Saturday, December 29, 2007

Monkey Shenanigans

When I was at the knitting tea a few weeks ago, one of the projects someone showed off was the Sock Monkey Hat from Knitty. OMG! How cute! And I knew I'd hit the perfect gift for my nephew.

So I raced over to my LYS, got them to order in the yarn--big hurrahs to The Yarn Stash in Burien, because Bonnie will go the extra mile to get you what you need.

So with a couple of skeins of Lana Grande, Color 6012 in hand, some white, red and black Cascade 220 plucked from the stash, I knit up a Sock Monkey hat. Really, this is the quickest hat to knit--and so much fun.

However the next morning it went missing. You see Sock Monkey mania is contagious. And the lure of the Sock Monkey is hard to contain.

However, it didn't take long to discover where the hat had gone.
You see, Sock Monkey hats make great new heads for your local Brown Bears.

So I ended up knitting another Sock Monkey hat for the nephew, and then my dad saw the hat and decided he wanted one for fishing . . . Watch out, this project is catching . . .

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Must. Keep. Knitting.

That has been my mantra for the last few weeks--but after cranking out endless, and I do mean endless, neckwarmers, gloves and mitts, including this scarf for my sister-in-law, until my hands gave up last night. I mean, I couldn't knit another stitch.

I have one more neckwarmer to go. 2/3 thirds of the way through the gloves for my nephew. The hat I knit for the other nephew has been absconded by my oldest son--so that must be replaced. I had hoped to knit a pair of fingerless gloves for my dad and husband, and finally a pair for my mother. It just ain't going to happen. At least not all of them.

When I cried "uncle" last night, my hands throbbing in pain, and declared that I couldn't knit another stitch, I could see the panic in my son's eyes--you see, he and dad had just gone shopping for Christmas, having a guys' night out, and I knew they had gone to Hilltop Yarn Shop. His panic was something akin to "No, mom! You can't stop now. Not after we bought you . . . " I soothed him by saying, 'I just needed a break, but I'd be back at it by the next day' and his relief was nearly palatable. I love kids at this time of year.

Really, give up knitting? Yeah, right.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Christmas Tea

As a romance writer and a knitter, I am very lucky to call Debbie Macomber my friend. She's been a writing mentor for years, and over the years we've shared our love of knitting with random trips to yarn shops while at writing conferences, and Debbie is always showing me some new technique she's picked up from some fabulous knitter she's met in her travels. She's just the nicest, dearest woman you could ever want to meet.

And every year, she hosts a Christmas Tea for her "knit friends." It is a very varied group, young and old, shop owners and novice knitters, who all share the love of fiber. This year it took some finagling to get go, but the husband, dear man that he is, left work early to pick up the kids so I could take the ferry over to Port Orchard for her party.

The highlight of the party is Show and Tell. Everyone brings projects they've completed, usually with a story attached and shares them with the crowd. That is Debbie above showing off a vest she finished this year that had been a UFO for awhile. Her goal for 2007 was to finish several of her UFOs and that was one of them.

Many of the projects that are shared are Christmas gifts, like this very cute dino sweater that was going to a lucky grandson.

I am so jealous of the granddaughter who is getting these slippers:

One of the guests teaches all over the area on the intricacies of knitting with beads. She brought a gorgeous sweater she'd knit thousands and thousands of beads into, as well as these socks that were just remarkable:

Finally, we got around to Debbie's office manager, Renata, and she shared a lace shawl she'd knit.

Can you say, "Shawl Envy?!" Then all too soon, it was time to go home and I was sorry that it would be another year before I got to see these wonderful women again, who make me laugh over their mishaps (which quite frankly there isn't a knitter in that room who hasn't made a similar mistake) and their pride in a new skill tackled. So it was appropriate that I rode the ferry home, with a front row seat for the crossing over Puget Sound, watched harbor seals frolicking and rolling in the water, while I considered what I would knit in 2008 . . . while I sat snug and warm in my car, doing what else? Knitting.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Christmas Needles are Flying!

