Archive for October, 2011

Socktober!

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve put together a good knitting-content post. There have been several projects in the interim – so many that I’ve realized I have quite a bit of work to do over on Ravelry as well. Today I’m going to do some catching up on the sock projects. It’s really sad that I’ve failed so badly to update that I can’t even remember all the pairs of socks I’ve knit lately, or even all the yarn details of the pairs I can remember. I’ll do my best. Here’s the pile I dragged together earlier this week…

Let’s start with the  two oldest pairs, the two in the middle. Sophie picked out the yarn for the darker purple pair some time last Spring. We were over at the Yarnery in St. Paul, and I was planning to teach another sock class over there. These were intended to be sample socks for the store, then eventually keep Sophie’s feet warm. The class unfortunately didn’t fill, and the socks turned out a little big for Sophie’s feet. They fit Julie perfectly, though, so they’re going to her for now, and some day they will be handed down to Sophie. I think the yarn is Dream in Color Smooshie, but to be honest I can’t find the ball band so I could be totally wrong. It is lovely squishy stuff, and I loved working with it.

I’m showing them unblocked because I don’t bother to block socks when they’re going straight on to an immediate family member’s feet. It is a very small exception to my always-block-everything general rule.

Meanwhile, Julie and I ended up over at the yarn shop on a different day during the summer – before the above socks were finished. She picked out a skein of Cascade Heritage Silk, in a color strikingly similar to the one Sophie had chosen. This yarn was a finer fingering than the one Sophie had chosen, so I cast on with smaller needles (Addi Turbo 00) and more stitches – 64 around – so the stitches would be tight enough for durability. Turns out, Julie’s feet are almost as big around as mine – which are fairly skinny.  These were going to be tight on her.

I had already finished the first one when I discovered this problem, but the plan made itself pretty obvious when I had Sophie try on the socks I’d just finished for her – I was making her wait for hers till Julie’s were also done. I finished the second sock, only an inch and a half shorter to fit Sophie’s little hoof, then cut apart the first one mid-foot, ripped out and inch and a half and grafted it back together. In my mind, that was more fun than ripping and re-knitting the toe. Here, you can just barely see the line of grafted stitches, and that is without blocking or having been worn. On the foot, it is completely unnoticeable.

Here they are trying them on, supervised by our loyal Fred.

Get out of the way, Fred. We say that a lot around here.

Both girls were happy. Sophie says they make her feet hot, but it is only October. Maybe she’ll appreciate them more come February, but she does take after Joe, who tends to run warm.

I have a constant, low-level fear when it comes to knitting – I’m always afraid that I will have a desperate need for plain stockinette knitting and nothing in hand ready for such an event. You know, long car ride, boring meeting, waiting room, who knows. One of the reasons I like to knit socks from my toe-up short-row pattern is because they contain large uninterrupted stretches of plain stockinette tubes, which I can knit on without looking or really even thinking about. Usually, I try to set up a couple of just-finished toes so that I always have one to grab when whatever other project I’m working on doesn’t fit the knitting opportunity.

A while back, I bought a few balls of Schoppel Wolle Ambiete from Webs when it was on sale – I know I didn’t pay the $10 a ball they’re asking for it now because I bought the three balls necessary to knit a pair of socks for my large feet, plus another three in another colorway, which means the price must have been pretty good for me to add that much more yarn to an already overflowing stash of sock yarn. Oh yeah, conveniently enough Ravelry tells me I paid $21.48/3 balls back in January.  I especially liked the fact that this was a squishy sport weight, which knits up faster than the skinniest fingerings, yet still fits in my shoes and keeps my feet a tiny bit warmer. And I liked the colors.

So at some point between January and last week, I’d knit up a toe and had it laying around waiting for its moment. Last week, Joe and I had the opportunity to take our first tiny vacation alone since Julie was born 8 years ago. We drove to Chicago – an 8 hour drive – and back in three days. For a concert. A concert that I couldn’t have cared less about, but that Joe wanted to see and made a great excuse for me to spend a bunch of time alone with my husband, which has not happened in 8 years. Plus, 16 hours of free knitting time. W00t!1! I grabbed the as-yet-unfinished sock that turned out to be for Sophie, and the toe I just told you about. That would be plenty, right? ahem.

By about a third of the way back from Chicago, I’d finished Sophie’s sock and had gotten through the first ball of the Ambiente. Too bad I hadn’t brought a second ball along. Luckily, we were scheduled to spend a night in Madison, WI with some friends, and Joe was willing to stop at a yarn shop there for me to get my yarn fix on. Before I tell you about that adventure, let me say I really like this yarn. It is lovely to work with, I can tell I’m going to love to wear the socks, and holy buckets the colorway is fun to watch as it knits up. I don’t believe I’ve hit a striping repeat after knitting the entire first ball of yarn. Which takes the pressure off me to find the same place in the colorway when I start the second sock. I almost wish I’d bought yarn for a third pair in this yarn – the colorways are certainly appealing.

