Archive for March, 2009

Hey look! A Post!

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Man, I really wish I could get my blogging mojo back. It’s been gone far too long. I have a lot to share. I really do. I haven’t stopped cooking or crafting or enjoying stoopid-cute things my kids do on a daily basis. I just….well, I just run out of time at the end of the day, and my brain cells run out of juice and it’s so much easier to sit on the couch with my knitting and a DVD. Blah blah blah, here’s your random catchup post, alright?

First, I have a couple of shout-outs to cover. Jennifer over at Knits a Living was kind enough to nominate me for the Kreativ Blogger award. That’s very sweet of Jennifer (hi, Jennifer!) and I really appreciate it. I never seem to get tagged with these lovely awards that go around now and then, and sometimes, I feel a little left out when everyone else and their dog seems to have been tagged. So now I feel included and happy, warm and fuzzy inside. I’m supposed to nominate some other blogs, and perpetuate the awards.

Well, it’s hard. Everyone else and their dog has probably already received this award, and I can’t keep track of who has and who hasn’t. Plus, they probably don’t want an award from dopey old me. And how can I choose from all the amazing blogs that are out there. So, if you’re looking for some good reads, check out the blogroll over in the right hand column and you’ll probably find some good ones. Thanks again, Jennifer!

Shout-out number two goes to my friend and neighbor Laura. Now, she totally deserves a Kreativ Blogger award, or maybe a totally awesome, really cool knitter and generally fun person who also writes a blog award. Laura is this super self-effacing, never-gonna-brag-about-anything kind of person who is always doing cool stuff that I only find out about much after the fact because she doesn’t think it’s important enough to talk about.

For once, though, she’s speaking up and talking about her love for her performances with the Roseville String Ensemble. I really enjoyed Laura’s description of her relationship with her viola and the performance group, and on top of that, she’s trying to raise some money to keep the group afloat. Since she’s an awesome knitter, she’s pulled together some awesome prizes for a drawing, and is encouraging people to donate to her group when they come over to enter the drawing. Go read about it now, drool over the prizes, enter the drawing and send her a little donation. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Alright, now we’re on to the photo dump part of our program.

That’s Julie, modelling the finished slip-stitch quilted hat. I love how she insists on posing with a toy. It a huge improvement from refusing to have her picture taken at all, and it’s hilarious.

I also love this hat. It’s actually an adult sized hat that I made by following the instructions in my Slip-Stitch Quilted Baby Hat (available as a download on Ravelry, or at The Yarnery in St. Paul, and a few other LYSs.) Instead of knitting the hat with the called-for Koigu, I used Malabrigo Worsted to get a bigger gauge and therefore a bigger hat. I think I like this version better than the adult-sized Koigu version. Plus, it’s crazy soft and warm. It’s a bit big on Julie’s head, but I think I may knit her one of her own for next winter in some colors she’s more likely to wear.

I’ve started the next spinning project, and am a little more than a third of the way through it. I’ve got a pound and a half of this wool/seacell

It always amazes me how small the roving looks when it arrives, but then when I let it out of the package and fluff it up a bit, it kind of explodes.

I’m going to do a three-ply with this batch, just like the golden yarn I just finished. This will be more than enough for a sweater, and it is going to be yummy! It might take a while before the yarn is finished, though.

Oh, hey, look! A random stash photo. On the left of the top shelf are a couple of handspun yarns that have not yet been sold or wound up for projects, and on the right are a bunch of balls of sock yarn. That pile is my collection of wool/cotton/nylon blends. It’s actually smaller that it was a year ago – I’ve knit several pairs and controlled my buying on that front. Yay me!

The bottom shelf here is my stash of wool rovings. I think that’s a reasonable amount of unspun wool for a person to have, right? I had a little falling-down a couple weeks ago when Spunky Eclectic updated her shop, but I have no regrets there – I’ve been drooling over pictures of other people’s projects from her wool, and her store seems pretty picked over most of the time. I got some good stuff, and actually held back a bit on my order. I am declaring a moratorium on new roving purchases at least until Shepherd’s Harvest, when I’ll have the chance to shop in person for the wooly goodness. I need to make some room on the shelf in the mean time.

Switching gears again, you really must thank me for sharing only the visuals of this moment with you.

We had a play date one day last week, and one of the girls found a recorder among the musical instruments in the basement playroom. Immediately, the whinging ensued over who got to play it and how soon they should have to give it up for the next person’s turn. “Luckily” we have a small collection of recorders, so I dug them out and we had a few minutes of auditory chaos before my mom-friend and I declared enough is enough.

Here’s a quick view of our library materials ready to go back the other day. I took a picture to show you because I love our library, love that we can get new books every week. There is no way we could afford to buy all the books and materials we borrow from the library in the course of a year, and I am so glad that it is part of our routine. I wonder why my parents didn’t take us to the library more when I was little.

