Giving Back

Me and the MR have been traveling a bit. Earlier this month we moved Baby Girl into her townhouse down at school. We’re lucky that she’s only half a days drive from home but with 10 hours round trip, it still makes for a lot of driving.

Since the MR prefers to be behind the wheel, I try to make sure I have a project or two for our days on the road.This last trip to Oregon, I brought along purple yarn for baby hats.

Recently I’d heard about a program educating new parents about the fragile nature of infants. Click For Babies seeks to reduce shaken baby syndrome through awareness.

I love my girls, and I also know how hard it can be to deal with a crying baby when you’re sleep-deprived and haven’t had a minute to yourself in what seems like forever.

I made a hat, a sweater, and a blanket for the MR’s friend at work, and it gave me a great idea. The hat was super-simple to put together. I could take all the bits and pieces of purple yarn from home on our drive and still chit-chat with the MR over endless miles without missing a stitch.

By the time we got home (a short 606 miles back and forth), I had quite a collection going.

I do believe a few flowers are in order to spruce these up a bit. Then I need to figure out where to send them.

I’m finding ways to decrease my stash of yarn and maybe make the world a better place. Wish me luck.

What’s your favorite charity project (knitting or not)?

Advertisements

This Old Dog

We’ve all heard the saying:

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

But me and a friend of mine were chit-chatting the other day remembering just how good our little Cocoa-bean was for grumpy old Bogart. He’d never understood the pleasure of a good hello, ear rub, greeting. You could scratch his belly—sure—but he just wanted to play ball or frisbee. All this social stuff was beyond him, until that silly puppy came along and wanted to be petted all the time. In his old age, he decided a little attention could be nice.

All that is a long, round-about way of saying this old crafter can learn a thing or two. You see, I’ve been knitting and crocheting for close to 40 years or more. I’ve made sweaters and snowflakes, hats and mittens, socks and blankets. I’ve got this stuff down, right? But no, people are always coming up with new ideas, new designs, new stitches, new methods, and I don’t want to be left behind.

So I’ve been on a bit of a binge lately—a book buying binge, and I thought I’d share a few of my recent projects.

 

Let’s start with Blueprint Crochet Sweaters by Robyn Chachula. The book came out in 2013, so it’s not new, but I’d checked it out from the library on a whim and been blown away by the patterns. They were just so intriguing. At first glance, I had no idea how they were creating these stitches or how to replicate them.

To be honest, I’m not usually that keen on crochet for sweaters. They tend to be a bit bulkier than I like and just don’t have the drape of a knit garment. But these were very unusual. I loved the cranberry cardigan, and was surprised to learn a whole different type of stitch I’d never heard of. The linked double treble crochet is like the marriage of regular crochet and tunisian crochet. It creates a very nice band with beautiful texture. Coupled with open work crosses, I thought it would make a great summer cadigan for our chilly evenings.

I even had the yarn in my stash—or so I thought. I’d picked up some great bargains at Vogue Knitting Live in Seattle a few years back and lost the tag on some tencel/linen in a beautiful red. It was listed online as 1450 yards per skein, so I’d be set. Unfortunately, I somehow had purchased half a skein, so now I have the better part of the front and back of my cardigan done with no sleeves or button band and discontinued yarn.

I’ve been pouting/ I mean thinking about how to proceed, and so the partial sweater has sat on the dining room table for more than a week. We have company coming, so I’ll just have to rip it out. But next time I will weigh that random yarn from my stash to get a better idea of what I’m working with.

Key words, next time, sadly I had another stash issue all at the same time. The lovely cotton table runner I made up is about a foot too short to hang off the ends of the table. Queue more pouting and frustration. I came up with all sorts of ideas. I could buy contrasting yarn, rip out a yard, add a different color for interest, and then finish it off as planned. But my local shop didn’t have any that I thought would work in the right weight, and color, and twist, and material. I told the MR my woes, and he said just make it shorter.

I remember flying into a tizzy when we centered the guest bed under the windows and could no longer open the closet doors. I had visions of adding a panel to make it look like we have three windows over the bed, moving the wall sconces, and maybe adding a new window eventually. The MR suggested tilting the bed just a smidge away from the wall, so you can open the door. Sometimes he’s so smart, and the simple answer is the best.