Been knitting like a madwoman of late--trying to get some Christmas presents on the way. Helps when it's been raining like crazy here in Seattle, and I've been a bit under the weather, so curling up and knitting Christmas presents keeps me from feeling too guilty about neglecting the writing--but that only means I'll have to crank pages in January and February. Though when you see the packed malls and all the people scurrying about this season, I can know I am not the only one putting things off to the New Year.

My 2007 gift of choice is the Luxe Neck Warmer, which I've been knitting with every type of yarn I think will work, including several out of the Lion Brand Cashmere:

I love this yarn. Warm, soft, great to knit with. A little pricey, but it only takes two skeins to knit one neckwarmer, and I think when I get everyone's done, I am going to take the leftover yarn and make myself one--striped in the Lion pastels. I've also made a couple with the Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk, which makes a really luxurious piece for around your neck.

What I love about this neck warmer is the stitch pattern is so easy to memorize. Of course, after knitting seven of them, you would hope that you could remember a 4 row pattern. Here is my favorite--the baby blue in the Lion Brand Cashmere--the lace really stands out and I know my aunt is going to love it!

Now here is a rub with my annual make a ton of gifts--Matthew has a male teacher now! Really don't think a lacy neck warmer will work there so I downloaded the Knit Picks Men's Convertible Fingerless Gloves pattern, ordered up a bunch of Shamrock yarn in Reilly,

and knit up a pair yesterday:

I'm going to modify the pattern when I make the next pair and leave the size 7 dpns on until I get up the hand a little bit, then switch to the size 9s. They are a little pouchy on the husband's hands. I kept using him as my hand model and he kept assuming I was knitting them for him. Sorry, honey. I like the pattern and yarn--a very fast knit, though the Shamrock is a little splitty to knit with, I think the final product is a great, warm glove.

I keep adding more projects to the knitting basket and have a feeling some of them may end up being birthday presents for later in the year . . .

What is everyone else knitting for Christmas???

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Christmas Knitting Suggestions

While I am still knitting away on the Luxe Neck warmers (I think I've added three more to the pile since I last posted) I thought I'd share something I made recently that would make a great quickie gift if you are looking for one.

Consider trying Amanda's Squatty Sidekick, especially if you've never felted before or if you love felting and know how quick felted gifts can be. I had offered a handknit purse as a prize to a group of readers on a bulletin board a while back--hoping that the winner would like pink, since I had just finished a pink purse--but she wanted black, so I tried this pattern, which I'd had printed out in the pile "must knit patterns" that stacks up on my desk.

I used that old reliable for felting Cascade 220, but might suggest Manos as it makes great felted fabric. Really, this is for a quick Christmas present, so whatever you have in your stash that will felt should work. Can you read between the lines already--December knitting desperation is setting in early this year. But this purse knits up really fast, especially with those big fat needles.

Then into the pillow case protector it goes.

I hope no one thinks they can felt without a pillow case protector. Unless you want to see the Maytag man or find out if Sears is offering "one year free financing" as you buy your new washer, don't felt without one. Then into the washing machine, with a little shot of Eucalan, and come old towels and a pair of ratty jeans I keep just for felting. When it gets to be the size I want, I trip the washing machine over to the spin cycle and let it get all that extra water out. I know some people say not to spin it out because the felting might get creased, but I have never had this happen. I just take it out of the washer, pat it into shape and let it air dry the rest of the way.

Then I take a look through Mom's button jar for just the right button closure and voila, a quick gift.

Even better with a selection of books for tucking in for a quick read--especially since you now know the author! Great Christmas presents, don't you think?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Christmas Knitting

Nothing like finding that one thing to knit for everyone for Christmas. In the past I've knit hats, scarves, last year it was dozens of pairs of those great Fetching mitts. But this year, I've looked and searched and tried in vain to find that one pattern that fits all. You know the sort, that you can knock out by the dozens in all sorts of colors that is going to be universally loved? Yes, I know, those patterns are gold and this Fall all I've found were more like tarnished silver. Good, but not quite there. Then I happened on the proverbial pot of gold:

The Luxe Neck Warmer

Aren't these great? And they knit fast. Like really, really fast. I would never have found them if it hadn't been for the podcast, Stash & Burn. They had a one skein theme going and they mentioned the Luxe Neck Warmer from the book, knit2together. I didn't remember the pattern, but they way they discussed it (especially as a great stash buster) piqued my curiosity and I dug up the book at the library and was immediately hooked. So a huge shout out to Jenny and Nicole of Stash & Burn! You've got my needles flying.

