Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Year's Bucket List & Contest

Contest Prizes
On New Year's Eve I'm not making resolutions.  Yes, I want to exercise more, eat healthier, etc., but at the moment I am dreaming of craftier goals for 2011 and beyond.

It actually started this past Fall, when the subject of a bucket list was discussed amongst some of my friends.  One friend planned to attend an Impressionist art exhibit, where she would view "Starry Night" by Van Gogh.  Another friend took motorcycle riding lessons for her birthday.  My own husband and son checked an item off their bucket list in 2010 when they watched the Giants in a game of the World Series.  All of this took place when I was reading blog posts written by lucky knitters who attended the  NYS Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck.  Soon I was musing about my own bucket list.

My list is all about the knitting.  I wonder if I should call it a Basket List?
  1. Knit 12 pairs of socks in 2011.
  2. Attend the Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck.
  3. Knit the Baby Surprise Jacket pattern by Elizabeth Zimmerman.
  4. Design more knitting patterns.
  5. Knit a sweater from yarn I dyed myself.
  6. Learn to spin, and knit something from my own handspun yarn.
  7. Steek a stranded colorwork sweater.
  8. Buy a fleece, and knit a sweater from the resulting wool.
  9. Work through the Master Knitting program from TKGA.
  10. Knit through my Ravelry queue!
    It's a bucket list, not necessarily goals I can meet in 2011, but I can dream, can't I?  Now I would like to know:  What's on your bucket list?

    I would like to give away some prizes to thank my friends for sharing in this knitting/blogging journey during 2010, and perhaps to make some new friends.  As a special shout out to any of my friends and family who check in on the blog sometimes even if they don't knit, I will replace one of the prizes with a hand knit item.  Each entrant can only choose one prize, but everyone can earn multiple chances to win:
    • First entry:  I would like to know what is on your "bucket list".  Leave me a related comment on this post by midnight on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011 to be entered in the contest.  [Edited to add:  Please leave your Ravelry name or email address so that I can contact you if you win.]
    • Second entry:  Because I'm grateful for my friends and readers:  When you leave a comment on this post, if you've already written at least 10 comments in 2010, you will automatically have an extra entry.
    • Third entry:  I've added the "Followers" gadget to the blog page.  I know I have some regular readers who aren't yet "following" blogs.  To encourage them to try it, I am adding an extra contest entry for anyone who is already a follower or who signs up before the end of the contest.
    A reminder to my non-knitting readers:   Please join in and leave me a comment.  If you win I will replace one of the prizes with some hand-knit socks or an accessory made just for you.

    The Prizes:
    1)  1 skein of KnitPicks Shimmer in "Spice" and some US 1 needles.  Here are some pretty things you can knit with just 1 skein.

    2)  1 skein of Hand Maiden Sea Silk in the "Mineral" colorway.  Here are some beautiful projects made from just one skein.

    3)  1 skein of Socks that Rock lightweight in the "Flower Power" colorway.  Colorful socks anyone?

    4)  A copy of Luxury Yarn One-Skein Wonders by Judith Durant.  I was gifted this book when I already had a copy.  There are some great projects in it.

    Happy New Year!  I'll be back to announce the winners after the contest.  Maybe by then I will have knit my first finished object for 2011!

    Wednesday, December 29, 2010

    WIP Wednesday - Mona Socks

    Last night the boy was invited to a sleepover and my husband was home from work . . . a late Christmas miracle!  We had a date night at home which is a rare treat.  We watched the first episode of a DVD set he put in my stocking:  Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home.