Back around the holidays, I bought Knitting Fresh Brioche by Nancy Marchant. If you’re into two-color brioche and you love the idea of patterning with this technique, this is the book for you. Nancy Marchant is a master of this stitch, amazingly creative, and a great teacher. I knitted up a modified Ring of Fire cowl for the shop to show how marrying two very different colors can change the look of each. Using the stitch patterns, I’ve designed a sweater, and many of the people on my Christmas list received mug cozies. I’ll warn you, brioche can be addicting. This is another book that’s been out for awhile, but I think it’s great.

Now, I was surprised to find myself buying A Garden of Shawls by Karen Whooley. But I’d been listening to a podcast (The Yarniacs) and the host told how she’d used a shawl as a blanket when traveling on an airplane. The shawl fit into a sandwich bag and was at the ready in her purse in any situation. A had some laceweight yarn I’d been holding on to, and me and the MR are always on a plane somewhere. Then I listened to another great podcast (Yarn Thing with Marly Bird) interview with Karen Whooley about her new book. She was from the Seattle-area, maybe she’d want to come out to our shop, maybe her shawls were just what I needed.

This is not an amazing technique book; it’s not teaching you a slew of new stitches; it’s a collection of very pretty shawls. I made the Ecliptic in Juniper Moon Farms Findley Dapple (a yarn from my stash that actually had enough yardage). The directions are great and the chart was easy to follow. Now, on my travels, I have a lovely, lightweight shawl to throw on over my sundress to make me church appropriate.

There are at least two other patterns—Enchantment and Briar—that are totally calling my name. How many cathedrals are we going to visit this summer? I’ll need something to cover my shoulders during those starlight dinners.

The last book I’m going talk about today is Self-Striping Yarn Studio by Carol J. Sulcoski. This book is less about new stitches and more about using some of the amazing new yarns to their best advantage. Sulcoski talks about the different types of self-striping yarns and what they mean for you. She discusses common problems, how to solve them, and then offers an array of patterns to showcase these beautiful yarns. Thumbing through the book just now, I saw a sweet baby sweater that I need to make.

I’ve been working on the Hexagon Sweater off-and-on for a bit. I started with some yarn where the repeat was too short and I ended up with hexagons all looking a bit muddled and much the same. Then I moved on to a longer run yarn where the motifs where brown, brown, brown, red, green, green, green, blue… Let’s just say not that appealing.

So when I was visiting Baby Girl back in April, I picked up a skein of Cascade sock yarn at Cozy a new yarn shop in Eugene. This yarn is (like Goldilocks would say) just right. In a variety of colors, each motif is turning out a little different. I decided an allover pattern might be a little much, so I’m using Cedar House sock yarn in a lovely muted rust for the back and sleeves (from Quintessential Knits). Maybe I’ll have this done by the end of the month to show you. I just need to be a little more monogamous in my crafting.

While maybe you don’t have an incredible urge to buy a bunch of knitting or crochet books, I do hope you’ll try something new today. You can listen to a new podcast, read a new blog, try a new recipe, walk a new path, shake things up a little.

Tried anything new lately?

For the local yarn shop tour, I added something new to my resume and designed a shawlette. I was rather pleased with the results. The Shoulder Stripe Shawlette pattern is available on Ravelry or at Quintessential Knits here in little old Duvall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

February Flew By

Last month started with the MR’s birthday, and a visit from our sweet girls and ended with a quick trip to Oregon to see them in turn. Two visits with our kids in a month is rather delightful.

Sandwiched between those was a lot of rain, a lot of snow, and a lot of crazy. In Winter Wonderland I shared the joys of snow outside and a cozy fire inside which led to questions and a whole blog on the History of Our Fireplace. It’s gone through a lot of changes over the past five years. Remember the conversation pit and the green carpet?

img_7967

When a Tree Falls in the Woods, I asked that it stay off our driveway. Me and the MR worked up a sweat clearing branches, small trees, limbs, and debris from our only way out.

img_7976

Of course that wasn’t the end of travel woes. All the snow and rain—it’s been the wettest February on record in Seattle since 1961—caused part of the road up our hill to collapse into a steep ravine. (Check out Winter Storms & Prepping for Spring.) They are working on it, but for now we have another one lane road to navigate on the way home.

