Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

 I can't really say I have any New Year's resolutions this year.  Instead, I am simply looking forward to what 2010 might bring.  Of course, the New Year is always a time for reflecting on the work I can do to be healthier, happier, and hopefully a little wiser.  And there is always room for improvement in those areas.  I just know that I'm already working on it, and that those changes tend to evolve as opposed to happening overnight.  In that vein, I hope to do more of what my family and I already started in 2009:  organize and simplify our daily lives, exercise more, eat out of the garden as much as possible, take care of each other, and give a little back to our extended community where and when we can do so.
   On the knitting front, the same is true.  I started this blog with the goal of finishing up items I'd already started.  It feels like slow going sometimes but I'm making progress.  On that note, I am happy to say that the with a few hours to go in 2009, I finished up the collar on my lace pullover so that I can check one more item off the list.  Here is a sneak preview:

Don't you just love that Malabrigo yarn?  More about that tomorrow......
For now, I just want to pass on my wishes for peace, health, and joy for you and yours in 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Relatives Came...

I'm borrowing the title from the wonderful children's book by Cynthia Rylant because it captures our Christmas so well.  Over the last week my mom, my siblings, and most of their families, gathered here from far and wide (almost the four corners of the country -  California, Oregon, Florida, and New Jersey).  My mom pointed out that it was the first time since 1982 that she had all her kids under one roof for Christmas.  Our enjoyment could have only been improved if even more family members could have been here.

Only a small amount of knitting took place:

My niece received a knit-it elephant kit which we worked on together.  At 7 years old, she's a quick study, and is already knitting, purling, and binding off. 
One of my nephews decided to get in on the act, and started on his own elephant in Lorna's Laces "flames" colorway:

He was a quick learner too.  I will probably finish his elephant for him, to save his parents from having to sew up the knit pieces.  The kit won a Top Toy Award from Creative Child Magazine.  When I'm done I'll let you know if I think the people who voted for the award ever tried to sew up all the itty bitty knit pieces into an elephant!

The rest of the week was a crazy fun-filled time.  My son is the oldest of the kids and had his hands full wrangling cousins and reading Christmas stories:

Meanwhile, the adults had time to act like kids.  The competition was stiff at the chess board, the card table, the bowling alley, and in the garage-newly-turned-rec-room, at the First Annual Family Pool Tournament.  The fun and games were squeezed in between all of the eating and drinking, of course!  We had what we like to refer to as "clustered treats".  For Christmas day, I made pomegranate martinis, and cooked my favorite holiday food, Seafood Gumbo.  On Christmas Eve, the line for cooked crab was 2 hours long!  It was an easy decision to buy the live crab, and cooking it ourselves turned into a family activity:

The pets were not to be left out of the celebration.  We had dogs in hats:
(They'll do anything for a bit of peanut butter.)

As well as a visiting cat:
(This guy found our cat door and made himself quite at home.  We practically had him named, and the adoption papers signed, until we found out that he belonged to new neighbors who were out of town.)

I said good-bye to the last of the guests, including the visiting cat, this afternoon.  I plan on getting back to knitting after an attempt to restore order around the house.  Prior to all of the excitement, I did seam my lace pullover, and made some progress on the Sunday Swing socks.  I didn't get to wear my new sweater on Christmas, but it is now washed and blocked and only waiting for the lace edging around the collar.  I hope I can share pics here soon.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Knitting Addiction...and update

My relatives begin arriving for the holidays on Tuesday.  I can't wait for everyone to arrive, and I'm so excited that we'll have little ones around this year who still believe in Santa Claus.  But I've been delaying the organizing and decorating until after the carpets were professionally cleaned.  (We thought it might be nice to get the dog and cat hair down to a light layer before our young nephews and niece arrive.)   So with only 3 days to go, the carpets are dry and I can put the furniture back and decorate the tree, etc.  So why is it that all I can think about is knitting?  (Hint:  The answer is one word which is spelled  a-d-d-i-c-t-i-o-n.)
My dictionary gives the following definition of "addict":
v. 1. To devote or give (oneself) habitually or compulsively.  2. To cause to become compulsively and physiologically dependent on a habit-forming substance.

Yep, that about sums up my relationship to yarn and knitting.  I went about 10 days without knitting while we were doing all of our Christmas shopping and baking.  I think that is the longest I've gone without needles in my hands in years.  And let me tell you, I was getting cranky!  Which is why I laughed out loud when I saw Yarn Harlot's blog post about gifts for knitter's including a t-shirt that says "I knit so I don't kill people".

I took that to heart, and decided to spare my family any more crankiness.  I paused in the preparations, and took some time to knit.  The result was that I finished the second sleeve of my lace pullover:

All I have left to do is sew the underarm seams, block it, and knit an edging around the collar.  Whoo-hoo!  Maybe I'll even be able to post about an FO before Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Scarves (and cookies) Are In The Mail!

Among all the Christmas preparations and packages, I managed to send off a box that had these inside:

These 3 scarves are on their way to warm the necks of college-bound foster youth through the Red Scarf Project.  I told you about the first two in a previous post.  After I wrote that post, Angie commented that she would cast on for a scarf too, and she followed through beautifully!  The dark blue one in front is her finished project.  It is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's One-Row Handspun Scarf, which Angie knit in Queensland Collection Kathmandu Aran.  There are more photos and info. on her Ravelry project page.  It made me happy to have another scarf to send off.  Thanks Angie!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Who says you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear?

