2013: A Year In Yarn

Happy Monday!  I hope every one is enjoying this holiday week.  It is one of the craziest weeks of the year for us at work which is why it has just dawned on me that the year is almost over.  2013 is about to come to an end and 2014 is nigh.  I don't know about you but I am so ready for 2013 to just get out of here.  It is this sick engorged parasite that I cannot wait to be rid of.  Not all of the year was bad, but my health issues cast a real shadow on things.  Yet even when I was struggling my knitting helped me keep some sense of control.  I aimed high and managed to achieve quite a few projects, making it quite a lovely year in yarn.

For starters, I knit a pair of shorts.  I set out at the end of last year to knit more projects thoughtfully and garments with a little bit of an edge.  These fit the bill perfectly.  I was especially pleased to learn that I really could customize such an involved project to achieve the perfect fit.

My favorite project of the year came in the spring when I knit the Havasu Hoodie.  I allowed myself to follow impulse when I cast it on and am thrilled I did.  This was one of those "concept" projects I allowed myself.  The model in the photo seemed like she could dash about the world with this cozy vest as a chic layering piece and I wanted to be just like her.  Maybe I cannot pull off the fresh off another continent look, but it was great on the airplane this summer.

I got more involved in the knitting community this year (I know, how much more involved could I get), joining in on Harry Potter Knit and Crochet House Cup and Camp Loopy.  These were my first Camp Loopy project and an absolute blast to knit.

One of the most challenging things I took on was not actually a knitting project.  I started taking my own pictures.  Rather than dragging my husband around begging for his help I put our tripod to good use and took some risks.  This photo of my Woodland Grave Beret worked out but right before it I was hanging upside down in a tree trying to secure the camera and find my angles as a confused business man walked by.

And then there were the crowd favorites

Moggies Mitts (this one doesn't even have a project page yet)

But probably one of my proudest achievements was my Amelia Pond Hat, which I maguivered out of another hat pattern along with some free-hand charting.  It was the crucial part for my cosplay for the Doctor Who 50th.  Fish Fingers and Custard!

Looking at it this way, 2013 actually looks pretty good.  I am excited to see what 2014 has in store (I may have a few ideas).


Manic Christmas Knitting -- A Survivor's Tale

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house I was selfishly knitting because the presents are done!  Seriously, I never thought the day would come.  But it did!  Sadly we are not going to see my parents on Christmas, but this comes as a blessing because I do not have to have all of those stockings complete.  And I much prefer enjoying a day off with nothing to do but prepare to go ice skating with my sister to frantic knitting in the corner unable to enjoy anything.

This is not to say I did not do any panic knitting.  Since the beginning of the month I have knit two pairs of mitts (one of them colorwork and eaten by the dog), a few stockings (before I realized I don't need them), and a billion ornaments.

I got this crazy idea last Tuesday that I wanted to knit ornaments for my team.  So I knit up these babies.  I stayed up until midnight for a few nights to get them finished.  Which may or may not have something to do with our new neighbor and his obnoxious beats.  Bad for my sleep but good for my knitting progress.  These guys are Snowball Buddies by Susan Claudino, a really cute pattern that got me to finally knit something with ears, safety eyes, and stuffed with polyfill.

And this (these really -- I knit two) is from Smitten, a holiday garland download from Knit Picks.  These knit up so fast, I knit one while watching Pulp Fiction the other night.  Next time I think I'll just knit these for everyone.  Or just buy presents.  But the look of excitement on people's faces makes it really hard not to do this to myself every time.

So happy Christmas, wherever you are in your knitting.  Hopefully you too are on to selfish knitting.  Me?  I just got my copy of Doomsday Knits, so I have a lot to do!


Yarn Emergency

Today I was reminded just how much of a city girl I have become.  When I was growing up it was not that unusual for us to drive an hour or more to get to a certain store or source of entertainment.  We had a movie theater in our county, but if you were really excited about the film than you would drive about an hour to get to the "good" theater.  And if you needed braces and did not get on well with the one orthodontist in our area then you would drive thirty to forty minutes away, depending on how many seasonal tourists you got stuck behind.  So it was rather strange when I realized just how put-out I felt that I had to drive out quite a way out of town to remedy my yarn emergency.

But wait.  Let me back up.  I haven't even told you about said yarn emergency.  You see this?

