Sunday, November 25, 2012

A quick project for me

I usually start holiday gifts in August and focus solely on those until I finish - or not; last year Himself got one hand-knit sock for his birthday in early January because the mate was still on the needles when his big day arrived.

This year, because I have suffered from cold hands at work the last two years, I decided to take a quick time-out to make myself a pair of fingerless gloves:

The pattern is Woven Fingerless Gloves by Laura Eckel, from the book One Skein Sock Yarn Wonders, edited by Judith Durant, that I borrowed from the library.  (I like to see if a pattern book has multiple patterns I would make before I invest money in it.  This was the first project I attempted from the book, and it came out great.)

I found this beautiful blue-green yarn at my favorite local yarn shop - it's from Birch Hill Studios, a little-known yarn-dyeing studio in Mason, NH whose owner works part-time at the yarn shop I frequent.  (And who attempted to - unsuccessfully - teach me crochet.) So you can imagine my delight when I found out that I could show my finished product to the very person who selected the color scheme.  We had a discussion about how she needed to dye more yarn and get it into the shop, to which I agreed wholeheartedly.  The yarn is sock yarn, and I love how they came out.  They're soft with beautifully blended colors.

Even though my office building has the furnace running, I've been wearing them regularly at work because I like them so much.  I especially like that I was able to squeeze them into an otherwise crowded knitting season focused solely on other people.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Yet another hobby

So really, what I didn't need was another crafting hobby.  In the past year I've picked up card making, tried crochet (epic failure) and set a goal for myself of making decorations for upcoming holidays.  (Sometimes this is successful, usually it's a giant miss.)  I also sew, garden, write two blogs (kind of) volunteer 15+ hours a week, cook and work 60+ hours a week (including commuting time.)  So, you know, I don't really need new hobbies.

But I have one:

That, my friends, is a knitter's loom.  I took a class at the end of October that ran two weeks and included the "loan" of the loom, which meant at the end of class I bought one, and the stand, so I could keep on weaving. 

My first project was a scarf with scrap yarn (which came out pretty good, if I do say so myself) and the second project was a baby blanket for a friend who's just had her first child and is now living in Canada in an area where it starts snowing in October.  That came out really good:

Unlike crochet, which I have no talent for nor any urge to practice, weaving is much faster, easier and produces a beautiful project.  A knit blanket like the one above would have taken me 2-3 months, with weaving it was just 2 weeks (of half-attentive effort; I was out a lot at meetings during those 2 weeks.)  I could probably weave a whole blanket in a weekend.  The possibilities are endless.

I am practicing my weaving using some of my stash yarn - up next are placemats for Valentine's Day using some fuschia, white & red yarn from my stash so I can practice hem stitching and Spanish lace weaving.  Sounds very fancy, doesn't it?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


So now that Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I finally get around to posting photos of how I decorate my house for Halloween,

Dining room

Nana's chandelier - so happy she pitched the crystals that needed dusting!

Mmm, wine

Who's reaching through the shower curtain?

Kitchen looking onto porch

Front of house on Halloween night - the skeleton is new

Dining room into kitchen

Bathroom bats - made from a Martha Stewart pattern

Mice - also from Martha Stewart w/ construction paper

I have only made a few of my Halloween decorations in the past - I have a mummy hand from a few years ago, some runners I quickly hem stitched and threw out over tables, and this year's paper bats and mice.  The mice were a huge hit with the friends & family who passed through the house during my favorite holiday. Best of all, everything is reusable.  Even if it does take more than an entire day to set up.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Scarves for All

Seriously.  I finished yet another holiday gift in just a week:

Not quite the true color, but close
I bought this yarn last year thinking it would make a lovely scarf.  Very true.  I chose a pattern by Margaret Radcliff called "Winter Windows Silk Scarf."  The original pattern calls for a very silky, sequined yarn which I am sure is lovely but my aim with creating a scarf was to make something pretty but warm & practical for New England, especially since this year is supposed to be very cold and snowy.

The pattern is a basic basketweave, interspersed with yarn-overs to make lacy openings.

It's pretty hard to see them in either photograph, but trust me, they're there.  (Third row up, 2nd & 4th block in, then 6th row up 3rd block in.)  I wanted something with a little detail but again, not so lacy that it was going to let in the bitter New England winter wind.