Now the pattern calls for a bulky weight yarn, and I wanted to make mine out of several skeins of leftover Lion Brand Cashmere I had tucked away. A quick search on Ravelry led me to Veganpurls who already knit this and left great mods. So a shout out to Michelle as well!

The tan and colored ones used up the Lion Brand, so I dug into my Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, and I'm further modifying the pattern (cast on 96 stitches on size 8 needles--better yet, cast on only one repeat--84 stitches--mine with the double repeat is a little too big) and I'm almost done with the green one. I'll cast on the next one tonight. At this rate I'll have my Christmas knitting done before December 1st. Just in time to start baking cookies.

So what are you knitting this year for Christmas?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Knitting in Circles

Have you ever felt like every project you touched was destined to turn into a disaster? That's the story of my knitting lately. So, I am starting a campaign to rename October 2007 as Frogtober. And I have the evidence to prove that this is an apt and appropriate thing to do:

The Case of the Too Big Mitten

Have you ever seen anything so big? I knew when I was knitting it on my trip to NYC that it was turning out too big. The cuff was fine, but by the time I got to the flip part of the mitten, oh brother, I was in trouble. But I finished it anyway so I could get an idea of how far off these mittens were so I could downsize them to make them into fingerless gloves for the husband, and then another pair for my son's teacher for Christmas, and probably a pair for my dad. They are frogged now, but not recast--I'm going to take them with me on our Thanksgiving travels and hope I have better luck on that trip.

And I offer Case #2 in my crusade to rename last month, Frogtober:

The Sweater that Makes Me Itch

This is the sweater I decided to do with the bag of Rowan Kid Classic I'd picked up on eBay ages ago. I went to all the both of modifying the pattern to knit it in one piece, added short rows for the bust so I could get a tighter fit, and am nearly up to the underarms--and horror, upon horror, the darn thing is making me itch. Well, quite frankly, everything is making me itch this fall, but this Kid Classic gives my wrists and hands a rash that drives me nuts. But I refuse to frog it. I've never been bothered by any sort of fiber--ever. I have to believe this is a phase, and this sweater will get knit. Eventually. In the Spring.

And then there is my Wicked sweater--which I had to cast on three times before I got the stitch count right, the gauge right, and finally cast it on and start it without discovering four rows in that. it. is. flippin. twisted.

So I've set aside all these larger projects and I'm going to do some safe knitting. Neckwarmers for Christmas. Mittens for Matthew's caregivers. And hope that November is the month that brings back the mojo.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Calling All Knitters with Extra Stash

Just like this bag. Have I got a quick stash busting recipe for you:

The Second Annual Warm for Winter Campaign
Goal: To collect 1,000 scarves and hats for homeless men, women and children before mid-November. And believe me, they couldn't come too soon, because Seattle has already had its first winter wind storm.

To your stash, add two needles:

And you have a scarf for someone who has very little.

I also dug around and found a pair of mittens that I intended to gift someone but then found out they hated blue. And a child's hat that the intended child has gotten too big to wear. I figured I would dedicate two weeks of my knitting life to making scarves and a few hats. Want to join in? Take the next two weeks--clear out some yarn, and warm up a stranger . . . it will warm your heart in the process.

For more information or to donate some quickly finished FOs, contact warmforwinter AT yahoo DOT com.

Monday, October 15, 2007

NYC is all about the yarn, right? Wrong.

It is all about the buttons. I was all set to take a real fun yarn crawl while I was in NYC a week ago--I'd gathered all my possible patterns together and had been virtually shopping for weeks, but just before I left I cleaned out my knitting basket and hit my pile of swatches. For projects in progress. And realized the last thing I needed was more yarn and more projects.

