Saturday, December 31, 2011

Auld Lang Syne

Yup. Another year. It seems the older I get, the faster time goes, so I fully expect to be 90 sometime next week.

2011 was full of ups and downs, highlights being marrying my amazing husband, visiting Santiago, and releasing my first patterns, and lows being mom's cancer and laryngectomy, the neighbor flooding our condo immediately after I moved myself and the cats in, and still being stuck in a job I hate. I'm hoping for all highlights in 2012!

Knitting-wise, things looked pretty good:


That's 28 completed projects, and doesn't include the super long scarf for my sister that has still not been photographed, and which she's probably already ruined by putting through the washer/dryer.

But how did I do on the unrealistic goals front? Let's review the promises I made in January 2011: 
  • 10 pair of socks FOR ME! -- I managed 7 pair of adult socks, and 2 baby pairs; not too shabby!
  • Finish the Deep V Argyle vest -- oops. no.
  • Two adult sweaters PLUS two adult, um, "tops" for want of a better word--meaning summery-type floaty camisole things.--I finished 2 sweaters, though both short-sleeved, and 1 camisole; again, not too shabby
  • Colorwork mittens of some kind for next winter. -- oops. again, no.
  • Design and publish TWO patterns -- success!
 Stay tuned for more ridiculous promises for 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winning Christmas

It is with a heavy heart that I report tragic news: Christmas has come and gone.

Christmas is my very favorite time of year, and it always passes in a flash. Sure, my decorations are still up, and Christmas music is still spilling from my stereo as the season winds down, but the Big Dance is over, and I'm feeling a little glum.

January is always a miserable month for me.

(Shhhh, don't tell my sister--I always put on a brave, I'm-totally-ok-with-Christmas-being-over face for her birthday.)

Still, I've come to report happy news as well: all Christmas knitting was finished and delivered on schedule. Even this:


I got two hugs for this one, and if number of hugs is a fair measure of appreciation, then I'd say the guitar strap was a success. Dad used it for Christmas Eve mass as hoped, and even encouraged me to sell them to guitarist--maybe even for $50!


I'm also getting a better handle on using my fancy camera (though the colors are coming out a smidge wonky on Flickr).



I also managed to finish up the insanely long scarf my sister requested, though I skipped the part where I was supposed to take pictures of it first. Oops.

CP gets to spend the rest of the winter snuggling into this fuzzy looking cowl:


The pattern is Thermis, knit in Cascade Eco Duo, an incredibly soft alpaca blend. The neutral colors are ever so slightly variegated, you can see some gray and camel tones spread throughout.

As for me, I actually didn't get too many knitting or yarn gifts, but I am now the proud owner of an iPad and a shirt so awesome, there are no words:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

On handknit socks and high heels

What I do when I've worn office-inappropriate walking shoes to work, and then need to leave my desk for any reason that isn't a meeting with international diplomats:

Incidentally, a colleague was justifying his purchase of an insanely expensive camera by wandering through the office taking photos, and he caught me in my Puff-sleeved Feminine Cardi:


Not the most accurate office photo, since usually I look like I want to murder someone, but the sweater looks pretty cute (and you can also see a hint of the fingerless mitts I'm wearing--Susie's Reading Mitts, which I finished a couple weeks ago but didn't bother telling you all about because everyone and their brother owns a pair. MadTosh, Logwood.) Hmmm, what else do we see? Wedding photo, paper flower I made while bored, box of tea, LOLcat, photo of my two favorite Orioles . . . at least I've made my desk my home.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gut check time

Less than a week until Christmas. I'm not panicking, but I am planning to sleep a little less this week. I'm sure I can make up for it with 2 long weekends in a row. My shopping is done, but holiday knitting, not so much.

Let me show you the ONE gift I've managed to finish.


This is the Bramble Beret from one of last year's Knitty issues, knit up in DIC Classy (or is it Smooshy? I can never remember which is worsted and which is fingering. It's whichever is worsted weight.). The colorway is emerald . . . something, and I knit the medium size, medium length, with considerably less than 1 skein.

This was a delightfully quick knit, finished in a week with plenty of other projects worked on simultaneously. But more importantly, hidden in the pattern is what I consider to be a gem of a blocking trick:

"To prevent stretching the ribbed hat band, waste yarn was basted in a running stitch along the round between the ribbed band and the hat body. After the hat was soaked and placed over the blocking form, the waste yarn was cinched, to firmly stretch the cabled hat body."

I always block beret-style hats over a plate, and despite trying to be quick quick quick slipping the plate inside, the band always seems to get overstretched in the process, and smoothing it back into place never tightened it up enough. I tried this little trick on the hat above, with excellent results--slouchy hat, close-fitting brim.

I think I'll use some of my holiday break time to test this out on older hats to see if I can work them back into shape.

Work on the guitar strap continues. I'd put it at 75%, not too shabby. Today, though, my brain tried to sabotage my efforts by repeatedly whispering about how I absolutely needed to include a guitar motif. Just a little acoustic guitar, how hard could it be? Ultimately I became convinced that not only did the strap need a guitar, but also my dad's monogram! And if I don't include them, my brain assures me that the whole project will be RUINED.

I puttered around on Excel all morning (fortunately my sole work responsibility today was sending e-seasons greetings to my country contacts, and washing the mug I used for oatmeal last week and forgot about), charting out a final section for the strap.

