Monday, April 30, 2007

Progress in spite of chaos

Well, in spite of being at the dance studio 14 evenings in a row (and still counting) and trying to get some spring cleaning done, I've still managed to knock off a few more gifts.

The Eye Pillows are finally completed and ready to give to the fantastic dance teachers at the studio where my girls study. I also picked up some handmade soaps to include. These little packages will be delivered very soon.

I also worked up a quick hand towel for my Mom for Mother's Day. This won't be all she will receive but because she is a fiber artist, too, she always has a deep appreciation for handcrafted gifts.

DD#1 has been helping me learn how to do Swedish Huck Weaving so I could complete this project. This process is very fast and easy, once you decipher the charts. I managed to whip out this one towel over the course of a weekend. The center motif itself only took me about 4 hours, which I consider pretty quick, given I was still learning and was somewhat slow and careful about my stitching.

This isn't necessarily my cup of tea, as far as fiber arts go, but it was fun and easy and I may try my hand at a few more projects in the future.

In other knitting news, I decided to frog my stealth project. I was not happy with it at all. I have since chatted with my good friend and found out that she had some other items that were needed for this 5th child. Since the objects can be knitted, I'm starting over. Since she pops in to my blog occasionally, I won't be posting any photos but those of you who are curious can check out Mason-Dixon Knitting for an idea which baby items I'll be working on. Let's just say, it won't be a blanket.

Well, we're on our way to the dance studio (again!). Recitals are coming up fast, so with all the extra practices, photos, auditions for next year's teams and everything else, the dance studio is going to be my second home for most of the month of May. Good thing knitting is so portable. ;-D

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Spring cleaning fever

Well, spring has officially sprung - at least in my own mind. Now that I'm nearing the end of the gift knitting (Fifth eye pillow done and sixth on the needles), the spring cleaning fever has hit. I started a to-do list this morning and . . . Well, all I can say is it will take me at least 6 months to finish my spring to-do list.

If I'm AWOL for a short time, bear with me. I am either cleaning like a fiend or have suffocated beneath a collapsed pile of winter clothing and gear that I was trying to put into storage for the summer or I've suffered a break down due to nervous exhaustion.

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Daffodils and Lavendar

Ain't spring lovely! It is my favorite time of year and I watch eagerly for the first signs of it in my garden. This year, for some reason, my crocuses were pretty anemic looking. Then the belated snow event destroyed what few blossoms I did get. But the tulips are about to bloom and several clumps of daffodils have already started blooming. I'm eagerly awaiting my lilacs and lily of the valley blooms as well. Oh, the fragrance . . .

Speaking of fragrance . . .

I've started stuffing some of the eye pillows with the flax seed and lavender blooms. I used some scraps from DD#1's first quilt, made when she was 8, to make the interior pillow forms. While I was stuffing the bags, my kids woke up and came downstairs, clamoring for breakfast. After a few moments, they started looking around, wrinkling their noses and asking, "What is that smell?" The dried lavender blooms I picked up at Lakewinds were certainly very fragrant and my kitchen was almost overpoweringly filled with the essence.

I had to quickly finish and seal up all my supplies so that the kids could stand being in the kitchen for breakfast. I guess there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

I have four of the pillows ready for Kitchener stitching closed and am in the process of knitting #5. Only 1 and 1/2 bags left to knit and the most necessary of the eye pillows are finished. Of course, I had planned to make a few more but, as fun as the pattern is, too much of a good thing . . . Well, let's just say I'm ready to move on to something else.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Recurring refrain

Once again, I have no pictures to post. This time, I must chalk it up to busy mom syndrome.

First, I have some lovely daffodils that have bloomed in my flower beds, but it was raining when I discovered their existence. So no photos yet.

Second, I just finished my first Perdita. It turned out very lovely but it needs to be blocked before it will shine in all its glory. So no photos yet.

Third, progress is still happening on the ribbon cardigan, my Pomatomus socks and some plain socks but progress photos seem so boring, somehow. So no photos yet.

Fourth, the Eye Pillows are getting done in a hurry but since you've already seen one finished but unstuffed, it seemed silly to post a picture of 4 finished but unstuffed pillows. I did manage to get the lavender today, so a little sewing and stuffing and the Eye Pillows will be ready to photograph, then gift. So no photos yet.