Then I realized I hadn't booked my hotel on the edge of the Fashion District because I love dodging clothes racks--but because it has tons and tons of little button shops that stock buttons you can never find at Joannes or Hancocks or Pacific Fabrics. Suddenly my crawl took on a new meaning. So off I went to Sixth Avenue with swatches in hand, and discovered that a lot of the button stores that I've haunted for years have forsaken their lot in life and gone over to beads. Beads! "I don't need beads, I need buttons," I found myself muttering, that is until I rounded a corner and spotted one my favorite places to find buttons, MJ Trimming.

This place is like funky, unusual, cool sewing heaven. Trims, buttons, rhinestones, and accessories rise on the shelves in a panoply of choices. I found these red buttons right off for the Wicked cardigan I am making with the yarn I picked up at Madrona last year. I've since torn it out and need to recast on, but definitely these buttons are motivation to get going on it. I just love them! And again, they aren't the sort that you find hanging on a card in the mega fabric stores.

Then I pulled out my fuzzy swatch and had to really search. This blue isn't the easiest to match, and but I wanted buttons that would stand out. What do you think?

I know, bling, bling. But oh, so pretty and wonderfully old fashioned. Here's the ironic part--I got this Rowan yarn on eBay for a steal--the buttons cost twice as much. Isn't that pathetic? But it is better than haunting Value Village for the next six months looking for a second hand sweater I can buy for its buttons. Again, it is motivating to have the buttons right there, sort of urging you on to finish so you can wear them and get your money's worth out of them. Of course, then part of me is saying, wouldn't they look gorgeous on some yummy dark blue sweater . . . but that would require a yarn purchase. No, I won't . . . I can't . . .

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Lucy Done!

I finished my Lucy in the Sky sweater yesterday by sewing on the buttons. I was so excited to have it finished, I immediately wore it out to a luncheon I was attending. Of course no one at the table was the least bit crafty and they looked at me oddly when I started to talk about knitting. Hmmm. Okay. No knitters here. So I knew it was time to get home and brag shamelessly about my new FO.

I started this last spring with Cascade 220. Ran out of steam after finishing most of the body and getting the sleeves cast on. Picked it up in August and got fired up to finish. So I did.

I knit the sleeves on two circs, and don't like how they turned out. They have a line up the side--the gap between the circs--that didn't block out and has me a little irked, but I still love the sweater. I won't knit sleeves like that again. Any suggestions?

The best part of knitting these bottom up sweaters, is that once you join the sleeves, it is nothing but decreasing--so every row goes a little faster. When I got it done I went to my favorite button shop, my mom's sewing room, where she has jars and jars and boxes of buttons, old and new. I found these very old pearl buttons--and decided to try a new technique in sewing them on, by backing them with really small, clear buttons. It worked great, and made the sewing easier and the buttons feel so much more secure and stable. I'll use that method again.

I am so pleased with my new sweater, I have cast on another, and I have two more that I am going to cast on in the next few weeks. I think I am going to try to finish all three before Christmas. Maybe mixing up the knitting a little will keep each project interesting enough to see them through.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Almost Lucy

I slogged through the sleeves about a week or so ago, got the whole kit and kaboodle joined together and am getting so close to finishing this sweater that just the very whiff of finishing has been motivation enough to really keep the needles moving. I've been dragging it everywhere--to the carpool, little guy's therapy, in front of All My Kids--anytime I can get a row or so done.

Of course the joy of knitting a bottom up sweater is that it is all decreases from here on out, baby. Nothing but decreases.

And the other joy? Not much finishing. Join the underarm stitches, weave in the ends, and then block it. As for buttons, I haven't any yet. I'm off to NYC in a couple of weeks and since I'm staying in the garment district, I thought I might shop for buttons there. Any recommendations???

I've been waffling about what to do next, trying to find that perfect Fall project when I saw Luanna here in the Berroco newsletter. It was love at first sight. I'd found my Fall sweater to get my needles happily clicking again. But I hit a snag when I couldn't find a color in Softwist that made me want to click the order button. Nor did I want to add yet another pile of yarn to my bulging stash. I've got yarn for a Bristow, a Knitty Thermal, and countless other sweaters--shoehorning in another 19 skeins? I had to draw a line.

