Thursday, December 22, 2011

Scarves abound

I went into a small panic when I finished the mittens I made for my grandma.  Because when that happened, I ran out of knitting for Christmas.  There is something wonderful about knitting on a deadline.  It seems to give me an excuse to knit instead of doing the dishes, etc.  So, I put a call out to Facebook to ask what I should knit next.  My husband's cousin's wife responded that she could use a new scarf.  I went into overdrive.  I love making scarves and I love making thing for people who actually want/request knitted goods.  I sent her several pattern options and asked about colors.  She did not respond in time for my liking (I had a lot of football watching to do and I really needed a project) so I started on this:


It is the One Row Handspun Scarf by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka the Yarn Harlot, her blog is a must read for knitters) and I have had it in mind to knit for a while.  I cast on on Sunday just before lunch (and football) and cast off on Monday at lunch. It is such a hypnotic and addictive pattern, just the same 4 stitches over and over.

In the mean time, my husband's cousin's wife, responded and picked a different pattern and color.  Which I was actually pretty excited about because the pattern she picked was also something I had been wanting to knit for awhile.  It meant I got to go yarn shopping. (It also means I have a purple scarf Christmas present to give to my husband's grandma. Double score.)

On Monday my local yarn store is closed, so I went to Jo-Ann's.  They just did not have what I was looking for.   I was looking for fall colors, but everything seemed the wrong shade.  I ended up with some pretty cream yarn with a bit of gold sparkle in it.   I got home and cast on for the Honey Cowl- that's 220 stitches in the round!

I worked a few rows and decided that the yarn was all wrong.  I like the creamy sparkle, but not for this project. (I think I will make it in to some Christmas decoration for next year.   Maybe a stocking or something.)  That left me with needing to go yarn shopping again.

I hit The Fiber Universe and found the perfect yarn (Cascade 220 heathers, I just love Cascade 220!!) and cast on as soon as I got home.


This picture is before I got to work on it last night (not that I did much, just a few rows.)  I am happy with the progress and it is working up much quicker than I thought.  It is a beautiful blue-green. (The camera on my phone just does not do it justice.)  I will definitely have it done by Sunday at noon when I will see the intended recipient.  I have a 2 hour car ride and then a 5 hour car ride so I have a lot of knitting time a head of me.  The question is, what am I going to knit on the way back? 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Adult Mittens

I have tried to make mittens and they all turn out wonky.  I made two different pairs for my daughter, but neither turned out quite right.  So I thought I would try adult mittens and see if I was any better at those (spoiler alert, not much.)

I made these mittens in a matter of two days.  I was lucky to have all of Saturday morning to myself as my husband had taken out daughter out to attend Build and Grow at Lowe's and then shop for my Christmas gift. I had hours of uninterrupted time, much of which I did spend knitting.  These mittens are for my Grandma and I wanted to get them done ASAP so they could be mailed to South Dakota on Monday, with hope of them making it there by Christmas.

I used the yard I bought on Small Business Saturday, I blogged about that here.  I decided to use a pattern from 60 Quick Knits:


I decided on the "Embroidered Mittens" pattern but to leave off the embroidery.  


I guess mine look like the picture.  They don't fit me quite right, but I have big hands.  My grandma is smaller and they should fit her just right.


Saturday, December 17, 2011


I knit a fabulous scarf for my brother-in-law (and if he is reading this one of his presents is ruined).  This is the project where I learned how to knit cables without a cable needle and learned how to block.  Blocking is how knitters get knitted items to behave, lay flat and not bunch up. 

This is the scarf before blocking:


See how the edges curl up under itself.   It hides the pretty cables along the side.  I knew i needed to block it, so I went to The Fiber Universe for supplies and suggestions.  I got these blocking mats:


These mats fit together like puzzle pieces to create a surface that fits the shape of the knitted object.  These are Knit Picks brand.  I needed to purchase mats because I did not have carpet or a bed to which I could pin this scarf.  Many of knitters block by just pinning their item to a bed or the carpet, but I have two dogs, so that was really not an option for me.