With the power out, no TV, trapped at home, that gave me lots of time to knit, right? What should have been a good thing turned into trouble when hand-dyed shade variations showed up in a big way on my fingering-weight cardigan edged in lace. I’m still mourning the loss or maybe pouting is a better word for it. This is one time when Following the Rules would have paid off in a big way.

lot-matters

On the positive side, How’s That for Color? featured our picks for new carpet in three of the bedrooms. Baby Girl has a ton of stuff, so her bedroom will have to wait until she totally moves out. One of our color choices is in production and should be available in mid-March, so we’ve had the rooms measured, made a down payment, and are just waiting a few weeks to schedule installation.

For me, The Best Part of Winter is getting up before the sun. I could probably do it during the summer, but 4 am comes awfully early. I love watching the everchanging sky in the mornings.

img_7957

With more snow this week, enough to delay schools but not enough to keep us trapped at home, I did notice how pretty the front doors are with their mountains backlit with real snow.

cocoa-snowy-doors

Cocoa agrees with me, of course.

For March, I’m hoping for fewer storms and a better attitude. While there’s nothing I can do about the first, I’m working on the second.

How was your February?

 

Following the Rules

When you start a game, you’re given a set of rules to follow. They help play go smoothly, so no one runs away screaming.

Knitting is a lot like a game with rules to keep, and if you don’t follow them, you’ll run away screaming.

I had one of those moments recently with the Brooklyn Bridge Cardigan I’m knitting from the book Metropolitan Knits. I’ve got the back done, the left side done, and am half-way through the right. Before I started increasing I laid them all out to see if my shaping matched up, and that’s when I saw it.

lot-matters

The shaping was great; it was the color that was off. The back is medium, the right front has a brownish tint, and the left is bright orange. How did this happen?

I bought a bag of yarn years ago. They’re all the same kind and color—Araucania Nuble. It’s a lovely wool-silk blend that makes up beautifully. Perhaps I never looked at the dye lots, perhaps I thought since they were hand dyed it didn’t matter. All but one of the hanks I’d rolled into balls for a project that didn’t materialize at the time, so I don’t have labels to check.

There are rules that I blithely ignored. Dye lot as you can see is greatly important. And when you are using hand dyes for a large project, you should knit two rows with one ball, and then two rows with another ball to help obfiscate any discrepancies in color. That sounds like a lot of work and bother, but it would save me a lot of work.

Ugg, now what? I’m going to look for the darkest balls of yarn and restart the left side. I’m hoping the disparity between the back and the front won’t be as apparent once I have the sleeves done and am wearing the silly thing.

Another good rule of thumb when you’re knitting: Don’t frog or “rippit” out late at night when you find a mistake. Wait till the next day when you’re not tired and frustrated. I’ve ripped out shoulder shaping, redone it, and gone back the next day only to realize I had it right in the first place. A tired mind can play tricks on you.

While I’m offering tidbits of advice, let’s go ahead and talk about gauge. It makes me cringe when someone says “I never swatch” or “I hate to block”. OK, that’s all well and good, but I guarantee swatching will save you from heartache and blocking will make your finished project look so much better. Believe it or not, while I enjoy the process of knitting, I also want to enjoy the end project. If my sweater is two sizes too large, or worse yet two sizes too small, I’m not going to be happy with it.

By swatching, you also get a sneak peek at the fabric you’re making. Is it going to drape nicely? Does the yarn have good stitch definition so you’ll be able to see those great cables? Does the yarn’s color pattern hide or enhance the design?

I’ve been trying to use up my stash recently; I have a lot of yarn that’s causing me guilt. So when I purchased Self-Striping Yarn Studio recently and saw the Hexagon Sweater, I had an a-ha moment. I have Sweet Georgia’s Tough Love Sock yarn just waiting to be used. It would be great for that sweater. Unfortunately, the yarn is more of a variegated rather than a self-striping. Thankfully, I had some other yarn that would work. But if I hadn’t swatched, I’d have been disappointed.