Or dye yarn with a Pig's Ear mushroom, as the case may be.....

The rest of the yarn I dyed this weekend is completely dry now.  Before I tell you more about it though, check out this contest over at Drop Stitch Knitter's blog.  She is offering some great prizes you can win by suggesting a pattern for her lace yarn.

Back to the dyed yarn...
I made a color wheel out of the skeins because I can't get over the range of colors that come just from working with mushrooms.  Starting with the yellow one at the bottom and working clockwise I'll list the yarn, mushroom and mordant used:
1) Queensland Collection Kathmandu Aran,  Porcini (Boletus edulis), alum mordant
2) Queensland Collection Kathmandu Aran,  Dyer's Polypore (Phaelus schweinitzii), iron mordant
3) Cascade 220,   Pig's Ear (Gomphus Clavatus), iron mordant
4) Angie's yarn which I think is alpaca, previously dyed with porcini, then overdyed with a Jack-O Lantern mushroom (Omphalotus Olivascens) and alum mordant
5) Cascade 220, Jack-O-Lantern mushroom (Omphalotus Olivascens) and alum mordant
6-8)  Rowan Pure Wool 4ply, Lobster Mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum), and iron mordant, but each skein was dyed successively in the same dye bath to achieve a range of color.

The most exciting thing to me here is that my favorite colors out this bunch (#4 & #5) were achieved with mushrooms my son and his friends found here in town.  Which (hopefully) means we can find some more and I can repeat the dyeing process.  I would love to knit a scarf or even a pair of socks in that lovely gray-lavender color.

A few hours after taking my yarn-color-wheel photo, I collected eggs from our newest batch of laying hens and couldn't resist taking a matching photo:

I am keeping my sanity (and entertaining myself) with these simple pleasures, in between rounds of holiday baking, rearranging the house to fit in 13 more people over the holidays, cleaning, writing lists, gift shopping, driving to school events, music lessons, etc.  I'm not sure if this means I am just really easily entertained, or if I've completely lost my sanity and I just don't know it yet! 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Mighty Hunter Strikes Again

See the set of teeth marks?  This was left near our bedroom doorway this morning.  It's yet another gift from Harpo, the wonder cat.  He often brings us a leaf, a piece of straw, or a twig.  Once, he brought in a rose branch, with a rose still on it.  Another time he brought in a twig from the cherry tree, with a cherry on it.  Sometimes I find branches, too big to fit through the cat door, laying just outside the door.  I can't know for certain that he intends to leave them as gifts, but that sure seems to be the case.

This last week has brought on the holiday preparations, but I'm managing to squeeze in some more yarn dyeing with wild mushrooms.  Here are a couple of preview pics of lobster mushrooms and some of the resulting yarn:


Now if only I could teach Harpo to bring us mushrooms instead of leaves!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Handknit Spotted In The Wild!

The boy on the left is my son's oldest friend.  They've been in school together since they were 2 yrs. old, even through a couple of moves.  Through sheer coincidence they were in the same Montessori preschool in Alburquerque.  Then, it just so happened that both our family and his moved to N. California where they ended up in the same preschool again! They've been close friends ever since.  A couple of years ago, his mom asked me to knit a toque for him. 

Of course, I said I'd be thrilled to knit him a toque!  And then I got on-line to find out what a "toque" was.  I quickly learned that "toque" is Canadian-speak for what I would call a beanie.  So I dug in my stash for some Rowan RYC Cashsoft DK, and my size 6 needles, and knit up this hat.  It is loosely based on the London Beanie pattern. 

I've seen him wearing it every day this week so I brought my camera to school today.  It warms my knitter's heart to see him wearing it even as he's growing out of it a bit.  I think I know what his next gift is going to be...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Sweater is Stalled but the Socks are Okay

Well, you've seen from my last few posts how easily I get distracted from sweater finishing.  It's no wonder I have all these UFO's.  The Lace Pullover is not forgotten but I've been working on it in fits ands starts.   I knit the first sleeve 2 weeks ago, but did not have the correct needles to get the lace cuff done.  I finally picked up some sz 4 DPN's and yesterday I finished the cuff and picked up stitches for the second sleeve.

I stayed up late to make some progress.  I was just thinking to myself how soon I would be wearing this sweater, when I noticed the color pooling in the second sleeve.  I just know that striped area will bug me later if I leave it but I couldn't face ripping it out just then.  Luckily, I have one more skein of the Malabrigo.  I am crossing my fingers that it matches the first sleeve better.
Meanwhile I am much happier with the sock I am working on for our mini-Sunday-Swing-knit-along:

I am really enjoying knitting with the Handmaiden Casbah.  I love the color and the yarn feels soft and squishy while I'm knitting, so I know I will like wearing the socks as well.  The plan was to knit the Sunday Swing sock pattern but with Grumperina's modifications.  Well, I am modifying the modifications by adding in some extra decreases which is why it looks puckered right now.  However, I like how the pattern looks when it is stretched out on my leg so I'm going to continue with the extra decreases.  I know Angie is much further along.  I'm going to have to ask her if I can post a photo of her socks too.  What do you say, Angie?