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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

July Is Gone

I know you’ve heard that all it does is rain in Seattle, that the inhabitants are frightened when they see a yellow orb in the sky, that we have a dozen names for what most people just call rain. Well, there’s some truth to all of that, but that doesn’t cover July.

Sure summer doesn’t start till somewhere around the 8th of the month, but then we have warm, sunny days, with glorious sunshine. Mount Rainier is out in all its glory, and northwesterners are ready to play. But not this year. We’ve had a lot of gray days with just a few true summer days.

When you can’t frolic in the sun, you have a lot more time for projects. The MR, with his summer off, has been a busy guy. One Saturday, while I was working at the yarn shop, he was building the Garden Box Update. I’d love to tell you that the new addition is filled with dirt and overflowing with vegetables. We have a pumpkin doing well in the corner; we’ll wait for next year for the other.

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That same weekend, the MR took on Bambi. Remember Oh Deer when I found one of our plum trees ravaged?

OD Broken Plum Tree

He’s zip-tied 10-foot lengths of pipe from our well redo to the posts and added taller netting. Friends commented on our fortress. Yes, we are doing battle, and with the number of apples and blueberries we’ve picked this week, we just might be winning.

And now for the truly beautiful, exciting project. It’s Started; we’re on to bathroom remodel number three in this house. All the green tile is gone, Marty the plumber came and dealt with replumbing the shower, the cement board is up, and just yesterday, the MR started tiling. It’s going to be beautiful.

I’m so glad my guy does his homework. When he takes on a project, he researches the heck out of it. He’s redone the showers in every home we’ve lived in and knows a thing or two by now. That’s why he was so surprised when he removed the tile and found dry wall. The experts say, you’re tile and grout will leak, use a protective barrier. What were they thinking?

The slogan on this cement board just makes me smile.

Cement Board

Now while the MR is busy with all his stuff, what have I been doing? I’ve been enjoying the produce from our garden and the farmers market. There’s nothing like fresh ingredients to serve up Good Simple Food. Last night, it was onions and broccoli from the garden, carrots and beans from the farmer’s market, and some leftover BBQ’ed veggies sauteed together to round out burgers for dinner.

With people on vacation, I’ve been putting in extra hours at the yarn shop which leads to lots of knitting and crocheting. You can check out some of my projects On the Needles. (You really should just so you can see Baby Girl and Cocoa modeling my “shoulderette” pattern. I designed it to show off lovely collarbones and add just a layer of warm on a cool evening.)

Speaking of yarn shops, Quintessential Knits moved one block over the weekend. I’ve seen some of the lovely new yarn, and the owner says we have lots of specials and surprises coming out this month. I was rather pleased with this Viroqua Cowl I knitted as a sample.

Umpqua Cowl

And what about A Lovely Jumble of flowers on the hillside or our crazy 5th of July parties? Alas, the poppy seeds are still on my desk, but the Russian sage the MR planted last year is nearly knee-high. If we’re lucky, some day it may look like this—giant, frangrant, gorgeous, filled with bees making honey.

Russian Sage

OK, so that was eastern Washington, which is a much dryer and warmer climate, but I can dream. The MR says if it gets that big, it’ll cover up the retaining wall. Maybe mounds of Russian sage would make a pretty barrier around the orchard—deer don’t like sage you know.

Me and the MR spent a few days wine tasting in Chelan last week. Good wine, good food, nice people, and a few days away with Baby Girl in charge. It was delightful.

Me & the MR

And finally, I just have to show this picture of Sweet Miss.

B Bubbles

She’ll be 22 in just over a week. (That’s years, not months.) I shared with you our deck woes in Not Those Kind of Bubbles. The deck looks great; our deck guy, Isidro, does a great job. Now if the sun will cooperate, I’d like to spend a little time out there.

How was your July? Any big plans for August?

 

 

 

 

 

On the Needles

I was thinking about it the other day. I haven’t shared recent knitting and crochet projects for awhile, and with multiple trips back and forth to Oregon over the last month coupled with down time at the yarn shop, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to knit and crochet to my hearts content.

So here’s a few of the projects from the last month. You have to remember that I finished Sweet Miss’ blanket in time for graduation, and I spent a few days on the local yarn shop tour back in May, so I was itching to start something new, and quick, and pretty, and easy.

I spent most of the trip back and forth to graduation designing a “Shoulderette”. It’s somewhere between a shrug and a shawl.  The pattern is free with purchase at Quintessential Knits. I talked Baby Girl and Cocoa into modeling for me.

Shoulderette Collage

Some time in June, I decided to make the crocheted cowl from All Wound Up. I followed the instructions exactly including the hook size even though it seemed way larger than I would have chosen.  Sometimes it pays to listen to your instincts.

Cowl Xwide & tape measure

But it was a cowl, and can it really be too wide? Does gauge really matter? Yes, yes it can and does. It was supposed to be about 34-inches wide not nearly 40 inches. I ended up taking it all out and starting over again. It wound up much closer to the expected size.

Cowl Take 2

I think it will be great come fall.

Cowl Modeling

I also made the scarf from Acorn Street Shop. I wasn’t excited about the yarn they featured with their LYS pattern, but I had a few skeins of beige-to-peach at home that were waiting to be used. I was totally surprised as I worked up the yarn to come across vibrant coral.

Before I blocked my scarf, it looked a little, OK a lot, wonky.

Wonky scarf

But that’s what blocking wires are for. They turn a crazy looking scarf into a thing of beauty. I simply soaked the scarf for about 20 minutes in a sink full of warm water with a few drops of Eucalan (wool wash). Then I weaved in the wires and used T-pins to move it into place. Let it dry and you have a thing of beauty.

Blocked ScarfOK, so maybe the lime green beach towel isn’t the best backdrop, but you get the idea.  The yarn I used was in a finer weight than the pattern called for, but with two balls of yarn, I wound up with a lovely scarf. I’m quite pleased.

Scarf Selfie

I’m not a big selfie fan, put I looked “deer in the headlights” crazy when I ran in front of the camera on the self-timer for the other photo. You’re just going to have to deal. Wrinkle remover is a paid feature on PicMonkey, so you get me in all my glory. 🙂

I also crocheted Country Yarn’s featured pattern the Lattice & Blossom Scarf. Have I mentioned that tencel is a lovely fiber to work with? Or that crocheting allows you to scream through patterns oh-so quickly? This tencel yarn has beautiful drape and sheen along with a richness of color.

Lattice & Blossom Scarf

I have been knitting up the Tea Cozy Summer Poncho in a beatuiful sik blend and have another road trip in the works, so it’ll be done soon. I’ve been working on a sample pattern for the yarn shop using an ombre yarn that moves from beige to taupe to dark brown and back. By pulling from one end of the ball and then from the other, I wound up with some beautiful contrast. Some of those new yarns make colorwork a no-brainer.

I also saw some recycled t-shirt yarn gift bags on Etsy and have been inspired. All those pot holders I made a few years ago that are really too loosely woven to be “safe” pot holders I’ve been reworking into gift bags. The yarn sheds like crazy, and I’ve learned new ways of making a long length of yarn rather than making so many knots… Live and learn.

I’ll share some of my gift bags in the monthly recap. One good thing about being the only part of the country that’s rainy and overcast this summer, you’re totally content staying indoors and playing with yarn.

I did send Sweet Miss and her Fella’ home this weekend with broccoli, blueberries, beets, and some giant cucumbers from the garden and orchard. And her roommate also received a jar of jam ensconced in a crocheted t-shirt yarn gift bag.

It might break 80-degrees this week for the first time in July. I think things are looking up.

Any projects in your queue?