At first it was fun, kinda like an algebra equation--whatever you do on one side, you also do on the other. It quickly became apparent that this is easier said then done--which also reminded me that I hate math, especially equations.

And you know, it's hard to make curvy letters with square blocks.

But if it all works out as charted, I think Dad will love it.

What are the odds I'll remember to knit it upside down, so that it comes out right side up on the finished strap?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bad ideas

(I don't think anyone in my family reads my blog, mostly because they don't know it exists, but I did inadvertently mention it on Facebook a couple months ago, so just in case, DAD STOP READING RIGHT NOW, I'M GOING TO WRITE ABOUT YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT!

There. That oughta do it.)

Approximately 11ty years ago, I made the mistake of asking my dad what he would like me to knit for him. This came about, first and foremost, because I make bad decisions. The secondary reason is that I had knit my dad a few things I had rarely seen him use, so I didn't want to waste any more time knitting things to line his dresser drawers or keep his guitar necks warm or whatever.

He told me what he wanted, and I quickly tossed his idea out as impossible and knit him a hat instead.

The good news is, he really liked the hat. The bad news is, he still wanted that other thing.

The "thing" in question is a guitar strap. I had numerous reasons for immediately discounting this idea:

Guitar straps are designed to hold the guitar in front of you at the exact height at which is comfortable for you to play the guitar. This can vary, which is why guitar straps are usually adjustable. Wool is stretchy--if you hang a guitar from a scrap of wool, it's going to stretch out, and ultimately the stretched yarn will break, the scrap will unravel and your guitar will wind up on the floor, where it's much harder to play.

Guitar straps have, for lack of a better term, doohickeys on either end to attach them to the guitar. Fashioning doohickeys out of wool would be difficult at best, and sounded like a recipe for more guitar-on-the-floor disasters.

The guitar strap in question was supposed to be colorful. This sounded to me like striping, which I loathe.

Guitar straps are boring. They're just skinny scarves. Zzzzzzz.

Still, I'm pretty fond of my dad, and also I really hate to disappoint people, so I kept the idea in the back of my mind, trying to piece together a way to make it work. And eventually, I had a brain wave.

I could purchase a sturdy nylon guitar strap (WITH doohickeys), and knit a cover for it.

And to mitigate the boredom factor, I could liven it up with some fair isle.

So, that's just what I'm doing:

I'm using the charts from the Ultimate Stashbuster Vest, and picked out some blues and browns I thought were more "my dad." If I'm lucky, I'm about 1/4 done. (And unfortunately this is the one gift that needs to be done, wrapped and ready to gift on Christmas EVE so I can give it to dad to use for mass. So, in news that should come as a surprise to no one, I really should've started this thing much earlier.)

This isn't a bad first fair isle project--there's no shaping, no worries about long floats getting caught on anything, certainly no steeking. It's just one long tube.

But there are a LOT of ends. A lot. A million. My original plan was to finish, turn the whole thing inside out and spend a day weaving them all in, but this weekend I decided on a different approach where I knit a few inches, then turn the top inside out and weave. I think this might save my sanity if and when the whole project is complete.

13 days 'til Christmas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

If you haven't got a friendly cat may God bless you!

Well, it's December already.

I'm not entirely certain how that happened. The last thing I remember, it was October.

But suddenly my 12 Days of Cookies from the Food Network is arriving in my inbox, and most of my meals seem to be candy, both unmistakable indicators that the holidays are upon us.

Not that I'm complaining--this is my favorite time of year. I'm just surprised to see it here already.

I'm sure we're all in the same boat, frantically knitting away on projects that absolutely must be done by December 25. Or December 24, so we have time to wrap them.

This year my sister wants a scarf, Dad is getting a guitar strap, CP needs a cowl, and Mom's gift is still a mystery because whatever it is will just be stashed in a dresser drawer, so I'm finding it hard to pick anything worthy of that fate.

I've also added my aunt to my knitting list, since she's gotten in the habit of giving me yarn for gift-giving occasions--it would be more exciting if the yarn weren't 100% acrylic and purchased at Rite Aid in 1986, but it's the thought that counts.

(Yes, seriously, the price tag on the yarn is from Rite Aid.)

The good news is, I'm free to work on all of those projects, because I finished Umaro!


Pattern: Umaro, by Jared Flood
Yarn: Valley Yarns Berkshire Bulky, 9.25 skeins (WEBS' website is being a grinch and won't load so I can link--sorry!)
Needles: Sz 13

I tried to artfully drape the blanket across the bed, but unfortunately it looks more rumpled than anything else. 

Finished, my blanket wound up about the width of a full size bed, and about a foot shy of the length, perfect for snuggling under on the couch.

I cast on 12 extra stitches to start, adding a pattern repeat, because I couldn't stomach knitting on size 15 needles, and moved down to 13. I did the exact number of chart repeats called for in the pattern, but could've easily added another with the amount of yarn I had--I was just ready to be done knitting.

Just look at the many squishy layers of warmth (and also, cat fur):


I already told you guys I didn't really have fun knitting this blanket, but as predicted, I love the blanket itself. So warm. So snuggly. Such a sense of accomplishment. A whole blanket!


And here he is in his happy little home inside my coffee table / trunk:

He truthfully hasn't spent much time there because I've been using him so much (as has CP, who wears short sleeves year round and then complains about the cold), but I love seeing him folded up in there nonetheless--a dream partially achieved!

Completely unrelated: cherry cordial M&Ms--not that good. Stick with the Hershey Kisses version.