Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Little Sidetracked

Okay, I am back on the bucket list as of last night, casting on my third Baby Surprise Jacket, but I got a little side-tracked trying to finish my last hat for Warm for Winter. And ended up knitting four more hats. So that might be considered a lot side-tracked, but after digging around in the stash, I found yet another skein of Lion Brand Wool-Ease Chunky, and since I was on a roll . . . well, I decided to keep knitting hats.

I have two places to lay the blame (other than my own compulsive "see yarn, knit yarn" tendencies): Ravelry and Stash and Burn. Ravelry for the obvious reasons. But Stash and Burn for Episode 61: Single Skein September -- Nicole and Jenny gave me way too many ideas, and then I just couldn't quit knitting hats until the yarn was gone. If you are looking for hat ideas and ways to burn up single skeins, it is a great episode.

However the hats I found on their podcast and the hats I ended up making are different, due to Ravelry's incredible search engine. Search using the filters and you can sift your way through all kinds of parameters to find the perfect pattern for the yarn in hand. Take this hat, The Republic Hat by Nicole Reeves, which is a great way to use up a chunky yarn and makes a great hat. I loved this blue one so much, that I very nearly couldn't give it up. Catholic guilt sort of ate me for a few days, and then I knit another one and then a another one, and finally, I had one for myself without any trace of guilt.

Finally, I got down to the last bit of yarn, and knew I had enough for a baby hat, so it was back to Ravelry and another search, and much to my surprise I came up with this:
The Fetching Inspired Hat, which is designed by my good friend Grace over at Grace Knits A Lot. This is just the cutest hat (my apologies for the sucky picture) but it used up the last of the Lion Brand, and now I am done with Warm for Winter.

I am. I am positive. Quite sure. Especially when I found out that the baby for the Baby Surprise Jacket is due in about two weeks.

Surprise, indeed!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Matthew, Would You Like Some Mittens?

After years of carting Matthew to special ed classrooms all over the district, this year he is in our home school. The one just up the hill and right around the corner. So finally, after all those miles, we can walk to school. I suppose that happened now because in the greater scheme of things, he's finally reached the point in his development where he can walk to school, safely and without a tantrum. Not something I would have said when he started school a few years ago, but in the last 12 months he's grown so much, and has settled more into our world, that it isn't as much the struggle to go places as it used to be.

Now that October is waning and winter is coming, the weather has a real nip in the air when we make our trek each morning. And the other day, as we both chugged our way up the hill to school, he slipped his small hand into mine and gave it a squeeze and, small miracle, held on. Let me explain, most autistic children don't hold hands, don't like to be touched, but here was Matthew, clinging to my fingers and smiling up at me.

So Mommy the knitter said, "Matthew, are your fingers cold?"
"Would you like a pair of mittens?"
"What color?"

That, folks, is a conversation, another little miracle that wouldn't have happened a year ago. So when we got home that afternoon, we picked out a mittens pattern (Later Gator Mitts on Ravelry and from Stitch 'n Bitch Nation
), agreed they could be both red and green, and I knit them up. Along with a scarf he also requested. Of course, I know the whole time I am knitting these things, he will never wear them. But he was happy that I was knitting them for him, and I'm just happy to be able to walk to school and have a little conversation every once in a while.

BTW, this is big brother modeling, because of course, Matthew won't wear mittens. But he has a pair now, just in case he's in the mood for another little miracle.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Bucket List

So I had one of those sort of moments (well, probably like a sleepless hour or so) where you realize that the accumulation of yarn has outstripped the output, not only that, but that you have an embarassment of riches going on. A sort of AIG of yarn accumulation. So rather than seek a government bailout, I have put a moratorium on purchasing. No more cruising the Ravelry destash forum, no more eBay, no more shopping online. I even canceled the day I had planned on going on a mini-yarn crawl to look for what else, more yarn. Can't. Do. It.

So this morning, on a dismal Monday here in Seattle, I cleaned out, sorted and came up with my own sort of Knitting Bucket List. A finish it before I die list. In addition to that, a no more new projects until the previous one is finished kind of philosophy. The problem is that I'm not finishing projects, let alone even getting to the ones I kept adding to the stash, so I came up with a few rules:

1) No more than three projects on the needles at a time.
2) Keep a Bucket List of what I have in my knitting queue.
3) No yarn purchases. None.

In essence, knit from the stash, baby.

After sorting through all the patterns I've got printed out and piled up, knitting books, booklets and magazines, and the various projects I've got all over the living room, bedroom, my office and downstairs, I came up with my Bucket List of future projects using my Hello Kitty notebook (not because I'm a Hello Kitty fanatic, but because obviously I don't throw anything out) that I keep in my knitting basket for gauge notes and such. Here are the immediate projects:

1) Matthew's Scarf

This is the green and red scarf Matthew asked me to knit. I'll tell more about this when I finish it and can get a pic of him modeling it.

2) Warm for Winter Hats

I promised myself to knit at least six hats for them, and I made that with this blue hat here done in Lion Brand Wool-Ease Chunky, but what I hadn't counted on was having enough left from the skein to do another hat. Instead of just stashing half a skein, I am going to knit one more hat--since it takes about two nights to do one--and then I won't have to put this yarn back into the stash and one more head will be warmed.

3) The Simple Yet Effective Shawl

I don't have a photo of this, but the picture on Cosmicpluto's blog gives you a good idea of what this is. I have more sock yarn than I can shake a stick at, so I cast one of these on the other day thinking it would make a nice Christmas present. Darn it if this isn't a great take-along project, and there is no second-shawl syndrome when you only need one shawl and not a second one. :)

That's my first part of the list--the projects that are allowed out and in the knitting basket and nothing can make its way onto the needles or out of the stash until one of these is finished.

