Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Loafers for Winter Loafing

I made these Malabrigo Loafers (Ravel link) up the weekend before Christmas to gift to my Aunt Susie, who is currently buried in record setting levels of snow in Couer d'Alene, Idaho. When you get 30 inches of snow in one day, you need a good pair of loafers, 'cause you aren't going anywhere.

I had seen a number of these on Ravelry and purchased the pattern from Coco Knits right away because I had the Malabrigo in my stash. Not that such a notion stopped me from purchasing more while I was at A Good Yarn Shop at the beginning of the month. I had a feeling I was going to like the pattern and besides, when January 5th hits, and I have to sit down and get back to writing like a madwoman, I'll be happy to have a pair sitting on my feet--I swear the space under my desk is part Frigidare.

I knit both soles on straights first.

Then got out the circs and picked up the stitches around the edge:

And then worked the 12 or so rows to make up the uppers. She uses decreases and multiple short rows over a single row to build the front part of the uppers. I don't mind short rows in the least having gotten over that intimidation while knitting the Drops Baby Jacket. (Ravel linked). The trick to short rows is to remember to pick up the wrap and knit it together with the stitch it is wrapped around--that and remember what row you are on!

Before you know it, you have a slipper. Really, there is only about 12 rows to make the uppers and these are so easy and fast and, most importantly, cute. I did block them a little using a rolled up hand towel, a press cloth and a steam iron.

I finished them in the Penny Loafer style without the slot for pennies. When I read that these were a fast knit, I took the other knitters' claims on faith, having saved them for my last weekend of holiday knitting and believe me, they are a true quick knit, sort of Fetchings for the feet. So much so, I think this coming weekend I am going to knit up a pair for myself. Happily, I enough in my stash to make at least two more pairs.

What have you fallen in love with knitting in 2008?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Early Christmas Present

I blogged on my writing blog a few months ago about how lucky I am at winning contests, but what I didn't admit was that I had never won a blog contest, which given my luck in regards to other kinds of contests was sort of puzzling. Come on, you are talking to the woman who was thrilled to win the drawing for Elephant Poop yet I can't win a single blog contest.

But my unlucky blog contest streak is over and I finally found my blog contest mojo over at the Melanie Falick and STC Craft blog. So what was my prize? I got to select an STC book, which I have several, like Handknit Holidays
and Weekend Knitting, which I love. But this is the one I've always wanted:

Which has one of my favorite patterns in it, The Luxe Neck Warmer, (Ravelry) which I have made several over the years for Christmas gifts.

And this sweater, which I've always wanted to make:

Thank you so much, Melanie and company!! I couldn't be more thrilled.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Clapotis

I am on the home stretch of getting the Clapotis done for my mom's Christmas present. I've been on a strict schedule of getting two repeats done a day to make my way quickly through the middle section. I can see where people could get bogged down in the middle of this, but I find it really easy to knit and the pattern is such that it isn't too boring.

Yesterday there was a prediction for a huge snow storm to hit Seattle, and all the schools panicked and canceled school. Now in their defense, there was snow, but it went north and south of Seattle--God bless the Olympic Mountains to the west of us. They tend to take the brunt for us metro folks and divide a bad weather system right in half. So instead of wasting a day, the kids and I went Christmas shopping and out to see Santa. Now to take an autistic child to the mall is right up there with bungee jumping without the harness buckled. But Matthew was so excited to see Santa, that he went in his room and got his best shirt, vest and pants on, without even being told to do so. This is a child who NEVER wears a buttoned shirt, but for Santa he was a perfect angel, until he saw the line of children waiting ahead of us, and I could see in his eyes how hard it would be for him to stand in that line and wait.

Then a Christmas miracle happened. One of Santa's helpers noticed us---because we'd been by several times, and asked why we weren't getting in line. And I quietly explained how the line would be too hard for Matthew, but it was okay as long as he could look at Santa from the sidelines. Well, the elf wasn't happy about that and took us to the head of the line and let us cut. No one complained and everyone understood and it was such a wonderful gift.

We left the mall, the three of us, all smiling and happy, shopping for Daddy all done and the world a little brighter.

Well, today we finally got the snow that was predicted for yesterday, no mountains could stop this, and we are all home for another snow day, and it is peaceful and beautiful and time for me to get back at my Clapotis.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

'Tis the Season

I've been meaning to sit down and blog for days, but this time of year life gets really nutty. I've been baking like a madwoman, because then I can shove it all in the freezer and have it ready for the marathon that is Christmas Eve and Christmas around our house. House guests, family, friends, a steady stream through our door and I like to have a big bowl of punch and plates of cookies at the ready.