This is a rather substantial ball of yarn connected to a colorwork project that I am knitting as a Christmas gift.  Or at least it was until my loving, darling Helo decided to use it as a way to make a point.  It seems I was not paying enough attention to him the other morning when getting ready for work so he decided to shred it.  How sweet, right?

Despite being fortunate enough to live near a variety of yarn shops, when I got on Ravelry to find a replacement the closest shop that indicated it carries Cascade Superwash Sport is an hour out of town.  Luckily the woman I spoke with when I called them in a panic was kind enough to put a skein aside for me with the promise that I would pick it up today.  Which is how I found myself on the highway in a downpour driving to Hillsborough.

Hillsborough Yarn Shop gained some notice lately when they played host to the Yarn Harlot last week (I wasn't able to go because it was the same night as our big work fundraiser.   Sometimes working for a non-profit can have it's downsides).  The woman who greeted me was really sweet and weirdly efficient.  She looked me square in the eye when I told her who I was and why I was there and told me "don't panic."  The yarn was sitting just inside what I assume is their quick-access storage room and she had it bagged before I even thought to locate my wallet.  I was a little surprised that she did not ask if I was interested in anything else before completing my purchase, but in hindsight I realize that she truly understood the depth of my concern.  I need to have these mitts completed within the week and she totally understood that.  I can only imagine that she too has once found herself racing to beat Father Christmas as she cranked out holiday gifts (really, why do we this to ourselves). 

I was in and out in under ten minutes and drove the hour back home fueled by whatever concoction McDonalds is calling a peppermint mocha.  Trust me, it is not the same.   Hopefully I can make it back sometime and get a recommendation for a local coffee shop to atone for that mistake.  And probably buy more yarn.  Because really, I owe them.


Christmas Paper Fun

This is one of those weird things that I never thought I would find myself saying, but I feel like I am finally coming back to myself.  Like I've been in a fog for so long struggling to keep my focus and I'm just starting to poke my head out into clear air.  And just in time!  What I did not realize had slipped with my health was my creativity.  My output was pretty consistent through all of this, possibly even increased, but something was just off.  But boy have I kicked things up a notch.  On Monday I baked my first loaf of bread.  Ever.  I had so much fun and the result was tasty enough that I declared in a heat of victory that I will never buy bread again but make a loaf a week for our sandwiches.  We shall see how long that lasts.

Something else I started work on is handmade wrapping paper.  I don't know what possessed me to try this.  I became obsessed with the idea of brown paper packages under the tree.  I think the seed was planted when a coworker told me last year that he and his wife had decided to purchase a "signature" wrapping paper.  While the idea sounded neat, it was surely very expensive and his plain white packages while lovely lacked a certain element of fun that I pretty much demand of my Christmas (let us all remember the year I wrapped everyone's presents in Hannuka paper).  So this year I created my own twist.

It is very simple, really.  I started by collecting paper bags from Trader Joe's.  I have way more than I need.  I've wrapped three gifts so far and only used two bags.  The key was figuring out how to disassemble the bags.  They have a seam down the back that I cut to the center of the base.  Once there I was able to gently pry apart the bottom, which gave me the most paper possible.

I then used a stamp and some fun paints.  I purchased these acryllics from the kid's crafting section of Target.  They are less traditional colors in shimmery shades, but you could really use any paints you want.  I don't recommend watercolors, but you could surely use an ink pad instead of paint.  Then it was a matter of stamping and laying the paper out to dry.  I made my paper Sunday night and then started wrapping the next morning so that it would have time to dry completely.

Of course I wrapped these using a white yarn (Lion Brand I believe) that I had kicking around in the stash.  I wrapped them each twice in yarn to create a secure tie.  The tags were created using the bag handles.  I used a hole-punch on one end and threaded it onto the yarn on my second pass.

This may seem terribly homemade to some, but I had so much fun making this paper.  When I was a girl we had good friends who we spent time with every holiday season.  We did not see family often at this time of year, so Bill and Mary were like surrogate grandparents to us.  Mary always brought us something fun and creative to do together -- One year we made embossed Christmas cards, another we made snowman pins.  I have so many delightful crafting memories tied to this time of year that I don't feel right unless I am crafting or baking every day.  And I'm just so glad to be getting my making mojo back.  It is truly the season.