I am now fully a believer in scarves for all instead of socks.  A holiday gift that takes a week?  I could be completely finished by Thanksgiving.  Sadly, the cousins' children and the Sock Monster would be sorely disappointed.  I will, however, be making myself a scarf and hat set after the holiday knitting is finished.  Just for the delight in finishing a project so quickly.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Checking Off My List

It is a great week when I finish more than one knitting project.  In fact, I can't think of another time when it has happened so quickly, and for two very different and very challenging projects.  Of course, I am conscious of how much more knitting I need to do for the holidays, so perhaps that's encouraging my current speed.

Back in August I started another pair of socks using Alice Yu's Voricity pattern.  Once I figured out the tricks to getting past the challenges in the pattern, the socks go much faster:

I love the color combination but it does make the pattern less visible than the simpler colors in the socks I made myself this summer.  I couldn't figure out a way to get it to come out in the photograph this morning.  That might have to do with having only had one cup of coffee.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Coming Along

So I finally finished the baby blanket mentioned in the last post:

It's a very simple four-row repeating pattern for both the border and the main part of the blanket.  I did choose to shorten the blanket by several repeats for the main pattern, mainly because this blanket is over 2 1/2 feet long, which is plenty long enough for a baby.  Also, she is now 3 months old, and at some point, I would have to keep knitting to keep up with her continuing to get bigger.

And my cousin J is having a boy in Februrary, so I need to cast on the next blanket.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Start of the Holiday Season

When I was younger, I remember that some retailers would advertise "Christmas in July" sales as July 25 is 6 months from Christmas.  In June, while working my way through the Vorticity sock pattern, I realized that I should probably make myself a list of holiday knitting projects so I could stay on target.  I also had two November birthdays (my friend J and my mother-in-law) that I wanted to put on that list, so I sat down and wrote it all out.  In a time frame from November 3 - January 3, I need to have finished 2 scarves, 1 hat, 4 pairs of adult socks, and 6 pairs of childrens' socks. This is only marginally more than what I knit for last year, but I am determined that this year, the caboose gift receiver (my husband) will not get shorted by getting only one sock.  (I finished the other one about 2 weeks after his birthday.)  Fortunately, I finished my sock project in time to cast on July 25 for the first project, a scarf:

This is the Vine Lace Scarf pattern by Marin Melchior.  She recommends knitting this pattern using Vermont Organic Fiber Company O-Wool Legacy DK sock yarn, but I had this yarn (Berrocco Softwist Bulky) which was given to me by a friend and it's the perfect color for my friend as she has worn this particular color in my presence several times.  It is somewhat slippery yarn, so I've had to be careful when knitting the yarn-overs in the next row.

As compared to the baby blanket I am also currently working on, this scarf is flying off my needles.  I cast on on the 25th but sort of dawdled on the project until the 30th, and then managed to knit 28" (of a 33" piece) in 4 days, just working on it during my morning commute.  (Ah, 31-stitch projects, how I love you.) It is knit in two pieces, and then a Kitchner stitch joins it together. 

At this rate, I could possibly be finished the project by the end of this week.  Perhaps I should consider making everyone a scarf, instead of socks, for Christmas.......

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Moving Right Along

I try very hard not to be working on too many projects at the same time.  Sometimes knitting demands pop up (babies, birthdays, Christmas) that force me to put current projects on the back burner.  The problem with having too many projects going consecutively is it can often tie up the very needles you need to start a project, forcing you to buy more.  So far I've managed to avoid this conflict by maintaining discipline and purchasing a few stitch holders.

Right now I have more projects going at the same time than I've ever done before.  This past spring I started work on a ribbed winter men's hat, with no particular person in mind (Dad?  My friend G, who's been pestering me endlessly for a knit hat for about 2 years?)  I haven't gotten very far on that project:

At the same time, I took a knitting class on sweaters.  The catch was that we knit doll sweaters, to practice the different tips and techniques for sleeves, finishing, etc.  The sweaters are from a booklet called "The Little Book of Little Sweaters," published by Martha Moore, who is based in Sturbridge, MA (contact her at: The Running Rabbit in Sturbridge.)  I finished one, a roll-neck:

And got most of the pieces of another, a raglan-sleeve button up cardigan, done:

I paused the project as I was working on finishing the neck.  I loved this one, because I learned how to knit in a seamless pocket.  I really should finish it, because the sweaters are apparently the right size for American Girl dolls, and several of my young cousins are big American Girl doll fans, so I'd have a few things to add to the Christmas gift stash.