Also, there is a baggie of used-up batteries sitting there because our library has a battery-recycling bin, and it’s an easy way to deal with the suckers.

Man, this is a long post. But oh, there’s more.

Everyone in our family likes to eat at Chipotle. The other day I was at a loss in the grocery store trying to figure out what to make for dinner. I almost never make a meal that the whole family eats without complaint, and even though I know I’m a pretty good cook, it gets disheartening. So I thought, how about I try to make some burritos kind of like Chipotles?

I cooked some chicken in the slow cooker with salsa, garlic and chili powder (yum!), some brown rice, opened a can of beans, sauteed some onions and bell pepper, shredded some lettuce, heated up some tortillas, and pulled out the shredded cheese.

I even made them kind of cute by wrapping them in foil to serve – which also served to hold the buggers together, because they really wanted to fall apart. Well, after all that mess, the girls were not fooled. They only ate a little of it. Joe ate his without complaint, and I ate mine wishing that the tortilla were as good as Chipotle’s and that I’d bothered to season the rice the way they do at the restaurant. I’m not sure that I saved any money in this endeavor, but I do think my version is probably a bit healthier, and there were leftovers. Anybody got any suggestions for a delicious, healthy dinner that’s not too hard or expensive to make? I need some fresh ideas.

And finally, another pair of socks. I knit up another pair of plain-jane toe-ups using my own pattern and some Mini Mochi sock yarn for a store sample.

I really like this yarn – it’s soft and fuzzy, and the colors are fun. The only thing is, although it’s sold as sock yarn, it’s really not sock yarn. It’s a loosely-spun singles! I mean, so loosely spun that there were several times that I had to stop and twirl the sock around to put more twist in the yarn so that it wouldn’t fall apart as I was knitting it. I don’t think these socks will be very durable. On the other hand, it is really nice yarn, with fun colors, and I’m a sucker for those yarns with the slowly-shifting color changes. I think this would be perfect for a scarf. In fact, I think once the new colors come in, I might just knit a scarf up and see how it looks.

And that is all. I’m going to go try and sneak in a bit of knitting before bed.

Big Surprise, More Spinning

Friday, March 20th, 2009

That yarn I was working on last time we talked spinning is done – my 8 ounces of SeaWool fiber from Creatively Dyed turned into 724 yards of two-ply in about a fingering-to-sport weight.

It really does have a nice sheen to it.

To be honest, I was worried about the colors when I received this roving. It looked pretty yellow to me, and I usually look pretty sickly in yellow. However, now that it’s spun into yarn, the other colors have mellowed it out, and most of the yellow is either greenish enough or golden enough that I think it might actually work on me. It would make a nice lace shawl, certainly.

Oh, and I got a nice thank-you e-mail from my friend E, who received the rainbow yarn I was telling you about. She reads the blog (hi, E!) and was kind enough to take pictures and send to me to share. I forgot to resize them before uploading, and I am too damn lazy to fix it now.

She’s thinking about making one of those Fake Isle Hats (Ravelry link) with it, which I think would be perfect.

The next spinning project is already on the wheel – more of that SeaWool. I’m trying to get a slightly fluffier yarn this time, so I put the wheel on its lowest ratio and am trying to keep my feet from moving too fast.

Ingenue, Complete

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Hey, look! A sweater!

I’m pretty happy with this knit. Pretty darn happy. This is Ingenue from Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard. I love the neck line on this sweater especially. I made a couple small changes – I made full-length sleeves of the non-belled variety versus the wider 3/4 sleeves shown in the book. Also, because I have generous hips, I kept increasing after the waist shaping for a better personal fit.

The knitting on this one took only about two weeks start to finish. I am always amazed at how fast a sweater can go at a worsted-weight gauge versus a pair of socks on teeny tiny needles. Oh, and that reminds me of another change I made to this pattern. My gauge was totally different from the one suggested in the book, as was my yarn. So I did a little math to figure out the right numbers.

The best part of this project, if I do say so myself, is the yarn. This is my first handspun sweater. I started with a giant pile of merino and silk blend from Ashland Bay – I think it’s the sandstone colorway, but I’m not sure. I bought about two pounds of it from Detta when I bought my wheel.

The singles looked like this:

And then I turned it into a three-ply and got this pile.

I ended up using only about a pound of the yarn, leaving me with just over a thousand yards left to play with. Or sell, I suppose. I still can’t believe how soft this yarn is. It’s incredibly soft, and the sweater is next-to-the-skin soft.

So there you go.

Mitered Square Update

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

I think I mentioned having started a new mitered square project for my demonstration at the Mall of America during the Knit-Out last month. I wanted a different kind of project altogether from the blankie, to show what else can be done with the technique.