    Of course, the occasion called for a glass of wine and a new knitting project.  My cast on compulsion was really driven by my desire to try out my hand-dyed sock yarn.  So I browsed Knit, Sock, Love for something that would work well with this yarn that came out of the dye pot darker than expected:

    The variegation was a happy accident that saved this otherwise dark yarn.  It was caused by less dye reaching the areas where I tied the skein to prevent tangling in the dye pot.  Even though I didn't achieve the expected color, I like how the slight variegation is similar to that of the original yarn used for the Mona socks in the book:

    The lighter spots are highlighted by the texture of Cookie A's clever pattern.  And luckily for me it's proving to be an easily memorized pattern which I could continue even after drinking a glass of wine while watching Jacques' and Julia's culinary skills.  Here are some highlights from the show which I am finding to be the perfect knitting accompaniment:

    I love it that they didn't always agree and demonstrated that there is more than one "right" way.  Julia's attitude in the kitchen reminds me of Elizabeth Zimmermann's approach to knitting!  I wonder if those two masters of their crafts ever crossed paths?

    For more post-holiday knitting visit the WIP Wednesday list at Tami's Amis, and check back here soon for a New Year's contest!

    Monday, December 27, 2010

    Simple Pleasures

    I hope you all had as much of a joyful weekend as we did.  Around here, actual knitting took a backseat to other holiday plans, but I still enjoyed a few yarn-induced pleasures.

    With the gift of free time brought on by the holiday, I was able to dabble with a bit of yarn dyeing:

    I am experimenting with a new-to-me sock yarn and completed one test skein in a mushroom dye-bath, and the other in a walnut dye-bath.   I love working with natural materials and hope to include some dye plants in this year's garden.

    In fact, thanks to my mother-in-law (or mother-out-law as she prefers to be called), I'll soon be learning more about natural dyes and about color knitting.  We agreed to exchange books from our wish lists.  So I sent her home with a book she's been wanting to read, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and she gifted me with these two books:

    Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes
    Wild Color:  The Complete Guide to 
    Making and Using Natural Dyes by Jenny Dean

     . . . and to make use of my naturally dyed yarn:
    The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques
    The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques
    by Margaret Radcliffe

    Last but not least, one of our talented friends sent our felines a hand-knit cat toy.  The knit mouse is already well-loved, much to our entertainment.

    First, Sister found the box and planted her face in it until she could dig the mouse out with her paws:

    Soon Harpo was having his way with it:

    It's amazing how much fun a little bit of brown yarn and little bit of catnip can bring to a couple of cats and their humans!

    Now that the holiday weekend is over, my thoughts turn to the New Year and the yarn-induced pleasures I hope to enjoy in 2011.  I plan to start the year with a contest so check back here soon for a chance to win.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010

    Three Days to Go!

    We have finished up the holiday preparations and restored some order to the house.   After making one last batch of fudge, we did a final sweep of the baking ingredients that had become a fixture in our kitchen.  We wrapped the last of the packages and put away the boxes, paper, and ribbons.  The main living area of our house no longer looks like the elves stopped in the middle of wrapping gifts in order to have a food fight with candy sprinkles.

    Which reminds me, after posting a photo of our cow and chick shaped Christmas cookies in my last post I received this nice comment from Kathleen:

    "Yay for hats in the mail! (And for Christmas cookies. Yours look gorgeous, and I love that you have some chickens and cows in the mix...which actually gives me a cool idea for giving out appropriately-shaped cookies along with donations to the Heifer Project, which I give to a few people on my list every year.)"

    This made me happy because we also "shop" through Heifer International for the most satisfying gifts of all:  baby chicks, gardener's gift baskets, and shares of pigs and sheep that will help families become more self-reliant.  This charity is near and dear to my heart as I enjoy gardening and raising farm animals myself.  I feel just like a kid on Christmas morning when the rare chicken breed catalog and the seed catalogs begin to arrive in the mail.  I especially love our chickens and am tempted to add a few birds to our flock every spring despite having more than we need.  As Angie, Karen, and Amber can attest,  I've already pawned off our extras to everyone in town who will take them.  Heifer International does more than give livestock, but donating to them is another outlet for us to share the joy of preparing dinner from the garden or gathering eggs for breakfast.

    Speaking of eggs, I want to belatedly wish all my friends, especially those owned by their chickens, a Happy Solstice.  The egg laying has picked up this week.  I think even our feathered girls know that the days will soon be longer.
    Happy Solstice!