Both those projects got back-burnered due to the impending arrival of a longtime friend's baby girl.  I used to be a huge baby blanket knitter, gifting all my friends and relatives with baby blankets.  And then I hit my mid-30s, along with every other woman in my social circle and my family, and suddenly I couldn't go two weeks without a phone call or email saying, "Guess what!"  Madness.  I was getting carpal tunnel.  Plus, the blankets are too large to take with me in my bag for my commute, so I only have time to knit when I'm home, and with work and volunteer groups, I'm not home all that much.  But I've been friends with this woman for over 20 years, and I knit a blanket for her first baby, so I cast on for the blanket.  It's Jeannette Crews' Ridge Stitch Coverlet pattern, which is super easy - four repeating rows, of which one is knit and one is purl.  I can knit this while watching t.v., holding a conversation and drinking a glass of wine, and the pattern still works without a lot of counting.

FYI, the new baby was born July 6, and I'm only about halfway done with the blanket.  I console myself with the knowledge that it's summer and even with air conditioning, she does not need to be tucked under a blanket this heavy.  But fall is coming fast, so I'm trying to knit quickly.  It's problematic because it's hot and the last thing I want is a blanket over my legs when it's 90 degrees out.

And I've already started my holiday knitting - but that's a subject for another post.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I was so excited to finish these socks.  When I cast them off the needles, I heard this in my head, I was so happy to be finished:

The pattern is totally amazing, but each sock took eons and for the first time in my life, I developed Second Sock Syndrome.  Possibly because I had to restart the first sock three times, and then on the second I had to rip back 25 rows to the heel, due to a mistake I made in the gusset.  After all my years of knitting, this was the first time I had ever tried to follow a chart.  I need more practice, clearly.

I persevered, though, and they're ready to go:

It's a shame that it's now over 90 degrees with 70% humidity in New England.  I have them sitting on a chair in my bedroom rather than in a drawer so I can admire them daily.  My husband leaves his store-bought socks out on top of his dresser all the time, so what's one pair on the chair?  I like them even more now that they've been cast off the needles.  And now, onto the next  project!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Third Time IS the Charm!

I am pleased to say that I appear to be smarter than a sock knitting chart - I have finished one sock of the Vorticity pattern from Alice Yu's Socktopus - but not without significant help from the internet.  That chart VEXED me, until I found the Ravelry group and the errata page done by Ms. Yu herself.  I noticed that I pop up pretty high in the results when you do a Google search about the Vorticity pattern and problems, so for those of you who are just here to gawk at what I'm making, you can skip ahead to the pretty photos at the bottom.  For those of you in a vexed state about your own version of the Vorticity sock, read on.

First off, read the chart left to right, starting at the bottom right corner and working left, then up.  In the book, the leg chart (p. 88 in the U.S. version) is properly numbered - there are 21 rows, and the numbers are right next to the appropriate row (they are not for the instep chart, but more on that in a minute.)  The stitches for the rows repeat until you get to the last 10 or so stitches.  At row 11, you knit three, then knit 2 together, and that is the end of that row.  Place a stitch marker, mark your paper (or whatever you do to keep track of where you are in the pattern), and immediately start row 12.  (This is where I went wrong the first two times I started.)  Row 12 is knit normally, and the last stitches of that row are the ones that were the four stitches that made up all of row 11.  Continue on with the chart.  When you get to row 19, you don't knit the last 4 stitches.  Those 4 stitches become the start of row 20.  The shifting stitches help contribute to that lovely rippled pattern.

The heel, heel turn and gusset were all pretty straightforward.  As I was knitting, I was thinking, "Hmm, I wonder if this pattern will feel strange on the bottom of the foot of the sock?"  Turns out, you don't do the pattern on the bottom of the sock.  After you knit the heel, and as you start the gusset, you use a stitch marker to establish the instep portion of the sock, and that's the only part that gets the pattern - the rest of the stitches are straight knitting, leaving a smooth sole on the sock.