Fifth, I spent most of the weekend traipsing back and forth from the dance studio, since it was National Dance Weekend at our studio, transporting two of my daughters to various classes. We have picture days for the next three days at the studio, so when I was home, I was filling out a huge stack of forms that need to be turned in for each photo shoot. Three girls, with a total of 9 classes, adds up to a lot of forms that needed to be filled in and prepared. Add housework and cooking and my weekend was bursting at the seams. And Hockeyboy had a game this evening, so the whole family headed out to watch him play late this evening. So even if everything had come together nicely and the weather had cooperated, I probably wouldn't have had time to take photos.

So no photos yet. But I'm knitting up a storm, in odd moments here and there, so I'll inundate the blog with a plethora of photos in the near future. Promise.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Q & A

My last post resulted in two questions that I thought were best answered in a separate post.

First, Rani asked:

Can I hire you to teach me cables????

You don't need to hire me. Will you be at the usual place on Saturday? My DD#1 will be there most of the day for National Dance Week festivities, so I could certainly show you how in, oh about 15 minutes. Right, Guinifer? Just bring along some knitting supplies and a cable needle or a double pointed needle, if you don't have a cable needle yet. I'll show you both the cable needle style and how to do it without a cable needle. You can e-mail me if Saturday won't work.

Guinifer would like to know what yarn I'm using for the eye pillows. Now, I didn't make a big to-do about this but I've generally been trying to follow the "Knit from your Stash" guidelines this year. I knew if I officially joined, the desire to purchase yarn would become overwhelming and I'd fail miserably. So I tricked myself and "unofficially" joined. I know, I know, I'm a loonytoon but mental games like these work for me.

All that to explain the fact that I'm using some truly ancient Luster Sheen yarn from my stash. My Mom is the greatest bargain hunter in the world. She scours second-hand stores and scores great bargains. This yarn happens to be some that she found at a second-hand store for pennies on the dollar years ago. I suspect it was because it was because "pure aqua" had slipped from favor as a popular color back then. It eventually found its way into my stash, where it's been marinating ever since, waiting for the perfect project to come along.

I had some beautiful wool/cotton blends that would have worked for the eye pillows but I was concerned about people being sensitive to the wool. Since these pillows are used on the eyes and face, I especially wanted something that would be very non-irritating. I searched my stash for cottons or linens but didn't have anything in my stash that was fine enough to knit to gauge. This Luster Sheen is 100% acrylic, it knit up to gauge perfectly, and the color seems very appropriate for the project. Voila, stash-busting and gift knitting in one.

Thank heaven there aren't acrylic moths.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Gift giving time - again.

As the school year winds down, I find myself searching for those "perfect" gift ideas for various and sundry teachers. Imagine my delight when Knitty Gritty had this project on last week. These Flax Seed and Lavendar Eye Pillows are working up super fast and are ideal for the teachers/Awana leaders that I'm making them for. By the time I'm finished, I will have made at least 6 of these as gifts and am hoping to whip up a few extras to have on hand for future gift giving occasions.

I am totally loving Knitty Gritty on HGTV. Since I'm a morning person, I'm even glad that they shifted the airing time from 10 a.m. to 6 a.m. (central time). My morning routine is pretty wonderful. My fluffy knitting companion usually starts rousing me around 4 to 4:30. By 5, I'm up and have a cup of coffee and breakfast made and am heading down to the family room for a little alone time with my knitting and the television. The original Star Trek is on at 5 a.m., so I enjoy a little sci fi and then enjoy Knitty Gritty and Creative Juice before any of my kidlets arise. These two hours of uninterruped knitting time account for quite a bit of my knitting progress most weeks. If the kids sleep in, I'll even watch The Gardener's Diary before wandering up to start our day.

It may seem a bit self indulgent to take two hours of time to myself every morning but it is what keeps me sane during the rest of my crazy, busy life. That solitude and soul-rejuvenating knitting time is a blessing to me. And I sometimes find the perfect gift idea! How cool is that.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Knitter Nice

I'm back from our annual homeschool convention. It is a rather physically grueling weekend but well worth it, in terms of inspiration, shopping and camaraderie.

