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November, 2008:

Happy Thanksgiving

First off, a knitting update. I’m still working away on my Squirrelly Swedish Mittens.

Squirrelly Swedish Mittens

I’m a fair isle novice so I can’t say I’m proud of these, but I can see that I’m making progress and that’s good enough for me.
Tonight, though, will not be about knitting. It will be all about PIES. I took a pie-making class a couple of months ago, so somehow I got the idea to volunteer to make some pies from scratch for Thanksgiving. I have about as much experience with pie-making as I do with fair isle knitting, but I do have one advantage with the pies: I’ve actually tried to learn about what I’m doing before starting, rather than just jumping in there like I tend to do with knitting.
Pie crust seems to be the biggest mystery of all, so I thought I’d share with you these two very timely pie crust tutorials from Smitten Kitchen. They both have LOTS of really helpful photos to guide you through the process.
Pie Crust 102: All butter, really flaky pie dough
Pie Crust 103: Rolling and Crimping
This is not the pie crust recipe I used (mine is a combination of butter and Crisco, a recipe I got from the class I took), but the methodologies are very similar to what I learned in class. So it’s a good reminder for me, and a good place to start if you’ve never baked pies.
Now, I still don’t know if my pies will turn out, but we shall see!

In other news, I hope my Mom won’t mind, but I feel the need to update you all a little bit on where we’re at with Dad’s cancer. As you may have noticed, Mom hasn’t been updating this site too often. Her last update was a few weeks ago. Well, she’s kind of had her hands full and bigger priorities on her mind, so who can blame her? Today, she’s at the hospital with my Dad getting a chemo pump put in to his body. They’re also starting to prepare for radiation, as well. None of the actual treatments will begin this week, but it’s definitely a sign of progress (and a bit of a daunting reality check) to be starting the practical preparations.
Tomorrow, Steph will arrive in town and I think we’re all really thankful that the whole family will be together for a little while. And every time I feel the baby moving around (which is a lot of the time!) I’m thankful for her.
Hope you have lots to be thankful for, too (even if you don’t live in a place that celebrates Thanksgiving tomorrow!)

New projects solve all problems, right?

I was feeling particularly stressed about everything in life, last night. As I drove home from work, I could feel the cold steering wheel against my right thumb, where the glove was threadbare. I need some new gloves or mittens in the worst way!
So what better way to relieve stress than to start a new project? And for the first time in a long time, I am knitting something all for me. I could be (and probably should be) knitting Christmas gifts, but sometimes you just need to knit something for yourself.
I don’t normally go in for colorwork because I find it too slow and fiddly, and I hate how the different strands of yarn get tangled. But I couldn’t resist these Squirrelly Swedish Mittens. Besides, I have a bunch of single skeins of sock yarn in different colors, and I thought it would be a good way to use that stash. This is a free download available on Ravelry or on (and the picture below is the designer’s photo – not mine!)

Sq_Mitts_2, originally uploaded by elliphantom.

So I cast on last night and got finished with the hemmed-under part of the cuff and part of that striping along the cuff. I can’t wait to knit me some squirrels.
Didn’t have a chance to get a picture yet, but it doesn’t look like much yet anyway.

Handmade Holidays 2008

I can’t believe I’ve neglected to mention the Sew, Mama, Sew! Handmade Holidays series! This is the second year of Handmade Holidays, and so far it’s been chock full of fantastic ideas for handmade gifts of all kinds – not only sewing projects. There are also things like knitting projects, foodie gifts, and some ideas for handmade gifts to buy rather than make.
I’m immensely flattered to say that my Mini Mitten Ornament pattern was included in the Holidays at Home category; but even if it weren’t included, I’d still be recommending you stop by there and check out all the great ideas.
This year, the family has talked about toning down the Christmas gifts a bit. With everything we’ve all got going on, it’s clearer than ever that spending time together is much more important than spending money on each other. That hit home even more last week when my husband was laid off from his job… yet another victim of this flailing economy.
So it’s nice to have a resource like this to come up with some ideas for simple handmade gifts. There are quite a few in the collection so far that look like they’d be economical gifts and not take ridiculous amounts of time to make. Sounds perfect to me.