Fearful Knitting

Not to start a riot or freak you out at all, but there are currently only 23 days until Christmas.  Every year I declare I will not, absolutely not, do any Christmas knitting.  No matter how appreciative the family might be.  I claim that I don't want them to have any expectations, but really I just don't want to face such a hard and scary deadline.  I'll knit for birthdays, for anniversaries, for just because.  But knitting for Christmas?  I just don't do it.  Or so I say.  But it never fails that as Christmas approaches I suddenly feel like I should be knitting.  Like it says something about me as a knitter if I don't knit for anyone.  And so as I build my gift list I slip in little items.  Oh, it's just a hat, it's just a shawl, I can totally whip that up in time.  

Which is why today I ordered yarn from The Loopy Ewe for a pair of mitts (hey, they are having a Cyber Monday sale and it's not like I went shopping for myself) and why I am stalking the mail carrier waiting for Knit Picks to send me the yarn for the last of the family stockings.  Why I am trying to decide if certain stash combinations are masculine enough and why I am knitting away furiously on a pair of mittens, convinced I can finish them today even though it looks as if I don't have enough yarn.

And of course, this is why I am procrastinating like you would not believe.  I spent two hours this morning working on our attic, unpacking and organizing with the excuse that this will make getting the Christmas decorations out easier, when really I'm just trying to shake the specter of a shawl I am dying to make for myself.

But hey -- all of my books are out of boxes now.  Maybe I should go read something . . .


Of Yarn and Kool-Aid

It seems that the farther I get into my journey to find non-medicated solutions for my headaches the harder it is for me to concentrate.  Which makes blogging a mite difficult.  Why sit down to write when I can watch tv, play on my phone, and knit all at the same time.  This is probably why I still have not finished the second Outlander book despite reading it for almost a month.  And why my nails have gone unpainted for over a week  It all just takes too much concentration.

Luckily when my friend Erica came to visit over the weekend we found activities that work for my wandering brain.  We dyed yarn!

I never thought I would dye yarn, but this is probably the same part of me that never thought I would magic loop or knit socks.  Erica brought the yarn and I bought the Kool-Aid.  The entire process was ridiculously easy.  First you soak the yarn.  Then you put dye in water, add the yarn, and microwave on two minute bursts until the dye is completely absorbed and the water is clear.

I am really pleased with how our yarn turned out.  We made two variegated and one tonal, which I plan to use in some combination for colorwork mitts. 

And because we used reds, oranges, and pinks (because that was the whole selection on a Sunday at Kroger) I was able to turn these in for my Potions homework for Harry Potter Knit and Crochet House Cup.

Now if I could just concentrate enough to finish these socks. 

Knitting at last week's Metric concert


Of Most Aggravating Socks

Thank you to everyone who reached out to me after my last post.  I never realized how little I sleep until I started tracking it.  But that is neither here nor there after a weekend like we had.  You see, one of the fun crazy things I get to do with my job is run a merch booth for a children's theater series.  Which means I spent my weekend selling pirate gear to hundreds of excited little tots.

On Friday I cast on a new pair of socks out of some Patons Kroy that I have been sitting on for a while.  They are doing a KAL over on Knitting in Circles for a very lovely pattern that I was very excited to knit.  I worked on it through all eight shows but finally had to admit yesterday that the pattern just isn't for me.  I find the key design element annoying to knit.  How sad is that?  I want to love the socks but that key element? It just drives me batty.

Fortunately I already had another skein of sock yarn wound and ready to go.  A magical skein from Gnome Acres in the colorway Stars Hollow.  I'm knitting the Breaking Hearts pattern.  Seems appropriate.


A November Return

Hello all!  I hope you all had a good October.  Mine was different from past years.  I found myself at the end of September struggling with some health issues that made concentrating on anything very difficult.  I have talked pretty openly here about the car accident I was in several years ago.  One of the probable results is a series of headaches that I have put up with ever since.  Probable because there was so much going on in that month that it is impossible to definitively pin it on the accident.  I could go into excruciating detail (I actually just did but then realized how boring that really is) about the things I have tried to make them go away, but I like you guys too much.  Let's just say that October began with me paranoid and confused enough that Chris supported my decision not to let my doctor put me on any more medications and instead we are focusing on reducing my stress level and looking at other options.