I've also gone into my twice annual social whirl (the Romance Writer's conference being my other tug out into the world) and the Christmas season started early with an invite to Debbie Macomber's annual Christmas knitting tea.

I really look forward to this every year because of the chance to see what all the other knitters in her neighborhood have been working on over the last year. It takes a bit of arranging to go--getting hubby to cover the afternoon kid pick up and all, a ferry ride across the sound (which is just a treat, even to a Seattle native like me) and then the drive through the country, that is just across Puget Sound. Really picks up the spirit!

But this year had the added bonus--I went over early so I could go to the yarn shop Debbie has opened with several partners, A Good Yarn Shop in Port Orchard, Wa.

Close your eyes. Now imagine a shop where you could have all your favorite yarns in stock. Yeah, you've got it. I've been really good about NOT buying yarn. Let's just say I fell a bit off the wagon. Okay, I sort of nosedived off the wagon. But oh, gracious heavens, the yarn I got!

As I told Debbie, "I just signed over my last advance to you." Debbie laughed, my husband wasn't as amused. Ah, men, if they only understood! And besides, they are mostly for Christmas presents, which I am frantically knitting.

But even better, I met Lisa Ellis, of Lisa Ellis Designs. She is one of the partners, and was sitting at the work table sewing up the most to-die-for Christmas sweater. I mean, it was gorgeous. And Lisa--what a fun person. Do you ever meet someone and think, "wow, she's my sort of people."

Then I fell in love with one of her designs. Now I am always on the lookout for new hats to knit, because I love knitting hats, and she has this pattern for a Basic Twined Hat, (Ravel linked) that when I saw the sample, I knew I had to try it. But it is done using the Swedish two end knitting technique, or twined knitting, or if you want to get really fancy, Tvåändsstickning.

Now my Swedish is limited to perhaps a trip to Ikea, so I sort of imposed on Lisa to teach me in a couple of minutes of how do twined knitting.

And I have to say, while it is a bit slower, it is really cool. The finished fabric that it makes is fascinating, and Lisa picked the perfect yarn in using the Crystal Palace Taos. Though I will say that yarn, because of the twisting and unwinding you have to do, did get a little breaky at times, but it spit spliced right back together, so I wasn't too worked up over it.

So over the last few days, I've knit two these two twined hats for my nieces. I am having a really hard time resigning myself to giving up the blue one. I have to say that it is the prettiest hat I have ever knit.

My model here was a bit wiggly, hence the less than perfect picture, but oh, how yummy and pretty this hat is. Now on to two more Turn a Squares, a pair of Malabrigo Loafers and finish Mom's Clapotis. Before the 24th. A Christmas miracle, indeed!

What are you knitting for Christmas? I'm always looking for suggestions for next year.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It Was!

As I said before, I stressed about being without enough projects for a five day trip. I'm not the only one who does this--the Yarn Harlot posted recently about stressing about having enough for her knit night--in a yarn shop. It was comforting to know that my turmoil and issues are shared by others.

I did make a good jump into my Christmas knitting, casting on a Ballband Dishcloth on the car ride down. It was pouring rain, the freeway was hectic and my husband's driving tends to make me nervous. So I cast on, cast up a prayer and just knit. And lucky or not, he missed the exit and we had to drive five miles down the highway to get turned around, then got trapped by a train for a half an hour (no, honey, you can't beat that train), then road construction on Hwy 30 outside of Clatskanie had us stuck for another 45 minutes. So I got a dishcloth done on the way down to Seaside.

I'm sort of amused as to how the colors pooled, and have a second one cast on that I hope will be a little less looking like a red state - green state dishcloth, and a little more like it's been mixed with Christmas Cheer.

After I finished the discloth, or what I should probably call "A Christmas Divided", I cast on and finished Jared Flood's Turn A Square Hat (Ravelry linked) for my son. I had intended to save it for Christmas, but when it was finished, I wanted to try it on him, and he loved it so much, I let him keep it. It hasn't been off his head since. This picture is already dated, as the braces came off this week.

But I do love how the Plymouth Boku yarn changes with the stripes, and how it blended so nicely with this skein of Cascade 220 I found tucked away in the stash. I've come to think that found yarn in the stash is right up there with finding spare change in the cushions.

Now with that said, having knit this hat and knit it for a kid, I would recommend starting the decreases around 4 1/2 inches or even 4 rather than at 5. The hat is a little big for Nick, but as he says, "I'll grow into it." And he probably will.

I plan on knitting two, maybe three more of these before Christmas--all for the nephews which I have in spades (6 at last count). They only take about two evenings to knit, and it is fun to watch the colors shift. I found online a black and gray colorway in the Boku, so I am on the hunt for it locally, because I think it would make a really killer man hat.