So I chose a big, fluffy yarn – Geologie from Nashua – knit loosely with big needles – size 10 – and a smaller project, a scarf, with straight edges instead of zig-zags. Well, the thing is done now, but still in need of a blocking. I tried to get Daisy to pose with it – she sure enough wanted to sit on it constantly while I was knitting it.

Yeah, not so much.

So then I went and asked Joe for a little help. He really is a patient, long-suffering guy.

It’s alright, I guess. I chose the colorway for its lighter colors for demonstration purposes. This is the picture Joe took of me with it a week or so ago before it was done. Totally unflattering backside shot. That’s why I made Joe pose with the thing.

Anyway, that’s the update. I do have a session of the mitered square class at the Yarnery set up for two Thursday evenings in April – the 9th and the 23rd; and if those dates don’t work for you, I’ll be teaching a version of the class at Shepherd’s Harvest festival on Saturday, May 9.

I’ll leave you with a bit of Julie’s recent artwork…

Those are Fraggles, ala Fraggle Rock from the DVD we picked up at the library. The girls loved it, and Fraggles have been a big topic of conversation around here for several weeks now.

Cousins

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

We had an extended-family dinner out at a Korean barbeque tonight. The
kids got to see their second cousins, and all of them ate more dessert
than any of us thought possible.

Gah!

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Oh, people. I have a peeve.

Tonight we (the girls and I) were out to dinner. Joe was working late again and we headed over to a little local place called Yum! The food there is quite good – the girls always get the macaroni and cheese, I usually get one of their awesome sandwiches created with fancy bread made on the premises. They also have amazing french fries, good-looking salads, pizza, and pasta dishes. Not to mention a nice dessert case.

We’ve been there many times before, and I especially like it in the summer when we can sit outside on the patio. No problem so far, right?

Well, let me back up for a minute and say that Joe and I have been taking our girls out to eat on a regular basis since Julie was born. There is more than one restaurant in town where the wait staff knows us by sight, where they smile and mention how much our girls have grown and that they remember when I was pregnant with Julie or when she was tiny and asleep in her car seat.

I firmly believe in taking kids, even very small ones, out to eat – in the right kind of restaurants – places that are at least somewhat family friendly, as in, not luxuriously fancy romantic places, but places that are better than those with drive-through windows. We have worked hard over the last five-plus years to train our kids to behave at the dinner table, both at home and in society.

It’s a gradual process, one that takes much repetition to perfect. There have been times with our girls when we’ve had to get our food in take-away containers because they were not able to behave, times when I’ve had to take one of the girls out to the lobby or parking lot to calm them down while the rest of the family eats. Eating out with children is not always easy or even pleasant, but with the investment of time and effort, it can be.

Oh, my god, I am willing to put up with children eating near me in restaurants. I am willing to put up with watching parents working to teach their children good manners and yet from perfect in the process. Tonight, however, my head just about exploded watching the scene at Yum! (the name of the restaurant includes the exclamation point, by the way). There was a giant herd of toddlers – five or six of them, from various groups of patrons, running around the place. They were running up and down the ramp at the entrance, chasing each other, hanging like monkeys from the railings, getting in peoples’ way as they tried to get in line to order their food. Towards the end of our meal, there were even a couple of grade-school girls who climbed up and sat on top of the corner of a safety railing.

And, okay. I could see any one of those things happening for a moment while a parent was distracted. But these families were sitting around smiling at their little terrors, chatting with each other and even encouraging them to go play. Totally inappropriate! Totally crazy-making!

I will admit to my children’s imperfections. Oh, it was not so very long ago when Joe took the girls to that very same restaurant and Julie accidentally blew her straw wrapper on to the plate of the patron at the next table. Joe was mortified, apologetic, and very angry at both Julie and me. But Julie felt plenty bad about it too. I will take the blame for that one – even though I wasn’t there at the time, I was the one who taught her that trick, although to that point the wrappers had always stayed on our own table.

But come on! What is wrong with these people? Train your little monsters to behave like human beings! I really, really wanted to go have a chat with some of those parents about how they are not doing their kids any favors by letting them behave so poorly, what with they will eventually need to know how to behave. And I felt bad for my own children, sitting so nicely in their chairs, eating their dinners with almost flawless behavior for once. What must it seem like to them that they are held to high expectations while the children around them run wild?

I know, I am a cranky old lady already.

Spinsanity

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Oh, my people. There has been much spinning going on in these parts. I did a couple quick, fat, yummy little projects and then I spun some more.

This little four-ounce braid came from Squoosh Fibers on etsy. It’s merino, and it was nice and squishy-soft.

