Thursday, August 30, 2007

I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love with a wonderful . . .

. . . Pattern. I am totally lovin' this new project. The Fall '07 issue of Interweave Knits came out awhile back and, as usual, there were several projects added to my "Wanna-do" list. Then the magazine went on the shelf for the time being, since I had several WIP's cluttering up the ol' knittin' bag.

Once Sierra Shell was done, and inspired by the yarn I recently picked up at the Bemidji Woolen Mill, I started researching Aran knitting patterns. Originally, my thought was to design my own sweater, mixing and matching traditional stitch patterns.

But why reinvent the wheel. After poring through numerous magazines and pattern books, I rediscovered the latest IK and ran across the Dickinson Pullover. It was so lovely and seemed so ideally suited to the new yarn that I abandoned my sketches and notes and just launched into this pattern.

My progress hasn't been without hiccups, though. I have had to drop a few stitches to correct errors a few rows down, and it has taken me awhile to work out how to count rows on two different charts without losing my place. I even had to frog back about 10 rows last night, to correct a major snafu, caused by knitting under the influence of heavy duty cold meds and failure to read the chart directions closely enough. But all in all, I am happy with the progress I've managed to make in spite of all the cold-related boo-boos.

In the past, I've not been totally enamored with knitting cables. I loved the look of classic Aran sweaters but the futzy, putzy nature of handling a cable needle drove me wild. But since I learned how to cable without the extra needle - huzzah! I'm having a blast.

Alas, every silver lining does have a cloud. This is not going to be one of those instant gratification type projects and I'm running the risk of doing a series of boring progress report posts. But, you know, when you are in love, you just gotta go with it. So if you get a little tired of hearing about my latest love affair, hang tight. I'm sure the honeymoon will end sooner or later and we'll get back to more interesting blogging.

For now, isn't she lovely? Doncha' just wanna knit along?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sierra Shell

Okay, I'm feeling a bit too under the weather to be clever or funny today. Fortunately, I wasn't too sick with this blasted end-of-summer cold to hinder knitting. Just have enough sinus stuffiness and sore throatiness to make me feel as though every thought has to slog its way through a miry morass of mental mud. Uggggh.

This short sleeve shell designed by me, using Cascade Sierra and Sierra Quatro yarn (80% pima cotton/20% merino wool). The dragon skin center panel was derived from a sweater pattern in July '07 Creative Knitting Magazine. I was interested in a raglan sleeved top, so I kind of made this shape up on the fly. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the width at the neck and didn't discover it until I'd seamed the pieces up. But picking up the neckline stitches and adding a couple stripes fixed the over-sized neckline issue and the sweater turned out more visually interesting, I think. I also added the dragon skin panel, without the cables, to the sleeves, just for fun.

This yarn was a dream to handle. It has a delicious softness and great weight and drape for a summer shell. The only disadvantage was its tendency to split. However, by using my Denise Interchangeable Needles, which have a fairly blunt tip, I was able to easily cope with knitting the cables and dragon skin pattern. I love pointy sharp needles for some patterns but the Denise needles sure come in handy from time to time.

School starts next Tuesday for our little homeschool, so if I'm a little remiss in blogging or commenting for a few weeks, bear with me.

To quote a certain California Governor, "I'll be back!"

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Crochet Quickies

I love instant gratification. I'm totally into fast and easy projects, from an emotional fulfillment standpoint. Time-consuming, heirloom knitting is satisfying on another level. And there are just some patterns that HAVE to be made, regardless of the time/money commitment involved. But frequent forays into those zippee-dee-do-dah, "get 'er done" projects just light my fire and keep me motivated.

Not being overly fond of big needles/fat yarn projects, though, leaves me searching high and low for those deceptively delicate and complicated looking patterns that are quick and easy. Any flash of inspiration, burst of creativity or niggling little idea gets immediate attention because I NEED that thrill of finishing yet another project. Lately, crochet lace has really been at the forefront of my creative surge. And the advent of the dance year (and all the expenses involved with it) has lit a new light bulb above this rather addled noggin.