Helena Baby Sweater, and a Baby Shower

I’ve finished my third baby sweater. I think I’m done making baby sweaters for now, at least until after she’s born. And I think this one is my favorite so far.
This is the Helena sweater from Knitty.

Helena baby sweater, finished

I made the smallest size and didn’t really change anything except that I made the ties icords instead of strips of garter stitch. It was a really satisfying project to knit, with the exception of sewing all those hems. Man, do I hate sewing. I had to sew one of the sleeve hems three times because I kept going crooked and it looked quite odd from the right side. Finally I got smart and threaded a piece of waste yarn through an entire row of stitches on the purl side as a guide for my sewing.
Brad’s side of the family threw us a baby shower over the weekend. I am really not the sort of person who does well with being the center of attention, but I think I held up okay! It was so sweet of them to do it and I really appreciated all the thoughtfulness, time and work they put into it.
They made a cute “cake” centerpiece made entirely of baby-related stuff (blankets, cloth diapers, etc.).

There were two handmade items – a crocheted sweater and a crocheted blanket – that I still need to take pictures of. I was so blown away that Brad’s aunts would crochet something for the baby. I often forget that other people do stuff like that too!
And every Mom-to-be needs a badge, a heaping plate of food, and the hint of a double chin, eh?

I’m at 31 weeks now; next week I’ll officially be eight months pregnant. Whoa. I know it might sound crazy, but so far I’m actually enjoying the third trimester more than any other part of pregnancy. The nesting instinct is in full throttle. My big project right now is recovering some dining room chair seats with some beautiful Amy Butler fabric. Photos to come!

Interweave Knits Winter 2008 Preview

I love that Interweave Knits puts out previews of their upcoming magazines, and the Winter 2008 is an issue I’m looking forward to more than most. It’s not often I can find a magazine where I really like almost every single thing in it and find more than one or two that I actually want to knit.
Check out the Interweave Knits Winter 2008 preview.
There are quite a few I admire but don’t necessarily see myself wanting to wear (the Victoria Yoke Pullover – beautiful but it never seems to be the right temperature to wear a short-sleeved sweater; Marilyn’s Bed Jacket – gorgeous, but I suspect it would look better on a different body type than mine) and a few that are super cute but don’t appeal to me in a knitting sort of way (the Dainy Pinstripes pullover – I would love to wear that, but I have no patience for even the simplest of colorwork; same goes for the Handsome Mittens)
BUT, there are a few designs that hit that sweet spot I’m always looking for: projects that look fun to knit and that I would love to wear/have:
The Manchester Jacket by Alice Halbeisen. I love how this is simple and classy and each little detail seems to perfectly suit the design.

The Pfeiffer Falls Hooded Scarf by Anne Kuo Lukito. I’m not a scarf-knitting sort of person, but I MUST knit this.

And the Positano Tote by Silka Burgoyne. A knitted bag that doesn’t look like a knitted bag. I love the woven feel of that herringbone stitch pattern.

The size of the images on the IK preview site leave a lot to be desired, but I guess that’s why it’s a preview. I’ll just have to see what these look like in the magazine. And maybe, just maybe, I can get my mind off knitting baby stuff long enough to make one of these things for myself.

First snow

November 7th, it’s a little early for our first snow but here it is:
First snow
And here’s what that same stand of pampas grass looked like in afternoon light just a few weeks ago, before the snow. Sigh ….
Pampas Grass
On the knitting front, I got a really nice grab bag yarn buy last weekend. NU Outlet has $5 grab bags, and I found three 4-skein bags, all with the same dye lot. This is one of my really favorite colors, and I love the home-spun/home-plyed look of it.
Grab bag yarn
I don’t know yet what I’m going to use it for, but I’m sure it will be something b-eau-ti-ful! (I’m open to suggestions ….)