Once incident that took place really epitomizes the instant rapport knitting can inspire. When it took place, I thought absolutely nothing of it but when the story was related to my DH (an adorable muggle), he was rather appalled. I am curious, however, what others might think.

It was a rather brisk day in Minnesota, so I chose to bring Samus, knowing it would be the perfect layering sweater. I wore the sweater on and off all day long and garnered a number of lovely compliments on it as the day progressed.

Late in the evening, while waiting in line in the bathroom, a stranger asked if I'd made my sweater. I very demurely said, "Why, yes, I did." She proceeded to make the appropriate generous compliments and I responded in the most humble manner in return. Then she proceeded to ask me if I'd read Mason-Dixon Knitting.

The conversation progressed for several more minutes. I learned she was from Nashville and had met one of the authors and that said author was a "hoot". I also learned which patterns were her favorite and shared with her which patterns I liked as well. We parted on most friendly terms as we exited the bathroom and went on into our own little lives.

Now I find that where ever I go, my knitting bag (or in this case, Samus) is a magic key to opening conversations. In fact, there are times when I wish it wasn't quite as effective an opening for strangers, since I am a bit shy and have a rather largish sense of personal space. Episodes like the one that happened Friday happen all the time and I've never thought it unusual or strange.

My DH, OTOH, found it somewhat disturbing that I would engage in a conversation with a perfect stranger in, of all places, a public bathroom. What I can't figure out is, is it a muggles thing or is it a man thing? What do you think?

Pictures, at last. I've been working on a cardigan. It's specifically being made to showcase some lovely buttons by Glastonbury Glassworks. I promised some pictures, so here they are.

I have to say that knitting with ribbon is a bit more challenging than knitting with yarn. Since I pick (Continental knitting), the yarn/ribbon tends to twist more. I *ahem* borrowed Peep's little doll bucket to use as a holder for the ribbon balls, as an attempt to minimize the twist as the ribbon comes off the ball. However, I frequently have to stop and untwist things to get a smooth flow of ribbon as I knit. I'm not obsessing about keeping twists out of my knitting, since I want to come out of this process somewhat sane but it would be impossible for me not to try and control the ribbon a little bit.

Well, off to church and life. Have a blessed Sunday, ya'll! (A little Nashville-speak for my new knitting friend).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Protestors, Unite!

This is the vision I woke up to this morning. But let me draw your attention to more than just the snowy landscape. If you look closely, you will see something unusual. Can you see it?

There were dozens and dozens of robins in my backyard this morning. They were in many of our trees. At one point, I counted a dozen in this little choke cherry tree alone. They were flying in and out of the yard in large groups and they were LOUD!

My theory - they were protesting this belated snow event. If they were going to act as heralds of spring, by golly, the weather had better pay closer attention.

My children have joined in the chorus. All day long, as they toiled along on their schoolwork, they would periodically glance out the window at the sky and shout, "STOP snowing, already!"

Unfortunately, it didn't work. It's still snowing. Doh!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Widdershins question

I had a question posted on an old post about the Widdershins pattern. I'm so honored someone finds me expert enough to ask advice from me. So I'll give it a shot.

The question from Jeri was:

I'm exploring blogs looking for widdershins and it looks like you use the pattern and variations a lot. And they sure do look good.

I hope you can help me with a question that has me scratching my head: What did you think about the m1 and m1p during the heel turn (in the widdershins pattern)? What are those m1รข€™s (sic) doing for the heel?

Thanks in advance

I trust she is referring to the portion of the Widdershins pattern below:

Turn Heel:
Work in patt to end of Needle 2. Heel will be worked over sts on Needle 3 and Needle 4, starting on Row 1, below.

Row 1 [RS]: K31, m1, k1, w&t.
Row 2 [WS]: P17, m1p, p1, w&t. . . etc.

This portion of the pattern creates the heel cup shaping in this sock pattern. It gives a little additional rounding to the short row shaping that is already taking place and makes for a very neatly fitted heel that actually cups around the heel. Unfortunately, I don't have a pair of socks at the right stage to demonstrate but if you look closely, you can see the short row transition between the sole of the sock and the heel flap in the area outlined by the block on this sock.