Long story short, I decided to make myself take the month off from any obligations, including working on the blog.  But that does not mean I have not missed all of you.  In the midst of all the weird brain stuff writing has been something I really look forward to, even if it has become more of a struggle.

Alright.  Now that I have got that out of my system, time to go cast on all the things for Knit and Crochet House Cup!


FO: Heliopath Vest

Yesterday one of my coworkers jokingly asked me how being married is any different from dating except for (in my case) living together.  She caught me off guard because all I could think of were serious answers.  Little things like I get a good night kiss every night even if I'm already asleep or I'm so secure in our relationship that I've started singing in the shower.  Or the fact that I now get presents like this

Which turn into this

That's right!  On Monday I finished my Heliopath Vest by Emma Welford out of The Plucky Knitter Plucky Sweater in Sticky Toffee.  I was so excited and happy with the result that I proceeded to wear it for the rest of the day including to a full staff quarterly meeting at work.  Nothing makes me feel more smug than when someone walks over and says "I'm guessing you knit that".  I should be more modest, but in an organization full of outstanding creative individuals I have to take me accolades where I can.

I was really nervous about knitting the size 34 once I got about halfway through the body of the vest.  Even though I wanted a fitted look I became very concerned that it would be too small.  Fortunately I trusted my gut, the advice of Emma, and my swatch and powered through.

It was a lot easier to memorize the pattern than I had originally thought. The cable is logical and adorable and I made liberal use of my stitch markers.  It was a little slow going if I wanted to read, but got me through many a football game or match and hit that autumnal cable craving I always develop this time of year.  And then you get to drop stitches!  That was one of the most decadent feelings I have ever had.

Oh, and the buttons?  They're Gnome Acres.  And so stinking cute people admire them more than my stitches.

To see more proud finished objects, head on over to Tami's Amis!


Make Way for Buttons

Happy Monday!  I hope your weekend was lovely.  We are enjoying a slow start to our morning, mostly because we are out of food and too lazy to make a grocery list.  So instead I'm digging up frozen fruit for smoothies and working on this mess of yarn.

Hopefully I'll be able to wear my new sweater today after I sew on some of these.

Then again, maybe I'll cast on a new pair of socks . . .


WIP Happy

We are fast approaching the start of the new tv season and I have been manic with my attempts to catch up on everything I fell behind on last year.  I am all caught up on Once Upon a Time and I'm now completely obsessed [again] with Revenge.  And now I am realizing just how much tv I watch and how little I stay current with.  Ah, well.

I'm still knitting away on the Heliopath vest.  I am thirteen inches into the body and have been in that black hole where I knit for hours and make absolutely no progress.  This may also be due to the fact that every time I sit down to work on it I feel an overwhelming need to take a nap, but I still argue it is a rift in space and time.

For those who were admiring the stitch markers last week, I bought them here.

Because I finished my purse project but have yet to feel the need to lug a cabled sweater around with me I cast on a pair of Cursed Cable Mitts in my special skein of Knitter's Nightmare -- Ducky and Andy.

These mitts are going so fast!  Admittedly I am making them a tad bit shorter, but they are already a tad baggy on my hands and I wanted to avoid the scrunch factor when wearing them with a coat.  These have gotten me through several hours of convention speakers and been quite useful for the "I'm stressed!  I'm just going to knit a row real quick" moments at work.

To see more works in progress, hopefully with less procrastination and stress, check out Tami's Amis!


Case of Ingestion

We suffered another loss here last week -- of the fiber variety.  This one fell prey to the foul beast who lurks behind our couch.  One whom all socks have learned to speak of in hushed tones only.  That great black beast known as Helo.

Thursday I walked both to and from work, having woken up with a migraine and deciding not to inflict my blurry state on the other drivers making their morning commute.  So I pulled on my favorite pair of handknit socks and over the course of the day walked a total of seven miles (I've been using a pedometer just for fun).  When I came home I took the dog back out for a walk, not realizing the treachery that would come.  We went on our walk, taking in the sights, fighting over how many bushes to crawl under or why he cannot go make the sweet little pit puppy across the way his girlfriend.  Finally we returned home where I collapsed on the couch, took off my shoes, and decided to veg out a bit in front of Veronica Mars.