    With three days to go, I'm still knitting gifts but I think the remaining works-in-progress will have to be wrapped up without being finished.  The Annabella's Cowl, my designated mindless knitting for the week, and a gift for my sister, has hit a speed bump in the form of a knot where they seem to have attached yarn mid-skein from a different dye lot:

    See how the color changes at the end?  I've been feeling frustrated by this turn of events after cruising along on this gift, but it is hard to stay mad when this beautiful yarn is from Manos del Uruguay.  The company was recently admitted to the World Fair Trade Association and has a "mission to eradicate poverty through sustainable economic development".  I don't think this means they should be selling a lesser product, but it still somehow makes a mishap like this more forgivable.

    I haven't decided what to do about it yet.  I could make the cowl shorter, but that would take away some of the versatility that I love about this pattern.  I could also rip back and reknit while alternating the different dye lots to finish it as planned.  What do you think?

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    FO Friday: I love this pattern! . . . and other Christmasy doings

    This week raced by with all of the Christmas preparations and I still have much to do.  So I almost didn't take time to post this morning, but I couldn't stand the thought of missing out on linking up with my FO Friday friends, so here goes:

     Two more Turn A Square hats are in the mail:

    You saw them already if you stopped by on Wednesday but now I've posted modifications for the smaller sizes on Ravelry, so I wanted to share:
    1) light blue Turn A Square Raveled here.
    2) dark blue Turn A Square Raveled here.

    I feel like the real accomplishment for the week was the fact that we are getting through the busy work and still finding time for the more meaningful activities.

    It has become a tradition for me to put the lights on, and for my husband and son to put the decorations on.  It was fun to knit and watch them as they placed the ornaments, joking around with each other, all while wearing their Santa hats.

    We always feel a little frantic near the end of the Christmas baking and fudge making, but we remember why we do it when it comes time to deliver them.  Gifting these to friends, family, and other people who help us during the year is one of our favorite holiday rituals.

    And bringing some cookie tins to knitting night was a great excuse to visit with friends even though there was still wrapping and packing to be done.  (By the way, have I said lately how much I admire each of those special women?  They are what I want to be when I grow up.)

    They say it is better to give than to receive (and generally I agree) but I have my doubts when this arrives in the mail:
    Thank you L & H! 

    I try to decide if the phrase is true as I sample the goodies with my morning coffee and finish up the blog post.

    Back to the wrapping and packing:

    I'm out of excuses for procrastinating on standing in line at the post office.  I'm off to buy more brown paper so no one has to wonder if we really are shipping a box of Crown Royal and/or a frozen turkey.  

    I hope you are finding time for the meaningful activities amid the hustle and bustle too!

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    More striped hats. . . surprised?

    I am squeezing in knitting time even though I am running around a bit like a crazy person.  If you see a car in the post office parking lot with a half-knit hat on the dashboard it just might belong to me.

    I've started on my 3rd Turn A Square Hat and I am still not tired of watching the interplay of colors as the stripes form on the hats.  I love how the use of a different solid color changes the look of the same self-striping yarn:

    Though I could knit a few more of these striped hats without getting bored, I may have to cast on for something else entirely next.  As hoped, my weekend visit to Oregon included a stop by the glorious Websters yarn store, where I had a pleasant surprise in the form of store credit waiting for me.  I must have returned some extra yarn last time I passed through town and forgotten about the credit I had available.  I giddily spent it (and then some) on enough yarn to make 2 versions of Annabella's Cowl.  So of course the lure of a new project in brand-new spanking yarn is calling my name.  Luckily one of the cowls will make a nice gift for my sister, so I can cast-on for an exciting new project under the guise of Christmas preparations.
    The pattern calls for a silk blend DK yarn and a lace weight mohair
    to be knit together.  I think this color combo suits my sister well.
    It was this blog post by The A.D.D. Knitter that made me add the cowl to my ever-growing queue.  I love all of her photos showing what a versatile accessory Annabella's cowl can be.

    Does it say something about my knitting addiction that her blog post title "Annabella's Cowl, or how boredom almost made me gouge my eyes out" did not deter me in the least from my plans to make not 1, but 2 cowls?

