secondly, I could have knit these socks from the toe-up. This makes adjusting the leg length much easier technically speaking. Since you are assured of having the proper foot length you just knit the leg until you run out of yarn.
But instead I am doing some magical knitting wizardry.
The leg of the finished sock on the left was WAY TOO tall if my yarn was going to accommodate the length of the foot. I realized this when I got half-way down the leg of the second sock and started running out of yarn.
So I had to do some emergency sock surgery to steal yarn from the finished sock for the unfinished one. This caused me to stop for 2 days and really think about the most efficient way to go about this. Here are my steps:
First, I snipped a stitch just below the ribbed cuff and unraveled the leg a couple inches. Then I unraveled the cuff and wound the yarn into a mini-ball. [You can't unravel a ribbed cuff from the top-down. It just doesn't work.]
Secondly, I re-knit the cuff on the finished sock, going up the leg this time, and bound off.
This allowed me to take 3 inches off the leg of the first sock - theoretically freeing up 3 inches of yarn for the foot of the second sock.
It's not the most elegant of solutions, but it works and it got me back on the road to finishing the socks on-time. [The cuffs on the socks won't match exactly since one has a cast-on edge for the cuff, and the other has a cast-off edge, but I don't think she'll notice.] I also debated on just ordering more sock yarn in the same colorway, but given my stash challenge I diligently encouraged myself to find a different solution.
Here was my stopping point last night. The returns are still out, but I am feeling pretty confident that I have enough yarn to finish off the second sock, albeit with a much shorter leg length.
Once the socks are done I will take pictures in the daylight. The colors remind me of a winter sunrise in WI - how the pinks and oranges in the sky above blend into the white and gray of the snow below.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
After the morning rush I decided to put my feet up. I made myself a cup of tea, read the newspaper, and watched the first flurry of the Wisconsin Winter descend outside my window.
To do this for myself was an actual decision that I had to consciously make. Normally I sit down in front of my computer, and let the (sometimes crippling) guilt of all that remains un-read, un-written, and un-finished wash over me. But not today, not this morning.
If you'll notice, my toes were warm inside my freshly finished socks. A nice treat for myself. I grafted the toe for the second sock on the morning after I successfully defended my dissertation. I did that on Monday evening. So you see, there isn't too much more to write at the moment. And all of the articles that I never read? Well, that's water under the bridge as far as graduate school goes.
I still have more revisions to make before depositing my dissertation - and since I plan to publish portions of it, this thing isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Some days I love it. Some days I am sick of it. But the best part is that it got me to where I am today, this morning. In my favorite chair, emboldened with a great sense of accomplishment.
The loftiest goal for today is to bake banana bread. I plan to spend my free time snuggling with the kiddos, and looking through my stash for a celebratory cast-on. What to make?
The socks are the finished TTL Mystery Sock '10 in madelinetosh sock (colorway: amber trinket). I did have enough yarn to finish both socks...and there's a bit left over too. Maybe I'll add another sweater to my winter door decoration?
And picking up my conversation from the last post, today was the first day that we put up our advent calendar. Hurrah for handmade holiday traditions! The girls don't exactly remember it from last year, but are very excited to participate this year and already have the rotation (who goes first, second, etc.) for picking socks worked out.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
During a recent trip to JoAnn's I got a pang of guilt about not really decorating for the holidays. I mean our house isn't bare during various festivities, but I certainly don't decorate to the extent that I could - especially with wide-eyed, wonder-filled kids on my heels.
I usually look at all the stuff they wedge in the front of the store about 6 weeks before every holiday - and offer for 70% off - and think to myself a couple of things. First, some of it is just too plain ugly or cheap-looking to bring home. Second, I realize that if I gave just a bit of effort I could likely make many similar things at home. Or third, if I did purchase x, y or z, I am certain that my kids would destroy it; appropriately seeing the commercialism of it all and treating the purchases like toys instead of future family heirlooms.