Ergo, a mini business is born. Granted, this is never going to make me a millionaire. There just isn't a huge demand for bun covers (pictured in Dancing Diva's "artistic" photo), scrunchies and crocheted flowers. But since our dance studio has a small retail space attached and I'm one of the top income sources for the studio (not really but it feels that way - oy!), I've been given permission to put a few handmade items in their display case to sell. So, I've been busy cranking out little crocheted items to sell. They are all just made up patterns, figured out on the fly. And I'm bursting with more ideas for more dance hair accessories and have recruited my girls as salespeople/models/trendsetters once dance begins in earnest. With any luck, something will catch on as the latest dance wear craze and I'll get a shot at making a few bucks.

Hey, if I can get enough sales to cover just the cost of tights for 3 girls for the year, I'll be content. After all, there is always that instant gratification thing, too.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kids' Projects

Remember way back when I showed the fabric squares for Bubba's and Peeps' quilts? Well, with the end of summer upon us, I finally brought the sewing machine out and have gotten the girls going on the sewing.

The brevity of this summer has astounded me. My original goal was to have the girls complete their quilts in time to put them in the county fair. Well, the fair has come and gone and we never got around to actually working on the quilt until this week.

These are Rag Time Quilts, which means the seam allowances will be on the front of the quilt and they will be snipped, washed and frayed to create chenille-style frames for each block. In preparation for piecing together the top, each square needs to be marked with diagonal lines and sewn together, wrong side to wrong side, with a layer of batting between them. Naturally, for a decent sized lap quilt, this means quite a bit of pre-quilting.

I've been impressed with how quickly both girls have taken to sewing a straight line. Although Peeps (who is almost 7) took a little longer to figure out how to guide the fabric through the machine without tugging and pulling too hard, she has finally mastered it and is sewing a very nice, straight seam.

Bubba (who is 8) mastered the straight seam right away and has also learned how to thread both the top and bottom of the machine. She has also been marking her own blocks, instead of needing me to mark for her.

Right now, I having the girls take turns sewing, trying to complete a small stack of blocks in one sitting. They manage to concentrate for between 30 and 60 minutes at a time but beyond that, this stage is just too boring to hold their attention for long. Hopefully, a little time spent a couple times a day will get them through this stage fairly quickly. Then they'll be ready to move on to choosing their layout and piecing the blocks together. This will be a great exercise in practicing patience and diligence, if we can all survive it.

Guess this might be a great time to share the story about the tortoise and the hare, right?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Home again, home again, Finigan!

Well, after a delightful 4 days in Northern Minnesota, we sang our familiar homecoming chant as we pulled into the driveway last night.

Other than the first night's temperature dipping into the low 40's (a little chilly for sleeping in tents - brrr), the weather was ideal. We missed the significant rains that hit southern portions of the state and the rain that had been forecast for Northern MN held off until we were actually on the road for home. It was fortunate that the DH decided on the Bemidji area, instead of the more southern KOA's we also looked at, because there were areas of 6+ inches of rain in areas of Southern Minnesota. Yikes! We have been in prayer for people in the area because of the devastation. The DH's sister was temporarily displaced from her home, due to a mud slide that took out her gas line and air conditioner. Other's have lost their homes and a few even lost their lives. Wild weather in Minnesota, that's for sure.

Because were were camping 'unplugged', we were unaware of the situation until Sunday, when we finally turned on the phones and radio. I am just so thankful we were not out in that mess.

On a more positive note, I was allowed to make one fiber-related stop on this trip to the Bemidji Woolen Mill. This was against the rather strenuous objections of the kids, who all pronounced my fiber obsession as excessive. To quote, "You knit too much!"

My reply, "There is no such thing as too much knitting."

However, since Peeps picked up a new stuffed animal (not pictured), Bubba and Dancing Diva scored new slippers and Hockeyboy and the DH picked a new woolen lap robe for the often chilly, big-screen-t.v.-watching/playstation-playing family room, I think they are now a little more reconciled to my fiber obsession.

As for myself, the 8 skeins of gorgeous, natural homespun yarn in two different shades was all I needed to make this vacation completely perfect. The pattern I'm formulating is still in the mental cogitation stage, so I can't divulge many details yet. But I can say that I'm totally stoked about designing an outerwear cardigan for fall.

Rani asked a question about dealing with knots in sock knitting in the comments of this post. When knitting in the round, I leave very long tails and I do a lot of weaving. When I encounter a manufacturer's knot in the yarn, I cut it out and re-tie it with long tails. There are some who practice no-knot knitting, who just weave in the ends but I am not a huge fan of that method. I'll take a little lump over facing another nasty repair mess. I often split the yarn into individual plys before weaving in when the join falls in a highly visible location. Distributing the bulk of the yarn really helps the appearance, as well as making the join more secure. Alas, the ribbon yarn didn't have plys or I might have avoided that whole fiasco!