Finally, in between a dishcloth, a hat, a mitten (the other is still not cast on), I also began a Clapotis for my mother. So far I am through the first two sections and diving into the long stretch of the third, but I love the pattern and find myself knitting anxiously to the point where I get to drop a stitch.

Isn't this Lorna's Laces Lion and Lamb absolutely gorgeous? This is one of those projects that you knit wondering why you want to give it away because it is so soft, and gorgeous. But it is a good excuse to buy more yarn and make one for myself.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

But is it Enough??!!

That's always the dilemma I face as I prepare to go away. How do I know if I have enough knitting with me, because horrors of all horrors, what if I run out???

Now me running out of knitting is about as likely to happen as it is the kids will remain in good spirits the entire car ride and not ask once "are we there yet?" But still I fret about this more than I probably should. Once I get a trip on the calendar, I immediately start to consider what project(s) will be coming along. I also have to balance how much room I have for extras. Oh, heck, who am I kidding? There is always room for my knitting,

right alongside the book or two I always tuck into my packing. Skip the emergency kit as long as I have a good book (or three) and a great project (or five), I'm good. Though here I am with some great knitting and a Georgette Heyer I've never read (Faro's Daughter)--this could present some problems. I'll have to learn to read and knit at the same time.

But back to that "what should I take with me" question. I do give this lots of consideration. I know better than to try and haul a sweater along, but then I get antsy that I will burn through a bunch of small projects and be stranded. As if. I never go anywhere without bringing along a Mapquest printout to the nearest LYS. I suppose that does confirm it, I am completely neurotic.

But there it is. Five days away from my stash. I had to be prepared. Sort of like mapping out the Thanksgiving cooking schedule. Over the last few weeks, I've been tucking the yarn and patterns into my travel bag, and today I went through and double-checked it all, reading over my patterns to make sure I also have all the necessary needles and tools. I went with a theme--Christmas knitting. Sort of my own Christmas knitting boot camp. Such as Jared Flood's Turn A Square Hat

for the oldest hero and the DH. I hope there is also enough of this wonderful Cascade 220 for mittens for Nick. Should be. I swear sometimes it is nearly impossible to get to the end of a skein of 220, but I'll give it my best shot.

I've also got the Clapotis for my mom, more mittens for Matthew (who is gradually learning to wear them), Christmas dishcloths (truly emergency knitting) and my current socks, 'cause it would just be wrong to leave the house without them.

Now I just have to keep my fingers this will be enough. (Of course it is, but I can't help but worry.)

So what would you pack if you had five days to do nothing but sit around, eat, read and knit?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ah, Good Intentions

You see, I had all these good intentions to knit from the Bucket List and stick with it. And for the most part I sort of have been. Wow, is that a terrible oxy moron. But with it being November, I always intended to knit a new sweater this month. I love a new winter sweater--something warm and cozy that I can toss on when my office gets cold.

So I started the Vine Lace Cardigan with yarn from the stash (see all the good intentions there: knit from the stash, knit from the list, keep your eyes on completing things.) In the midst of all these good intentions, I actually made some great progress on it--getting the yoke done, the sleeves knit and making the join up.

Then I went to the Holiday sale at my son's school and discovered that one of the other mothers dyes yarns. Sarah Brown Design. Which is sort of ironic, because I have a character in my books by the same name. I couldn't figure out if it was Fate tempting me or taunting me. Gads, why not just put a plate of fudge in front of my keyboard.

So I fell off the wagon and bought two skeins (one in this colorway and another in a great boyish mix called "Ultra Hulk." Then my cold feet overtook my desire for a new sweater and I immediately cast on a pair with this lovely colorway, Honeysuckle. I knew I wanted a fast pair of simple toe-up socks. Besides, I can't look at this color way and not feel happy.

So taking hints from Tiennie of Tiennie Knits and Big Sister Nicole over at Stash & Burn, I knit the first sock up to the heel, and then cast on the second one and am in the process of getting it up to the heel. Hopefully by knitting them in tandem, I will avoid the dreaded second sock syndrome.

I also used Judi Becker's Magic Cast-on, as demonstrated by Cat Bordhi. I LOVE learning new cast-ons, and this one is a dream and so very easy. And Cat is a hoot to listen to. I took a class from her years ago, and got into her all day class at Madrona this coming February. So I am just whetting my appetite with a little pre-Madrona sock love.

But now the sweater is calling to me again, and I so wanted to get it finished by the end of the month. With only a week to go, plus Thanksgiving in there, I seriously doubt that is going to happen, but I am going to put in a good effort this weekend and see how far down the body I can go.