So I pass it all by and another holiday comes and goes and I still really don't have anything to decorate the house with. I haven't gotten to a point where I can purchase things from art fairs - although that is a hope for the future. And while I pick up things here and there from thrift stores, I haven't had much luck in making my finds match - or coordinate - with the feel and look of our home.
I did get on top of the game with Halloween this year. It was easy since the kids were so into it. We did some special themed napkins, lots of pumpkin crafts and made our costumes. Christmas is likewise pretty well covered - a huge tree in the living room really goes a long way!
But Thanksgiving has me stumped. I've been up in the sewing room playing with burlap, ribbon, fall-colored fabrics...all in hopes of making at least a table runner for the dinner celebration. But I haven't gotten there yet.
And, instead of making progress on anything related to the holiday that's coming up, I was side-tracked by ravelry and a vision of a cute garland of sweaters. [At least its a perfect winter decoration, right?]
My hope is to hang this garland on our front door - in lieu of a brightly painted snowman proclaiming "Merry Christmas!" - for the winter holidays. Each sweater is knit up from left over sock yarn (also used for this project), and I hung each one by a piece of gray yarn attached to a toothpick that is nestled inside the sweater. The pattern is a generous freebie you can find here. I love that they are real raglan sleeve sweaters! It was really the cable sweater the pulled me in, but I never got around to knitting one because I was into using up more of my variegated yarns.
Maybe the solution to my dilemma, errr...assuaging my guilt, is pacing myself - napkins one year, a table runner the next, a home decoration the next and so on. Maybe then I wouldn't feel so bad about not having the perfect mantle display, or table setting?
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Here is one of a pair; a lonely sock.
But I finished it on time, just a day after the last clue was released. I loved the rhythm of this sock and how it all came together. Quite a stunning piece of work if you ask me. And the generosity of the free pattern? Too kind.
I made the size large, and am regretting it a bit because it is a bit too big on my leg. I am also worried that I won't have enough yarn to fully complete the second sock. There are a few ravelers that have noted they ran out of yarn this year - and I have last years experience in the back of my mind too - but there is only one way to get over my fear: start knitting that second sock. Off I go!
The yarn is madelinetosh Tosh Sock in Amber Trinket. Luckily I found an on-line store with more in stock in case I do run out...I picked up the only skein at my LYS a couple weeks ago.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
It's fall around here, and inspiration is everywhere.
I made these up one night last week while hanging out with friends. It was my first try at needle felting. Can't say I am a huge fan, but it sure was fun to try something new. It was very simple: I waded up the roving and punched it with the needles until it was roughly acorn-shaped. Then I snipped off one end, filled the acorn cap with glue, and stuck the wool in. Simple, colorful and festive.
While it seems like a great project to do with kids, I wouldn't advise using the felting needles (ouch!) with small children. The little ones did help me collect the acorns, and acorn tops, however. If you wanted to involve kids, maybe you could give this a try with wet felting instead? I imagine you could similarly wad up the roving, felt it in your hands with a bit of hot water, and let them dry before gluing them into the tops.
The roving is from a trip to Stitches Midwest 2009, from the Village Spinning and Weaving Shop, and I love the color assortment. I was thinking these colors would also make a lovely necklace of small wool beads - or a garland of larger ones.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I have quite a few projects on the needles at the moment! There are the TTL Mystery Socks, the Cobblestone sweater, and this precious vest. The socks are lovely, but require quite a bit of attention from me and so progress has been slow. I really hope to finish off the sweater this week - all it needs is some seaming under the arms and a nice blocking.
The project I'm most excited about at the moment? The Milo vest. I have a nephew due to arrive in the world at the end of the month and I plan to get this shipped off to his parents in the next week or two.