Well, my day is getting away from me and I need to head to the dance studio. Yup, it's Open House week and we're gearing up for the new dance season already.

Where did this summer go?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More Happy Hooking

With a camping trip in the offing, with guaranteed hiking and boating to be enjoyed, I absolutely had to add an accessory to my ensemble. I think you'll recognize the yarn from my new sun hat.

(Note: I didn't over dye the hat - for now. I knew I'd be making more items out of it and thought it would be fun if I were coordinated. I may dye everything all at once later . . . or not.)

Actually, I saw a water bottle holder on another blog, which was my inspiration. Unfortunately, I can't find the blog now. I didn't bookmark it, so I'll have to do some hunting around to see if I can find it and give credit where credit is due.

I can say that I made this up on the fly, to fit my favorite insulated water bottle. A simple single crocheted disk on the bottom, a turning row of single crochet through the back loop and then a round of double crochet completes the base. Then, it's just a matter of chain loop rows until it was tall enough to accommodate the bottle. A round of double crochet and a few rounds of single crochet finished off the top. Add a couple single crocheted straps and you're off for a wonderful weekend of hiking.

This is probably my last post until next week. We're heading out tomorrow for our camping trip. I've got several projects packed for camp-fire-side knitting, so we'll see how many more FO's I can whip out before school starts.

No worries about my becoming a crochet junkie, though. I've broken out the hooks for a brief time but I've already started a new knitted shell. Furthermore, crocheted socks just seem wrong . . . so wrong!

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Frenzy continues . . .

Yup, another FO to show. Get out of the ol' girl's way, she's a barreling through projects left and right!

When I purchased the ribbon yarn for the cardigan, way back when, I also purchased enough green for a shell, too. Of course, when I finished the ribbon cardi, I figured I might as well continue torturing myself with this blasted yarn and finish the shell, too. After all, the yarn and patterns were bought to go together. And the sooner this wicked stuff was out of my stash, the better!

However, when I went hunting for the shell pattern, it was nowhere to be found. I know it's somewhere in the black hole of a pattern stash but when I couldn't lay my hands on it immediately, I went to plan B. I just made up a pattern on the fly.

(Oh, yeah, I'm that impatient and anxious to keep going ahead that I'd start without a pattern!)

I took the gauge measurement from the cardi and calculated the circumference and cast on. From there, I just winged it. Starting with ribbing, because I hated the way the cardigan hem rolled, I knitted and purled and pondered and visualized. When the ribbing was about 8 or 9 inches long, I decided that I didn't want ribbing all the way to the shoulders, so I switched to stockinette stitch. Then I decided I wanted the shell to cinch in around the ribs, just under the bust line, so I threw in some eyelets. When I reached the length I wanted to the arm hole, I just pulled out a magazine, found a pattern with similar gauge and modified their armhole bind off instructions to fit this shell. I hadn't decided on a neckline until the last minute. I suddenly realized that a square neckline would be unusual, so I figured out how many stitches I wanted for the straps and bound off the rest.

Continuing to measure and hold the shell up to my torso, I just continued the straps until they were long enough and then bound them off. I finished the back of the sweater the same way, except the square neckline is much higher. I figured I could wear it both ways, low neck or high neck, depending on my mood.

Instead of the full shells around the neckline and armholes (as I did on the cardi), I opted for a simple crocheted picot. A length of crocheted chain for a belt and another FO flies off the needles.

Another design note, I can use different color belts and add coordinating flower pins and other embellishments, if I feel like it. It will look nice over other shirts for fall and winter as well. I really think this is going to be a versatile piece.

Not bad for winging it, don'cha think?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ribbon Cardi Woes!

There was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth today.

Brand new FO + hand wash cycle on washing machine = near disaster!

Ordinarily, my hand knits turn out fine, using this cycle on the machine. But, woe is me, this time . . .

I believe the problem occurred because I was lazy and stupid. No, don't make excuses for me. This foul up was because I took a moronic short cut and I need to pay for my crime.