My feet will still be cold, but they have some very happy socks coming. I promise.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

FO Mitts

Since I've been digging through my stash of late, I've found various FOs in various states of abandonment. One of those, I couldn't resist finishing this week, if only because the weather keeps getting nippier and nippier, and eventually my Fetchings won't be enough to keep my fingers warm as we walk to school in the morning, hence the very essential need to finish my Axel Mitts.

No one could blame me for setting aside my NaNoSweMo Vine Lace Cardigan for a few days to finish them--I knew I couldn't. I'd been digging through my stash like a rag picker, looking for my Malabrigo (kinda hard to find when you only have two skeins of Malabrigo) because I've become obsessed with the Malabrigo Loafters. I love having something warm and woolly on my feet during the day and these just look like heaven if you stalk the Ravelry page like I do. So one morning, I couldn't stand it any longer (okay, my feet were cold) and a stash diving I went.

And found the Malabrigo under one finished Axel Mitt and the rest of the skein connected to one half knit mitt. I was all gung ho to frog them both until I slid my hand into the finished one. Ooooh. Way to warm and cozy. No January wind off the Sound is going through those babies. So I decided to finish the second one--and discovered why I stopped--the stitch count was all wonky.

Note to self: when you set aside a knitting project in disgust, pin a little note to it for later. Something like: BooBoo-Head, you messed up the stitch count. Or maybe, Don't even try, for the love of God, just frog this *&(%$ thing.

So I frogged the second one and recast on and in about two nights had a second finished mitt. Now here's the thing--why didn't I do that last February when I originally cast these on? I can't remember why, and I suppose it doesn't matter now.

Oh, BTW, these would make a great, quick Christmas present for just about anyone--well unless they live in, say, Phoenix. Add a purl stitch to either side of the front pattern, and then an extra stitch or two in the palm and they would easily fit a man's hand.

What have you got unfinished that is nagging at you? Or better yet, have you found something recently that you thought you should finish?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Third Times The Charm

This is my 3rd round with knitting Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket, which can be found in her book, The Opinionated Knitter or in a download from Ravelry.

The first time I knit this, I didn't quite believe it would work.
"You knit it flat??" Imagine me turning a skank eye on the pattern in utter disbelief. And sadly, yes, I do talk to myself like this.
"And then do some origami and it turns into a sweater?" Shake head.
"Okey Dokey." Get the yarn and needles out.

You cast in a sort of blind faith that is will all work and just follow the directions exactly as they are written. Until all of a sudden you can start folding it and you get a tantalizing peek as to how it works.

Then you can't knit fast enough and suddenly it is time to do the bind off. This time I did an i-cord finish, which I'd never done before and I'm convinced now is the best way to finish this jacket--leaving the edges smooth and, well, finished.

Then came a trip to the store for buttons. I wanted ones that would pick up the bits of purple in the color and just pop off the jacket and say, "Hey, you might not be able to tell just yet, but I am a boy." And happily I found exactly what I wanted.

And ta-da you have a beautiful, washable, (thanks STR!) made-with-love baby present.

Needles: Knitpicks Options Size 4
Yarn: Socks that Rock, Medium weight
Color: Algea
Buttons: The racks at JoAnne's
Knit For: Jamie's Baby

Have you ever knit one of these? What yarn did you use?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I "Heart" Fall

I had planned on starting a Liesl for NaKniSweMo, or perhaps a Cropped Cabled Sweater that I found in a Classic Elite booklet, but as the weather took a decided dip into the realm of chilly, I reordered the List and decided to use the Rowan RYC Soft Tweed I had in my stash for a Vine Lace Top Down Cardigan by the Sweater Babe.

Why this pattern?

1) Topdown. Need I say more?
2) Doesn't it look like the perfect December-March sweater?
3) This yarn is about as soft as they get.

Soft, quick, warm. Oh, yeah, the perfect NaKniSweMo project.

I started swatching yesterday, couldn't get anywhere near gauge, not and get it to look right, so I downsized to a size 10 needle, did some math and cast on until I found the right mix for this ultra soft, very loosely spun yarn. I have no idea how the lace pattern will look, but I did spot another sweater done in this yarn on Ravelry, and it looked just great.

That's the real blessing of Ravelry--you can do some serious investigation into a project before you find yourself mired into a mess. Use everyone else's missteps and knitting expertise to save you from finding yourself in the same swamp. That, and it's a great way to really blow an hour or so of "research surfing."

BTW, the Baby Surprise is done and I will give a full report in my next post. Just got to find the right buttons. Happy Fall Knitting to all and to all a good stitch!