Then this morning, as I was once again avoiding work and drooling over this pattern, I remembered a yarn I had in my stash that I bought a year or so ago on eBay. It is this lovely heathered Cascade 220.
Oh, yeah, I had my Luanna! But then I did a little math (gads I hate math) and realized I was two skeins short. Curses! But a quick check on the web and a few frantic emails later, I had two skeins from Chris at Alpaca Direct.

So now I have even more motivation to get Lucy done so I can get swatching Luanna. Hey, what is this I have about knitting "L" sweaters. Next time I'm thinking of making a little hop in the alphabet and going to N, as in Neiman.

Friday, August 24, 2007

As Summer Wanes

I'm trying to avoid casting anything new on until I get a few more FOs under my belt. To that end I've been dragging around the sleeves for my Lucy in the Sky cardigan. The sleeves seem to be taking as long as the body took, but once I get them all joined, I should be done in a flash. Of course, now that I've said that . . . .

I'm making this sweater out of Cascade 220, that wonderful old workhouse of a yarn, but I'm not really liking how the sleeves are coming on by knitting them on 2 circs. I keep telling myself they will block out just fine.

I've also been knitting on a pair of Charade socks:

I like this pattern, it makes the Fleece Artist Sea Wool just pop and sparkle. The yarn has a great sheen to it, and this pattern on accentuates that.

And on a whim, I decided to swatch a bit of this:

I've had this bag of Rowan Kid Classic on the shelf for ages, and with Fall approaching I was thinking about doing a regular sweater, but who I am kidding, I want a cardigan out of it. Perfect for some it's-September-and-I'm-ready-for-Fall knitting. Besides, I always can use another cardigan. I think I could live in cardigans.

What are you dreaming about knitting this Fall?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My dream LYS

Elizabeth meet Artistic Knits. Or rather, Elizabeth’s Visa meet Artistic Knits. Well, you can’t go into a yarn shop just for buttons and NOT do a little stash enhancement, especially when all the shop stocks is hand-spun, hand-dyed yarn. Art yarn. From floor to ceiling. Be still my funky loving heart. And not a plastic button in sight.

I mean, when you pull up to a place and the car parked right behind you has this license plate, then you know you’ve found a little piece of merino heaven. And angora. And cashmere. And bamboo. And anything else those wonderful spinners can think of to make into yarn. I need to look up the patron saint of spinners and light a candle to them, because where would we knitters be without these gifted, talented artists?

I have to confess when I first walked into Artisan Knitworks, I was a little worried. Because the front half of the shop is devoted to arty hand knits for sale. Now usually, this would have my nose in the air, because I am, after all, a knitter, but the hand knits they had for sale were gorgeous and inspiring. Nose tucked back into place, I dove into the shop. And found myself in a room of sock yarn. Art sock yarn. All kinds of gorgeous, wonderful sock yarn. I did a silent shout out to Tiennie and wished she could be there, and then grabbed a few skeins before I turned around and found her there, having arrived a head of me and had been in the back using the facilities, having already had her way with the shelves. (Tiennie, just teasing—cause you know you are my sock hero.)

Now I'm not much of a sock knitter, but I do love the yarn. And I keep trying to fall in love with knitting socks, because I adore hand knit socks on my feet. But still, I don't need more sock yarn, so I started to back out of the room of when then this black/red/grey skein screamed “Make me into Monkies.” This 50% wool, 50% bamboo skein from Ellen's 1/2 Pint Farm is divinely soft. Being the warm-hearted and red loving gal that I am, I found it impossible to walk past a screaming skein, so I grabbed it up, gave it a hug and tried to get out of the room before I found more temptation. Unfortunately the lady working there was blocking my path, ready to suggest more yarn for me to adopt, including this one:

This is a skein of Tiny Toes in "Irish Heather" from Interlacements. From the way she described how this yarn knits, it sounds like it works up very similar to Socks that Rock, so I was hooked. We talked socks, me being the only mildly interested sock knitter and her being one of those toe up, Turkish cast on, two at a time on two circs sock types. I envy you all, because while you're speeding along, I poke and purl at an endless pair on my dpns like some old grandma on the freeway. But she had me hooked and with a color like "Irish Heather" I couldn't resist. The blue in the picture is more a really, deep saturated purple, and the greens are rich and varied.