First I laid out my blocking mats on my dining room table.  I made the blocking spot before getting the item wet for two reasons, one it makes sure the mats at in the fight configuration to fit the item and I didn't want to deal with configuring the mats with a wet item waiting. 


Then I went to the sink and made a bath for my woolie.  Erin at The Fiber Universe suggested to add hair conditioner to the luke-warm water so I did.  After all wool is hair, right?

 Then I let my woolie soak and then I agitated it a bit with my hands.


I squeezed out a bit of water before moving it to the Strawberry Shortcake beach towel.    I rolled my woolie up in the towel and pressed on it to get excess water out. This is the same method my mom taught me when I had to start hand washing my sweaters.



Finally, I went to the blocking mats and pinned the scarf down the way I wanted it to look.



It actually grew a few inches longer.

I let it dry for 36 hours and then removed the pins.


Now it looks like this:


So easy and totally worth it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I grew up in a family dependent on photos.  I have photos chronicling every second of my life it seems.  If it is not in photos, then it is on video.  That is just how my parents were (and still are, but to a lesser degree).  Before any big even we knew the routine: photos and video camera.  It was just a normal part of life.

I have now come to realize that this is not a normal part of life for some people.  All of our family's photos are printed out or developed and are in photo albums, in order with dates on them.  This seems like a normal thing to me and I have continued the tradition of taking zillions of photos and putting the date on the back of each and sliding them into photo albums. Even though I married a man hates photos.

I wonder how one can hate photos.  They are wonderful snapshots into the past.  I have taken my daughter to get her pictures taken at a studio many, many times in her three years.  In her first year of life she went 4-5 times, now we go twice a year.  But, something happened.  This fall has been crazy.  I scheduled family portraits, but my daughter came home with a large scratch on her face and my husband had an eye infection causing his eye to be right red.  I cancelled that sitting.  That was in October.  I have yet to find time to re-schedule.

He not so much hates photos as he hates taking them and being in them.  I think he inherited this trait from his parents, as I inherited my own trait from mine.   He also can't understand why I have so many pictures of my knitting. 

I do have one consolation.  We did take a nice photo for the Christmas cards (though two week after I wanted to get this picture taken).  I am less pleased with how I look (taken on a day with no make up and came home from work sick) but very happy with the rest of my family.

Monday, December 12, 2011

2 New Tricks

It was a good weekend for crafting.

On Saturday morning I took a class on beginning spinning at The Fiber Universe.  Melinda and Erin (the owners) are so nice.  Melinda got the spinning wheel all set up for me and had me practice each aprt of spinning and then I tried to put it all together.  I forgot to take pictures at the class but, this is what I made:

beginning spinning

Spinning is hard.  I thought it would be a bit easier because all the spinning I have seen looks effortless.  Well it is effortless looking, because those spinners have practiced a lot.  A spinner has to do three things at once.  First the feet must trundle.  This means pressing the trundle or foot lever that makes the spinning will spin.  You have to have the wheel spin at the right speed.  I was really good at trundling fast, but not slow and slow was the required speed.  While your foot (or feet depending on how many levers your spinning wheel has) trundles, your left had holds tension so that the twists enter the roving (the unspun wool).

This is my roving:

beginning spinning

So while the right hand is holding tension making sure proper twists are added to the yarn and making sure the yarn goes on the spindle, the right hand is roving, aka thinning out the roving, so that the yarn can be spun to the thickness you want.

This is a lot going on.  For a while I did the foot part, while Melinda did the hands.  Then we switched so I was doing the hands and she was doing the foot part.  Then, I put it together.  It took the entire two hour class for me to make a wee bit of yarn.  I have a lot more roving left and Melinda was nice enough to say I can come in the shop and use the spinning wheel whenever.

beginning spinning

Leaving The Fiber Universe on Saturday, I thought I'd never want to take up spinning.  It was a bit difficult and requiring too many hours to master at this stage in my life (I do have a three-year-old daughter, husband, dogs, other family, running and reading to think about, let alone knitting and other crafts).  However, since then, I have thought more and more about spinning, excited for the challenge.  I even looked at spinning wheels online today.  They are pretty expensive compared to my other crafting supplies.  Melinda said that a beginner wheel would cost between $200-400, but I would get one used cheaper, if I find a seller.  I am not in the market right now, but if one happened to cross my path in the right condition and price, I may become a spinning wheel owner.