After a few minutes I realized that I had not seen or heard Helo since returning home and decided to check in on him, only to find a most vicious sight.  Helo, the dog we so lovingly care for, eating my sock.  Yes, you heard that right, eating.

It seems Helo decided I did not pay enough attention to him, and thus decided to get my notice the best way he knew how.  Or he was just expressing his admirable taste in knitwear.  I am unconvinced either way.  All I know is that if we had a doghouse, Helo would have been in it.

Working in his favor, Gnome Acres had a big update on Friday so I was able to snag some replacement yarn.  He acknowledges that this makes him a very lucky dog.


FO: Makai

Where has this week gone?  I swear it was Monday like yesterday.  Now it is all just a blur of heat, work, and House Cup knitting.  Last week I showed you what I turned in for detention, and this week I seem to have decided that I am going to turn in homework for at least four classes.  First up?  Potions.

You may not immediately recognize this pattern, even if you are familiar with it, because I blocked it a bit differently.  This is Makai by Mel Ski knit in Another Crafty Girl Strong Sock in the Residual Boulders colorway.  I had an absolute blast knitting up this pattern and really enjoyed the inventive way in which it is shaped.  It's just enough that I had to read through the pattern several times but not enough that I could not read while working on it.  Mel actually has a few video posts in which she explains each portion of the shawl and I highly recommend watching them.  Sometimes you just want to stop thinking and let someone else show you exactly what to do.  Or maybe that's just me.

This was my first project in Another Crafty Girl and I really enjoyed the yarn.  I can now see why everyone enjoys it so much.  The shawl is designed to look like waves breaking and I thought these colors just worked to make that happen.  The pattern is also great to break up pooling.  It was not until after I blocked it that I saw the odd striping pattern the yarn had fallen into.

If ever you feel the need to stir up a little drama and speculation, just go outside to take pictures of knitting in an urban neighborhood.  My neighbors already seem to find me odd and this just sealed the deal for them.  Guess I'm the only woman they've seen climb over briar bushes to take pictures of a shawl on a log in an effort to get more of a natural photo.

To see more finished objects, probably from people who don't weird out their neighbors quite as much, check out the gang over at Tami's Amis.


Dos A Cero!

I don't know what you've been up to lately, but in our household it has been all US national football all the time.  I'm normally not a football fan (I refuse to call it soccer when we are talking about the international field -- it helps me to feel more legitimate), but Chris is so obsessed that it started cross-contaminating me.  Plus it is 90+ minutes of uninterrupted time that I can sit and knit on the couch while he watches.  Or while standing on bar tables with the rest of the American Outlaws. 

All of this football watching has led to increased productivity in my knitting.  I have finally started to make some headway on my Heliopath Vest.  I am knitting mine out of The Plucky Knitter Sweater in the colorway Sticky Toffee.  Normally I would never be able to knit a sweater out of such a fancy yarn, but wedding anniversaries are good for some things, after all.  I bought this yarn specifically for this pattern, which was the initial driving force behind buying The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits.  It is a little more work than my usual patterned but simple projects, but the cables and dropped stitches are really keeping it interesting.

I'm really ready for fall to get here.  I'm daydreaming of cables and hats and many shades of orange.

To see more works in progress, probably from less football obsessed households, check out the gang over at Tami's Amis!


FO: Sockhead Bounty Hunter

I feel a little weird blogging about this project just because it fees like everyone has knit this or is knitting it again.  But I really have had this on the needles for at least a year.  Why yes, it is a completed Sockhead Hat out of Haldecraft Bounty Hunter.

If you know the Sockhead pattern you know that this about half the height of the actual pattern.  The total hat used under 280 yards.  I waffled a lot about how tall to make my version, but ultimately I decided that as I do not have a lot of hair to fill out the fabric then there is no need to make it any longer.

Like many other extremely popular patterns I was originally not drawn to the Sockhead pattern on matter of principle.  It is an extremely basic pattern and I just did not see the appeal.  Fast forward a few years and I am over my need to only knit complicated patterns all the time and now find value in the more basic handknit.  Plus I now have all these crazily verigated skeins that need patterns that highlight their beauty.  So I'm embracing the simple knits, and appreciating the ones so clearly written they have gone viral.

And what FO would be compete without a puppy photo?  Helo is now officially part of a handknit family.

To see more FOs, probably with fewer puppies, check out the linkup over at Tami's Amis.