So with my arms already full and my Visa card starting to whimper inside my purse, not to mention my Stash at home already complaining about having to move over yet again, I swore to myself that I would make a beeline to the cash register. Instead, I found myself in the main room surrounded by too much yarn.

"Just came in for buttons," I reminded myself. "Don’t look left or right, just get to the cash register and get out of here." So I rounded the table of snacks set out for the knit in that was about to begin and found myself nose to nose with this:

Should have closed my eyes. Should not have looked. I am so the sucker for green and blue. This is from Dancing Leaf Farm in Maryland and the yarn is Tango, a 70% wool, 30% Mohair, that is in the Pansy colorway. It is a bulky worsted and has that feel to it that makes you think of a very warm sweater that is going to keep you so very cozy.

I immediately saw it in a top-down cardie. Something just in time for winter. Something to snuggle into when I have the house back to myself and I can work in blessed peace and silence. Really, I should be commended—you should have seen the pretty pink skeins of a variegated wool and angora mix that knitted into something that was just this side of heaven. But with my arms full, and the idea that I only had so much room in my suitcase (the open space made by the Brio train set I'd brought for the nephew--which seemed rather too big when I packed it in Seattle, but in hindsight it was a good idea because the hole it left was the perfect size for my much lighter yarn.).

You know the next time the husband says, "Honey, let's go to Detroit and visit my mother," I don't think my feet will drag quite as much and I'll know to pack light . . .

I've found my groove . . .

Knitting baby clothes. They are:

A. Small, in other words, knit an entire sweater in a week. Unless you are Tiennie, this is a huge feat.
B. Can be knit with cool yarn without a huge dent in the Visa bill.
C. Are then given away to someone who is going to drool all over it. Literally.

My latest FO? Another EZ Project. I am getting dangerously addicted to these Elizabeth Zimmerman projects.

This one is the Baby Jacket from the Knitters Almanac. I made it out of RK Cashsoft DK. The stuff is incredibly soft, but a bit splitty. I knit it both on metal straights and Clover Bamboo circs (size 4) and had problems with the yarn snagging with both. Not that it doesn’t knit up lovely, but those snags are frustrating.

As the mom of boys, there is something so fun in knitting something cute, lacy and pink. Well, nearly pink. These shots show the color really well—not quite a lilac, not really a pink.

I bought the yarn at Churchmouse Yarns on Bainbridge Island a few months ago, intending to knit another little sweater out of it. But after I knit the Baby Surprise Jacket, I thought I would try another EZ project and I loved it. I am so not the lace knitter, but this lace pattern had only two lines to memorize (well, three if you count the purl rows) so it wasn’t too much for my lace-impaired mind to wrap itself around. Despite the snags, I think it turned out real ‘purty.

I’d also picked up these buttons for the sweater. I’m a sucker for shell buttons and these flower ones were too cute! Especially when I knew I was knitting for a little girl. Of course in my mind I’d bought six of them, and put six buttonholes in the sweater, only to sew them up and find I only had five. Of course, I finished the sweater while back in Detroit, as we were there to see the new baby, and I was seriously bummed at being out a button.

Which meant only one thing: I had to go out shopping for more buttons. I hit JoAnne’s which just didn’t do it. I don’t mind JoAnne’s and shop there for stuff all the time, but when I put the time into knitting something special, I just hate putting cheap plastic buttons on it. Yeeeeewww! So after a foray into Joanne’s I knew I needed to find a yarn shop. Shucks. Darn. Twist my arm. And did I ever find a yarn shop. But more on that in my next post.

I showed the sweater, minus the last button to new mom, and she was delighted with it, and said she'd probably wouldn't use that button any way. And then she carried off the sweater and my button woes were over. And the baby?

Here she is, Baby Katy, with very proud cousin Claire holding her. Aren't new babies heaven?