I’ve been doing a bit better at making slightly thicker singles when I want to, and this time I managed to make an almost bulky two-ply.

I’m kicking myself a bit for not taking pictures of the project I did after that. I’d bought some awesome rainbow roving from Cloudlover69 on etsy. It was just five ounces, but I had my first real success with chain plying some nice even worsted-weight yarn while keeping the colors clear. I gifted the resulting skein to a knitting friend over the weekend, and she seemed pleased with it. Totally worth the effort. Sorry I can’t show you a picture.

And because I just can’t stop the spinning, I dug out some natural-colored merino that I bought at the State Fair this summer from Fleecewood Farm.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with this yarn exactly – it’s about 55o yards total. I’m contemplating maybe some kind of shawl project, but I’m open to suggestions. I think this stuff is too thick for a stranded knitting project, so I’m thinking stripes are in order for whatever project I choose.

Currently, I’m on to some merino-seacell blend from Creatively Dyed Yarn. This is a nice 8-ounce chunk that I received as a gift from my friend Jaci a while back.

It’s funny, because Jaci gave me this little pile of delicious fuzz just a couple of weeks after I’d bought a larger chunk of the same fiber from the same dyer in a different colorway. And it’s lucky, because this stuff is really, really fun to spin. It drafts so smoothly, and the colors are a lot of fun to watch as they slide through my fingers.

I’m not sure how I’m going to ply this up yet. I almost think it could work well as singles, but there would be nothing wrong with a two or three-ply as well.

Sock Tragedy

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

I don’t know if any of you remember these socks I’ve been working on for a while, off and on. This is the picture I took of them on February 11.

This is that handspun yarn, I know I’ve told you about it at least a couple of times. In the couple of weeks after that picture was taken, I got both socks knit to the brink of finished. I had only about an inch of ribbing left on the second sock, and to bind off on both of them.

These are the socks that I drag around with me for in-between knitting moments, for knitting in meetings, in the car when I’m the passenger, for odd moments standing in lines or other stolen bits of time. I suppose it was bound to happen at some point.

It’s been about two weeks now since I had one of the socks in its pretty little project bag with me on a morning trip to school with the girls. I had a parenting meeting while they were each in their respective pre-school classes, and I had the chance to knit a bit on it while I talked and listened to the other moms. That day, I had a bunch of various crappe with me, and I made stops pretty much all over the school building. Somehow, by the end of the morning when I pulled the van back into the garage at home, my sock and its bag and with them the perfectly good Addi Turbo needle – were gone. Disappeared. Missing.

No panicking, I thought. I must have left it around somewhere in one of my normal spots. I stayed calm and called the teachers in Julie’s classroom, in Sophie’s classroom and the office secretaries. No one had seen it, but they all enthusiastically promised to keep an eye out for my knitting. Surely I’d have the sock back by the following week, right? Uh, apparently not.

For the last two weeks, the teachers have all looked up at me with expectant smiles when I arrive with the girls, asking me if I’ve found my sock. Sadly, I’ve shrugged my shoulders and shaken my head. It could be worse, I’ve told myself. It’s just a sock.

Finally, I’ve come to terms with the reality of the situation. The sock’s not coming back. It’s really gone.

Luckily, I’d spun up 8 ounces of wool, which came out to almost twice as much yarn as I would have needed for a pair. Of course, a giant ball of yarn was attached to the lost sock, but still I have more than enough left to make a third sock.

The joy of the project is somewhat lost at this point after this stupid experience, but I’m too stubborn to give up now. I’m kind of secretly hoping that maybe now that I’ve started the third sock, someone will come forward with the lost one.

Ingenue

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

I know I said I was going to finish two projects before starting this new sweater. I did finish the Bacchus socks, but the Birdie blankie is still sitting in my office half-sewn. Nevertheless, the sweater is started. It happened, as so many of my knitting projects do, sort of by accident.

I knit the first gauge swatch, and it changed measurements hugely after washing. I knit a second gauge swatch, and took better before-and-after measurements. But then I took a better look at the second gauge swatch and decided I wanted a firmer fabric. Which led me to the decision to go down a needle size and knit another swatch.

And I’m all for swatching thoroughly, but hell, this is a top-down sweater and I figured I may as well use the top of the sweater as my third swatch.

And now I know for sure what my gauge is going to be, plus I have a good chunk of sweater knit up. I really really like the way this is looking so far, and boyohboy, simple stockinette stitch sweaters in worsted weight go fast. Plus, knitting with this merino/silk yarn is so nice! It’s soft, it’s yummy, I can’t get enough of it.

I’ve been spinning a bunch too. I’ve got two new skeins that haven’t debuted yet, plus these four bobbins of 2-ply that I’m getting ready to skein up when I’m done here. Details on the spinning next time.