    I know I am not the only one working on last-minute knitting!  For more WIP Wednesday posts, join in the link party at Tami's Amis.

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    I never was very good at Geometry

    I'm back from a wonderful visit with a friend near Univ. of Oregon, my old stomping grounds.  Even the drive up was beautiful.
    I got a quick shot of Mt. Shasta out of my car window.   

    We spent much of the time just catching up, and knitting, of course.  I was working up my second version of Jared Flood's Turn A Square hat.  I suppose I should not have started the corner decreases without double-checking my stitch count and placing markers, especially after having a glass of wine with dinner.  It wasn't until I was almost finished that I realized my "Turn A Square hat" had turned into a rectangle.  Arggh!

    Oh well.  Last night I finished putting the lights on the tree so that the boys could put the ornaments on while I ripped out and re-knit the top of the hat.  It is amazing how much faster the rest of the hat went the second time around.

    This one is for a toddler with blue eyes so I like how the colors are working out.  I will write out the modifications I made to create a toddler-size Turn A Square Hat in time for FO Friday.   I need to cast on for at least one more hat for his brother while cookies are in the oven tonight, so hopefully I'll have more shades of blue to share for WIP Wednesday too.

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    A Hat-tastic FO Friday

    I love FO Fridays!  I must say the thought of Christmas motivated me to start these hats, but the idea of having FO's ready for Friday got me through weaving in ends and washing and blocking late at night.

    At least these 3 are off the needles:

    1) This Turn A Square hat calls for Cascade 220 for the background color, and Noro Silk Garden for the stripes.  I was so happy to find a use for another of my black walnut dyed skeins for the solid color.  For the stripes I had a partial skein of AmiAmi Faith leftover from making one of Veronik Avery's Short-Row Hats.  Unfortunately this soft, self-striping yarn is not being made any more, but any self-striping yarn would work in the pattern.

    Pattern:  Turn A Square Hat by Jared Flood
    Source:  free on Ravelry
    Materials:  Cascade 220, hand-dyed with black walnuts; AmiAmi Faith yarn for the striping; US 5 and US 7 needles

    2) Knitting this next hat reignited my Manos yarn love.  It's always gratifying to know that a yarn purchase is supporting sustainable economic development for artisans.  Besides, the yarn is great too.  Isn't this Wildflower colorway lovely?
    Pattern:  Kim's Hats by Kim Hamlin
    Source:  Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson
    Materials:  Manos Del Uruguay Wool Classica in "wildflowers"; US 9 needles

    3)  I have been wanting to knit up my own leafy hat in a solid color for awhile now.  I think this Osprey yarn worked well.  It is so soft and squishy that I wish I could turn the blog post into a touch-and-feel picture book for you.

    Pattern:  Falling Leaves Hat (my own pattern)
    Source:  free on Ravelry 
    Materials:  Quince & Co. Osprey yarn in "Frank's Plum"; US 7 needles

    I've cast on for a couple of more hats which I will finish in time for Christmas, but with only 2 weeks to go until Christmas Eve, I won't have time to knit all the gifts I would like to give.   It's too bad, because I'm enjoying the idea of giving away hand-knit items even more these days.  Don't get me wrong, I've made many gifts since I've learned to knit, but at times I wasn't very confident about actually giving them away.  That has changed recently.  I'm not sure if it is because I am more confident in my own skills, or if I just have a greater appreciation for handmade items myself.  I've been trying to come up with a way of getting it all done while keeping things simple enough to hang on to the joy of the season for myself.  I've decided to give a few special people on my list gift certificates along with their Christmas cookies:
    The actual certificate may need improving, but just to get
    started I made these up in a few minutes on the computer.

    What do you guys think?

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    Random Thursday

    1.  I won a contest!  It was very nice to win one after recently holding one myself.  I won a digital copy of the Winter 2010 Knitcircus magazine simply by commenting on a lovely cardigan design by Sarah Grieve on her blog.  I like this online magazine which offers articles, reviews, and interviews for free online viewing, while selling each issue's pattern collection as a whole for a very affordable price.   Thank you Sara and Knitcircus!