When using the instep chart, you'll notice that there are 21 rows, which is not accurate - there are only 20.  Alice Yu explained on Ravelry that the printer's typesetting caused the numbering to be off from the actual rows.  I re-numbered the rows, starting at row 3 (where they start to go off-center of the row) so that my pattern chart has the correct number of 20 rows.  (I put my knitting down and pick it up often and tend to knit in the morning on the train, before my second cup of coffee.  I need every crutch and clear set of directions I can get my hands on.)  Knit the instep pattern for only the stitches found on the instep needle, and then straight knit the remainder of the row.  The instep chart doesn't have the same stitch-shift that the leg chart does, so I found it a little easier, and it was smooth sailing right through the toe decreases and binding off (I used the Kitchner stitch to close the toe.)

I cannot wait to wear these socks.  Too bad it's summer, and I'll have to wait a few more weeks.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I successfully finished another pair of socks for my mother just before Mother's Day - with three days to spare, a new noteworthy record.  As it is May and Christmas (and all its associated sock knitting, a problem I have created for myself, sadly) is over six months away, I decided now was the perfect time to make myself a pair of socks and to try a new pattern.  A few months ago I got my hands on Alice Yu's Socktopus and eagerly paged through it, loving almost all of the patterns (some are beyond my capacity.)  So I started her pattern Vorticity on Monday, and started knitting.  Here's what it looks like this morning:

But that's not a sock, you say.  Indeed it is not.  I have started and frogged this sock pattern twice this week.  I started the pattern and switched from the cuff and started the leg chart, then examined the sock and decided it would be enormous and slouchy, not what I wanted.  So I frogged it (rrrrriiiip it back, for those of you who read and are not knitters), got smaller needles and started again.  This time, I knit three repeats of the leg chart and then took a hard look at it and noticed it was getting smaller the further I knit - I had cast on 70 stitches and after 63 rows (I know, I KNOW!) there were only 40 stitches.  That was a sock unlikely to slip over my foot, and when I tried to frog back to the cuff, I had an enormous amount of trouble picking up the k2p2 pattern.  Since it was only an inch long cuff, I decided to just start again.  I am determined to get this to look as it should.

On an online message board I am on, people speak in reverent tones about Ravelry, so last night I joined, searched for the board related to this pattern, and found over 300 messages from people who are working on this pattern, including some pattern corrections that mean I will be able to fix this sock and make it look like the picture in the book, something I never would have figured out on my own.

Third time is the charm.  Right?  RIGHT?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Socks! (As if I could knit anything else....)

A friend of mine was in a terrible car accident at the beginning of February in Texas.  Thankfully she is home now with her husband and children but she still has a long way to go to normal.  Rather than send flowers, I knit her a pair of socks:

They were mailed off to Texas on Saturday.  Be well, K.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Things Not Made By Me

So one thing I have not yet learned to do, now that I can sew, is learn how to quilt.  Why?  Well, I keep getting distracted by new crafting projects (see also: card making) but we already have a superior quilter in the family - my mother-in-law.  Just late last week we got a package in the mail with a note that said, "I felt like making something," and she made us two of these:

I put them out on the table immediately:

Last year we got equally beautiful heart-shaped placemats for Valentine's Day, which I put out this year with our other decorations.  We do not use these placemats for fear of ruining them.

My mother-in-law is not the only creative one in that family.  My husband took up working with stained glass a few years ago (although he's really into gardening now, as anyone familiar with our other blog is well aware) and occasionally gets a project idea in his head and goes out and does it.  This February, my beloved New England Patriots made the Superbowl, and my husband decided to make a countertop decoration for the party:

It took up the whoooooole countertop, and we put all the food out on it for the game.  He used indoor-outdoor carpeting, white duct tape for the lines, stick-on numbers, and PVC pipe for the goalposts.  Those goalposts fold down for easy storage, I'll have you know.  It's currently hanging out in our basement, waiting for next year's Superbowl party.

Hopefully the Patriots won't break my heart next year.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Just what I need....more hobbies

A couple of weeks ago I took a card making class.  It was really fun (I went with a friend of mine who makes the most amazing cards for people) but a lot of work.  The cards came out great:

Of course, the woman who leads the class provides all the materials and a mock up for you to work from, which is good, because I couldn't be nearly so creative on my own. 