This is the third time I've knit up this vest and I fall in love with it more each time. It's an amazing pattern and a wonderful gift item. I'm knitting this one from Lion Brand Wool-Ease (more stash-busting!) which is great for little ones as it is machine wash and dryable. I'm making a 3-6 mos. size in hopes that he will be able to wear it during the winter months. He will be living in Georgia - certainly warmer than Wisconsin in January - but I do hope he'll get some wear out of it over a onesie.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
These last few weeks have been very busy for our family. Some combination of us has been been in the car and out of town overnight each weekend for the past four weeks. While this has wreaked havoc on our home, laundry, and sleeping we are all the better for having gotten away (or having spent time with Grandma and Grandpa). There were two weddings, a date weekend, and a bachelor party. All wonderful reasons to be away from the home. The car trips provided lots of knitting time, so when DH and I weren't trying to catch up with each other, and our life, I was able to put my needles together.
The hats above are the product of a trip to Milwaukee last weekend. The girls asked me to knit them "fall rainbow hats," just like the one that I wear. I was able to use the generously free pattern from Soulemama for a kids-size version of a hat I knit for myself a few years back (photos are pre-blocking). And while I chose a different yarn - one that is washable! - the girls are thrilled.
The photo above is of two hats, but I am currently knitting a third, with the remnants from these two, for my youngest daughter. She is patiently awaiting her hat which has been stalled momentarily while work on the dissertation resumes again full-time.
The yarn for these hats was purchased at my LYS which has recently undergone a transformation. Same name, but new layout, new management, and new yarns.
I had a gift card for the old store, which closed for awhile in the summer, and I also had a full punch card. Since the yarn supply in the old store started to decline in the spring I held off on using the gift card. I didn't know the store was going to close, and I suppose I was waiting until more yarns came in. Luckily the new owner has agreed to accept gift cards that were issued from the old store, as well as provide a 20% discount for full punch cards. So I marched in and spent that gift card. With the additional percent off I was even able to buy myself some luxury hand dyed sock yarn.
The other two skeins of wool you see below are a gift from a dear friend. They are a congrats-on-finishing-your-dissertation gift; gifted in the spirit of 'now quit typing and start knitting again!' I am completely taken by the goldenrod color, and it looks so striking next to that gray. Oh the possibilities! The yarn comes from a local woman who makes her own yarn and also owns a local yarn store. I believe she also piloted a yarn share, CSA-style, this last year. What an amazing idea!
I always knew that fall would be the toughest season to survive without buying any new yarns, and I am so happy that I was able to indulge with something new in a budget-neutral way!
new sock yarn (madelinetosh)
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
About 10 days ago I turned in a final, full draft of my dissertation to my advisor. While I haven't received any formal feedback from him yet, he did assure me that I will be done this semester. It will take some time to schedule a defense date, but would I be overly optimistic to think that I could have this whole thing wrapped up by Thanksgiving? Maybe. But that won't stop me from trying. At a minimum it will be another week until I get some feedback from my advisor, and once he approves the document my committee members get at least 3 weeks to review it before we meet for my final oral defense. So...I am in the final stretch, but there is still more work to do.
Of course once I turned in that copy my body shut down and I came down with a bad head cold that I can't seem to shake. While annoying, I don't mind. It has helped me slow down, really pay attention to my immediate needs and get back into the groove of relaxing and sleeping again.
While I was putting the finishing touches on my dissertation, I knit up this adorable sweater. In my never-ending quest to find creative ways to use up my one-skein yarns I happened across this pattern. I used some left-over Cascade (from this project), and my one remaining skein of a silk-blend Manos del Uruguay. The final sweater requires a zipper, but I have yet to find the perfect one. Eight-and-a-half inches is a tricky size to locate at our local stores. I'm thinking a nice cream-color zipper would be perfect...
I love how this sweater turned out, and I literally used every last bit of the Manos - I actually ran out with about two inches of the i-cord left to go and had to finish it off with some blue scraps I had laying around. The shaping of the sweater is beautiful and the stripes are too cute - I can see one or two more of these in my future as baby gifts.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
It was a productive blog break too. I did some knitting, but mostly my head has been elsewhere; mostly inside SPSS and Microsoft Word. It will take me some time to get back up to speed on my crafting/knitting again. Truth be told I'm not sure that I will really jump back into things until after my final defense, but I am ready to be back in this space again: sharing, writing and a bit of show-and-tell.