    2.  After hosting one contest and winning another, I thought it might be nice to spread the word about some other blog contests:

    • The wool durham blog is the home of the Charity Challenge 2010 which you can enter after donating a handknit item to charity.  Check out the nice prizes and other details here.
    • One of the winners of my contest decided to host her own. . . Jessica over at the Jesse Knits blog is giving away some stitch markers and one of her own cute hat patterns, and is offering multiple ways to enter.  Details are here.
    • Did you know that there is a group on Ravelry dedicated to sharing information about contests?  Check it out for more contest fun:  Contestants Enter Here.  
    3.  In other news, I bought 2 dozen eggs today.  I realize this is not earth-shattering news, but as we are currently feeding and caring for 29 hens (and a rooster) it's just not right.  The holiday baking has begun and the 2 eggs we are getting each day are not enough for making our favorite Hungarian Shortbread.  I still love our chickens though.  I especially appreciate our fresh eggs after comparing them with the store bought eggs.  I bought 1 dozen from the organic section of the grocery store, and another dozen "local, free range" eggs from the health food store.  Here is a photo of one yolk from each of those cartons, and 1 yolk from one of our pet hens:
    Which one of these is not like the others?

    4.  I am excited about the weekend.  I am heading up to visit my old college roommate who taught me how to knit.  The drive to her house takes me right by Websters yarn store in Ashland.  I am trying to keep the stash down to a reasonable level, but I might have to buy yarn for Annabella's Cowl which I downloaded this week.

    5.  I started another Turn A Square Hat but it is becoming very clear that there is no way I will finish all of the knit gifts in time.  I have an idea about how to solve that which I will tell you more about tomorrow.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    Shopping my own Stash for Last-Minute Gifts

    At times I feel ambivalent towards my stash.  I know I'm not the only one.  Sure, there are probably some knitters who buy and stash yarn freely and love every skein.  On the other end of the spectrum, that rare bird must also exist:  the knitter who only buys what she/he needs for the current project.  I believe most of us fall into that category of wobbling between the desire to buy more yarn, and the desire to knit the stash down.  In reality, the second desire is actually motivated by the first, and vice versa.  There's the rub:  it's a never ending cycle, a treadmill of knitting enjoyment!

    However when it comes to knitting up last minute Christmas gifts, I feel great appreciation for that collection of single-skein impulse purchases.  This week I've been shopping my own stash for hat-worthy yarn.  The process does result in some creative clutter:
    I approve of the blurriness of this photo!

    But it also brings about some happy results:
    Just a preview, more details to come when
    they are washed and blocked for FO Friday.
    I'm finding a few patterns particularly helpful as I match up those beautiful but random skeins to my gift list:

    1)  If you happen to have access to a copy of Last-Minute Knitted Gifts (a book that really lives up to it's title), you can create a hat for just about anyone with the Kim's Hats pattern.
    2)  Brooklyn Tweed's Turn A Square Hat is a free pattern and is wonderful for using up those bits of self-striping yarn along with a solid color.
    3) And here goes some shameless self-promotion:  Another freebie I'm using for gifts is my own Falling Leaves Hat pattern.  I wrote it for Malabrigo yarn, but any worsted weight will do, and it's a fun knit.

    I'm off to clean up my creative clutter, but I'll be back here soon with some more gift ideas.

    Meanwhile, if you would like more last-minute knitting ideas, please visit Tami's Amis WIP Wednesday party!

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    FO Friday: Pomegranate Citron

    Project:  Citron by Hillary Smith Callis
    Source:  free from Knitty
    Materials:  half a skein of Claudia Hand Painted Yarn Silk Lace in the colorway "rubies playing", and a  US 3 circular needle
    Modifications:  I followed Angie's notes on Ravelry to knit an extra section because it was her beautiful Citron that inspired me to knit one in the first place.