I'm an experienced enough knitter to know that it is absolutely idiotic to allow a manufacturers mid-skein join to just fall where it may. My SOP is to remove the knot and make my join at a side seam. But my frustration and impatience with this yarn made me reckless. When I ran across one of those stupid joins, mid-row, I rationalized that it was a good, tight knot and the texture of the fabric would hide it effectively. I was not in the mood to tink back to the side seam and I have lived to regret it.

Well, now you know why I don't allow those knots to remain. UGGGGH!

But a little careful work with a couple crochet hooks and a yarn needle, a new knot, sewn into place with some sewing thread and we have a almost like new sweater.

The fabric has a tight row, that I'll need to do some judicious work on to distribute a little more to improve the texture but, all in all, a good save.

I promise to walk the straight and narrow from here on out. No more short cuts, no more laziness and no more cheating. I will never allow a join to fall within the fabric again (except on knitting in the round - because of course, there are no seams).

I need to go to my happy place now. Buh bye!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Morning Glory or Petunia?

After a rather late night (early morning?) of knitting frenzy, brought on by the rather imprudent consumption of a full pot of freshly brewed coffee far too late in the day, I have yet another FO to add to the rapidly growing list.

I can only ascribe my frenzied finishing fest to the somewhat frantic feeling that the school year is approaching far too rapidly. All my mental summer "to do" lists seem to be reproaching me for my lack of due diligence. The chaos in the combined craft studio/school room is nagging me to get some of the bags and boxes of UFO's cleaned up and out of the way before the annual pre-school cleansing occurs. And last, but not least, is the knowledge that knitting and crafting time will decrease significantly once the school year begins, leaving me with a feeling akin to panic.

Ah, well, it makes for better blog fodder, I guess.

Meet my latest creation. A beret made from Rowan Summer Tweed received from the Knitting Gnome Exchange. My first impression of the finished hat was that the top looks like the underside of a morning glory or a petunia, hence the title of the post. Morning Glory is a lovely name but has been used so often that I'm leaning towards calling it Petunia but I'm just too sleep deprived to make a decision.

Those of you with long memories will recall a statement about adding the beads that came with the package to this beret but I found them to be a bit too heavy for the structure of the beret. I've set the beads aside for another project, so stay tuned.

It was obvious early on that I would not have enough green to finish the beret, so additional yarn was sought. Alas, I couldn't find the same color in the LYS but the two shades of purple were just too pretty not to purchase and use in the design. Since I was making this pattern up as I went along, I was not afraid to experiment.

I based the shaping of the beret on this pattern. I'm not a fan of stripes most of the time, so to incorporate both colors of purple, I decided to include two rows of fair isle 1x1 checkerboard. I think it effectively blurs the lines a little, making the stripe pattern far more intriguing. It is subtle but the tweediness of the yarn enhances the haziness of the borders.

If I were to do it over, I would start with the darker color against the green first and perhaps vary the stripe width to further the illusion of a flower. Since it was after midnight when the color changes started occurring and I was tired, along with the fact that I didn't "see" the flower until the green "stem" was added, I think I can be excused for not getting it perfect the first time.

I do still need to get some stretchier yarn to make a band for the inside of the ribbing. The lack of memory and elasticity of the silk/cotton blend makes this absolutely necessary before the hat can be worn.

Oh, darn, guess I'll have to make another trip to the yarn shop . . . You know how much I hate that - NOT!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Breakfast of Champions

Okay, well, it's not exactly the best breakfast but it is surely better than, oh, let's say chocolate puff cereal.


Zucchini recipes have been trickling my way and I'm trying them all but this Zucchini Chocolate Cake has my vote as the best so far.

Yesterday's baking experiment resulted in 4 more loafs of Zucchini bread and this delicious cake. Today's lunch will be a tasty zucchini and red onion salad.

Keep 'em coming, friends. Keep those recipes coming.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Voila! With all my posting about non-UFO/WIP knitting, I did manage to do some stealthy, behind the scenes knitting on the ribbon cardigan.

Not that I was trying to be sneaky but this project was another of those "I don't want to bore you with the endless progress updates" situations. I had whined enough about the difficulties of working with this ribbon yarn. But by working in small snatches of time, early in the morning and late at night, I was finally able to move this one to the FO category.