And who am I kidding afterall? It's fall weather around here again and that just plain makes me wanna knit!
To get things started again here is a hat I made awhile back. In my year-long quest to work solely from my stash, I was looking for a project to use up my one ball of Malabrigo. The Star Crossed beret by Natalie Larson was perfect. You can see my project notes on ravelry, but it was portable and quick (two of my favorite qualities in a knitting project). It involves some light cable work too, which used up just a smidgen of my left over brain power. I did fiddle around with the needle sizes to make sure the hat wouldn't stretch out too much and I'm pretty happy with the final result. The color really is lovely and it will look great with my black coat this winter. I didn't block it yet, and the photo was tough to take - how do you photograph your own head?! - but I highly recommend this project as a quick fall knit for those one skein yarns you have floating around.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
[Blueberries from Appleberry Farm]
I have my data, I have my analysis strategy and I have set up a couple uninterrupted blocks of time to write.
Postings will likely cease for awhile - I'm trying to quiet any and all distractions over the next six weeks - but I'm sure that I will still find time here and there to craft, knit and sew.
And I will let you know all about it when I'm ready to return to this space. Until then...cheers.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I come from a big, BIG family. So when I say that I am going to a shower for "my cousin" it could mean one of 19 first cousins (11 boys and 8 girls), many of whom are starting to get married and have kids of their own. That makes for lots of showers, both for weddings and babies. And lots of shower gifts to give. Tonight is a baby shower for one of my younger girl cousins. Well...I'm the oldest girl in the group so they are all younger.
For the past few baby showers I decided to make gifts - something little, special, and practical for the new parents. Last week, with my own not-so-little-baby underfoot, I made this taggie blanket.
Each of my girls loved tags. Of all sorts, mostly the ones on stuffed animals, but the twins were also strangely drawn to drooling over shoe laces. I'm not kidding - laces were hypnotic. Place a shoe in front of them and they were entranced for at least 30 minutes. Give them a shoe lace and they were happy for 45.
[I've always felt a little strange about the fact that my kids played with shoe laces for so many months during their early development. So aside from the obvious safety (choking!) issue, I couldn't ever bring myself to create a 'shoelacie' plaything.]
But, it wasn't until my youngest arrived that I realized the utility of a plaything made entirely of tags. And now I will pass along that seasoned-parent wisdom to my younger cousin. It's a bit wonky - as sewing with a toddler ensures - but it's fun and funky. And most of all its covered in tags.
I started with one 14"x14" square of flannel, and one of polar fleece. I basted the ribbons (raw edges facing out) on two sides of the flannel and then sewed the right sides of the fabric squares together, leaving a gap for turning. Once it was turned, I topstitched all around: to close the gap, for added tag security, and to keep the fabric from shifting around too much.
I'm pretty happy with the result. The plaything is small enough to tuck into a car seat or stroller without being cumbersome, but just big enough to cuddle with and provide entertainment/comfort.
I'm also going to gift one or two of the fabulous bibs from Melissa, but I can't decide which one(s) just yet. They are all so cool it's impossible to choose!
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Saturday, July 3, 2010
It was a small experiment - well, that's a generous word for it I suppose. I had pent up energy, and the kids were running wild, and instead of taking them to the park (like I should have) I told them to play downstairs while I hid in my space upstairs cutting, threading and sewing.
The result is probably an accurate reflection of my excited and rushed process. No measuring, no sketching beforehand. And the fact that I wasn't settled or quiet or peaceful when making this shines through to me. I don't know if I like it. But I made it. And it will hang around somewhere. If only as a reminder that I can still be myself, even in the middle of the sometimes-tornado that raising kids creates.