In reality, this is the reverse of what happens when you make a traditional heel flap from the cuff down. Normally, you would knit your heel flap, then shape the heel by:

Row 1: (WS) Sl 1, p 14, p2tog, p1, turn.
Row 2: (RS) Sl 1, k3, ssk, k1, turn.
Row 3: (WS) Sl 1, purl to 1 st before gap formed on previous row, p2tog, p1, turn. Etc. (Excerpted from the Go With the Flow Socks pattern by Evelyn A. Clark - IK Summer 2005)

The cuff down shaping creates the same pouch for the heel. The toe-up version is merely done in reverse by increasing instead of decreasing.

The other clever thing I love about the toe-up version of the heel flap is there are no stitches to pick up along the heel flap. That step is eliminated completely in the toe-up version.

I've made at least 9 pairs of socks using variations of the Widdershins pattern (10 and 11 are on the needles as I type) and I absolutely love it. This is once case where you just follow the pattern as written and trust the numbers and everything works out beautifully. Brooke did a fabulous job designing this toe-up heel flap and it's worth learning how to do. She actually has notes on her blog on how to further adapt this heel flap for socks in other gauges. I'm using them to adapt the Pomatomas socks to a toe-up pattern.

Also, if m1/m1p aren't your cup of tea, Brooke suggests that you use any mirrored increase you prefer. That's what makes this pattern so adaptable. Once you've learned the basic structure, you can use it to design your own one-of-a-kind toe-up socks. Hope this helps you, Jeri.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Sunshine at last

The weather has finally cooperated and allowed me to get some decent photos of my knitting progress.

The Sunshine tank was made from a pattern found in the March issue of the Lion Brand newsletter. I happen to be a subscriber, so I get an update via e-mail. I'd link to the pattern but I'm pretty sure you'd have to subscribe to see it, since I always have to log in to get to the free patterns. I love the shape of this tank and plan to make a few more with other yarns and in other colors, since it was such a fast and simple pattern. The only modification I made was to make the decreases at the armholes and neckline mirrored, just to make things symmetrical.

I also finished my Gull Wing socks this week but they happen to be in the laundry already, so you'll have to wait for a photo of those. I'm into instant gratification and those socks went onto my feet the minute the tails were woven in. Although I'm sure you couldn't smell them through your monitor, I just couldn't take a picture of dirty socks. Call me crazy.

The new socks on the needles have been a definite challenge. I finally am attempting the Pomatomus socks but being the toe-up fanatic I am, I'm doing them backwards. This is actually my second shot at these socks. The first try was with Sockotta yarn but the definite space-dyed patterning of the yarn really detracted from Cookie's fantastic ribbed lace pattern, so I frogged my first attempt and started over with the Death Eaters yarn from Scout. I love the striping I'm getting with Scout's yarn and am very pleased that I was able to get the yarn to start at similar points, so the stripes are lining up, to some degree. Such a fun yarn to work with. I'll definitely be getting more of Scout's yarn in the future.

Since the pattern is very challenging, I've also cast on with the Sockotta yarn and am making some plain toe up socks. I can work on the Pomatomus when I am free to concentrate on the chart and rewriting the instructions for a toe-up construction and pull out the plain sock knitting for hockey games and other times when a more mindless project is preferred.

As for the rest of my life, it has been a roller coaster. My bout of squirrel pox was threatening to turn into monkey pox and I've had a rough week with migraines, just to make life even more difficult. Fortunately, due to a loving family who has taken over most of the chores and let me rest and sip Nyquil and down Imitrix with startling regularity, the threat of the dreaded monkey pox seems to be fading and I may even be well enough to attend the annual Easter gathering of the in-laws tomorrow. An emergency run to the pharmacy has ensured a new supply of Imitrix (why do I always run out on holiday weekends?), so as long as I get some sleep tonight, I should be good to go.

Since Easter is the most significant holiday of the Christian year, I probably should post something profound. But I have so little wisdom to offer. There are greater minds out there sharing much deeper thoughts than I ever could. All I know is that Jesus has risen and because of that, I'm saved! Thank you, Jesus!

Have a blessed Easter.