So. I pulled out my phone, dug around the internet and decided I wanted to check out the Sow’s Ear yarn shop in Madison. It is a combination cafe and yarn shop in a cute downtown area, in an old house type building. It was a nice enough shop with a high-end selection of yarn. Definitely the kind of place I would enjoy hanging out in, although the prices were – well – high-end. I went in there prepared to buy yarn and needles for another sock project, but was kind of hoping to be inspired and/or talked into some other quick project that wouldn’t involve a lot of looking at my hands (I get car sick easily). While the staff was nice, they were not chatty, so I ended up with sock yarn and called it a win.

That evening, I knit up a new toe in the Tittering of Magpies Fingering by Alisha Goes Around. It’s a lovely lilac color that both my daughters are drooling over, with a teeny bit of sparkly “Stellina” fiber spun in. Unfortunately, that first toe had a single mistake in it that I knew was going to drive me batty if I left it, so I broke off the yarn and started over. The second toe came out perfect, and by the time we arrived home in Minneapolis I’d made it well into the heel.

There she is, with the naughty toe looking on in envy. This sock is destined to eventually grace Julie’s foot (and then eventually Sophie’s) but first, it is going to be a test-knit for a pattern I wrote up at least two years ago but never actually published. It’s one that I really love – I love watching Sophie wear the original prototypes – and I hope to get it out in the next few weeks.

And those are the socks on my mind at the moment. Meanwhile, I’m also binding off the shawl I’ve been designing. I think I like it. I hope to get that pattern out in the near future as well – having a bit of free time while the girls are in school means hopefully getting some actual work done, although honestly that “free” time flows through my fingers like water as I run errands, fold laundry, prepare meals, and do a thousand other things that my family needs done. I have some big news about a new role I’ve recently taken on, but that is for another post.

Blankie Update

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

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Know what’s great about the blankie? My 5-year-old can barf all over it in the morning, and by dinnertime it is freshly laundered, dry amd folded. I have no qualms about putting garments knit from superwash sock yarn in the washer, and spread flat on a bed it dried in a few hours.

Sophie is much better now, just sad that she can’t go to swim team tonight.

Garden Fairy Birthday Party

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Hi, there. So much exciting and fun stuff going on right now. A couple weeks ago we celebrated Julie’s 8th birthday. Well, we celebrated it a couple weeks before that just with our immediate family, then waited for the grandparents to come back from Europe to throw a party. In the past, I’ve almost always hosted the girls’ birthday parties outside our home. We’ve had lots of bowling alley parties, a painting party at a local shop, one or two at a giant indoor climbing structure, once in a public park – a risky prospect in Minnesota in September. It always just seemed easier not to have to worry about all the pre- and post-party cleanup, and also planning the entertainment.

This year, Julie wasn’t sure what kind of party she wanted. None of the previous ideas appealed, we weren’t willing to pay the big bucks for Pump It Up, the place where all the kids in the rich suburb just south of us seem to do their parties. Julie decided she wanted a fairy-themed party, and I decided I was finally willing to try a homestyle birthday gig. After all, I’ve been reading about Heidi Kenney’s fabulous parties she gives her kids for years, along with many other fabulous crafty blog moms. They can do it, maybe I can too.

Well, I did. It was a ton of work – before, during and even after. I was incredibly over-stimulated by the end of the day and it took me a good week to fully recover, but it was fun and I think worth it. I started with a bunch of research on the Internet. I wanted a generic garden-fairy theme rather than a Disney-fairy theme. Wholesome and sweet versus commercial and a little bit slutty, ya know? These kids are 7 and 8 – let’s hold onto the innocence as long as possible.

I found some super-cool free printable invitations from Hewlett Packard’s website – link also includes a paper flower wand, an activity guide, place cards, a paper chain, and “shrinkable sprite charms”. HP clearly wants to give you lots of creative ways to use up your printer ink you you’ll buy more. Thanks HP! I printed mine out on my Canon inkjet. Worked just fine. At least one of the moms who received the invitations commented on how great they were. One of the things I dislike about purchased invitations is that you still have to hand write the details on every single card. My handwriting isn’t all that, and writing out all the envelopes is plenty for me thankyouverymuch.

After much planning and prep, the day came and the girls arrived. Oops – and one boy-cousin who was thoroughly pre-warned that this was going to be a very girly party. Each child was offered a pair of fairy wings to wear, and we had some butterfly temporary tattoos as well – slightly less popular. We sat them down to decorate take-home bags for party prizes/favors, and to assemble flower headbands.