I’ve also been trying to find the perfect project for some chunky gray yarn and some cotton-bamboo in army green. While I was able to get the crocheted green to proper gauge, I didn’t like the density of the swatch. I’m not going to wear something that feels stiff and awkward. I tried the pattern in a lace-weight which has a much nicer feel, but is way too fine for the pattern.

The gray swatches are the same yarn, just different needle sizes. I’ve made guage and think I’ve found the perfect pattern. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

swatching

I know, I know, you just want to get started on your project. You don’t feel liking making some silly swatch and the idea of blocking it is ridiculous. If you want to be pleased with the end results, that bit of extra effort really makes a difference.

And now I have to carefully select the darkest balls of orangey-brown yarn, and hope for the best. Wish me luck, and happy knitting!

What are you making at your house during the rainy days of winter?

 

Learn Something New

A couple months ago, the boss was talking about a knitting technique and asked if I knew how to do it. Of course I said yes and agreed to teach a class, and then I started thinking about it. Wasn’t that the hat I made for the MR that didn’t really turn out like the pattern because I just didn’t get it? Did I really know what I was talking about?

That was the beginning of the period of brioche—not the bread, the knitting stitch. Next stop was the library where I found some books to help. Me and the MR were headed to sunny Cabo San Lucas with our extended family for a fishing trip. While the guys were out on the boat, I would have plenty of time to figure this out. After restarting the pattern five times, I realized that this was not a sit by the pool, chit-chat with your family, and sip a margarita kind of knitting project. This one needed my full attention—at least until I had the technique down.

Now, I only read part of the book before starting on my pattern, since I’m impatient that way. Nancy Marchant—brioche knitting guru—encourages knitters to drop down a needle size or two to improve the fabric. I did not. Perhaps that’s why my cowl turned into a tunic.

It’s still rather lovely, but a bit intimidating as a sample for my class. So I wrote up a cowl pattern and started making very accessible mug cozies featuring Marchant’s stitch patterns. Guess what everyone received for Christmas?

I think it’s fun to challenge yourself by learning something new, and Baby Girl wound up with a cozy cowl  in lovely alpaca as part of the bargain.

lsn-bg-cowl

This cowl was inspired by Nancy Marchant’s book Knitting Fresh Brioche using the S-Twist Pattern. After my fourth or fifth mug cozy, I decided the book was a must for my growing knit library. There are truly amazing, creative people out there willing to share their ideas with us; I’m so glad to be able to support them in this little way.

What have you been working lately? Learning anything new?

 

 

 

 

The Big, The Bad, The Broken

We love the windows, we love the view they afford, and we love the light they let in. Let’s be honest, the windows are what makes this house so special.Great Room Closer

But they can be a bit of a headache. During the cool months, I love the extra heat they allow in, but during the summer, it’s another story. It can be 75-degrees outside and 85-degrees inside. The glare is so obnoxious, we’ve had to don hats upon occasion. That’s why we went the window film route. (You can check that out here and here.)

The films have been great. They really cut down on the heat absorption and glare, but… Isn’t there always a but? Window films can cause problems. While they’re not insured for fogging, they are for breakage, and lucky us we had two windows break. Last fall is when we noticed them, and we decided to wait until spring in case the cold weather caused any other problems.

I know I said spring, but this has been the headache that never seems to end. The film company had me contact the glass company. The glass company comes to measure, but didn’t bring a large enough ladder. Come on guys; you’ve been here before. Once the glass was measured properly, they tried to order it, but the glass company no longer made one of the larger sizes that we needed.

Sadly, we were out of town, and they didn’t want to order the glass until we’d signed off on another pane from a different manufacturer that was slightly different in hue. We scheduled a meet up in September, and then the glass had to be ordered and an install time scheduled. Can you see why this is lasting forever?

Meanwhile, the film company is pushing to have the films put on before installation. Last time we had the windows replaced, there was a problem, and one was broken. My question was who would pay for the film then. It ended up being a mute point in that the glass company felt the films could pose a safety threat to their men. The film company was all like I never heard of such a silly thing.