    I really loved this project.  It's funny, because despite the publication of the free pattern prompting 5400+ other knitters to whip one up, I didn't feel inspired to knit one until I saw one in person.  My friend Angie knit a gorgeous red one and it looked great on her as a scarf.  As soon as I realized that I had this silk yarn in my stash in almost the same color as her Malabrigo lace, I couldn't wait to cast on.  I hope she doesn't feel too much like I'm copying her when we are both wearing our Citron scarves at Stitches!

    I noticed that hardly anyone on Ravelry has posted photos of themselves wearing their finished Citrons as a scarf so I tried to take a couple:  (I'm excluding the ones that made me suddenly relate to Nora Ephron's book title I Feel Bad About My Neck. )

    I have new respect for silk now that I'm wearing my scarf.  Less than 2 ounces of the stuff adds a surprising amount of warmth.  I used exactly half of my yarn, so if I'm wearing it out and about, and someone I know admires it, I can easily knit up a second one for them.  

    The fact that the scarf reminds me of my favorite holiday cocktail makes me even happier that I finished in time to wear it this December.  If you would like to try Pomegranate Martinis for yourself here is a delicious version.   As you can see from the first photo, we usually sugar the rim of the glass for that extra touch.  I'll warn you though, this is one of those drinks in which you can hardly taste the alcohol, so they can sneak up on you.  So just remember, knit responsibly!

    [Happy Friday everyone!  You can visit more FO Friday posts over at Tami's Amis!]

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Flaunting the "Sweater Curse"

    Do I dare knit my husband a sweater?
    As you may have guessed by now, I am doing just that.
    Here is the start of my husband's Christmas present.
    Most knitters are already familiar with "the sweater curse".
    For my non-knitting friends:  the phrase refers to the idea that the knitting of an entire sweater for a significant other will often bring about, or otherwise coincide with, the demise of the relationship.

    I do not have any direct experience of it.  My husband and I were together for 16 years before I ever learned to knit, so I think we're safe.  Yet, as I slog my way through the miles of stockinette stitch that it will take to finish my husband's Klaus, I can't help but reflect on the reasons for the existence of the curse as a recognized phenomenon among knitters.

    Here are some possible explanations of the superstition as listed in Wikipedia:

    • Unlucky timing. Knitting a sweater takes a long time, and the relationship dies of natural causes during its making.[10]
    • Rescue mission. The knitter senses subconsciously that the relationship is about to end, and knits a sweater as a dramatic gesture to save it.
    • Catalyst for analyzing the relationship. Giving or receiving a significant gift such as a sweater may cause either the giver or receiver to evaluate the relationship.[5] 
    • Aversion. The significant other may simply not want to wear anything hand-knit.[3] A hand-knit sweater can also subject them to ridicule, either because the sweater looks bad (i.e., poorly made or unfashionable) or conveys overly domestic connotations.[4][10][11]
    • Misdirected attention. The knitter loves their sweater a little too much, and pesters the significant other about the sweater instead of working on their relationship.[10] Alternatively, the knitter loves to knit too much, and spends too much time with their knitting instead of with the significant other.
    • Delusion. The knitter imagines incorrectly that their significant other likes them . . ."

    My favorite from the list is "Delusion".  All by itself, it explains so much, doesn't it?

    I will in fact, happily finish this Klaus sweater as a Christmas gift for my husband.  He is an avid edible-mushroom hunter, and has been patiently waiting for a sweater knit in mushroom-dyed yarn ever since I happened upon mushroom-dyeing as a nice way of combining my hobby (a.k.a. all-consuming-addiction) with his.

    Still, as happy as I am to finally knit him a sweater, and as happy as he seems to be receiving it, embarking on the project has resulted in some complicated conversations involving yarn, color, fit, and style choices.  Which is why I laughed out loud when I saw this YouTube video by Franklin Habit.

    As I continue to pester my husband to try on the partially knit sweater, and debate the contrast color options, he has no problem relating to this blog post.  The other hitch is I may not be able to finish the sweater by Dec. 25th.  Unfortunately, it won't be the first time one of my family members has opened a package under the tree only to find a partially knit item still on the needles.  Does anyone know where I can find some cheap roller skates?

    Here's hoping your gift knitting is going well!