I do love how the buttons turned out (thank you, thank you, thank you, Deb) Deb's husband did an outstanding job designing these buttons to work with the varigated colors of the yarn without dominating or completely disappearing. The glass shanks were very smooth. This yarn tends to snag easily but it flowed like silk through the perfectly sized holes in the shanks. There was a little variation in the hole size between buttons but they were all large enough for a small yarn needle to pass through. All in all, I'd highly recommend Glastonbury Glassworks buttons for any special knitting project. They rock!

I did end up making a pattern modification. The hem was rolling up on this project (don't you hate that?). It was obvious from early on that this would be a problem but since the pattern called for a single crochet edging all the way around, I assumed that it would help correct the tendency to roll.

Well, my faith was unfounded and the single crochet edge was not enough. So I decided to add a crocheted shell edging to the collar, front edge and hems. To say I'm thrilled with the result would be an understatement. This simple modification made a huge difference in the esthetics, IMHO. I love the way the single ridge of garter stitch sets off the hemline along the bottom of the sweater.

Now, if I could just do something with that rather curvy frame under the sweater. My "scallops" aren't crocheted and just don't have the same pizzazz! >:-p

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sunday baking

What do you do when, in your gardening ignorance, you find you planted too many zucchini plants in your garden and you have dozens of these behemoth zucchini's just waiting to be used?

Why, you make triple batches of zucchini bread, of course.

This is how I spent my Sunday afternoon. This is the second triple batch of bread since the zucchini's have come in. When I snapped this photo, I still had one loaf and 6 more muffins in the oven. Yikes!

I plan to continue baking triple batches and freezing the resulting loafs and muffins. My family just loves this bread and during the school year, it will be nice to have some sweet treats available without additional effort.

Unfortunately, the zucchinis are still coming and I'm going to need to find more uses soon, because there just won't be enough room in my freezer for that much bread.

Any suggestions?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Camping = new hat?

Doesn't a plan to go camping in a couple weeks qualify as a legitimate excuse to abandon current WIP/UFO knitting in order to be properly accessorized for a foray into the flora and fauna of Northern Minnesota?

After all, the Ribbon Cardigan is hardly camping attire. And the new socks on the needles are slated for campfire knitting time. I would never carry any of my felted bags that are oh, so close to completion into the wilderness. And all this dishcloth cotton was just sitting around, not being used. It just made sense to make a new hat out of it, since the dish cloths just weren't getting done around here.

Okay, I'm not apologizing for my flightiness . . . I'm just yanking your chains a little.

I am thrilled with my new hat. I've been very dissatisfied with my appearance in baseball style caps. They just aren't flattering AT ALL. But our first official family camping trip would require a hat that would keep the sun out of my eyes and protect my face from burning but could be tucked away in a pocket when not in use.

After some searching through my extensive knitting library, I found the right pattern in the Summer 2007 issue of knit.1. The Sugar 'n Cream yarn was some bought on sale awhile back for washcloths and seemed suitable enough for a blue jeans/sweatshirt kind of weekend in the wilds.

The DH, however, thinks it's a little too light in color. What do you think? Should I over dye it?

Also, being cotton, what kind of dye would work on it? Everything I've dyed has been protein fibers, so I'm a little unsure if cellulose fiber would react the same way to the dye stuff I have on hand (food coloring, drink mix or tea/coffee).

After all, who wants strange colored streaks on their forehead, where sweat has caused the dye to release. I need serious advice here.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Dragon Slayer

Meet Dragon Slayer.

Details: Modification of the Pomatomus stitch pattern over 120 stitches on size 1 needles, using Scout's Death Eaters fingering weight sock yarn.

Hockeyboy is thrilled, as he's missed wearing stocking caps this summer. This one is thin enough that he's declared he'll be wearing it all day.

Off to picnic with the DH's office mates. Ta-ta.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bridge Tragedy

Just a quick note to state that my family is all safe and accounted for. The only connection we've had, so far, is some friends who were on a paddleboat trip down the Mississippi. Their boat passed under the bridge about 15 minutes before the collapse.

They heard the noise and saw the smoke but were safely out of reach of the devastation. It made for a time of anxiety for Dancing Diva's BFF, who is the daughter of our friends, but they called her as soon as they could get through with word of their safety.

Please continue to pray for the safety of the rescuers, healing of the injured and strength for their families, and for peace and comfort for those who await news of missing loved ones.

In the meantime, I'll save the knitting posts for another day.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Please pray for the rescue workers, families and friends of those involved!