Anyways, last Tuesday the glass guys showed up with ladders, gloves, and two very large panes of glass.

glass-install

I don’t know about you, but three grown men on ladders, huffing and puffing, using colorful language, and carrying heavy things makes me nervous. Perhaps I should have been. They were able to take out the old broken window and break the new window as they were replacing it. At least the new one isn’t as cracked as the old one. To be fair, the windows are large, slightly off, the house is over 20 years old, things have shifted, and I’m totally glad they’re the ones doing it.

This being the smaller of the two windows they were replacing, I decided to go to knit group and let the MR hold down the fort. The second install went off without a hitch. Of course by the time the second window was removed, the sun had broken through the morning fog. It was a glorious day—just the kind of day that makes ladybugs swarm on a sunny, southern exposure with easy access to the indoors.

So in another two weeks, the new window should arrive, they’ll schedule an install time, I’ll call the film company, and schedule them, and maybe we’ll have it all taken care of by Christmas—if we’re lucky.

Meanwhile, I finished some rather lovely projects at knit group. The socks are for Sweet Miss. When your family travels to Italy for two weeks and you stay home because you’re a grown up, and have a job, and are responsible, you get a pair of hand-knit socks. The most complicated hand-knit socks I’ve ever made. The poncho/cowl/shawlette is mitered, garter stitch squares joined at an angle. I had some Noro that I knit up into tiny squares and hated, so I took it out and made something lovely in colors perfect for fall.

knitting-projects

Any projects household projects going on forever and ever? What are you knitting?

 

 

 

 

 

Problem Solving

Often, me and the MR can be found watching a show come evening after a bit of hanging out on the deck and some dinner. It’s nice to have a little time to unwind.

Unfortunately, I’ve watched the first half of dozens of movies and TV shows never to see the end. Snuggled up next to my guy on the couch, I conk out without fail. While it’s nice to be cozy, I do actually want to know what’s going in my favorite shows and to be able to tell you without reservation that the guy did get the girl, or that the good guys won, or the aliens have been vanquished. The MR’s recall of events tends to be limited.

So I’ve started knitting or crocheting. This keeps my hands occupied, my mind working, and my eyes open. We have lots of overhead lighting that sadly tends to bother the rest of the viewers. Back in February, I talked about Rethinking Light and perhaps repositioning some of the overhead lights. It’s been six months, and it’s still no closer to happening. We don’t have a ladder tall enough to reach the lights, and if we did, I wouldn’t want to climb it.

While the MR’s folks were visiting, I took to moving my chair under a spotlight of sorts, but who wants to move your furniture every night?

Spotlight

Besides, if left me feeling a little anit-social. I still want to be part of the group. Task lighting is a problem with all of our main seating area floating in the center of the room.

So, I went into problem-solver mode. This week, I spotted a floor lamp on Joss & Main for just $61.95 ($0 tax, and $0 shipping because I did a little more shopping). It seemed like a no-brainer. The area back by the fireplace has plug-ins, and still feels like part of the seating area. A floor lamp would actually help balance the plant on the other side of the arrangement. And if we truly hated it, Sweet Miss is in need of floor lamps; we can always ship it off to Oregon.

I was totally shocked when it arrived this morning. It was in a few pieces that simply screwed together in a matter of minutes. The light is totally positionable so I can direct it on all my projects. No more dropped stitches, no short rows, and no mistakes of any kind. OK, maybe I won’t go that far, but you get the gist.

It’s a bright sunny day with no need for lights of any kind, and I have plans with my guy after work tonight, so I’ll have to try out my new lamp sometime later this weekend. Don’t worry; I’ll give you the low down in the monthly recap.

I know; I’ve made you wait long enough. I think the new floor lamp is quite charming.

New Light

In some ways, it reminds me of the big dryer that they put over your head at the beauty salon—thankfully, only a little.

If you’re in the mood for new lighting, this is the Vanessa Floor Lamp from Joss & Main. We used to go to church with a lady named Vanessa who was quite fabulous. So far, her namesake is living up to the reputation.

Any creative prolem-solving going on at your home?