The rest of the list looks like this-all Ravel-linked:

4) A Baby Surprise Jacket out of the Socks that Rocks I've got up at the top of this post. The kids' old babysitter is due in November, so it is time to get it whipped out for the new little nipper. BTW, she'll make a great mother.

5) An afghan. I discovered a poncho I knit out of Wool Ease Thick & Quick that I never finished. Yeah, a poncho. Remember when everyone was knitting those? That tells you how old that sucker is. So the yarn is being re-purposed.

6) Sweater for me. I have this Classic Elite pattern book with this comfortable looking sweater using Duchess yarn. I don't have Duchess yarn, but I have something else that will work. Knit. From. The. Stash. Treasure hunting from the comfort of your own home.

7) A 2nd Simple Yet Effective Shawl. To get ahead on the gift giving.

8) A Clapotis. Yes, I am the last person on earth to knit one.

9) Thrummed Socks.

10) Dad's Socks out of Mariner's yarn.

Here's the sad truth. I can knit all this without having to buy a single skein.

So now that I've come up with my Bucket List, what is yours?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Finished the Hats

I did it! Knit up six hats in the last four weeks for Warm for Winter. I completely ran out of the brown for the third A Very Warm Hat, and ended up nearly using all the gold. I have just about cleaned out my stash of leftover Cascade 220 between Pipp's Purses Felted Doctor's Bag and these six hats.

I know, I know there are only five hats in the photo. Missing is the Chunky Cabled Beanie by Stitch Cafe that I whipped out the other night. Of course, I found it on Ravelry after doing some searching for cable AND hat. Got to love Casey's Search Engine skills. In no time, I found this fast, easy pattern. In going with use-up-the-stash-leftovers objective that was this project, I dug out a skein of Lion Brand Chunky Wool-Ease that I had leftover from some old Christmas knitting. It worked perfectly and I have enough left to make one more, which I will do this week during my carpool-drag-the-kids-all-over-from-4-to-6 afternoons. And that will put me one over my goal, and use up the rest of that skein. Two great notions.

Now allow me to wax poetic over my love of Lion Brand Chunky Wool-Ease. I had forgotten how much I enjoy knitting it.

Sure there are lots of great yarn out there, expensive yarn, but there are also some really great, relatively inexpensive yarns that do a yeoman's job. The Chunky version of Wool-Ease isn't easy to find, as most of the places that carry Lion Brand tend to overstock, IMHO, the Thick and Quick, which I think is like knitting with nylon rope, but the Chunky is yummy soft and makes great (aka very quick and inexpensive) Christmas presents. I usually end up ordering it online from Jo-Ann's, which I did this week (mulberry) and it was on sale, making it a bargain. I love the cable pattern from the hat, and thought it might make a fun, zip up the front cardigan. Just going to play around with EZ and do my own thing. Sort of nervous about making it up as I go, but then again, I'm not knitting with silk and cashmere here.

What is your favorite sort of bargain yarn?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Little Projects . . . Big Notions

I have the idea that I am going to blog once a week and then the weeks sort of fly by. Since I blog twice a week already on my writing blog, coming over here seems to get harder and harder, but I will try to do better.

I suppose it might have to do with the projects I am doing--hats for charity. There really is nothing awe-inspiring about knitting hats, as I've knit so many over the years. But I promised myself I would knit at least 6 hats for the Warm for Winter program and I am nearly there, and in the process using up more of my plethora of Cascade 220 leftovers. This hat above is A Hat Fit for A Boyfriend (Ravel Link). If I made this again, I would probably make it a little bigger, but still an easy pattern, though I messed up the decreases. After this one, I decided to try the Coronet hat, which is a pattern from Winter 2003, which you can see here in all its pink glory.

I have to admit that I did not like making this hat, nor do I like how it turned out. It is just fine as a hat, but personally I don't like it. I know it will look cute on some young girl who needs a warm hat, but not on my head. I also didn't like knitting the band of cable and then picking up stitches around and continuing. I'm being picky, but I just didn't find any joy in knitting this pattern, so it is unique in that I won't be revisiting it. I do like the notion of having that extra band around the ears, which offers some great added warmth, so I decided to knit Elizabeth Zimmerman's A Very Warm Hat. This pattern can be found in her Knitting Around book or The Opinionated Knitter book, and do be warned, turns out to be a really addictive pattern that eats up little half balls of Cascade 220, leaving loads of room in the stash bins.

You knit one hat and then pick up stitches around the edge and knit another. I know, I know, what annoyed me in Coronet thrills me in this pattern. Go figure.

The colorwork portion is a snap to memorize and knit, and makes that nice double warm portion, and when added to the second cap, you have this earmuff effect around your head. 4 layers of woolly warmth. Not even a good icy December Seattle wind is going to get through that.

I finished my second one last night and immediately cast on a third. I think I'll get at least one more out of the brown and gold yarn I have, maybe a second, then I will be up to my half dozen.

As I knit these, I try to imagine the life they have ahead and I worry about the people who will receive them--living on the streets in the dead of winter must be horrific. My hats seem so small, so insignificant in comparison to the greater problems of finding shelter each night and warm meals during the day. I just pray as I knit that they offer comfort and a small hug into a life that might be devoid of even those.

If you have hats you want to donate, visit the Warm for Winter information page, or if you don't live in the Seattle area, and still want to send along a hat, email me (elizbo AT elizabethboyle DOT com) and I'll send you my mailing address. If you get it to me before November 16th, I'll make sure your hat gets in the collection bin.

What charities do you knit for?