This hasn't stopped me from going out and purchasing supplies to make my own, although at the moment I'm short on ideas for fantastic cards and will just have to make mediocre ones for the time being.   I mean, look at the detail on this one:

Ok, so it's a little blurry - but it's individual stamps, punches, ribbon, half seed pearls and some shading using an ink pad and a dry piece of sponge.  I bought some magazines dedicated to paper crafting so hopefully I'll get some good ideas.  I've also bought some new.......crafting supplies, such as this:

I like it because it looks like a purse, and was actually less than many of the other embossing/die cutting machines that were on the market.  You slip a piece of cardstock, or part of a card into an embossing press, like this:

......and it embosses the paper.  It's pretty hard to get a good photo of the piece I did.  I justify this new hobby by noting that I already scrapbook (vacations mostly), so I already own many of the products I need to do this.  And I'm sure, like scrapbooking, it will be one of those things I wish I had more time to do. 

Really, what I need are four-day weekends every weekend.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year, New Leaf

The holidays are over and that, my friends, is a very good thing.  I knit 7 1/2 pairs of socks as Christmas gifts this year.  Seven and a half, you ask?  Yes, it's only half a pair when your husband only gets one sock on his birthday, which was the 3rd of this month.  Here's my 2011 holiday sock gallery:


My lovely goddaughter opened her socks on Christmas Eve and immediately put them on.  Her mother later told me that she had to bribe E on December 26 to take the socks off to be washed before they walked away on their own.  I will be making her another pair for her birthday, in March, just so her mother can rotate them!

Cousin A (age 6):

Cousin W (age 4):

Cousin M (11 months):

A, W & M are all siblings.  One cannot knit socks for one child and not the other two.  Well, I could probably have skipped M, since he's not part of his siblings' sock craze and does not talk, but the goal is to be fair and equitable, unlike many things in life.

I spent the week between Christmas and New Year's pretending that mom would not be getting socks.  On Christmas, when she first asked about the socks, I made the excuse of having to knit for so many people this year.  Then the next day, when we were headed out on a shopping expedition, I brought over a bag of sock yarns I have stashed in my knitting bin for her to, "....chose a yarn for her next pair of socks."  She did, and it was similar to the yarn I had already knit her socks with.  Finally, on her birthday I showed up with those air-activated toe and foot warmers and a pair of SmartWool socks, layered on top of the hand-knit socks to leave them for last.  Of course, I don't have a photo of them, as I was too busy being devious about their actual appearance.  Someday a birthday or Mother's Day will arrive where she will not get socks, and that will be a dark, dark day indeed.  Probably for both of us.

I also lack photos of the matching pair I made for Stella Caroline and her lovely daughter, SuperG, but they are a spectacular set with a red base color and lots of striping, and they did me the honor of wearing the socks when they came to visit me last week.  They have discovered the secret to staying on the hand-knit gift list - wear what I gave you when I can see you wearing it.  Mom also adheres to this principal, but she's getting close to having enough pairs of socks to wear hand-knit ones every day.

Currently, I'm finishing the last pair, those of the man who is eternally shafted when it comes to hand-knit gifts, my husband.  While he chose the yarn for the socks, I was attempting to give him his pair as a surprise and thus could not knit in front of him.  So I struggled desperately to finish the socks before his birthday, knitting furiously on the train in and out of Boston, and getting up early on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to work on them before rushing to hide them when I heard him get up.  He was genuinely surprised by the sock when he opened the package: 

I photographed this going in a different direction, just for some variety.
It's a nice German sock yarn (Schoeller Stahl) 75% virgin wool, 25% polyester and I'm knitting it on size 1 1/2 double-pointed needles.  It's a very manly-looking sock - very sedate, good for wearing out in public.  I am so bored knitting it, because it doesn't make patterns.  I've fallen asleep at least a half dozen times on the train while working on it.  I have the same problem with "Pulp Fiction" - I've tried to watch that movie five times and I've fallen asleep every.single.time. 

I should point out that he did get a homemade gift for Christmas - new sleep pants:

For some reason, Cinco de Mayo has become this HUGE holiday in our Western European-ancestry household, and when I saw this ridiculous flannel on sale, I could not leave it behind.  For what it cost me to make them, they almost qualify as a stocking stuffer.

After I finish his socks, I'll return to the pair that I was knitting in front of him over the holidays, the ones I refer to as my Cinco de Mayo socks.  The yarn is red, orange, yellow and magenta and I just love it.  Particularly after weeks of this Schoeller yarn!