I also found out that Sleeping Beauty could never have pricked her finger on the spindle of the spinning wheel and die because spinning wheels spindles do not have a point.  Melinda told me the whole history.  I am so crushed.

Ok, so I have a second trick.  Also on Saturday I decided to learn to do cables without a cable needle.  I was going on a several hour car ride on Sunday and I figured it would be best to knit in the car without a cable needle.  One less thing to loose, right?  So I watched this video:

Its shocking, right?  Taking stitches off the needles, oh my.  But really after the first few attempts, it goes quite easy.  This method only for cabling a few stitches, three at the most, I would say.  It has been great to cable away without a cable needle.  It is so much faster and less cumbersome.

This is what I am cabling:

antlers scarf

There is a lot of cabling going on so it was almost a necessity I learned to go at it without a cabling needle.

This scarf is a Christmas present so I have to get a move on it.  I might have to finish season 3 of Doctor Who to get this finished up in time.

Friday, December 9, 2011


I did it.  I reached 42, 42 teeth that is.  I love my Hitchhiker scarf, but boy was I starting to hate it.  It took me just over two-and-a-half weeks to make, with each row adding more and more stitches.  It really felt like it would never end.  Thursday night I was so fortunate to leave my house alone.  Thursday night is knit night at The Fiber Universe and I want to be there if I can.

It was a magical evening.  I was away from my house and family.  (I have been craving a bit of alone time lately.)  I signed up for a Beginning Spinning class taking place on this Saturday.  (Very, very excited about this one.) I bought yarn to make my brother-in-law's scarf.  (Very pretty, I mean masculine, gray from Cascade 220.)  And the crowning achievement-finished the Hitchhiker!!!

It took nearly two hours of knitting to get through the last two "teeth" and bind off.  I quickly sewed in the ends and wore it home.



I love this thing.  The thousands of tiny stitches--on size US 3 needles with fingerling yarn.  From end to end it is over 6 feet., just the way I like my scarves.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Making Christmas Gifts

Christmas is just a bit over two weeks away.  At this time of year, most knitters/crafters go a bit crazy because they have great plans for knitting wonderful Christmas presents, but then realize there are not enough knitting hours left to complete them.  That is not me this year.  I only have two more things to make and I haven't started on them, but I'm not worried.  One is a hat and I know that that will come out pretty fast and easy since I made 4 of them for last Christmas.  The other project is a scarf.  I have a very lovely pattern picked out with fancy cables, but I also have a ribbed back-up plan in case I run out of time.  I just hope my borthers-in-law enjoy them.

I like making Christmas gifts or gifts in general.  I think there is a misconception of handmade gifts.  Handmade gifts are not cheap.  They are actually quite costly.  Yarn (and other crafting supplies) is not cheap, especially the good stuff (I spend nearly $20 on scarf yarn last night).  Time is also not cheap.  To make a hat I will spend several hours knitting.  To make a scarf, even more.  A lot of time and effort is put into selecting the right pattern and material and then into making the object.  I enjoy all these aspects, but that doesn't mean that the item is cheap.  I love ever stitch I make through knitting, crocheting or sewing.  I love every bead I place in jewelry making.  I love every bit of paper in card making or scrapbooking.  Handmade gifts say, "I love this and I am giving it to you because I love you, too."

I have finished two christmas gifts already:

The body scrubber for my daughter's teacher (a bit blurry sorry)

body scrubber
and the Hitchhiker....for me. 


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Handmade Gift Exchange Fall 2011

A wonderful little blog called Craftaholics Anonymous puts on an event called Handmade Gift Exchange

I decided to participate this year.  My partner was Kristin from My Junk Drawer.

