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December, 2008:

Finished project(s): more ornaments!

Remember how I said I was going to post a pattern for another ornament? Well, I never did (obviously). The reason was that someone else had written an almost identical pattern, which I discovered when I did a little looking around on Ravelry when I was getting ready to post my pattern. There is really no reason to have two almost-identical toe-up mini sock patterns.

So if you want to make a toe-up mini sock much like this one, go check out KBLicious’s pattern here.
The main difference between mine and hers is just that I used a crochet chain provisional cast on type of toe (as in Wendy’s Generic Toe Up Sock pattern), rather than Judy’s Magic Cast On that she uses (I have tried that kind of cast-on and it always turns out messy and terrible for me).
I also made a mini raglan sweater and some mini mittens:

The mini sweater was another improvisation, but based loosely on this pattern that I’d printed out from KnitList years and years ago.
And the mini mittens are my own pattern. On these, I did reverse the placement on the thumb on one mitten so there’s a right and a left, versus two rights. It’s pretty easy to figure out how to do that, but someday I’d like to update the pattern so that it’s spelled out for everyone.
I only made two Christmas gifts this year – these ornaments (for the mother of the baby who got the Yarni cardigan last year; I used the leftover yarn), and the socks for my dad. Just too tired and too busy getting ready for our impending arrival (due in three weeks as of today!) But both gifts were well-received and that’s always such a relief!

Today’s a new and better day.

This post has nothing at all to do with knitting.
It has been difficult getting into the Holidays this year, there’s no denying it.
Yesterday I was all caught up in how everyone seems to be struggling this year … why? I’m sure there are lots of reasons, we all have our own. The economy for a lot of us, late Thanksgiving/short shopping season maybe. All the gloom and doom in the media doesn’t help. Our own unique challenges this year fur-sure (that’s Minnesotan for certainly). Fear, ya, that too.
I was noticing (and lamenting) yesterday that a lot of people in my neighborhood and along my drive to work who normally decorate like crazy haven’t decorated much or at all this year. My front porch is not decorated this year.
But my drive in this morning ….
We’ve had quite a lot of snow over the last week or so. We’ve gotten used to the roads being greasy. It forces a person to slow down a little. That’s not a bad thing, slowing down a little.
It snowed some last night, and during my drive to work today, we received another light dusting. Not a problem … I was just putzing along, mentally inventorying where I am with regard to Christmas preparations. (I’m not doing too badly, actually, now that I finally have some Christmas spirit … getting the tree Saturday is what did it for me.)
Anyway, I was smitten by how beautiful things are. There’s something special about buildings tuckpointed and roofed in white, tree branches and trunks, and even grasses outlined in white … and weak, cold-blue shadows on a pristine white blanket.
So, thank you, Mother Nature, for filling in the cracks, chinks, and battle scars, with some Christmas decorating of your own.
Happy Holidays to all!

On Christmas and Being Snowed In

Well, I obviously didn’t post about my second gift project yesterday, like I said I would! It turns out I didn’t get a chance to give the gift, so it’ll have to wait a little while.
In the meantime, I am working on Dad’s sock, in hopes that I’ll finish it by Christmas, and watching A Muppets Christmas Special on Hulu. Have you discovered Hulu yet? I’m addicted to it and it’s almost completely replaced actual TV watching in my household. (In case you don’t know about Hulu yet, it’s a website that allows you to watch lots of network television for free, with minimal advertising.).
I have to admit, I feel far less Christmas-y this year than normal. I guess it must be a combination of pregnancy exhaustion, stress over my husband’s unemployment, worry about my dad, and the fact that my sister won’t be making it home for Christmas this year. Nothing seems normal and the holidays feel like too much work. I really think more than anything else, it’s the pregnancy exhaustion. Ever since the baby started to drop (in the last week or so), I’ve been sluggish, uncomfortable and completely exhausted. Today, we’re totally snowed in and it’s been nice to do nothing all day but cook some yummy soup, take naps, and work on my knitting. That’s more my speed this year… not the holiday parties, holiday shopping, and holiday decorating.
At least I’m not as much of a grinch as Oscar the Grouch, though:

Hope you’re staying warm and feeling the Christmas spirit more than I am….

Ad-hoc sock schlock

Well, I hope the recipient doesn’t think of these as socks as schlock, but I have to admit they’re not my fave.

But they meet the criteria…
1. Manly. These are for my Dad, so no frou-frou lacy socks would be welcome, though I’d much prefer to make some frou-frou lacy socks.
2. Stretchy. I asked Dad what he wanted me to knit for him and he said that because of the swelling due to the blood clot in his leg, he’d really like some comfy handknit socks that wouldn’t be too tight. So I went for a stretchy sock yarn with elastic – Soxx Appeal, from Knit One, Crochet Too (in the aptly-named color Toffee).
3. Warm. There are a few elastic yarn options out there, but this is the only one I found (at least at my local yarn shop) that was mostly made of merino wool. Soft and warm.
These are entirely ad-hoc. They’re toe-up, using a crochet provisional cast-on with short rows, and an heel that’s identical to the toe. What I like about making socks this way is that there are no gusset stitches to pick up. Just make the heel and then keep on a-knitting up the leg. What I don’t like about these particular socks, and why I referred to them as schlock, is that I found working with this yarn to be really unsatisfying (it splits, it stretches all over the place, it doesn’t show stitch patterns well, which forced me into a boring rib pattern, and the color is boring).
The most interesting part of these socks: the stretchy bind-off
Since these needed to be stretchy and my standard bind-off is anything but stretchy, I used a 1×1 tubular bind-off, using this tutorial as a guide. It was slow and fidgety (the process feels similar to doing a kitchener stitch, threading a sewing needle in and out of stitches in a certain order and direction), but it’s worth it if you need a nice stretchy cuff.