I found another free printable sheet of Fairy crown flowers from Disney Family.com – actually, there are instructions to go with it, and links to other fairy party ideas. Yes, they were Disney, but they were just flowers, not the fairies themselves. This flower crown fit well into my theme, although I chose to use green pipe cleaners instead of ribbon because I thought the finished product might hold together better and be easier to put on and take off – the paper flowers on the ribbon seemed very likely to slide around, twist and tangle each time someone decided they didn’t want to wear theirs – but maybe now they do – or not – and I don’t want to be responsible for fussing with ten little head bands on ten little girls while managing the rest of the party. I did buy some ribbons, and helped the girls tie lengths of it to the back of their headbands for added decoration. These projects kept them busy while the other girls arrived, and they seemed to enjoy them.

Before the party, we’d cleaned out our large basement playroom in case of foul weather, but the day turned out to be beautiful, so we headed outside for the games. First up, pixie dust relays. they had to pour the dust from Pixie Sticks into spoons and race across to dump it in a plastic cup, then hand it off to the next team member until they’d filled the bottom. This is me explaining to them how they were going to split into teams of three. Like herding cats.

Here they are during the race. OMG, it took a lot longer to get the tiny little bottom ridge of the cups. If I were to do it again, I would definitely get smaller cups! But they enjoyed it, and they worked together.

Next up, pin the star on the fairy’s wand. I drew this cheesy fairy picture. Drawing is not my talent, mmmkay? But the girls were impressed enough, and they again seemed to enjoy putting on the blindfold and taking a turn sticking a star-shape on the poster. This was way too easy – first girl got the star right in the middle of the wand.  Also, some of them got a little bored waiting their turn.

Here’s Sophie getting ready for her turn – Julie is helping me spin her around in an attempt to make it harder.

It’s funny, at the last minute before the party, I was worried that we would run out of things to do before time to do them, so I threw in a “musical fairies” game – I printed a bunch of clip-art fairy related pictures onto card stock, and found a copy of Bippidy Boppity Boo on CD somewhere, and we had our own version of musical chairs. Turns out, we ran out of time at the end, but I choose that over desperately trying to entertain a bunch of sugar-high kids empty handed. The girls liked this one, and decided on their own that they should be skipping.

One more game – drop the clothespin fairy (I used the old fashioned clothes pegs, tied ribbon wings on and drew little faces) into the flower-jar home. They liked this one too. Although – some of the girls started chanting “oops, she died!” when one of the fairies landed outside of the jar. A little morbid, but funny. Some of the other girls asked them to stop after a bit. :-)

For prizes I’d found a very cheap craft supply place online and bought a bunch of simple needlepoint kits (not all that popular) and fuzzy sticker coloring kits (which were tacky cheap and went like hotcakes). Every child ended up getting a prize – kids who won more than one game either picked a friend who hadn’t gotten one yet, or we otherwise fudged it to work.

Everyone headed inside for cupcakes and ice cream. The grandparents arrived just in time to sing Happy Birthday. I made the cupcakes from the same chocolate cake recipe I always use – the one from the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa box. It’s no-fail and it’s delicious. Especially if you spring for the fancier cocoa powder. I usually make double the frosting recipe, so I have plenty to go around and a little left over to spread on graham crackers and shove down my cake-hole in private once the party is over. Yes, I just admitted that to the world on the internet. Oh! and the cute cupcake papers are Wilton brand. I love that they’re tall enough to keep the cupcake from spilling over and making the crusty edges that always try to stick to the muffin pan and make you want to scream.

After we sing, I always whisper in their ears to stop and think of a really good wish before they blow the candle(s) out. Julie seems to like that.

We had time to open a few of the presents, but I wanted to get the girls outside for one more activity before the parents showed up…I love how the kids always cluster around the birthday child so they can see what’s being unwrapped. I’ve never gotten a good set of present-unwrapping pictures, and I’m okay with that.

Finally, out we went to whack away at the mushroom piñata. I love piñatas. The girls loved it. Inside, there was very little candy, but lots of little trinkets like ink-stampers, fuzzy pens, note pads, fancy hair ties, little mushroom erasers and other girlie stuff. We did a round of everyone blindfolded, then a round of everyone not blindfolded. By then, all the parents were there watching and waiting for their kids. The thing just would not fall apart. I only wish I could show you a picture of me whacking the heck out of that thing, but I think Joe was too busy laughing at me and pulling kids safetly out of my way to take pictures.

And that was it! My awesome in-laws brought Korean food for dinner, and I very much appreciated that, even though I was too shell-shocked by that point to carry on a coherent conversation. Seriously, the party was a success. Julie enjoyed it, and so did her friends. I had fun too. We’ll see if I’m recovered enough to do it all again in February.

Thanks for waiting for this – I’ve got more exciting news on the way, but it’s almost time for the kids to come home and I have to load the dishwasher and move some laundry around first. Parent teacher conferences are tonight, and I’m looking forward to a little face time with the new teachers. It’s always such a mystery what goes on in their little lives when they are away from us at school, and the little glimpses we do get always surprise me.