I send her a crocheted scarf and three dishcloths.  You may remember the dishcloths from my post about  Christmas Cloths (Set 2).  I forgot however to take photos of the scarf before I sent it out.  I love the scarf pattern I used.  It is one of my favorites to crochet.  Here is one of my other scarves using that pattern:

It is lacy and airy and that is why I picked that pattern because Kristen lives in California.  She told me she loves scarves and the color green so I made her a green scarf with this yarn:
Everyone likes a little sparkle right?

In exchange, Kristen sent me this:

A sign for my craft books shelf and a pin for my coat.  I love them.

She emailed me last week saying her son had colored all over what she had made me.  I know her pain.  My daughter has left her mark on more than one of my crafts.  I like these substitutes, but I probably would have enjoyed anything she made.

I know there is another exchange in the summer and I will definitely participate again.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

2012 Reading Challenge

I like to challenge myself as a reader, but not too much, I have my boundaries (mainly within YA).  For the past year I was in a reading challenge for The Contemps.  I was supposed to read 18 of their books in the past year.  I did not quite make it to that mark, I read 15.  I really loved the challenge because I would not have read any of those books without the challenge and I discovered a lot of great books.

For 2012, I am changing gears.  I am not leaving the YA genre, no I would never do that.  I am just going to read a separate sub-genre: historical fiction.  I don't read historical fiction at all so, it is going to be really interesting to read these.  The challenge is from the blog YA Bliss

I can read any YA historical fiction I want so, I do have some influence over my decisions.  I have already made my first selection:

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly.  Is is an award winning book and has been recommend to me my several people.  I just have to wait a month for 2012 to start reading it. If I like it, I might read more by Donnelly, she mainly writes YA historical fiction. I have been wanting to read her, but have been putting it off.  Now I have a purpose and it is getting moved to the top of the reading pile.

But, before all this I have to read Testimony by Anita Shreve for my book club meeting on Tuesday.  This is yet another way I challenge my reading, because I would never choose this for myself.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Explosive Eighteen: A Review

Stephanie Plum is one of my favorite book characters.  I am so excited to see One for the Money to hit theaters in January.  Katherine Heigl will play Stephanie.  Not sure if she has the right hair for Stephanie.

The latest installment of the Stephanie Plum series, Explosive Eighteen came out last week.  I own the whole series, so it is one of the few books I buy new every year.

If you are new to the series, it chronicles the life of Stephanie Plum, a bond enforcement agent, in Trenton, NJ.  She has a side-kick named Lula, who is quite a crazy lady and former 'ho.  Together they get into all sorts of trouble as they search out people who skipped out on their bond.  Stephanie is in a love triangle with Joe Morelli, a Trenton cop and Ranger, a former bounty hunter, now security firm owner and operator.

Smokin' Seventeen ended with a cliff-hanger.  Stephanie had received two air fare vouchers and she had decided to finally make a lover decision and take one of them on vacation, but she did not tell us which one.  Explosive Eighteen begins with Stephanie on the flight home from Hawaii, alone.  Apparently things did not go so well on vacation.

Once back in Trenton, everyone is asking what happened, but Stephanie is not taking about it.  She goes back to work.  Soon, she is being tailed by two fake FBI agents, two real FBI agents, a hairdresser and a crazy assassin.  They all want something Stephanie accidentally got a hold of on the plane and threw away.  Stephanie has to figure out this mystery as well as capture some FTA so she can get money to make rent.

Eighteen really puts back the ole Stephanie and Lula that we love.  There is a bit of mystery, romance and a lot of hilarious happenings. The series really took a dive for 5-6 books.  It felt as thought Janet Evanovich was just pulling things out of the air and saying "good enough."  I can tell she is back on her writing game for Stephanie.  Still, not as good as the first few in the series, but getting much better.

Does Stephanie finally choose between Ranger and Morelli?  No, but that's OK because that is all part of the mystery and fun.

4/5 stars