The cuff will stretch even further, but that was as far as my fingers would go!
I’ve got the better part of the second sock to finish by Christmas. Luckily this is a fast knit. I haven’t been doing much Christmas knitting this year… just don’t quite have the energy for it this year. But I do have one more holiday project to share, and I’ll post about that tomorrow.

Mystery project revealed!

I gave Andrea the mystery project at last night’s baby shower … What do you think?
Mother Kangaroo and Joey
This pattern is from Kath Dalmeny’s World of Knitted Toys. I used Lion Suede, an inexpensive very soft, suede-like yarn, and stuffed it with ordinary craft store fiberfill. It’s washable, of course. The knitting itself is pretty easy … it may actually take more time to assemble it than knit it. Fun project, though.
The eyes were the biggest challenge. Ms. Dalmeny’s critters are made with the glass button eyes you can buy in craft stores but I don’t like using them on little baby things. When I made the koala a couple of years ago for a niece’s new baby, I made felt eyes for it. They were okay, but pretty dull and flat, so I wasn’t thrilled with them.
So instead of using felt for the kangaroos’ eyes, I bought a skein each of Brilliance yarn from Patons, in Black Dazzle and Marvelous Mocha. (It’ll last a lifetime I’m sure if all I use it for is eyes!) What attracted me to this yarn was that it has a sparkly strand through it. I just crocheted little round buttons (black center surrounded by brown for the mama, all black for baby), and stitched them in place with needle and thread. The a little bit of sparkle really adds life to the eyes. Andrea’s says it makes them look a little “impish” – I think it might be the smiles, or the upturned nose? Anyway, I’m very pleased with the project.

Fair Isle Resources Roundup

Now that I’m starting to get the hang of two-color stranded knitting, I’ve begun to discover that a whole world of information and patterns out there are starting to open up to me. Where previously, I used to kind of ignore any patterns that involved colorwork because they always seemed like they’d be such a drag, my sense of challenge and excitement is now piqued.
Here’s a roundup of some stuff I’ve been delving into.

So far, here’s what I’ve learned about fair isle knitting:

  • It takes a while to learn to knit with two hands (basically, knitting continental and English style at the same time), but it is completely worth it in terms of being able to knit without the two strands of yarn getting hopelessly tangled. Plus, it’s cool to now know how to knit English style.
  • My Ravelry-and-Flickr-friend Suzanne tipped me off about “locking in” the non-background yarn every few stitches. This has really helped keep the tension even.
  • The bonus of learning about locking in the yarn is that one technique you can use is the same technique for weaving in loose ends as you go. Here’s a great photo tutorial. So I’ve already woven in a few ends as I’ve switched colors, which will make finishing much less of a headache.
  • At least with this particular project, I love the way this fabric I’m making feels as mittens. They’re really warm, but it’s still easy to move my hands all around. I can see that I’m never going to be happy wearing any mittens other than handknitted fair isle mittens. Which is amazing to me, because I never thought they were that exciting, before I started knitting some.

Unfortunately, I am putting these mittens on hold a little while to make some stretchy socks for my dad, for a belated birthday present. THEN I’ll finish my lovely mittens.

It HAS been a while …

As Andrea said, it’s been weeks since I’ve posted anything. But hopefully I’ll get back in the swing of things.
I think by the end of the day today we will have a plan and timetable in place for my husband’s radiation and chemo. There’s just no getting around it … we’re looking at some tough weeks ahead. The thing is, it’s so all-consuming … it seeps into every moment of the day and just seems to sucks the life out of you.
Having the grandbaby on the way … so close now … that’s where I go to recharge. And I joined a Ravelry knitting group that’s hoping to meet every Tuesday night at some coffee shop around the Twin Cities Metro area. The first meeting is tonight at Nina’s Coffee Café, an independent coffee shop in St. Paul. Not the most convenient location for me, but some of the other December scheduled coffee houses are good. Since we have late-afternoon doctors’ appointments today, it may be optimistic to think I’ll make it, but I’m going to try!
A word about this group and my hopes. The person who started it apparently was part of a group that was populated with very liberal people, and she’s conservative and felt like no one cared about her views. I’m really, really hoping this is a going to be an apolitical group … I’d probably fit into the more liberal camp myself, and I’m sick to death of politics … even in a non-election year, I just as soon not talk politics or religion. I just want to go to a happy place and knit!
So, any locals, maybe you’d like to come and NOT talk politics?