I like the graduation in color from ground, to grass, to horizon to sky. I like the silver thread I used to quilt the design. The background fabric is soft and has a beautiful weight to it and the backing is a light grey - I even added a hanging pocket. But when I put it all together and hang it on the wall it just doesn't quite work. Can't put my finger on why. I'm not sure I like it. But I made it.
Monday, June 28, 2010
We recently gave our bathroom a makeover. It was installed when an addition was added to the house in the 1940's and basically hadn't been touched since. It is a small space; suitable for a sink and toilet, and barely one standing adult. It was entirely functional and useful so we didn't touch it, aside from a good cleaning, when we moved in. But when the toilet started leaking a couple weeks ago (no doubt spurred by my little ones' obsession with flushing banana peels) we thought it would be a good time to do a little updating.
We had hoped to upgrade to a water-efficient toilet, but wouldn't you know that historic charm and green technology don't always go hand-in-hand. So we kept the old one, and the old matching sink, and made cosmetic updates instead. New tile flooring, fixtures, a curtain and some artwork all made for a much cheerier space.
I sewed the curtain with fabric from the stash. I originally purchased the fabric last November in hopes of sewing some special Thanksgiving napkins, but never got around to it. Instead of keeping that project on my 'to make' list, I crossed it off and cut into the fabric for a curtain. Just a basic pocket curtain, no lining. But damn did it feel good to sew something again!
I also framed a Nikki McClure print for the wall. I know it's probably not appropriate art for a bathroom, but it makes me smile every time I look at it. And considering how much time I spend in that bathroom with my three little ones (washing hands and faces, hanging swimsuits, cleaning up) that can't be a bad thing, right?
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Saturday, June 19, 2010
And what a great left-overs project! Much like my zig zag pram blanket, I rounded up misc. balls of worsted weight yarns and cast on for a colorful adventure. I kept my palate in the blue zone, sticking mostly to green, blue and purple yarns. But I took a little hint from my adventures in quilting and threw in one accent color. I used up a bit of a kettle-dyed manos del uruguay yarn - a yarn that was from one of the first hats I ever knit. I am so glad I did - it breaks up the colors just enough to give it some life.
The striping pattern is entirely random - I didn't follow a pattern or sequence. I'm on the hunt for buttons too, but it will have to wait until I have a recipient in mind.
It is quite likely that these balls of yarn would never have seen the light of day again, were it not for my stash challenge. They would have languished in the back of a crate somewhere and unearthed at some point in the distant future. Each ball was too small to do anything with on it's own, each 100% wool, and with new projects (and new yarns) constantly on the horizon I just never would have been interested in being creative with my left-overs. It just wasn't in my knitting nature.
But, designing and knitting this sweater was sort of like what I do when I am faced with a cupboard that is seemingly bare, and there are a mere 30 minutes until dinner. I make do. I get creative. And I fall in love the result. This is a can of tomatoes, with sliced brats, a head of broccoli, garlic, and chickpeas, all poured over pasta, kind of sweater.
The other thing that is cool about this sweater is the construction. You actually knit the whole thing in one semi-flat piece. Then with some strategic folding and seaming along the arms it magically turns into a sweater. Genius I tell you. Genius.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Here are the items I have available for barter. If you see something you like e-mail me. Thanks!
Vintage Coin Quilt
The one I make for you will be similar to the one in the photo, but smaller and with different vintage fabrics, depending on what I have in my stash. It is designed as a doll quilt, or wall art. I will include hanging pockets upon request.
Roomy Tote Bag
Fabric/color to be determined.
Homemade Strawberry or Tart Cherry Jam
Made with strawberries from a local farm, or cherries from the tree in our backyard. Jam will be ready after 4th of July and will be shelf stable for 12 mos.
One size. Limited selection of colors available. Button closure.
Handknit Earflap Hat
Newborn size only. The red is no longer available, limited selection of other colors.